The Sunday Papers

By Kieron Gillen on April 4th, 2010 at 12:58 pm.

Sunday are for writing too long first-link-post so not having enough room for a proper intro. List of good words. Must not link to pop.

Failed.

__________________

« | »

.

173 Comments »

  1. Bhazor says:

    re Coldplay

    Is it still socially acceptable to say I Clocks is one of my all time favourite tracks?

  2. Sam Crisp says:

    I think Quinns just wrote it.

  3. TeeJay says:

    Happy Easter everyone!
    (also (more or less) “happy chocolate eating day”, “happy spring festival”, “happy passover”, “happy long weekend”)
    ……..//
    ………V./
    ……../@@
    …….=.T./=
    ……../.^.
    ……./\.//
    ….___.”..”./___

  4. Tei says:

    The A-Z awesomeness made me laugh, thanks :-)

  5. Jockie says:

    The problem for me with the Less talk, more Rock article is the way it holds up games like Mario and Zelda up as a gold standard and assumes that other games are striving for that same experience but are “clogged with menus and text, spammed with awkward cutscenes, choked by voice acting, mangled by incongruent narrative”.

    Narrative and engaging with the intellect on a textual level is not the same thing as a game being created and (diluted) by committee, that’s more about business practices influencing design. Games which involve and engage the intellect are for me just as memorable and engaging as those which are purely about the ‘Rock’ (not a fan of that term either).

    But then again I’m not even sure I agree with the idea that ‘Rock’ games bypass the intellect either.

    The arguement brings to mind a course I did on avant garde film and in particular a film called Dog Star Man, which is a piece that cuts and edits between visual cues quickly and with no narrative sequence, ignoring all the rules of classical hollywood cinema. It can be described more as an audiovisual experience than a ‘film’. The problem with it, is that because everything is so abstract – the mind (or at least my mind) can’t really synthesize it into more than a random sequence of images and colours. Games don’t do that, even in the pure ‘rock’ form because they are based on recognisable elements that we can understand on an intellectual level.

    • Dante says:

      Yes, they’ve awkwardly combined four largely unrelated arguments here, one is for more designer driven work and less ‘design by committee’ (ignoring the fact that some people like to work in an environment where they can bounce ideas off one another) one is for progressing straight to working on the game without a planning stage (ignoring the fact that there are as many different approaches to design as there are designers, and each person has their own optimum way of working), that games should focus on visually interactive storytelling rather than words (ignoring the concept of interactive dialogue altogether) and that games should be artistically abstract like music and sculpture rather than narratively driven like films or novels (ignoring the fact that some people, like me, have never ‘gotten’ a piece of music in their live, but are nonetheless moved by stories).

      Essentially it’s one big long diatribe about how everyone should work how they like to work.

  6. Vivian says:

    Jesus F Christ, Coldplay roadies? Who cares? ‘One time Chris ran out of fairtrade chocolate so I had to drive all round devon looking for a store at 11:30 PM on a thursday, it was flipping mental’.

    • Okami says:

      Fairtrade chocolate? Whatever happened to cocain and whores?

    • Lack_26 says:

      Didn’t you know that Waitrose is the new strip-club?

    • Spectre-7 says:

      So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopowner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the fairtrade chocolate, and Coldplay went on stage and did a great show.

  7. Lambchops says:

    Cheers for the song link this week Kieron. I’d never heard of the Indelicates before. That track was great and the album could well be a purchase.

  8. RobF says:

    Perhaps “Less talk more pressing a button when the designer decides you have to so you don’t die” might be a better title?

    The race against rockism in games starts here.

  9. Acosta says:

    Woah, Alejandro Jodorowsky has wrote a few of stories of videogame and I have not been informed?! And is he making a Metabaron game now *head explodes*

    Does anyone know what games are those?

    By the way, that he was talking about looked a lot like an evolved version of an MMO, don’t you think?

  10. Mr_Day says:

    A whole bunch of people were given special previews of Sleep is Death by Rohrer, with the story for each person changing based on the person being shown the game.

    Over at Destructoid there are two previews – one as the player and one as the controller, with the added bonus that screens of the stories in their entirety are included in the second link. They are quite crazy.

    • Mr_Day says:

      Erm. They both seem to link back here. I double checked, but let’s try this:

      http://www.destructoid.com/preview-sleep-is-death-player-mode–169272.phtml

      http://www.destructoid.com/preview-sleep-is-death-controller-mode–169556.phtml

      If they don’t work, just go to Destructoid and search for sleep is death, that’ll do you.

    • Lambchops says:

      @ Mr Day

      I find it pretty interesting that in both that preview and another preview I saw (I forget where) the previewer felt that the story they were making was awkward, riddled with mistakes and poor but when they read it back it wasn’t as bad as they thought, perhaps because the mistakes and awkward moments made the story feel more naturalistic.

      It’s also interesting how the natural response of most people playing it is to see if they can fight the contoller or push the story in their own direction. It would be pretty cool to see some non gamers play the game and see how they react. If anything I reckon they’d probably rebel quicker; being less used to playing along with the constraints and “rules” of a games than someone who has been playing for years.

      I’ve got to say that reading the previews has me interested in this again, particularly because of the way the time limit system is implemented. I reckon this will make for a better experience than overthinking where the story is going.

      I’m almost inclined to pre order it – it’s got enough value as a curiosity to throw a few quid at.

    • Mr_Day says:

      The more I read about it, the more I want to try Paranoia XP. The main point of that seems to be to dick around with the story. And betray your friends.

      It is quite funny – in the HAWPcast they (the guy who wrote those and his sister) do, the guy who wrote those previews was talking about how his first reaction was to go against the story Rohrer was trying out, but then goes on to talk about the game could be messed up by someone who was ‘dicking around’.

      It really doesn’t surprise me that everyone who tried the game has done that – how many times have you sat through a game briefing where you still had control of your character and made him stand there, listening attentively to the important goings on? I know I jump about the place and throw physics objects at Dr Kleiner.

      But then, I am a dick.

    • Mr_Day says:

      I wish for an edit function again:

      http://thehawpcast.mevio.com/ <– the podcast I mentioned, Sleep is Death is the first thing they talk about. This is before he played as the controller with Ash, natch.

  11. TeeJay says:

    The “Less Talk, More Rock” argument covers two separate types of “talk”:

    Talk in the development process (eg committees, middle-management, shareholders, numbers, sales projections) – contrasted with ‘diving in, making it happen, solving problems as they arise’ and leaving the ‘analysis’ until later.

    Talk and text in the game itself (eg tutorials, stories, menus, text, cutscenes, voice acting, narrative and informational messages) – contrasted with images, sounds, music, patterns, motion – “nonverbal but nonetheless articulate”.

    I have no experience of development so can’t say anyting about the first type and I haven’t actuall played any of his “hall of fame” (Lazy Jones, Metroid Prime, Rez, Motorstorm: Pacific Rift, flOwer, Everyday Shooter, Ico, Super Mario Bros, Another World, Prince of Persia (1989) and Demon’s Souls).

    However, avoiding the debate about wich genres this applies to (a story-based RPG needs more ‘talk’ than a pure FPS, arcade platformer or shmup) I do kind of agree that – for my tastes – some “modern games” seem to be bloated with too much emphasis on ‘needless talk, over-explained idiotic stories, clogged with menus and text, spammed with awkward cutscenes, choked by voice acting, mangled by incongruent narrative, segmented by load times, stalled by informational messages’…

    …I would like to nominate the direction Bioware have gone with Mass Effect and Dragon Age compared with their earlier games in the same genres.

  12. TwistyMcNoggins says:

    The Lewis Denby piece is far more entertaining is you imagine the nightclub they’re standing outside is actually the Halo nightclub in Leeds.

    • Lewis says:

      If it’d have been Halo, I’d never have admitted to being a games writer. I value my chin too much.

      It was The Cockpit.

    • CMaster says:

      I was going to say “Halo isn’t that bad is it?”
      But then I remembered that in the 6 years I’ve been in Leeds, I’ve been to Halo twice. Both times were really, really shit.

    • Matt says:

      First time I went to Leeds, I was floored by Halo. “Wow! It’s just like that bit in Vampire: The Masquerade!”

      Needless to say when I finally went inside I was very disappointed.

  13. Auspex says:

    You were very pretty on Doctor Who last night Gillan.

  14. lokijki says:

    http://www.thesixtyone.com/

    Music + Achievements (Quest). :D

    • TeeJay says:

      Re. “Achievements”

      Does anyone here actually enjoy or get any other kind of value out of achievements in games or anywhere else?

      I was “with it” back when it was ‘beat the high score’, right up to % complete in GTA games and doing levels with certain criteria in Thief and Hitman games…

      …but then at some point I kind of got out of touch with things until one day random messages start popping up in TF2 (…unfortunately I couldn’t alt-tab/quit to read what I had finally managed and by the time I did look on the achievement page it was removed from the actual actions I had been doing. Also not long after I started playing Valve introduced item drops, meaning I didn’t need to grind achievements to get the full set)

      With Trials 2 there were only a few achievements, they ‘made sense’ / were easily comprehensible (eg ‘complete all levels on easy’) and some of them are really tough so they serve a kind of aspirational yardstick that indicates what the developers and the very best players considered an ‘achievement’, rather than being a drip-drip-drip of meaningless grindables.

      My last experience was with random achievement pop-ups in Dragon Age (non Steam copy) – which caught me off-guard because I still haven’t worked out where I can actually “see” my achievements or what any of them “mean”.

      I can’t help think that with a few exceptions (see Trials 2 above) they are a bit retarded and a “me-too feature” that serves no purpose, aren’t introduced up-front, often make no ‘sense’ and aren’t graded in any intelligent way. I’d prefer that they could either be turned off, or if they *have* to pop-up then at least introduce them up-front, design some decent and comprehensible ‘grades’ and ‘way-points’ (eg in Thief and Hitman you realise after a mission or two what a ‘Perfect Score’ is going to require in terms of your decision-making and behaviour and it also has some plausible in-game logic – it isn’t just a matter of grinding away until the achievements pop up, or of doing wierd and stupid stuff in game).

      (PS I was going to comment on ‘nudge theory’ and music+achievements, but realised I might as well first of all ask if anyone here actually values ‘achievements’ – or whether it is just another ‘mass market’ thing that is only ‘statistically popular’ due to self-furfilling supply-side pushing.)

  15. DMcCool says:

    As lovely as the presentation is, there is one big problem with the “Less Talk, More Rock” article. Its philosophy, but bad philosophy. It’s a Cartesian Circle.

    The problem is they took an idea and decided it was cool so ran with it, articulating their own philosophy withen the padadigm they just arbitrarily decided upon because it was cool. The idea “make it and consume it, don’t think about it” can always justify itself if its only working withen its own terms (That is, not thinking about thing saying stuff). That isn’t how you construct a philosophy of anything. You gotta deconstruct first, then justify. Very disapointing. See me after class.

    Also, seriously guys, I mean this in the nicest way possible, but shut the fuck up about Miyamoto. The man has practically been deified on the other side of the pond, simply because he defined what games where in America and Japan when the writer grew up. Even if his achivements were universal and unparraleled in their time, that doesn’t mean they were better than the ideas we have now. They were just by far the best thing going (in their respective markets). What is the point harping on about Mario anyway when its paradigms ended up defining what a successful game would be? Isn’t it far more useful (and romantic) to talk about the hidden gems made by bedroom programmers and traded accross the country that tried something truely daring and succeeded in places we’d forgotten people had ever wanted to succeed in? I mean, it doesn’t justify the childhood you spent on your Nintendo, but is that the point?

    Not to say that Miyamoto isn’t a genius or blah blah blah, he’s just the least interesting genius to mention in any discussion of gaming. In my opinion anyway. Or something.

    I’m sorry.

    • DMcCool says:

      A fairer critique of “Less Talk, More Rock”: It is essentially pointing in the right direction is just confused and doesn’t really know what it means, for reasons angrily outlined above. Basically its making the first arguement you have to have with games (games as art lol) but in a confused manner.

      Interestingly, that discussion pretty much ended with this piece http://www.escapistmagazine.com/articles/view/issues/issue_155/4987-The-Game-Design-of-Art in no way the first to be right, but it is both right and eloquent, also honest, inspirational, and written by a man bloody well listening to (Rohrer).

      The fact that games that tell their stories primarily through the gameplay are the best at being games is really all they are saying. Which is right, of course. Just that they haven’t really stumbled upon anything new, and the puesdo-philosophy they think is supporting that part of their arguement falls down in the face of any literary theory at least up to and including Aristotle. Who was the first literay theorist we know of.

    • TeeJay says:

      I didn’t notice any deep philosophy and I don’t know (or really care) who Miyamoto is but I agreed with the basic point about the increased textual/verbal bloat in recent games being negative for my tastes. I do like games like Planescape but even that game has a stripped down style compared with recent Bioware stuff (The constant cut-scenes in Mass Effect 1 have caused me to stop playing after a couple of hours in and I have just finished Dragon Age and managed to avoid reading 95% of the codex entries that kept popping up every minute or so).

    • Cinnamon says:

      I disagree when you say that Miyamoto is not interesting. He is interesting first because he has been so successful for such a long period of time or at least has been associated with a lot of successful games. Mainly he is interesting because he does it not by doing things that appear to be the work of a hopeful “artistic genius” but by rather more humbly working out what people find entertaining to play. If people don’t want to talk about that in the context of Nintendo then they mostly will not want to hear about it when talking about a lesser known game creator.

      The only thing that I really take away from this is that games are not design documents or roundtable discussions. In the end the only way to see if a game is good is to play it and iterate on the design. If a game has interesting concept that Aristotle can talk about with Plato is almost irrelevant. The important thing is that Socrates finds it engaging to play.

    • RobF says:

      Rohrer would quite happily send us back 30 years of progress because y’know, he doesn’t understand that games can work in a way that’s not within his worldview. His entire Ebert shtick is so utterly tiring and inconsequential.

      Seriously, why would anyone care what Ebert thinks about games? No-one gives a fuck. I doubt Roger gives a fuck. I read Ebert for great journalism, fabulous interviews and occasionally to find out what he thinks about x movie because if nothing else he’s entertaining. Arbiter of wot should be deemed art or nay? Oh come on, give me a break. The man wrote and reveled in some of the most glorious tat films put to celluloid.

