The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on April 17th, 2011 at 10:20 am.


Sundays are for wondering whether Portal 2 really will be released early. Also, perhaps, for gentle reminiscing. Not too much, mind, or you’ll get upset. Better to think of The Now, and the issues that surround it like Nic Cage’s head in a basket full of bees. Here are some relevant writings:

  • Tom Armitage is a clever creature. He’s written a fascinating piece about how action RPGs owe their genetics to Roguelike games, in this piece called “How Rogue Ended Up On The Sofa“. Here’s a bit: “They are not games to be played casually; that dungeon will eat you alive if you don’t treat it with the respect it deserves. But: they are games that can be played as a casual part of life. A short session here, resulting in failure, might also result in better understanding of the effects of a particular potion. A quick burst before saving the game, to pick it up later, might solve another of Nethack’s Sokoban levels. And, out of short, flawed, ten-or-fifteen minutes runs – before being booted to the command prompt again – comes the years-long journey to the surface.”
  • Comrade Hamilton has a think about genres over on Paste Magazine. He describes the piece as “a bit esoteric”, but I say don’t worry, Kirk, you’ve still got a long way to go before it’s too esoteric: “We used to have “Rock ‘n Roll,” but now we’ve got Emo, Screamo, Hardcore, Crabcore, Shoegaze, Shitgaze…. sub-genres coupled on top of sub-genres until the entire thing feels meaningless. Jazz underwent a similar fragmentation as it changed over the years—first to Big Band and Bebop, then Cool Jazz and Hard-Bop to New Thing and Free Jazz and Electro and Neo-Hardbop, all the way up to the dreaded “Rock with jazz elements.”" I’m fairly certain we need to take the musical convention of “core” and “-o” and apply it to games. “Shootcore,” “Strategy-o”, “Jump-o”, “Grindcore…” actually those are musical genres already. I’m so confused.
  • Ars Technica is fast becoming one of the most read sites on the Rossignol roster, and they’ve managed to make The ‘Papers again with this piece: How Early Reviews Hurt Sales Of Indie Games. Some interesting points, based mostly on Anomaly’s recent launch experience. I’d add to that stuff like my own discussions of Revenge Of The Titans, which I think I was pretty critical of when I took some early glances at it. Now, of course, it’s a completely different game with all the issues fixed, but for any gamers who read just my early impressions, the thought that it was flawed is liable to have stuck. If that’s you, then you should go play the new demo.
  • Foreign Policy’s piece “The World of Holy Warcraft” reports on “How al Qaeda is using online game theory to recruit the masses.” I… What? “LFG!” “Come, join our death-cult crusade!” “Tank plz.” Actually, it’s funnier than that. It links gamification with terrorism. Haha. Perfect.
  • Twenty-five years of Ubisoft! MCV celebrates, sort of.
  • Kill Screen is getting good. Here’s some samples of that goodness here and here.
  • Eric Schwarz has something to say about Dragon Age II and the unreliable narrator technique: “The more I think about BioWare’s implementation, however, the more I see it as an unsuccessful experiment – though an experiment that was well worth trying. In the following article, I’d like to outline why I think so many games have shied away from unreliable narrators in the past, but perhaps more importantly, why the unreliable narrator as a storytelling device is fundamentally in conflict with videogames as a medium.”
  • Handwaving console musical-shooter Child Of Eden was shown off in London last week, and I happened to be there. So did Simon Parkin, who wrote up the experience. Yes, very pretty.
  • Also on GameSetWatch is a discussion of randomness and the possible application of games to explore it: “To a human mind that’s precisely what randomness is: brutal. Our flashy pattern completion engines are always looking for ways to soften its impact, which has ramifications for how we create and understand video games, even if we aren’t consciously aware of it. For games to be fun, we often want them to reduce randomness.”
  • VG247 have some impressions of fantasy epic Kingdoms of Amalur: “There really is a noticeable Fable feel here. It’s partly to do with the look of the one-button combat, but mostly it’s about the colours, the warm glow that emanates from everything in the world, the stocky character design, and indeed the British accents. There’s not much here, frankly, that looks like a Todd McFarlane world – at least, not yet.”
  • Digital Foundry talks occlusion rewidgeting with Crytek in The Making of Crysis 2.
  • Eurogamer also has a Guild Wars 2 interview that is worth reading.
  • This is too beautiful.
  • This exploration of the nature of puns is excellent, and clearly a topic close to RPS’ heart.

Music! How about this trendier-than-thou piece of synthpop? No, you’re right, it’s not really me. Far more likely to stay with the Rossignol consciousness is something like this second volume of spooky Englishman music. Beautiful.

Until next Sunday, folks…

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116 Comments »

  1. Legionary says:

    Good papers this week. I agree that DA2′s narrative seemed an unsuccessful experiment actually.

    • Archonsod says:

      Their problem was using Varric and taking their cue from movies I think.

    • Robert says:

      I disagree actually.
      The unreliability of Varric as narrator mostly shows in the tutorial and his personal mission, both were executed well and in spirit of the story. The rest of the story is a bit vague, which to me perfectly fits the interactivity of gaming. He cannot be more precise, because I did not do it yet. With a game like this, you are creating a story from the template that is the game. Instead of just ‘living’ it, you get direct feedback on the story part, which to me is fun and refreshing.
      I’m puzzled though. The writer actually says it works in DAII, but might not work in ‘lesser games’. But isn’t that true of all literary devices?

    • Sobric says:

      It’s an experiment I was/am hoping that the makers of Assassin’s Creed take on. AssCreed’s meta-story is largely trash, getting in the way rather than adding anything in it’s current implementation.

      But Ezio’s world is so black & white, as is (apparently) the modern day; why not use the Animus as a really effective narrative tool? You are living out Ezio’s memory of events, so use the animus to explain why a mass murderer is apparently so heroic – then turn it upside down when you leave the animus inevitable “present day” version. Perhaps everything isn’t so black & white after all?

