The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on December 13th, 2009 at 2:14 pm.

Sundays are for drum-drum-drumming your fingers while waiting for Solium Infernum turns to arrive, considering having a shave as you have to appear in public in a bit and compiling a list of all the fine (mainly) games related reading from across the week in a handy list for RPS’ readers’ delight, while desperately resisting the urge to include a link to some bit of pop music or another. Go!

Failed.

.

69 Comments »

  1. qrter says:

    Ah, that GSW piece is the same as posted on Gamasutra. I was surprised that the whole Tim Langdell debacle is only mentioned in passing, and not part of the actual ‘top 5′.

    • Dominic White says:

      Especially given that Langdells jackassery has been pissing people off since I was born, apparently. There’s an 25-26 year old game called Dark Star with a hidden message in it bout how Langdell is an ass. The guy has been pissing people off for a quarter of a century and only now has he pissed off someone big enough to do him some financial harm.

    • Caiman says:

      Dark Star, that was an epic game. But the Langdell message was contained in Spectacle, a bonus Ceefax-style program that appeared free on the B-side of the cassette. Yes, a cassette. Ah, nostalgia.

    • qrter says:

      Especially especially since Langdell’s reign of terror is still ongoing. The man can’t be stopped.

  2. Nobody Important says:

    Charlie Booker is AMAZING. Sort of makes me WISH I WAS ENGLISH.

    • Jonas says:

      I just wish that I was as funny and clever as Charlie Brooker. Or, failing that, that I got a chance to invite him down the pub for talking games over a pint.

  3. The_B says:

    I do like Florence’s cover of YGTL, but my favourite Florence track is still Kiss With A Fist. Even if obvious choice is obvious.

  4. pignoli says:

    I’m surprised the Guitar Hero 5 Kurt Cobain thing didn’t get in on the controversy list really…

  5. Torgen says:

    Heyo, RPS hivemind! I’ve been anticipating your reaction to Gearbox’s retroactively patching SecureROM into Borderlands without telling their customers (even the Steam versions!) but haven’t seen anything as yet. There were no patch notes at all. They just pushed a patch to the retail game installing SecureROM after people had purchased it.

    Note this is not the DLC, this is the base game, already purchased. I’m very sad about this, as I’ve been playing the game nearly every night since it came out, and now I have to go find something to root this virus out of my system. I wonder if there is any legal liability to forcibly and secretly installing something that can be described as malware onto consumers’ computers without their consent?

    • westyfield says:

      I’m just angry that the patch replaced all the .bik files for the intro movies. Sigh. I’ll just delete them again, I guess.

    • Torgen says:

      the guy that wrote the BL tweaker (which apparently was specifically targeted in this patch) has released version 2.1.4 which allows you to skip the “advertisement” videos again. You’ll still have to sit through the “bus ride” when making a new character, though.

    • ascagnel says:

      Your best bet is to send an email to one of the four or post a new thread in the forums; those tend to get noticed the most.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Is there confirmation that the sans-DLC game actually has active, working SecuROM on it now? I was aware it patched in files for SecuROM, but my understanding was that they aren’t actually installed until you install the DLC. Link to more information, please?

    • Matt W says:

      Your mum “could” be described as malware.

      In any case, I suspect by agreeing to whatever EULAs are involved and enabling (or failing to disable, or whatever) auto-updating on Steam, you’ve pretty much backed yourself into a corner as far as tenuous legal whines are concerned. IANAL therefore YMMV.

  6. Andrew Dunn says:

    Good article there by Rich Cobbett on Tales of Monkey Island. I more or less entirely agree with it – the silliness got a bit much (particularly in the second chapter) but the whole thing is a definite success.

  7. AndrewC says:

    Florence just screams ‘lanky ginger’ though, doesn’t she? Everything in her music, especially that constant full-on bellow, suggests, to me, someone trying way too hard because of some massive insecurities involving her self image. The louder and fuller she sings, the more she will prove she’s a real artist, like all those pretty little things on tv. She’s drowning out, with her huge voice and over-busy arrangements her self-percieved bad looks. It is an unlovely sound.

    Plus all that fruity stuff with trees.

