The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on October 12th, 2008 at 12:52 pm.

Sunday is a time for reading. And sleeping. And painting Skaven, if you’re a big ole geek like yours truly. But mainly reading – and for that, we offer a little help by compiling a list. It’s a list of smart games-based pieces we’ve found this week which I compile while trying to avoid linking to the two musical bookends of this week. Go list!

  • Julian Widdows Ex-Rage and now of Swordfish writes about being approached to get the legendary Hostile Waters Multiplayer patch on Good Old Games… and deciding that it’s better it stays legendary: “The game is better left with only the thought of the patch and what it might have been like, rather than the reality of what it was like. The game, as it was released, is the game we made and, maybe putting this to bed once and for all, I think it should stay that way. The patch is the mystery box; best left unopened…”. A little automythology never hurt anyone.
  • “Are critics gamers?” asks Ex-Eidos Interactive President turned videogame agent Keith Boesky rhetorically. He thinks not. The most interesting stuff is his analysis of how his thirteen year old plays videogames, and doesn’t have the cut-scene rejection that people like (say) I do… but I suspect he’s actually just serving his argument by saying Kids These Days Are Different To The Critics. It’s not as if the Final Fantasy players of the nineties didn’t embrace the non-interactive interactive game. Less strong is his claiming that only pick-up-and-play no-story games score highly. That’s (basically) pure 100% bullshit. In a year where MGS4 and GTA4 have got stratospheric scores, this is actually openly laughable. And claiming that Mercenaries’ flaw was that it started slowly – when, on the first real mission, I was hurtling through bushes in a stolen truck while cackling hysterically, is even worse. And Jim, who added the piece to the Sunday Paper document, adds “All generalisations are shit – see what I did there?”. Yes, Jim. I did.
  • The New York times on libraries using games as an entry point, and the concept of digital literacy. Jack Martin of the New York Public Library: “I think we have to ask ourselves, ‘What exactly is reading?’… Reading is no longer just in the traditional sense of reading words in English or another language on a paper.” Certainly the sort of piece that makes you question your own assumptions.
  • Someone called Jim Rossignol interviewed about the wonder that is Jim Rossignol.
  • These two pieces caught my eye, as while both negatively charged, they’re the sort of serious-attempt-to-engage-with-a-game which implies (by the fact they’re being written) their subject has won. As in, they’re worth arguing about. Nerfbat argues that the Public Quests in Warhammer Online are fundamentally antisocial. Meanwhile, R1ftgaming discusses the inevitable Meh of Warhammer Online. The former is amusingly anal analysis, but fun. The latter is a touch flame-baity, I suspect, with a splash of post-Yahtzee outrage-for-kicks, but speaks of the dissatisfaction of a certain kind of MMO player. To be honest, I’m not that sympathetic. I’ve you’ve played thousands of hours of a certain sort of game which shares tropes – hell, it applies to all genres – then, yes, the problem is you and you totally should be off playing other sorts of games.
  • Splendid Hat-wearer Ernest Adams’ irregular Bad Game Designer No Twinkie sparked a debate between a friend and my last night. Specifically, the first part here – Fake Interactivity. Specifically, it argues, if there’s only one way to go, make it a cut-scene. And if you’re doing the Half-life esque playable cut-scene model, it should be an early identified convention rather than a latter insert. I think the latter point is what makes the position justifiable… but I also think the latter point undermines the relevancy of the point. There’s far too many exceptions to the rule through that loophole. What do you think?
  • I started the week by helping out (i.e. Standing Around, occasionally making tea) on Alex De Campi’s videoshoot for Manda Rin’s next single, Guilty Pleasures, which is on her MySpace page. And I ended the week at Amanda Palmer’s gig at Koko, which was typically glorious theatrical melodrama. As I prefer Amanda in rant-mode, track of the album’s Runs In The Family.

Failed.

