The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on June 5th, 2011 at 11:50 am.


Sundays are for doing everything slightly later – and marginally slower – than usual. It’s okay, it’s just a Sunday. There’s no rush. Why not call the whole thing off and sit down to read what the internet had to say about videogames and related issues? Yeah, that’s probably a better idea. Make yourself a nice cup of something hot, and we’ll begin.

  • Kirk Hamilton wrote this: “The Unsung Secret of Great Games—and How Some Games Get It So Wrong“. In it he says stuff like this: “Other people think about games in terms of their graphics, others concern themselves with their stories; still others focus on game mechanics and design. But when I close my eyes and think back to my favorite games of the past few years, I remember the way they feel: the heavy-metal crunch of God of War II, the gliding flow of Flower; the irrepressible bounce of New Super Mario Bros. DS and the impeccably timed slip and slide of Super Meat Boy. Each of those games had its own unique rhythm, an irresistible tempo that hooked me and kept me coming back.” Hey, it’s that feel thing from last week being elucidated.
  • John has written his last “They’re Back” budget games column for PC Gamer UK. He’d been doing it for twelve years. He’s signed off over on his blog: “I think it was about one issue before I started trying not to mention the games in the reviews. This became the tension it needed to be any good – production editors and editors sending the column back to me demanding rewrites, me getting furious and having a strop, and eventually some sort of teeth-gritted compromise being reached. They were ridiculously over-zealous about this, and early on I was grossly lazy and late with the section every month. It wasn’t ideal, but it so often produced something I’m proud of.”
  • Electron Dance have an interview with Brian Moriarty. He says stuff like this: “There’s nothing wrong with recreation. When I come home from work, it’s relaxing to play a few levels of a favorite game. I claim an absolute right to “waste” some of my free time this way! However, video games possess an addictive quality that is especially dangerous for procrastinators like me. And, as I get older and increasingly jealous of my free time, I find myself demanding more from my entertainment. I want thoughtful works that offer perspectives on my real-life issues, like having a child with a disability, or caring for elderly parents, or religious and political questions. For me, computer games have not yet demonstrated an ability to serve this need the way the great works of literature and music can.”
  • There’s been quite a lot of noise about the increasingly widespread use of Non-Disclosure Agreements with videogame marketing and its attending press outlets. Firstly this over on MCV, which has drawn responses such as this one, and then there’s this from Kotaku. Hmm.
  • Bits ‘n’ Bytes remembers Evil Genius, and the write up is fun: “Misanthropes, like everyone else on the planet, need videogames to survive and despite what you may think, there isn’t a great slew of interactive entertainment appealing to the pessimistic demographic. Shooting terrorists in Call of Duty is far too brainlessly patriotic. Performing drive-bys on a gaggle of hipsters in Liberty City in Grand Theft Auto IV, while entertaining, is far too overt. No, for the real misanthrope, there needs to be something a good deal more tactful – a game with an evil base, symbolising the bitter core of the player, filled with traps and laser beam doors, perhaps?”
  • Apparently up to one-hundred people have been left off the credits of LA Noire. One of those ignored devs has gone and made a full list of the credits and popped it on a website. It even has its own Facebook group to gather support for missing developers.
  • Rob Fahey’s take on Call Of Duty: Elite: “Activision sees this as the beginning of something much, much bigger. The company recognises that turning around a franchise like CoD is like turning an oil tanker – you can’t just swing it around in the water, but must begin with a series of small, gradual course corrections. With Elite, it’s testing just what percentage of CoD’s player base see themselves as hardcore enough to want this kind of service – and furthermore, what percentage of those are actually willing to make a monthly financial commitment for it. ” Much more on the whole issue, as well as Activision’s response, here.
  • Rob Zacny on the interrogation bits in LA Noire: “My problem isn’t with failure, but with failing because the game gave me no way to express my mixed reactions to a witness’s behavior, or my intentions in questioning. I could handle the flawed interrogation mechanics if the ways of controlling them were exact and consistent, but they are not. At least, not in a way that is convincing.”
  • APB: ArfPB, more like.
  • I don’t know why this captured my imagination so, but I love this $7000 CG model of Chicago. (Even if it is for a proposed skyline that will never exist.)
  • The most pitiful conspiracy theory ever?
  • Oh, and the capsule review thread on the forum is quite the read…

Music this week is The Fierce & The Dead. I mostly like this album because it is called If It Carries On Like This We Are Moving To Morecambe.

