The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on March 7th, 2010 at 11:14 am.

Sundays are for colouring in maps, being surprised by the news of sudden passings and compiling a list of the fine (mostly) games related writing from across the week, while trying not to include a link to some piece of pop music or another.

Failed.

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98 Comments »

  1. Stupid Fat Hobbit says:

    I really enjoyed Digital. It’s like Uplink with less game, but more feelings.

  2. AndrewC says:

    Jesus Fucking Christ: Heels.

    • bill says:

      that’s what i thought of too. Glad you saved me the time googling it. good show!

  3. TheBlackBandit says:

    Great to see you’re an Ebert fan, KG. You’re my go to point for games, and he’s my go to point for films. Truly inspirational stuff.

  4. Krondonian says:

    I wish I went to the Brink guy’s history lessons:

    ”We were making an action shooter, so we didn’t want to set it too far in the past (melee and magic)… ”

    Salsa was pretty amazing too.

  5. the wiseass says:

    I really really enjoyed that Ebert article from the Esquire. It’s tough writing such a piece, you’ve got to convey the emotion without being too dramatic and you must walk the fine line between telling a story and making the person feel all right about it. It’s a most difficult task which Chris Jones executed almost perfectly. Kudos to the man, both men actually.

  6. drewski says:

    I suppose I can forsee a time when CDs are off the shelves, but I don’t think it’ll be in 12 years.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, I suspect that it’s the same as TV – it’s becoming obsolete, but sometimes people like to just sit down and watch whatever’s being spewed out of the ether.

      The thing that killed CDs for me was that Apple (or whoever) finally convinced music executives to remove DRM from music sold online. Sure, there are people who won’t use mp3s (I think someone commented this last week) but for me DRM-free mp3s are fine. I haven’t bought a CD that I could find as a download since iTunes went DRM-free. I guess it’d be sad to see all this recorded media become obsolete and the information on them lost or unreadable (particularly for old games). This is part of the problem with DRM – it suggests that publishers aren’t interested in making genuine culture, stuff that will survive for centuries. Of course, most of it won’t, but hey.

    • Psychopomp says:

      CD’s aren’t going anywhere for the same reason books, and physical games aren’t going anywhere. You just can’t replace holding it in your hands.

    • Starky says:

      What kills CDs will be the -exact- same thing that killed the cassette tape – When new cars no longer come with a CD player installed, that is when CDs will die.

      CDs have nothing going for them as a storage medium any more – except maybe how cheap they are for the record companies to create. There is no physicality to CDs, they’re just too fragile. The only thing they have going for them is their ability to be used in a car stereo, and that is starting to change too with most car stereo’s coming with USB slots for flash memory.
      Why use a CD when you can use a much stronger, resistant to damage medium, that can hold 20 times more songs with ease.

      I can pretty much guarantee, no one listening to music in a car could tell the difference between 320kbps MP3s/Ogg and a CD – doesn’t matter how big and brash the audio set-up, cars just don’t have the acoustics needed. Takes studio monitors or a very good set of cans, as well as a very good ear to notice.

      The reason why Vinyl sees use is simply because you can do things with Vinyl decks that you cannot do with CDs – Virtual digital DJ software just isn’t quite there yet.
      Still you can get pretty damn close now, but it will never match it. Just like photoshop will never replace painting, there is a physicality software just cannot match.

      CDs on the other hand do nothing that flac files cannot, while files do a hell of a lot of things CDs can’t.

      flac for archiving, ogg for daily use – it is the future.

    • Lambchops says:

      I don’t have a car but I still buy CDs.

      I realise I might be in a minority but I like having a physical collection (although this is strangely something I’m less bothered about with games).

      As for CDs being too fragile, I’ve only ever scratched a couple of them and that was through stupidity rather than a lack of durability. To be fair I don’t play them enough any more to get them scratched as they go straight on to my computer but the ones I grew up with and played constantly were still in good nick.

      I guess I just like having the case to display and all the artwork. There’s still something satisfying about unwrapping a new CD, opening it up, poring over the inserts and putting it on for it’s first play.

    • drewski says:

      @ Starky – CDs also offer things digital media does not, at least to the same extent, such as album art, lyrics, notes from the artist, the ability to browse physical products and make semi-random purchasing choices, the feel of going to a music store and inhabiting a space devoted to recorded music etc.

      You may not value those things about music, but as long as others do, CDs won’t die completely.

      And considering how long it took cassette players to be phased out of cars, I don’t think CDs are in any danger for a while, which was my point.

    • Starky says:

      @ Drewski
      Oh I get the need for physical products, I just think CDs are a poor choice these days – the value in CDs comes from everything BUT the CD itself.

      DVDs would be a better choice, they could add more value over the digital equivalent, stick the Flacs on the DVD along with the raw music, and the music video’s – maybe some making of documentaries and so forth.

      I buy more music DVDs (which usually come with a CD also) than I do plain CDs now. Because like more and more people, the CD gets ripped and I stick it in a box with al my other CDs that I never use any more.

      Hell, I remember telling an Exec from Virgin this same thing about 8 years ago, that the industry needed to start adding values to CD packaged beyond just the plastic disk, including physical products that digital copies can’t offer. Of course I was just lowly student sound engineer on work experience at a fairly small studio, no one worth listening too.

