The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on April 10th, 2011 at 11:13 am.

Ah, Sunday.
Sundays are for sun. Well, when it’s sunny, anyway. Sitting in the sun recharges a blogger, who has probably been blogging throughout the winter in semi-darkness. You can see hundreds of them in gardens across the world, wheeled out to get their dose of solar radiation, before being moved back into the dark place where their hands can reach the keyboard once again. In the brief time when the blogger is sat in the sun he is thinking of only one thing: the bright corona of literature that surrounds the phenomena of video games. This is some of that.

  • Ars Technica has a piece on how Minecraft is being used as a teaching aid by teacher Joel Levin, who blogs here. “l chose Minecraft specifically because it’s so open-ended,” Levin told Ars. “The game presents you with a huge open world and you can do any of a dozen different preset activities. Or you can go off and create your own content. That alone gives me a ton of freedom to invent content for the kids to engage in. I don’t let them just play the game however they want. They must follow a path I lay out for them, which allows me to carry out lesson plans.”
  • One of many mentions of the problems of Dragon Age II. Cruise Elroy says this: “Given his goals, I think Laidlaw and his team accurately pinpointed what needed to change from Origins — the combat was indeed slow, the customization options were proliferative, and so on. Unfortunately, they were prone to overcorrecting these problems and lost some of Origins’ positive qualities through aggressive streamlining of its (perceived) negative ones.”
  • Gamasutra had a big old interview with Fred Wester, who is fast becoming one of our favoured figureheads of business.
  • In terms of business figureheads I am less excited about Electronic Arts CEO John Riccitiello, but he’s still worth listening to, especially when he says things about how gaming is the new mass market. Because that’s awesome, and scary, and we’re beginning to see the ramifications of precisely that issue. (Random side point: isn’t it interesting that EA seem to have given up on Medal of Honour being the Call Of Duty beater, and immediately transferred their hopes onto BF3?)
  • Leigh Alexander also considers why she doesn’t lose herself in games anymore. I have a lot of sympathy for this kind of situation, and it made me say that if Stalker was a yearly franchise like Call of Duty, then I probably would lose myself in games more. Likewise if there was a genuine alternative to Eve Online. The real issue, though, is that I feel that the more games I play, the more refined my tastes are becoming, and the less I am full engaged by the games I play. The process of exploring why a game is interesting is often the best part, and the more familiar I’ve become with games, the less there seems to be to learn.
  • VG247 reports on the showing of Battlefield 3 in London this week, and also have a few new images.
  • Cobbett’s Crap Shoot series takes a look at anti-classic, Bar Games. “Whatever bar Bar Games is set in must be a weird, weird place. Let’s recap. A bar roughly a mile long, yet with only one bartender at once. A single Air Hockey table. Customers who swarm to drink generic beer at the end of the evening, yet otherwise keep so much to themselves that the bartender can waste hour after hour playing Boring Dice with clients. And in the back, a giant stage and scaffolding set up to simultaneously murder customers and let them dump buckets of water on pretty women.”
  • Eurogamer proclaimed Revenge Of The Titans to be their game of the week. Not a bad choice.
  • More thoughts on Don’t Take It Personally, this time from Lewis.
  • There’s a Chet Faliszek interview on Beefjack, wherein he talks Portal 2. Chet is a fun time.
  • Why A Lack Of Empathy Is The Root Of All Evil.

The root of all evil could also be this nightmarish video that Quintin linked me to. NSFW, as it has 1970s bums in it. If that frightened you, why not cheer yourself up with this piece of light-hearted comedy?

More soon!

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104 Comments »

  1. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I Do hope BF3 does become the king of FPS

  2. sendmark says:

    I love Fred Wester.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Right.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I’ve seen many so-called popular heroes in the gaming history rising and falling, to ever care anymore about what anyone has to say that they know people will like to hear. Besides Fred Wester has a long way to go to explain how Paradox became a synonym of heavily bugged first releases.

      They happen to have two of their games on my Most Heavily Played List of All Times (and no, that doesn’t include Magicka; that game is garbage to me). But that doesn’t turn them into figureheads, heroes or whatever on my books. There are better people out there, which I have a lot more respect for their displayed professionalism and respect for the consumer.

  3. Teddy Leach says:

    Stalker. Yearly franchise. PLEASE.

    • Unaco says:

      Yes. Because there is nothing a considered, atmospheric, intelligent game franchise needs more than the pressures of defecating a new release every 12 months.

    • tomeoftom says:

      Expansion packs or DLC. One of the very, very few games in which adding new areas and stories-in-miniature would actually fit well within the fiction.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yeah, it’s ripe for DLC type expansions. A new area of the zone once a year would give me enough reason to replay the whole game.

      (Doing Clear Sky with the Complete mod at the moment, and new maps is the one extra thing I long for.)

    • FriendlyFire says:

      Actually, Stalker is the kind of game that could easily be expanded into an MMOFPS. Then content additions every X months would be natural.

    • fupjack says:

      Yes, any sort of expansions for Stalker. Yes yes yes. Just a map pack would do it, maybe with some simple fetch missions, maybe not.

      That’s really the point of the game – what you are playing against is the world, and its indifference to you living or dying. Expansions like the ones for Dragon Age/Mass Effect are all about more of the plot, so they have new voice acting and story and so on, but you don’t really need that for Stalker. Just some ruined building, empty areas, and a tendency to turn into a corpse.

      There’s a number of mods out there that throw unused/alternate maps into the mix; they tend to have a lot of other stuff tacked on, unfortunately.

    • Pinky G says:

      Alternatively, just add ak47s to minecraft.
      Honestly though, when games are stalker level graphics etc with minecraft level interaction, the perfect game will be created. I cant wait!

  4. pakoito says:

    I love how Fred Wesker always answers me on Twitter. What other CEO would do that?

  5. Ronin Jellyfish says:

    Dragon Age interview – While I think most players are intelligent enough to figure out that STR means strength, if you are that concerned about people not understanding then spend some RnD time creating a slicker interface that allows you to put “Strength” and what it means in an easy to undersatnd format. Don’t dumb RPGs down because you can’t come up with a better UI.

  6. Mario Figueiredo says:

    The one criticism I will never make of Minecraft is its ability to become a powerful teaching aid. I’ve defended that since very early when I started playing and realized how my daughters could benefit from certain aspects of it. In that domain, games like Minecraft (as long as they present official or third-party world builders) can become awesome teaching aids in the hands of a dedicated and skilled teacher.

    This however presents a huge challenge to any teacher who may not have the resources (financial or intellectual) as well as the free time to create their teaching scenarios. So, Minecraft alone can do very little. Well, it can do nothing. What would be important was for this work to be published and guidelines to be written so that other less able, less technology-oriented, or with less time teachers could reuse it.

    The game hasn’t been tailored as a teaching tool (there isn’t even an official world editor, for instance). It was meant for entertainment. The actual teaching ability derives from the time, imagination and skill put into building a suitable world. Without sharing this work, the ability for Minecraft to become a teaching tool will forever remain too localized to be meaningful.

