The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on March 25th, 2012 at 3:11 pm.


Sunday mornings are for waking up under a stream of sunlight and realising you need to get out of bed and compile a list of interesting reading for the internet’s unblinking gaze. Yes, the ‘Papers are more important than sleep – Up, Rossignol, and to the coalface!

Actually, I will sit in the garden for a bit with a cup of tea and it’ll be late. Sorry about that.

  • You should start today by reading Richard Cobbett’s retrospective of Wasteland. What with the big Kickstarter and everything, it’s worth remembering what it was all about: “When combat starts, I yawn. That might seem strange, and yes, RPGs have always been combat heavy. For me though, fighting things and looting their corpses has never been the point. Instead, when I buy one, it’s for the joy of entering and exploring a new world, poking around a new culture, and ideally savouring the journey like a tourist instead of feeling trapped on a rail.” Oh, if only RPG designers remembered that…
  • This interview with Ubisoft’s digital boss Chris Early over on Eurogamer suggests Ubisoft might be looking at alternatives to DRM: “The question is, with enough on-going content development, content release, engagement at the community level, can we create that kind of MMO value system?” Early asked. “I think we can. As the rest of the game industry continues to evolve, the more you hear about cloud gaming, the more you hear about companion gaming, the less a pirated game should work in all of that environment. So, therefore the value of that pirated content becomes less. Will some people still pirate? Yeah, they will. Will the person who really wants that broad experience pirate? We hope not.”
  • The guys over at Three Moves Ahead have been talking about Wargame: European Escalation, and also writing a bit about it here. They reminded me that we really need to talk about that game on RPS, because it’s real-time strategy done so well. And holy crap, look at the Three Moves Ahead archive.
  • Shut Up & Sit Down Show continues, is vital.
  • Rather entertained by Sebastian Alvarado’s “Nanotechnology as Portrayed in Video Games“: “In the MGS world, once the target has been identified, the nanomachine could be triggered to release its deadly cargo, killing the host. Back in the real world, the next logical step in this work is to make the spider walk faster (and how to make it more programmable, so that it can follow many commands on the track and make more decisions. In this case, the application of nanotechnology in Metal Gear is still fantasy, but there is a concrete theoretical basis currently being explored.”
  • Via Penny Arcade, a laser singing the Portal theme.
  • Denby interview’s Silent Hill composer Akira Yamaoka for a thing about audio in games: “He finds it frustrating, then, that the games industry doesn’t always share his views. He tells me it’s often difficult for composers to convince developers of the importance of taking great care over sound design, in much the same was as many writers in the industry struggle to make their voices heard.”
  • Lot’s of responses to – and reviews of – TGC’s Journey on PSN this week, including this one: “…it can be pleasurable to be made to experience what the designer wants me to experience but it can also be frustrating, annoying and well, downright condescending. But to top it off, the idea of raising game design to this level of moralistic high-ground in the context of an important and influential indie title rankles and worries me.” Some great points here.
  • The Idealistic World of Videogame Pacifists“: “Playing peacefully sounds interesting, challenging even. I can see why such a tactics appealed to a committed gamer like Mullins. However as the experience unfolded in my mind, playing as a peaceful monk served to further highlight what I was, in actuality, doing. If I played this way, I would be constantly reminded that I am merely playing a game. A game that can be exploited and one in which I can do whatever I want free from real life consequences. One that I could even reset if its consequences proved too unpleasant. But who cares if I flee the town when the dragon attacks using the villagers as bait so I can escape unnoticed? It’s just a game, it doesn’t count.”
  • How To Explain Your Game To An Asshole.
  • The Psychology Of Game Design: “You sit down, ready to get in a few minutes of gaming. Hours pass and you suddenly become aware that you’re making ridiculous faces and moving like a contortionist while trying to reach that new high score. You ask yourself: Where did the time go? When did I sprain my ankle? Maybe you didn’t sprain your ankle, but if you consider yourself a gamer, you’ve probably ended up in similar situations. They happen because you’ve reached a critical level of engagement with whatever game you’re playing. More often than not, these types of gaming sessions occur when you’re playing a great game. If game developers were able to characterize and add design considerations that facilitate these engaged states they’d create more enjoyable and better selling games.”
  • True PC Gaming on the most positive things about PC Gaming.

