The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on March 21st, 2010 at 9:24 am.

Sundays are for getting up early so you can go and visit a friend in Brighton, which means getting up even earlier to make sure you can compile a list of the fine (mostly) games related reading which caught your eye across the week, while trying to resist linking to a POP!!!! song.

  • Soren Johnson does an overview of the whole Social Warfare over Social Gaming situation, and adds a little of his own editorial spin and contextualisation. If you want something that looks a little further than flag-waving, this is it.
  • Laura Michet writes about Sim Ant, having almost played it as a kid. Nice thinking. If I look at my own history, The Ones Which Got Away are some of the fun ones. Why did I never really persevere with Lord of Midnight, eh?
  • Brian Fargo talks about Hunted over at PCG’s blog.
  • Comment Threader Larington’s dissertation The Challenge of Puzzle Solving in Games is lobbed online. Yay him.
  • On a similar note, Brendan points be at Gamespite’s Difficulty Of Difficulty article. Mostly fair stuff, but I wonder about Strategy AI. The problem strikes me – in a real time game – less creating AI which can compete with a human, and more AI that can compete with a human while still acting like a human.
  • Igor Hardy writes about What Is An Adventure Game? Reductionist, but fun with it. I’d like to know what Walker’s take is on it, but this kind of thing isn’t exactly his style.
  • Brian Hertler wonders why Pong is still fun. THE IMAGINARY OTHER IN GAMES!!?!?! That’s not something he writes, but something which has come to me in my caffeine depleted state.
  • Mihai Do points me at this piece, on School, Social Networking and Games.
  • Amanita Design (Samarost, Machinarium) is working on a puppet film. Trailer.
  • Joel Johnson raids eternity.
  • Over at Freaky Trigger, Kat Steven writes about female image in pop in Gag Fug Yourself. I partially add this here for my own future reference.
  • Steve Bisette’s series on the late-70s/early-80s culture wars in comics is brilliant. Start in Part 4, if you want to dive to the fireworks and knife-fights. I often apply the lessons of this period back to games. They only win if we surrender.
  • ATTTAAAARRRRRIIIIIII!!!!! TEEENNNNNAGGGGEEEEEEE!!!!! RIOT!!!!!!!!!! Looks like I’m going to miss the gig in London, but I can still FIGHT THE SYSTEM with new track Activate! Seems they’re picking up with the poppier direction where they left of. When I say that, you must remember, all things are relative.

I AM FIGHTING THE SYSTEM!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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123 Comments »

  1. Psychopomp says:

    I’m going to take issue with the DMC 3 part of the difficulty, namely this part: “This had the net effect of ensuring that all but the most talented players had to horde healing and checkpoint items like they were preparing for the Y2K bug, leaving precious few points for things like upgrading weapons and styles. You know, the things that were necessary for killing the enemies. ”

    Apparently, it never occurred to him stop buying expendables, and start upgrading his character. There’s a reason many DMC players won’t give expendable items, bar (the now defunct) yellow orbs, the time of day.

    In addition, his general point seems to be that cheating A.I., and random death traps are bad. Yes, they are. So why are games like DMC 3 and Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins getting the stick here? Oh, the checkpoint systems?
    I’ll give him that Ghosts ‘n’ Goblins could stand to be a little more forgiving with it’s checkpoints, if only because of a finite number of lives, but it and its ilk are nothing if not fair. If you die, it’s your fault, not the games. A lot of this comes off as the rambling of a power ga-”To borrow a line from an old commercial, players don’t mind a bit of a challenge, but they wanna be playing with power. Designers, it’s up to you to give it to them. ”

    Oh.

    • Dominic White says:

      Bayonetta perfected the item system which DMC began. It hands out healing and powerup items like candy (which they literally are, as they appear in the form of lollipops), but using them gives you a penalty to your final score at the end of the level. It’s very cleverly balanced to make sure that a novice player will always be able to complete the game, even if they have to chew through tons of healing, but an expert player will have the challenge of completing each fight using only their skill and wits if they want anything above an ego-crushing bronze trophy at the end of the stage.

    • Grunt says:

      Psychopomp said “his general point seems to be that cheating A.I., and random death traps are bad”

      No, his general point, the reason for the article, is discussion about how difficult it is to get difficulty levels right in games so he was entirely right to use the example he did. Removing checkpoints in DMC3 asked the player to complete entire levels, including boss battles, in one sitting, meaning it was unfairly difficult for players to make progress. How about if GTA asked you to save several of its missions in a row without being able to save between times? Or if Medal of Honour’s famous Normandy Landing level robbed you of quick-save? Would you still be claiming failure to get through them was the player’s fault? Games that tested human beings to their limits used to dominate at the dawn of gaming but are a niche in modern times, mostly because games are now generally designed to offer fun and entertainment as their primary incentives.

      And dude, Ghost’s n Goblins has long been recognised as one of the most challenging games out there. Split-second timing and reflexes are required with a slow, low-agility character. It doesn’t take much to see when a design is unfavourably stacked against a player (In this case to fuel coin-op cabinets through ‘one more go’ frustration).

    • Dominic White says:

      It should be noticed that the brutal checkpoint system in DMC3 was only in the original US/EU release of the game. The re-release later down the line actually restored things to how it was in the original Japanese release, which was lot more fair.

      There seems to be this bizarre double-meme going on that western gamers think japanese gamers are more hardcore, but japanese gamers think the same of the west. Everyone loses, because there’s no communication.

      Again, Bayonetta gets it dead-on right. You can continue pretty much exactly where you fell at any point, and it’ll restore you to full health, too. It’ll cost you, though, and your score will take a pretty major hit. YUou can still complete the game and see everything, but you won’t be riding high on the leaderboards or such. If you want to show off, you’ve got to beat an entire level in one run, without taking hits, with the longest possible combos (no cheesing through fights with exceptionally powerful attacks), without healing or otherwise making anything easy for yourself.

      I really cannot think of a game that does difficulty better. It’s accessible for all skill levels, and challenging for the very best at the same time.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Equally, I totally beat the last level of Brood War.

    • Psychopomp says:

      I’ll agree with Dominic that Bayonetta’s system, (which is actually close to what DMC4 used. DMC4 penalized you hard for continues, but item use only deprived you of an end stage bonus to your rating) was night perfect, but I feel I must point out that DMC 3 did have checkpoints. You had to buy your lives, the aforementioned yellow orbs, which were very cheap, and keeping five or so with you at all times left plenty of red orbs for buying upgrades. Bayonetta and DMC 4 just gave you infinite lives.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Dominic

      The problem with a system like that (basing this on your explanation, I’ve not played Bayonetta and am unlikely to do so) is that some of us don’t much care about high scores and leaderboards, but do enjoy a challenge. That is, in the absence of any kind of interesting incentive to playing the game in a more challenging way, the net effect is to simply conclude that it’s too easy since I can see everything I want to see and do everything I want to do by brute force.

      Personally, I prefer a more traditional difficulty settings solution to game tourists. If you want to see everything in a game and don’t want to work for it, there should be a mode for you. Then the game can be balanced to be an interesting challenge for the rest of us without having to resort to scoring and other cheap (to me) fixes.

