Welcome to the December newsletter (sign up if you want to read it):

In a strange moment of synchronicity, this troubling thought came to me while I was on a business trip to New York. I realised, unusually, that I could hear the world.

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21 thoughts on “Discussion: Filter Bubble

  1. I suppose that means for the 10th anniversary you’ll start making… well, you’ve done games. You’ve done video. Electron Dance as an interactive art installation??

  2. Thank you for the newsletter. It was a great read. Good luck to all our new years!

  3. Andy
    I’ll ossify into a permanent exhibit, the final evolution. I will be, at first, admired and studied. Later, I will be moved into a museum crèche where children will swing from my arms. I will be defaced in a revolution. Future historians will attempt a reconstruction. And then I shall be forgotten.


    Thank you Patrick! Best of luck to your own New Year!

  4. You mentioned Proteus which is a pretext for me to say that I have to upgrade my computer soon which means that I will no longer be able to use 32-bit apps and Proteus is one of the ones that is going to fall by the wayside, along with Nightsky which is absolutely heartbreaking to me. (And the only decent FLAC player I’ve ever been to find.)

    I realized the short version of why I find Nightsky so moving. It’s about not understanding the world around you and not needing to. You always need to go from the left to the right, but everything in the world isn’t about you going from the left to the right. There are background elements that don’t have any effect on gameplay (critters blinking at you, birds flying overhead, the steam engines that somehow look like brothers). There are levels where the last screen is just a bumpy hill you hold right on–from the perspective of challenge it might as well be a straight line, but it’s not. Sometimes you need to cross a whirring machine, and the machine helps you get across, but that’s not its purpose, and its purpose is a mystery. Even the physics engine, which is the very thing that lets you play, is about immersing you in the world rather than solely about the challenge. It’s all framed as a dream because dreams don’t make sense, and it doesn’t matter that they don’t make sense, but they give you a sense of something beyond you.

    Anyway, as I type this, Happy New Year! I hope 2020 is better, somehow.

  5. I have to admit I’ve completely disengaged from politics, and from the media, in whom after this shit-show of an election I hold zero hope of impartiality, even (and perhaps now especially) the BBC. Given the choice between being uninformed and misinformed I suppose I’ll take the former.

    The point-of-contact thing is interesting. Personally I think we lost a lot by moving away from those big, boxy CRT monitors. I miss the sensation that the computer had depth, that I was looking into it through a window. Flat panels offer no such illusion; they’re thin in every sense.

    Here’s to feeling better in 2020!

  6. Happy New Year! The Starks may be routed, but us Wildlings north of The Wall have different plans. I think Lannister’s going to have fewer than seven kingdoms shortly! You’re all welcome, of course.

    One way I use my phone is I have a Google Doc called Ideation Dungeon, into which I cast unwanted game and story ideas (for now). I plan to use it mandatorilly this year. Every podcast commute or YouTube chore must be paid for in advance with One Idea for the Dungeon.

  7. I don’t know you really, but whatever it is that ails you, I wish you get a little bit better this first year of the decade. Love your creative output, man!

  8. Matt

    Is that a thing in the iUtopia? That if you upgrade your computer then 32-bit apps are totally hosed? Jesus, that’s harsh.

    I suppose this is my regular once-a-decade reminder that I should play Nightsky. You didn’t wait very long Matt. It was the first day.


    Thanks! I’m going through a period of enjoying being less politically informed right now, although it’s being filled with anxiety about climate change. Swings and roundabouts. Or should that be swings and slides down into deepest hell?

    I think my Dad misses CRTs as well but, you know, I get so much more space in front of my keyboard these days than I used to. I can’t go back!

    Mr B

    Ah, yes, I missed the other aspect of that little metaphor out. Thanks for an appropriate amendment to my tale 🙂

    I should put all my ideas into one place, they tend to be a lot more spread out than they should be, always a new list compiling ideas, never compressed into a single list. Good luck to your Ideation Dungeon. You need to find an app which forces that action upon you, “enter idea here”, but will not be fooled by a full stop 🙂


    Thank you! So many things I want to do, I’m hoping all the pent-up creative frustration will explode this year. Hopefully not taking my braincase with it.

  9. “Is that a thing in the iUtopia? That if you upgrade your computer then 32-bit apps are totally hosed? Jesus, that’s harsh.”

    It certainly is. Here’s the official Apple support page telling you that if you have a 32-bit app, you should search the internet for the name of the developer to ask for a 64-bit app. In other words, go fuck yourself.

    And the explanation for why 32-bit apps are banned appears to be that 64-bit apps run better? But… it’s not obviously the case that having a 32-bit app prevents the 64-bit app from running better? There seems to be an undercurrent of “serves you right for not getting everything though the app store.” But it seems I can pay $80 for a program that will maybe let me run old OSes in the new OS?