Music this week is Demdike Stare’s Ghostly Hardware.

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74 Comments »

  1. ChiefOfBeef says:

    Reading that quote from Chris Early, you have to wonder; no human talks like that. Doesn’t seem to hint at changing their DRM though; it’s more like he wants there to be a change in player attitudes so they accept that shitty DRM.

    We will never get an admission that they were wrong, even though their PC sales dived.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Clearly, he’s been indoctrinated by the Reapers!

      Which is odd, since EA own them. OR DO THEY!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?!?

    • Dave L. says:

      UbiSoft is actually hiring a ‘Game Security Analyst.’ The fact that position even exists kind of explains why they keep doing ridiculous things with DRM. Dude needs to continually terrify the executives about the scary pirates so he can keep his job.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        Or conversely they feel they need to have such a position because people pirate their games. If people didn’t continuatlly pirate their games they wouldn’t need to advertise for such a position.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    That Ubisoft article is just PR speak. Instead of removing drm, they want to go into cloud gaming (by having 8 million social tie-ins which would be supported as DLC) where everything is DRM. That’s like when Blizzard said they didn’t support DRM and they were laughed out of the room.

    I think the pacifism piece got it all wrong. By intentionally neglecting some of the systems in a game, you are making it a different and interesting experience, and most of the people who do this have already played it normally. Think about hardcore runs, etc. Hell, when I played Bioshock I would always reload out of instinct when I died, and the game became much less fun when I found out about vita-chambers.

    • Juan Carlo says:

      In the future everything will be cloud. And it’s going to suck. It will be like 100 times worse than SOPA.

    • Lacero says:

      For DRM it sounds like the parts of the game in Anno2070 that aren’t possible to use without net access. Not that I’ve played it.

      Indie is looking better and better.

      • mckertis says:

        “it sounds like the parts of the game in Anno2070 that aren’t possible to use without net access. Indie is looking better and better.”

        You mean like the thing that cliffski did with GSB “campaign” module ?

        • TechnicalBen says:

          At least that was a true feature. IE, see “play it as an MMO”.
          Where as from what I’ve heard about Anno 1337 is that it takes out single player elements (which have no link to online supplied content) when not online.

          • mckertis says:

            I have no idea how it is with Anno, but judging on the idea itself – it doesnt bother me all that much, of course depending on the importance of the feature being removed. I think its actually a neat idea, if your being online gives you additional, not core, mechanics to play with in singleplayer. Like that thing with messages in Dark-whatshisface.

          • djtim says:

            I’ve not played the new Anno, but Ubi use a similar scheme in Heroes 6. Basically there are special weapons that gain experience as you use them in any type of game. The problem with the implementation is that part of the single player story you find these weapons as quests, but if you aren’t on the Ubi-cloud – you can see the weapon, view the stats – you just can’t equip it. It doesn’t feel like you get a new feature for being online, rather the offline game has been consciously nerfed to make you want to play online (and get kicked back to the main menu any time your internet has a hiccup, even while playing SP).

        • Lacero says:

          As I typed that I did think of a few exceptions, but it seemed pointless to get stuck in details. Generally you don’t need to worry about this kind of thing with indie, and with Ubi you always need to worry.

    • NathanH says:

      The point I got from the article was that there’s nothing wrong with such player-determined play restrictions, but that pacifism in Skyrim isn’t a very good one because the idea is so contrary to the way the game works that it doesn’t work particularly well as a form of challenge, nor does it work particularly well as a moral position. That is, not only is it purely a gaming challenge, it is also a very awkward gaming challenge. Compare this with, say, a pacifism approach to Thief, which flows naturally from the game setting and mechanics.

      • pilouuuu says:

        I didn’t like the pacifism article too much, but I can’t point my finger at why exactly. Maybe I think pacifism is a great idea in games, but I didn’t like the ideas in the article. About pacifism in Skyrim I agree that it doesn’t suit the game very much. It’s a place in war between factions and being attacked by dragons! But I think that it would have been much better if there were some alternatives for pacifism in some quests. It’s quite fun as a serial killer hike simulator, but it could be so much more. Maybe they can add that in DLC.

