The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on September 11th, 2011 at 11:44 am.


Sunday is for sitting somewhere in the Somerset countryside, reading a giant book of philosophy. If that’s gets boring there’s always a tenuous data signal out here for reading the many philosophies of the internet. Here’s a few of those.

  • So, thanks to commenter Kad, I am leading with a podcast this week. It’s an “Irrational Interviews” piece, which sounds like it should consist in entirely random and unpleasant questioning, but is actually Ken Levine vs the doctors of Bioware. “We were having lunch one day after having made some medical education software,” recalls Ray, “then we realized what we’re really passionate about is video games. Why don’t we just make some video games? Take everything we own, and everything we make as doctors on weekends, to fund the company. …That was the extent of the conversation.” And so on.
  • VG247’s bossman Pat Garrett is offline, thanks to a storm. It was the day he realised the DRM moaners have a point: “I have to be honest; I always roll my eyes when people kick up a stink about this stuff, mainly because, until this week, I had a reliable internet connection. I’m regularly being told that large swathes of the European and American gaming markets have flimsy lines with slow speeds, but I’m all right, Jack. I now know better.”
  • Chris Hecker talks “indie ethos” with Gamasutra: “I have this Venn diagram that I draw sometimes. There’s the stuff that is interesting to work on and there’s the stuff that will sell. And those two things overlap, so why not work on something in the intersection of those, you know?”
  • Eurogamer interviews EVE’s CSM chairman about the current state of play: “I think the key problems are obvious to a wide range of players. The development of the Incarna and Tyrannis expansions are aimed at Dust and World of Darkness, essentially creating new technologies for those games. The majority of the people working on “Eve Online” are no longer developing the core product. The neglect of the content, and the game that subscribers are used to playing, is causing stagnation.”
  • Things are pretty tense over at Crytek, with this Tumblr blog attacking employment practices at the company. This article outlines the issue. As I understand it, German law isn’t particular favourable towards people who want to speak out against this stuff, either. Worrying.
  • Ars Technica on how games studios often own whatever you produce while you are working there. This caused a bit of consternation for some folks, but it’s actually fairly standard practice for creative companies, because it ensures that people don’t draw a wage and actually just sink the time into their own projects. Controlling and restrictive, yes, but I get why this one happens. (I would also say that actually policing and enforcing such a clause is probably beyond most companies, too…)
  • Workarounds and fixes for Dead Island.
  • Kill-Screen has a piece about someone playing Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time for the first time. And it’s actually one of those pieces about “gosh, I am older now and my perspective on games is different from when I was a kid”, which I think might be an insight in itself regarding why that game hits so many “best game of all time” lists. I remember my first time playing it, and I thought “Really?”
  • This piece on Pop Matters about how pattern, not plot, makes some videogames interesting won’t tell you much that you don’t know, but I do think it’s one of those points that’s worth emphasizing again and again. I’d love to see what would happen if every game studio in the world were forced to remove exposition and explicit plotting from their games.
  • Press X Or Die write more about Champions Online than you would ever have thought feasible.
  • 9.3 billion score in Geometry Wars.
  • A Minecraft creeper explodes in 3D.
  • RPS chum Mark Wallace writes about running a post-graduate course in rock, paper, scissors over at the Academy of Art University in San Francisco.

More electronic rubbish in the realms of music this week. I’ve been listening to terrible doomy stuff like this, and then some rather more predictable ambient electronic mixes here.

More soon!

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100 Comments »

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  1. LuNatic says:

    It’s about bloody time that someone realised that the areas with reliable broadband are still a minority.

    • Caleb367 says:

      You know, there’s an old Italian saying that goes somewhat like this: the satiated doesn’t believe the starving. Dude didn’t believe DRM was that much a PITA until he was forced to endure the very same situation thousands of users face everyday.

    • Mattressi says:

      I have to admit, I was pretty disgusted reading that story – I know he was owning up to being a wanker previously, but lines like “I’m forced to concede that I judged the “always-on” moaners too harshly” are horrible. Yeah, funnily-friggin’-enough not everyone in the world has internet that always works and judging them at all for their internet connection is just ridiculous (also, “too harshly” implies that he should have judged them less harshly, but still harshly). It reminds me of the drink driving ads where some guy who wrapped his car and girlfriend around a tree says “I never thought it would happen to me”. Yeah, well, you’re a moron, mate. Why are there so many people in modern society who are too dumb to understand that their life isn’t representative of everyone else’s?

      /rant

    • schizopol says:

      a lack of imagination, i suppose. it happens to so many. the only service one can do is to gently remind them.

    • Prime says:

      You see it on these pages all the time in the comments: “My experience is the definitive experience so you all are WRONG!”

      It’s terrifying to think that the Internet is possibly killing the empathy gene.

    • megalomania says:

      I live in a city and am lucky enough to have a “fast, reliable internet connection” (by British standards)… but I’m still constantly pissed off by DRM not letting me play games on occasions when I’ve been travelling, or between ISPs, or when someone spilled tea on my router, and so on. Are there seriously people out there who have /never/ being without internet access and wanting-to-play-a-game at the same time?

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Now to force all those devs who play on DRM-less Consoles version onto the PC version.

      1. to show them shoddy always-on DRM
      2. to show them terrible PC Ports

    • LionsPhil says:

      Complaining that you can’t play games because your internet connection isn’t good enough is like complaining that you can’t play games because your 3DFX card won’t run Crysis.