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50 Comments »

  1. Radiant says:

    KG wrote “I started the week by helping out on Alex De Campi’s videoshoot”
    Alex De Campi’s website wrote: “My last few weeks in London were extremely tough, to the point of nervous breakdown. Quite literally every project I was working on (and at the high point, it was about five at once) went wrong in some way, and I personally lost a fairly hefty amount of money on two videos going over budget. I don’t really want to talk about it, because it would involve me saying things that might hurt other people’s feelings.”

    Remind me never to ask a member of RPS for help. That tea must have been atrocious.

  2. Theory says:

    “Are critics gamers argues?”

    Huh?

  3. StalinsGhost says:

    “Are critics gamers argues?”

    I think more poignantly, we should be asking “Are gamer’s critics?”

  4. Sucram says:

    Critically are game critics critical gamers or gaming critics?

  5. Premium User Badge

    Seniath says:

    “Julian Widdows Ex-Rare”
    You mean Rage, surely?

    Also, I .. “picked up” Who Killed Amanda Palmer on Friday and yes, Runs In The Family is the first track on there to really grab me.

  6. Pod says:

    Seniath:
    Widdows is his last name, and not his state of being after suffering from an Ex Rage.

  7. mrrobsa says:

    Although despised by some, I have no beef with QTEs. Obviously proper interaction is better and I wouldn’t want QTEs to start popping up everywhere, but to add an element of interactivity to a cutscene sequence it’s OK. Plus, I’m a strong believer that when playing a game, the player should have control 100% of the time. I’d rather a Half-Life 2 style cutscene where I’m still allowed control of the avatar, because if I’m not interested in the story I can jump around or throw things, or pretend the floor is ‘hot lava’ etc.
    I remember an old Playstation game (possibly Tekken) giving the player a game of Galaga to play while it loaded the titles, and I think why can’t all loading screens be interactive (Just remembered We Love Katamari lets you throw whizzy shit round the screen while it loads which is decent enough)? Because I think it’s a pity that players have to sit on their hands waiting for the next level. If a film had gaps between the scenes it would noticeably break the flow(STALKER’s loading screens give Mr.Atmosphere a kick in the spuds).
    To be fair, at least we’ve got to the point where many loading screens give you some text to read rather than a loading bar or near blank screen, but I wish we could be a bit more clever with it so as to engage the player more.
    Sorry, gone on a ramble there, I’m off for an English beer.

  8. ZenArcade says:

    RPS has aweful music taste

    but it’s better than most I suppose.

  9. Jim Rossignol says:

    Kieron Gillen has “aweful” music tastes.

  10. Kieron Gillen says:

    I prefer to think Wide.

    I mean, I like Husker DU too. I INCLUDE YOU INSIDE MY HEAD ZENARCADE.

    KG

  11. Premium User Badge

    Dolphan says:

    Christ, that Amanda Palmer song is good. And she has the awesomeness to put all the songs from the album up on youtube herself. Which makes buying the album a moral obligation.

    RPS is bad for my attempts to cut my spending.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Dolphan says:

    OK, so not the whole album. But enough of it as makes no difference.

  13. Gnarl says:

    Mr Gillen has the magnetic dipole of tastes, insofar as his music and gaming opinions are to mine. In that I find his gaming likes atrractive but his music likes horribly, horribly repellant.

    If his Sunday Paper links are anything to go by.

  14. qrter says:

    The most interesting stuff is his analysis of how his thirteen year old plays videogames, and doesn’t have the cut-scene rejection that people like (say) I do…

    Does his thirteen year old even read reviews? I mean, is he even interested in them? Seems to me he might not be the audience most reviewers are writing for.

    This is all besides the HUGE fallacy of directly comparing scores to eachother, completely out of the context of genre expectations, developer pretensions or, you know, the actual review.. look, this non-story game gets 83% while this game-with-narrative only gets 70% – the 13% must be in the storytelling aspect. Stop trying to tell a story, developers! It’s not at all that you aren’t investing the kind of money into writing talent that you’ve been investing into making graphics look all bleedin’ edge ‘n shit lol, thereby creating a steady stream of games with a bad to mediocre narrative, NO! It’s the whole telling a story thing, it’s blatantly a bad idea, it can’t be done, it’s costing you points and we all know – points mean prizes!

