The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on October 9th, 2011 at 2:56 pm.


Sundays are for driving across the hills, and through the forests. Sundays are for getting home to a cup of a tea and a boiled egg, and realising there’s still a compilation of the week’s words to do. These are those.

  • This week’s winner in the game of words is this dictionary development studio jargon that has been compiled by Gamasutra. I am sure some of them are fallacious, and I have never been used in anger, (while others are just silly), but I couldn’t help smile at “Gone All Kurtz”, “Save the Astronauts”, “Eating Your Own Dog Food” and “Pink Lightsaber”.
  • Brandon Sheffield’s The Creative Intent Of Rage interview was interesting to read, and then to reread in the light of wider discussions. It’s one of those situations where Sheffield was absolutely right, even if he was unfair. Whether you care depends on how you view the game in question. Me? I’ll be genuinely interested to see if mutant bandits do have an artistic streak, come the apocalypse.
  • Would you play a videogame you could never win?” Yes, of course. And I played several of them for years. (True answer: depends on the videogame, obviously.)
  • I seem to be linking to Kotaku a lot at the moment. Because they keep putting out stuff like this analysis of the success of Ian Bogost’s social/casual game satire Cow Clicker, as it explains: “This is the story of a person whose joke project became more successful than the one on which he lavished love and intellect, the climate that caused that to happen and how ultimately he decided to learn from it instead of becoming upset.”
  • NSFW: Electron Dance on the damage the psychic damage the Marvel Brothel creator did to himself through the research that went into his game. Remember, Internet Surfers, you cannot unsee!
  • Deltagamer interview the In Momentum devs Digital Arrow: ” InMomentum itself started off as a project that explored human reaction to simplified visuals where the focus was only on simple shapes, colors and lighting. Later on, this expanded more and we actually wanted to go towards an underground, dungeon art style. Looking back to that, I’m very glad that we did not, because the more the game evolved, the more important became to be able to quickly comprehend your environment. If we would’ve kept rocky surfaces and more complex shapes, it would’ve made the comprehension of your environment far more difficult, especially at high speeds.”
  • Podcast of the week has to be Three Moves Ahead on Achron. Our own Rich Cobbett is on there, talking for Britain.
  • The exit of game making talent from the UK is starting to make news. Sceptical as to whether there’s much to be done about it, frankly.
  • Gaming Daily talked to Chet Faliszek.
  • 2D Boy’s Ron Carmel asks “Is XBLA past its prime?” His detailed reasons for asking that question make for interesting reading, and, although a number of people have questioned his conclusions, everyone seems to agree that MS should probably pay attention. What do YOU think?
  • This interview with Where The Wild Things Are author Maurice Sendak is angry, sad: “Sendak is in search of what he calls a “yummy death”. William Blake set the standard, jumping up from his death bed at the last minute to start singing. “A happy death,” says Sendak. “It can be done.” He lifts his eyebrows to two peaks. “If you’re William Blake and totally crazy.”"
  • A comic strip about the bleak possibilities of Portal. Heh.

Music this week is Tim Hecker’s Dropped Pianos, via another Tim.

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59 Comments »

  1. Gassalasca says:

    Phew. I was worried.

    EDIT: That Hecker album is *amazing*. Stuck on repeat.

  2. Inigo says:

    He lifts his eyebrows to two peaks. “If you’re William Blake and totally crazy.””

    He then added that the gum he likes was going to come back in style.

    • Acorino says:

      It drives me crazy that I know this reference, but can’t quite remember where it’s from! Twin Peaks, maybe?

  3. Koozer says:

    “Would you play a videogame you could never win?”

    Bloody artists.

    *goes back to Dwarf Fortress*

  4. Premium User Badge

    frymaster says:

    hrm, I thought dogfooding was a fairly well-known phrase. Evidently not.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It has been in software development for ages. No particular reason for it to leak into the outside world, though.

      Also:

      Chicken and Egg Problem: A workflow or engineering problem where two things (usually code and content) depend on one to exist before the other.

      Wrong term. That’s a circular dependency, generalized a bit.

    • Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

      Yeah, quite a few of those get used pretty frequently in my humdrum application development job.

  5. Frank says:

    Huh, now I think even less of Bogost.

    • Zwack says:

      Yeah, he sounds like a man surprised that more people like a vacuous project in a popular style than heartfelt poetry in an obscure medium. Also that other people might take away a different message from a project than the one originally intended. If that’s indeed the case then maybe putting things into the public domain isn’t for him.

    • Josh W says:

      It’s strange, a freind’s view of you can be the most mundane, and the least coherent; I’ve talked half-heartedly with freinds about some issue, made very little sense, then put my thoughts together better afterwards and said something quite profound.

      But I don’t update my freind on how I worked out what I was talking about. Sometimes you’re freinds see only the emotion and the mundane process of making it, because the end content is aimed at someone else.

  6. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    I always respected Gamasutra, but man, the Sheffield dude took it up another notch! Kudos to him.

  7. the_p says:

    Brandon Sheffield, what a man. Imagine if most interviews were like this (!). What a joy to read/how reluctant to speak the developers would be.

    • Mr Chug says:

      Exactly this. He said exactly what he thought of the game, however negative, right in the face of two of the lead guys. It’s a refreshing change from the smiles and rainbows outlook given to most games interviews before and after release even the game is a disappointment (in particular, calling them out on their claim of ‘meaningful decisions’ to get them admitting that it ultimately came down to choosing which ammo type you liked nearly got my monitor a round of applause).

      Also ,fair play to the id guys for giving honest answers (and not stomping out in a huff).

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It is really good – not at all hostile, just blunt and asking interesting questions, rather than the usual boring ones that have been answered a thousand times already.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yeah, it was really refreshing to see an interviewer cut through the marketing crap that most interviewees spout. It was interesting that when they got to the bottom of most of the questions, the two id guys actually had justification for their decisions. Why can’t they just say that stuff instead of spinning everything. Though, I guess that for some aspects, they couldn’t market it very well – “Rage has dialogue options with nearly meaningless decisions!” probably wouldn’t work so well.

    • the_p says:

      Mr Chug, TillEulenspiegel, Matrressi,

      Yes indeed. By asking the questions he did the ID chaps had to reconsider/evaluate the worth of their answers – and no one lost out. Isn’t this how interviews should be – certainly there’s room for the sort of interview that is, primarily, in the interests of promoting the game, but that shouldn’t be the dominant approach. Interviews should draw out the important decisions the developers have made and highlight the distinguishing features of a game, since isn’t part of a games interview a chance for the reader to find out what’s ‘new’ about a new game (unless, naturally, the game is an homage, or for whatever reason deliberately follows the rules and codes of previous games and aspires no higher – nothing wrong with that sometimes), and why it’s worth bothering with?

    • wodin says:

      Superb interview…I bet the AC fella was sweating….

      Now Rage is out you can see where he was coming from.

    • qrter says:

      What I love are that some of the commenters thought Sheffield was being horribly rude.. you think that was being rude..? This is how gamers, your actual consumers, talk about your games (and I’m talking reasonable gamers here, not the vindictive or the fanboys).

      I think it highlights nicely how some developers can lose perspective (actually, this goes for any artist in any field).

    • Tams80 says:

      It was much better than most of the usual PR rubbish, but did come off a bit rude and not like good journalism in other areas. Maybe he just asked a few too many of ‘those’ questions. That said, I have to agree with qrter; their audience are a bit like that, so it’s really just them getting to hear what some gamers really think.

      Then again, this is coming from someone who thinks Paxman is a great interviewer (well, Sheffield wasn’t anything like Paxman and it was an article, not a broadcast).

    • Premium User Badge

      WombatDeath says:

      “Hostile”? Bloody hell.

      This is what journalism looks like when it’s working properly! This is what’s supposed to happen! Asking questions; highlighting places where words and realities seem to be in conflict.

      If that interview is considered hostile – if the lack of sycophancy and PR compliance is of itself sufficient cause to label an interview “hostile” – I can only conclude that games journalism in general must be in a truly woeful state.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I don’t really see what’s so great about that interview. He was asking one of the game’s artists questions about gameplay and marketability and then getting all Bill O’Reilly when the guy was like “I don’t know, I just make things look pretty.”

