The Monday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on April 9th, 2012 at 9:35 am.


Oh dear, it turns out I was just too busy with eating eggs for the Rabbit God yesterday. How about we try the compilation of links and game-related reading today? I know it’s radical, but it might just work.

  • A proposal for Lego X-Com: “The basic idea was to have two teams of LEGO figures pitted against each other, and it’s around here that I started seeing an analogue, LEGO version of XCom for my inner eye (in the turn based squad game with destructible environment sense). We built a scene using a regular LEGO baseplate and put together a squad of three LEGO figures each, where each one could choose one ‘weapon’ (only variants non-lethal sleep lasers allowed I’m afraid) and one special ability that we agreed upon before hand.”
  • A reply to John’s “Solids” piece: “Until journalists start paying attention to symbolism in their game reviews, developers have little reason to do so themselves. Consider that developers have limited resources. If you are a business owner with $6,000 left in your budget and you have a choice of either (a) hiring a good writer or (b) contracting with a good visual artist, the rational choice is to hire the person whose contributions will make a bigger difference to the game’s critical reception (and thus, sales). Reviewers seldom discuss a game’s writing, and virtually never discuss a game’s themes–but they always discuss visual appearance. In fact, many games get great coverage on the basis of visuals alone. Thus, a developer with limited resources has every incentive to invest those resources in visuals rather than in making the game thematically sophisticated and well-written.”
  • Not sure how I missed Cobbett’s piece on the rise of FemShep the other week: “Yet despite these shaky foundations, somehow she works, and she works damn well. She’s hands-down the fan-favourite Shepard, even if most players still opt for the male default, and one of the best heroines around. The irony is that much of this feels like it’s down to BioWare’s apathy. In not particularly trying to create a great female character, they lucked into producing one of the most enjoyable ones around.”
  • Stuart has some interesting things to say about the success of Draw Something: “The game in our picture is functionally all but identical to Draw Something, except with more features. You get extra drawing tools and lots more colours to play with, and there are extra game modes on top of the straightforward turn-based picture exchange of OMGPOP’s No.1 phenomenon. (Which in fact barely qualifies as a “game” at all, but that’s another feature entirely.) The funny thing, though, is that it ISN’T a knock-off.”
  • Simon Parkin’s interview with Jenova Chen is fascinating. As much as I admire Chen, I also find myself disagreeing with much of what he says: “There’s this assumption in video games that if you run into a random player over the Internet, it’s going to be a bad experience. You think that they will be an asshole, right? But listen: none of us was born to be an asshole. I believe that very often it’s not really the player that’s an asshole. It’s the game designer that made them an asshole. If you spend every day killing one another how are you going to be a nice guy? All console games are about killing each other, or killing one another together… Our games make us assholes.”
  • Angry Birds, Farmville and Other Hyperaddictive ‘Stupid Games’: “Tetris was invented exactly when and where you would expect — in a Soviet computer lab in 1984 — and its game play reflects this origin. The enemy in Tetris is not some identifiable villain (Donkey Kong, Mike Tyson, Carmen Sandiego) but a faceless, ceaseless, reasonless force that threatens constantly to overwhelm you, a churning production of blocks against which your only defense is a repetitive, meaningless sorting. It is bureaucracy in pure form, busywork with no aim or end, impossible to avoid or escape. And the game’s final insult is that it annihilates free will. Despite its obvious futility, somehow we can’t make ourselves stop rotating blocks. Tetris, like all the stupid games it spawned, forces us to choose to punish ourselves.”
  • Intuition, Expectations and Culture: Learning from Psychology to Build Better Game Interfaces: “your idea of what makes sense, what you understand, or what you think you can or can’t do is a function of your own personal cognitive baggage. What’s more, you bring this baggage with you to every video game you ever play. When a game cooperates with your cognitive baggage nicely, you may say that the game is imminently playable or easy to learn. When a game is inconsiderate of your cognitive baggage, you might say that the game is frustrating or confusing.”
  • Evan Narcisse’s “Why I’m Worried About My Daughter’s Video Game Future” is an interesting read: “I dream of her experiencing the beauty of Flower, the bluesy feeling of Bastion and the atmosphere of BioShock. For all my artsy parental aspirations, though, I realize that she’s probably going to come in through some more down-to-earth fare. But, like any father, I wonder what she’s going to find when I start letting her engage with the medium I love and work with. More specifically, there’s two big problems I see her having when she powers up her first handheld or console game.”
  • This made me laugh.
  • Robot of the week.
  • Bizarre and sinister hacking story of the week.

Music: The men from my home county are back with a new album. There’s something sort of middle-of-the-road electronic about Orbital. A kind of techno Dire Straits. But I love them.

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127 Comments »

  1. Amun says:

    Ugh, accidentally clicked the kotaku link.

    • Phantoon says:

      I know your pain, man.

    • PodX140 says:

      Same sentiments here :/

    • j3w3l says:

      I think its good in a way that sites such as this are thinking about charater diversity a bit more even if it was a bit light-hearted, and kotaku of all places
      And suprisingly only a minority of posts are overtly sexist maybe the community is changing

    • outoffeelinsobad says:

      Kotaku’s been not-so-bad, recently. Not only did they get rid of Crecente and Sterling, but they made Stephen Totilo editor-in-chief. It’s a little hard to navigate, but the articles have hit an upward trend that I’d like to see continue.

