The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on April 5th, 2009 at 9:40 pm.

Sundays are for getting mild sunburn. Which, to the ever-hypochondriac minds at RPS, is clearly terminal sunstroke. Expect delirium in this, my final post, on RPS. It’s been great doing this for you, and I hope you’ll think of me when I’m gone, occasionally. It doesn’t even have to be fondly. So now, for the last time, I set forth to compile a list of interesting (mostly) videogame related reading from across the week and try to resist with all my failing strength linking to some pop-video or another.

Pyrrhic Success!

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76 Comments »

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  1. Larry says:

    I enjoyed reading “Mothers, Don’t Let Your Children Grow Up to Be Game Developers”.

  2. Larington says:

    So in order to not get a failure, we need to give Kieron terminal sunburn… And hope he lives through it.

    Iiiiiiinteresting.

  3. rob says:

    I guess a lack of sales of an indie game is bad but I’m finding it hard to bemoan the failure of these guys. They took the Microsoft buck and it didn’t work out for them. It’s hard to champion an indie game when it’s tied to a company like Microsoft.

  4. Adam Hepton says:

    It’s even harder to champion indie games that are fucking terrible, like all the ones I’ve tried on 360 have been.

  5. rob says:

    I just tried the Flash version of Solar and if it’s indicative of the final product then I think you are right, Adam.

  6. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    A lot of the Play This Thing article was actually about the gritty, gossipy side of the controversy itself. The advice to stay away from Digipen or Full Sail was pretty striking, though. Is the IGDA a proper union? You’d think programmers need one, especially considering all the past shenanigans that’ve been going on in the industry.

    And, like Jeff Vogel, I do loves me some stat-building and loot-taking.

  7. AndrewC says:

    Without Kieron linking to his songs, how can I feel better about my musical taste?

  8. Kris says:

    This is not an incisive nor witty comment, but Mike Capps sounds like a total B’tard. He might as well say we prey on the dysfunctional people in the industry, who wont even realised they are being screwed. It’s like an exaggeration of Pop Idol, Big Brother, Jerry Springer excuse to laugh and watch the participants because they want to be on tv.

  9. Ishy says:

    You now owe me a childhood innocence for that game interactivity article.

  10. Baris says:

    Wow. Greg Costikyan’s piece was very disheartening, almost depressing. I was hoping to take a course in Software Engineering and Game development next year (yes, I’m embarrassingly younger than everyone else here), but now I’m not so sure.

    For anyone that’s already a developer: Does having a degree with ‘Game Development’ in the title give much of an advantage, or would a regular Computer Science degree be the wiser choice?

  11. Mo says:

    Lots of links this weeks! So far I’ve read the interview with Molyneux … thoroughly enjoyable!

    I don’t understand the XNA hate …

    It’s hard to champion an indie game when it’s tied to a company like Microsoft.

    Why? We indies are just looking for several avenues to release our games. Are indie games on the iPhone a bad thing too … is it “hard to champion an indie game when it’s tied to a company like Apple”?

    Fact is, MS/Apple offer something incredibly appealing to us. The console approach makes QA much easier, it allows us to design games around a control scheme, and the best part, all the finance/security bullshit is done for us. For my PC/Mac game, I spent a month working on a paypal store and encryption key generation. Another month on control configuration.

    Of course, there’s still a huge appeal for the PC. Bigger install base, and the bestest controller of them all: the mouse. Don’t hate on indie developers writing games for consoles. We aren’t sell outs. We’re just exploring different avenues for videogame creation.

    Aaaaaand shameless pimp time:
    http://www.caffeinemonstersoftware.com/duotrix/
    Our game for Xbox360, which is actually a bit good.

  12. Fetthesten says:

    It’s probably just me that’s a broken shell of a man, but I didn’t think the Strider battle in Episode Two was too involving. I’m just so used to seeing this kind of set-piece as a situation with a binary outcome – win or lose – that I never for a second thought that I would be able to change the outcome at all. And the MGS4 corridor sequence? Please. It was complete and utter bullshit. The points where Snake were zapped were so obviously scripted the only emotional response I got out of it was a frown that deepened every time. Also the MGS games aren’t exactly known for their interactive storytelling, so the illusion didnt convince me at all.

    Like I said: It’s probably just me, but that Escapist article was a bunch of old news and not much more.

    Edit: Also, I use my 360 pretty regularly and can’t recall even being made aware of the Community Games store’s existence. That might be a factor in their underwhelming performance.