    • TeeJay says:

      “Why use a CD when you can use a much stronger, resistant to damage medium, that can hold 20 times more songs with ease”

      There will always be a market for music that can be purchased in a shop/petrol station/roadside shack/middle-of-Amazon without broadband/computers/etc or borrowed from a friend and that can be immediately played on a commonly available device (eg car stereo, beatbox, etc.). People also usually buy “bite-sized” amounts (songs or albums, rather than 20 albums worth in one go).

      This ‘low end’ niche was filled by tape cassettes and then CDs. Other niches (eg DJs, professional use, home-user (alongside movies), audiophile, or mobile players that either need ‘docking’ with a hard drive or have extensive storage of their own – these all potentially involve expensive players and storage and possibly decent internet connections).

      It will be interesting to see if the next ‘low end niche’ winner will be USB flash memory sicks, SDcards that can be inserted into mobile phones/etc or download unlock ‘code’ entered into a mobile phones although a large part of the world has patchy GSM coverage and 3GSM only in the biggest/richest cities (eg see: http://www.coveragemaps.com/gsmposter_americas.htm ) so a physical format is still needed by billions of people.

      To win the “crown” they will need to be very cheap – along with the devices that can play them – and not be some bizarre ‘propriatry’ standard.

      I’d guess that it will be something that can be integrated with even the cheapest mobile phone as the ‘player’ and that all other hifi/radio/TV/car stereo devices will be able to accept their ‘headphone out’ – but obviously the corporate interests involved might well refuse to cooperate like this or produce anything as accessible and democratic.

  7. TooNu says:

    Kieron every week, every single week you link the most obscure song ever, it’s not even something you would remotely just hear. Sparklehorse…who the beejeezus?? Is it your lifes mission to be well off the radar and in the obscure that if you are not, you are very uncomfortable?
    Not that listening to the mainstream crap is better, I just don’t understand people like yourself who somehow manage to live “over there, that corner there”.

    My mate Sam is like that, I think he deliberately goes for the obscure, unheard of, nobody knows or has any idea wtf you are talking about when referencing some movie or music. Nobody needs to be so indie, you are like the indiest of indie blokes and I am inviting you back with us for a wee bit of a walk and a stretch.

    • internisus says:

      Put your hands together for willful ignorance.

      I prefer the song “Piano Fire.”

    • LewieP says:

      Like that time he linked to Lady Gaga

    • Dolphan says:

      Sparklehorse obscure? Oh dear.

    • internisus says:

      I rather wonder how TooNu found this website.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      TooNu, if you think there is something wrong with that attitude, then you have a problem, sir. Because who the fuck cares how “indie” anyone’s taste in music is? Or in art, or film, or whatever, really?

    • PixelCody says:

      When you take an interest in music and hear something that you like it’s only natural to gravitate towards circles (and thanks to the web, indie rag sites) that will offer up more music in the same vein.

      I have no idea how Kieron finds some of the stuff he links, but you’ll sometimes recognise a few names from “mainstream indie” sites/the grapevine, if there is such a thing. If that’s not your scene then you’ve got no chance ;)

      As for Sparklehorse, Metacritic lists a number of well known publications reviewing It’s A Wonderful life with “Universal Acclaim”. News to me that he did an album with Danger Mouse though, I’ve been out of touch with music for a few years :( RIP Mark.

    • Lambchops says:

      Spearklehorse is hardly obscure stuff.

      Sad news that though. I never got round to listening to the Dangermouse collaboration, despite the wonderful Gruff Rhys also being invloved. Might get on it now but I can’t stop listening to the new Joanna Newsom and Emma Pollock albums at the moment.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      TooNu: To be honest, a lot is just mass dynamics. If I’m listening to 10 albums for every one someone else does, 9/10 I’m going to be talking nonsense to them and that 1/10 seems tokenism. If you have a nose at any of my Tracks of the year on my blog, you’ll certainly see the cross-section. When I’ve got bloody Florence + The machine as my track of the year, it’s not as if I’m particularly guilty of what you’re accusing me of.

      Certainly on Plan B, I was one of the least musical-obscurist folk. All these things are relative.

      KG

    • James G says:

      Y’see, at one point I half suspected that. A friend pulled out some band I had never heard of with what was alarming regularity.

      Then I realised I was doing it with games. I’d seek out the obscure, and happily mention titles that the mainstream hadn’t heard of. Sometimes some of the stuff I’d seek out would be crap, other times it would be something fantastic, more often it fell somewhere in between. I realised that this process is natural for any media you grow fond of, as ultimately you’ll want to experience more. Its not necessarily a case of wanting to make yourself uncomfortable, although there are elements of that, but rather wanting to look at the boundaries, and find novel ideas. If you want to be ahead of the curve, it is not so that you can immediately scorn something when it hits the mainstream, but that you can see where things are heading, and how they got there.

      Also, when you are into something, your sphere of comfort becomes greater. Many of the games I’ve played in the past year would be intimately familiar to anyone on here, and a good proportion of those would be known to gamers who read any specialist sites/publications. But for those people whose gaming news comes largely from what they see in the shop, on TV, or in the mainstream media, many of those titles will seem niche.

      With music I am one of those ignorant people. I generally don’t listen to the radio hugely regularly, and most bands in my collection are decidedly mainstream. (Even then, I’ve had some people say ‘who?’ when I’ve mentioned some names. Then again, I once saw someone try and claim they had never heard anything by the Beatles. I don’t know if they were trolling, or thought they were genuine, but I either way I suspect they were mistaken.) Oh, and the one band I do have in my playlist with listener figures on Last.fm in double figures? Yeah, I first heard them in a trailer for an Indie game. (Actually, a couple of game soundtracks are possibly in that range as well.)