      We don’t need to tackle Ebert head on. We don’t need to prove anything to anyone and Rohrer’s arguments and reasoning are flimsy at best because they all assume that everyone wants the world Rohrer wants. That, thankfully, isn’t the case because it’d be a depressingly shit gaming universe under Rohrer’s way that wot things should be.

      It also works under the assumption that something can’t be art unless it has an arbitrary level of cultural worth as deemed appropriate by Rohrer (or Ebert or anyone) which is why I’m totally serious invoking the spirit of Wylie in my comment earlier. Then again, I’m -always- serious about invoking Wylie.

      Artistic expression does not necessarily trump populism and vice versa. And I will be my own judge of what is fit for my own consumption and what I find personally nourishing, invigorating, entertaining and what I deem art, not the committee of games as art as led by the school of Rohrer vs Ebert.

      I would have no shame showing Ebert anything because I’m not ashamed of our achievements. I’m fucking proud because I’ll take things for what they are, what they were and everything they could be. But I don’t need to show Ebert anything because I don’t need that acceptance to validate my existence and to be honest, I don’t understand why Rohrer does.

    • RobF says:

      Or in short, the idea that there is a right way and a wrong way and not just different ways is a crock.

    • TeeJay says:

      ‘needless talk, over-explained idiotic stories, clogged with menus and text, spammed with awkward cutscenes, choked by voice acting, mangled by incongruent narrative, segmented by load times, stalled by informational messages’

      So this is just ‘different’?

    • RobF says:

      Yes it is. Very much so “just different”.

      They’re mechanics or methods, they’re not innately hateful in and of themselves. The application of said mechanics or methods might be but that’s down to either your own personal tastes or the competence (or lack of) of the designer.

  16. Jimbo says:

    According to Greek mythology, Sleep is Death’s little brother. But Nas never sleeps, ‘cuz Sleep is the cousin of Death. KOTOR 2 insists that, actually, Apathy is Death. Now these guys are trying to tell me that Sleep is Death? I don’t know what to believe anymore.

    At least War never changes… unless you ask Snake.

  17. Zwebbie says:

    Concerning the Less Talk More Rock article: personally, I think a bit of a middle way is needed here. Surely modern games have a ridiculous amount of text and exposition, but having a story in the first place is obviously a great thing for many games. I do believe the author softened it up a bit in the comments.

    “Show, don’t tell” should be the key phrase, if you ask me. For example, Mass Effect had loads of text on its aliens and their culture, but in game they’d all just sit there chatting and in combat they’d fight like humans except in armour that accomodates three toes. The game was nicely playable because it changes pace and throws something new in fairly often, but its universe and immersion left me wholly unimpressed.
    Compare to STALKER, where the story and text and pretty lousy. But the Zone is actually the star of the game, and hearing the blind dogs howl, whereafter I quickly climb onto a rock and grab a weapon and pray there won’t be too many tells more of a story than any amount of cutscenes. Seeing that Duty has watchposts set up all over while the Ecologists hide in their bunker and are piss poor in combat whenever you need to help them does more to show their mentality than any amount of encyclopedic lore would have.

    And I think that plays a part *in* the text too. There’s a difference if, when you enter an RPG village, the villagers will tell you that they’re simple folk, or if they actually talk like simple folk and don’t mention it. “Show, don’t tell” doesn’t always need to be limited to images, it can be in words too. Just not in cutscenes or lore encyclopias.

    Of course, I’m probably wrong here because that means I dislike Mass Effect and Final Fantasy and Halo, and you can’t argue with x million people.

    • DMcCool says:

      I don’t think any series gets a less deserved bad of a rap than Final Fantasy. Other than maybe Metal Gear Solid. No, you don’t meaningfuly help tell the story in Final Fantasy, and no, the plots aren’t that good. But that is not to say the post-FF7 Final Fantasy series hasn’t achived brilliant things that can only be accomplished in computer games (it has). Makes me almost wish I could stand the bloody games.

    • DMcCool says:

      Curses to my lack of edit. I meant post FF6. So FF7 inclusive.

    • Zwebbie says:

      DMcCool: I must admit, I never actually played a Final Fantasy game. I just watched my brother play through X and XII. Sometimes he’d ask if I wanted to play for a bit – “Nah”, I’d reply. Watching someone else play was pretty much the same experience. In fact, I walked out on a lot of the combat roads, because those don’t add to the whole thing either. How is that not a sign of a bad game?

    • vagabond says:

      There are plenty of sports, golf being the prime example, that I have enjoyed playing but would never watch on TV because from the outside, they’re just dull. You won’t find me watching people play chess either.
      Calculating the optimal moves in a Final Fantasy combat strikes me as no different. Sure, the basic fights can often be a fairly simple grind with not a lot of actual decision making required, hence the reason they’ve added basic programmable AI into the later games, but I don’t think you can necessarily equate “dull to watch” or “not adding to the story” with a bad game.

  18. Electric Dragon says:

    He couldn’t find any Fairtrade cocaine or ethically sourced whores either.

  19. Bhazor says:

    Off topic but Burnistoun the new sketch show by Consolevania’s Rab Florence ends tomorrow. But you can still watch the first five episodes on the BBC iplayer http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00rgjl1/Burnistoun_Series_1_Episode_2/ but only for another week. Sadly no Ryan or Kenny.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_IPZ2VOVhTk

    • Lambchops says:

      To use the old cliche about sketch shows, it’s “hit and miss.” Fortunately it doesn’t fall into the trap of having too many recurring sketches so if something misses the mark it probably isn’t coming back (apart from the brothers in the ice cream van who, somewhat unfortunately, do).

      There are some rather brilliant moments though (the first episode’s “bottle of ginger” sketch, anything involving the Burnistoun Herald, the difficulties of being an assassin). Overall there was enough to amuse me with a few moments that had me in stitches; I’d recommend watching.

    • qrter says:

      Loved Consolevania/Videogaiden, but to me, the pilot of Burnistoun was a whole load of dull cack.

      And I don’t mean “bits of it were great, other bits less so”. I didn’t like any of it.

      So I’ll be giving this a respectful pass.

  20. John says:

    “The native language of video games is neither spoken nor written.”

    That’s a pretty easy way to describe the medium’s strengths.

  21. Matt W says:

    The Rock article has some interesting ideas that are worth pursuing (an idea doesn’t have to have a rigorously argued philosophical background to have value – although without one it relegates itself to being just an idea), but right here it’s papering over a gigantic crack:

    “Of course, if you’re in a situation where you can’t just go from 1 to 3 to 2 — if you’re all bound up in structures and processes — get out. Get around it. Do something.”

    If you are making a big-budget game for a major publisher, you likely can’t skip 2. If you have the resources you can (and should) prototype early and often, but you can’t ignore the people paying the bills. If the only available response is “well, don’t make big-budget games” then the idea restricts itself to only being valid for small-budget games.

  22. the wiseass says:

    Oh I loved Cactus’ “speech” at the IGF Awards ceremony: “……………………………………….. thank you………………………Jesus.”
    Just have a look for yourself:
    http://gdc.gamespot.com/video/6253471/?tag=topslot;watchlink;1
    (around minute 31)
    Also can we please keep Tim “I hate everything” Rogers out of this website? Every time I try to read one of his lengthy diatribes, my stomach turns. Also he’s best friends with Robert “Nintendo Troll” Pelloni, the lunatic who tried to publish “Bob’s game” with demolishing his own bedroom and locking himself in his room. Quinns is right when he says he’s a jerk and I don’t enjoy reading jerks and the fact that this guy got a monthly column at Kotaku is one of the reasons I’m not reading that website anymore. You know, writing a million superfluous words without coherent meaning should not be considered a new writing “style”. It’s simply babbling and I know several women better at that than Tim Rogers.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      I really can’t understand all the hatred for Tim Rogers. I’m not the expert, but isn’t NGJ supposed to be about using personal examples to analyse games and gaming? Pretty much every single anecdote Rogers ever uses is being recounted to illustrate a point he’s making about a game, games or gaming culture.

      Or are people basically complaining that oh, no! he writes lots of words! and sometimes he says things I don’t agree with!

    • TeeJay says:

      Of the two articles I have read of his both have been mostly listing all the things he hates about Japan, with a few incidental anecodotes name dropping games I have never heard of or played. A lot of his problems seem at least partly self-inflicted – my experience of life in Japan didn’t involve the kind of twats and negativity he seems to surround himself with and feed off.

    • GYAD says:

      @TeeJay
      The reviews on Action Button are much better and frequently quite incisive. I find after having read much of his journalism I can now skim past the bloviation. Its much like with Robert Fisk articles where I’ve learnt to smell the bullshit stuff that Fisk just makes up.

      He’s interesting and different enough that I always bother to read his stuff which is a recommendation of sorts.

  23. Taillefer says:

    Thanks for the Jodorowsky interview link, Kieron. It is excellent.

  24. arash says:

    Less talk, more Rock was interesting in that I can buy into the sentiment – it’s a rallying call for people to get into the Agile and Scrum development business. everything else was just trendy boy fluff:)

    • Matt W says:

      I had a second look to see if I could see that, but I really can’t. Scrum doesn’t solve project-approval bureacracy, it has nothing to say about how many words a game should include, and “straight” scrum doesn’t really lend itself well to pre-production work.

    • D says:

      At least as a statement about agile development (in general), the advice works. I have no idea how agile development works in game development projects. I suppose it could be made to work, if you thought about it long enough. I don’t think thats what the statement is trying to do, as the scrum people explain the benefits a lot better.

      And unfortunately with regards to the content of games, it’s just completely elementary and basic, on all levels, and it doesn’t even hold that much truth to me. If I like books, why shouldn’t I like games as text? Because they’re not rock? Who cares, games can be anything, I say. Maybe I miss the point.

  25. TeeJay says:

    Re. “Please Finish Your Game” / Chris Hecker / Indie-Jam / Cactus

    It seems the logical question is what is the main barrier to people exploring their ideas deeply:

    Cactus says:

    “I wish I could spend at least a few months on each of my games, but then I’d have to sacrifice a lot of ideas, and it’s hard to choose what ideas to prioritize over others. (I also think most game developers have a hard time working for a long time on the same game without growing increasingly tired of it, but that’s another story). So, essentially I do agree that it would be preferable if people did try to explore their game ideas to the full extent they deserve to be explored. But I think very few game developers are able to do this.”

    The next question is what would be the best way of helping overcome this barrier? If the “Indie GameJams” format is a great way of encouraging lots of interesting ideas what is the best way of motivating and enabling the next step in their development of the best of these?

    • TeeJay says:

      …to follow on from this:

      For artists, designers, film makers and many other creative careers it is often over 3 or 4 years or more of art school and university that they get to try out ideas and refine concepts. Maybe we need to spend more time/effort trying to get the same opportunities made available to game developers? Hopefuly government, art foundations and industry could be encouraged to put funds into this and make grants and sponsorship as well as provide mentoring, contacts and support?

  26. James G says:

    The Less Talk, More Rock article, particularly in the second half, describes an attitude that is a little alien to me. As DMcCool said, Mario is not a touchstone for everyone, and form a very Japan/North-America centric view of gaming history. For someone who is more likely to name ADVENT as a touchstone than Mario the argument is particularly misplaced. (Furthermore, I’d argue that the article shows a misunderstanding of the processing of language. Parsing language, particularly native language, is a far more base process than the article assumes. Granted the word ‘dude’ isn’t shaped like the concept, but nor is the core concept shaped like a blob of light either.)

    I suppose the issue is I’m not convinced we want to lay down boundaries on what a game can or should be.

    On the other hand, the opening of the article is reasonable, although mainly stands as an argument for rapid prototyping. Unfortunately it is rather unnecessarily dressed up with an argument which dances between anti-design by committee (fair enough, but not entirely practical in many situations) and something bordering on anti-intellectualism. While there has always been movements to challenge perceptions of overwrought, over-technical approaches (See Punk) I quite happen to occasionally like the more overwrought approach, and just as ‘because you can’ doesn’t translate into ‘because you should,’ ‘because you can not’ shouldn’t instantly imply ‘because you should not.’

  27. Wulf says:

    Mmh…

    “Less Talk, More Rock” is interesting, isn’t it? It’s well fashioned, and the way it’s written is almost worrying, as though some insane genius who perceives more of the Universe than we do is behind it, with the flow of writing being almost subconscious in places to the point where the style of writing reminds me of hypnosis techniques. And despite that, it’s so narrow. It’s a very, very long alleyway of perception. What am I trying to say, here? It’s not seeing the wood for the trees? It’s examining the microscopic in favour of the macroscopic? I don’t know, that’s just the feeling I got when I was reading it.

    There are instances where this can work, but these are only part of a greater whole, and the thing is is that this works for books as well. Do you recall someone recently mentioned the opening of House of Leaves? That’s a brilliant example as it encourages the reader to interact with the story in ways which are unique to the reader. And games can do that, games tend to do just that, some games allow for it more than others. But it’s a subset of gaming, it’s one of the foundation blocks, it’s the pivotal notion that “I am playing X, X is able to interact with Y, in doing so creativity ensues.”

    Half-Life 2 had a narrative, but how many Gordon Freemans were exactly the same? One of the things I loved doing in Half-Life 2 was stacking stuff up a mile high, getting the attention of some combine, running behind the unsteady tower and then knocking it over, snickering at the helpless and very confused AI as lots of physics objects came tumbling down upon it. This was especially wonderful if one had a pile of towers. So I was Gordon “The Stacker” Freeman, and everyone’s going to have their own individual elements brought to a game by this, by merit of interactivity.

    Where the game gets it wrong I think is by favouring the element over the whole picture. Gaming can sometimes be like a Dada painting, there can be some perfectly painted things present, and someone might want to focus on those perfectly painted things, showing them deference and sacrificing the painting itself. But that’s missing the point of a Dada painting, isn’t it? And that’s what I feel is going on with this article, because these magical moments of interactivity work best in a well constructed world, where sometimes people go off and do their own thing, doing stuff that perhaps other players wouldn’t even think of.

