The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on April 3rd, 2011 at 11:00 am.

The Sunday Papers
Sundays are for rest. Recuperation. On Sunday we feel okay. We will rise again. And when we rise, we will want to read something, cup of tea in hand. We will want to be better than we were. Stronger. Wiser. Perhaps we could read something about the goings on in those video game minds? They’re always pleasant. Yes, that’ll do. That’ll do.

  • Tap Repeatedly have a splendid interview with master concept artist Daniel Dociu, who you will be familiar with from Guild Wars 1 & 2. He says stuff like this: “It seems at times that a strong visual identity tends to polarize the main stream audience. People will tend to love it or hate it, the further developers deviate from the vanilla. It prompts an attitude — which is what art should be about; but of course that response can be positive or negative. A realistic approach is easier to digest. With budgets only going up and teams getting bigger, with pressure increasing to generate more revenue faster, there is understandably a tendency on most developers part to play it safe and stay within a comfort zone.”
  • UK-based games industry site MCV asks: Can we benefit from piracy? I reply, sure, if we’re really clever or lucky about it. But most people aren’t really clever. Or really lucky. The article itself has some interesting back and forth between the talking heads but, as usual, no definitive answer.
  • Tom “Penumbra” Jubert offers Ten Tips On How To Become A Professional Games Writer. There’s a lot of stuff in there that is just relevant to being a writer, of course, so it’s worth a look if you are that way inclined. I’d probably add to that: Get Stuff Finished. An unfinished anything is no use to anyone.
  • A beautiful post from DIROLab “On Simulation, Science, & Love“. This is a new project set up by Martin “GoldenEye” Hollis and chums, with the intention of investigating the possibilities of love and romance within games. I’ll be interested to see where they go with this.
  • Kotaku present the argument for Angry Birds as game of the year, by way of Mr Jaffe: “To Jaffe, Angry Birds is the real deal. It’s a great video game. And he denies that he was wowed by its crossover success. He says today he’ll do better than have nominated it. He’s going to vote for it as Game of the Year. The top one!” Hmm.
  • VG247 take a moment to consider the crisis in Japan and what gaming companies have done about it.
  • And PopMatters takes some time to discus the hopelessness at the heart of Fate Of The World: “The game sees a sharp difficultly spike after the tutorial mission and the task of wrestling with the onslaught of global problems becomes daunting. Efforts to maintain low-emissions are met with dissatisfaction, while at the same time protections against devastating storms, droughts, and other phenomena are quickly outstripped by climate change. Playing Fate of the World can feel like fighting a losing battle. The win condition for the Oil Crisis mission alone—simply survive until the year 2120—is startlingly pessimistic.”
  • What We Would Gain By Losing The Word “Gamification”. (Some of our precious fucking life back.)
  • And, related to the previous point, I’ve been reading a bit of Jane McGonigal’s fun but strange book, Reality Is Broken. Many of the thoughts I’d been having about it have been nicely summed up in this article by Heather Chaplin, in which she rebuffs McGonigal’s ideas about improving reality by making it more like a game. Chaplin is correct in that “gamification” misses the point about both the importance of reality, and the value of games, but I can’t help thinking that a more others will find a more cogent way to make McGonigal’s argument in a way that doesn’t seem to miss out what is vital to gaming.
  • 3am Thinkings on Amnesia. I really should get around to playing that game.
  • Absurd, brutal, ultimately very funny: “Mahna Mahna song during Execution“. Watching that makes you a bad person, incidentally.

Music! I’ve been listening to a bit of this, which one of the blokes from Sigur Ros. Lovely stuff, and as Icelandic as volcanoes and bad schnapps.

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149 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Joshua says:

    The sharp difficulty spike of Fate of the World is more or less the point i’d geuss. It kindly explains why nobody wants to take effective measures: It’s impossible.

    Still, the game could do with some slightly easier scenario’s… I never got to finish Oil Crisis…

    • Caleb367 says:

      I’d like a sandbox mode too, just for fooling around and experimenting with the various policies.
      On the other hand, there are so many things that could go wrong in a single move it’s absolutely terrifying. One game in the Oil scenario, i focused on reducing Chinese emissions and switching the others to biofuels. Guess what: oil peak happens. Industry and agriculture grind to a halt… which in turn causes a massive worldwide food shortage. Great work, me, you just killed off half the world’s population in 10 years.

    • Out Reach says:

      Dr. Apocalypse is the sandbox mode. The Win conditions give room for experimentation, while the lose conditions are easy to counter.

      The article makes the point that FotWs insane difficulty is counter productive, as it seems to teach engaged players not to bother with global warming, because they’re screwed anyway, and then it says engaged players won’t reach this conclusion, because they’re engaged with the game :S WHAT?

      Guy had the conclusion, then throws it away in the last two lines so he didn’t have to make an actual negative statement against the game…

    • Caleb367 says:

      I’d prefer a true sandbox mode, as in “no win, no lose” conditions and readily accessible from the beginning. Just learnin’ as it goes.

      On the other hand, I quite like the depressing gameplay, as in not be cuddled by the game. Heck, I can remember only Pathologic treating me this way. Not even (even if it’s awesome) Amnesia, as the monsters howl is a GREAT help to not be killed.

      Wait, Pathologic AND Dwarf Fortress.

    • nullspace says:

      Dr. Apocalypse is good for a sandbox, the only ways to lose are to go broke, get banned everywhere, or get banned in your headquarters region. That last one is easy because the headquarters region gets a unique policy that gives a big approval boost for cheap. The problem is, to unlock Dr. Apocalypse you have to win the Fuel Crisis and Three Degrees scenarios first.

      I was able to win Three Degrees after several tries, reading forums, looking at the game data files, and emailing Red Redemption a bug report which they replied to by explaining how something worked because nobody understood it. So it’s possible but it’s very complex, it’s hard to predict how effective any policy will be, and there are some hidden tricks to approval, the economy, and resource shortages/bans. So yeah, the game does seem to be saying that we’re doomed.

      The game may actually become easier in the near future. The developers have said (on the Steam forum for the game, which seems to be the “official” forum) “Fate of the World is too hard for not quite the right reasons. The game focus needs to be less on regions ineluctably crashing due to fuel choices, and more on climate and emissions. … Next patch (date TBD, but likely end of the month[March]) will be a balancing and easing patch.”

      So, even if the game is fixed soon, does it mean anything that a game about global warming is unintentionally almost impossible?

    • Archonsod says:

      “So, even if the game is fixed soon, does it mean anything that a game about global warming is unintentionally almost impossible?”

      Not really. A lot of the difficulty at the moment is down to the game design rather than the scenarios. From the straight out design issues (like fast breeders appearing to increase uranium demand; they actually do the opposite but the way it’s reported to the player makes it look like they do, in direct contradiction of the card description) to the odd bug (renewables suddenly vanishing for no good reason).

      The difficulty curve is a big part of it. The initial Africa scenario is focused purely on teaching the player how to use the interface, there’s nothing which explains some of the basic concepts. And a lot of the issues players have raised on the forum do come down to not understanding or misunderstanding how certain things (research was a popular example) work. Not to mention some of the real world principles involved (global economic crisis was fun for that one).

      In actual fact if anything the game shows there’s multiple approaches to dealing with both the fuel and environmental crisis, to varying degrees of success (and varying degrees of acceptability. Wiping out five billion people solves them both quite quickly, but I doubt you’d get much support for it at the UN).

  2. Rii says:

    Until today I had never even heard of ‘gamification’. Thanks RPS.

    • Premium User Badge

      Feste says:

      As a Production Editor words like ‘Gamification’ and ‘pro-active’ were the bane of my existence. Stupid nonsense words that elide subtlety and meaning from everyday life. Bah humbug!

    • Ushao says:

      Proactive is not a terribly recent word. Been around since the 30′s at least, I believe.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      Ditto. We really need a pill that deletes your short term memory for like the last 20 minutes.

    • sinister agent says:

      Same here. Still not a word as far as I’m concerned, and belongs in the same bin as “diarise” and “synergy”.

      “Pro-active” though, is a perfectly legitimate and sometimes useful word. No doubt it’s grossly misused by many, though.

    • Premium User Badge

      Harlander says:

      I’ve always harboured a particular hatred for using ‘leverage’ as a verb.

    • Cunzy1 1 says:

      Syzygy is an awesome scrabble word. And an awesome word within its own right. Let’s bump the market value of it up by using it all the time hey?
      Example use: “Your mother and I were in syzygy last night”

  3. Rond says:

    Anybody out there who actually is a gamer who can’t handle the fact that there are also casual games has a little too much f-cking time on their hands.

    What an excellent argument. This man could vote for some obscenely stupid teenager comedy to be awarded all the year’s Oscars on the very same basis, if he was in any place to do so.

    • Meat Circus says:

      What it boils down to is that the distinction between “casual” and “proper” games is an arbitrary one, rooted in the insecure snobbishness of a certain class of gamer.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      A casual vs hardcore gamer argument? I thought RPS had traveled back to the present day, not ten years ago.

      P.S. Hardcore games, as far as the big studios are concerned, barely exist anymore. *Everything* has become casualified.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Oh hush, you. As the OP clearly suggests, some people still haven’t quite gotten over the fact we now allow the mundanes to play games too. :)

    • patricij says:

      Meat Circus is right.. it’s like the stereotype – white, young (20 something) male playing only shooters, action “RPGs” and sports games…cause anything else is not kosher, halal, “cool” or simply manly enough

    • Rond says:

      I wrote a longer and more elaborate comment, but it was lost in the bowels of RPS commentbeast.

    • Dinger says:

      Defeating an inherently fallacious argument doesn’t automatically make your view right.
      Yes, it is stupid to say that because casual games are casual and have mass appeal, they don’t deserve consideration.
      It’s is even more stupid to make a direct argument ad populum and say that because a game has such mass appeal, it should win. Throughout the article, Jaffe repeats various formulations of exactly this: it is the mass resonance that legitimates the game’s appeal.
      This is what Dociu’s going on about too (and for that matter, Brian Moriarty): you create mass resonance by taking some themes with automatic emotional appeal and present them in the most inoffensive and digestible manner possible.
      Yeah, I enjoy such crap too, but, as anyone who’s studied the Grammies knows, annual awards for mass appeal inevitably miss the revolutionary developments happening just below the surface.

      Feel free to check out, for example, the Wikipedia entry for 1966 in music. Oh yeah, and note, 1966 was the year the Velvet Underground toured as part of Andy Warhol’s Exploding Plastic Inevitable. But if you look at the Wikipedia page, there’s a passing reference to what was Billboard‘s song of the year, as determined by sales and airplay:
      Oh My!.
      (Also the answer to the trivia question, what do George Takei and John Wayne have in common?)

    • Consumatopia says:

      I don’t see how one could blame the “white, young (20 something) male” demographic for all the times when less popular movies win an Oscar. If you think this controversy is specific to video games, or just the result of one particular demographic, you don’t know very much about culture.

    • Jimbo says:

      Angry Birds benefits just as much from its visual appeal as the Mass Effects and Red Deads. It benefits even more from costing next to nothing.

      It’s cheap, charming, the interactivity is competent (I wouldn’t personally say it’s anything outstanding) and it got noticed. If the App Store wasn’t structured in such a way that the top game basically gets unlimited free advertising forever, then we wouldn’t be talking about this game right now.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      “as anyone who’s studied the Grammies knows, annual awards for mass appeal inevitably miss the revolutionary developments happening just below the surface.”

      Else Jeff Mangum would have an award or two. In The Aeroplane was brilliant, as was Avery Island.

