The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on December 19th, 2010 at 10:50 am.


Sundays are for snow and tea and looking out of the window, wondering if we should go sledging. Snow. Great white heaps of the stuff. If only it were gold. Or instant coffee. Ah well, best ignore it, stay inside and pray we see another summer. In the meantime we’ll peruse some links pertaining to computational software entertainments, and maybe we’ll find something interesting. Maybe.

  • Sam McGrath, formerly of Offset Software, and now of Fractiv, has been talking about the peculiar, difficult, but ultimately lucrative journey he had with Project Offset, the Intel-sponsored development that was supposed to bring us a game that would showcase Intel technology. There’s an interview on BigDownload here. From the interview: “The original vision might be summed up as a fantasy version of Call of Duty. CoD has such perfect execution in terms of delivering that cinematic experience and we wanted to achieve that in a fantasy setting with dragons, trolls, goblins, siege vehicles, etc.” And also: “veryone was setting their sights very high. Had Larrabee worked out exactly as Intel had hoped, our game would have been the flagship title demonstrating their new tech, which would be a huge thing. (Think Microsoft and Halo…)” All that, of course, didn’t work out.
  • Massively asks: Does Eve Online make players better at other MMOs? I think it probably does. Hell, the lateral thinking, politicking, and man-management that I went through in years of playing Eve Online made me better at life. I am now a ruthless politician, and if you need someone to manage your remote-repping battlefleet, I am pretty good at that too…
  • GameSetWatch has some details about the AI Summit, which intrigues me a bit. Any readers going to go to that? GSW also offers a top five developers cross-posted from Gamasutra, which is something I was thinking of doing. Well anyway, here‘s their take.
  • We talked about Metro 2033 earlier in the week, and why we liked it so much. But here’s another take from PopMatters’ Nick Dinicola.
  • Phill Cameron has decided to hit the big notes for his Freespace 2 retrospective on Eurogamer: “Beam cannons cut into capital ships, paused for a moment by the hull before they come charging out the other side in an explosive, flaming lance that lights up the void. Missile trails arc delicately before they home in on your aspect lock. Small fires litter ships like blemishes, ruining that perfect, pristine exterior with the pockmarks of battle. And, when they’re on their last legs, huge cruisers and juggernauts shudder with crackles of electricity, seeming to be the only thing keeping them together.
  • More on that Mass Effect 2 data from GameReader. They’re calling it a “Tyranny Of The Masses”, and say this: “I’m more than a little baffled by the utopian declarations that have accompanied news of Bioware’s efforts to collect anonymous player data from Mass Effect 2. Gamers already influence the design decisions of mainstream developers in a variety of ways, so it is simply absurd to imply that player tracking will somehow give “voice” to a previously disenfranchised demographic.”
  • The big legal issue raised by the Glider bot in World Of Warcraft has now been given a ruling, and it’s an important one for the distinction between copyright and EULA type obligations. The court says: “A Glider user violates the covenants with Blizzard, but does not thereby commit copyright infringement because Glider does not infringe any of Blizzard’s exclusive rights. For instance, the use does not alter or copy WoW software. Were we to hold otherwise, Blizzard — or any software copyright holder — could designate any disfavored conduct during software use as copyright infringement, by purporting to condition the license on the player’s abstention from the disfavored conduct.” Why were Blizzard making this a copyright issue in the first place? Crazy. Also this Penny Arcade strip is relevant. And kind of funny.
  • GameCrashers wonder whether OnLive could change the way we use the internet. There’s a bit of assessment of the service in there, too. I do not like the sound of this: “Each of the games looked pretty good when there wasn’t a lot of motion, but with motion I started to see the compression of the video on the stream. Also, I could feel a tiny delay in my controller actions, but neither the compression nor the delay really stopped me from being able to reasonably play the games and enjoy myself, it just wasn’t necessarily ideal.”
  • Some thoughts on “Neodicy”: “Neodicies would grapple with the very real question of how we can justifiably believe in better futures while still acknowledging the risks that will inevitably arise as our futures unfold. Such a discourse may even allow the rehabilitation of the concept of progress, the idea that as a civilization we do learn from our mistakes, and have the capacity to make our futures better than our past.”

And finally the listenings. Two links this week, and then another one. One newer from me, one older suggested by Miles Newton. He points to this Ramona Falls video, which is just great. I will point to this rather chilled out album by Emancipator. When I feel myself dozing off to that, and fear I might be found dead in here next spring, I put this on.

See you on Monday.

.

80 Comments »

  1. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    @Neodicy: I don’t trust people who invent words. They are suspicious.

    • Dinger says:

      I have no problem with neologisms. I just don’t understand what the hell the author is trying to say. Is he trying to preserve the teleological notion of history inherent in his brand of “futurism” by saying we need to explain why things will necessarily get better?

      Here’s the deal: we may see advances in technology over time, but that does not imply that we advance as moral beings as well. Moreover, technological advances are not necessary either. It is entirely conceivable that this is as good as it ever will get for humans. In fact, it’s looking more like ten years ago was as good as it ever will get for humans.

      By all means, consider the future, but junk the “getting better/getting worse” crap. More powerful technology enables humans to express their humanity with greater volume. And at this rate, if we want to survive in the future, we need to change what it is to be human.

      A good start would be studying Ancient Greek before abusing it for neologisms. Somewhat less appalling would be neadicy, and maybe more interesting would be: Esomenadicy, or some equally impossible word.

    • Tei says:

      …we may see advances in technology over time, but that does not imply that we advance as moral beings as well.