    I prefer La Roux!

    • Lack_26 says:

      I liked F&tM before they were famous, now they’re famous everything is ruined for ever. [/music snob]

      Anyway, I like them, but my favourite song of theirs is definitely this version of ‘My Boy Builds Coffins’ (it starts about 3:05)

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

      Anyway, La Roux is brilliant and I favour the pair over F&tM. The man in HMV gave me an odd look when I brought La Roux and The best of Jimi Hendrix side-by-side.

    • thaine says:

      I prefer Bowie as a lanky ginger. Plastic soul love.

    • AndrewC says:

      @LAck He was probably wondering who Jimi Hendrix was.

    • phuzz says:

      *Edit, ignore duplicate*

    • phuzz says:

      @AndrewC
      I dunno, I’ve seen her play a couple of times and never got much of a hint of insecurity (beyond the usual Look at ME! that anyone who gets up on stage usually has), and for my money, FatM’s performance at glastonbury was the best gig I saw all year, even with my usual indie kid “she’s been played on radio 1 so she’s now rubbish” sentiments (I like being a music snob until it gets in the way of enjoying a band I like).
      I like La Roux, but so far everything I’ve heard has been a bit samey (but good, but also samey), am awaiting new material with interest.

    • Nick says:

      She just shouts her way through boring songs.

  8. Risingson says:

    I didn’t know anything about the Shadow Complex story. As some of you know, I’m gay too and a supporter of blah blah blah (i really don’t feel too militant today), but boycotting a game for the ideology behind their creators, ideology that I think does not appear in the game, is a bit futile. Doing that would mean that I would also stop watching films from people that I don’t like at all, like Elia Kazan, or should stop reading science fiction, that genre I love and so full of right-wing activists. And it also would mean that I would have to support those artists who support gay rights, like Roland Emmerich. Oh, wait, I actually do that…

    Anyway, the worse thing about Shadow Complex is that I actually bought the book. And it’s insultingly bad. It’s sickeningly bad. I read some Card’s books before, and all of them had something that really trascend them, like the weird ghost story in “Lost children” or the marvellous gruesome finale in “Master singer” (were those the original titles?). But this one, “Empire”, has absolutely nothing to be saved about it: it’s a really bad piece of pulp fiction with some political rants that are so simple, so generalistic, so absurd that I really think that Orson Scott Card had some accident that hurt his head and hasn’t been the same since then. End of rant.

    • Dominic White says:

      The plot of Shadow Complex was just plain bad. Not because of politics (I don’t think it had any), but just because it could have been scribbled by a 10-year-old on a napkin.

      It’s basically a fractionally edgier take on GI Joe, complete with the masked evil organization with a massive underground lair and a harebrained scheme to take over America that only a random square-jawed hero can foil.

      It also wasn’t that good a game either. People hailed it as the second coming of videogame jesus, but the gameplay itself was a pale imitation of the Metroid and Castlevania games it shamelessly takes inspiration from. I would say that the less said about the bosses, the better, but there’s nothing to say about them. They appear, you shoot them a couple of times and then they’re dead.

      Any and all of the Castlevania games on the DS are infinitely better on that front, anyway.

    • moyogo says:

      @Risingson
      I agree, but I think it’s too bad when video game discussions boil down to “boycott or no boycott?” (Shadow Complex) or “Can they do it or can’t they?” (No Russian). The main factor in buying is of course the game itself. But I’d rather not be fattening the wallets of Messrs. Card and violence porn aficionado Cliffeeee B (not that I’ve bought their games). SO SERIOUS BUSINESS AND ALL THAT.

      I’m glad there’s at least a game board with thinking people commenting on it.

    • Adam Whitehead says:

      In this case, whilst a tiny drop of money would indeed go to Orson Scott Card, a far bigger chunk (several pence, at least) will go to Peter David, who directly worked on the game as a writer (apparently he toned down the insane right-wing rhetoric from the novel, which is indeed utter shite). Since Peter David is awesome and a major supporter of gay rights, I don’t see a huge problem with the situation.

    • bill says:

      The thing I didn’t understand when I first heard about OSC’s views was that they seem totally at odds with those in his Ender series.

