The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on November 13th, 2011 at 12:30 pm.


Sunday mornings are for realising that it’s going to be a slow week of typing because you bought a new keyboard and it’s just ever so slightly different to the old one, which means one extra bad key hit per sentence. Sigh. At least it glows in the dark.

  • Brandon Sheffield’s Game Changers article appears to be a sort of predictably zeitgeisty filler material in the subjects that he picks, but having read it I think it’s actually a genuinely important overview of where we are right now, looking who is changing the industry, and why. On the Humble bundle project: “One of the project’s additional successes comes from its ability to retain that indie feeling while growing massively. As the bundles have gotten more successful, they attracted the attention of investors. Sequoia Capital provided venture funding of $4.7 million to the bundle’s future growth, which is a decidedly un-humble amount of money.” These are the companies worth paying attention to. Humble alone is interesting enough because it is generating significant wealth for indies who might otherwise have struggled to break even. That success is indicative of where the “indie” revolution has got to, now: people have worked out exactly how to get the games to the players, and the money to their bank accounts. And that’s worth being aware of.
  • Eurogamer talks to Team Bondi’s Brendan Mcnamara (some serious spoilers if you’ve not played LA Noire): “People are entitled to their opinion. I’m perfectly happy for people to say they don’t like working with me or I’m a bully or I’m this or whatever. The part that annoys me is people do it anonymously. I’d rather they just ring me up and tell me to f**k off, right? Or people want to print your company emails on the internet. I’m like, what is that about? That could happen to any company in the business.”
  • While you are over at EG, read Nvidia’s boasting about Battlefield 3.
  • Skyrim bugs are going to dominate the next couple of weeks, aren’t they?
  • Harbour Master pinged me this odd little piece on Passage: ” I took my parent to look at it and even managed to get my mother to play it. As she got to grips with the controls (it is literally a stick and a button) I explained what I understood Rohrer’s design to be and about some of the symbolism. I felt a bit like that guy: the pretentious art nob-end who comes up to you and tries to explain the deeper meaning of Guernica to you, along with the politics and emotions behind it; or the git you meet at a party who tells you all about whatever new prog-rock nonsense is popular (Coheed and Cambria was the last one, for me). My mother described Passage as “poignant” and I almost felt justified in my arthouse-dickhead descent.”
  • Some good thoughts on Red Dead Redemption. Oh that game will never see the light of a PC…
  • This is a strange piece of writing that a few different people have sent me this week: The Tetris Effect. Interesting, but I am not quite sure about the point he is trying to make.
  • Deltagamer offers a brief history of The Elder Scrolls’ games.
  • James Archer is defending regenerating health! Don’t worry, he offers some constructive crit too: “Is it realistic? Not really. Neither is anything where it’s possible to brush off bullet wounds and monster claws with little more than a “Ungh”. Even so, it’s not unreasonable to wonder if regen would be met with less general hostility if it was worked into each game’s lore a bit better.”
  • What indie George Buckenham learned about his game from showing it at GameCity. An interesting meditation on developer feedback, and the importance/risk of exposing your game to many minds before completion.
  • Suggestions for ‘degamification’: ” When engagement is low, it’s the job of the engager to step in and stimulate it (by gamification). But as engagement rises, the engager should degamify the systems to avoid, er, content inflation – which you might define as activity designed only to trigger game mechanics rather than whatever the supposed point of the tool is creativity, fun, etc.”
  • Cliff pings over some Gratuitous Tank Battles alpha footage.
  • Thrilling Wonder Stories has its first batch of videos from the sci-fi/architecture/film studies/futurology event up.
  • I want one of these.

Music this week is via Phill Cameron, and is Benqe’s Twenty Systems, an album made with uh twenty systems.

More soon! If you have any links for the papers you can email me (link in my name at the top there) or tweet me up here.

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91 Comments »

  1. Dominic White says:

    I’ve always liked ‘hybrid’ regenerating health systems like Far Cry 2, Chronicles of Riddick, etc, where a burst of fire or some other heavy, direct hit will wound you long-term until you can find something to patch yourself up, but getting nicked by a bullet from a hundred feet away will just let you shrug it off, action movie style.

    • sinister agent says:

      Same here. Resistance (and presumably the sequels) had a system that amazingly few games have stolen – health bar is divided into four parts. You auto-heal up to the nearest quarter, but need medkits to restore more quarters.

      It didn’t have the wounding thing as Far Cry 2 did, but it worked perfectly well for a pure action, almost doom-esque game.