    • pakoito says:

      1.- Sit three modders together
      2.- create a Kickstarter
      3.- release a package of mods + maps
      4.- ???
      5.- generational profit.

    • WesWilson says:

      The Minecraft Teacher has expressed interest in coming on The Shaft and talking about his work. I’m actually really looking forward to that!

    • Pinky G says:

      Yes I agree. I thought of a history game for school kids where you explore a dig site and take photos of things and then the game offers up information and a visualization of what it used to look like. I really thought more big budget games would be made for educational purposes by now though using 3d first person movement. Seems like a large untapped area for modders, maybe I should get started actually…

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Seems like a large untapped area for modders, maybe I should get started actually…

      I’d give it a second thought, if I were you: Of all the questions that rise, I think the most pertinent one is “Am I qualified to produce educative material?”. It’s perhaps best left for professionals with the proper education and training.

    • Pinky G says:

      Good point mario cheers, I will have to have a think.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I’m not too familiar with the current state of the art, but if “professionals with the proper education and training” have been involved with most of the educational games I’ve seen, somebody deserves their money back.

      It’d be unethical to sell and advertise a game as educational for children without proper consultation. But you don’t need a license to experiment. From what I can see, we need much much more innovation in this kind of game, and that could come from anywhere. Learning is something we all do.

    • Pinky G says:

      Haha very funny. Also yes I agree with the things you say.

      Minecraft has been a very engaging and fun way to learn the basic electronics concepts for, atleast, some of my friends through redstone. If a science teacher was trying to teach them exactly the same stuff when we were in school, I reckon they would have ‘switched off’ pretty quickly.

  7. Navagon says:

    “Fred Wester, who is fast becoming one of our favoured figureheads of business.”
    Too right!

    “Take Kalypso’s Dungeons, which builds on the reputation of the old Dungeon Keeper games. EA just left that drifting, and we’re taking advantage of that, because we’re appealing to an older crowd.”

    All I can say to that, Fred, is MAKE SYNDICATE CLONE NOW!

  8. Wunce says:

    I for one didn’t enjoy Revenge of the Titans due to enemies which are simply frustrating rather than challenging. Having a bunch of bomb headed monsters constantly shake the screen or ghosts which require player controlled turrets are just frustrating in the bigger, more open levels. Also, the audio for the game was annoying so I actually preferred to run it muted (namely the repeated “blah blah” used for speech by the characters in the game).

  9. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Fascinating article by Leigh that loudly struck a chord into my own view of gaming in general nowadays, and helps me better internalize why I sometimes just feel plain bad about always bitching and moaning about games.

    But truth is, the industry eagerness to answer to popular demands have been slowly resulting in richer and feature flatulent games, but that don’t appeal so much to my generation trained in the use of Imagination as the real kicker for entertainment.

    I find myself drawn to these games more for the challenges they offer and for the exploration of “what happens next”. But their stories as well as their ability to get me immersed in them if all but entirely gone. I now find my consolation in MUDs when going online (still the ultimate experience in imagination concerning multiplayer games) , or some jewels old and new that sometimes surface on the free and indie markets.

    • Urthman says:

      I, on the other hand, am 42-years-old and still full of childlike wonder and joy at the awesome worlds of video games. Ooo! Shiny!

      (Also it helps that I have a huge back-log of straight-up stone-cold classics I haven’t played yet…)

    • Gap Gen says:

      I do wonder whether photorealism reduced the immersion of games. I mean, I get immersed in Minecraft and it’s made of 1m cube blocks. Then again, something like ArmA II is reasonably good-looking and also terrifying to play at times, cowering in a ditch with bullets pinging over you before your friend opens up on the next ridge with an Apache gunship, or screams over in a fighter jet and drops what feels like a tactical nuke on the enemy.

  10. Dinger says:

    Lewis Denby taking it personally:

    this is one “game” where I’d be curious for a Valve/HL2 style breakdown of how many players made what choices the first play-through. The speech at the end runs some sort of Neo-Goffmanian presentation of self in the information age claptrap; wouldn’t these mechancis be more interestingly revealed by showing just how sociopathic the rest of the playing lot is in precise circumstances? Or is the author already spying on the players spying on her characters (Hi, BTW)? Or are we just limited to the author’s reports of how many hits she got on her blog for the password?

    Thinking about the game some more, the biggest structural problem it has is that the player is so convinced by the power of the Kendall-Charlotte thing that s/he never gets to the jokes about Nolan’s throbbing manroot.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Good point, that game totally should spied on the player. It totally would have made sense in the context of the story–Rook is so freaked out about spying, but it never occurs to him to worry whether checking “12 channel” on school property on school-supplied equipment is a good idea.

  11. stahlwerk says:

    Re: 1 / Empathy = sqrt(Evil)

    I find it droll that the author chose to frame the story with an example of a person she considers evil beyond hope, effectively dehumanising her and thus being unable or unwilling to understand her motives. Besides that it was a good read, if not a bit on the “well, duh” side of PopPsych.

    Edit: I would have rather liked to read more about the hyper-empathic lady, and if there have been causes and amplifiers identified other than “lack of testosterone during gestation” for her to develop this “condition”, how she manages with it, if she’s under some kind of medication (does she feel sorry for abstract concepts, can she play “violent” video games? And most importantly: is she a shining avatar for all that is good and just?). But instead the author focused on the low end of the spectrum with the million years old question of why people do bad things to other people.

    Oh, and off topic: Simon Baron-Cohen… any relation to a certain Sasha?

    • choconutjoe says:

      Oh, and off topic: Simon Baron-Cohen… any relation to a certain Sasha?

      Yes. Cousins I think.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m glad people still use the word Droll unironically.

    • stahlwerk says:

      @choconutjoe: Is it because I is not you? :D

      @JackShandy: I confess I had to look it up if it exists in BE. It brainfarted it’s way into the sentence from german “drollig” and via french “drôle”.

    • Mil says:

      I read about half that article and I agree it seemed very lightweight. For one thing it failed to make any difference between knowing how other people feel and *caring* about it (i.e. wanting to make them feel better). There’s plenty of e.g. successful managers that would score high in the former category, not so much in the latter. It also didn’t distinguish between being good at guessing other people’s feelings instinctively and doing so in a more conscious, rational way. I’d argue that relying on instinct is unavoidably limiting when trying to understand people with rather different backgrounds, personalities, interests, etc to your own.

    • D says:

      @Mil The ‘caring’ part is called sympathy. Sympathy is a choice, about whether you care or not (“whether a manager thinks it benefits him to have happy employees” in your example). It doesn’t influence empathy. But empathy often creates sympathy. Anyway, it wasen’t the goal of the article to talk about those things, I think.