      Who knows, perhaps they will do that anyway, but I get the feeling that they are leaning towards the aliens help save the world ending.

    • Archonsod says:

      The problem is when Varric is spinning his yarn everything is turned up to 11. Generally, you can’t succeed at creating an unreliable narrator when you make it pretty clear when he’s lying and when he isn’t. Particularly not when you then show the actual truth immediately after.

    • woodsey says:

      I liked the idea, but the implementation could have used some work (same for much of DA2) – and the ending it eventually led into (the one that either broke some people’s canon, or for some, like myself, just made no sense whatsoever) was the main issue.

      I think it may have also been some of the reason for some of the largely useless “choices” in the game; the one relating to Anders springs to mind.

    • pilouuuu says:

      I think it’s a great idea, and I expect it to be used more and more efectively in the future. What I disliked about it is that in the intro Varric described a scene and after that we discovered that it wasn’t exactly like that. And then… we have to play exactly the same sequence, except that in the real description we get the champion’s real look, more family interactions, you have some less powers and the dragon is Flemeth… Can the first narration be considered a lie or simply skipping some details?

      I would have loved if the first untruth narration were totally over the top even showing stronger and more enemies being defeated very easily, the champion being shown almost like a super hero, after that he defeating the dragon alone, etc. But instead we only get to play it twice.

      In my opinion the scene where Varric goes to his brother house was genious and very funny on a parody level. That’s how it should have been done and in much more moments during the game.

      Also it would be great that everytime you arrive to a new important place you could listen to Varric’s narration describing it, giving more details about it, much like a book does. I think there’s one new game to be released that does that, the narrator describes most of the game while you fight the foes. It would suit well a RPG game, setting the tone and creating a better atmosphere.

      But anyway, it was just an experiment for Bioware and one in a game that was rushed, so I expect them to perfect it in future games.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think it was just a framing device and that Bioware opted to have some fun with it (thus the unreliable aspect). I fear that Eric Schwarz (who dat exactly ? for the second week running) is reading a little bit too much into it, although he seems to be looking at it as a device without necessarily appreciating the storyline aspect of it. The champion is someone unknown to the interrogator so she is reliant on Varric for a truth of sorts. Personally I enjoyed the couple of instances of ‘storytelling’ and wouldn’t of objected to a couple more to cement the idea that how events actually played out in reality might still actually be different.

      Also he doesn’t really seem to have any actual rationale behind why he believes it was an ‘unsuccessful experiment’ . In fact he praises the approach and his criticism seems to solely stem from some vague nebulous belief that somehow Bioware did the entire thing to add time to the game, which doesn’t really hold up when you consider the brief nature of the sequences.

  2. McDan says:

    Really good paper today, with lots of pretty things to look at and read. Love Sunday’s.

  3. Scatterbrainpaul says:

    The El Teide video is amazing.

    Think i’ll turn off my computer and go for a walk

    • Tams80 says:

      Yes, indeed it is. The music is brilliant as well; so fitting. I think I felt a chill go down my spine. It’s a shame I have to write an essay though. Damn you learning!

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Yeah that type of piano music is very effective. It’s a tad over used these days I think but it’s still damn effective when ever it’s used.

      Was I the only one who at every moment was expecting Carl Sagan to start talking?
      “We were hunters and foragers. The frontier was everywhere…” and so on.

    • Tacroy says:

      What I thought was really awesome was the way his time-lapse cameras managed to capture a very clear night-sky image through a sandstorm.

      It makes perfect sense once you think about it, but you have to think about it and that’s fun :)

  4. Phydaux says:

    The “This is too beautiful” link reminds me of DiscoveryHD’s Sunrise Earth. Sunrise Earth was in realtime, not timelapse though. Beautiful stuff. :)

  5. choconutjoe says:

    Grindcore:

  6. Diziet Sma says:

    I found it quite enjoyable in the sense that it was different, varric was amusing and it in no way detracted from my enjoyment of the game. It wasn’t perfect but I certainly wouldn’t brand it a failure.

  7. Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

    Wot I think is that RPS should make it so clicking a link opens a new window instead of leaving RPS to go to the new site. Or that some RPSer needs to tell me what arcane button combination I should press to make my computer stop doing that.

    Fank Yuu!

    • MD says:

      Which browser do you use? In my Firefox I middle-click or control + click to open in a new tab, or shift click to open in a new window.

      (Please don’t change the default! Leaving the links as they are lets me choose how I want to open them.)

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Right click on the link and open in new tab?

    • Auspex says:

      Someone suggested this a couple of weeks ago and I didn’t like it then either. I find it incredibly presumptuous when websites do that.

      Middle click opens in a new tab as well remember.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      I did not know these things! I am now computer expert. Yay me!

    • stahlwerk says:

      Achievement get!

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Unfortunately for us who dislike websites opening new windows without us asking for it, a lot of websites train their users to expect that behaviour. I am responsible for our website at work, and I must follow guidelines that require all external links to be opened in a new window.

      (But I’m glad you don’t do that.)

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      @ Jim

      I spent a week of horrid confusion after updating Firefox when they switched around the open link in new tab and open in new window buttons. Used to it now but it did lead to a lot of uncouth muttering from me for a bit as I opened yet another accidental new window,

  8. Tei says:

    I have made a multiplayer minecraft tile editor, here:
    http://zerror.com/mods/minecraft/tiles/server/tiles2.htm

    the screen is shared with anyone that opens the page.