      Jagged Alliance healing should also be more widely used. Bandages stop bleeding and mean you won’t die and can probably fight back or limp away, but you need either a few days or a good doctor to restore the health. I think it might be feasible for a tactical shooter to do something comparable, just with less downtime.

    • Bhazor says:

      The health system in the original Halo has always been my favourite. Your shield meant you could still fight even with one sliver of health left but you were still punished for stupid behaviour. The COD style approach though is just sooo boring.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, the Halo 1/Reach system was pretty great, too. Your health bar is static and needs items to restore it, but your shield provides you with just a second or two of defense when out of cover. The additional quirks of it, like how energy weapons chew through shields faster, but projectile weapons are better against armor added some nice depth to it. I especially liked how, if your shield is up, headshots don’t count unless you get caught straight in the face with a sniper shot.

      PC grognards like to say how Halo was terribly dumbed down, but it really does have quite a surprising degree of depth even in multiplayer.

    • Bhazor says:

      Now Halo 2 on the other hand…

    • Dominic White says:

      Halo 2 was just kinda pants.

    • DuckSauce says:

      @sinister agent:
      Kenshi has a system similar to the Jagged Alliance one, although it’s supposed to be expanded further and is rather rough in it’s current alpha state.

      It does have the same concept of no insta healing, you bandage your wounds and then you wait for it to heal.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I loved the quasi-realistic health model of the Jagged Alliances. I’m not too bothered about what FPSes do, but I wish more RPGs would do away with powerful healing magic and adopt something like it.

      Darklands was pretty similar, except you couldn’t really dump an injured comrade at the inn for a few weeks and grab a replacement.

    • AndrewC says:

      Far Cry 2 Far Cry 2!

      Also Batman only regenerates *after* a fight, i think, which keeps danger but removes annoyance. Nice!

      Play mechanics are bad if they are used badly, and at no other times.

    • DrGonzo says:

      And Max Payne! Probably not the first, but the first one I’m aware of.

    • Saiko Kila says:

      Silent Storm Sentinels has similar system, not as hard as Jagged Alliance, but still – you can only bandage wounds, within certain limits, but not heal permanently during mission. And after mission you need to pay for full healing. Which may be impossible, or inadvisable, so you soldiers wait for you to collect cash. But all these restrictions in turn-based tactical games are successor to UFO series, where it could take many weeks or even months for you wounded survivors to regain combat readiness.

    • buzzmong says:

      Out of all the games out recently, I think AvP2010 has had the best regen system.

      3 blocks of health. Regen only works on the current block and only if you don’t lose it completely. Also bolstered by the fact you carried 3 stim packs to restore a block when needed (and fills the medkit role). Good system.

      Failing that, as Dr Gonzo mentioned: the Max Payne method.
      Health will regen to 25% only. Still reliant on medkits (pills in Max’s case) of which there are a limited amount, but you’re never totally stuffed but you never feel immortal either.

      Said Max Payne method would make Battlefield 3 awesome as full regen is turning the game into a CoD-fest.

    • MattM says:

      Max Payne also adjusted how many painkillers you found based on the amount in your inventory.

    • Kandon Arc says:

      Yeah first time you encounter a frost troll or a snow sabre cat, you’re lucky if you survive.

    • Baines says:

      I’ve played a Flash game that used a “heal up to the next quarter” mechanic. Overall, it was nice because it removed my incentive to just stand around until my entire life bar regenned. But it did lead to some annoying instances, where just one pixel of extra damage was enough to prevent you from regaining an entire quarter-bar of health. It also meant I was more likely to heal to what max I could, because one pixel could be that much of a long term difference.

      Tag-team fighting games have their own version of limited health regen. Effectively, you have two health bars. Your yellow life is your real life, run out and you die. But you have a red life bar that lags behind your yellow bar. If you switch fighters, an injured fighter will start converting red life back into yellow. This system leads to other mechanics, such as some moves that are designed specifically to chip away red life more than normal (trading the ability to do more immediate damage for making sure your opponent can’t recover as much).

    • LionsPhil says:

      The other neat trick Max Payne did was that painkillers didn’t actually heal you instantly; they just set a bar that Max would heal to over time. Which meant that you couldn’t sit and weather a hail of fire just by chewing on medical supplies—there was a hard limit on how much punishment you could take beyond healing resources, which meant the map designers could be generous with the latter without stopping you from being under pressure to dive around dodging bullets.

      It was pretty much a perfect system for the real-in-the-action-film-sense kind of game, IMO.