      But there is a bigger disconnect between what you write and the article. Empathy isn’t “knowing” how other people feel. Empathy just responds to some perceived feelings of another – whether the perception is correct is ofcourse dependent on understanding the culture/personality/body language displayed.. But the rational brain is not the source of the generated emotions. (Note that I’m a complete layman here, so this is just my take on it.)
      It’s not unusual to have empathy for a struggling fish, even tho the understanding of that fish’s actual emotions is nonexistant.

      Lastly you mention instinct. This is not related to your argument at all but generally I just want to say that instinct has had a bad reputation in modern times (amongst male humans), but it’s an extremely powerful thing that’s been cultivated over many many thousands of years. In danger situations, it’s your brain when it’s most active, having pieced together a prediction of the future and showing it to you, without making the component pieces consciously known. It’s literally knowing something without knowing why, and it is much faster and more accurate than conscious though. It also comes from birth, packed with information that would take a small lifetime to gather. Women trust their safety to it every day, while men shun it as being somehow beneath them. It’s a very interesting thing to learn about for me and I recommend reading “The Gift of Fear” to anyone interested :)

    • Mil says:

      The point of the article is that people hurt others because they can’t feel that others are/will be hurt. Or, using your definition, that the lack of sympathy in people’s actions is due to a lack of empathy in their feelings. I fail to see how the article is not intended to talk about sympathy then. The problem is that it completely conflates it with empathy.

      Admittedly I didn’t distinguish between truthful knowledge of others’ feelings and possibly incorrect perception. If anything, it further weakens the article’s thesis.

      Lastly, I can’t say I subscribe to your gendered view of the division between instinct and reason. Personally, I see them as complementary. Instinct can certainly be invaluable when it’s right, but it’s often wrong. Only reason can tell you how much to trust your instinct in a certain situation.

    • D says:

      Should be said to my previous post; I mucked up the words “instinct” and “intuition” – the gendered view is from the well-known “a womans intuition,” and it is trusting your intuition that has gotten a bad reputation here in modern times. “The Gift of Fear” talks exclusively about reading what your intuition is telling you, not about instinct. I guess there is a minor difference between these two words (when talking about human beings), but not enough that I was able to catch my blundering as I wrote.
      Good talk

  12. stahlwerk says:

    gaaaah!

    Everyone who wants to stay unspoiled about one of the outcomes of Portal 2 should stay away from the interview question/answer pertaining to the co-op campaign.

    • Mil says:

      Um, I see what you mean, even though I didn’t notice when reading the bit you must be referring to. I bet Chet didn’t notice that his comment was spoilerific either.

      Staying unspoiled for Portal 2 is getting more and more difficult, even though I’ve consciously avoided most of the articles about it so far.

    • McCool says:

      Hmm. Considering that both modes will presumably be available from the main menu at the start, and Valve are aware not everyone will start with the same one, my guess is this is less of a spoiler than we might guess. I think Valve have kept the main story arc of both campaigns pretty much under wraps: we know about the introduction, but are completely ignorant of the plot twists that I suspect will be vital.

  13. Sarlix says:

    I can confirm the sun is in alignment with our gardens, until Tuesday. Then it’s back to rain. Yay for British weather :-/

    • tomeoftom says:

      I feel so sorry for you guys, I really do. My first morning in London I woke up at noon on a Saturday, thought the sun was about to set and cursed myself for staying out too late. You poor things.

  14. StingingVelvet says:

    I love Paradox’s company attitude and focus. I have always felt bad I could not support them because they don’t make games I particularly want to play, so it was nice to buy Magicka and contribute to that success.

    I am looking forward to their pirate RPG/RTS hybrid that is hopefully RPG enough for me to want.

  15. luminosity says:

    The real issue, though, is that I feel that the more games I play, the more refined my tastes are becoming, and the less I am full engaged by the games I play. The process of exploring why a game is interesting is often the best part, and the more familiar I’ve become with games, the less there seems to be to learn.

    About 6 weeks ago now, I realised that most of the games I owned weren’t engaging me, that I was merely playing a lot of them out of an odd sense of duty, as if I “should” play these games, even if I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I went on a deletion spree, getting rid of entire swaths of my backlog that I didn’t feel inspired to play, but the problem has in that time just become worse. It seems like just noticing the problem is exacerbating it.

    So, I’ve been wondering about this a lot since then. Why aren’t games engaging me as much? This is worrying to me since I quit my job to work on my own game — I don’t want to wake up and find myself losing motivation even to work on that, but also because even if I don’t like playing most games as much, I liked liking games. It’s probably not a bad thing for me to broaden my interests further, and do more varied things with my life, but I’d rather that not be at the expense of losing a significant existing interest of mine.

    I think you’re onto something with familiarity. It seems a game is at its most interesting to me while it’s unknown and mysterious. The more I learn about the game, and the more games in general I play, the more adept I have become at spotting patterns in games. Even if a game is challenging enough to keep me occupied, without just being poorly or unfairly balanced, patterns in gameplay become more and more quickly apparent, and noticing them diminishes the pleasure of exploring a game.

    Deus Ex is a good example of this, or at least its the example I always seem to arrive at when thinking about games. The first half of the game kept introducing new elements in such a way that I wasn’t able to predict what was coming. First there was the statue of liberty and the new york missions, where the basic gameplay mechanics of deus ex were introduced. Multiple pathways, conversations, rewards for exploration (both inventory items and XP), hacking computers, reading emails to find out more about the world, none of it had really been done by anything else I’d played at the time, which was why it was so interesting. Then you have the twist which results in your capture, and finding out just what UNATCO was built upon which kept me on my toes. After that you arrive in Hong Kong which is full of lots of little touches that make it feel more like a world where anything could happen than like a game you’re being guided through.

    I’ve always had problems, though, when replaying Deus Ex of going beyond the Hong Kong levels, and I think the problem is that that’s the last stage at which the game seems mysterious, where you don’t know what could happen to you. All the levels thereafter, while maintaining more or less the same standard of level design, start to noticeably become repetitions of the patterns that have been set up in the game up to that point.

    Another example is Dragon Age vs Baldur’s Gate 2. While I don’t think DAO was bad all in all, I think it was less engaging. There was less of a sense of possibility in the world. No locations like the Shadow Temple where I had no idea what would be around the next corner. No events like the first time you cast a spell on the streets of AthKatla and get accosted by the Cowled Wizards. Furthermore, I think it was detrimental to DAO that you controlled the pace of all the conversations / character progression bar a few gated progressions. In BG2, your party felt more like distinct personalities, with people interrupting you while you were out walking to talk to you, talk with each other, or even if things got bad attack each other. In DAO you get some bickering between characters in the background that you take no part in.

    Of course, a lot of this is somewhat unfair to games makers. Games are expensive to make, increasingly so as expectations rise higher and hardware progresses on, and to fill an expensive highly detailed game with iterations on the same rules is a lot easier than producing all the content needed to make it feel like you’re in an actual world to the same high standard. But fair or not, my guess to the answer to disconnection from games is games that hide well the patterns and rules running behind the scenes, and give the player a sense that they’re exploring a world where anything could happen, and you never know what will be around the next corner.