    • mrbeman says:

      You could try reading the linked article maybe? I gather a lot of people dislike gawker, ok, whatever. But was there anything in the exceedingly short essay you actually disagreed with? Or was it just easier to say “oh it’s kotaku that means I can form an opinion without having any knowledge of the linked material”?

  2. DevilSShadoW says:

    Zombie Jesus ate your Sunday, you say? Well, it can happen to the best of us.

    • frightlever says:

      The good people at Hardys vineyard ate my Sunday. And my Saturday. And Friday. I’m not making that mistake today. Am I, Mister Smirnoff?

      • wouldestous says:

        finally, our optional free-to-read news roundup is back in the saddle!

  3. xavdeman says:

    Remember that awesome Ravaged trailer from previous week?
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/04/05/new-ravaged-trailer-flips-trucks-birds/
    “The new trailer comes as part of something big 2Dawn is “about to kick out the door” (read: probably the beta)”

    Turns out they have something for puns, too. Because they were refering to Kickstarter.
    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2dawngames/ravaged/
    Come on everyone, pledge the hell out of this project. The flying looks awesome, the driving looks like it actually requires skill, there’s multiplayer, it’s developed by some people who also worked on Battlefield 2, the Desert Combat mod and Frontlines: Fuel of War.

    They should have some extended funding goals, like Wasteland 2, in case they get more than they want. Like “we add extra vehicles or guns once we hit 20k”. But apart from that it seems like a pretty solid project.

    • caddyB says:

      I like it! Pledged!

      • xavdeman says:

        Yeah, it’s a shame they didn’t put this in The Monday Papers. But let’s hope some people scroll down and actually get this Kickstarter ehm…. kickstarted?

  4. sub-program 32 says:

    The papers on MONDAY you say? Horace will be displeased. Especcially since this reminds him that he has power only over christmas, not other holiday events.

  5. Dominic White says:

    What about Chen’s statement there is disagreeable? It seems like a perfectly valid observation – you raise gamers on a diet of hyper-competitive games about killing each other, and yeah, you’re going to drive off the more chilled out folks or reinforce negative behavior.

    • Chris D says:

      I’d say it’s a little from column A and a little from column B. It’s probably fair to say that game design can influence player behaviour but I’m not sure you can place all the blame there. Otherwise how do you explain Youtube comments?

      • Mr. Mister says:

        I’d say that Youtube comments is pure anonymousity plus the incredible triviality of the commenting process.

        I never thought it that way, but now I see how it might be true that the developers may have had a great influence on the online ashholery. Of course, I’m not saying that if a chatroom is filled of urmoms it’s not the fault of that particular game’s deveeloper, but from the history of game deveopement.

    • Lhowon says:

      While I think there’s a point there (about hyper-competitive games engendering hostile behaviour) his statement doesn’t sit right with me either. Because, I think, it’s just not my experience: when I play such games my assumption about other players is something like cautious optimism.

      In other words I am well aware that they could be your typical internet asshole, but I’m optimistic enough about how many basically friendly players there are that I’m friendly/cooperative until they give me reason not to be. At least most of the time ;)

      • jrodman says:

        Agree, but the 5% chance or so is enough that I constantly *dread* it, and therefore avoid the chance of exposure most of the time. That’s personal variation, I know.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think that it’s a little of column A, a little of column B. Certain games develop certain cultures that weren’t really created or anticipated by the designers; UT and Counterstrike are fairly similar but had very different cultures. Other games, i.e. Dotalikes, encourage a negative culture as a side effect of their design.

      I think that statement is too broad because even cooperative games like minecraft feature griefing.

      • frightlever says:

        In general, it’s easier to destroy than to create. You can be the guy laboriously stacking the tins of beans, or you can be the guy who kicks it over. If you’re stacking the beans, nobody cares, but if you kick them over you’re a legend.

        It’ll be interesting to see if the transience of the online, be it Minecraft creations, level 90 Shaman or celebrity itself, will instil a persistent fatalism in us all. A return to old-school world-weary acceptance of the tenuous fragility of life that we had perhaps only fifty or sixty years ago.

        But what do I know? I’m just a random cunt off the internet.

    • Premium User Badge Wisq says:

      Actually, I think Chen makes his case better when he talks about players pushing each other into pits.

      Pit-pushing is griefing at its most basic, and I think those are the sorts of game mechanics that make us assholes the fastest. They’re the game mechanics that exist for some reason — realism, or utility, or cooperation — but are easier to abuse than to use right.

      Friendly fire, for example. If a game doesn’t have it, it feels less realistic, but if it has it, a large portion of your matches will include intentional teamkilling. Some will devolve into a mess of revenge kills. At times you’ll find yourself resisting (or not) the urge to shoot someone if they fuck up badly and get everyone kille

      We definitely get more immediate and satisfying feedback from killing a teammate than we do from killing an enemy. If we kill an enemy, that’s our job; if it’s a particularly skillful kill, we might get acknowledged or congratulated with “nice shot” or something (even from our enemy). You really have to be the best enemy-killer on the team to get any real kudos or attention.

      But if we kill teammates, we immediately have everyone yelling at us, watching us, waiting for our next move, trying to kick us, etc. Or we enter into a cat-and-mouse game with a teammate, each of us trying to sneak up and kill the other while we both fight the enemy team (sometimes not even), all eyes on us, the teamkillers. Until we get kicked, and then it’s just a simple matter of rejoining or finding another server.

