The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on October 10th, 2010 at 12:53 pm.


Sundays are for realising that I finally have to take over from Gillen, making a cup of tea, and setting about doing some link-dredging in the depths of the internet. Just in case you were wondering, there will be no failure in the new regime, but simply a fresh set of esoteric interests and off-topic blathering. Here we go:

  • GDC Online has been taking place in Austin this week, and there’s been plenty of interesting material emerging from its sessions. One of these was Richard Bartle’s discussion of the creation of the original online RPG, MUD. It was, apparently, a reaction to the British class system. Strong stuff. Particularly when people chose to interpret that as the reason MMOs have levels in. (I’d say that was more to do with D&D.) But there are nevertheless some other good quotes in there, too, particularly about how game designers should be saying something with their work. Which is a sentiment which links to…
  • Something I linked to earlier in the week: Ian Bogost’s analysis of the Medal Honor Taliban issue and its implications for free speech. So good I am linking it twice. Read it.
  • Clint Hocking has been regularly blogging of late – LucasArts obviously not keeping him busy enough, eh? – and he’s turned his eye to convergence. I was a little sceptical of the buzzwording of his first post, but the observations about fashion games in the second post are enough to make me intrigued to see where he’s going with this.
  • Another person whose current direction intrigues me is Eskil Steenberg. He recently posted a rather gloomy discussion of the state of gaming, based on his own experiences with developing his co-operative action/builder, Love. An interesting and slightly worrying read.
  • Joel Goodwin writes about the “feedback” developers often have to choke down from the gaming community, over on Resolution. Goodwin really went to town on this, and there are some grand quotes in there, such as this from Gabe Newell, who observes that much online feedback starts out the abusive, noisy end of the scale because gamers assume their opinion will be drowned out, or ignored: “People tend to assume that there is a huge filter and at best a tenuous connection. They start by turning their volume to 11. Once they realize that there is actually someone on the other end of the email, phone, forum, whatever, they don’t feel the need to shout. If you politely listen to people, they will politely talk to you.”
  • And here’s one for the designers: Apple and HP veteran Don Norman talking about “design without designers.” He touches on one of the issues that appears more and more frequently in my writing about development: the role of automation. It’s going to be radically important across all sectors of designer, says Norman: “Automated data-driven processes will slowly make more and more inroads into the space now occupied by human designers. New approaches to computer-generated creativity such as genetic algorithms, knowledge-intensive systems, and others will start taking over the creative aspect of design.” But there’s more to it than that, so go have a read.
  • Relatedly – and I should probably start as I mean to go, so I am getting to the pimping – my chum Tom Betts has been messing around with procedural terrain generation over the summer, and has turned his attention to working in Unity over the past few weeks. That’s great news for me, because he’s one of my development partners in a new indie games outfit, Big Robot. We’re going to be doing some development blogging over here. Keep an eye on that for more updates.
  • London design wizards BERG have been looking at games that use multiple screens. Tom Armitage blogs some of their findings. I hadn’t realised this: “The strategy game Supreme Commander allows players to use a second monitor for a zoomed-out tactical map. Rather than reducing the map to the corner of the screen (as many strategy games do), or forcing the player to constantly zoom in and out, the second screen provides a permanent context for what’s going on the primary screen.”
  • Recently-announced THQ associate Guillermo Del Toro talks videogames. (Video link.)
  • Douglas Copeland’s guide to the next ten years. Scary. Gloomy. Probably worth accepting so that we can just get on with things.
  • And finally, just in case you’re missing the enigmatic grammar of the original Sunday Papers editor, here he is being interviewed about the X-Men on io9. (Which itself links to this interview with exoplanet-discoverer Steve Vogt. Blimey.)

Anyway. I’m off to listen to painfully credible pop music and make plans for my inevitable career in international celebrity. More soon!

(Success?)

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164 Comments »

  1. skinlo says:

    Epic song.

  2. Vlidi says:

    Success !

  3. nabeel says:

    I’m making a note here.

  4. Burningpet says:

    Great success

  5. Lipwig says:

    I was worried there wouldn’t be a song, great work.

  6. Robin says:

    Bogost makes a good case about Medal of Honor, but he just can’t help himself:

    “In an inversion unseen in any other popular medium, the majority of truly challenging artistic expression in games comes primarily from rogue creators, independents whose political and artistic ambitions typically conflict with rather than complement their connections with the commercial marketplace (to name but a few examples: Brenda Brathwaite, Gonzalo Frasca, Jason Rohrer, Paolo Pedercini).”

    Trying to claim that mainstream games offer no avenue to discuss challenging topics based on the way one publisher has handled one incredibly popcorn game is such self-serving bullshit.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I don’t think he’s saying that there’s no avenue for it, just that indies are doing most of the legwork at the moment. And there’s some room for argument there, but not too much.

    • subedii says:

      It’ll be interesting to see how Bioshock Infinite tackles its core themes. Sure the setting is very blatantly pulp, but then so was Bioshock 1 / 2. And whilst I don’t think those games really succeeded as in-depth looks at Objectivism (and to be fair, making a fun game comes before that), they at least attempted to tackle the subject.

      Ironically, even though Bioshock 2 was all about collectivism, I felt it did a better job of tackling objectivism than the first game did. But that’s another topic.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    What is this shit?

    KG

  8. Taverius says:

    New regime best regime ;)

  9. Gassalasca says:

    Finally, someone with a modicum of good taste in music.

  10. Harbour Master says:

    Thanks for linking to Punchbag Artists, new regime. I’ve also put up the full interview with Dan Marshall of Zombie Cow that I was edited way down for the final article.

  11. Andrew Dunn says:

    What a lot of bollocks that Copeland article is. “The middle class is over, enjoy the new monoclass” – FUCKING GET BACK TO REALITY YOU SEMI-DETACHED POSEUR

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      There’s some good stuff in there, despite the Copelandisms.