  9. Dominic White says:

    That ‘How Rogue Ended Up On The Sofa’ article is pretty terrible. Why? Because it ignores the DECADES of commercial roguelikes by Japanese studios as prodigious as Square and Nintendo. Brutally hard, fully randomly generated dungeon crawls have been a major part of the Japanese gaming diet as long as I can remember. Ever play Shiren The Wanderer? That game is Nethack-hard. Baroque on the Saturn/PS1, and updated for PS2/Wii? Got shat on by western reviewers because they didn’t even know it was a roguelike. It was pretty great.

    And as mentioned, Square and Nintendo are at it too. The Chocobo’s Dungeon series, and even the GBA/DS-based Pokemon Dungeon series are proper roguelikes. Slightly relaxed death rules (you usually just lose all your inventory and gold, rather than your base level), but still classic, turn-based, randomly generated dungeon crawls.

    • Archonsod says:

      For that matter, he’s also ignoring the decades worth of roguelikes on the old 8-bit computers and similar too. But then Diablo was the first Roguelike (or at least Rogue derived) game to achieve international success so has the handy factor that most people will know what Diablo is, whereas the number of people who’d understand references to say Hall of the Things could probably be counted on one hand.

    • Tei says:

      Much like history itself, the gaming history depends on where you “lives”. If you study history in france, what you will be teached will be completellty different than in china and USA.

      Console players know about many titles we PC players don’t know, and the reverse. Also probably we all ignore arcade saloon titles. Or we all ignore some key muds. Is imposible to know all the game worlds that exist, theres not enough time in the day, and a lot of these communitys are obscure in some ways.

      Also, telling the game history with these multiple threads will also be hard for us simple humans. What we do is narrate a signle threaded history of gaming, and we ignore all other evens and “histories” into the history.

      History:
      Multithreaded.

      Humans capacity:
      Single thread.

      Whats gets written:
      Single threaded view.

    • infovore says:

      You are entirely right that the most obvious omission there is the Shiren and Mystery Dungeon series, which go back a long way, and into all manner of spin-offs like the Pokémon Mystery Dungeons.

      However: in my defence, the purpose was not to write the canonical “every roguelike post rogue ever” article; it was a train of thought connecting things that look somewhat hardcore to things that are very much less so. There was a story to be told, rather than a giant list to make, and it was a personal story, which is why the focus within the article is what it is.

      Fortunately, comments threads both here, on Gama, and on the original blogpost, help round out the giant-list aspect of the article, which it purposefully neglected.

    • Dominic White says:

      The entire article is ‘How roguelikes ended up on consoles’, yet traces it from Nethack-Diablo-Torchlight-Torchlight 360, rather than Nethack-Shiren (or earlier). Roguelikes have pretty much always been on the sofa, which is my point.

    • thurzday says:

      Tei is right to note that we each have our own personal history of gaming. However, it would be negligent, when writing an article about a genre that isn’t that big to begin with, to leave out huge chunks in its development. As it is, the writer is only talking about the grandparents and the youngest child in a family with many children. But the article is also written in a personal, casual manner and probably not intended to be taken as historical fact.

      As I see it, roguelikes don’t have a particular successor–the genre is still alive, even if it does retain the underground-ness of gaming from the 80s/early 90s. The most obvious successor to NetHack is Dungeon Crawl, which has just as much complexity, better balance (i.e. less random unfairness), a streamlined (not simplified) interface, much wider character development options, a detailed tileset, and a bigger dungeon with more branches. For anyone interested in getting into the genre, Dungeon Crawl would be my first recommendation. Another modern roguelike that I’ve enjoyed is Incursion. Even though it’s still in alpha, it may have the best and most comprehensive implementation of the DnD ruleset in any PC game I’ve played. There are also more roguelikes being made/added to today than ever before–there is a yearly 7-Day Roguelike competition that has produced some very interesting little games with novel mechanics.

    • Chris D says:

      I think people are attaching too much weight to the title.

      It’s an article contrasting two superficially similar genres, the rogue-like and the diablo-alike. While they look the same the difference is that one is primarily about the player becoming more skilled/knowledgeable, while the other is primarily about levelling up a character through combat. While loss of a character can be painful in the first, it’s all part of the process and not the devastating blow it would be in the latter.

      I agree that jumping from Nethack to Diablo would be a big leap if you were trying to trace a history but that strikes me as another indication that that isn’t what the author is trying to do. The main indication is, of course, that the author says that’s not what it is too.

      I liked it.

  10. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    The indie game article ir right. If i read positive views on a game here and can instantly try a demo, buy it or at the very least pre order then there’s a chance I’ll buy it. If it’s not available then I’ll either forget about it entirely or end up bigging it up for mere pennies in a sale in the future.

    As for the Dragon Age 2 unreliable narrator thing, as people have said in the comments to that article there’s only 2 instnaces of him actually being unreliable during the course of the game so it doesn’t really lend itself to being deeply analysed. However I’d agree with the overall thrust of the piece in that unreliable narrators and games don’t sit well together. I love films and books with unreliable narrators (Memento and Usual Suspects are two of my absolute favourite films) but as the piece says it’s just not a tool that sits well with the strengths of games. I’d also say he’s perhaps a little too harsh on plot twists and tricks in narrative. Surely they only really have to work once. In terms of story it’s that first playthrough that matters. Also if the trick is well done (which to be fair is often not the case in games) it can be enjoyed again from the perspective of seeing how it was done (the aforementioned films, for example, make for great second viewings).

    As far as Dragon Age 2 goes the lost opportunity of showing the changing state of the city over the course of the years is the biggest failure of the narrative, in that it’s an excellent concept that just wasn’t exploited as fully as it could have been (something John wrote about in his critique).

    On the subject of puns I had a little giggle this morning at David Coulthard slipping in the classic “cunning linguist” gag into his commentary at the trophy presentation of the Grand Prix.

    • Archonsod says:

      It would work fine in games, you’d simply need to accept beforehand that a certain portion of the market won’t grok it. Bioware only failed because they didn’t really shatter the player’s assumption that what they had played was how it actually happened.

