The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on April 15th, 2012 at 9:44 am.

Sunday! It’s the day of the week when your latent super-powers are at their most useful. Let’s see if we can use those innate abilities to find interesting reading material. Hmm, it’s somewhere around here.

  • Games and the making of ominous architecture: “Regardless of what monstrosities we face, digital environments must capture our attention and establish a grim atmosphere. Yet for the most part, the architectures of horror games draw on symbols that we commonly associate with fear and revulsion. From Castle Wolfenstein to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the stonework, mildew ridden basements, dark hallways, and cobwebbed attics of gothic mansions remain established horror locales. Many games, including the two above, use their environments remarkably well. Regardless, the frequency of candlelit masonry tests my patience.” (I wrote something similar a few years ago.)
  • There are a lot of Molyneux interviews this week, so perhaps read this one: “What I love about cloud computing – and this hasn’t been explored yet – is that it allows for something that we as gamers haven’t had since the start of gaming, and that is persistence. We don’t have worlds or experiences that can continue and last for extended periods of time. We need to get rid of saved games.”
  • Split Screen talks about the value of games: “One of the wonderful things about the current state of gaming is indie development. Fez was released yesterday for just 800 Microsoft Magic Beans; Dear Esther was originally a mod that became a commercial release through Steam. I played through Dear Esther in around two hours, which is slightly better value than a trip to the cinema in hours-per-pound. Yet, I feel… dirty thinking about it in those terms. Isn’t it ultimately self-defeating to try and pin a commercial value on an experience like Dear Esther? Shouldn’t we be looking at the quality first, regardless of price? Would you describe a music album as better value because you listened to it more than another one?”
  • I’m vaguely depressed by the top two feature articles on Gamasutra both being about “fun”: The Structure of Fun: Learning from Super Mario 3D Land’s Director and The Origins of Fun, in which a game design offers his own philosophy of the concept. I get it, fun sells, but the determination with which folks want to reduce games to that banal little word makes me wonder at what people expect them to do.
  • Why do games so often deliver such terrible endings?
  • Interesting Kotaku piece on age ratings: “I had a feeling that the remake thing was the factor for Halo. Societal standards can change dramatically in 10 years. If you watch TV, you know this. HBO’s Game of Thrones has sex scenes in it you’d have had to pay a quarter to see in New York’s Times Square a few decades ago. People can curse on network TV these days, or at least say things that would have been banned not long ago. Violence on TV? More extreme than ever.”
  • Parkin wonders whether pixel-art has perhaps run out of vitality: “Nevertheless, Fez feels like something of a full stop to the pixel art homage movement. What started out as a rebellion has become a cliché and, while Fez is too smart and assured in its own identity to slip into cliché, it feels as though this default fashion has run its course.”
  • Parkin also talked to Miyamoto this week, which reminded me of this Parkin Miyamoto tweet.
  • Tom Chick on Journey: “There’s no challenge and no real gameplay, which isn’t necessarily a criticism. It’s sort of like Shadow of the Colossus without any colossi, or Ico without the little girl. It does have multiplayer, though. Other players run around in your game pulling your switches, mashing their circle buttons to activate the “hey, over here!” beacons, and basically going the same place you’re going without any meaningful way to interact with you unless you both know Morse code. How’s that for a metaphor for online gaming?”
  • 270-part tutorial to making an action RPG in Unity.
  • High-end PC vs 360 versions of The Witcher 2 analysed.
  • Lego News: I can’t believe this only has 1700 supporters! Sign up! Support it!
  • Every house should have one of these.
  • Writer stuff: Will Self on JG Ballard.
  • No music this week, instead this via Mr Sutcliffe. Crikey.


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  1. SuperNashwanPower says:

    “We don’t have worlds or experiences that can continue and last for extended periods of time. We need to get rid of saved games”

    Don’t we have MMORPG’s? That world is still there when you go away, is it not? To me, there is a big difference between the single and multi-player experience, and as a devotee of the former, I like being able to hang something up and know it’ll be waiting for me when I come back. I wouldnt want to pause a DVD and find the characters in the movie had all carried on without me and written their own ending … I want my cup of tea and to then press ‘play’ again. With respect, you leave my save games alone, Mr Molyneaux – they are happy where they are **hugs saved games**.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      That’s basically his point – that other games haven’t used MMO technology.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        So, would it be sort of like – you leave your Skyrim character in Whiterun, say – and then when you load it back up, a dragon has attacked the city? If so, why should that need to happen in the cloud? Is that not something that can be done each time you load it up? Maybe I am being an ageing, creaky old gamer at 34 (when I am 80, I will be telling EVERYONE ALL THE TIME) but I feel kind of protective of knowing I can just leave the gameworld as is. Maybe I just need it selling to me a little more :)

        • SAeN says:

          I think if it was save based then the persistence would result from random chance upon reopening the game. It’s not actually happened, the game just ran some numbers when launched and made an event happen. If the game world was persistent, the events actually happen in real-time. You could log in and witness them first hand.
          It’s an interesting idea, but I’d imagine it would require an extraordinary investment by the developers to maintain. And what happens when the developer can no longer maintain it?

        • jalf says:

          I highly doubt he seriously intended that this should replace *all* singleplayer games as we know the, and actually outlaw save games.

          But the reason it can’t happen on your local computer is that *it stops running the game* when you exit the game. Put it on some server in the cloud, and it can keep updating and processing the game after you log out, after you switch your computer off.

          You’re absolutely right, of course, in many games this would be a terrible thing.

          But there’s got to be some interesting opportunities in it as well. If you design a game for it. The key thing is that it isn’t an either-or. It wouldn’t take away your “current-style” games after all.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            So its essentially creating a computer-generated persistent world, rather than (for example) one generated by other-player action in an MMO? Its anti-social I know, but I don’t want to play with other people – I am a bit misanthropic like that. I am wondering how other human players actions could affect your world, without your actually interacting with other human players?

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Because then you could not be charged for it and they would not be able to put a “cloud” logo on it?
          Really, I am always swinging back and forth over my love for Mr M. Love one game, I hate the next. Love one idea, hate the next.

          Same with this “cloud” stuff. It’s “the internet” by another name. :(

        • ChromeBallz says:

          Persistence would also mean that all the dragons in Skyrim don’t randomly spawn, they are already flying around. Also, more things would simply happen without your direct interaction, like the assassination when entering Markarth.

          However, i do agree that singleplayer games should leave more control to the player, rather than the cloud. I feel the same regarding coming back to the world exactly like i left it.

      • Reinhardt says:

        Animal Crossing did this years ago.

        • Disreputable_Dog says:

          I was waiting for someone to mention animal crossing xD That game did it wonderfully. alot could happen while you were offline in that game.

          • jrodman says:

            And miss giving the alot a huge hug? I’m frightened!

          • Fidelicatessen says:


            I think the alot that could happen was a big, ferocious alot of prey. You wouldn’t want to give it a hug.

            Now, MY alot is much cuter! I like this alot.

      • nitftas says:

        Chris Kohler’s rebuttal to THQ exec., Richard Browne is a pretty good read:

        USA the EU to the UK 2 Pin to 3 Travel Adaptor Plug Convertor! Cool Oh! Essential travel!

    • TheWhippetLord says:

      I wonder if we’re going to see that kind of thing happen gradually as some developers hybridise their single and multiplayer gameplay (Positech’s challenges or Total War’s drop-in stuff.)
      Can’t say I’m really won over – I like the freedom saves give a player. How often do we RPG players save, do something really dumb just to see what happens, and then reload? A persistant RPG world would push players towards always picking the safe option – perhaps one reason why no MMORPGs I’ve played have offered any true player choice in anything meaningful (TOR maybe came closest, but “which party member shall I boink” isn’t exactly a world-shattering choice.)
      Interesting to see how nice Molyneux is about everyone though: Microsoft, Lionhead, indies… He comes across as a really amiable fellow.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Hi WhippetLord, yes thats how I feel about it really. I am quite risk-averse – so if a persistent-world-elf wanted to come along and fill my pockets with 1000 gold, I would be OK with that, but if it looted all my stuff off me, destroyed a location I needed for a quest, or turned some faction against me (something more likely if other player actions affect your world [/cynicism]), then I think I would become sad. Then I would comfort eat, and become fat. And flatulent.

        Basically I am all for benevolent money-elves.

    • bill says:

      What persistent worlds with no save games WOULD give us is an opportunity for a different approach to risk.

      One of the problems (imho) with games is that they’ve trained us to only accept ultimate success. Roll a poor character? Roll again. Fail at the mission? Reload and try again until you are successful. Get an injury? Reload and try again. Get a cursed item? Reload and don’t equip it. Etc..

      It’s natural and understandable, because that’s how games are designed, and the designers expect you to do it… so they balance for that. Play an RPG where you don’t get all the best results and you’ll probably get stuck.

      But it’s very limiting, especially in terms of things like permanent effects, injuries, negative effects, etc..

      If things were persistent then players would be forced to continue on after failing to succeed perfectly, and there could be interesting and varied consequences for those. Which could lead to whole new gameplay elements and opportunities.
      A player blinded in one eye? A player who failed to save the princess and everyone knows it? A player who got caught pickpocketing, and got thrown in jail, and had to escape, but now has good criminal contacts but is on the run from police?

      • marcusfell says:

        I wonder if it would be possible to make a narrative driven rogue-like. I mean, the story branches endlessly, but most of them end in terrible death for the player, or go off and link back do a different story arc. The total time to play the game would have to be short, but easy to get back in and try a different path. Instead of like this awesome 60-hour epic, you have like a 2-3 hour adventure that has like, 20 endings unique to your actions.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        That is what a game is.
        That is what makes it different from real life. You get to play and adjust to the risk.
        Ever seen someone say “there should be a single chance at football, we should never play a second game”?
        Or do people play another game and give it a second try? So “play” and “games” benefit from risk and reqard systems that are not totally real. Although, the idea can be used for games, it’s not a rule that they all should.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Hehe I guess this clears up my relationship to games for me then. For screwing up and living with consequences, I have life. For fantasies where everything goes my way, I have games. I think thats what I want to hang onto – one little corner of existence thats consequence-free. I love my F5 and F9 keys!

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        We already have games that do this, and no need to restrict save games or have cloud services!

        For example, in Football Manager you could reload every game to get the perfect result, but the game becomes meaningless at that point. Most people will accept a few losses or draws here and there as part of the game, no lost game is a complete failure, it’s all about the season as a whole. FM even throws random events at you, with red cards, injuries and so forth getting in your way.

        In Mount & Blade, losing a battle doesn’t mean losing the game, it’s merely a loss of time, money and reputation.

        Both games allow you to “save scum” if you like, but also make failures a setback rather than “game over”.