    • qrter says:

      Bollocks perhaps, but also quite funny and a very enjoyable read.

    • bleeters says:

      It was difficult to read the rest after that part, sadly. I had problems seeing after frowning so hard my eyebrows were down to my cheeks.

    • Wilson says:

      Mmm, the article didn’t really do much for me either way. I would have preferred less points and more detail about how each one might potentially come around and what impact it would then have on people. Nothing there really caught my imagination much.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Pessimistic huh, no shit. It reads like a world fellow vancouverite William Gibson might have envisioned if he started writing in 2000. Too many holes in Couplands world however, his points not explained well enough, it doesn’t seem believable and probably has about as much chance of coming about as Gibsons cyberpunk world. Of course there are a few points spot on but much more are rediculous, sensationalist and just seem to be begging for page hits.

    • Morph says:

      Isn’t it Coupland not Copeland?

    • Dr. Derek Doctors, DFA says:

      Even for me Copeland’s article is overly pessimistic. Of course, DC made his bones in early-’90s slacker lit, so I’m not sure he’s the right person to talk to about predictions. (For my money, David Brin and Bruce Sterling are the two go-to guys for where the future is going to end up. Read Earth or Islands in the Net and marvel at their foresight.)

      The problem, I think, is that Copeland generally just takes existing trends and extrapolates them, even when they’re diametrically opposed (Peak everything! Always connected intarwebs!). The result is — well, a kind of very Copeland-ish mishmash of buzzterms. Not that the Long Crunch/Dying Earth future I expect is going to be particularly fun compared to the overleveraged Disneyland of the last three decades, but I don’t think Copeland is a good field guide to where we’re going.

    • Dr. Derek Doctors, DFA says:

      Crap, it is Coupland. Considering I still have a copies of Generation X and Microserfs around somewhere, you’d think I’d get that right.

    • bob_d says:

      Well, the middle class is demonstrably disappearing in the USA, at least, although that certainly doesn’t create a monoclass, but a two-class system, the poor and the wealthy (hey, just like the middle ages!). Yeah, I dunno what he was doing there.

      @Dr. Derek Doctors, DFA: Hey, didn’t you know that extrapolating from current trends, even if they end up in contradictory positions is how you tell what the future is going to be like? ;)
      Yeah, it’d be nice to see some discussion with depth, as when you give it that level of thought (and have the references to back it up) you end up with a more coherent, more plausible picture of the (well, a) future.

    • Edgar the Peaceful says:

      Great drummer though.

    • Xercies says:

      I do think the middle class will go but I still think there will be three classes at least in this country, those who don’t work but are on benefits, those who are working, and those who own companies and are rich. Since what is “middle class” these days since you cn’ really divide it up into people who don’t do manual labour because even the working class don’t really do that anymore.

  12. zoombapup says:

    Jim: You might want to tell Tom about matching voxels and the typical marching cubes with typical heightfields to get fully 3D islands. We did a load of that in Worms 3D and while the game wasnt epic, the terrain (entirely destructable 3D volumes) was pretty useful. Basically skinned voxels, which were generated with the same kind of algorithms Tom is playing around with.

    BTW: Great post, I can see youre going to be a bit more interesting in your avenues of investigation than Keiron (not that Keiron was bad, I just didnt really share his interest in comics or music).

    I think Eskil is probably talking like that because he’s dug himself a bit of a hole. Love was meant to be emergent and with emergence comes huge risks. He clearly doesnt have much of a grasp of emergent design (and to be fair, I doubt many do) and didnt see the risks of entirely emergent systems. Personally, I like to think of emergence (and procedural content) as an aide to the designer, rather than a replacement of him/her. Certainly procedural methods have done me proud in the work I’ve done where hand-editing content would have taken huge amounts of time.

    • Torgen says:

      Hmm, skinned voxels, you say?

      Something what can be implemented in Unity? Destructible terrain has always fascinated me, and was a major draw with Wurm Online for me.

    • cs says:

      Try this proof of concept in Unity regarding voxels, destructible terrain, plus grappling hooks:

      Bunnies of Fury

      It’s sort of like Minecraft if Minecraft was envisioned as an FPS where block placement and destruction were deployed at the point of a gun. Weirdly enjoyable, especially with the massive bombs that can be deployed. Or the bombs-in-reverse that add large chunks of blocks to the landscape.

      Make a massive set of stone spheres, use bombs to turn them into arches, then shoot your ninja rope to the top and survey the blasted landscape.

      Hope the powers that be will frontpage it at some point.

  13. Blaq says:

    From Ian Bogost’s article:
    “Sure, there’s the web, there’s the PC, there’s the iPhone and so forth, but such markets are not where the video game mainstream resides, either commercially or culturally. Such works are not what the State of California hopes to regulate. Such artists do not enjoy the commercial success of the corporations that lobby through the ESA.”

    Really? So the PC is now only an outlet for indie games and MMOs? Didn’t get that memo.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I did, I’ll just read it for you…

      “To all:

      Due to unforeseen circumstances, we are cutting back on AAA game releases. It’s probably piracy or something. Or second hand sales, or whatever.

      Anyway, we still have our MMOs and indie games, so we can keep ourselves warm as we slide into irrelevance. Because we all know that indie gaming can never live up to the products of big publishers and MMOs are played by anti-social basement dwellers.

      To conclude: Why not buy a console? There’s probably a sale on or something. I mean, they’ve got motion controls now. Surely they’re the future.

      Sorry for any convenience caused,

      Some people who think they know about PC gaming.”

      And with that, all my games that were also available on consoles decided to uninstall themselves from my PC, and Windows popped up a box saying my computer was in quarantine until I bought an Xbox.