    • Dominic White says:

      There’s nothing wrong with an unreliable narrator as a thematic element in a game. It can work out VERY well if done right.

      Just because Dragon Age 2 is written with all the ham-handed grace of the latest Tim Buckley comic doesn’t mean that nobody should attempt to do similar. As for a game that really does the unreliable narrator thing well… Well, even saying the title would be a spoiler, so I’ll Rot-13 it:

      Qrnqyl Cerzbavgvba

      That game did it SO well. Amazing twist right there.

    • karry says:

      “It can work out VERY well if done right.”

      Which is almost never done. Plot twists are not the same thing as unreliable narrator. I have no idea what you said down there, but whatever. The ONLY time unreliable narrator was masterfully executed in gaming was “Spider and the Web”. Other attempts arent worth mentioning.

    • Dozer says:

      It’s just called “Spider and Web” actually. And it’s an awesome awesome AWESOME game. The player character has been captured and is under interrogation by a kind of mind-probe that forces him to relive his memories – what you do in the game is what he’s telling the interrogator. Do something wrong and the interrogator will return you to consciousness, sarcastically remind you that you didn’t actually blow yourself up with your own bomb or walk straight into the guard’s barracks, then remind you to get serious or he’ll drill into your brain.

      For some reason Interactive Fiction writers like to publish their work for free. I don’t really understand this, but there you go: the game is here:
      http://www.eblong.com/zarf/zweb/tangle/

    • Dominic White says:

      The game I mentioned (the title is Rot-13 cyphered – just google rot 13) has a twist revealed in the final act – everything up to that point, which you have seen, has been filtered through an unreliable narrator. Certain visual cues were omitted, dialogue was altered, the whole game was lying to you up to that point, and the only hint up to there were a few things that didn’t quite add up, which you (as the player) just tend to ignore, chalking it up to scriptwriters error.

      When the big reveal hits, it all makes sense, and you see the world for what it really is.

  11. Froibo says:

    I don’t even care if Portal 2 comes out early I think I had as much fun nabbing all them taters as I will playing the main attraction.

  12. pagad says:

    Grindcore already exists, it’s an extreme metal subgenre. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grindcore

  13. Bullwinkle says:

    The Ars Technica piece makes a great point, and I wish more developers would realize that that’s true about early demos, too. If the point of the demo is to get me to buy your game, then releasing one when there’s no game to be bought doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.

    • Archonsod says:

      Yeah, but on the other hand a good question would be why the single review is the entire basis for their publicity. Sites have a constant need for content, all the developer needs to do is give them something worth writing about when the game is out, most sites will even go to the trouble of linking their review in with anything further they write about the game too.
      So yeah, on the one hand if a site releases a review of the game before it’s available to buy it probably won’t help sales much, but at the same time part of the blame there isn’t just on the site, it’s also on the developer relying solely on that review. I mean it costs nothing to upload a 2 minute trailer of the gameplay to YouTube and then email links around the sites that reviewed the game, which should at least get you a mention. Or you could dress up as Napoleon and announce the game release via the medium of interpretive dance, which will likely have the same effect.

  14. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    I like your music taste Rossignol. Keep giving us fun instrumental pieces!

    Also, everyone should play Mogwai’s Sine Wave in Audiosurf – it actually gets turned into a sine wave. It’s also a good song, so… bonus!

  15. Quaib says:

    That synthpop song you posted is brill. Wasn’t expecting to find something like that on RPS

  16. Paul says:

    This is too beautiful.

    Yes, it is. I want to visit this mountain now. Thanks Jim, for showing me one of the most wonderful videos I have ever seen.

    • Navagon says:

      Am I the only person who watched the opening bit of that Mountain video and thought that they were just rotating the skybox?

      Definitely too many games…

    • stahlwerk says:

      No, Navagon, not the only one :D

  17. Icarus says:

    With regards to the ‘early reviews hurt sales of indie games’ theory, Where The Hell Is Nidhogg Already?

  18. FCA says:

    The Foreign Policy article is incredibly …. well, incredible in the literal sense of the word.

    “But no one seems to have noticed that the fervor of online jihadists is actually quite similar to the fervor of any other online group.” Really? That was the first thing that came to my mind when I started reading the piece.

    ” Virtually every Islamist hard-line forum now has adopted a points-based system” and goes on to mention some white supremacist sites, neglecting to mention that very many online forums (be they extreme islamic, white supremacist, or with some other purpose, like modding games or discussing the weather) have done so. It is (I suppose) a standard feature of online forums. It is as if the only online interaction the writer has had was with these extremist websites.

    The examples made in the article are not examples of gamification at all. They are just examples of being working harder if they think there is a benefit in it, however small. This is nothing but handing out stickers in primary school for good work, or making students hand in exercises for higher grades. There is no game element in this, except if you consider grinding the essence of gaming.

    And I think Blizzard should sue them for libel. In no way is there any connection made between World of Warcraft and the terrorist organizations. This damages their reputation, and potentially could cost them some subscribers.

    • Archonsod says:

      Heh, the other problem is that points systems rarely work in the first place. People do indeed learn to game such systems, which inevitably results in a situation where the quality of posts declines as people realise the easiest way to gain rank is to make as many posts as possible which either fall in line with the general gist of the forum or else get their friends to vote them up.
      I suppose it does have it’s upside. The implementation of a points system will soon turn any site from one where people make logical or reasoned arguments in favour of their xenophobia (and thus reinforce each other’s views) to one where keyword spam starts making it look like adbot hell.

    • bill says:

      I thought that the article was reasonably interesting and well informed, just not really connected to gaming or gamification. It also doesn’t really try to connect the two except in very general terms.