      Ender was essentially his biggest character, yet he seems to be a much more modern, open minded and practical character than his creator turned out to be. There’s a little religion in the books, but I always got the sense that Ender was beyond that, and tried to make people a little more open-minded.

      Maybe I mis-understood the books.

  9. Fede says:

    Nothing about Langdell in the top 5 gaming controversies? Seems strange.

    • Stupoider says:

      They do make a mention of him at the bottom, along with other controversies that they couldn’t include. :D

  10. Andrew says:

    Brooker’s piece hit the nail on the head for sure. Non-gamers really are missing out on something special. And his description of trying to introduce a non-gaming significant other into our world is sadly very familiar *sigh* :(

  11. Joe says:

    Rob Fahey is right on the point about Digital Britain. It’s a shambles. I’ve just written to several esteemed peers in the House of Lords and YOU could do the same. YOU.

    http://www.openrightsgroup.org/campaigns/disconnection/lords

  12. Xercies says:

    I think people were more worried that there money would go to a cause that they didn’t like i.e the gay marriage thing.

    They did the calculation Orson Scott Card gives money to anti gay marriage company, orson scott card gets money from this game, ergo I would technically be giving money to anti gay marriage company. This I understand completly.

    I liked the article about the difference between hardcore and casual, To be honest i don’t like that distinction. I think Gaming will go down a bad road if we seperate them arbitarily like that. And having less skills to do in a game is no bad thing.

  13. PC Monster says:

    Brooker’s post got me thinking. He talks about trying to introduce other people to the world of games but then got frustrated when he drops his victim into one of the most complicated examples out there, without even bothering to explain how everything works. Most people can drive dodgems at funfairs but you don’t then lead them into cars, trucks and helicopters and rage at them when they can’t even start the things up.

    For a formal response, maybe we need some kind of Gaming Driving License. Like the ECDL (European Computing Driving License) but fun. Rip the tutorials out of games and put them online. – basic movement within a 3D space, aiming, control combos, etc. Provide quizzes on some of the more esoteric quirks of gaming, like the locked door phenomenon. Teach them the difference between FPS and RPG. You can’t jusy say ‘this is a great game’ and hand them the controls assuming they’ll get it on the same level you do. So why not teach them first?

    Informally, how about trying to get your friend to walk before they run? Fair enough Charlie’s writing to raise a giggle or two but in this instance he comes off as a bit of a prat. I recently introduced my grlfriend to Lego Star Wars II in co-op mode, making sure I explained each and every button and how it worked, and also what to look our for in the game itself. She was soon blasting around levels with me and really enjoying herself; switching characters with ease, using their special abilities, and even sneak-attacking me! This was on the Gamecube but I’m curious to see how she’d handle the WASD and mouse combo…

    • bill says:

      The problem is that it’s really hard for experienced gamers to work out what games will appeal to non gamers.

      I thought games like World of Goo, Portal, The Sims would work… but they didn’t at all.

      Strangely Mario Power Tennis on the GBA worked great. But she hated all the conversatiions (supposedly designed to make the game more newbie-friendly) and just wanted to do ramdom matches.

      I think it needs to be something that’s a tiny sandbox, where results are immediately visible. Make the sandbox too big or the goal too distant and there’s a lot of “what’s the point?”.

      I wonder if this is why even people who don’t “play games” will happily spend ages playing Spider Solitaire?

  14. Dominic White says:

    Brooker deliberately omitting the Wii is very much old-school gamer snobbery in action, though. It’s a GREAT way to get newcomers on-board. Rather daft that he reccomends Flower after making that comment, too, which (aside from the graphical quality) may as well be on the Wii anyway, as it’s all tilt-controlled.

    As an example of a game that anyone can pick up and learn, he’s totally right, though. One button (that button makes you move) and just tilting the pad to explore and progress.

    • The Hammer says:

      I think it’s mostly because they get so much coverage that the Wii is considered a safe-zone, even for the Daily Mail. Telling people that the Wii has casual-friendly games is a bit like telling someone that CBeebies has baby-friendly shows.

