The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on May 3rd, 2009 at 11:25 am.

Sundays are for avoiding tidying up the house by compiling a list of interesting reading from across the week, while trying to avoid mentioning a certain comic that may have been released. And how much I’m trying to avoid tidying can be ascertained by the length of this hefty Sunday Papers special…

Failed. Yet avoided tidying for a bit, so a little bit of win.

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167 Comments »

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  1. AndrewC says:

    Is this not, like, three weeks in a row that the Sunday Papers have been posted before mid-day? Epic win.

    Also, like, messy houses are totally Indie.

  2. Ted says:

    I really wish Introversion would just go away. Darwinia was not nearly as good as the overexcited reviews for it. Multiwinia was a piece of shit. I’m sick of their wining. Make good games, and people will buy them. Stop whining for charity buys because you’re an indy company. Your games suck, bottom line, and you need to shut the fuck up.

  3. daysocks says:

    Ted: Not even like Uplink?

  4. Monchberter says:

    Are you not a Brit Ted? You may be aware of the Anglo tendency to cheer for the plucky underdog, who struggles on with some flair and technical ability against their own limitations to achieve some level of success.

    This is the popular response to Introversion and it is hard-wired into our genes as Englishmen. Even if they do worry about not being ‘true’ indies any more, we’ll still talk about Uplink and Darwinia in hushed reverent tones even if their games do get worse and worse.

  5. Lewis says:

    The GamesBrief piece… christ, are we on N4G?

    More of that “I don’t like this game, so all the critics must be involved in some sort of high-score conspiracy” nonsense. Albeit more restrained than most. His article is based on the assumption that just because a particular gameplay mechanic doesn’t work all that well (objectively, eh? I thought the combat was fine) it means the game as an experience is necessarily inferior.

    I’d say if you’re thinking Zeno Clash is about how good, say, the technical bits of shooting are, you’re sort of misreading it. It’s total joy-of-discovery, total videogame-story-nostalgia. It’a absolutely worth the great reviews (and, it should be noted, it’s not exactly been gushingly praised anywhere, has it? We’re talking 7-or-8-out-of-10s). I don’t think there’s even an interesting discussion there.

    Sorry, Mr. Jubert.

  6. Dreamhacker says:

    Introversion list of merits:

    Uplink: BRILLIANT!
    Darwinia: Is this really from the same developers? Really?
    Defcon: How could something this promising turn out so disgustingly wrong?
    Multiwinia: What madman is financing this cluster-up?

    Introversion needs to return to their Uplink-roots or cease and desist…

  7. Dominic White says:

    Well, this is why Introversion are doing badly, then – despite glowing reviews, they’re apparently loathed by Angry Internet Men, and when you’re selling direct to the internet, they’re who you have to pander to.

    Seriously, how could you hate Darwinia? Defcon I can understand not getting (it’s effectively a digital board-game you play with your friends over lunch, not a hardcore singleplayer strategy game), but Multiwinia was the one I was saddest to see fail, because it’s a very good game, or at least seemed to be in the three matches I got to play total before the entire playerbase vanished.

  8. Kieron Gillen says:

    AndrewC: Next one will be very late, I suspect, unless I find time to do it in advance.

    KG

  9. SirKicksalot says:

    About Multiwinia:
    Despite several iterations of playtests and interface work, somehow, we’d missed it. Later that night at the pub after demoing our game, some of the writers from PC Gamer came clean with us. You’ve really fucked up the controls, they told us. It was a consistent message from everyone we spoke too.

    Another massive redesign followed. Ultimately we solved the interface problems and the game was made immeasurably better because of it.

    I don’t understand why some developers don’t realise their interface is fucked up.
    Are Brian Reynolds and Sid Meier too old-school, is that the reason why they always focus on the interface?

  10. EBass says:

    None of Introversion’s games really appealed to me personally. That said, I could at least see the appeal in Uplink and Defcon, I played both demos of Darwinia and thought it was a very flat and boring strategy game.