      But the first comment (by lifeline) makes a lot of very good points – essentially that in both cases it’s all about community.

      (and i hope the fact that the last comment is suddenly an idiotic internet moron doesn’t mean that they went there from here…)

    • John P says:

      I thought it was an interesting article. Nothing particularly revelatory at all, and it’s not as though gamifying internet forums is what’s making people join al Qaeda in the first place, but it was interesting. And it doesn’t blame games for anything, so no kneejerk defence required. It’d only become a problem if a bored hack at some rag sees it and writes an article titled Game Designers Help Al Qaeda Recruit.

    • Rii says:

      Apparently Anwar al-Awlaki is the Kieron Gillen of Islamic terrorism.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      If you want to understand that story, here’s the key paragraph:

      “The obvious implication of Islamist online spaces becoming gamified is that an increasing number of users are likely to go there and spend more time there. Based on the limited personal information most of these online participants reveal about themselves, however, even the most obsessed seem to limit their play to virtual space. But for a select few, the addiction to winning bleeds over into physical space to the point where those same incentives begin to shape the way they act in the real world. These individuals strive to live up to their virtual identities, in the way that teens have re-created the video game Grand Theft Auto in real life, carrying out robberies and murders. ”

      It feels like the author is stuck in the early 2000s.

  19. dethtoll says:

    I’m so sick of people bitching about genre. “Oh, this has too many genres, I can’t keep track of it all, ahawhaw, where’s my snifter of brandy?”

    Categorization- outside of its function as a descriptor- is for the benefit of the people who actually care about the form of media being categorized. Don’t care about metal? Then you’re not going to give a shit about blackened doom metal or anything like that. Don’t care about cyberpunk? Then you’re not going to care if something’s neo-cyberpunk or whathaveyou.

    And that’s fine. But don’t act like because something has a lot of subgenres that it somehow is impeding on anything, especially if you’re just trying to polish your elitist cred by making fun of something you don’t understand or care about.

    • Xercies says:

      Actually I disagree, Genre subdividing as I like to call it is very hard if your just a casual person wanting to get in deep with something. One thing I give an example to is music, there is to many music genres out there that its very hard to figure out what you like, and go to the genre that you like mroe often.

      Do I like pop, well not all of it, so I like psychedelic pop, but no there are many different psychedelic pop out there that goes into it, theres dream pop, and then theres the various sub genres after that. It basically means you only get surface detail, maybe I don’t like metal but i might like blakened doom metal but I will never know because its just so obscure. Some of these sub genres probably only have a single song to them fro ma band from another genre which is also a criticism I would give it.

    • Archonsod says:

      The reason that falls down is that sub genre’s only really matter to people who are already into the main genre in the first place. it’s not that you’d never hear blackened death metal, it’s that you’d likely be incapable of distinguishing between it and regular death metal, and in all likelihood it’s a push to say you’d be able to tell black metal apart from any other form of metal.

      If anything subgenre’s are more useful to a newcomer simply because they’re fundamentally just a way of saying “if you liked this, you may also like …”.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      Never under-estimate the suffocating effects of the nerd-need to categorise. It comes from the desire of the spectator to control, and is based on the false assumption that an art form that is being made up on the spot by lots of dispirate people can be completely understood or, even further, that there is even a thing there to be understood.

      Don’t let the anoraks take over. You end up with the rock press.

    • Archonsod says:

      Ah, but then you have the philosophical problem of whether you refute sub genre classifications because you’re cool, or whether you’re trying to hide the fact you can’t actually tell the difference between emocore and grindcore which has led you to secretly worry that it might be because you’re getting old and turning into your parents.

    • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

      If a subgenre holds a gig in the woods with no-one there to see it, will Pitchfork still give it 6/10?

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      @ Andrew C

      I think you’ll find that’s 6.0 – the decimal point is important!

    • Premium User Badge dhex says:

      speaking of grindcore, the new gridlink is amazingly good. (as one would expect)

  20. Navagon says:

    That is one seriously beautiful (mountain) video. It might not have made it any more likely for me to climb a mountain, but it does help me appreciate why others are inclined to.

  21. Mario Figueiredo says:

    “How Rogue Ended Up On The Sofa“ was an interesting read for sure. I however felt it lacked a reference to MUDs (themselves extensions to the roguelike genre), which had a strong influence in what the author notes as new and different in the modern games like Diablo.

    All the aspects of grind and item collecting can be traced back to MUDs who popularized this gameplay model. Also, although less important, the player leaving his body on death and having to go back to it, is a facsimile of many MUDs gameplay. At its heart Diablo is a graphical MUD. MUDs which are themselves a multiplayer extension of roguelike games, and the ones responsible for introducing grind and item collectibles (the part that fascinates me more about these games, since I’m a collector by nature).

    I will agree that games like Torchlight are closer to roguelike for their ability to remain more casual and be less demanding in terms of player investment in character creation… and dressing.

    • mwoody says:

      But grind, while a part of Diablo, is not really a part of good roguelikes, where the possibility of instant death makes any excursion as far from a “grind” as possible. And few MUDs held what is by far, to my mind, the most important aspect of roguelikes: random dungeon generation. So perhaps Diablo shares a heritage with MUDs – WoW CERTAINLY does – but its best parts come from roguelikes and roguelikes alone.

  22. icupnimpn2 says:

    “The concerns I have about early reviews of indie games—or games in general, really—have been made more relevant by the rise of digital distribution, a constant flow of competition across various platforms and the speed at which the hivemind moves on to the next hot thing,”

    The Hivemind? Oh no, this article really is about RPS tearing, shredding, and rending mewling indie games before they have the chance to emerge fully from their shells.

  23. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    That ‘This is too beautiful’ link was really cool, quite amazing really, all of us just on a little rocky spec suspended somewhere in space -_-

    Almost makes me want to go buy a timelapse camera so I can take photos of the stars revolving around us.