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s a reason why the game has gotten near-perfect scores across the board. There’s a whole bunch of difficulty settings which change the gameplay pretty radically, and the highest level is brutally hard for even good players, but the scoring system is why it works so well. You’re given continues and healing items to get you through first time, but the game will let you know in no uncertain terms that you’re doing it amateurishly.

      When you’re playing well, you REALLY know you’re doing well, because gameplay becomes one unbroken stream of badassery. A new player trades blows with the enemies. A good player dances around them without ever taking so much as a scratch.

      You really have to play it to appreciate how well it’s designed. It’s not something you just play through once. The game constantly encourages you to improve on your performances.

    • Dominic White says:

      Seriously, the strategy guide for the game (and keep in mind this is a pure arcade brawler) is a 400-page hardback, of which only 40 pages are the walkthrough.

    • Dominic White says:

      And going for the hat-trick, the strategy guide even has its own trailer. Check it:
      http://www.eurogamer.fr/videos/bayonetta-game-guide-strategy-video?size=hd

    • Vinraith says:

      @Dominic

      Fair enough. Like I said, I haven’t played it, so can only comment on the specific challenge/incentive thing you mentioned in your post conceptually.

  2. robrob says:

    The Amanita film looks lovely. No idea what they are saying but I think I could happily watch the film without subtitles.

    • Zaphid says:

      It’s dubbed in czech, but I suppose there will be english dubbing/subtitles eventually. Guessing from the names of people dubbing the characters, it’s quite high profile, at least here. It’s about a toy found by a boy, and the toy is supposed to be telling it’s story. Looking forward to it, it should be out on 20.5.

    • robrob says:

      Awesome, thanks Zaphid. Here’s hoping for a UK release.

    • qrter says:

      This is what it says on Amanita’s blog:

      KOOKY´S RETURN (Kuky se vrací) is a combined puppet and live action feature based on a 
child’s fantasy. A seven year old boy whose teddy bear Kooky has been 
thrown away wonders what his toy is up to in the big world out there, imagining 
Kooky as he tries to find his way back home.
 The film was written and directed by Czech Oskar winning director Jan Svěrák and production design was created by Jakub Dvorský (Amanita Design). The release will be on May 20, 2010 in Czech cinemas.

      People are asking about an English (voiced or subtitled) release in the comments, no reply yet.

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      Wow, that trailer is all kinds of awesome. I’m assuming from the lack of an English language web site or IMDb entry that it doesn’t have an international distributor yet. So, I’m starting a campaign to bring it to the Bradford Animation Festival in November (they had a presentation of Machinarium last year). Blogged. Tweeted. There are contact addresses on the About Us page of the BAF web site if you’d be able to make the festival and would like to join me in requesting it. :-)

    • medwards says:

      OMG IT LOOKS SO AWESOME. I can’t wait for the 20th of Kvetna!

  3. SoyBob says:

    This discussion on “The Alan Titchmarsh Show” about Video Games is worth a watch if you want to fill daily quota of idiocy in roughly seven minutes. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ryH2WemACIM

    • robrob says:

      I thought Tim Ingham did a great job, came across as reasonable and eloquent. Obviously he wasn’t going to win any fans with the Daily Mail audience but the purpose of the segment wasn’t to debate and inform but to reinforce a view and be as sanctimonious as possible. The fact that MW2 and their ilk are being rewarded in the BAFTAs certainly doesn’t help the debate but as Ingham points out there are numerous examples of games that don’t rely on violence. I think as games become more mainstream people will start looking beyond the blockbuster titles like MW2 and begin to appreciate the wide spectrum of games out there – games like Machinarium or Imagine: Unicorn Dentist.

    • Vandelay says:

      Unbelievable. The fact that the audience (or mob might be a better word) applaud the closed minded woman, whilst booing and laughing and Tim just make the whole thing completely unpleasant to watch and shows the mockery that whole “debate” was. At least the guy at the end seemed slightly more open to the idea of gaming, even if he had some understandable concerns.

      Congratulations to Tim for managing to keep his cool and sticking to his guns (bad turn of phrase?) throughout. I agreed with pretty much everything he said, as I’m sure anyone with any sense would.

    • Vague-rant says:

      Looks like Tim never stood a chance… He even seems like he’s laughing at the complete farce of a discussion at one stage. I liked the way he said “I know I’m the bad guy here” as if to say, I know I’m meant to be the straw man here but screw you.

      Also, whilst the man on the end was more open minded than that woman, his own point was a little silly. He seems to assume a slippery slope of violence, but a similar thing could be said about movies of the past. At least he admits his ignorance over the topic of games.

    • The Hammer says:

      Yep, I have to admit I was expecting a bit more sensationalism out of Kelvin “Gotcha” MacKenzie. That was a pleasant surprise in a mostly run-of-the-mill ignorfest.

    • Larington says:

      Just tried watching this, the level of misunderstanding and, dare I say it, stubborn refusal to see facts, made me feel ill. This is perhaps something I’ll have to watch whilst slightly drunk first.

    • Larington says:

      Alright, I got through it, was somewhat bemused by the question of where this is all going to go… We’ve had 20 years now, for which many of these years newspapers have been loudly proclaiming a wave of violence sparked by violent video games.

      And then I look at the violent crime statistic for the US of A, which demonstrates a huge decline in the amount of violent crimes being reported during this 20 year period, a 20 year period that includes so many ultra violent games.
      http://www.wired.com/gamelife/2008/04/gaming-real-vio/
      The evidence is there, shame those newspaper tabloids that just love making things up aren’t looking for the evidence or doing any real investigative journalism.

    • El Stevo says:

      I do think Tim was a little disingenuous when he said the thrill from violence in games was in the storytelling. To be fair, that may be true for him, but for me and I think a lot of other players of those type of games the thrill is in the violence itself. When I play Mount & Blade I play it because I can lance people in the face. The point is that nobody is hurt from that expression of violence, and there is no evidence that playing those kinds of games will make me more violent in the real world.

      I can see why he said it given the audience and the people he was debating against. It probably wasn’t the right forum for getting into the debate about ascribing moral value to things that are actually morally neutral.

  4. GGX_Justice says:

    Considering that DMC3′s mechanics actually discourage the player to use items (by penalizing your rank at the end of the level), I agree with Psychopomps take on this matter.

    After all, upgrading Dante to S++ ass-kicker Son of Sparda is where all the fun lies!

  5. Guy says:

    That was a dreadful song. I advise folks listen to this instead: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tx4cRw6TIIg

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Thanks – enjoyed that. Reminded me – in attitude – of some the 1920s Delta Blues stuff. This lady really ‘performs’ the guitar, rather than simply playing it.

  6. Taillefer says:

    Anybody like to share their extensive knowledge of puppet films? I have a thing for them, but either they’re pretty rare or my knowledge is severly lacking (or both). There are the obvious Jim Henson ones, but I imagine there must be a wealth of them existing as shorts rather than feature-length films (or lots in non-English) and so get no coverage.

    Please drop some names.
    This reminds me I need to get “Legend of the Sacred Stone”.

    Do many/any games use puppets? I know there are some using clay-mation. Puppets could be interesting. Hm.