      It’s true that always fighting our enemies and (often) competing with our teammates probably isn’t the greatest environment for making friends, but if you’re looking for a game mechanic that (threatens to) creates assholes of us all, look to anything that’s griefable, with friendly fire being the big one.

      By contrast, I think shooting one another in a game need not actually be bad as that statement makes it out to be. I mean, think of people who do boxing, fencing, or martial arts IRL. They spar, performing an activity that is about both aggression and technique in varying quantities, and yet they can be good friends before and after the match. The whole point of the match is to fight each other. They put on their fighting hats (figuratively and/or literally), fight for a bit, and are still friends (possibly moreso) when they take off their hats at the end.

      I think part of the cameraderie in sparring is that, if both parties do their job right, neither is supposed to take any real damage. They help each other up, and get right back to learning / practicing. I would thus venture to suggest that the most “friendly” games are those in which there’s little penalty for dying, and the least friendly are those where you slowly build up a substantial advantage that gets taken away when you die, doing real “harm” (in the virtual sense). In the latter case, you’re less likely to congratulate your enemy, more likely to curse them.

      I’ve found TF2 to be much better for making spontaneous friends than (say) the Call of Duty or Battlefield series. I originally thought this was due to the relaxed cartoony nature versus the realistic gritty one, but I suspect it may have more to do with mechanics than with setting.

      • nootpingu86 says:

        Most online competitive FPS are team-based, but the larger the playercount the less chance you’ll even affect the outcome. It inculcates a sense of helplessness if your team does not play well. A lot of people do not understand the game or play it negligently, which is assholish as well.

        My experience with TF2 is that a lot of the playerbase doesn’t actually understand how to play either, but that’s every online FPS. Like, a team without a medic will get steamrolled 9/10 times by one that does have one. Simple stuff, camraderie, consideration for your fellow player do not figure in across the board. It’s actually more about selfishness and a lack of peer pressure to play well, rather than sheer competitiveness.

        If you look at BF3, the game gives incentives for certain teamwork-related, ostensibly altruistic things, but the main metrics are heavily skewed by map type and certain exploitative behaviors, so they often become perverse and devolve the game into a metagame of trying to …game the stats system. You then get recognized at the top of the scoreboard regardless of what role you actually played in the victory or defeat of the team, and you get your stupid numbers on the stats page to validate what you did as well.

        I prefer 1 on 1, especially in games with replays, since you can at least understand what you’re doing wrong. There’s also a lot more pressure to be sportsmanlike because there’s only the opponent, you can’t actually get favorable validation from others. It’s a dying breed outside Starcraft 2 (a dinosaur of an RTS game if there ever was one)

  6. Mr. Mister says:

    Mmmmmh, so it’s gonna be international spyonage because national spyonage is illegal?

    Anyway, remember people: if you wanna give a small kick to the Navy’s much discussed balls, before you sell any console, take it to a workplace where they can clean empty sectors of its storage unit.

  7. Premium User Badge Tom De Roeck says:

    I voted for that robot. I want it to make cocktails at the roboexotica 2012.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      And I want to see it as a bossfight. Could fit very well in a Retro Studios Metroid game,since one of its phases could be morphball related, kinda ike the boost guardian.

      And turrets under the umbrella.

    • pandora says:

      The robot looks and moves great, but how do sensors fit in? Remote/preprogrammed only? I’d prefer something more able on its own.

      • Premium User Badge Tom De Roeck says:

        Even if preprogrammed now, it seems like a great piece of tech. But it could actually use GPS data, as well as external webcams & input to figure out where it is. It would then be, of course, dependant on external devices being there.

      • caddyB says:

        More importantly, where do we put the GUNS

    • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

      Looks good, but what is it for?

  8. Marinetastic says:

    “She’s hands-down the fan-favourite Shepard, even if most players still opt for the male default, ”
    How does that work? Going off the vocal 18% of players?

    • Lacero says:

      Someone calls them on this in the comments. The argument is it’s the fan favourite in that there’s a vocal group of fans who like femshep, and clai it’s the best voice acting etc.

      It wasn’t worded very well.

    • Premium User Badge LTK says:

      I think they’re saying that, if you took a survey of all Mass Effect players, then you’d find that the people who have played as both male Shep and female Shep preferred female Shep, whereas people who always opted for male Shep are simply indifferent towards female Shep on account of ignorance. I belong to the latter group; I also went with male Shep every time, so I can’t say whether one or the other is better because I never had the chance to try out female Shep.

      It makes sense in some way, because when have you ever heard someone claim that Mark Meer is a much better VA than Jennifer Hale? If that’s also a minority, it’s certainly not a vocal one.

      • GiantRaven says:

        While I wouldn’t suggest that Meer is better than Hale, I would definitely say that I prefer playing male because I simply find his performance funnier.

      • Jenks says:

        4 playthroughs of each ME and ME2, split down the line in gender and paragon/renegade. How people can say Jennifer Hale does a much better job than Alec Meer is beyond me.

        • Vinraith says:

          Yeah, Alec really is a shit voice actor, it’s a good thing he’s got that games journalism career to fall back on!

          • NathanH says:

            Dear RPS, PLEASE make a video of Mass Effect in which Alec does the voiceovers for Shepard.

      • dethtoll says:

        Depends on the circles you look at. A good chunk of the pro-dude!Shep faction are straight up misogynists, unfortunately. The rest, for whatever reason, simply plain do not like Hale, and they don’t like that anyone else likes her or her performance.

