The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on October 11th, 2009 at 4:52 pm.

Sundays are about crawling out of a sleeping bag to find a friend’s two children determinedly trying to attach themselves to your legs and forcing you to march around the front room pretending to be a RoboGodzilla powered by tea, going for a walk and acting as a human umbrella, and compiling a list of fine (mainly games) reading from across the week, while trying not to include something I’ve been playing all week and/or howling in the car on the way home. Go!

Failed.

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109 Comments »

  1. Ginger Yellow says:

    I completely and utterly disagree with Quinns about the breadcrumb trail.

    “You walk the line. You do not deviate from the line, because deviating from the line will only slow the rate at which you progress”

    This is utter nonsense, at least for me. Because the line was there, I deviated all the time, which I didn’t in the original Fable because the map was so useless. I explored every new region fully, because I knew I wouldn’t have to spend 10 minutes figuring out which way to go once I’d done my exploring.

    • Paul S. says:

      Completely true. The line, combined with the dog, made deviation easier (ooer missus) and didn’t punish you for having a bit of an explore.

    • roBurky says:

      This is a good point.

      In many games where there is a path to progress, and some limited exploration around that path, I stop at each fork in the road and try to guess from the level design which way I am intended to go, and which way is the supposed to be the optional extra, so that I can take the optional extra first. No need for that metagaming divination in Fable 2.

    • Dante says:

      I agree wholeheartedly.

      And let’s be fair here, if you’re against Fable’s breadcrumbs, you’re also against any sort of directional compass system, or map, because all it’s nothing but a more efficient version of that.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Each new word of Quinns I read makes me wish to expend another blunt force trauma on his wrong-thinking face.

      WHY MUST YOU TORTURE ME THIS WAY?

    • Dan (WR) says:

      The thing with Fable 2 is that there’s nothing remotely interesting off the beaten path anyway.

      The game is so stupidly easy that every chest and dig spot becomes a pointless annoyance before you’re even halfway through the game. You don’t need the petty cash or the vendor-trash items, and it gets to the point where I would have happily chopped up my mutt and buried him in a dig spot so he’d stop barking.

      And apart from that, what is there to find anyway? There’s buggerall in the way of interesting sidestops or diversions to discover that isn’t demarked by a huge yellow exclamation mark that you can see from halfway across the map. Other than things like… Gemstone Grotto. A cave full of bugs. Woo hoo.

      I was actually grateful for the breadcrumbs the further I got into the game, because it meant I could rush through to the end and escape how tedious the game had become. There are a number of simplified little things to do like jobs, marriage, owning real estate and decorating it etc, but is any of it fun or charming? To me it all the diversions felt inconsequential and pointless – probably because everything is so easy and the result so monotone. Yes, yes, you all love me and like following me around. Please bugger off now.

      I also just don’t understand what tone the Fable games aim at. You can sleep with prostitutes, murder people and catch STDs, but it’s all done in a world of gesturing and folksy accents. The most dramatic reaction you can convey in the games is to say ‘nerrrr’ and stick your finger up at someone.

    • Urthman says:

      The thing with Fable 2 is that there’s nothing remotely interesting off the beaten path anyway.

      Well if you’re making Fable 2 and you know most people playing are going to be following the trail of breadcrumbs, don’t you think that might reduce the incentive for creating any interesting content that’s off the beaten path?

      Lots of people hated playing RPG dungeons that were mazes requiring you to make a map to find your way, so now we have automaps and that entire category of gameplay is pretty much gone. Fine for the people who hated it, but sucks for the people who enjoyed making maps.

  2. mcw says:

    I’m curious if theater group intentionally ripped off Bioshock. Great pictures.

  3. Lewis says:

    Quick correction: Dead Space’s producer made that claim in an interview as part of a Game Informer feature, but the review itself was in Official Xbox Mag.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Fixedolio!

      (I did know that, oddly. TIRED)

      KG

    • Lewis says:

      I reckon it’s also worth mentioning that I do think her being an intern rather than a freelancers actually puts here in a weaker position when it comes to arguing her case, as the notion of internship kind of assumes a lack of experience, whether that’s actually true or not.

      But – but! – I frankly don’t care about her case. I mean, I do, but I don’t have an intense personal reaction to Schofield’s attack on her. What I do have that reaction to is Schofield’s overriding points: that freelancers are somehow automatically less trustworthy than staffers, and that editors aren’t mindful of who’s appropriate to assign to which game. And that’s a reaction that’s intensified by the fact that he seemingly didn’t read the review (or at least didn’t care enough to check the gender of the person who wrote it), and the horrible context of the whole thing, which really does smack of “How dare someone give our game an average mark, thus bringing down the all-important Metascore?”

    • Starky says:

      To be fair to the guy I can actually understand his frustration, in an industry where success is measured by metacritic and it’s linked to bonuses and such. It is only logical that game makers are going to be annoyed when a publication allows a inexperienced or unknown writer to review their game and they review it very much below the average.

      I think it’s more of a problem with Metacritic than it is xbox magazine though.

      I’ve had the opinion for quite a while (after all this isn’t the first metacritic drama) that metacritic should only include scores by experienced writers.
      Of course publications need to allow writers a first crack at reviewing a AAA – but I don’t think metacritic should include them in their ranking.

      Something sensible like say, 10 Reviews in notable publications before a writer becomes eligible – tracking by author rather than by publication.
      I’m not utterly sure, but I believe metacritic weights their scores by publication, so something like official Xbox magazine holds more sway than most.

      So that major publications strong metacritic weight was handled by a first time reviewer intern. THAT seems to be the underlying issue here, not freelance vs. staff writer.