    Minecraft is an interesting thing to bring up here, because it’s a perfect example. The first thing that many players want to do is construct some sort of nearby world for things to happen in, they’ll create houses and structures, some alien, some bizarre and brilliant, some familiar, some not so, and once they have this done they’ll then turn their hand to the truly alien and strange, to have peculiar creatures in their newly fashioned world. But having a setting, a storyline, a narrative, and then giving the player the ability to interact is all part of one big gaming picture. Strip that down to just the ability to just interact and gamers will try to create their own setting, storyline, and narrative.

    I think that’s because all gamers–on at least some basic level–understand what’s so appealing about their medium. You’re given a world, you know who you are, and you can carve your own tale within the world’s story, there’s potential and possibility, a sea of possibilities, and the way to make yourself known within the scape of the world’s story, and in your mind you’ll be unique to that world because …, and for each person that’s going to be a little bit different. Everyone’s going to take their own approach to things.

    Where I differ from that thesis is that I think that words, structures, narratives, storylines, this all helps to fo bolster and strengthen the urge to be unique within the sense of that world, to try different things, to challenge oneself with uniqueness within the scope of that world, and perhaps to push the boundaries of the interactivity of that world. To a degree it’s a metagame, as we’re testing the developers to see how much they’ve accounted for the possibilities and potential within their world. And to that end we try stuff. We have fun trying stuff, sometimes we play along with the game, sometimes we don’t.

    To wrap up, consider that if House of Leaves had been like it’s opening, instead of just encouraging the reader to be a part of its world, it had no world and that was that then it would have cast the player as the writer and the author. That’s what happens in Minecraft, as if you’re fashioning your own world you are the writer and the author, you’re the one creating possibilities for other people. I’ve seen on the Minecraft forums that people actually create story levels for other to play, too, and that’s a prime example of this.

    As an author, you need to explain your world and set everything out. The mix of words and what the player will see in the level do a great job of that, it tells the player why they’re there, and perhaps gives them an idea of what they should be doing, and the possibilities of what they could be doing. And this is what a good developer gives to players in general, and I think that’s an important element of understanding the nature of gaming. It’s all stories, really. The developer fashions the overarching story, and the players create all the small stories within. All achieved through interactivity and the potential of interactivity.

    • Wulf says:

      Addendum.

      An interesting thought that occurred to me as I was reading over that was that it seemed as though I was describing the game that would be the best example of what I’m talking about: Sleep is Death. Now imagine Sleep is Death without the controller offering any kind of overarching storyline and narrative; that can’t really work. There are always stories in gaming. That’s important. In Sleep is Death you have the controller providing the main story, and the player trying to carve out their story within. That is, perhaps, the most important element of gaming, pretentiousness aside.

      You’re in your own story, you are your character, and you’re trying to make an impact on that world.

      Now what it strikes me that that thesis was talking about is the player end of Sleep is Death. What if the controller only responded with base, visual representations to the player’s actions? It seems that’s what the author is after, yes? And yet, that would likely prove to be a very boring Sleep is Death experience, because the words matter in Sleep is Death. In all the examples we’ve seen. If you haven’t yet, take a look at the Sleep is Death preview over on the Indiegamers blog, it’ll help with understanding precisely what I’m talking about, here.

      So yes, missing the wood for the trees.

    • GT3000 says:

      Requesting TL;DR synopsis of this comment and it’s following addendum, Thank you.

    • qrter says:

      Wulf does tend to write extremely long posts. I find myself skipping his longer posts, simply because I’m reading comments on a blog and I don’t expect the comments to be longer than the blog post itself.

      It’s nothing personal against Wulf or the content of his posts, just that there’s only so much time in a day, you know?

  28. Dreamhacker says:

    I enjoyed Paul Gravett’s article on manga, he provides a wonderfully insightful look at manga. To sum up the article:
    1. The woman writing the dissertation on comics in Britain should pack her prejudices and GTFO from the comics industry right now. Also, stop voting for the BNP.
    2. If you have been avoiding manga because of the big eyes, small mouths, facedef and crazy hairstyles, you should stop worrying. There’s a veritable smorgasboard of different styles out there what with the millions of mangas. There most probably exist several mangas out there just for you.

    • GT3000 says:

      While some manga have deeply complex and intriguing storylines, I have a hard time taking anything serious when eyes are the size of tea saucers.

    • Taillefer says:

      It also had the nice point of teachers being resistant or hostile to things they know little about because not knowing about something (and therefore being unable to share knowledge of it, natch) undermines their role as a teacher. Which seems like a very obvious point, but it makes the impression I had of some of my old teachers as just being these big, arrogant figures as something more pitiful and feeling threatened.

      It also had specific examples of Manga not conforming to those saucer-eyed clichés.

    • JuJuCam says:

      I think the point is that manga featuring “eyes the size of tea saucers” aren’t meant to be taken seriously, any more than Archie Comics should be taken seriously.

    • Robsoie says:

      The interest in the world of manga and it is the same for any nation comic book is indeed the -extreme- diversity of style and story telling.

      About manga particularly, there is indeed a story and a style for everyone.

      As an example of a manga that does not feature the “eye the size of a cup of tea” (drawing style i don’t like myself) and that is very intelligently written (far from most of the teenager targetted manga production medias are usually focusing on), i can only recommend reading the whole collection of Death Note.
      It is a masterpiece of story telling that from what i read got acclaimed worldwide from mature readers, and frankly it deserves it.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Biomega – another manga with a really different artstyle.
      Abandon your old in Tokyo – Social commentary manga that looks nothing like the stereotypical manga-artwork.

  29. Wulf says:

    Right, let’s see if I can actually comment on some other stuff this week…

    In regards to the word being gaming’s second class citizen, I can see that being true in some cases but I think the nature of it is being over-exaggerated just a wee bit. It mostly comes across as one man’s fight to see what he wants in games, and if that’s the case then he could just put together an indie studio and show us himself rather than complaining about it, to be frank. If he feels this strongly about it and that the industry is handling the word so wrong, then he’ll have to show me how differently he’d do things, but whether he’d be able to pull it off is another question entirely. It’s an interesting thought that perhaps games are just a different direction than he’s used to, but I think it’s more that his knowledge of gaming might be lacking because I’ve seen words used to create powerful narratives within games in the past. That isn’t alien to gaming. I’d love to see his reaction to the Myst games, for one.

    That is, of course, I’m just not understanding him fully because I did feel that the article did seem ambiguous to me because it appeared he was sidestepping around things and hopping from one thing to another without really fully explaining his desire, and how games haven’t met his expectations. But that might just be a lack of understanding on my part. The thing is though, I’ve seen plenty of games which are well written and have made beautiful use of characters, both English and alien. So I’m a bit at a loss. Usually though people who feel this passionate about stuff do have something to show, so I’d really love for him to put his own game together.

    In regards to Please Finish Your Game, I have to say that I’m in Cactus’ camp with this. The thing is is that these experimental games are basically prototypes and concepts, they can’t be finished, can they? At least, that’s my opinion. What I’m getting at here is that there have been many games which have stretched a base concept out over 30 hours, and they haven’t worked. Portal lasted for three hours, and that was perhaps about right, but Portal really managed to mix things up with its mechanic. What I’m getting at here is that it’s going to take smooshing about 10 or 20 of those prototypes together in order to have enough to work with to create one game, but what those prototypes do manage to do is give others inspiration to create their full game with. So I don’t think there’s any harm in them. Again, at least, that’s my opinion.

    As for Leigh’s take on Sleep is Death, it reads like what I’ve read from a lot of people who’ve played it, and that its real potential shines when there’s an imaginative weaver of stories at the helm. That’s something I do. I love storytelling. Not of the book sort, but the old man by the fireplace, recanting an old tale of heroes, high adventure, and whatnot, and I could see that I’d have a lot of fun with this. I can also see myself toiling over art assets for it. It’ll be very interesting to see what I manage at the end of the day, because at the moment it seems mired in the ordinary, extraordinary happening amidst the ordinary perhaps, but I’m going to try to fashion my imagination in that thing. I relish the challenge.

    How many others out there feel the same way? Do you have things in mind that you’d like to show people? Friends and perhaps strangers alike?

    So that’s about it for me from this Sunday Paper. I’m now going to flee!

    • Lambchops says:

      @ Wulf

      I wrote a little about my rekindled interest in Sleep is Death above. In a large part is due to the preview that Mr Day linked to above; which showed that Sleep is Death could lend itself to a more lighthearted, exuberant experience. My initial thought was that the game looked like it was trying to set itself up to be a bit more downbeat and serious and that put me off.

      You see I’m not the most creative of people and as such i’d see myself more as a player than a controller (though it’s something I’d like to have a shot of as well). i can only think of two people I know who’d be interested in this sort of thing and who I’d give my other download from the pre order to and I know for a fact that both of them would be inclined to imaginative scenarios perhaps inclining more towards slapstick or silly humour.

      In fact I’m almost certain that the first thing the guy I’m likely to play it with is going to do is to create a world where he is king and try and persecute my character in ways in which I can’t even begin to imagine. My response will be naturally to try and bite back at him; any story we create will probably be an extension of the jokily antagonist stupid banter than we have down the pub. Just in game form.

      And that’s great. However I’d be pretty interested to see what kind of things people who I don’t know are inclined to do and go along with their stories – which is why I still think it’s a bit of a shame that there isn’t intended to be a matchmaking service; with descriptions of roughly what type of story the person is going to try and offer. Even if the best experiences in the game are from riffing off a friend there’s surely merit in experiencing something completely unexpected as well.

    • Wulf says:

      That’s a great post, Lambchops. I don’t have much to add, and I certainly have nothing to contest. So I’ll just share a few thoughts that come to mind, for whatever worth they have.

      First of all, I’ve got a few stories in mind and they range from alien dimensions, to spaceships, to the kind of thing one would usually see in Doctor Who. In fact, I’d probably even have a laugh with a story where the player is cast as the 12th Doctor’s assistant (imagine what you could do with that!), just for laughs. And I’d put together a wholly absurd scenario for such a purpose. But I digress. There is one story I’d really like to tell with this, and I’m looking forward to doing so, I also have a few likely victims in mind.

      I’m a bit of a loremaster, I love writing lore, and I simply love werewolves. How would a werewolf initiation in a modern day pack go? The sort of wolf-pack that would meet at a pub, and (thanks to the Pack forums for this one) mark their territory by placing a rubber ducky in a window (as a symbol of a modern-day tribe). How would that work? What would they do? What would this initiate, this acolyte, have to do in order to earn their trust and find their way in? What tests would a particularly clever modern-day pack have for them? That is a story I want to try to tell with Sleep is Death.

      I tried to tell that kind of story before with Werewolf the Apocalypse, but the Universe just isn’t suited to it. The werewolves are generally more combative, they’re struggling to survive against a mythological threat rather than more real world considerations, and it just didn’t work out for me. I pretty much gave up on that back then, but this would be a good font for it, an avenue of storytelling I hadn’t quite considered, mostly because I’d be able to create the art assets myself. They would only need to be very basic and the rest I would simply do with words alone. Really, I’ve been waiting for something like Sleep is Death, I suppose. I relish the chance to weave a story or two, and mine won’t be too serious either. It’ll be fun making it look that way to the player at first though. At least until the player realises they’re being razzed just to test the strength of their character.

      So it’s going to be a lot of fun, and I think there are going to be people who’re going to have a story they want to tell, which they will be able to tell with this. There will be varying degrees of competence, sure, but every time someone really tries to share a story it’s going to be an absolute bloody marvel, isn’t it? Regardless of how it’s handled or what happens there’s this realisation that you’ll be walking around in someone else’s memories and dreams, I look forward to that almost as much as I look forward to telling my own tale. I think the apt title for a game like this would’ve been Dreamwalker, because that’s what’s really going on.

      As for a matchmaking service, I agree with you completely, but that doesn’t necessarily need to happen within the scope of the game itself. I can understand Rohrer’s reasons for not including one, but that doesn’t mean we can’t do it anyway. Have a nose at Neverwinter Connections, take a good look around there and you’ll likely see where my train of thought is going. We could setup an online matchmaking service via the net, where two people agree to meet to engage in a story at a particular time. A scheduling system could be setup, too, so that if a player wants to engage a group of players with a story–one after another–they could arrange to do that when they have the free time to share.

      It would’ve been nice if we had that feature in the game, but we’re not completely helpless, so once the game is released all it really needs is a domain, a scheduling system (WebCalendar works), and a decent site design. In fact, the site design doesn’t need to be anything special since it could just be minimalistic like Rohrer’s game/interface. So we could do things that way. I’d be interested in seeing such a service go up, and I might even be the one responsible for such a system if I’m so inclined (since it would be pretty easy to do, and it wouldn’t take much bandwidth to handle). But if someone else wants to beat me to the punch, feel free.

      At the end of the day though I think we’re going to be in for some particularly interesting stories, Sleep is Death is going to show us the minds of many other people, and that’s going to be something just a little bit special, every encounter is going to be, from the silly to the serious.

  30. Seniath says:

    I imagine that by the time I get my hands on their (The Indelicates) new album, I am TOTALLY going to regret not going to see them in Manchester t’other week.

  31. Manfromtheweb says:

    “Kyle Francis on why Yakuza 3 does boredom right and Heavy Rain does boredom wrong.”

    Poor Mr. Francis, no one has commented on his article here at RPS or on his own site.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      It had a great opening, and the rest was interesting! Not sure how much more I can say without actually playing the game it discusses.

    • Wulf says:

      Likewise, as I don’t really have a lot of interest in either game. I suppose I should, but eh, I’ve drifted more and more away from consoles in recent years, and the only game I can really recall enjoying on the PS3 was Flower, and Castle Crashers on the 360, both of which could have worked on the PC. (I do love my DS though, if only for the Ace Attorney games.)

      There’s nothing wrong with the article, it’s a great little article, it’s just that RPS might not be the right audience for it. It’d have to be pitched to a console gaming audience.

    • TeeJay says:

      I actually really enjoyed that article even tho’ I have never owned a console and don’t have clue about either game. He has a very readable and enjoyable style, an interesting idea and really brought the games to life – I loved the bit about him deciding to play ‘mechanical grab’ for fluffy toys to (pretend to) give to the orphan (aka pretend love child).