      Maybe technology is a enabler, it provide the means so you can achieve a betterment (he) of things.
      We have advanced a lot… in technology, rights and ethics…
      – Not slavery (personal freedom)
      – Sex equals ( man not superior to womens )
      – Love freedom (you can choose your wife, is not choosed by your family)
      – Sex freedom ( you can choose your sex partner, is not choosed by others)
      – Separation of 3 powers ( so the dude that govern is not the dude that put you in jail )
      – Antibiotics. (The right to die of old age?)
      – Payed vacancies ( so working people can travel, do tourism, maybe even contribute to society other way) ( The original idea is religious: Dominus Day, the day of the lord, sunday )
      – Internet ( P2P communications, peers to peers as oposed server to slave like TV )
      – Press Rights (the right to inform about the government)
      – Specialization (so if you are good at designing microchips, you don’t need to be good at *everything* else, like cooking food, hunting mammuts )
      – Banking ( Granary? ). and with it, all the finnancial things.

      The next things to conquest:
      – Same sex marriage
      – Robotics Domestic (so if you don’t want to clean your house, a robot would do for you)
      – Learning ( ????… so everyone can learn any craft / mastery )
      – Inmortality (???? … so we can live as long as we want )
      - Always On / Opt-in on line ( ????? ????? ???? )

      We have advanced a lot, and theres a lot more to advance. In all areas. And technology helps a lot. Wen you don’t need to use your muscles to travel and defend your family, going from London to Liverpool don’t become a life of dead odiseey (where probably more than half your family will die). Life withouth technology sux a lot. But of course, people could feel luddity over the internet, because is another thing technology lets us do :D and is fun.

    • mlaskus says:

      Maybe technology is a enabler

      That’s what I think. The technology improves the quality of our lives, and lets us spend a lot more time educating ourselves, reading books, etc. This allows us to be better people, with a broad vision of the world grounded in facts instead of superstitions. And as the society becomes more educated, it naturally becomes more ethical in the process.

    • Dinger says:

      TEI: that’s exactly the “wrong attitude” I’m fighting against. Your list consists of A) a selective presentation of the cases where improvements in the sophistication of technology lead to improvements in the quality of life, B) some myths that we construct about the past to justify our alleged moral superiority C) some myths that we construct about the present for similar reasons and D) some unfounded extrapolations into the future.

      So, let’s see:
      – Not slavery (personal freedom)
      For whom? For the western world, where most of the members of society have the choice between working for someone or starving to death? Or for the billions of people that make our lifestyle possible by living, working and dying in impossibly crappy conditions? Ever wonder where your PC comes from?

      – Sex equals ( man not superior to womens )
      This is a myth about “modern society”. 19th-century Victorian chicks might have believed that men were superior to them, but to claim that gender equality is a progressive development is just flat-out wrong. If we measure superiority by who takes the role of “leader” in public and private spheres, men still exercise that authority, even in the West.

      – Love freedom (you can choose your wife, is not choosed by your family)

      Here’s another myth. Outside of the aristocracy, arranged marriages were never common in the West. Arranged marriages are still extremely common in India and the Middle East.

      – Sex freedom ( you can choose your sex partner, is not choosed by others)

      Again, another myth. And many of our contemporaries would argue that birth control has led to the destruction of morals.

      – Separation of 3 powers ( so the dude that govern is not the dude that put you in jail )
      If this is a progressive development, why is it rarer today than twenty years ago?

      – Antibiotics. (The right to die of old age?)
      Yes, antibiotics helped in the twentieth century. Nuclear, Biological and Chemical weapons, not so much. We may have been able to save hundreds of millions of lives (until evolution caught up with our tricks), but we also slaughtered hundreds of millions.
      – Payed vacancies ( so working people can travel, do tourism, maybe even contribute to society other way) ( The original idea is religious: Dominus Day, the day of the lord, sunday )

      Paid vacations require an industrialized society. So they cannot be considered a “moral improvement” over pre-industrial societies.

      – Internet ( P2P communications, peers to peers as oposed server to slave like TV )
      – Press Rights (the right to inform about the government)

      Now these two. Are you sure they’re inherently good things? One of my favorite psychological processes is Confirmation Bias, the tendency to seek information that confirms one’s hypothesis and not to seek information that falsifies it (flaps set to 15, of course). Another is Cognitive Dissonance, the mind’s ability to reject information that falsifies its preconceived notions (ignore that nagging doubt about the flaps). With the internet, humans have so much news information available that each individual can filter it separately, and individuals filter according to what reaffirms their prejudices first. So the news can say whatever it wants, people are going to read what they already believe about the government. That’s why politics is becoming polarized.

      – Specialization (so if you are good at designing microchips, you don’t need to be good at *everything* else, like cooking food, hunting mammuts )

      Even as hunter-gathers, humans have relied on specialization. We are social animals for a reason.

      – Banking ( Granary? ). and with it, all the finnancial things.

      Banking is most certainly not a moral force.

      The point isn’t that I’m a luddite.
      My points are:
      Technological advancement does not imply moral advancement. Moral advancement as a notion does not exist.
      The past is necessary; the future, contingent. Not even technological advancement is guaranteed.

      Once we discard this ridiculous teleological apparatus, we can work to improve the human condition today, and in the future.

    • mlaskus says:

      @Dinger
      You raise some very good points, I was nodding in agreement almost all the time while reading your post.

      “Technological advancement does not imply moral advancement. Moral advancement as a notion does not exist.”
      I agree, but wouldn’t you say that it enables us, both as a society and as individuals, to improve?
      The technology provides us with the time and means to learn and develop ourselves. And, my opinion here is not grounded solid research, but I believe that the more educated a person is, the greater is it’s understanding of and adherence to ethics.

      “Once we discard this ridiculous teleological apparatus…”
      I don’t understand what you meant, could you elaborate, please?