      Sadly metacritic isn’t going away, people like stupid meaningless numbers that get bigger: more megapixels(when after you hit 3, photons per pixel is much more important), higher contrast ration (aside: saw a million:1 contrast ratio TV advertised the other day, utterly meaningless made up bull statistics for the win) and such things.
      People like scores, top ten lists – I include myself in this, I know that scores are meaningless and not really representative of whether I’ll like a game or not. Yet I still find myself cruising top 10 lists, sorting metacritic by overall score then reading down the list when looking for a new game to try.

  4. Mike Russo says:

    The Mountain Goats! Yay!

    …Don’t have much else to say other than that, but lovely band, lovely album.

    I’ve listened to a bootleg where the lead singer mentions slacking on doing tour prep because he just downloaded the first Ninja Gaiden games on his Wii and he felt a strong responsibility to help Ryu Hayabusa get his vengeance, if that helps make things slightly more on-topic.

    • Sulkdodds says:

      Cor, it’s bloody good that new album.

    • solipsistnation says:

      Yeppo. Quite decent.

      And if you haven’t heard “Moon Colony Bloodbath,” the (tour-only) EP John Darnielle and John Vanderslice did together about organ-bank clone farming on the moon and, eventually, cannibalism, it’s worth tracking down too…

    • Earl_of_Josh says:

      I’ve definitely been enjoying the new album myself. I had actually never heard about them until a friend of mine posted about them on facebook. I’m their newest fan.

  5. Lugribossk says:

    Only a little over 50 copies of The Spirit Engine 2 sold? That just can't be right. And not polished enough for Steam…?

    It's such a shame a great game like this is so overlooked.

    • qrter says:

      That little over 50 copies figure sounds really small. I hope it’s incorrect.

      Sad and stupid news about the Steam refusal – if something like Blueberry Garden (which lots of people have had a hard time to even get running) or that Eternity’s Child game can get released, it’s a ruddy shame TSE2 can’t.

    • Premium User Badge

      Sagan says:

      I think 50 copies sold could be true. At least as long as they were only available on their own site. That probably went up a little since they are available on Impulse, where I bought it.

      Steam rejecting it, I can really not understand. Especially since it is extremely polished. I played this right before I played the Risen demo. And there really is just no comparison, as to which is better at what it does. Compared to TSE 2 a lot of modern RPGs (Risen, NWN 2, Oblivion) just seem so clumsy at times. TSE 2 doesn’t do 3D graphics and doesn’t do voice acting and all that other fancy stuff. But everything it does, it does extremely well. And if that is not called “polished” then I don’t know what is.

  6. roBurky says:

    Re: Fable 2.

    Oh man. Quinns, why must you be so Wrong?

    You want the breadcrumbs to go away. Fine. But I doubt you would have said anything had it used any of the fiddly or frustrating methods that other games use, such as minimap icons. Because those are normal. Because you’re used to them as an enthusiast gamer, despite that they do the same thing but in a worse way.

    I liked the breadcrumbs. I just would have liked a button on the controller to toggle it off when I’m just wandering around and exploring.

    And on the lack of punishment for death: Dying in Fable 2 is some pretty damned fucking strong negative feedback. Negative feedback doesn’t need to involve punishment for you to realise it is bad and means you’re being rubbish, and indicates something you want to prevent.

    I got plenty in to the flow of combat, and cursed when I died as much as any game, vowing that I would do better next time. The only difference was that I didn’t also groan or shut off the console in frustration when I respawned back at the last checkpoint.

    • Quinns says:

      Hey man!

      Alright. There are a couple of things I can tell you that should help you understand where I’m coming from.

      First, imagine if Fable 2 had a button you could press that put your avatar on autopilot in a Progress Quest style. When you toggle this button on your character automatically runs to wherever he needs to go to advance or complete his current quest.

      This is how I see the breadcrumbs. You’re retaining control, but what difference does it make?

      I’m sure some people would have felt this way when minimaps and icons were introduced- this sense that the game was becoming too easy, almost playing itself. I guess all gamers have some kind of mental line the sand where, when a game crosses it, it begins to feel pointless. Fable 2 crosses my line.

      Second, it’s funny you say doing badly in fights had you “Vowing to do better next time”. I feel the same way! What I want you to get is that to me, Fable 2 is a game that doesn’t have a “next time”. If you fumble your way through a fight and make an embarrassment of yourself you don’t get to do it again. The game does not let you control someone who deserves to survive.

      What I think a lot of people don’t think about is how abominably obnoxious Fable 2 becomes when you hate the character you’re controlling. Anything meant to tug on your heart strings becomes massively repulsive.

    • Vinraith says:

      That “line in the sand” concept bears lengthy exploration, I think, because it’s the root of a LOT of arguments about games and game difficulty.

    • Matt W says:

      To other arguments as well, I suspect. Gaming is (usually) as much an experiential as a mechanistic phenomena; it’s generally possible to argue that [thing that someone else doesn't like] is logically equivalent (or at least similar) to [thing that someone else doesn't really mind] in terms of pure mechanics, but the presentation matters as much as the underlying mechanics. (In other words, telling someone that they don’t actually think what they say they think is stupid on multiple levels. The fact that the effect of presentation tends to be a very individual matter doesn’t exactly help this kind of discussion either.)

      From a development perspective (which is the main [only?] angle where any of these arguments have any sort of practical traction), the bottom line is if someone doesn’t enjoy something then they’ll be less inclined to spend their money on it. Line-in-the-sand type reactions are thus, I suspect, immensely important if they’re widespread enough for developers to notice, because people like being paid.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I wonder whether the problem is actually a symptom of a larger issue, which is not making interesting choices most of the time. Sure, you sometimes need a break to watch the scenery and reflect, but a game that tells you where to go without offering you anything to break up that journey in an interesting way is probably going wrong somewhere.

  7. Wooly says:

    That’s absurdly small! I can claim to be among those 50, though.

  8. Leeks! says:

    Do you know if more of Ware’s comics permeate the book, KG? Fie on textual integrity, I say, at least when the alternative is so lovely. Even if not, that cover is the tits, and probably justifies re-buying the book in and of itself.