      Also Republic Commando got squaddish health done well, with its (Halo-esque, I guess?) regenerating-shield-over-normal-health system. A wounded squad was an increased liability but never a reload-last-save unwinnable situation. And anyone could revive anyone, so you could take risks without “player is dead, everything fails” syndrome.

      As for standing around forever to heal: Nethack. Add time pressure (need to eat) and make it into a strategic balancing decision between food, accelerated healing resources (e.g. items, magical power), and risk (go into combat partially unhealed).

    • Soon says:

      I find it more jarring in RPGs than other games where something being more “gamey” doesn’t matter to me as much. In an RPG, I expect the population of the world to be subject to the same laws as my character. So if I have regenerating health, it suggests I’m in a world where all wounds and injuries regenerate after a brief period of time for everybody, yet it’s never mentioned by anybody or explained as part of the lore, just put down to the fact it’s a game. It’d be interesting to come across an RPG that thinks about the effects of the entire populace being able to regenerate like that. How would it affect medicine, or perception of danger, would society be more violent, less averse to risk… what effects does that have, etc.

    • Mman says:

      The big problem with the regenerating health article is that it completely overlooks one of the main reasons why health regen is frequently regarded as “dumbing down” (and that someone in the comments also pointed out); Health regen became popular at pretty much the same time FPS games in general began to shift towards being in entirely linear “interactive movie” style and abolished almost any exploration whatsoever.

      While various games have done it right and also shown that regenerating health doesn’t have to preclude exploration at all (and I’d blame things like arbitrary weapon limits much more for that shift), it’s still probably the biggest reason for a lot of the hate health regen gets from people who generally prefer earlier FPS design.

    • Dervish says:

      The article is one of those shallow fluff pieces where the author tosses out some random thoughts for both sides and doesn’t bother to develop a point before jumping to the next one. Of course he ends with “They’re all fine.” Great insights dude!

      Most annoying sentence: “Any advantage medkits have over regen, in terms of tactical depth, are negated by the fact that they tend to be dropped in random, arbitrary positions [...]” In other words, health placement can never increase the amount of tactics needed, because some designers are bad at it some of the time. Awesome logic bro!

      It’s almost like the article was half-heartedly written just to get page views or something.

    • archimandrite says:

      The recent Assassin’s Creed games(the ones with Ezio) use that style of limited-regeneration. Of course, they suffer from another problem, which is the abundance and cheapness of consumable health-potions.

  2. El Armonista! says:

    Be warned that “Some spoilers” regarding L.A. Noire is a massive understatement.

  3. felisc says:

    sunday mornings are for playing skyrim in pyjamas until 2011 ends.

  4. Mark says:

    Brendan Mcnamara really is asking to be prank called en masse.

  5. Sleepymatt says:

    Re: “I want one of these”

    Kinda fun for freaking out passengers in the airport (wierdly probably more so than actual police with machine guns – surely this robot needs an upgrade… :P), but imagine the police’s faces:

    “So what did the terrorists look like?”

    “Well, um, they had grey jeans and black shoes. Oh yeah, and two legs!”.

    :/

    • Finster says:

      The first upgrade is the instantly deployable air cushion.
      Improves off-road capability! Only available in white.
      Rotundus. Leaders in Village security.

  6. Mark says:

    Related to Skyrim’s bugs, Gamasutra has an articles up: ‘Eric Schwarz’s Blog – Skyrim, Or How Not To Make A PC Game’

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/EricSchwarz/20111111/8866/Skyrim_or_How_Not_to_Make_a_PC_Game.php

    One thing I disagree with is his gripe about achievements being disabled with console commands. For achievements to have value, they must be earned within the default parameters set by the developers. The fault is that there are progress-halting bugs; that’s the issue.

    Otherwise, the article appears pretty sound, though I have not played Skyrim, nor intend to. (Not my cup of PG.)

    • Batolemaeus says:

      You’re implying achievements had value in the first place.
      Actually, thinking about it, they do hold value. Negative value.

    • radomaj says:

      I like achievements. I can understand how someone wouldn’t care for them, though. However, please do tell me how do they detract from your experience?

    • AndrewC says:

      Denying their value gives him the PC Gaming Achievement of ‘Being Different To Everyone Else’.

    • iyokus says:

      Achievements don’t and shouldn’t have value. Some people like them, and that’s fine, but apparently they can’t be satisfied that they got their achievements the ‘right’ way, they complained to ensure that other people couldn’t get them via console. It didn’t affect their game in any way but that feeling of superiority was too important to let the lazy rabble get the same reward without all the pointless minutiae and grind.