    • Dinger says:

      Teleology is reasoning with respect to the end. A teleological version of history treats the past as heading inexorably to the present, and, by extension, makes the present a step on the way to the future. Karl Marx’s vision of history (Feudal-Capitalist-Communist) is teleological (as are a whole slew of Hegelians). For that matter, [i]Civilization[/i] (the videogame series) communicates a strongly teleological history.

      Logically, there’s no basis for it: for example, it is quite possible that the unprecedented population explosion of the last 150 years will bring about irreversible climate change and exhaustion of natural resources from which the human race may never recover. Or we could nuke ourselves to death in five years. Or an asteroid the size of Canada could smack into us.
      Teleology is a very attractive notion, however, for it allows us to believe that we are superior to our predecessors. We then go about interpreting history in a way that confirms this believed superiority, even fabricating complete lies when necessary (“At Columbus’ time, everyone believed the Earth was flat”).

      It’s important to discard this apparatus because, precisely, we need to act and to improve ourselves. You and I hold education important, but to judge by the actions of European and American governments, the role of education is to provide skilled and semi-skilled labour. All the aspects of education necessary to provide humans with the apparatus to behave ethically, even against the dictates of the state — philosophy, including how to use technology ethically, history, the study of the past as something other than “the bad times that preceded the current golden age”, even enough ancient Greek to form a decent neologism — are being destroyed while we sit around and chatter about how the latest release of BFBC2 renders every hair on a bearskin rug.

    • Josh04 says:

      “Logically, there’s no basis for it:”

      Well, that’s not quite true. Empirically, we’ve never been blown up before and there’s been a long time in which for it to happen. Rationally, there’s no call either way on whether we’re on a journey or not. You can’t prove or disprove whether we’re heading towards a ‘goal’ because we haven’t reached a ‘destination’ or been conclusively blown up yet.

    • mlaskus says:

      Oh, I misread teleological as technological before, I was quite confused. ;)
      Not that I knew what teleological meant five minutes ago, but a quick Google search of mine would have saved you the need the define it, sorry.

      “All the aspects of education necessary to provide humans with the apparatus to behave ethically, even against the dictates of the state”

      I couldn’t agree more. I think that the educational humanism is the key to the development of society and I’m depressed to see it becoming less important in the educational system lately. In Poland, where I live, kids can now choose not learn mathematics or history in primary schools. In high schools which are supposed to provide general education, they choose their specializations and spend only the briefest time studying other subjects. By the time they go to the universities, in majority, they are almost illiterate outside of their chosen fields of study. I’m studying Computer Science now, and half of my colleagues can barely string together a coherent sentence longer than a few words, in their native language. Asking them what books they have recently read is a lost cause, they don’t read.

    • multiname says:

      “– Sex freedom ( you can choose your sex partner, is not choosed by others)
      Again, another myth.”

      Pardon?

      “Moral advancement as a notion does not exist.”
      Well, it clearly does, you can say it and I can understand it. I think you over-value it: even a perfectly ethical society would suffer deeply from illness, accident and old age, and technology has the potential to prevent all those things.

    • Tei says:

      @Dinger:

      I don’t say theres not slavery actually. It still exist, where poverty and lack of freedom able it.
      But we all agree slavery is WRONG, while under the Roman Empire such idea would have loled everyone. So we have advanced.
      And we don’t need slaves either!,,.. because robots and other technologies means make having slaves a lame proposition. The Roman Empire would have avandoned slavery if the industrial revolution where started. But since the economics of having slaves was better than have machines, the Roman Empire died with slaves.

      And how is equal rights for both sex a myth?

      Also, about “argue that birth control has led to the destruction of morals”. Only idiots and religious jerks arguee that. With high population sex is another thing to reduce strees. Sex is supersweet, fun and goof for your health. Theres nothing bad in having lots of sex (if you do something to avoid STS). What again?

    • mlaskus says:

      @Tei
      Slavery can exist in other forms than forced labour.

      “And how is equal rights for both sex a myth?”
      Ask any feminist about it, a rational one, not some radical loon. Women are still not treated equally even in Western Europe and USA.

      “And many of our contemporaries would argue that birth control has led to the destruction of morals.”
      I think you misunderstood what Dinger meant and argued with him even though you share his opinion on the matter.

      @multiname
      In many places in the world, even in some conservative circles in Western countries people, mostly women, cannot choose their partners.

    • Dinger says:

      Okay. No problem holding court in the Sunday Papers:

      “– Sex freedom ( you can choose your sex partner, is not chosen by others)
      Again, another myth.”

      Pardon?

      The myth is that, in the past, sexual partners were chosen by others. That’s just not the case. See, for example, the classic article by John Hajnal “European Marriage Patterns in Perspective”.

      “Moral advancement as a notion does not exist.”
      Well, it clearly does, you can say it and I can understand it. I think you over-value it: even a perfectly ethical society would suffer deeply from illness, accident and old age, and technology has the potential to prevent all those things.

      illness, accident and old age are not moral problems. We are not morally better for dying later.


      Now, Tei:

      But we all agree slavery is WRONG, while under the Roman Empire such idea would have loled everyone. So we have advanced.

      We have advanced from a society of people who were true to their questionable principles to a lot of downright hypocrites? That’s moral advancement?

      Robots and other tech? Do you have any idea how expensive robots are and will be, and given the current overpopulation of the planet, how cheap slave labour is outside of the first world?

      I never said that equal rights for both sexes was a myth. I said that your notion of gender equality was a myth, in the precise sense that a) in the most broad sense, there has to be a gender difference; otherwise there would be only one gender, and b) in practice, in the highly restricted sense we mean “gender equality” (referring to equal access to roles of “power”), gender equality doesn’t exist anywhere on the planet. So again, we’d be hypocrites.

      Also, about “argue that birth control has led to the destruction of morals”. Only idiots and religious jerks argue that.