    • Lorc says:

      The big one that springs to mind is Strings. Which is of and about puppets in an unusual way.

    • bonuswavepilot says:

      @Taillefer: yeah, Strings is yr best bet – as Lorc says it approaches the fact that it stars puppets in an unusual way. Other than that, there are the old Henson company classics like Dark Crystal and so forth (and the muppet movies I s’pose if you go in for the fuzzy style of puppets)… Being John Malkovitch has some puppetry sequences, but not the whole film (a puppeteer guy I did a workshop with tells me they used 3 puppets for the impressive dancing puppet sequence in that, but they were indeed proper puppets).
      If stop-motion stuff counts, then obviously you’ve got your Wallace & Gromit stuff and Nick Upton’s ‘Secret Adventures of Tom Thumb’ is pretty good, if rather dark. Plenty of short stuff around too, in the stop-motion mould, of which ‘Balance’ by the Lauenstein brothers is worth a go, just to pick one off the top of the old noggin.
      If you get a chance, (and its your type of thing) the Henson Company guys do an improv comedy stageshow ‘Puppet Up’ which I saw a couple of years back and was a crack-up if you’re into the muppet style ones. In terms of more serious stageshows, if you ever get a chance to see John Lambert’s stuff, he’s incredible. Should also put in a plug for ‘The Grimstones’ marionette stageshow, since one of my sister’s mates is touring it.

    • Igor Hardy says:

      You mean puppets controlled by puppeteers instead of animated ones? Films like Dark Crystal? I think that’s pretty rare in movies, although once popular in children TV shows.

      When it comes to games, here’s a title that visually reminds me of Kuky, although it seems to be done fully in stopmotion: http://www.nd.ru/mice/

    • Taillefer says:

      I forgot all about “Strings”, it was on my list of things to see, but that list is in my head and unreliable. For something similar to be used in a game could be an interesting mechanic. Everything that moves has strings, so you’d need to take them into consideration for moving about, and obviously they’d be your and others’ most vulnerable feature. And the most obvious boss fights: “You Have To Cut The Strings”.

      I actually saw “Balance” a few weeks ago, it was very clever. That too had me thinking of ways to use its ideas in a game. I should be a game designer, or something.

      Igor, ideally the former. But whatever’s done well.
      I suppose with games, your avatar, AIs, etc, are all essentially digital puppets already. But obviously I was thinking of something more distinctive like Igor’s link.

      Thanks for the replies.

    • jester says:

      @taillifer – the films and shorts of jan svankmajer have puppets and stop motion animation and are all nicely odd and creepy. his feature length “alice” is worth checking out.

      also for something equally odd and nsfw, watch “meet the feebles”, peter jacksons first film. muppets on acid with firearms and sex… very nice stuff.

    • Zaphid says:

      Team America,go watch it if you’ve never seen it.

    • SleepyMatt says:

      Perhaps not quite exactly what you are looking for, but “Being John Malkovich” has a strong puppetry theme and a couple of cool puppetry sequences, as well as being a damn fine film, although also a pretty wierd one!

  7. Flobulon says:

    FFFUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU——

  8. Grunt says:

    Loved the social gaming articles (went several links deep on them). Sadly, it seems that as ‘our medium matures’, that golden phrase of promise we like to bandy about in articles and editorials galore, it is bringing in the money men and the purely-for-profit motive. (Perhaps the moment when gaming started beating Hollywood profits was the clarion-call for these soulless monsters. It certainly feels as though gaming has been in a downward spiral ever since). Like anything in this backwards, money-obsessed sh1t-hole of a world we’ve created, as soon as ‘the suits’ arrive in a space you can cheerfully kiss goodbye to much of the fun, noble and creative elements that attracted you in the first place. We’ve seen it happen in every other sphere – films, television, sport (football, formula 1), retail (remember when shops used to offer more than just warehouses of low prices and corporate-robot service?) and now it’s happening to us. Oh, joyous day.

    When you get corporate sell-outs like Dave “How Far I Have Fallen” Perry telling us cheerfully that Enter the Matrix is still his favourite game (wikipedia has a comment that suggests the very existence of this bugged, rushed mess is one of the contributing factors to why Matrix Reloaded sucked, plot-wise) and earnestly suggesting that you should add extra clicks to games so that you can offer players a way to PURCHASE play-mechanics with less clicks, you know it’s time to find some blindfolds, cigarettes and walls and start lining people up against them.

  9. JuJuCam says:

    Actually Michet almost played Kings Quest, but was disallowed because she expected the gameplay to be more like Sim Ant. It’s a good point though, although notably it’s true for most media. A friend of my sisters didn’t see Avatar till a few weeks ago – long after the hype bus left town – and just didn’t see what the fuss was about. Some of the great fantasy novels of the 80′s seem derivative and generic now because they were the ones that set those tropes in stone for later generations of fantasy authors to mimic. Also because they were themselves imitating Tolkien with varying degrees of success.

    Gaming has an amplified effect because of the level of skill required for most varieties of games, and the rapidity of technological change. I never got into Quake or CS or any other competitive multiplayer FPS back in the day and now I feel the barrier for entry is way beyond my meagre skill for modern games like Bad Company 2.

  10. invisiblejesus says:

    ATARI TEENAGE RIOT STILL EXISTS? YES!

  11. Stompywitch says:

    Seemed like a mix of the regular ATR shouty bits, but I could see it being better live or in a club.

    But other than Intelligence and Sacrifice (CD1), which was great, I’ve preferred Hanin’s solo stuff after they split.

  12. Oozo says:

    Ah, just went to Prague a few weeks ago, mostly for my love of Czech Puppet Animation.
    Which is worth pointing out here, seen that Amanita Design’s movie and games obviously own a lot to the tradition it has in their country of origin.
    So, it’s almost normal to start by checking out Jiri Trnka’s movies (he was labelled the Czech Walt Disney, not so much because they had a lot in common, aesthetics-wise, but more because he was as influential and adored in his specific chosen sector of movies). They are a bit hard to find on DVD, though… there are other “classic” puppet animators, like Bretislav Pojar, but again, not easy to find his movies.
    I would stronlgy recommend to check out the “darker” movies of the later generation – Jan Svankmajer’s movies come to mind first and foremost. Most famous is his take on “Alice” (in Wonderland), but his shorts are also pretty mesmerizing. (And you should definitely also give the Brothers Quay a look, they0re American, but admit all too frankly that Svankmajer et al. had a hughe influence on them.)
    Another great animator of late is Jiri Barta, who also follows his ancestors into the darker realms of puppet animation. I also love Pjotr Sapegin’s shorts, especially “Aria” (which you will find on youtube, it’s magnificent).
    And if you want to travel a little further, you might also find Kihachiro Kawamoto’s puppet movies interesting, even though it’s obviously Japanese and thus a pretty different aesthetic.
    And then there’s “We Are The Strange”, which is a beast all of its own – but since this is RPS, I am obliged to mention it: It’s made by a guy who unashamedly expresses his love for anime, stop-mo animation and 8-Bit games in a often sloppy, but undeniably fascinating way. You can watch the whole movie on youtube, even though I don’t regret having bought the DVD, either…
    You also have Henry Selick’s movies, of course (“Nightmare Before Christmas”, “Coraline”, “James And The Giant Peach”), which are all highly worth watching, too, even though they are less creepy… and Henson, but that was already mentioned.

