VALUE Field Reports #34: Recreating History


I’ve been told that creating worlds is difficult: gods spent a lot of effort in creating the planet and the stars, aliens spawn life (only to harvest humankind later on), evil superhumans defy Captain Kirk and terraform planets. Sounds like a lot of work. Quite a few articles in this Field Report deal with creating virtual worlds, and while they make it look easy (especially in comparison to the effort gods and aliens put in) it becomes clear that it’s much harder than it looks! It doesn’t matter if they recreate Palmyra, a Roman fort, school shootings, a Hollywood-version of history, or the entire Milky Way: people put a lot of hours, work, and love into their projects in order to bring a part of our reality to your computerscreen. Wanna build your own (small) version of history? Read the below articles for inspiration!
Welcome to Issue 34!

(Dutch) Interview With Megalithic

A new generation
Archeologie Leeft, a Dutch website that aims to inspire archaeologists with out-of-the-box thinking and stories, has interviewed our very own Megalithic about VALUE. In it, Megalithic talks about the Pokemon Go Heritage Trail, Rebuilding Palmyra, Romeincraft, and much more.

Sorry, international audience, but the entire interview is in Dutch. So you’ll have to learn Dutch within the next 10 minutes. Go on, we’re waiting.

Fine, I guess you can use Google Translate or ask your questions directly to Megalithic on Twitter if you want. Take the easy way out!

Read the interview

How To Act During A School Shooting: Homeland Security Is Developing FPS For Teachers

School shootings are a horrible reality in America (and to a lesser extent the rest of the world), but the news that Homeland Security is actively developing a FPS to simulate school shootings is a harsh reminder that such horrible events aren’t as rare and unique as one might hope. An addition to an already existing tool used to train police and firefighters for school shootings tries to train school teachers in how to respond to an active shooter. Apparently there’s three roles that a ‘player’ can assume: shooter, teacher, and officer.
While video games have been used by the American military and police force for the past decades, this grim scenario trains teachers for a skill that they did not became a teacher for.

Practice makes perfect, but let’s just hope none of the trained teachers will ever have to put their training in practice.

You can read all about this (slightly disturbing) training tool

Go Roman: When In Scotland
What are you buying stranger

Ever wondered what life was like for Romans stationed in a fort along the Antonine Wall in present day Scotland? No? Well, dang. Maybe Go Roman, a educational app developed by Historic Environment Scotland and The Glasgow School of Art might change that. The smartphone app lets players select a character to wander around the fort in, discovering the day-to-day routine of occupants of the fort. Real-life artifacts found in the fort have been scanned and put into the game for added realism.
So grab your helmet, practice your latin, and explore Bar Hill Fort!

The Making Of The Game About The Making Of Giant Killer Robots
Beep boop

Chris Taylor is one of the game industry’s greatest designers, responsible for the monumental Total Annihilation series that changed how developers approached RTS-games completely. After ten years (and the Dungeon Siege series) Taylor returned to the RTS genre with Supreme Commander a sci-fi RTS with cutting edge mechanics and technologies. Players were put in charge of building and commanding a giant robot army, consisting of small tanks, battleships, and giant (and I mean GIANT) lumbering death-stars-on-legs end-game units. The massive amount of units (and the massive size of some of those), the graphical fidelity, and the ability to zoom so far out that you could see the entire map, meant that not every pc was up to the task of running this game smoothly.
Eurogamer interviewed Chris Taylor about the history of Supreme Commander

Inside the Mind of a (Programming) Genius
Oh you know, just invent new technologies on the fly

You might’ve never heard of him, but Tim Sweeney is one of smartest persons in the games industry and he has shaped the way games are being and will be created with his inventions.
Just a random grab from things he’s done: built an editor for Unreal from scratch, coded volumetric lighting because he thought someone else had done it (they hadn’t, it was photoshopped), and making a real-time entity-tree. And here I am, trying to figure out how a simple Python command works.
If you’re interested in the history of Unreal, development, and/or programming, makes sure to read this interview!
Gamasutra’s interview with Tim Sweeney

Cheater Dethroned: The Story of Todd Rogers

Serves him right
Todd Rogers has been known as one of the greatest gamers of all time with world records in tens of Atari games that no one could get even close to. He got sponsorships, tv appearances, wrote books, but never could reproduce the high scores in public. Yes, my sceptic friends, that sounds downright suspicious. In fact, Todd Rogers’ highscores are so good that no one could reproduce them, even with a program that controls every single frame. Somehow, Rogers was able to set records in games that were literally impossible to achieve! Times faster than the gamecode would allow and scores higher than was programmed for, but all seen and approved by a referee!
Some speedrunners delved into the mystery and quickly found that there was no way any of these records were real, and appealed for a broader investigation. Guess what? That referee is a friend of Rogers! After some pressure, Twin Galaxies (a record keeper for video games) finally agreed, and after 35 years Todd Rogers has been unmasked as the cheater he is.
Justice is served! Read everything about Rogers’ downfall on Polygon

Age of Empires: The Least-worst Idea

Hindsight is 20-20, and if you’d travel 20 years back in time to tell Ensemble Studios that they’d make one of the greatest RTS games that would introduce hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of young gamers to the wonders of history, they’d probably ask you to leave their database-creating IT company. But one curious meeting, and many brainstorm sessions later, Age of Empires came to life. And the rest is history…

