The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on May 22nd, 2011 at 11:04 am.


Sundays are for trying to ignore the amount of work you have to do on Monday, because today you are free in the oceans of leisure. Languidly sail through hours of videogames, drinking tea and thinking about magic swords and maybe, if you find the time, do a little reading. Here’s something you might want to browse through:

  • Robert “Radiator” Yang says “Welcome To The Indie FPS”, and then goes on to examine how the FPS genre has failed to capitalise on its huge potential for alternative mechanics. Not to worry, though, because there are some first-person indie games that are exploring the possibilities and potential of the genre. I would absolutely add the Mondo games to that list. Can you think of any others, readers?
  • This review of Infinity Blade on Killscreen is quite the thing. Read it, then follow what happens next. Clever stuff.
  • This interview on Gamasutra sees Gazillion’s David Brevik trying to explain their attitude towards MMOs. I’m not totally convinced. “I think that there are some examples of MMOs that have done story pretty well. I think Lord of the Rings did a pretty good job. I think a lot of the new expansion for World of Warcraft did a good job. And so involving story more as a part of your experience gives the game purpose, and that’s really what I want to… it makes you care. It gives you goals.” And that’s true, but I think good MMO design can come up with other ways to give players goals. Designers seem to see it as a loot/story dichotomy, but I think there’s a more complex player-driven possibility in there, as we’ve seen with Eve’s political and social machinations.
  • Eurogamer has done an “idiot’s guide” to building a gaming PC. So that’s a useful thing… if you’re an idiot? Only teasing, it’s good for anyone who doesn’t know how to scare their PC into submission by threatening it with the hose again.
  • Also on Eurogamer is Quintin’s The Witcher 2 review. He says: “There’s simply no competitor that can touch it in terms of poise, characterisation and storytelling, or the way in which it treats you not as a player – someone to be pandered to and pleased – but as an adult, free to make your own mistakes and suffer a plot in which not everyone gets what they deserve.”
  • Making Games Is Hard: “Computers don’t have imagination. All they know is 1′s and 0′s, and they only do what they’re told to do. So, as the creators of a video game, we have to not only imagine the game we want to make, but imagine it being played, and all the possible ways it could be played, and then make that.”
  • Tim Rogers sure does write some words.
  • Obedience In Gaming“: “This compulsion to obey is more fundamental than any emotional engagement. Sure, in the original Bioshock, Atlas tells us a sob-story about his family, and we get fired up for vengeance when we see their submarine attacked; but that’s not why we obey. We were obedient from the very moment Atlas started speaking to us, because we were told to be. All our gaming lives we have learnt that obedience results in success, progress and pleasure. Contrary to what media hysteria would have you believe, gaming does not make us unpredictable killers, but rather crafts us into obedient, docile serfs.” Or perhaps because it’s a linear game where there is no other option that to move forward? If it was a non-linear world and you still obeyed then /that/ would be interesting.
  • An RPS chum recapitulates her Gamecamp presentation to ask Are Games Astronomy?
  • Joe Martin blogs about jumping. Slow news day, Joe?
  • Rocksteady talk to the Guardian about Arkham City: “What’s really rewarding is seeing the change in players by the end of the game. Playing a great, well-balanced, fine-tuned game is almost like learning a musical instrument in fast forward. As players progress, the music they make will surprise even themselves.”
  • Obligatory off-topic link to BLDGBLOG. But actually check out how the Lebbeus Woods designs are echoed in Portal 2. Not the first time a Woods-Valve connection has been spotted.
  • If your institution needs to know about zombies, who would you call?

Music? Well this morning this odd little thing is keeping me tuned.

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150 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge icarussc says:

    My goodness, that Infinity Blade review was amazing. I’ve heard for years about how computers are going to change the forms people write in, and never believed it until now.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      Sadly a wordpress update broke it, but this review of Hot Pursuit of mine did originally require you to enter an “Online Pass” before you were allowed to read it.
      http://savygamer.co.uk/2010/12/30/need-for-speed-hot-pursuit-review/

    • Diziet Sma says:

      Seconded. Superb. Thank you for that.

    • mpk says:

      Although I’m not sure cyclicality is a real word.

    • Wilson says:

      Yeah, really interesting. That said, it’s an approach which would quickly lose its appeal if it was used a lot. For a one-off article though, intriguing.

    • tomeoftom says:

      Yeah, really breathtaking. I agree that it’s not very applicable (particularly that the article was about editing the same thing over and over again, but the lesson behind the idea deserves a lot of attention, I think.

    • Shadowcat says:

      Erm, what do you mean “follow what happens next”? I read the article. What happened next was that I left the site, because the article was over. Not terribly clever. What did I miss.

    • Deston says:

      @ Shadowcat – I suspect you missed the big “Begin Bloodline 2″ button at the bottom of the article. :)

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      Can’t help feeling it would have been better without the technical frippery. A long essay of, at first glance, repeating paragraphs would have impressed me more. As it is, I got bored with waiting.

      It was cool, though.

    • Om says:

      The concept is fantastic but its execution is too overwrought for me. Or perhaps I’m just used to reading at my own speed. Either way, it just took too long to ‘read’

    • Antsy says:

      I have to agree with Daniel Rivas. It was a fascinating idea but it created an obstruction between me and the review. Full marks for originality but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone who actually wanted to read a review of Infinity Blade.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I thought it was really pretentious. Possibly because the basic game concept also sounds really pretentious, not to mention dull, or at least the review makes it sound so. It’s fairly reliant on the idea that faith is a good thing, which of course it isn’t always, especially where religion is concerned – to me, the concept of liturgy as an endless repetition to soothe and lull the participants is something that absolutely counts against it, and by extension against anything that employs such a mechanic.

    • _Nocturnal says:

      The most interesting thing about the article is how absurd the number 63 at the end looks by the time you see it.

    • McDan says:

      That article really was amazing, even more so because kill screen is only in it’s 3rd issue and is already this good. I started reading when RPS linked to it a month or so a go and it’s mostly excellent. Go RPS!