    • Xercies says:

      Yeah we watched The Hand in uni lecture by Jiri Trinka and that was really quite disturbing, fantastic though i would say. I should really look into the more european animations because they seem to be pretty interesting and quite strange. That’s my cup of tea more then most of the West animation, not that there bad per se but i think the European style would be more my style.

    • Taillefer says:

      Ooo, lots of info to go on.

      I’m familiar with a few of those names. I have Svankmajer’s Alice and I’ve seen some shorts he’s done. And I’ve been trying to get hold of some Jiri Trnka. Haven’t even heard of some of the other names, though. I’ll be looking them up. Thankee.

      I remember “We Are The Strange”. Describing scenes as they happened, to people over chat, was fun. Some of the sounds were from “Sinistar”: “Beware, I live”, “run, coward!”. It was…interesting.

      All this has reminded me of a series I watched when I was younger called “Dick Spanner” (that name seemed to lack innuendo at the time). It was amazing. It was like a deadpan, film noir about a robot PI. I recall the music perfectly. Now I must hunt it down.

      But, thanks again for the information to go on.

    • Wulf says:

      @Oozo

      That was a thoroughly informative post, and very interesting to read, I do thank you for sharing as such things are rare. I have to admit that I’m intrigued, as I have experienced the delight that is Coraline and I am eager for more of that, you’ve given me places to start looking. I’m probably going to try and track down some of the shorts first, as short films involving any sort of animation I usually find enrapturing, so I figure that’s a good place to start!

      Once again, thank you for sharing.

    • Wulf says:

      Hm, browsing around I’ve actually seen a bit more than I thought I had. Yay, memories! I tend to forget a few years and so ago easily in some cases, long-term memory inadequacies and whatnot, but this has all jogged it.

      Once again, I thank you! The RPS comments section needs more of this.

  13. Oozo says:

    Sorry, that post was obviously meant as a reply @Taillefer…

  14. EyeMessiah says:

    Soren’s overview and wee bit of commentary were interesting but tbh I find the whole debate a bit overblown, unselfconsciously pompous and needlessly apocalyptic.

    “Traditional” game developers still only cater to the sensibilities of (growing) minority and for some of those people who don’t play “traditional” games stuff like Farmville is a better fit.

    I honestly believe that some people would simply prefer to play Farmville than ME2 or DA:O or Longest Journey or whatever.

    I don’t think its exploitation to give people what they want – even if what they want is incomprehensible, or even seeming reprehensible to the “core gamer”.

    People spend incredible amounts of money on all sorts of things that seem completely worthless to me and sure I could make an argument about how the skill of the advertisers “artificially” manufactured the want that drives these purchases, and how the vendors are exploiting people’s subconscious need to be seen to be doing this or that, but as someone who played WoW for a fair while and enjoyed it some of the time I’d really just be exhibiting a special sort of snobby hypocrisy.

    • Wulf says:

      I think I can understand too, if not completely. After all, I’m the sort of person who can blow a good number of hours in either of Minecraft’s modes (Creative or the /indev/ Survival). Because I often find that there are better things I can be doing in a game than killing stuff, and most core gaming aspects seem to solidify around the concept of killing stuff, sadly.

      I can relate to Minecraft more than something like Farmville though simply because of the end result. In Survival mode I’ll quickly end up with a massive fortress, and in Creative I’ll put together the maddest of things (I was particularly proud of my rather huge Wolf monument), and I’ll feel some kind of reward from that. Like a sort of gaming Ozymandias; look upon my works, ye mighty, and tremble.

      But because of games like Minecraft, I can certainly understand the appeal, and in Minecraft it’s especially fun to get involved with people too. I mean, half the time when you join a Minecraft server you’ll end up in a prison, but there were one or two where I didn’t, and managed to quickly earn the trust of the administrative folk (because in Minecraft especially I tend to be especially nice and helpful, it’s just the jovial and carefree atmosphere of it all) and helped them with cooperatively building things.

      A lot more communication tends to go on then, too, as people are trying experimental things, taking the odd break just to kick back and talk, it has such a totally different atmosphere to an MMORPG where people are running around and killing/collecting 10 of this or that to get their character up another meaningless level, and therefore don’t care to talk much at all. That’s why I understand Farmville, it’s a little too social and not enough game for me, so it’s not for me, but I can very easily understand the appeal.

    • JuJuCam says:

      To be honest I’d have been happier with a link to page 1 of the Bissette series… I have jumping into things half way.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      @EyeMessiah: It’s kind of refreshing to hear that from someone else. A lot of internet people talk about the magical mind control powers of advertising and marketing and so on, and the willingness of some folks to just accept that perspective without even critically examining it is scarier to me than some kind of subliminal brainwashing. People pay for what they want. Sometimes they want things that some of us think are shit. There’s really nothing wrong with that, and there’s not necessarily some magic reason for it beyond simple difference of opinion.

    • Severian says:

      @ EyeMessiah

      I also agree with some of your thoughts (people have free will, etc., etc.) but I think what concerns gamers and designers is that if the casual/social gaming model becomes dominant in the industry, will there be enough money for/development of BIG expensive games (like our beloved Mass Effects and Dragon Ages)? I mean, what if all the young Brian Reynolds out there go off and start making shite “free”-to-play games instead of Civ II? I don’t want my kids growing up in a world where their gaming experience is limited to FarmVille 4 and Minecraft 12.

  15. Helm says:

    From the pop fashion conundrum articles, this line struck me

    “f you’re not so perfect-looking then you are accused of secretly possessing a penis.”

    as especially psychologically telling.

  16. Xercies says:

    I thought the school and social networking piece was quite interesting and i could see it works. Though i wouldn’t say that its completly true. Since people in college and uni have no problem with learning stuff and assignments(which is basically homework) its just a lot of people are forced into school that wouldn’t normally go there and they have to rub shoulders with the people who do want to be there and thats not a nice rub.

    I think when you get to you being there by choice the people around you get more decent and you want to work more and you want to work with them more. i hated group design in secondary school but I’m loving it in uni.

    Also the article gets a bit to dangerously close to that horrible future.

  17. Winterborn says:

    DESTROY 2000 YEARS OF CULTURE!

    Ahem.

  18. bill says:

    Succeeded?

  19. Dinger says:

    Yes, EyeMessiah, that’s it, sorta. WoW is also a major player on this Skinnerian mechanic. For that matter, so is McDonalds. So are the tobacco companies.

    It’s a huge problem, especially if you want your field to have any legitimacy. Do games contribute anything aesthetically or materially to society if they’re reduced to purely the elements that create and enable addiction and addicted communities for the sole purpose of making money for their makers?