    I’ll go and have a quiet liedown now.

  15. CoreyW says:

    Keith Boesky’s article is just one giant logical fallacy. There’s not a scrap of decent argument in there, but he somehow thinks he’s breaking the case wide open. It comes off as really dopey.

  16. Dinger says:

    Telling a story can be done, but it’s often beside the point. The best storiies are the ones the player makes with the game. HL2 can give the illusion of interactivity, and put the player in a story. In Hitman: Blood Money, the story thee player walks away with involves dressing up like a clown and pushing people down stairs, not this nonsense involving clones and presidential politics and Mardii Gras in September.

    And “mythical” patches: some games and patches just suck and are never released foor exactly that reason. If it were any good, someone would have ‘inadvertently’ released it.

  17. Nick says:

    Kieron’s music taste is full of awe.

  18. Hobbes says:

    “John Funderburk adds, “I also hated Tomb Raider Legend’s and Resident Evil 4′s ‘interactive’ cut scenes. ‘Push the button when I tell you to’ — what game is that?” ”

    Every game ever made, give or take some subtlety of queuing…

  19. Gap Gen says:

    “I think more poignantly, we should be asking “Are gamer’s critics?” ”

    That’s some Zen shit, there.

  20. The Poisoned Sponge says:

    Gap Gen, I think you may have read that slightly wrong. By saying ‘are gamer’s critics critical gamers or….’ he’s saying are the critics the gamers have critical gamers or gaming critics?

    Bah, rereading it it actually was what you thought. Damn that wayward apostrophe! But then.. I don’t really see what’s so poignant about that… some gamers are critical, some aren’t… what makes a critic is whether you get paid for your opinion or not surely?

  21. Eli Just says:

    I’m a 16 years old and from the US. I hate cut scenes. There.

  22. Mman says:

    “I remember an old Playstation game (possibly Tekken) giving the player a game of Galaga to play while it loaded the titles, and I think why can’t all loading screens be interactive?”

    Because the bastards who did that patented it.

    I pretty much agree with all the reasons why that’s a (really) bad article. Even worse is the fact he uses the sales of Force Unleashed to try and prove reviewers are out of touch; it’s a goddamned Star Wars licence! If anything two million sounds kind of low.

  23. noom says:

    @ Zenarcade

    Aweful, as in inspiring of awe?

    Mister Gillen writes for Plan B on occasion does he not? A fine publication, albeit one that resides only in shops that are too far away for this lazy man to justify the trip to buy it.

  24. kf76 says:

    I like good cutscenes. Sadly don’t get to see many of these.

  25. Dan Harris says:

    I like the Public Quests. Though I doubt my fellow players like me liking them, as I always seem to (unintentionally, I might add) rock up at the Hero stage, hack/pistol away at him/her till dead, then end up coming second and getting better loot than people who were there from the off.

    Gotta love the ‘contribution x random dice roll’ mechanic.

  26. mrrobsa says:

    @Mman:

    You can patent that?! Is that why Katamari (also by Namco) has interactive loading screens too?
    This seems like a heinous crime against video games. Especially when it seems like a lot of ideas in games are not patentable.
    If this is true I’m gonna start a petition, or a campaign, or a boycott, or a candlelit vigil or something.

  27. CannedLizard says:

    Kieron Gillen’s taste in music is amazing.

    His taste in games…I’ll just say he makes games I can’t stand to bother playing seem INTERESTING in writing (I kid, I kid).

    As a side note: Woo! Ordered Amanda Palmer’s album on vinyl, including Neil Gaiman’s book, a week ago today…pity I chose the cheapest shipping options so I’ll need to wait another 18 years to get it…she’ll be due for a revival around then, I figure.

  28. Mman says:

    “You can patent that?! Is that why Katamari (also by Namco) has interactive loading screens too?”

    If it’s by the same company, then yes.

  29. Alex says:

    Amanda Palmer song?
    Respect and awe for Gillen +1!