  24. Premium User Badge Joshua says:

    That Crysis 2 article makes me think that Crysis 2 is not a pc port, a xbox port, or a ps3 port. its like everything and nothing like it.

  25. stahlwerk says:

    Puns!

    Strangely relating to a comment I made yesterday, most of the hairdressers in this city utilize germano-english puns that range from god-awful to cringeworthy. “Director’s cut”, “Haar Steel”, “Haarmonie”, “Machts Hair”… And there’s an optician’s called “Eyes-Diele”.

    Puns!

    I’m all for punning, but I feel it’s not something you should employ for something static like the name of your business. Puns are transients of language, in my opinion, and attaching them to something of duration just makes it “sound shrill”.

    Edit: Well, you could say it rubs me the wrong way.

    • Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

      My favourite hairdresser’s pun name is “The Lunatic Fringe.”

    • Koozer says:

      It’s actually an EU mandate that all hairdressers should include a pun in their name. There’s a Power Cuts near me.

    • Premium User Badge Sunjumper says:

      ‘Eyes-Diele’
      The pain.
      Although I’d like to shake the hand of the person who came up with that.

  26. Mario Figueiredo says:

    My problem — and not a small one — with the “How early reviews hurt sales of indie games” is this:

    It is the complete shameless admission of the marrying of gaming review, ideally done by game journalists, and their use as tools of publicity and marketing.

    I may be a bit old, and that comes as a disadvantage in these days when things simply aren’t just like they used to be and I would like them to stay as they were. But through the years I witnessed the slow deterioration of the practice of gaming review as they moved from a strict objective emotionless journalistic approach to games, and into a subjective and emotional appeal to the readers minds and wallets. Very much in the same vein of a any commercial worth its salt.

    This article is another one in a series of articles that simply ignores the journalistic approach to gaming reviewing, putting the emphasis on its commercial power, and thus hammering another nail in the coffin which contains the expectations of those who want to believe gaming reviews can still go back to the time when they were there to serve the reader, the gamer, and not ever the company behind the game.

    It’s all the more irritating to me, since it uses the already widespread “Oh-poor-indies-need-our-support” state of mind that has been blocking many otherwise good minds in the gaming journalistic industry. It’s one large fallacy that has been spreading like a plague over the internet, this appeal to belief that indies are somehow exempt from their entrepreneur obligations to produce and maintain a viable business and we, the users, have the moral obligation to help them. It can be said there was never a better time to start an indie business.

    While the technicalities of indie developer businesses certainly don’t put them in the same level of your traditional big studio, it’s still in the power of the indie developer business studio to control when they make their products available for reviewing, thus controlling the time of those reviews. It’s not — should not — be the press to decide, or cave in to the studio requests, to publish something so it is more convenient to indie developers.

    • DeepSleeper says:

      Wow. I thought it was hyperbole a while ago, but you really DO hate indie devs.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It’s always up to both sides to decide. Not sure why you think one party or another holds the decision-making vote here.

    • Archonsod says:

      “hus hammering another nail in the coffin which contains the expectations of those who want to believe gaming reviews can still go back to the time when they were there to serve the reader, the gamer, and not ever the company behind the game.”

      The entire reason companies have submitted games for review since the games industry was founded is because a good review can sell their game. If it didn’t, they wouldn’t submit them for review in the first place.
      Of course, it’s something of a stretch to go from “companies submit games to review for publicity” to “games reviewers are tools of the companies”. Generally the review code is dispatched without an attendant brain surgeon to remove any aspect of personality the prospective reviewer might show. They are still free to decide if they like the game or not and write about why they do or don’t like it.

      Oh, but let me guess, the fact you disagree with reviewers indicates the problem is with them, despite the fact that such fallacious leaps of assumption such as displayed in your argument are likely a more pertinent example of why your opinion may differ from the mainstream.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @Jim, I’m not sure where you read that in my post.

      @DeepSleeper, perhaps you should try again. This has nothing to do with liking or disliking indie developers. I actually like indie developers and they amount to the largest percentage of games in my collection. Do not confuse a critic with not liking someone or something they represent.

      @Archonsod, To agree or disagree with a reviewer is the natural result of their activity. There’s nothing on my criticism that pretends otherwise.

      To be clear, what I disagree is the pretense that a gaming studio (indie or otherwise) should have any kind of influence on the gaming review once they deliver something for review, including when it is going to be published. Indies can control this through normal means. The moment an indie developer is asking a reviewer to postpone their review, there’s an influence that reflects a type of relationship between developers and reviewer I’d rather wish it didn’t exist, for the sake of objective, independent and credible journalism.

    • Archonsod says:

      I wouldn’t say it was control; the reviewer is after all free to refuse to comply, particularly if it’s a smaller indie dev who have a lot more to gain from coverage than the reviewer would lose from not covering them.

      And you can’t control review publishing the normal way. In any other industry like say the movies, you can have a preview screening for reviewers the night before the launch to ensure the reviews are published on launch day. That’s fine for a product that takes 90 minutes to see entirely, but you can’t really do that if you’ve got a game with 40 hours of content; You could give it to the reviewer two days early but the odds they’re going to refuse to sleep and focus purely on playing your game rather than anyone else’s is kinda slim. So you need to allow for a good week or two in order that they can play through the game to give a fair review. And obviously, not everyone is going to get through it at the same rate, some might have other games to review too, some might even think your game is so good they do indeed spend two days doing nothing but play it.

      So all in all I think requesting a review is held on to till the game is finally published is a perfectly reasonable request. I wouldn’t pick up a music magazine and expect to read reviews of albums which aren’t going to be released for a month, similarly I don’t generally want to read a review of a game which I can’t buy for another month either; not only is it utterly pointless to me as a consumer since I can’t buy the game then even if I wanted to, but from the site/magazine’s standpoint it makes little sense too; remember a site or magazine is selling itself as much by what products it covers as the publishers are, you’ll get far more readers covering the latest hyped release than you will a game nobody has heard about yet.