      As to the topic at hand; stooping to the low common denominators of Hollywood award schmooze-fests doesn’t make it acceptable to just hand out awards of artistic merit (assuming games are art). On the other hand, a “hardcore vs casual” argument is moot. Hardcore style games have progressed the industry. Like it or not, CoD4 made a huge mark. While many lampooned (and pirated) Crysis, it’s tech showed what was ahead.

      Likewise, indie hits like Braid and Plants Vs Zombies have also made big hits. Yes, large tech (like Rockstar, iD and CryTek) continue to push the boundaries, but small developers also tend to find really fun, simple things that often strike a very common chord. I don’t care how hardcore you are, if you throw a fit because someone likes the hell out of Puzzle Quest, you’re an ass. Get over it.

      Does Angry Birds deserve to be “Game of the Year”? Personally, I don’t think so, and that’s based (to me) on artistic merits, and not just entertainment or other gameplay-related elements. I look at games like GTA4, CoD4, Oblivion, and Fallout 3/NV as top forms of not only playability, but also within the expanse of artistic expression. Yeah, GTA4 had some crude moments, and it was juvenile at times, but it had a well told narrative with fairly three dimensional characters.

      Personally, I would equate GTA4 to No Country For Old Men. Both are masterful examples of their craft. To me, voting Angry Birds as GoTY is like voting for one of the Scream movies. Sure, it’s schlocky fun, but is it really worthy of having the highest praise of the industry? Braid is a great example of a wonderful narrative put into a fun puzzle platform game. Does it measure up to GTA4? In tech, no. In every other way? Yes, I think so. But, Angry Birds? Sorry, but no.

      Then again, maybe That Darn Cat! did deserve to beat out beat The Sound of Music

    • bonjovi says:

      I consider myself a ‘hardcore gamer’ and I love casual games.

      However there is a reason Michelin Guide do not rate fast food chains. even if I love them and probably most of people on the planet dine there.

  4. Alan Alda says:

    I don’t want to defend gamification since I think it *does* have many problems, but I don’t think Chaplin proved it necessitates “ignoring reality”. It’s also somewhat alarmist and reactionary to insinuate the goal of gamification is to replace paychecks with engagement-based rewards.
    One of the examples of gamification I’ve heard of is a digital display of a flower in cars, that improves in appearance and aspect as the fuel efficiency of the driving does. I don’t see that as ignoring reality. It’s also something the ordinary person recognises they *should* want to do, but might not always be motivated to. So I guess it might be worthwhile to distinguish between different types of gamification, or take notice of where the goals differ?
    Farmville is bizarre and sinister though. No argument here.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      The argument that corporations want to replace decent pay and conditions with drudgery feeling pleasant isn’t really a new idea, the positive thinking movement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u5um8QWWRvo is designed to try and get people to like their present shitty conditions and not expect any better for themselves. Also as this terrifying CNN article shows big business is increasingly keen to have people see the benefit of work as something not connected to getting paid for labour: http://management.fortune.cnn.com/2011/03/25/unpaid-jobs-the-new-normal/

      As to the flowers for fuel efficiency its all about context and perception management. Imagine if such system existed in a gas guzzler that manages 5 miles to the gallon on average. But if you drive more efficiently you can get 7MPG and to reward you you get pretty flowers on the dashboard and maybe a happy tune.

      But you’re still only doing 7 miles to the gallon and massively squandering resources. You are rewarded for making a minor improvement in a system that is ludicrously inefficient but the burden has been shifted on to you and car manufacturers can make you feel much better about a bad situation. It would also likely limit popular pressure for more efficient cars because the satisfaction of improving things had been engineered into the masses.

    • grandmaster789 says:

      The “gamification” thing seems to be about the role of the perception of things, and as such it should be able to influence the world aroud us by making things noticable. I agree that the positive attitude aspect may in fact be harmful, but it is also instrumental in making it work.

      Consider for example the role of perception in a race – if you don’t think you can win, you’re probably going to end up losing. If you think you can win, you might actually win. Thinking you can win doesn’t actually make you win, but it does make you a contender.

      In the case of the gas guzzler gamification you actually have multiple problems that should be fixed, but the ‘gamification’ approach with the flowers should help with improving the driving style of the user. Doesn’t change the fact that it’s a gas guzzler though, and that’s a whole other issue.

    • Alan Alda says:

      I didn’t intend to put the flower example forward as an eminent one, I just meant that I don’t think it neccessarily qualifies as escapism. Although I would note that the fact it *could* be used in a large vehicle doesn’t logically mean it shouldn’t be used in any (notwithstanding the ethics of driving at all).

      On reflection I will concede the link to orwellian style perception management schemes, but if gamification gets used in that way I would view it as emerging from deeper legal and economic problems. In other words, isn’t it neutral as all tools are? Damn, I said I didn’t want to defend it, but now I sound like I am. Something about Chaplin’s article rubbed me the wrong way, it seems.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      Orwellian is inaccurate, its much more like Huxley’s Brave New World in that excessive entertainment and media overload are used to control people rather than a secret police and intimidation.

      The problem with claiming it is a neutral tool is that everything has the potential to be positive, if an enlightened military took over and forced everyone at gunpoint to do decent life affirming stuff would military coups be justified? The point is that these are excellent propaganda tools and are likely to be put out by people with the most resources, as both articles point out there is tremendous interest in the business community in this and they are all about profit. I would imagine putting a little game in an inefficient car that reassures people’s worries about the environment is much cheaper than actually engineering real solutions.

      Grandmaster789′s point about thinking you can win a race is a good example. If you think you are achieving a goal by having your perception engineered by a game you’re not going to push for real change. In the context of jobs the gamification of an office where people gain XP for everything from using the toilet less to closing sales means you can engineer a feeling of achievement in people without wage increases or other benefits. Worse however is the amount it will allow employers to control your actions, they can check your work equivalent of a quest log and look at how and where you gained XP or note where you failed quests etc. So in effect your privacy is almost completely erroded at the same time real achievement is negated.

      And who is setting the conditions of this race, the boss of course. This means that arbitrary XP bonuses can be awarded to those who are best at playing office politics just as the “most deserving” employees might well be overlooked now. Essentially whoever controls the game’s mechanics and lays down the rules controls the reality of the context they’re applied to. Whether its gaining 2MPG in the gas guzzler and thinking you’re saving the environment because the game says so or the guy who is dating the CEO’s daughter getting a massive XP bonus on his project cause he’s such a “hard worker”.

    • rcolin says:

      The weirdly vitriolic responses to “Reality is Broken” puzzle me. The idea that we should import some of the techniques from games into “real life” to make it more enjoyable seems fairly unobjectionable. (Watterson identified the problem when he had Hobbes say “Virtue needs some cheaper thrills.”) Maybe it’s a reaction to McGonigal’s hyperenthusiastic evangelism of the idea.

      The http://www.edrants.com/jane-mcgonigals-mind-is-broken/ article (which someone linked up in the comments for an earlier Sunday Papers) sums up the major arguments against:

      1) “How are games going to fix Egypt/Japan/Libya/something? Huh? HUH?!” Apparently the existence of hard problems means no one should have any fun while working on the easier ones.

      2) Creepy corporate control! Well, for the most part you’re going to get to choose what game-like things you do or not do, or even make up the rules yourself. In areas where you’re already having arbitrary rules imposed on you (e.g. horrible day jobs), it’s not going to make any difference anyway. Maybe if they gameify the process it might at least be a little more transparent.

      ReV_VAdAUL’s point above about gamification being a way to distract people from effecting real change is reminiscent of Norman Solomon’s “The Trouble with Dilbert,” which argued the same thing about the existence of, well, the Dilbert cartoon. Scott Adams snarkily replied that he must have stopped the violent cubicle rebellion that was going on before Dilbert came along.

      Of course, the idea has some easily imaginable bad implementations – in the bad future, everything has an RPG-lite layer on it! AND an annoying “social” component! AND they’re both designed to sell you unnecessary crap! – but I’m in favor of letting a thousand game-like flowers bloom (so we can get the 10% good ones that Sturgeon’s Law predicts).

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      “Worse however is the amount it will allow employers to control your actions, they can check your work equivalent of a quest log and look at how and where you gained XP or note where you failed quests etc. So in effect your privacy is almost completely erroded at the same time real achievement is negated.”

      Surely this is just a “performance review.” Which is fairly standard and uneremarkable and may lead to pay rises, bonuses or, if you are completely fucking useless, getting the heave.

      Although a guess if there was an XP log it would mean you would escape being placed somewhere on a bell curve!

    • finnith says:

      I don’t see gamification in the office being implemented to that extent because games of that nature are inherently limiting. Organizational systems in businesses should be designed to bring out innovative thinking in their employees but awarding XP awards to specific tasks would likely limit employees’ thinking to only those tasks, effectively discouraging any entrepreneurial thinking. Perhaps it would work in a more established company where the goal is to improve the efficiency of the firm’s current activities but it would never work in tech start-ups for example.

      Also I would agree that the Heather Chaplin Op-Ed on gamification is alarmist. I really didn’t take away much from that article.

    • bill says:

      Never heard of this “gamification” before, but I’ve thought for years that teachers and politicans should take some pointers (if not everything) from game designers on how to motivate, reward and dissuade.

      Things like MMOs are a great way to test out effects of rewards/punishment on people’s behavior. And post people in life do what is best for them. Sure, most games have some balance issues, but the systems tend to be designed as a whole, with the collective effects of different risks/rewards considered and measured.

      Real life doesn’t tend to be like that. Laws, rules, etc.. tend to be implemented individually, so they often don’t hang together as a whole and often encourage behaviour that is totally different from what was expected. (this can be seen in things like benefit fraud, truancy, drug laws, sick days, etc… not that i’m saying any of those are bad. ).

      When we are at school we don’t tend to think in terms of a big picture… we might think about some homework or a test, but we aren’t thinking about how all our subjects come together towards some bigger goal. Yet put the same kids infront of an RPG and they’ll work out the optimum build and how to exploit and imbalances.

      The only exercise I ever got really into was DDR, because it constantly gave me goals and tracked my performance. Comparing with past performance gives you a target for improvement. Same went with Brain Training, which was much more fun than maths ever was.
      Another great example is the “house points” system that a lot of schools implemented after Harry Potter… a simple way to make all achievements “matter”, to motivate kids and to give them something (small and big) to work towards.

      Seems like something that is actually done a lot in real life already, but often not with technology. Technology isn’t needed (and could be misused) but it can help to make things more automated and clear, which makes them feel more fair and understandable.

  5. subedii says:

    One thing that’s been emerging over the past couple of days:

    The whole Potato Pack thing (see the deal of the week in the RPS bargain bucket in the news post below) isn’t just a game compilation. It seems there have been modifications to each of the games, and this has been turning into an ARG.

    There’s random phrases and text files buried in those games, weird symbols. Games like Toki Tori and Defense Grid have gotten whole other levels.

    Speculation is that it’s Portal 2 related at the moment, but this is a multi-phase thing and it appears there are going to be additional changes and updates over the coming days.

    Personally I played through in Defense Grid, where not only did they add in a command line console for something called the Advanced Research Group ( or ARG, ho ho ho), but even a Zork style text adventure which you use to gain access to the CHAS training level. This is all complete with all new dialogue for the AI.

    A wiki’s been started up to try and collate the information as it comes in:

    http://valvearg.info/wiki/Valve_ARG_Wiki

    • frenz0rz says:

      Is this only with the new indie pack, or does it apply to existing Steam copies? I’ve been waiting for an excuse to fire up Defense Grid again.

    • subedii says:

      This is with all the games, doesn’t matter if you bought the pack or not.