    • TooNu says:

      HAH! oh jeez, angry internet people everywhere, it’s like the EvE online community is secretly the RPS community. It does afterall say opinion away so stuff you guys if you don’t like it.

      Kieron, there has to be people like you and Sam, Sam is a great source for new music and movies. He is like the Davy Crocket of culture :) I do question him why he doesn’t like something as much when it catches on though, and instead finding more and more new things to indulge in. Yea everything is relative, I think you have a very “out there” taste which is nonsense when compared to other people. I dunno, I thought it was a fair question really. Thanks for replying.

      James G, everything you said makes sense and is a fairly obvious point. I have a question for you though, if during your obscure period would you attempt to talk about a game or piece of music you were into at the time, would the pub table fall silent due to nobody having anything to add or even compare to?
      My point merely being unless your friends circle comprises of entirely similar folk you are either excluding people or being out by yourself. Did this happen, how was it?

    • James G says:

      Hehe, most my friends would fall silent and confused if I started talking about almost any games at the pub, so its a bit difficult to make that judgement. With the ones who do game however I don’t think I’ve ever lost any of them, but then again its about knowing your audience.

      For example, one of the guys I work with gets most of his initial gaming knowledge from the mainstream sources, and then dives into the specialist media when he seems something that catches his interest. More obscure stuff will get brought up with regards to what we are playing at the moment, and on occasions I’ve recommended some of the semi-mainstream stuff (Defence Grid for instance) but as he’s a 360 gamer, there is only so much overlap. His lack of contact with much of the gaming press was actually a great boon to him when he borrowed the (obv. mainstream) Orange Box. He played HL2, found it reasonable, but none of the other games particularly struck his fancy as he didn’t fancy another FPS. “Portal isn’t an FPS,” I said, “I shan’t say any more, but play it. Seriously.” He did, and loved it. I’m fairly jealous, as despite my avoidance of spoilers, and buying it on release, I still never went in with an entirely blank slate. If I’m playing something which is difficult to understand without having played it yourself, then I just keep my description general.

      With another friend, she’s pretty familiar with the Indie scene, so we’re on a similar page in that respects.

      But basically, if I bring up an obscure game in conversation it’ll always be done in context. Either as a recommendation or in terms of what I’m playing. Kieron’s links have always struck me as sitting somewhere between those two points.

    • TooNu says:

      I have similar stories about my social group and thankfully we all (or nearly all) like different genres of games so comparisons are always fun from another different and enthusiastic point of view. Also thankfully, nobody is saying things about random French cinematographers, or comic books we would never think of reading, music that has no intended rythme or sylabilic lyrics to sing along with. You do however need an indie friend to keep you in check, a token indie friend.

      EvE forumites, RPS forumites…nearly the same thing. OMFG YOU TYPED SOEMTHNG HOW DARE YOU!!1

    • internisus says:

      Your initial comment was offensive and small-minded. You implied that there is something either wrong with or pretentious about people who tend to prefer music that falls outside of the mainstream without so much as considering the possibility that they generally find it more interesting on its own merits.

      But, you know, continue to take the attitude that the RPS and EVE communities are dominated by a snobbish hive-mind whose default position is to yell at you for no good reason. That’s earning you a lot of points, too.

    • internisus says:

      Oh; I missed a gem. “Token indie friend”? You’re like some bizarre reverse culture bigot.

    • drewski says:

      What would be the point in Keiron linking to songs everyone already knows?

      There’s nothing particularly obscure about Sparklehorse. OK, they’re not going to threaten the iTunes top downloads chart any time soon, but they’re still a moderately well known indie band. Around since ’95, signed to EMI, had their songs featured on ER, Skins, Dawn of the Dead’s trailer, a few commercials…

      They’re hardly [ultra obscure indie band you've never heard of].

    • john says:

      Obviously many people just have obscure tastes, however a large part of it is obviously pretension, but as you can see from people like internsius, and comments like “Sparklehorse obscure? Oh dear.” (hopefully just very dry humour), most of them tend to fly into an emperor’s new clothes style rage when anyone dares say it.

      The fact that being condescending about their taste in music is the only thing that allows some of them to feel superior is just a bit sad really, but hey, each to their slightly pathetic own.

    • James G says:

      I must admit, I’m not really seeing the anger TooNu and John claim to be seeing, disagreement and a bit of mocking yes, but no rage. Are you sure you’re not reading an expected level of anger into the posts?

      (Oh, and seriously, it is a bit rich to try and insult people and not expect a response. It would be like be walking up to someone in a pub, calling them an arsehole, and wondering why they get annoyed.)

    • Tom O'Bedlam says:

      Fucking bizarre, well for any other oddity lovers, I discovered Mouse on The Keys yesterday. Really worth checking out, weird japanese piano post rock

    • internisus says:

      “Obviously many people just have obscure tastes, however a large part of it is obviously pretension, but as you can see from people like internsius, and comments like “Sparklehorse obscure? Oh dear.” (hopefully just very dry humour), most of them tend to fly into an emperor’s new clothes style rage when anyone dares say it.

      The fact that being condescending about their taste in music is the only thing that allows some of them to feel superior is just a bit sad really, but hey, each to their slightly pathetic own.”