      The problem is that enlightened folk like us aren’t by far the majority. So how are we to argue for an advance in morals when most people today believe crap that’s even more backwards than what was believed 1000 years ago?

    • multiname says:

      marriage partner != sex partner

      You misunderstand my second point, apparently because your value system rates “moral advancement” as the prime goal whereas I prefer reducing suffering – something which you seem to think has no value.
      That’s fair enough, values aren’t universal, but I honestly have to question the idea that you would rather live in a nontechnological society where your life is at the whim of any bacteria, predator or natural disaster but the people behave highly ethically.

    • Xercies says:

      It seems to me that people have this weird notion that life is better in the past as well, in fact it was hard, maybe as hard as it is today…maybe even harder. i don’t think a lot has changed except the challanges of life is a little difference.

      And i agree that gender equality is not real, men are very downtrodden in our society.

    • mlaskus says:

      @mutliname
      As I understand it, Dinger has been arguing from the beginning of the discussion that technology by itself does not necessarily result in the betterment of human condition, nor that we can take it, the technological advancement, for granted.
      I don’t think that in any of his posts he implied support of a non technological society.

      The technology enables us to develop and improve the human condition but it requires the society to evolve with it or we may waste the opportunities that it creates, no?

      Oh, and for me, an ethical society is one that aims to reduce the suffering, I don’t believe those two notions are in any way mutually exclusive.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Dinger: You didn’t say that. You may have meant that, but what you said was “but to claim that gender equality is a progressive development is just flat-out wrong” which is a considerably more contentious position. In fact, that makes you sound like you want women in some kind of breeding pit. That’s not what you meant, but acting as if anyone misunderstanding you is a little simple is a little bit of a cheat. You phrased it badly, as your later elaboration proved.

      There is of course, no progression except on whatever scales we define. But if you lean on certain philosophical concepts of “good”*, the world powers now are better than the world powers at most points in history**. To assume that all times are equivalent is nonsense.

      And believing what you do doesn’t make you a luddite. What it makes you is a nihilist.

      (And a contradictory nihilist at that: “Once we discard this ridiculous teleological apparatus, we can work to improve the human condition today, and in the future.” Do you believe in the possibility of improvement or not? The last statement implies improvement is a possibility. That implies some kind of scale, from “shitty human condition” to “better human condition”. Believing in a scale and believing we’ve managed to go in roughly a positive direction doesn’t make you able to dismiss it as teleology. In 50 years time, Dinger+50 would be sneering at any improvements made in that time as fundamentally meaningless, and we may as well be just invading the next village and raping everyone there, because it’s all basically the same. And *that’s* what makes him a nihilist.

      Because really? I’d be dead now if I was born 100 years ago. I’d have died when I was 24 when my appendix exploded, if I hadn’t died from any of the things which could happen to an Irish kid. I think my own sorry ass is worth something. Your ass is too. And this conversation is as well, none of which would happen a few short years ago.)

      Oddly, strip away the posturing nihilistic parts and you’re actually agreeing with Jamais. He’s writing about the “idea “of the future. Once upon a time, we believed in progress as a cultural force. Now, we’re primarily apocalyptic. He’s arguing a synthesis is totally required.

      And rest.

      KG

      * Generally speaking, I’m with multiname with this. I’ll forgive Tei his questionable phrasing of ideas, for the obvious reason that it’s not his native language and he’s trying to wrestle down really big ideas.

      **Some would argue the 19th century wins, where the major powers didn’t believe in killing any civilians in war, but that’s beside the point. It’s not as if America invading Iraq is – say – a full on nation-wide rape-frenzy, as it would have been through most of history.

    • Mister Yuck says:

      Oh Mister Gillen, I cannot possibly let you get away with that. I don’t want to endorse everything Dinger wrote up there, but your treatment of him is hardly fair.

      First of all, arguing against human moral progress, especially human moral progress as depending on technology does not make you a nihilist. Dinger has identified himself as a Utilitarian: he wants to minimize suffering (forgive me if I’m mincing terms, I just got my Bachelors of English, it’s been a long time since Philosophy 101). It is quite possible to work to improve the present and future, that is to make progress, on this scale, even if the past does not show a trend towards improvement.

      Second, you say that “There is of course, no progression except on whatever scales we define. But if you lean on certain philosophical concepts of “good”*, the world powers now are better than the world powers at most points in history”. There is nothing wrong with this, but it doesn’t contradict Dinger. Dinger *has* defined a scale upon which to judge progress-the minimization of suffering. You could argue that, given the wonderful improvements in lifespan and wealth, although unevenly distributed, make this the best time to be alive so far. You could also argue that the volume of pollution, poverty, and killing going on in the world right now is quite unprecedented and this is the worst time to be alive. You could also totally cheat and say that since there are so many more people in the world there is clearly more suffering, everything sucks QED, but that would violate the spirit of the argument. But being an anomalously good or bad time does not prove progress.

      Thirdly, I’d like to edit out a rambling paragraph about agriculture. It was pretty irrelevant.

      Lastly, don’t say that the 19th century was a morally righteous century. 19th century armies certainly did target civilian populations, and the citizens of Delhi, the Cherokee, and General Sherman would all like to have talk with you after class.

    • HammerBackspace says:

      I love this conversation that is happening right here EXCEPT
      @Xercies – tell me that ‘men are very downtrodden’ was some kind of typo. Please.

      EDIT: Actually this is not an appropriate forum for a gender equality discussion so I guess this comment can be safely ignored. Sorry Xercies!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      As much as I’d hate to add anything to that half-cut boots-both-in post from last night (I woke up this morning thinking “Christ, that was probably a bit too strong”.) So sorry to Dinger for showing too many teeth.