      Technology marches on, suck it up or stick with playing DOOM.

      </devil’s advocate>

    • Vinraith says:

      “My internet connection isn’t good enough to allow me to beg permission to play the game I paid $60 for.”

      The problem in this scenario is not the internet connection.

    • Azradesh says:

      No, it isn’t. You have to move to a different fucking country just to get good internet. This costs orders of magnitude more money, time and effort then getting a new PC/GPU.

    • Unaco says:

      @LionsPhil…

      That’s not really a valid analogy.

      Complaining you can’t play Crysis, because your 3D card doesn’t run it/isn’t good enough, isn’t legitimate… because the game NEEDS a decent 3D card. A decent 3D card is required because, without it, the game would not be the same game.

      Complaining that you can’t play a SINGLE PLAYER game, because your internet craps out or isn’t reliable or isn’t there, when the only reason you need the Internet is because the devs/publishers have tacked on this requirement so they can check up on you, is legitimate. A decent internet connection is not required because it doesn’t add anything to a single player game… it’s only needed to get through this unnecessary check.

      A 3D card IS needed for a game like Crysis, because it gives the gamer something… fancy 3D graphics. An Internet connection IS NOT needed for a Single player game, because it isn’t giving the player anything.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Always-online DRM is as much a necessity for the high-quality AAA titles today’s gamer demands as the DX11 graphics cards that allow for groundbreaking next-generation graphics. While the latter is a petty technical requirement, the former is an essential business requirement: protection on the huge investment required to fund the development of such visceral, cinematic experiences.

      If gamers will decry anything that does not show millions of dollars of developer time and technology licenses, and frequently threaten to pirate games that do not match their arbitrary and exacting standards, then they must accept measures to ensure that they do actually pay to recoup such costs.

      </still devil’s advocate>

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      That’s not “devil’s advocate”, it’s just repeating/mocking the claims of the publishers.

      If you want to make an argument of any kind, present verifiable facts.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Facts”, about piracy, on a gaming forum? You’ve seen the kind of comment threads that generates, right?

      I’m not trying to start a flamewar here.

    • Mattressi says:

      LionsPhil, if you’re going to play devil’s advocate, at least bring up some good points. You say that always on DRM is a necessity, but all of the always on DRM schemes were cracked extremely quickly. See below for examples:

      http://www.theregister.co.uk/2010/04/28/ubisoft_drm_cracked/
      http://www.techspot.com/news/38114-ubisofts-always-connected-drm-cracked-in-one-day.html

      About the closest thing I’ve seen to claiming that always-on DRM works is when Ubi said that it reduced the piracy of some of their games, therefore “from that point of view the requirement is a success.” Reading between the lines; from the other point of view (a clear in sales) it was a failure. If it didn’t affect sales, I’m sure they’d be bragging that their DRM increases sales, rather than the decidedly weak ‘decreases piracy’.

      Just so you know, gamers don’t have to adapt just because a company wants to treat us like crap. You say that always-on DRM is necessary, but if gamers stop buying games with always-on DRM, is it still necessary?

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      I’m not trying to start a flamewar here.

      Sarcasm, right?

    • FataMorganaPseudonym says:

      “I’m not trying to start a flamewar here.”

      Well, you’re certainly making a very good start of it, whether you’re trying to or not.

    • Freud says:

      To be blunt: that it had to take him having a dodgy connection to realize what a bad idea DRM that forces players of single player games to always be online is makes him a bit of an idiot.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You say that always-on DRM is necessary

      Pedantically, I am saying that publishers believe this.

      but if gamers stop buying games with always-on DRM, is it still necessary?

      This is a big hypothetical red herring because “gamers” in meaningful numbers have not once displayed a spine w.r.t. boycotting anything. If anything, you get people going “well, I’ll pirate it instead”, thus reinforcing the above belief: DRM needs to be stronger to take that option away.

      If you can accept the opinion that DRM is a necessary evil, then it follows very easily that people complaining that their wet string connection is not up to the task are just whiners on the Internet.

    • Tacroy says:

      So one time, just after Bioshock had come out, I was sitting in a boring hotel room with no Internet access playing Dwarf Fortress. The fortress was getting kinda huge and laggy, so it was about time to do something else.

      Bioshock had come out recently, and of course I’d bought it on release (it was the last one in the store, in fact, unbought only because it was sitting up high on the shelf where nobody could see it). Unfortunately, I’d been too busy to fire up a full-fledged game like that, so I’d put off installing it. Sitting there in the boring hotel room, with my dwarfs chugging along every couple of seconds, I thought “Hey, perfect – it’s a single player game, I need to do something more interesting but I don’t have any internets, let’s do this”.

      I stuck the disc in and installed it, only to discover that the single player game I had purchased required an internet connection (which I didn’t have) to activate. I wasn’t going to pay a further $5 or whatever the heck it was at Starbucks in order to get an Internet connection just to play the game I had already paid full price for on release day.

      So I skipped it, and started a new fortress. I did eventually activate Bioshock, much later when I had an actual Internet connection, but that bullshit just left such a bad taste in my mouth I never played it. I didn’t get Bioshock 2, of course, and in all honesty I probably won’t get Bioshock Infinite.

