The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on April 27th, 2008 at 3:23 pm.

Sunday Papers image is here which you can look at with your eyes.

Normally I’d fill in a joke about being hungover here. Alas, it’s no joke, especially for my poor poisoned body. But still, a good time to do what we always do with the Sunday Papers – that is, compile a list of some thoughtful pieces of commentary I’ve happened upon this week and present them to you, and try really hard not to link to a record which sounds a lot like I feel.

Failed.

.

42 Comments »

  1. Alex says:

    Clearly, the RPS comments threads are the best, however.

    YEAH!!! WHOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! FTW!!!!

  2. Nuyan says:

    We’re a bunch of adorable pussycats, awesome.

  3. Alex says:

    WHOOOOOOwait a minute – there’s no link to the 1Up piece.

    No whoo for you, Mr. Gillen!

  4. MisterBritish says:

    The_B got linked! Hurrah!

  5. Zuffox says:

    It may be Firefox twitching, but I couldn’t see the 1UP article link. So here it is, in case it’s been involuntarily omitted:

    http://www.1up.com/do/feature?pager.offset=0&cId=3167513

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Very, very tired.

    KG

  7. Leigh says:

    Dear KG, thank you very much for noting my tribulations over the past week. Though Unangst did indeed maintain the party line despite my attempts at aggression, the snafu actually took place around pre-scripted comments from another Microsoft exec, Aaron Greenberg, on a different article I wrote for Kotaku during the same week (http://kotaku.com/382637/microsoft-rare-gyration-talk-360-wii-remote-rumors)

    The quote he gave me:
    “Nintendo’s success is great for us,” says Greenberg. “It’s helped broaden the industry, and we feel like we’re a part of that effort. I think that Xbox 360 is a great compliment to that experience; our belief is we offer an experience that has a broad appeal from teens to adults and even young adults… what we’re seeing right now, coming out of last holiday, is that the fastest-growing segment for us is teenagers and teenage girls. With Guitar Hero, Rock Band, Dance Dance Revolution… the music genre has really exploded and those titles are selling best on Xbox 360.”

    The quote he gave to Next-Gen just a bit earlier:
    “We think Nintendo’s success, to be honest, is great for us. They’re doing great things to help broaden the audience in the industry. We’re playing a role as well. And Xbox is a great complement to that experience. It’s interesting, because we’re not really targeting the same consumer with the same kind of experience, but in many ways we’re finding that as we grow and broaden…a lot of that audience is going to be graduating up from the Wii experience. We think we’re a great complement to that. What Nintendo’s doing is great for the industry, but it’s great for us as well.”

    So yeah, the Greenberg bit is what I was being accused of plagiarizing and/or representing a text statement as a conversation interview.

    <333

  8. Mike says:

    It’s always a bit dangerous to start working out the ‘per-hour’ Fun Index of a game, as if you’re a Community Centre course away from drawing graphs of smile width plotted against kill count.

    As for fidelity, I think a lot of metaphors that journalism’s been trying to throw at us lately are really pretty shoddy. Or at least, the way they’ve been extended until snapping point is. Obsession with a game isn’t ‘settling down’ any more than a fascination with Star Trek is.

    Still, I guess it’s better than the endless comparisons between this and film.

  9. Mike says:

    I feel sorry for Kieron – he always fails on a sunday. Poor man.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    Leigh: Tweaked. Sorry!

    KG

  11. Zuffox says:

    You wouldn’t be properly hungover, if you didn’t mess up your Sunday posting somehow, would you now, Gillen.

    ;)

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    I sometimes suspect I’m not the man who should be doing the Sunday Papers.

    KG

  13. Leigh says:

    No no, it makes our vicarious experience of your mad existence much, much better :D

  14. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    And of course gives us pedants succulent morsels of wrong to pick at, such as…

    Prompted by my piece on Mucky Foot, The_B puts republishes retrospective piece about Startopia he wrote for PC Gamer.

    It seems from The_B’s blurb that it didn’t actually get published in the first place, he just submitted it. Also, good to see ‘The Staring Eyes of The_B’ there.