    • Mattressi says:

      Jason, I felt the interview was good because he actually asked some tough questions which required the id guys to either walk out in a huff or stop spinning their PR crap. By itself, the interview was good, not great; but compared to the overwhelming majority of games interviews, it was great. In regular interviews, it’s perfectly normal to see an interviewer begin to ask a tough question, but also add a scapegoat at the end of it – such as “some of the textures aren’t at the highest resolution possible [read: the game is a blurry mess]; is this because you want to ensure that those with lower spec systems don’t miss out?” or “the quests are very straight-forward and only have the option to accept or decline; is this paying homage to _____?”. Interviewee: “err, yeah, that’s exactly why we did that <_<" . Not saying they're exact questions I've seen, but that's the style of "journalism" I've seen in interviews – the only way a tough question is ever asked is sugar-coated and with a clear escape route if the interviewee can't actually justify their reasoning.

    • MultiVaC says:

      Yeah, I really liked the interview and I was pretty frustrated that so many of the commenters thought it was rude or overly critical. I don’t see how anyone can think of these questions as being rude in the current climate of discourse we have interviews regarding movies, music, technology, and especially politics (where political talk show hosts generally fall in a spectrum between “aggressive” and “absolute prick”). Some of the questions were a little harsh, but they are things that consumers are bound to be thinking. I’ve seen so many people online taken aback by RAGE being compared to Borderlands, saying it’s an unfair comparison or whatever, but I doubt there is a single person familiar with Borderlands who didn’t get an immediate feeling of similarity when they first saw RAGE, even if it is only on the surface. People are thinking it, and I’m glad he asked. And when the guys at id were given a little push to justify their game decisions, they gave much more interesting answers. It’s too bad that we’re so used to softball PR interviews that people actually think stuff like this is somehow out of line. I always liked the Penny Arcade comic that was something like “Interviewer: ‘How awesome is your game?’ Interviewee: ‘So awesome.’” It so often proves to be true.

    • Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

      I’m not a fan of that interview at all. I don’t mind tough questions but at least make them interesting tough questions. The interviewer came across as being argumentative instead of asking questions that would have added value to the interview. I didn’t learn anything from that interview I would consider worth knowing and it is because of the questions.

      Being an argumentative little shit may be amusing down at the pub but not here.

    • Mattressi says:

      Not sure how you didn’t find it informative. I learnt that it was completely linear (when reviews came out, I learnt that too) and that there were no moral dilemma-type choices or anything; just a simple “do you want this quest?” mechanic. This isn’t stuff that you can find out from the marketing for the game. No company is going to advertise their game as a linear corridor shooter with no meaningful choices. The interviewer had encountered things contrary to what id had said (like how there’s meaningful choices) and took them to task on it – perhaps there could be meaningful choices later in game, but he found out from them that there wasn’t.

      Some things seemed more like he was making fun of them (like artistic mutant bandits), but I’d imagine that was meant in a humorous way.

    • Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

      Except that nowhere ever did iD or anyone else make any claims about the game raising any deep moral conundrums or being a vast open world exploration game. Also, through the eyes of a bad interviewer you’ve learned the wrong thing about the game. It’s basically a hub based mission shooter with a few open areas between hubs to explore and a linear storyline. Metro 2033 was a linear corridor based shooter.

      The guy is basically whinging that the game isn’t something else. As for the artistic bandits thing it is completely from left field and adds absolutely nothing. Who cares if the bandits express themselves through arts? Not everything needs to have some sort of deeper meaning? I know my response to the question was “What the fuck is he on about? It’s a game. Of course the art is to add some interesting aesthetics to the environments.”

    • bill says:

      Yeah, I love his tough questions:

      Why is your post apocalyptic game brown?
      Why doesn’t your FPS hero speak?
      Why did your artists add artistic touches to the game?
      Why do you have guns in an FPS?
      Why is this FPS like an FPS?

      We definitely need more hard hitting interviews like that!