    • luminosity says:

      Gosh, that ended up a lot longer than I’d anticipated. TL;DR is in the last paragraph.

    • Dinger says:

      I’d say, against Leigh, and with you in a sense, that it is getting older. When I was younger, I used to watch a lot of B movies on late-night television. I mean, real B movies from the Golden Era of Hollywood. Once you figure out the formula, though, all you’re left to appreciate is the execution. Tim Stone knows what awaits him once he sorts out the A-10 Switchology, and it’s not in itself appealing anymore, or rather, not appealing enough to put up with system instability, incomplete manuals, and internet searches.
      Come to think of it, that’s why there are certain genres of movies that appealing to the 15-29 demographic. The rest of us have already seen it. If we destroy our notion of history, however, we’ll all be able to appreciate how they modeled every last fibre on the bearskin rug.

      Oh, and Deus Ex. I remember the original Rainbow Six was about the same time, and playing Deus Ex got me to thinking that FPS at that time had levels like checkboxes: “okay, now we need one where you sneakfight your way onto a 747″

    • bill says:

      Interesting points all. I think I agree with everyone to an extent – but maybe it’s a combination of all factors.

      For me, time IS a big one… it’s unavoidable that i simply don’t have enough time to get sucked into many games. But that doesn’t mean that getting older, imagination vs realism and other factors aren’t relevant. Maybe if i really wanted to I could find the time… but instead i spend the time reading here. ;-)

      I think there might be an unholy collusion between several factors – as i have less time it’s harder to expend the energy it takes to get into less real, more imagination driven games. So the more polished realistic ones appeal.. yet they don’t have the immersion factor of the older games.

      And then there’s the getting old thing – which means that while I would have spent hours arguing with people about the merits of Hardboiled or Rumble in the Bronx or X-men – these days the newer variants of those movies hold no appeal. The formula that once seemed rich is now too familiar and appears tired. the same way yo-yos seemed tired to my parents when they became cool again when i was a kid.

    • Veracity says:

      Sometimes the easy answer is the right one: Alexander is old and jaded. Didn’t Keryon Gillhën observe during the festivities around his retirement that absolutely no one sticks video game journalism as a life-long career? Granted, I didn’t know anyone besides medical doctors and maybe barristers had those, any more, but maybe part of the reason is that it’s still too predominantly shallow and puerile a field compared to writing comic books to hold the interest of anyone good (and I suppose fortunate) enough to make a living at it.

      I’m not seeing all that much substance in the article, but I suppose (not snidely, though it probably sounds it) you’re going to end up reaching at times when you have opinions to deadline for money. If you lost yourself in FF7, you had little in the way of functioning critical faculties or it had enough novelty value that you let dodgier moments slide. I don’t think Okami suffers from too much realism (?) – it even uses Zeldaspeak. It’s insanely pretty and its central conceit hands you a task it’s unusually easy to want to perform. It’s still pretty tedious and alarmingly over-long.

      I think there is some merit in the idea abstraction avoidance has become a problem, although outside of someone like Spiderweb I don’t see that we can expect a solution – towns in Darklands require less suspended disbelief than in anything Bethesda’s managed, and Bioware’s wooden-haired arm-waving puppets can be harder to consider people than a 25×25 sprite of a levitating skull. Mask of the Betrayer uses Aurora tech (whatever they called the NWN2 version of it, I forget), though, and works well enough. It’s engaging because it has pretty good writing and tolerable direction. Most games aren’t because they don’t.

      Parkin’s “Maps” was a vastly better take on a similar concern that’s evocative and thoughtful without flailing for reasons besides the obvious for getting burned out. I think it’s been linked by the Papers before.

    • Dinger says:

      Thanks, Veracity. I hadn’t seen that. It’s the perfect piece that connects Leigh’s complaint with McGonigal and Moriarity’s (widely divergent) theses, and proposes a way forward. The comments are also hilarious.

  16. Wulf says:

    Leigh has an interesting point but I don’t know whether she gets to the heart of it. Sigh. Strap yourself in, this is going to be one of those sprawling Wulf rambles. You’ll either find it interesting or you won’t have the patience and you’ll skip over it, either or. But Leigh is seeing something that I see too, and she talks a very eloquent talk about it, one I’d like to expand upon with my own subjective understanding.

    So, here it is – Games today lack subversion.

    In the case of Final Fantasy VII, I don’t know if I’d have enjoyed it so much if it weren’t for the characters, all of them, especially Nanaki. FF VII seems like your usual, dumb JRPG, but it isn’t, it so isn’t, and it might even take a few play throughs before you fully understand it, but that’s okay. It might take a while to understand because it takes everything you know and then proceeds to gleefully switch it all around, everything you know is wrong. Games rarely have the balls to tell us this, FF VII did.

    In fact, this is why I absolutely loved Sword of the Stars and Fallout Tactics – they’re the sort of games I don’t play, ever, because I suck at them. I admit this. I’m horrible at 4x. I’m horrible at tactical games. Horrible I say! But I stuck with them because there were elements that they just subverted the hell out of, some of which gave me interesting questions to answer, but I’ll come back to those in more detail later. FF VII is a great point for now.

    So, let’s see…

    Nanaki is interesting, he’s reserved and comes over as intelligent despite being young, that was a real surprise in the plot right there, he seems like he’s seen all too much, and he’s the sort of thing you’d usually end up killing in a game rather than bonding with. Then you have Barrett, FF VII’s Mr. T. You kind of expect him to be a bit of a clichéd idiot, but then they subvert that by giving him real depth and all you can do is love him for who he is – no longer Mr. T, just Barrett. Cait Sith is an ever-loving mindfuck – oh, it’s a cat riding a toy, wait, the toy has a personality, wait, the toy has a sentience, wait, they’re mentally connected, wait, this is a symbiotic relationship, wait, there are two disparate personalities at work here. And so on.

    Sephiroph isn’t really evil, just so much as someone who went kind of insane, became corrupted, and had a lot of pain to deal with. Cloud has identity issues throughout the game so you’re never really allowed to connect with him until later on. And the game doesn’t let you settle into understanding things – there’s part of the magic right there. It keeps you asking questions, about the characters and their world. It gives you hints and glimpses, and even all of these might not come together on your first playthrough. The compulsion of FF VII is the want to understand. This may lead you to extra playthroughs.

    It’s important to take something that we know and then subvert it, and further to give that subversion real depth, so it’s not what we’re familiar with, and even if it is, it doesn’t work in the way that we might think it does – that way, we can’t write the entire story out in our heads, that way we actually do end up being surprised by things, we can’t predict how the entire plot will play out from the first couple of hours of an RPG, for example. And I can think of a couple of RPGs that seems to be guilty of that of late.