      • Caiman says:

        I love the idea in theory of living with the consequences of your actions, but it’s not something you can apply willy nilly to all game designs. If the game is easy, mostly a narrative, and relatively risk free, you won’t find me reloading if things go wrong. In Mass Effect for example, I never reload a save by making a choice that seemed in hindsight to be a bad one, but that’s because Mass Effect is difficult to actually lose. It’s a story, less of a difficulty challenge.

        But something like an RPG (or a strategy game) where the development of my characters can have a real impact on whether I can get past a certain fight, that’s something I want to be able to save and reload, experiment, have fun with. The narrative is less important, it’s the challenge to progress that’s key. I don’t want to shrug my shoulders at every bad decision and then find, 20 hours later, that I’ve gimped my party to the extent I can’t succeed. Some people like this kind of masochism, but not me.

        So by all means, the inability to save can be a great gaming device as long as the game is designed around it (and I hope not all are) but don’t try to shoehorn it into existing game designs except in optional Ironmade modes.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I think that would be really fun for the developers, but only for a certain type of player. That doesn’t mean a roguelike mmo with story events shouldn’t be made (hell, it probably has been somewhere), but just that it will have limited appeal. I think people who share Dwarf Fortress games are doing something like this.

      • bill says:

        Woah. A whole lot of surprisingly defensive comments there. No one, as far as i know, ever said it should be applied (or even shoehorned into) all games… so you are probably all safe for now.

        It was just a thought about one possible benefit/effect it could have, which might be interesting to experiment with in some situations… you know, to give some new experiences.

        Some games do it already, and some allow you to continue with less than perfect consequences, but being able to reload is a very tempting thing, and most games seem to expect it from their players. In the same way that many games are impossible without quicksaving every 10 seconds.

        I don’t get the “that’s what real life is for” comments either… games where you had to live with consequences wouldn’t be more like real life, they’d be more varied and dramatic. When was the last time you saw a movie where the hero went through the whole movie without ever running into any negative consequences that he overcame. Harry potter wouldn’t have been better if harry and his friends won every skirmish and overcame every obstacle without any loss or consequence… it’d have been duller.

        the witcher did it well because by the time you found out the consequences of your actions it was too late to go back and change them… but that’s very hard to plot out for most games.

        • Arjent says:

          Several games have used this “no-save” technology to good effect. Dwarf Fortress and Minecraft spring to mind and I’m sure others have as well.

          For my part, I very much enjoy the state of tension and consequences that provides. I don’t always take the safest option, but I certainly attempt to hedge my bets and think through my actions. To me this provides a lot more drama and excitement. Isn’t “consequences of actions” what many are clamoring for? Clearly not everyone as the above comments show, but this is one way to achieve that.

      • Furtled says:

        Old Republic actually does this (sort of) you can restart conversations if you’re quick/lucky but overall you’re stuck with any decision you make within the story, it’s interesting to play through.

      • Contrafibularity says:

        I agree, so far the “persistence” of MMOs has really been an illusion/pipe-dream. Actually, when I play an MMO, it feels more like a risk-free virtual theme park to me than it does an actual videogame. Add to that the fact it’s all about “simulated skills” as opposed to.. well I won’t say REAL skills.. but let’s call it interacting with the environment, or rather, interacting with the game or game world, and my opinion of MMO hasn’t actually improved by playing them.

        For me, a game like Deus Ex, VTMB or Stalker has more persistence than any MMO, simply because, in my mind/imagination, stuff keeps happening, and what you do has an effect on that (even when the game script hasn’t explicitly made you feel the consequence). It’s a bit like how books and older videogames tend to leave more to the imagination, whereas MMOs sort of sit on the opposite side of the spectrum right now, in that they haven’t even figured out yet how to pose a challenge to a player (no offence to MMO players, but put simply, they’re ultra-easy if you have the time to put in and grind, explore and whatnot) which is sort of why when I “die” (sorry, I mean when I’m defeated, lol) in a MMO I’m so completely and utterly unfazed,.. actually I’m not even moved whereas dying in other games usually tends to be during a heart-racing scene which test everything from spatial awareness to nerves, memory etc. I mean, games aren’t ALL about the challenge, but simultaneously, without a challenge there simply is NO game, and I really mean that, after almost two decades worth of gaming this is the closest I can come to a blanket statement about the medium. I’m not anti-RPG or anti-MMO by any means, but I really feel that until such a game arrives which has actually challenged me to the point where my mouse-hand is trembling involuntarily (from sheer joy / excitement / adrenaline / fear / whatever) it’s not been a game.

        If a game is based around the premise of investing time to grind or complete inane tasks of wanton slaughter or glorified fetch quests so that the stats’ total sum is sufficient to challenge an obstacle (boss fight) in order to progress then basically what the developers are doing is cheating the very concept of gameplay.. actually, it’s cheating the very concept of game development. This whole paragraph is highly subjective though, and purely my opinion (and that of others), different strokes and all, but honestly, I can’t think of another way to put it. Basically when I play a GAME, I’m unsure of the outcome of trying something (which already is half the fun), whereas when I play an MMO, it’s a very binary experience; you either have the requisite stats, or you don’t, you either have the requisite specialisation/rotation, or you don’t. There’s no unpredictability, there’s very little gameyness and most horrible of all, there’s very little excitement. Don’t get me wrong, there are some things which MMOs do very well, but at the end of the day, I never walk away with the feeling of having *played* a game, a box which even a fairly low-brow game experience does manage to tick for me (playing a round of Battlefield for instance). I’m not a big MMO player mind you, so take it however you want, but I really feel this is an inherent problem that developers of these types of games will have to address at some point if they want to expand their player base beyond WoW-fans.

        Basically, devs will have to figure out how to involve persistence in a way which doesn’t punish the player if they have to do something else for a while, but then the solutions to that problem itself pose a challenge to the very concept of multiplayer games, so I think Molyneux is right that interesting things might happen here, but he does sort of glance over the fact there are inherent physical problems here which will need extremely ingenious solutions, which will probably themselves in turn be at odds with concepts like narrative and so on and so forth. It’s a crazy balancing act on a very thin 4-dimensional wire and I fear that only one or a few games will get right, and they will be flukes (at least in the foreseeable future).

    • Bork Titflopsen says:

      Don’t we already have always-on DRM?

      I don’t think that incorporating MMO experiences in single player games is the way to go but I do think multiplayer elements could enhance the single player experience. We already have Demon’s/Dark Souls, Journey and soon Sim City too, that have taken a step in that direction and in case of the first two have done it rather well.

      Or maybe something like Dust514 is the solution he’s looking for?

      Still, I’d much rather he focuses his attention on something like expanding and simplifying Bastion’s narative system. In my opinion this would be infinetly more valuable to the industry than any MMO-y-ness in singleplayer games ever will be and not only in gaming.
      Imagine watching a movie where, for example, a kinect reads your facial expressions and changes it depending on the emotions you express.

      *Drifts off to Sci-Fy happy place*


  2. Wisq says:

    Aww, I was hoping the RSV2 article would have an answer to your question, and not just a transcript of yet another terrible game ending,

    • subedii says:

      Well the answer in general is because they usually leave dealing with the ending until, well, the end. When they’ve run out of time and run out of resources and have to hack something together quickly before they ship. And because they’ve left it to the end without thoroughly thinking it through the story, whatever they cobble together is often a mess and rarely fitting with the rest of the story.

      And the more epic / long running the story is, the harsher this disconnect becomes. Nobody really cares if a mindless shooter with a crap story has a crap ending to that story. But if the core of your game WAS the story and it permeated everything about the game, and people came to appreciate it as a core aspect of the game, well… that’s when those people who had invested in it are likely to start calling you out on the terrible ending.

      EDIT: To be fair, I’m not just talking about games here. Pick your media, there are probably lots of examples anyone can think of where this has happened. It’ll probably happen MORE with games, but that’s because in general games have other things to focus on and carry them than just narrative.

      • MrStones says:

        “Well the answer in general is because they usually leave dealing with the ending until, well, the end. When they’ve run out of time and run out of resources and have to hack something together quickly before they ship. And because they’ve left it to the end without thoroughly thinking it through the story, whatever they cobble together is often a mess and rarely fitting with the rest of the story.

        And the more epic / long running the story is, the harsher this disconnect becomes.”

        That paragraph pretty much sums up the ending to Battlestar Galactica perfectly, I’m starting to get the suspicion that all bad endings are Tricia Helfer fault

        • TechnicalBen says:

          Really, that and the dev teams/writers going “You know that really sensible ending we had that was awesome and good? Lets try something different…”
          Then failing to notice the difference to good is bad. :P

    • Navagon says:

      Yeah, as awful as that ending was – that all out war down to some fuck up emo kid? – I didn’t really need to know that someone else felt the same way as I did. It was pretty obvious they were going to.

      Another Ubisoft title of that era that got it right was Far Cry 2. Now that was an ending!

      • Bobtree says:

        “Another Ubisoft title of that era that got it right was Far Cry 2.”

        No, it absolutely did not. The bad guy is really a good guy, and so the player is forced into suicide? Screw that.

        • Vinraith says:

          No one’s a good guy in Far Cry 2, least of all the player. It’s refreshing that the game has the balls to address that.

        • RakeShark says:

          The amount of “Forced Suicide” video game endings in recent years has strangely risen like a nuke launched from a submarine. I think developers are stating to believe it’s way easier to make a player jump over a cliff, power the deliverance device, or blow up the doomsday machine in self-sacrifice.

          • Phantoon says:

            Generally, it doesn’t fit anyways.

            It’s fine for a Dungeons and Dragons game where my Paladin sacrifices himself for X reason, but it doesn’t fit in most other games.

    • bill says:

      There was a decent article about it with interviews with developers a few years back.. basically very few people will see the ending, and they don’t know what content will get cut during development, so it tends to get few resources, or end up not making sense.

      • subedii says:

        I remember reading an interview years back with one of the lead writers for Bioshock. Except she was also one of the lead writers on Gears of War.

        One of the first questions they asked her was basically “why the huge difference?”. Her response was fairly illuminating.

        Basically it came down to the fact that on the Gears project, all her work was done on the project at the start, writing out the story and dialogue etc.

        The problem is, game development is a very organic process, and over the course of making a game, things get changed around, added, subtracted, drastically altered. But she wasn’t around to keep writing for it. So what eventually happens is that the script and storyline gets gutted, chopped and changed in order to force it all to “fit” into the game that eventually releases.

        On Bioshock she was a consistent part of the core team through most of the project, and storyline was considered important to it. So whatever changed in the game, the narrative was able to evolve alongside it.

        This is also something that I’m sure afflicts a lot of games. After I played through Mirror’s Edge, I’m almost certain it’s what happened there. There was clearly some idea for a storyline, but they never ultimately managed to get it through to the player because of all the changes, so it ended up a mish-mashed mess. I always felt Mirror’s Edge would have actually benefited a lot from a stronger narrative to drive it, but as is often the case, I suspect that whatever original story they wanted to tell got cut up, switched around, and stuffed in where they could as the game changed over the course of development. And it just didn’t work as a result.