    • Jumwa says:

      “Begin Bloodline 2″ button? I see nothing like that. Is the page not loading properly for me or something? It just ends with a big 63 at the end. I’ve enabled all scripts on the page, but… nothing. I don’t know what I’m to follow at the end. Am I being incredibly dumb/oblivious or what?

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      Yes. There should be a grey box with “load Bloodline 2″ written on it. When you click it, the article-text starts to change.

      Are you using a funny browser?

    • The Army of None says:

      All glory to the New New Games Journalism?

    • Jumwa says:

      Ah, there we go, got it to work. Cute little effect there. I don’t know that it’s groundbreaking or anything, but it certainly made the review special and cause it to stand out, and I suppose that’s an important thing in and of itself.

    • CMaster says:

      I thought it was kinda odd how at the end you’re just left with a (not very flattering) number.

    • Premium User Badge sasayan says:

      I agree that slapping a big numerical score at the end of it all ruined it a bit for me. The article itself was quite enjoyable though.

    • mda says:

      Make sure you disable all scripts *and* adblock or it won’t work. Works for me in FF3 and Chrome.

      Also disable adblock on RPS and other sites you like or they don’t get paid for their ads! =)

    • pandora says:

      So, after all this bettering up, everything the author writes is worth at most as much as a meaningless magic number.

      I liked however that it looked very similar to how I usually write: in the end very little is left verbose from with what I begin. So I like it as a work about writing, but not really as a review.

    • DrazharLn says:

      When I first read this, I didn’t get it, but after loosening my noscript settings I was able to see it fine. An interesting format, though slightly annoying to read.

      The numerical score at the end was entirely out of place. I don’t see what they meant to achieve with that. If the score had changed on each iteration or something that might have been good.

    • Jumwa says:

      I don’t run adblock at the moment, was just in need of a reload of the page after allowing the scripts. : )

      On further thought on the review, I’m beginning to lean more towards: flash and not substance. It managed to hammer home the notion that the game is repetitive, but it told me little else about it. I don’t know a lot about what type of game it is, what features it offers, and how well it performs on those points.

      Personally those are things I crave to know. I want reviewers to feed me all the details on a game, not just how good it is, but how it plays, what it offers. Does it have multiplayer? Co-op? How broad are the options and customization for it? Are the gameplay and video settings diverse? How does the game approach difficulty? etc..

    • Josh04 says:

      I genuinely though that “63″ was a record number or something, the 63rd review. It’s hard to think it’s not some kind of satire after that review.

    • bill says:

      Slow but interesting. The point was clearly not as a review, but as art – but sticking a number on the end did make that a bit odd.

      I wish every time anyone did anything interesting there wasn’t always someone popping up calling it pretentious though.

      So, can games reviews be art?

    • RagingLion says:

      I thought that was rather cool.

    • ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

      For me, that comes under the category of “How To Use Technology Pointlessly”. Very irritating to read, and a great example of ‘just because you can, doesn’t mean you should’.

    • The Hammer says:

      Haha.

      Whatever the purpose of the score at the end – and I hope it was ironic – it made me chuckle. Very interesting format which has been directly tailored to the web. You certainly couldn’t achieve the same effect in a print magazine.

    • Pijama says:

      That review was the proof that WHEN DONE RIGHT, this postmodern artsy stuff can reach amazing heights.

      An excellent article, by all means. Shouldn’t become the standard, of course, but was an excellent piece – the execution perhaps needed more pace (a technological flaw, though?) and some fundamental elaboration on how the reviewer reached that score would be nice, however. :)

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I love the concept of that review but it got a little bit too pretentious and just tried a little too hard to be meta and emo. The end result is that it trips over its own feet a bit. It would have been better if it had just iterated through game scenarios.

      Then again I am a simple man.

    • Kaira- says:

      @BobsLawnService
      “I love the concept of that review but it got a little bit too pretentious and just tried a little too hard to be meta and emo”

      Ermm, emo? Really now? I guess I have fallen out of the progress of linguistic when that is emo.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Kaira, I know “emo” might be a poor choice of words but it kind of fits when it applies to a game review in which the reviewer talks about becoming an alcoholic like his father. Maybe someone more eloquent than I can find a better word – maybe like “over-wraught”

    • pandora says:

      I want some RPS emo-reviews (Emo-Wile-I-Don’t-Thinks). And done even before the new Alice game comes out. Just imagine the Hydrophobia review as it should have been done.

    • sebmojo says:

      Isn’t the big 63 just a page number? It’s a magazine.

    • DK says:

      So was the review box with the numerical score and facts about developer/publisher/platforms/etc. a joke? Because when I saw that I laughed, then midlaugh I stopped laughing and was sad because it reminded me of the sorry state of the (self proclaimed) games media.

    • Betamax says:

      Eh. Interesting idea, but not sure I would lump particularly huge praise on it or anything, it could have been executed much more coherantly I think. Plus the whole score thing as others have noted above just doesn’t jive with the review.

      Not to mention that guy kinda put me off his reviews by focusing so much on the Qunari horns thing with DA2. Not a bad review per say, but blew something minor into the driving force of his review based on something that wasn’t even correct.

      Good site though, I shall keep my eye on them. Just to further stamp the whole score thing into the ground, I got really excited when I noticed they were an actual magazine, the cover of which reminded me of Sight & Sound (often very good Film magazine). However unlike that publication they felt the need to stick a number on the end. This is the point where I shall once again hail RPS for not bothering with such nonsense.

    • Hellraiserzlo says:

      The way I see it is that game is repetitive and bland, so instead of a review that’s longer then it should be there is that cool review that goes over bored with symbolism where it probably wasn’t it intend to be, like…you know those feature articles we have at RPS.
      Also If I got it right then the Eternal King is the father of each of the sons that stayed there with his father before him, cool twist.

  2. Phoshi says:

    I don’t know why that “build your own PC” article felt the need to be so condescending. Or why they tell you to not bother if you don’t understand exactly how a PC works, despite the rest of the article being quite clear that you really don’t need to.

    • Witrim says:

      I thought it was hilarious.

    • McDan says:

      As long as it isn’t too condescending I might actually get some help! I have no idea how to do it, and it seems helpful enough.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I found it both entertaining and informative.