      Mister Yuck: “Dinger *has* defined a scale upon which to judge progress-the minimization of suffering.”

      No he didn’t. That was multiname, and the person I said I was agreeing with.

      Re: 19th century. The “Some Could Argue” is important. I’m not sure I would either. But the idea of bombing Dresden or Nagasaki would be alien to the 19th century world-view. It’s a good example of Dinger’s “tech progress isn’t necessarily ‘progress’”.

      I’m actually with Dinger in his hatred of teleology, but by stating it strongly as he has he’s lapsed into nihilism. Saying there has been measurable progress in some areas doesn’t mean that you’re buying into some kind of larger myth of necessary, inevitable progress.

      And importantly, that’s not what Jamais has argued either. It’s not inevitable progress, but the possibility of progress.

      KG

    • Baboonanza says:

      “Second, you say that “There is of course, no progression except on whatever scales we define. But if you lean on certain philosophical concepts of “good”*, the world powers now are better than the world powers at most points in history”. There is nothing wrong with this, but it doesn’t contradict Dinger. Dinger *has* defined a scale upon which to judge progress-the minimization of suffering. You could argue that, given the wonderful improvements in lifespan and wealth, although unevenly distributed, make this the best time to be alive so far. You could also argue that the volume of pollution, poverty, and killing going on in the world right now is quite unprecedented and this is the worst time to be alive. You could also totally cheat and say that since there are so many more people in the world there is clearly more suffering, everything sucks QED, but that would violate the spirit of the argument. But being an anomalously good or bad time does not prove progress.”

      The problem with the defining progress being ‘the reduction of human suffering’ is that all of the most efficient ways of decreasing the volume of human suffering are regressive. Generally they involve euthanizing a large section of the world, or forced sterilisation or, arguably, going back to a less technological world where peoples perception of suffering was less because they were too ignorant to know any different.

      In practice progress has ALWAYS meant more progress for some than others, and in those terms it’s unarguable that the Western World has it better than at any other point in human history. And while you could argue that some places that haven’t progressed as much are worse now than they were, I would disagree with you.

      What most people seem to not realise these days is that the absence of constant, fulite human suffering is a very modern invention. Every single one of your ancestors had it really, really shitty by our standards. Sure people in the developing world have terrible lives, but they also had terrible lives before.

    • MajorManiac says:

      Firstly I like to say how I’ve really enjoyed reading this thread.

      I agree with the majority here, in that advanced technology doesn’t mean advanced society. The 20th centry is a perfect example of this. Never have so many people suffered/ died at the hands of technology than the last 100 years.

      I do like the fact that we concider the ‘suffering of others’ to be distasteful, and hope that this trail of thought will lead to a better world. However we (me included) are probably all hypocrites in that we’re not completely aware of the suffering being caused in our names. I saw a documentary recently that was really shocking. It was called The War You Don’t See. It was on ITV so am consious of potential hyperbole.

    • Dinger says:

      If I may just throw in another nickel:

      First, no problem. Citing the extreme version of an opinion is what gets attention. My brother used to say that a professor of literary criticism writes like a Marxist, thinks like a Socialist and votes Democrat.

      In short, I don’t think rejecting teleology leads to nihilism. I do believe that teleologies are an obstacle to making the world better. Instead of “gender equality”, let’s take “racial equality” in the United States. The “progressive” narrative (and note that I’m using “progressive” to refer to a belief that societies necessarily advance, and not to any political movements, hence some of the confusion on my earlier statements) would be that, well, slavery was a problem that led to endemic racism, and, so after many years of evolution, the condition of African Americans gradually improved to where they got the vote, increasing parity and now, with a black president, racism is over”. That’s the kind of horseshit narrative that demeans the centuries of progress it seeks to celebrate: our world is the world we make, not the one that will “eventually come to us in the fullness of time”.

      Humans are the only moral agents in history, and while the conditions for moral agency may change, those changing conditions don’t in themselves make us morally superior actors to our predecessors.

  2. Dood says:

    Man, Freespace 2 had the best capital ship battles in any space shooter. Which is the reason I find myself coming back to the game at least once a year. Ships jumping in and out of hyperspace, firing laser beams that have a larger diameter than your own puny fighter craft need to be in every space shooter. Not that there are many coming out these times, sadly.

    • Caleb367 says:

      Amen, bro. In my book, the only freaking space-shooter-sim to top TIE Fighter.
      FSOpen makes it a real treat for the eyes, also.

  3. mlaskus says:

    Oh Freespace 2, did I ever mention how great it is? It is great, go buy it on GOG and download the FSOpen to pretty it up. Damn, this game is great.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      I read that review and did just that. It’s just about installed. I also just realised that I don’t have a control stick. How did this one pass me by back in the day, back when I had my logitech wingman.
      How’s it play with a mouse? I could muster up an xbox gamepad, could that work?

    • mlaskus says:

      It works well enough on keyboard and mouse combo, I have completed the game a few times with it on highest difficulty setting.
      Funny you would ask about Xbox 360 controller, I’m just browsing websites for best offers and would also be interested in reading some opinions.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      And 10gb later Open Freespace2 is still downloading. Damn this has gotta be good.
      I was just browsing for a 360 controler wireless gaming receiver. It’d be a handy thing to have for development and gaming in general. It’s a good controller(if only a mouse could somehow have a trigger) but curse it’s shitty d=pad.
      But one day, when I’m a real man. I’ll own a real flight stick.

    • mlaskus says:

      You have selected every option in the installer, didn’t you? :)
      The first time I installed I did so too, but you can simply stop the installation now and enjoy the basic content that got installed first and download the custom campaigns and total conversions at a later date. I think you could even start playing the game now, without stopping the installation, if you don’t select content that has yet to download in the launcher.