  30. andrewdoull says:

    CannedLizard: Kieron Gillen makes games!?! That’d be laying open the door to counter-criticism. It’d be like, say, Penny Arcade going out and publishing a game based on their comic or something…

    (Actually, I can’t remember the last truly negative review that Kieron wrote. Is he just creaming the good games off the top of the pile?)

  31. Kieron Gillen says:

    Andrew: Haven’t much interest any more in stuff I despise, especially for RPS. I’m too old to spend so much time hating, and there’s enough good stuff for me to concentrate on right now, thankfully.

    KG

  32. unique_identifier says:

    yay amanda palmer. ta KG. haven’t listened to her stuff since the big dresden dolls explosion a few years back.

  33. FhnuZoag says:

    Re: Fake twinky, I think I’d like to follow a different rule of thumb – if it’s awesome, let the player do it.

    Having the player go forward and press the button on the WMD is much more interesting than having the character automatically do it in a cutscene. Similarly, I loved the knife fight QTE in Resident Evil 4.

  34. FhnuZoag says:

    Also, fake interactivity damaged the ending of Shadow of the Colossus? You must be kidding me. The ending is an enthralling depiction of the hero being deprived of his real desire, despite his, and the player’s efforts at fighting the forces of inevitability.

  35. mbp says:

    Hm…I discovered this blog a couple of days ago when looking for someone (anyone) who still remembered Sacrifice. Today I see a reference to Hostile Waters another extraordinary game that has been cruelly neglected. I think I’ll stick around for a while.

  36. Gorgeras says:

    Anyone who did not buy Sacrifice and/or Hostile Waters, leave the room now.

    Someone needs to make a Downfall video about them.

  37. bruno says:

    I was painting trollbloods :)

  38. BobJustBob says:

    When GTA4 gets a 10 and Saints Row 2 gets an 8, you can pretty much write off the gaming press completely. They’re not rating games, they’re rating advertising budgets.

  39. mrrobsa says:

    @BobJustBob:

    Wow, care to expand on that? I haven’t played Saints Row 2, only the first one, but I found it to be inferior to GTA 4 and 3.

  40. ILR says:

    “I remember an old Playstation game (possibly Tekken) giving the player a game of Galaga to play while it loaded the titles, and I think why can’t all loading screens be interactive (Just remembered We Love Katamari lets you throw whizzy shit round the screen while it loads which is decent enough)? Because I think it’s a pity that players have to sit on their hands waiting for the next level.”
    That’s due to an absurd patent granted for Namco’s …umm… Ridge Racer (?) back in the free-swingin’ 1996 or so:

    Gamastura article

    The strained mess of a relationship between patent/copyright practices and software/videogames could be one of the future talking points in some Sunday Papers, although I haven’t found any particularly engaging articles about it lately. That Gamasutra one is worth reading in its entirety, though.

  41. kyrieee says:

    The imagined need to shoehorn in a story just takes focus away from gameplay. You play games to play, not to get a story. If you can fit a story in, great, but if I want a good story I don’t go looking for it in games

    Take something like Quake 3, or Trackmania that’s just inherently fun to play almost indefinitely and then imagine sticking in a story cutscene between each match / race. It would be absurd. Juxtaposing gameplay and cutscenes is absurd! That games can or should tell stories is not obvious at all.

    Someone made a minigolf course that told the story of his Vietnam tour of duty, just to put it in perspective. Stories in games aren’t any different from that. Maybe they can tell stories, but people sure haven’t discovered how yet

  42. GiGinge says:

    Sorry to not make a game based related comment, but I have to just shout out the Amanda Palmer linkage Kieron, she’s fantastic.

    And about BobJustBob’s comment, what he might be trying to say is that yes, GTA 4 is a 10, but Saints Row only got an 8 BECAUSE of its advertising budget…? If so then that’s what I think

  43. Paul Moloney says:

    “Anyone who did not buy Sacrifice and/or Hostile Waters, leave the room now.”

    I bought Hostile Waters on GOG. I’ll stick one leg outside, Hokey Cokey stylee.

    P.

  44. Premium User Badge

    Okami says:

    @ FhnuZoag: I completely agree with you. The ending of Shadow is one of the few, true gaming as art experiences I’ve ever had in my life.