    • Psychopomp says:

      I like people who think that it’s always possible to get reliable internet.

      You’re the minority here. I, literally, 5 minutes from downtown Fort Worth. Until 3 years ago *only* dial up was available to me. Even now, the internet available to me drops packets like a motherfucker.

      Stop being so fucking smug.

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      jrodman says:

      LionsPhil: All you’re saying is “If you can successfullly deny reality, then reality is wrong.”

      You’re making a hash of logic in each post.

      The 3d card is necessary to make the game work. This is a fact. The internet DRM *might* be needed to make the business proposition of the game work, and the publisher believes that it is. This is an untested and difficult to test *opinion*. Trying to equate these only makes you look silly.

      The presence or non-presence of sufficient hardware to run a single title (crazy-bad patches nonwithstanding) is a test which once satisfied will always be satisfied. If you buy a new title and your aging cpu/videocard/whatever turns out to be insufficient, you can just say “well, it’s time I upgraded anyway” and fix the problem by buying new hardware. The hardware (given a bit of money) is definitely available, and will definitely fix the problem. It will also make all your other software run better, and is a normal part of being a pc gamer.

      The presence or non-presence of a internet connection sufficient to run a game is a test which will NEVER be put to rest. The conditions can change every single day (which is one of the lessons you should have taken from this article.) Some people have “good” internet connections that nevertheless are not very reliable. Some people have no “good” internet connection options available to them. Some people have internet connections which are generally good, but drop out once or twice a day for 2 minutes. Some people have internet connections which are pretty much always operational, but then one year their ISP screws up the routing table so sections of the internet go dark for them, for a few months.

      All of these things are real. All of these things may go away and never happen again, or might suddenly occur to people who have never had problems before.

      Look, *power* is not even a constant, and when I lose power, there aren’t a *lot* of things to do other than leave home. One of the few things that stays reasonably workable, if it’s night-time, is to play single player games on the laptop which generates its own light. But certainly, they’re not going to work if they require the internet.

      This fundamental inconstantness is why pretending that it is something that can and should be relied upon unnecessarily is just stupid.

    • JackShandy says:

      Sometimes it seems like PC gaming is about putting as many breakable parts as possible between you and your games.

    • Caleb367 says:

      @LionsPhil, sorry, but your arguments are shaky at best. One example: Assassin’s Creed 2. My PC can easily run that at max detail, my Internet connection works perfectly, yet in the last three days I couldn’t play it at all. You know why? Ubisoft master servers down. Try telling me it’s my fault. (Well, it is, buying anything from Ubisoft is masochistic at best)

  2. Ed123 says:

    In case ’twas missed: Syndicate FPS confirmed http://gematsu.com/2011/09/syndicate-reboot-leaked-first-screenshots

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Oh my! Please don’t ruin it…. Please don’t ruin it…. Please don’t ruin it…

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      yoggesothothe says:

      VG247 says its going to be an “action shooter”. Which could mean anything I guess.

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      Cinek says:

      Yep, they ruined it.

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    Anthile says:

    I loved Ocarina of Time back in the day but I have sworn to myself that I will never, ever touch it again, because I know it will never be as good as it is in my memories.

    • JackShandy says:

      I never liked Ocarina of Time. I played it when I was a kid, too, and as a kid I played every game with this horrible desperate mindset that it had to be a good game, because I’d just spent four months worth of pocket-money on it.

      Now Majora’s Mask, I’ll defend to the death, but Ocarina of Time just switched me between boredom and frustration. The forest where you had to trial-and-error your way through identical black corridors, or restart? The fish’s stomache dungeon? I pressed on for ages, but I could never get that spark everyone else obviously did.

    • Schadenfreude says:

      Thought you just had to follow the sound of the music to get through that forest. The music fades out if you’re about to take a wrong exit.

      Or maybe that’s a different game; it’s been so long since I’ve played it.

    • Xercies says:

      I think Ocarina Of Time holds up, it definitly has some annoying bits but I get over them. Though the water temple is not the best dungeon because its long and annoying. Other then that the gameplay is pretty damn good, the boss battles are spectacular and the story is alright.

      Majoras Mask is great as well.

    • JackShandy says:

      Huh, you’re right! And apparently the owl tells you so, as well. I remember having the internet then, too, so I guess there’s no excuse for not getting a walkthrough.

      Jabu-jabu’s belly was still shit, though.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      Yes, you could navi-gate (heh) through the forest by listening for the decrease in music volume, quite a nice idea I think. What was wrong with Jabu-jabu? The part where you had to carry around that Zora gal? I don’t think it was too bad.

      Surely, I would see the game with other eyes today, but it still is an excellent piece.

    • JackShandy says:

      All I have is a vivid memory of wondering around, totally lost and trapped in this fleshy, pulsating, pink-and-purple hell. Being constantly stunlocked by some kind of electricity things, being forced to carry this girl around, and running out of bombs.

    • adahn6 says:

      Having just replayed the game (3ds version), I will say: Jabu-Jabu’s belly is the low point of the game. Terrible bland visual design, poor layout, and questionable gameplay mechanic decisions (wtf Ruto, why do you disappear ALL THE TIME??? T.T )

      That being said, I think the kid dungeons really lower the experience of the rest of the game. I’ve always been a staunch defender of Majora’s Mask over Ocarina… but some of the later game stuff in Ocarina is really quite good even today.