    For a game to be immersive, I think it needs to do things that you won’t understand, it has to subvert your knowledge, and it has to be willing to tell you that what you think you might know about it and the world it’s showing you is completely wrong. You may have your assumptions, but they won’t work. Another great example are the characters Magus and Frog in Crono Trigger, they’re full of surprises. Magus because he actually has the depth of Magneto and is neither good or evil, no black and white terms, there, but instead he’s driven by his own ambitions.

    The issue, however, is that games have become afraid to challenge us. I think part of the reason that we don’t see so many really alien characters these days is because developers are afraid of scaring us, of offending us, they worry that we’re going to stand up and walk out of their theatre, taking their game back for a refund or whatever because we iz too dumb ta understand der intricacies. And that’s a bloody shame. Games used to be filled with wonder, and wonder is born of subversion. It’s taking the familiar and making it unfamiliar, and it’s taking something that’s wildly alien and just exposing you to it anyway. It’s doing this without giving a damn about whether you’ll find it too challenging or not.

    I have a great example of this. Have you seen Akira? Glorious mindfuck, innit? Yeah? Glorious. It makes you really doubt human nature, and you come away from it with some really uncomfortable philosophical questions. Akira is the kind of thing that you can be watching for the fifth time and then you’ll pause it as something that never occurred to you before just sparks in your brain, you’ll get up and think about it, and you’ll wander around, you might even do other things before coming back to the film, just letting this percolate. You’re a part of that mesmerising world now, because it’s become part of your mind and passion. That’s a special sort of magic that is cast upon us all too rarely.

    So, Akira. Great stuff! Except, have you seen the plot of the live action version? Go have a look! Please do. Read all of it. All of it. Every last bit. Once you’ve done that, you can come back and we’ll continue. Right, done that? Do you see what I’m talking about, now? The whole aspect of the child as a victim was too challenging, so they unsubverted that kid into a clone of the creepy child from FEAR. Because, hey, there’s nothing that’ll screw with your mind more than a creepy psychic mass-murderer child that likes to sing Frère Jacques at impromptu moments, eh? Noap, nothing. Nothing at all. *facepalm*

    So as you can see, it’s happening to everything, everywhere, and it’s all about making things all too familiar, as familiar as possible, because the people responsible for entertainment are afraid to be strange, afraid to subvert, and more importantly, afraid to say fuck you if you can’t handle it. It has to work for everyone, it has to be the most simple, easy to understand plot ever, it has to be something that you can relate to, because we all know how important it is to have something easy to relate to, and it has to be about sultry straight flirtation, basic violence, shouting, and you know… basic things. Incredibly basic things. That’s what Akira was turned into. If I hadn’t become so numb to this, I would have wept.

    Now then, Fallout Tactics? Xenophobia versus acceptance. There were a number of big fuck yous there but my favourite was with how the non-humans were handled, especially in the ending, so… you have the fascist regime of the government and they do… what. I was kind of expecting something nefarious perhaps? Nope. They outlaw prejudice, they do this via laws and simple education, by teaching people that folks can be different without being their enemies. And everyone ends up working together to create a better world for everyone, horribly mutated beings even rush to the Brotherhood occupied lands because they know they’ll find acceptance there, and they do. It’s not the sort of ending that many may have wanted to see. But fuck you, that’s the story they wanted to tell.

    In fact, there’s a lot of fuck you in regards to all of Tactics, and these are things that fans have complained about no end. It’s not Fallout because they decided to do something new and interesting with the setting that actually worked and I can’t cope with it because it’s not an exact clone of Fallout 1. Well, Fallout 2 wasn’t a clone of Fallout 1, either. But here’s the thing – Fallout Tactics had the hell loved out of it by some people. It wasn’t for everyone, no. It wasn’t supposed to be. What happened with that? It became incredibly immersive to some people. Whilst it turned some off, it gave others wonder, it made them ask questions, it took over their minds, it forced new ideas and philosophies in, it made them doubt, and for a while, it made them a part of their world. If you ask me, that’s how immersion works. It’s not to do with the GUI, or how realistic the gameplay mechanics are, but how much a game can force you to question yourself to the point where you get into it enough to actually be a part of that world just to fully understand it.

    The Liir were a wonderful concept as well – the kind of thing that you don’t expect to see in a game like that is a race of pacifists. Normally those games skip over that option. It’s easier if everyone just wants war. In so many 4X games I’ve seen a whole slew of races that just want to kill, or want to capture territory, or who are the underdog but deal with their problems by actually wanting to kill them, and so on. But pacifists? In a game partially about conquering? How the hell does that work? It guides you along with the Liir and their story, how they’ve had to adapt, and because they’re so strange they trigger that desire to understand them, you want to do things their way. And in that way the game tricks you into becoming a part of that Universe. You’re immersed without realising it, but too late, you’re not getting out now. You have to see this through until the end.

    So I’m going to throw you a real curveball now and say that this is actually why I like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. It is, perhaps, the most important cartoon for youngsters in years. Mostly because it subverts everything. It subverts My Little Pony, of course it does, by actually having a plot, and characters, it does this because the people behind the Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home are in it, but then it proceeds to subvert many other things as well. If you watch it, you’d see what I mean. It takes something, it gives you a logical conclusion, but it doesn’t really handle it quite how you’re expecting. And it’s a delight because of that, because it’s more than slightly unpredictable.

    But yeah. FF VII was a grand and immersive game because it only cared about telling its own story, it didn’t care about not challenging you, it didn’t care about selling, and really, the attitude with that game and so many great games throughout history was fuck you if you didn’t get it, too bad, so sad. But I think that’s why people aren’t immersed these days, games try to cast such a broad net to appeal to as wide a base of people as possible that they smooth out any aspects that might actually challenge someone. It’s never unusual, never odd, it doesn’t subvert your knowledge, it doesn’t tell you that you’re wrong, it doesn’t give you philosophical dilemmas that’ll keep you up until the middle of the night wondering… it’s just about as boring as they could make it.

    And if you ask me, you can’t immerse yourself in boring things. Life itself is boring enough as is, that’s why we need escapism in the first place. To immerse ourselves we need batshit insane, and we need games that are only going to work for smaller subsets of people, rather than wide ranging audiences. We’re past the old games as well now, because most of those we’ve played to death until they’re etched into our minds, so we need new stuff, and we look to the new stuff hoping for challenges, but those challenges aren’t there. There are some RPGs lately, that, as I said in the intro I predicted the outcome of within the first hour or two of playing them. They never surprised me, they never went out of their way to, because in surprising me they might actually challenge me, possibly upset me by turning my mind upside-down. And we can’t have that.

    I’m going to finish this by dropping a mention of Zeno Clash as one game recently that I loved. Glorious mindfuck, check, what you know is wrong, check, this is bloody weird, check, what the hell is going on, I think I’m just about getting the hang of this, wait what, eh, oh this is awesome, now I get it, oh, that’s original, wow, okay, who comes up with this shit? And so on. I actually found Zeno Clash pretty damned immersive.