  11. AlexW says:

    I always thought that putting too much emphasis on Multiwinia was a very bad idea. Darwinia’s actual gameplay was sort of so-so, in my opinion, and as an indie game it’s much harder to find someone else that actually has the game that you’d like to play with. Add to that the fact that it seems like a cash-in (though not as much as the Darwinia soundtrack – greedy asses), and it’s a recipe for poor sales. I think they’ve definitely grown a little too large for an indie developer – they can’t afford to pay double-digits employees when they’re in a new-idea slump.

  12. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    @Kieron: That’s a shame. Today was a good reason to stay up in the wee hours of the Pacific US morning. Usually I’d only get to read the Sunday Papers sometime after waking up.

    Or is that supposed to be the point.

  13. PC Monster says:

    Woah, where’s the IV hate coming from???

    Ted, Dreamhacker – if you can pull your heads out of your wholly subjective rear passages for just a second, your disapproval/rejection of whatever games is not the same thing as these not being good games. I’m a huge fan of Darwinia, and think it earned more than the praise it lavishly received. Not so much Defcon, despite the amazing premise, and Multiwinia simply doesn’t grab me in any way. See? It’s nice to have opinions but you don’t have to be jerks about delivering them.

    I think what’s been happening at IV this year demonstrates a sad fact of reality: Dreams vs Business. We all want devs to focus on their dreams – IV seem to be using lasers to pinpoint theirs – but keeping the company economically viable to enable these dreams is obviously a completely different kettle of fish, and it’s sad to see the two clashing so painfully in Chris’s emotive pieces.

    I, for one, hope they can overcome 2008 and continue to provide these endlessly fascinating original works; the world would be a far poorer place without them.

    PS: Anyone who isn’t at least slightly interested in Subversion has no soul. I’m on tenterhooks. Go read the excellent dev blog and test yourselves.

  14. hydra9 says:

    This is a serious message. If you haven’t seen Alejandro Jodorowsky’s movie El topo yet then please get hold of a copy. Rent it, buy it, whatever. You won’t regret it, because it’s a truly startling piece of cinema and (I think) one of the best films ever made.

    Here’s the tagline, if it helps:

    See the naked young Franciscans whipped with cactus. See the bandit leader disemboweled. See the priest ride into the sunset with a midget and her newborn baby. What it all means isn’t exactly clear, but you won’t forget it.

  15. Tei says:

    Uplink: not my tea cup
    Darwinia: BRILLIANT!
    Defcon: good, but not for loong
    Multiwinia: good, but not for loong. also, for some reason the settings for the game browser reseted itself every time you visit a lobby, making the search of games absolutelly painfull. but is a good MP game. Anyway is somewhat strange teh evolution from singleplayer with good history, to multiplayer… multiwinia feels like a 20$ game.

    I hope this guys continue and gain steam to make more nice games. Where somewhat heralds of the indie world. But something got wrong.. :-/

  16. Markoff Chaney says:

    Dreamhacker – Spot on perfect analysis of Introversion, imo. It’s just my opinion, but I’m, admittedly, not an RTS guy. There’s something about Uplink, to me, though… I still cherish my signed Uplink disc I got from them. I still think it is one of the better games and designs I’ve played. The modability of it gives it legs still and allows for complete conversions. Everything after Uplink has just been a slow slide down a slippery hill, but, again, that’s just my opinion. I have great hopes for Subversion, but after reading that disheartening opener, we may just have to stick with their original release as being their zenith.

    God that was a depressing read. It deserved top billing, but moving on was tough from there. Nice Metabarons read as well. I appreciate waking up to these. Thank You.

    -Edit- I wholeheartedly second the call for watching El Topo. I’d say you won’t regret spending the time watching it, but opinions are like certain methods of elimination.

  17. Autogunner says:

    I never really got on with any of introversions games. I wish I never bought defcon because the demo contained all the ‘game’ there was to it. Darwinia was just dumb, I got to the the third level and spent an hour trying to herd those sprites around, got tired and then went and played men of war.

