The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on October 19th, 2008 at 2:02 pm.

IT'S SUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNNDAYYYYYYYY!

Not much time today, so let’s just dive straight into our weekly compilation of interesting reading across the week and try really, really hard to avoid linking to a couple of videos which I’d never actually seen until the last few days from the album which remains pretty much the definitive nineties statement on the male condition.

  • We mentioned the GMAs when we were shortlisted and Alec and I had a good old yabber on this week’s podcast but Tom Francis of GalCiv2 diary fame goes and writes up the evening’s event, including a so-bad-it’s-actually-kinda-awesome photo of us on the dancefloor. Also, gags.
  • World of Goo watch with Andrew Doull reviewing World of Goo in the form of EA-head-chap fanfiction. Turn it into slash next time, yeah? RPS is into all kinds of RPS.
  • Scott Phillips talks about making Co-op work in Saints Row 2 – as in, in an open world. We probably should actually write some more about Saints Row. I haven’t had a crack at it yet, but I’ve had several credible people rave about it to me. Also, PC Format’s Mike Channel. Only joking, Mike. Love you!
  • Valve Find The Time To Bleed with the making of Meet The Sandvich. It keeps them indoors and busy, Bless ‘em.
  • Point/(er)Point Again: Leigh Alexander, spinning of her digging Silent Hill: Homecoming, analyses the culture of negativity. Ben Fritz basically agrees, but picks up on the lack of negativity elsewhere. Why the difference, eh? Generally speaking, I think new errors get picked up more than old ones – take (say) Edge’s critique of Braid for its plot. Conversely, no-one would have hammered the latest Mario for having a really shit plot. In fact, rejecting Mario for the plot seems obscene.
  • Debonair and Gentlemen from the Afghan Whig’s 1994 opus Gentlemen. Just really odd seeing a video to something that’s always existed as a pure voice and pure noise for so long. Still awesome. As I’ve written before, if I ever begat a girl, the day of her first period, I’d give her a copy of Gentlemen and tell her: “Honey – listen to this. This is what men are like. Be careful”.

Failed.

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48 Comments »

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  1. qrter says:

    Generally speaking, I think new errors get picked up more than old ones – take (say) Edge’s critique of Braid for its plot. Conversely, no-one would have hammered the latest Mario for having a really shit plot. In fact, rejecting Mario for the plot seems obscene.

    How do you mean, new/old errors? I’d think that it would just make little sense to review a game on an aspect that is blatantly unimportant for the overall experience, although I may be miscalculating how much people enjoy the story in Mario games..

  2. Little Green Man says:

    Your taste in music is… varied.

  3. Little Green Man says:

    qrter: Yes, that is quite correct, but as I haven’t played Braid, I cannot comment on whether the plot is meant to be a driving factor or not, in which case the story would be open to critiscism. However this doesn’t seem the case, and by the looks of Braid the fun seems to be in the puzzle solving and platforming, so to critique it on its story is ludicrous because the reviewer is comparing it to games where the story is a primary thrust. You wouldn’t compare the original Super Mario to Street Fighter and say Mario suffers due to the minimal number of attacks in it. The fun is elsewhere, and Reviewers should only review the parts of the game that are meant to be the most important parts.

  4. Little Green Man says:

    Woops, forgot to put in line breaks. Sorry.

  5. Bhazor says:

    Yes but when did a Mario platformer force you to sit and read through a block of text that is largely unconnected to the game you’re playing? Mario’s story is simple to the point that it’s really just an excuse and never gets in the way and always tells you what you need to do.

  6. Kieron Gillen says:

    Mario has many more unskippable cut-scenes than Braid. Mario’s story gets in the way far more than Braid’s does.

    KG

  7. AlexW says:

    But they should critique what the developers seem to suggest are important features of the game. If Braid, a platformer game, tries to ram words down your throat then you should damn well be entitled to criticise those words if appropriate.