        • ArthurBarnhouse says:

          Actually the problem with Mirror’s Edge is even dumber than you’d think. The levels were already designed before they brought in the writing team. The writers had to write around an already finished game.

          • Shuck says:

            That’s the more traditional use of the writer in the industry – to bring them in at the end to essentially add spit and polish (and specific dialog) to something that’s already been written. For years I’ve been arguing that either way – bringing writers in up front to do all the work then ignoring them, or just at the end to polish – are both wrong, because writing should be indivisible from design.

          • Muzman says:

            I got the impression it was even worse than that. They already had the characters, plot points and tone largely in place. So it was basically a big laundry list of stuff that got handed to her and they said “here, make this all work”.
            Good practice for hollywood I guess.

  3. Anthile says:

    My favourite gaming-related article I read last week:

    Let’s just say it made my head spin more than once and I laughed out loud several times.

    • ThTa says:

      I’m about halfway through, but does it ever lose the “Every game but Braid is dumb” sentiment?

      • Jupiah says:

        Well the PS3 game Flower is given faint praise and the unreleased upcoming indie game Miegakure gets some good hype, but overall no.

    • Acorino says:

      Unbelievable that this guy has the nerve to call the whole fucking medium of videogames intellectually lazy while he measures this claim merely on a few handpicked titles (Call of Duty, Mario, Assassin’s Creed). How’s that for intellectually lazy? Maybe the guy should play Journey, Dear Esther, Grim Fandango, Psychonauts, Shadow of the Colossus, Ico, Azrael’s Tear, Planescape: Torment, Shadow of Memories, The Last Express, A Mind Forever Voyaging, Gabriel Knight, Machinarium and countless other games which all contradict his intellectually lazy generalizations!

      I look forward to The Witness, but calling it the Citizen Kane of videogames without it even being released so far? Come on!

      • RobF says:

        You do know he part funded Dear Esther, right?

        • Sumanai says:

          You mean the writer of the article partially funded Dear Esther?

          • RobF says:

            I assumed we were talking Blow rather than the writer.

            The writer is, unfortunately, just being rather tedious in his positioning of Blow. But I dunno, I’ve read the music press, it just bounces off me that stuff now. Not to excuse it, obv.

          • Sumanai says:

            Acorino might be talking about Blow, but those things were mentioned by the writer, from what I gathered.

    • Sumanai says:

      I didn’t know papers like the Atlantic were in the business of giving verbal blowjobs.

      I don’t know if Jonathan Blow is an idiot savant or an idiot. I wouldn’t be surprised if a psychologist or a psychiatrist would write up a piece saying he is autistic or something. There are several things in the piece that imply some sort of mental abnormality, but let’s pick the easiest one.

      He doesn’t see the point in furniture unless it serves a purpose. He sees money as a tool. He has furniture rented. Renting costs more in the long run than buying. Any artisan would consider this a waste of a tool. Either the furniture is meaningless to him, so he should send them back, or it’s useful to him so he should buy them or similar ones. The only reason to keep things as they are is if he has a preference for keeping things the way they are, unless there’s something that he considers is wrong.

      You could say “don’t fix what isn’t broken”, but the change isn’t exactly the most risky move available. It’s just buying, or getting rid of, furniture. There’s also that he doesn’t seem to see the point in bookshelves, which is a bit strange if he keeps them in piles. Surely a man who is supposed to be of high intellect is capable of seeing the practical aspect of being able to pick a book directly from a shelf instead of pulling it out from under a pile.

      Oh, but he considers seeking out convenience as a sort of weakness. Nothing to do with keeping up routines. Like always walking home from school even when it’s raining and you’re offered a lift. Nothing about a routine, just a more Spartan lifestyle, sure.

      I’ve been considering looking into what the story of Braid was, but reading that piece up to the part I did, I don’t want to any more. He can keep his damn story, other people have better things to do than try to get into the head of a person who is ready to scoff at anything he doesn’t understand yet asks that others understand him.

      Edit: Although, I think it should be taken into consideration that these sort of articles rarely depict the people they’re supposedly focusing on accurately. I remember an article which claimed that J. K. Rowling hated Narnia, which is in fact the opposite of how she feels.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I thought it was pretty obvious that Blow was a tosser after the Linux audio debacle from his attempts to port Braid. The guy gets responses from people who have actually ported games to Linux as their day jobs (Ryan Gordon in particular is pretty experienced at it!), and throws his toys out of the pram that SDL/OpenAL just isn’t good enough for him. Even though it’s what you’ll find under, say, UT2004 on Linux. Or Neverwinter Nights.

      • Sumanai says:

        Braid shifts audio in pretty strange ways. For instance when you travel back in time the audio reverses. Is it actually possible with SDL or OpenAL without kludging? He also seemed to be rather focused on audio lag and knowing how much of it is happening, so if either hides the information it wouldn’t fulfil his wants.

        He could just be too demanding, even for his own purposes, but I’m not certain if that should mark him as a tosser.

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          Ctrl+F OpenAL. Hilariously, Blow never even mentions it even though several people recommend it, just whines about how SDL audio sucks.

          All he wants to do is play a buffer with reasonably low latency. OpenAL can do that. Christ.

          • Sumanai says:

            That is strange. The only reason I can come up is that he kept mixing it up with OpenGL, but that sounds a bit apologist. Even if he mixed them up, it’s still his mistake not anyone else’s.

            Or he could’ve thought that OpenAL and SDL are directly related or something, but the first post that mentions them makes a note of using SDL only for graphics and OpenAL for sound, so that sounds like a reading comprehension failure on his part and not a fault of the suggesters’.

      • Mo says:

        Wait, did you actually read through the comments?

        Blow’s request was simple: “For audio, I just want to play one 16-bit stereo 44100Hz or 48000Hz audio stream, with low latency and good control. That’s all.”

        UT/NVN don’t require the same on-the-fly sound manipulation that Braid needs, and latency isn’t as important. And Epic/Bioware are MUCH bigger teams, obviously. Apparently, (and this was from the Linux commenters) the functionality just doesn’t exist on Linux, or is hard to get to.

        Speaking of tossers, did this Ryan person SERIOUSLY say “If you don’t use Vim or Emacs for editing, you are not a real programmer”. Haha, yes, very nice joke.

        [edit] Ninja’d by Sumanai.

        • Sumanai says:

          There was actually one person who railed against Linux, FLOSS etc. with very long posts. I suspected insanity, so read only bits of them and felt justified in passing them by. From what I read I couldn’t make out if he understood what “free” in FLOSS meant and what exactly made him take up arms.

        • Brun says:

          “If you don’t use Vim or Emacs for editing, you are not a real programmer”

          This is actually a fairly common philosophy held by hardcore Linux users. It’s mostly a joke, but this article isn’t the first time I’ve heard that.

          • Sumanai says:

            The biggest problem with those that say it, is that they never seem to care if other people get that it’s meant to be a joke. So there are situations where it’s unclear if the person is being serious, people outside the circles will assume they are and mentally categorise the person and similar people into the “dickweeds” box.

    • Mo says:

      I enjoyed the article too. I think people are conflating what Blow thinks with what the journalist wrote. In my experience Jonathan Blow has controversial but logically laid out opinions. He comes off as a reasonable guy.

      The journalist seemed to conveniently leave out a bunch of games to make his narrative easier to tell. That’s just lazy journalism.

      That said, it’s hard to disagree with the general sentiment. My favourite part of the article:

      “Watch this—it never fails,” he said, bending over his computer keyboard. On one of his twin monitors, Hecker pulled up the movie-trailers section of; on the other, he loaded the upcoming-releases page of The movies, Hecker pointed out, encompassed a huge diversity of topics and approaches, from buddy comedies to period dramas to esoteric art films. The video games, on the other hand, were almost all variations on a single theme: outlandishly attired men armed with gigantic weapons, shooting things.

      We all have our dozen-or-so shortlist of games that prove the validity of the medium, but by and large modern games are about shooting men in the face. We need to work on that, and denying it’s a problem isn’t helping.

      • Sumanai says:

        They follow an internal logic, yes. But they’re not necessarily sensible to an outside observer. The whole “rented furniture” thing raises questions though, because that simply doesn’t make any sense if what he said in the article are actual quotes.

  4. jondodd says:

    Chris Kohler’s rebuttal to THQ exec., Richard Browne is a pretty good read:

    • bill says:


    • Shuck says:

      I wish he had spoken more about the budget issue, as that’s the real problem. Saying that games cost too much (on the retail level) is actually pretty odd – game prices haven’t changed since the ’80s, which means they haven’t even kept up with inflation, much less exploding development costs. For console developers, where the business model is designed into the device (selling games on disk at retail), and where graphics primarily sell games, the publisher/developer doesn’t have nearly as much leeway to try something different.
      While developers/publishers attacking used game sales is ridiculous, they’re lashing out because they’ve been backed into a corner, feeling rather impotent to do anything about their crashing finances. And whereas it’s popular to blame “piracy” on the PC for lost sales, you can’t prove that any of the pirates would have been willing to pay anything for those games. With used game sales, we know that those buyers were indeed willing to pay – something between 60-90% of the cost of a new game, depending on if they’re buying and then selling a new game or just buying it used. Seeing all that money out there being spent on your game that you don’t get, when your business model is collapsing, has got to hurt.

      • RobF says:

        That’s a bit wonkythink because when I started buying games £6.99 was the upper end. Then the “premium” brands of £9.99, then the compilations up to £14.99.

        Then they started to up and up. The reasoning being that cartridges were super slap happy expensive to make, distribute and maintain.

        So now we’re using cheap-as-shit easily distributed stuff with minimal packaging, there’s got to be some adjustment for that. So the inflation stuff is bollocks. Costs have shifted elsewhere, sure. But that’s a different point entirely.

        • Sumanai says:

          When I started buying games they were around 360 FIM (about 60 EUR), which was a ridiculous amount. It still is. I need a good reason to pay that much for something. If I were in the habit of selling games I’d make certain I could sell it if it sucked. Just because they’ve technically dropped down due to inflation doesn’t mean they’re too cheap. Or even that they’ve dropped enough.

          Especially if I’m expected to make further payments to unlock the full game.

          The cost of making games is a problem, but that’s definitely not going to be fixed by removing used games from the market.

      • jondodd says:

        While the fact that prices have not adjusted accordingly to inflation implies that games are, in fact, cheaper than ever, we weren’t dropping *whatever price full retail releases cost in your home country* every few weeks (or sometimes, every week). Companies asking us to part with our money so frequently will inevitably force us to pick and choose which games we find most enticing, hurting sales of other games consequently. We’ll still want to play those games, so we’ll cut corners on price whenever we can, whether it be through buying used-games or utilising sales in 6 months time, where the publisher might’ve been shut down already because they didn’t move enough copies within that initial month. Digital distribution was supposed to help this and lower costs, but I’m still being charged $89.99AUD for PC games on Steam (which i’ll gladly choose to buy the cd key online elsewhere for much less). I believe there are few of us here that have a high enough income to sustainably purchase all AAA titles day one.