    • Radiant says:

      It also contains an amazing amount of Bullshit Bingo worthy buzzwords.
      Value system… fuck sake.

  3. wodin says:

    Wargame European Escalation by reading forums has an initial this is awesome to a not long after, lacks depth and pretty mediocre. It has (again from trawling forums) some issues that soon become apparent and those who enthused about it not long after started to pull it apart.

    As for it being able to teach you some kind of military history or tactics, thats laughable. It being touted as realistic was also highly debatable.

    I for one have no interest in an article on the game. Still if you want to then play it for a week or so before giving out an opinion.

    • Bobtree says:

      My impression of WEE, also from much reading of forums, is that it’s very good but has some issues and naysayers who complain instead of learning to play it better. It may well be a love it or hate it kind of game, but I’m very interested to play it. That the all-in cheese “strategies” are being beaten by those who have more flexibility is very promising, and so is the developer support. They’re working on balance and bugs of course, and adding more maps, AI improvements, comp stomp, replays for old versions, and new game modes and win conditions. When it upgrades from good to great, or has a price drop, I’m buying it.

    • Afro says:

      I want to recommend Wargame if you have the cash and enjoy military games. Personally I enjoy things from HoI3 to Men of War:AS, but not really the more RTS-like games like Starcraft or W40k Dawn.
      I’m enjoying the Level of play in Wargame. You dont have to worry too much about the micro, and can focus on balancing tactics and strategy. And over 300+ units! Will hopefully evolve into some v.good.

    • Fishbed says:

      As a friendly advice about fairness, I’d tell you to play a game before posting such rash comments about it.

      The game isn’t “realistic”, there’s TacOps pour that. Still, number of qualities do greatly improve my perception of this title, the attention to detail being a wonder in itself.

      “As for it being able to teach you some kind of military history or tactics, thats laughable.”
      Well, the plot of the campaigns are arguably very impressively researched. The Polish insurrection event is the kind of set-up that makes that game so special compared to the competition: for a RTS, the level of seriousness in the making is most unusual. And that’s a scenario maker at TOAW and a M.A. in history speaking there.

      That game, for all its imperfections, is a labor of love and a courageous charge led by a single developing group, who decided it’d be better off alone than working with Ubisoft again. They certainly don’t deserve that kind of random bashing from people who merely read a forum – especially when playing it is so much fun. I hardly see where your scorn is coming from though.

      • wodin says:

        Not scorn, just pointing out that like many games these days forums are awash with praise at first yet a couple of weeks later those very people star to pick it apart.

        The trailers where enough for me to see what kind of game it was so I stayed away. Yet many wargamers thought they where buying into a realistic wargame (even after seeing the trailers) and where then disappointed after playing for awhile that it wasn’t what they thought it would be.

        The plot maybe well researched however it’s the gameplay that counts where realism is concerned not a plot nor how many different units the game has.

        All I’m saying is if you looking for something thats grog like look away. If your not then go for it.

        • Fishbed says:

          Well, sure thing. I am enjoying my game of War in the Pacific AE for what it is, and so do I when I come to European Escalation, that has to be appreciated for what it is: a witty contemporary softcore warfare RTS, that is still taking into account more variables and novelties than the average products of the kind. The point is that grognards who bought it expecting a John Tiller’s game or a TacOps in 3D should read a little more about previews, or watch videos a little more closely. I suppose you can’t blame the game for being what it is, while at the same time one of the first trailers show a dozen squads of Spetsnaz running and firing at the same time at ridiculous range at a couple VABs with French infantry popping up from nowhere. But the poor chaps just can’t put a warning label like “hardcore wargamers will be disappointed”, just like CA never puts “questionable interpretation of history” on every Total War game that comes out.

  4. wodin says:

    Very,very rarely does the sit down and hours pass like minutes happen to me when playing games these days. Maybe age, not sure. Seen it done it bored of it. Or good idea poor execution. Or dumbed down no depth. List goes on. Hopefully some of those kickstarter projects have that magic ingredient.