    • AndrewC says:

      I guess there’s an important idea in letting people play single player games any way they want, but do try and stop writing entire parapgraphs when ‘i want to cheat’ will do.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Well there I am, deep in the bunker. There’s still a way to go, but I’m down to my last clip; this will be damn tight. I hunker down in the corner and sort through my pouches; no, there’s nothing.

      I can hear activity ahead. I make out two voices; that’s doable. Just keep cool. As I swing myself out, bring up the gun, search out the shapes down the corridor I realise that there’s three. In my surprise, I stumble slightly, my aim is thrown and that vital element of surprise goes out of the window. “He’s here!” shouts one, and the air is alive with the snap and roar of gunfire. I let my momentum carry me on, across the corridor, and take refuge on the other side. I edge back, and that’s when I realise: there’s enough junk in the corridor that, if I get down really low, I can crawl right across without them knowing.

      So I do, and soon I am back where I started, except they don’t know that. I hear them muttering tactics to each other. I take a deep breath and swing out again. All three are in the clear, and looking very surprised. As they scramble for cover, my pistol cracks once, twice, three times, and unbelievably, it’s a headshot each time. All three fall lifeless to the floor. I step out to relieve them of their submachineguns.

      That’s when it happened. Out of nowhere, something, well, invades me. Across my vision, a grey box appears, perfectly sharp, on the lower right. I recoil from it, but it moves too, and I realise, it’s in my helmet HUD. It looks nothing like the HUD UI; I start to wonder if this is some sort of cybernetic attack. It’s not painful, not even uncomfortable, but still I’m shitting bricks; what the christ is this? I hammer at the HUD interface controls, but to no avail. It takes me a moment to realise it’s got writing on; it says “Achievement! Three Times The Charm – three bullets, three headshots”, and a little cartoony picture. What is this agency that can inveigle its way right into my standalone system, yet uses its clearly huge power simply to tell me what I already know and reduce my struggles to a fucking infographic? The fact my systems are vulnerable is not what worries me, so much as the idea of something like this being used for such a trivial and meaningless purpose, just distracting me. It’s like I’m supposed to treat the war as a game or something.

      I tear off the helmet, jerking the interface cables free, ignoring the frantic beeping. If that’s the way things are, well, I’m better off with just my eyes and ears.

    • AndrewC says:

      You must be utterly terrified of everything. I suggest hiding.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      radomaj, designers build whole games around achievements, but for them to hold “value”, there must be an investment.
      In almost every case, the investment measured is time. Since there is pressure to include achievements everywhere, new games come out with parts designed for “achievements”, boiling down to tedium. Ingenuity is hard to actually spot and reward.
      This wouldn’t be so bad if you could ignore them. But you can’t. Games designed for multiplayer suffer the most. Tf2 is the best example of a game that suffered heavily from achievements. Whenever a new round of achievements (and item rewards for them) was released, the game became unbearable online as teamplay dissolved since the achievements did not reward normal gameplay.
      Furthermore, there is pressure to make them mandatory as comparing e-peen over the amount of time sunk into gaining achievements is directly influencing sales. So when you’re in singleplayer, you can’t even turn them off if you want to.

      So in other words, their net value is negative.

    • GBoyzJay says:

      You mean the console disabling achievements… for that session? I found this out a long time ago, that it doesn’t disable achievements for the rest of the game, just that session. Fire up an earlier save and “do it rite”, as it were, and, lo and behold, achievement get, as far as I remember. I accidentally hit the tilde key a number of times, and it didn’t penalise me afaik.

    • Mark says:

      @Batolemaeus:

      Most of the achievements I see are based more on challenge. It’s rare that I see the “Kill 500 bad dudes with a machete”-type achievements now. If we look at MW3′s achievements, for example, there’s “Complete a Special Ops Mission Mode game on Hardened or Veteran with no player getting downed.” That’s about skill, not necessarily repetition. They’re just a series of arbitrary challenges that aim to be fun to beat.

      Your issue, to me, appears that some achievements are designed poorly. That doesn’t mean all achievements are bad.

    • McCool says:

      I’m in the “Achievements detract from games” camp. It’s a tacky, immersion breaking system added on top of the game the developers actually want to make, that sometimes (but not always) actually detracts from the style of play that best suits the game. In games like Skyrim achievements are probably okay, but in a game explicitly about their absence like Braid, nononono. They are insidious because they imply a certain type of play – the collect ‘em up approach to seeing a game as an assault course, an artefact for mining different difficult achievements from. This might be what your game is about, it might not.