    • DrazharLn says:

      I thought it most amusing.

    • Ghost of Grey Cap says:

      I felt it was mostly entertaining but a tad informative. Sure, it had a condescending tone in some places, but in many others the author was adopting a position of ignorance in common with his audience.

      Fun.

    • sinister agent says:

      I thought it was completely on the money, myself, and the whole point of the “if you already know how to do this, you don’t need to read this” bit in the intro should have been pretty obvious.

    • Premium User Badge Mo says:

      I thought it was hilarious and informative! The whole “Embrace your ignorance” section is worth repeating over and over. My friends thought I was crazy for getting “just” an i5 and “only” 4gigs of RAM, but in reality, you’re never actually going to notice and/or care.

      And the bit about buying a case.

    • malkav11 says:

      I think it was wrong about the point of doing it – the point of building a gaming PC, assuming you want to game on PC, is that you get a computer that performs better at a lower cost than the prebuilt models. Usually hundreds of dollars less. (And don’t get me started on the ridiculous cost inefficiency of a “gaming” laptop.) That said, the advice about what sort of stuff to buy was really fairly accurate on a basic level amidst all the silliness.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      If you can’t personally design a simple pipelined CPU from the transistor level, you have no business buying and assembling a few parts.

      OK, so it’s not particularly difficult to build a computer, but there are a few important caveats that change every few years, and you do have to be willing to put in the research and effort to pick things that will play nicely together. For example, you probably want to buy your RAM in sets of three, or risk problems.

      It’s simple attention to detail that will avoid many difficulties in life, rather than any required domain knowledge.

    • Rii says:

      It was entertaining enough, but informative it was not. The idea that anyone might find it so is kinda scary, in the sense of someone learning human anatomy from the back of a cereal box.

      The broader issue is that – to my knowledge – this kind of piece has no precedent on EG. If they’re looking to add humour to the site, that’s fine, but as a one-off it does indeed seem more condescending than anything else.

    • Rii says:

      @TillEulenspiegel: “but there are a few important caveats that change every few years”

      mmm, yes. Like this one: “you probably want to buy your RAM in sets of three, or risk problems”

      The vast majority of chipsets on the market today are dual-channel, not triple-channel.

  3. Plopsworth says:

    “it’s good for anyone who doesn’t know how to scare their PC into submission by threatening it with the hose again.”

    It clicks the ram-sticks firmly into the slots or it gets the hose! Now it places the packaging into the basket-

  4. Mike says:

    That “Making Games Is Hard” article does overblow things a little. The 1s and 0s comment really tries hard to romanticise game creation, but the truth is it’s never been easier. We should be celebrating that and trying to communicate it.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      Programming games has never been easier, making games is still just as hard.

    • liqourish says:

      ^

      Computers really have no creativity built in.
      Creating algorithms to create worlds is a bitch.

      Although, I’m ok with this. It’s how we’ll defeat the robots when they eventually rise against us.

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      “Making AAA games can be fucking annoying, sometimes tedious and a lot of the time we’re strapped for time and money”, maybe. But not all games are AAA games.

    • amandachen says:

      “Computers don’t have imagination”

      Well, the majority of people who play games don’t have much imagination, either. (I’m probably not talking about the sort of person who reads RPS.)

    • AlexMoore says:

      Mike: I agree that making casual games has never been easier. As an industry what we need to do now is figure out how we can make AAA games easier too…

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      Alex, I think using the term “casual games” is a bit insulting really (something reflected in your article, in my eyes, by pointing towards facebook and mobile gaming whilst not acknowledging the PC/console revolution going on around us which may not be as trendy but certainly, it’s some serious stuff going down).

      We’re at a point in time when Mike is right and making games really hasn’t ever been easier than it is now, even for all the (relative) difficulties and hammering home this “oh, it’s difficult” point isn’t entirely representative of much outside the AAA space.

      And what’s outside the AAA space, does not consist solely of “casual games”, far, far from it.

      You make a lot of fair and unarguable points but for most people who’ll want to be making games? They just don’t apply. We’re seeing more kids than ever pick up games creation, we’re seeing more -people- than ever pick up games creation and I can’t remember a time before when I’ve ever been so spoilt for choice of what quality game gets to absorb my gaming time every single day. It’s astounding.

      If things were really that hard, this simply wouldn’t be happening. And I think, given that, pushing the “oh, it’s hard” is, well, it’s demonstrably wrong outside of AAA. Each level of dev has its own challenges, sure, but making it sound like there’s all these mountains that *need* to be climbed before people can consider making a game (no matter how unintentional) is unrepresentative of the landscape we’ve got now. And I’m glad of that.

      Given these things, given the unprecedented access to tools, the unprecedented amount of learning materials around and the unprecedented level of peer support available to people who want to make games, it’s sort of a thing to encourage people and not to say “woah, woah, lookee how hard it is!” because most people won’t be going AAA, most people who’d want to make a game, well, let’s not put them off.

      Let’s see what they come up with and let’s not put roadblocks that won’t apply to most people out there without enormous caveats that they don’t apply to most people and they certainly, in 2011, don’t apply to the vast majority of game development which is taking place outside of the AAA space.

      Not to rubbish your piece, which is, as I say, perfectly relevant to a certain subset of development, but y’know, to not acknowledge everything that’s happened in the past 5 or so years in the downloadable space or with one man armies and how, without this army of people to co-ordinate we’re seeing a sidestepping of these issues also, seems a tad unfair to anyone reading the piece and wondering what making games entails.

      I guess, ultimately though, I’ll always see more value in encouraging people to make games anyway so I am, if nothing else, hideously biased on this.

    • AlexMoore says:

      You’re making some good points Rob and I don’t disagree, in fact you’ll find I actually said pretty much the same thing inside the article itself:

      The landscape of gaming is changing a lot right now, and games on platforms like facebook, iOS (Apple) and Android have opened up a new demographic of gamers, and also games. While specific code is still required for these platforms it’s not always required to squeeze every last bit of juice out of them, making the focus more on the game itself rather than the candy surrounding it. Maybe one day we’ll get to the same point on the big consoles as well…

      And that’s kind of the crux of me writing the article: I fully acknowledge what’s going on in the industry outside of AAA development, and want to see AAA development learn from that. It should be easy to make games, it should be possible to focus on the content of the game itself, but as it currently stands we spend a hell of a lot of time creating everything else around the game.