    That, book publishers, is how you get the pseudo-intellectual quasi-hipster crowd to double dip on university textbooks.

  9. lumpi says:

    Wow, what a pathetic troll Randy Pitchfork is! All the whining! What does he know about Valve being a business and businesses make MONEYYY! Maybe he should get his lazy butt up and actually make a game before he talks like an angry internet man! Complaining is so lame. Why doesn’t he just love Valve like a good citizen?

    What is that? He actually made several games, one of them the critically acclaimed Half-Life expansion “Opposing Force”? Oh my.

    • Dominic White says:

      Look, I know you hate Valve, but I’ve really not heard anything negative said about them by indie studios. When Mr Pitchford comes out of nowhere and tells them that they’re ripping off indie studios, and one immediately replies with ‘No they aren’t', it suggests that maybe something is up with him, rather than Valve.

    • Dracko says:

      steam is the new messiah it should be on iphone

    • lumpi says:

      Believe it or not. I love Valve. Love, love, love them.

      But they aren’t… I dunno… a family member or something, that you stand by no matter how much they fuck something up. Admittedly, there is not anything Valve truly “fucked up” either. But there are things you can criticize. They are a business, after all and not your friend. Why should I be their friend? I am not. I just love their games, that’s it. Steam is OK and comfortable. But I find it bizarre how Valve is basically getting a free pass for any criticism whatsoever, lately. An internet uproar, targeting anyone who “dares” to suggest Valve might do something bad. They might be the best company we still have on the PC, but that doesn’t mean they’re infallible. They’re not the pope.

      This is Randy Pitchford [sic]. The man deserves more respect than an average internet troll. More respect, perhaps, than even John Gibson. He wouldn’t have said this if there wasn’t some truth to it.

      Steam is a problematic platform. And for the first time, somebody from the industry speaks out. I respect that. What he suggests (and still hides behind careful, diplomatic rhetoric) goes far beyond whether an indie studio can make money out of Steam. Obviously, they can and Steam offers something new in this regard. Which is good.

      Basically, the issue is: Valve is good now. What about 10 years from now? What if mother Gabe can’t continue to lead Valve because of some heart disease and sells it to a less caring company? Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Hell, no!

      What if another digital distributor suddenly offers a much better and fairer service? I will not be able to leave Steam anytime soon, because dozens of my games are now locked into Steam, taken hostage by the system. More and more developers are forced to use Steam as well, simply because it’s the biggest digital distribution market (forced upon gamers mostly through Steam-exclusive Valve titles). It’s easy for Valve to be generous about Steam, because they’re on the better side of the deal by default. But what if I, god forbid, don’t want to pay 30% of my profit to my competitor, yet they control the entire online market? What if Valve decided that my game is coming out too soon after L4D3 and decides to delay the release?

      It’s an awfully centralist/monopolist development on the PC, a platform that traditionally offered more freedom than the locked-in (Nintendo, XBL anyone?) console market. I prefer Steam over Microsoft’s horrible Windows Live, but no matter what, once Steam will become the all-ruling digital distribution channel for digital gaming content on the PC, we’re all dependent on their goodwill. And relying on a company being “good” has always been a bad idea…

      I think this kind of criticism is healthy, especially since the “friendly company” image still means something to Valve. They might adjust their business model to something fairer if this discussion is getting louder. 10 years from now, when things might go awry… they might not (have to) care anymore.

    • Dominic White says:

      Don’t get me wrong here. I’m no fan of Steam (I’d much rather buy off Impulse or Gamersgate, which have much less restrictive DRM and don’t require a launcher) or Valve in particular (I’m not interested in anything they’re putting out this year). I just think that when someone makes allegations like this – against ANY company – the first responses should be questioning why they’re saying this, and trying to get details and specifics.

      And if the guys he’s saying are being exploited are almost instantly there to say that he’s wrong, then his comments should probably be taken with an even bigger pinch of salt.

    • lumpi says:

      Maybe.

      Then again, if you ask a 13-year old making $0.001 an hour at some North Korean Nike sweatshop, he might smile at you and say “Nike are good to me and my family! The give me a meal every day and I can feed my brothers and sisters! And they don’t beat me with a stick like in the Adidas sweatshops!”. That doesn’t make it right.

    • Bhazor says:

      “Basically, the issue is: Valve is good now. What about 10 years from now? What if mother Gabe can’t continue to lead Valve because of some heart disease and sells it to a less caring company? Unlikely? Yes. Impossible? Hell, no!

      What if another digital distributor suddenly offers a much better and fairer service? ”

      Then the indies will just use that one won’t they? Steam very rarely uses exclusivity with Impulse, DD, GoG all selling the same goodies (Fallout for example) and I personally have enough faith in indies that they’ll avoid signing any exclusive contracts.

      Think of Steam as a shop front with infinite stock and millions of people walking past every day. With all games, regardless of price, popping up with a nice big release day banner. All for a smaller cut than the traditonal retailer/publisher takes. Sounds pretty OK to me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Except, John Gibson says he tried the traditional route and found the deals to be extortionate. Whereas, through Valve it was very reasonable.

      You say that Valve seem to be able to do no wrong lately, but I would say the complete opposite. No matter what they do, a vocal minority suddenly pipe up and yell about everything they do. Be it make a sequel to one of their most successful games (if not the most successful game), fly out to Australia to play some guys mod after a few e-mails from him or slightly alter the damage on some TF2 weapon. Like I say, I’m sure these are a minority, but I personally find they shout much louder than those who are apparently Valve fanboys (or more accurately, people who think Valve have made very few and mostly minor missteps.) I’m sure if Valve admit to killing puppies for fun, many would be hating them as much as the internet seems to. (yeah, yeah, straw man argument.)