      When you load up Defense Grid, first thing you’re likely to notice is that there’s now a spud on the main title. :P

    • CMaster says:

      Aaaa! Has a message about being sponsored by the carbohydrate association of America, the mouse pointer is replaced by McDonalds fries and there are potatoes in every level.

  6. jon_hill987 says:

    But Angry Birds is utterly unoriginal and rubbish.

    • Kaira- says:

      Unoriginal? Definetly. Rubbish? Bollocks.

    • kwyjibo says:

      That’s because you’re playing the Blackberry version.

      I’m sorry that Angry Birds doesn’t have world war 2 tanks and hexes in it. Actually I’m not, your shit tastes be damned.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      @kwyjibo

      Why did you describe Panzer General of all things?

    • jon_hill987 says:

      Nope, Android. Still rubbish. If you are going to rip off a flash game at least pick one that is not boring as hell.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      It’s a very tidily execution of a rather dull idea. As free games go, it’s .. OK. And $1 is about the same as free, no?

      Of course, if you ignore the price point and just slot it into the category of “commercial finished product that you are expected to pay money for”, it doesn’t come out so well.

    • Cinnamon says:

      I’d love to lay some heavy praise a clone of a flash game that has become incredibly popular since it is nice to see popular games that do not look miserable and boring. But, I’d much rather go back to playing Shogun 2 to be honest.

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      I must admit to really liking Angry Birds and playing it an awful lot when it eventually was released on Android (Fruit Slice has become my new go to phone game though.) However, I really wish someone would get around to making a game that isn’t just throw away for a phone. Where are the epic RPGs, games inspired by point and click adventures, 4x games? All those would work be great and are perfectly suited for a device that you are most likely to be playing games on when on long journeys. They could easily charge much more than these throw games do too.

    • malkav11 says:

      Vandelay, they’re on iPhone. The Quest – an enormous, sprawling turn-based single character RPG full of questing and dialogue and crafting and murdering strange creatures and moral decisions and things with more content coming all the time. Kind of reminds me of an eastern European turn-based Elder Scrolls game. Dungeoned – an earlier RPG from the same company that I haven’t tried yet. Undercroft – a classic first-person party based dungeon crawl with a silly sense of humor. There are RPGs based on Wolfenstein 3D and Doom II. There’s Necromancer Rising and um…an SF game from the same guy whose name I forget, sprawling first person ARPGs with a terrible translation and a lot of complicated stats and things that personally put me off but some people really like. There’s a bunch of JRPGs. There’s ports of things like Puzzle Quest and Ascendancy. A-Sharp is working on a iOS version of King of Dragon Pass.

      In contrast, the Android gaming scene doesn’t really seem to have got off the ground yet. Here’s hoping that changes.

    • Jim Reaper says:

      “In contrast, the Android gaming scene doesn’t really seem to have got off the ground yet. Here’s hoping that changes.”

      Indeed. In fact, it may have already started….

      https://market.android.com/details?id=com.hyperdevbox.spectralsouls&feature=search_result

    • Archonsod says:

      “Where are the epic RPGs”

      Angband has been ported to Android. That and a port of the old Spectrum classic Chaos : The Battle of Wizards are about the only games I play on my phone.

    • chesh says:

      While not an epic RPG, Android has been blessed with the twin-stick shooter mayhem of PewPew for some time now: https://market.android.com/details?id=com.jyaif.pewpew

  7. kwyjibo says:

    Not only is Angry Birds David Jaffe’s game of the year, it’s also Peter Molyneux’s game of the decade.

    It is quite brilliant, and shows the power of Rovio’s execution to craft such a charming game. The latest version, Rio, even has a latin influenced version of the theme tune!

    • Unaco says:

      Wow! Really? Because I was under the impression that MineCraft is Molyneux’s Game of the Decade. Simply looking at the url there (http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/19/molyneux-minecraft-is-game-of-the-decade/) will tell you that (specifically the molyneux-minecraft-is-game-of-the-decade). Or, doing a simple Google search will tell you this. MineCraft… say it with me… Mine Craft… is Peter Molyneux’s Game of the Decade, not Angry Birds. Angry Birds is NOT Peter Molyneux’s Game of the Decade. MineCraft is Peter Molyneux’s Game of the Decade.

      In fact, I seem to recall you commenting on another article here claiming that Angry Birds was Molyneux’s Game of the Decade… what are you, an Angry Bird marketting Bot? Some corporate shill? A massive Angry Bird Fan boy?

    • Inigo says:

      It is quite brilliant, and shows the power of Rovio’s execution to craft such a charming game.

      That’s the most extreme misspelling of Armor Games I’ve ever seen.

    • terry says:

      You might be thinking of Salman Rushdie – http://blogs.miaminewtimes.com/cultist/2010/11/author_of_the_satanic_verses_s.php

      Edited to add link eaten by RPS Link-o-matic

    • bagga says:

      >The latest version, Rio, even has a latin influenced version of the theme tune!

      What heights humanity has reached! Even the Creator himself should look away, lest he mar its glory! Who dares claim that this game of all games is not the game of the year? Who dares?

    • Nick says:

      I too wish I was creative enough to clone another game.

  8. BurningPet says:

    Angry Bids is a cute and addictive game, however, because it is so unoriginal we can safely ignore that Jaffe man rumblings.

  9. Wulf says:

    I love you, Daniel Dociu. That said…

    “But most people aren’t really clever. Or really lucky.” – I’d think that anyone in the games industry developing games which are innovative enough from the usual tosh to be enjoyed is, in fact, actually fairly clever. I might also posit that ‘luck’ is simply a derivative side-effect that we see from a cult of personality approach – one which is easy to reproduce by simply being honest, earnest, and treating your customers with the dignity and respect of living people, rather than just as walking wallets. One might say that Wolfire, or Dejobaan are lucky, but I’d say that they manufacture their own luck.

    I’m not sure if I’ve expressed that last one properly, but the thing is is that if you like a game and the people who made a game, then you’re more likely to want to throw money at them for it. Also, if someone is doing something that specifically targets your demographic, then you’re going to want to throw money at them to make more of it. An example of the latter is Sword of the Stars, a game which I’ve only played in drips and drabs, but I have three bloody copies of. Why? I want them to continue making games with stories and aliens like those in SotS. I’m secretly hoping that one day they’ll do a Freelancer-like game in the setting of SotS, where I can fly around the Universe in a Liir ship Freelancer style, and I’ll be the happiest Wulf in all of Wulfaria.

    I honestly think that the bogeyman that pirates games but never buys is mostly a myth, and primarily exists in youngsters who’re too penniless to actually buy many games anyway, which is why I’m sure that a lot of people pirated games in their youth, but stopped doing that when they started getting their own money. I can’t think of one RPS member who’d pirate a game that targets their specific demographic, that’s done something they love, and hasn’t felt compelled to throw money at the developer to the point of actually doing so. Does anyone want to own up to that? Because really… that’d be fairly silly.

    If games aren’t selling, then they’re not being specific enough. That’s one of the tricks with the games industry, and this is why (no insult intended here, honestly!) Dragon Age II probably didn’t sell too well. It tried to appeal to every ‘commoner’ out there, but in the end it appealed to no one. Because if there’s one thing that binds us all together… it’s that we’re all amazingly different. We’re all made from star stuff, all built the same way, but we’re all vividly different within the space of our heads. This isn’t to do with race, or gender, it happens from one person to the next. And there are never two people who’re exactly alike, just people who share enough interests to be friends.

    I can tell you now that there is some shit in my head that would occupy the space of next to no other human. I don’t tell you this as an opinion, I tell you it as a fact. And I’m sure that this counts for every other person out there, because there tends to be some random modifier to the human psyche that causes us to pick out some fairly random combinations of things to love. You might have A, B, C, D, E, and F, which are all completely different things, and some people might enjoy them, but some people might enjoy bizarre combinations thereof regardless of how different each of those topics are from each other. And I don’t feel any need to elaborate on this any further.

    Therefore, in my opinion, as humble and uncertain as it is, I’d think that the way to sell games is probably to try to do things that people like. Don’t target everyone, just look for a group of people who like a specific thing, do something for them, make it fun, make it accessible, and actually care about what you’re making, and they’ll fall in love with it. The result of this is that people will then throw money at developers for the privilege of being able to play that game. An interesting take on this is in the book Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom by Cory Doctorow, which I recommend everyone read.

    in Down and Out, there was a fictional currency with a ludicrous name that was actually attributed automatically as a credit. There was always enough attributed to people so that they could live on basic needs, but if you actually did something to please people, the amount of joy you brought, the amount of suffering and boredom you negated, the more of the credit you’d generate for yourself, and that–in turn–could be exchanged for products, luxuries, rarities, and so on. So if you were to perform a beautiful song on a stage, you’d generate a bunch of that credit for yourself. Whereas if you were sitting around doing nothing, you’d get nothing, but this credit could even be accrued by running around and just trying to make people feel better about themselves. Interesting system.

    But the bizarre thing is is that I can see parallels to this in reality, that perhaps this is how it should work, and I’m not implying an exactness, but rather that people shouldn’t try to make money by creating a product that will sell to the largest amount of people, because that’s really working less and less all the time, but more that they should do something they love, which other people would love as well, and make money that way. If you do this, if you really do this, then pirates stop becoming a problem and the whole bogeyman of piracy disappears. Even if someone does pirate something, it doesn’t mean that once they have, they’re not going to throw money at you for what you lit up their heart with.

    This is why I find hating on piracy to be disingenuous, because people who’re going to pirate will do so anyway, and people who’re going to pay money for something will feel compelled to do just that, and whether they pirated or not isn’t really relevant. And the only sorts of people who’ll pirate and never feel compelled to put their money out on something are those who truly don’t have the money to spare anyway. Or those who’re just heartless cads, but I don’t really believe that there are too many of those, because it’d be stupid. It wouldn’t just be callous, but it would be stupid. You’re providing someone with cash and telling them that you loved what they did as much as they did, and that you want to see more. By not at least providing some kind of monetary return, not only do they not realise that you liked it, but they see it as too much of a risk to do again.

    It’s not that I won’t believe that people can’t be heartless cads, but rather that I believe that that level of stupidity doesn’t exist, and I certainly haven’t seen it here at RPS. I find that level of stupidity to be a caricature, comical, the sort of thing that would only be believable in a cartoon. I refuse to believe that there are people out there who’ll not offer their thanks for something and expect what they like to continue being made. And even if there are, I can’t even begin to believe that they’re a majority. Perhaps I’m being naive, but I honestly don’t think that I am, and I think that these characters really do belong on the telly rather than in reality. I think that people would be more successful if they stopped believing that these people exist, since the belief that they do is insulting to real people.

    And if you don’t buy this then I’m certain that there are many successful indies out there who’d agree and back it up, that their specifically targeted games did make them a bit of money. If your game isn’t selling then you’ve either cast your net too broad, or you didn’t love what you were doing and that’s coming through in the game itself, so your lack of passion becomes evident to other gamers. I think that many indie games out there have been successes. Not huge successes, but small ones, and considering that they’re not meant to be blockbuster hits anyway, I think that works. One small success after another can keep a group of people afloat, and it can get them a loyal base of fans who’ll keep giving them money anyway even when they aren’t producing products.

    And we’ve seen that. Look how many of us donate, or buy extra copies of games, or buy copies of games whenever anyone puts them up because of people in need. Look at how many times in the past we’ve done that. Look how many causes have been aired by RPS – where the need was met and exceeded by supply. Look at how successful quite a number of developers have been on Kickstarter. Did you see how well Grandroids and CreaVures did? CreaVures raised a massive amount of money! (I’m still disappointed that CreaVures hasn’t been featured on RPS, it is a lovely game, but I digress.) This is human nature, and this is exactly the sort of thing that was talked about in Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom.