    • Nick says:

      I’m only against achievements when I can’t turn notifications of them off. Which is sadly quite often.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      If we look at MW3′s achievements, for example, there’s “Complete a Special Ops Mission Mode game on Hardened or Veteran with no player getting downed.” That’s about skill, not necessarily repetition.

      MW3 is an interesting example since it gives you an achievement for clicking ‘new game’.

    • InternetBatman says:

      The value of the Achievement depends entirely on the type of game. Puzzlers like the Blocks that Matter or even Portal benefit immensely from them, as they offer a different set of challenges. Immersive RPGs like Fallout New Vegas pretty much don’t benefit from them.

      The one thing that I hate about achievements is that DLC achievements are not separated from the list of achievements you can reach in the actual game itself. They should be.

    • wizardofauz says:

      @Batolemaeus

      TF2 is a game that benefits immensely from achievements. A vast majority of achievements fall into one of two categories. The first is an achievement that just happens. For example the achievements Team Doctor (Heal 25000 health points) or Shoot the Breeze (Kill a fully invisible Spy in one shot) happen while playing the class. While they can be set up they are something that is likely to happen if you play long enough. The second type of achievement is instructional. These attempt to show a novice how a class is designed to be played or ways to help out their team. For example Midwife Crisis (Heal an Engineer as he repairs his sentry gun while it’s under enemy fire) or War Crime and Punishment (In a single life, kill 3 enemies who have damaged a Medic that is healing you.) These show you that an engineer in a good position (because he is being fired on) is important to keep alive because of how powerful a sentry gun is and that you should protect your medic from incoming fire.

      While these achievements may have cause servers to be heavily populated with the relevant class at the time they are designed to help players learn how to play each and every class in the game. If anything these are achievements done right in that they are contribute both to learning about the game being played and encouraging teamwork. TF2 is a game that is designed from the ground up to be incredibly supportive and encouraging to both newbies and people new to a particular class and achievements are a large part of that.

  7. radomaj says:

    Skyrim bugs? How about this one? (I’m calling it a feature and I hope they don’t remove it.)

    • Unaco says:

      I wouldn’t call that a bug either… To me that’s an example of some pretty good emergent gameplay. Am still waiting on my copy (should be here Monday), but am really looking forward to playing, and getting back into modding, seeing what’s possible with the new Engine.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Beautiful.

    • Mercurial says:

      The video of the bucket on head trick for stealing and also as I viewed on another video for murdering without consequences has just sold me on the game.

      Call it emergent gameplay if you want, it looks like a hell a lot of fun to me :)

    • Navagon says:

      Now that’s just funny. :D So near and yet so far, Bethesda.

    • Nick says:

      Its really not a new engine. Unless they went to painstaking lengths to recreate all the niggles and flaws in the “old” engine. Pick something off a table and everything else still rises slowy into the air an inch or so, just for example. New engine my arse.

    • Navagon says:

      That’s almost certainly down to the ever-terrible Havok physics engine. That engine is not new, no.

    • MattM says:

      I hate that, touch something next to a stack of plates and they all rise up like an accordion.

    • LionsPhil says:

      This also works in real life. It’s how I got my copy of Skyrim

      YouTube comment in “worth reading” shocker!

      That Bethsda AI. Also, didn’t moving physics objects in Oblivion count as ‘taking’ them for the purposes of stealing, and the player doesn’t own those pots?

    • Shadram says:

      Can anyone tell me what the key is to pick up objects like that on the PC version? It was Z in Oblivion, but (by default) that’s Shout now (quickly rebound to Mouse 4). I’ve tried every button with a binding on it, but can’t seem to make it work… Being a thiefy-assassin isn’t as much fun without being able to drag dead bodies into dark corners.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Just hold E.

      Accidentally discovered it while trying to quickly pick up a large number of items.

    • Shadram says:

      Ah… I guess I didn’t try that, since I figured the object would just end up in my inventory, or the looting screen would open in the case of bodies.

    • MD says:

      Hah, that’s awesome. If they call that a ‘bug’ and patch it out, I’m boycotting Bethesda forever. Seriously, this kind of emergent silliness makes my interest in Skyrim rise by about 10000x

    • kemryl says:

      Ugh. HTML formatting shouldn’t be so hard for me. Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F84oQejFvss for more bucket-on-head gameplay. I’ve now been convinced to buy this game.