    • vagabond says:

      I haven’t played Yakuza 3 but I have played Heavy Rain. Heavy Rain certainly does it’s share of problems, but I enjoyed it anyway, and a lot of the plot holes only bothered me after I’d finished it.

      Most (all?) of his examples of things that were boring and bore no significance to the plot come from the 20 minute long section before you leave the house at the start of the game, which is basically a giant tutorial. Laying out the plates teaches you to use the “slow, careful” moves. The plastic sword fight with your son teaches you the moves used in combat. It’s hard to have meaningful story things happen when they want you to pay attention to the controls, and expect the majority of players to mess up a bunch of stuff there. Maybe a completely separate tutorial of the sort that Farenheit had would have worked better, but I found it charming enough.

      I don’t think heavy rain ever pretended it was going to be anything other than a giant choose-your-own adventure with quick time events, and I get the impression that it’s just not his sort of game rather than that there is anything inherently better about how Yakuza went about being boring for its opening section than Heavy Rain did.

      (also, I’d have posted a comment on his site, but I couldn’t be bothered registering)

  32. Radiant says:

    What exactly is wrong with Tim Rogers’ style of writing?

    I love the article Quinns linked to and used to read insert coin occasionally specifically for his reviews.
    They’re ridiculously hilarious.

  33. Kyle Francis says:

    I know. I am very sad. Love me.

  34. Sagan says:

    The less talk more rock guys certainly have a different ideal for games than I do.
    None of my favourite games would have a chance to get into that less talk more rock hall of fame. They are full of dialogue and typically have many menus.
    I don’t think you can model complexity beyond a certain point without a complex user interface. And I don’t think you can have really interesting characters in a game without lots of dialogue. (I haven’t played Ico, though)
    I have enjoyed the games from their list that I have played, but I don’t think they are great. Except Flower maybe. And I enjoyed that so much because of how beautiful it is, and I don’t think that is why they put it into their list.

    But I would agree that for some parts of some games, games should follow their ideal more. But right now games in general need better characters, and I don’t think you can achieve that with less talk.
    That being said, I think you could probably design a conversation system that didn’t interrupt the flow of the game and I think that would be more rock without less talk.

    • Paul B says:

      It’s interesting that Bioware have been doing just that. In Mass Effect they brought in the shortened list of choices instead of the reams of text, when you face a dialogue option. This makes the choice more immediate and more involving, without compromising on the interactivity.

      Personally, I’m rubbish at games like Mario and Metroid Prime – twitch games for me – where hand-eye co-ordination is key. I look forward to games like Dragon Age or Mass Effect, where you feel like you’re entering a fully-realised world. I can’t be the only one who loves reading the codex entries, and rounding out that universe in my mind.

      Surely both types of game design can exist. I’d hate to live in a world where Bioware adventures or Final Fantasy games are marginalised, in favour of Super Mario or Another World type concepts, which were lessons in gameplay frustration for me. Why can’t a game be a like a good book, there’s nothing wrong with that?

    • Psychopomp says:

      Metroid Prime is a twitch game?

    • Paul B says:

      Hehe, probably not the best example, but anything that isn’t an RPG is a twitch game to me (Mass Effect being the game that straddles the gap). I’m fairly useless at any game that isn’t turn based.

    • Paul B says:

      …or that you can pause at will.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Paul B

      The redeeming feature of the DA:O codex for me was that 99% of it was completely irrelevant to playing the game. The only bits that fed into my game was one “puzzle” in the Mage Tower and some of the comments about party member’s preferences re. gifts so I could increase their stats slightly. Otherwise I made do with skimming or later on completely ignoring it all (I did click on books for the XP – unlike most Oblivion books for example). I also turned on subtitles so that I could read ahead faster than the voice actors and press onwards.

      I do like lore and books if I feel like what I am learning will give me useful clues about enemies, otherwise hidden stashes or characters, about the plot or areas I might be visiting later on, but in DA:O I just couldn’t make myself care about these ‘off-map’ areas or historical periods. For that matter I far prefered the stupid, short and random Minsc interjections than long-winded Shale-isms. I do understand that some people love the new Bioware style but personally I preferred their old style and dislike some (not all) of the ‘more talk – more walk – more text – more cutscene’ direction they seem to have taken with Mass Effect and Dragon Age. For me the important design debate here isn’t about ‘arcade shooters versus RPGs’ but about one style of telling an RPG story versus another style.

      (BTW this doesn’t apply to all aspects as they have also ‘streamlined’ some stuff that I prefered when it was more complex, eg making damage figures briefly float toward the ceiling rather than having the option of a reviewable drop-down action-record window to check what just happened to get everyone killed)

    • Paul B says:

      I suppose I fall in the middle somewhere. Having re-played Baldur’s Gate 2 recently, the RPG experience does feel more stream-lined then in the latest Bioware adventures. No codex, or cut-scenes to worry about. But, then I feel a cut-scene or spoken dialogue tree, done well, does add something to a game (I loved Mass Effect 2′s cut-scene heavy finale for example). The only problem is that most aren’t done well, even a lot of the ones in Bioware games.

      I also switched on subtitles, and skipped though dialogue, when playing DA: O only watching the ones I felt an emotional connection to. And briefly read through most of the codex entries, just stopping to read the interesting ones. Although you could say the codex system adds unwanted baggage to the game experience, I’m glad it was there. Although I found Mass Effect 2′s codex system more rewarding then DA: O’s (maybe because Mass Effect is a new universe, while DA: O was based on established fantasy, with a new twist). And it does seem a case of a lot of hard work being put into the codex by the designers, with most gamers only giving it minor use.

      I suspect it comes down to, as you say, two contrasting styles of RPG in the end, and your preference for one or the other. There’s the flashy, full of cut-scenes & spoken dialogue, newer Bioware ones, and the old-style Baldur’s Gate/Planescape ones. Unfortunately for fans of the latter, it seems the new style is going to become the standard for the near future. Thank goodness you have the option to skip most of the dialogue/cut-scenes.

      And I’d also take Minsc over Shale, but did love Shale’s pigeon-hating :)

    • TeeJay says:

      !!!!!!!!!!!!Sorry I’ve just written a rant!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      At first I was impressed by the extensive DA:O dialogue trees but after a few times of dying, redoing dialogue and then realising that the “choices” all seemed to lead to identical responses I felt cheated. At least in the old style I could often predict that I could knock-out each reply (reply A (stall), reply B (chit-chat)) in turn or just cut to the chase and end the conversation with reply X (attack!). Not so “immersive” but at least honest and more ‘playable’ for me (quicker to crunch through).

      Also re. moral choices – I did just about any and every quest in the game and at no point did any faction turn against me or any party members leave or go psycho on me. Apparently I got a slightly different list of ‘happily ever after’ boxes at the very end, but I never got hunted down by guards for robbing every single home I came across. After the dialogue thing I was left wondering if I was playing the game or the game was ‘playing’ me.

      On the Codex issue I am torn between two personal preferences: either strip out everything that isn’t a core and playable part of the “game” or have loads of stuff, but make it so that you are kind of “treasure hunting” within the text – ie you have a *gaming* reason to learn lore, track down clues, gain specific knowledge, crack codes/recipies/spells etc. the kind of thing where you keep a note book next to your mouse and ponder between sessions.

      I’m happy enough for the Codex stuff to simply be there for everyone who likes immersion in a fictional game universe – I remember previews where they explained they had written a massive history which their designers had used to layer architectural styles on top of each other and ‘age’ them – that they had a invented a massive amount of lore simply as part of the process. It would be a waste therefore not to use this content as in-game background texts. However just like eye-candy graphics, I can’t help feel that I’d prefer smaller levels where all the doors are openable, houses had upstairs and there were two or three possible entrances, rather than massive, pretty levels with two doors, and one linear route, for example. I’d rather an ugly room with something to do in it than a beautifully detailed room that you run through in five seconds while looking for something interesting to do.

      They did some really nice ceilings but at no point do you ever really have to look upwards. They give you some nice balconies and ramparts but then prevent you from firing spells or arrows over them (forcing a wierd rush for the stairs) instead.

      I suppose what I find annoying is that they get ‘half way’ there – if it was *completely* different from the older games I wouldn’t feel so frustrated.

      For example, I got through the entire game without having a clue as to how I was detecting traps and opening locks. There are four skill levels, but what else is involved I never worked out, so I simply maxed out the skills as soon as possible and that was that, end of. No potions, spells, stealthing, being in or out of combat or anything else. Or maybe it did? I seem to remember on one solitary occasion an injury seemed to prevent a lockpick. Or that could have been a bug, like my character deciding to morph his bow and arrow into wierdly shaped twin flaming/electric daggers.

      I’d forgive the new ‘flashy’ style if they had include a lot of the old deep mechanics and gameplay underneath, but it seems that they spent a lot of their time, effort and money on the presentation and surface. Let’s hope they built in enough flexibility for people to mod the hell out of it and let’s see what people can do.

    • Paul B says:

      I wouldn’t call that a rant – rants usually aren’t that well-written, or make as much sense :) .I Agree with a lot of what you’re saying. I guess we’ll have to see if Bioware continue to tone down the game mechanics, in favour of story elements and extraneous stuff like Codexes, and dialogue trees that give the illusion of choice.

      I’ve not played The Witcher but I’ve heard that differs in its approach, with the choices you make, making a difference later in the story. I suppose one problem is, that Bioware being successful with this style (and in sales term) set the template for other RPGs to copy. Maybe Indie publishers like Spiderweb software will fill the more old-school niche (if it becomes a niche).

    • Paul B says:

      And I’m sure some of the stuff you mentioned, has been down to the broadening user-base of Bioware RPGs, now that most of their sales are probably from the console versions. *Shakes imaginary fist at console players*.

      Makes you wonder if some of the stuff – like simplified ability & skill trees – would be included if it was a PC only release. Or whether it’s too easy to point the finger at multi-platform releases – maybe this is the direction games & RPGs are moving in, in general.

    • boldoran says:

      @TeeJay
      You can in fact make decisions that turn factions against you (werewolves/elves) and on some critical points you can make party members go psycho by acting against their deepest believes.
      And I liked how the codex helped you better understand some of the things you encountered in the game world (the landsmeet for example). I read quite a lot of it and some of the stories are really interesting.

      I agree with your opinion on game mechanics that are not properly explained.

  35. pedant says:

    re the article about health care, Sweden and funding:

    As a Swede I found that article bonkers not to mention it’s argument about funding quite flawed. Ignoring the errors regarding health care and the rather tenuous link there (what hell does it have to do with funding culture?) the argument that Swedish music success is due to grants is weak at best.

    A few counterpoints:
    1) Swedish filmmakers, book writers and various old creative arts makers are given grants as well, music is not an exception. But how many people can name three Swedish working film directors? Three authors? And if you say Stieg Larsson, sorry he’s not the type getting grants. Just the movies based on his books.

    2) Swedish game makers receive no special tax breaks or grants yet they’ve produced Just Cause 2, Mirrors Edge, Hearts of Iron and Battlefield. And Horse & Pony II. In fact, odds are that quite a few people here can name more Swedish games than bands.

    3) The article also neglects to mention that Sweden was pretty unique in making good quality music tuition available for almost all children at little/no cost up until recently. By making sure the talent pool is big, odds are you’ll get more people with, well, talent. Add some odd quirks like madly copying Anglo Saxon culture whilst denouncing it and above average English skills and it further weakens the grants argument.

    In fact, given that film making seems more similar to game making than music, you really really don’t want to follow down that road if Sweden is any indication.

    • Lambchops says:

      Anytime that Swedish music is mentioned i have to post a link to a Dungen video. I think it’s an unwritten rule!

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OAyU_B_x9RE

      Easily one of the best bands of recent years.

    • pedant says:

      @lambchops

      That sounded a bit like popsicle to me a bit, nasal pop kinda. Loved the psychedelic kåta though, brillant!

      Prefer this there (and I hope they milk the system for as many grants as they can!) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=drlFuFPG3gk

    • TeeJay says:

      @ pedant:

      I also am not convinced that the “argument” in favour of grants was successfully made. I don’t know anything much about Sweden so I wouldn’t want to argue with you there either.

      I think the supposed “link” with health care has to do with the situation in America (I am assuming that the Pitchfork author and the majority their readers are American). As I understand it for people in the US the issue of “can I afford to be unemployed or not in a proper job, so that I can write/record/gig?” does involve facing the prospect of getting ill and then possibly having to use your entire savings and/or otherwise abandon anything that isn’t focussed solely on ‘making a wage’.

      In the UK this specific issue doesn’t exist as health care is free. Getting verifiably can actually mean getting an upgrade in any unemployment benefits and not being required to sign on each week or do various ‘back to work’ requirements. You can also *just* about survive on unemployment or “disability” benefits plus housing benefits (plus the odd bit of cash-in-hand/informal work) for years and years (although it can be very grim). Getting from there to having the cash for travel, equipment, recording, promotion etc is another thing entirely of course – from that point of view people would probably be better off working, then going part-time or a break for a tour etc. Again in the UK people won’t lose their health insurance coverage by leaving a job.

      The aspect of funding in the UK which wasn’t mentioned was the BBC and channel 4 which do a fair bit to ‘help’ bands – although this is a bad time to suggest this to 6Music listeners (it has been listed for closure in a year or so). Also local councils, various schools, colleges and other organisations which put on events or provide facilities.

      vvvvvvvvvv+less seriously+vvvvvvvvvv

      Re. naming 3 Swedish film directors and 3 Swedish authors:

      Film makers:

      1. Tomas Alfredson – eg Let the Right One In (2008)
      2. Lukas Moodysson – eg Fucking Åmål aka Show Me Love (1998) & Lilya 4-ever (2002)
      3. Lasse Hallström – eg What’s Eating Gilbert Grape (1993), The Cider House Rules (1999), Chocolat (2000), Casanova (2005)

      I admit I cheated with their names, but I have definitely heard of all these films (haven’t watched them tho’).

      Authors:

      Henning Mankell – eg the Wallander crime series (currently an award-winning TV series in the UK starting Kenneth Branagh)

      Stieg Larsson (d. 2004) = 27 million copies in over 40 countries so far, also “According to The Guardian, George Clooney, Johnny Depp, and Brad Pitt are all interested in playing the central role of Mikael Blomkvist; and producer Søren Stærmose of Yellow Bird, who holds the screen rights to the books, has been approached by directors including Quentin Tarantino, Ridley Scott, and Martin Scorsese.”