  5. mda says:

    I love thinking about magic swords =)

  6. DeepSleeper says:

    I wish someone would edit the three or four different point-threads in a Tim Rogers article down into three or four smaller, more intelligible articles that aren’t constantly criss-crossing each other and warring for control of his attention span. They would be much easier to read and they would make a series of sharper, clearer, more focused points.

    I also wish someone could edit out Tim Rogers wedging his head up his own ass so far he forms a klein bottle, but that one may be impossible. “By the way, I’m incredibly eloquent. I’m not going to prove it or give you any reason to believe it’s true, but in meetings I am SO eloquent everyone needs me to explain everything to them.”
    Sure Tim.
    Sure.

    • endaround says:

      Tim Rogers is what happens when introductory composition teachers at a University fail to tell a student no matter how you try to dribble on you are not Hunter S. Thompson. He’s an unique talent. You are just a guy who is badly in need of an editor.

    • Mattressi says:

      Wow, yeah, I see what you mean. I skipped over the link because it was kotaku (at one point they didn’t suck horribly, but now…), but thought I’d read it simply to see if Tim is really THAT bad. He is.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Tim Rogers is the worst. People absolutely fawn over him on Kotaku when all he writes is meandering, unreadable dribble. He’s a perfect example of the damage the beats and gonzo did to a generation of writers.

    • Premium User Badge jaheira says:

      He’s a superb writer. Informed, punchy and consistently very funny. His review of Another World on Action Button is just about the most compelling game review I’ve ever read:

      http://www.actionbutton.net/?p=431

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Hey, it’s not nearly his worst piece of writing.
      You know, sometimes you just want to read something to waste a bit of time and then forget about the next day. He delivers pretty well on that.

      Edit: No, wait. That could be read as cynical. It’s not. I genuinely enjoyed that article.

    • tomeoftom says:

      Tim Rogers is a writing beast. I will fight anyone who says otherwise, unless they’re musclebound, in which case I’ll point them to Action Button. Action Button is no seriously the place to go on the internet if you want to read a game review and truly know the game. It’s way fucking intelligent. Writing big is a style, not an excuse, when you in the end still say much more of use than anyone else would have.

    • Premium User Badge jaheira says:

      @ Tomeoftom
      Absolutely. Just spent a couple of hours on there. Finally somebody gets what a piece of brutal brilliance Kane and Lynch 2 is.

    • JackShandy says:

      Jaheira, I’m fairly sure that one wasn’t written by tim rogers – if you look along the sidebar of the reviews, it’ll say “Text by (someone who isn’t tim rogers)” more than half the time.

      Many of his reviews take literally longer to read than it would take to play through a demo. Anyone who made it through his FF13 review deserves a T-shirt like the ones infocom put out saying “I got the babel-fish!”

      He also has the unbelievably infuriating habit of using “We” when he means “I”. In such author-centric articles. You’re not a fucking hive-mind, Tim. This article isn’t the result of the entire office gathering around your shoulder and nodding “Yeah, man, we really do know deep down, instinctually, that lester will die some day, and so will we.”

    • Premium User Badge jaheira says:

      @ JackShandy

      I don’t know which of my comments you’re referring to. The review of Another World was by Tim Rogers. The Kane and Lynch review doesn’t say (I was just talking about Action Button in general there) When he says “we” I assumed he meant the Action Button writers collectively.

    • JackShandy says:

      Yeah, I was talking about kane and lynch. Down in the comments someone called IronCupShrug seems to take responsibility for writing it- could be Tim Rogers alias, of course, I don’t know.

      Tim Rogers’ reviews are very much centered around his own personal experiences, to the point where he’ll often break away in the middle to relate a personal anecdote. That kind of reviewing is fine, assuming you care about the author – but to preface it with “We?” It’s suggesting that everyone on his website agrees that, say, God Hand looks like the only parts tim rogers’ remembers about his cooler big brother’s comic book collection. Honestly, do you think anyone by Tim Rogers gives input on Tim Rogers writing before he puts it on his site?

      In a grown up magazine, it reads like a way to duck responsibility for your opinions by giving the impression that the magazine as a whole somehow wrote the review collaboratively. On a website, it’s just a strange, infuriating speech impediment.

    • Shmoo Mentality says:

      I’m not the Tim Rogers/ABDN fanboy that this comment is going to make me out to be, but when criticizing Tim’s style I think it’s important to note that he moves in and out of facetiousness rapidly and without indication. I think he is serious about his opinions but not the way he communicates him. He tends towards a certain clownish self-parody and that whole ‘I’m so eloquent’ bit is pretty clearly a riff on how it might be assumed he sees himself. The bit about “not just being some kook writing weird stuff on the internet” is a giveaway in that it straight ridicules his writing style and in that being a kook writing weird stuff on the internet is a large part of what he’s known for (not to mention that he reprises the phrase unironically a couple paragraphs later). So, beware! You might wind up laughing along with Tim when you thought you were laughing at him.

      This all said, in the interest of full disclosure, it was reading much of Tim and others’ earlier work on Insert Credit that encouraged me to start treating my desire to do videogames journalism as the serious business it is. So I owe him some credit and goodwill.

      @InternetBatman: It’s true that sometimes a misguided writer might mistake drugged-out, stream-of-consciousness writing as being worthwhile based on those merits alone, but if you mean to discredit the influences of Beat and gonzo writing entirely then I think you might be in over your head.

    • Mattressi says:

      Well, Schmoo, there was certainly no laughing on my part while reading his ramblings. Though, it is possible that when I tried to read his article I thought I was banging my head against the wall out of shear boredom at him, when I was actually banging my head against the wall out of shear boredom with him.

    • RCGT says:

      Throw me in with the “Tim Rogers is great” lot. There are precious few people who so embody what games criticism should be looking at and thinking about. A lot of people analyze mechanics or plotlines or atmosphere, but few actually take the time to ask what these things mean, what’s the point of it all.