But not the history that I studied or that you’ll find in history books: the developer freely admits taking artistic license with the history portrayed in their games. You might already know that whilst historical accuracy is important to me, it shouldn’t get in the way of fun (as long as it’s clear where liberties were taken). Former employees of Ensemble Studios call this Hollywood history, a term I’ll gladly borrow. If only Saint Bonifatius yelled “WOLOLOOOOO” when he tried to convert the Frisians to Christianity, he might’ve not been killed!
Arstechnica interviewed some developers that worked on the original Age of empires

Rebuilding History: With LEGO!
Brick by LEGO-brick

There once was a fortified barracks in the Scottish Highlands, built there by the British in the beginning of the 18th century to control the increasingly unruly Jacobites there. Jacobites, not deterred by a couple of bricks and cannons, attacked the barracks twice before capturing it. And then they burned it down! The ruins weren’t rebuilt. That is to say, not rebuilt with stone. Brick To The Past has reimagined the Jacobite Risings with a giant LEGO model at the Sterling Castle, and the Ruthven Barracks model forms a large part of it.
Check out the blog, or better yet visit the castle if you’re in the neighbourhood!

Creating The Universe

The spacetrucking/spacestation docking/alien artifact finding/star dodging space game Elite: Dangerous prides itself on its 1:1 scale accurately simulated Milky Way. Yes, 1:1 scale, which means you’ll never reach the next planet if you don’t supercruise. Recreating this immensely vast space sounds like an impossible task, but the Stellar Forge software (which was specifically designed for Elite: Dangerous) proved to be of crucial value to the game. In the fascinating linked video, programmer Dr Anthony Ross talks about how the galaxy was created.

Manipulate Time, Become Vast Friends

Time-manipulation is not an unexplored mechanic (just think of Braid, TimeShift, Ocarina of Time and many more). However The Gardens Between is still worth looking at: its beautiful art, interesting time-manipulating puzzles, and environments that appear to be snapshots of moments in the characters’ lives make the title stand out. Already showered in awards, the game’s set for a Q3 2018 release.
If only I could manipulate time, so I can experience this story about friendship right now

Become a (Mad) Scientist With Minecraft Education Edition!

Yes, another Minecraft article. Nonono, don’t run away! I swear it’s not about a temple that’s rebuilt in Minecraft or an emulator running entirely within the game. The Education Edition is aimed at schools to bring students together and facilitate creative projects. This probably means there’s no dynamite to blow up other students’ projects with, darn.
However, a new update introduces chemistry, thus allowing students to safely learn about the horrible, horrible chemical reactions one can create with average kitchen supplies. Maybe I won’t need dynamite after all, time to figure out how I can create HSbF6 in the game. Failing that, maybe I can create (virtual) life! Watch out, world of Minecraft a whole generation of evil geniuses is coming to you!
Read more on this awesome addition to an already awesome educational game

Retelling the History of Video Games: The Digital Antiquarian
Back In Time

“Oh amazing Bram”, I hear you say, “I wish to know more about the amazing history of video. Especially the amazing early days when everything was new. Maybe something about the gamers, too! Can you help me?”. To which I simply reply: “Nope!”. Lucky for you, there’s people who have extensively researched and written about these early days. So grab your Atari or DOS-capable personal computer, put in that floppy disk, and join me over at The Digital Antiquarian! This Antiquarian is not all ones and zeroes, but an actual human being who (amongst other things) loves to write about gaming in the 1980s. And he’s very good at it, I might add! In long and detailed blogposts, the Antiquarian takes you back to a time when video games were made by small groups, fit on a floppy disk or two, and weren’t afraid to kill you because you forgot to pick up the small coin in screen 14 two hours ago (I’m still angry with you over that, King’s Quest!). All of his blogposts are also bundled in free eBooks!
Go check out this amazing corner of the internet

The Origins of Nintendo

It’s no secret that Nintendo started as a playing card manufacturer in 1889, but this (Japanese) article holds a lot of really cool facts of how Kojiro Yamauchi constructed the foundations for one of the most beloved companies today. It also tells of Yamauchi’s family and how a cement company paved (hah, get it, it sorta works!) the way for him to start up Nintendo. And maybe even more important, an awesome photo of the original Nintendo headquarters!
Read (and Google Translate) the article here

We All Live in a Cardboard Submarine
Blup blup blup

Now coop board games don’t always work out too well for me: someone might value their own hitpoints over that of their fellow players, or refuse to hand over new loot, resulting in us all dying a gruesome death or getting caught. I’m getting a sinking feeling if I think about playing UBOOT, a coop board game centered around one of the most dangerous war-time environments: a submarine. I mean, a pressurized cigar-shaped tube that travels deep below the surface and relies on sonar to find its way is just one little accident away from imploding on itself.
And little accidents, like bad rolls or forgetfulness, happen all the time with board games. Especially when you read what players have to do in order to win the game: move crew around, repairs, fight off enemies, navigation. And all of that in real-time!
Look at this crazy (cool) upcoming board game

Pulling 360 Methods and Learning About Life: Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater Without Memory Card
Pretending I'm a superman

Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater is probably not the first game you’d think of if someone asked you about life-changing experiences. The soundtrack might’ve influenced your life and perhaps you took up skateboarding as a direct result, but changing the way you view life? It did for one Polygon writer, who learned about existentialism because he didn’t have a memory card to save the game. Apparently having to deal with the fact that everything you do in a game is futile because you’ll have to start all over, grants you new insights how to deal with loss and progress. To me, it sounds like he’s just playing a Rogue-like version of THPS, but maybe it was an important experience for him.
Read his story about how he learned to embrace a different way of playing the game

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