The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on May 10th, 2009 at 10:00 am.

Fridays are for compiling a list of interesting reading across the week for the RPS readership’s attention to be posted on Sunday, because I almost certainly won’t be around and/or sober on Sunday due to some Best Man Duties and if I do it now, I can set it to go up automatically then and not worry about it any more. Let’s just hope I don’t do it in such a rush that I end up linking to some bally pop music.

Failed. But who cares?

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70 Comments »

  1. Jetsetlemming says:

    Putting The Path on a level higher than most indie games and equal in production value to Zeno Clash seems to be being extremely generous to it.

  2. rob says:

    Plans vs. Zombies vs. Pants vs. Zombies, the battle of the typos.

  3. surlyben says:

    FWIW The New Yorker article mentions the Trillion Credit Squadron with computer AI assist thing, which, while not strictly PC gaming, is at least an interesting bit of AI history…

  4. Muzman says:

    Interesting bit of that Newyorker article (one of anyway): the trillion credit fleet thing means the Zerg Rush was invented by an AI.

  5. Ben says:

    That link by Surlyben sets Avast off! Something about a worm in the iFrame.

  6. Sam H says:

    On the question of what a game is and isn’t, the work of Wittgenstein – a brilliant and radical philosopher – is full of insight…

    “Consider for example the proceedings that we call “games”. I mean board-games, card-games, ball-games, Olympic games, and so on. What is common to them all? — Don’t say: “There must be something common, or they would not be called ‘games’ “-but look and see whether there is anything common to all. — For if you look at them you will not see something that is common to all, but similarities, relationships, and a whole series of them at that. To repeat: don’t think, but look! —

    Look for example at board-games, with their multifarious relationships. Board games, what are some? Consider chess, of course, but think also of monopoly.
    Now pass to card-games; here you find many correspondences with the first group, but many common features drop out, and others appear.

    Card games. What about poker? And what about Old Maid. Remember that children’s card game? How are these card games alike and different from each other? And how do they compare with board games? What about the element of strategy? Or how many players can play and whether or not there is a single winner or, as in Monopoly (I believe) there are different degrees of winning.
    When we pass next to ball-games, much that is common is retained, but much is lost.– Are they all ‘amusing’? Compare chess with noughts and crosses. Or is there always winning and losing, or competition between players? Think of patience. In ball games there is winning and losing; but when a child throws his ball at the wall and catches it again, this feature has disappeared. Look at the parts played by skill and luck; and at the difference between skill in chess and skill in tennis. Think of the way one wins or loses in tennis. Winning is hierarchical. One can win a point, but lose the game. One can win the game, but lose the set. And one can win the set, but lose the match. One can win the match but lose the tournament. Compare this with baseball (also hierarchical) or with checkers. And howabout board games that revolve around a throw of the dice?
    Think now of games like ring-a-ring-a-roses; here is the element of amusement, but how many other characteristic features have disappeared! sometimes similarities of detail.

    Then we have children’s ritual games. Do they have a winner? What about drop the hankerchief? Or London Bridge is falling down? How about “spin the bottle.”? Are you winning or losing if the bottle stops pointing to you?
    What about jacks? Jacks is a girls’ game that was popular when I was a child and I was into the game. You have 10 little objects called “jacks” that you toss onto the ground as the other girls sit in a circle. Then each girl has a turn. She starts with a ball in her preferred hand and she tosses the ball up and lets it bounce and before it bounced again, she picks up one jack and then catches the ball before it bounces again. She does that with each jack. Then she does “twosees” which means she picks up two jacks in one sweep. She continues that until she has done all ten jacks. Then, if she completes that round without difficulty, she starts again with a more difficult rule. Perhaps she doesn’t let the ball bounce at all, or she not only picks up the jacks but she puts them in a particular place before she catches the ball. There are a few of these rounds that are already invented, but it is common for the winning player to invent the next game.