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54 Comments »

  1. The Hammer says:

    Ahahaha. That APB video made me laugh like hell. The sort of crazy creative endeavour I love to see in multiplayer environments.

    Say, is the re-release any good? I was musing on getting it.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      Err it’s free, suck it and see. Unless you’re limited on bandwidth. Otherwise, the mechanics have not been fundamentally altered, it’s still fun, it is still definitely APB with all that entails. I was hoping more would be changed personally but hey ho. Oh and long load times were still occurring last I checked.

  2. McDan says:

    Now that’s a strange conspiracy theory, don’t see what it could mean though. the capsule review thread really is excellent, pretty Chicago model though. I’ll hopefully be putting up a capsule review up today, but it is a sunday so, y’know, might not happen.

    • schizopol says:

      i don’t care if its the most pathetic conspiracy in the world, rps, i was about to go to bed stateside but that photograph is freaking me out!!!

    • jon_hill987 says:

      It’s The Stig.
      Conspiracy solved.

    • schizopol says:

      i want to believe.

    • lurkalisk says:

      I saw nothing of any conspirators conspiring to commit conspiracy, I want my money back!

    • Duke of Chutney says:

      Little girl, why is there a toy gaffa taped to the back of your head?

    • Dreamhacker says:

      What is this I don’t even….

    • Urthman says:

      It’s just a guy in a white sweatshirt and a cap facing away from the camera.

      The way your mind wants to interpret it as a spaceman facing you makes the way the elbow bends look inhuman, but once you realize he’s facing away from you, it looks perfectly normal.

  3. Kadayi says:

    Oof over the missing LA Noire credits. Probably explains why Tom Chick thinks Rockstar made the game rather than Team Bondi….

    http://www.quartertothree.com/fp/2011/05/17/la-noire-can-only-get-better/

    • JuJuCam says:

      I see a lot of people making this mistake. Also a lot of people assuming that L.A. Noire is a reskinned GTA much like Red Dead Redemption. It’s kind of a double edged sword – much of the technology and all of the marketing might have come from Rockstar, and it shows the polish and sales figures that we come to expect from them, but in so many ways it’s completely unlike any other Rockstar game ever made. It’s level based, it’s no more open-world than a 2D Mario game! It’s the closest thing to an interactive TV show that we’ve seen since the X-Files FMV game.

      Whether that’s a direction we want games to go is another story, but it’s certainly entertaining to a point. And that point is when your tolerance for the quirks of the interview system breaks, and you’re fed up with being wrong for not being in the same head as the Team Bondi guys.

    • Bhazor says:

      I think it’s more to do with every preview and press release referring to it as “Rockstar’s LA Noire”. Because referring to it as “LA Noire by the team who made The Getaway, y’know that wonky GTA clone from the PSX era” didn’t carry the same weight.

    • Jumwa says:

      I’m coming to realize that in the world of game commentary, pre-conceptions of games seem to often be the final verdict as well. It’s why even though “Oblivion with guns” was the slur used on Fallout 3 when nothing more was known about it besides “Bethesda is making it”, it remained so despite the fact it was a highly rated game with little in common.

      Or, more recently, I’m seeing in the reviews of Hunted: The Demon’s Forge, that many reviewers just seem to be running with their impressions from the piss-poor promo videos. I too had feared that the game would be horribly cliched and sloppily done. No pre-release copies seemed to go out for review and the promotional videos they did do seemed a bad sign to say the least. Upon playing it however, I found the banter and game world to be surprisingly organic and fluid, the gameplay to be tight and well done. Everything about it really impressed me, however most of the reviews out there seem to indicate they’ve ran with their first pre-launch impressions, because the game they put down sounds nothing like the one I just finished but a lot like the game I feared I had paid for.

      I suppose it’s old hat outside of gaming and I’m just a bit slow to apply it to our favourite hobby. What’s the old joke about court judges?

