The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on May 31st, 2009 at 9:30 am.

Writing Sunday Papers on a Tuesday just feels wrong.

Sundays are for lying, working on my tan and hacking through big ol’ Russian novels. Or so I hope. But Tuesday nights are for rushing around, desperately trying to pack, write a script and generally tie up all my business… including doing the Sunday Papers five days in advance. Let’s hope no major stories break between now and Sunday, eh? So, as always, here’s some interesting reading gathered from across (er) the last two days which I show to you, while trying to resist linking to a late-nineties zinekid micro-classic which re-impinged on my consciousness when panickedly running around yesterday.

Failed.

.

75 Comments »

  1. Noc says:

    I am going to pretend that second to last article does not exist, for purposes of my mental health.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I have a happy place to return to.

  2. FP says:

    I now have an overwhelming urge to dig out my old FF books and start rolling some dice.

  3. Clockwork Harlequin says:

    Noc: Andrew Wheeler’s defence of hymns was satire (I hope). Not very good satire, kind of slow and ponderous, but if he were a true fanatic, the rest of his blog wouldn’t have been about American Idol.

    Dear Mr Gillen, could we please see more articles about games? Or even the lowly iPhone?

  4. Noc says:

    Ah, right. Poe’s Law strikes again.

  5. Owen says:

    Really enjoying Baxendale, so cheers KG. Looking for albums to purchase as I type.

  6. drewski says:

    I’m beginning to think you don’t even try to avoid posting about crappy marginal 90s music.

    I like the articles this week. Especially the one about Elite, which I was too young to have played at the time.

  7. Larington says:

    I did find myself doing a ctrl-f search for ‘serious’ or ‘serious business’ no dice, perhaps because the dice are being used to play the fighting fantasy books. ;-)

  8. Jubaal says:

    Ah what a great article about the FF books and covers. Really took me down memory lane. I remember when I was a kid on the last day of term one of my classmates bringing in “Forest of Doom” and I borrowed it off him to then avidly spending the rest of the day hidden in a corner just consuming the whole thing in awe!

    Does anyone know if there are adult equivalent to the FF series these days. I feel the need to get a fix!

  9. theleif says:

    Sky Lord!

  10. Sparvy says:

    @Clockwork,

    Yeah, if nothing else the line “People may say that this proposal is intolerant, but surely the true act of intolerance would be to oppose narrowly defining an activity in a way that excludes people based on their differences?” should have given it away.

  11. mandrill says:

    Oh dear, you missed out og google wave (http://wave.google.com) then. Has alot of implications for social gaming and the community side of gaming in general.

    (I wants to link it into the EVE API but have no clue where to start :/)

  12. kobzum says:

    For many Russian devs a modern Elite derivative is basically a dream project, but yes. And we’ve no one but ourselves to blame! For example, you’d expect EG’s “Retro” channel to be a bit more focused on European retro games. Instead we get “Retrospective: Street Fighter”.

    Tell me about poncy European games from the past! >:l

    On a second thought, lots of stuff gets forgotten for no reason.

  13. El Stevo says:

    Out of interest, did any of you play Deus Ex like a straight shooter? Stealth always seemed like the obvious approach to me.

  14. Nick says:

    The combat was so godawful in Deus Ex.. but yeah I shot most things.

  15. Hermit says:

    @El Stevo

    I’ve done a runthrough as a fully tooled up killer before, yes :p. Was rather entertaining too, especially when going back to VersaLife for the second time. Totally ignored Tong’s back route and waltzed back in the front entrance.

  16. Crispy says:

    CampaignJunkie (incidentally one of the people who has made levels for Black Mesa – formally known as Black Mesa Source) has an interesting experiment, but the conclusion is ultimately derived from Jesper Juul’s book where the chapter where he attempts to define a game pulls on the history of ‘games’ as opposed to ‘computer’ or ‘video-’ games. At least, the conclusion shouldn’t be confused as novel.

