Current Favorite Online Reads
This is a short list of some of my favorite articles I’ve ever read online. These are mostly all Long Reads™️ so strap in if you click any of the links.
Lionhead: The Inside Story
I love stories about entrepreneurs, especially those mixing art and commerce. This piece follows the enigmatic Peter Molyneux from his first games to the eventual creation of legendary Lionhead Studios (Fable, Black & White).
It’s an oral history with quotes from programmers/testers/designers all reminiscing about their time at Lionhead. They talk in-depth about the crunch time (24/7 development), but also the freedom they had and creative atmosphere at Lionhead. There were no roadmaps or schedules, just creative people working really hard to make great games. Definite cowboy style development. The excellent book Masters of Doom profiles id Software which had a similar development style: non-stop, few rules, maximum responsibility, total creative freedom, commitment to quality, and a strong point of view.
Again, a really great read where you can tell the author spent ages interviewing and researching to write the piece.
The Website Obesity Crisis
This one is definitely a Long Read™️ but the best kind. A deep dive into how we’ve gotten to the point where websites with sparse content can cause your laptop to overheat.
The tone is no-nonsense, humorous, and incredulous at some of the practices employed that have led to this problem. The author even has several examples where he takes a page and redesigns it, radically reducing file size in a few steps. This post also gets into controversial topics such as dynamically loaded ads and user tracking. Consciously designing smaller websites can actually improve the real world (cheesy but true). Smaller websites allow easier access for people without high speed internet, and less energy overall is used downloading needlessly large files.
Great quote to leave with from the article: “[T]ext-based websites should not exceed in size the major works of Russian literature.” Also, this post from Fabien Sanglard about simplifying his website is really great. From him: “The homepage requires 23 HTTP requests. It weighs 1.5 MiB and takes 800 milliseconds to load. All that to show six images and a banner. If you scroll down all the way to the bottom, your browser will have transfered 5.6 MiB while performing 78 HTTP requests. How did I end up building this crap?”
Good Game Well Played: The Story of the Staying Power of ‘StarCraft’
Another piece about game development. I’m not sure if this is what I’ve been gravitating to lately, or these are the type of stories that stick with me because I’m a programmer that enjoys development war stories. Either way, a great story about a company buckling down to make a genre-defying game instead of releasing something subpar.
This is similar to the Eurogamer piece, with the author writing an oral history that includes Blizzard employees waxing poetically about their time making the game. There are stories about throwing up in trash cans, sleeping at desks (more crunch), and having their initial demo panned by audiences causing them to throw everything out.
I really love this quote from the article: “Like a lot of games in development, StarCraft seemed troubled until suddenly, one day, it didn’t”. That quote perfectly expresses the struggle on a long project where things are not really working, you’ve spent a lot of time already, and you have to keep going to find the end.
Rick Owens Interviews (Any)
Rick Owens is a truly unique fashion designer. Born in California and now living in Paris, his namesake brand is one of the largest independent fashion brands in the world.
I actually don’t own any of his clothing, though I’ve probably read all of his interviews and watched every YouTube video that includes him (this one from the New York Times at his studio in Paris is great). I love his extreme honesty, DISTINCT (all caps necessary here) point of view, humility, and humor with which he expresses his opinions. Some would call his clothing prohibitively expensive and the designs impractical (knee length shirts, drop-crotch shorts, “monster truck” style shoes). But the clothes are beautiful, dark, and aspirational. Also the store in New York looks more like an architecture museum than retail space.
The interviews on his website are all amazing. The one I chose to highlight includes these gems:
“HAS THERE BEEN ONE PIECE OF APPAREL YOU HAVE CREATED THAT YOU REGARD AS A TRANSCENDENT MASTERWORK?
[RO] OH. PLEASE.
THE MOST CLASSIC RICK OWEN-ISM?
[RO] “KEEP IT SIMPLE, STUPID.”
WHAT MAKES YOU MAD?
WHAT GIVES YOU PEACEFULNESS?
[RO] CONCRETE. “