    • Kadayi says:

      More on it here: -
      http://scorephoria.com/2011/06/03/credit-where-credits-due-the-case-of-the-missing-l-a-noire-devs/

      “I got the chance to speak with the developers behind LaNoireCredits.com. While they would, understandably, like to remain anonymous, my questions were passed around to multiple developers with information on the subject.

      When asked about the possible reasons for excluding the developers, I was given an answer that won’t exactly reinforce anyone’s optimism. According to the devs., this may be an issue of leverage.

      “Almost all Team Bondi developers approached indicated that they were told, at some point or another, that if they were to leave before the game shipped, they would not be credited, no matter the amount of work that they had already contributed. We’re talking 3 or more years worth of work for some people.””

      Thats kind of disgusting tbh.

      Also Team Bondi came up with the facial tech, not Rockstar (another myth). No doubt when it comes to the GoTY deliberations the shit will hit the fan if Rockstar walk of with Developer of the year or some such.

  4. Spinoza says:

    oops

  5. Lewie Procter says:

    It’s a bit feeble of Kotaku to not give WB games any coverage between now and long before Arkham City comes out.

    They’re basically committing to not covering Fear 3 and Green Lantern: The Movie: The Game.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      Well spotted.

    • radomaj says:

      Then again, they can’t post that catwoman trailer. And boobs? Kotaku eats that kind of thing right up.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I fail to see what more they can do. I don’t exactly follow specific companies so I have no idea what they are going to be bringing out in the forseeable future, but given that they want to fight this silliness rather than just meekly giving in, this is about as much as they can do without actually breaking laws. Seems a fairly elegant solution. I wish more people/websites did this.

  6. Pike says:

    I’d love to see Mr. Walker do a “They’re Back” style column on RPS, that was by far my favourite section when I was a PCG subscriber (not that I don’t also love crusading journalist John Walker as well).

    • McDan says:

      He crusades for your right to..uhm..play vidyagames for fun..yeah!

  7. Jumwa says:

    That is one sad conspiracy theory, indeed.

    The NDA thing just baffles me. Just another part of the corporate worlds attempts to bring their own order to the internet, I suppose? It all seems rather pointless to me though, unless this leveraging of exclusives to big sites that don’t normally focus on gaming news a lot really is paying off for them.

    Regardless it runs contrary to how I like my internets: a wild and unmanageable chaos.

    • JuJuCam says:

      We’ve seen before that poorly timed publicity drives can have negative impacts on the sales of indie games. A preview the week before launch means a week for people to forget about the game and think about another indie (or even mainstream) that was only publicised the day of release, making for a nice impulse buy.

      Media embargoes and NDA’s serve the same purpose for big companies. And in my opinion they are well within rights to selectively determine which publications are allowed to publish what and when, for the same reason that indie self-publishers are well within rights to ask that bloggers hold off their writeups until the game is ready for purchase, except for RPS who can give away some license codes.

    • Jumwa says:

      I had forgotten about that bit, I guess because the current issue had nothing to do with it as such. The current articles referred to here were not about timing information with a launch date, after all.

  8. JackShandy says:

    “The most pitiful conspiracy theory ever?”

    So you’re in on it too, are you!?

  9. 8-bit says:

    I wanted so much to like evil genius but the article is right when it says the game just gets so much wrong when it comes to the actual gameplay. I felt like I was spending most of my time switching between babysitting the workers on the island and the workers on the world map, one bunch cant go ten minutes without threatening to quit and the other bunch cant go ten minutes without getting themselves killed. The only thing I ever built on the island was a crappy hotel and the only actions I was taking that could be considered evil were happening on the world map, all this added to the sense that the actual ‘fun’ was happening elsewhere and I wasn’t invited :(. eventually I just gave up on the game but like the writer I still haven’t uninstalled it, I tell myself that I will go back but really I love the idea of the game more than the game itself.

    • Dozer says:

      Evil Genius is to Dwarf Fortress what the iPhone operating sys tem is to Linux. All the misanthropy of Evil Genius can be done in Dwarf Fortress, except that pouring lava onto the invaders is much cooler than bouncing them off walls until they die. What DF lacks is the capacity to send missions out from your base to remote parts of the world – that would be cool.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Caravan and army arc coming soon(ish)!