      Astrid Lindgren (d. 2002) = world’s 25th most translated author and has sold roughly 145 million copies worldwide.

      So that’s only one who is alive, but here are some more:
      “Why are Nordic detective novels so successful?” The Economist, March 10th 2010#
      http://www.economist.com/culture/displaystory.cfm?story_id=15660846
      ie. Ake Edwardson, Hakan Nesser, Leif G.W. Persson
      and people in the comments thread there mention Camilla Läckberg, Liza Marklund, Helen Tursten, Mari Jungstedt as does this older article on ‘Scandinavian Noir’ http://www.crimeculture.com/21stC/ScandinavianNoir.html

      Music … too many to make lists but I just want to name-check Robyn, José González & The Knife :-)

    • skalpadda says:

      I was about to write something very similar about this. I really don’t think that holding up the fact that a few artists and record labels get money from Statens Kulturråd and other government institutions is a good explanation for a successful music industry. That’s not saying I think it’s a bad thing, it certainly helps making sure that diverse culture of all kinds is made available and gets a chance to reach people, both here and internationally.

      As Pedant says, free music tuition and more local efforts such as “culture houses” and local council sponsored music (and other arts) events and venues have played a huge role in both giving the opportunity to try and learn and also to reach an audience.

      There are lots of different things to point to, many of them far from unique to Scandinavian countries, but I just wanted to say I think the article is oversimplifying in the extreme.

    • Sonic Goo says:

      @skalpadda

      The other factors you mention are also forms of government support, though.

    • skalpadda says:

      True, but they take a very different form, particularly being all-inclusive and available to everyone rather than the privilege of the few who are deemed worthy. I think all of it serves a good purpose, but I do believe that giving everyone a chance to try, learn and explore different kinds of artistic expression and having venues where people can perform, display and experience it is more important on the whole than subsidising a few creators, not least because it raises standards and awareness across the board.

  36. Nobody Important says:

    @Zwebbie: Because in the case of Final Fantasy XII, the combat is actually fun and enjoyable.

    • Psychopomp says:

      But it’s different from other JRPG’s! Also, with a little effort, you have the option of the game playing itself for you!

  37. jarvoll says:

    Re: Halo

    Really? Polished and innovative? I don’t want to come off like a hater, so I’ll restrict myself to:

    1) The only thing I can think of that was innovative was the health-regen thing, and I’m not entirely sure that’s a mechanic I’d welcome as a positive innovation. What else did it do that was new? I am genuinely curious. Good AI and storytelling were done better and earlier, it seems to me, by that other shooter beginning with “Hal”. Oh, perhaps the limited-weapons-slots-so-pick-what-you-want-to-carry mechanic? It definitely rode/created the zeitgeist, but I feel that had more to do with the Xbox ,and acceptance of gaming as a “cool-person’s” activity, than with the game itself. It seems to me like any half-decent, multi-player console shooter would have had the same experience, especially having had Goldeneye pave the road a couple of years earlier.

    2) I suppose it wasn’t buggy, which is some sort of merit, but polished? I felt that the pacing was quite unbalanced: that every weapon, level- and enemy-type was introduced in the first couple of chapters, and it was just bland repetition after that. The only new introduction was The Flood, which ought to have the subscript “; or, The Grind”. I get that their gameplay reflected the character of the species, but that interesting connection doesn’t make the grind of the gameplay any less grind-y. The Library level was the famous high/low-point of this.

    I find Halo utterly repulsive, but that’s an emotional, personal reaction. On the level of discussing it (relatively) objectively, for the reasons I’ve given above, I still feel that Halo is neither particularly innovative nor polished, just sort of *there*. I have no problem with anyone’s *enjoying* it, and clearly VERY many do, and I can certainly understand the urge to justify this enjoyment with the backing of critical quality, I just don’t think (in this particular case) the quality’s there. I think it’s just (for Lewis and random club guy) a fun game, and that’s enough – no need to reach for any higher reason.

    (Side note: This isn’t supposed to support what I just said, I’m simply sharing because it occurred to me. I cannot imagine myself having the following, analogue conversation:

    Random Person: Hey, what do you do?
    Me: *Sigh* *pause* I’m a film critic/journalist
    Random Person: Oh, really? You like Avatar, then?

    I suppose that’s because the film industry is much more well-established. Plus, random is likely to assume that I’ve seen and enjoyed Avatar… no need to ask. I frequently experience this in my own life, where people I meet can’t believe that I never watch television and never watch films in the cinema. The public’s assumption is that, as a young person, I’ll be automatically consuming and enjoying these media.)

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Halo does three things of note:

      a) regenerating health (although it’s worth noting, for people who hate regenerating health in other shooters, that Halo’s system actually made sense in-universe);
      b) limiting the player’s inventory of weapons to two items plus grenades (a formula that, if not invented by Halo, was certainly popularised by it); and
      c) fairly competent AI.

      Of those three, the first two are the ones really worth looking at. The intelligent AI, while neat, isn’t something that carried on – by which I mean that games aiming for convincing enemy AI is something that started decades ago, isn’t ever going to end and isn’t due to Halo. By contrast, the modern FPS formula of two weapons + grenades + regenerating health, which has been aped in pretty much every single FPS with even a hint of a single-player mode since 2001, is something that we can largely attribute to Halo’s popularity.

      Yes, Halo was an alright game, with interesting mechanics, entertaining fight set-pieces and some of the world’s worst level design; but to stop at this and go “I didn’t like Halo, so I consider it largely unimportant with regards to gaming” is a little short-sighted. Like it or not, Halo (and Half-Life its Zarathustra) was largely responsible for ending the era of the Doom- or Quake-likes and ushering in the new generation of FPSes.

      Incidentally, from a designer’s point of view, both these genre conventions are tremendously helpful. Regenerating health means you never have to worry about a particularly crap player using up all the medpaks and being simply unable to progress because a particular encounter was designed with a cost of X hitpoints in mind and they happen to be unable to pay it.

      The two-weapon limitation means level designers also have much more control over how players can solve encounters; before, you’d have to worry about how many weapons the player had, and how much ammo you’d distributed across the level, and worry about a million other things the player might or might not have done; the only real way to reliably deny a player the use of a weapon was through completely arbitrary decisions (weapon Y doesn’t work because I decided it doesn’t, or even worse, stripping a player of all their hard-earned guns halfway through the game). Now, they’ll only ever have two tools at their disposal, which can only ever be what you give them there and then to solve a given encounter.

      (PS: the average person is much more aware of films as a medium than they are of games, and so is much more likely to be able to name at least one classic film that’s on some notable academic’s list of films you really, really must watch despite said films not being Hollywood blockbusters than they are likely to know about a similarly partially-off-the-radar-but-considered-a-classic-by-critics video game. So yes, it’s a question of how established the two media are.)

    • Shalrath says:

      “Incidentally, from a designer’s point of view, both these genre conventions are tremendously helpful. Regenerating health means you never have to worry about a particularly crap player using up all the medpaks and being simply unable to progress because a particular encounter was designed with a cost of X hitpoints in mind and they happen to be unable to pay it.”

      Also as a designer, i think this has made us lazy and complacent. Instead of creating carefully crafted defensive lines, or good fallback positions, or well placed enemies, or how to make sure bad players had enough health, but good players didn’t have too much, we just say ‘here’s a wall to hide behind while you get your health back.

      It’s laziness, the same with the dual-weapon system. Instead of saying “Oh hey, we need to balance these weapons for each encounter” we go “well each gun should be overpowered so that only having two doesn’t screw you over.” Instead of the backup shotgun for emergencies, or the last-ditch-oh-fuck pistol, we have a massive machine gun and a fully-auto rocket launcher.

      Call of Duty has done something similar – have any of you experienced the hilarity that was the console controls? Left trigger (360) LOCKS ONTO and ZOOMS INTO anyone near the centre of the screen. My God, we took the aim assist from Quake – which was to balance the fucking KEYBOARD used to aim up and down – and made it fucking STICK TO enemies. You don’t even have to play anymore! At work I’m constantly fighting other designers ideas to make the game play itself for the player – auto aim, aim assist, sticky reticule, etc. We’re at the point in game design where I laugh at people who make fun of Metal Gear for being ‘just some cutscenes that you occasionally press buttons in – because these same people play games where they press two buttons and the game aims, fires, and turns their goddamn character automatically.

      We’re at the point in games where popular titles are just hand-holding videos that play out for them. Nobody was aiming for me in Quake 3. There was no sticky-reticule in Deus Ex. There was no health regenerating when I fucked up in Half-Life. There’s no terror anymore – no ‘oh shit, I have to defeat this huge boss and his rockets take 90% of my health!’ You just wander around like a moron and occasionally duck behind a wall when you get hit.

      I thought games were about overcoming challenges, not having it play itself while you vaguely moved around. Jesus Christ, 10 years ago if this stuff was done online it was called hacking, and you had an aimbot, wallhack and pre-fire on.

    • Wisq says:

      Regenerating health is a mixed blessing in my eyes.

      On the one hand, yes, it removes a lot of the tension. Do something stupid/reckless (but not quite fatally stupid/reckless), get hit bad, hide somewhere, get your health up, get back in the fight, no harm done.

      On the other hand, it removes the health-hoarding and save-scumming I always seemed to end up doing in previous games. For example, Deus Ex, Dragon Age, etc. — I would frequently find myself in a rather boring pattern of quicksaving before anything dangerous, trying it out, looking at how much I’d expended in resources, and reloading if I judged it too high or if there was something I could’ve done better.

      I realise that’s a personal failing on my part, but I think it’s something these systems are encouraging (intentionally or otherwise), by giving you a finite resource and telling you to spend it wisely — with the implied threat of running out later if you don’t. Despite the fact that I would then finish the game with a ton of health items. (Or else I find myself collecting the next tier of health items while I still have a ton from the lower tier. At least Torchlight let me turn my hoarded lower-tier health items into higher ones, although that maxes out pretty quick.)

      Then there’s the Half Life system, where you don’t actually carry regenerative items with you, and you’re expected to find medkits or health stations instead. This manages to avoid the recklessness of regenerating health and the hoarding of health items. The risk is that you’ll find yourself low on health and unable to press forward to the next health station/item. Normally, that means going back to the previous station (possibly via a game over and/or loading a save), though heaven help you if you’re silly enough to save while low on health.

      The Left 4 Dead system seems like a slight refinement of that. One health kit per player, max, no exceptions. Plenty of warning when it’s your last chance to use it. If you don’t use it, it becomes a boost for the next area, since when you find your next medkit, there’s very little reason not to use the one you have. And yet, if you use it before the next one, you’re now under a lot of pressure to not screw up (again) before the next one. (Also, checkpoints instead of saves, but that’s pretty much mandatory for MP co-op.)

      In general, I’m pretty much okay with any of the above. Regenerating health is cheap, but avoids a lot of other issues. Carryable health items worry me and make me want to horde, but once I’ve accumulated enough, I can recognise the hoarding and stop being quite so anal about conserving them. Scavenging for health takes things out of my control, which can be a bit uncomfortable, but that means it’s doing its job of creating tension. And the single-medpack system gives me a balance between the tension of not having much health and the careful thinking of when to use it.

      What really bugs me, though, are scavenge-for-health games (or scavenging + purchasable health) where they try to create tension or enforce skilled gameplay by being incredibly stingy with restorative items, and not letting you farm them either. Games designed in such a way that an early screw-up or lack of hoarding is meant to haunt you for the rest of the game — potentially to the point where you may have learned to play better, but you still have to start over because you didn’t learn fast enough.

      But thankfully, these aren’t very common in the PC world, I find. In fact, the only titles that come to mind are the Capcom games like Devil May Cry, Onimusha, etc. — and those games do so many other things that bother me that I’ve just given up on them, despite the “nifty” factor. (Things like ranking my performance and giving me items based on it. Yeah, because if I’m really darn good at the game, I need all those extra items you’re giving me, right? Makes about as much sense as CoD4′s “you’re owning the other team, here’s a helicopter to help you” system.)

      So I guess I’m just saying that there are worse things than regenerating health. :)

    • Tei says:

      Anithing but “lives”, please, Stuff like the Pitfall game where if you get touch by a spider you lose a “life” of the 3, or so, you have.

      About Halo,is a horrible and lame corridor shotter.

    • ohnoabear says:

      Halo’s strengths, like so many great games (especially great console games), are in intangible, hard to define qualities like how balanced the weapons are, or how “right” the sniper rifle feells, so it’s difficult to properly explain what made it great.

      Here’s an attempt to list a few of them, though:

      -Multiplayer FPS based on planning and positioning, rather than twitch: Halo strikes a good balance between the twitchy accessibility of UT and Quake and the slow-paced, realistic approach off Rainbow Six. It’s the kind of game anyone who can understand its controls can just pick up and play, but it requires intuition and thinking to play it well. You need to know each weapon’s effective range, and how to ensure that you are at that range for your weapon and avoid being in that space for your opponent’s. That’s not any different from UT or Quake, but Halo’s slower pace makes it easier to get into, and easier to improvise when you need to.

      Even before cover systems became all the rage, Halo was a game about using cover and firing angles to your advantage. You could almost play it as a stealth game, bobbing and weaving to stay out of sight for as long as possible. The wide open maps encouraged this. I remember playing the PC version at a LAN party with a friend of mine who was a phenomenal counter-strike player. He’d mastered the art of getting quick head shots with a sniper rifle. In Halo, he was trying the same tactic, hiding behind some hills to snipe. I killed him over and over again because he’d just stay in the same place to snipe, and I’d weave my way through cover, sneak up behind him, and then smack him in the back of the head.