    Put in those terms, the industry exists on a moral plane somewhere between drug dealers and religious cults. And that’s why game designers who advocate a method that focuses purely on what keeps people addicted and paying their bills makes people nervous. For pharmaceutical companies would never capitalize on addiction, although they prefer to conduct research on drugs to treat the chronic illnesses of rich people than to find cures for diseases; and just because only large pharmas can produce pseudoephedrine hydrochloride, and an astonishing percentage of the quantity produced ends up providing 100% of our Crystal Meth supply, that’s no reason to slightly limit the access of people with colds to the drugs. And organized religions would never prey on the needs of community of its members.
    So respectable game developers would never stoop to the dirty tricks of the Farmville crowd.

    Oh, and I’m still waiting for my feelies.

    • Helm says:

      Dinger, excellent post. Thanks.

    • EyeMessiah says:

      @Dinger

      “Do games contribute anything aesthetically or materially to society if they’re reduced to purely the elements that create and enable addiction and addicted communities for the sole purpose of making money for their makers?”

      If people are finding it involving enough to want to keep doing it, and were not talking about anything as pathological as crack cocaine then I don’t care tbh – the addictiveness of Farmville is a very different thing to the addictiveness of crack.

      So far FB-games are just yet another example of an apparently very compelling hobby that I find completely incomprehensible. I’d rather that Farmville players didn’t begrudge me my Dwarf Fortress and so I’ll not begrudge them their Farmville. I believe that Farmville does not represent a threat to normal people, despite Zyngas claim that they are going to utilise the dark arts of BEHAVIOURAL PSYCHOLOGY to make us give them money.

      And in any case your question, though its central to the debate, is wilfully hyperbolic. Of course it all seems wonderfully scandalous if you take it to absurd extremes. Zynga’s exaggerated cynicism a mere posture – at the end of the day they are still making games more or less as we know them, and a fair proportion of the design decisions they are making are based on “artistic” intuitions about what would be fun, or what would be cool or whatever. As far as I can see they are no where near some kind of postivistic, formalistic game design method – regardless of all their bluster.

      The problem is that the games they are making violate a lot of criteria that the establishment have already decide constitute “good” game design AND they have successfully monetised their bad games, and they are being a bit brash about it.

      I predict that within two years they will have released their “Plants vs Zombies”, which we will all be sinking hundreds of hours into and all will be forgiven!

      (Because of course WE are able to allow ourselves to become “addicted” to games in a “safe” way, unlike the weak-willed, non-savy general public – for whom Zynga’s games are particularly perilous!)

    • EyeMessiah says:

      EDIT:

      I take back the bit about Zynga’s design decisions involving a fair proportion of regular “artisic” intuitions.

      I suspect that its true but I really have no way of knowing but ultimately starting a line of reasoning from speculation about authorial intent is usually pretty hopeless.

      I mean do we really know that Dragon Age is set in a generic fantasy world because of THE ART, or could it be that they chose the setting because they knew that it would be more profitable than setting it in, say, St Petersburg during the Russian Revolution?

      Are games generally a product of the unfettered imaginations of the designers Soren, really?

  20. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I enjoyed particularly the Difficulty of Difficulty article. Although the author should himself be aware that AIs have improved much from the older examples he provides.

    There can also be an argument, which I support, on a good AI can also be a cheating AI as long as it doesn’t get caught cheating. Meaning that there’s no real requirement for a game AI to be fair. The requirement is for the AI to be good.

    Another point left unmentioned is that different types of games may offer better AIs due to the game own mechanics which allow for stronger AIs to be designed. While other games are still in the frontier of our current knowledge and abilities in terms of AI. Four Winds Mahjong, for instance, has the best, most intense and better designed Mahjong (the real 4 player mahjong, not the solitaire travesty) AI I ever come across. As a 20 year old Mahjong player, I can assure you that. This of course happens because the game is supported by clear, precise game rules. But an RTS will still challenge even the best mathematicians on our planet.

    • eyemessiah says:

      I think your right. Sometimes AI cheats in the wrong ways.

      Take fighting games for instance. Its common for AI’s in FGs to read the inputs from your controller and initiate the appropriate counter, before the animation for your attack has even started. This is unspeakably frustrating.

      Modern fighting games often make this behaviour inconsistent, which kind of works because a human player might guess and get lucky, or a particularly experienced player might sometimes correctly predict what you are going to do and pre-emptively counter it – and imo this does make it feel a bit more natural and slightly less “unfair”.

  21. Wulf says:

    This has been an especially great Sunday Papers, thanks for the reading, Kieron, and thanks to Oozo for giving me so much to look into, I’m going to have fun with that.

    And keep fighting the system, Kieron! You can do it!

  22. Larington says:

    “Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!”
    That was most unexpected. ;-)

  23. latterman says:

    Atari Teenage Riot, srsly?

    they where good then: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_ab7Dksqfnw

    but now? not so much.

  24. veerus says:

    SimAnt was fantastic.

  25. MWoody says:

    I recall, as a kid, I got SimAnt from a family friend (awesome guy) while I was recovering from oral surgery. I loved the game, and played the hell out of it. However, it had a bizarre problem so unique I’ve come to call it the “SimAnt problem” when looking for it in other games.

    To understand the issue, you need to know a little about how the game played. Your overarching goal was to take over a backyard and house, leading your black ants to victory over the red ants. Your main tool of interaction was a single golden ant amongst the blacks, over which you had total control. The meta-map of the yard was split into a grid, each square of which corresponded to one playable map. At any time, you could magically release your current golden ant and jump to another spot in the grid, taking control of one of your black ants to become your new avatar.

    So, in short, you have a hundred or so automated fights (there’s no way the PC could calculate every actual grid map, so it just became a numbers game) going on between you and your enemies while you control a single square. The problem, however, is this: in order for the game to be winnable, your ants need to be relatively effective. You can enact a lot of change on a single tile, but in the grand scheme of things that tile is pretty tiny. However, to make you feel like you’re doing something, the single-tile simulations give the enemy a slight advantage, to make your golden ants’ doings feel important.

    The result is a strange and unfortunate facet of SimAnt gameplay: wherever your Avatar exists does worse than everywhere else. It was a game-shattering revelation to my young self to discover that _I_ was the only real impediment to my minions’ success. The most effective way to play SimAnt is to park your golden ant far from the front lines, only controlling your queens when you need to spread to another tile.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Very interesting, MWoody. Thanks for that.
      I confess SimAnt passed by me largely unnoticed. I have memories of seeing it though and experimenting with the game on a friend’s Macintosh. But never bought it to my PC at the time. You see, that year was the year of Civilization. ‘nough said :)

    • sinister agent says:

      My only criticism of simant is that it was too easy. Yeah, in one-to-one fights, your ant would usually be at a disadvantage (unless you were a soldier and they a worker). But your ant could also recruit an unlimited number of bodyguards at any time – you could bring almost the entire nest – potentially hundreds of ants – with you at any moment. Run up to some food, then dismiss them all, and they’ll all bring food back to the nest. Do that a couple of times and that tile will never have food shortages. Then recruit everyone again, and walk up to the enemy nest, or even the ant lions and the spider, and you pretty much can’t lose.

      However, I did have tonnes of fun playing it anyway. I remember it was one of those that maxis stressed weren’t games but “software toys”, and though the term sounds a little silly, they had a damn good point. It, simcity and simlife (they came as a bundle at one point) were just things to screw around with and have fun on your own terms. It’s also a somewhat niche subject – I was fascinated by insects as a kid, but ants in particular are amazing creatures. I’m sure there’s potential there for a bunch of interesting games.