  8. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    “People are entitled to their opinion. I’m perfectly happy for people to say they don’t like working with me or I’m a bully or I’m this or whatever. The part that annoys me is people do it anonymously. I’d rather they just ring me up and tell me to f**k off, right? Or people want to print your company emails on the internet. I’m like, what is that about? That could happen to any company in the business.”

    Yeah, sure, because in this volatile market people have no worries about losing their job for going against their boss, right? And anyone criticizing insider secrets openly will have no baggage of being the guy who tells tales when he moves over to another developer studio, hmm?

    Arsehole.

    • Shuck says:

      Yeah, telling the (ex) boss to fuck off really doesn’t help one’s career prospects, nor does it do anyone any good. The game industry needs more people revealing poor working conditions, as eventually guys like him will be forced to not only accept their role but also accept that “it’s worse somewhere else” isn’t a justification. Right now, the guy’s in denial. Why did Bondi shut down? Gosh, it wasn’t because he wasn’t doing his job and didn’t have another project signed when they needed it, no, it was because people were bad-mouthing the working conditions there!
      He’s still trying to screw over his former employees for blaming them for failures that even if he’s not fully responsible for, were more his job than theirs.

  9. Heisenberg says:

    The bugs in skyrim i can kind of handle, its the more important stuff like the immersion breaking UI and the god awful combat mechanics, thats harder to accept.

    The melee is worse then Oblivion.Why the hell did they get rid of the block and roll feature? It wouldnt have fixed the situation but at least it would of offered something.

    I have just resigned myself to the fact that i will be a mostly pure mage, the problem is that because of the UI (the favourites menu), when in combat, i am forced into pausing the game every few seconds to swap my spells over and over. and trust me if you havent yet played, it gets extremely tedious when you have to cast a spell, change it over, then change it back to what it was before, only to have to do the same again seconds later when another passive or support spell is required.

    I really hope a decent mod is available soon. But unfortuantely a decent mod wont be able to provide me enough challenging gameplay which this is lacking.

    • Anthile says:

      1. Put thing in favorite menu.
      2. Open favourite menu, hover over thing and press number key.
      3. ???
      4. Wizardry.

    • radomaj says:

      Haven’t played yet, but regarding the spells: what about the Favourites menu?

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      Yep, favourite your spells the usual way then add the number shortcuts in the favourites menu 2,3,4,etc. Job done.

    • radishlaw says:

      Also the favorite menu can be used for weapons, spells, scrolls (for casting) and dragon shouts.

      Of course, it would be great if they have some more PC-centric UI navigation features (eg. use keys to scroll down/up, select yes/no)…I do hope people can mod that in once the construction kit is there.

      Even with that I would say this is the most playable “vanilla” Elder scrolls game I’ve seen yet.

    • Nick says:

      the favourites menu with numbers doesn’t work with dual wielding weapons properly, as in you can’t set one number to a pair of weapons in each hand, this means if you swap to a spell in one hand you have to faff around to get your weapons back.

      Plus not being able to block unless you have one weapon and a shield, or one weapon and nothing in your other hand or a two handed weapon is very stupid and lazy. As far as I can tell there is no quick way other than faffing around in the favourites menu to just empty one of your hands, so if you use a spell quickly then go back to slashing with aone handed weapon, you can’t block untill you get rid of that spell and stop a fist replacing it.

      Its a bit shit.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Favourites menu works fine with dual wielding. You right click to stick it in your left hand and press E to stick it in your right. Because that makes perfect sense. You can’t do dual wielding with the numbers properly though.

      I find that the menus and stuff sucks, but it’s still better than Oblivion. Loving the game, been playing it almost non-stop which I didn’t do with Oblivion at all, I probably only played an hour or two of that game.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m interested to hear how the UI breaks immersion. If it was like a bunch of wooden planks with text carved into them, would that be more immersive? Or maybe it should be seamlessly integrated into the world and your health could be written on the back of your head.

    • Zenicetus says:

      @ JackShandy: I think what most people are complaining about is the real-time part of the UI, like swapping weapons and (especially) spells in the middle of combat.

      That’s driving me a little batty too. I have things set up the way they should work in the Favorites menu and then hot-keying with number keys. But it doesn’t always work.

      For example, a fight starts, and I want to conjure a temporary companion, then quickly switch to an Destruction spell while holding a dagger in my right hand the whole time. What happens instead is that about half the time, I hit the number key I’ve supposedly hot-keyed, and I end up with a spell in each hand and I’ve lost the dagger. Or I’m holding two daggers, no spells.