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      And if you can’t follow the music (I have a terrible ear for this sort of thing), the correct exits actually look different to the wrong ones. The wrong ones have the foggy white bits in the centre that are characteristic of area-change doors; the right ones are matte black. :)

    • Jumwa says:

      Majora’s Mask and Ocarina of Time are both excellent games that hold up against the test of time really well. I bought Ocarina of Time back when it first came out–saved for it with my work money then–and I fired it up not too long ago, thinking it’d have lost its luster after all this time. I was wrong. I was still moved by it. It felt so much greater than even my memories had constructed it to be.

      Also: Ocarina of Time 3D has redesigned the Water Temple. The designer who made it says he thought of that place as a black mark on his career, and the down point of the game, so given the opportunity he redesigned it. I think that’s a rather harsh statement to make, but it is infamous for being the most challenging and time consuming of the games dungeons.

    • bill says:

      I’d say Ocarina would hold up pretty well these days – a lot better than many of it’s contemporaries.

      I played it for the first time about 4-5 years ago on an emulator on PC – and it’s one of my top 5 games of all time.

      Yes. Really.

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      Arathain says:

      It’s funny how subjective it can be, really. Everyone talks about the Water Temple as being frustrating and difficult, but it clicked pretty well with me. Water can be at these different levels, and different paths get opened depending on the level, which is really a lovely piece of design. It’s one of the more beautiful dungeons, as well. I do recall getting stuck a couple of times, but never feeling cheated when I finally worked it out.

      Jabu-Jabu was a low point, but it had a few great moments.

    • metalangel says:

      (have never played a Zelda game properly)

    • Harvey says:

      @Arathain: The part I (and most of us complainers i believe) Hated so much was the switching of the boots. Pause, navigate to boots, equip, unpause. Over and over.

      Raising and lowering the water level was painful as well, considering all the backtracking that was necessary, but getting the hang of using Farore’s Wind dulled that pain somewhat.

    • Baines says:

      It isn’t that Water Temple was difficult, but rather that it was frustrating and annoying. If you do everything right, it kind of drags. If you make a mistake, and you have to cycle through the water levels again, it gets annoying. If you miss something and actually have to search through the different water levels, it becomes frustrating.

      A decent number of people are going to make mistakes or miss something. Sometimes even smart or attentive people will do so. It is just a fact of life. You could have glowing arrows point to exactly where you need to go, and someone will still mess up or miss something. And while Ocarina isn’t exactly difficult, it still doesn’t quite have glowing arrows pointing you as to where to go.

      Mind, playing some later Zelda games first might armor you against the annoyance of Water Temple, such as having to deal with the frustration of sailing in Wind Waker. (Assign Baton to a button, use baton to change wind direction, watch baton cutscene, get in boat, assign sail to a button because it is only ever used in the boat, use sail, move in straight line while trying not to fall asleep from boredom, exit boat, reassign sail button to item useful on land if you might adventure, possibly reassign baton button)

    • JackShandy says:

      Thinking of how I experienced these games as a kid, I’m spotting a lot of design flaws that never bothered me as an adult.

      Take the opening of Majora’s Mask: After a vague opening cutscene I’m dumped in this forest with no idea who this kid I’m controlling is or why I’m here or what my goal is. But I go forward, slowly figuring out how to control this kid – and then half-way through the tutorial a terrifying cutscene pops out at me, and now I’m a plant-thing with a totally different set of mechanics.

      Then if I figure out the basics of these new mechanics, I have to continue learning them while trying to catch a bunch of kids hidden all over the place in a city I’ve never seen, while a timer counts down! And if I fail to do that in time, I have to start over again from the beginning?!

      That’s fucking nuts, is all.

    • Baines says:

      I’m not sure those are design flaws. Rather, what we now expect from games has changed.

      Originally, the player figured out a lot of a game himself. Arcades might have a demo, and home games came with manuals, but it was up to the player to figure out what to do. And games that piled more options and tasks onto the player were what players wanted.

      However, players have been conditioned to want things handed to them. They don’t want to many tasks thrown at them at once. They don’t want to fail, and don’t want to replay. (I find I have become the same way. Games of a type that I used to love are now things I find annoying to play, and not just for “good” reasons like interface problems. I have changed, and not all of the changes are necessarily positive.)

      (On a related note, I find it worrying that Eiji Aonuma, the man in charge of Zelda, says that he isn’t sure that there isn’t any game harder than the original Zelda. Zelda 1 isn’t even particularly hard. It doesn’t hold your hand, but it isn’t actually difficult.)

  4. Cunzy1 1 says:

    No Jim. No! Why’d you have to go and post that Geometry Wars score? Our little gang was happy to try to get to 20 million but this will kick start trying to beat this ridiculous score.

    Bastard.

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    yoggesothothe says:

    Not related to anything here, but have you guys read: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/09/11/technology/rich-tax-breaks-bolster-video-game-makers.html. It’s written like an expose on something outrageously wrong.

    Personally somewhat ambivalent about the implicit direction of the article (basically that the US should tax games industry more)–me, I always say “give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s”–but seriously, this article couldn’t be more biased.

    Unfortunate comparisons are made between the value of video games to society and projects like “reduc[ing] the pollutants released from the smokestacks of a refinery in Louisiana”.