      A fascinating insight, John. I will take this with me to my therapist so we can discuss how I relate to strangers on the internet through my tastes in music.

      Thank you for pointing out the condescension on my side of the table; if it weren’t for you, I’d have gone on thinking that it is somewhat rude to accuse people of liking things that they like for superficial reasons. I now understand that it is correct to wander about calling people I don’t know posers and suggest that they properly conform and align their interests with everyone else’s.

      From now on, whenever I wish to point out that someone has an obscure taste, I will broach the subject by asking: “Is it your lifes mission to be well off the radar and in the obscure that if you are not, you are very uncomfortable? … Nobody needs to be so indie, you are like the indiest of indie blokes and I am inviting you back with us for a wee bit of a walk and a stretch.” Yes; that is absolutely the correct tone to take when opening a conversation. Not the least bit condescending.

      By the way, I’ve been a bit sarcastic here.

    • Gap Gen says:

      The new Sunday Papers: Bringing you music you’ve already heard, and articles you’ve already read.

    • Lambchops says:

      It’s a shame that some people don’t find the joy in folk having differing tastes.

      I used to live in a flat which consisted of two thirds metal obsessed people. I was the token non metal third. As much as we generally hated a good 60% or so of each other’s tastes it was fun to find the places where we had some common ground – or having a good natured argument about why we loved the music that we did.

      It would be a horribly dull world if everyone liked the same stuff.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Diversity is under-appreciated.

      I’ve never seen such a mis-appropriated term in music as “indie”, except for “pretentious”, which 99% of critics use incorrectly.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Blake: Be careful. Argue against pretentious and you’re in danger of proving your own pretentiousness. It’s the best of the Catch-22s.

      Generally: I think there’s enough in what people said that both sides are perfectly within their right to take offence. TooNu’s “Is it your lifes mission to be well off the radar and in the obscure that if you are not, you are very uncomfortable?” is pretty bad. The other side piling on that Toonu’s the one with a “problem”… well, it’s also pretty tough, but it was in response to something which Toonu has backed away from. As in, it was bad phrasing rather than deliberate attempt for insult, so we could draw a veil over, especially as Toonu droped me a mail apologising for any offence.

      In other notes, I’m starting the week with this, which is pretty neat.

      KG

  8. PixelCody says:

    Will we ever get to a stage where the web becomes an interactive version of that salsa video? Some sort of dynamic flash/html hybrid that looks awesome but retains the usability of your everyday web page.

    Also, when web developers start complaining that their content now takes teams of 50 to create instead of one man in his bedroom game developers will be there with a shoulder to cry on.

  9. Sagan says:

    Even if indie developers gravitate a little towards platformers, it’s not by much. Just look at the current posts under the indie tag on RPS: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/tag/indie/
    There’s brawlers, adventures, rpgs, shooters, bear-based-driving-sims, strategy games and yes, platformers.

    And even if you only regard the successful indie titles, you will notice that platformers are maybe a little more present, but not too much. World of Goo, Audiosurf, Zeno Clash, AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!!, Aquaria, The Path, everything by Introversion all are not platformers. And I probably forgot a dozen important indie titles. And then there is also an army of flash games in such categories as tower defense or shooters or puzzle games. Sure, you could argue about a lot of these genres that they are just playing it safe, but when you look at the amount of variation, I don’t think you can say that across indies in general.

  10. AndrewC says:

    Also searching Google Image Search to find the real astronauts adds all sorts to the lady astronaut paintings, if for no other reason than the hairstyles.

    Also Quinns likes MGS.

  11. Starky says:

    That Salsa Ad is bloody amazing, one of the coolest things I’ve seen in the web, and frankly one of the few things that’s actually impressed me with the whole web 2.0/3.0 hype.

  12. MuscleHorse says:

    Finding Digital a very welcome diversion, if a little hard on the eyes.

    I hate the eighties.

  13. Lambchops says:

    i’m currently giving Digital a go.

    i’ve got horribly stuck though. Is there any sort of walkthrough somewhere – I don’t want to spoil the game for myself but at the same time i’ve got a good idea of what I need to do just not how to go about it.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Lamb: I think quite a few people get stuck. Generally, you’ve forgotten to download an attachment or reply to an e-mail. People are saying that one puzzle kind of stops working once you go above the 9 at the end, which would be problematic if true. Though you probably shouldn’t have logged on that many times when you had – er – the problem.

      KG

  14. MuscleHorse says:

    Just adding onto my comment on Digital;
    I can’t help but feel inclined against the writing/game with how clumsy the initial interactions with the lady are. I mean, really? It feels a bit too much like a sociophobe nerd’s wet dream.

  15. Wulf says:

    Considering DMC’s article, I have to say that I’m diametrically opposed to this part and I think he’s being completely unrealistic:

    “Every game that you can’t understand in terms of a classic gaming genre should be seen as a triumph (from a design standpoint). Forget about breaking Miyamoto’s rules, let’s make some new rules, let others break them. As Rohrer enthuses us, let the meaning of the game be your guide, make mechanics that support that. If no-one understands it and can’t connect because it’s not Mario, shrug and try again. Theres nothing lost, right?”

    That’s wrong, completely and utterly wrong.