  18. CMaster says:

    I’d say about introversion:
    Uplink: Nice concept, nice atmosphere, ice execution. Not the greatest game ever but pretty clever and playable.
    Darwinia: Great atmosphere, music, styling, Very, very retro a lot of it’s appeal is in it’s references to old games. Gameplay is a bit meh, although improves though the patches.
    Defcon: Cheap, simple, great fun. Exactly the kind of thing “indie” developers should be pumping out. However, really needed them to be a bit more “valve” like and keep supporting the game post release. Introversion need to learn about fostering gaming communities.
    Multiwinia: Oh god what were they thinking. Seriously, no starergy, random powerup etc etc. And it took them forever. It’s fun like Worms used to be I guess, but it really seems to lack much depth or long term fun (based off the demo). Most fun I had with it was turning the crate drops up and watch madness break out. Especially with Subversion looking as clever, novel and as well, subversive (if my guesses about the game are right) as it does, spending 2-3 years on Multiwinia seems mad.

    Seriously, the company has done well for itself when it made quick, novel gameplay simple games. Everytime they have gone even vuagley towards the “AAA” style with the Darwinia series, it’s hurt them. You’d think they’d learn.

  19. Gap Gen says:

    I think the main problem with Multiwinia was that people expect Introversion to do something new and interesting, and get excited by that. Multiwinia seems more like the absent multiplayer mode of a game I finished a while ago, and there are more attractive multiplayer strategy games out there (and as is, I rarely play online strategy games). I’m excited by what I’ve seen about Subversion, though. Hopefully the company will see it through until release.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    Also, talking about volume 2 of comic books – I have the complete Transmetropolitan and Scott Pilgrim series lined up, and both of them have pretty consistent layouts on the spine, except for the 2nd volume, which is slightly different. Not particularly important, just an idle observation.

  21. Gpig says:

    I don’t see how Introversion is going to make it to the release of Subversion. It seems to me that the majority of the success of Indie games on XBLA and the PC depend on the 50,000-100,000 hardcore, blog reading gamers. They’ve already played Darwinia.

    I’d love to be wrong, and with World of Goo looking like it made a ton of sales on Wiiware I may be, but I just don’t see Darwinia+ selling much more than 20,000. 20,000 is fine for indie developers, but Introversion is a behemoth trying to survive on indie wages. 10 people is simply unsustainable.

    I say I don’t see Introversion making it to Subversion, but I do see Chris Delay. They tried bringing on multiple people to open up multiple revenue streams with ports of their games, but it ended up not working because their games are targetted at the 50,000-100,000 I mentioned who are largely platform agnostic. 2008 was a bad year for Introversion, but 2009 looks worse. Hopefully Darwinia DS does well for them.

  22. SpoonySeeker says:

    taking as many of the writers and journalists and editors out as we can for a curry along the way.

    ಠ_ಠ

    Suddenly I’ve lost all sympathy for Introversion.

  23. Sinnerman says:

    I always had trouble working out who Multiwinia was being made for as it wasn’t for me. Another one of the many problems in the world that could have been avoided by asking for my opinion first.

  24. Larington says:

    Personally I quite enjoyed Darwinia, bought it purely off the demo.
    I’m amused by the person who says he dislikes Darwinia and then follows it up with a comment on how he isn’t an RTS guy. Some games aren’t going to be for you, or me, or whatever, doesn’t automatically make it a bad game, nor does that automatically mean the developer isn’t allowed to exist. I got reminded of this when I learned of the existence of an in development Lego Rock Band, yuck, but I’m sure its going to sell rather well regardless.

    Haven’t played any of Introversions other games of course, they haven’t really grabbed me tbh. Also goes to show its not just the megacorps that make big mistakes, very human.

  25. Corvus says:

    I think Introversion simply bit off more than they could chew. Trying to juggle three different projects with a ~10 man team is frankly insane. I admit I never liked the idea of them trying to expand and become a “proper game company”, it was always going to lead to creative compromise, hence the focus on Multiwinia, their first unoriginal title. I do hope that Darwinia+ will sell enough to allow them to finish Subversion, which sounds really interesting, but sadly I’m not sure if the XBox Live audience will go for a remake of an obscure indie title which won the IGF grand prize four years ago. I think most people who want to play Darwinia already have by now.

