[Magazine veteran Kevin 'Magweasel' Gifford analyzes the last couple weeks' game publications, checking in on timeliness snags, design snafus and an intriguing update on GamePro's revamp efforts.
John Davison, current GamePro editor-in-chief, has been busy reinventing his magazine over the past half-year -- to very good effect, I should add. I wonder if he'd be surprised to learn that, despite the fact GamePro (like most other mags) stopped printing a cheat section ages ago, his employers apparently still retain an "Office of Codes & Cheats." In Iowa.
I'm being facetious, of course -- the subscription department probably made up that name because it's more eye-catching than "Subscription Department" -- but all the same, I doubt Davison had much of a hand in this renewal notice I received from GP in the mail today.
That's because the GamePro described in this letter certainly isn't the GamePro I'm reading today. In fact, it isn't really the GamePro I contributed to back in 2002, back when we were still using fuzzy animal pseudonyms. It's more a throwback to GP circa 1994, when the mag still printed at least four PROTIPs per review and devoted dozens of pages every month to maps and strategy guides.
Anyone who reads this letter and subscribes in hopes of hot Modern Warfare 2
cheats may be a tad disappointed when they open the pages of the latest issue and find the adult-oriented, intensely deep industry coverage that GamePro's offering up today. To say the least, it may be wise for Davison or someone under him to readjust the mag's direct-mail sales pitch the next time around. I do appreciate being called a "Game Master," however -- it's about time someone
recognized my talents around here.
(You might be wondering, by the way, why the Office of Codes & Cheats is based in Iowa when GamePro itself is headquartered in San Francisco. That's because Iowa is home to CDS Global
, a subsidiary of Hearst that magazine publishers outsource their customer service, subscription fulfillment and other menial tasks to.)
On to this round's spate of mags. With E3 still bright in readers' minds, it's gotta be tough for print editors to seem fresh and up-to-date in their July issues despite the month-ish lead times. Let's see how they dealt:
Game Informer July 2010
Cover: Infamous 2
GI doesn't do itself any favors on the timeliness front by kicking off the front section with articles about Bungie's 10-year publishing deal with Activision (announced in late April) and Insomniac's multiplatform agreement with EA Partners (a story that first broke in mid-March). On the plus side are the later features, devoted to topics like how much a claim to the word "art" games have and humorous bugs discovered during game development, as recalled by the developers -- both articles that work a lot better in the print medium. (The latter's an idea Game Developer's done once or twice, but I think this is the first time a consumer mag's picked it up.)
I do not like the cover at all, the way it seems to feature every cliche of modern gaming visuals -- it's dark, it's brown, it's got a pissed-off dude looking directly at you. (At least he isn't carrying a space rifle.) The feature inside is a lot more interesting, though, in the way it explores the question of what's expected out of a hero character in a modern action game.
Retro Gamer Issue 77
One of my favorite issues of RG in recent memory, mainly thanks to the games covered. I love (in no particular order) Prince of Persia, A Boy and His Blob, Zork
, and Super Hang-On
with its ridiculous mini-motorcycle to straddle, and seeing the incredible treatment all four games get in here is a joy.
There's also an interview with a guy who produced a licensed adventure game based on the Beatles in 1985, even though the Beatles themselves either ignored it or tried to keep it from going on sale, depending on the individual band member the programmer sent the game to. The UK game industry back then was nothing short of chaotic.
PC Gamer August 2010
Cover: Deus Ex: Human Revolution
My favorite of the cover features this month, partly because writer Tom Francis realizes what's involved here: a studio trying to outdo a game that quite simply cannot be outclassed in the mind of PC fans. His article's deep, detailed, and a lot of fun to read, although there isn't as much developer chat as I would've hoped for.
The free DVD included with this issue is actually an EcoDisc
, a flexible DVD-ROM that claims to use half the energy and plastic material to produce. It's also a lot lighter than a "real" DVD, and while this is an educated guess on my part, I'm positive Future's using EcoDiscs to save on postage costs with the subscriber editions of their magazines. (I'm sure they'd use them for OXM's discs as well, if Microsoft would let 'em.)
Nintendo Power July 2010
Cover: Sonic Colors
If you want coverage of Nintendo's massive E3 presence this issue, then keep dreamin'. Instead, you'll get all the latest on The Sims 3, Shaun White Skateboarding
, and (clears throat) Batman: The Brave and the Bold: The Videogame
I'm being unfair, of course, especially since the cover feature's quite nice (Takashi Iizuka is a surprisingly intelligent guy) and there's a 4-page piece on Retro City Rampage
, one of the biggest pushes I've seen NP give a WiiWare title in a very long time. It looks hot.
PC Gamer Proudly Presents The 2010 PC Builder's Bible
Future's latest one-off is a surprisingly nice piece of design, something I wasn't expecting at all. The first few dozen pages host a series of vertically-aligned spreads, each devoted to a single PC component and covering the basics behind each bit. It's a nice thing to look at, and it definitely goes a long way toward justifying the existence of this mag over free online resources...in my book, anyway. The rest of the mag is a bit more pedestrian in nature, but it's full of illustrations and never gets really boring.
Game Developer June/July 2010
Who can forget about Game Developer? The piece on applying art techniques to game design touted on the cover is surprisingly approachable -- in fact, reading it will help you better recognize what goes into good art design in nearly any kind of entertainment media, not just games. I'm finding myself recognizing design principles covered in the article all the time in games, old and new, now that I'm aware of them. Very neat.
[Kevin Gifford used to breed ferrets, but now he's busy running Magweasel, a really cool weblog about games and Japan and "the industry" and things. In his spare time he does writing and translation for lots of publishers and game companies.]