        I don’t get it either.

    • Advanced Assault Hippo says:

      The whole “Femshep is the best!1″ stuff also seems to ignore the fact many people like to play vicariously through the main character. Simply as a style of play. I tried playing as femshep, but I missed the feeling of ‘being’ the main character too much – regardless of whether her dialogue and voice acting might have been a bit better.

      It’s not as black and white as one being better than the other. The issue is irrelevant for most ME players I think.

      I do detect an air of superiority to this subject at times from certain quarters; as if it’s uncouth or dull to choose not to play as her – and only the true connoisseurs will understand, etc…

      • Apples says:

        “…seems to ignore the fact many people like to play vicariously through the main character…. I tried playing as femshep, but I missed the feeling of ‘being’ the main character too much” I don’t think people are ignoring the fact that players often like to identify with the main character or play ‘as themselves’ at all. Rather, the fact that FemShep is one of the very, very, very few female characters (especially when taking into account that she’s a space marine type, generally a very male-dominated area of gaming) that women can identify with while playing is really important. So for practically all the female fans, and Bioware tends to have proportionally more of them than many other AAA game companies, identification with Shep is a huge deal. It’s not that she’s ~the best~, it’s that she’s kind of… the only.

        Basically what I’m sayin’ is, imagine if 90% of games you played, 90% of films you saw, 90% of books you read featured women in main roles. 90% of people in the army and navy are women. Now there’s a game where you can choose to be a man, even though the main marketing features the woman every time and 90% of the aliens in the game are women (edit: and the other 10% are bisexually ‘genderless’ super-hot dudes that everyone is shown to want to make out with, because multicoloured sexy hunks are just a mainstay of sci-fi. Gay male relationships are possible with them, coz those are hot, but no lesbians allowed), and that guy is treated like he’s just as capable and strong as a woman. How much importance are you gonna attach to choosing to play as the guy? Are you going to feel any resentment towards the female version of the character? Will you think that people who pick her are just picking the woman because that’s the standard gender and not thinking about it, and might even harbour some feelings that men are not as good as women? Obviously this is a simplification and not all fans feel that way, but I’m trying to give an explanation of why a lot of those “ugh manshep” posts turn up on the internet.

      • Lemming says:

        @Apples:

        Agree 100%

    • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

      I don’t really understand what it’s all about. I’ve played the first 2 games as both. There are good points and bad points playing both. When it comes to voice acting I often think that FemShep sounds bored but when she nails it, she nails it. ManShep is more, I don’t know, bland? I don’t really notice his acting.

      Anyway, from a guy who played both, I don’t get the fuss. And I get slightly annoyed when people bang on about one or the other.

    • Apples says:

      Not everyone who plays a game can be classified as “a fan”. FemShep is, I think, a FAN favourite – whether she is a PLAYER favourite, out of the whole mass of players encompassing everyone from 40-year-old classic RPG fans to 13-year-olds who only ever played Halo before this, is another matter.

    • gwathdring says:

      I enjoyed playing Male Shepard and I consider myself a “fan” of Mass Effect 1 and 2 (haven’t played 3 yet; my games fund is out of commission for a bit). I criticize them heavily, but that’s part of how I personally consume my preferred media. Thinking back to both characters, I really don’t see that much of a difference and didn’t find anything particularly spectacular about the Female Shepard’s voice acting. I’m not “most fans,” but I’m not the only person who considers themselves a fan and either likes both equally or prefers the Male Shepard.

      It seems incredibly bizarre to me that the players who prefer Female Shepard have convinced themselves she is a) objectively better or more interesting b) the preferred Shepard of anyone who paid attention or cares. At first I agreed that her voice acting was more interesting at certain points, but after playing Mass Effect 2 I just don’t see that much of a difference. They both play a mostly bland Space Marine competently and occasionally do a few lines with extra oomph or emotion.

      For whatever reason the “FemShep” crowd is extremely vocal and adamant both on and offline. That is certainly interesting and worth taking a look at. I’m sure creators love their characters to be talked about and love for fans to get excited about their characters, so investigating why FemShep fans wax idealistic about her could be quite valuable. But it’s a far cry from her fans being more adamant to her being everyone’s secret favorite. Let alone her fans being “truer” fans.

    • nootpingu86 says:

      I really wanted to like femshep, having been maleshep in me1 and me2. The problem is that the inflection of her voice is really similar to maleshep, so I have trouble understanding the hype. The dialogue sounds just as stilted and hollow.

  9. Ham Solo says:

    The Monday Papers? What’s happening? I DONT LIKE CHAAAANGE!!!

    “She’s hands-down the fan-favourite Shepard, even if most players still opt for the male default”
    wat

    Anyway, I’m using my custom femshep since ME1. Love the voice acting.

    • DRoseDARs says:

      I wouldn’t trade my FemShep for anything. Much better than yet-another-generic-and-ruggedly-handsome-white-guy as the protagonist. After tweaking her at the start of ME1 and ME2 (sadly won’t be playing ME3 until it comes to Steam… it’s going to be a long wait, I know) my Jennifer Sheppard (yes, named after the NCIS character) isn’t a super model, but she isn’t homely either. This series is about its story and the people who shape it, and the character you play flavors everything you do. For me it’s often difficult to really care about my character because in almost every game it’s the same guy over and over.