      Only good bit of the interview was iD’s response: “because the guys that made it are artistic”. Which you can just hear the “duh” and picard-style facepalm that obviously preceded it.

  8. Robin says:

    “Eat your own dogfood” is a good expression and a good sentiment too.

    I find it quite odd that some people use “single A” now as if it’s derived from “AAA”. Some publishers really do use letter grades (from AAA down to F) internally, years before “AAA” became common parlance.

  9. noclip says:

    “Would you play a videogame you could never win?”

    We’re all playing at least one, it’s not like we have a choice.

  10. Dreamhacker says:

    I’m not really sure why id is even making games at this point.

    They could have a great future making game engines…

  11. BurningPet says:

    What is this XBLA thing? is this a dumbed down version of Steam?

  12. Radiant says:

    Damn Sheffield went /in/ on Id.

    GOOD.
    Big studios should be held accountable for the rubbish they trot out in interviews.

    Also Insertcredit needs more traffic.

  13. phenom_x8 says:

    http://www.pcgamer.com/2011/10/07/opinion-ubisoft-piracy-and-the-death-of-reason/

    Thats worth to read, Jim!

    And my fave quotes from above article:

    “And they do have that right. But PC gamers work hard for their money, too, and they deserve full-featured games that let them have the best experiences possible on their chosen platform. They deserve a publisher that cares more about its customers than its resentments.”

    • Wooly Wugga Wugga says:

      I’m more interested in this quote:

      “However, Ubisoft provides a test-case. We are almost two years into its aggressive attack on PC piracy. Recently, Ubisoft called its “always-on” DRM a success, claiming “a clear reduction in piracy.”

      In terms of actual sales, however, the results seem decidedly mixed. Michael Pachter told Eurogamer that Ubisoft’s “PC game sales are down 90% without a corresponding lift in console sales.””

      Wow, since demanding always-on internet connectivity your sales have dropped by 90% ? Reaaly? And you don’t think that there might be some correlation between the two events? At all? Ubisoft must have the worst execs in the world ever : “Look we’re doing something that is massacring our sales! We are victorious!”

      In other news their share outlook is : “SELL”

    • bill says:

      I haven’t found a clear answer as to exactly WHEN this 90% drop occured though. ie: was the DRM in response to a 90% drop, or the 90% drop in response to the DRM?

      It’d be nice to be clear, as it’d put the nail in DRM’s coffin.

    • Sabre_Justice says:

      I’d say while piracy is probably a good reason as any, a 90% drop probably involves a combination of several reasons. For starters, when was the last time Ubisoft released a decent PC-oriented game? How many have they even been making?

      The way publishers are behaving really isn’t helping their cause against the ‘publishers blame poor sales of shitty games on pirates’ thing. You neglect the PC platform using piracy as an excuse, it’s your own damn fault your sales will be poor. Same with any platform really, reminds me of devs complaining they can’t make any money on the Wii when they keep throwing out random games onto shelves amongst shovelware with zero advertising. Ironically, Ubisoft is one of the companies that’s actually making bank on the Wii with the Rabbids franchise.

  14. Koozer says:

    On Cow Clicker:

    It must’ve been so awful for Mr. Bogost implementing all those features his users gladly bought, I can only imagine the terrible torment he went through collecting all those cheques.

    If he was really so adamantly against social games, he would’ve stopped charging after it became apparent people were buying seriously, and left it open and free for people who actually like it instead of shutting it down.

  15. The Innocent says:

    Wow. That interview with Maurice Sendak truly is angry and sad.

  16. Niko The Maestro says:

    The interview with chaud made my day. Now I feel like I should play marvel brothel

  17. kazooka says:

    I feel like both sides are right on Sheffield. He asked some really great, insightful questions, but the longer the interview goes, the more you start seeing questions that are more like criticisms of the game with a question mark tacked on. Those aren’t good questions. That said, I definitely prefer rude to puff piece.

    Also, the interviewee needs to take some heat here. He got down right surly really early in the interview:

    “Within the mythology of the game, is there a reason why these guys are so art-inclined?

    AC: It’s because they were made by guys that were art-inclined.”