    • bob_d says:

      Well, that is the direction the PC has been going (and has been for a few years). The cost/revenue ratio for AAA games got pretty bad, so there are fewer (but bigger) AAA games being produced now. Online games are great for getting the most money out of your players on platforms where piracy is an issue (like the PC), so there’s a lot more of those sorts of games being made. Many PC developers have gone over to iPhones and web games, as the lower costs and higher cost/revenue ratios make those areas slightly more stable.

    • Mad Doc MacRae says:

      That quote bothered me not so much for saying PC’s are dead or dying (which I disagree with) but because he’s saying that any political statement on any non-console simply doesn’t matter. Which is ridiculous. Certainly commercially if you stack up all the dollars on non-console PC platforms it’s more than the dollars on consoles. Culturally is really questionable as well, since I’m not sure I’d lump all consoles as one culture and all non-consoles as one culture.

      It mars what is otherwise a good (but kind of naive/obvious) piece I think.

  14. mandrill says:

    Raph Koster seems to have transcribed all of Richard Bartle’s GDC address verbatim here for anyone interested and its got a link a pdf of the slides too.

  15. subedii says:

    TheResolution piece is interesting, but there’s a flipside in that whilst the internet is a perpetual sea of anger and petty angst, there are developers who genuinely do bring their own rage down upon them, and then get angry about it.

    It works both ways. If you treat legitimate criticisms / concerns (even politely worded ones) with hostility or simply “you don’t understand MY problems” then you’re naturally going to get a reputation as a jerk. I’ve seen one or two devs outright castigate people for daring to raise things like crashing issues (non offensively worded, just raising the issue), because they feel it will damage their reputation or the reputation of their game. Sometimes it’s simply just an issue of ego, the complainant has to be wrong because there’s no way my product would be crashing like that, it’s a problem with what YOU’RE doing

    Nobody wants to be told the product they’ve been working years on is crap and raged at for no good reason. On the other hand, nobody wants to spend £20 on a product and then be told that they’re @$$-holes by the dev simply because they’ve had issues with it.

    Basically most rage directed against devs is usually unwarranted and pretty heavily belligerent. But that should never be a free pass for complaints to be ignored as “internet angst” either.

    • mandrill says:

      Under raging dev in the dictionary: Derek Smart

    • Matt says:

      This is how I feel as well. On some forums whenever some one posts about technical issues there are people who post about how they should just shut up and enjoy the game. They frequently argue that others care about the wrong things in their games, Story, Graphics, technicals) as if these aren’t issues that affect a persons experience with a game. On the other end are the people who like to post vague hate filled posts that seem more about describing their anger then seeking a solution to a problem or making specific criticisms. I really just want the freedom to talk with others about the game, without someone trying to shut down the conversation.

  16. mandrill says:

    I have to say that I’ve opened the majority of the links in new tabs for later digestion, I’d normally only be tempted by one or two from Mr. Gillen, Hat’s off Jim.

  17. Lambchops says:

    Definitely intrigued to see how Big Robot goes, best of luck and all that.

    Also kind of sad that there’s people out there with nothing better to do than write ranty death threats to game developers. It just seems such a horribly futile thing to do and achieves nothing useful for anyone involved.

  18. yhancik says:

    “It has elements of Stalker and Eve Online, it has robots, alien ecosystems, and procedurally generated worlds. It’s a game about exploration, survival, and tinkering.”

    It sounds very much like (one of) my dream game(s), I’m really curious to see where GAME TWO will be going ;)

  19. Orange says:

    Sunday Papers lives on! Hooray for our Rossignol-shaped saviour.

  20. SpinalJack says:

    Plugging your own studio?
    In a PC games website you run?
    In a Sunday papers?
    With your reputation?

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vP0HHX4Ur9g&feature=related

    Can’t wait to see what comes out of Big Robot in the future. If you’re looking for contributors I know a studio in London with talented developers ;)

  21. Wilson says:

    Eskil’s blog is interesting, but I’m not sure I’d call it worrying. He describes why making properly dynamic worlds is hard, but I don’t think it matters too much if games can’t progress much down that route. It would be a shame certainly, but games are fun already. They can also have dynamic elements in them already (which isn’t the same as being fully dynamic, but it still adds a lot without so much effort being required).

    It’s also interesting that he talks about being able to influence the world and have it respond, and suggests that he doesn’t like the idea of players not being protagonists, but then goes on to imply that he’s aiming to make action movie style events happen 50% of the time or more. If he achieves that, the player still doesn’t necessarily have much choice.

    A challenge for truly dynamic worlds is that it depends a lot on the player. The player probably needs to put more effort in to a dynamic world in order to get stuff out, as opposed to an on rails shooter where you hardly need to think to get straight to enjoying the game.

    I’m glad he’s trying to make a dynamic environment, and I hope that people do continue to explore dynamic games, but I don’t think it’s such a big deal if it turns out to be too hard. There are pros to games being dynamic, but there are cons as well.

    • Arathain says:

      Is Eskil sill working alone on Love? While I think his task is a fairly titanic one, he’s increasing it by orders of magnitude by keeping the team smaller. I think it’s OK if what he has to do is hard, and I respect him greatly for what he’s achieved.

    • Wilson says:

      @Arathain – I think so. Though he does mention what you’re talking about actually. He suggested that actually a bigger team wouldn’t help that much, since when you have complex systems like in Love, it helps if people know in detail about all the aspects, which I can understand. If everyone needs to know everything in order to help much, extra people aren’t much good. You could probably split off different systems and assign them to certain people, but when the systems interact you have a similar problem.

    • TreeFrog says:

      Eskil’s problem seems like the inevitable result of trying to do a massively complicated task yourself. Yes, to delegate bits of it now would be very hard, but that doesn’t mean sticking with the current method is the best thing to do.

  22. Xercies says:

    Guillermo Del Toro has a lot of projects in motion, I’m surprised he has time to talk…and sleep lol. But thanks for that video he’s probably one of my favourite directors of all time and that was a really great talk he did. Just got to watch the other parts because he sounds like an interesting guy. People like him and my other favourite directors make me want to do the things i do.

