The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on June 3rd, 2012 at 8:34 am.


Sundays are for listening to spooky old records and peering out at the rain. Ah, the British Summer. Fortunately we’ve got a blazing hot internet to crowd around. Gosh, look at the glow!

  • Brainygamer argues that it’s high noon for shooters: “History rarely offers a precise road map, but it can sometimes point us in a useful direction. The decline of the Western – the causes of its near-demise, and its reemergence in other guises – are worth noting because I believe shooter games are on a similar trajectory. It will be 1959 at E3 next week, and we will find ourselves awash in barely distinguishable shooters. But it won’t last. It can’t last, and that’s a good and necessary thing.” This seems optimistic to me. I bet the folks in comics thought they were going to get past the superhero thing back in the 1980s, but oh look. My suspicion is that we’ll just have to hope that amazing stuff still happens in the margins. (And it will, as the next link testifies.)
  • Edge on games in which “just being there” is enough, or the trend that seems to link Journey, Dear Esther and Proteus: “Thatgamecompany’s Journey, Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus, thechineseroom’s Dear Esther: all these titles challenge the most basic assumptions of what a game is by doing away with any kind of challenge or conflict, and instead focusing almost exclusively on the player’s movement through a world. Each differs greatly in tone, atmosphere and style, but the task for the player in all of them is, ultimately, to walk from a starting point to a finishing point. None pose any kind of real hindrance to progression, and of the three only Journey has even the simplest of puzzles.” My personal feeling is that while Journey and Dear Esther are extraordinarily beautiful, Proteus is the only one that is genuinely interesting, thanks to it providing us with some agency. Journey and Dear Esther both are simply about walking forward.
  • Craig Stern on combat in RPGs: “Battlestar Galactica provides us with a great object lesson in the difference between tone and mechanics. BSG featured a race of robots that were essentially immortal–upon death, their memories would wirelessly transmit to a resurrection facility and they would wake up in a new body. Mechanically, it’s not that different from the sort of constant resurrection we see in an RPG. But tonally, the way these two things are handled couldn’t be more different. Compare the pain and trauma of Cylon resurrection depicted on the show with the glassy-eyed indifference of characters resurrected in RPGs.”
  • RPS chum Mark Wallace has been writing for Wired. He suggests that Facebook killed the virtual world we were promised: “Facebook’s near-universal appeal — and virtual worlds’ near-universal failure — has as much to do with presentation as anything else. The very concept of a virtual world works against its acceptance. If I’m your great-aunt and I need a place to post pictures of your cousin’s bat mitzvah, I don’t necessarily mind joining a network in order to do so. But do I really want to join another world?”
  • Fred Dutton on the Activision/Zampella/West events: “Activision also claims the pair engaged “in insubordination in support of their efforts to identify the Modern Warfare franchise solely with Infinity Ward”. Relating to this, Schwarz notes that Activision was particularly “upset” that West removed its spinning logo from Modern Warfare 2′s start-up screen.” (See! The spinning logos at the start of a game are the most important bit! I had always known that to be true.)
  • Leigh Alexander on the 20-Year Estrangement of the Two Guys from Andromeda:”Their working relationship struggled under the stresses of Sierra’s high-pressure latter days in the 1990s, when adventure games required bigger and bigger budgets and saw lower and lower sales. For Sierra, the increasing challenges faced by the genre on which it had built its fortune culminated in a “Chainsaw Monday” where nearly 150 employees unceremoniously lost their jobs. “It was heartbreaking, seeing all of the people that we worked with, who worked on the projects but didn’t get the kind of notoriety that Mark and I did, who lost their jobs because of how radically the industry changed, and how Sierra changed,” Scott Murphy tells us. “We have really strong emotions about how all that worked out.”"
  • Mysterious and handsome game developer Jim Rossignol was interviewed about his next videogame.
  • The museum of lost sounds.
  • Kevin Furlong on Wolfenstein 3D: “In Wolfenstein 3D you are the story. No cinematic intro, no in engine cutscenes, just a bit of text telling you you’re Captain William J “BJ” Blazcowicz who while on a reconnaissance mission were captured. You’ve overpowered the guard so are now armed with a knife and pistol, but you’re in the bowels of the prison and with barely any ammunition in the pistol you’ll need to make every shot count if you’re going to escape and get the Nazi plans to the allies before it’s too late. That’s all the setup you need and from that point it’s all about you and your experience traversing the corridors and finding the exits.”
  • Use Verb On Noun is a collection of paintings inspired by classic adventure games. RTS games seldom seem to inspire painters (although I saw some Starcraft paintings a few years ago.)
  • A podcast interview with Indie Game: The Movie creators Lisanne Pajot and James Swirsky.
  • Has the internet caused a generation in which there is little technological innovation? That’s an interesting question.