    As for Greg Costikyan’s piece on the IGF video: his irony detection glands obviously weren’t working the day he wrote that.

  26. jay says:

    Did you really have to re-ignite my lovefoxxx crush Kieron?

  27. Xocrates says:

    @SirKicksalot: As someone who was on the Multiwinia Beta, I can tell you this: The controls weren’t “fucked up” because they were bad (indeed, even today I wish the old style controls were an option), the controls were “fucked up” because they weren’t the standard RTS fare. This caused everyone who played the game to feel they were awkward.
    Indeed, there was some considerable resistance by the Beta testers when the current controls were implemented.

  28. Markoff Chaney says:

    Always glad to amuse, I am. I was just trying to place my comments in the right perspective, and not just throw it out without a why or wherefore. That type of commentary doesn’t seem to help in the long run. Not like any of this will matter in Fifty Million years. Won’t stop the typing, though.

    -EDIT- On another note, the god sons love Rock Band and were overjoyed with Lego Rock Band. I hope they save up for it though. I may have bought the first 2 (and a LOT of DLC) but I’m not putting my financial backing into that one. The Beatles, however, that may get a buy…

  29. much2much says:

    Multiwinia sucks. Thats the truth of it.

    Darwinia is awesome.

    Very deterministic game with totally game changin randomness does not make for a fun game.

  30. MtotheThird says:

    Haha, holy crap Sr. Gillen, for some reason I never before linked the Phonogram-Kieron with RPS-Kieron in my head. Looking forward to the new issue.

  31. Bullwinkle says:

    Multiwinia was a bad idea from start to finish. Genuinely strange. And I quite liked Darwinia.

    The GamesBrief guy is right. Zeno Clash totally got a free ride on its subpar gameplay. It’s a little embarrassing, frankly. I do have to say that ACE Team was pretty cool about addressing player concerns with that second patch, though. That’s the kind of responsiveness that makes me consider a future purchase from a company I hadn’t been that impressed with.

  32. Kieron Gillen says:

    MtotheThird: I’m dual-classed.

    Bullwinkle: And everyone who enjoyed it immensely is just lying, clearly.

    KG

  33. jackflash says:

    Much as I love indie studios, I do agree somewhat with those who loved Uplink but found IV’s later games to be mediocre. I bought both Darwinia and Multiwinia, but more out of pity than enjoyment (I haven’t played more than an hour or two of either). They’re just not *fun*, at least to me. I find both of them deathly boring, and I simply don’t understand the strategy in Multiwinia at all. Seems more like a “spray and pray” kind of game than anything. As for DEFCON – very cool style, but after playing the demo, again, I didn’t see where the fun came in.

    IV does seem to have a lot of talent, though. I hope they survive and their next game is fun to play and innovative.

    *Edit* – just saw some of their Subversion videos. IV, please survive to release this game. Looks amazing.

  34. Caiman says:

    Darwinia is the only IV game I’ve ever bought, and I still rate it amongst the best games I’ve ever played. Uplink didn’t really interest me. Defcon sounded and looked great, but ultimately I found it boring based on the demo. And I’ve not tried Multiwinia, but it just didn’t seem particularly original or appealing. Subversion looks and sounds excellent, however.

  35. Panzeh says:

    I find that ‘indie’ games tend to get free rides by some reviewers, mostly in regards to the fact that they don’t bash indie games for the same things they bash in mainstream games. A game like mount and blade will get constant praise but i’m 90% sure it would get hugely panned if it were released by EA because of it being ‘incomplete’ and ‘not enough content’.

    Not to say that these are bad games, but mediocre indie games seem to get lots of praise while mediocre AAA games get panned for not being the next coming, the next huge thing, simply a competent execution of some previous genre.

  36. TCM says:

    I’ve never played an Introversion game, though based on word of mouth, word of internet, and word of reviews, I still can’t decide if that’s a good or bad thing. They’re very polarizing.