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I think playing the bad guy in Fate of the World is pretty entertaining in that respect…

  10. YourMessageHere says:

    That thing about rhythm in gameplay is…like wine journalism in its bullshit quotient. I haven’t read anything as subjective-masquerading-as-objective and transparently dependent on vocabulary that in fact does not exist in ages. The guy obviously feels what he says he feels, and yes, that’s lovely. The bit that makes me go “whaaa…” is that he expects me to totally empathise, when in fact I don’t at all. This “mastering a controller is like learning to play a musical instrument” stuff – so I suppose I’ve just created a small adagio for Logitech Y-SAE71 by touchtyping this comment? And all that stuff about active reload in GoW – I always thought that was an insane design choice, completely devoid of logic and consistency, transparently tacked-on to the game; it’s not a masterstroke at all. You want rhythm in your games, play a rhythm game. I want to shoot things, ta.

    • Alan Alda says:

      Yeah… I think I’m also a different sort of gamer to Kirk Hamilton. I know what the words in his article meant, but all in a row they just made me perplexed and annoyed. How would he feel about, say, Thief 2? I’ve spent stretches of 3-4 minutes silently watching guard routes and planning a path… What kind of rhythm is that? I suppose “The unsung secret of games I really like” is a much less punchy title, though.

    • Kaira- says:

      Rhythm is one way to put it, but much rather I’d use the word “flow”.

      Edit: Oh typos, how do I love you.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’d say he’s right, if you’re talking about making an action game fluid and satisfying: There’s definitely games that have your every action fit into a rhythm when played perfectly (Contra: Hard corps for instance). If it’s not an action game or it isn’t trying to be fluid, the principle doesn’t apply. Non-linear games naturally give up their rhythm and pace to let the player do things at their own speed, as do games about planning or tactics.

    • Arathain says:

      It made me think of Soul Caliber 2. So much of that game is contained within the different rhythms of its fighters, and part of mastering the game is knowing intimately both the rhythm of your own strikes and that of your opponents. Brilliantly, they include Voldo, a fighter whose rhythm is jerky and unpredictable. It really throws the grace of the others into sharp relief, and makes him an interesting challenge to fight.

    • Gadriel says:

      I think the article is spot on, as long as you don’t take it too literally. No, playing games isn’t actually the same as making music, but some aspects of games share some characteristics with it, and it can feel good when playing them. When you’re playing a game you’re ultimately fiddling around with a device with lots of buttons that you have to press in certain patterns at certain times to achieve the results you want. In that way it is a lot like playing an instrument.
      Even things as simple as bunnyhopping in old-school FPS games has a certain rhythm to it. If you’re like me at least you got used to just how long a jump lasted and could just tap jump in time instead of mashing it. We’re wired to like patterns such as that.
      No, typing a paragraph does not constitute writing music. They’re words after all, not notes. But you’re using piano-like movements to string together key presses into a creative work. Most people even naturally type with a cadence. It’s not that far-fetched to think that similar bits of the brain are stimulated by these similar actions.

      I think where it really falls short is in the title and the interpretation that this is the one thing that makes games good. It’s one of many things that can make a game feel “right” but it’s far from the only thing.

  11. westyfield says:

    Mmm, that is some good music. Thanks, Jim.

    Thim.

  12. fiddlesticks says:

    For a brief moment, I thought Brian Moriarty was the villain from Sherlock Holmes. Now I’m disappointed.

  13. Consumatopia says:

    It’s interesting to read that games-criticism-criticism on Lost Garden from a couple weeks ago (http://www.lostgarden.com/2011/05/blunt-critique-of-game-criticism.html ) next to the Rob Zacny piece on LA Noire interrogations.

    In particular, when I read this passage at the end of Lost Garden’s rant

    How will game developers know what players are feeling if not for game criticism?: Game developers are constantly looking at a vast range of quantitative and qualitative data. The entire process of game development is built around observing players and adjusting the game (thousands of times!) till the system reaches a desired state of operation. Individual opinions are constantly taken into account. I personally love watching players and asking them directly what they feel. In light of this, having a piece of well written criticism is often interesting, but needs to be balanced against the weight of other (often more representative) players. Since the critic almost never understands the systems underlying their experience, most notes on improvements or root causes are typically wildly off base. This isn’t the fault of the game critic. They simply lack access to both the dozens (or thousands) of player data points and the intimate knowledge of the game mechanics. Perhaps one out of a hundred provides a minor insight into a specific game.