      And for some very accurate research on the whole “does everyone love Valve?” question -
      http://www.whatdoestheinternetthink.net/index.php?s=valve&st=google

    • Post Maker says:

      Dracko is my favourite of all the regular posters here.

    • Kadayi says:

      “He wouldn’t have said this if there wasn’t some truth to it.”

      Given Pitchford is not an indie developer where as John Gibson is, I’d say the weight of evidence is firmly in Gibsons favour tbh.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      “What if another digital distributor suddenly offers a much better and fairer service? I will not be able to leave Steam anytime soon, because dozens of my games are now locked into Steam, taken hostage by the system.”

      What do you mean? Sure, you won’t be able to remove Steam from your machine without losing access to the games you’ve already bought there, but you absolutely will be able to stop buying games on Steam and start using another service.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Digital Distribution Review has an interesting analysis of this little controversy here: http://ddreview.5elements.net/2009/10/analysis-pitchford-vs-steam/

      Not a bad writeup, though I do think that they place far, far too much importance on comments made on message boards. Particularly noteworthy are their findings on what Steam takes for a cut versus retail.

  10. Dominic White says:

    I like my games hard. Ninja Gaiden 2 was no obstacle (at least on regular difficulty, which would be brutal-super-hard in any other game), I’m chewing my way through The Void, and recently hacked back through Dead Space on hard mode and loved every minute of it.

    The breadcrumb trail thing is a brilliant idea, though. It fixes that eternal problem of ‘Which way now?’ and replaces it with the much more entertaining ‘There’s where I NEED to go… where CAN I go?’.

    As for games being too hard for some people? Well, that’s only to be expected. Still, it’s lazy of developers to not offer an Easy mode, or a simplified set of controls for the less gaming adept. No need to neuter the normal or higher settings, but just give the option for others to enjoy themselves.

    Now, if you’re one of those people who insists on playing Normal mode and bitching about how you should be able to waltz through it, then you get whatever you deserve, and are possibly an idiot on top of that, but seriously, there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be an Easy or even Very Easy mode.

    Here’s a video of upcoming arcade-action game Bayonetta being played on Very Easy mode:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xpkQmCGgMus

    On Very Easy, you only need to provide the slightest input for your character to flip out and ruin whole rooms full of enemies. On Normal mode (I’ve played the demo), it’s infinitely more involved though, and your character won’t do a damn thing without precise and well timed input. Apparently the higher settings are just evil-hard.

    • Matt W says:

      You’re watching a murder mystery film at home, and it’s ten minutes from the end. Suddenly someone runs into the room and asks you whodunnit. If you get it wrong, they kick you in the balls and rewind the film ten minutes. And they keep doing the same thing at the same point in the film until you get it right. Sounds like fun, huh?

      Sure, some people watch murder mystery films because they enjoy figuring it out before they’re told. Other people though prefer to just enjoy the film and slot everything into place after the fact. Some of them couldn’t figure it out in advance, sure, but other people – dedicated murder-mystery film buffs – could do it but just don’t want to, because it’s not why they like that sort of film.

      In other words, beware of men made of straw, for they shall make your arguments less relevant than they ought to be.

    • Dominic White says:

      So, are you actually replying to me? Because I just said that every game should have an easy mode and accessibility features for less skilled players.

      However, this shouldn’t mean that ‘Normal’ should be made easier and easier until anyone could walk through it in their sleep. That’s what easy mode is for.

    • Matt W says:

      I was replying specifically to the characterisation that everyone on the “I think games are sometimes too difficult for my liking” side of the debate are “less skilled players” that need help with “accessibility”, because I think that’s far enough off the mark as a generalization to qualify as an unintentional straw man.

    • Dominic White says:

      So, you’re that guy who’s too proud to select easy mode, huh?

    • Lewis says:

      “this shouldn’t mean that ‘Normal’ should be made easier and easier until anyone could walk through it in their sleep”

      Can I just stress this? ‘Cause it seems like everyone totally misconstrued what I said last week and loads of people have got in touch suggesting I want to make all games as easy as possible to the detriment of everyone else.

    • lumpi says:

      “You’re watching a murder mystery film at home, and it’s ten minutes from the end. Suddenly someone runs into the room and asks you whodunnit. If you get it wrong, they kick you in the balls and rewind the film ten minutes. And they keep doing the same thing at the same point in the film until you get it right. Sounds like fun, huh?

      So, basically, you want a movie, not a game?

    • Psychopomp says:

      I adore hard games, but I feel I must say the Ninja Gaiden 2 was a series of cheap blows.

      Unblockable attacks, from off screen? YEAH BRILLIANT IDEA

    • Dominic White says:

      I found NG2 somewhat easier than the original game, actually. Did you know that enemies actually slow down a lot when they’re off-camera? You can exploit this to focus on just a target or two at a time. Also, everything even vaguely unblockable has a loud sound associated with it, giving you a cue even if you can’t see it?

      People like to cry ‘cheap’, but it’s often just a poor understanding of the game mechanics.

    • Sinnerman says:

      Thinking about it, something like a very easy mode can send out a mixed message about a game that may stop me buying it. My view of Bayonetta is partly of it being that game for people who only have enough ability to lightly tap one button. Prince of Persia is the game for people who are so emotionally unstable that watching a character they control die might send them over the edge. Bioshock is the game Ken Levine made for his 90 year old Grandma where it is impossible to fail no matter what you do.

      Those games are boring. I don’t want to play those games.

    • Pundabaya says:

      One intteresting thing in the comments to that piece about difficulty:

      ‘Buying a game doesn’t mean that you are entitled to see all the content contained within’

      (paraphrased)

      Well it bloody well should do! If I drop money on a game I expect to be able to see all the good stuff… whether I want to is another matter. I should be able to drive around all the tracks in a racing game, even if its in a shitbox. I should be able to see the entire story. I should be able to play as all the characters. I’ve paid for this and locking it away behind arbitrary requirements/ridiculously difficult spikey levels is not the way to go.