  7. NR says:

    Alright, the world hasn’t ended! Time for the Sunday Papers then…

  8. MiniTrue says:

    That “obedience in games” article is nonsense, Bioshock is a linear shooter in which one has no option but to obey. If I think back to the first game I played in which I can remember distinctly lying NPCs and multiple paths (which, naturally, was Deus Ex), I never obeyed ANYONE. I was suspicious of UNATCO, obeying them only because they seemed like the good guys on balance to start with. As soon as I could, I killed Anna Navarre. On the other hand, I never obeyed Paul either. Not until he died was I certain that he could be trusted. As for Maggie Chow, I correctly realised that she was a liar. Tracer Tong was a triad leader, and therefore a pimp and intimidator with ulterior motives. Morgan Everett was an Illuminati boss who was trying to regain lost power. Virtually every major character who gave orders in Deus Ex I mistrusted. I obeyed no-one unconditionally. Every single thing I did, I did for myself and for humanity, culminating in my seizure of God-status by merging with Helios. I never did anything because I was told, and I backstabbed and double crossed as much as anyone else in the world.

    See, when a game gives you an opportunity to go your own way, I think most players fundamentally will do so. Why bother to do this for, say, Homefront or even Bioshock, which are totally linear?

    • DrGonzo says:

      Planescape did it too and that came out earlier, and I doubt Planescape was the first.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Oh yeah, I’m just saying that I happened to play DX a year or so before I played PS:T. Lots of DOS-era games gave you sufficient freedom to make blind obeisance unnecessary, too.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I definitely agree with you. In fact, I figured out bioshock’s big surprise when the submarine blew up. Then I went along with the game because I had to, not because I had a choice and it tricked me. Most of the people I play games with are only obedient when they have no choice, like bioshock.

  9. Bilbo says:

    It may just be because I was listening to Pink Floyd at the time, but that Infinity Blade review is fucking amazing. Also, Comfortably Numb synchs up pretty well to it.

    Now I’m going to go brood on the pointlessness of it all

    • Keep says:

      Press ‘play’ on the MGM lion’s second roar?

    • Bilbo says:

      “Time” kicks in when the munchkins show up. That was mindblowing but I was on a lot of stuff too, so it may have just been that

  10. Premium User Badge Oozo says:

    “There’s simply no competitor that can touch it in [...] the way in which it treats you not as a player – someone to be pandered to and pleased – but as an adult, free to make your own mistakes and suffer a plot in which not everyone gets what they deserve.”

    This is exactly the kind of attitude I appreciate more and more in games (probably because it’s still too rare a thing). Might be a bias in my perception, but lately, I got the impression that it’s something that somehow comes to characterize a “Eastern European” design credo, differing clearly from, let’s say, Northern American AAA design philosophy.

    Let’s hope that The Witcher 2 is an omen indicating that those developers will be more and more able to pull off their ambitious vision (a game world as a complex space and system, as opposed to a theme park where everything revolves around the player character), instead of just hinting at what it was supposed to be like.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Someone, give this guy a games development job!

    • Zenicetus says:

      I don’t think it’s as much a difference between Eastern European and North American design philosophy, as it is the way budgets are determined between smaller developers vs. larger (and corporate-owned) developers. To pull off what CDProjekt is doing, you have to be willing to invest the programming, art, and voice-acting assets for a game that’s quite a bit larger than what the player will see on the first run-through, to accommodate different decision trees. An independent developer can take that kind of risk. A corporate-owned studio like Bioware, not so much.

      Dragon Age 2 could have been a more contingent game world, with branching endings and side stories. Instead, they masked your choices, making it seem like your decisions had consequences, but they actually didn’t. The ending played out the same, no matter what you did. I think that linear ending was more a result of the rushed schedule and limited budget, than some philosophical difference about open worlds and branching story lines.

      The more these AAA “Action/RPG” games ramp up towards movie production costs, the harder it is to pull off what CDProjekt is doing. I wish them luck, and I hope more RPG devs can afford to take that approach, but it’s going to be an uphill battle against budgets and time.

    • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

      Sorry to be the one to point this out but the reason why you don’t see the level of effort in so called “AAA” games as you do in stuff like Witcher 2 is basically down to most people being graphics obsessed morons.
      Unfortunately in the current market, graphics sell games to the extent where people make decisions to buy or not buy a game based entirely on how it looks without a care for how it plays.
      Studios making “AAA” games have to bank on selling a huge amount of said “AAA” games to recoup their development costs. Thus the gameworld has to be scaled back because larger game world = more assets to polish to achieve same level of graphical fidelity = more copies need to be sold to recoup development costs, ad nauseum.

  11. Jumwa says:

    The article about stories in MMOs strikes me as so odd. One area where WoW’s Cataclysm failed was in the story department, my associates and I thought. They made such a huge deal about epic storylines in the quest chains from the early levels, and well, they delivered, it’s there, however it cheapens the whole thing. When you’re a level 5 or 11 doing epic things like helping great heroes in the universe, or taking on its most powerful villains, when you get to level 85 and find the bulk of your tasks killing lowly minions in max level dungeons, the whole thing feels cheap and anti-climactic.

    It eliminates a sense of progression. Their quest to deliver that storybook narrative and make it “epic” siphoned all the sense of progression from the game, and I think it missed the point. People like to feel powerful from early on, but feeling powerful doesn’t need to equate to giant epic plots with the lores biggest bad guys. Feeling powerful can just be as simple as setting you up against more appropriate foes and not making every quest an agonizing struggle (not that Cataclysm failed on that).

    I think the MMO genre would be more interesting if they just went about giving you the tools to craft your own stories, such as EVE does. A big player driven world with lots of lore in it, big events going on, but the tools to shape and influence events. Roleplayers can be great at creating their own stories, if given a bit of free room to wiggle.

    On the issue of “Obedience in Games”, yeah, I really don’t understand the point here. Does anyone really need a sense of obedience to progress in a linear game? Does the author think that we should just naturally go staring at the wall and shooting the couch beside us if we’re not prepared to be ‘obedient’?