    Now, I’m certain that there are books out there which have mused on this, and intelligent people who’ve made this point far more eloquently than I ever could dream of doing so, but I don’t know if anyone has made this point in a way that’s relevant to gamers. So I’m doing that right now. The whole system of how games work on the PC is evolving – so fast that we’re leaving other systems behind. The iDevices, the consoles, whilst they’re all awesome, we’re leaving them in our dust because we’re continually trying and testing new ways of making games, selling games, and bringing developers and customers closer together. A lot of it is working, too. The Humble Indie Bundle (and #2) is a great example of how this is working, and why this is is special, and even why I think that piracy is probably more of a real problem on the consoles than it is on the PC.

    If you’ve read all this and you’re not bored by now, then you’re most likely a more tolerant and patient man than I.

    *deep breath.*

    So, Down and Out has it down to rights, so to speak. In most cases, when someone enjoys something, they’ll want to share that joy in a tangible way – they’ll want to share it with other people, thus bringing more popularity and attention to the person who did it, both of which are valuable commodities in this day and age, and they’ll also want to show their appreciation for the joy they experienced, this will haappen in the form of glowing praise and as much money as each person is capable of sharing being showered upon those whom provided that joy. I’m really glad that the PC (Windows, Mac, and Linux) games industry is beginning to work with this aspect of humanity. You know, when I first watched The Mysterious Geographical Explorations of Jasper Morello, I wanted to give the people responsible money, but there was no easy way to do so, or to dictate how much. That was frustrating. This is where other mediums are losing out, and why perhaps they’re not making as much money as they could be.

    And this… this is exactly why I see the pirate becoming more and more of a fictional bogeyman as time goes on, at least on the PC. Because PC developers tend to be clever, lucky, and lovely, and in turn, we love them for it.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      I think this is a trick many major publishers are missing.

      There was an article in the Economist a while ago about what made the German economy so great and one of the things was that they had a number of companies that chose a very specific niche and became world leader in that. And this in turn reminds me of Paradox. This gap in the market left by the big publishers for very specific games for very specific people is being filled by Paradox (among others) and I expect they’ll do very well from it.

      Meanwhile, the major publishers (Activision in particular) seem to be getting into a blockbuster spiral. New games have to be big, expensive and massively hyped in order to be a success, and as a result they’re not able to support the other studios in their portfolio very well (RIP BIzarre), meaning that they rely even more on big blockbuster titles. And that’s incredibly dangerous. Imagine what Activision’s outlook would be if they hadn’t managed to bring in Bungie…

      If I were CEO of Activision, I’d use the range of studios they have (or what’s left of it) to create a range of games, each on a different level. It doesn’t matter if a game sells thousands or millions, it matters if it’s profitable or not. Similar to a company like VAG – from Skodas to Volkswagens to Audis to Bugattis, each brand has their own market and is successful in it. Because they do what they’re good at and people know what they stand for.

      Not sure if my rambling has anything to do with your rambling, but that’s what came to mind…

    • Wulf says:

      Hey, that all sounds about right to me, I’d say you hit the nail on the head.

      I’ve always thought that there’s more value in doing something you believe in, something you’re passionate about, something you love, and doing that something incredibly well, than there is in doing something that you believe is going to sell for all the wrong reasons. Sure, a game like Call of Duty sells, but after so many iterations, is it still particularly brilliant? Do the people involved truly love what they’re doing? Does that passion come across at all?

      This is why I tend to view the value in a small company or indie studio game more than a blockbuster, because blockbusters tend to try to ensure that the game will bring in large amounts of money, and they think that the best way to do that is to try to market the largest audience possible. This is a pity. The better way to make a profit in my opinion, which might be totally wrong, is to spend less money and to target games, like you’ve said, at different people, created on entirely different levels, each designed for a different group of people by a different group of people.

      I mean, no matter how cool a game is, people are going to get over cool games and their desire for them eventually, and this will happen more and more as there are more older and mature gamers present in the world, a massive, untapped market with many sections and segments, each of which could be filled with a dozen studios that could subsist happily off that segment alone. Because the older we get, the more we realise that we want to play something that has a little bit of meaning to it. Yeah, it can be fun and silly, but it’s nice to know that the people making it are loving it as much as we are.

      I mean, when I was a wee spod, I liked chopping off limbs and gore as much as the next kid, but I’m all grown up now, and now I find pacifistic, telepathic, empathic, adorable, song-and-art-loving, sufferance-avoiding space dolphins to be a much more mesmerising concept than yer world war or yer average medieval fantasy. And there are actually developers out there that cater to my strangeness, and I will do all that I can to keep them afloat. I will praise them, love them, make them the centre of attention, shower them with cash, and do whatever else is required to keep them afloat. And surely I must be in the majority here, and there are games and developers like this that every gamer can and will care about.

      In the end, it is mildly cultish, but I don’t see anything wrong with that, because in the early years of Sci-FI and gaming, things were indeed kind of cultish, this carried through up until the early ’00s on both computers and consoles, before games started revolving around huge successes and massive budgets, much like films have ended up doing. Every person is going to enter into a piece of entertainment looking for something that will appeal to them – if it’s there in a tiny amount, then it might turn their head. But if it’s a major aspect of it, then they’ll be all over whatever that is like moths over a brightly lit sign.

      This is all playing up to human nature, and I just can’t help but think that the giant blockbuster system is really made of fail, and that if more and more publishers like Paradox popped up, more and more developers who wanted to take risks to appeal to certain demographics, then more and more publilshers would be seeing successes, successes that would be enough to allow them to live comfortably. I don’t think that games need massive budgets, nor do they need to appeal to everyone, and there are some demographics who’re so starved that they’d buy anything that’s made with them mostly in mind.

      One example I like is the Charr from Guild Wars 2. They’re the most technologically advanced race in the game, they’ve completely eschewed magicks and done things the hard way, completely subverting the fantasy norm. They’re more advanced than humans, or any other race, much, much more so. Some people get confused about this and think that the Asura are the tech people, but noap, they’re not. There is no Science in Asura construction, no circuitry, no understanding of the physical laws, nothing. It’s all hand-wavey quantum magicks. Even their golems are all magical mantras, runes, and whatnot.

      In doing this, ArenaNet subverted a lot of the usual fantasy norms and made me incredibly happy. They put gnomes there for people who like gnomes, but they’re still very much not at all gnomes, and then you have the Charr. Oh, the Charr. Oh ho ho… the reactions have been glorious. I’ve seen people openly insulting ArenaNet for the Charr – hating ArenaNet for turning an ‘evil race’ into good guys (despite this being not at all true, but rather that the Ascalonians believed that they were evil), and then for making them ‘completely superior to humankind,’ and ‘giving them a face’ and so on. I’ve seen calls of author fiat, and some really nasty things said. I actually felt kind of sorry for them, because, you know, gamers can be self-entitled jerks. Not always, but they bloody well can be.

      ArenaNet’s response? It’s very much along the lines of tough. That if people don’t like it, they can play another game, because this is their world, their creations, and their story to tell, and they’re not going to tell it differently just because that would make the game more popular with a wider base of people. So. Much. Respect. That’s the sort of thing I love seeing, just a developer completely throwing the usual desire for success to the wind and taking massive risks, risks which likely won’t appeal to a broad demographic, but smaller ones, and knowing that that will be enough to keep the game afloat, because, quoth Soesbee, they’re “making the game for them.”

      They’re not making the game solely for profit, they’re making this game because they bloody love it, and that’s evident in people like Daniel Dociu and so many others. There is so much passion that surrounds their work and they’re not afraid to be passionate, they’re not afraid even to tell people that they’re not going to change things just to suit what a large demographic thinks the game should be. And for those demographics that actually fit what they’re trying to do, this is going to be the best game ever, it won’t be an okay game to a very large group of people, it’ll be the best damn thing ever to smaller groups of people. And I think that’s very important.

      The thing is is that if you cast your net wide, you can’t create the greatest thing ever to such a wide range of people, you can simply create something that’s sort of okay, and you’ll never, ever do better than that. It would be impossible to do so, because everyone would go into it looking for a certain thing. But if you set out to create a game with certain sorts of people in mind, rather than as many people as possible, then you’re going to create a game that’s going to key off with them, the sort of game that they feel they may only see once in a decade. It’s going to be an amazing experience. And you have to ask yourself, which is better?

      So… yeah, I think that we’re on the same wavelength here. I understand what you’re saying, and I think it applies to the games industry too.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Maybe you might want to think about getting your points across more concisely Wulf? I hardly ever read your posts any more due to them being super-duper-long.

    • Wulf says:

      I… kind of can’t. I’m sorry. It’s okay that you don’t read them, though, probably for the best that not everyone does, as they do turn out to be controversial even when I don’t intend them to be.

      It’s all to do with my brain actually not being physically complete, this means that there are things about language and such that I completely fail to grasp. So even short things like this can expand out into elongated, sprawling, ramble sessions that would make Bram Stoker blush. This is because I can’t properly distinguish between what’s necessary for me to say, what’s inappropriate for me to say, and what is actually just extraneous information that shouldn’t be there.

      I don’t have the first clue as to how to be succinct unless I’m actually at a loss for words (the result of which can be seen below in regards to Serene’s comment). And when I become passionate about something, I spin out of control, and I don’t hold anything back. I don’t know how to. So I tend to be honest in a way that perhaps even some people aren’t prepared to deal with. In other words, I’m completely honest, as I am most of the time. I may get confused, but I’d be a terrible liar because the truth would come out somewhere eventually anyway, so I avoid lying. One wouldn’t need a mindreader in my case, it’s all right there in the comment. This is me, hello.

      And here’s the kicker: If I knew how to write in short, if I knew how to be succinct and proper, if I were actually fixable, I don’t even know that I’d want that. This is as much a part of my identity now as anything is. Yes, I’m an absolutely prolific rambler, and an eccentric coot who tends to become easily confused, is easily stricken by wonder, and generally is quite unexpected. Again, it all stems from that physical defect. I could tell you why, but I really don’t want to get into it, it’s a very sore topic for me and something that I find more than mildly upsetting.

      But I just don’t have a clue. I look at this and… what’s proper? What’s improper? What’s extraneous? I don’t know, so I post it all.

      (I am starting to work out an abstraction layer, but it’s mildly frustrating for me, and something I might’ve gotten angry over a time ago. But as I said, I am figuring out something of an abstraction layer, and I tend to apologise in advance for anything that I think might offend. But it’s still difficult for me. I don’t work on the same level as everyone else.)

      (It’s also worth noting that this doesn’t effect my logic, puzzle solving, solution-finding, creativity, or anything else, as I can keep up in all those areas, and I’m pretty good with body language, too. It’s purely limited to what I’m saying and how I say it. Whether talking or typing. I don’t seem to be able to tell the appropriate/inappropriate/useless things apart.)

    • Deano2099 says:

      The problem in many ways, is the (eugh) stock market.

      When you have a publicly traded company, it’s no longer enough to just ‘be profitable’. You have to be more profitable every year so the share prices go up and the share holders are happy.

      There’s a crazy fallacy at the heart of all these ‘PC gaming is dying’ arguments. And that’s that the PC platform is somehow less profitable than it used to be. This isn’t true. Bioware didn’t stop making games like Baldur’s Gate because Throne of Bhall didn’t make any money. They stopped because those sorts of games made *less* money than big console-focused titles.

      The PC market isn’t declining, it just isn’t growing at the same pace as the console market. And for publicly traded companies, that’s just not good enough.

      Economics is broken.

    • Chris D says:

      Wulf

      I love that you took seven paragraphs to explain why you don’t do short posts.