  13. Larington says:

    I look at the fuss that seems to be going on with the IGDA here and I can’t help but remember this departing message from Jason Della Rocca when he left the IGDA:
    http://www.realitypanic.com/archives/392

    Primarily this paragraph:
    “Sorry for not doing a better job of roping in all the snipers from the sidelines. Turns out you are all pretty damn good at bitching and complaining and being critical. But then you don’t actually do anything about it and you don’t get involved. Sorry for not bringing critics under the tent and getting them to work at improving things.”

  14. Kitt Basch says:

    Your games are LYING to you! You are IGNORANT for believing you’re playing them.

    I just don’t like the language the author of that Escapist article uses, it’s almost as if he’s angry at games for some reason. It’s like shouting at a puppy for pooping on the carpet.

  15. Larington says:

    @Baris: All indications I’m seeing right now is that programmers from traditional programming degree’ are regarded more highly than those who are doing game programming degree’… This could be partly attributed to the fact that traditional programming degree’ are much more established and comfortable with their teaching materials and methods. I’d advise care with your choice of degree program, Universities/colleges probably don’t hide the truth but they may be reluctant to admit it in some cases.
    Remember that all of these institutions want your money (Indeed, the whole system of academia has been infected by the corruptive influence of money). Caution is advised.

  16. Kris says:

    The following quote from a post on Soren’s metacritic article struck me – “It’s true that player feedback is not ‘measurable metric’ that you can put into a contract or even a boardroom meeting, but following forums would give decision-makers a much better idea of what players like and what they don’t.”
    I assume the poster doesn’t put stock in the idea that gamers can negatively influence sequels through their criticism. Gamers that will engage in forum debates et al regarding particular games or genres’ do not neccessarily represent a broad spectrum of views. Personally I think it can lead to reductivism in a genre, such as the adventure genre (i.e. in the lineage of Maniac Mansion) seems to suffer from. I’ll stop here as I’m sure I’ve read articles that deal with this much more eloquently.

  17. Larington says:

    @Kris: Yeah, there is a balance to be struck, but I’d rather game designers listen to players than have orders come to them from management as if on high from a throne made of obsidian or gold. This fate befell Planetside and forever haunts its legacy of a game with so much promise and so much dissapointment.

  18. rob says:

    Mo: It’s more of a perception thing I suppose. To me indie implies struggling developers going it alone and sticking it to the man, doing The Right Thing. People like 2D Boy releasing Linux ports is incredibly cheering from a purely idealogical standpoint. It’s obviously ridiculous – these people are businesses like any other developer – but the perception is there just like with music.

    …is it “hard to champion an indie game when it’s tied to a company like Apple”?
    So far the iPhone, despite being hugely promising, has been limited to some pretty uninspiring shovelware, not to mention the fact that Steve Jobs is even more committed to created closed platforms than Microsoft.

    As for the finance stuff, it’s a real shame there’s not something similar to Steam but more open, or instead a service on Steam that would allow any submissions. I think that’s one of the huge failings on digital distribution services at the moment. I can understand they don’t want to take the flak for shoddy games but Steam’s technical support is already non-existent so I can’t really see the issue. The iPhone store only checks that your application isn’t stuffed full of porn or viruses before allowing it, why couldn’t Steam or another distributor provide a similar service?

  19. Baris says:

    @Larington: Well, University/college is free where I live (Ireland), so hopefully it won’t be quite as corrupted as other places.

    I do appreciate your input though. While a more traditional programming degree seems to be the better choice right now, I think I might take away more from it if I have an active interest in what I’m doing, and I really do have a large interest in AI and to a lesser extent graphics.

    It’s a difficult choice. Anyone else care to weigh in with their opinion?

  20. Baris says:

    @rob: I’m not sure I understand what you’re saying correctly. Is it that you’re asking why Steam won’t let any and all games that apply be on their service? If so, Valve have said they purposefully try to only let games that hold up to a certain standard on Steam. To be honest I appreciate that while browsing in their catalogue of games it’s not often you come across something that obviously has no good qualities, it’s less of a risk to make a purchase without tracking down a review of an obscure game.