      I hear that there is some new version of X360 pad with an improved dpad. I think it can be rotated to different positions to suit your preferences better.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Yes, the guide told me to and I did what I was told. Although I probably would have done the same. Consequences be damned. Looking at the downloader now it seems to be onto the Blue Planet mod. From what i read I think it should be the last one. I’ll just leave it over night.

  4. Miles of the Machination says:

    I am pleasantly surprised.

  5. MessyPenguin says:

    “Sundays are for snow and tea and looking out of the window, wondering if we should go sledging”

    I am literally sitting here with a cup of tea looking out my window thinking should i go sledging hmm what to do, i know i’ll read RPS. Great minds think alike :)

    • Mister Yuck says:

      Man, I thought that was a typo where he meant to write “sledding” but then I looked it up and your whole country does that! England is weird!

  6. Inglourious Badger says:

    Snowy Sundays are for playing through Metro 2033 and when asked if you want to go out saying “What!? To the surface? But there be monsters!” before remembering it’s just a game.

    Nice article on the game from Nick Dincolla.

    I’m not too bothered about Bioware amassing gamer data though, I think developers need to find ways to cut through the ‘feedback’ they receive on games as even RPS comment threads show the disenchanted are a lot louder than the gamers who actually enjoyed the game/are looking forward to the sequel, and I’m as bad as anyone at this. Not totally sure how much Bioware will learn from this but it can only be a good thing for a developer to be attempting this stuff. In the same way Valve have looked at this and other methods of getting player feedback without trawling reams and reams of angry forum rants. (see: http://www.pcgamer.com/2010/09/14/interview-valve-want-to-see-you-sweat-and-make-a-game-of-it)

    • Urael says:

      Fascinating article, this. It makes me want to look into the whole marketing side of games, the science of it. who tracks the opinions, reads the forums, guages the game’s popularity – or otherwise? What tools do they use? How is it charted, measured, weighed? Who interprets it? What effects do those interps make on the game’s development? And finally, how is it all managed?

      It’s not unreasonable to surmise that many traditional game designs could be irrevocably altered – and likely already are, judging by the ‘damage’ indicted on PC stalwarts by the console market – as less marketable features are severed from the main body and either restricted to expensive DLC options or left out entirely. We can already see Bioware doing this with Mass Effect and Dragon Age, attempting to tailor the games to the lowest common denominator which, in my view, is a desperate pity – Bioware were built on the back of good, solid games. This current streamlining and stat tracking suggests EA’s foul decaying hand behind the scenes…

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      @Urael

      Good point. I’m being hopelessly optimistic that stat tracking will somehow improve development. It’s good developers looking for other forms of feedback, but you’re right that this will likely throw up frightening statistics like only 50% of people complete the game, so we’ll take out the ending, and only 25% of people had more than the necessary conversation options so we’ll take out any conversation, but everybody shot a gun and looked at Miranda’s tight PVC wrapped arse so we’ll put 3 Mirandas in a zero gravity 4-way sex scene/fight scene in ME3.

      The problem with feedback is it’s so hard to ask anyone what they want in a game because most of us can’t explain, or even realise, what it is we enjoy about a gaming experience, most likely just rant about what we found frustrating.

      The games I, and judging by the RPS Advent calender, RPS and most thread commenters consider the games of the year were games where the developer had total control and largely ignored or didn’t have any customer feedback. Yet if I had have been asked my early feedback to Notch would be: “Minecraft’s too boring, you need a narrative to give me any reason to play it”, to 4A Games I’d say: “You’re crazy for leaving GSC and making a linear version of S.T.A.L.K.E.R., how can you hope to get enough atmosphear, character and detail in to justify the lack of freedom?” and to whoever it is behind Space Funeral I’d have said “I’m not letting you have any more LSD until you improve the graphics and character animations” and how wrong I would have been in all 3 instances.

    • Xercies says:

      Thats the point, developers and publishers should basically put this information into a fire and forget about it and make the game they want to bloody make. Then you will get the good games and the interesting ideas. Once you start going down the road of trying to figure out what everybody likes about it you start fracturing the audience and creating mass produced crap which is a bad thing all around.

    • Archonsod says:

      @ Inglourious Badger – that might be the case if you assume developers will forget everything they know about making good games before looking at the feedback.

      You’re correct in that existing methods tend to be inadequate. People tend to be ineloquent with describing criticisms (“dumbed down” for example, that doesn’t even make sense in English, dumb is an adjective not a verb. Or “unrealistic”. Praise isn’t much better – “that was cool” is only useful if the question was about temperature). In any kind of public arena social behaviour also creeps in, with people agreeing with statements solely because it’s popular (or unpopular) rather than any real feeling. Which is another problem; in general, if someone feels strongly enough about something one way or the other to go to the bother of giving feedback, they’ve already differentiated themselves from the 90% of your audience who don’t.

      The stat collection gives you a useful check, as a starting point, to help make sense of the feedback you do get. The operative word there being “starting point”. If you know only 50% of players completed the game you don’t remove the ending, you look at why that might be the case. If a lot of feedback complained about the difficulty, and you can see most players failed to get finished (particularly if your stats are fine grained enough to show them quitting at a similar point) then perhaps you have balance issues. If people complain the writing was poor, then perhaps your plot simply wasn’t compelling.
      The people reading these are rational human beings, not automata. And they’re not collecting these stats to design a game around, they’re collecting them to tweak the existing design. Looking at the ME2 class stats for example you can see the soldier class is a runaway success while few people bothered with an engineer. This doesn’t necessarily mean you drop the engineer class, it means you look to see why this might be the case. Do the tech skills need to be made a little more interesting? Is it because too many recruitable NPC’s have tech skills? Is it simply because soldier is the suggested class for beginners (i.e. did people pick a different class on subsequent playthroughs?). Maybe the existing feedback will hint as to why. Maybe you need to ask the userbase what they like or dislike about the class. Like I said, it’s a starting point. Bioware can see simply by looking at the sales figures they already know how to make a good game, the question they’re asking is how to make it better.