      -One-button melee and grenades: I don’t know if Halo did this first, but it’s the part of the game’s legacy that’s easiest to explain. Before, melee and grenades were worthless. Sure, Half-Life had its crowbar, but the main use of that was to kill weaker enemies (headcrabs) without wasting precious bullets. The Dragon’s Tooth in Deus Ex was wonderful, yes, but no other mainstream FPS treated melee like a viable option. Why bring a knife to a gun fight? Similarly, having to equip grenades before firing them made them worthless especially in the twitchy FPS games of yore. In the time it takes to pull the thing out, pull the pin, and then throw it, your opponent has probably circle-strafed your body twice, pumping round after round into your newly-formed corpse. Putting each on a separate button and making them so quick to use might not be realistic, but it makes them useful. Melee is useful for a stealth kill from behind, or a last shot to finish off an enemy after pumping them full of assault rifle rounds to take down their shields. Grenades become about enemy control: getting them out of cover and into wherever you want them to be. Or you stick them onto vehicles to make them blow up. The more valid tactical options a player has at any time, the richer the game becomes.

      -Vehicles: Halo vehicle controls are weird, but they don’t deviate too much from the controls you use to move around on foot (always Battlefield’s biggest problem), and they allow you to move without thinking too much about what you have to do to move. They extend the normal ease of movement in FPS controls to something that moves slightly different, which lets you spend time strategizing rather than figuring out how to shift into reverse.

      The presence of vehicles in a FPS game was a huge novelty, at the time, too, and helped make the game’s wide open maps more manageable.

      -It didn’t require an Internet connection to play multiplayer: I loved my PC games as a kid (still do, obv), but aside from many, many games of NHL Hockey with my brother, almost all of my multiplayer gaming as a kid was on a console. Convincing my parents to get Internet access was a years-long battle, and even then they were terrified of me interacting with actual people. So I played Goldeneye and Perfect Dark with my friends. By the time Halo came out, most of us had broadband and had played at least Counter-strike online, but there were plenty of kids younger or less tech-savvy than us who had no idea how to use the server browser, or just didn’t want to spend their whole night sitting alone playing with people on the Internet. Playing on the Internet was Something Nerds Did, a night of playing Halo at a buddy’s house was a night of hanging out with your friends. This has changed, obviously, but Internet gaming wasn’t mainstream in 2001 the way it is in 2010.

      Note that almost all of the above applies mostly to the multiplayer. Halo is a terribly mediocre singleplayer game (bar co-op, which is an admittedly enormous legacy of its own). But it remains one of the best and most influential multiplayer FPSs of all time, which is why I can’t understand the hate it gets among people who care about games. It even has a good PC port, done by Gearbox, who also gave us Half-Life: Opposing Force and Borderlands.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Alexander Norris: “…the modern FPS formula of two weapons + grenades + regenerating health, which has been aped in pretty much every single FPS with even a hint of a single-player mode since 2001…”

      I can’t say anything about consoles, but according to wikipedia (which is all I have to go on) these are the best selling FPS on PC from 2001-2007:

      2001 – Return to castle Wolfenstein & Operation Flashpoint
      2002 – Medal of Honour
      2003 – Vietcong
      2004 – Doom 3 & HL2
      2006 – HL2:Ep1
      2007 – STALKER, Crysis, Orange Box & BioShock

      All of these are listed as 1 million-plus on PC while Halo is not (nb. 5 million on XBox).

      Using NPD data you can add: CoD4, Fallout 3 & Modern Warfare 2.

      These games don’t seem to fit in with your theory. Also surely developers will have known that the sales figures for the first Halo game can not be separated from it being the XBox launch title, being the only FPS on that platform and having a vast amount of Microsoft marketing thrown at it – none of which would be repeatable by simply copying ‘weapons and health’.

      NB. The above list also leaves out popular FPS such as:

      2000 – NOLF, IGI, Soldier of Fortune
      2001 – Serious Sam, Undying, AvP2
      2003 – Call of Duty
      2004 – Far Cry
      2005 – Fear
      2006 – Prey, Call of Juarez

      Almost all of which had sequels, so they must have done OK financially (although I can’t find any sales figures).

      I’m not saying 100% you are wrong, because I can’t say *exactly* which of these games does or doesn’t have only two weapons and/or regenerating health, but I know that at least some of them don’t and that for PC based FPS Halo doesn’t seem to be “stand out” game in terms of sales, in terms of critical reception or gamer feedback or in terms of being influential from a design point of view, when set amongst so many other FPS games.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      @TeeJay

      Alright, so it’s more like the last five years. I may have underestimated how many FPSes came out in the last decade. ;)

    • TeeJay says:

      @ ohnoabear says:

      “Halo is a terribly mediocre singleplayer game (bar co-op, which is an admittedly enormous legacy of its own). But it remains one of the best and most influential multiplayer FPSs of all time, which is why I can’t understand the hate it gets among people who care about games.”

      You mention counter-strike and 2001. Bear in mind that it only came to PC in 2003. My previous post listed primarily single-player FPS. Here’s some of the multiplayer ones, to help give some context:

      1999: Counter-Strike, Unreal Tournament, Team Fortress Classic, Quake III Arena
      2001: Tribes 2
      2002: UT 2003, Mobile Forces, Battlefield 1942
      2003: Wolfenstein: Enemy Territory, Day of Defeat
      2004: UT 2004, Counter-Strike: Source

      (I included 2004 because these games were getting a *lot* of previews and publicity covering their features etc during 2003 – eg the new vehicles in UT2004).

      Additionally many of the nominally ‘single player’ games from my previous post actually had decent multiplayer modes … from memory – Operation Flashpoint, Vietcong, NOLF, AvP and various stuff that came bundled in with HL2 and Steam.

      By 2003 PC gamers already had several very good multiplayer games already and were just about to get even more. Many PC gamers only ever played single-player Halo (again this is from my memories of discussions at the time). Combine this with the disappointment of having the 2001 windows release cancelled, the massive Halo/Microsoft hype – but when it finally arriving on PC two years later, not offering anything that hadn’t already been done better (from the perspective of a PC gamer). The game itself would probably just have produced a tolerant indifference – I seem to remember the “hate” was generated by the interactions/conversations between Halo fans and PC gamers and exposure to gushing media write-ups that seemed to be completely oblivious to the quality, quantity & variety of multiplayer games already being played on the PC (including completely free ones like ET for example).

    • TeeJay says:

      To be fair STALKER uses “regeneration” which you can amplify using artifacts – and also the opposite effect ie. “bleeding” – and they do plenty of other stuff that makes it harder to just sit around and wait (hunger, hostiles, darkness).

    • jarvoll says:

      Ah yes, I’d forgotten about vehicles. Thanks for the answers, Alexander Norris and ohnoabear – consider me educated in what people like about Halo :) Still, it strikes me as a little unnecessary to appeal to Halo’s critical merits when “discussing” the game in a club with random guy who probably just likes shootin’ virtual stuff, and that’s the most significant shooter/game he’s played (otherwise, why would he have mentioned it over every other game?). It seems like he’s hardly going to care if it did a bunch of stuff first, he just cares that he had a bunch of fun with his friends in it.

      We’re RPS readers – of course *we’re* interested in that kind of thing, but not Average-Joe-Slayer-Player.

  38. Helm says:

    The More Rock Less Talk argument has many holes and assumptions about how language works that could be faulty but the heart is in the right place. I never read such pieces and think of the danger that the person is prescribing THIS IS THE ONLY TYPE OF VIDEOGAME WE NEED, KILL ALL THE OTHERMINDEDS, I just think of balancing forces in a market, consumers not getting what they’d like because they’re being told they’re getting what they deserve, so on. If such articles help spark some opposition, some friction, it will end at a better balance.

    Sleep is Death sounds fascinating, I’m on board for it now.

    Tim Rogers is a brilliant mind that contributes to gaming critique, it shouldn’t matter if he’s likable so much, I get this impression that some people are looking for ways to make more friends in their subcultures and/or “scenes” while others are looking for high-level discourse. The two are not the same, they’re not mutually exclusive either but I’d much rather have a debate with Tim Rogers than to have a beer with him. Check for yourself and see what applies and how that makes you feel.

    Jodorowsky ‘s another divisive figure. I am very intimately familiar with his comic work, not at all with his film work. There’s much to like and much to dislike about what he does with the form and what he’s saying generally, but the world would be poorer without him. I can’t read Metabarons as a comic because it does a few fundamental things ‘wrong’ from my point of view, as a comic. Others seem to love them so that shows there’s no objective rule about number of words per bubble/panel and such. I remember a Jodorowsky quote (not so much because I agree with it but because it cuts straight down to the bone) : paraphrasing of course “the American super-heroes in their spandex tights they’re always suffering about something, they can’t have sex or enjoy life, they can only suffer, get beat up [for their lives to have meaning], fuck these super-heroes, fuck America”. Again, check if you’d like to have a beer with this man or engage in a debate with him before commenting. Also keep in mind Jodorowsky’s versed in psychotherapy and hence the effects of provocation. When you get people angry you often get them talking…

    Paul Gravett’s article, good reading, I would like for a lot of *manga/anime fans* to read this, not just mistrustful outsiders because the fans often times seem equally unaware of the ‘underground’ of Japanese manga as their detractors.

    Good sunday papers, thanks a lot for posting.

  39. Hobbes says:

    Was it ever? I must have missed that memo.

  40. Snords says:

    So there I am, in Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, at about 3 o’clock in the morning, looking for one thousand brown M&Ms to fill a brandy glass, or Ozzy wouldn’t go on stage that night.
    So, Jeff Beck pops his head ’round the door, and mentions there’s a little sweets shop on the edge of town. So – we go. And – it’s closed. So there’s me, and Keith Moon, and David Crosby, breaking into that little sweets shop, eh. Well, instead of a guard dog, they’ve got this bloody great big Bengal tiger. I managed to take out the tiger with a can of mace, but the shopowner and his son… that’s a different story altogether. I had to beat them to death with their own shoes. Nasty business, really. But, sure enough, I got the M&Ms, and Ozzy went on stage and did a great show

  41. Shalrath says:

    Loved the Halo article, until I unwisely read some of the comments and stumbled across this gem:

    “But I’m a huge fan of the Halo franchise and its epic narrative, and I’ll defend to the death the integrity of its story.”

    Epic narrative? Did this guy even READ the article? Jesus Christ. How can you be surrounded by Deus Ex, System Shock, Marathon (yeah, more Bungie for you!), The Path, Portal, hell even Mass Effect and then say that fucking Halo has an epic narrative, or an story of integrity whatsoever?

  42. CMaster says:

    I do think that Less Talk, More Rock undermines itself with the rock metaphor. Part of the point of the article seems to be that games have their own unique voice, yet it constantly harks back to a form of music, one with “cool” overtones. Also, phrases like this rubbed me the wrong way:
    “something that rockstars like Cactus and Messhof are demonstrating every other day before breakfast.”

    ” there’s no such thing as rock stars, there’s just people who play music, and some of them are just like us, and some of them are dicks”

    • Wulf says:

      That’s a truly wonderful quote, thank you for that.

      I agree with what you’ve said, as well, and it’s my take that the unique voice of gaming is borne of its interactivity, but that interactivity needs a backbone of other things–including words, where relevant–to express itself properly.

    • Wulf says:

      Also: Ha, I like this guy!

      Thanks for sharing.

  43. Diogo Ribeiro says:

    The games it hails – Another World, Prince of Persia – are actually both most noteworthy in how they reduced the pure-game element, in favour of in-game narrative cut-scenes.

    Yes and not. But yes… But no.

    Kinda gonna sorta rant a bit.

    I’d argue the virtues of Another World could be found in other games, some even earlier. Super Mario Bros., for instance, did not even bother with introductions, tutorials or cutscenes. Even its normative quest, if one didn’t browse the instruction booklet (and I’m assuming there was something in the booklet other than controls, but this was a long time ago) was only suggested at the end of the first castle with Toad pointing out the princess to be somewhere else. And Mario can be argued as being as reducive of the “pure game” construct. Everything in it is about motion, with primary and side effects: you run and jump, but running can be both for gaining momentum as well as surviving. The same applies to jumping, etc. Even before that, Donkey Kong was also incredibly sparse.

    Another World was born as an answer to the likes of Dragon’s Lair – “cinematic” experiences, where video sequences gave off a different feeling of story telling. What it did instead was to replace the “press direction to succeed” to cut back to a quick scene of success and failure “states” (of course, most were about failure). As a game that drives a narrative through its gameplay, it’s no different than… Just about any other game. As a game that’s completely confident in *how* it drives that narrative, though, it’s something else. Would it be better if its game systems were more complex? I don’t know, but AW’s one of those rare games where I feel everything just about clicks together and works.

    The argument that videogame language is a visual thing is not without merit, but other than a visual narrative uncluttered by design artifacts, what I’ve always enjoyed about AW is also how the “game” + “play” is a cohesive unit. It’s about motion, survival, and tactics dependent on the three-way use of the gun and environmental awareness. There’s nothing else. The player and his avatar, a gun and its firing modes, and an objective that doesn’t need to be spelled out. What is there to describe about AW? “Here’s a gun – survive”. It’s not even a game where you have the designer, like Miyamoto, adjusting his glasses, poking you on the shoulder and saying “It’s dangerous to go alone. Take this”. There’s nothing and yet, there’s everything. Audiovisually, mechanically, it’s crystalized and focused on being an experience that, at every turn, is showing something. Like Chrono Trigger’s characters, we recognize and understand Lester and the Alien by their animations, much like we “get” what it means when Lucca adjustes her glasses or Magnus throws his cowl backwards.

    It’s not so much that videogames are better without words but AW doesn’t take them for granted. It doesn’t use words because they wouldn’t add anything to the game, and everything else in the game is capable enough of laying out things for us to understand. I’ve often imagined older games retrofitted with current gaming tendencies. I can’t imagine how AW would benefit from “get behind cover”. Why it would need a score system. The utter lack of a tutorial actually helps to better identify with Lester. You’re alone, in uncomfortable territory and there’s nothing to help you. You aren’t given furniture to break and collect orbs from it in order to “develop powers”. You aren’t told to shoot at something’s core in order to bring it to zero hit points. You aren’t given hundreds of lines of dialogue which could have been condensed into a much clearer form of expression. AW is expression, from visuals to gameplay. Instinctual, for a lack of a better word. The thing with most games is we are shown everything, but we don’t understand everything: tutorials, HUDs, text, design artifacts create background noise and then try to clear that noise by supporting themselves. A tutorial is nearly always a way the designer admits he’s made something illegible. But rather than trudging through its murky depths he builds signposts so you can go along not cursing your mud-stained boots.