    • Dreforian says:

      Strategy games seem to be my kryptonite in this respect. ~Every~ time I fire up Disciples II, whether it’s to replay the original campaigns or to blow through one of the many expansion offerings, I lose hours upon hours at a time. I get done with a scenario I started after dinner and wonder what other people are up to. Then I peek at the clock and realize that if I go make some food to quiet my suddenly vociferous stomach I might risk waking them up a few hours early. Thing-builders like Armored Core always fed my time to black holes too. Tower Defense games fall under that umbrella as well..

      More recent games can’t reach that level of sustained engagement for me either. The market is gravitating ever more towards multiplayer experiences; I suck at multiplayer and love narrative. Turn-based gaming looks like it’s slowly going extinct; I’ve got daft fingers (not to be confused with Daft Hands) and time-attack twitch games trip me up rather than pull me in. Basically anything that wont give me time or tools to strategize can’t take me to my happy place. The field is becoming increasingly less “diamond” and more “rough” for me.

      • wodin says:

        Turn based games for me suck me in. The recent bemoaned JA BIA with the Blue Dawn mod was the latest, though I’ve stopped playing now and once that happens I find it hard to get the mojo back. When the next big patch comes out and hopefully the mods carry on improving I shall go back to it.

        I’m hoping the next XCOM game will be a time destroyer.

  5. Inigo says:

    I like how the next part of the nanotechnology article quietly ignores the whole “making bisexual vampires that walk on water functionally immortal” issue.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Well, what can you say about that?

      Better that he stick to subjects he can comment usefully on, I think.

      • Miltrivd says:

        Yeah, besides, they were prolly talking about MGS 1 and the FOXDIE virus, when the series was dancing between reality and fantasy and haven’t gone nuts yet.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I thought the consensus was that being a bisexual immortal vampire would be friggin’ sweet. I can see no downside (since, this being MGS, I’m assuming ‘vampire’ is used in a very relative sense and has nothing to do with sunlight or garlic).

  6. Gap Gen says:

    PC gaming in a valley? Nah, that was the mid 2000s, when innovation in large studios was waning and indie development wasn’t a widespread phenomenon. PC gaming is possibly more vibrant and interesting than it’s ever been right now.

  7. dsch says:

    I’m sure that guy’s PI would be pleased to see that video.

  8. World One Two says:

    Not sure I agree with the second Journey piece. My feelings of the game are that in “providing zero feedback on things you don’t want to see” it is simply engendering a different set of emotions to those common in videogames. When Doom lets you shoot the monsters, and provides enjoyable feedback for doing so, that is the designers manipulating the way you interact with their system. That manipulation is inevitable. A game can’t model the entirety of the universe, so it models certain aspects, nudges players towards certain feelings, to make some kind of a point, simulate some kind of experience. I find Journey fascinating and worthwhile because it is nudging players towards new situations, such as the sense of being very small and alone against an incomprehensible universe, and then the joy of finding another to journey with. Personally, I’m very happy we now live in a world where designers attempt to simulate these feelings, alongside the old atavistic thrills of combat and suchlike.

    • MrMud says:

      I read through that piece and honestly I have no idea what he actually wanted to say.
      So the game manipulates you into feeling things? Why would that be a bad thing?
      All really care about is having a meaningful experience. If that is through open endedness (skyrim, stalker), great puzzles and story (portal) or amazing visuals and a thoroughly moving experience (journey) then it doesnt matter.

      • World One Two says:

        I do understand his concerns, up to a point. He wants, I think, art that provides the space to come to your own conclusions, rather than having “moralistic” lessons thrust upon you. But I don’t think Journey does that. By limiting interactions with your companion it forces you beneath your usual mode of guarded, competitive playing, towards an open-hearted mind-set where the other player can take nothing from you, and you nothing from them, and instead you only give to one another — give friendship, company, warmth. I totally get that Journey isn’t for everyone, but, man, I connected with it so hard.

    • Consumatopia says:

      As a single game, I think Journey is beautiful.

      But if it became common practice to only allow players to provide feedback to other players in a limited number of designer-sanctioned ways, that would strike me as frighteningly undemocratic. It’s anti-political in a dangerous way–”wouldn’t the world be so much more beautiful if people couldn’t yell at each other and some planner arranged everything perfectly for us?”

