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Who Is Sheldon Pacotti?

Sheldon Pacotti

Sheldon Pacotti

Let me tell you a story.

After I purchased Cell: Emergence from Desura, it didn't work. After reverifying the files and relaunching the game a few times, I fell back on that old chestnut: asking the developer for help.

It was Deus Ex writer Sheldon Pacotti that came back to me, looking for more details. However, I'd already used my programmer skills to diagnose the problem: it looked like the Desura package hadn't installed some key libraries which I was able to rectify myself. From this, Sheldon was able to patch up the build and my support request morphed into a conversation about the game itself.

And, well, because I am cheeky, I just couldn't resist... I asked if he would be interested in doing an interview.

So here it is, a new Electron Dance podcast! In this 50-minute interview, Sheldon discusses a range of topics. How did he come to be in the games business? Is he a writer or a developer? How did the cellular automata engine evolve? Where are we headed with our increasingly electronic lifestyle? Who does he look up to in the games business?

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This Link Drag Is A Snap

It’s been a long time since the last Link Drag. I've quaffed a lot of links in the interim and, today, it's time to vomit some of them back out onto the internet. Some of them are old but it's okay, because I'm old. So what can you find linked today?

The demise of the complex game compared to the decline of the comics industry. The booth babe phenomenon in financial tech conferences. The Greek crisis as a choose-your-own-adventure game. And three awesome free-to-play games.

You may proceed.

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Filed under: Link Drag 11 Comments

The Real Interloper

Morpheus: "Human beings feel pleasure when they are watched. I have recorded their smiles as I tell them who they are."

JC Denton: "Some people just don't understand the dangers of indiscriminate surveillance."

Morpheus: "The need to be observed and understood was once satisfied by God. Now we can implement the same functionality with data-mining algorithms."

If I ask you who worked on Deus Ex, what would you answer? Most would cite Warren Spector, others Harvey Smith. Personally, I was obsessed with Sheldon Pacotti, responsible for the writing on both Deus Ex and its sequel.

Yes, the game offered players a cornucopia of agency and a story of epic scope but what impressed me were the philosophical depths that Deus Ex merrily threw itself into. The superfluous conversation with prototype surveillance AI Morpheus, of which the opener above is just an extract, was one of those moments where I felt good to be playing video games. It was 2000 and the golden era of video games had arrived.

Or so I thought. I waited and waited for Pacotti to turn up against other projects of interest but, although his name surfaced here and there, there was nothing suggestive of Deus Ex's writing calibre. Eventually I stopped checking and made the decision to move on. There were other writers to develop amorous attentions for. What a shame.

Then in August last year, Rock Paper Shotgun let me know that Pacotti was linked to a game from new indie developer New Life Interactive called Cell: Emergence. There was even an inscrutable trailer.

RPS said it was due for release very soon. Except "soon" was delayed until two weeks ago.

Now that trailer plus “Pacotti” equalled instant buy. Cart Life, forgotten. Mass Effect, postponed. It’s Pacotti time. I bought it right off the bat without checking the demo.

And then: damn.

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The Rings

In May 2004, Mrs. HM and I went on a whistle-stop tour of Kyushu, the big southwestern chunk of Japan, home to Nagasaki, the steamy onsen town of Beppu and the slightly surreal Dutch theme park Huis Ten Bosch. It was one part honeymoon, two parts sayonara as we were soon to depart Japan for a new life in the UK. The final destination of this tour was the island of Yakushima, a verdant fist of volcanic rock punching out of the water around 70km off the southern coast of Kyushu. It's reputed to be the inspiration for Hayao Miyazaki's Princess Mononoke.

We had two days on Yakushima. On the first day we did a circuit of the island by car, leaving us with memories of lazy monkeys pottering about on the road and magnificent waterfalls at every turn. On the second day, we went to see a tree.

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Who Is Richard Hofmeier?

Richard Hofmeier

It's no secret that I love Cart Life, having already dubbed it "game of 2011" and breaking down why it succeeds, mechanic by mechanic. I even begged Adam Smith of RPS to take a look at it. He called the police because I wouldn't leave his bathroom, but he still posted about it anyway.

But an important question remains: Who is Richard Hofmeier?

I wanted to find out, figuring Electron Dance readers might be interested too, so I utilised modern games journalism techniques such as phone hacking and the hiring of private investigators.

The result is an Electron Dance podcast: one hour of conversation with the man himself. As an added bonus, it is low on Cart Life spoilers, so no excuses! I will warn you, though, I consume food at a critical juncture.

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Resistance Is Futile III

In 2010, Resistance Is Futile commented on the birth of the backlog, the side-effect of mean-spirited internet penny sales.

In 2011, Resistance Is Futile II bemoaned peer pressure, specifically the fear of spoilers (aarghnophobia) and the internet's inability to keep it's digital mouth shut.

In 2012, it's time for the climax. Who will win? The selling Sith or the jaded Jedi?

Dear Emperor Palpa-

Screw it. I see your pet Vader, weaving about in the mirror. You are wondering why I shipjacked this Tie Fighter and why, right now, I'm hurtling down this trench looking for a dinky exhaust port. It's over.

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Filed under: Longform 29 Comments