    I remember thinking “Really? Game developers actually test their games and modify the gameplay in response to their testing? Because it sure feels like I’ve played a lot of games that would have been improved by that.”

    And reading what Zacny had to say about interrogation, LA Noire sounds like an example of that. One of the comments noted that one wouldn’t even need to do any programming to playtest this–you could easily simulate it with live actors and scripts, or even just on paper. Others pointed to Phoenix Wright as having a similar system that worked better.

  14. Vandelay says:

    “What I hope is that They’re Back can continue to be a portal to what magazines used to be. Everyone involved in their production tells me that the Old Ways don’t work any more, that you can’t have such personality-driven irrelevances and nonsense occupying large spaces in print. There was an era when every review and preview in gaming mags was packed with waffle, in-jokes and discussions of sweets. There was even a time when PC Gamer had Diversions, two to four pages of daft comedy that had no useful bearing on the gaming news of the day. This, everyone says, could never work today.”

    That doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. If I just wanted gaming news I would look at the numerous websites available. The only reason you would ever buy a magazine nowadays is if you liked reading the words by those writers. If everyone says irrelevance and in-jokes don’t work, then everyone is bloody stupid.

    • Daiv says:

      Exactly. If all I want is a score, I’ll look at Metacritic. If all I want is a checklist of features I’ll read the press release.

      When magazines forgot that they are supposed to be entertainment as well as informative, they lost me.

  15. BobsLawnService says:

    “I want thoughtful works that offer perspectives on my real-life issues, like having a child with a disability, or caring for elderly parents, or religious and political questions. For me, computer games have not yet demonstrated an ability to serve this need the way the great works of literature and music can.”

    I couldn’t disagree more. After a hard day of working in a demanding, incredibly stressful job, in a climate in which I’m supposed to consider myself lucky to have a job to feed my family, then getting home to do battle with a toddler during hell hour and then finally watching news about the world going to hell I need escapism, not more drama rooted in reality.

    This is why I don’t want gaming to “grow up” and become “mature”. I get enough of that in real life.

    • JackShandy says:

      I suspect that the people who cry for more emotional depth in Videogames are those who do nothing but play them all the time (Guilty).

    • Jumwa says:

      You might be onto something. The decline of my concern for games with great emotional depth and plot development happened simultaneously with the rise of my just needing to unwind and lose myself in something fun.

      Not that a game can’t be both, I suppose, but these days I just tend to enjoy my games and analyze them later… maybe.

    • Shouldbeworking says:

      Looking on the upside Bobs, there currently be a wide selection of games that meet your stated needs.

    • Gadriel says:

      I like to see (and play) a healthy smattering of both sorts. I love games that say something about serious issues and such (entertainment is sometimes the best way to get people to think about things they otherwise wouldn’t) but I also love a good old-fashioned romp for the purposes of escapism, stress-relief or relaxation.

      Different games for different purposes for different moods I guess.

    • AndyE says:

      Actually, everything you say is in agreement. It’s for this very reason games won’t really ever be considered high art. And of course, it doesn’t need to be to be interesting or valuable.

      I mean, he says in the sentence above that there is nothing wrong with recreation. Then you quote him, saying you disagree, by saying that there is nothing wrong with recreation!!

  16. pilouuuu says:

    Many articles about L.A. Noire. I’m wondering when if ever we will be able to play it on PC. It’s the kind of game that deserves to be on PC.

  17. Mungrul says:

    Rob Zacny’s piece on LA Noire’s investigations is spot on. In addition, not being able to repeat an interview or a question in one means I’m continuously reloading due to Phelps spurting something I didn’t intend for him to say.
    It’s such a shame, because otherwise it’s an incredible game, just massively let down in this one area.
    Mind you, playing other talky games after playing LA Noire highlights just how good the facial animation tech really is, even if all the women DO look the same and there’s something odd about eyes and mouths.