    “I suppose this is my regular once-a-decade reminder that I should play Nightsky. You didn’t wait very long Matt. It was the first day.”

    Well, we don’t always have similar tastes in games….

  10. Thoughts on Unitied:

    I cannot believe this game does not have a fucking undo function.

    This has been Thoughts on Unitied.

  11. Ah, Matt, this is sadly true. It’s a bit annoying when you’ve made an accidental mistake and you have to restart – this kept happening to me on one of the later levels.

  12. wow my comments have been ridiculously cranky! um, I’ve been enjoying Cinco Paus and Into the Breach a lot. They both have the nice thing that I said I got from roguelikes where you have a lot of elements interacting in unpredictable ways.

  13. I’ve not played Cinco Paus enough to get into it – it’s unreadable on the surface and you have to stick at it to get a sense of what’s going on. Into the Breach, well, not even started that, but I did swipe a free copy from EGS recently.

  14. Without getting awfully spoilery, Cinco Paus has that nice roguelike feel of having elements interact in unpredictable ways. Like, one time where I knew that I had everything lined up so I could defeat every monster on the map with one shot–and also those times when you manage to punch yourself in the face. It’s also funny, in the way that unpredictable effects can be a sort of abstract slapstick, plus shrimp are funny.

    Also there’s a phase where you’re figuring out what the heck is going on, and a phase after that, which is a dynamic that mystery games like this often have–Starseed Pilgrim is another one, where you can spoil yourself silly and it’s still a good game. This is something that I associate with roguelikes somewhat, though it’s really more nethack than most of the other ones, and in nethack it’s so hard to discover things that almost everyone who wants to win goes for the wiki (or the source code, which has been available for much longer than there were wikis).

    That dynamic also plays out within given games where in any given Jogo you start out knowing nothing and as you learn things you may be able to deploy your knowledge strategically and predictably, eventually. Another dynamic here comes with the question–is a game one Jogo or a streak? I learned something from your Twitter feeds about streaks that I won’t mention here.

    The mac port of cinco paus seems to reset its memory every time you quit and restart, which loses the high score list (yawn) and the streak (pretty annoying) and also sets the RNG to the same thing every time, which is kind of funny.

    Into the Breach also has a nice thing with different powers interacting in cool ways. It’s not really super roguelike (though it is turn- and grid-based)–there’s no exploration to speak of, really. Fun though. Start on Easy mode with tutorial tips turned on–I found it impossible to understand without the tutorial. I don’t know why everyone’s so down on tutorials, really.

    In other roguelikish news, I solved the “Do I actually want to be playing Below?” problem by realizing that Below doesn’t have a mac port. I suspect whatever I want from it I could probably get from Hollow Knight (which is in some serious stasis) or Brogue or maybe Hyper Light Drifter, which I don’t have. Also maybe I can do some complicated hack involving Wine to play my old apps after I “upgrade”? Dunno.

  15. EGS won’t even let me download my free copy of The Talos Principle, sheesh.

    …oh, it maybe feels a bit churlish, but I thought Unitied was kind of meh? Felt like I was Monte Carloing through it a lot. One thing is that it doesn’t seem like you get the “U wot?” feeling that you get when you look at a ridiculous level of Snakebird or Sausage Roll–I have to bang around with the level a while before I see why it’s difficult, and then it just doesn’t feel like I have an epiphany when I solve it. I got stuck on level 36 for a long time like you, and then when I solved it it was “oh, you can do *that*, duh.” Which may mean that I need to Git Gud and understand its inner workings, but it just doesn’t draw me back in.–Though for such an inexpensive and short game it’s pleasant enough, I shouldn’t make it sound like I’m trashing it.

  16. Cinco Paus: Yeah, I quickly got the idea that the impacts of the wands were random, much like the artifacts in Zaga-33, and I had to git gud at reading the graphical descriptions. You have spend some quality time sitting down with it – and I just haven’t done that. I need to persevere get to the point where it is rabidly compelling, a bit like how Hoplite did that for me.

    I played a fair bit of Below and it had some real nice elements, but the roguelite element was getting me down, because although there were Dark Souls style level skips, if you died a few too many times, it was really viable to jumping to level 3, say. And I got bored trudging through the first level. As a result, I haven’t returned to it for the longest time. I want to go back though.

    Unitied: I don’t normally like this sort of game precisely because of Monte Carlo. I just don’t seem to develop much mental structure around them, no feeling for how the puzzles work. I also find them a little dull. However, Unitied kept things so small, generally, that I found I was developing a bit of a feel for where the solution would lie, and I would blast through many levels in one swoop. There were a few in there, however, where it was classic Monte Carlo and I was just searching for the move I hadn’t tried yet. It’s not a big game by any means and I’m sure I’ll forget it in years to come. But it passed a little time and wasn’t offensive to my puzzle sensibilities.

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