    • Igor Hardy says:

      Too easy? As a kid I went to playing SimAnt on a Mac straight from playing platformers like Super Mario Bros 1 & 3 on NES and I felt like I was cast into a totally alien world. The game seemed cruel, gritty and cold. What’s worse my ants were always losing on the other tiles and I didn’t know what to do about it.

    • Wulf says:

      I actually miss software toys, I really do. I mean, Windosill is as perfect an argument as anything could be for their existence, being a thing of wonder which one could wile away an hour with just dinking around with stuff. I remember software toys going as far back as Little Computer People, and that seemed absolutely incredible to me at the time.

      Then at some point they mostly seem to have died off, it seems to have happened around the same time as the PC became a ‘hardcore’ gaming machine, where Interactive Adventure CD-ROMs were replaced with early 3D shooters.

      And it’s a shame!

      I miss those little things, even the edutainment titles. Wolf and Lion in particular spring to mind as stunning pieces of edutainment, the likes of which has only been sort of seen with the Venture games, but not quite.

      So yes, software toys, edutainment titles, interactive adventures, and all the things of that era that one could do for fun on a computer that weren’t mainstream gaming, I miss it all. So if any indie developers are listening, this could be a fine time to resurrect these things because I’m sure that an older, wiser PC audience which isn’t solely about gore and/or smut, inflicted with gigantic guns/axes, would be rather intrigued by such delights.

    • terry says:

      My strategy in SimAnt consisted of

      - collect rock
      - run to enemy nest
      - dump rock on nest opening

      And repeating if they dug another hole.

    • Wulf says:

      @terry

      Pssh, that’s the easy way!

      (Why didn’t I think of that…)

    • Igor Hardy says:

      @terry

      Damn you, I never thought it would work if I kept repeating doing that. I overestimated the abilities of my enemy.

    • terry says:

      It’s still not possible to finish the game with the trick though (I think the devs probably cottoned on to the efficiacy of it) -

      No rocks appear in any house tile. Though it’s possible to complete the game without entering a house tile manually, it takes ages.

      There is code to throw the rock out of the hole, but it only kicks in very occasionally – on the other hand, the antlions throw the rocks out all the time.

      If you pressed the mystery button and the game spawned a whole load of nest entrances, it’s possible to run out of rocks to close them with :-(

      Yeah, I played waay too much of that game..

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      You mean the second question, right?

      Yeah. He’s answer is distressing. Quite a shock to hear someone actually saying that PC game selling amounts to just 6% of the total market when they remove MMOs.

      The “X will be dead” debate is kinda like a argument that folds on itself for lack of a proper point of reference. What does it mean “be dead”? That question alone should put a lot of debate to a rest. I mean, if dead means no more PC games, then no one will ever agree this is a possibility. If dead means no more AAA titles, then the debate is over because AAA titles are but one representative of PC gaming. If dead means less sales than the console market, does that mean console markets were dead when they were collectively selling less than PC games?

      Of course, there’s a trend showing decrease of sales in the PC market. Of course, consoles have been taking market from PC games. I don’t think anyone can really contest this. But markets fluctuate and the PC market is facing a crisis that is simply the result of its own success. When the day it comes that the console market experiences the same mass adoption of the PC market, these problems will migrate there. Every single game on the console has been pirated already, for instance. And consoles themselves too. It’s just that the smaller numbers of console adopters still justify companies to see in the console market a viable business alternative. It’s not that producers in the PC market have learned any lessons. They are simply fleeing to the console market until the problems they never really worked hard to solve in the PC start surfacing there too.

      Personally none of this bothers me. Even assuming a huge decline of PC game sales and the platform being entirely abandoned by AAA producers (which I find already highly unlikely), as I grow older so does my overall approach to games. Today, for instance I rarely buy an AAA title due to my contempt over the lack of quality of the vast majority of these works (and that too is killing the market). As for younger generations, most who have already been born with consoles around, the problem whether PC games will be dead or not doesn’t really bother them. What can bother them is the day when they see their game producers starting to make more PC games because the producers say piracy has gone rampant in the console market.

  26. Tyshalle says:

    Not to be completely off-topic here, but this site has pop-up ads now?

  27. Sagan says:

    Soren Johnon’s post is great in that he manages to articulate why I was always wary about these free to play games. Basically they have found a way to make a game addicting even though it is boring. And I think that is just not an ethical thing to do. It could be that that part of the industry turns into a more sophisticated version of slot machines.

    I hope it’s not going to be that way, and if I remember correctly, more than 90% of the players of these games never pay for anything, so you can not simply go for making the most money, because that would lose you most of your players. And without the non-paying players there would be no reason for the paying players to stay.

    These free to play games remind me of Brave New World. Unless I am mixing something up, the way I remember that book, basically everyone in that world was happy. They were the most happy people you could possibly think of, and everything was planned so that they would never have to be unhappy. Except their happiness was empty. I don’t think I can express this properly, but their happiness was lacking something. And that is also the way I feel about these games. It’s empty entertainment. The game will keep you busy for a couple of hours every day, but it will do nothing else for you.

    I will be interested to see what the experienced game designers like Soren Johnson do in that area. Maybe they will make games that do more than just keep you playing.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Basically, that you cannot be happy unless there is something that can make you unhappy. It was unhappiness that they felt was missing and that make their happiness completely hollow and meaningless.

    • Larington says:

      I know enough about these games that as a rule, when I look at any kind of webgame, the first thing I do is explore the interface looking for any kind of payment option, it’ll be fairly obvious because these companies want that money badly enough.
      At first sign of such an option/button…
      …I run a mile. Or, close the browser, you get the point.

    • terry says:

      You should check out GFWL, no mention of any extant currency anywhere.

    • Sagan says:

      @Mario Figueiredo:
      Yeah that was part of it. But they also had these orgies, and you went to an orgy because that is just something that you go to. And I have just looked this up: In fact their entertainment industry is similar to how the free to play part of our industry is often described to me. Their entertainment is just action films and porn films, both of which are kept intentionally shallow. And what more could you ask for than that a film has explosions and tits?
      The free to play equivalent would then be, that in these free to play MMOs you are saving the world because that is just something that you do. And that these games are fun, you are constantly progressing and you are competing with your friends. What more could you possibly want?

    • Wulf says:

      I can’t say that that holds up for me.

      I could raise Free Realms as an example, because that has the most absurdly wonderful and off-the-wall quests of any game I can think of (cow-chasing and foot-races alike), but I’m going to opt for an even better option: Minecraft.

      Minecraft’s creative mode is free to play, and when working with other people it brings about a happiness that I don’t often experience in other games, usually games are a bit too competitive for me. It’s kill this, destroy that, or steal the other, and it’s all based around those base concepts of destruction rather than embracing creativity. But on a good Minecraft server, you and others can and will build amazing things, marvellous things. And as you stand back and look upon your works, it’s an elation that’s unmatched in most online games whether they’re free-to-play or not.