        It isn’t used games sales that are hurting the industry, it’s the publishers desperation to stick out from the pack by ballooning development costs with things like superficial marketing campaigns. The industry needs to be smarter about its expenditure and business practices.

    • Brun says:

      Oh man thank GOD someone finally wrote this article. I’ve been saying that games cost too much money (for the publisher to make) for a LOOOOOOOOOOOONG time. Publisher response has largely been backwards from the way it should have been – instead of figuring out how to make games of the same quality cheaper to make, they nickel-and-dime consumers to death trying to recoup the cost-per-unit beyond $60.

      This statement (taken from an article linked in that one) pretty much sums up my view on the issue:

      Or is it that not enough people want the games that they’re making for the price at which they’re trying to sell them?

  5. starclaws says:

    “Local plane/helicopter crashed today after colliding with a high flying wind turbine.”

  6. Diziet Sma says:

    I know it’s not videogame related but if everyone could follow Jon’s suggestion and support the lego exo suit. :D

    • Quine says:

      Similarly keep an eye out for Mobile Frame Zero: Rapid Attack now it’s surpassed its Kickstarter funding by a long way- basically warhammer with teeny Lego giant anime robots.

  7. t4c9n1d0c says:

    Hey RPS, am I missing your coverage of this weekend’s awesome live indie game development performance by the

  8. Mr. Mister says:

    Morse code on Journey? I wonder if anyone ever succeeded at that.

    I guess a way to tell your partner you’re going to use it is to spam a bit SOS at first.

    Also, my favourite architecture piece I’ve found in any game (UT3 community map VCTF-Hanging Gardens):

  9. AndrewC says:

    Hmmm, I agree with a large number of these articles. Like, *really* agree. I am suspicious, and worry this signals a crisis.

    Tom Chick’s a big doofy head though.

  10. Moni says:

    “Why do games so often deliver such terrible endings?”

    I imagine it’s because a lot of games also fail to have a beginning or a middle. I’m actually struggling to think of games that follow a three act structure.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      That’s not a bad point of view, but don’t you think that it should follow more of a four branch structure:

    • AndrewC says:

      The three act structure is not the only form of story there is. Shakespeare used 5 acts. A lot of Ancient Greek stuff was highly episodic.

      But, if you want to go that route, for most games the first act is the tutorial, the entire game is the second act and the ‘point of no return’ endgame is the 3rd act.

      I’m definitely in the camp that thinks trying to overlay filmic storytelling onto gaming mechanics is a bad fit. I really liked how Mass Effect 2, for example, took on more of the structure of a TV series rather than a film. I really like how open world games, like Stalker, Red Dead Redemption etc, can set up a narrative situation and then just sit in the ‘now’ for a while.

      • grundus says:

        Yep, Fallout: New Vegas is the open world game I’ve been playing lately, and it’s great. It has definite, if loosely defined, acts just because of your progress around the world. Like, getting to Primm, then to Novac, then the Strip, Camp McCarran, the BoS bunker, into the Lucky 38 then over to Hoover Dam and the Fort… I haven’t gotten any further than that so I don’t know, but basically the main quest arc really feels like an episodic thing, like you (well, I) could imagine it being a TV programme and each quest might take an episode or two.

        Yeah, films aren’t a good parallel to games, I think TV programmes would be a much better fit given the length we expect (well, really, really want but rarely get) from our games. A Call of Duty campaign could be compared to a film because in relative terms it’s about as long as a film, whereas an open world RPG is much more like a TV series or two.

    • marcusfell says:

      Asura’s Wrath had damn good pacing. 3 acts, some 10-12 episodes each, and all of them very cool.

    • Wisq says:

      Another interesting example IMO is Disgaea. Structured like an episodic TV show, right down to having “next episode” previews at the end of each chapter. (Of course, they were purely for humour and had nothing to do with the actual plot of the next episode, but …)

      It made for a nice combination of “local” (per-chapter) plotlines that get wrapped up by the end of the chapter, and the overarching “global” plotline as you slowly make your way towards the end of the game.

      Needless to say, it had awesome writing and an awesome ending. Multiple endings, too, based on your playthrough stats, and/or which endgame-world you chose to tackle instead of the main one. With no limit as to how many times you can replay the story with the same team. And all the more impressive when you consider that the story is arguably secondary to its role as a “crazy high numbers” grind-/fun-fest.

      • PleasingFungus says:

        The trouble with Disgaea is that it had terrible tone drift. Started out hilarious, and slowwwly migrated into boring, generic JRPG fluff.

        By the time I got to the ending, I no longer really cared about the plot or any of the characters!

        This was a game which featured a chapter in which the protagonist must overcome his crippling fear of large breasted women. Who looks at that and thinks, “I want to transition from this into standard JRPG drama?”

  11. Apples says:

    So Jon Blow thinks he’s an intellectual artiste exploring the human condition in his chosen medium (of… line puzzles and expository text), but rejects Anna Karenina because all he can see in it is a ‘soap opera’. Brilliant.

  12. ffs_jay says:

    I’m not really buying the whole death of pixel art article. Not when it’s such a great middle ground for indie devs looking to create visually appealing (or at least ‘less ugly’) games on a tight budget/schedule. I just can’t see a reasonable replacement for it. If you don’t have the resources, higher resolution assets or 3d just tends to look far, far worse, never mind taking so much longer to get anything even halfway decent looking.

    And I don’t think anyone’s nostalgic for chunky old PS-era 3d. It didn’t take long at all for that to age shockingly, and if anything it’s just gotten worse with time. Going back a little further, something in the style of Hunter or the later Mercenary games could work, I could definitely see myself playing something with that style to it.

    • Apples says:

      I really like the low-poly look of 90s games like Unreal and Tomb Raider; it gives you a rough idea of your surroundings and lets you fill in the details yourself, and ends up creating a much more tense atmosphere because you can’t quite see what’s going on. And there was just something other-worldly and beautiful about Unreal’s blocky environments that no amount of 4096×4096 textures can replicate.

      Still, it does take a lot more skill and time to create something that looks good even in low-poly 3D, so I don’t think it will become an outright replacement for indie game makers. There are far more low-poly games that look bloody dreadful than ones that look good. It’s become much easier to do 3D with the advent of Unity and Blender but there’s still a barrier to entry that isn’t there for 2D.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Yeah. Half-Life 1 is a great stand-out example of “lo-fi” 3D that works well, but it can’t be overstated that that’s because they did some really, really good texturing (and modelling) work.

        The more you push up one aspect (say, polycount, or texture resolution), the more the others have to rise to meet it to keep the art feeling internally consistent. Sooner or later having a mouth with individual teeth visible is going to look naff if your lipsynch is still HL1-esque flapping of a single jawbone, because you’ve taken away the roughness that lets imagination smooth that over.

        What hope has an indie developer of reimplementing Euphoria? (Unless they’re Wolfire.)

      • Mman says:

        “I really like the low-poly look of 90s games like Unreal and Tomb Raider; it gives you a rough idea of your surroundings and lets you fill in the details yourself, and ends up creating a much more tense atmosphere because you can’t quite see what’s going on. And there was just something other-worldly and beautiful about Unreal’s blocky environments that no amount of 4096×4096 textures can replicate.”

        I think it comes through in mods (some of the best of which really push that design style to another level and almost make it a sort of abstract art that couldn’t be pulled off anywhere else) more than the actual games themselves, but I agree in general. While there are plenty who legitimately dislike it-just like there are lots of people who dislike pixel art-I think a lot of the bad rap early 3D gets is as much due to the association with it and the terrible framerates and image quality that was the norm at the time (PC gaming was better, but 3D cards were only just coming out, and stuff like anti-aliasing pretty much didn’t exist for most people) than any issues with the actual style when it’s done right, and those technical issues are obviously irrelevant today.

    • soldant says:

      I highly doubt “pixel art” is a budget consideration these days. Granted, assets in Crysis-style super high awesome definition with 60,000 shaders for skin sweat alone isn’t cheap, but pixel art is purely a stylistic choice these days, namely to ride the “hip retro” look. Even worse, it’s considered a “feature”. Perhaps in times gone by it was cheaper to do pixel art, but I can’t see the jump from 8-bit to higher quality sprites to be THAT much more expensive.

      The majority of them aren’t doing it to stick to a budget or time constraints, it’s a conscious decision because it looks retro which apparently means people forget glaring flaws. That said I don’t relish a return to dodgy early 3D days either… but there were plenty of games that managed to look good for that time too!

    • Terragot says:

      tigsource is plagued by people spending weeks & weeks on a single character sheet striving to get the pixel look perfect. It’s an extremely time consuming procedure to draw and animate everything by hand, where as mesh and bone structures can bash out a decent character model in a day ( with a couple days added on iterating and polish).

      I can see people considering pixel art as a time saver, because it so obviously lacks the visual fidelity of higher resolution styles, but it just doesn’t work that way. The tools for creating such assets haven’t moved much further from MS paint.

      Not to say that pixel art is always time consuming; Minecraft is a perfect example of efficiency both in production and memory costs using pixelated art. But the vast majority of pixel art games coming out are using outdated production techniques. At the end of the day, though, I think that’s the joy people get out of making those games – avoiding the term hipster – I guess it’s a current cultural trend in some communities.

      • mckertis says:

        “The tools for creating such assets haven’t moved much further from MS paint. ”

        Really ? I’m quite sure there are loads of software supporting AT LEAST onions, and having loads of tools to create traditional animation.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I very much doubt textures would be so much as a drop in the ocean of Minecraft’s memory demands, even if you increased their resolution sixteenfold.

        (Minecraft’s style is well done in turning very simplistic cuboid-based “programmer graphics” into an art style, though.)

      • randomnine says:

        “It’s an extremely time consuming procedure to draw and animate everything by hand, where as mesh and bone structures can bash out a decent character model in a day ( with a couple days added on iterating and polish).”

        I can knock out a pixel-art character and a handful of animations in a couple hours. Once I’ve got the proportions set for that project’s style, further characters take maybe half an hour each. I work to a really basic standard, yes, but a 3D character concepted, modelled, textured and animated in a day would look worse.

      • RobF says:

        I’ve never heard drawing described as an outdated production technique before. Well I’ll be!

        TIGS is a really weird example. You’ve got a lot of people there just learning how to pixel so of course this is done over a period of time with a fair bit of critique, you’ve got people who can bang out sprite sheets in good time but do more show-y pieces that like any art would take time and well, lots of things. And to top it off, there’s a fair proportion of the community to whom Cave Story is their first exposure to indie and they want to make their own. You’ve also got loads of people not using pixel art.