    I get that the US has a serious deficit, and being progressive, I am not at all against paying more taxes. But the value judgement on video games rather rankles (that whole games haven’t “helped anyone beyond its shareholders, employees or customers” bit).

    Also, strange that they would pick on EA alone, although I guess they’re trying to play up the ‘revolving door’ angle with Glen Kohl. Straw men, false dichotomies, bad journalism all around. NY Times I am disappoint.

    • Squishpoke says:

      Taxes are bad, mmmkay?

      The colonies broke away for a reason. And ironically, we colonists are angry at our government for not spending our tax money wisely all these years later. It’s a never ending cycle, I tell you!

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      yoggesothothe says:

      Hmm, not gonna get into that argument (basically, I disagree). Just wanted to note how games are still seen as worthless to society.

    • GenBanks says:

      Urrgh, the opening lines already give a bad taste… Comparing tax breaks on medical advances to tax breaks on video games. Poor analogy…

    • Tams80 says:

      I got to the point where “even oil companies question” and gave up. Someone who thinks US oil companies should question the practices of other industries in US politics needs to rethink.

    • ix says:

      The core point of the article stands though. Subsidizing an industry that is plenty profitable does amount to simply enriching those companies’ shareholders.

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      @ix:

      That point could’ve been made very well without having to trash on video games in general. Any reasonable point the article could’ve had is lost in the author’s petulant whining and bitter tears.

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      yoggesothothe says:

      Ok, I guess I will get dragged into that debate then. I think the question of whether the way these tax breaks are being used to subsidize the industry has merit or not is rather debatable. In a purely self-contained world, ix I think your point is valid. But, as the article mentions, Canada now subsidizes the games industry even more, so getting rid of those subsidies might eventually be the same as eliminating hundreds of thousands of jobs, which would be rather counterproductive. (There’s a reason why almost all American TV shows are filmed in Canada–that’s just how American businesses operate: avoid taxes like the plague. Changing that culture is another debate altogether.)

      Again, I’m personally very progressive, so my own position is that taxes have real value and purpose. But there is a difference between ideology and reality; I’m also not going to turn a blind eye to how these subsidies have helped establish and maintain the American games industry as the world leader in its field, both in sales and innovation (recall the lament in the Japanese industry about the decline of their dominance). Does it really make sense to give up that competitive edge in this economy?

      But again, this is all beside the point of my posting the article, which was that it does its best to make this into a moral outrage. As Pointless Puppies points out, not only is that unnecessary, but it also moves the focus of the debate away from the objective worth of these subsidies to the economy to the idea that games have no value to begin with so the US government should not subsidize them at all anyway. That is a position that has no merit.

    • pH-unbalanced says:

      My impression from the article was that the big issue wasn’t really tax breaks *per se* but the capitalization rules for software — ie, it’s very hard to capitalize software, you generally have to expense it. This lowers your income, and thus lowers your taxes.

      The rules work this way because *non-software* companies were capitalizing internally developed software inappropriately. This raised their income, which raised their stock price.

      So what *I* got from this article was that other industries were using this as an excuse to complain about accounting rules they didn’t like. Taxes are a red herring here. Also note that all of these ‘tax breaks’ are directly tied to employing people to make software — the moment they cut their workforce they lose them.

      (I’m a CPA, but I don’t work in the software industry or do taxes.)

    • Psychopomp says:

      The best periods of economic growth in in US history had tax rates for the rich as high as 70%.

      Then Reagen happened, and the top 20% became the top 1%, and the bottom 20% has actually lost buying power.

      Taxes are good, mkay.

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      Daiv says:

      Don’t you just hate it when companies only benefit their shareholders, employees and customers.

      Unlike, say, Wal-Mart. People who aren’t shareholders, employees or customers benefit from Wal-Mart all the time. Somehow. It’s coming to me. Don’t rush me.

    • formivore says:

      Wait, who are games worthwhile to outside of “shareholders, employees or customers”? (Think of the pirates)? Reducing smokestack pollution is worthy of subsidy because it benefits society in a way that can’t be captured by the market. Medical innovation.. I am willing to make the value judgement that finding new cures is worthy of support in a way games development is not.

      More to the point, these kind of tax breaks benefit the EAs and Activisions at the expense of indies who don’t have the resources to take advantage of them. it is also a zero sum game internationally that hurts e.g. developers in the U.K.

  6. robsk ii says:

    Regarding the ownership of content created whilst at an employer in a creative industry – this happens surprisingly often. I’ve worked for a city council and as a lectuer, and in both cases, resourcing etc is claimed as owned by the employer, not the employee. Ridiculous in many ways, but understandable in gaming and so on.

    • Torgen says:

      This is common in every industry where employees are required to design solutions to problems. My father worked for a shipyard designing mechanical systems for construction and overhaul for ships, and his terms of employment were that the company owned *anything* he designed/invented while employed there, regardless whether it was totally unrelated to his field or not.

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    Ben Abraham says:

    In b4 Kieron: “OCARINA OF SHIT!”

  8. cliffski says:

    One of the big problems with the ‘we own your weekend work’ philosophy that many games companies have is that it’s another incentive (as if minecraft was not enough) For talented employees who have creative ideas that aren’t satisified at work, to fuck off and start their own indie studio.
    I speak from experience :D (although to be fair, lionhead were very relaxed about that stuff when I was there).