  15. Rook says:

    Duncan Fyfe needs to play Mask of the Betrayer.

    edit: and people need to stop interviewing anyone from Games for Windows, it’s like talking to Muhammad Saeed al-Sahhaf. (thanks wiki)

  16. Larington says:

    Yikes, I hadn’t realised that that whole thing emerged in the thread about that games closure. I’d looked at it initialy, sympathised for a moment but didn’t feel capable of giving it deep enough thought for a good response – Insufficient frame of reference, if you will.
    I’m glad I missed all that hostility, whatever the motivations might have been behind it.

  17. Alex says:

    Very, very tired.

    WHOOOOOOgodIknowwhatyoumeanOOOOOOOOO!!

  18. Dinger says:

    Okay, every Sunday does make me wish I’d just touched down on an international runway. ‘Cos at GMT+6 from the Rock City, for example, the Sunday Papers arrive at a good time for a leisurely Sunday read.
    Of course, there’s no reason they need to be prepared on Sunday. But I’d be a fool if I pretended that stuff got done before deadlines.

    Anyway, the VMK thing: it’s kinda sad, since if I were some pompous academic in a media studies or philosophy department (oh wait…), the original entry would enter into the evidence to what I might point to as the “Rossignol thesis”, along with a hefty footnote to some mighty codex issued by some university press of note.
    I’d put the scope at a lot less than all that. Troll theory shows that nothing brings out the asses quite like an appeal to pity. It’s not racism, or in this case deriding those who are differently abled as it is the default reaction to anything that looks like an appeal to pity. The person at the center of the controversy never wanted pity, just a place to be, and, sure it’s difficult for testosterone-poisoned 14-year-olds to see the difference.

    “loners, losers and dorks?” Hell, some of us have it worse than others, but everybody’s got something that qualifies a social scar. We don’t run from it, or hide from it; we celebrate it. Except for the sociopaths, of course.

    Now: what does Troll theory say about any of this? If there’s something that Rossignol sees as “meaning” in these fundamentally social games, there are hordes of people who find meaning in denying that it exists. Some people want to promote the despair of Oedipa Maas.

  19. McCool says:

    Wow, that Neverwinter Nights 2 article was spot-on. Pretty much exactly my sentiments when I played the game. I thought I must be insane, because I was yet to find -anyone- that agreed with me. D&D for D&D’s sake. Horrid. It is a system of rules built to help people do one thing – role play. A means to an end. Neverwinter Nights 2 treated it like the end-all, everything that SHOULD matter in an RPG, the story, the interactivity and the freedom thereof was promptly ignored, tired cliches thrust in their place. Urgh.
    I thought the same about the original NWN, actually. Infact, it was when PC Gamer gave a higher review to it than it did to Morrowind when I stopped reading the magazine I had read as long as it had been published/I could read. Incidentally, that was the last I saw of Kieron Gillen until RPS!

  20. Nick says:

    NWN2 was disappointing (and felt like chunks were missing, just for a change, Obsidian), but it was a big leap from the rubbish of NWN from a single player perspective (and a gameplay one, everything about the interface and presentation of NWN was godawful).

  21. PleasingFungus says:

    I really liked NWN! But I can’t say the same about NWN 2. Played for a number of hours before I finally threw in the towel. My brother did the same. The review was pretty much right, yeah.

  22. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Well, as much as i’ve no idea who THE B is, in terms of real life-ness, I always see him around on various forums I frequent (except Eurogamer – oi, THE B, if that is your real name, come join us there!), but it’s good to see someone like him, i.e. not a journalist, getting something “published”, as it were. If you see. Bravo, anyway – a top read.

  23. The_B says:

    Thanks very much for the kind comments and indeed the linkage guys. I am on Eurogamer, although I haven’t posted on the forums yet, despite meaning to. Currently University work has been a bit hectic, hence I’ve been a bit quiet on the writing as of late both blog and internet comments wise.