    For instance, Spore’s tribal stage is largely regarded as rubbish. If they hadn’t put it in the game and had just skipped ahead, there’d be no problem, but since it’s there and you have to play it reviewers should most certainly be allowed to point out its flaws.
    Or the Mario analogy again: how many times have you heard people complain that Mario games have terrible plotlines? Sure, it’s a platformer, but it has a story so that story is fair game.

  8. Little Green Man says:

    Personally I’ve never heard anyone critique Mario’s plotlines on any of the pure platforming ones. (Paper Mario was originally an RPG) Galaxy had a story, but apart from the very start with the unskippable (I think) cutscene, the only real story is optional.

  9. Little Green Man says:

    KG: Which Mario game are you talking about in particular?

  10. Pags says:

    If reviewers insist on reviewing games traditionally and, to the best of their abilities, objectively, they really need to step away from giving critiques about plot unless there are obvious flaws with it – plotholes, continuity errors, that sort of thing. I have no problem with a reviewer saying that the story improved or hampered their experience of the game, as long as they make it clear that it was their experience alone.

  11. ZenArcade says:

    I have to say, i was a bit unimpressed by World of Goo (as i am with most indie games)

    I make the exception for Mount and Blade though, which is gets my full support. As for most indie games though… i have to say I find them a bit boring, gameplay wise.

  12. Kieron Gillen says:

    LMG: I was thinking about Galaxies, it being the most recent one.

    KG

  13. Sum0 says:

    I’m glad someone’s written about the problem of modern game reviewing (or should we say “game criticism” these days?). You get the sense that some game reviewers would look at Schindler’s List and say “Well, it’s bleak and depressing, and in this day and age we’re used to colour film.” And so you get madness like how STALKER was criticised for bugs and other minor problems on release, but with the benefit of hindsight we seem to have reached a consensus that it really was rather brilliant.

    On the other hand, of course, a game could have the best plot and gameplay mechanics in the world and be unplayable due to bugs. I guess we need two measures of rating a game – what the developers were trying to accomplish (big marks for, say, Lionhead, zero for the major franchises that just churn out sequels) and the quality of the execution (e.g. Gears of War is brilliantly made and presented – a true example of a big-budget blockbuster game – but rather lacking in everything else).

  14. PleasingFungus says:

    Wow. That’s a pretty broad statement, ZenArcade. But whatever suits you.

    Me, I’m setting up a DVD to play the first half of Predator, and then all of Road House, and then the second half of Predator. It’s the only way to recapture the spirit of what could have been!

  15. scout says:

    Aren’t the unskippable cutscenes in Galaxy only unskippable because they cover loading?

    (Haven’t played SMG much, but I played the hell out of Sunshine and that’s how it worked there)

  16. aerisdead says:

    The last Mario has a good plot, though – well, sort of. The story that Rosalina tells is fairly special, I thought.

  17. nabeel says:

    That screenshot of World of Goo in Doull’s review is exactly what I did in trying to solve that problem :D
    A 5-minute problem taking half an hour.

    nabeel

  18. Tei says:

    @Sum0: I have no problem with that, because my score system could go beyond 100%. A game like Baldurs Gate gets a score of 120%. Everything negative has a minus values, so a instaclassic with lots of bugs ( KOTOR?) could get only a 100%.

    The problem is having a limit of 5 stars, or 10 points. This plus score inflaction make soo all games have 5 stars.

    This let inflaction run, but work for you. Like, If you give KOTOR a 120% and you like KOTOR 3 more, you can give KOTOR3 a 125%. It will not make sense yo give both a 120%, If you like KOTOR3 more, and you think is much better game.

  19. kyrieee says:

    Hahaha =D the Valve thing is hilarious
    Everyone check it out!