    Imagine you are a decent programmer, or artist, and that in a team of 100, there are 5 designers, so they really don’t need your design ideas. You are working on an MMo for the next 3 years, minimum, but have some great ideas for iphone games. Is the studio best served by you working weekends on them, honing your skills and keeping you happy, or by you quitting your job mid project because you are frustrated by not being able to have a hobby project?

    People who don’t work hard in their job should be fired, but whether or not they are also coding a decent game as a weekend hobby shouldn’t really enter into it. Some people can get a helluva lot of work done.

    • randomnine says:

      Yeah. Hobby projects are how you learn new techniques and skills – but it’s hard to stay motivated working on little games, tech demos, mods, etc. if you can’t even talk about them or put them out as freeware unless you get permission (which management may be unwilling to discuss until you’ve finished the project, or indeed ever, as it’s such a low priority for them). So many people under these clauses simply don’t do the sort of “extra-curricular” activity that’s essential to get into the industry in the first place, even if they’d like to.

      I can’t entirely agree with the viewpoint that this encourages people to go indie. It does to an extent, but it also means that going indie is an all or nothing affair. You can’t legally even start working on a game to put out until you’ve resigned, so there’s no way to test the water. You have to just take this leap of faith and believe you’re good enough to support yourself without any experience or practice, which is a scary thing. Having clauses like this in employment contracts may push creative people away but it also makes transitioning to indie development much harder for them.

      Not all games studios have clauses like this. The ones that don’t seem to do OK.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      I always search contracts for stuff like this before I sign anything. At my last job I specifically requested a waiver for some things I was working on…. though really you shouldn’t have to ask.

      “it ensures that people don’t draw a wage and actually just sink the time into their own projects”

      I really don’t understand this argument. As long as you work hard during working hours, how is what you do at home with your spare time in any way the business of your employer? Unless a company is paying for 24 hours/day of your time they are entitled to *nothing* more. This notion of somehow owning someone’s every creative thought is completely indefensible.

      I’ve even heard of some studios expressly prohibiting ANY personal projects (never mind owning them), which just boggles my mind. Surely the creative energy you get from working on cool stuff in your off time can only contribute positively to your professional work? Skills you hone on the weekends can feed back into your day-job and vice versa.

      Everybody wins… the individual, the company AND the industry.

      How many cool games are we missing out on because people are not *allowed* to work on them?

    • n1ckp says:

      “People who don’t work hard in their job should be fired, but whether or not they are also coding a decent game as a weekend hobby shouldn’t really enter into it. Some people can get a helluva lot of work done.”

      Totally dude. If I like to get drunk or what not instead of creating games on weekend is there a company policy saying I can’t get drunk? No, if it impact the company, they will fire me. And that’s how it should be. The same solution should be applied to the problem of people getting a wages while not working in the day because of their game.

      Do what people do on weekend and evening potentially have impacts on the day job? Yes.
      Do the company have anything to say about it? Only if it create a real problem.

      I don’t know how RPS (and other peoples) fell for it. This is totally abusive without any sane justification.

    • pakoito says:

      If I knock-up my girlfriend while I work for them…do they own my child then?

    • ThinkAndGrowWitcher says:

      “If I knock-up my girlfriend while I work for them…do they own my child then?”

      Nope. But it does effectively add a level of prostitution into your job role.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      I wonder, is there any word on the geographical spread of these kinds of clauses? My impression is that this mostly doesn’t happen in mainland Europe, but is fairly common in the UK and standard practice in the US…

      Is this accurate?

    • Gadriel says:

      They’re standard practice in every industry under the sun. Just not for the reasons cited. The purpose is to prevent employees working for the competition (even if the competition is the employee independently) . It’s the clause that keeps engineers from doing consulting or contract work for another firm while they’re on payroll. It’s not to stifle your creativity or to dictate what you do with your spare time as long as it’s not giving your skills/code/art/whatever to a rival. Generally they don’t care about you doing hobby projects that you’re not going to sell to anyone.

      As far as this preventing indie side projects, that falls under the same umbrella. As soon as you’re selling a product similar to the products you make at your job you’re the competition. The last thing any studio wants is a salaried employee making the next Minecraft (possibly on the clock, as it’s tough to tell just what a programmer is working on at a given moment) and making a mint while staying fed on their dollar and probably putting less creative effort into their actual job.

      As far as your contract is concerned, you’re an asset first and a blossoming font of individual creativity second. That’s not corporate oppression, that’s just business.

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      jrodman says:

      @Gadriel: Sounds like both to me.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      @Gadriel: That’s a depressing way of looking at it… also doesn’t change anything about the ethics of a company believing it ‘owns’ its employees.

      “and probably putting less creative effort into their actual job”

      That’s a big assumption. Creativity isn’t a finite resource. Being inspired at home usually leads to being more inspired at work too… plus we learn by doing. Creating things at home is also learning to better apply the skill that your employer hired you for.

      Obviously if something interferes with your ability to do your job, that’s another story… but I’m pretty sure everyone here is using the qualifier “as long as you’re doing your job properly”.

      I’d say most side-projects are non-commercial, but even if they weren’t… let’s take the ‘next Minecraft’ example:

      A developer is hired by a studio to do a job and he does it admirably. On the weekends the developer tinkers with a prototype for a game on his laptop. The prototype turns out to be pretty fun, so he puts it on iOS or Steam or whatever and makes some change.