      • DK says:

        Journey has no moral viewpoint – if you see one, it’s your own reflected back at you. It’s simply stunningly pretty and knows exactly how to evoke emotion. It has no religion, it has no liberal bias, it has no politics.

        More games should be like that.

        Incidentally, the fact that Journey has gotten some reviews that are not perfect scores shows everything wrong with the games media. It is absolutely perfect at what it is.

        • Consumatopia says:

          No moral viewpoint? Did you see this quote from Jenova Chen in the link we were discussing?

          So my biggest lesson learned is that human behavior may appear to be a bad moral behavior, but it’s not really their fault; they’re just following their instinct. It is the designer who creates the system who has the responsibility to moderate the right behavior you want. By providing feedback for the things you want to see and by providing zero feedback on the things you don’t want to see, you can actually quite control the moral value in the game…. It’s really the system that’s defining the people’s behavior, rather than that person himself is better or worse.

          So not only would this designer working on Journey disagree with you on this particular game, his position seems to be that what you said would be untrue of any game–the design of any game determines what feedback the player receives, which determines what actions the player will choose.

          More games should be like that.

          Incidentally, the fact that Journey has gotten some reviews that are not perfect scores shows everything wrong with the games media. It is absolutely perfect at what it is.

          You cannot make normative statements as strong as these without being moral and political. An opposition to politics is, itself, a political position.

  9. Kaira- says:

    What Yamaoka says strikes a chord in me. Too many games take soundscape as granted, without two thoughts, and that unfortunately shows. Music and sounds evoke far greater involvement for me than just the visual side of things. As an example, it’s one of my larger pet peeves in Dragon Age – even though Dragon Age sports supposedly large, living cities, you see very few people and even worse, you hear even fewer people. It makes the cities seem even emptier than they should be.

    In horror games the importance of sound grows even greater when building atmosphere, and in this Silent Hill obviously has been very successful. Take this song as an example – in the scene where it plays, it manages to evoke great paranoia, since you aren’t really sure if the slight static you hear comes from your radio or from the music. Similarily Dead Space manages to build nice soundscape… except for the goddamn scare chords which succesfully kill the immersion and all paranoia the otherwise good soundscape evokes. And this is without mentioning that the game is otherwise pretty lame as a horror game.

    • nootpingu86 says:

      I agree. It’s a shame what happened to Silent Hill. Suda/Grasshopper’s outlook is a good fit for Yamaoka’s for now anyway. Sound design and music stick with people far longer than whiz-bang graphics and polycounts. It’s far more important to have a distinct aesthetic.

      What I still can’t shake is the thought that Suda 51′s games have had trouble balancing his glib hipster tendencies with something actually worth playing. I did actually enjoy Killer7 for what it was, but after Grasshopper left Capcom it seems like he’s gotten a lot more boring.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      Akira Yamaoka is a fucking genius.
      (I could write pages and pages about why but Im going to leave it at that.)

    • InternetBatman says:

      I thought it was somewhat funny how both the article writer and interviewer were talking about the importance of sound and there was no sound or sound clips in it, only graphics.

  10. wodin says:

    I liked the look of Stronghold in Shut up and sit down! Sounds great. I didn’t notice them speak about a Stalingrad expansion for M44 though. Also giving M44 the 2 player award when the game expansion they where playing required 6 was odd.

  11. LionsPhil says:

    Actually, I will sit in the garden for a bit with a cup of tea

    Correct answer, given the lack of rain and howling winds. Just been out enjoying a pleasant amble myself.

    Start watching the laser. Wonder if he has arranged the lines it has to burn for each note into any kind of pattern. Not disappointed.

  12. Wizardry says:

    Mostly though, it’s because of the combat. I never cared for early RPG fighting systems, and Wasteland’s menu-based hack-and-slash – no matter how strategic – was no exception. I hated it in its sister RPG The Bard’s Tale about as much as I hated its godawful comedy-vacuum of a revival from a few years ago, frankly. It’s nothing personal against Wasteland – the combat in other classics like Might and Magic and Ultima didn’t do anything for me either. When combat starts, I yawn.

    Some of those games had pretty poor combat systems (notably Ultima), but I’m wondering what combat systems he does get on well with. He mentions he doesn’t like early cRPG combat systems specifically so I’m wondering what modern ones he likes.