  21. Larington says:

    @Baris: Ahh, I see, thats not so bad then. Best of luck whatever choice you make.
    I did some looking around for you (Well, basically on sloperama.com) and you may find this article of great interest, though its material does work from an American studying perspective (IE it mentions 4 year degree programs):
    http://www.gamecareerguide.com/features/471/schooling_game_programmers_.php

  22. Baris says:

    @Larington: The majority of degrees here take 4 years also, so the article is no less relevant because of the American perspective. Overall it was definitely very interesting and helpful. Thanks a lot.

  23. Mil says:

    @Baris: I’m a software engineer (never worked in game development, though). From all I’ve heard about the videogame industry, I think you’d be wise not to tie your education too tightly to it. At some point you’ll (probably) want to move to other types of software development and I wouldn’t be surprised if many recruiters don’t give a game development course as much value as a generic C.S. degree.

  24. Wurzel says:

    Re: escapist article, I think it misses the point somewhat, at least from how the tone felt to me. It seemed to be all about “games are lying to you when they create involving experiences” while failing to remember that at their core all games which seek to convey a message will place artificial restrictions on the player at some time. I, personally, much prefer battles I only just win than ones I breeze through or that crush me, and if it takes a little behind-the-scenes tinkering to ensure that every player gets that experience that’s absolutely fine by me.

    About the programming thing, I would agree that you should avoid specific game design courses. This is because a) a degree in computer science, maths, physics etc will prepare you for a great deal of jobs besides games, and b) the things a studio wants you to do for them is often proprietary, according to their way of doing things, and using different tools, methods and pipelines from what you may have learned in your degree in game development. A degree in a ‘hard’ subject will give you a much better foundation to be trained from than the shallow but broad view given by a Game Design course.

  25. Thiefsie says:

    No publicity to those indie xbox games at all. I’ve never even heard of them before this sales malarkey. How the fuck are we meant to buy them if we don’t even know they exist?

  26. Kester says:

    That Too Human paper gave me rage. She might have had something interesting to say, but it was so wrapped in unreadable, impenetrable bollocks that I never found out what it was. Academia can piss right off.

  27. drewski says:

    I like Metacritic from a “look at all these reviews of games” standpoint. I don’t really pay much attention to the overall score, although it can be good from a general point of view – lots of people thought X game was good, lots of people thought X game was bad. It’s just another way of getting to hear about various games you might be interested in.

  28. drewski says:

    Oh, and I want that 6 page feature on everything that’s wrong with Deus Ex, if only to annoy the fanboys.

  29. windlab says:

    @Baris
    I’m also studying software development/CS and I couldn’t put it any better than Larington and Mil; the consensus appears to be that a CS degree will stand you in better stead.

  30. windlab says:

    Jolly HTML going wrong again.
    Anyway, meant to post a link to the question being answered by Thomas Arundel of Introversion: http://forums.introversion.co.uk/multiwinia/viewtopic.php?t=2461

  31. Baris says:

    Wow, a lot more responses to my dilemna than I expected. It seems I’ll definitely go with a traditional CS/Software Engineering course then. I really appreciate everyone’s input, Thanks!

  32. Alex says:

    I can’t believe you guys missed the most interesting/informative interview of the week.

  33. TheLordHimself says:

    @Baris

    Just adding my two cents… I’m on the final year of a standard Software Engineering course (which I think is great btw) and I live with two people who are doing Computer Science with Games or something. The general impression I get is that aside from the graphics side of things, the games degree does not provide that much more than a normal degree. They do some PS3 development, but its using Linux running on a PS3 rather than the actual Sony SDK (presumably because its fuckin expensive!) which makes it kind of pointless being on a PS3 since its just openGL on Linux really. The stuff that is useful is the graphics stuff, they implement parallax mapping and normal mapping and do some 3D stuff.

    The impression I get from talking to people is that the game industry is hard to get into and if you do and want to be a programmer, nothing other than C++ really fits the bill, so be prepared to by good at that! What you should do regardless is if the course permits, they usually do, is take a placement. I did 13 months working for Hewlett Packard in Germany and I learned perhaps four times the amount I had learned on my first two years of the course. I would recommend that to anyone doing anything computer related. Lionhead recently sent a mail to my uni looking for graduates and placement students, so game industry placements are a possibility, I think even Rare used to take them, dunno about now.

    Anyway good luck!

  34. TheLordHimself says:

    @Baris

    Just one more thing, often you have the choice of optional modules (usually at least two half year ones per year), if you take normal SoftEng or CS you could pick the more games related ones like on ours there was 3D Modeling for Games using Unreal3 and one other that I forgot the name of.