      The studio hired him to do a job, which he did, and well. He used his own free time (and equipment) to make something of his own. The studio has no claim on it. They did not pay him to work during the weekends. They did not pay him some kind of bonus for the rights to all his ideas. They own only the work they paid him to do.

      Now obviously in some (most?) states or countries it is not illegal to include clauses in contracts that say otherwise and many agree to them, but that does not make it OK.

    • Gadriel says:

      @Ninja Dodo, it’s an awful practice, but a fairly standard one. I deeply abhor the idea of it, along with many other things that slip into work contracts. There just needs to be some perspective. There’s no difference to the company between you making some change by selling your game on Steam or the App Store and you making some change by selling your ideas to a rival firm. Either way, you’re working for the competition to the business types. That’s a no-no. They hired you for those ideas. (Or so they believe)

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      Still. I’d say that even if you *were* in the view of the business-types ‘competing’ with them by putting a game on the Appstore (which unless you’re working for an iPhone developer, you’re probably not), the resulting increase in skill and motivation from working on something both fun and (more or less) relevant in your free time are a net positive even to the employer.

      Stifling the creativity of developers can only have negative consequences for both the industry and the medium…

  9. phenom_x8 says:

    Pat garret??
    Pat Garrat I reckon, Jim! (are you entering “just kidding” mode here?)

    Yeah one more interesting read from me about game benchmarking and how FPS that we believe as a standard measure for how much joy we can get when playing could be wrong sometimes :

    http://techreport.com/articles.x/21516

  10. Sheng-ji says:

    I’m sorry, I’m the girl who would “stick it to the man” more than most, but that Crytek situation reeks of disgruntled ex-employee.

    Crunch times are standard in the industry, but it’s no secret – I remember theme park was one long crunch time and Sudeki certainly reached 6 months crunch easily if you put each target crunch back to back.

    I can’t find any facts in the rest of what is written, just tabloid style smear.

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    Thirith says:

    Jim: 99% agreed on the exposition/explicit narrative thing. To be honest, I don’t think that all that many studios have writing talent that can handle non-explicit narrative, but it’s something I dislike about gaming – and about gamers: so many of them think that reams and reams of exposition equals good storytelling in games. It can work – after 20+ hours of MGS or Final Fantasy style narration, I too tend to be Stockholm Syndromed into thinking that these stories are actually quite good – but when you look at what can be done with implicit narrative at its best (my personal favourites would probably be Valve’s games as well as ICO and Shadow of the Colossus on consoles), there’s a world of difference.

    It’s another reason why I was ambivalent about Dragon Age: as far as I’m concerned, Bioware did a great job of doing the background writing, but the actual story and characterisation are just so much in your face. Subtlety is a rare, precious commodity in too much video game writing.

    • henben says:

      The problem with games like Metal Gear Solid isn’t that they have exposition and explicit narrative, it’s that they deliver it badly, using endless non-interactive cutscenes (and I’d also argue that the narrative that’s being delivered is bad in its own right).

      Exposition is just the process of conveying information within a fictional context. A voice over your in-game headset, or a collectable audio file, is just as much exposition as a cutscene – but it’s a better method of exposition because it doesn’t just drop you out of the game.

      ICO and Valve’s games do have exposition (ICO has cutscenes, I’m pretty sure; Half Life has characters talking to you, on-rails first person pseudo-cutscenes) – it’s just that the exposition is delivered in a way that fits the medium.

      It’s true to say that they *also* use implicit narrative where the world is built further just by the implications of the level design (the empty playground in Half Life 2 etc), and that’s a good technique. But designers stripped out all methods of exposition and explicit narrative, it would limit the kinds of story they could tell. It could be done: Jonathan Blow’s The Witness looks like it’s an exercise in relying on implicit narrative, where exploring the environment is your main method of finding out the backstory to the island.

      That Pop Matters piece is stating the blindingly obvious in that in *all* games, the “pattern” is more important than the “plot” (exception: storytelling games where pattern and plot are interchangeable). You could present Deus Ex HR with all the narrative exposition stripped out, and the “patterns” left (avoiding/killing guards, managing limited resources, metagaming for achievements, etc) would still make it recognisably a game. Without the plot, the pattern would be less involving and engaging, but it would still be there. But consider the reverse situation where you strip the game down to a string of cutscenes, the content of the ebooks and newspapers, and so on. You wouldn’t have a game, just a bit of multimedia sci-fi. And the story considered in isolation is pretty bad – when you’re reunited with Megan, that should be a story beat of some kind, but there is just nothing there.

      So, to summarise this stupidly long comment:

      1 exposition doesn’t have to mean non-interactive cutscenes
      2. anyone asking “does story in games matter/can games tell stories/are game stories important?” is asking a stupid question – we know that some types of games *can* tell stories well, it’s just that most games use bad techniques to tell shitty stories.

    • Premium User Badge

      frymaster says:

      one of the best “cutscenes” in Deus Ex:Human Revolution was (spoilers, obviously), imo, the start of the bit where you challenge the Humanity Front guy during his press conference. Worked better for me that any of the 3rd-person pre-rendered crap

    • henben says:

      frymaster, you mean this scene: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nJ6Fv4ywBPY ?