      I generally don’t like when people write “too long, didn’t read”. I have to admit though, your first two posts here were daunting even for me. I have just finished them though ( I was out most of the evening, it hasn’t taken me all day).

      It was interesting stuff. There wasn’t anything there that I think you should have cut. It was a big read but worth finishing.

      Some things you could try if you find it helpful. Maybe split up your posts into a few different ones. You have a lot of raw material there. I wouldn’t worry about feeling like you’re spamming. Perhaps also use shorter paragraphs than you might elsewhere. Just break up those blocks of text a little more.

      Maybe also don’t fire off everything you have at once. Keep something in reserve for later.

      Comment threads are odd, sometimes it’s like writing a letter, sometimes it’s like having a conversation, sometimes it’s just a one liner, and sometimes, my friend, you give us a doctoral thesis. Of course, if you don’t find this helpful you should just ignore all of it.

      I don’t share all of your interests but I always enjoy reading your enthusiasm.

      I’m now off to contemplate the irony of writing eight paragraphs on writing shorter posts.

    • Sarlix says:

      “This is because I can’t properly distinguish between what’s necessary for me to say, what’s inappropriate for me to say, and what is actually just extraneous information that shouldn’t be there.”

      I kinda have the reverse of this, only I say it anyway. Hmm, that doesn’t really make sense. Anyway, I don’t always read your posts Wulf but I appreciate the fact that they are there.

    • Wulf says:

      @Deano2099

      “Economics is broken.”

      Okay, going to try and be succinct now, I’ll try. First of all, that’s a great line, and that sums up how I feel about the situation – economics is broken.

      The trick is pacing, if you ask me, if you have a massive meal in front of you and you eat it all at once, you’ll be bloated and you won’t be able to eat well again for a while, so eating like that can be detrimental. Am I using knowledge gained from Homer Simpson here? I am, aren’t I? I’m also probably being extraneous again, but it was a funny thought.

      But if you eat small, well balanced meals then you can actually eat more over a period of time and enjoy a greater sense of well-being and physical rightness, you’ll be more healthy, you’ll be happier, and whilst that giant cake might look tempting to wolf down all in one bite, it’s better not to do so. But some people will do that anyway, and that’s a problem.

      This is what I think has become the issue with economics, currently, and largely with publically owned companies. You have the cake, right there in front of them, and they’ll slobber for it and demand even more cake, which the company then has to try and deliver, but this effort tends to collapse in on itself and instead eventually hollows the company out, it results in a company eating itself.

      There’s some Freudian shit I could write here about Valve, cakes, and big publically owned corporations like Activision and EA, and it might be pretty funny, but I think that’s enough as is, so I’ll leave that out.

      So shareholders don’t know how to pace themselves, instead of having a good amount of money over a long period, they seem to want a big gob of money and they want it now, this is because the company itself could go under tomorrow, and, of course, shareholders are self-interested. Can I blame them? Not really, it’s human nature, but it’s where they fail. In thinking of themselves and not of the company, they’re running future profit margins.

      This is why you don’t see this happening with Valve, Paradox, and privately owned or small publishers, because there’s not a body of shareholders that wants a big gob of money returned from every project. So they put less money into a game, they love their project, they take their time since they don’t have a deadline, they work their own hours, they’re passionate and talk to people about their love, and then when the game comes out, it’s not something everyone will love, like I said, but it’s something that’ll be the greatest thing ever to one group of people.

      And that’s enough to keep them afloat.

      That’s the idea, these days, I think. Not to be immediately rich but to build up to it, step by step by step. And you have to pace yourself, because if you don’t pace yourself then eventually you’re just going to have nothing left. No market, no products, no profits. Economy is broken in regards to gaming for that reason, I’d say. There are probably other factors, but I’m betting that’s perhaps the most important.

      @Chris D

      I read and absorbed that and I’ll try and do better in regards to what I’m writing. And my desire to write a lot is tied into my need for honesty, it’s a strange thing, I just don’t really hide much. If someone asks me something, then I either outright say that I don’t want to tell them, or I do. I think that people deserve honest responses, but when I’m being honest, I can get very rambly.

      And yeah, it was terribly ironic, but sometimes if you can’t be succinct, you can’t even be succinct in explaining why you’re not succinct. It might’ve been even funnier if I could’ve explained in shorthand why I’m not, in fact, succinct. I’m going to stop now because I can tell I’m rambling again.

      @Sarlix

      That does make sense. You have the luxury of choice but you choose to be honest and share your thoughts anyway, and I think that’s a very admirable trait, and I’m not only saying that because I’m forced into that way of being. But hey, if we ever end up with psionic people, it’ll be our sort of mindset that’s the most prepared for zero privacy. :p

    • Sarlix says:

  10. Navagon says:

    Angry Birds is more like Reskin of the Year.

    • Robin says:

      You should learn what “reskin” means.

      Subsequent puzzle games involving falling blocks are not “reskins” of Tetris.

      Games involving lobbing stuff at Box2D structures of other stuff were, astonishingly enough, around before Crush the Castle.

      Angry Birds introduces a much more suitable control scheme, and level design and a scoring mechanic that actually make the game compelling to play for more than five minutes. What was stopping Armor Games or indeed anyone else from investing research and effort into fleshing out that kernel of a game mechanic in the same way?

      I don’t think Angry Birds is all that great a game and there are elements of luck and cynical marketing that contributed to its hyper-success, but this idea that Rovio were handed a fully-formed implementation of their game on a plate and just slapped some cartoon birds on it is insultingly simplistic.

  11. Rii says:

    A few “Sunday Papers” back there was a link to a music video depicting a man about to be hanged off a bridge. He manages to escape his captors and runs through the woods to his wife, whereupon the video cuts back to the execution scene and it’s revealed that the condemned man merely imagined the escape in the moments before his execution, which proceeds as planned.

    It was a rather moving song/video but unfortunately I neglected to bookmark it and for the life of me can’t seem to find it in the past Papers. If anyone with better memory, search or book-keeping skills than I could throw me the link, I’d greatly appreciate it.

  12. JackShandy says:

    Angry Birds. Hm.

    Stay with me for a paragraph or two here, I’ll be back. Listen, the pre-loader of this lovely flash adventure game has a minigame where you click on heads as they pop up.

    http://www.newgrounds.com/portal/view/550407

    Each different style of head gives you some points, from common 1′s to rare 10′s. It gives you hats that you can use in the main game when you get up to certain scores. The clever bit is, if you DON’T click on them, they start to flicker and eventually disappear.
    You see? If you don’t engage, you’re losing something. It’s right there in front of you, slipping through your fingers, flickering now, about to disappear FORGOSSAKES CLICK IT BEFORE IT ESCAPES.

    So I clicked the heads. I clicked the heads for a solid half-hour after the game had finished loading. I clicked past the point when I got the 1,000 you need to get the best hat, because I was convinced that there must be some other secret upgrade. At least 2,000 points worth, I clicked. And everytime I strayed towards the play button, another one of those bloody heads would start to flicker.

    So what I’m basically saying is, fuck engagement. Fuck games that keep you playing. Let’s have more games that bore you shitless, and do it with honesty and beauty. The overworld of Shadow of the Colossus, for example. The Last Express, which I’ve just been playing. Gretel and Hansel itself was like that, once I wrestled myself away from the heads.

    Putting down a game like Angry Birds feels like waking up and realising that I’ve spent three days clicking fucking heads.

  13. Wulf says:

    I don’t know if it’s okay to drop a new comment just for this as I feel I’ve been a bit spammy with cmments, lately, which is why the spambot might hate me so much, but…

    http://cghub.com/images/view/117486/

    That absolutely has to be linked in a way that will catch the attention of everyone present, and a new comment is usually a good way to do so rather than leaving it as a reply somewhere. That’s the art of Daniel Dociu, and it is love. He’s truly one of the most inspiring artists I’ve seen, his works are like slices of his brain, which in turn are like slices of another reality. This is something that I can relate to on a very personal level. It’s the sort of thing I’d ask anyone to browse through, even if they aren’t so interested in art.

    • Ajh says:

      Shiny! The moment I clicked on it I recalled where I had heard the name before. Guild Wars.
      Yes…good art. Everyone must go see!

      (And yes, I did forget the name from reading the top of the articles here to the bottom and commenting. No short term memory today that’s me.)

    • Premium User Badge

      stahlwerk says:

      But is it still art if it is made for video games?

      *ducks*

      *runs*

    • Wulf says:

      Oh shush. :p

      Besides, that’s all of his art, and not just related to Guild Wars.

      Also: If you read the interview with him above, it becomes clear that the answer to your admittedly rhetorical question is objectively ‘yes.’

    • DrGonzo says:

      His artwork is fantastic, but more importantly, didn’t he escort us through Ravenholm?

    • Dominic White says:

      “His artwork is fantastic, but more importantly, didn’t he escort us through Ravenholm?”

      Yes, actually, he did. He was the model for Father Grigori.

  14. Ajh says:

    “It was the exact same thing with C64 games. Game cassettes bought in the store would take forever to load but pirated “turbo games” gave you 20 games on a cassette, and loaded five times as fast.” < from the opinion article on piracy.

    Yeah, the scale is bigger now but I always find it interesting when people that talk about this sort of thing are actually aware of how long the copyright infringement downloading of computer games has been going on.

    And I wholeheartedly agree with their conclusion. Start communicating with gamers. It's one thing to steal from say big game company A, but do you really want to steal from Bob? Who trades jokes with you on the forums, and works really hard to make the games you want to play? I know some people who would hesitate on the second, on stealing from an actual accessible person (or group of people, you don't need only one developer or team member out there talking). Some of the comments I've seen in regards to the whole dragon age 2 mess where David Gaider personally responded were things like "I usually buy my games used but I think I should buy this one new." "This makes me want to go buy this game, and I don't even play games like this."

    In an age where everything is so very impersonal, getting personal, establishing a connection, is probably a really really GOOD way to combat piracy. Also, even if it doesn't help in the long run, it'll help companies make better games overall if they listen to the players (Not to say do EVERYTHING the players want, but LISTEN. Find out what they do and don't like.) and no one's going to argue against better games.

  15. Metalfish says:

    I don’t know if this has been posted in in the Sunday papers before, but this:

    http://www.austinkleon.com/2011/03/30/how-to-steal-like-an-artist-and-9-other-things-nobody-told-me/

    has been some pretty good Sunday reading for me, in addition to the how to become a games writer article linked above. Of course “actually finish things” resonates pretty strongly. I wouldn’t dream of calling myself a writer as I’ve not finished my first novel yet. Even then, there is the issue of whether anyone wishes to read it.

    In my own head at least, terms like ‘artist’ and ‘writer’ really only apply to those who make at least some sort of profession out of it. Which seems to go against the odd notions of purity and idealism that the rest of my brain ascribes to these terms.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      That is an excellent article.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Crap in = crap out would be up there with the laws of thermodynamics in terms of immutability if it wasn’t for the fact that one man’s meat is another man’s poison (and presumably the same applies to crap)..

      I tried to stuff that sentence with even more cliches but it ended up looking even more horrilbe that it already did!

  16. JFS says:

    Mahna Mahna?

    • Unaco says:

      Mah Nà Mah Nà, an Italian song from a film about sexuality in Sweden in the 1960s. The original scene involved a sauna, and lots of Swedish female models.

    • Vinraith says:

      Doo doooo do do doo.

    • Premium User Badge

      WombatDeath says:

      It’s an excellent video. I am pleased to live in a world where people are willing to put so much time and genuine craftsmanship into something so sublimely ridiculous.