      Here and in Portal, the idea gets turned on its head in a refreshing way. Suddenly, you’re playing someone different from who you’ve played as before. The plot may be similar, her background may parallel that of her male counterpart, but her perspective on everything is different from his… and yours, the male player. You know that the game mechanics haven’t changed, the dialogue outside of personal pronouns and certain insults are still the same, but now you inexplicably experience them differently. You are forced to consider why your emotions playing the game as a FemShep are different than if you’d played as MaleShep.

      For many who would be detractors of FemShep play, this puts them in the uncomfortable position of perhaps having to reevaluate the gay elements that a player can either intentionally enter or accidentally blunder into (because really, sometimes the dialogue options are a bit vague… one time I had to reload because I inadvertently bit Joker’s head off when I just wanted to answer his question) because when you get down to it, our emotions are genderless themselves. Gender is merely a filter through which we view the world, it denies us the full colors because we choose to let it out of fear and ignorance.

      • Flint says:

        Much better than yet-another-generic-and-ruggedly-handsome-white-guy as the protagonist.

        Although MaleShep can just as easily be tweaked to something different as well.

        • JackShandy says:

          It’s pretty hard to get him away from Generic Bald Space Marine. The longest haircut you can have is a crew cut, and the blackest he can be is tan.

          Femshep gets a head start because she’s a woman, and we don’t have a lot of stereotypes for what lady space marines look like.

          • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

            To be fair, (s)he *is* a space marine. Literally.

            Which is why I made my ManShep to look like my old sergeant. Including the crew cut.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I thought they were all required to be Vasquez?

          • Ham Solo says:

            Yes.

          • GiantRaven says:

            My elvis-haired, muttonchopped Shepard begs to differ on your assessment of the hairy options available.

          • JackShandy says:

            Elvis hair? Pics or it didn’t happen. I know they do let you put a different texture over the sides of his chin, though. Because that’s the maximum beard space allows.

    • terry says:

      I found that after playing through the ME games as a goody-two-shoes Paragon meathead doofus Guyshep, I found a great deal of entertainment playing as a sarcastic disinterested Renegade Girlshep. Sure it’s the same story, but the tone of the latter makes the conversations so much more interesting – an unwilling hero that somehow saves the day while being borderline sociopathic. Worth trying just to panel the disturbed guy on Noveria, imo.

  10. mckertis says:

    “The enemy in Tetris…”

    My. God.

    • theleif says:

      “Bejeweled was invented exactly when and where you would expect — in a Corporate computer lab in 2001— and its game play reflects this origin. The enemy in Bejeweled is not some identifiable villain (Donkey Kong, Mike Tyson, Carmen Sandiego) but a faceless, ceaseless, reasonless force that threatens constantly to overwhelm you, a churning production of gems against which your only defense is a repetitive, meaningless sorting. It is bureaucracy in pure form, busywork with no aim or end, impossible to avoid or escape. And the game’s final insult is that it annihilates free will. Despite its obvious futility, somehow we can’t make ourselves stop swapping gems. Bejeweled , like all the stupid games it spawned, forces us to choose to punish ourselves.”

      In fewer words: Bollocks.

  11. OrangyTang says:

    This is not new, but I only just found it and so others might have missed it:

    http://steve-yegge.blogspot.co.uk/2012/03/borderlands-gun-collectors-club.html

    A big-ole discussion on the ‘hidden’ end game in Borderlands, addiction mechanisms and why people will still be playing Borderlands 1 well after everyone stops playing Borderlands 2.

    • JackShandy says:

      What a long and tedious way to say “It’s a skinner box.”

      • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

        If the article had simply read ‘It’s a skinner box’, the only people who would have understood it would be people who already knew what a skinner box was, thus it would have communicated nothing. Describing the mechanism of a skinner box, however, does communicate things, which is often why you write a blog.

        So congratulations on knowing what a skinner box is, and try not to think that everyone who doesn’t is less than you.

        • JackShandy says:

          A description of skinner boxes, their mechanics and history would have been great. What this guy does is say “Borderlands is still being played today because of one single reason”, then spend pages and pages rambling about tentacled vaginas and the reasons why every game needs a jumping mechanic before finally saying “That reason is a skinner box.”

          He doesn’t use the extra words to go into more depth about the mechanics, he uses it to waste everybody’s time. I’m sorry I read it.

          • YourMessageHere says:

            I concur. Takes far too long to get to the point; what he does say could have been sort of interesting, but it gets lost among the general vagina fixation.

            Quick version: people like collecting super-rare guns in Borderlands, which creates a token economy with its randomised loot, but in this guy’s view Gearbox ought to support this more, and (possibly) dropped a bollock by not doing it with Borderlands 2.

          • Jamison Dance says:

            Steve Yegge is a famous programmer-blogger, and he is notoriously long-winded. I love reading a well-turned phrase, and he certainly pumps them out. Reading him is more of an experience than a way to absorb information. It is just his style.
            His earlier stuff is brilliant, though more focused on software development.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I definitely agree with you. The article read like an imitation of the terrible Tim Rogers on Kotaku. Concision and focus are virtues.

  12. Grape says:

    only variants non-lethal sleep lasers allowed I’m afraid

    Jesus Christ. Aren’t we fucking Puritanical?

    • guldalder says:

      I’m terribly sorry about that, it was a typo. It should of course have said “…the only fucking weapons allowed were motherfucking non-lethal sleep lasers.”