  35. Saul says:

    Kieron is leaving RPS? I am disconsolate.

  36. Alistair says:

    Why Kieron, why? Did I miss a newsbit somewhere?

  37. randomnine says:

    Baris: I’d suggest a normal, reputable CS degree. However, you will also need to spend some of your spare time working on games and probably learning C++ (not many universities teach it). I’d suggest getting into modding, and later writing your own games from scratch using frameworks like SDL (with OpenGL) in C++, PyGame in Python and so on. This will all be good experience, it’ll probably be fun, and it’ll leave you with a kickass portfolio when you’re job-hunting.

    Try to build up your knowledge of 3D math, too – vectors, matrices, quaternions, etc. Most games industry programming involves this stuff a fair bit.

  38. The_B says:

    Wait a second, if Kieron is dying when posting this, yet returns to post next Sunday – is that going to make him Jesus?

    FFS GILLEN!

  39. Mo says:

    Woah, I just read that over again. Kieron, for real?!!
    I’ve been reading your work since forever now … PCG79 and onwards up until a bit after you left. And then on Eurogamer. And Phonogram, of course. And now here. I suspect you’re off to spend more time on your comics. Sad to see you off, but it’s been a pleasure reading your stuff. Cheers!

  40. Caiman says:

    I’d be interested to see if the sales figures on those XBox community games suddenly increases dramatically following what can only be the first piece of publicity they have ever received. Gee, thanks for telling us!

    And Kieron, how dare you leave us! We shall hunt you down and make you pay for… well, whatever it is that annoys us.

  41. Caiman says:

    Where in fuck are those community games??? I’ve spent 5 minutes looking on the games marketplace and there’s nothing there. Don’t tell me, they’re not available in my region? Ok, serves you right then.

  42. The_B says:

    Erm, guys. I may risk looking a bit stupid if he actually is leaving, but the I think the second sentence has a more overbearing prominence over the third and fourth. As in – not to be taken seriously?

  43. Matt says:

    Where are you going, Kieron? :(

    You’ve been consistently one of the most delightful/insane writers I’ve read over the last few years. Why the sudden departure?

  44. cheeba says:

    It seems some people might be reading a little too much into a good old leaving-because-I’m-dying-of-silly-illness joke.

  45. Matt says:

    Having reread the first paragraph and deliberating on it at great length for the last hour or so…I think you might be right.

    Huh. I must be more tired than I thought.

  46. honolululu says:

    Maybe if we knew what a ‘suburn’ was… ;)

  47. James O says:

    Baris: For anyone that’s already a developer: Does having a degree with ‘Game Development’ in the title give much of an advantage, or would a regular Computer Science degree be the wiser choice?

    I got a degree in game design (for 3D art) from the Savannah College of Art and Design. While, of course, it’s impossible to fully know what factors led to me getting hired, I’m not of the mind that what was written on my diploma made much of a difference (Digipen might be a different story, though, being so well-known and routinely placing well at the IGF.) The biggest asset to a game design degree vice any other kind is the people you’ll meet – instead of meeting people who are interested in software development more generally, you know all your classmates want to break into the games industry. Thus, you might make better contacts that way, through friends and professors – the power of “who you know” can never be underestimated. You can get that from working on mod teams as well, however (that’s what helped me get in – a colleague from another mod team works at the studio I’m now at.) If a game design program means putting hella extra money down, it might not be worth it (as long as you’re willing to put the time in yourself to doing mod work and such.)

    Nice Costikyan article. EA has gotten lots of bad press for their HR practices, hopefully Epic will receive the same (though I doubt it – fans will defend the Epic brand moreso than EA.)

    Dorian Cornelius Jasper : Is the IGDA a proper union? You’d think programmers need one, especially considering all the past shenanigans that’ve been going on in the industry.

    It’s not – thank god. Last thing we need in this industry are greedy union bosses mooching off our paychecks. Unionization will just mean more of our work getting sent off to Vietnam, India, and China anyhow – if I’m not mistaken, that’s exactly what happened with 2D animation in the US. This industry is hard enough to get into as it is without union shops.

  48. futage says:

    That Dan Ariely talk was reet interesting.

  49. Saul says:

    Mmm yes, I think I may also be a little over-tired. Somehow I skimmed the joke, but that one sentence about it being his final post leapt out at me. It must be my abandonement complex playing up again…