  20. Little Green Man says:

    A better, more clear method of reviewing games would definitely be useful. And I swear SMG didn’t have any cutscenes apart from the start, end, and introducing the boss bits…

  21. roBurky says:

    The crappiness of the Mario Galaxy story combined with the importance the game placed on it made me quite angry. How can they think that stuff is at all excusable?

  22. Kieron Gillen says:

    LGM: You tend to mostly not notice them because they’re mostly so small. But taking your control away for a couple of seconds to blather out some old nonsense is still intrinsically more intrusive than… well, not.

    (I actually like Mario Galaxy, I stress. I’m making a point on what gets commented on. Point being, Mario having a goofy plot is something everyone expects. Braid having a pretentious plot isn’t, so has picked up some flack)

    KG

  23. DigitalSignalX says:

    Saints Row 2 for PC is slated for Nov 10, but there hasn’t been much press about any changes for our platform of choice. Been looking forward to it.

  24. Kieron Gillen says:

    We should probably chase an interview or similar, I think.

    Man! So much to do.

    KG

  25. Noc says:

    It’s worth pointing out, though, that “you tend to not notice them” and “they’re intrusive” tend to be mutually exclusive things.

  26. Little Green Man says:

    Well said Noc, but I can now see Kieron’s point of view.

  27. Rogue says:

    Gentlemen is quite something. The lead singer’s pretty much what I’d imagine an Angry Internet Man would be like, sans leather jacket.

  28. Dracko says:

    DISCLAIMER: I have not played the new Silent Hill, must have the intention to check it out.

    Critics complaining about critics being negative is one of the biggest, funniest ironies of the decade, and I kindly invite them all to drown themselves in a mud puddle.

    It’s not like Leigh Alexander is one to talk.

    They bitch when critics suck off games for BEAUCOUP BUCKS or out of lack of objectivity, but want the reverse? Get a ral fucking job, blogger.

  29. Simon says:

    “Conversely, no-one would have hammered the latest Mario for having a really shit plot. In fact, rejecting Mario for the plot seems obscene.”

    Which is pretty much what the Zero Punctuation guy does. Hammer Mario games for their plot. And then he wen’t on to say what he would do which basically comes down to keeping the gameplay exactly the same like it’s always been but put a diffirent wrapper/story around it.

    Which, I guess, neatly explains why the guy makes point & click adventure games. If there’s one genre where all games are exactly the same to play but with diffirent wrappers then that is pretty much it.
    Of course, the point is the wrapper there, doesn’t excuse it from using the same puzzles over & over again like killing rats at the start of an RPG.

    Er, wow, didn’t know I got so annoyed by it.

  30. Kadayi says:

    EDGE is overrated elitist trash and frankly they long ago relinquished any semblance of worth in their reviewing. The nadir for me personally being the 5/10 they handed out to The Witcher, when it was plainly obvious to anyone who’d played the game that the writer hadn’t even gotten past the first chapter.

  31. Erlam says:

    “And then he wen’t on to say what he would do which basically comes down to keeping the gameplay exactly the same like it’s always been but put a diffirent wrapper/story around it.

    Which, I guess, neatly explains why the guy makes point & click adventure games.”

    First, that’s a ridiculously broad assessment of p&c adventure games. Secondly — explain how Mario games aren’t what you said his improvement would be. Mario needs to find/defeat ‘x,’ jumps on various enemies to defeat them. The next game does the same, but adds a twirly jump, or a backflip. That is keeping the gameplay the same.

  32. Simon says:

    I’m sorry Erlam, if that is your real name, but in each Mario game since Super Mario Bros. (ignoring the REAL SMB2, released only in Japan, and in the west as the Lost Levels) there’s been new gameplay mechanics implemented into each one, giving each game its own new play style. SMB2’s doki-doki-panic based lifting system, SMB3’s P-bar flying and leaping, SMW’s flying with the cape a new pickups, and even in the 3D iterations- new enemies and a weapon system in Mario Sunshine, bouncing off stars in Mario Galaxy- we can see that each new mario game is quite radically different from the last

  33. Erlam says:

    I have no idea how you could possibly consider “SMB2’s doki-doki-panic based lifting system” or “SMW’s flying with the cape a new pickups” as radically different. According to that logic, every Halo game is ‘radically different’ from the last, as are NHL games — this one has joystick body-checking!