    Okay, let’s take an example, something like Elite. If there had only been a few space sims since Elite, and someone wanted to make a space sim today, would that be wrong? What DMC’s not understanding is that some indie developers choose certain kinds of games because the market’s not saturated with them. Complete originality is unreasonable to expect of anyone, and it’s actually impossible as a human standard, we’re all a hive and we all share ideas, that’s something we have to accept.

    But what indie developers are doing are choosing genres which have lesser entries. The point & click genre hasn’t had a really standout entry for a while, and Amanita’s Machinarium filled the void. There hasn’t been a game that really, truly melded a story, platforming, and puzzling well since the Dizzy games, and therefore Clover feels a bit like Dizzy.

    Clover feeling a bit like Dizzy is far more preferable to, say, Clover feeling like Gears of War.

    No matter how original a game is, it’s going to be attributed to another game, because that’s human nature and that’s how our mind works; this game is a little like that game, and that game. That’s how games journalists work, too, for anyone who’s ever read a gaming magazine, and even Wot I Thunks have worked that way. Regardless of how incredibly original something is, it’ll get attributed to something else, new or old.

    So there’s a choice: Be similar to the mainstream, where almost every damn game is a copy these days, or share verisimilitude with a title of the past, a past that might be forgotten for gamers too young to remember it (thus giving them a completely new experience, at least). So which is better? A game that shares similarities with games that haven’t been out for a while, or just another brown shooter in a market flooded with brown shooters?

    To wrap this up: I think that DMC is being hypocritical in enthusing Rohrer in that way, because whilst Rohrer’s games are creative, they’re not completely original either, nothing is. I can attribute Sleep is Death to:

    - Graphical chatrooms.
    - IRC-based pen & paper runs.
    - Actual pen & paper runs.
    - MUDs.
    - Neverwinter Nights

    It’s just an evolution of that sort of idea.

    And if you look at Passage, you could basically consider it to be an incredibly streamlined version of the original Fable, where regardless of what happens, you continue to get older and you watch your character reach a peak of physical excellence, with great looks, only to drop from that pedestal, and it’s also possible that one’s chosen wife can die before the player, too.

    And then there’s that flash game that asks you questions throughout the lifespan of a person, and plays out an entire lifespan, I forget what the name of that was [but I just remembered, it was called Alter-Ego: Male/Female, and it was originally out for DOS but I played an online version of it, probably in java rather than flash], but that was very reminiscent of the idea of Passage before Passage even existed.

    So what DMC’s written looks clever, but the thing is… it really isn’t. Complete originality is totally impossible for the human mind, we shouldn’t aspire for that because it’ll break us. What we should try to be is as creative as we can within our own limitations, and with each game we make we should try to be jjust a little more clever than the last. Expectations greater than that will break people, and have broken creative people in the past.

    Frankly, I’m happy with what I get in the indie scene, because whilst it’s possible to make connections to thinks that exist, I cannot make connections with everything that’s out right now, like I can with the mainstream. I cannot point at Avernum, or Clover, and say that this is like such and such a mainstream game. But I can point at Dante’s Inferno and make sarcastic Yahtzee-ish comments.

    So in my opinion, opting for a genre that isn’t flooded (and this’ll usually result in something a bit retro, but modernised with new ideas) over one that is is the wisest choice, I’d say.

    So yes, wrapping up, I just feel DMC is trying to be clever but he’s placing impossible expectations on people. Encourage them to be as original as they can, but don’t expect total originality, no such thing exists within the entirety of our culture, I haven’t seen anything that I thought was completely original in years. Why? I was a pre-teen at the time, and back then everything was new. The only way that DMC can get what he wants is by erasing the contents of his own brain.

    (Edited because I’m being terrible with names, today.)

    • invisiblejesus says:

      Dude, I think you’re reading something into DMC’s article that isn’t there. He never said developers have to completely blow the minds of gamers with something that bears no resemblance whatsoever to anything ever created in human history. He said developers should stop over-relying on Mario and other classic game types. The fact that you had to go so far as to use PnP gaming and computerized simulations of PnP gaming to refute him strengthens his point, I think.

    • bhlaab says:

      Honestly, if I never saw another indie game about Manipulating Physics I would be a happy man.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I’m with IJ here; you seem to be looking at DMC’s assertion and reading “create something that nobody has seen before” whereas my interpretation of the quoted passage was that the game mechanics should follow on logically from the meaning and intention behind the piece. Side-scrolling platforming is a genre so overdone as to be basically devoid of meaning, but if the purpose is to put the gamer in the position of a person who is in a race against time in a world of traps and enemies then the Mario model is there, and is effective at communicating that idea from a gameplay perspective.

      The core message here is that mechanics for the sake of mechanics are meaningless and arbitrary. And inspiration for new and interesting mechanics should come from what the game is about, not from any external source.

      This is not a new debate. All art and all literature for as long as artistic works have been analysed have had the same questions posed at them: is that brushstroke / scene / passage there because you liked the look or sound of it, or is there deeper meaning behind it? Gameplay is a relatively new element of design, but ultimately is still designed and therefore must have aesthetic merit. What that entails exactly is still being explored and DMC is clearly calling for action in this direction.

    • Muzman says:

      I’m always kinda impressed that twists on platformers have such cred. I know they’re practical to make in a lot of ways but when I see a 2d platformer or a side scrolling shooter I turn away. That stuff is done. Its popularity among indies is, for me, a lot like film students doing film noirs or early seventies verite knock offs: It’s simplicity and retro cool as much as anything else (or is it ironic nostalgia? I’m never quite sure), the past giving you permission to explore clunky, low gloss options. There’s probably even a similar age split that’s assisting it as well (albeit a much smaller gap than film); established critic types enjoying the stuff of their youth being appreciated and riffed upon, while the makers are having fun discovering stuff they barely remember (that is, if they designers aren’t actually in the former category as well and riffing on their own youth).