    In AW, we understand everything there is to be understood by playing and looking.

    Right from the first minute, when Lester drops into the large pool and is dragged by the tentacles, nothing hints at controls. Nothing hints at an escape. We’re not shown everything but we understand everything: he’s going *down*, and the tentacles are coming for *him*, and you instinctively know you need to go to the surface. You press up and… There you go. You survived that challenge. No patting on the back, no virtual booty, nothing except surviving and moving forward. At one point, you start to enter rooms where you’re almost immediatelly zapped to nothing by other aliens. You try to run into them and start firing, and you’re killed by their shields. It dawns on you you have to think like those aliens, you have to adopt their mindset, “play” their own “game”. You build a shield, inch a bit forward, cracking theirs with a charged shot, then taking them down. In another area, you’re finding yourself pressured to build two shields and take two aliens at the same time. But it’s never a case of bombastic action materializing; it never glorifies the “lone guy against evil empire” angle. Movement and gunplay, like in Mario, are tools. The “action” is only punctuated by these little vignettes of running, firing and moving, and how you use your tools. It feels restrained because that’s how it meant to feel. I’m not sure it fails as a “pure game” but I would disagree the game, from mechanics to narrative, is reduced, or that their scarcity diminishes it as a game. They’re exactly what they’re supposed to be: deliberate, slick, crunchy.

    Note that I don’t have anything against words. Planescape: Torment is, perhaps ironically, right there with Another World in my list of favorite games ever. What’s important to realize is that, in the same way Torment is literal in its use of words (it isn’t literal because it uses words, but because it never forgets, story or gameplaywise, what the written word is; it doesn’t just dump text, it *talks*), Another World’s language is visual and game-centric because it *shows*, game and narrative as one. Every single screen frame captures’s Lester’s adventure (and to a degree his own feelings) in a wonderful way, without wasting a single moment. It’s all game.

    You make an interesting point of how, at their times, AW and PoP weren’t held in the same standards some now hold them to. This is true, but I think it’s open to discussion just how important this is. Doom and System Shock were contemporaries. Doom succeeded in being “less game” or more of a “pure game”; meanwhile, despite some collective appraisal, System Shock and its sequel never gained the same widespread recognition. Yet now we find its lineage in games like Bioshock. Look at how Bungie’s Marathon was more of a complex game, for its time, than Halo was upon release. Look at which one was more successful and considered to be more defining of the shooter genre. Does it take less away from them?

    PS: Kind RPS scribes. Another World comes up every once in a while on RPS. I love your retrospectives (I love you all) but please don’t write any article about the game before I can do it first. I ask this because I know you’ll make something much better and then I’ll feel gutted and will probably not do one. Love and kisses, otherwise you will FEEL THE BURNING DEATH OF A THOUSAND SUNS xoxoxo

    • Wulf says:

      You shouldn’t have put yourself down at the end there because that was a lovely little post, truly articulate, and it left my mind swelling with things it wished to expunge.

      In fact, I made myself a little bullet list as I was reading, it goes something like this:

      - cover
      - frivolity
      - vvvvvv
      - lives
      - tank

      Cover

      Someone has to be laughing at this point, possibly because they can all ready see where I’m going with this, but I’m going to elaborate anyway because I bloody well want to! Right! So, first of all, the only thing I found curious about the post was the sense of cover. The shields in Another World are interesting, aren’t they? I mean, it’s a sense of pseudo-cover-and-health-regeneration, and yet it’s not. Perhaps the thing that differentiates this from a cover system in games is that any second your cover could be gone.

      Now, I’ve had some oh shit moments like that in Mass Effect 2, where I’ve been crouched behind a destructible box and fighting a mech. Yes yes, I know, but the mind does funny things when under pressure. The mech quickly blew up the box and I was flung into a blind panic, because the missile it used ate a chunk of my health, as well, and it had another one coming for me. Fight or flight? The flight mechanic firmly took hold, and I bolted for Grunt’s box, kicking him out from behind it so that I wouldn’t die. It was cruel to poor old Grunt, but I made absolutely sure nothing happened to him. Being a support character has its perks.

      And it’s the immediate nature of finite, destructible cover that I make links to with Another World. You can throw up your own cover but it’s not a safe-haven, it’s not a totally indestructible thing, it’s not some kind of Adminium Power Shield, a few good shots and it’s gone, and you either put up more shields, get off a lucky charged shot, or you die. For this reason, I have no problems with cover systems, really, but I do think that invulnerable cover systems might be bad. You know?

      Frivolity, Lives, and VVVVVV

      This I really have to handle as one, big blog, I can’t think of another way to do it.

      I didn’t like Mario. I’m sorry to those that do, but I rather hated it for much the same reason as I hated other platformers of the time: The difficulty is balanced around a number of lives and continues, and the developer realises that with those gone the game has come to an end. For that reason, they can’t make the game incredibly fucking hard and punishing, and if you’re skilled it’s basically a playground ride, and not a very interesting playground ride at that.

      Does that make any sense?

      VVVVVV was the inverse of this, it had an infinite checkpoint system, and to counterbalance it we had things like Veni, Vidi, Vici, and Not as I do. Those levels that made you both hate and adore Terry Cavanagh at the same time, because they were a really challenge but at the same time the game convinced you that you could be good enough to pull them off. And then, soon enough, you were! After that, harder challenges came, and time trials, and the flow of difficulty was marvellous. What’s more is that it encouraged the player to be a little bit silly because they could, they had that room to move.

      With Mario, you have a very mechanical thing. Jump on thing Y, collect thing Z, try not to be very silly. As evidence of this, the Wii Mario Bros game is much reviled because of it’s multiplayer component, because if one player goofs off then they screw it up for everyone, costing one of those valuable lives. It might look bright and sparkly but it lacks the sense of frivolity, of utter jubilation and discovery, that VVVVVV had for me when I was playing it.

      Another World is actually more VVVVVV than Mario Bros, isn’t it?

      What I’m getting at here is that there was this feeling of frivolity, of fun, in that the developer didn’t want to punish you. You had checkpoints (sometimes sparsely placed) and you had infinite continues from those points. It was as though to say “This is your world, have fun with it, try stuff, be the crazy and magnificent bastard you are!”. And I took Chahi up on his offer, did I ever. I tried crazy things, I tried stupid things, I tried things that were simply wondrous to experience, and sometimes I was rewarded for that. And every now and then I’d just go back to playing the game.

      For me–and I’m only speaking personally here–Mario was less of a pure game than both Another World and VVVVVV, because Mario didn’t encourage the player to have as much fun. Mario was… how can I put this? Serious isn’t the right word. Strict? Stringent? It had very limited mechanics, and it stuck to those in a very methodical way, imposing behaviours on the player. I don’t know how to put it any differently than that. The only thing that was outside of this was the warp pipes, but they weren’t fun discoveries, they were just “cheats”.

      VVVVVV instead embraced the idea that someone might want to try and break the game and actually put rewards in place for those who wanted to have fun screwing about. I mean, I got Pure Unobtainium by, yes, screwing around and trying to find some way where I’d end up outside the level, possibly endlessly falling forever, who knows? I had wondered if there was anything beyond this impossible point, if the developer had accounted for my zany wonts and desires. Terry had. It wasn’t a cheat.

      I realise this is probably going to sound like heresy to some people, and possibly the ramblings of a crazy man to others, sorry for that.

      But yes, the point is that from my perspective every pure game is a playground, and one that encourages a player to do what they want. It can have levels, it can have objectives, but it should never punish the player for being who they are and doing things their own way. Every time a game does that it’s a failure. Another World embraced this idea and let people figure things out in their own time. One thing you pointed out that I really liked was that everything was so visual, and you could see what you had to do, and then you just had to do it, approaching it in whichever way suited you.

      I want games that do that more. No lives, they can be as hard as nails, I don’t care, but expect that the player might try things, see how many possibilities you can setup your game engine, or your levels, or your objectives to account for. I feel that a game is at its best–be it art game or fun game–when it’s engaging the player on an interactive level and expecting them to be just a little bit creative, and not telling them that they shouldn’t do that, not forcing them into a pattern to win.

      In Another World, you could survive, but you could have a lot of bloody fun doing it. Sometimes that fun was just a part of the game. And that brings me to…

      The Tank

      The tank was perhaps one of my favourite bits of Another World, because it lead to thought processes that were something like this:

      BUTANS! :D

      *dook dook dook*

      Ooh, lasers!

      *dook, dook dook, dook dook dookdookdook*

      [KABOOOM!]

      Oh shit!

      [A nuke was fired off that basically obliterated all the ground around the tank.]

      Uh… *stares warily at the buttons.*

      Oh, what the hell?! :D

      *dookdookdookdookdookdookdookdookdookdookdook!*

      WUUUUAAAHA!

      [Escape pods are trigged and are shot at great velocity from the tank.]

      [I'm sent careening down through a glass window and into a women-only sauna.]

      [Alien women run off screaming.]

      [GUNFIRE!]

      Wuaaah? What? Hahahahaha!

      And so on.

      I loved that tank.

  44. GYAD says:

    Jesus that Sweden article is conflicted. Was there even a conclusion? So full of stupid stuff too.

    ‘”Everything is getting more up to the individual,” Andersson says.’

    And that’s a bad thing?

    ‘”Taxes get lower and poor people get even less money. We have an election in September, and I hope there will be an end to this.”‘

    Err…no. Poor people get to keep more money rather than handing it over to the Govt which then gives them a little back. Low taxes usually not only increase tax revenues (more rich domiciles, less tax evasion, increased growth) but are actually good for the poor because (unsurprisingly) they spend the money better than the Govt.

    ‘…countries such as Sweden, Norway, and Canada make it easier for bands to focus on the creative arts by providing… universal health care…’

    Has to be the most stupid sentence I’ve read all week.

    ‘Over the past decade, Sweden has, perhaps not coincidentally, become a major player in global indie music.’

    Golly, what a return those Swedish taxpayers get for their hard earned cash. I’ll just turn on Xfm* and…OHMIGOD! WHERE DID THE SWEDISH INDIE MUSIC GO? WHERE? WHAT IS THIS STRANGE ANGLO-AMERICAN STUFF? WHAT IS HAPPENING?

    *Not that I actually listen to anything other than ResonanceFM but…

    ‘In some countries, public funding is a way to promote national culture in the face of American music’s commercial dominance..’
    AND
    ‘”A lot of this money is well spent in smaller European countries, where you have to have some help at times to try to be exported to the rest of Europe…”‘

    Translation: our music (mostly) sucks and nobody wants it so we’ll make the poor (amongst others) pay for the select pleasures of a few/national glory. And yet…

    ‘Back in the U.S. ca. 2010, you’d be hard-pressed to find a pop music act with National Endowment for the Arts funding.’

    So its both commercially dominant and unfunded. So why does it need funding then? And if it doesn’t then what the point of the article?

    ‘Under former UK Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, the Enterprise Allowance Scheme (EAS) helped doleys put out music without having to go off the dole.’

    But I though the Thatch was a devil who hated the poor…

    ‘For all that it will do to provide health insurance to 32 million previously uninsured Americans, the Obama administration’s health-care bill may not improve musicians’ situation all that much.’

    Probably because its a really goddam stupid idea. Just adopt the French system already. Its cheaper and it works.

    ‘”The dreamy anarchist utopia that I want to live in is not going to happen until we as a species evolve a little bit more, including myself” ‘

    Artists really shouldn’t be allowed to talk politics.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ GYAD: “Poor people get to keep more money rather than handing it over to the Govt which then gives them a little back.”

      You are assuming that “poor people” are paying any tax to start with. If income tax (for example) only starts at a fairly high level, and if “poor people” (including the young, students, unemployed, sick/disabled, pensioners) are getting free health care, free education, are using a range of free and subsidised services and get a fair amount of their income via free housing and welfare/pensions/student grants etc. Then ‘lower taxes’ doesn’t neceessarily mean they get to keep more money and it will typically mean that public spending (the source of their income/housing/serices) is cut. A government may also employ a large number of relatively lower wage workers, who might only pay taxes on the very top section of their total income, and who may also see their wages frozen and less employment within their sector (eg health, education, transport, etc).

      It’s true that poor people will be at least some paying taxes – eg VAT/sales tax, and indirectly via retail prices in general and the impact of a tax raise/fall will depend on all sorts of factors linked to public spending, public borrowing, tax bands and the kind of employment within an economy. Before saying the comment is stupid you should start by seeing which of these applies in Sweden.

      As for what ‘return’ Swedish taxpayers get from various government spending – that’s a matter for the Swedish taxpayers isn’t it? Some countries spend a fortune on their military or a space program or hamburgers or medicines whatever. Some of this is done individualluy and other bits done purchased collectively. Different societies are have differen attitudes to what are “acceptable” levels of poverty or inequality. These are not ‘universal truths’ they are lots of people’s value judgements all squashed up together and filitered via a political process.

      Re ‘unfunded’ American media being ‘competitive’:

      One massive advantage is the economies of scale of the domesic US market-place which means that shows can get a network run and a local affiliate re-run before finally being put up for sale on international markets, meaning for foreign broadcasters they typically cost 25% to 10% of the cost of showing ‘equivalent’ locally produced content. No other country has anything like this kind of ‘domestic market’ advantage regardless of how efficient they are at making TV shows, how low their wages or how excellent the shows are. You can also add the fact that for many countries their local content is not in English so they can’t so easily recover their costs by selling it overseas.

      Research on viewing figures (eg Australia, France, Italy, Sweden and USA) has shown that audiences do actually prefer locally produced content over imports and that while some shows (eg Dallas, Bay Watch, Friends) have gained strong followings the general trend is for imported American programming to be used as non-prime-time “filler”.

      The privatisation of broadcasting from 1980s onwards (especially in Europe) with its many new cable, satellite and digital channels often saw 2 or 3 channels multiply to 100+, but the underlying viewing population didn’t which meant a large downward pressure on advertising rates.

      Therefore ironically this ‘increased choice’ in channels actually saw an increase in buying cheap American content. Even where government quotas technically required a certain percentage of locally produced content there were often problems for local production companies being able to produce enough content for the large number of new channels to meet these ‘quotas’.