    Anyway, StarTopia has always been for me, pretty much the game that got me into PC gaming really. I bought it fairly early on in my PC gaming life – and it was already a couple of years old at the time – having come from a more console orientated gaming previously. Yet I still have more vivid and fond memories of this than anything previously, and indeed it still holds a special place in my heart now, for encouraging me to expand my gaming collection as it were, going back to play so much else I had missed previously such as Dungeon Keeper and further back still.

    (Oh, and I would like it known that I was doing the staring eyes thing before RPS made it cool. Or socially acceptable. :P )

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    Rook: Duncan has played mask of the Betrayer. He wasn’t very impressed with it, and said so in a funny fashion.

    McCool: I believe that was Walker, who actually loves NWN2.

    NWN2 generally: It actually picks up for me well into the second action – the bit where you’re actually running a Castle is really imaginative and exactly what I’d have wanted from a high-ish level D&D campaign.

    KG

  25. James says:

    Nrgh.

    I completely missed that VMK abuse, and I’ve got to say it I’m quite dissapointed by the thought of it. I honestly wouldn’t have expected anyone here to be as thickheaded as to assume they had any right to attack a poor girl for trying to hang onto something that gave her a life that she could – to some degree – control.

    You might be able to handle the things she does for a month, maybe even a year without needing something like VMK. It’s harder than you’d think, but it’s possible. But if you found a way for you to escape to a place where you could walk, talk and socialize without being gawked at or requiring help for the smallest of tasks, would it be that bizarre if you preferred spending time in that life to the other?

  26. McCool says:

    To KG:
    I have to admit I never got that far in NWN 2. I bought the game with very sure expectations: an game that would deliver as an RPG, but may be a little slack in the actual “game” departments (fun, intuitiveness, immersion, y’know).
    I only bought the game last month. I’ve grown up now, I thought. No longer the boy that couldn’t stomach NWN’s death-by-numbers. No, now I can take one for the team, if it means I can get my hands some some sweet, juicy roleplaying.
    For me, the litmus test for any real RPG, (or a game that claims to be one) is how the non-combat options play out. If I can play a sniveling coward AS WELL AS your average video game knight in enchanted armour, then we’re on.
    So for NWN2, I chose a female thief. Went for all the tasty talky options. Sure, I was going to get into combat, no RPG is perfect, but I figured she’d just avoid it when she could, and get other people to do it for her when she couldn’t.
    I slowly came to the realisation that Obsidian weren’t really making an RPG at all. They were making a fantasy combat simulator with RPG decerations. Setting aside the fact that the first few party members you get are a Monk, a Druid and another thief (making possibly the most pathetic war-party imaginable, I felt like I was playing the game on nightmade mode just because I didn’t go for an all-combat class. Urgh) every situation ended in combat. Every now and again, dialogue would allow you to miss one or two combat situations, but that was just added fluff. The meat of the game, setting aside the god-awful writing was this stat-driven fantasy tactics nonsense. And they call it a pure RPG.
    In this post Deus Ex world, can’t we ask for a little more?

    Ouch, sorry, that rant was longer than expected.

  27. Albides says:

    I enjoyed NWN2. But, let’s face it, when you buy any D&D game set in the Forgettable Realms, you can’t seriously expect something fresh and original. You just know you’re in for an adventure involving your motley crew of adventurers struggling against some evil foe. That’s how it’s been since D&D. Heck, since Tolkien, or even – if you want to go that extra step – since the old sagas and legends that inspired him. Although it isn’t particularly thought-provoking, it’s still immensely satisfying for most people. A formula that usually works.

    Planescape succeeded not because it was a good RPG, but because it had a good, engrossing story. Planescape was barely an RPG. Remove the combat and spells and it was more an adventure game tied to stats. Which is what we want our RPGs to become, as opposed to dungeon crawls (and, possibly, fetch quests) threaded together by talking things, which is what they’ve typically been.

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    The Forgettable Realms, more like.