        Those that are learning aren’t going to magically produce art faster because you give them Max or something. Pixel art has an immensely low barrier to entry that 3d does not. Even Sketch Up or Groboto are more complex than “put a dot there in the colour you want”.

        When 3d becomes that straightforward to understand and useful tools priced at zero to twenty five quid like pixel art (a pox on anyone suggesting Blender. A pox on Blender), when the barrier to creation is the equivalent of “can be done in MS paint” then 3d might have a more effective chance. As it is, pixel art is the digital equivalent of having a pen and a pad, go! EXCEPT for many, the entry into creating good looking art is even lower than that.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      Pixel art is dying! has been since the 1980s! Along with PC gaming, homebrew, shareware, low budget development and knitting.

    • YourMessageHere says:

      I can’t agree. Back when 2D and pixel art was all there was, I wasn’t playing games, and part of that was because they looked like they did; I hated the look, and still do. To my eye, it’s basic, it’s crude, it’s only representative in the loosest sense, it fails curves hard and it fails to represent the world, or any world, by its failure to use a third dimention.

      In the NES and Mega Drive era, fair enough, better than that was not really possible. Now, it’s a stylistic choice, sure, but the novelty wore off almost as soon as it started for everyone who hasn’t got warm fuzzy memories of that time. I know I’m not the only person who is completely put off Minecraft by the way that it looks; I think it’s utterly hideous, probably the worst looking game in the world when you factor in the things the underlying game is actually capable of, and while the game itself looks fascinating, there’s no way I’d voluntarily spend time in something that looked like that.

      As a graphical choice, comparing pixel art and modern polygonal 3D to watercolour painting and photography isn’t valid, as they are different media; this is like watercolour painting and wax crayon drawing. I dare say it’s possible to make something stunning with wax crayons, but it’s rare and takes a lot of skill, and the versatility and subtlety that you can’t really achieve with crayons is therefore lost.

      I am one of those people who suffers, rather than celebrates, the label ‘games’ on this hobby. I’m in it for experiences and narrative, not games. I don’t like board games, I don’t like card games, I don’t like sports. I mention this because I tend to feel that those who do like games tend to be the ones celebrating the pixel art 2D side of things, because the games that originally used that style of art resembled games more than they did experiences. This is why so much of indie gaming leaves me going ‘meh’ – since creating a succinct ruleset and assigning art to it, whatever its style, is a simpler thing to do than crafting a narrative and framework for qualitative experiences, lots of indie stuff tends to do just that. It’s not a bad thing per se, but it leaves me cold, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

      So yes, I came to gaming when 3D started to happen. Quarantine, Doom, Descent, X-Wing, Interstate 76, Alone in the Dark, Dark Forces, Duke Nukem 3D. Texture resolution, in those games that had textures, was low, but that wasn’t the point. The point was 3D, and the worlds you could make with it, and the exploring and discovering and experiencing you could have in them, that you couldn’t do in 2D. It’s time for Flatshaded 3D as a retro aesthetic, absolutely.

      • Apples says:

        Totally disagree with this! I’m also one of the people who “hates games” (and card games and board games and sports) but I think pixel art, or at least lo-fi art, sometimes adds to my enjoyment of a narrative. It’s representative. We know that Guybrush doesn’t ‘really’ look like a weird blob of pixels, like we know that Morrowind’s cities don’t ‘really’ have only twenty people in them and that people don’t really violently bob their heads and wave their arms about when talking to each other. Pixel graphics allow you to express “there is a guy/monster here and he/it looks kinda like this” in a way that high-res graphics can’t because you have to literally show everything rather than generally indicating it. If Guybrush stands stock-still while talking, we know he’s ‘really’ doing something because we can imagine it. If Commander Shepard stands stock-still while talking, it’s just weird and offputting. In that way it’s more like books than films to me – in a book you can say “The man was blond and tall,” and in pixel art you can indicate just that and hardly anything else, letting the reader/player fill in anything inbetween the lines. In a film or hi-res graphics you MUST show everything.

        Although I think you do have a point that a lot of people just want to use it because it reminds them of their favourite old ‘proper game’ games. Cargo cult game creation, if you will.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Yes, this is a much better way of putting what I was saying upthread.

        • YourMessageHere says:

          “In a film or hi-res graphics you MUST show everything.”

          To me, that ought to read: ‘In graphics, you must show everything.’ Why have graphics otherwise? If you want to get something across about the way a thing looks without actually depicting it as you imagine it, words are perfectly adequate and have been for centuries. Imagine what the world would be like if the text adventure had never died.

          HOW you show it is up to you. There are innumerable art styles and narrative methods out there. Pixel art, however, is significant in that it is inherently limited in what it can show; it can never show everything. That means that for me, whether it’s true or not, it comes across as the sort of lazy visual shorthand that makes me think the creator is hiding behind technical limitations to excuse their inability to properly visualise what they want you to see and thus pass off an incomplete experience as complete. It’s not like books, at least not to me, because a book makes me do *everything* related to visualising a character or thing, whereas pixel art starts, but doesn’t finish. It’s a half-arsed job of game auteurship, an attempt to create a whole experience that the creator has decided to give up on and passes the buck to you to colour in the spaces. My brain just doesn’t work like that.

          I actually replied to LionsPhil first, so a lot of what I want to say is in that reply. Most particularly this relates to anime; that’s a non-representative medium like pixel art, but it’s capable of nigh on every bit of expressiveness that photorealistic rendering is, but with much less need for exacting visual fidelity. Even something like XKCD is capable of remarkably complex expression, simply using the body language of stick figures coupled with suitably good writing. What both of these have in common, and what pixel art lacks, is an ability to exert very fine control over lines and shapes.

          What I think you’re really meaning is that you like the visual ambiguity of pixel art, and the fact you can interpret it in your own way. I agree that ambiguity is a good thing at times; I disagree that pixel art is the only way to achieve it. The slavish chasing of popular cinema as a model by games that pretend to photorealistic representational art is partly to blame, I think. It’s possible for film to be ambiguous, but it’s rare in popular cinema. It’s equally possible, I believe, for photorealistic games to be ambiguous, it’s just not really attempted because the ones that have the wherewithall to be photorealistic are created by the risk-averse culture behind most big-budget entertainment.

          • Consumatopia says:

            Your first paragraph contradicts the rest of your post–if graphics must show everything, the only acceptable graphics would be photorealistic, fully detailed, at “retina” resolution. Stick figures, anime, and line art fail to show everything–they only show what the author decided to illustrate.

            I don’t want to see everything. The author doesn’t want to show everything. But we still want to communicate visually–an incomplete illustration can have different emotional content than a textual description of a scene. Fortunately for the two of us, the visual media have developed vocabulary for directing the viewer’s attention to those details that the author decides are worth paying attention to–including both the illustrations that you tolerate, and the limited resolutions that you find offensive.

            It is true that vectors can express shapes at arbitrary resolution (at least as far as your screen or eyes can discern.) But in games, the player and the author may not be interested in having continuous, analog resolution. They may prefer games to be in a *digital* universe–in which not only the graphics, but the the gameplay itself is contained entirely in discrete, cellular automata-like units. So if I’m playing a platformer, and I jump at exactly the right pixel, I know that I’ve done exactly the best that I can do. If I play the game again, the experience can be repeated exactly (well, almost–even in pixel games the frame rate is usually fast enough that time is, to human perception, about as continuous as space is in rasterized vector graphics). This goes to why we, today, use digital rather than analog computers–digital processes can be error corrected perfectly (well, as close to perfect as you want, noisy channel theorem etc.) and repeated an unlimited number of times.

            Not being able to show faces (the object that human beings are most inclined to observe in detail) in full detail is a handicap. But not a completely unsolvable one–I’ve played 2d games that pop-up a close up of a characters face when conversations take place. But I don’t think anyone said that *every* game should be pixelized–if the game designer wants continuous motion (either in game play or for expressing something subtle), then, by all means, avoid pixels.

            However, while I don’t think everything should expressed in pixels, I do think that the set of stuff that you can express in pixels is *very* large. As we should expect–letters on a page in monospace font are discrete just as pixels are and can express a very great deal. The Turing Machine or Rule 110 can express “anything”, in a sense (not necessarily the sense relevant to human emotion, but still a very large sense), and they have both discrete time and space. The appeal of discretely controllable units of information is not merely nostalgic–it is, arguably, the very nature of the universe.

            You mentioned text adventures, and I think it’s worth looking at one reason text adventures, if not adventure games generally, have declined in popularity. Yes, the text describing scenes and events could be at least as expressive as any pixel art. What text adventures did a poor job of expressing was *the range of actions available to the player*. It was a constant guessing game to figure out what it was possible to do in a world. This is not an inherent problem with text–roguelikes usually are text-based, but they avoid this problem–the range of actions you can perform is clearly listed (sometimes at great length;)) in the help screen/manual. However, roguelikes typically employ “text graphics”–with an explicit grid on screen displaying what surrounds the player. These are essentially pixels in another form. Pixels are very good at describing digital, discrete worlds.

            Your problem may be that you simply don’t want to play in discrete worlds–which is a perfectly respectable position, but is a larger issue than choice of graphic style.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I don’t like board games, I don’t like card games, I don’t like sports[, I don't like computer games] .

        Life of the party, you are.

        Dare I ask your opinion on [REDACTED BY SHITTY SPAMFILTER] outside of pixelart? Does Supreme Commander annoy you when it goes all iconographic and representative when zoomed out?

        • LionsPhil says:

          Let’s see if I can say what I’m trying to in that little blocked bit with different words:

          The representation of things via symbolic depitctions rather than attempts at realistic renderings.

        • YourMessageHere says:

          I don’t like parties either. =P Do I have to like those things to enjoy computer games? Of course not. Where are these things in Stalker? In System Shock? In Fallout? Those are things I enjoy immensely, that IMO suffer rather than celebrate the label ‘games’.

          ‘Representative’ means it looks like what it’s meant to be, i.e. a drawing of a tiger that looks exactly like a tiger. Therefore it’s the opposite of iconographic, i.e. a stylised, simplified yet recognisable rendering of the thing that the artwork stands for, like the male and female symbols on toilet doors. I’m not an SC player so I can only imagine what you mean; if I’m right, you’re talking about zooming out from the map so far that you can’t see or at least discern individual units any more, and the game creates some sort of icon to represent them so you can tell what is where?

          How do i feel about that? Fine. That’s the only way to do things like that, to me that’s a non-issue.

          How do I feel about “The representation of things via symbolic depictions rather than attempts at realistic renderings”? That depends entirely on how the symbolic depiction is executed. For example, I love anime, which is absolutely this, but I hate pixel art. How does that work? Anime uses its own complex, incredibly nuanced common vocabulary of stylistic conventions to express meaning, subtlety and range of emotion. Pixel art is by its fundamental nature simply incapable of doing any of this, which is why I find it totally unattractive.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Anime uses its own complex, incredibly nuanced common vocabulary of stylistic conventions to express meaning, subtlety and range of emotion.