    • bill says:

      I don’t see the downside. It doesn’t really matter to the reviewermagazine when they publish an indie review, so if the indie reviewers ask them to do it at a good time then why wouldn’t they?

      There’s a difference between maintaining your journalistic integrity and refusing to help someone when it’s eminently within your power. Though of course reviewers are free to refuse – but indie devs are free to ask.

      Also, if your a fan of cold emotionless subjective reviewing then what are you doing on RPS? Isn’t their whole thing that they’re the opposite of that?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Also, if your a fan of cold emotionless subjective reviewing then what are you doing on RPS? Isn’t their whole thing that they’re the opposite of that?

      Because the gang of four — as well as many of the contributors actually — do tend to do good objective reviews of games for the most part. Their excitement is about games. And so is mine. But when it comes to reviewing a title, I don’t feel they are trying to dupe me. Which is more than what I can say about other places.

      They also do a lot more than just reviewing games and those are the articles I like most on RPS and that no doubt have kept me glued. Also, I like to troll around these forums and seeing the type of responses I get from my rants and my constant cynicism.

    • Thants says:

      I had a similar response to what I though the article was about when I read the headline. It sounds like it’s about Indie studios not wanting bad reviews to come out before the game, so they can get sales before people realize that the game is bad. And certainly, that’s not something we should support.
      But it’s not about that. It’s about good reviews and people forgetting them by the time the game comes out. I don’t see any reason for the reviewer not to try and help the company in that case. I mean, they gave the game a good review, they obviously like it.

      It is the complete shameless admission of the marrying of gaming review, ideally done by game journalists, and their use as tools of publicity and marketing.

      Couldn’t it just be the admission that game reviews influence people’s purchasing decisions? Just acknowledging that a positive review makes people more likely to buy a game hardly seems like a corruption scandal.

      I mean, I’d agree with you if the article was talking about suppressing negative reviews.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      If I was an semi-unknown indie dev, I wouldn’t give review code out until the game was out. They’re entirely right that a gap between review and a game being available kills them. When devs mail me asking what they should do, I tend to advise that they hold back. In fact, hype before launch* if you’re an unknown is – unless you’ve got something very special – almost a waste of time.

      From the RPS side, I hold back for a game coming out because it’s in our readers best interest to have a review when the game is available. It’s buying advice. If you can’t buy it, it’s less useful.

      KG

      *Or payable beta or whatever.

  27. felisc says:

    I always enjoy the sunday musical advice.
    It feels like a quick blend of RPS and The Wire, very nice.

  28. tossrStu says:

    The cross-pollination of black metal and fey 90s indie-schmindie shoegaze is IMHO one of the odder musical trends of the last 5-10 years.

    I bloody love it, mind.

  29. DeepSleeper says:

    Don’t forget the reviews that say absolutely nothing about the game itself, but do talk for a long time about how they made the writer -feel-. That’s incredibly helpful. “This game,” I’ll say as I browse, “Made Jordan Mammo feel like he knew what it was like to move like a superhero. That is a concrete judgement of quality that will enhance my shopping experience and make sure I don’t waste money on a low-quality game.”

  30. stahlwerk says:

    I must confess I had formed a similar prejudice from the title and overall feel of the page, but this, imo well written, editorial made me reconsider: http://killscreendaily.com/why-killscreen/

  31. DeepSleeper says:

    Oh wait, I’m marrying gaming reviews to some kind of judgement of quality and considering that a method of marketing again. Man, gotta stop that.

  32. Yosharian says:

    Bloody roguelikes…

  33. Harbour Master says:

    When I wrote up my impressions of KS #2, I wasn’t sure these online reviews did them any favours. For all the talk of highbrow content, they’ve paired it with looneytune review scores out of a 100.

  34. Harbour Master says:

    Re: Ars Technica article on early reviews. Put aside the idea of advance marketing for something tangible: indies are increasingly using beta pre-orders to fuel their march to full release. This creates a buzz about the product in advance of release day and they need the buzz to generate more pre-orders and keep early funding flowing through the doors – but this can inadvertently advertise the wrong game.

    Revenge of the Titans is a great example of a game which has undergone serious changes throughout beta and since. I’m still getting hits on our Titans piece but I’m not sure it bears much resemblance to the current product any more. Does that hurt or hinder Puppygames?This is a bigger question indies are going to have to think quite hard about going forward.

  35. noclip says:

    Jim, you really have a thing for occlusion, don’t you?

    • stahlwerk says:

      YES, occlusion is the metric of next-gen graphics. Current/Last-gen consoles can’t do much (or in case of the Wii none at all!) occlusion because of their limited shader count. You need at least twice the core count of the X360′s SPUs to enable full screen occlusion with multiple depth peeling at 60 Hz. There are workarounds, but they ain’t pretty because the undersampled Monte Carlo introduces a lot of noise and false positives as well as negatives.

  36. wcanyon says:

    ROT is $27. Seems expensive for a tower defense game with poor (but charming) graphics.

  37. Wulf says:

    I’m really going to have to go back to Revenge of the Titans soon, it just got to a point where it became too difficult for me to be interested in continuing, and a lot of it seemed more of the same. I will check it out again though. But right now, Defence Grid is being all that I could ever want in a tower defence game. I’ll admit that I blame this partly on the AI, who tends to engender bizarre levels of camaraderie and faith in my own ability to stop the alien hordes. (To the point where I’m getting silvers and golds on particularly diabolical maps on my first attempt.)