    How does “jacks” compare with chess? Or with ring-a-ring-o-roses? How are they different? How does it compare with tennis? Or American football?

    And we can go through the many, many other groups of games in the same way; can see how similarities crop up and disappear.

    Don’t children invent games on the spot? See who can spit the furtherest? Or see who can solve a particular puzzle first? Or who can follow a rule the best (think of Simon Says).
    And the result of this examination is: we see a complicated network of similarities overlapping and cries-crossing: sometimes overall similarities.

    And what you’ll find, I think, if you go through a careful study of these various types of games, is that there are similarities and differences. Poker is like chess in certain ways. They both have clear rules and the winner is likely to have practice and skill. But they are different in some ways, too, and if you look at how they are different, you’ll find other games that are not different in these ways, but different in other ways.

    I can think of no better expression to characterize these similarities than “family resemblances”; for the various resemblances between members of a family: build, features, colour of eyes, gait, temperament, etc. etc. overlap and cries-cross in the same way.-And I shall say: ‘games’ form a family”

    No definitions, no essential features, just games as the things we call games!

  7. AndrewC says:

    Muzman: true, but it was up to us gamers to give it a stupid fucking name.

  8. SirKicksalot says:

    All those above are irrelevant compared to the 3 minutes of Duke Nukem Forever gameplay:

    http://www.gametrailers.com/player/usermovies/316678.html

    Now I’m going to cry in a corner.

  9. Surlyben says:

    Aw crap. Sorry about the bad link. And it being too late for me to delete it. Perhaps one of the admins could help me out with that? (From the source it looks like a misspelled google-analytics link on the page is the culprit)

    FWIW, I got the link from the wikipedia entry on Eurisko, which gives a lot less info than the article I tried to link to, but might be worth a look for anyone still interested… (google has some less dodgy links as well, but I’m done linking to things for the day :)

  10. Gap Gen says:

    Pants vs. Zombies
    “There’s a zombie on my laundry, we don’t like zombies on our laundry.”

  11. Nick says:

    That DNF stuff actually looked quite fun. Now I am sad.

  12. Tonic says:

    Is the sunday paper’s picture (with the paper and the tea) from a game or something? Or just a stock image you pulled from google images?

  13. Benjamin Ferrari says:

    I’m not a native english speaker. How is the term AAA defined? According to Wikipedia something is AAA if it is “high-quality, premier, or excellent”.

    But this definition is clearly not what people mean when they use the term in the context of video gaming (for Example AAA games seem to exclude games from Independant Developers, no matter how high-quality, premier or excellent they are).

    Does the term AAA in gaming really mean something like “high-budget” or “high-income”? If so, maybe we should update the Wikipedia page to reflect that.

  14. DarthInsinuate says:

    Pans vs. Zombies
    *SPRANG* “Take that you undead freak! Yeah? You want some olive oil with that? Get some!”

  15. arqueturus says:

    I’d like to see a review from Jim as well as Kieron on Darkfall as I think it would be about as balanced as it could get.

    All I can say is that there were some echoes of past reviews of Eve online in that EG Darkfall 2/10 review…

  16. Nick says:

    Triple A in gaming usually means shiney, overhyped and shallow. At least in my experience.

  17. Xercies says:

    At least Tales of tales argument kind of made sense, it never actually occurred to me that games are mostly done with multiple people then single player games.

    And so maybe we can look at Solitaire to see the rise of them, what made that a game?

  18. rob says:

    Sycophants vs. Zombies
    Brains? Yeah I am totally into them!

  19. Orange says:

    I hope playing through Darkfall isn’t causing you too much suffering.

    I thought the original review was particularly harsh, it may be a crap game but to summarily dismiss it and after apparently only 9 hours playtime of an intended “hardcore” mmo is not enough.

    I understand there are a lot of issues here though, what the writer has been commissioned for and their payscale, where to draw the line before making a judgement and the feasability of reviewing something which can take hundreds of hours to even reach its optimal point of fun.