            Ok, there’s basically no way to follow that up. Thanks for the laugh, ugyuu~ *sweatdrop*

          • Apples says:

            “Anime uses its own complex, incredibly nuanced common vocabulary of stylistic conventions to express meaning, subtlety and range of emotion. ” Oh, this is amazing. Anime is not, inherently, given to nuance and subtlety. This is a genre in which people will literally sprout massive drops of sweat, splurge blood from their noses, grow mouths that take up 3/4 of their face, and be placed in front of backgrounds symbolising their moods. It’s not subtle or nuanced, the most common and popular methods of expressing emotion and meaning in anime is in-your-face and unmistakable. Yes there are also more subtle expressions of meaning in anime, but they are not inherent to the medium in any way, they’re culturally-specific rather than genre-specific. Pixel art has to resort to over-exaggerated movements or explanatory text because of its nature, but anime really has no reason to do it, it just does.

            By the way: “Representation is the use of signs that stand in for and take the place of something else”. It’s not literal realism and realistic renderings.

          • equatorian says:

            Actually some art students I know would swear on anime’s expression being quite nuanced, when you get down to it. It might help that we’re Asian and anime is just as saturated into our culture as it is in Japan.

            However, being deep and subtle, it isn’t. For a long while I was drawing amateur manga to competitions. It really is not subtle. The subtle thing in anime/manga is more its frame-movements, there’s a separate language for that not found in Western cartoons/comics, and for the most part, that’s the real reason people growing up with other comic forms have trouble interpreting manga and by extension anime. Expressions? No, expressions are incredibly easily understood. It’s telegraphed to you far clearer than movies.

            Also, I disagree with your thesis that games need to be realistic, and I’m also in this hobby for the ‘experience’, not for the ‘gaming’. I hate the idea that games need to be gamey and challenging, and I adore the use of representative art in games and the creativity it allows. So.

    • Consumatopia says:

      While there is some great low poly, lo-res texture art, I do think you’re right that nostalgia for PS-era graphics is probably limited. I’m sure others know more about this than me, but I don’t think the PS even had floating point support. Aliased jaggies don’t bother me, but that bizarre texture warping on the PS seems like it was designed to be as ugly as possible.

      Not only do I think a low-poly indie era is unlikely, I think the shittiness of the low-poly era is actually responsible for the rise of pixel art in the first place–if video games could somehow have jumped from the 16-bit era to the 360/PS3 era, we might never have been so obsessed with pixels.

  13. Tei says:

    Pixel art has is place, but not everywhere. And this don’t mean you have to go 3D. There are infinite other options. Painted stuff, vectorial, cartoon rendering 2D, …

    • Mr. Mister says:

      I wonder when will we have enough computational power as to render 3D vectorial games.

      • LionsPhil says:

        About 1985. Flat-shaded polys basically are the 3D version of vector graphics.

        Now, if you want curves, I think ATi had some gimmick for assisting that in the late ’90s. Probably long dead because now everything is shaders.

        • KDR_11k says:

          I think that’d actually be wireframe graphics. Curves would be done as many small lines forming a curve, just like they’re done everywhere else. What we don’t have today is Vectrx-style vector monitors.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Well, sure, but people don’t tend to mean wireframes by “vector graphics” any more (although I suppose I should have said mid-’90s just-getting-to-T&L-era if we want gradient fills between verticies). The problem with approximated curves is the cost in polycount; I *think* ATi’s trick was closer to actually being able to render beziers directly or something so you didn’t have to pump so much geometry to the card. Quake 3 supported it to do archways or something.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        See Illustrator or Corel Draw.

        As a hint, there is this popular things called FLASH that uses this crazy idea of VECTOR graphics. ;)

        • LionsPhil says:

          I dunno…people seem to be under the impression that Flash is only used for YouTube and games, and that HTML5 video and JavaScript+Canvas obsolete it. :/

          Going to be a real shame if 2D animation ends up forced being prerendered at a fixed resolution, mangled through a lossy codec, and upscaled locally, all at an increased bandwidth cost.

          • byteCrunch says:

            Clearly your very misinformed. HTML5 is more than capable of using the SVG format, so I am completely lost by your comment.
            Not only that alot of devices have no issues with SVG, with support getting better all the time, as opposed to say Flash.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Oh lordy, someone bothered to actually bring up SVG. Some jokes never get old I guess!

            Show me an authoring environment for it which isn’t a load of arse and can actually do onionskinning, keyframing and tweening (including motion along a path), layering, symbols, and SmartSketch-style natural drawing, where you can just doodle out a character with your pressure-sensitive stylus and fill the gaps as if it were bitmap. (Flash can do all of these. Inkscape can do layers, but otherwise it’s lodged in the diagramming end of the vector spectrum, expecting you to care about individual verticies.)

            Show me an actual working real-world-quality SVG animation with synchronised audio in a browser that doesn’t have a minority market share. No, I am not interested in some morphing cubes and a spinning tiger head: show me your The Nut Job, or your The Critic, or your e-Studio music animations (save The Nut Job, those’d be from over ten years ago—that’s what you’re catching up to here).

            Or take your crappy little—sorry, huge and bloated—XML format and crawl back to Mozillazine and leave us with something that works.

          • byteCrunch says:

            Well like anything the tools will improve with demand. Though clearly I am mistaken Flash tools must have matured over night.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Flash tools “matured” by 1997. That list of features? Flash 2. Since then has been alpha blending, scripting, video, and such things that aren’t really necessary for making a 2D cartoon and are arguably handled better by JavaScript et. al..

            SVG still hasn’t caught up to fifteen years ago.

          • byteCrunch says:

            I’m sorry when was the last time you used SVG, what your saying may apply to the initial release back in 2001, perhaps you should actually look into the latest specification.
            The limitation of SVG is in alot of cases the lack of good tools, that has nothing to do with SVG as a format.

          • LionsPhil says:

            A specification is useless without an implementation.

            I refer you to a couple of posts ago. Show me the actual, concrete, authoring tools and art made with them, or naff off. You can’t dismiss tools as unimportant just because you don’t have any.

          • byteCrunch says:

            No I dismissed them as the fact they are not SVG, all your follow up points were about the tools, nothing to do with SVG and its capabilities (on which I might add you were also wrong in all the features you listed SVG as not being able to do, such as alpha blending etc.) All an animation is, is a series of frames, that can be done in any vector graphics program that outputs to SVG, whether Illustrator or Inkscape etc. Or you can do it via code like SMIL or JS, or combine frame-by-frame and code. There is nothing to stop Adobe adding SVG exporting to their own tools, besides their current investment in Flash.

            Better yet if you have such an issue with the lack of tools, why not make one, after all its an open format.

            And look for your own examples, your clearly so intent on dismissing the format off hand without looking yourself. Or how about making your own animation. The web likes open standards, I do not see why Flash would be an exception to replacement.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Better yet if you have such an issue with the lack of tools, why not make one, after all its an open format.

            Way-hey! It’s the Slashdot “you have a compiler” troll. We really are going for the full open-everything dullard bingo today, aren’t we.

            Short answer: because Flash already exists. It’d be quite nice to have something not proprietary replace it, but first that something has to be better. And it’s folly to think that that’s a small undertaking.

            on which I might add you were also wrong in all the features you listed SVG as not being able to do, such as alpha blending etc.

            You should try reading some time. I did not say that.

            All an animation is, is a series of frames, that can be done in any vector graphics program that outputs to SVG, whether Illustrator or Inkscape etc.

            “All a programme is is a series of opcodes; you can create one in anything that can output bytes, such as a hex editor. Nobody needs compilers.”

          • byteCrunch says:

            Flash tools “matured” by 1997. That list of features? Flash 2. Since then has been alpha blending, scripting, video, and such things that aren’t really necessary for making a 2D cartoon and are arguably handled better by JavaScript et. al..

            SVG still hasn’t caught up to fifteen years ago.

            You should try reading some time. I did not say that.

            Well you did when you said SVG had not caught up.

            But yet again you completely miss my point, SVG is a perfectly viable vector format, which is the point I have stated since the beginning.

          • LionsPhil says:

            “Since then”.

            But OK then, bye! Enjoy your dreamworld in which SVG is useful or used outside of W3C demos.

          • Consumatopia says:

            Going to be a real shame if 2D animation ends up forced being prerendered at a fixed resolution, mangled through a lossy codec, and upscaled locally, all at an increased bandwidth cost.

            Here’s the real reason why there hasn’t been an open replacement for Flash. Your “big shame” doesn’t bother enough other people to fix it. So even though the flash player is not merely closed, but buggy, slow, insecure, and system-crashing, nobody cares enough to make a better one. It’s not on iOS and it shouldn’t bother being on Android because it’s even worse there, and none of the big companies seem to be fazed that I can’t watch crisp, not-lossy 2D animation on my phone. They weren’t planning to make billions off web cartoons, I guess.

  14. Apples says:

    So Jon Blow fancies himself an intellectual artiste exploring the human condition in his chosen medium (of… line puzzles and expository text), but rejects Anna Karenina because all he can see in it is a ‘soap opera’? Brilliant.

    (apologies if this is a double post, I think the comment system ate my first one)

  15. Dominic White says:

    Pixel-art is often used because it’s cheap and easy to produce. The simpler, the cheaper. Zeboyd Games mentioned that the art production cost on Cthulhu Saves The World (16-bit SNES style) was several times that of their previous Breath Of Death (8-bit NES style).

    Artists capable of doing high-res sprite art at a decent framerate get paid a king’s ransom. Even Capcom, a huge studio with fat sacks of cash, have said that they went with 3D for their last few Street Fighter games because it’s so much cheaper and faster to produce.

    Generally speaking, indie developers don’t use low-fi pixel art because they feel an overriding need to be fashionable, they do it because it’s an ends within their affordable means.

    • marcusfell says:


      • jedoran says:

        Is it? Is linking to something I wrote on an article rounding up links considered spam? In that case, I’m very sorry.

        • iGark says:

          I got to the bit where you said you wouldn’t play Tetris.

          • jedoran says:

            Yeah, fair enough. Shouldn’t have implied that I wouldn’t still play that. Tetris still works because of its simplicity and that’s not really what I was focusing on in that post. But point taken.

          • wouldestous says:

            yeah, jed. i think i see what you are going for with the article. but may i be so bold as to suggest you tighten it up? the ‘back and forth’ interview structure dilutes the ideas presented.

  16. Azradesh says:

    People really need to get over this idea of what we call games actually being games. Most of what we call game these days are only games in part, often the multiplayer, and some are not games at all.