    I’m basically with Albides. D&D is mainly a set of combat rules. Simulate D&D, and you’re basically simulating D&D combat. Which some may be a shame but… it’s D&D.

    KG

  29. Rook says:

    McCool: Kelgor is a fighter not a monk, I’m not entirely sure how you managed to miss that. I made a female theif as well, and it worked very well.

    Kieron: Thanks for linking to his MotB article. Though I guess if your thoughts on the game are “Neverwinter Nights, where the combat is terrible and I hate it.”, you’re probably not going to have a great time with the sequel.

  30. Kieron Gillen says:

    In fact, Kelgor is a pretty bloody brutal fighter.

    KG

  31. Kadayi says:

    Interesting stuff about NWN2 and the pulled article (which I had to read as well). I can understand why the NWN fan base got so hot under the collar about it, but I have to admire Mr Peckhams honesty as a computer games reviewer assessing it as a computer game, with a view to the progression of the medium of computer games, rather than it’s strengths as a solo D&D campaign.

    Particularly insightful was his closing comment:-

    “That five-of-10 is actually a hedge, by the way. For D&D fans who want to play an amazingly thorough PC translation of the system they’re carting around in book form, it’s probably closer an eight or nine. But if, like me, you want less “rules for rule’s sake” and more depth and beauty to your simulated game worlds, you can certainly find more exciting prospects. Part of the reason we call them “the good old days” and think fondly of games past is that it’s always easier to love what we don’t have to play anymore.”

    One of the aspects of computer gaming I personally enjoy is how the medium is constantly evolving in terms of storytelling, environmental complexity and visual fidelity. Recently I played through all of GTA 3, then moved onto Vice City and am right now on the final stretch of San Andreas. It’s been quite fascinating to play them all back to back and experience the way in which albeit the core game elements are the same (Drive around, undertake missions, shoot guns), with each iteration the product has moved on. I look with envious eyes at Rockstars latest offering (cmon PC release announcement…weedle it out of them Kieron, you must know someone at R*NORTH), and I can’t help but think if there is such a thing as progressive PC role playing, it’s not found in NWN2 or it’s ilk these days but in sandbox games like GTA IV, where the statistics are secondary to the action/immersion.

  32. fluffy bunny says:

    The Amiga tribute video was genius. Cool that Eric Schwarz is still around.

  33. Rook says:

    I think the original 1up NWN2 review brings up the problem of whether your review serves the audience. I don’t think anyone would seriously take a review of Madden that bitched about the futility of that 10 yard gain and silly scoring system and try to spin it as an arguement for the “progression of the medium of computer games”. I think a review should deal with what a game has done, rather than what the reviewer wanted it to be. If you know you don’t like american football, I wouldn’t pick up Madden, and if I didn’t like D&D, I wouldn’t buy NWN2.

  34. Albides says:

    Yes, but if a game sets its sights on doing an RPG by-the-numbers, as the 1up reviewer thought this was, should we really praise it if it gets it right? Isn’t this merely encouraging mediocrity? If a 5 is an average, I think it’s a reasonable score.

  35. Rook says:

    But how you get to the score, I think is important. Afterall,
    reviewers are always complaining that the content of the reviews is as important as the number itself

    I think the re-review does this quite well (6/10 – Jeff Green). The game is a bunch of clichés, was horrendously buggy at release, horrible system requirements etc although it has some moments of charm which certainly put it above average – the second chapter that climaxes in the court room scene I thought was well done).

    But, and this is the important part, when a more polished version of the game with a better story comes along (Mask of the Betrayer) then it becomes a good game. But for people that found the combat to overwhelm their ability to enjoy the game, then I don’t think anything is going to fix that.

    After reading through Duncan Fyfe’s articles a few times, I find them a bit contradictory. I honestly wonder how he’d react if Planescape came out for the first time tomorrow.