Music this week is Aphex Twin’s Vordhosbn, which is old and distant, but still so beautiful, like a dream you had as a kid.

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150 Comments »

  1. felisc says:

    Early papers ! ZzZZzzZz

    • billyphuz says:

      Very early in the morning for Aphex Twin, but may have just been the jolt for today I needed. Now I’m remembering how brilliant that whole Druqkz double album is.

      • Contrafibularity says:

        Never too early for Aphex Twin, well, yeah, you probably don’t want to wake up to AB4 or Come To Daddy or whatever (unless it’s exam week). Other than that, if I didn’t think it a ‘waste’ of perfect music I’d wake up to Drukqs, SAWII, ICBYD, RDJ Album, HAB, Analogue Bubblebaths etc. or some Tuss as often as I possibly could. Mmmm.

  2. OfMiceAndMods says:

    Anyone not bought the bundle in a box yet? You really should! Almost unlocked the final extra and at $0.99 it’s pretttty cheap. I talked to the guys there in an interview (bit.ly/MYYVnc) and they seemed a little disappointed with the sales takeup so get buying!

    • Bob_Bobson says:

      What can I say, adventure games aren’t my thing. Next time round I probably will but a boxed bundle but not this one, even at that (brilliant) price because I know I’d never get round to installing them.

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      Diziet Sma says:

      Perhaps it’s because adventure gamers are starved and like me, already own the games in the box by and large because they bought them as soon as they were released. I guess I would be helping those that have already purchased it by moving towards the final unlock.

    • Bobka says:

      I actually did, since I never picked up Gemini Rue. Not installed it yet though – so much backlog, so little time…

    • povu says:

      Excellent. I love The Stanley Parable, and it’ll be nice to see a remake/sequel/whatever of it. I heard something was in the works but it had been quiet for a while.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Oh my. This is just marvelous news.

  3. Bobka says:

    @ Jim

    I myself am a hobby programmer working on a small project in my spare time, and procedural generation is one of my main areas of interest. As such, I wonder if you’d be able to go into a little more detail on the techniques you guys use to generate the island and its contents.

    If you generate a heightmap, I would guess you use something like Perlin noise or its derivatives, but you mention placing things in a “cellular fashion,” which piques my curiosity. Are you dividing the heightmap into a Voronoi diagram after generating it? What other tidbits can you reveal?

    Or would that be too much of a spoiler/trade secret to divulge?

  4. frenz0rz says:

    Man, I havent heard the Windows 95 bootup sound in years.

    Could I have operating system nostalgia?!

  5. Shortwave says:

    I had no idea Jim (And the team) are making a game, ha.
    Where the hell have I been? That is awesome though d00d.
    It’s sounding actually really fun so far and I fully expect some witty dialog.
    Good luck with the production.

    I keep wanting to learn to use Unity and than being a lazy douche instead.. : /

  6. subedii says:

    To respond to that Harvard Business Review question with my own views: Assuming there’s technological stagnation this generation, no, it’s not caused by the internet. Or at least, I don’t feel so.

    The author goes on about electricity and fossil fuels, and I was thinking that same point even before he mentioned them, but these in themselves don’t relate to the internet. The internet doesn’t suck resources out of developing those other technologies, it’s an alternate stream mainly to do with how we communicate with each other (and in that respect, not much change technologically, but there have been and continue to be be some pretty big shifts socially).