    • Antsy says:

      MMO’s are traditionally just awful at incorporating the players character into larger stories. The very design of most MMO’s mean’s that whatever story is being played out will become over familiar and so I have to agree that the future of really memorable and rewarding player experiences has to come from unscripted situations created by the players themselves. As you say, this can only be done if the players are given the tools to make this happen. I look forward to MMO’s that don’t rely on repetition as a game mechanic.

      I can’t say I was swayed by the Obedience in Games piece either. It’s like being presented with a very easy maze and being told you’re not a free thinker because you pursue the direct path to the end rather than explore every obvious dead-end.

      It’s my experience of more open form game types that players push the boundaries and explore the limits rather than mindlessly follow the latest given directive.

    • Jumwa says:

      Likewise. In open games like the Elder Scrolls series, Just Cause 2, or anything with any real degree of freedom, I invariably end up buggering off to far flung corners of the world, paying little or no heed to any main quest/storyline.

      I would say a linear game like Bioshock doesn’t compel us to do the storyline, it just makes trying to do anything else a pointless and tedious task. Big difference.

    • Jumwa says:

      On the MMO front, since I just saw you added to your post: one thing that disappoints me (again, on the WoW front) is the move towards making the game a snugly tight ‘whole’, where everything has an explicit purpose. They got rid of empty buildings, making everything a setting for NPCs of some kind of getting rid of it entirely.

      When every little thing is tied into a singular, unchanging purpose, it gives players no freedom to imagine or create. It says, “Get back to waiting in queue for the next dungeon, leave the thinking to us.”

    • Antsy says:

      Its the tiresome and self-defeating concept of the so called End Game. Using WoW as an example, players are sped through the games various area’s as fast as possible so that they can achieve top level and stand around in whatever city has the easiest access to instances and battlegrounds.

      The real hook of almost every gaming experience is, for me at least, exploration and discovery. MMO’s that follow the EQ template, which is to say nearly all of todays popular MMO’s, create worlds which become redundant once you pass a certain point. Huge area’s of wonderful, carefully created play area’s completely uninhabited because they offer nothing to the players character after their initial (level appropriate) encounter with them. What a waste. These worlds need to be better utilised and players need to be saying “what the hell was that?” more often!

    • The Hammer says:

      Haha, one of the worst things about the new Orgrimmar is that there are tons of RPers around – it’s just that they’re, er, NPCs. Hogging all the best spots, like barracks and benches. Oh well.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Ultima Online. Catskills. 1997-1999ish. If you weren’t there, you missed something special: a massive coming-together of roleplaying guilds to create their own stories. Excepting MUDs, UO was by far the best blank canvas/sandbox MMO we’ve ever had. EVE is good too, but…different. More strictly competitive.

    • Jumwa says:

      @The Hammer

      I’m right there with you on that one. I loved the look and feel of the new Orgrimmar, but implementation wise it leaves something to be desired. There’s nary a spot in the whole city with any clear space to sit down and live in the world. Orgrimmar finally gets a real tavern and it’s a quest spot where someone is initiating a fight that causes multiple hostile NPCs to swarm in every minute or two.

      @Antsy

      Exploration and discovery are certainly two big draws to the MMO worlds. Those massive, sprawling worlds that you just love to seek out every hidden corner of. I’ve always adored exploring the worlds of MMOs, coming across some vacant ancient ruins and wondering over what it was for, what it’s place in the wider world must’ve been.

      One thing to that which I did enjoy WoW’s newest take on was the Archaeology profession. Despite the fact that it does get absurdly grindy (and by absurdly, I mean absurdly) it was an interesting way to explore the game world and the lore. Going around collecting artifacts from various sites in the world, reassembling them and getting snippets on their purpose and lore. I know I owe the bulk of my play time between when Cataclysm launched and when I quit the game to archaeology.

    • Xercies says:

      @Antsy

      One of the reasons i really liked LOTRO was because it was definitly an exploring game i think, sure some areas were only certain levels but because of the trait system it encouraged you to explore the area and see thigns that were wow. I also liked FFXI for this and I think that one is under commented on, I think ti did quite a few things right in the way the world worked and the exploration and the group system.

  12. skurmedel says:

    Mondo games is triggering a malware warning in my browser? Wut?

  13. The Pink Ninja says:

    I need an diot’s guide to repairing my PC…

  14. TillEulenspiegel says:

    I desperately want an FPS like Halo was originally supposed to be. In my mind, it’s a cross between Crysis and Jagged Alliance. You’re dropped down on this huge open world controlled by evil aliens, and your objective is to take it over, one base at a time.

    Even a crappy version of that would be really interesting.

  15. bill says:

    I didn’t read all the “obedience in games” article as i haven’t played bioshock 2 yet and didn’t want to spoil anything – but for bioshock 1:

    *spoilers*

    I’m not sure the article says anything that the game didn’t already say. I assumed that the game designers were making the exact same point about obedience in games, particularly FPS games. Maybe I read too much into their intentions?

    But that lead to my big disappointment with Bioshock. When Fontaine’s control (rather than trick) was revealed I thought “oh – very clever designers!” and I had this giddy idea that the game was suddenly going to open up into something much more free. It’d be like Deus Ex, we’d be able to talk to the monsters, access many areas, make our own plans and choose our own solution. That game with that change would have been awesome.
    So I was horribly disappointed to find that the game just swapped Fontaine for Whatshername, and then we were supposed to just blindly continue following her in-the-ear instructions.

    Maybe the designers meant that as a “see, you can’t escape!” message, but it seemed to me to be rather dumb. If someone said to you “see, you’ve been controlled by that voice in your ear! Now, do what I tell you!” you’d tell them to sod off.

    • bob_d says:

      Yeah, I think the game was trying to make some comment on the nature of free will in relation to the video game, but it didn’t quite work out. I think it was more successful in the “moral choice” element. I sometimes see players complain that it isn’t a proper choice, as making the decision to help the little sisters rather than harvest them not only gives you more Adam than you can use, but other rewards as well, thus making it the clearly superior choice. Given the theme, I’d say that was exactly the point, that one of the choices is self-defeating, and it’s the selfish one.