    And why is Wasteland’s combat called hack and slash for? What makes it more hack and slash than any other combat system?

    Soon enough though, the combat inevitably took its toll. The smiles I got from the quirky writing and regular fun discoveries weren’t enough to shake my lingering antipathy towards menus and stats – an approach to fighting that lost every last shred of potential satisfaction the second Fallout showed up with the option to shoot enemies in the balls for bonus damage.

    Antipathy towards stats? Why the hell would anyone play an RPG if they didn’t like stats? And blob combat lost its charm with Fallout 2? Arghhh.

    • MistyMike says:

      I think the author makes it clear why he plays RPGs:
      [i]“it’s for the joy of entering and exploring a new world, poking around a new culture, and ideally savouring the journey like a tourist”[/i]

      He’s definitely not alone in his outlook.

      • Wizardry says:

        That’s what adventure games are for.

        • Richard Cobbett says:

          Depends on the adventure game. In some cases, yes. In others, no. You won’t find many adventures like, say, Ultima VII, where the whole world just stretches out without (many) borders and puzzles to get in your way.

          • Wizardry says:

            Well, Ultima VII is basically an adventure game anyway with one giant main puzzle and an open world. I don’t even know if the stats actually do anything. Effectively, every player’s Avatar is functionally the same.

          • malkav11 says:

            Maybe not, but that’d be an interesting direction for the genre to go.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Almost all of the Sierra and LucasArts classics are almost entirely linear in choice, in fact. The only “freedom” in that regard is the order you do things inbetween each narrative choke point. (And for SierraarrrrrrGGGGHHH you get to miss a bit that’ll kill you later. But it’ll be funny when it does.)

            As a concious design decision, no less, because not reigning in that branching factor over a decent-length, decent-amount-of-interaction story would render the development an unmanagable, over-budget mess.

        • MistyMike says:

          Given the choice between inventory puzzles and pixel hunting of adventure games versus spreadsheets and number crunching specific to CRPGs I’d go for the latter. It’s a choice of lesser evil though.

          Action adventures/action-rpgs are ideal.

          • Wizardry says:

            There is no ideal.

          • InternetBatman says:

            I agree with Wizardry. There’s no ideal genre, and that includes mechanics. There are just different ways of expressing the systems that underlie games and different systems, and those may appeal to different people.

    • Psychopomp says:

      “Why the hell would anyone play an RPG if they didn’t like stats?”

      Oh, I don’t know, *role playing?*

      • Wizardry says:

        Nah, because then you’d be better off role-playing than playing an RPG. Anyway, I’d rather not get into this, though I don’t know about you.

  13. nootpingu86 says:

    Re: How to explain your game to an asshole

    Why do some indie devs seem to have this continuous need to justify themselves by actively devaluing the opinions of people who are critical of their games? It seems unique to indie gaming, and extends well past “fuck the haters” into infantile bickering and smug assumptions that their critics are simply jealous or stupid and malicious. They refuse to entertain their idea that maybe there will be vocal people who won’t like their game, or their game may not even be that good. They seem to feel entitled to approval and recognition solely for undertaking their project, regardless of its quality — look at the IGF handing out awards to games that aren’t even complete yet for case in point. The lack of humility and need for self-assurance gets out of hand. If they’re not confident in what they do they need to look to themselves first, not what people are saying about their games or the metascore.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Did you notice the bit where the author repeatedly said things like “Because in the worst case scenario, your reader might be me. And I’m an asshole.”?

      The ‘asshole’ bit isn’t actually trying to insult his audience – it’s him getting your attention with a bit of hyperbole. And hey, look! It worked! (A pity you were too much of an asshole to actually read the piece…?)