      I pay for all the content in a game. If I cannot access it, then thats bad design. Make me select super easy, dress my avatar in a pink party dress, and insult me all the way through if you want, but let me see it.

  11. Castle says:

    The Spirit Engine 2 sold just 50 copies!? I can’t imagine that’s still true, now that it’s up on Impulse. As soon as I saw it on offer from Impulse (at 50% off no less) I picked it up.

    But I’m surprised at Steam. From what I’ve seen of TSE2, it’s certainly worthy–I’ve seen worse for sale there. I’d like to hear more from Mark about the reasons, though it’s possible he’s as confused as we are by it.

  12. Captain Bland says:

    I definitely had a momment of ‘I may buy this purely for the cover’ with the new edition of Candide. I would buy pretty much anything that man drew. I mean look at this thing: http://tiny.cc/VzUap

  13. MrTest says:

    Chris Ware is incredible.

  14. BrokenSymmetry says:

    Those pictures from Berlin are amazing.

  15. Vinraith says:

    I swear, I’m going to start a Chris Park fan club. It’s just so refreshing to hear something like this articulated by a game developer:

    “But here’s a little-recognized fact about multiplayer in general: most people play single-player, even in multiplayer-heavy games. To confirm this, all you have to do is look at the number of units sold of a given popular title, and then look at how many registered users there are on the main matchmaking services. Of course that wouldn’t capture people playing LAN or direct-connect with those titles, but still the numbers are staggering. Some titles that sell multiple millions of copies have less than 100k players registered on their online services, and many have 20k or fewer. Of course, that’s an anecdotal statistic and not hard data, but it matches what I’ve seen with AI War, and what I’ve read in comments by developers of other games. The vocal minority is the competitive multiplayer crowd, but there is a largely-silent majority out there that is simply interested in solo play. Interestingly, many of the design parameters for solid co-op also hold true for solid singleplayer: robust AI is equally important in both cases, for instance.”

    • Dominic White says:

      Widely known truth, that. However, now that I think about it, that vocal minority of multiplayer-dedicated types are reviewing things. I remember the Red Alert 3 stand-alone expansion, Uprising, getting pretty panned for only being single-player. Strange, when you consider that it was not only significantly cheaper than the base game, but also longer. While RA3 had 27 story missions, Uprising has 13 story missions, and a non-linear 50 mission megacampaign.

      And it was getting 50/40% scores from major publications because it’s solo only.

    • Vinraith says:

      Yup. People complain about game reviewers being “on the take” and similar nonsense, but the real problem is that most of them simply aren’t representative gamers. They’ve usually got an office full of friends to play multiplayer games with, and (anecdotally at least) it seems they spend the bulk of their game time concentrating on that facet of things. Certainly it’s severely over-emphasized and over-weighted in a lot of games journalism. One thing I like about RPS, actually, is that the bulk of “Wot I Think” posts are primarily SP focused.

      Incidentally, I never played RA3 or Uprising, what kind of “non-linear” campaign are we talking here?

    • Dominic White says:

      The heart of RA3: Uprising is the Challenge campaign. Your goal is to collect every unit type in the game. You start out with the basic units for all three sides, and can choose which to play as in each mission. Each mission rewards you with one new unit type – usually used heavily as the levels gimmick. You basically play your way up the tech tree, so can take on missions as they pop up, and new branches keep opening.

      There’s also 3-4 new units per side in the expansion as well. The fact that it’s singleplayer only seems to have gotten 30-40% knocked off the score in a lot of cases.

  16. Radiant says:

    This Meghan Watt thing.
    Is she joking here? I can’t really tell.

    “Editors are neither lazy nor careless. Firstly, editors heavily research a freelancer before assigning him (ahem, or her) a piece. They read the freelancer’s published reviews, Google his or her name for a solid background check, and talk with the freelancer one-on-one. They then hand the freelancer a small, bound-to-be-forgotten game like BlazBlu: Calamity Trigger. If they approve of the work, they may toss ‘em something bigger next time. Oh, and they edit the review too. It’s why they’re called ‘editors.’ ”

    Googling isn’t a solid background check and if that’s a third of your hiring policy of somebody you don’t know then you are pretty careless /and/ lazy.
    Blazblue in terms of fighting games is fucking huge.
    It’s right next to SF4 and Tekken 6.
    I thought she was an intern not a freelancer?

    I mean she is essentially defending her integrity as a journalist so maybe that isn’t the best place for some un-signalled sarcasm.
    She is on a site called down-right-fierce so I’m hoping she is being jokey.

    • Radiant says:

      To be on the level I thought the review was pretty fair.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Radiant: “Blazblue in terms of fighting games is fucking huge.
      It’s right next to SF4 and Tekken 6.”

      Dude.

      KG

    • Radiant says:

      Blazblue by Arc Systems; they made Guilty Gear.
      It’s like a saying a new shooter by Treasure is a small throw away game.

    • vagabond says:

      You keep naming games and developers I’ve never heard of and comparing them to Tekken and Street Fighter. Are you being sarcastic?
      Seriously, I can’t tell.

    • Vinraith says:

      In fairness, even Guilty Gear is fairly “niche” compared to the likes of Street Fighter or Tekken. It’s not as small time as it’s being made out to be, though.

      And did vagabond just imply he’s never heard of Treasure?

    • vagabond says:

      Do you mean these guys?

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Treasure_Co._Ltd

      If so, no, I had never heard of them by name. I recognise Gradius V out of that list as something I have heard of before.

      Looking at that list of games, I have a sneaking suspicion that my gaming platform history (C=64, Amiga, PC, PS 1, PS 2, Xbox, GameCube, Xbox 360, PS 3) neatly sidesteps pretty much every system they ever seriously developed for.