      And Minecraft’s creative element isn’t boring either, not at all, it may be addictive but it certainly isn’t boring, and it really engages you! It engages both your creative and logical sides, because you have to dream things into being, but then you must plot them out, not unlike an architect, your tools and resources are crude but with them you can put together some breathtaking stuff. In fact, one well known Minecrafter (and this is on the forums if you want to check it out) was offered a job as an architect because of the awe-inspiring wonders they put together.

      So it’s not fair to paint everything of the sort with one brush, because Minecraft is quite obviously the exception that disproves the rule. It just shows that there are many out there that have a flawed approach to free-to-play, many developers who tend to make boring, addictive games as the easy option, but they’re not all like that. The only thing we can do really is bless the good ones with our presence and leave the dull ones to die an ignoble death.

    • Sagan says:

      @ Wulf:
      Yes, you are of course right, I was talking too broadly. And who knows, maybe Playfish will become a second PopCap, and the Chinese and Koreans have to release a good MMO eventually at the rate that they are pumping them out.
      And we haven’t even seen what Brian Reynolds, Soren Johnson and Sid Meier will create.

    • Larington says:

      Doh, I totally forgot, Free Realms is one free to play game that I have put money down for, but not for especially long, I should go back at some point and take another look around.

      Wurm Online is also technically free to play and I’m tempted to pay my way in that, so I guess really, it’s a question of the game mechanics at work along with the payment system. I don’t tend to begrudge small monthly payments of a sub style, especially when cheaper than a typical MMO.

    • invisiblejesus says:

      @Sagan

      “Basically they have found a way to make a game addicting even though it is boring. And I think that is just not an ethical thing to do.”

      I might agree with you if I thought it was genuinely possible to make a game that is addictive but boring. I’ve heard that sort of argument many times back when I was playing MMOs, when people have a bad day they often go on about how empty and boring the game is. But y’know, most of the time I dealt with those people in game, they were having fun. So was I. So were most people. I think that this is likely the case for people who play free to play games; they may not be enjoying the games for the same reasons older school gamers enjoy games, but they enjoy them. I’ve sat in a room with my roomate and his ex and watched them sit there, side by side, playing Mafia Wars or whatever on their laptops. I don’t get it, it seems totally soulless. But they always had smiles on their faces. I see no reason to believe that we’re better authorities on what is fun and what is not than they are. In fact, if anything, seeing how much old school gamers bitch and complain about everything under the sun, when in doubt I’m more inclined to trust the judgment of newer school gamers who enjoy their hobby and don’t spend so damn much time bellyaching about it.

    • Wulf says:

      @Larington

      I think it’s all down to whether a game was built from the ground up to be an addictive grind mill or not, if you ask me, and I think that’s got the most to do with it.

      Free Realms – This was built for kids, so the grind is relatively low and the activities are hugely fun to keep kids interested.

      Minecraft – Whatever you do in this, in either Creative or Survival mode, is something you want to and choose to do for an outcome that shows your creativity and ability.

      Wurm Online – I’d guess that Minecraft’s Survival mode is very similar, given who the lead dev of Minecraft is.

      Whereas to the contrary, I’ve even found pay MMORPGs which are mildly boring but addictive, I think World of Warcraft falls into that category. I only say that though due to one anecdotal tale I recall, wherein my roomie and I started playing Warcraft at the same time, I dropped out pretty quickly but he kept at it. He seemed to absolutely hate it, he despised raiding with his guild, and when I quizzed him on why he kept doing it all I got out of him was that he needed the latest loot in order to be competitive with other guild members and other guilds.

      So I think it really is down to the design ethic of the game. If the game isn’t designed to be a grind mill then it’s going to be fine whether it’s pay or free.

    • Larington says:

      Reminds me of when I tried WoW, I bought it at release and 2 months later I was looking at my level 58 Tauren Hunter and asking myself why I was still playing.
      I didn’t have an answer and unsubscribed.

  28. Mario Figueiredo says:

    I confess not being too worried about these games. They reflect the people that play them in more ways than most other games in the market. This limits their reach and their potential to influence any behavior outside their sphere. And if developers flock to these titles it is also because they are damn easy to write. There’s a real cost/benefit increase some will find appealing. And that type of people with those motivations we don’t need writing traditional games. Good riddance.

  29. TeeJay says:

    @ Kieron Gillen

    “…I often apply the lessons of this period back to games. They only win if we surrender…”

    Coverage on RPS about the Digital Economy Bill has focussed entirely on the bits about cutting off internet access to illegal downloaders but almost no discussion of the proposals regarding video games:

    clause 41: “Classification of video games”
    clause 42: “Designated authority for video games”

    latest draft of these clauses: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmbills/089/10089.49-55.html#j601A
    explanatory notes re. these clauses: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm200910/cmbills/089/en/10089x-c.htm#index_link_46

    I am not really clear what the Bill is actually proposing (the Bill consists of amendments to a separate document which I haven’t read and the explanatory notes are very brief), but as far as I can make out it legally requires any game that has the following to be “age rated”:

    * depictions of violence towards human or animal characters, whether or not the violence looks realistic and whether or not the violence results in obvious harm
    * depictions of violence towards other characters where the violence looks realistic
    * depictions of criminal activity that are likely, to any extent, to stimulate or encourage the commission of offences,
    * depictions of activities involving illegal drugs or the misuse of drugs,
    * words or images that are likely, to any extent, to stimulate or encourage the use of alcohol or tobacco
    * words or images that are intended to convey a sexual message
    * swearing
    * words or images that are intended or likely, to any extent, to cause offence, whether on the grounds of race, gender, disability, religion or belief or sexual orientation or otherwise.

    exemptions:

    * if it is, taken as a whole, designed to inform, educate or instruct
    * if it is, taken as a whole, concerned with sport, religion or music

    +++++++++++++++

    tl:dr

    What impact will this have on indie games, mods, etc? Will people still be able to release whatever they want in the UK or will some games now be breaking the law?

  30. clive dunn says:

    Anybody read the Observer article today about gaming? (mostly GTA).
    Jesus! At one point i thought someone had secretly published my diaries.
    ‘A fondness for marijuana and 30 straght hours of GTA IV’

    Btw, thanks for the great animation discussions. I have a good friend who works at the National Museum of Photo-wotsits in Bradford. I’ll have a word about getting the Amanita stuff in the festival.

    On the subjest of the Digital do-dah bill. New laws only have one thing in mind: to make new criminals.
    Put your hands up if you remember Michael Howards Criminal Justice Bill which outlawed repetive beats being listened to ouTside by groups of more than eight people.
    Trust me, if you think labour have been bad just wait for the tories to have their turn FUCKING YOUR FREEDOMS!

    • somnolentsurfer says:

      They call it the National Media Museum these days… ;-)

    • TeeJay says:

      @clive dunn:

      “On the subjest of the Digital do-dah bill. New laws only have one thing in mind: to make new criminals”

      Leaving the “downloading/cutting internet connections” part of the BIll to one side as it has it’s own thread: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/03/17/britishers-unite-for-internet-justice/ and just focussing on the video game age rating/censorship part:

      It isn’t clear whether the UK switching from a BBCF system to a PEGI-based system will be more restrictive or more liberal. The BBCF had Manhunt 2 banned for a while and it was the Video Standards Council (who will be applying PEGI ratings in the UK) who overturned them. On the other hand apparently the BBFC gave lower age ratings to some games than PEGI.