      • nootpingu86 says:

        I replied to your post at length but it apparently did not go through for whatever reason. I apologize if there was any misunderstanding as to where I was coming from, since I didn’t acknowledge a large part of the article’s content. He’s speaking to a group that does sometimes literally consider its potential audience ‘assholes’. The pitfalls he identifies in preview materials are insightful, but the ‘assholes’ giving negative feedback are often portrayed anything but by the devs in question. There are people who produce works in other mediums that go ignored altogether, whereas the most visible devs at GDC have already made it. Someone does have to care about both the medium and the game in question to comment in the first place. Criticism doesn’t automatically entail hatred or poor intentions even if it’s put harshly — indie devs in particular would do well to recognize that fact. They would also benefit from treating criticism in an even-handed, patient manner or ignoring it if they cannot do so. It’s a two-way street, since yes, there are a lot of trolls and jerks out there. Some of them talk about games, and some of them even make games. Like that western, white indie dev at GDC who told the Japanese indie dev that the entire country’s development ethos “fucking sucked” recently. I mean, damn dude!

        In this speech, the self-deprecation and rhetorical hyperbole exist in a context where those assumptions are actually acted upon. I was responding to that tendency in particular. Maybe he had an ironic intent, maybe not. For the purposes of my comment it’s somewhat tangential.

    • pkdawson says:

      It’s just a title, by a self-identified “asshole”. If you read the presentation, it’s a much-needed critique of developers who do a shitty job of explaining/selling their game.

      Lots of people are thin-skinned when it comes to criticism of their work, though. Hardly unique to indie devs.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You should try reading the whole article. It reminds me of a classic Joel Spolsky piece on UI design, in fact:

      Quite the contrary, they are probably highly intelligent, or maybe they are accomplished athletes, but vis-à-vis your program, they are just not applying all of their motor skills and brain cells to the usage of your program. You’re only getting about 30% of their attention, so you have to make do with a user who, from inside the computer, does not appear to be playing with a full deck.

      I want Tom’s version nailed to every damn game PR person’s face.

      • nootpingu86 says:

        The flaws he identifies are useful for explaining games to a potential audience. Not an ‘asshole’. My replies are getting moderated now, I guess?

        • MondSemmel says:

          That reminds me of the whole Chris Hecker “Wii is s***” rant all over again.
          Firstly, this was a quick, 5 minute presentation. So you compress everything you say as much as possible, use over-the-top language to quickly get your audience’s attention, etc. There’s no room nor time for nuance. That’s all fine in the setting – everyone there knows what to expect – but people hearing about these events from second-hand sources sometimes get offended by this.

          Secondly, the article ends with the following:

          “And when you read it back to yourself, it doesn’t actually sound like it was written for an asshole. It just sounds like it was written with a respect for the reader’s attention.

          And the truth is that most of your readers aren’t assholes like me, they’re intelligent, reasonable people. But reasonable people still respond better to writing that values their time, and doesn’t waste it to gratify the writer’s pretensions.”

          So although the presentation’s title doesn’t use subtlety and nuance, the presentation itself does. Where’s the problem?
          I thought it was a great read, and very much to the point. I really, really appreciate it when content producers value my time as audience/a consumer/a reader.

          • nootpingu86 says:

            Ah, good. He did mean it somewhat ironically after all. My bad. Point still stands about the devs’ attitudes, although my original post does not acknowledge where the article actually goes in light of that. D’oh!

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            So you wrote that lengthy discourse on the article without bothering to read the article first?

          • nootpingu86 says:

            I was reacting to the article’s rhetorical framing and the attitudes it wants to engage. Nice try though.

      • mckertis says:

        “In fact, users don’t read anything. ”

        Zeus, that is SO true. How many videos have i seen, where people will deliberately bash their heads into the wall, but adamantly refuse to read a manual. Or even worse, there was an explaining piece of text right there on the screen, smack dab in the center, in GLOWING GIANT LETTERS, but they just instantly forget it and go on about “what the fuck do i do now ? i have no idea, stupid game, tell me what to do !!”

        A recent gamasutra article on that : http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/TonyPayne/20120323/167010/Did_we_spoil_the_players.php

        • nootpingu86 says:

          I don’t see how engaging in polemics against that segment of the audience is productive at all, sorry. Some of the folks who can’t be bothered to read a manual or learn basic things about the game actually get paid to write about games too, but these responses are often directed at potential or actual paying customers. For an example: Ed McMilian posted a 5min video on youtube where he mocks his critics at length. For what, really? Smug satisfaction?