    I find that some publishers/creators are using the Angry Internet Man as an excuse to kind of ignore the community really. Eve the best criticisms they can say its only a angry guy and ignore them meaning that you won’t make better games. I find the angry internet man even though we are led to believe they are are only the minority on the internet not the majority.

    • Wilson says:

      @Xercies – About the number of angry internet men, how do you mean? Because I’d agree that angry internet men are in the minority, and I don’t think many people would argue that. What people do argue is that angry internet men are overrepresented in things like comments threads, which I think is true.

      Of course devs should take on criticism from people playing their games in order to make them better, but I wouldn’t blame them for ignoring people being needlessly abusive (even if they are making valid points at the same time). If people can’t be civil and polite, their arguments aren’t going to be listened to as much. People who insult with their criticism are just weakening their own argument to my mind. I might agree with someone’s points, but if they’ve phrased it in an overly aggressive way it makes it harder for me to support them.

    • Xercies says:

      It might be the websites i go on i don’t know but i think angry internet men aren’t really that overrepresented in the comments i have seen or the forums.

    • Wilson says:

      @Xercies – Perhaps. Maybe I’m wrong and I only think that because the negative/dumb comments stand out more than all the decent comments. Thinking about it, that might well be it. I expect it does depend a lot on the forum/comments thread. RPS is good for instance, not very many angry internet men. Notch’s blog seems to swing between absurdly happy people and absurdly angry people. Hmm, who knows?

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      @Wilson: It seems reasonable to assume the over-positive (fans) respond to the over-negative (AIM/’haters’) and vice versa simply because their points of view are so opposed to one another.

    • Hmm-Hmm. says:

      One can even argue that a visible presence of over-positivism is a likely cause for an increase in overly negative messages.

  23. Matt says:

    The article about multiple displays was a bit disappointing, if only because of the fact that so few games have taken advantage of them! Supreme Commander is 3 years old now, surely someone else would’ve copied that feature by now?

    • Kunal says:

      Just the other day I was telling a friend how some of the foot-to-ball games would benefit from having a zoomed out top view on the second screen. Of course since they are primarily console-based nowadays it won’t happen.

      I welcome our new Czech-song-brandishing-sunday-paper-overlord.

  24. drewski says:

    Sundays are for being depressed that Gillen no longer writes the Sunday Papers, then being delighted that Rossingol has taken them over.

    And then giggling at an entirely different type of failure.

  25. kutkh says:

    I’m pretty sure that the sudden dancing guy is a young Alan Moore.

  26. AndrewC says:

    I really like Newell’s interpretation of trolls on the internet in the feedback article, in that it implies the ‘polite’ version, once one-to-one communication starts, is the ‘real’ version of them.

    I’ve always seen at as the strong, vitriolic version representing strength and uncompromising expression to the nerd-mind. It is power fantasy and the self-image of the ‘real’ them. The polite version being like when an adult suddenly walks in on a tough talking kid, and they suddenly go all acquiescant and respectful. I really don’t see anything positive in the behaviour, only the actions of insecure, immature beta-males.

    But Newell’s is a much nicer way to look at things. Is it because he is forced into a nice interpretation for his sanity, unable as he is to simply run away or snipe from the sidelines like an onlooker like me? Is it because I am naturally nasty? Is it because Newell recently ate a nice person?

    I dunno! When’s Ep 3 coming out?

    • Lambchops says:

      That’s “When’s ep 3 out could you tell me please” in the brave new world of polite commenting.

    • TreeFrog says:

      Ego vs Id, innit.

    • Harbour Master says:

      AndrewC – when I got Gabe Newell’s response, it put a completely different spin on the L4D2 situation. I’d heard many a theory that Valve were trying to decapitate the boycott movement by inviting the leaders to Valve HQ. But if you believe in Valve’s signal-to-noise approach, you can see they were trying to communicate through all that anonymous internet anger: come here and talk to us face to face, let’s have words.

      Being a software developer, this struck a chord with me because it’s how good software developers operate. You listen to a customer/user request or complaint and then try to dig through it to find out what the real problem is – people complain and often and it’s your job to find out why, not just to dismiss everything out of hand as user stupidity. You keep a dialogue going until you get to the root of the problem.

      This is the kind of software development principle you’d expect to come from an ex-Microsoftie like Gabe Newell.

    • jalf says:

      Harbour Master

      Maybe that was the intention, but what they ended up doing was just decapitating the boycott movement (which wasn’t hard), but not actually fixing the issue that people are/were upset about.

      To be blunt, I don’t really care about Valve’s approach to communication. I’m more interested in whether they make good games and treat their customers well. And they blew it with L4D. They haven’t remedied the situation yet, and given that they just killed off one of the survivors, I find out highly doubtful that they’re going to add much more content to the game.

      But hey, let me know when they get to the root of the problem. ;)

  27. Dances to Podcasts says:

    I while ago I posted a comment here that we don’t need a Citizen Kane of gaming, we need a Caligula of gaming. In fact, we need more than that. If gaming wants to be taken seriously as a medium, we’ll need a Salo, a Kids, a Last Temptatioin of Christ, a Lolita. Hell, I’d settle for a Starship Troopers at this point.

    Looking at that list, it seems that games right now could serve certain controversial aspects better than others. Games are good at violence, but so far we don’t seem to have a way of dealing with sex or religion. And even then I think the article is right that the games we do make about war and violence simply lack the ambition to do anything with it.

    But there are other aspects to it as well. There’s the fact that developers and publishers always seem to give in. Six Days in Fallujah could have been gaming’s Apocalypse Now. It could also have been gaming’s Green Berets or gaming’s First Blood. The problem is, we don’t know. We might never know. Because the game isn’t out there.