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      If it helps, you can imagine that the lasers are not really completely safe because they are manufactured by the lowest bidder, and each time someone is zapped by a sleep laser it has a small but significant chance of causing prostate enlargement and erectile disfunction (Hi spambot detector!) or, in females, chronic urinary tract infections and unpleasant odour over the next decade.

    • terry says:

      LEGO don’t “do” guns anymore.

      • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

        Uh what? Lego has had a pacifistic approach in the past, but in recent years they have completely abandoned that and gone all out guns blazing.

    • mrbeman says:

      haha wat

      Dad doesn’t want to play a game with his six year old son with a lot of killing.

      INTERNET IS OUTRAGED.

      wtf

  13. Muzman says:

    Those fragvid parodies are awesome. It’s kinda amazing how fragvids are basically the design sensibility of Counterstrike forum sig banners in moving form, even though it surely can’t be the same people doing it from back in the day.
    Some things never change.

  14. phenom_x8 says:

    At least its shows up! Sorry for interupting your easter weekend, Jim!! Cheers!
    And the lego x- com make me remember Xenowar.
    BTW, do Xenowar have the same difficulty as the original X-com??
    Because I never play the original x- com, but I enjoy xenowar very much!! And if its the true spiritual successor of X-com (beside what firaxis worked out and xenophobia), I would be gladly buy the original from GOG.

  15. cassus says:

    Everyone needs to watch the “this made me laugh” link. Absolutely hilarious. As are most of the serious videos these are parodying…parodizing.. Only they serious videos hilarious by accident. F’ing pro gamer scene.. Nerd jocks.. Who would have ever thunk it. You’s all scrubs 420.

    • Urthman says:

      I had to watch about 8 parody fragvids before I found one that seems like it’s one of the genuine videos being parodied, but even then I wasn’t sure if it was serious or another parody.

      Kind of lame of the Ben Abraham post to write about parody videos without linking to an example of what they’re parodying.

  16. BobsLawnService says:

    Femshep is not the most popular Shepard otherewise the majority of gamers would play as her. She is no better than male Shepard. Most of the people who say otherwise are boring wannabe femanists who need to get a grip.

    • Acorino says:

      Well, thanks for clearing this up! I started wondering…

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Don’t bring FEMA into this.

    • Premium User Badge LTK says:

      Good grief. The better Shepard is not the most-frequently-chosen Shepard because most players do not try out both male and female Shepard and then start over with their final choice! They pick one, and stick with it!

      Can’t go a minute in this discussion without someone raging about a feminist conspiracy…

      • Premium User Badge AndrewC says:

        Don’t worry, LTK, you don’t have to pay attention to bobslawnservice: he can’t spell and is probably a man.

        • BobsLawnService says:

          It was actually a portmanteau I made up to describe men who think they’re doing feminism a favour by being condescending pricks to women. Feminism+man. I’m sick of hearing men say how much better femshep is because she is striking a blow against the male dominated ideal of a hero in games, bah, blah, blah. It’s a condescending and boring argument.

          • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            Raaaargh there is an option to not play a generic space marine! BOBSLAWNSERVICE SMASH PUNY FEMINISM!

          • Apples says:

            Did you know that all guys who don’t support the patriarchy are just white knights trying to talk down to women? It’s (apparently) true!

            How did you get to this website. It is not for you. Go back to reddit.

          • Hanban says:

            @Bob

            As it is any time you’re working against a norm, it’s never a striking blow. But, whatever. Let’s not promote a more diverse experience! I’ll chime in with Lord Custard Smingleigh: SPACE MARIIINE SMAAAASH!

          • BobsLawnService says:

            Lord custard, don’t be a jackass. Choice is always good in a game and it is a good thing that females are also represented. This idea that the female character is superior is absurd. I played as both female and male in ME1 and the voice acting was solid for both. Also, Femshep is also a generic space marine who just happens to be female.

            The article linked was ridiculous because it has the same pathetic and insulting “Striking a blow for feminism” subtext that so often bandied about.

            The funniest thing I’ve seen in gaming journalism was on this site when one of the RPS contributers was interviewing Jennifer Hale (Or whatever her name is.) And he started that usual feminist gushing and her response was pretty much a disinterested “Whatever.”. Even most women don’t care for that shit.

          • Apples says:

            Using “Yeah, well, A WOMAN said that feminism was boring/wrong/stupid!” is a dumb way to argue. I’m a woman and I say it’s important and that having a well-regarded, well-written, well-treated female character in gaming is a pretty good thing for feminism. Now what!?

            A female space marine is inherently non-generic at the current time. A generic space marine is white, male, and probably bald. A non-white or non-male space marine does not fit this generic template. Right, I’m sure you’re going to play a “ah, perpetuating stereotypes! YOU are the real sexist!” card here, but let’s face it – how many other female space marine characters can you name? How many players played as female Shep vs the generic white male Shep? What was used on all the marketing? If female Shep is not the ‘default’ choice of a character creator she is probably not generic.

            A female version can be regarded as ‘superior’ because of reasons other than her gender. Her voice acting is usually of higher quality and more nuance than the male version from what I have seen. It is you who is making thinking one or the other is better into a “FEMINAZIS” problem of gender.

          • BobsLawnService says:

            Hanban, I don’t know whether you’ve played anything but the ME series lately but when it comes to PC rpg’s the option to play as a female character has been the norm for the last 15 years. The only blow you’re striking is to your own forehead.