    • qrter says:

      It also seems like the Wii has created its own niche culture, that sits besides ‘normal gaming culture’ (whatever that means).

      I’d bet that most people don’t really associate their Wii with gaming that much, if ta all, be they ‘hardcore gamers’ or ‘casual gaming’ Wii owners. You could call that snobbery on part of mainstream gamers, or you could call it Nintendo’s marketing campaign, as I think Nintendo is deliberately trying to distance itself from mainstream gaming culture.

      Viewed in that way, it isn’t that odd Brooker wouldn’t mention the Wii.

    • Dominic White says:

      And in doing so, only serves to isolate the Wii further from ‘true’ gaming.

      Which is bullshit, really. It’s a good system with some really fun games, and – go figure – it’s the best console for FPS’ery, as the analogue stick + pointer combo is very, very fun to use as well as accurate and responsive. Anyone doubting that should just grab the Metroid Prime Trilogy disc and see for themselves.

    • malkav11 says:

      It may be a good way to ease prospective gamers into the nuances of play (although I’d be amazed if that were actually true – Wii motion controls are nothing like gamepad controls), but Brooker is trying to show that gaming is -worth- getting into, which Flower is much more suited to doing, provided they can get access to a PS3 somehow.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I think Brooker’s just trying to tell people something they haven’t already heard somewhere else. I mean, think about it: do you really think that he’s going to convince someone to pick up a Wiimote if they haven’t been convinced already? I doubt it. Questions about gaming culture aside, he’s got a certain amount of space to accomplish something, and repeating the same Wii recommendations everyone’s already heard a million times from a bunch of other media outlets might not be the best way to do that.

  15. sfury says:

    I’m surprised the EDGE Troll didn’t make it into the top 5 scandals. But that’s a good selection of controversies nevertheless, hadn’t heard only about the Ultimate DJ Hero one. :)

    Come to think of it – evil publishers suing each other’s socks off – Interplay and Bethesda have been doing a pretty good job, too.

    Mumpsimus!

  16. James G says:

    Kieron, I think you should introduce your Delightful Girlfriend to the fantastic word that is petrichor, which describes the smell which accompanies rain after a dry spell. It is caused by the rain kicking up oils secreted by plants during dry spells, which adsorb to the soil surface.

  17. Metal_Circus says:

    Why does RPS frown upon Charlie Brooker? A lot of the time he’s been mentioned here has been in a somewhat negative sense. Makes me cry.

  18. Funky Badger says:

    Candi Stanton >>> Florence A.T. Machine

    • arqueturus says:

      @Funky Badger

      Amen to that. Why can no one do a decent cover of You’ve got the love?

    • Funky Badger says:

      I don’t think its possible to do a *bad* cover… just to do a better one…

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Funky: Totally agree. Was going to say it, but decided it was negative enough in the article anyway and would feel like piling on. Perfectly acceptable record, of course. Just not Candy, and there’s no shame there.

      KG

  19. Dave says:

    I think mumpsimus is going to be one of my new favorite words. It summarizes half or 3/4 of the politics in the US very succinctly.

  20. Vitamin Powered says:

    That part on how to make your trailer on “The Idiot’s Guide to Marketing Your Indie Game” should be stapled to walls/church doors/people’s foreheads. I think I’ve only ever come across one or two examples of metal ever working in any form of trailer, period.

    I once came across a Homeworld 2 mod video that was just plot points flashing up on the screen, one after the other. Reminded me of those cable channels with nothing but ads; you keep watching the trailer/ad because you think something interesting will happen at any moment…

    If I ever find the person who made that trailer I will develop a method of throwing bricks at their head through the internet.

    • Tei says:

      Vitamin Powered:
      “If I ever find the person who made that trailer I will develop a method of throwing bricks at their head through the internet.”

      bricks?, odd choice. the standard internet method is stab people in the face. It was invented by the famous “[SA]HatfulOfHollow”.

  21. Flimgoblin says:

    Coo, game reviews in G2 from January. Interesting.