    In fact, it does a lot to make me want to win, does Defence Grid. It tells me that I’m saving people, but it never introduces me to them, so I can cook up any group of people I like, and on top of that I have a very charismatic AI egging me on. I completely approve of this and would like to see more of this kind of approach. And that each level in Defence Grid thus far has introduced either a new kind of gameplay or new sorts of visuals doesn’t hurt either. The only problem with Revenge of the Titans is that I’m going to be comparing it to Defence Grid in my head when I go back to it, since they’re both indie, and that might be a harsh comparison to make.

    Still, such fond memories of Defence Gird thus far.

    “We can do this – Together!” “YES!” *spams cannons.*

    Though, I can’t help but muse on and be amused by the realisation that a lot of why I don’t like a lot of modern, mainstream games is because I’m not fond of the characters I have to regularly deal with. When I think of the games I’ve enjoyed most over the years–say, Mask of the Betrayer–I tend to think of the characters who had the most emotional impact. Gann-of-Dreams and Okku in the aforementioned, as an example.

    I suppose it’s the same with Fallout: New Vegas, as I was very fond of a number of characters there. I dug Rex, Arcade Israel Ganon stole my heart, Lily I just felt so sorry for and felt compelled to do all that I could to make her life somehow better, Raoul engendered similar feelings to Lily, and I just wanted to show him that old people could be helpful and bolster his confidence. It’s weird, but the more I think about it, the more I realise that having the right or wrong sort of character at my side could likely make or break a game, for me.

    It’s a mildly interesting realisation, as it hadn’t occurred to me just how powerful of an effect characters have on me until now. And, you know, this could explain my liking and disliking respectively of different games. Dragon Age, for example, might have improved if I’d happened to find a kindly English werewolf to join my party, and Mass Effect 2′s Legion and Garrus almost made that game for me. Legion, especially, I really enjoyed talking to in game.

    Well, this is food for thought for me, anyway. Don’t know if it’s been at all interesting to read, probably not, likely just me randomly expunging my brain-thoughts and all, rambling like someone who’s older than I am. But maybe it will be interesting, and perhaps it’ll be an epiphany for some others, too, as to just how important a good character, even just one, can be.

    Especially if that character has their own passions and knows how to laugh.

    This could also explain my bizarre fascination with My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic of late, which is a very strongly character-driven thing, some of whom I relate to and the others I tend to like, they could be doing just about anything and I’d likely enjoy it due to how much I enjoy the characters, their thoughts, feelins, and reactions to things. Hmmmmm. *rubs his chin.*

    And maybe I’m just an old softy who gets fairly inspired by passionate people and likes to see them happy.

    Doo dee doo.

    I have nothing else to add to this topic.

    Right, moving on!

    Good grief, Child of Eden looks pretty, doesn’t it? Near flOwer levels of prettiness there.

    One thing that disappoints me about Amalur is that I probably won’t be able to enjoy it. This is something that Magicka subverted well by simply being Magicka. For one, in Magicka, you weren’t exactly the shiny good guys, you were a bunch of insane mages lead by a vampire, and good/bad got fairly blurred. This becomes doubly as true if you happened to be running it with a friend who likes to slaughter villagers and other, similar potential innocents. Plus it was all very ludicrous.

    But with Amalur, I looked at the article, scrolled down a bit, and then I saw a bloke with a sword raised against an ogre with a bigger sword raised, and I thought to myself… How many times have I see that in a screenshot or article before? Except in potentially every RPG ever. Then I closed the tab. I suppose I was hoping that with so many creative names on board, they’d do things different visually speaking. But I suspect that my initial hunch will not be incorrect, and that Magicka will still be the far more interesting game at the end of the day.

    While we’re at it, Paradox, can we have more Magicka? I really, really like it. Also: I can has spell that summons a pack of werewolves to aid me? Thanks. >_>

    Anyway, moving on again!

    That Guild Wars 2 article is really interesting, and mostly because of the description of ‘strike teams’ in regards to how they organise. I’ve been told by a few people and read in a few articles–and I’ve relayed this myself, prior–that ArenaNet feels more like an art college than a game developer, due to the creative juices flowing, the laid back attitude, the passion, and the raw creativity they have going on there. What Colin describes there only backs this notion up. I also like that promise there that GW2 is going to launch with a lot of content, that pleases me.

    That… is amazingly beautiful, and really very inspiring. It’s quite something to see rolling seas of stars and clouds like that, quite something. I didn’t know you had such an artistically inclined side to you, Mr. Rossignol, but I certainly would not at all mind seeing more of this in future papers, in fact, I encourage it. I usually find that this sort of thing is linked to me by friends who’re as equally as visual as I am, but I didn’t expect to find such in the Sunday Papers. That would be the last place, really… a games blog. So yes. Thank you for that. Thank you muchly.

    I’m going to quietly hope that the majority of RPS folk thought that was probably one of the most if not the most important links of this paper.

    And I’m going to finish this post off with a music recommendation of my own!

  38. Mark says:

    Given how iPads and tablets are now/will be a thing, it’s more than a little absurd they haven’t launched the magazine as an app. Way more of a chance making profit that way than through limited paper circulation. Seems kinda crazy to me.

    Anyway, I actually thought the first article was pretty engaging (though loads of people seemed to hate it); however, this second one is just someone whining about an in-house CMS. Not particularly special to games journalism and, in truth, a bit boring.

  39. InterstellaUK says:

    I’d never heard of Ludovico Einaudi before clicking on that link. Now I’m contemplating buying a ticket to see him in London in June. That video and the accompanying music were incredible – a perfect combination. Cheers Jim!
    [also, the rest of the news was good too :-)]

    • Tams80 says:

      That is exactly what I did. Well, I didn’t consider buying a ticket to a concert, but I will buy at least one of his CDs (no FLAC downloads that I could find =(). I swear I’ve heard some of his music before.