    • James T says:

      There’s no point in presenting the player with a ‘moral choice’ if there’s no tension present. The only thing complicating the obvious “No, I think I won’t disembowel the little girls” is that nagging thought you have during your first playthrough: “Maybe these things aren’t little girls, and there’ll be a twist later on showing that it was right to gut them — there’s no way Irrational are seriously trying to present this idiocy as some kind of moral dilemma, there must be more to it.” But no!

      It’s like having Mario run into the castle at the end of the stage and then having a dialogue box open up: “DROWN A BABY? Y/N”. You get a fire-flower at the start of the next level if you drown the baby, but if you don’t, you get a fire-flower AND a 1-up in the middle of the next level. Oh man, challenging ethical quandaries!

    • bob_d says:

      @James T: I put “moral choice” in quotes because ultimately that’s exactly what it wasn’t. It wasn’t a meaningful choice, and that was, for me, the point.

    • James T says:

      I… see. And what point does one prove by presenting players with pointless choices? Is Splinter Cell Conviction proving a point by presenting all sorts of pistols throughout the game when the Five Seven does all you need from the moment you get it? Does my “drown a baby?” SMB scenario prove a point (apart from my intended point about the inanity of the Bioshock choice)?

  16. Robin says:

    I’ve wasted lots of words already on how John Teti is a horrible, unfunny hack (at least, when writing about computer games), but out of his latest bucket of hyperbolic statements and sub-Mad Magazine-level ‘zingers’, I will single out one point:

    You do need a soundcard.

    It’s not audiophile snootiness in the slightest to notice that on-board motherboard audio tends to be really, really poor. It’s just one of those things that’s historically ended up being crap because it’s so easy to replace, like iPod headphones. I bought a (£40) Creative X-Fi USB dongle a few years ago and consider it one of the best hardware purchases I’ve made in years.

    • The Innocent says:

      Good on you.

      But most of us still don’t need a soundcard.

      I also don’t know what your problem with John Teti is (maybe you’re totally justified; I don’t really know who he is), but wasn’t the point of that article the “hyperbolic statements”?

    • Baris345 says:

      Yeah, I don’t really get what’s wrong with John Teti either, I thought the article was fantastic. I’ve read it through twice even though none of it is useful to me in any way at all.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      I have a soundcard, but I got it for my Let’s Playing.

      I’d say that, unless you do a lot of recording, you don’t need one.

    • malkav11 says:

      …they make USB soundcards? Holy shit, I had no idea.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      The USB soundcard that came *free with my headphones* is better than my motherboard’s onboard sound. A travesty.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      My last desktop’s onboard audio buzzed and clicked when I used the mouse, had no bass (which I didn’t notice until I got a sound card to compare to), had no treble (which I did), and had really harsh mids that actually hurt my ears if I turned the sound up (for music or films or games with major sound environment stuff). And wonky stereo imaging.

      My current desktop’s onboard audio is fine, and I sometimes use it instead of my external Firewire prosumer doohicky because I can’t be arsed faffing with the power supply.

      On the whole, I do recommend getting a basic PCI sound card. They’re cheap as chips and all pretty decent as far as I can tell, whereas onboard audio continues to be a bit of a gamble and genuinely quite poor on average. How much did you spend on your video card?

    • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

      Holy sweeping generalisations Batman.

      No you do not necessarily ‘need’ a standalone soundcard (let alone a USB one). It depends on what your motherboard has for onboard. A motherboard aimed at gaming systems such as DFI’s products should have pretty good onboard sound already.
      If we’re going to bitch about onboard sound lets bitch about onboard SATA controllers etc. too.

  17. DJ Phantoon says:

    Wouldn’t you call the CDC if you wanted to know about Zombies?

    I mean, if you live in America. If you guys get a zombie apocalypse on your tiny island, you are doomed.

    • Jake says:

      British zombies would be far to polite and reserved to ever bite anyone, not like brash American zombies.

    • bob_d says:

      @Jake: What about “happy slapping biting”?

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Chav zombies would possibly be the only things more disgusting than normal chavs. Not that they’re not zombies anyway.

    • Antsy says:

      “Buuuuurrrr..berreeeeee………..” *shuffle* *shuffle*

  18. Casimir's Blake says:

    Why “indie FPS” and why not “indie immersive sim”? Particularly as many of the games in the Radiator blog have no shooting. I can only hope indie devs will make up for the distinct lack of modern first-person games that don’t necessarily revolve around snooty bang bang war games etc. The Void being one particularly excellent example…

  19. Jake says:

    I see that there is a countdown timer for a new Carmageddon maybe: http://www.carmageddon.com. I know this has nothing to do with anything, but I am ridiculously excited.

  20. Unaco says:

    From the “Are Games Astronomy?” article: Simulations are not objective.

    I think you’ll find they are, in fact, Objective. If not, you’re probably doing something wrong.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      That article basically defines “simulation” to include any sort of game, which is pointless and silly. Terms are not redefined by some idiot politician, or an irrelevant dictionary definition.

      In common jargon, a simulation is analogous to a model in science. The objective is objectivity. See, eg, flight simulators. You can gameify or otherwise repurpose them, but the ideal is a perfect model of reality.

    • Consumatopia says:

      You could say simulations are objective. And you could say paint is objective, or sound waves are objective. But the choice of which paints to put on the canvas, which sound waves to put in your song or which aspects of reality you wish to simulate is subjective.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “In common jargon, a simulation is analogous to a model in science. The objective is objectivity. See, eg, flight simulators. You can gameify or otherwise repurpose them, but the ideal is a perfect model of reality.”

      No, the ideal is something that simulates with a particular purpose in mind, eg, to train pilots.

      Specifically when you say “a simulation is analogous to a model in science”, yes, that is correct, but that is because games are models of something that might *not* be real. It can still simulate something and be fictional, subjective. There’s no confusion here, you are simply taking the term too literally.