      More important than outright “bans” are possible indirect impacts, eg:
      ~ what are the implications for ‘naked’ or other mods, indie games, online games, etc?
      ~ how much does it cost to get a PEGI rating and what are the legal risks if you fill in your forms wrong?
      ~ have PEGI ever refused a rating? (and if so what kind of stuff would get a refusal?)
      ~ will the Video Standards Council exercise any additional controls or discretion on top of/beyond the PEGI ratings (eg for ‘extreme’ content)?
      ~ will developers change what they put in games? will shops and online retailers change how they sell games?

      Can anyone point me to some links of decent discussions about how the system works now and what the proposed changes would mean that would be very helpful.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      With the risk of sounding patriot (which I really am not!) I must say that I’m glad that with all its faults my country still does not ban content from the population. We don’t ban games, we don’t get ban films, we don’t ban music. Most importantly, we don’t ban Brits.

      I’m often quite surprised at how countries like UK, USA, Australia and Germany whose movements for civil rights have a lot more expression than in countries like Portugal where they are basically a joke, this constant infringement in the form of the most brutal and primary censorship is allowed.

    • Thants says:

      Autechre released a track (Flutter) as a protest against that bill. It has a repetitive melody, and beats that never repeat. It’s the only instrumental protest song I can think of.

  31. ngngng says:

    geeezz

    Atari Teenage Riot had its time wich is over LONG LONG ago…let it rest its dead and noone cares anymore…

  32. clive dunn says:

    That’s the spirit……..

  33. Matzerath says:

    The article lamenting loving SimAnt and missing out on Starcraft confused me. I too loved SimAnt, but never got into Starcraft (my early and continuing disdain for multiplayer games being the main cause of this — ‘shouldn’t this computer be able to play me, isn’t that the whole point of computers?’)
    I’m much happier having played an obscure title than getting obsessed with a popular one. Being bummed-out by your own individuality is a really odd thing.
    P.S. MWoody flooded me with nostalgia pointing out the major flaw in SimAnt’s gameplay. I would also mention there was a fun cheat code that let you play as the spider, and another one where that spider could shoot lasers. Unless my childhood was largely hallucinatory, I’m pretty sure I remember this correctly.

    • sinister agent says:

      I don’t know about the PC version, but on the amiga version, the map window had a button that caused a random cheat to happen, and you could click it as many times as you liked. It included “be”ing the spider (although I’m pretty sure you could do this anyway. Maybe you had to get the cheat first, I’m unsure), as well as dropping food on the map, causing several hundred friendly ants to appear and join you, and setting your colony health to full.

      The catch was, the cheat was random, and it could also make it rain, give the spider laser eyes, empty your food stores, or cause several hundred enemy ants to appear.

      The worst one, though, was the one that made the game play every sound effect, or worse, every single piece of music. You could do nothing but sit there, time paused, buttons broken, as about three minutes of largely crap musical jingles played, before you could continue. I actually dreaded that more than laser-spider. Overall though, I liked the idea – it fit in with they ‘toy’ aspect of the game.

      It also let you “be” the spider, aye. It sadly wasn’t as much fun as it sounds, although it could be cathartic if things were going badly. How terrifying was the spider, though? It really deserves a place in those top videogame villain things. Somebody see to it, please. Cheers.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I’m much happier having played an obscure title than getting obsessed with a popular one.

      Hear, hear.

      However the article’s point is indeed to note to everyone that it is alright to miss that great title everyone talks about. What’s distressing is having very few people who can share with you your love for that obscure or less popular title.

      Like my love for oldies like Everyone’s a Wally, Back to Skool, Formula One, or PC gems like Dark Legions, Prehistorik or the early SSI’s gold box titles. Many of which aren’t shared by even my contemporaries since they weren’t particularly popular. And all games that put to shame most modern title on their ability to come with innovative gameplay, instead of reusing tired formulas.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      They may as well have stopped making computer RPGs after Champions of Krynn. Nothing, *nothing*, has come close.

  34. cliffski says:

    It is midnight and cliffski the game developer is feeling utterly invigorated. The ice fear is strong.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Skullkrin slew cliffski.

      (Also: WIN)

    • Wulf says:

      Lordy, thaaaat takes me back.

    • Matzerath says:

      I had no idea what you fine folk were referring to (missed the boat on this particular nostalgia voyage), but did a search and found this:
      http://www.icemark.com/tower/manual/guide.htm
      Which was quite entertaining to read whilst imagining what this old school game could possibly be like to play.
      DO NOT FORGET TO PRESS THE NIGHT KEY WHEN YOU HAVE FINISHED YOUR DAY’S MOVEMENT AND ACTION. IF YOU DO NOT PRESS THE NIGHT KEY NOTHING FURTHER WILL HAPPEN AT ALL!
      Holy shit!

  35. The Archetype says:

    Congrats to Larrington!

  36. Da5id Jaz says:

    I LOVE ATARI TEENAGE RIOT
    it made me happy reading that
    <3

  37. LewieP says:

    I prefer infogrames teenage riot.

  38. drewski says:

    I prefer The Ataris – Teenage Riot.

  39. luphisto says:

    found myself sighing heavily after watching that video. the entire premise of the “debate” was pointed completely biased towards a negative reaction. I thought Tim, while making good points was destined to failure and knew it.
    also that silly woman reminded me of http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oVkckG6zw6I 3.51 onwards, but the rest is great too

  40. Sunjammer says:

    Oh ATR. That zombie horse just loves flogging itself.

  41. simbo says:

    I notice the woman, Julie Peasgood, is also the award-winning author of “The Greatest Sex Tips In The World”. Apparently she abhors violence for entertainment,* but sex for entertainment is a-ok. Does she realise children may acquire this book? An American Study** shows that children reading her book will lose their innocence 32% earlier.

    * obviously avoiding the Daily Mail staple of Emmerdale and Corrie.

    ** This really pissed me off. She also claims to be a journalist, yet believes prefixing statements with “An American Study found that …”, while providing no citations, is perfectly acceptable. She should be ashamed of herself.

    • simbo says:

      Aargh. That was supposed to be in response to SoyBob’s Titchmarsh YouTube vid. Forget it, the moment’s gone.

  42. Ken McKenzie says:

    Matzerath – if you’ve found your way onto Icemark.com, you’ll also find that Chris Wild has produced a PC port for Lords of Midnight (and Doomdark’s Revenge, which I prefer, but there’s a discussion for another place), which comes in at a princely 70k, but, in terms of gameplay, still pisses on almost anything currently available.

    Tense? You don’t understand tension until you’ve seen a black screen, and then, up come the words, ‘The bloody sword of battle brings death to the domain of’, and then a series of places comes up. You recognise some. Uh-oh.

  43. bonuswavepilot says:

    @oozo: wow, good list o’ puppety things. Had forgotten some of those, and the others have gone on the ‘things to be investigated’ list.

    Cheers!

  44. Comment System says:

    1920s DELTA BLUES! MUST DIE!!!!!!!!