    In essence, games these days could use more of scenarios that result in: “Hahahaha… whaaaaaaat? Haha!” Magical moments where our brains light up with understanding, and amazement, rejoicing in the untamed creativity of the minds of others.

    (I realise that there are many other games I could have mentioned here, but I’ll leave them to you. If I’d continued, this post would’ve gone on forever.)

    • Keep says:

      TLDR: “Games today lack subversion”.

      Which YES I would definitely agree is the root issue.

      If I say “This new game’s an RPG” you’ve already made a huge number of assumptions about what it’ll be like, and odds are they’ll be right.

      That. Is. Bollocks.

      But ‘formulaic’ is not a problem as such – look how many superhero movies you willingly went to see in the past 2 years, and they’re formulaic as it comes – but putting effort in something formulaic is. Two hours at a cinema? It’s dumb and I love it. But investing even ten hours at a videogame? It’d better do more (far more) than what my formula-following imagination will conceive beforehand.

    • Xercies says:

      I would agree with you, but I would say the weirdness has to say something or have a little bit of our reality in them. It can’t be to weird otherwise you will just bounce right off it. Or it will just be visual only and not have a heart in it.

    • stahlwerk says:

      (phew, good thing I have played neither the FFs nor the Fallouts, this allowed me to skim read the respective paragraphs. ;-) )

      I agree with you on the part that subversion is a trait that enriches most artistic expression, but sadly it’s both incredibly hard to get right while still keeping the work accessible and incredibly easy to dose without losing or alienating your recipient along the way.

      My Little Pony is actually a good example for just so getting that first part right, while slightly erring on the second part: there’s a gold nugget of genuinely funny stories containing valuable life experience, folded in layers upon layers of candy floss and pastel colors which, I’m sure, repel a lot of potentially amicable viewers, because LOL gurlz.

      The other extreme would be works that layer the subversion so thickly that it almost becomes a joke on itself, leaving the recipient either guessing what to take for face value or plainly insulting him/her. For one example maybe look at the rock -> punk rock -> hardcore genre progression. A lot of flash games come to mind (stuff that people tend to decry as (shudder) “pretentious”), e.g. you have to burn the rope, or that one game which consisted of only an intro sequence and mission briefing. On a more unintentional level American McGee’s Scrapland comes to mind. As does Pathologic, although it mainly stumbles over things not directly related to its subversiveness. Zeno Clash almost goes through that wall, but the respect for the audience in it is evident in the intricacy of the whole setting, artwork and mechanics of the game. It’s an FPS at it’s heart, or so we seem to think when first confronted with it. “Click Mouse button to kick the chicken” I’m supposed to do what? That is intrigue.

      Personnaly, I feel that if an artist wants to subvert, he first has to know, understand and respect the audience’s expectations. I’m reading “Perdido Street Station” at the moment and that’s something that Mr. Mieville does splendidly. The nonchalance he uses to describe a world that seems just a little off, by just dropping a line straight out of left field, or sometimes just a single word that would not quite jibe with reality, makes you intrigued about the inner workings of that world, much more so than if he’d dedicate whole paragraphs and pages to explaining how “remaking”, “constructs” etc. actually function.

      Visual art tangent incoming: The impressionists found out about it… consider how your audience sees the world and then you can show them what you see. The expressionists did the same thing by understanding how feelings alter our perception of reality and then “inversely apply” that filter, so that the audience may see reality for what it is. The dadaists then mostly dropped the ball, by subverting the notion of art itself, often leading to confused, irritated or even insulted audiences. Post modern art struggled with that disconnect for a long time, and now I feel visual art is kind of a clean slate, because the noise became so white that it degaussed people’s notion of what art actually is, or could be.

      How do you subvert in a medium that has no main stream? Every exceptional work of art is just a nudge in the histogram of general awesomeness. We as audiences have become so saturated both with quality AND unquality (see punk) that the single most subversive artistic act today is not to make art at all (yes, I explicitly call you out, Justin Vernon). But that fails too if and because there’s no audience for non-art. So what’s left for the artistically inclined nowadays? Hedonism! Do what you like, if someone else likes it, good for both of you, if not, well at least you had fun doing it.

      To summarize, perpetual subversion is a hard problem for all artistic expressions targeted at western audiences nowadays, and many that explicitly try confuse their ham for fists.

    • stahlwerk says:

      Sundays are for obsessively weaving paragraph upon paragraph into the comment box while someone else succinctly posts effectively the same thought. Cheers, xercies!

    • Jahkaivah says:

      My eye caught “My Little Pony” while scrolling and I had to stop and ctrl-f.

      Great to see Friendship is Magic finding it’s way here, such an awesome show.

  17. Jamesworkshop says:

    Empathy is our ability to identify what someone else is thinking or feeling, and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion,” writes Baron-Cohen. People who lack empathy see others as mere objects.

    I would have to disagree Empathy is not a possitive possition, in fact empathy is what allows us to display incredible cruelty it’s the ability to understand human feelings that allows us to break people down, find what buttons will really stick and twist the knife in, emotional torment would be next to impossible for anyone unable to understand how human emotions work.

    Empath is nothing more than the ability to define what another person feels nothing more

    http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn12273-spite-is-a-uniquely-human-emotion.html

    “Humans actually care about outcomes affecting others. The good side of that is altruism. Spite is the evil twin that can’t be separated from it.”

    • Wulf says:

      I’m not sure whether I agree – I think it all comes down to that people have a single-minded approach to empathy, they base it upon themselves, and therefore it doesn’t work. A lack of proper empathy is the root of all evil, I’d say. A good example of this is if a person is broken enough to where they’d be okay with being raped by people they couldn’t stand, and according to their world view, rape becomes totally okay. However, something else might not be, and they can empathise with that, but they’d never be able to understand why the person they just raped is suing them.

      I say this as someone who’s had to endure things that would give most of you nightmares, I have many things which I’d rather forget, that I wish hadn’t happened, that still cause me pain to this day. So I’m very interested in what hurts my friends and why it hurts them, I tend to watch out for body language, and I try to be someone that people can talk to. This has lead to some massive co-dependence issues that I’ve had a great deal of trouble working people past, with one or two failures, but usually it works out really well. The people I tend to get close to are very muted, yet very interesting people, in general.

      I suppose it might be a matter of INFP seeks other INFP for exploration and further understanding of the stranger elements of humanity. On the other hand, I don’t do so well with more extroverted people. And on the Internet I feel completely stranded in some respects, because a lot of the cues I like looking for are completely absent. And in a way, on the Internet, everyone is an extrovert. This can cause problems. There have been times when I’m just completely broken by the Internet, and everyone is just another voice on it, anyway. It’s an interesting thing, really, and it’s why mostly I tend to seek out smaller communities rather than big ones.