      It’s not a bad thing per se. A lot of this stuff is very clever and well made. But I think the guy would like to see a larger range of past styles riffed upon. It should be a phase rather than the definition of the scene, as it has been the last couple of years (which doesn’t mean that it isn’t a phase). And a lot of what I say is because the cultural touchstone of Super Mario Bros (seemingly a couple of generations’ moon landing equivalent) is largely meaningless to me. Roll on endless twists on Doom (again). Hell if there were thousands of riffs on Elite I probably wouldn’t be saying this. But there aren’t.

    • DMcCool says:

      The various peoples that have replie to Wulf have got it pretty much right – I’m wasn’t so much pleading for total originality just pointing out that the actual avant garde itself in gaming tends to counter-balance its orignality with these familar gaming tropes. As I point out in the article, this is fine, but considering this is the avant garde we are talking about its worth celebrating the games that we can’t understand in the terms of mainstream tropes. How often that is actually possible I don’t think any of us know. Since I wrote the article both Rohrer AND Blow have announced new games and you’re right to point out that at least in what we know so far, Rohrer’s idea is more of an original take on old concepts. Personally I think thats great -and I look foward to see if it works (hasn’t ever really been tried in computer games as far as I know). Dynamic PnP DM style storytelling is hardly a computer gaming trope is it?
      I picked Rohrer and Blow for the article because they don’t work as scapegoats/straw men. Yes what they do is great but can we go evenfuther? The point of the article is that I don’t think we know yet. Really there are lots of people making games right now and a lot of us are gravitating in this direction anyway.

  16. dhex says:

    the internet kinda killed off obscurity in the sense of “who the fuck is what now?” with games or music or whatever. minus this minor trend of cash only labels with no websites (an interesting way to fly under the radar of both crowds and goobermints), it’s pretty simple to find whatever you’re looking for, even if it’s only for context.

    wikipedia is *invaluable* for making sense of the entertainment worlds of others.

    but there are no doubt some folk, probably 97% of whom young men, who do feel they gain some kind of cultural weight and power from being well versed in stuff you’ve never heard of. they’re mistaken, and they’re dicks. but lots of people just like the music they like, and enjoy playing a bit of evangelist with it because it’s fun to say “hey, listen to this, for it is good.”

    speaking of which, the new autechre is very, very good.

    • TooNu says:

      THIS is exactly what I am thinking :) I wish I said it first.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      “but lots of people just like the music they like, and enjoy playing a bit of evangelist with it because it’s fun to say “hey, listen to this, for it is good.””

      Not only that, it’s a pretty awesome feeling when someone actually says “Hey… y’know, this is awesome. Thanks.” It doesn’t happen every time, but it feels pretty good to turn someone on to a song (or game, or book, or comic) that really affects them.

    • l1ddl3monkey says:

      @ dhex: this ^^

      And the new Autechre is very good.

  17. PC Monster says:

    Amiga SUX. Amiga owners were the Mac Users of the 80′s, constantly harping on about how superior their OS-on-a-disc systems were. For that reason and that reason alone I’m going to ignore Digital and spend time loving Steem instead.

    Rizzzzzzzzzzzzzzz.

    • Starky says:

      I realize that was most likely sarcasm, but I’m going to reply anyway.

      There is a important difference, the Amiga really was (for it’s window of time) the superior machine. Cheaper, more powerful, better designed, with a better OS with better games.

      If Commodore had turned the Amiga 500 into a games machine (remove keyboard keep all the rest, including the mouse) instead of trying to compete with IBM, they’d have destroyed the Nintendo in the western market.

      While, Mac users base their preference on an OS the majority of them don’t understand (it’s pretty and that is all that matters to them) and “style” – Amiga was always about functionality – it never had style.

      Which is why Mac is the poser cultural art students machine of choice, and the Amiga was the champion of the geeks and computer nerds.

    • Baboonanza says:

      True, the Amiga 500 was an absolutly awesome machine, and I say that as an Atari ST owner

      Not that I would have admitted it at the time :)

  18. Pundabaya says:

    That Sirlin fella is a bit of a knob-end, isn’t he?

    • invisiblejesus says:

      I think he makes some very good points, but his personality does detract from them a bit. I read the Playing To Win piece quite a while ago, and it’s been one of those articles that I really think a lot of people should read and think about, but I can’t help but be aggravated at how difficult Sirlin makes it to get normal people (i.e. not “pro gamers”) to read it past the first paragraph or so and take it seriously.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Let’s be fair. Sirlin isn’t writing for normal people.

      KG

    • invisiblejesus says:

      @KG: Then who is he writing for? Admittedly I haven’t read the full book, just the article online. It seems to me that pro gamers aren’t going to learn anything new there. Who’s he writing for? People who already agree with him? There are a few non-pro gamers I know who could learn a thing or two from Sirlin, but he cops such an attitude that they’re turned off. Is there an audience out there of hardcore competitive gamers who actually don’t already understand what Sirlin has to say? He seems to be aiming for whiny casual players, yet that’s the exact audience least likely to wade through his bullshit to get to the real meat of his argument.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      invisiblejesus: He’s writing for people who want to win.