    • JackShandy says:

      I keep thinking of Warren Spector’s talks on Deus Ex when I read this. All through making that game, the devs had to contend with the fact that a lot of the content they were making might only be seen by under 30% of the people who played the game. So, of course, bigwigs would come around and ask “What’s the point in putting all this work into the content if hardly anyone’s going to see it?”

      Sat collectors like these just seem to give people like that another weapon. No-one here would argue that the ME3 should only have a male option, but look at the stats! A huge amount of money and dialogue, and only 20% of people ever heard Jennifer Hale’s voice. From the perspective of the money guys, there’s only one conclusion to draw from that.

      Personally, I think that a huge amount of that might just be because male soldier was the first option on the menu. But either way, I’m not sure that collecting stats from such a huge amount of people can really do much good, as long as you’re not trying to make Call of Duty. It seems like if you want to make a smart game with a lot of choices, you’re going to have to ignore the majority vote a bit.

    • Archonsod says:

      It won’t be the money guys looking at the stats. They’re too busy to do that, just as they’re too busy to play the game. All they’ll look at is the bottom line.

      Point to remember in this case in particular is Mass Effect was designed as a trilogy long before they started collecting the stats, and ME3 was likely well into development before the stats were available, so the influence they’re likely to have on major points of the design is somewhat small.

      From that perspective it’s far more likely they’d be used when looking at potential DLC rather than the game design; i.e. if most people are playing soldiers, DLC targeted at that class will likely sell more than one targeted at the engineer.

    • Baboonanza says:

      But hasn’t Valve been doing this since Half-Life 2? They actually changed the difficulty of certain sections post release because people were getting stuck. If Valve do it (and because of your Steam account it would be non-anonymous too), why is it wrong for Bioware to do it?

  7. Inigo says:

    You may want to use this for your Penny Arcade link instead of the “latest comic” page.

  8. bakaohki says:

    As far as I can remember the WoW Glider case was a copyright case, because (according to Bizzard) the Glider bot altered the original code in the memory, runtime – in reality probably it was a copyright case, because that’s more serious and it can shoot off the message that if you mess with our software, we will meet you in court… and many people just can’t afford “being in court”…

    Anyway, most software EULA-s strictly forbid disassembling or code alteration in any form (besides many other things; like, for example in most cases you just lease the damn software, you do not own it).

  9. BooleanBob says:

    Thanks, Jim. An obliterator-class huntroid is all I need at the moment. Although, maybe I can use Renegade dialogue options to redirect its wrath to whomever it is at Royal Mail that is holding up my Christmas delivery…

  10. dog says:

    so the anti-spam is working out well :)

    edit : see, now i just look silly posting here…

    • Urael says:

      Yeah, I saw that. Is the Spam registering now? How about it, webheads? How easy is that to program?

      Looks to have been deleted, thankfully..

    • subedii says:

      Would appear so, considering that post just disappeared.

      Unless there was some manual moderating going on there.

      • subedii says:

        I’m testing to see whether replies still work. They certainly worked before when I logged in, but my previous post was supposed to be a response to “dog”.

        • dog says:

          and mine was in reply to the spam, so i guess deleting the original post rather confused things…

          edit : or maybe the reply is still borked as that was meant to be another reply…

          • noobnob says:

            Reply test.

            EDIT: So replying to those who replied to the spam will put you at the bottom of the stack as well. Interesting!

          • Kieron Gillen says:

            Yeah, it’s annoying. Hopefully people will realise that going Reg only is at partly about management of Spam rather than pure prevention and stop creating more mess in the threads with this kind of stuff.

            KG

          • mlaskus says:

            @Kieron
            I just took a look at the registration page, and the “Proove you are human” part doesn’t really prove anything.
            How about using a good captcha over there?
            This one seems good, hard to crack and easy to read for humans.
            http://www.nucaptcha.com/products/basic

            You can even use games related adds if you go for the non free version.

          • Kieron Gillen says:

            Thanks, but I’m the wrong man to be talking to about this.

            KG

          • mlaskus says:

            Based on the authorship of the previous article, I would assume that the person to talk to is Jim, right? I can send him an email. The spam messages can be quite funny, but they are just irritating more often than not.

          • Kieron Gillen says:

            Generally, you want to hit up RPS’ contact mail.

            KG

  11. Urael says:

    A word on Fractiv. While Project Offset’s loss is a staggering blow on the artistic side of PC gaming, it remained to be seen exactly what we’d have been playing. Fantasy CoD, as stated in the article, suggests an “on-rails” approach that makes me wonder if we’d be talking about something like Half-Life 2 and Dark Messiah, where the player still has agency enough to make repeat visits worthwhile, or something like the latest console extravaganzas that shuffle you along a very narrow corridor of pre-scripted events. For me one of the most ludicrous control keys in Transformers: War for Cybertron was the button that focused you on a scripted event…such lazy, lazy game design, Hopefully we’d not have been asked to do the same as that cyclops finishes rummaging in the house and starts after you…

    So, while I’m happy to have an ambitious team of devs out there, I’ll keep my expectations in check until one or two of their big release games are out in the wild.

    • terry says:

      To be honest, everything they said and showed looked techdemo-tastic, with very little clear idea of what the game would be except “fantasy FPS”. It reminds me of when Quake was in development and John Romero would froth about hammers and pterodactyls and some grand medieval legend to tie it all together, while Carmack wowed everyone with the brownest engine the world had yet seen.