    And the less said about the complicity of the press, the better.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Explain how that is complicity?

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      (Disclaimer: the original post is incredibly hard to find, not linked from the follow up post and apparently not tagged with Witcher 2, so I’m doing this all from memory and the statements made in the follow-up post.)

      You (as RPS) took a stance against the way a game was made. You added to the chorus of those wanting to change the game. The developers made a choice to show this particular situation in this way. You added to the public pressure for them to change it. They changed their game. And you applauded it. You took the side of the censors, the focus groups, the interest groups.

      Stating you don’t agree with something is ok. Applying pressure on someone to change their work to comply with your personal mores is not. This may be ‘just a blog’, but you’re also a big powerhouse medium now. An opinion expressed here has more weight than something some anonymous person says on their myspace page. If you want to be a big, mature, important medium, you can’t get away with ‘it’s just a blog’. You’ll have to start acting responsibly, and realising the weight and impact of what you write here. ‘I don’t agree’ is fine. ‘They should change this’ is not. It’s a fine line, but I feel you crossed it in this case. You know, Voltaire (attrib.) and all.

      And now my point is derailed and we’ll have to do this all over again… Did I mention the less said the better?

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Six Days in Fallujah was a shit idea thankfully murdered before it became something even worse. If RPS had any hand in that (eh?) then they should be thanked.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I don’t remember us ever saying “it’s just a blog,” or anything even remotely similar. We want to have the small fragment of influence that being a platform like this grants us. We do. We’re glad of it.

      And I don’t understand the distinction you are making between having an opinion and thinking something should be changed. Of course we think things should be done differently, and demand for them to be, or we’d just wave through any old rubbish. Criticism is about being critical, not saying “art is sacred, man.”

      What *actually happened* in this instance was that Alec expressed an opinion saying he found the way the scene was presented was distasteful, and then the developer took it upon themselves to examine that, because they want their game to be great. That’s all Alec wanted. He’s not some pernicious censor cow-towing a line set out by The Man. He wasn’t freaking out because there was torture and sex, he was saying: “This must be done well.”

      And it must, because you want their game to be great. We want their game to be great. Everyone wants their game to be great. With whom are we being complicit? This nebulous force that wants games to be boring and narrow?

      If you want to accuse the press of complicity, then accuse the journalists who rubber stamp terrible generic rubbish with 8/10 reviews, not the editorial which argues that games should be as mature and intelligent as all those films you name.

    • Xercies says:

      We’ve already got video games as crap as Caligula. And the less said about Salo the better, its complete trash masqueraded by everybody else as this great piece of artwork and people don’t get it because its arty. I’m sorry its a horrible horrible film.

      In fact this video sums Salo up:

      http://thecinemasnob.com/2009/08/16/salo-or-the-120-days-of-sodom.aspx

      Also Six Days was another terrible idea from what i heard about it. Its interesting that its become this great lost game, when before it was advertised as gears of war massacring hundreds of iraqi civilians.

    • Jimbo says:

      They took another look at it because they want their game to be safe. Placating RPS on this issue is almost certainly worth their while, regardless of how they feel about the scene. If they read the comments – which I would assume they did – they would have seen that many (maybe even a majority) felt that Alec was exaggerating and/or overreacting. The difference is, nobody in the comments will be writing a highly influential review of their game.

      I don’t think that should prevent anybody at RPS from voicing an opinion (though I do feel the scene was misrepresented in this case), but I do think the result is more likely to be a safer game than a better game. As far as this industry is concerned, not causing offence trumps any other consideration.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Your opinion of ‘great’ is just that – an opinion. And it’s someone that should only come after the work is done. Yes, it’s the critic’s job to criticise. But it’s not the critic’s job to alter the work itself.

      Also, more importantly, the opinion stated was morality based, it was not about making a better game at all. It was not about making the story of the game better, or its gameplay better or anything else that could have to do with making the game objectively better. It was something completely subjective, seeing something there, interpreting it, in a way that many (most?) other people didn’t. The critic saw something he was uncomfortable seeing and decided to make a big deal out of it.

      To stick with the movie metaphor (it’s so useful!), it’s like a movie critic coming out of a preview and writing a big piece on how the director should change a certain scene. And the director then doing it. Imagine Roger Ebert standing next to Matthew Vaughn, looking over his shoulder, telling him how to direct Kick-Ass. We wouldn’t accept that. Yet it’s ok for games?

      If the critics had their way on many of the examples I mentioned, they would have lost most of their strengths or not have been made at all.

      I have seen many scenes in which things happen that I don’t agree with, portrayed in ways that I don’t agree with, but I also realise that they are part of the way those stories work, of what the storyteller wanted me to experience and I would never tell him to change it.

      The morality of what is portrayed is not what makes a work more or less successful. It’s the work itself, taken as a whole and in context, that does that.

      The creation of a work should be guided by one thing only: the work, the vision itself. Anyone else trying to push or pull it in one direction or another should be ignored.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Xercies, they are just examples. I could have also mentioned A Clockwork Orange, Trainspotting, or anything else controversial. I’m sure there are some within that category you’d like.

      As for Six Days in Falluja, I don’t think making a game in that setting is necessarily a bad idea. The same way that making a game, painting, book, or a song about any other horrible situation is a bad idea. In fact, many great works are set in the holocast, WWII Japan or Pol Pot’s Cambodia

      I agree that considering the sort of games we’re getting these days it probably wouldn’t treat the subject with the respect and sophistication it deserves, but the point is that we’ll never know. The game was cancelled and the studio went bankrupt. We might never see it. We’ll never know what could have been.

      And the fact that there is a chance, even a 1% chance, that it could have been the sophisticated, daring, deep, touching game that it might have been, makes me sad that we live in a world where it doesn’t exist.

      There is also, of course, the message its failure sends to other developers: don’t address controversial issues, or you will not get published.