    I guess someone needs to come up with a new clever way of reviewing mmos. Doing it in two stages as first impressions and as an endgame review doesn’t really work either imo.

  20. Robin says:

    The “single-A” thing is a bit odd. Where does he think the term “triple-A” came from? There are publishers that really do use a grade system internally to roughly communicate how significant a project is deemed to be.

    Zeno Clash might get an A or B on such a scale. The Path would rank lower (nothing to do with its quality – I’ve not played it so can’t judge – but more that it would only ever expect to have niche appeal, and doesn’t require excessive development or marketing costs to achieve its optimum result).

  21. Mil says:

    The comments thread is also interesting, to say the least, as Jonathan Blow notes it’s almost certainly Zeno Clash making enough cash to pay for its team.

    That would be “NOT making enough cash”.

    If FallOut 3 or Mass Effect are AAA, and Zeno Clash and The Path are A, what is Sins of a Solar Empire? What about GalCiv?

  22. Bhazor says:

    Yeah there’s no way The Path (made by two people for a very niche market) is the same as Zeno or the likes of say Gal Civ.

  23. Magnus says:

    I’ve always considers “AAA” to mean the equivalent of a Hollywood summer blockbuster. It does not necessarily equate to any higher quality, just higher budget aiming for high sales.

    Not sure of the point in labelling things “A” or “B”, unless a developer/publisher are saying “go easy on me, Mr. Reviewer, we didn’t have the money, personnel or marketing of the bigger boys..”

    You always have to compete with whats out there, and in PC gaming, that can also include the vast back catalogue. Makes things tough, but interesting.

  24. FhnuZoag says:

    The trillion credit zerg rush always struck me as kinda weird – how could it really be advantageous? Imagine a round by round duking out of two fleets against each other: then the more numerous fleet has a variety of problems – firstly, it will be difficult for it to get all its firepower onto the target enemy. Secondly, when the ships take damage, the more numerous fleet will take substantial losses to the total firepower they can bring to bear, while the higher durability of the smaller fleet will allow it to soak some of that damage before any impact is shown on its effectiveness. All this really suggests to me is that the organiser of the competition overpriced armour and underpriced firepower.

    surleyben: Your link gives me a virus warning.

  25. VPeric says:

    I also disagree with classifying Zeno Clash and The Path as “A” titles. Yes, Zeno Clash is prettier than The Path, which is again much nicer looking than yon average indie, but it’s still an indie production. In fact, there are indie games with high production values (indie RPG Eschalon: Book I, for example), Zeno Clash is perhaps only more notable for using a 3D engine, which is kinda harder. And, lastly, most of Zeno Clash’ charm comes from the art design, rather than sheer graphics quality.

    Still, I do like the idea behind “A” titles, but I think it’s more for the likes of Drakensang. It’s a decent looking, all aroud solid RPG made on an ~2 million euro budget (AFAIK). A far cry from the usual 10′s, but also way above the average indie. More games in this category could be Sins of a Solar Empire and Galactic Civilizations 2 (~1-2 mil USD including expansions and marketing, source).

    Obviously, such a model is more akin to the early 90′s, where a small team could create a game good enough to compete on the “main stage”, than the multi-million many-hundread teams of today, and I think we could all agree that that was a period with a lot more innovation than today. Simply, with a smaller investment, you can afford to target a more niche playerbase and still make a profit, and since all of us here are a hardcore niche of some sort – that can only be a good thing!

    [Now that I think about it, I'd also put the various Russian titles in the "A" category, though that's probably more due to lower development costs than anything else: Men of War, Fantasy Wars/Elven Legacy, Space Rangers (2), King's Bounty...]

  26. Krondonian says:

    Jonathan Blow’s estimation seems a bit out for me.

    He basically said that as Braid had more players than Zeno Clash in the last 48 hours it would probably not have made much money.