    Everything I hear about Game Design courses leave me with the impression of dry and overly-technical lectures given either by experts who have no teaching expertise or teachers who have no design expertise. I think Mr. Yang is one of the few I’ve heard of who has grasped the fundamental notion in teaching of gearing classes up to capture students’ attention. He may not have the qualifications to be a teacher, but he certainly has the ideas and the flair.

  17. Nezz says:

    The problem is not that political propaganda for or against sodomitical unions is un-games; the problem is that it is incredibly divise and inflammatory and overshadows what you want this blog to be about. I should proceed to explain why homosexual acts are immoral and how they should be fought, but I trust that everyone concerned will realise why such things really, really don’t belong here.

  18. Vitalis says:

    Nezz:’…but I trust that everyone concerned will realise why such things really, really don’t belong here.’

    …and I am sure many would say the same about comments such as yours.

  19. qrter says:

    I don’t know, that Leigh Alexander article seems pretty obvious to me, but I guess PR people need someone to tell them this..?

  20. BooleanBob says:

    I don’t know whether this is fair comment or just more whining, but has anybody else been sort of shocked by the fact that the daily articles on the escapist are now tucked away in a tiny corner of the site, all but lost in a sea of links to decidedly middling video content and ‘me-too’, gameFAQS bethieved voting tournaments?

    Did they always plan on it being this way? Far from drawing new eyes to their critical content, Yahtzee’s videos now seem to be the site’s reason d’etre: hits for the sake of hits.

    It strikes me as a shame, because I can’t have been the only person who fell in love with the preposterous digital print magazine format they use to run with. Now it just seems like any of the other bloated, rudderless, omnivore gaming media sites out there: a little bit of community management, a little bit of editorial review, an echo-chamber news blog that reports on the day’s reportage from all the other gaming news blogs, and videos, videos, videos. That the articles linked to here are excellent is only more lamentable because it suggests that the site’s traditional output is still of a bloody high standard, despite their seeming insistence to sweep it under the carpet.

    Yeah, so it turned out to be just more whining. In a way, I always knew.

  21. Nick says:

    Biggotry is immoral.

  22. Morningoil says:

    @bremxjones which novel which novel which novel? I had a dream about difficult Russian novels last night.

    That piece about PR is spot on. PR = grr.

  23. Muzman says:

    “Entered my consciousness when a tape from them arrived on my doorstep back when I was a zinekid”

    Having only a vague idea of what zinekid is and being in my customary daze, I parsed that sentence in a bizarre eurotrash accent.
    “She came to mah cunscoisness un marning on mah durstep when I wuz zi nekid. Et zat tam uv yur ah em often zi nekid until quat let in ze day, yu undrstond.”
    Anyway…

  24. qrter says:

    No, BooleanBob, I agree.. these days when I think of the Escapist I think of it as the place where Yahtzee went to wallow in repetition. It sort of made me forget about the other content.

  25. Vandelay says:

    I always think that Deus Ex gets off lightly with its atrocious combat. It really is bad and you would expect so much more from a game that was based on the Unreal engine. Seeing as you do spent a lot of time shooting things (even if you are being stealth for the majority of the game) it is something that you would have thought they would work on more. The one that always gets me is the fact that the sniper rifle is easy to use, with pin point accuracy, without the scope yet with the scope the view sways all of the place. So I just hide in the shadows, head shooting everyone out of the scope. There are other faults too, which just get glossed over by people remembering the game (it is worrying that a Dan Brown-esque plot is considered gaming’s high point.)

    Of course, the game does do a lot of things right and it should be applauded for those elements. What is more distressing is that no other game has come that attempts to do the same whilst correcting the obvious faults. For a game that gets so many accolades, it is amazing no one seems to want to emulate it.

  26. Ginger Yellow says:

    While it’s a bit depressing – Elite on the BBC Micro was the first game I ever played – it’s not that surprising when you consider the platforms it was originally released on. I mean, I’d never encountered Bonk until it turned up on Virtual Console. I expect most Americans’ first and only encounter with Elite was Frontier (if that), and while I personally enjoyed it, it’s not exactly well regarded. And it was quickly overshadowed in the PC space sim stakes by Tie Fighter.

