That man is very big.

The best nation is that which either wins a space race to Alpha Centauri, blesses the world with twenty Wonders and Great People, amasses a tremendous pile of cash or captures four rival capitals. While all victory conditions are possible, the game is most often nudging you toward the latter. From the earliest days of your civilization, you must always prepare for the ever-present threat of conflict. This is a world forever on the brink of war.

This is unfortunate on a number of levels. Particularly some of the barbarians.

This looks a bit like a scene from the Kubrick version of The Shining.

It’s a slow and methodical business of finding beetles under rocks. You peek around every corner, peer through every window and squint into each loft space you pass. It’s not uncommon for gunfire to come from nowhere or for aliens to announce themselves with sniping or grenades well before you spot them. An unscrupulous commander may not mind firing back into the unknown, lobbing grenades through dark windows or blasting down walls with missile launchers.

I forgot to mention that I reviewed this X-COM/UFO remake. But I did. So here it is.

More tanks and more hexes.

Panzer Tactics HD has you following similar campaigns to many of Panzer General’s peers, Blitzkrieging your way across Europe with Nazi party-poopers determined to invade everything in sight, pushing your way into Berlin to paint the town red with the Soviets, or chasing the Axis forces out of their conquests with the rest of the Allied forces. The campaigns are mostly offensive efforts and you’re always facing a time limit as you move to capture or hold key objectives. Here, war is all about grasping at things.

Tanks again (urgh).

Kryptos.

At Dragon Con, where she was giving a presentation about her work making video games, she fell in with speakers who were there to talk about computer security. One of them handed her a flyer related to PhreakNIC v3.0, a cryptographic puzzle that had yet to be cracked. The way Dunin tells it, she took the puzzle home and - over a weekend stuck indoors with the flu - quickly became obsessed and then solved it. It came apart in layers, apparently. Aside from a confidence boost, PhreakNIC also provided Dunin her first mention of the Kryptos sculpture. A line in the text pointed her towards this weird artwork that the CIA had commissioned back in the late 1980s.

This is amazing. I wish I’d written it. It’s the sort of research-led, carefully crafted work that we don’t yet have enough of in games journalism. Aside from that, it’s a fascinating thing in itself, so unusual and extraordinary.

Still, I don’t think games journalism has fully embraced research and reflection beyond the personal. While many of us are still good at writing about our own histories and experiences, a journalist’s role is to study, analyse, digest and present things that sometimes might have little or nothing to directly do with themselves. Games journalism seems far more self-reflective than other journalism, be those media or non-media focused. I frequently feel like I’m coming across things that are closer to the opinion pieces in newspapers or periodicals than anything else.

There’s a place for all sorts of writing about games, but a lot of games journalists are of the blogger generation and I wonder if this has steered the field in a particular direction. A good writer can make themselves and their stories interesting, but a good journalist can make someone else’s story compelling.

Eurogamer have commissioned some great research-led features over the years, often telling some extraordinary and very entertaining stories. Here’s to even more.

Guns. The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems.

Men must be shot and points must be captured. The former is best done with ample use of cover, while standard practice now dictates that the latter is achieved by sitting near an objective until it changes colour. It’s a symbiotic relationship, of course: the best way to keep something the other team are trying to get hold of is to hide on or near or below or above it, squinting down your ever-roving sights like some murderous and baffled astronomer.

Guns.

Quigley & Partners must be the new home of oil painter Ocean Quigley, previously Maxis' incredibly talented art director.

It almost feels like SimCity grew up. Like it became pubescent and bitter and threw those values away, like it’s snarling in your face and telling you you’re a fool for even trying, for believing in all its beautiful, virtual Californias, for believing in the real California, for believing in anything like that.

'The world doesn't really work that way,' it laughs. 'The world isn't fair! Some things just don't make sense! Sometimes you try hard and it doesn't work out; you get nothing.'

Time to look back at SimCity again. I think about what Maxis’ games mean to me, how much so many of them appealed to me and why it was that SimCity still smarts, even a year on.

I wonder what happens to all the Sims I’ve abandoned in all those malformed cities I tried to run. I guess they’re suspended somewhere, all their lives halted, mid-moment.

I hope they’re all doing okay.

I think someone was annoyed that I didn't mention dual-weilding in the review. Perhaps because it's a) nothing that new and b) so frequently in screenshots?

But it is trying, and I do respect that not everyone out there is making games where one minute you’re using a laser to make a Nazi burst and the next minute you’re collecting toys for a man with a mental disability. This plot, its many cut-scenes and set-pieces, is clearly where much of the game’s heart lies. It’s had so much invested in it, even if it doesn’t quite deliver.

Wolfenstein 3D was the first PC game that astonished me. I remember playing it as a child in a PC World store, unable to leave the computer.

Unfortunately, it’s not currently possible to take screen grabs on the XBox One the way that you can on a PlayStation 4 or, very easily, on the PC. I’d like to have snapped a few of the bugs as they happened, to be illustrative.

Vikings!

[Archaeologists] are re-examining bones from grave sites that they assumed were men because they had this long-standing belief that women didn’t fight in combat, a belief that came from 1,500 years of a patriarchal society dominated by Christianity. It’s hard to break out of that mindset. They looked at graves and said ‘Oh, this was a guy, cause he’s buried with a sword and a shield.’

This was a good interview to conduct and it’s always neat when video games and history have an interesting story to tell together. Van Dyke has had to challenge quite a few people on not only his physical portrayal of women, but also on what is or is not factually accurate. There are still a lot of people who don’t want to accept the idea of women in martial pursuits.

(Also, there’s an interesting reading suggestion in the comment thread.)

Endless Legend.

Early Access does not disavow developers of responsibility, de Waubert adds, and they should still be prepared to offer something worthwhile to their players, along with the guarantee that improvements are to come. He says he’s also concerned that many use Early Access as a way to shore up development costs, to tide themselves over.

While we talked about his new game, the creative lead behind Endless Legend had some fair points to make about Steam Early Access and direction the games industry seems to be going in.

Endless Legend looks promising. A couple of years back, I wrote about how I missed Master of Magic and how I felt like fantasy 4X games never really had that sort of scope again. Or even took off. We were always more invested in setting those sorts of things in space instead.

Well, now we’ve got our new Age of Wonders and Eador and Warlock and all sorts, but Endless Legend is the one that might appeal to me the most. Possibly. There’s still a lot to be done and strategy games like these need more than just a test drive. I demand a lot of replay value from my 4X titles, you know.

Maia version 0.42 is here. It’s a really exciting update, adding the first alien life, orbital drops, new equipment such as seismic sensors and even toilets. There’s a bunch more text in this game and, following increased haiku demand, lots more poetry is coming…

Maia is on Steam right here. The official site is here and you can keep track of Maia on Twitter.