  17. MadMatty says:

    as a response to Daniel Dociu´s statement, i´d have to say “playing it safe” dissapoints me a lot.
    I DID like the style for Guild Wars 1 but it was also sometimes, a bit too “general anime” style in places with the character design.
    I don´t think i´ve been dissapointed with artists “freaking out” in a game in the past 10 years ago, it merely seemed fresh.
    And to pull off something like a new “Zenoclash” or “Another World”, that would be something.
    This appeasing the lowest common denominator is what made pop eat itself in the first place.
    Too much of that, and people are going to look elsewhere for stimulation.

    • Wulf says:

      That’s why I’m very excited by Guild Wars 2, it’s all the risks that Guild Wars 1 never took, and they realise that and have said it themselves. There are some places that I’m very eager to go wander around. The steampunk/dieselpunk grooviness of the Black Citadel, the creepy, alien, twistedness of the Dragonbrand, and the chaos of the new Lion’s Arch, built entirely out of ship parts!

      I am very, very, very eager to go and explore these places!

    • Consumatopia says:

      My first reaction to Dociu’s words was similar to MadMatty’s. Trying to please everyone is the fastest way to displease me.

      But I think in the context of making a MMORPG, “vanilla” art style makes a lot of sense. Players aren’t playing to look at things, they’re playing to do things. A too-distinctive art style can get in the way of that (e.g. Quel Solaar’s Love). It’s not enough for video game art to be distinctive and beautiful, it has to play nicely with the other components of the game–in the same way that vanilla ice cream topped with fruit is likely to be tastier than chocolate ice cream topped with fruit.

      A distinctive rendering style looks cool in screenshots and trailers (or in the case of Love, only screenshots). But if you have to look at that style for tens of hours at a time, you might get sick of it. Things that you have to see all the time should be simple and utilitarian–like Helvetica. If halfway through reading a book, you’re still thinking about what font the book is written in, that’s probably a bad font to typeset a book with. It probably makes more sense for a game artist to focus on creating distinctive content within an ordinary rendering style. And from what I can tell, that’s what GW2 seems to be doing.

      Plus it’s a matter of knowing your audience. If it’s some freeware “art” game that I’m just messing around in for a few minutes to see what it has to show me, then a distinctive style that expresses something unique from the creator is exactly what I’m looking for. But the people who want to play a medieval fantasy MMORPG aren’t necessarily looking for novelty. As an example, in America there was a rivalry between late night tv show hosts Jay Leno and Conan O’Brien. My friends and I were more likely to find O’Brien entertaining. But none of us actually watched late night television. Leno appealed to the older demographic that was actually likely to tune in to that kind of show.

      And really, the preference of AAA video games for bland photorealism doesn’t bother me as much as the preference of big budget animated films for bland photorealism. I mean, who do we have to kill to see Pixar make a mega-budget non-photorealistic movie?

  18. Serenegoose says:

    I found Heather Chaplin’s article on Gamification interesting up until this point.

    “McGonigal, whose games are filled with top-secret missions in which you get to play the superhero, says “reality is broken” because people don’t get to feel “epic” often enough. This is a child’s view of how the world works. Do adults really need to pretend they’re superheroes on secret missions to have meaning in their lives?”

    It’s like it’s a genuine question. Sorry, hang on, I’ll quit my game where I’m playing as a world-saving theoretical physicist, shut my book where I’m reading the adventures of an urchin girl who joins a superhero heist crew in a post-apocalyptic world, shut down my word document where I’m writing a tale of Faeries, and pause the movie that’s in the background. You know the one – a sociopath, inventor, and last-generation-super-heroine’s-reluctant-hero-daughter get together to solve another case. I’ll stop them all just so I can give a carefully considered answer as to whether people need that kind of escapism in their lives.

    Wait, it occurs to me that I rather already have answered it, haven’t I?

    • Wulf says:

      *applause slow clap.*

      That was beautiful.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That was my reaction to that line too, but on reflection what she means is that we don’t need to pretend to be superheroes in our everyday lives – which is what gamification is about – rather than saying that we don’t need escapism, which is a different issue.

    • Quirk says:

      That film wouldn’t happen to be based on a famous graphic novel that tore open the guts of the superhero comic and exposed just how paper-thin most of the premises were?

      Pulp fiction is fun. It passes the time agreeably. But once you need to feel you’re a pulp fiction hero to get you through the day, you’ve turned into Walter Mitty.

    • JFS says:

      I think – as is always the problem with generalizing statements such as the one by Chaplin – the assertion might have its merits, but it sure as hell doesn’t apply to everyone and everything. There probably are a lot of people who need gamification to have their lives feel meaningful, and there probably are another lot who don’t and are quite content with what they have. Bad Heather, put the broad brush back where you took it from, and so do you, Jane!

    • Chris D says:

      While it’s not strictly the main point, I found myself charmed by Night Warrior on Frank Miller’s Opinionated. He’s a real life “superhero” who carries a first-aid kit, tries to defuse violent situations and feeds the homeless while patrolling for crimes.
      He appears at about 24:45

    • Muzman says:

      Yes, McGonigal is trying to take the reasons we enjoy game-y grind-y escapism and apply it to everything. Kind of a sophisticated version of your pre-school teacher finding ways to “make tidying fun!” (only looking to video games for ways to make that actually work).

      Chaplin is pointing out that reasonable adults do the things they know they ought to do because they understand the meaning of those actions and their effect on their life (to some extent anyway), not because they want extra points toward unlocking the next achievement.

      I like the parallel with the maybe Karl Rove quote. Those C-Street house crowd, and conservatives in general of late, seem perfectly happy to make reality whatever it needs to be to get the job done as they see it.

    • Creeping Death says:

      “shut my book where I’m reading the adventures of an urchin girl who joins a superhero heist crew in a post-apocalyptic world”

      ….The Mistborn series? If so, brilliant books! :P

    • Serenegoose says:

      @Creeping Death: Aren’t they just? I am literally thrumming with anticipation for The Alloy of Law.

      @Muzman: I recognise that adults do these things because they have to, but I disagree with the idea that we have to do them boringly because we’re adults. It’s possible to do mundane things because we -ought- to, and try and take some of the boringness out of them.

      @Jim Rossignol: Yes, we don’t need to pretend to be superheroes in our everyday lives, but I think that we do need to answer the question of making life more engaging to participate in, and I find Heather’s rebuttal to be somewhat… It comes across to me as a bit of a wet blanket. Perhaps that’s just my perspective though.

      Apologies for the short answers, I am cooking.

    • Muzman says:

      That’s somewhat beside the point. McGonigal invariably takes the notion further to where making everything a game is how you get people to do the things they wouldn’t otherwise do, seemingly divorced (at least partially) from their real world effects. If that’s not her argument then the title of the book isn’t helping clarify the point.
      In talks and so forth she does generally give a few bottom up as well as top down ways of implementing this but like Chaplin, I generally find those just as unsettling (one expects management, for want of anything better to do, to find new an interesting ways to manipulate people into higher productivity. Doing it to yourself in the ways I’ve seen described seems pretty far along a road that ends in The Secret, to me. But I never did like self-help fads much).
      I haven’t read the book so it might be in there, but I know there are interesting thoughts in academia on how games hold people’s attention and keep them at a problem and there’s nothing wrong with that as a point of research to be applied elsewhere. I have only heard McGonigal going way over the top with it though. If she doesn’t mean us to re-order our thoughts and society along these lines and her revival-ish sales enthusiasm is just a rhetorical technique, she needs to show something a bit more measured and practical before I’m coming on board (but, I’m pretty sure others are already doing that already. I need to find that stuff again).

  19. faelnor says:

    Disappointingly surprised by the lack of Pebble of Time (ACE Team’s April fools/marketing ploy along with the release of a fully working and fun 2D game). I have the feeling that this will unfortunately go much unnoticed.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      Well pointed out sir!

      I ahd missed that and it was indeed excellent.

  20. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    Riceboy Sleeps! Such a beautiful album. Jonsi & Alex also worked together on Jon’s solo album and the supporting tour. Definitely worth a listen and a ticket if you haven’t heard or seen them already. Also, if you wanted to know how to prepare a vegan lasagna but wanted to do so without all this overrated “heat” thing that’s all the rage these days, check out their Raw Food Video series, which also gives a charming view into their relationship.

  21. manveruppd says:

    They should’ve asked Dociu why Droknar’s Forge in the original Guild Wars has sails. It looks great, but it always puzzled me. My 2 theories is that either dwarves use wind power to generate wind power, or that they were originally an ocean-faring race and Droknar’s forge was once an ark that made landfall on top of a mountain during a massive flood that drowned everything except the highest peaks. Both sound ridiculous, as clearly dwarves would’ve built submersibles to survive a flood, and generate electricity using geothermal energy!

  22. Vinraith says:

    It’s an angry, ten page deconstruction of a bad action movie plot. Wow, what a sad little creature that guy is.

    Is the narrative stupid? Of course it is. Is it in any way uniquely stupid among FPS games, action movies, techno thrillers, and a wide diversity of other media? Of course not. If you’re going to spend your time attacking as “sick” anything that involves foreign countries behaving implausibly, or anything that uses said implausible behavior as a catalyst for violent action, you’d better quit your day job.

    Added bonus, you’ll note that this kind of thing being dirt common in every form of media doesn’t stop him from repeatedly using it as a cudgel with which to bash gaming and gamers in general.

    Homefront is an FPS game. (For those with better things to do with their lives, that means First Person Shooter.)

    I would suggest strongly that the author would find his time better spent playing Doom than writing articles like this one. Someone should show him Mercenaries, come to think of it, though it’d be wise to have an EMT on hand in case he has an aneurysm.

  23. Consumatopia says:

    Of course it is. Is it in any way uniquely stupid among FPS games, action movies, techno thrillers, and a wide diversity of other media?

    I’d say the idea that North and South Korea would peacefully unite and then attack Japan and the American west coast is about as absurd as the idea that modern France would attack the American east coast. It is several times more ridiculous than, say, Red Dawn. And if it were just being played up for laughs that would be one thing, but THQ seems to take it very seriously. Even one of the writers here at RPS seemed to be convinced by it in a moment of uncharacteristic stupidity.

  24. Jim Rossignol says:

    Yes, it is stupid, *even by FPS story standards*, which is why folks were so amazed by it.

    “Even one of the writers here at RPS seemed to be convinced by it in a moment of uncharacteristic stupidity.”

    Eh?

  25. Vinraith says:

    [Comment Deleted]

  26. Jim Rossignol says:

    @kobzon
    I am completely lost as what you are talking about it. The Homefront preview was one of the most negative and derisory previews we’ve ever put out. I don’t even see the line you are referring to.

    As for the point about things being unfinished: smearing paint all over a sketch is not “finishing” it, so your analogy is empty. Also, this is about writing, which is something I know a thing or two about. Writers fail to finish projects all the time, and they are by and large not great works of Russian fiction, they are just wasted time. Finished projects are what get you credibility and work, not half written novels or essays without a conclusion.

  27. Consumatopia says:

    See here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/02/22/hands-on-preview-homefront/

    Let’s start with the premise. It does kind of make sense. It’s not quite the simplistic idea that N. Korea’s weeny army somehow overthrows the most powerful nation on Earth. Instead we see a surprisingly traumatic potted history of the events from 2011 to 2025 that lead to N.K.’s becoming a seriously huge world power. By the time they’re invading the States they’re already occupying swathes of Asia, and their merciless attack is enormous and horrendous.

    And here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2011/03/19/wot-i-think-homefront-single-player/

    Oh, the premise. It’s 2027 or thereabouts, and a series of (pretty well argued) events has seen a Korean occupation of North America.