    • Radiant says:

      @Vagabond Treasure make genre games which are essentially perfect. Also? Stop making me feel old, [and play their back catalogue! Gradius V, Ikaruga, Sin and Punishment and Gunstar Heroes are good places to start.]

      @Vinraith thing is there has been only really 4 good fighters released in the past couple of years: SF4, Tekken 6, Blazblue and King of Fighters.
      Because these games are niche they need to be given extra care.
      It’s like saying “I had these 4 unicorns but I turned one into glue because I needed to make this magazine.”

      OK not really but you get what I’m saying; each one is important.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Radiant

      I agree. I wasn’t making an argue about their value, merely their popularity. To borrow your analogy, two of those unicorns have better marketing departments, but that doesn’t mean any of them should be turned to glue.

    • vagabond says:

      I’ll grab Ikaruga off XBLA assuming it isn’t too many Microsoft FunBucks for my liking (it seems to be the easiest of your list to get hold of).

      I quite like the most recent UFC game, but I’ve no idea whether it has the sorts of things that fighting game fans look for, I just like it because it does a reasonable job of simulating an MMA fight. Something which, after the last effort, I was beginning to think was outside the realm of possibility.

      I suspect that any fan of niche games is going to have to learn that they can’t get a decent idea of the relative merits of 2nd or 3rd tier games in the given genre without going to a reviewer or publication that specialises in it, much like I suspect fans of Icelandic cinema aren’t picking what films to see based of the reviews in the Sunday Times*. Maybe you shouldn’t have to, but I suspect as long as publications have staff writers rather than freelancers doing everything, it’s probably not something they will have the flexibility to achieve.

      * apologies if my attempt to make a culturally relevant analogy falls flat on it’s face, for all I know the Sunday Times has a knowledgable and enthusiastic fan of Icelandic cinema on staff…

    • Radiant says:

      @vagabond do you like incredibly hard but perfectly formed arcade shooters?
      Then Ikaruga is for; you otherwise I’d stick with Gunstar Heroes [also available on xbla] which is fantastic innovative platform shooter, remember that GSH came out around the same era as Midnight Resistance, Contra and Sonic so you’re comparing it relative to those [originally for the megadrive so keep that in mind before you go "ugh graphics radiant wtf"].

      Ikaruga though… awesome.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Radiant: Yeah – absolutely not taking anything away from them, but they’re not next to SF and Tekken in terms of profile. My mum knows what SF is. She may even know Tekken. She’s never heard of Guilty Gear. Hell, I’ve never played Guilty Gear. Elsewhere, I love Treasure, but these are relatively minor games. Fanboys will get angry about it, the rest of the gaming world will shrug.

      (And fanboys can get very angry indeed – cross-red Darkfall – but it’s far less than you’ll get if you lay into Halo or GTA or MGS or any of those guys)

      A lot depends on how many games arrive in a month. You’ve got X number of experienced top flight. reviewers. If the most important games get assigned to them. What is “important” varies on a month by month basis. On some months a new fighting game may be it. On others, it won’t even rate.

      KG

    • Radiant says:

      @ KG ok but she goes on to say that:
      “Furthermore, editors don’t hand out assignments all willy-nilly. Notice in OXM how Fran Reyes, the Editor-in-Chief, always gets the J-RPGs? She lives for them while the other staffers cringe at the sight of all those spikey-haired pretty boys. When it comes to genre, freelancers also get to pick and choose. Editors ask at the beginning what games the writer prefers and assigns accordingly.

      In my case, since I was sitting just a few feet from my editor, he stood up, looked over the cubicle wall and asked me if I liked horror games. I said something along the lines of, “Hell yeah! I’ve played all the Resident Evils, every Silent Hill, and Condemned 2.” I was excited to play another, supposedly revolutionary horror IP.”

      I don’t know; when someone questions a writer’s integrity the least you can do is not contradict yourself in your retort, right?

      Compare this to Meer and Rossignol going quietly nuclear every time the games journalist/publisher bias debate rears it’s ugly head on here.

      Maybe it’s just a question of experience.

    • Radiant says:

      “I don’t know; when someone questions a writer’s integrity the least you can do is not contradict yourself in your retort, right?”

      I meant ” the least ‘they’ can do is not contradict ‘themselves’ in ‘their’ retort”.

      *Hey missing edit button love you, please come back*

  17. Heliocentric says:

    Why are people stating steam is a monopoly, or ever going to be one. D2D is a much bigger fish. I scarcely use it myself, but “file planet”, “game spy”, “game faqs”, “game rankings” etc is a strong brand.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      Speaking personally, the association with those other names made me stay away from it for a long time. I’m would have thought the internet community would have had similar disdain for the GameSpy/IGN family. I know that wouldn’t usually be important, but in the case of a digital download services, keeping the internet on your side would surely be quite important.

      Having said that, I’ve used them a couple of times now and had no problems. I even found downloads to be reasonably quick, unlike their Fileplanet service. The only real shortcoming I had was that they are not very clear about DRM in the games. It ranges from none to limit installs, which makes me a bit weary of using them.

      Also, the fact that you have to use Steam to run games from Steam, along with the popularity of many Valve games amongst PC gamers, would suggest that they are in a stronger position.

  18. Sinnerman says:

    Considering that Direct2Drive is owned by Rupert Murdoch, it doesn’t really make sense to say that Valve have a monopoly.

    I do think that people should be less partisan about which service they use to get games. If a game is much cheaper on one service than another or you can buy it directly from the developer giving them more money then, for crying out loud, do it. Take the opportunity to stop being such a simpering Valve fanboy for a few minutes.

    • Kadayi says:

      Rupert Murdoch owning Direct2Drive seems like a fairly legitimate reason to boycott that service tbh.

    • Matosh says:

      Now that I know Rupert Murdoch owns it, I shall take special care never to buy anything from it. (Fortunately I haven’t bought anything so far.)