      It’s weird… maybe I just need more practice, but something seems screwy with the way this is working. And it has to work fast in combat, because you can only have one spell ready and charging up in each hand, and there’s a delay for switching spells.

      It’s possible to pause combat by hitting Q and carefully selecting from the Favorites pop-up, making sure each thing is in the correct hand. But that’s really immersion breaking, for anyone who wants a steady flow of combat. The other, static UI stuff like Inventory, etc. doesn’t bother me. It could have been designed better (and with smaller fonts!), but it’s not that bad. I just use the WASD keys for almost everything, because whoever designed the static UI elements apparently doesn’t know the computer mouse exists.

      I’ll also agree that melee combat sucks in Skyrim. It’s very limited in combat moves, and there is no feeling of solid contact with the enemy. Ranged with a bow isn’t bad, though. So I’m going for a mostly mage build who is good with a bow, and a dagger for backup until I’m strong enough to go spells-only. The UI for spellcasting is wonky, but I’ll get used to it, and there’s always hope for modding it better.

      Edit to add: After checking around on some forums, it looks like there’s a bug that drops or re-arranges items in the Favorites list if you Favorite a weapon that’s stacked in your inventory (i.e. more than one). I’ll try avoiding that, but it’s a drag to avoid picking up valuable weapons to sell or enchant, just because you’ve already got one of that kind equipped. I hope this is fixed soon, and that’s it’s not a more complicated bug.

    • Heisenberg says:

      @Jack Shandy
      try and read further then the first two lines when you read a post.

      (thx,re.the key binding which i am using now)

  10. GBoyzJay says:

    Lack of challenging gameplay? So… you haven’t fought any dragon except the first yet? (challenging, especially for a melee focussed character), or perhaps some of the dungeon bosses (not naming names for spoilers, but one guy can only be beaten without death in a very unintuitive way… and with range)

    Perhaps you haven’t tried theft without the “feature” mentioned earlier in the comment thread?

    If you have done all these things and still not been challenged, I take my hat off to you, because, even as a longtime Elder Scrolls player (since Arena), these things have challenged the everloving hell out of me, and killed me quite a few times, among many other things.

    EDIT: this was meant to be a reply to the above poster, but was, for some reason, a comment, as opposed to a reply. Ho-hum.

    • pkdawson says:

      So… you haven’t fought any dragon except the first yet?

      Conjure a flame atronach to be your fire-resistant tank, then attack from distance. Easy.

    • caddyB says:

      Only works in the earlygame.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’m absolutely loving the challenge of this game. If you stray into some of the camps around Whiterun there are giants who will just kill you in one hit, it’s fantastic. I’m always being totally overwhelmed by something that I have no hope of defeating, and either barely escaping with my life or managing to overcome the odds and feel like a god.

    • Shadram says:

      My level 15 thief character really struggles in the open world. In dungeons, he’s awesome, sneaking in and either nailing mobs to the walls with arrows or one-shotting them with a good old backstab. But outside… I’m getting totally owned by bears, sabre tooths, and definitely by dragons. I’m not saying it’s a bad thing, necessarily, it’s been my choice to level stealth skills over high damage abilities when unstealthed, but to say the game isn’t challenging is the opposite of my experience so far. It’s a bit annoying, though, since I really want to unlock my Spirit form (or whatever the invincibility power’s called) Shout. :(

    • MaXimillion says:

      You can keep a dragon permanently stunlocked with dual-cast fire bolts/ice lances with only a small amount of training in the destro school, and few items to up your magicka regeneration. After that, the dragon bosses, and basically any single foe, become a complete cakewalk.

  11. Navagon says:

    “I want one of these.”

    Me too!

    Gratuitous Tank Battles looks a lot more like how Space Battles should have been, to my mind. It needed more structure and interaction in the actual battles (read: some), rather than just bunging them into an arena and hoping your ships win. I still kinda liked it. But I’m no damn good at it, which doesn’t help.

  12. Dreamhacker says:

    @Jim Rossignol:

    Did you get a Razer Lycosa? If so, I understand the feeling. THis is the most good looking keyboard I’ve ever had, but… It’s kind of hard to see the keys from an angle…

  13. Novotny says:

    If a console can be designed to either sit on a desk or under a TV, I’d ditch gaming pcs. All they need to do is make it compatible with joysticks, keyboards, track IR, and with a rudimentary OS that allows access to ini files etc. A decent browser.

    Imagine if we could have PC style games (grand strategy, flight sims, etc) all developed for one hardware set. (or two – ATI and Nvidia consoles?)