    • AndrewC says:

      Art isn’t made in a vacuum in the real world. I reckon wanting it to be is quite a strange, ivory tower sort of fantasy, and a mis-reading of the idea of artistic freedom. Still, I guess the point is that it can be anything you want it to be so: next point!

      Alec’s point, as far as I can tell, was practical, not moral. CD Projekt were going for one, quite serious, emotional effect, but through clumsy execution they created a rather cheesy, exploitative effect and he pointed it out. CD Projekt agreed.

      Final point! I find people playing the artistic purity card to defend boobies really funny.

    • FunkyBadger says:

      Interesting points, DtoP, thanks.

      RPS seem to be somewhat at odds with the general omerta of the Games Journalism (not sure about the New Games Journalism) not to say anything bad about games in production, as opposed to released (but given the massive and equivilent overreaction to *gasp* boobies in Mafia 2 perhaps that wouldn’t make any differnce).

      Given all that, there are some fairly obvious elephants in the room that could have done with a good talking to before they were released.

    • Tetragrammaton says:

      I am receiving possible sexually deviant emanations from Dances to Podcasts.
      Seriously though, Salo was about as culturally important as the postal series – It has one message, which is delivered hamfistedly and negated but the exploitative, pervey execution of the rest of the movie.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Dances: movies are routinely changed, recut, even scenes reshot, due to early screenings. Your example does not hold up.

      The point is that games are marketed in a different way, which is why were able to say this stuff.

    • Hidden_7 says:

      @Dances to Podcasts

      I think you’re misunderstanding exactly what happened here. It’s not that critic saw a scene of a lady being tortured and went “this is wrong to show this sort of thing, change it.” Rather they were shown a scene of a lady being tortured, in which, to their mind the lady was being overly sexualized and went “it looks like they are trying to make this a gritty mature and disturbing scene, but it’s awfully goofy, hamhanded and sexualized.”

      The response of the developer then WASN’T to go “oh dear, people are upset with what we are portraying, lets tone it down.” It was “oh dear, people are taking away the entirely wrong message from these scene, it must not be communicating our intent very well, lets try and change it so it better communicates the message we always wanted it to.”

      It’s an example of editing, not censorship.

    • bob_d says:

      “Games are good at violence”
      That’s debatable. Games are good at romanticizing, simplifying, fantasizing and abstracting violence into a childish game. The game industry, when it tries to be “realistic” about violence, ends up creating “gore porn,” a different sort of fantasy simplification. Games are bad at showing the real nature of violence, the costs and impacts of violence, or really any real issues that have to do with violence.

    • Mil says:

      @AndrewC:
      Final point! I find people playing the artistic purity card to defend boobies really funny.
      Oh yes, boobies are silly and immature but killing people with swords for XP is no problem at all. This is talking point-level discourse.

      @Rossignol:
      We want to have the small fragment of influence that being a platform like this grants us. We do. We’re glad of it.
      If I remember correctly you’ve told us this is the biggest anglophone gaming related site, so don’t sell yourselves short. You have some power, and with it I would expect the responsibility of, at least, trying to be a bit open-minded about such culturally relative topics as nudity. Even nudity involving attractive females.

  28. Arathain says:

    Ah, commenters on the Internet, you are an odd bunch. The slight majority of my RPS thread replying comrades excepted. Go go Polite Constructive Criticism Corp.

    Why do arguments online always follow the same useless patterns? I feel like I’m reading the same argument a thousand times over with word substitutions. My favourite/most hated argument meme is the accusation that your opponent did not/cannot read your post. If you ever feel yourself perpetuating this little Internet cultural gem, consider two possibilities: perhaps you didn’t communicate your thoughts as well as you thought. Are you a writing cross between Shakespeare and George Orwell? Then it may be you could have made your point a little more clearly and concisely. Number two: maybe, despite your peerless logical faculty and writing ability, just maybe, they do understand what you were saying, and have a different, legitimate perspective on the matter which leads them to disagree, and no matter how often you raise the same points and insult their poor intelligence, they actually won’t come to agree with you.

  29. Big Robot Zombie Dinosaur Jesus Kobzon says:

    Opened three links and only one was about games. I hate this new regime already.

    However, I like the air of pessimism and apathy in most of these articles. Those are the only things I can get behind when it comes to the future of games.

  30. Iain says:

    I like the article on multiple screens – I’m surprised that you didn’t know about SupCom’s multiple screen support, Jim – it was one of the things that Chris Taylor talked about having been really surprised that no-one had thought of it before when I interviewed him at the preview event. I was impressed by how much of a difference it makes to the way you play the game. (Not quite enough to go out and buy myself a second monitor – but if more games used multiple screens, I would have – and SupCom would be first on my list for reinstall if I ever do pick up a second monitor)
    One thing that really surprised me was when I saw some of the devs play the game with each other – just the variety of ways that people used the game’s interface. Some would use two tactical views, some would use two strategic views and others yet would use one of each – plus zoom in the mini-map for an extra tactical view. I thought it was pretty impressive that you could play one game in completely different ways yet still be competitive. The versatility of SupCom’s UI is nothing short of brilliant.

    Also in the BERG article, I have to second Pacman VS as being an absolutely fantastic way of using multiple screens in a videogame. I used to play it with friends at gaming parties, and it’s awesome fun. Truly social, co-operative gaming, yet such a simple idea. If only they could do the same with Bomberman…

    • TreeFrog says:

      Anyone aware of other games that make interesting use of second monitors? I was hoping that article would list a few more.

    • frymaster says:

      world in conflict not only makes use of a second monitor in a similar way to supcom (but only in multiplayer, grrrr) but when broadcasting games for spectators, you can have a “director” who broadcasts his view of the battle… while he has full control over moving the view as per nomal, the game will pop up several choices of what it thinks are interesting things happening in the map, on the second monitor, which is set up to display a number (four?) of smaller views. The director just clicks on one of them to change the main view.