      But yes, I’m kind of offset to large groups of people being incredibly extroverted and not being able to feel the emotions of other people around them, not even remotely, which is why I’m still having a lot of trouble adapting to the Internet. It’s hard to know what’s humour, what isn’t, what causes pain, what doesn’t, and so on. But still, there are a lot of good people out there, and I have had some of them help me along with this. So I definitely wouldn’t say that empathy is a lost cause, at least, again, if it’s the sort of empathy that tries to understand the pain of others.

    • Serenegoose says:

      I always find I’m forced to disagree when articles say things like

      “Humans actually care about outcomes affecting others. The good side of that is altruism. Spite is the evil twin that can’t be separated from it.”

      Because if that was the case, then all humans would really act the same. The most empathetic people would be the most spiteful, because you can’t separate spite from altruism, apparently. There’s obviously some people that are more or less spiteful than others, as well as more or less greedy/kind/whatever and often I find that ‘scientific’ articles related to biology paint with broad strokes when trying to categorise 6 billion people, and it’s at its very best, simply misleading.

    • choconutjoe says:

      @Serenegoose
      That’s not what it means. The point is that altruism and spite both rely on the ability to interpret other people’s emotions. The same neurological basis that gives rise to one also gives rise to the other. It doesn’t say anything about how people choose to act.

    • Chris D says:

      I think I’d split empathy into a couple of different components. Firstly there’s a life experience component, you don’t really know what someone is going through until you’ve gone through something similar yourself. For example, take the recent earthquake in Japan. I have no idea what it must feel like to have everything you know just swept away from you. Obviously it must be bad, really bad, but it’s just too far removed from my experience to actually know.

      Then there’s the component you might term “intuition”, the ability to know someone’s emotional state from clues like body language or picking up the subtext of what they’re saying. I imagine this is more akin to being a skill rather than an inate quality, you can learn to get better at it if you choose to pay attention.

      If you put these two together that would be my understanding of empathy. At the moment though, it’s neither particularly good or bad, it’s just information. It’s what you choose to do with it that counts. Do we see it as a vulnerabilty to be exploited or do we say “I’m sorry you’re hurting, I’ll do what I can to help”?

      The key question would then be not “How much empathy do you have?”, it would be “What do you do with what you do have?”

    • Serenegoose says:

      I understand that, hence my use of the term misleading, rather than wrong.

    • D says:

      Empathy is defined as the ability to feel what you perceive another person is feeling. It is nothing more than this. Some people do not feel it.

      It’s not true that you can’t imagine what it must feel like to lose your house, lose your wife, lose your children. This is exactly why you emphasize with the people in Japan. Those emotions are a very basic part of your humanness and they’ve been there since childhood.

      Some people do not have very good childhoods and end up conflicted, confused about love and punishment – stunting their empathy. The article says genes are involved, I’ve heard early-birth incubation is a factor too, but statistically (afaik) it’s abuse in early life that produces more violent and emotionally stunted people.

      Psychopaths are notoriously good at reading peoples emotions and attitudes, it’s a conscious skill they’ve had to pick up to compensate for their complete lack of empathy. Empathy is not just the information. The information is provided by intuition, as you say – empathy however is the subsequent conjuring of a similar emotion. It is vomitting when seeing someone badly hurt.
      (Note that I am a complete layman in this. Hobby.)

      Finally as you say, you can be a bad person regardless of empathic ability (the article concedes this). But when meeting a grieving widow, if you automatically share her feeling of grief, you’re simply less likely to take advantage of that situation. If you have no empathic ability at all, you’ll just look at the pro’s and con’s of it.

    • D says:

      Above was to @Chris D, but also for the others here trying to redefine what “empathy” means.

    • Shazbut says:

      One can act from a place of complete instinctive compassion without having to share in the suffering of the other person.

  18. Eight Rooks says:

    I do like how you quote that Dragon Age II article in a way which would seem to imply you’re using it as evidence nice, respectable critics don’t like the game much and neglect to mention his final line.

    ‘And yet, even with all of this, I still maintain that it’s better.

    (Though I still disagree with several of his points – party chatter is miles better than Origins, for example, and it’s clear when a companion has a new quest, so no-one’s forcing you to hear their stock lines over and over.)

    • Kadayi says:

      It’s also worth noting that the writer of the article is writing in response to this extensive post release interview at 1UP with the DA2 writer : -

      http://www.1up.com/features/dragon-age-2-afterthoughts

      As regards the dungeons, personally not too upset by it (DAO reused a few areas along the way as well), as I was more interested in the companion characters, NPCs and storyline than the scenery. People can scream and shout about the game being compromised for the consoles (or specifically the 360 with it’s aged format limitation), whereas with DAO the console gamers got the short end of the stick with a dumped down port of what was originally a PC only title, but the hard truth is, DAO sold a hell of a lot more copies on the 360 than it did on the PC. We, the PC gamers are not the majority audience for this title any more. With DAO they talked about it being the spiritual successor to Baldurs gate, but that audience never reached into their wallets at the end of the day and bought it. If it had just been PC only (as originally planned), based on the sales figures, I doubt they’d have green lit a sequel at all.

      There’s an argument that much like ME2 they took it back too far (I felt ME2 was a little Spartan), so much like the talk of ME3 doing the rounds, I suspect they will balance it out in DA3. Personally had a lot of fun with DA2, and looking forward to DA3 as and when it arrives.

    • malkav11 says:

      I really hope so. I also really hope that they replace whoever was responsible for writing act 3. Goddamn.

    • Vinraith says:

      but the hard truth is, DAO sold a hell of a lot more copies on the 360 than it did on the PC.

      [citation needed]

      I can’t find hard numbers one way or the other on this, but Bioware’s discussions and the few news articles I can turn up discuss the PC sales as “impressive” and the console sales as “disappointing.” If you’re privy to actual sales data, I’d love to see it.

      Regardless, though, you’ve really just made the case that PC gamers shouldn’t bother with DA2. “This game wasn’t made for you” isn’t much of a sales pitch.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      The PC version of DA:O sold very, very well. I think the Xbox version outsold it at retail but once you add the digital sales I’m not sure… no one is, since companies do not release sales numbers. The PC version certainly outsold the PS3 version… DA2 on the PC outsold the PS3 version as well, judging by what retail numbers we have. PS3 was like 23 percent and PC boxed retail was 21… add in digital and it wipes the floor with PS3.

      Not sure what all this means though honestly, the problems I have with DA2 and the issues I have seen written about by Walker and others have very little to do with console considerations and everything to do with bad execution.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Vinraith

      What, not buy it because it has repeated dungeons? (oh the tyranny) I mean that’s pretty much the only significant problem most people have with the game Vs DAO ? Also since when did you care about ambience?
      Or are you perhaps suggesting people should quit buying all AAA multi-platform titles on principle because ‘it’s ‘s a good way of demonstrating to those publisher bullyboys that we PC gamers won’t take their consolized crap any more!’ ? They are games, not human rights.

      As regards the numbers, that’s the scuttlebutt I’ve heard. As for DAO selling secretly well via DD I’ve only have to look at the number of my steam friends who own it to know that wasn’t the case.