    He works this out by saying that Braid would only have broken even at the end of 2009 without Xbox 360 sales. Therefore, Zeno Clash (which would have cost more to make, ergo need to sell more than Braid wouldn’t break even with just PC sales).

    He fails to take into account the fact that Braid was released on PC 9 months later than the 360. Any crossover in the audience will of course buy the 360 version.

    Secondly, he himself notes that Braid is a short game, so the 48 hour rating would probably underestimate it. Zeno Clash is just 4 hours long, and I for one haven’t played it again since finishing.

    Of course, he may well be correct, but the only way to know is to see what ACE Team do next.

  27. Simon Jones says:

    Hm, The Path seems to have similar production values to Zeno Clash, based on my experiences of them both.

    Zeno Clash has the edge in terms of visual design, of course, especially in its characters, but the actual level construction is very basic and doesn’t really succeed in depicting the organic environment for me. It all looks a bit low-detail and simplistic.

    The Path is dense and beautiful, but also full of little animation glitches, clipping issues etc.

    Gameplay wise they both have moments of brilliance and innovation, and moments of clunky frustration. Both have pretty good sound.

    So in terms of production value I can see why they’d be compared.

  28. Spanish Technophobe says:

    That New Yorker article was great. But then, I’m a huge New Yorker fanboy, so it’s cool to see it linked here.

  29. Robin says:

    Magnus: Quality can be a factor with “AAA” – if a game gets a lot of interest more people are going to read negative reviews of it. Also if it’s in a competitive genre (as opposed to, say, a sport where EA owns the exclusive license) quality plays a bigger role in getting people to buy sequels and addons.

    Also, obviously this grade system would vary between publishers, and is heavily weighted with wishful thinking.

  30. Mattress says:

    Haven’t read that New Yorker article yet, but I’m in the middle of Malcolm Gladwell’s new book “The Outliers” which is about much the same things his magazine pieces are. The guy is genius, but I can’t quite figure out what he’s a genius at? I mean is he a author, psychologist, economist, investigative journalist or a polymath? I dunno, but he’s essential reading. Whilst his stuff is generally to practical to be about “games”, I’m sure you could apply alot of his thinking to design.

  31. Premium User Badge

    abhishek says:

    My understanding of AAA is that it doesn’t have much to do with representing the quality of the game, even though that is a little counter-intuitive. AAA is indicative of larger budgets – more money, bigger development teams, longer production cycles etc. Of course, when more resources are put into the project, there is an implicit understanding that the product should be of a higher quality but the AAA tag doesn’t actually refer to that final quality standard, but rather the expenses that got it there.

  32. Dante says:

    “Single A” as opposed to “Triple A”?

    For God’s sake people, there are other letters already! What’s so wrong with A and B?

  33. Gap Gen says:

    Triple X games would be good.

  34. Clockwork Harlequin says:

    Ada Lovelace comic was hilarious. And if the world contained more steampunk, it would be a better place.

  35. Jonas says:

    I have a bit of a personal stake in single A games being commercially viable, so damn I hope they turn out to be :P

  36. Radiant says:

    @gap gen
    They’re all rubbish.
    I played something called “sexy beach 3″ the other day.
    Tasty punning aside; I spent an hour oiling up a cg bird [who, admittedly, possessed phenomenal knockers] then, when it came to the actual shagging, my 3d rendered enormous penis [thanks japan!] kept appearing through the back of the poor woman’s bottom.

    I mean, when I think to myself “I would stick my cock right through that lass” I don’t actually want that to happen, you know?

  37. Oddtwang says:

    Pliants vs. Zombies – “You want to eat our brains? Well, ok I guess. If you say so.”

  38. James T says:

    When it’s Plans vs Zombies, zombies always win…

  39. SofS says:

    In my town, we have a pizza place that has five “A”s at the front of its name to ensure that it comes first in the phone book. Quintuple A Superfine 2-4-1 Pizza must hail from the same school of nomenclature.