    ‘Games’ do not need to be fun, they do not need mechanics, they just need to be enjoyable in some form. I’d say that Amnesia is not fun in the slightest, but it was an enjoyable experience.

    Journey was a very enjoyable experience for me and one I think everyone should at least try. Was it fun? In parts, but fun was not it’s focus nor did it have to be it’s focus. The focus of my journey in Journey was wonder, mystery and awe. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

    • Strontium Mike says:

      Games do need to be fun and do need to have mechanics. What we really need is to do is to move away from calling any digital media that’s even slightly interactive a Game. Then perhaps those of us only interested in buying and playing games can do so without the risk of buying a un-game by mistake.

      • Azradesh says:

        That’s kinda my point, a lot of what we call ‘games’ are not games.

        For example, I’d say that MW3 multiplayer is a game, or set of games, and that the single player campaign is not a game in the slightest.

      • bill says:

        and those of us that aren’t interested in mechanics in the slightest can avoid buying all the dull “games”.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      I think I see what you’re saying. Two of my favourite ‘comedy’ series were Noel Fielding’s Luxury Comedy and Chris Morris’ JAM, neither of which were exactly pant-wettingly hysterically funny, but I got a hell of a lot of enjoyment (if thats the right word) out of watching them.

      It seems to me to be a similar thing with games. ‘Fun’ is a strange word, because it describes something rather subjective, and without having a universally agreed-upon definition (I don’t know of one myself) it’s difficult to say whether something’s ‘fun’ or not.

      It’s almost as if we need another word, that describes a quality that encompasses ‘compelling’, ‘playable’, ‘enjoyable’, ‘maintains interest’, ‘sort of addictive’ or even ‘people like it enough to want to play it over and over even though it’s a bit grim and disturbing’.

  17. Skystrider says:

    In other news, Scott Murphy and Mark Crowe reunites to create a new Space Adventure game!

    And I’m not even kidding! O.O

    Now I know the world is about to end.

  18. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    Videogame journalist independently discovers that games should be judged on their quality and not their price. Riots break out in major cities.

    • AndrewC says:

      Considering the amount of comments you read about ‘price per hour’ – where such criteria is not just a practical consideration, but a value judgement – it seems like it’s a message that needs repeating regularly.

      • Azradesh says:

        You may disagree with the pound per hour as a value judgement, but for me it is and always will be a major criteria. That’s not to say shorter games can not be good, or that I won’t buy them, it’s just that they have to be so much better.

        • AndrewC says:

          The danger of using economic terms to define quality is that they render the game a product, and you a consumer. If you think of games as having cultural or emotional value, or think of yourself as more than a cog in a machine, this is a damaging move.

          For those without much money it can be a luxury difficult to afford, but I think it is tremendously important to keep a distinction between ‘value’ and ‘money’, especally if you don’t have much money.

        • bill says:

          It also depends whether you have more money than time.

          When i was a student “pound per hour” might have worked, although it does disregard quality and art. But when you are older you often have more money than time… at that point the relationship becomes almost inverse… max quality in minimum time became more important for me.

          I wonder though, do you also choose books, movies, dvds or albums on a pound per hour basis?

          • Azradesh says:

            Not so much within a medium, although if there’s too films that I enjoy equally and one is longer than the other, I’ll by the longer of the two. However, across mediums definitely. Books and games are worth more to me then any film and music is almost worthless to me.

            People often talk about quality and length as if they are mutually exclusive, they are not. If I had the choice between buying an enjoyable short game or an enjoyable long game, I’d always buy the longer one. That just makes more sense, doesn’t it?

            This isn’t a product of my financial situation, I’m a poor student no longer, it’s just logic. As for running out of time as you get older? I don’t see that as a valid problem, games can be saved and paused. Skyrim kept me entertained for two months because I have less time. This is very good value for money. Sure shorter game might be twice and amazing, but if it’s over in 4 hours I’d rather watch a TV series or some films. That’d be cheaper and most likely a much better narrative experience.

  19. Dominic White says:

    RPS, fix you sodding comment filter! I wouldn’t mind nearly as much if I got an error message telling me that I’m being flagged as spam, but having my post just disappear without a trace? Not cool.

    • Apples says:

      Mine disappeared twice as well. What the hell was being filtered? JB’s name? The title of a certain book? A TV genre? You can guess what I was complaining about but now the world will never see my extremely witty and erudite comment. (Probably for the best)

      • ffs_jay says:

        Just lost my third attempt at entirely different replies to people. Bloody hell etc.

        …and they seem to be working again. I’ll just go clean my mess up a bit.

        Edit 2: Or not. Some comments are suddenly being flagged as spam after the most minor edits. Even when removing a line or two and not adding anything.

        • LionsPhil says:

          It’s probably a learning approach or something, and since the spammers have, of late, been copying existing real comments and adding links to them, it’s being trained that “discussion about games” is spam.

          Scum of the Earth, etc.

  20. KDR_11k says:

    In indie games the pixel art isn’t a callback to when games were better or something, it’s a callback to when games could be made by one person. Indie devs don’t have the resources to make something that looks AAA level today so they use tricks to make something aesthetically pleasing with the resources they have. That’s where the overuse of pixel art, vector graphics, etc comes from: It’s several orders of magnitude easier to do. I made the graphics for a whole faction in Kernel Panic in a day, in AAA games it can take months to make a single character!

    • ffs_jay says:

      (EDIT: bah)

    • ffs_jay says:

      @KDR_11k: This is more what I was trying to get at. I’m a one-man outfit myself, I like having that level of control, and I’m a reasonably capable artist. With the best will in the world, I just don’t have the time to get the art to the level I’d ideally like it to be, so I use shortcuts that mean the difference between something maybe getting out the door and it just not happening. That way I get to retain total control over the project while still hopefully having something appealing enough that people may want to try it out. And if you’re not much of an artist, you can effectively ‘cheat sheet’ your way through it to come up with something acceptable too.

      There are of course those more married to the style who spend massive amounts of time getting it looking just perfect, but that’s a whole different thing.

    • ffs_jay says:

      (EDIT: Comment section being a little wonky today it seems)

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      *Pipe and slippers*

      Quite. I remember interviews with guys like Matthew Smith, David Jones and Don Priestly in Sinclair User back in the 80′s. The 8-bit graphics styles on the Spectrum, C64 and CPC464 meant that many games in that era were coded by one or two folks.

      You did get the odd team, such as Denton Designs, but nothing on the scale of, say, Eidos Montreal.

      It’s analogous to other areas of technology though: given enough time, patience and tools I could probably build a little cart with a cushion in it on my own, but it takes a team of specialists to build a Lamborghini Gallardo or a space-shuttle.

  21. Navagon says:

    For such an old console the 360 edition of the Witcher 2 holds up pretty well. The lighting was very flat, naturally. But clearly a lot of work was put into making it as good as it can be.

  22. Casimir's Blake says:

    From Castle Wolfenstein to Amnesia: The Dark Descent, the stonework, mildew ridden basements, dark hallways, and cobwebbed attics of gothic mansions remain established horror locales. Many games, including the two above, use their environments remarkably well.

    The problem is, though this is completely true, most games now are emphasising viewpoints that are NOT first person. I’m not suggesting that all games must be first person, but in being first person, a game becomes more immersive, and is more able to show off its architecture, spaces, atmosphere, just as much as gameplay.

    I can’t say the same for third person games.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      The funniest thing is how all these games is shaping our “minds”. I wonder how many people now think hallways are 24 foot tall. When in reality, the level designer just had to do that because of the stupid third person camera. :(

      • dogsolitude_uk says:

        My hallway isn’t 25-foot tall, as I found to my cost when trying to move my old bed out of the door over Easter.

        Mind you though, next time you see an advert for sofas, take note of the size of the living room.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I don’t think I find first-person views any more immersive than other. Each has their own merits and downsides.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Oh, I dunno; it puts fewer layers of indirection between you sat in your chair in front of the screen and your character in the world. The effect may be dominated by other factors (loading screens, suspension-of-disbelief-shattering plot issues or bugs, tutorial pop-ups; conversely you can have a plenty enthralling top-down turned-based RPG), but I’d certainly say the first-person perspective is a plus to immersion vs. other viewpoints.

        • Unaco says:

          I’d disagree. I don’t think First Person view reduces the indirection, and the way it’s handled in most games, your character is a floating camera, with no body and 1 or 2 strangely disembodied arms floating infront of you (depending on how big your current weapon is). It fails to give the impression that you actually exist in that environment. Some games have tried to get over this, by making the PC have a body, which they can look down and see… but that still doesn’t work completely. In real life, we don’t know the orientation and positioning of our bodies because we look at them, we know it innately, through proprioception and kinesthesia… we know the positioning of our limbs, the force being exerted by our muscles, where body parts are in relation to our immediate environment etc. A first person view will (I think) never be able to get those sorts of things across.

          Third person view can alleviate this somewhat… Positioning the camera just behind or around our character, we can see the positioning of limbs, we can see where body parts are in relation to the environment etc. That slightly out-of-body experience replaces the sense of proprioception, which can’t be replicated. It’s an abstraction somewhat, of that sense which can’t be replicated. It may take you out of the character (by not being from that first person perspective), but it also cements and solidifies the character in the environment, in the world. It’s a decent compromise for when you need the player to know their position and posture in the environment. It’s not perfect, but I think it’s one of the best solutions to that problem.

          For me, the best approach to this is “Deus Ex: Human Revolution”… which combines the two. The switch to third person, when using the cover system, gives that sense of proprioception, where your character’s body and limbs are, if they’re completely behind cover etc. For example, imagine trying to hide behind a desk or crate or similar, and make sure you can’t be seen by someone on the other side of it, and knowing that you can’t be seen, that your limbs aren’t sticking over or out of the cover… It’s something that would come innately to you in real life, can be picked up at a glance from a third person view, but can be very difficult to get across quickly and effectively in a first person view.

    • avp77 says:

      I disagree that first-person games are more realistic, since I don’t walk around with a box around my head.

      I do play some of the more acclaimed first-person games, but it’s usually a strike against them. I find third-person a lot more enjoyable, and, perhaps counter-intuitevly, more immersive. I think walking around in real life, we have a sense of our whole body, 360-degrees, and not just what’s immediately in front of our eyes (i also find it hard to jump in first person, with no sense of where my feet really are).

  23. marcusfell says:

    My jaw dropped when I saw the 270-part tutorial in Unity. I know where my summer went…

  24. pipman3000 says:

    why not just use poser? that’s what jeff vogel’s artist does and his games sell just fine

    sure it looks like crap but so does the nes-style pixel ‘art’ every indie game uses

    • TechnicalBen says:

      licensing? You have to buy a licence to use it in a game. Plus I don’t think they make poser anymore. :(

    • ffs_jay says:

      After spending some time messing around with that a while back I can’t look at that stuff any more, it just screams ‘stock Poser assets’ for me. That includes most of the more popular Daz characters and so on. If you’ve used the program yourself you start seeing them everywhere, and they almost always look pasted in. There was a time I thought that was a solution, but these days I’d go text-only before I’d go with Poser.