    Make no mistake, we definitely need to have a huge shift in our energy and resources usage infrastructures, what we have today is simply unsustainable. The reason we don’t however isn’t about the internet, it’s the fact that

    a) The barriers to developing these new technologies are massive, even as we keep chipping away at them, and

    b) The sheer convenience of our current energy infrastructure (and the society we’ve built around it) means that steering away from it will take massive societal effort, which may not ever get there until we really start feeling the bite of the limitations of our current resources and model.

    I’m no really sure where the internet comes into that, it’s not the cause of those problems. Those are issues we need to tackle socially and technologically. The former we need to do simply through the hard work of being willing to make whatever shifts in lifestyle may be necessary. The latter, I don’t see really see how ‘the internet’ is holding back.

    • Lacero says:

      It’s quite poorly argued, and it’s a big argument they’re trying to make.

      Computers have advanced hugely in the last fifteen years, as anyone reading this site will know. Yes we haven’t reinvented the silicon chip yet, but why would we when things are going so well?
      Display technologies, for phones and TVs, have been advancing a lot too. A modern mobile phone is unrecognisable compared to one from fifteen years ago.

      If I thought we hadn’t invented as many new things as we could I would pin the blame on what we have been doing instead, intelligent people going to work in finance and mobile phones becoming one of the biggest sectors of the world economy. But then I don’t think that really.

      The flaw in the great efficiency of capitalism is that you can’t direct it, it very efficiently makes thousands of rubber ducks or millions of mobile phones, or trillions of pounds in CDOs. If you wanted it to apply its energy to improving the energy infrastructure you’re just out of luck until people can see a pathway to make more money doing that than something else.

      So we have mobiles, and maybe soon glasses with head mounted displays. I’m fine with this.

      • subedii says:

        If you wanted it to apply its energy to improving the energy infrastructure you’re just out of luck until people can see a pathway to make more money doing that than something else.

        Which is basically what I mean. Business in general doesn’t see the incentive, so barring that you’ve got two other possible scenarios as far as I can see. Either some kind of more philanthropic effort on the side of businesses and society in order to get this done, not because the profits would be greater (at least not in the short term), but simply because it’s necessary (and hey, it will still eventually turn a profit if you get it right, but it’s risky). Or else you need governments to step in and push it through, get funding and push through regulation on this, because it’s necessary.

        We’ve got bits and scraps of both at the moment. Companies DO fund research into alternative energy sources and models, and governments do try to support that. But if you’re going to start lamenting the lack of technological progress in those kinds of areas (or even others like his mention of biotechnology), there are a hundred other hurdles to look at before you start blaming “the internet” for reasons that largely escape me.

        If his argument was that these are HARD areas to work in and require a vast investment to make serious progress in compared to the internet which is still relatively young and exciting for getting investment for e-companies because people expect larger short-term profits, I might understand where he was coming from (whether or not I actually agree with it). As it stands I don’t even really know whether that is where his argument is coming from.

        • Janto says:

          There is no argument. (Not saying this as a bad thing, this article is just literally a review of other people’s statements.) It’s a question, not a statement.

          • subedii says:

            Oh no it’s a statement, just a sad attempt at masquerading as a question so that it doesn’t need to be defended. If the article was actually asking the question,it would be putting counter-examples as to why that isn’t the case as well. This has not happened.

            “When Will this Low-Innovation Internet Era End?” Is not an actual question just because you put a question mark at the end of it. It is a statement that this is an era of low innovation brought on by the internet. Or a “question” that presupposes that position to begin with. In either case it is a statement.

            It’s very much the staple “Have you stopped beating your wife yet?”. It’s the method of weak op-ed writers everywhere trying to pretend they’re asking a “legitimate question”, and instead using what amounts to a rhetorical question to presuppose a position.

            Otherwise if it genuinely IS a question, then the answer is: Your question is wrong. And I see no grounds for debate otherwise, certainly none that the article has really given me, because personally I would say the article appears to be misunderstanding things. He has also taken no steps, if it is a genuine question, to ANSWER that question as to when such an “era” would end.

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            jezcentral says:

            I thought the writer would try to make the point that the net was a new opium of the masses, or we were being strangled by patents, but no. A waste of my time. Very poor.