    • Torgen says:

      @frymaster: Games like Natural Selection would benefit tremendously from that sort of thing. Being able to broadcast FPS games as a spectator sport (without a jillion dollars in special equipment and trying to make a gaming TV channel) is something that I thought we’d have seen years ago.

  31. monkehhh says:

    (Success!)

  32. Matt says:

    In other news, someone’s misappropriated a Quinns quote for the Steam store page of NeoCore/Paradox’s new Lionheart game.

    • Jimbo says:

      I saw that and found it most amusing.

      Steam:
      “[Lionheart] Reviews – Rock, Paper, Shotgun ”A Total War game on the same scale as the Braveheart game…””

      Actual RPS quote (not from a review, which they haven’t even done yet):
      “It makes me wonder if Total War’s problem is that it’s just… too big, too ‘total’. A Total War game on the same scale as the Braveheart game, that’s what I’d like to see.”

  33. Pijama says:

    So, can we say it?

    THE KING IS DEAD. LONG LIVE THE KING.

    :D

  34. Serenegoose says:

    Is there some technique to make out the ‘this bit of text is a link’ text from the rest of the writing? As it stands, if I see a story that interests me, I have to scroll my mouse along the text til I find the link. I know there’s a colour difference but I can’t see it clearly at all, and so trying to just spot it takes a lot longer than simply scrolling my mouse about til I find the word that glows. I hate to be demanding, but would it be possible in the future to maybe make the link the first word? I mean, spending a few minutes physically finding the links is hardly the end of the world to me, but the worst that happens is you say ‘no’, so I might as well ask. :)

    Please don’t ban me from the internet.

    More positively, these stories are interesting, SO YAY!

    • Matt says:

      Are you colorblind?

      (serious question, not trying to put you down)

    • Serenegoose says:

      Incredibly so. I have problems with green orange, I get some shades of blue and purple and pink mixed up (that is, some purple I see as pink, some purple I see as blue, I’ve never seen any blue as pink) I also get confused with lime green and yellow, and when it’s in fairly regular ‘text sized’ like this it’s tough for me to pick out the slight red colouring amongst the black text.

      Most of these colour difficulties, except the first, don’t even medically EXIST, so I don’t know why I have problems with them, but I do.

    • mlaskus says:

      @Serenegoose

      What browser are you using? It is easy to override CSS of a website in most browsers.
      You can make links look whatever way you want them to.

    • Serenegoose says:

      @mlaskus

      I’m using firefox, but I have no idea how to do any of that.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Serengoose

      In Firefox, go to Tools -> Options -> Content, go down to the “fonts and colors” box and click the “colors” button. There you can change the default colors for followed and unfollowed links to something you can more easily distinguish.

    • Vinraith says:

      Oh, and be sure to uncheck “allow pages to choose their own colors.”

    • Serenegoose says:

      @Vinraith: Thanks! You wouldn’t believe how many links I’ve missed in previous articles through not knowing they were even there to look for! However, it seems to be something I have to turn off and on – when I turn it on, it basically turns everything except the actual article text white and invisible, making any sites with image based links impossible to navigate. However, that’s workable. :)

    • Vinraith says:

      @Serengoose

      I’m happy to help. As an alternative, you might have a look at plugins for Firefox, there seem to be several for aiding colorblind folks. This one, for example, looks like it might be of some use:

      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/5001/

    • mlaskus says:

      “I’m using firefox, but I have no idea how to do any of that.”
      That’s all the info we needed to help you. :)

      Vinraith’s solution is probably better for you, but I guess it is nice to know about alternatives.

      https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/2108/
      This extension allows you to override the CSS – the thingy that tells the browser how the website should look like.

      Someone already wrote a rule for RPS’s links, so you could use it, or I could write a new one for you if it doesn’t help you.
      http://userstyles.org/styles/21164

    • Serenegoose says:

      That addon to make the links bold worked perfectly, thanks! :D I CAN SEE AGAIN BWAHHA *cough*

      Yes. Thanks. :)

    • Redd says:

      tick ‘underline links’
      no addon necessary.

  35. John Walker says:

    The (wan)KING IS DEAD, LOVE LIVE THE (wan)KING.

  36. Chris Whitman says:

    The problem is that the situation you’re describing is what everyone thinks has happened when a developer gets mad at them for useless raving.

    I can’t even count the number of times I’ve seen the following conversation:

    Troll: “Your game sucks. It’s boring.”

    Dev: “Hey, don’t be a dick. I spent months working on that.”

    Troll: “Oh, can’t handle criticism, huh?”

    Well-meaning third party: “Criticism isn’t the problem, but your criticism is rude and unhelpful.”

    Troll: “I said the game was boring. That’s real criticism. The game is boring. It isn’t my fault you’re too much of a stupid baby to hear anything you don’t like.”

    A big thing for many people, I think, is that we’re used to dealing with businesses who constantly capitulate and treat us like our opinions are valued and important, when they aren’t. Most of what people seem to feel are useful critiques are actually uninteresting, unhelpful, and mixed with a healthy dose of personal insults.

    • Chris Whitman says:

      Whaaaa? I hit reply on one of the above comments, and somehow I wound up replying to the article. Reply fail!

      Feel free to personally insult me now.

    • Jimbo says:

      Don’t worry, your post was boring anyway.

    • Lambchops says:

      Well you know what they say about reply fail; the first time is always the worst.

    • AndrewC says:

      It’s not a big thing, it happens to everyone, it’s not you, it’s RPS.

      Now, ‘boring’ is one of them red-flag words for a post with nothing useful in it. It is a criticism that has no criticism in it, no description, no explanation, no point. Anyone who writes it is ugly.