  21. bob_d says:

    Lebbeus Woods, the best game environment designer who isn’t actually one. Every company I work for, I ask the environment designer, “Are you familiar with Lebbeus Woods?” and they say, “No.” and I say, “You are a sad excuse for an environment designer.” Ok, I just think that last part, but the sad fact of the matter is that we have architects coming up with exciting, impossible structures and yet still have game designers coming up with banal, practical architecture when they don’t have to be so limited.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think Woods possesses a very seductive aesthetic (in fact I’ve ordered the book), however by and large his work is too abstract and otherworldly even for most game environments (he is an architectural fantasist and theorist rather than a practical architect at the end of the day) . Certainly one can see echoes of his stylings in Portal 2 and in the Citadel architecture in Half life 2, but one has to recognise that one of the key aspects of both of those titles is that much of the enormity of the environments is merely dramatic background Vs the practical space you as the player operate in, whether it be the view from a moving lift, or a bottomless chasm of death you need to Portal across. Replace those lifts with staircases and portals with bridges and the awe of those environments would give way to player tedium at having to traverse such vast spaces on foot.

      A few years back I was betatesting an MMO title called Seed (sadly now defunct) where in the level designers had religiously built out the environments the talented and adventurous concept artist had conjured up of what was supposed to be a crashed stranded human colony ship. The scale of the thing was enormous, to the extent that it literally took 15 minutes to cross one of the ships chambers. Sure it looked great the first time you entered the space, but given there was a lot of back and forth, pretty soon the awe gave way to boredom and curses at the absurdity of it as an actual practical game space . Dramatic scale can be great to add drama (as plenty of films have demonstrated over the years), but it needs to be well managed.

      Also given Woods infamously and successfully sued the producers of ’12 monkeys’ for taking a little bit too much ‘inspiration’ from his work, Valve might want to watch their letter box if image 8 here is anything to go by: -

      http://curetheblind.com/lebbeus-woods-author-of-fractures/

    • Oak says:

      Wow. I wouldn’t doubt you if you’d instead linked some of these and said they were Half-Life 2 concept art.

    • bob_d says:

      The problem in the 12 Monkeys case is that they weren’t simply inspired by the Woods aesthetic, but actually used his drawing as the set design, faithfully reproducing even small details.

      Of course any visually interesting/intellectually exciting environment design has to be balanced with practical considerations, but there are still environment designers working as if they’re constrained by gravity, construction issues, convention, etc. that don’t apply to games.

    • Kadayi says:

      bob_d

      I hear what you are saying, but unless you’ve a game is in space, underwater or is purely fantastical (such as Psychonauts) gravity is a necessary evil and in a way people won’t buy an environment that doesn’t look grounded in some fashion. Still

  22. Kollega says:

    I agree with the notion that the first-person genre has failed to capitalize on it’s potential for the mechanics different to usual manshooting, but the article dosen’t seem to state this as clearly as it’s description here. Although it may seem so because it’s late and it’s hard for me to think.

    Meanwhile, regarding “obedience in games”… yes, it’s all fine and dandy to deconstruct the fact that players blindly follow the instructions given to them, but not doing so in a linear game basically means “stand in a corner, do nothing” – there’s only one way to progress. In Portal 2, for example, i had some doubts when going into an area very clearly labeled with the huge “KEEP OUT” signs – but did i have an option not to actually keep out of the condemned testing area? No.

    • Turin Turambar says:

      But “first person” is not a genre. It’s a camera for videogames. Firt person shooting is a genre. Adventure (as in first person adventure) is a genre.

    • noclip says:

      I think a lot of the people who traditionally play Valve games tend to be the sort who like to try to break them, so a “do not enter” sign is one of the surest ways to lead those players down a given path.

  23. 8-bit says:

    Stop telling me how brilliant the witcher 2 is, stop it right now. The intro to the first one was so awful that I put it down for a year until this last week and I am only on ch3 now. The box is sitting on my desk right now tempting me to install it “forget about the first one” it whispers “play me instead”. Well I wont because I am actually really enjoying the first now that its got going so you all be quiet while I catch up.

    • President Weasel says:

      I’m with you, 8-bit.

    • Teddy Leach says:

      Play it FASTER.

    • Premium User Badge Durkonkell says:

      I am in agreement also. Actually, I bought the original Witcher some weeks ago with the intention of maybe playing it through before the second one was released. Spent a week downloading it. Started playing, enjoyed it quite a bit and progressed quickly to the second chapter. Naturally my big games hard disk chose to take this opportunity to fail in a catastrophic and final manner.

      One warranty replacement and much downloading and reinstalling later, I’m ready to continue from Chapter 2. It is now post-witcher-2.

      Failed, as that Kerion chap used to say.

    • President Weasel says:

      I would play it faster, but I keep getting distracted by other games such as Mount and Blade, plus I have a punishing Blood Bowl schedule at the moment with two RPS leagues and a Cup. There’s other games I’ve bought and haven’t even fired up.

    • jplayer01 says:

      Honestly, after the intro and the first town in Witcher, I completely gave up. I simply couldn’t stand that borefest. So I decided to skip Witcher and jump straight into Witcher 2 … and the game is awesome. They’ve improved everything over the original, the story, combat, the presentation, the pacing … it just feels like a much tighter experience. Maybe when I’ve finished W2, I’ll give Witcher a try again. No promises though.

  24. Berzee says:

    “Sundays are for trying to ignore the amount of work you have to do on Monday, because today you are free in the oceans of leisure. Languidly sail through hours of videogames, drinking tea and thinking about magic swords and maybe, if you find the time, do a little reading.”

    How about, Sundays are for visiting 900 family members and tapping your feet impatiently while secretly thinking about chapeaux of magnetic inversion?

    • The Army of None says:

      Someone’s been playing Arcanum, eh?

      (Excellent choice, by the way, one of my favorite RPGs)

    • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

      Sunday for me was contemplating whether to head into Pripyat for the first time in S.T.A.L.K.E.R: Shadow of Chernobyl so I can finish it this week or start playing SpaceChem (in between TF2 scrims).
      SpaceChem won. I didn’t get to bed until 4am & I dreamt about SpaceChem.
      I am tired & I want to go home so I can play more SpaceChem.