  40. JadeAlpha says:

    Then whoever came up with AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! must also be a recent graduate.

    Re: AAA, is it related to the egg grading system?

    XXX isn’t an actual rating (MPAA recognizes X). The extra X’s were added by adult film makers as a marketing trick to imply that their films were that much more indecent than “regular only X-rated” films.

  41. Panzeh says:

    @FhnuZoag

    I suspect that even in the real world it would probably be more cost efficient to use hordes of boghammer vessels rather than large traditional warships due to the low cost of operating them as well as their ability to fit decent anti-ship weapons and with the way modern anti-ship weapons absolutely outstrip armor.

  42. jalf says:

    The Ada Lovelace one is just brilliant. Thanks for the link!

  43. SirKicksalot says:

    Triple X games would be good.

    Only is they star Vin Diesel instead of that black dude.

  44. Wedge says:

    Yeah that just sounded like more of Blow’s usual bitching and moaning about how terrible PC is and how amazing(ly lucky) selling his game the 360 was. He seems to believe that because his one game sold decently that everyone else has done great on 360 and every indie game ever on PC is a failure, and will extrapolate anything he can to support that.

    I’d think Penumbra probably falls into that (A) range as well, and maybe Mount and Blade, though M & B is more traditional PC style, relying on procedural and community content to support it, instead of a tight short experience.

  45. Dorian Cornelius Jasper says:

    Oh Babbage, you magnificent organ-grinder-hating bastard.

  46. DMcCool says:

    SOMEONE QUOTED WITTGENSTEIN ON ROCK PAPER SHOTGUN I CAN DIE A HAPPY MAN. MY AVATAR WAS NOT IN VAIN.

  47. Andrew F says:

    Mr, um, Ferrari: I think that the definition used in gaming press is a mixture of two parts.

    One is an analogy to XXX: If games are divided into the B games with you may have some great ideas, but are guaranteed no polish, and A games where the concept of production values has some place, then AAA games are those where no expense has been spared in letting you see the money that you’ve paid right there on the screen. More polygons, more cutscenes, more more more. A cynic might suggest that by the time a game starts to be described as an AAA title, there is already no chance of it having any of its original ideas. But contrary to what you were saying, the people who describe games as AAA would be very definite that what is being added is both premier and high-quality.

    The other idea of course is that they are similar to AAA-rated securities. Which fits, as they have also been in critical freefall for the last few years.

  48. undead dolphin hacker says:

    The Tale of Tales article is hilariously sad. I’m sure games do indeed feel like exams if you keep failing at the first challenge to the point that you finally rage quit/rage uninstall, and… I don’t know, go back to making not-games about sexual and psycho-sexual abuse?

    The takeaway message from the ToT article is that games require a degree of proficiency to actually appreciate… like — and oh shit son here it comes — any other kind of art.

    Just because you read at a third grade level and have to sound out every word doesn’t mean all books can be equated to standardized tests.

  49. DigitalSignalX says:

    The New Yorker piece is superb reading, but what really cracked me up was a line from the piece on Rogue – where a publisher in 1983 (well before the internet) blames piracy for poor sales in the face of their products sub-par graphics and competition with the wildly popular Ultima 3. Not to mention the fact that a similar game (with same title) was available in half a dozen different ports by half a dozen different developers (some for free).

    At a time when piracy was people actually copying floppy disks and giving/selling them physically to other people it strikes me as another possible historic moment in games: Birth of the wildly arrogant and supremely irrational game developer/publisher.

  50. Bhazor says:

    The closest I’ve ever had to a religious epiphany was visiting the Difference Engine 2 in the Science Museum. The thing was just beautiful to watch and it moves so smoothly it almost ripples. I didn’t make me into a christian though it did make me understand why steam punk took off.

    But you just know Babbage was totally tapping Ada.