  19. john t says:

    Fable 2 isn’t so much a game as it is a Choose Your Own Adventure/Personality Test. It’s the videogame equivalent of those What Kind of Adventurer Are You? quizzes on facebook.

  20. mandrill says:

    We need more game designers on chat shows. This is what will tell us that the wind has changed.

    • autogunner says:

      hmm, I dunno Tim Schaffer is a pretty special case. Can you think of many devlopment leads that could do that?

    • Kadayi says:

      Warren Spector and Pete Molyneux are always interesting, plus some some of the Valve guys

    • Thants says:

      Will Wright was on the Colbert Report once, talking about Spore.

  21. Jazmeister says:

    Thanks for the linky, Kieron.

    If anyone does check out the link, make sure to read the comments. I end up collecting myself a little and reason that it’s probably okay allowing you to kill animals as long as you’re not forced to unrealistically. I was playing The Witcher recently and I have no problem killing the demonic glowing dogs in that. They just don’t look like pets, you know?

    Also, praise be to Fallout 3 for letting you eat people. Equal rights indeed.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I think if you buy into games as art, you have to conclude that killing in games has to have some significance (unless you’re being deconstructionist about the whole thing, I guess, as *perhaps* GTA3 was with its bonuses for killing hookers).

      I think games do have the power to trivialise suffering and tragedy, and many real-world FPSs do come dangerously close to that. Fun as the Call of Duty games are, they (and the other real-world games of the same sort) do come very, very close to being on the wrong side of acceptable. Is it enough that the killing is given an appropriate level of majesty? Or is the death of 50 million people in one of the greatest tragedies of history an unacceptable thing to set a piece of entertainment around? After all, if you view a game only as a set of mechanics independent of its setting, then why not just make Call of Duty a game where aliens fight? Or two opposing sets of geometric blobs?

    • Jazmeister says:

      A game is, obviously, everything about the experience. Mirror’s Edge wouldn’t be Mirror’s Edge if it looked like Fallout 3, any more than Fallout 3 is the same as Fallen Earth. I’m not really debating the art issue here, because something doesn’t have to be art to have a craftsdwarf’s duty to sincerely represent the world it proposes. In World of Warcraft, a wolf mother will actually drag her cub into battle with you, and the cub won’t lay off unless you kill it or run ten miles away. It’s not afraid. It’s not sad. It’s not a real cub, sure, but it’s not even acting like one. That, to me, is just shoddy. If your player is hunting down and killing babies, don’t make it look like self defense.

    • Dominic White says:

      Makes me think a bit of STALKER. There’s packs of wild dogs in that, usually content enough to just keep their distance, and maybe snack on any corpses they’ve found lying around. Get too close or look like a tasty enough target, and they’ll go for you en-masse, but they actually behave like dogs. Blast the first one with a double-barrel shotgun, and the rest will yelp and panic and scatter off in all directions.

      Having animals that actually behave like animals is something more games need to do.

    • Jazmeister says:

      Yeah, totally. STALKER is the perfect example, I didn’t have to kill a single dog as long as I kept my distance. I guess it doesn’t help that I’m one of those people who’d quite like to join PETA if they’d just stop fucking around and being hypocritical douches – for me, the crime is equivalent to having mobs called “Rabid Jew” or “Dirty Protestant” in WoW. If I saw a “Mangy Wolf” in the woods about my house, I’d put out dog food. And, yeah, run away, very quietly.

    • mrmud says:

      You know mange is a disease that infects animals like foxes and wolves right?

    • Jazmeister says:

      Ya, Mange is a parasitic skin condition thingy. Doesn’t change a thing.

  22. Michael says:

    I’m one of the 50 that bought TSE2 – I loved it, but I can see why Steam didn’t want to pick it up: the engine it’s using (some ancient Macromedia technology) doesn’t make the best platform!

  23. SofS says:

    I could have used some more difficulty in Fable 2, so long as it was planned well, but the breadcrumbs were fine by me. I didn’t think I’d like them at first, but they ended up being a good compromise for exploration. I’d set the waypoint of my choice and just go traipsing about without a care. It would have been bad for a survival-oriented game, but a Fable hero doesn’t technically ever have to eat and thus is not in that sort of game.

  24. Premium User Badge

    Lambchops says:

    On difficulty.

    While for most games I’m generally good enough to get by on normal these days I have to say that I favour having a very easy mode for gamers who are less able (or for me if it’s a genre I struggle with!) so that all the content can be seen. Surely this is better than having to rely on the old fashioned way of cheat codes to get through difficult parts.

    i’d far rather be insulted for being a pussy but actually achieved something in completing the game on an easy difficulty than have to resort to cheating; be it codes or walkthroughs,

    Of course some games are in their nature meant to be difficult and I’m quite happy to avoid them (see SHMUPS) if I struggle too much. However these days for a major title being too hard is often the result of bad design rather than a concious decision to create a hard game.

    • Jazmeister says:

      I don’t think I agree that games are “meant” to be hard. They can pretty much be whatever the dev team wants them to be.

  25. MarkN says:

    If I feel in the mood to be massively challenged in my spare time I’d perhaps have a pop at a solo trek to the South Pole, and I’d suggest if challenge is what you’re really after you could do worse yourself. But until you fuck off on that icy quest I’d prefer it if you stop trying to belittle me for enjoying twatting around aimlessly in Fable 2 for a few hours, ta very much. I play games to have fun – end of story. Some games I like easy, others hard. As long as it’s fun I’m fine. If other people are having fun at whatever level they’re playing at that ‘s great too.

    If you’re really dead set on games being challenging though you should start preaching at the grass roots, and the folk who play most of them. Kids. Go on – tell them they’re not doing it right – see how far that gets you.

    You’re playing games, for christ’s sake. Belt up.