          • Apples says:

            Please post the names of AAA fully-voiced non-Bioware games (this is important – in most PC RPGs to date, gender changing the PC involved changing pronouns in text and possibly introducing some new text for relationships. Full-voice games require double the voice acting work as every PC line has to be recorded twice and many NPC lines require recording twice or careful wording to avoid pronouns) where you can choose to play as a woman or a man.

            I can think of, I guess, Saints Row 2 and 3.

            Voiced games almost always make you play as a man. If they let you play as a woman it will not be a choice between male and female. Voiced games I have played where you can only play as a woman: Bayonetta, SH3, Beyond Good and Evil, uhhhh……. TLJ… and I think all of those apart from Bayonetta were made like 10 years ago.

          • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

            I wouldn’t say femshep is a crushing blow to the patriarchy, it is simply refreshing to be able to play as a woman in a game. A woman that is primarily a character, and a woman a distant second.

          • NathanH says:

            She’s also a good character if you’re a bit sexist like me, too. A lot of the stuff Shepard does comes off as a bit dickish when playing as a guy, but as a girl it doesn’t bother me so much. Like punching the reporter. I didn’t like that from John, but from Jane it was pretty cool. I find that there are personalities like “feisty” that are female-only, and quite fun. Shepard is feisty, so for me works better as a woman. That probably makes me a terrible person or something, but it runs quite deep and I don’t see it is a flaw that’s worth trying to correct.

            Also I tend to choose female characters in RPGs so it is nice to get one that works really well.

            So no femanism from me. I like the name for the term, though.

          • JackShandy says:

            I’d like to back this discussion up a bit to say that “The only blow you’re striking is to your own forehead” is an absolutely excellent insult.

          • Tubbins says:

            @Apples: whether a game is AAA or not, and whether it’s got voice acting or not, is irrelevent to the subject. Being able to play as a female is something RPGs (proper ones, not Mass Effect) have been doing since day dot. Voice acting has absolutely no bearing at all on how well the female option is implemented in a game.

          • Apples says:

            Yes yes, no effect on how well-written the female character is. But that’s not my point. The reason I specified those conditions was because those conditions drastically increase the resources and effort required to pay equal attention to male and female version of the PC. Tried to explain that but obviously not very well.

            AAA games reflect what the mass market wants (or rather is assumed to want). Any addition must have its mass-market appeal balanced against the costs of implementing it and the effect on profit margin. The costs of additions have also greatly increased in modern AAA games because the ‘norm’ is full-voice cinematic million-poly extravaganzas. RPGs have indeed been including female options since forever (not always though!), but the cost of doing so has increased exponentially in recent years. Even in games were gender has literally no relevance, like STALKER, there are no women, because of resource costs. Even in ME, there are barely any female aliens, because of resource costs. Women are secondary in consideration to men despite being over half the world’s population and are often considered too expensive to put in a game. Also stop thinking purely about RPGs – how many AAA (or otherwise) games IN GENERAL allow for either gender option, or make the PC a woman, rather than a man?

            So the willingness of AAA game devs to create female options shows how much importance they attribute to including female characters and by extension, their female playerbase. How much importance? Usually not much. Like the article says, even Bioware didn’t actually understand FemShep’s importance and were willing to stamp over what people actually liked about her in order to make her prettier and more appealing to the traditional playerbase. You can argue it’s a business decision and that most core gamers are male but without some changes in how games are marketed and targeted that will never change. They are choosing short-term goal of squeezing max amount of profitability out of current limited playerbase rather than long-term goal of increasing that playerbase. Even Bioware are pretty crap at this overall and they’re STILL probably the most progressive AAA game studio.

            Essay over~

  17. Premium User Badge LTK says:

    The article on ‘stupid games’ made me realize that addictive substances are a rather good analogy for games.

    Quality games made with care and ambition, like the Witcher 2, are like a fine wine. Enjoyed for its deeper qualities and discussed among sophisticated company.

    Mass-market games with a billion-dollar budget and unchanging formula, like CoD: Modern Warfare 3, are like a popular brand of beer. Enjoyed as a social lubricant, and is fun drinking with fun people.

    Cash-cow ‘social’ games, serving only to rake in the dough at the expense of the players and the market, like Farmville, are like cocaine. The enjoyment is only there the first time, and after that you come back compulsively, unthinkingly, looking for more. Associating with other users only makes your habit worse.

    Quite apt, don’t you think?

    • Wunce says:

      What does the game of tetris I play whilst waiting for the train equate to?

      Probably a packet of chips to tide me over until I can break open the goon sack of Tribes when I get home.

      • jrodman says:

        Though not necessarily legal on your train, I would compare it to the perennial beer.

        Or maybe tea & coffee if you prefer.

        • Wunce says:

          Tea sounds like the most accurate: a little bit of stimulation, drunk in quiet and solitude, reliable for a good time, a classic that may have changed slightly over the years but still retains that old charm.

    • Skabooga says:

      My only major complaint with the article is the brief paragraph where he implies the iGadgets were largely responsible for the rise and revitalization of independent games. Of course, I am a bit biased, because even if it were true, I still wouldn’t like it.

      • Premium User Badge LTK says:

        Yeah, I don’t buy that either. I won’t deny that Apple, and subsequently every other mobile phone manufacturer, has enabled a tremendous number of indie developers to make a bit of money on their homebrew games, but the indie games you find on Steam and XBLA are in a wholly different league. Mobile games are just for wasting time when you have nothing else to do, but us PC gamers are dedicated to wasting time, damn it!