      In this kind of context it actually makes a *lot* of sense for a small country to not only support its own TV and other media – to meet its own domestic demand – but to think proactively so that it’s media develops to the level of being able to export it’s own content. This has both a cultural and an economic rationale.

      You might try to argue from abstract principles that no viable business needs government support, or that any business that does need support is not ‘viable’, is doing something wrong and should not be supported but in obvious cases of ‘market failure’ are exactly the kind of scenarios where intelligent government policies are welcome.

      The UK is in the lucky position of having domestic English-language content and a large and well known cultural tradition to draw upon, so the BBC and other media is able to export it’s content and ‘localising’ foreign content is easier. This therefore makes the economies of scale better because it isn’t limited to just 60m viewers (or 9 million for Sweden). Even so, the BBC runs on what is in effect a ‘tax’, the government actually funds the World Service and while BBC Worldwide is nominally self-funding, it does this on the back of selling BBC content overseas.

      Re. Thatcher and the Enterprise Allowance Scheme (EAS). Again looking at the details will help understand what was going on: in the face of massive unemployment the EAS was aimed at increasing the number of entrepreneurs and small businesses – both to be able to remove them from the “jobless” total (while still paying out de facto benefits for 12 months), to reward a more aspirational ‘yuppie’ section of the population and to do a bit of “social engineering”. The National Audit Office report in 1988 concluded that its actual impact was probably minimal because it simply ‘funded’ people who would have started a business anyway, people had to stump up £1000 of their own to qualify and it started at the height of a recession so there were already a lot of professional types who were going to be heading back into work anyway, as the economy picked up. The criticism is that it was political posturing and not targetted at the people who really needed the help

      Re. The French system: yes the ‘user charges’ are vitually nothing and people can chose where to register for treatment, and it’s technically called an ‘insurance scheme’ but I’d love to see you trying to add 14% to income tax in America to pay for it, which is basically how it is paid for. I’d also love to see you try and cut doctors’ wages in half.

      Re. who should be allowed to talk about politics – so what is *your* profession? :s

    • Lambchops says:

      @ TeeJay

      I was almost tempted to reply to that post last night. Glad I didn’t now as you pretty much said what I would have but better!

    • GYAD says:

      Oh lawks!

      Poor People: The idea that Governments will ever stop taxing the poor seems sadly unlikely (though in fairness I’m in the UK which requires a ton of tax to maintain our mid-20th century model of government).

      Return from Swedish taxes: Its a joke, hence the ALLCAPS silliness (my whole analysis of the article wasn’t exactly serious).

      Competitive US: Sure, I can agree entirely. But my point still holds- Sweden might need funding but the US doesn’t, rendering the article rather odd.

      EAS: Again, a joke at the expense of those who claim Thatcher was Emperor Palpatine with a handbag, not a serious point.

      The French System: I didn’t say the US would adopt it, only that it ought to.

      Artists and Politics: Again, joke, not a serious suggestion that people only be allowed to talk politics depending upon profession. Which would be rather anti-free speech and not my cuppa tea at all. (In professional terms I have worked at the Houses of Parliament but am currently involved in something fairly apolitical).

      Chocks away!

    • skalpadda says:

      “‘”Taxes get lower and poor people get even less money. We have an election in September, and I hope there will be an end to this.”‘

      Err…no. Poor people get to keep more money rather than handing it over to the Govt which then gives them a little back. Low taxes usually not only increase tax revenues (more rich domiciles, less tax evasion, increased growth) but are actually good for the poor because (unsurprisingly) they spend the money better than the Govt. ”

      I don’t know if you’re Swedish or not, and this isn’t the right place for a political discussion so I’ll try to keep it short, but I just wanted to say that the big tax cuts that have been made and proposed have not primarily been for people with low or average incomes but for those with very high incomes. This then leads to less money to funnel back into things that benefit either those with low or no income or everyone, the end result being that those with low incomes get less benefits from tax cuts and on top of that lose publicly sponsored benefits.

      In terms of how this affects culture politics and individual opportunities to pursue goals in various creative fields, it does of course make it harder for those without a high income to afford things like instruments and other equipment, studio time and so on, and also makes it harder to take lessons or justify spending more time in school. On the larger scale it becomes harder for local communes (municipalities? I’m not sure of the translation) to justify spending money on activities and resources that are freely available to everyone.

  45. pimorte says:

    The achievement/tracking service for music is not a new idea – last.FM is built and fully operational.

  46. Jesus says:

    Latest news just in:

    Coldplay is shit.

    Back to you Bob.

  47. Grape Flavor says:

    That military budget thing is pretty interesting.

    I though this statistic was worth posting: Soldiers/Reservists/Paramilitary per 100,000 pop.
    UK: 590
    US: 829
    North Korea: 24,728

    1/4! oh, North Korea. this is one of those things you feel bad for laughing about.

  48. jarvoll says:

    My reaction to the manga piece:

    My problem with manga is that it’s 99.99% the same exaggerated, juvenile, stereotype-driven work over and over again. The article convinced me that there’s *other* stuff out there, sure. Here’s my problem with that:

    With games, I *like* the content of the 99.99%. I long for more, certainly, but while I wait for another masterpiece to come along, I’m perfectly happy the long line of 85-per-cent-ers that a non-gamer would never put up with. I can endure the retarded design decisions in Oblivion in order to appreciate its merits. I can play the Stalkers, the Supreme Commanders, the good-but-not-brilliants, until the next System Shock 2 or Starcraft comes along.

    With manga, I cannot. I can’t stand manga. As soon as I feel even a little bit like it’s the same as the ENDLESS crap Japan manages to produce, I hate it. As an example from another medium, Miyazaki is good, sure… but I can’t really stand to watch anything other than Mononoke Hime. His other films, I feel, are 85-per-cent-ers, but MH is clearly a masterpiece, from the plot to the animation, from the slightly-archaic Japanese to the music.

    Thus, in order to enjoy the pure-genius mangas out there, I’d essentially need someone who was to mangas as I am to games, and thus able to direct me ONLY to Planescape: Torment, System Shock 2, and Another World. If you are reading this, and are this person, PLEASE direct me to these mangas. Same goes for USAnian/’western’ comics, but I think they’d have an even higher amount of content-I-can’t-stand, so I imagine that’d cut it down to just Planescape. Without you, I should sadly never experience these masterpieces (which almost certainly exist).

    • bill says:

      see reply on page 2. stupid reply system.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ jarvoll

      I get your point but IMO your numbers are a bit out – almost all the games we talk about and recognise by name are already in at least the “top 50%” of releases…

      In fact I just did a quick and highly subjective ‘experiment’ with the PCGamer review score database which had around 4600 titles (nb has lots of repeated titles for issues/re-issues etc) and I’d categorise it thus:

      Above 80% score was packed full of the kind of ‘high-recognition’ games discussed here everyday = 33%
      between dropping down to 70% it was kind of half-and-half well-known and half “hmm?” = 54%
      below 70% things started getting patchy, with the odd name jumping out = 70%
      below 60% I couldn’t spot any games I have played and enjoyed = the rest

      …and using an envelope and my fingers that seems to be c.50% or being generous 70% at most.

      My conclusions are:

      1. I’m actually lucky I am not a professional game reviewer because I’d proabably spend over half my time reviewing fairly lacklustre games?
      2. That maybe this is “self selection” – I never played any of the low scoring games because I read PCGamer so much and was steered towards playing all the high scoring ones?
      3. That maybe a bunch of these games were around before I got into PC gaming (mid 90s)?

    • jarvoll says:

      @TeeJay

      I’m struggling to understand your break-down of the numbers there. Would I be correct in saying the following:

      Scored between 80% and 100% : 33% of the 4600 games

      Scored between 70% and 80%: 54% of the 4600 games

      …actually, no, this isn’t working. Hrm. I fail, sorry. Anyway, I take the point that there are probably many more really amazing games than I was giving credit to above. I guess what I ought to have articulated, but didn’t, is that I would need the manga to be sufficiently *different* from the usual manga subjects (a good-looking, moody, teenaged protagonist probably wouldn’t do, for instance) in order for me to be able to read it.

      This is why Planescape was my go-to example of a game, since it’s sufficiently distanced from a LOT of gaming (and RPG) cliches. Starcraft was probably *not* a good example, on reflection, since it’s extremely polished yet EXTREMELY derivative. This is why I used such high/exclusive numbers: while there are certainly many excellent games, not many of them are also waaay out of left field in terms of similarity of content to other games. I hope that makes sense.

    • bill says:

      I guess the <50% is all the Barbie Horse Adventures, or Xtreme Rock Climbing, or Xtreme Base Jumping, or Colour my pony, or Xtreme Dressage.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ jarvoll

      Sorry my fault. Those are cumulative %ages…

      33% of all the titles scored 80% and above
      54% of all the titles scored 70% and above
      70% of all the titles scored 60% and above (…leaving 30% with scores lower than 60%)

      The “50%” is just an estimate of the titles which I recognised as games which I have either played myself and found at least ‘OK’ or I can recall someone else saying they enjoyed.

      This means that half of the titles on the database are either games which I have never heard anyone discussing or which the only things I have heard have been fairly negative, and the kind of well-known games which are disussed all the time on these boards up the top third of all releases.

      This is obviously a very quick subjective/non-scientific estimate.

  49. bill says:

    Totoro, Nausicca and Spirited Away are both far better than Mononoke Hime.

    But I agree with you about 99% of manga/anime. (i note you’re talking about anime, not manga).
    I’m not really into manga either, but it does span a much wider set of genres than anime does. For example Ringu (The ring) was a manga, Lone Wolf and Cub is nothing like most anime either. Infact a lot of japanese movies came from manga. (whereas many of Miyazaki’s anime came from western novels).

    As for anime, I found it to be a bit like pro wresting. The first time I watched either it was so different that I was blown away, and I got hooked. OMG! That guy just cheated! OMG! He won the match with a broken arm! OMG He betrayed his friend!
    Then after watching for a few months I realised it was all just the same 3-4 storylines repeated again and again. The 10th time a wrestler betrayed his friend in the big match, it wasn’t such a shock anymore. You can watch pro wrestling for about 6 months before it becomes very stale.

    I found anime to be the same. the first few I watched were great (i thought at the time), because I hadn’t encountered their stories and characters before. But after a short while I realised I was watching the same 3-4 basic stories again and again. So I still have a soft spot for those first few, but I can’t stand 99% of anime now as it just annoys me.
    (Evangelion being the only tv-series I’d really recommend. Oh, and Chibi Maruko Chan of course..).

    • jarvoll says:

      Actually, I was talking about manga – I just used film as an example of the same phenomenon in a different medium. I personally prefer MH over SA, Nausicaa, and WAY over Totoro, but hey, to each his own. Yes, I do tend to experience anime in the way you mention, i.e. similarly to manga, although I never had your pro-wrestling experience with either of them. Just sort of saw the cliches and recycled characters right from the beginning, I guess; not sure how.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Jarvoll: I find myself thinking about Warren Ellis’ very old column he did on Anime and Manga. Basically, he genuinely had more time for Manga than Anime. Because about 50 anime get made a year compared to so many thousand more manga. Sturgeon’s Law – 90% of everything is shit, or whatever percentage you choose depending on your own cynicism – means there’s much more manga which will fit his tastes than Anime.

      Getting to your 10%. Now there’s the trick. I still get people who pick up Phonogram who had no idea that comics could be about people who they may meet in clubs rather than… well, whatever you connect western comics with.

      KG

    • AndrewC says:

      Kieron: (I’ve never met anyone in a club that looks like the characters in Phonogram. Well, except for McKelvie himself I suppose, but everyone else kind of looked like you.)

      Anime is the cartoons and Manga is the comics – right? I want to keep up, but I never really got past Urutsikudoji.

    • AndrewC says:

      (It was really good though! Maybe that i don’t recognise them as the sorts of people I would meet in a club is that the sort of people in it are the sort of people I would run a mile from. But then the comic humanised them wonderfully. Which was the point, I think. Which doesn’t stop Atomic being duff).
      Anyway:
      Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo, she’s a little fish.
      She’s a little fish in the deep blue sea!
      Ponyo, Ponyo, Ponyo, she’s a little girl,
      She’s a little girl with a round tummy!

    • bill says:

      I guess it depends what manga you look at then. Most of the famous stuff seems to be based on the standard anime stereotypes. But there would seem to be manga in almost every genre known to man.

      Can’t say i’ve read more than a handful of manga in my life, but for example Oldboy (the awesome korean movie) was based on a Manga. I don’t know if the Ringu manga came first or later, but it’s clearly a totally different work than the regular teen-hero infested stuff.
      The Lone Wolf & Cub books were the only manga I ever really got into, and while they’ve become kind of stereotypical now, they’re pretty far from most modern manga.

      Then again, I guess 90% of western comics are just as crap (spiderman/batman/hero beats villain) and it’s only the gems that I’d bother reading in that medium too. (Watchmen, Dark Knight, er…. well i’m sure there are some other good ones somewhere….)

      I think the 90% of everything is crap rule is affected slightly by imports and translations… eg: the UK only gets the 10% of good US dramas, but the 10% of manga that are translated are probably the ones that are most clearly aimed at the US teen anime/manga market.

      Anyway, i don’t really like manga… so time to go home.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      AndrewC: Yes, Anime is animation, Manga is comics.

      KG

    • jarvoll says:

      “Getting to your 10%. Now there’s the trick.”

      “er…. well i’m sure there are some other good ones somewhere…”

      Indeed! I’ll probably just have to hope that my Japanophile friend does the work for me, and stumbles upon The World’s Best Manga, which he can then pass on while filtering out all the rest.

      I get the feeling, too, that with manga, all your Planescapes will be as Planescape was: commercial flops that hardly anyone outside a certain community has even heard about, let alone translated and published elsewhere. There’s the other language issue, too, in that an excellent manga would probably have *excellent* writing, that would be difficult to translate into excellent English (especially given the differences between it and Japanese). So I’d really have to read Japanese to be able to appreciate it fully.

    • RedFred says:

      I often wish Totoro was my neighbour.

      Alas he is not. :(

    • Psychopomp says:

      @Bill

      You should try Paranoia Agent, if you haven’t already.

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>