      KG

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ invisiblejesus
      @ pandabaya

      Re: Sirlin

      I quite like it! What’s the trouble exactly? How is he being a nob-end?

      Philosophically he seems to be offering a pragmatic approach to video gaming / gaming / (and to the extent he offers it) life:

      “Everyone “could be” the best player if only they practiced more, if only they had the chance to play more, if only this or that. But none of that really matters when the gold medal is handed out. The gold medal goes to the person who gets the job done… The daydreams of a better life are not as valuable as getting out there and effecting real change in your life, and getting results.”

      That’s something you’d want your kids to hear, no?

      Plus, understanding how a scrub works is invaluable to self-understanding and self-development. Stop whining / find a counter / get the job done / give credit where it’s due. Lovely stuff.

  19. Tom O'Bedlam says:

    Does anyone else get a Psychonauts vibe from the salsa video?

  20. geldonyetich says:

    Re: Making Games Is Easy article.

    Gaming (particularly PC gaming) has a bit of trouble right now in that it used to be a craft that nerds could enjoy but then it went mainstream. Now, there’s so much derivative, shallow crap on the market that the nerds are perpetually tripping over flagrant wastes of time intended for other audiences.

    So, given that big name developers feel inclined to fetch the larger niche of newbie gamers (perhaps to support those gigantic development costs) some of us nerds are getting desperate enough to try our hand at creating our own. And yes, making games is “ludicrously hard,” especially when you’ve set your bar at advancing the state of the nerd craft and now just slamming out a clone.

    • Thants says:

      Derivative, shallow crap is nothing new. The video game crash in the eighties happened for a reason.

    • geldonyetich says:

      Derivative, shallow crap is nothing new. The video game crash in the eighties happened for a reason.

      While it may not be “new,” I’d at least posit that gaming was much more of a niche audience back then, and the prevalence has increased substantially in these times.

  21. Tom O'Bedlam says:

    Re: autotune

    Magnificent article, very interesting points raised and some lovely new musics for my sunday. Worth fighting through the article just for the first comment.

    • Starky says:

      Personally I thought it was rubbish, well written, but rubbish.

      It was clearly just an excuse for one man to write about his favourite genre of music while dismissing everything else – how can anyone take the opinion of a man who says that autotune use in Jamaican music is perfect and right, but wrong for everyone else?

      I appreciate his passion for dancehall, but it’s no more advanced musically, lyrically, tonally, or any other “ally” you’d care to mention than other genre’s of music.

      As a guy who’s helped engineer more than one album (about 50 songs or so) autotune is a tool, nothing more – sometimes necessary, sometimes for flavour – sometimes for good use.

      Here’s a stumper that many people who’ve never sat down in a studio and listened to raw vocals through some high quality monitors might never understand – sometimes a vocal sounds better autotuned than it does sang in key.
      I remember once case where I asked a vocalist to sing a note purposely a semitone lower, so I could tune it up, because it sounded better than her hitting it naturally (which she could with ease).

      It’s just one of those oddities of recording sound. It might have simply been down to the kind of mic used (AKG i forget the model), the shape of the booth and the frequency of that particular note, or any one of 1000 reasons.

  22. ascagnel says:

    RE: And there was salsa.

    As a website I visit, that ad is amazing. As a normal ad, HELL NO. Ad flyouts that cover the content I came to visit your site for is a Very Bad Thing (TM). Woe to the webmaster who uses this.

  23. robrob says:

    Wow, Digital was amazing. Thanks for linking to it.

  24. Abs says:

    Digital is quite a nice little game, which I thought i’d give it a try for five minutes before I head to sleep to staying up till 2am to see its grand conclusion.
    It also has splendid music!

    • Tom Camfield says:

      @ Abs

      3am for me, but that’s not unusual. Hearing that dial tone again was like music. It’s incredible the kind of memories that stirred. Not too impressed with the story, it seemed to become exposition heavy towards the end, but good stuff nonetheless; it’s great to play interactive fiction that doesn’t require a bizarre range of verbs / feats of illogic to get through. More IF please.

  25. Malleus says:

    The settlers box art comparison is either very funny or very disturbing I don’t know. But I have another example for that.

    There was once a Konami game about the SAS released in the EU (and in japan I guess) under the name of The Regiment. This was the boxart:
    http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/6088/4xy58xe.jpg
    This is quite generic, but the uniform and equipment on the box is very similar to what SAS troops ogten really use(d), and is the same in the game itself. Also, the title “The Regiment” is essentially a nickname for the SAS.

    Now the american release. First they renamed the game to “Terror Strike: Close Quarters Combat”. Seriously, I’m not sure I could think up a more generic title. But the real low blow is the cover art:
    http://img708.imageshack.us/img708/2305/94141391393front.jpg
    No comment.

    • Heliocentric says:

      The settlers british box art is right for me. And i’m a brit… So maybe ubisoft is right on this one. Anyone think the settlers american art looks like empire earth 3′s box(the british version at least)?

    • Vinraith says:

      @Heliocentric

      See, by US standards that UK box art makes it look like a children’s game. If I didn’t know what Settlers was and I passed that in the store I would simply assume it was for kids. Not to say that the US version isn’t way over the top, but clearly the cultural divide is such that using the same art would be a bad idea.