  18. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Lego X-Com.

    GENIUS.

  19. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    Why reinvent the wheel? Brikwars is already all the lego wargaming game we need: http://www.brikwars.com/

    • guldalder says:

      Thank you for the tip, I added a link in my piece. Although taking a quick look at the rules it seems like they’re doing something a bit different in style to our little experiment.

      • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

        Yeah brikwars definitely has a bent towards ridiculous spectacle, but you can use the bare-bones rules for pretty much any scenario, like if you prefer pirates to spacefigs and so on. The basic rules are very flexible and modular.

  20. Jimbo says:

    I can’t read on Mondays. Thanks a lot, Rabbit God jerk :(

  21. TsunamiWombat says:

    “Tetris was invented exactly when and where you would expect — in a Soviet computer lab in 1984 — and its game play reflects this origin. The enemy in Tetris is not some identifiable villain (Donkey Kong, Mike Tyson, Carmen Sandiego) but a faceless, ceaseless, reasonless force that threatens constantly to overwhelm you, a churning production of blocks against which your only defense is a repetitive, meaningless sorting. It is bureaucracy in pure form, busywork with no aim or end, impossible to avoid or escape. And the game’s final insult is that it annihilates free will. Despite its obvious futility, somehow we can’t make ourselves stop rotating blocks. Tetris, like all the stupid games it spawned, forces us to choose to punish ourselves.”

    Sounds like the ending to Mass Effect 3 *rimshot*

  22. The Godzilla Hunter says:

    I can not explain how happy those ‘pro-gamer’ videos made me.

  23. cptgone says:

    “Tetris was invented exactly when and where you would expect — in a Soviet computer lab in 1984 — and its game play reflects this origin”
    so true!

    the glorious workers are happily building a new society, empowered as they are by the productive forces that are raining from heaven!

    • tyren says:

      I am the man who arranges the blocks
      That are made by the men in Kazakhstan
      They come two weeks late, and they don’t tessellate
      But we’re working to Stalin’s five-year plan

  24. jwoozy says:

    The popularity of FemShep is almost entirely based on the fact that her male counterpart is cursed with a terrible VA.

    The real scandal of the ME series isn’t how it ended, it’s how it lasted for three games on the strength of a generic cardboard space marine lead that typically wears a red shirt and dies early in better-written science fiction stories.

    • Premium User Badge RedViv says:

      It’s the story of the everyday elite space soldier saving the galaxy by pure coincidence. A bit more fascinating.

    • Gormongous says:

      Two of my friends explicitly prefer the male Shepard because his VA is more bland and thus less distracting. I understand their perspective, but I worry what it means for the medium.

      • YourMessageHere says:

        What do they find the protagonist’s voice distracts them from? Or do you just mean annoying?

  25. DXN says:

    @Jenova Chen:

    Hell. Fucking. Yes. The industry needs more people like you.

    I get why people might balk at the idea that normal shooters and the like encourage assholish behaviour, because it’s perfectly possible to find people in those games who are friendly, co-operative, nice, etc.

    But if I ask myself honestly whether a good game of TF2, L4D, Battlefield, Project Reality, or whatever has ever matched up to the intense emotional connection with another person I’ve found again and again while playing Journey, the answer is hell no. They’re not even on the same level. And I really don’t think it’s a stretch to say that the difference is that one set of experiences revolves around killing and destroying, and the other revolves around helping and exploring.

  26. Dances to Podcasts says:

    The Jenova Chen interview is brilliant and includes a lot of things I’ve been thinking about, so much in agreement. The killing vs. non-killing quite is too much of a simplification, though. There are many other factors at play as well. I’ve been thinking about this in terms of the differences between the TF2 and NOLF2 communities on one hand and COD and DOTA communities on the other. All contain killing, but the first groups are much more fun and friendlier. So far I’ve come up with a few reasons that could influence this:

    - Style.
    TF2 and NOLF2 have a colourful cartoony style, which makes for a much happier place than for example the gritty COD realism. C’est la ton qui fait la musique, as they say in France.
    - Leaderboards
    TF2 only shows the top 3 players of each round and total scores for how long you’ve been playing. The first make a few people happy and says nothing about the rest, and the second doesn’t matter since anyone with a higher score has probably been playing longer. As a result, winning and high scores become less important.
    - Dependence
    This has been pointed out often in many DOTA threads, but when people rely on each other as much as they do there, someone making a mistake is often responded to quite aggressively because it hurts them as well.

    I’m sure there are more factors, but that’s what I can come up with right now. :)

    • Premium User Badge RedViv says:

      I think DOTA-style games are by far the worst for this. One hour can be wasted, not because you lose the match, but by how you lose it. One person can spoil the fun for four others.

  27. kud13 says:

    I have a poster on my wall, next to my laptop, made in WordArt.

    it says “I will not be dependent on Tetris or Solitaire”

    I haven’t touched the either in 3 weeks. True story.

  28. wouldestous says:

    the hyperaddictive stupid game link requires a login. no, i say!

  29. Premium User Badge PoulWrist says:

    Those MLG parody videos made me realise there’s an entire subculture of gaming I’ve never witnessed anything from before this parody…

  30. YourMessageHere says:

    Why do people refer to Lego bricks as Legos? That’s clearly wrong and also mad as a teapot. It’s like calling the contents of a bowl of rice ‘rices’.