  22. Ginger Yellow says:

    The Cobbett piece is spot on, if you ask me. I’ve been really ,really impressed with TOMI ever since episode 3. I had as much fun with that as with the Zombie Cow games, even if it did have a lot of the usual Telltale problems. But the writing and puzzle design were superb, and by and large that’s been true for the remainder of the season. I’d be delighted if they did a second season of the same quality. I have to say, though, it’s really made me want a Monkey Island 2 Special Edition.

  23. M.P. says:

    The Polyus-Skif article was a fascinating read, thanks!

  24. Lambchops says:

    The whole Florence and the Machine/La Roux type music trend this year left me rather cold I have to stay. Still at least they aren’t Lady Bloody Gaga.

    One of the best female fronted albums this year was Charlotte Hatherley’s New Worlds but despite releasing three great solo albums she’s still at best remembered by most as the girl in Ash. Deserves more recognition.

    —–

    Music related rambling over I mostly agree with Cobbet of ToMI. While I feel there have been funnier moments in the Sam and Max games (mostly due to their more surreal nature) this is indeed the first time where Telltale has managed a continous plot rather than a rather tenuous linking together of things in the final episode to shoehorn disparate manic adventures together. This made the characters easier to care about and made for some dramatic moments, which was neccessary for Monkey Island – which doesn’t go for quite as many laugh out loud funny moments as Sam and Max.

    Also i completely agree about his points on LeChuck (though i wont go into why as spoilers will abound). As good as the Zombie Cow games or Machinarium, perhaps not – there’s a few too many trundel round and get these 5 objects type puzzles which dissapoint next to the more imaginative offerings within their own puzzle offering and other games, but certainly a good return for the series and to my suprise I’m definitely up for more.

  25. JKjoker says:

    sigh, another “why casual games are not stupid” article that starts by giving Halo and MW2 as examples for “hardcore games”, how can i take him seriously after that statement ?, it feels like someone who has traveled on plane once is trying to explain why driving a car is not stupid to a star destroyer flight officer

    when i hear hardcore games i think about Tie Fighter, the Mechwarrior games, the Descent games (for games that need 100+ buttons to play), master of orion 2, master of magic, homm, and kings bounty (for games that overload you with choices and force careful opportunity cost analyzes before every move)

    that aside, i do agree that casual doesn’t mean “dumb”, the problem is the developers tend to, either by ignorance, laziness or plain fail, end up making “dumb” casual games, creating some kind of self fulfilling prophecy

    • K.Boogle says:

      I agree. My thoughts exactly when I read that. And I see this more and more often.

      People mention games that to me seem like the bread and butter “casual” as being “hardcore” and I roll my eyes and think to myself that they have no clue. But then take a step back, and with horror I start to realize that I, and ‘we’ are being very slowly but surely ignored and blocked out. The true “hardcore” gamer is being strangled, drowned out and replaced by incompetent imitations.

    • Pundabaya says:

      If the hardcore gamer is truly being strangled, then all I can say is…

      GOOD! The internet would be a far better place without the ‘hardcore’ complaining about not being able to lean in the latest FPS, or some such rubbish.

      I like to think of myself as Mark-core. Someone who is aware of the greater games world, but once in a game wants to ‘mark-out’ and have fun.

    • JKjoker says:

      omg!, old, experienced games who have spent thousands of dollars in equipment and games though their lives taking the gaming scene to what it is today spawning the little teabagging meatbags that make a big chunk of players today and that now, older and richer, are prepared to spend much more even tho their free time is pretty limited are complaining games no longer offer features old games had for no other reason than taking the game to the lowest common denominator even tho things like lean could exist without affecting no lean or using players in the slightest … assholes!

    • Matt W says:

      The “true hardcore” in that sense is such a tiny slice of the overall market that it’s just not worth talking about on something as mainstream as The Guardian.

      /devilsadvocatebutonlyslightly

  26. Adam Whitehead says:

    I posted a comment on the Brooker piece and noted no more replies after that one. I concluded that I had written a comment so totally mind-blowing and perfect in its profundity that it instantaneously made any further commentary worthless, so people were bowing to the inevitable and leaving me with the final word on the subject.

    Further investigation revealed that they just automatically shut down comments after a certain number of posts or a certain amount of time has elapsed, which would have been my next guess.