    • Vandelay says:

      I’m a Brit and I agree with Vinraith; the box for the UK version looks like a kids game, if I knew nothing about Settlers. The series is pretty well known now though and I would imagine anyone interested in the game would recognise that the art is trying to capture the whimsical style of the games. Probably a bad assumption for the people designing the box to make, but I expect it would be a valid one.

      The main problem with the US one is that it is completely generic and doesn’t convey the game at all. It screams as a desperate ploy to attract teenage kids looking for “WAR!!!!”, who probably wouldn’t like the game anyway.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Vandelay

      Yup. The UK version looks like a children’s game (by US standards, anyway), the US version looks like some kind of bloodbath action game for teenagers. Neither one really conveys an accurate notion of a Settlers game.

      Of course ,with Ubi’s DRM, the only accurate cover image to convey the contents of the box would be a giant middle finger.

    • Taillefer says:

      Hmm. I don’t think the UK box looks like a children’s game. It has a very Euro-centric, retro feel. And you’d have to be an older gamer to recognise that. The US box looks like it’s aimed at teenagers and advertising a browser game. But I’m not in the US.

  26. Christine says:

    The number after 9 is 0. It’s a little cheatsy, granted.

  27. Tei says:

    Re: salsa

    What the.. I don’t even..

  28. Taillefer says:

    Digital was wonderful.

    A Salsa type ad may now never be used again for anything else. Which is a shame.

  29. Thants says:

    Only the Auto-Tune the News guys should use autotune.

  30. Gregg B says:

    I knew I recognised her face from somewhere. Milla Vodello.

  31. CMaster says:

    Any suggestions of where to go when stuck on Digital? Get rather sick of ploughing through codez but nothing new getting posted anywhere here.

    • Indagator says:

      When in doubt, you can employ a brute force technique and reply to every article you can. I was stuck at what I presume to be a similar stage to where you are now, and as far as I can tell what did the trick was replying to someone I’d received several messages from, then PM another character. Apparently I had to have that extra message, because I’d PM’d the character in question several times to no avail, even though the message I received didn’t add anything to the mystery.

      Also, there are some hints scattered in the thread here: http://lemmasoft.renai.us/forums/viewtopic.php?f=11&t=6729

    • CMaster says:

      I thought I had brute-forced it. Turned out that the one thread I hadn’t replied to in the whole game was the one I needed.

  32. Down Rodeo says:

    Wow, Digital is very lovely. As in, it is now close to after three and I have a lecture in six hours… I hope you’re happy, Christine. Though you should be, it’s a great wee game. Minor panics when I thought I was running out of c0dez and passwords but all was well in the end. Great music choices as well! I forgot how much I can enjoy listening to 8-bit. I’d probably like to say more about this but then I should probably wait for Kieron’s other post he’s promised. This is the kind of thing I’d show to others, then wait as they strive to complete it themselves, as it is quite gripping.

  33. MrBRAD! says:

    After an ultra-branch-off from one of these links I came across “12 Most Conroversial Video Games.” Ironically, an Evony ad was in the middle of the list. ( http://oddee.com/item_96977.aspx )

  34. Lambchops says:

    @ Starky

    I’m with you that it would be nice to see more extra bonus content on physical releases (even if I’m never going to use it I ccan definitely see the added value for others).

    For example the latest Hayseed Dixie album came as a CD/DVD release. The CD has the album and the DVD has 6 music videos, instrument instruction videos (haven’t watched them but knowing the style of the band these are more likely to be lighthearted silliness than actual instruction) and multitrack WAV files for every song.

    Like I said, not things I’m likely to use but pretty neat all the same – and a good example of what can be done.

  35. MinisterofDOOM says:

    I just finished Digital (got on sunday yesterday and gave up for a bit). Really great game on multiple levels. It took me back to the days when my bedroom was cluttered with old computers and I’d string multiple phone lines across the house to reach my bedroom so I could use my modem. The story was genuinely good.
    Digital also serves as an interesting example of how games can make the player feel like they’re achieving something by their own efforts when they’re really just following a linear path. It’s a great implementation, and it manages to tell a specific story while still allowing the player to feel involved.

    • MinisterofDOOM says:

      Blast, should have logged in. Meant to say I got stuck on sunday.
      Also, I should add that I find the game’s portrayal of AIs as other lifeforms who are NOT trying to nuke the human race into oblivion very refreshing.

    • MinisterofDOOM says:

      Man, I’m just screwing up left and right tonight. Should have thought that last post through more. Sincere apologies to all for the spoiler.

  36. nate says:

    You know what? This, this salsa commercial, is why advertising is awesome. This is why it’s a beautiful world we live in. This is why it’s awesome that “Bad Romance” is full of product placement.

    Can you believe that we, in these industrialized nations, have so much time to spare that we can devote thousands of hours to a throw-away ad for salsa? This is where beauty comes from. Hell, this is a site about video games. You should already realize that absurd, meaningless color, commercially motivated or not, is one of the crowning achievements of our species.

    Don’t worry, the fact that it comes from advertising doesn’t make it any less beautiful. It doesn’t make it mean any less, because it never meant anything anyways. Sometimes, I have this great hope for the future that’s engendered by simple things like this. We may destroy ourselves. We may, probably will, continue to be cruel and to suffer and to grow old and die. But we will do so with beauty, with a hue pregnant not with meaning, nor with mockery of meaning, but with the irrelevance of meaning. Sometimes, I allow myself to believe that we are approaching a new enlightenment.