          I mean, hey, these devs are totally within their rights to hate the people who make or break their careers via sales, but it’s not going to ingratiate themselves to anyone but sycophants, “journalists”, and other devs privy to the media circlejerk. This new construct of “gamer entitlement” is also a disturbing symptom of this, because it’s patently false. The relevant power dynamic lies squarely in the decisions of devs and large publishers, not the negativity of critics or trolls. It’s partly an ad hominem, and often appears to be taken as license to disregard all criticism.

      • Hodge says:

        @LionsPhil Quite right. And a certain Mr Gillen has basically been flogging the same point for years, to no avail.

  14. kud13 says:

    So, Ubisoft is going to abandon the single-player only model, in favour of an “MMO-like environment”, for the sake of better “intergratign their DRM”.

    If they will abandon single-player, I shall abandon them as potential place to spend money. simple.

    • nootpingu86 says:

      I don’t think they’ll abandon singleplayer. They’ll go the BF3/Diablo 3/Starcraft 2 route and integrate a bunch of superfluous features that require you to be online, and from that hub you can then access that part of the game. Ubisoft have been nothing but huge jerks about DRM and extremely uppity toward people who wouldn’t be buying their games anyway, though.

      • malkav11 says:

        That is abandoning singleplayer. If you can’t play it offline, it can and will go away.

      • kud13 says:

        it is not single-player, if i’m getting feedback from something that’s not directly MY game.
        Starcraft 2 stopped being Singleplayer for me in November 2010, when after downloading 3 months worth of patches, I was informed that I can no longer use my Battlenet profile to sign in in an offline mode. I could only do so as “Guest”
        I don’t think I touched the game since, and I certainly won’t be buying any of the expansions.
        Just a point of note: I bought SCII retail, full price, the day it came out.

        I won’t be buying Diablo III either. Blizzard effectively lost me as a customer.

  15. mendel says:

    To promote real-world pacifism, I’d promote empathy in games. That doesn’t limit the player at all. Just make the opponents less black and yourself less white. Switch sides. Give the dragon some backstory as to how it’s simply hunting villagers to feed itself and its young, as a cat hunts mice, and show that to the player. (And if the game devs actually thought about the dragon this much, well, they might actually come up with an alternative peaceful solution.)

    My best experience was in this was completely unintended, a tutorial mission in Comanche 3: you’re tasked with hitting a lorry some miles away, you raise the chopper so only its sights are visible, acquire teh target, and send a missile off. Then I switched to “target camera”, saw the lorry driving along, the people driving it probably thinking they got a cushy job away from the front lines (this is a pre-Iraq game), they can’t even see my helicopter anywhere because it is so far away and so well hidden, and suddenly *bang* out of nowhere the missile hits and they die. I couldn’t experience this in game and still think war is glorious. And this is a military game, made with no thought to morals.

    Online FPS are actually very good for this: not because you can empathise at who you shoot at, but because you get shot at just the same. If you thought about it, you’d realize that the chance to die in an unfamiliar encounter is quite real: in online games, somebody always dies first. Showing me a stat on how many encounters I actually got killed in at least once before I achieved anything worthwhile might be pretty sobering. It would let you still enjoy the game, because, hey, “no consequences”, but odds are the real world wouldn’t be as forgiving, and you’d learn that as you play. And you also learn that the guys you shoot at are actually in the same situation as yourself.

    Pacifism doesn’t mean you don’t hurt pixels – they don’t feel pain. It means you think about what you do in the real world, and who you do it to. If the game devs ask these questions with regard to their game, and show the answers to the players, they’ll learn. By themselves. No moralizing required.

  16. Contrafibularity says:

    “Playing peacefully sounds interesting, challenging even.
    It’s funny the author doesn’t mention Thief or Deus Ex, but does mention Skyrim, a game designed solely for players to slaughtergrind their way through thousands of enemies. (in fact much of the game world is designed in such a way as to provide enemies for the player, although to be fair that’s just the smallest of problems I have with Bethesda ‘games’).

    I think the pacifist Skyrim player is clearly deluding himself and playing the wrong genre of games (fantasy RPGs = as close to virtual genocide as you’ll come, like it or not) but the author of the article equally has clearly never player a game which rewarded evading combat instead of seeking it out. So to put it simply, the article is completely and utterly useless AND pointless.

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