  37. Bullwinkle says:

    Kieron: Irony aside, of course they’re (you’re) not lying. But I think people are being a lot more forgiving of the gameplay because of a) the originality and weirdness of the world, which *is* top notch, and b) because they’re an indie team. Seriously, if a major corporation had made this, and instead of the weirdness, you had an ordinary world, would you have thought so highly of the gameplay? Namely:

    Why do I have to lock on to any enemy to fight them? I’m playing on a fucking PC, not a console, aren’t I? Totally unnecessary, and demonstrated by the fact that they removed that requirement in the last patch.

    Why can’t I discard/holster a weapon? Again, taken care of the next patch.

    Why are the maps–the tiny, tiny maps–so unbelievably linear? And I don’t usually have a problem with linear. But Christ, were we on rails or what?

    Why do I have to stop *playing* every two minutes to watch a cutscene? What is this, the Max Payne 2 School of Design? It’s not even that I didn’t like the cutscenes; I did. I love the world they created. But freakin’ let me *play* a while, won’t you? And let me *explore*. And don’t turn a victory/defeat into the opposite in a cutscene.

    And so on. Now, frankly, I don’t think the melee combat was that great, even besides these points, but whatever, different strokes. That’s not my point at all. I read your review of it. You guys did mention these things. So it’s not like you can say I’m batshit crazy. I’m just saying that I had the same reaction as the GB guy when I sat down to play it. I think you gave these issues far more of a pass then you would have if the game wasn’t wonderfully weird/an indie.

  38. Radiant says:

    I love it; out come the Internet’s anonymous morons talking about games they haven’t even bought and opinions on things they have only read about.

  39. yutt says:

    I thought Darwinia was an unintuitive messed, both deliberately inaccessible and poorly designed. While Multiwinia was a much more refined take on the same basic premise.

  40. Sunjammer says:

    Of fucking course a game made by 2 dudes gets a “free ride” over one made by a team of hundreds including testers and outsourced media production motherfuckers.

    How is this not blindingly obvious? It’s all bloody relative! If you were Valve and you put out Zeno Clash, you should, on a technical level, be ashamed. Ace simply haven’t had access to the insane QA *engine* Valve has set up for itself.

    What that GamesBrief dude is doing is saying “Your kid’s picture is crap. Syd Mead can do way better”. It’s just mindblowingly stupid.

  41. aoanla says:

    I must say, being one of Introversion’s fanboys back when they did Uplink and Darwinia, that I really didn’t get Multiwinia either. I bought it (despite the initial issues with getting it working in Wine), but I ended up getting bored of it quite quickly due to the stupid randomness and the bleak setting (compared to Darwinia).

    It’d be a terrible shame if IV went under before Subversion is released, though, since it looks genuinely extremely interesting.

  42. Tom Jubert says:

    Darwinia was a truly fantastic game… shame about a lot of IV releases since then. Here’s to a better 2009 for them :-)

    On the (more controversial than I expected) topic of Zeno Clash, I wasn’t so much trying to point out how much more right my subjective opinion of that game was – I might just as easily have focused on my own Penumbra games.

    More so, I was using ZC as a case study to explore the idea that indie games get an easier ride at review. I do believe that that’s true, and I do believe it’s a bad thing for video games.

    The thing is, a review isn’t about rewarding a team for its abilities, it’s about judging the final product. Saying a kid’s picture is crap comapared to Syd Mead is stupid because it’s not a competition: you should be rewarding the kid. If that kid entered his picture into a gallery, there’s every grounds for comparing the two unfavourably. Realising that, Sunjammer, is not exactly brain science.

    I just don’t like the idea of giving AAA titles a rougher time just because they had bigger budgets – risk taking AAAs are rare enough as it is.

    Edit: Also, it does sound to me as if the new patch may have corrected most of the biggest problems I had with the original build…

  43. BedroomProgamer says:

    Re: Introversion

    Their games have a distinct style. Subversion looks (technically) cool though no one knows what it’s about yet so it’s just Delay doing Carmack style wanking.

    Uplink: Fun multi-tasker for a bit. I’ve since found Hacker: Evolution the more superior hacking simulator.

    Darwinia: Great fun!