    I am sad we won’t get any more gems along these lines though:

    “Part of the reason why I think games haven’t caught on is that they are still a niche market and a geek thing”

    Really sir? Did this comment time travel forward to us from 1986, or do you actually believe this? No, seriously?

    It’s also borderline-relevant, but RPS could have also covered the fact that CRYSIS 2 (and respected SF author) writer Peter Watts got beaten up at the Canadian/US border last week (no word if dissatisfaction with CRYSIS’ system requirements was to blame) by overzealous US border guards, generating an internet furore with the likes of Neil Gaiman and Cory Doctorow’s BoingBoing blog getting involved. Fun! His last three blog entries are on it:

    http://www.rifters.com/crawl/

  27. XM says:

    This is a lot of fun I hope RPS do a article on this: http://features.metacritic.com/features/2009/the-best-games-of-2009/?tag=topslot;title;1

    The PC is the overall winner with 72.5 but some how the PS3 is better as it has less games but they were better. So it’s true 100% of statistics are made up on the spot. :)

    The fan-boys fight rages on. :)

    Looks like the PC is going to continue for years to come. Epic and ID how wrong you were. ;)

  28. hoff says:

    Activision on BrĂ¼tal Legend: “it was a creative risk that lacked franchise potential, according to the company. ”

    Oh god, this is why I regularly fantasize about punching business people in the face.

  29. Risingson says:

    I read all the responses.

    And Bulletproof is a TUNE.

  30. sinister agent says:

    Brooker is quite right. Games are simply harder to get into than any comparable media, except maybe reading if you count ‘learning to read’. I remember watching my older sister gleefully play Dead Rising a year or two ago, having not played a game since about 1990. She simply couldn’t grasp the basic co-ordination of the analogue sticks – the habit of one thumb moving the camera and one the player was so ingrained that I didn’t even think of it, but to her it was entirely new, and really quite confusing. Imagine if watching a film for the first time meant also having to be the cameraman.

    Granted, Dead Rising had atrocious controls, but the basics were the problem. Even among experienced gamers, I sometimes find myself biting my tongue as I watch two people wander round for ten minutes looking for a door, seemingly oblivious to the large white marker on the compass pointing it out. Also, reloading in co-op. I don’t understand how people can miss a huge “RELOAD” icon in the middle of the screen, but it happens. I take it for granted that I notice these things after decades of playing games. It’s easy to forget.

    • JuJuCam says:

      It’s also interesting when games don’t adhere to “left stick = character, right stick = camera” controls. X360 kill n’ lootfest Too Human uses the right stick to control combat and targeting. Quite difficult to get used to for a well trained gamer, would be interesting to put in the hands of a relative newbie.

      That article and Morrison’s “Casual doesn’t mean Easy” one also gave me an insight into why my girlfriend enjoys and in quite good at Burnout. Racing games – in particular arcadey ones – require less inputs to master. In fact, as long as I navigate her around the map, she’s actually better at Burnout Paradise than I am – I tend to get distracted by the auxiliary information that spews across the HUD.

      Personally my measure of how hardcore a particular player is is whether they set the X/Y axis correctly…

  31. Matt W says:

    Am I alone in finding the “Casual != easy” article fairly silly? The guy makes a stand on the point that casual means only one or two core mechanics, immediately realizes that some shmups contradict this point, and then “fixes” it via an approach that applies equally well to his example casual game. (If you’re saying that one mechanic with the potential for skill development counts as multiple mechanics, then how does the development of skills like backspin and so on not make Wii Tennis a non-casual game?)

    If you take his argument and modify it so that casual games have a low number of mechanics required to play competently, and find a properly coherent way to hedge against games with low mechanic counts but high difficulty (I don’t think the “skill = multiple mechanics” argument holds any real water), I’d say you’re halfway there. I’d also argue quite strongly though that another requirement for a game to be considered casual is that it’s very forgiving of people who only want to play for short bursts. This means stuff like short game “levels” or what have you, and good saving systems, but it also means not placing burdens of “remembering what I was doing when I played two weeks ago in order to continue” on players.