    • JackShandy says:

      Oh yeah, Jeff Vogel. I hear his games recently got walking animations! That’s an art style I can aspire to.

    • RobF says:

      Most of Vogel’s games look like someone sicked up some sludge on the screen. Let’s not encourage people to repeat that one, eh?

  25. Squirrelfanatic says:

    Wow, this video of Olivier de Sagazan is amazing. Real-life Amnesia:TDD.

  26. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Regarding the first thing about game locations and buildings, I’ve often wondered how much a place like the setting of Amnesia would be valued at today’s market prices.

    Considering a new-build shoebox in my city costs well over £150k, I dread to think how much my Skyrim home would be worth if it was (a) real and (b) situated a 15 min walk from the city centre…

  27. Apples says:

    The parties you go to must be truly thrilling with all those board and card games…

    • Apples says:

      GOD DAMN IT my first reply fail.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Mea cupla. If that’s in reply to what I think it is, I dared to edit it, and the bloody spam system decided that was reason to eat the comment.

        And yeah, they are thanks!

    • YourMessageHere says:

      Since you’re both here and my reply failed twice, I’ll continue the exchange from above here.

      Clearly both of you either haven’t seen much anime or, as I suspect is the case, you have and you know damn well you are completely misrepresenting it. Anime is at least as diverse as gaming in style, and the absurdist humour that Apples describes and LionsPhil makes asinine allusions to is only one facet of the medium. It’s like saying ‘all games are about jumping on platforms or shooting aliens’. If you honestly think all anime is as you describe, go and watch Only Yesterday, or Neon Genesis Evangelion, or Serial Experiments Lain, or Noir, or Ghost in the Shell.

      LionsPhil: If you don’t want to have a serious discussion, fine. We both know anime is far more than you give it credit for. Enjoy your ludicrous bigotry.


      “Yes there are also more subtle expressions of meaning in anime, but they are not inherent to the medium in any way, they’re culturally-specific rather than genre-specific. Pixel art has to resort to over-exaggerated movements or explanatory text because of its nature, but anime really has no reason to do it, it just does.”

      I have three things to say here. First, anime is itself a culturally specific medium. It isn’t a genre. Second, anime stylistic conventions and their applications in creating subtlety and nuance are absolutely inherent to the medium of anime. How can they not be? Third, anime appropriates things like over-exaggerated movement and explanatory text because it can; as a medium it is capable of incorporating that sort of stuff to create absurdist humour, and also of straight seriousness and a great deal in between. The art style is flexible enough to do both. That’s sort of what I’m talking about by comparing it to pixel art. It’s simple and stylised, like pixel art, but unlike pixel art it’s much, much more versatile. In fact, since games and anime have long been interlinked, you could argue that the absurdist humour involved is directly referencing and drawing on pixel art, highlighting the silliness of doing this in a supposedly serious story while also embracing the idea that you have to find a way to express these things somehow.

      It also does it because ‘face faults’ (sweatdrops, bulging veins, variable body part sizes etc.) are a standard series of conventions for expressing emotion that an audience will understand when your chosen art style is fairly uncomplicated and incapable of doing it naturalistically. It’s in-your-face and unmistakeable because it’s grown over decades to be like that in that sort of show and context. Anime facial features are usually pretty sparse, once you actually analyse it rationally; it’s really hard to express emotions in a realistic way on a face with so few actual features, and it’s necessary to use a shared visual code to express these emotions.

      On ‘Representation’: since the wiki page you quote also says “both the Mona Lisa and a child’s crayon drawing of Lisa del Giocondo would be considered representational, and any preference for one over the other would need to be understood as a matter of aesthetics” perhaps we should both abandon the word, since it clearly means something other than what we both mean, i.e. it covers realism and pixel art and anime and everything in between.

      • JackShandy says:

        “…it’s really hard to express emotions in a realistic way on a face with so few actual features, and it’s necessary to use a shared visual code to express these emotions.”

        It’s obviously not necessary, because cartoons with equal or less features from other styles of animation seem to manage expression just fine without using any of anime’s sudden wild distortions. Doing so is Really Hard, sure. But why would you pay to see anything that was easy to make?

        As far as I can tell, anime’s based around taking the easy route. Using as few frames as possible at all times: still poses with only the mouths moving, two-frame reactions and action shots, wild cartoonish overexaggeration instead of actually giving your characters expressions.

        Individual pieces can still be brilliant, of course, same as any other genre.

      • Consumatopia says:

        That’s sort of what I’m talking about by comparing it to pixel art. It’s simple and stylised, like pixel art, but unlike pixel art it’s much, much more versatile.

        I mostly agree with you on anime, though I disagree with you on pixel art. I explained why back here, but I wanted to respond to this because I think you crystalized the issue here.

        First, it is *not* much more versatile–if you game needs to show something in detail, it can show a pop-up close-up view of the item, as lots of old VGA-era adventure games would do.

        Secondly, and this is the bigger deal, versatility isn’t always good. Although I do like *watching* anime, I hate *playing* games with anime-based sprites precisely *because* those graphics are more “versatile”. They’re *too* expressive–and seeing the very same subtle emotional expression repeated *exactly* every time a particular sprite is displayed is creepy. There is something similar to an uncanny valley effect, only the problem isn’t looking like faces, the problem is seeing the same “hand-drawn” art repeated exactly–it looks cheap in a way that seeing pixel art repeated doesn’t. A simple pixel sprite is like seeing the glyph of a letter in a font repeated–it’s simple enough that my brain knows to ignore it, to focus on what is happening *around* the sprite rather than the (repeatedly seen) sprite itself.

      • ffs_jay says:

        “First, anime is itself a culturally specific medium. It isn’t a genre.”
        Absolute garbage. It isn’t even a genre, it’s a sub-genre. That’d be like describing “italian exploitation movies of the 70s and 80s” as a medium. Yeah, they have their own stylistic quirks, but that doesn’t make it a medium. Never mind that most of what western audiences refer to as anime is actually a very specific subset of Japanese animation from no later than about the last thirty years or so.

        It’s doubly ridiculous when this whole idea is largely a western construction. When the Japanese themselves use the term ‘anime’, they’re not referring to Japanese animation, they’re referring to ALL animation. They don’t have that dividing line we have over here in that sense.

        This doesn’t make it any less culturally worthy or anything, I’ve enjoyed a lot of anime in a wide variety of styles, but just because they mix things up within a fairly rigidly defined ruleset doesn’t suddenly make it its own artform. There’s as much stylistic and thematic variety in pretty much any other genre or subgenre.

      • Apples says:

        So first you say you like anime because it allows for incredibly subtle and nuanced expressions of emotion, and then say “it’s really hard to express emotions in a realistic way on a face with so few actual features” so they have to use “a standard series of conventions for expressing emotion that an audience will understand when your chosen art style is fairly uncomplicated”. Both of which also hold true for pixel art, only the standard conventions are different.

        Right-o then…

  28. Alistair says:

    I’d accept candlelit stonework as long as I never had to enter another loading bay or warehouse full of crates.

  29. CMaster says:

    I’ve said for a long time, that while the “8bit” graphical style is all well and good, I’d love to see some games made using the more detailed, 24fps sprites of the 16bit/early 32 bit era. Obviously it’s a lot more expensive, but it also lets you create some very, very pretty scenes. That said, it’s often a lot less work to just draw a 3d shape from a fixed angle at this point.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That’s just the thing, though—it’s more work. Feigning lo-fi technical constraints lets you have a consistent aesthetic within what one amateur can achieve in his spare time. By the time you get into full-time small indie teams it does look like 3D starts to become the winning choice: Magicka, Hawken, Trine, Frozen Synapse (admittedly a bit of an odd one)…

      I’m hoping we might get some lush 2D art out of Schafer’s new thing, though, since he’ll hopefully have enough talent and money around to do it. It’d be interesting to know what the budget for Rayman Origins was, but the Internet doesn’t seem to think that’s been made public; just that it’s turned a profit.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Don’t forget about the studio that made the absolutely gorgeous Capsized is making another game inspired on Greek art. If only we could get that sequel to Aquaria.

  30. Max.I.Candy says:

    the 360 port of Witcher2 is an incredible achievment by CD project RED, and an 11gb patch coming up next week for the upgraded PC enhanced edition!!

    • Unaco says:

      Indeed. The 360 version is some achievement by CDPR, and hope they get the commercial success they deserve for the console version. Pre-load is up for the PC EE, as long as you don’t own the game on Steam. Will save downloading 10.5 of the 11 GB on Tuesday, when it releases.

  31. Cinnamon says:

    I hate fon, thinking about fon makes feel depressed, like I can no longer hold my head up and look at strangers in the eye. Ert is the only thing that can lead us forward, all fon must be rejected.

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  33. Xanadu says:

    Interesting article on age ratings, particularly for those of us that are both parents and gamers. I’ve spent the last 20 years since I turned 18 enjoying the fact that my hobbies (games, comics) challenged the views of society (“just for kids”) and catered for audiences other than young children. Now that I’m a parent though I find that much of the stuff that i enjoyed as a young kid is now targetted at 12, 15 year olds or older, so my primary age kids aren’t able to enjoy them. Think my gripe is the lack of stuff in the middle between stuff for 5-year olds and stuff for teens. To be fair games are probably less bad at this than other media like comics and movies.
    Not sure there’s an easy answer aside from looking carefully at ratings, being a responsible parent, and waiting for my kids to grow up, but gutted I can’t buy my 7 year old superhero comics, take himto the new Avengers movie or play most of my games with him because someone has decided to target it towards an older demographic than it was a couple of decades ago.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      Take him to see ‘pirates – an adventure with scientists’, I took my 6 year old to it and we both loved it. I think films like ‘up’ and the like show that you don’t need the trappings of adult rated films to make a mature film that adults can enjoy along with children. It’s a shame when producers do that like you say.

  34. Eddy9000 says:

    I don’t think that games do offer terrible endings do they?

    In fact I can’t think of a single game this year that had a terrible, nonsensical and pointless ending that ruined every hour of the trilogy it concluded.

    Not a single one.

  35. Robin says:

    Surely the point of Lego Cuusoo is to get things made that wouldn’t be perfectly at home in the existing endless ultra-generic Lego space sci-fi sets? And that are actually cool and functional?

    Like this for instance.

  36. Kadayi says:

    Always good to listen to Will Self, especially when he’s talking Ballard.

  37. Muzman says:

    The death of Pixel Art? What again? I doubt it. No one has removed the head or destroyed the brain yet, in all likelihood.
    It’d be nice to move up to 1996 though. The retro window should be dragged forward as time progresses. So perhaps we’ll start to see low poly modelling and lightmaps make a comeback.

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