    You don’t get to do that if you’re doing PR. Even if the interviewer deserves it. That’s not the point.

    And getting lost in this is the whole point of the interview, which is that id seemed to go into Rage with no overarching creative drive other than “that looks cool.” That’s a very 90′s way of doing things, which has consistently been a big criticism of id games.

    Also wanted to note how great that piece on Bogost was.

    • qrter says:

      I think an important aspect of the interview is that Sheffield had just finished playing the game for four hours straight – so he has just experienced the game, and the id team starts throwing PR fluff towards him. He hears them say things he just did not see in the game – hence the questions.

      I don’t see anything wrong with his questions. It’s how we as gamers would talk about a game.

    • Baines says:

      I don’t see Sheffield’s questions as surly at all. He asked the kinds of questions that *all* interviewers should be asking, instead of just giving cues for PR blurbs. The latter isn’t an interview, it is free advertising in the form of a four page fluff piece.

      Sheffield gave the guy several hooks to expand and hype the game as well. It is just that the guy being interviewed seemed stuck a bit too much in generic PR mode to take proper advantage of it. Like the art question. The guy could have went on about how much freedom megatextures give the artists, and how they wanted the game to look like a real world, but he didn’t. And when Sheffield pressed to see if there was more in-game story or character depth behind the art, the guy just brushed off the question. To me, that wasn’t being a jerk, that was giving the guy free chances to push how amazing the game was. Heck, by raising the art issue, Sheffield was drawing attention to one of the things that actually makes Rage look a bit different from other games.

    • Jimbo says:

      I enjoyed it. It’s refreshing to see an interviewer prepared to call a developer on their bullshit claims, instead of just letting them read from a script without being challenged on anything.

      When they were challenged – which they aren’t at all used to or prepared for- a lot of the responses were very weak.

    • Dervish says:

      AC: It’s because they were made by guys that were art-inclined.

      What’s the problem with this answer? It’s a pithy way of saying, “There’s no in-game explanation for that, we did it to make things look cool.” I don’t think it’s surly at all.

    • JackShandy says:

      Your average joe plays rage, he goes “It looks a lot like fallout.” Someone in the gaming press says the same thing and we all swing around wildly going “WHAT WHAT WHAT?”

  18. kazooka says:

    @Baines: I didn’t think Sheffield was ever surly; I did think the guy answering the questions got touchy pretty early in the process. It felt like when he didn’t have good answers for Sheffield’s questions, he got frustrated.

    So yeah, I completely agree.

    edit: ugh, this should have gone in the thread directly above this.

    • Baines says:

      Ah, when you said “Even if the interviewer deserves it”, I combined it with your comments that you thought the interview became more critical as it progressed, and I thought it meant you felt Sheffield deserved it. That is my mistake, for reading a bit too much into what you said.

  19. somini says:

    About the “game you can’t win” there is an obvious answer: Tetris.

    • JackShandy says:

      Space Invaders. Geometry wars. Missile command.

      More pertinently: Glitchhiker.

      Anyone who hasn’t played a game you can’t win is probably new.

    • hello_mr.Trout says:

      tetris had an ending!
      i remember beating it on my gameboy when i was little – a spaceship blasted off to special tetris music…
      although i never quite knew what the connection was meant to be

  20. Bantros says:

    RE: Kotaku article, people pay to click a cow or wait 6 hours to click it again. Absolutely unbelievable, you couldn’t make that shit up

  21. bill says:

    Portal thing has freaked me out.

    I could never get past the 2nd screen of Airwolf on the specturm… let alone win!

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Prolly for the best. I never could understand why they decided to make a helicopter game in to a cave-crawler type thing.

  22. Dan Forever says:

    What does it say about the state of the UK games industry when a London game dev like myself is reading the BBC news post “UK ‘must act to solve games industry brain drain’” from his second game dev job in a foreign country?

  23. killingbutterflies says:

    I find that Cow Clicker says more the tiresome displays of superiority displayed by self-important Bogost and his contemporaries rather than the worth of social gaming. Is that ironic?

  24. bill says:

    Is it weird that I REALLY want to try Cow Clicker now?