      @StingingVelvet

      ‘Not sure what all this means though honestly, the problems I have with DA2 and the issues I have seen written about by Walker and others have very little to do with console considerations and everything to do with bad execution.’

      Ok, you have 6.8 GB of storage to fit your game experience into. That includes all, your audio, your engine and all your models and textures. You don’t think that having a hard limit on space causes developers to have to compromise?

    • StingingVelvet says:

      @ Kadayi

      I am sure the limited size has some ramifications but nothing I had a problem with in DA2 was a result of file size. If you are trying to insinuate the small number of unique areas was due to fitting the game on a DVD I could point you to hundreds of games on the 360 that didn’t suffer from that issue including the first Dragon Age.

    • Vinraith says:

      What, not buy it because it has repeated dungeons?

      No, not buy it because:

      With DAO they talked about it being the spiritual successor to Baldurs gate, but that audience never reached into their wallets at the end of the day and bought it.

      Your implication being that DA2 was not designed to be a spiritual successor to Baldur’s Gate, which along with the narrative weaknesses outlined in John Walker’s piece and the mechanical weaknesses evident from user reviews is more than enough reason to pass IMO. To put it simply, even the supporters like yourself are essentially telling me it’s not a game I’m interested in.

      As regards the numbers, that’s the scuttle bucket I’ve heard.

      No numbers then, that’s a shame as I’d genuinely like to see some. You may well be right that it outsold PC by a large margin on consoles, that wouldn’t particularly surprise me, but I’d still like to see the margins. DAO was generally quite well received by the most of the old school RPGers I know.

      Oh, and the term you’re looking for there is “scuttlebutt.”

    • Kadayi says:

      @StingingVelvet

      Hundreds of team based story driven RPGs with large amounts of voice work in them perhaps? If you are going to try and compare games it helps if the comparisons are fair in terms of the content. DAO was heavily compromised from the 360. Albeit the environments were the same the character models were simplified etc as were the cutscenes (also DAO did repeat areas as and when it could)

      @Vinraith

      Some here may think that John is a fine reviewer of games. Personally in my experience he’s an over emotional reviewer. With a number of titles he’s demonstrated time and again that if he takes issue with a particular aspect he tends to let it colour his review in it’s entirety, to the extent where he is prone to make mountains out of mole hills. He’s also prone to run to snap judgements without necessarily thinking them through (lack of an overall site editor is a real and constant issue ar RPS at times tbh). If you think his words are manna from heaven that’s your prerogative, but I’d hope if you’re looking for opinions on what’s hot and what’s not from games journalists you’d cast a wider net.

      @Jahkaivah

      It’s not so much a case of it sold poorly, as it did a hell of a lot better on the 360 & PS3 in terms of sales.
      http://gamrreview.vgchartz.com/browse.php?name=dragon+age+origins

      2.10m 360 & 1.21m PS3 Vs 0.39 million PC retail. Even assuming that retail figure was only say 25% of total PC sales (75% being a more than generous DD allowance I’d say) that would still only make total PC sales about 1.6 million units.

    • Soon says:

      Those sales figures are a bit strange. It says 0 people in America and Japan bought DA:O for the PC.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      Strange, those statistics seem to think that Dragon Age sold roughly no retail PC copies in America.

      Edit: Heh, did not speak Soon enough.

    • Kadayi says:

      VGchatz is a bit weird, but you have to gauge the overall trend in the figures. I wouldn’t take the data as definitive in terms of total sales, but it’s indicative of where the volume sales occur. The majority audience is on the 360 overall.

      Also it’s not a case of 0 but N/A (non applicable). They might have rolled the figures together overall.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      Not by a large margin though as ignoring america and japan brings 360 sales to roughly half a million. DD sales could very well bring PC on top.

      Of course ignoring the majority source of sales makes things a bit unreliable.

    • malkav11 says:

      Repeated dungeons was the least concerning issue I had with DA2, frankly.

    • Kadayi says:

      @malkav11

      If your issues are over the rail roading towards the end, then you clearly weren’t paying attention to the games beginning.

    • malkav11 says:

      My concerns were over the frankly awful changes to gameplay, the general bugginess of the game, the extreme repetitiveness of combat (the dungeons being repetitive is much less of an issue than 90% of combats being functionally identical slogs), and yes, Act 3. Railroading not so much as terrible writing, multiple characters behaving in extremely stupid ways (although, to be fair, Anders was a terrible character from the moment we met him in DA2 – why, oh why did they think it was a good idea to strip him of the qualities that made him popular in the first place?), and a general failure to acknowledge very much of what I’d done in the previous two acts. Particularly when it came to the mage resistance quest – I’d been consistently pro-mage throughout the game, yet the mage resistance freaks out the moment they see me and attacks? What the hell.

      Really mostly Act 3, though, in the end. I could deal with shitty gameplay and boring, repetitive, drawn out combat as long as I was getting good story, characters and dialogue, but when that stopped…

    • Kadayi says:

      @malkav11

      So basically all you have is a bunch of general blanket statements?

    • malkav11 says:

      I have written at length about my problems with the game in other RPS posts about or involving DA2. I don’t feel like repeating myself at similar length to suit someone whom I don’t know and who has already casually written off the game’s many significant issues as “the dungeons are a bit repetitive.” If you really care that much, you can no doubt find them. But I expect you don’t, because hundreds of posts from other people on the subject has apparently failed to register in any significant way.

  19. Wulf says:

    And finally, for my last bit of input on all of this (since the Sunday Papers tend to wear me out): Fred Wester is awesome.

    That is all.

  20. Bilbo says:

    Leigh Alexander might lose herself in a game or two if she wasn’t busy being a kotakuite pageview whore
    note the use of “whore” isn’t an attack on her femininity; kerplunkett and bashcraft and “entirely-useless” crecente and owen “ban anyone and everyone” good and even, sadly, stephen “wasted-potential” totilo are all massive whores and kotaku is just the worst kind of thing i mean i don’t even

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Oh, come on now. Not this on a Sunday.

    • Bilbo says:

      The holy responsibility of defaming Kotaku cares not for the days of the week

    • Wulf says:

      :/

      I don’t really visit Kotaku, really, ever. It’s not the sort of site that interests me, so when I’m linked to a Leigh article, I think of it as being the work of Leigh, rather than evaluating whatever site it’s on. I didn’t even notice that it was on Kotaku, actually, I thought it was on her own blog.

      And I’ve never read a Leigh article that I didn’t like, especially since I find myself agreeing with her more often than not, she’s thoughtful, very articulate, and an insightful read. Do we need to insult her purely for the site her article was published on?

    • Bilbo says:

      …well, I do, yes. I can’t speak for everyone.

  21. MarkN says:

    From the Fred Wester interview:

    “Our entire team is working on Crusade of Kings, too –”

    Or maybe Crusader Kings 2?

    Hehe. Telephone interview, perhaps?

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