  34. Angel Dust says:

    Personally I find video game reviewers to be far too forgiving. They hand out 9 and 10s with such abandon that 6s and 7s are considered bad-the-reviewer-thinks-the-game-is-shit-I m-going-to-vent-on-my-blog-about-it scores when they are not.
    Game criticism has a LONG way to go before it I can even think of it in the same way as film, literature etc criticism

  35. Quirk says:

    The Valve link was giving me Old Man Murray flashbacks. It was toned down, not to the old strength, but nonetheless sorely welcome. Read it if you haven’t.

  36. RichPowers says:

    Quirk: Yeah, it’s great. I hope Valve patches in some of the soldier and scout updates, if only as taunts or jeers. :)

  37. Erlam says:

    I’m with Angel Dust on the criticism comment, although I’d posit that movie reviews are almost as bad.

    I still shake my head when I think of a certain magazines 96%, and 98% for Doom 3, and Half-Life 2 respectively.

  38. scout says:

    Angel Dust – Gamerankings lists 38 PC games with a rating above 90%, and IMO all but a handful of them deserve to be up there. Reviewers really don’t throw out 95%s very often.

  39. jalf says:

    Well, we only really need a couple different grades:
    – “Awesome insta-classic that everyone should play”
    – “Good game that you’ll probably like, unless you actively despise this genre and everything in it”
    – “Mediocre, but not actually painful. You’ll probably forget all about it 5 minutes after you put it down, but at least it’s not *bad*”
    – “Sucks. Avoid it”

    There, rate games on this 1-4 scale, and I think the grade inflation problem just goes away. :)

  40. Noc says:

    Jalf, you just described the three-point spread.

    Just replace numbers 1-4 with the numbers 6-9. And . . . huh, the results will look really familiar. Funny, how that works.

  41. Meat Circus says:

    The plot of Braid was pretentious? Wow.

    Either I’ve watched too many David Lynch films, or Edge doesn’t know what the word means.

    s/or/and/

  42. Turin Turambar says:

    Edge is usually old school. They like their games to be gamey. So a plot with higher-than-average aspirations could be considerated for them prentitous.

  43. Meat Circus says:

    There remains, as there always has been, something unpleasantly sixth form common room about Edge.

    I read it occasionally, but it always leaves a rather bitter taste in my mouth.

  44. Ergates says:

    You’re supposed to read it, not eat it!

  45. Songbearer says:

    I really hope the PC version of Saint’s Row 2 is a good’n. I was going to get it for the PC but opted to get it for the 360 instead so I could play it before Fallout 3 came out, and man am I glad I did.

    SR2 is an absolute blast, and if they keep co-op in for the PC version I’m willing to guess it’s going to be a very pleasant surprise for people picking it up.

  46. George says:

    That Saint’s Row 2 piece was disappointingly vacuous. It was light on any real detail, and heavy on “our game is great, buy it!” fluff.

  47. Dante says:

    @ Kieron

    Surely the point to Edge being called on it’s plot rather than Mario has never pretended to be about the plot as much as Braid, which declares itself so devoted to it.

    I’ve only played the demo of Braid, so I can’t pretend to give a truly valid opinion of it, but I have to say I honestly didn’t get in the slightest how it’s supposed to be melding game and plot in the way Blow talks so earnestly about. In fact they seem even more forced apart than usual, with the narrative consisting of big blocks of text that tell a seemingly irrelevant and yes, pretentious, story which relates to the actual level you’re playing only in the tangential sense that it vaguely describes what power you’re about to get.

    That’s not combining narrative and gameplay, that’s mild trickery with words.