    • Jazmeister says:

      I agree, you nasty rude person. I also like to have a bit of a cry too. And to watch numbers go up, don’t forget that.

  26. Tei says:

    http://www.ellerbisms.com/

    This comic, transpire (is that a english word?) truism (Itaew?). Truism is better than honesty. Often truism can totally replace honesty. Honesty is really overrrated.

    Honesty can be insulting. If you stink, a honest person will tell you. And If you have truism, you don’t need honesty. Honesty is like the small sister of lyiing. Truism is words you can tell, and other person feel his true nature. Is like, words don’t really exist, and the act of communication is a big lie, is imposible to tell other people something. Communication is broken beyond repair… you say the word “friend”, but what you understand by friend, is not what the girl understand. Hence, you are not really communicating, If you are using words. Words are a bunch of liars. Truism is more powerfull, since you communicate something, so on the other end *UNDERSTAND* because already know what you is saying. It totally beat communication, is not even funny.

    My only problem with truism, is that theres a small set of things you may want to communicate. Like “I am angry, but I want sex”. And “Your face looks anal”. And “I really love my boyfriend/girlfriend”. You can use truism to communicate complex stuff like “Risen has a console, that let you set the AP’s, and theres a magic item that lets hunters use magic (it give +1fireball and stuff, so you can use cristal, even If you are not a mague). Also, Fred life is not saved with quicksaves, so you can use quicksaves to fill his lifebar”.

    But I digress…

  27. invisiblejesus says:

    It’s tough for me to have sympathy for anyone who can’t muster the willpower to turn off a game feature that ruins their enjoyment. Until games like Fable 2 start coming with magical hypnotic mind control that forces me to turn on the breadcrumb trail or whatever, it seems like a silly thing to worry about. Granted, if the game is designed in such a way that you can’t realistically play it without the breadcrumbs enabled, that’s a problem, but developers should solve that problem by not sucking at game design, not by removing features.

  28. Jugglenaut says:

    I gotta say, I love the Sunday Papers. Even though I rarely even read half of the links, the way it starts (mostly) civil and insightful discussion on this site is just amazing.

  29. Muzman says:

    Alexander wins a lot with a that article. I’m pretty sure developers reckon they’re being all cutting edge with their accessability and flow theory, all the buzziest human interface psych going into their design concepts. Trouble is it’s really the same old race to the bottom dressed in intellectual clothes.

  30. Mort says:

    Couple of things; A monopoly is a monopoly because it’s a monopoly, not because it happens to have a competitor owned by a generic hate figure.
    Also the article deals with one persons fears of a potential monopoly by Valve, not an actual one.
    Valve are the dominant player.

    The perception of a monopoly (which I agree, is nonsense), is a reaction against their popularity and dominance. Both of which come about because they are the best (lets face it).

    Your final point is a baseless reaction against what you think is the reason why Valve is so popular; fanboyism. I personally think it highly more likely that people actually do shop around for their games.

    Sadly the other point; that valve/steam have a conflict of interest, goes barely discussed and is lost in this kind of rhetoric, but it is a good point.

    • Mort says:

      /sigh
      that was meant to be a reply to someone.
      I guess I didn’t roll a 6.

    • Sinnerman says:

      The reply button seems to be a bit unreliable.

      Whether Valve can become a monopoly in online distribution is to be seen but it doesn’t seem likely if the business gets really big. In the long term they don’t have the resources to out gun the likes of Murdoch, Microsoft or Google and will more likely be bought out.

      I’m not totally serious when picking on Valve fanboys but there are people who defend them based on vague “good feelings” or outright misinformation about their favourite company. Those same people do come out and say that they will only buy from Steam because having one outlet is much more preferable and Valve are just the greaterer of the besterest.

  31. Sinnerman says:

    Hey kids, it’s worth trying things that seem pretty hard at first even if it’s just a game. You might actually enjoy it. That wasn’t too hard.

    I don’t really think that it is reasonable to have to do something like trek to the south pole solo to get a challenge. That sounds quite expensive, time consuming and I will most likely die. It sounds more reasonable to be able to research games on the market to see which games might have an interesting challenge level for me and to buy one.

    There are a lot of things competing for out time out there and games are quite frivolous. That’s not a reason for games just being something to tool around in and complete as easily as possible. That’s a reason for making them as engaging as possible as different people like engaging with games in different ways.

  32. aoanla says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    @Vagabond Treasure make genre games which are essentially perfect. Also? Stop making me feel old, [and play their back catalogue! Gradius V, Ikaruga, Sin and Punishment and Gunstar Heroes are good places to start.]

    See, I've heard of Treasure (unlike Vagabond), but I've still never played any of their games, because I've never owned any of the consoles they were released for* (and, in the case of Ikaruga, and IIRC, Radiant Silvergun, they're like hens teeth to locate in the UK anyway). I have yet to locate a solution for this problem (and, no, I'm not buying a second-hand Gamecube (or a full price XBox 360!) just to play Ikaruga, thanks!).

    *except, I notice that Gradius V was released for PS2. I still don't remember actually seeing it in a shop at any point.

  33. aoanla says:

    Psychopomp said:
    You should, it’s worth it.

    Hm. This is going to turn out like my utter failure to actually play Oni (even released on the PC, but somehow managed to avoid my proximity continually), isn't it?
    It's not that I don't want to play Ikaruga, it's just that I'd like to play it on a PC :D

    • Psychopomp says:

      I can’t imagine playing a shmup on a PC, it’s one of the few times where a controller actually feels more precise O_o

  34. aoanla says:

    Anonymous Coward said:
    I can’t imagine playing a shmup on a PC, it’s one of the few times where a controller actually feels more precise O_o

    Also, erm. I thought Xbox 360 controllers worked with normal computers? They are USB, aren't they?

  35. Andrew F says:

    I actually think that Genesis 3:23 would be a good single, if it wasn’t, y’know, called Genesis 3:23