    First the part where you turn into a colossus and try to fight against the soldiers. They’re just these tiny things and you trash and flail about and it’s impossible to hit them. All the game you spent fighting colossi and suddenly you’re thrust into their shoes.

    And then the part where you fight against the force sucking you away from your love. I really felt desperation in that moment. You hold on to every ledge you can grasp, watching your stamina meter trickle down, trying to get nearer to your girl and you just know that you’ll never make it.

    I could have just let go and watch the rest of the ending, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even knowing that it was hopeless, I just tried to hold on.

    Powerfull stuff there..

  45. mrrobsa says:

    Thanks ILR, good read that shed some light for me.
    Just a pity these are yet to be challenged because it stunts the medium somewhat.

    @ kyrieee:

    “The imagined need to shoehorn in a story just takes focus away from gameplay. You play games to play, not to get a story. If you can fit a story in, great, but if I want a good story I don’t go looking for it in games”

    Sometimes I play for the story. I can understand if no narrative in games has ever grabbed you but that is your personal taste.
    Me, I can think of plenty of narrative based games where the story is one of the main reasons I play. Citing Quake 3 and Trackmania as games that would suffer from a story/cutscene is obvious and absurd. They are games which have been designed from the ground up as ludological experiences.
    I think games can be a very powerful story telling device and I feel there are already several titles which play to the mediums strengths in conveying a narrative.

  46. kyrieee says:

    Okay, we’re on the same page about adding a storyline to Quake 3. I let Quake 3 illustrate the absurdity for two reasons and they kind of tie into each other.

    I think that storytelling in games quite often isn’t all that different from the Q3 proposition. I’ve gotten JRPG fans to admit that games they like would be crap without the story! There is only endlessly repetitive, not very engaging gameplay, with cutscenes in-between. That which makes it a game sucks, so why then is it a game in the first place?

    “Games are not about story, games are about doing things […] and the story is just the context”

    Warren Spector said that and I’m not quoting him to be cool, it just sums up what I think. Lets take Deus Ex as an example. The story provides the context for your actions and makes them a lot more interesting, but the game is not about the story, nor is it the narrative that makes it great. It’s your own personal stories from the game that are the best parts about it. I saved Paul, or I did this or that and then this or that happened (just read Kireon’s review :p).

    A lot of games tell stories just through cinematics. It’s a movie in a game! They could just as well stick a book in there (and I suppose some games do). Don’t you think there’s a huge misfit?

    If games want to tell stories they should try to do it in a way that’s suited to the medium, not throw a totally different medium in there every once in a while. The time you and your buddies got into the jeep, drove across the map but then the jeep blew up and you went flying 20 feet and landed on someone’s head and killed them and then whatever, those are the memorable moments from games you play, not the time when you watched the cutscene of the big spike thing falling on the huge monster’s head.

    I think that the fact that games are about being played has gotten lost somewhere. Q3 and some other games are just fun! I want the gameplay in games to be fun, not to be ‘cinematic’ with boring scripted shit happening that just makes you yawn. I admit that there are wider ranges of experiences than just having fun, horror games come to mind, but I still think too few games have fun gameplay. It’s super hard to design gameplay, I doubt you even can, it needs iteration and evolution. That’s why Blizzard games rock so much, because they actually tweak the gameplay until it’s fun, and don’t just design something and then release it when it works.

    I doubt I got anything said =/

  47. mrrobsa says:

    @kyrieee:

    OK, we’re falling into a pit of escalating post size, I’ll just say that I think your argument is limited to games that tell a story through non-interactive means, i.e. cutscenes, whereas there are plenty of games that tell a story through interaction and gameplay, but I’ll concede that there are fewer examples of games that tie together story and gameplay as opposed to showing you a bit of story, then a bit of gameplay, and even fewer examples of games that can do this well.
    But a good meeting of the minds nonetheless.

  48. kyrieee says:

    Sorry about that (length)! I hate when other people do it =)

  49. Fumarole says:

    What, no mention of Lord British being launched into space?