    Don’t get me wrong, I know what I’m doing with PCs – but there are additional levels of complexity when developing for PCs that have varying configurations and power. With a fixed feature set to work with, developers can spend more time developing the game and not ensuring it works on umpteen differing PCs running different OS’s etc etc.

    Because, at the end of the day, it’s really PC gaming I love, not PC hardware.

    • InternetBatman says:

      Ew. Plus that’s mostly impossible. Consoles are incapable of reproducing the best parts of PC, because their business model (sell hardware at a loss initially, get it back in games and movie royalties) requires a heavy degree of corporate control. I think that it’s more likely that PC parts will continue to become more standard in design, reducing instabilities. The dedicated console model is in trouble as the hardware to do everything becomes cheaper. It’s transmuting into the “media center” market and that may or may not work.

    • alundra says:

      When the current generation of consoles was released, they were vastly superior to the PC tech available at the time (maybe not the wii). The problem with consoles is that they are static, no hot swapping parts, and eventually PCs catch up and surpass them in terms of power, at least graphical power.

      The market is shifting, desktop PCs with very high end parts will become a thing of the past in about 5 or 10 years, it will shift towards the preferred closed model, like tablets, which in turn is perfect for your favorite corporate jerk off: control.

      After that, everything will move to streaming, that’s it, if gamers, and pc users alike, don’t smarten up and stop support streaming gaming initiatives like onlive.

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      @ Alundra: No, no, and no.

      When the 360 and PS3 came out, they were not superior to PCs. They were comparable to many high-end systems, but they were hardly anything out of this world.

      I don’t think high-end PC hardware is going anywhere over the next few years. People want more from the PC, not less. I’m sure that tablet and phone games will continue to rise and be a big market, but there’s still going to be a place for big AAA games on the PC for the foreseeable future. If anything, because tablet devices simply do not have the power needed to handle advanced games.

      Also, as wonderful as OnLive is for some, it simply isn’t feasible for a vast majority of gamers. I think something like OnLive being commonplace isn’t going to happen for another 10 or more years.

    • alundra says:

      @stupid_mcgee

      *circa 2005/2006–>the 360 graphics chipset is very similar to the at r520 family and had many advancements that were subsequently adopted by the r600 series. Tri core/3ghz cpus were not introduced until years later, so don’t delude yourself, at the time of the launch, these consoles were more powerful than the PCs available at the time.

      *table PCs already have the power to handle 90% of the applications (including games) needed by the average Joe, again, don’t delude yourself, high end users, even if they spend thousands of dollars on a 6 monthly basis to keep up with the absolute cutting edge, amount to nothing when compared to the mid market range and below, that’s where the money is and that’s where the market is heading,

      *and yet again, don’t delude yourself, 10 years ago a thing like netflix, which is now taking +30% of the total net bandwidth, was unthinkable.

      I’m sorry to burst your bubble, I’m a pc gamer myself and have no consoles in my house, but if gaming wasn’t moving towards consoles/streaming, we wouldn’t be witnessing how PC gaming is being held back by consoles, with all games being released in a rushed and bugged state, being nothing more than shady consoles ports, and still running on and off the aging dx9c backend.

      Desktops as you know them will recede towards high end business use and PCs will take the shape of a low energy consuming and closed environment tablet.

  14. negativedge says:

    How could you possibly not understand what that Tetris Effect thing was saying?

    I mean.

    Whatever, I’m not going down that road.

  15. negativedge says:

    how is it possible to not know what that tetris effect article is trying to say

  16. Suriyawong says:

    Just testing Gravatar, to make sure I did everything correctly.

  17. phenom_x8 says:

    Why there’s no one mention this

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/gamesblog/2011/nov/10/modern-warfare-3-internet-hatred

    I’m always thinking anything related with MW 3 will be quite a hit!

  18. 3lbFlax says:

    I just wanted to add a +1 for Twenty Systems, which should be fascinating for anyone with an interest in electronic music. Benge looks like a hungover Richard Clayderman, but he takes these old synths – some undeniable classics, others not so much – and wrings some wonderful tracks out of them. One (I forget the system, sadly) sounds like a fairly recent Autechre release. It’s well worth seeking out.

  19. twmacb says:

    Thanks for link!

    Have always admired Rock Paper Shotgun’s writing so getting on the Sunday papers is an honor.

  20. twmacb says:

    Hmm, posted a comment but this didn’t save.

    I have enjoyed reading RPS for many a year now, despite not being much of a PC gamer. I am honoured to have my rather ‘odd’ piece featured in the Sunday papers.

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