      I didn’t even know that existed! I sneaked around backstage at the Convention Centre and found the information I needed that way. But is it a “cutscene” at all if it leads straight into an interactive conversational bit? The conversations in DE:HR were a high point – not only are they telling the story AND providing “gameplay”, but they also determine the outcome of parts of the story.

  12. Premium User Badge

    hermitek says:

    Is there something special about this Minecraft creeper? Because I didn’t notice anything… (Maybe author didn’t know that Minecraft supports that 3D thing natively?)

  13. sbs says:

    This writeup on the Frictional Games devblog was a nice read, i thought: http://frictionalgames.blogspot.com/2011/09/amnesia-one-year-later.html

  14. magnus says:

    Gloomy? Vultures Decend by Grey Machine is way better.

  15. thegooseking says:

    My mum knows the guy who invented the ATM. Apparently he invented it while working at Hewlett-Packard, but kept it secret until he left the company so HP wouldn’t claim the rights to it. So yeah, it’s hard to see how a company can enforce that kind of thing.

    Also I’m not sure I agree with that PopMatters post. The concept of ‘narrativity’ is a lot broader than the narrow definition used there. That’s the same mistake of the ludology/narratology argument that raged a few years ago: people were basically talking about the same things with different terminology and deciding that that meant they were talking about different things. The argument is internally consistent, but only because it relies on denying that games are a narrative medium by insisting that they must adopt the narrative conventions of other media: It’s basically circular logic.

  16. Squirrelfanatic says:

    Concerning the Ocarina of Time (he’s playing the DS version btw) thing, I have two thoughts, mainly:

    1. The experience of playing a game that is quite old today is tricky to compare with what other people have experienced back then shortly after release. The tech progressed, more advanced games have come out and are probably biasing your view on the old game, even if it is a remake.

    2. People should care less about other people’s opinions if those opinions tend to go into the extreme. This is something everybody learns (hopefully) after a rather short time on the internet. Praise for a good game is all well and good but some people just overdo it (hype, hype). If someone is unable to tell these two apart then it is mostly his fault if the expectations aren’t met.

    Personally, I enjoyed Ocarina of Time back then and might have been less excited about it if I played it for the first time today. But this doesn’t make the game less good, it just isn’t in line with the times anymore. Big surprise?

  17. Tams80 says:

    So that’s why the plane nearly blew up: “I went to Sweden last week to see Battlefield 3 at DICE. On the way back, our flight was cancelled thanks to a fuel leak,”. I sussed I did, I sussed it!

    Glad too see someone else realising always online DRM is bad, even if he sat on the fence far to long. =D

  18. Jason Moyer says:

    That Geometry Wars2 video is great. Wish I could play that on the PC.

  19. bhlaab says:

    “I thought people complaining about DRM were whiners, until it affected me personally!”

    How big of a jerk do you have to be

    • Vinraith says:

      Hanlon’s Razor. Never ascribe to malice (ie being a jerk) what can be adequately explained by stupidity. There is a world full of people out there that are exactly this kind of stupid.

    • Premium User Badge

      drewski says:

      I’m not sure this sort of lack of empathy can really be ascribed to stupidity or even ignorance.

      If you are unwilling to even cast your mind to the thought that some other may not have the same experience that you do, and that their experience may cause them to have legitimate complaints…then you’re kind of a jerk.

      I don’t think people should be excused for not caring about anyone but themselves.

    • Skabooga says:

      If you can’t empathize with people who can’t empathize, doesn’t that make one a bit of a jerk? :D

  20. LionsPhil says:

    Glad to see some attention given to Champions Online, even if the coverage is a bit dry and descriptive. It’s really impressed me as F2P done well, and also MMO done well—in that mostly I’ve been playing an enjoyable-enough CRPG with super-biff and lots of other super-biff going on in the periphery. Then you wander into an open mission and an ad-hoc alliance of people in spandex forms to fight off space aliens and robots. The only time I’ve stood around waiting for people to congregate to start a mission is when trying to play with specific friends.

    And that there’s no subscription means there’s no crippling “got to get your money’s worth” addiction.

  21. Alphabet says:

    But what was the philosophy tome?

  22. Rii says:

    I have a new film to watch courtesy of that piece at PopMatters: My Kid Could Paint That.

  23. Confusatron says:

    “I’d love to see what would happen if every game studio in the world were forced to remove exposition and explicit plotting from their games.”

    That’s the sentence that frightens me most. It’s this notion I’ve found among many who think that plotless, sandbox games are the way games should go. In my opinion, there’s room enough for many kinds of games. There’s nothing gaming *should* be. It *can* be many things – not every printed text is a novel, why should games be any different?

    Sure, more open games in which one is free to run around with the illusion of control offer a certain kind of fun, and games which have a more controlled narrative experience offer a different kind. There’s room for both, and one is certainly not ‘better’ than the other.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      YES!

      Context is underrated. If for example Assassin’s Creed were a game about a stick-figure running around a bunch of boxes, it would not have the same appeal.

      To me videogames are more akin to child’s play than to board- or card games.

  24. Navagon says:

    Great! Now I’ve got a decent FOV on Dead Island.

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      jaheira says:

      And I’ve fixed V-sync. Good linkage Jim!

    • Navagon says:

      I guess I’ve been lucky as I haven’t noticed any visual tearing. I’m just glad I can now see what’s in front of me. It’s always helpful, that.