    Perhaps “uncharacteristically misinformed” would have been better for me to write than “uncharacteristically stupid”.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Ah, I see. But John is saying that the story is internally consistent, or well argued, not that it makes sense in the context current geopolitics.

      “we see a surprisingly traumatic potted history of the events from 2011 to 2025 that lead to N.K.’s becoming a seriously huge world power”

      That’s not John’s interpretation of anything, but the game authors. It’s a sort of given that it’s implausible unless we get over a decade of unlikely events, right?

    • Consumatopia says:

      Actually, the key absurd events all happen in 2012/13–when Korea peacefully re-unites and that somehow leaves the North Koreans in charge.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      The premise of a game to insert the player into an alternative reality still stands. If there is a way, as implausible or ludicrous as it may be, for a game to be set in a world where Morocco just invaded Europe, I may do the passing comment on the ridicule of the premise. But the game is still going to be played — And If it’s any good, heavily.

      I’d easily lost count to the semi-realistic games that introduced completely absurd storylines. Definitely they account for the majority of all games. If for each and one of these games we would be bothering with the realism of the story, instead of playing the game, we would probably be writers instead of gamers.

      The only thing that trully bothers me in a game is if the story isn’t consistent within itself. Otherwise Semi-real settings are still fantasy settings. And games are mostly about fantasy. A game just like Homefront is a fantasy game, not a reality simulator. We would be in deep trouble if we started to context every ridicule story we’ve played so far. Might as well criticize ever single FPS to this date. Including historical military games.

    • Consumatopia says:

      It doesn’t bother me when a game is built on an unrealistic premise. It bothers me when people deny how unrealistic it is.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      Also, North Korea’s army isn’t by any means the laughing stock it’s made out to be. Not to say it’s a match for the US, but it’s a pretty massive standing army nonetheless. According to wikipedia:

      North Korea is the most militarized country in the world today, having the fourth largest army in the world, at about 1,106,000 armed personnel, with about 20% of men ages 17–54 in the regular armed forces. [...] It also has a reserve force comprising 8,200,000 personnel. It operates an enormous network of military facilities scattered around the country, a large weapons production basis, a dense air defense system, the third largest chemical weapons stockpile in the world, and includes the world’s largest Special Forces contingent (numbering 180,000 men).

  28. Jim Rossignol says:

    See below. It’s not that it *literally* makes sense, it’s that the story makes sense in its own terms – terms which take a decade or more to take place. John is well aware that North Korea couldn’t invade anything, and the responsiblity of explaining that lies with Homefront’s authors – something he thinks they kind of pull off. Seems like a bit of a feat to me, but there we go.

  29. Chris D says:

    Kobzon

    Your opinion on unfinished stuff is utterly

  30. Lilliput King says:

    It’s not really true to say that Homefront was released “with much fanfare.” The game flopped commercially, bombed critically and saw THQ’s share price drop by almost a third over the course of 24 hours. If you want to paint the gaming community at large as ignorant dolts, this isn’t a great example.

  31. Jahkaivah says:

    As much as I liked Amnesia, I can’t help but feel that people exaggerate just how scary the game actually was.

    Also it’s approach to lighting, while well intentioned, was largely a flawed design choice and probably ought not to be praised.

    • Wulf says:

      I think how scary Amnesia is is down to how scary the night horrors in your own mind are, it’s very much designed to work that way. It uses ambiance and suspense to use your own mind against you, I’ve seen very few games use this trick, but it is a fun one, and it works because often what I can dream up is far more scary than anything I’ve seen in a game. (Unfortunately.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      I agree with Wulf. Amnesia’s horror generally is a very personal one (as opposed to the IMP BEHIND WALL of Doom). I always found I could easily make a scary game extremely unscary by rationalizing it – so I make sure I always set the mood right (headphones, no interruptions, play after dark, preferably when it’s cold) and allow myself to be pulled into the gameworld. In a game like Amnesia that is a pretty exhausting experience. I pretty much limited my playing sessions to 1 hour or so, because the constant gloom and expectation took its toll.

      I can imagine that there are people who have a hard time NOT to rationalize a game, though. For them ‘psychological horror games’ must be pretty weak on the scary front.

      @ Jahkaivah
      Just wondering, which games would you consider to be scary then? I can understand that Amnesia may not be as scary as you expected after seeing the comments, but I personally know two non-pansy gaming friends who would never, ever play a game like Amnesia because it would wreak havoc on their sanity. I’m just saying, some people react very differently to some things. :-)

    • Jahkaivah says:

      I don’t think Amnesia wasn’t scary, it definitely had it’s moments (namely when one of the patrolling monsters comes running at you without warning).

      One horror game which I played recently which I think is rather scary though in ways differant to Amnesia was the Half Life 2 mod Nightmare House 2. Generally I feel there is an important balance between tension and “jump” moments which is key to horror. While jumps without tension is cheap and gets dull, tension without jumps is anticlimatic and stops working once the player realises that nothing is going to happen.

      Amnesia had too few jumps I felt, too many times I felt I was in a comfort zone, such as a puzzle section, or a stealth part where I was actually perfectly safe because the monster wasn’t going to go anywhere near me. And the game did little to challenge this feeling (though when it did was the best parts of the game, sadly I can count them on one hand).

      It suffered in that respect from the stealth approach, see when you have a weapon to defend yourself the developer has no qualms with suddenly throwing a monster at you, when your defenceless suddenly the developer needs to make sure the monster doesn’t pose as much of a overall threat in order to compensate, that can be a problem.

      Which isn’t to say Amnesia should have given you a gun (we need more immersive first person stealth games as it is), no the way to improve this kind of game is instead find ways to build on this horror/stealth experiance without needing to hold your hand quite as much.

      Overall I liked Amnesia though, it has a neat premise that worked really well during the parts of the game which played to it’s strengths.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      As much as I wanted to like the game, I didn’t. And it was all due in fact to lost expectations. The fact that I only played the game much later and after reading too many reviews irresponsibly lauding the game to a level it didn’t have, resulted in me playing it hoping for a revelation, a new experience, that never materialized. This resulted in the exact opposite effect; I disliked the game.

      The thing about “scary” is really something that reviewers should treat with a little more respect. Fear is an emotion that results from the discharge of certain chemicals by our brain. Since someone mentioned dreams here, it’s not that a dream imagery is scarier than most things we see or can experience in our lives. In fact rarely they are. It’s that during the dream state, the parts of our brain that can control that emotion are shut off, and Fear runs free and much intensified. Rarely, if ever, most people will experience the same level of fear in their entire lives, they did on some particular intensive nightmare with imagery, that once properly analyzed, is revealed to be in fact very mundane comparatively to things we see on movies, or even have experienced in our lives.

      Amnesia was portrayed as an experience in fear. Some of the quotes of the time really were abusive and are worthy representatives of the sorry state of the gaming review community. Truth is that the game rated the same as a B movie for the impressionable. If however, reviewers had been more careful and just didn’t take the fear bandwagon, the game could have actually been more appreciated my many of its players for what it actually introduced in terms of manipulating the player emotions. There were very good and new ideas on that game that should have deserved the focus for their technical achievement. Instead the vast majority of reviewers (and many gamers alike who insist in giving to games more credit than its due) decided for the hyperbole.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      Somewhat agree Mario, though to be fair to reviewers it is always difficult reviewing horror games because if you analyse the game mechanics in the review too much you risk ruining the player’s potential experiance.

      I’m inclined to say something of a post mortem analysis which looks at the game for readers who have already played it could be beneficial in seeing where the game went right and wrong.

    • Premium User Badge

      Rinox says:

      @ Jahkaivah

      It’s interesting you brought up the idea of having a weapon (or anything) to defend yourself with. One of those two friends I mentioned would very much play a game where he has a weapon to defend himself with against physical enemies, no matter how horrific they are. Somehow the idea of being defenseless and at the mercy of things is much more of a terror to him than anything else. :-)

      (not really related to what you were saying overall, just thought I’d mention it)

  32. dethtoll says:

    Here’s how to be a professional games writer: stop ripping off Lovecraft. Especially when you do it badly.

    • manveruppd says:

      I agree with the badly part, but on the whole there’s not nearly enough people ripping off Lovecraft. Even the most horrendously powerful, inhuman, unfathomable horror can be defeated using circle-strafing or a well-timed QTE button presses, something which I regularly go :-/ at.

    • JFS says:

      manverruppd is very right.

  33. Mark says:

    RE: Angry Birds.

    I agree with Jaffe that games shouldn’t be discounted for GOTY because they’re too “casual”.

    Where I disagree is where Angry Birds is apparently of high enough quality to meet the gold standard. I played a few levels and found it dull and uninteresting. Pac Man and Tetris are great games. Chess and Go are timeless games. Angry Birds is a joke compared to any of them.

    • Sepulchrave76 says:

      I agree with you. Angry Birds is looks pretty, and is entertaining enough for five minutes, but what do people really get out of it? It completely baffles me.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lacero says:

      Thing is it’s just not possible to control it effectively, you don’t have enough feedback on the angle control as sub pixels seem to count. It fails the first test of a game, being controllable.
      I’m baffled by how popular it is.

  34. Archonsod says:

    “I’d say the idea that North and South Korea would peacefully unite and then attack Japan and the American west coast is about as absurd as the idea that modern France would attack the American east coast.”

    A little over a hundred years ago people likewise scoffed at the idea of the relatively new Germany being any kind of power in Europe, let alone invading France. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, particularly when it comes to politics.

    Complaining that the plot of a fictional game (particularly one set in the future like this) is implausible misses the point somewhat. I mean you can also write off the entirety of the D&D / Tolkien style pseudo medieval fantasy on the grounds that if people could manipulate electricity unaided we’d have underwent an industrial revolution much sooner than the medieval era.
    The setting exists only insofar as it supports the story. Really the problem isn’t with Homefront’s setting, the fact you noticed the setting in the first place suggests the story itself is weak.

  35. sebmojo says:

    I liked that piracy article, (and Wulf’s epic spiels all seem pretty on point though I confess I skimmed them).

    But it really annoys me when ‘pay what you like’ projects like the Humble Bundle and In Rainbows are declared as failures because (arbitrary) percentage of people got them for free. That’s so irrelevant. What matters is that (arbitrary, but much more important) millions of dollars were give by people who didn’t have to.

    It’s just lazy journalism.

    • Thants says:

      Also, when little indies do a deal like that people say that it only works because they’re small and need exposure. But when a big group like Radiohead do it people say that it only works because they’re big and have an established fan-base that’ll buy it.

  36. DigitalSignalX says:

    Thanks for the Jónsi & Alex link. It’s remarkable music, and a much appreciated injection of something new and wonderful into my rather boring playlist.

  37. Premium User Badge

    Rinox says:

    It would appear I am the only person in the entire world who has no idea what Angry Birds IS exactly (a game, apparently). I’ve seen commercial using Angry Birds (by Thinkgeek), I’ve seen a spoof flash animation featuring Ghadafi and co, and so forth, but never seen the actual thing itself.

    *checks youtube*

    Wait what, it’s just a castle destruction game? I mean, sure, I can see how that’d be fun, but game of the decade? Year? Uhm. Pretty much looks like a (fun) hype for people with overpriced phones. The phone thing kind of explains why I never heard of it I suppose.

  38. JuJuCam says:

    Wulf, don’t take this the wrong way, I love your presence here and your unique perspective, but do you have your own blog somewhere? Are you recording your writings anywhere elsewhere at all? I’m just concerned that you spend a lot of time and energy on comments on someone else’s blog, when you clearly have the passion and thoughtfulness to maintain an audience of your own if you had the desire to do so.