  27. BigJonno says:

    The Deus Ex article hit the nail on the head with regards to the game’s success as a role-playing game; its focus. Most RPGs the aim for any degree of player choice are so broad that, without some kind of multi-billion budget and two decades of development time, they cannot possibly achieve any real depth. A game that’s moniker may or may not resemble “Bolivian” springs to mind.

    By placing you firmly in the shoes of JC Denton, super-powered nano-agent, DE gives you a remarkable freedom to portray that character the way you want to, rather than just making up your own stories about your generic fantasy hero/villain.

  28. skizelo says:

    My, and I really hope I’m not alone in this, sole experience of Elite is starting the game, spawning outside of a space station, and crashing into it.
    ALSO, all of my preconceptions about this site’s demographics have been shattered by the Bravissimo banner-ad running up top as I type.

  29. Kirian says:

    In a stroke of coincidence, I spent most of today lying in the sun reading a large Russian novel (Brothers Karamzov).

    It’s a little strange how much the US and Japan ‘rule over’ gaming, particularly gaming press. Especially odd considering heritage and ‘defining titles’.

  30. Radiant says:

    I didn’t know the Hittites existed until Ghostbusters told me.

  31. Radiant says:

    Or the Samarians.
    Thanks Egon.

  32. sinister agent says:

    I distinctly remember winning a school quiz in year 8 thanks to the hours I’d sunk into playing Sim Life and Colonisation (and reading their excellent manuals. Games should have great manuals again). Deliberately educational games are very often dull and don’t actually teach anything a book or conversation couldn’t, but games are a great way to get people interested in topics they might otherwise not bother with.

    It’s a bit like the wikipedia principle – don’t trust the information there, but do use it as a springboard.

  33. jarvoll says:

    I really liked the combat in Deus Ex; once I got used to the fact that it wasn’t Quake, I thought it worked perfectly within the stats system.

    @Vandelay: Yes, it is amazing and shameful that no-one seems to want to emulate Deus Ex. It’s practically PC-gaming’s messiah as it is; a thoroughly thought-out sequel that builds on its successes while correcting its weaknesses would probably initiate armageddon. And you know what? It’d be worth the end of the world to play it.

  34. Zaphid says:

    I think that if they made combat in Deus Ex more user friendly, more people would play it as a shooter and walked through the game way faster. When you have to ask yourself: “What do I do if there’s an enemy ?” as opposed to “Whatever is there, I can kill it,” you pay way more attention to the NPCs, dialogues and the enviroment, which you are rewarded for. If it was user friendly, you would get the MMO quest syndrome all over again. I know it may sound a bit strange, but streamlined action can very easily lead to bland experience, if the game isn’t designed around it, like Diablo 2, where all you need to ask is: “How do i clean the room the fastest ?” and you tailor your character towards that and the game helps you with that.

  35. James T says:

    Seeing as you do spent a lot of time shooting things (even if you are being stealth for the majority of the game)

    Most times I’ve played DX, I can count the shots I’ve fired on one hand (all of them tranq darts).

    As for the plot, I love it; of course the Illuminati are bollocks, of course MJ12 is, of course Area 51′s a nonsense, of course Echelon isn’t as EXCITING and SPOOKY as it is in DX, of course we can look at how FEMA proved itself to be useless in real life after a thousand cuts from ‘small-government’ arseclowns (see: Hurricane Katrina), but I love the way they stitched those hoary old conspiracy theories together to make a single extravagantly gothic universe; a bit like Moore’s League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (albeit not quite as ambitious as that). I was having a good chuckle by the time Area 51 came up; if anything, I felt like DX satirised conspiracy theories and Dan Brown-type material — “If all the bollocks the conspiracy theorists bought into were true, the world would look something like… this.

    It’s just a shame there wasn’t room for any lizard-people… David Icke for DX3 lead writer!