    • Arathain says:

      @ Chris Whitman: Something I’ve realised about Internet forums and discussions of all sorts: posters tend to write in hyperbole and read in deadpan. Thus, everything settles around extremes, and the nuanced middle goes extinct on comments threads.

  37. Jason Moyer says:

    Everytime I read an article about the Taliban being renamed in MoH’s multiplayer, it seems like the person writing it doesn’t realize that not only are they still present in the singleplayer campaign, they’re mentioned by name about 15 minutes in.

    • mlaskus says:

      I believe people didn’t like gamers being able to play as Taliban. Shooting at them seems to be another matter completely.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yep. it’s about multiplayer agency.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I honestly don’t see why it matters what the sides are called in the multiplayer portion of the game, as the Afghanistan War being a backdrop is only relevant to the singleplayer. The multiplayer might as well be Cops vs Robbers or Sheep vs Wolves, although I suppose that would be too assymetrical for a DICE game.

  38. Little Tohya says:

    My complaint with the Taliban thing in MoH is that it only shows respect to one side; if they’re going to rename one of the real-world groups, then they should rename the other too. They’re still soldiers, they’re just as worthy of respect.

    Cynically speaking, of course, the Home Team probably aren’t a big video game market, so who really cares that representations of their friends, family, etc. are being shot at.

    At least Cannon Fodder went all the way.

  39. Pijama says:

    Didn’t found the Civ V review thingie, but since this post is always a great source of linkage, here goes a very good one:

    http://www.garath.net/Sullla/Civ5/americanempire.html

    A must read for any Civ fan. It shows many design flaws and pretty much demonstrates that the game needs some SERIOUS re-reviewing. : ) Might as well stick to Civ 4 for now.

    • J J says:

      Is it sad that I bought the game, knowing full well it was flawed, hoping that by contributing to its sales, that Firaxis would patch it sooner?

  40. Altemore says:

    Personally found Guillermo Del Toro’s way of talking about videogames a bit worrying. The focus seemed to be on the cinematic experience. I think at one point he even praised Uncharted 2 with something like “Those who think that games cannot be cinematic should play this right now”. I quite like his films, but I have a feeling he’d be a Hideo Kojima-style game developer. Hideo Kojima once gave a talk on his design philosophy, saying he imagined a problem and the coolest solution to it, then made the player do that. Damnit, games are not movies.

  41. Cinnamon says:

    Guillermo Del Toro has a very pedestrian understanding of games. It might be slightly unusual for someone in his position to want to talk about them but he doesn’t say anything interesting. Katamari Damacy is stylish and has simple but enjoyable controls? Really, do go on Mr genius movie director.

    And Douglas Coupland is hopelessly optimistic.

  42. Tetragrammaton says:

    I approve.

  43. pupsikaso says:

    Thanks for the links, Jim!

    On the topic of negative player feedback, I think that most of these players are so passionate about games that, when a game fails to fill their needs (regardless if these people even realize that not all games are made for everyone), they must vent their frustrations. And what better way to do so than through a forum or a direct email? They do not scream at the wall because that is fruitless, but they scream at the developer in vain hope that they will be heard, their desires understood, and perhaps somebody would then make the game they truly want.

    That this is a maddened way to give feedback is without a question, but having lived through an age of faceless press releases, automated support responses, and impregnable virtual barriers of communication they see no other way. Like Gabe Newell says, if developers could only have better communications with their players, if they could show that yes, they are truly listening, then players wouldn’t feel the need to vent frustration on them.

    Consider for example Cliffski’s discussions on piracry. I can’t say I’ve read the entirety of that comments thread, but I did not see many, if any, flames. Now imagine what would have happened if, for example, EA decided to release a faceless, emotionless press release wondering aloud why people were pirating their games? They would be descended upon by thousands of angry internet men decrying them as an evil money-leeching monster.

    Valve is probably driven by a myriad of metrics that tell them what the players want through their actions and play habits. Indies, through the advantage of being small, are able to communicate on a much direct level with players. And even bigger companies like Hi-Rez Studios (Global Agenda) and Bluehole Studios (Tera Online, through En Masse Entertainment) are reaching out to players through regular surveys and forum polls.

    The more communication there is between players and developers, the more the players feel that they are not ignored and their opinions are not drowned out in a sea of others (whom many likely see as clueless noobs that shouldn’t be give the right of opinion), then the less players would feel antagonized.

    Of course the angry internet men are still very real, and those people do it for the sake of it. They are bullies with real psychological problems that should be addressed, but not by the gaming industry. If lines of communications between players and developers are opened, then it would soon become quite clear just how very few and how very ineffectual these bullies are. Until then, I think indie developers that have a soft skin or are too sensitive to such comments could do worse than to close down anonymous comments and require people to register on forums or their site to give feedback.

  44. Στέλιος says:

    Don Norman has some interesting ideas. I read many years ago his book “The Design of Everyday Things” (back when I cared about human factors et.c.) and many of thr things he pointed out never left me.

  45. Vinraith says:

    That MUD article was a great read, and a reminder that I missed a positively brilliant era of early PC gaming by not having a PC of my own until the early 90′s.

    In particular, I liked “in the absence of a reason not to conform to reality, conform to reality.” No one seems to think that way anymore, and the result is a genuine loss to immersion, emergent gameplay, and a sense of escape. The artificiality of even the better open world RPG’s these days is really kind of infuriating, especially for those of us that really enjoy survival-style gaming.

  46. Nallen says:

    DEFCON and SupCom are the best mutli-monitor games.

    In Supcom it’s a really handy use of the second screen (rather a glorified minimap than no function at all).

    In DEFCON, played in the old XP extended desktop mode you’re there! you are in the bunker!

    It worked well in EVE too. I don’t know what they were thinking when they removed that display mode in Windows 7 :(

  47. Megazver says:

    I find it interesting that nowhere in Eskil’s post is there the word “fun”.

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