      This western RPG they’re working on sounds interesting though, I hope it makes an appearance on the PC.

    • Xercies says:

      To be honest reading it they seemed to have ideas bigger then there actual development capabilities so I’m glad they kind of failed and are going to small things.

    • KillahMate says:

      I’m not. Even if a glorious failure, Project Offset would have still been… glorious.

  12. negativedge says:

    Freespace keeps popping up here and there lately. Which is fantastic, really. The lesson is games this good just don’t die.

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      I’d edit that to: games this good that haven’t had any genre competitors since their release don’t die.

      Still a great game though. I think the amazing FSOpen mod has rekindled a lot of interest. I know I played it again after Kieron’s article on it a few months ago (Was that on here, or was it one of Eurogamer’s retrospectives?) .

      EDIT: I’m guessing that was here as the whole reason we’re discussing the game is Eurogamer’s current retrospective! (D’oh)

    • Sigma Draconis says:

      Every so often, I’ll still bust out my decade old Microsoft Sidewinder Precision Pro for some FreeSpace 1 & 2 playtime. It’s held up remarkably well (the games and the joystick, mind you), and is getting more recognition with the severe lack of space combat sims in the current gaming market.

      But I forget, did FreeSpace 2 have any real competitors when it was released?

    • Zenicetus says:

      @Sigma Draconis: Freespace 2 came out in 1999, and it was preceded a year earlier by the first Independence War (I-War) game, another great (and largely forgotten) cockpit-level space game. The I-War: Edge of Chaos sequel was released in 2001.

      Freespace was a more conventional game, mostly just a refined version of what was done in previous games like Wing Commander and Tie Fighter (i.e. ships mostly act like WWII fighter planes), so it was more popular and more people remember it.

      I-War was the only space game I’ve played that tried to get a little more serious about Newtonian mechanics, with some auto-assist to make it easier to cope with. You flew a larger ship (Corvette) so the battles had a less frenetic feel, with a little more time to think and take advantage of the Newtonian mechanics. Because the speeds could be so much higher than a typical space game, the volume of space was huge. Flying around a planetary system actually had a sense of scale. The background story and mission writing could have been better in the second version, but it was the only “space game” I’ve ever played that took the idea of space combat seriously, and didn’t just make it WWII fighters in space.

      Freespace gets all the love, but I’m still waiting for a cockpit-level space game as good as the I-War series was.

    • sebmojo says:

      Tachyon: The Fringe was a sort of competitor, much more story based vaguely Elite’y style. Had a neat ‘slide’ command so you could go inertial and rotate without changing your direction of movement.

  13. noobnob says:

    Glad to see OnLive changed its business model, or at least made it more apparent as a “rental” type of service, though it’s still too early to say if the service will take off. It still seems to be highly dependent of the user’s proximity to the datacenters, so results may vary wildly. Like cellphone/3G coverage. No like.

    EDIT: Sundays are also for checking out new digital distribution services. Say hello to Desura, Moddb’s project. The differential here is that Desura plans to support user-made mods for games. It’s also indie-friendly, but then again, most digital distributors are these days.

  14. Lad Stankfoot says:

    This Emancipator music IS awfully relaxing; perfect for a cold winter day [like this!].

  15. westyfield says:

    Instant coffee? Are you mad, Rossignol?

  16. JackShandy says:

    Sunday over in england allready?

    I’m disappointed at the lack of Cardboard Children this week. Hope the 4C’s still on.

  17. Veret says:

    That Penny Arcade link is going to be defunct as soon as they post a new strip. Might want to permalink: http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2010/12/17/

    For those wondering about the spam, I gather that some ambitious companies hire actual humans to register a million accounts and copy-paste their spam messages manually. So if you think your job sucks…

  18. AiglosCelt says:

    Safe in the Steep Cliffs is prob the best album of the year.

  19. flipzeroto88 says:

    I’m always pleased with the music choices in these posts. Ramona Falls is great, and that video was pretty awesome.

    • sfury says:

      Agreed, also nice to have something with human voices for a change.

  20. Dreamhacker says:

    Ah, Metro 2033. I completely agree with the article’s statement that it feels “safe, but not comfortable enough that you wouldn’t want to press forward”. Going “over the top” or rather, into the tunnels, in Metro 2033 is an absolutely harrowing experience. EVERYTHING WANTS TO KILL YOU. The rats, the bandits, the glowing puddles, the frightening “aliens”, the very shadows on the wall.

    The tunnels, of course, do provide you with a roof. The above ground parts of Metro 2033 aren’t as generous. There are several species of sudden flying death up there. The only thing worse than going into the tunnels is going up to the surface.

    Great game, frightening and exhausting, but still a great game.

  21. Thants says:

    The first place I heard Emancipator was in a green screen demo reel I’m going to link to again here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=clnozSXyF4k

  22. Adventurous Putty says:

    Disappointed you never mentioned the amazing profile that the New Yorker did on Shigeru Miyamoto. That was a great article.

  23. bill says:

    On a vaguely related note, is Capitalism the game to play to learn about business?

  24. Pantsman says:

    Alright, I guess I’d better check out FS2. Is it worth buying a joystick to play it, or should I just use my Xbox 360 pad? Or even (gasp) mouse and keyboard?

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      My latest playthrough was with the 360 controller and was largely pleasant, though there will be a lot of setting up to do to find a button configuration you are happy with. Plus, infuriatingly the game won’t let you change it mid-mission from the options, so you have to exit out, configure, go back in, try again, find you need the ‘next hostile target’ on your pad so exit out again, configure, etc..

      And no matter what you assign to the gamepad you will always need a few extra buttons for certain situations, so don’t let the keyboard stray far from your hand. Probably best to play with joystick and nearby keyboard if you can.