    Has anyone tried the Thief-style light meter mod for DX? The primitiveness of the stealth inevitably disappoints me for awhile when I come back to DX, I’d like to know if that helps any. And yes, god, I know it didn’t sell like crazy, but the amount of stuff that devs could build upon from the game… Probably a funding issue as much as anything (“We’re not paying your designers to faff around with more than one path per level!”), but come on, surely someone out there has the will to get behind it…

    (I need to get rich like that guy who funds STALKER… or something.)

  36. solipsistnation says:

    The only other Baxendale thing I’ve heard was from the “Reproductions” Human League tribute album thing. They started off doing “Keep Feeling Fascination” but digressed into some kind of rap about living down the street from Phil Oakey.

    “Music For Girls” is now going to be stuck in my head all day today. Great.

  37. solipsistnation says:

    @Ginger Yellow: My first encounter with Elite was on my Commodore 64. I slapped the overlay on the keyboard and played it into the ground. I still remember falling out of my chair laughing the first time I could afford an auto-docking system and headed for a station and hit the auto-dock button and the music started playing…

  38. Lewis says:

    Heh. Did not expect anyone UK-side to pick up on the Deus Ex piece.

    Just to put it in context: HonestGamers are running retrospective reviews (with scores, nonsensically) of the games with the top twenty user ratings on the site. When I was approached about doing the piece, I wasn’t too sure… I mean, what’s left to say? Hopefully I managed something reasonably fresh.

  39. shinygerbil says:

    yes, yes, Fighting Fantasy, YES.

    Time to go wallow in a land of having all 10 fingers stuck in various pages as insurance while I fake some dice rolls with my toes for the win.

  40. Muzman says:

    Combat in Deus Ex might not be Quake for the player, but the enemy AI is fairly convinced it is in Quake a lot of the time.

  41. Homunculus says:

    I bet it’s Crime and Punishment. I got through an unprecedented spurt of reading taking in Harper Lee, Kurt Vonnegut and Cormac McCarthy last summer as a means of avoiding that fucker. It’s still sat next to my bed, resistant even to the previously indomitable tactic when faced by difficult literature of being dragged into the lavatory as meditative accompaniment for daily potty, barely read past Raskolnikov’s first encounter with Marmeladov.

  42. Lewis says:

    RE: Leigh’s piece

    I said this to her last week, but I repeat here for convenience: I think a lot of the responsibility has to lie with the press not to lap up the marketing nonsense. Someone has to take the lead, and I can’t see it being PR anytime soon.

  43. Wulf says:

    Wow, Fighting Fantasy, that’s been some time.

    It’s funny though, the book that stuck with me the most wasn’t one of their series from the fantasy setting. Except for the occasional, lovely exception which really isn’t commonly seen in fantasy settings (like the gonchong parasites), it was pretty staid and safe.

    However, they did one book which was done in a sort of Star Trek: Voyager way, except if Star Trek: Voyager was awesome. It has a benevolent crew of people on a spaceship, and they get sucked through a kind of anomaly thing and end up in a parallel reality, but that’s where the Voyager/Trek similarities held.

    The fact that it had really amazing alien life was just the beginning, there are two scenes though that stick out as just bloody epic in my mind…

    1) You’re on a ship that seems to be out of control, so you go to see the pilot, and you find he’s daydreaming about solipsism (this is in part because the pilot is an amazingly intelligent and large-minded AI). The player has a debate about who’s dreaming who, and what, the nature of the Universe, sentience, life itself and so on. I remember the last line from him being something like: “Go in peace, child of my mind.”

    2) At one point you beam down to a World that’s suffered a holocaust, and all life has been wiped out, the place is totally in ruins. There’s one brilliant moment though when the Captain investigates one building, because one of the decaying bodies darts up and starts greeting him in a friendly way (and in an alien language) which scares the living crap out of the away team (and me). It’s soon discovered that it’s a sort of synthetic secretary, it’s hooked up to a nearby computer cluster, and it’s designed to be as lifelike as possible so that people of that World could relate to it better, but the synthetic flesh they used for it was no less prone to rot than any other. So basically, thanks to that computer still being active, they have the equivalent of an encounter with a friendly, secretarial zombie.