    Back to the point, it is a damn shame that the big studios don’t diversify their portfolios, but the problem is they probably see more profits investing big money on big projects that cater to Micheal Bay’s audience than they would spreading their capital around and servicing the indie lovers. That and the fact that they may have concerns about watering down the brand – in an ideal world they want the name of Activision to be synonymous with the insignificant sound and fury that they push out to the world. Especially in the minds of uninformed gamers who don’t necessarily know where else to look for the types of games they might be interested in, or who don’t care for any games that don’t offer them an opportunity to shoot their friends in the face.

    It’s like me with music. I like a diverse range of music styles, but for a long time I haven’t had the energy to track down what’s new and hot and interesting, let alone download it for myself. So these days I mostly just listen to the radio and that’s fine enough for me. And I kinda wonder if I didn’t have my finger on the pulse of the games industry or a lot of money to spend in it what types of games I’d spend my time and money on. I have a friend who almost exclusively plays Bethesda RPGs because that’s all she’s found to be of interest in her housemate’s game collection. I wonder what she’d think of Mount & Blade, or if she could be taught how to play a roguelike.

    • Steven Hutton says:

      I would totally read Wulf’s blog.

      It has always been my assumption that the way Activision/EA etc diversify their portfolio’s or approach innovation or attempt to do really anything but iterate on existing franchises is by waiting for some small team to have a break out hit and then buying them. After which they take the talent and passion of that team and vampire all of the money out that they can. Then when they’ve totally ruined their I.P. through stagnation/over exposure they buy a new team.

      Although I suppose lately there haven’t really been a lot of break out hits from new teams. Perhaps because the big studios are still working through their existing properties. Perhaps because the casual market is drawing in a lot of new talent and distracting the big guys too.

      On the other point one of the things that the games industry/community is really bad at is getting the word out about smaller games. I mean its hard to compete with Activision spending $150,000,000 advertising blOps but I often feel a little shame when I see my friends all playing blOps (still) and I think about all the smaller games that I could’ve been proselytising for.

      Although I suppose this raises a different point. I do try pretty hard to sell new games to my friends and just get them to fucking quit playing CoD games already… FUCK! But they always return, very quickly to xbox live and CoD. And I seriously wonder is it just that blOps is the better game and I know nothing about game design at all?

  39. Consumatopia says:

    A little over a hundred years ago people likewise scoffed at the idea of the relatively new Germany being any kind of power in Europe, let alone invading France. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction, particularly when it comes to politics.

    No, you don’t get it. The absurdity is not that a weak country becomes strong. The absurdity is two mortal enemies peacefully reunifying, with the larger, stronger, more populated and much, much richer nation content to let the smaller nation run everything. Two years from now.

    Let me try again–imagine a peaceful one-state solution in Israel with Hamas running everything. Two years from now. Whoops, I accidentally invented THQ’s next game.

    Complaining that the plot of a fictional game (particularly one set in the future like this) is implausible misses the point somewhat.

    I get that the game is set in about the same time period as the new Deus Ex game. But remember the trailer with footage of Secretary Clinton speaking on the Cheonan sinking? The game’s timeline starts in the very near future and seems to aspire to some bizarre kind of political realism.

  40. Dances to Podcasts says:

    This calls for one of those lists web sites make up on a slow news day. Top ten most ridiculous game plots ever!

  41. Mario Figueiredo says:

    The piracy article… I dunno. I think the author misses the mark in every single aspect. There’s only one aspect of it that is worth retaining:

    Indeed piracy can benefit a title by working as free publicity and helping “spread the word” quicker than any other current means. It can (if all goes well) work as a booster of sales by drawing new potential customers, or turning pirates today in customers tomorrow. This isn’t however a new concept. 13 years ago, shortly after launching Windows 98, Bill Gates said in a speech that piracy works for Microsoft, in that it allows the user to get “addicted” to their products and eventually they’ll buy. He was in fact very clear by saying if someone wants to steal software, he wants them to steal Microsoft software. More recently Jeff Raines, head of the business division, said the exact same thing. There’s, as such, clearly an attempt at capitalizing the piracy factor by some firms. And I would add a second issue: The more widespread a title is in the global market represented by the internet, the more that title is valued, drawing in other financial interests, like venture capitalists and other investors as well as having the potential of raising the company value.

    However, this whole talk of the article about taking more direct action to benefit from piracy is in my opinion absurd. There is no reason why a company should want to expose their product to piracy in order to take some direct benefit from it. The risk is too high that it will flop or turn against them. “Talking with pirates” is also completely absurd. Every indie developer already maintains a community around their product(s), which usually includes pirates. Official or community-driven game forums and chats are a dime a dozen already. Meanwhile, a pirate will pirate from their mom if she turns her back and isn’t looking. So let’s cut the crap. Besides how does anyone propose to “talk to” and reach the heart of potentially millions of individuals?

    This also doesn’t address another problem. Not every game (speaking just of games here) is meant to be necessarily a hit. Certain games simply are normal games, have been developed as normal games, and never pretended to be huge successes. They are not bad, they are just not that good either. Just something the developer wanted to do. These type of games cater only to a smaller number of gamers and offer a lesser purchase incentive. These developers, facing an already small customer base, cannot afford the investment some of the suggestions on that article refer. Yet, make no mistake, they will be pirated the same, with these developers risking the highest of losses of the entire class.

    A more direct financial benefit can be had from piracy however, if indie developers stop with the low competitive prices and realize that piracy in fact reduces competition by trimming away from the developer target market all those users more sensitive to the price. This allows indie developers to increase their margin by not conforming so much to the establish (and wrong) rule that the lower price, the more they will sell. They can be sure that piracy tends to remove the user-who-can’t-or-won’t-pay from their market base and they can, and should, concentrate on bettering their profits by not worrying so much with what the others are doing and how much are they selling it. The fact is that their potential customers will buy as long as the price isn’t a rip-off.

    • gwathdring says:

      Hmm. I agree largely, in that piracy is not really a benefit to companies beyond giving the product publicity …. unfortunately that publicity is mostly gained among other likely pirates. Pricing is a little more complicated, though. On the one hand, piracy is going to occur regardless of pricing. I seem to remember reports of folks hacking into the original Humble Indie Bundle servers to download the games … whether or not I’m remembering correctly, piracy is going to happen even if games are ludicrously inexpensive, because piracy isn’t always strictly about price. And I can see how keeping prices high to increase profits rather than dropping them to fight piracy thus makes a lot of sense. But the key element here is a word you used: “competitive.” Indie games don’t always drop prices to avoid piracy. They drop prices to attract customers who wouldn’t buy their game otherwise, regardless of whether or not they would pirate it. They drop prices to get advantage over competing indie developers as well.

      Whether or not low prices increase profit, they increase sales. The trouble is finding the balances between profit and sales. Raising prices over the competition won’t just alienate pirates in the same way that lowering prices won’t inherently stop piracy. I’m more likely to buy a game that’s under ten dollars than one that costs 14.99, but historically not any more likely to but a game that costs 14.99 than one costing 19.99. Other than that oddity though, I get less likely to buy a game as the price increases. I’ve also never pirated a game because I couldn’t or was unwilling to buy it. Both logically and from experience with my own habits I contest your final statement.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Yes, but I’d expect any developer to raise the price only to sensitive margins.

      But more than that, for them to not fall prey so much to this notion that prices in the indie industry have to remain competitively low. It has been proven over and over again, they don’t. A game like Minecraft sells today for 15 USD. I’m sure there’s no shortage in daily sales. In fact, if I remember correctly, Minecraft has beaten its daily sale record after the price increase… last October, IIRC.

      The fact that piracy removes from the market the price-sensitive customer, it actually removes competition obstacles and gives room for an increase in the sales margin. But yes, within reason of course.

      If you want a bit more information on this, here’s a study at the University of Texas that discusses this issue in more detail: http://opim.wharton.upenn.edu/wise2004/sat612.pdf (pdf link). Of the references at the end, if you can access it, the one I strongly suggest is the Pirated for Profit (1998); a 13 page paper at the Canadian Jornal of Economics.

    • Wulf says:

      You had a pretty good argument there until this…

      “Meanwhile, a pirate will pirate from their mom if she turns her back and isn’t looking.”

      It sounds like you’re embracing the ‘software has real scarcity’ thing, which is a bit of a lie. And that’s a shame, really, I realise you might not have realised it when you wrote it, but that’s what it sounds like, or… well, an appeal to emotion. And I’ll explain this in more detail if you’re interested in reading this.

      As someone who’s versed with the Internet I’d say that you already know the truth of this, this leads me to wonder why you wrote it. What I’m getting at is that if you include something like that then it actually makes the argument less objective and weakens the argument overall.

      A pirate makes a copy of a digital instance of a program, of which there can be an infinite amount, therein unless you’re implying scarcity against the not finite nature of computer software, the quoted sentence doesn’t make any sense at all. You could say that he’s pirating a game from his mother, but even that doesn’t make any sense because the digital copy his mother has is the same as the digital copy that everyone obtained from the supplier. If that’s the case, then it becomes an appeal to emotion fallacy by bringing ‘mother’ into it, because the mother need not even realise that her software has been pirated, but again, you seem to be implying that the mother would be deprived of something by this piracy.

      So yeah, I always think it’s a shame when people say things like this, because it says that either they’re not sure of how software or the Internet work or that they’re fibbing about these topics, which doesn’t show a great deal of faith or confidence in their own argument. Really, your whole argument is so much more believable without that line, and I’d dare say that that line ruins the comment in a way, for me at least, because I can’t read it in a way that either doesn’t look uninformed or dishonest.

      I’m only bringing this up as a point to keep in mind for the future, since you may not have realised the connotations it has, and it really does detract from the argument. And the more we pretend that pirates are mother-robbing bogeymen, the weaker all arguments against piracy become. Piracy is a bad thing if someone doesn’t pay, but piracy isn’t theft, it can never be theft because there’s nothing to steal, and you don’t backstab someone because you’re not depriving someone of their use of something by pirating.

      There are bad parts of piracy, but we don’t need to do the whole “You wouldn’t steal and shit in a policeman’s helmet!” thing when there are better arguments surrounding piracy.

      Just my two pence.

      (I probably shouldn’t add to this, but I want to, here. I’m not trying to be nasty with my comments, it’s just that I really think that you have a better argument without that line. If you remove it and read over it again, it sounds better.

      I really believe that piracy isn’t an issue – the issue is if someone has enjoyed something, is capable of paying, and then willfully chooses not to. That’s a problem right there, and perhaps the only problem, but we’re looking at something in too general a way, we’re seeing an overall problem and wrongly diagnosing it.

      Here’s a fun example – earlier on, I and a friend of mine listened to a really great album of songs on Youtube. They were also up on Bandcamp. We promptly ran right on over to Bandcamp and paid for the flac versions. We didn’t need to because the person in question was offering high quality mp3 files for free, but we chose to.

      Piracy is sort of like that – enjoying something before offering payment. A lot of free to play games work on this system as well and work successfully. By the terms of piracy, we could even call a free to play game like Champions Online piracy, because people get to play it before they pay.

      And this is why I see such criticisms of piracy to be silly, and we come up with such ludicrous arguments as to why we hate piracy, but really… is piracy the problem? Was piracy ever, truly a problem? There’s no scarcity, no one is deprived, and there’s no real crime. There might be a lost sale, but after pirating, one might choose to pay for something anyway.)

  42. thebigJ_A says:

    Amnesia, such a great game. I can’t wait to see what Frictional do next.

  43. Premium User Badge

    Jarmo says:

    The typo world / word makes this item somewhat hard to grok before opening the link: What We Would Gain By Losing The World “Gamification”.

    Nice articles once again. I appreciate the regularity and the consistently high quality of your collective picks.