  36. Kadayi says:

    @Rook

    If he was writing a review for a D&D specific audience, you might vaguely have a point, but the guy was writing a review for a general PC gaming magazine, so he’s looking at it in the broadest context of computer gaming, not simply whether it’s better or worse in terms of how it implements D&D rules compared to Baldurs Gate or Icewind Dale. One accepts that with a game like Madden or Fifa, the rules applicable to the sports they represent are sacrosanct in terms of gaming mechanics, but that kind of rigour hardly needs to be applied to cRPGs. Planescape torment was D&D based, but it was all over the shop in terms of how it went vs D&D rules. Did anyone give a shit at the end of the day about that? No, because it had a great story driving it. The guy pretty much said, if you love the D&D rules you’ll love NWN2, however if your looking for something different, look elsewhere. I’d say that’s a pretty fair assessment tbh.

  37. Noc says:

    I haven’t played through NWN2 (computer can’t run it), but considering how complete crap the NWN1 campaign was, I can believe every word.

    And the original NWN Campaign is probably the worst RPG experience I’ve ever had. Every so often I think “Hey, I never finished it. I should go back and play it through.” And then I get a few chapters in, and then realize exactly how tedious it is.

    The subsequent expansions were alright, if not particularly inspiring. Still, even with the official campaigns being mediocre (at best), and my relationship with DnD ambivalent (at best), I still really really like NWN. Why?

    Because the DnD system, at it’s heart, is a facilitator for storytelling. The point of a roleplaying system is that it figures things out for you; instead of sitting down and trying to puzzle out if Batman could beat Superman or something, you’ve got two blocks of stats, and two sets of tools, which then play against each other until someone ends up with negative hit points. Yes, the things that it figures out are nearly entirely combat oriented, or progress oriented, or “shit you find in a dungeon” oriented, but that’s because human characters tend to be too complex to be flattened into a stat block. So the logic of emotion and motivation and such is left to the devices of the GM and the players.

    Is DnD a labyrinthine, feature-bloated system that arguably gets in the way of storytelling? Arguably. Actually, on second thought, “yes.” It is. It totally is. There are far better systems to work with. But even then, NWN helps alleviate that somewhat by taking care of all that stuff for you. You don’t need to worry about whether or not you’ve applied your Dodge AC bonus this round, so you can worry about other things.

    So, if DnD, and by extension, NWN is a facilitator for storytelling rather than a game in its own right, then what do you do? Well, you tell stories. And you share them, and play through other people’s. And NWN is one of the only games specifically designed to let you do that. It’s a game that revolves around user-created content. It’s a facilitator, as much as the DnD system is, taking care of the graphical representation of the world and the people, and the rules for how they can physically interact – it’s essentially doing all the hard bits for you, and letting you get on with making a game.

    None of the player-made NWN modules I played changed my life. I don’t think there were any Torments in there. But there were several very decent bits there, and PLENTY that were better than the official campaign.

    A lot of the criticisms about the rules system being labyrinthine are on-target. And I believe the bits about the campaign, even without seeing them firsthand. But I feel like the Game itself is more about providing people with storytelling tools than anything else, and that the Official Campaign is more like sample material. A “Here, look at what the engine can do!” thing, as opposed to a game in and of itself.

  38. Rook says:

    Kadayi: It’s not a fair assessment as NWN2 isn’t a particularly great game, and it has nothing to do with the rules or lack of them. Saying if you like D&D rules you’ll like NWN2 is fucking retarded. The rules have so little bearing on the game compared to say broken AI, pathfinding, camera, mission bugs etc.

    And honestly, if you can cope with the combat and rules in Planescape or Baldur’s Gate, it’s 99% the same as NWN2. Cast spells, hit things and backstab.

  39. kadayi says:

    @Rook

    Trying to assess a game (or anything else creative) critically outside of it’s context is absurd. Everything exists within a frame.

  40. Rook says:

    kadayi: You’ve basically said nothing there.

  41. RPS says:

    Play nice, gentlemen.

  42. Kadayi says:

    @Rook

    Much like watching the proverbial lady exiting the car, sometime you see it, and sometimes you don’t, and clearly in this case you don’t. You didn’t like his review, I did and we’ll leave it at that, so as not to provoke the RPS gods further.