    DEFCON: glorified Flash game. Seriously I paid for this? Nice aesthetics though (wargames styling, chilling audio)

    Multiwinia: Meh tried the demo, didn’t like it. Too random/not skill based as others mentioned.

    all eggs in one Microsoft shaped basket, but that’s where we are

    *facepalm*

  44. subedii says:

    I’ve only played the demo of Zeno Clash so far and can only say its praise is well deserved. Leave aside the fact that it being an indie title from a first time developer in Chile makes its accomplishments more impressive. It has without doubt the best implementation of first person hand-to-hand combat I’ve seen in a game. Every other game I’ve tried it it feels awkward, nothing really connects and I’m almost always fighting the controls.

    In Zeno Clash every impact feels as if it connects and every thwack is solid. The gameplay mechanics work really well with to create a pretty diverse and intuitive combat system out of something that it would have been incredibly easy to screw up. They clearly put a lot of thought and effort into it.

    What they’ve achieved with Zeno Clash isn’t just a really good implementation of first person combat, it’s something that other people are now going to rip and take from and try to recreate in their games as well.

    All that and I haven’t even touched on the utterly surreal art style and aesthetic.

    Bah, detractors saying everyone’s being nice to it do so simply to go against the grain of popular opinion. They like to feel as if they have the courage to SPEAK the TRUTH in the face of HYPOCRISY etc. etc. Ultimately it’s just that they didn’t like the game and can’t stand that others did for some reason.

  45. yutt says:

    @Panzeh

    AAA games get panned? Haha! Example? Please, really, I’d love to see a popularly hyped game with a < 80 Metacritic score. It doesn’t happen. The game press merely being excited about a game a year in advance of its release means it automatically gets 85+.

    If any games are getting a free pass by reviewers, it is big studio releases that cost $50-60 (US).

  46. Gap Gen says:

    Do the guitars in Lego Rock Band have little knobbly bits all over them that make them a bit uncomfortable to play?

  47. Sunjammer says:

    Argh this Zeno Clash topic pisses me off to no end. The notion appears to be that an 8/10 from one site == an 8/10 from another == an 8/10 from another, and if there is any sort of discrepancy, SOMEONE MUST BE WRONG.

    Jesus christ you wouldn’t go to Roger Ebert for a porn movie review. Know your sources. If you trust blindly in metacritic or other aggregate sites that treat scores as “canon”, you ARE the problem.

  48. Dominic White says:

    You know what the saddest thing about this Zeno Clash line of discussion here is?

    There are people who don’t ‘get it’.

    Now, this wouldn’t be nearly as terrible if it was an abstract puzzle game with a pseudo-poetic narrative, but it isn’t. It’s a fucking Final Fight style brawler, where you go from arena to arena, punching people in the face, eating food for health, and repeating until the credits roll.

    Yes, the setting is weird and the art is surreal. This is because the developers have openly stated that they were inspired by both Heironymous Bosch and The Dark Crystal. They’re not trying to get across some deep message here – they just love surreal punk-fantasy stylings.

    Sometimes, a cigar is just a cigar, and in this case, Zeno Clash is a budget-priced, old-school brawler with a new perspective and a funky art style and setting.

    Stop overthinking things. Please.

  49. RabidZombie says:

    Multiwinia is not a shit game by any stretch of the imagination. How? Because there exist people who enjoy it thoroughly.

    The problem with Multiwinia was that it didn’t appeal to the same crowd Darwinia did. This isn’t too bad in itself, except that they made it look like a sequel. It isn’t. People who disliked Darwinia will automatically assume they don’t like Multiwinia, and it will ultimately disappoint those Darwinia fans that were looking for more of the same.

    Also, strategyless? Just because you suck at the game doesn’t mean there’s no strategy.

    Still, I’d consider Darwinia+ a mistake overall, since its taken so long and sucked up so much money. It’s sad to think Introversion’s biggest ever risk, and possibly last, has arisen from collaborating with Microsoft simply to port an already finished game.

  50. Lewis says:

    Basically: every argument that indie games get an easier ride seems to be sorely lacking in justification. It’s all speculative, and no one stops to consider that it could just be that people like these games a lot.