    I also have flashing recollections of a town of mushroom people, a space station run by scarily militaristic but entirely fair and lawful Lizardmen, and so on.

    No Trek episode left such an impression on me, and few movies have, because this was space as I’d imagined it, something incredible where you never know what you’ll encounter, it isn’t going to be Yet Another Human With a Lumpy Head, it’s going to be something unique and perhaps even very scary, but only scary because it’s so alien and unfamiliar.

    Exploring the space of that game really did give me a lot of joy, because due to all the bizarre and beautifully alien elements, it really did feel like exploration. The only other thing that’s left an imprint on me like this for having interesting aliens is Star Control II, which had the likes of the Orz.

    …and now I want to dig out that book again and take an adventure through that wonderful example of really alien space, I don’t know if I’ll be able to find it, but here’s hoping.

    Take note though, people who’re doing a space setting: That book was a damned good example of how to do it right.

    [ Edit ]

    Ooh, here’s a list from Wikipedia.

    “In addition to these, a small minority of Fighting Fantasy books employ a science fiction setting. These are, in order of publication, Starship Traveller (Jackson, 1983), Freeway Fighter (Livingstone, 1985), Space Assassin (Chapman, 1985), The Rings of Kether (Chapman, 1985), Rebel Planet, (Waterfield, 1985), Robot Commando (Steve Jackson (US), 1985), Star Strider (Sharp, 1987), and Sky Lord (Allen, 1988). Of these, at least three (Freeway Fighter, Rebel Planet and Star Strider) directly or indirectly refer to our Earth.”

    Most of these I recognise, none of them in their fantasy setting, and almost every one was golden. Starship Traveller was the one I was thinking of, to name it specifically.

  44. Wurdz says:

    “Next-gen”
    “Epic”
    “Immersive”

  45. mandrill says:

    The problem with games PR is the same as that with media coverage of politics. Ie; Journalists are at heart lazy beasts (no offense guys) and when you have a deadline to meet thoroughly fisking a publisher press release is probably not the highest item on your to-do list. This may change as blogging becomes more of a forece in journalism and people who have more time on their hands and less invested in good relations with the industry get a chance to tear into the hype and show it up for the empty void that it really is. Its already started with politics, gaming is soon to follow methinks.

  46. PC Monster says:

    @BooleanBob – No, I noticed this horrible homogenising as well. I popped there the other day looking for a good read, having found some excellent, thought-provoking articles there in the past, but gave up after bemusedly clicking a few of the shiny things for a few minutes and not finding any. Such is progress?

    Kudos to Andrew Wheeler’s article, the type of article I like to see on the Internet because you know some mouth-breathing berk is going to take it seriously, meaning we who get the joke get to sit back and feel smug in our superiority.

  47. Dreamhacker says:

    Funny you should mention the Hittites… :D

  48. Funky Badger says:

    Starship Traveller was an absolute beast. I couldn’t finish it even when I read through page by page…

  49. Nick says:

    Space Assassin, Starship Traveller and Robot Commando were all utterly brilliant.. I loved the books that added slightly new mechanics to the usual rules (the away team/crew selection of Starship traveller, the chance to find and drive new robots in Commando and the weapon selection in Space Assassin).

  50. Mil says:

    @mandrill:

    The problem with games PR is the same as that with media coverage of politics. Ie; Journalists are at heart lazy beasts (no offense guys) and when you have a deadline to meet thoroughly fisking a publisher press release is probably not the highest item on your to-do list. This may change as blogging becomes more of a forece in journalism and people who have more time on their hands and less invested in good relations with the industry get a chance to tear into the hype and show it up for the empty void that it really is. Its already started with politics, gaming is soon to follow methinks.

    I couldn’t agree more. For all the snarky and mocking comments directed at amateur journalism (especially by professional journalists), it’s improved a lot the quality of the political reporting I get. Here’s hoping there won’t be another Spore in terms of the unapologetic hype it got from the gaming press.