          • newprince says:

            @subeddi:

            Maybe, but I have also seen countless articles on Kotaku or even here doing essentially the same thing regarding sexism, violence, white privilege, etc. And many times people are just fine with an article that does simply that: ask a legitimate question, offer no solutions, and no counter-examples to its own assertion. I’m okay with it, because there’s usually a kernel of truth in there behind the sweeping generalizations, lack of concrete evidence, and exaggerations. And at the end of the day, it’s just a 6 paragraph article that might stimulate deeper thought on my own part.

            Some recent examples: Are games too violent? Are games sexist? White male is the lowest difficulty setting; The list goes on. If we are fine with that rather intellectually lazy style on social issues, shouldn’t we also be fine with it regarding tech trends? Everyone has a Facebook account and an iPhone, we should get used to their rather newfound love of tech and thinking they actually know something about the subject. I mean, the cult of Mac has recently said the Apple TV will mean consoles and PC games are officially dead. Get ready for some rather specious assertions hitting the interwebs!

          • subedii says:

            “Are games too violent / sexist / whatever” are all valid questions to ask as long as you’re asking them, they don’t presuppose anything in themselves.

            I’m even fine with “White male is the lowest difficulty setting” as an article title (whether I agree or disagree with it is besides the point) because you’re not trying that tripe tactic of pathetically trying to pretend you’re not directly making an assertion so that later on when you’re called on your views you simply run and hide and say “I wasn’t SAYING it, I was just WONDERING OUT LOUD whether that’s the case. Whilst also putting forth the reasons why that’s the case and not actually addressing why its not or why the very basis of the question is itself spurious.”

            “When Will this Low-Innovation Internet Era End?” very much DOES presuppose that we are in a time of low innovation and that’s the responsibility of the internet. It. Is. A. Non-question. The author is not asking for an answer to it, they are putting a view out and want to pretend they aren’t.

            And to end… the Daily Show, because I found this clip funny.

            http://www.esnips.com/displayimage.php?album=1178552&pid=9335627

    • gwathdring says:

      I agree with you folks. I had a similar reaction and wrote a long post about it on the article. My big issue with it is that infrastructural engineering can’t accelerate exponentially because of points a and b in subedii’s OP, and the sheer size of our society. Imagine changing the fundamental materials we use to lay-out the electric grid. Or surface roads. Or vastly altering the way we build houses. The scale of our modern world makes the kinds of innovations the article lusts after an absolute nightmare–and it ignores the long time frames and substantial headaches such innovations went through in the past instead pretending there were the neat little flash-points that can be cutely crammed onto a timeline of innovation.

      Nostalgia is something I’ve always had difficulty empathizing with, and this smells like nostalgia to me.

      A more minor quibble … I’m not sure how space travel, important as it was to scientific though and general morale, drastically changed the way we live in line with the way radio, television and now the Internet altered our communications and connectedness. And yet there it is as an example, not of the sad state of scientific funding in the US, but of the sad state of life-changing innovation in the modern world even as other global space programs and commercial space ventures are pouring countless resources into space travel. We aren’t on Mars because it’s hard not because no one’s been working on space since the Apollo program.

      • gwathdring says:

        That said, Subedii, I think we’re already feeling “the bite” of our current methods. I think things are going to have to get very, very bloody indeed (hopefully metaphorically) before we start accelerating rather than creeping away from our most problematic modern practices.

      • newprince says:

        I’m not sure how space travel, important as it was to scientific though and general morale, drastically changed the way we live in line with the way radio, television and now the Internet altered our communications and connectedness.

        Wait, are you serious?! No wonder NASA was gutted so easily.

        • gwathdring says:

          I’m starting graduate work as an astronomer–I value NASA enormously. I recognize also how many inventions that went into space travel made their way back out into other areas (flame retardants, for example). But compared to changes in communication and transportation technology? Many of the things that those new technologies from space travel actually go into? Compared to pharmacological advances in mental and physical medicine?

          The space program changed the way we think about our place in the universe, and it had enormous impacts on scientific development. But yes I am serious that it isn’t all that high on my list of the most life-changing developments of the past 150 years. It’s on there, but there are a lot of things that come first. It’s importance, however, outstrips its practical influence and as such I am deeply saddened by what has happened to NASA.

        • The Colonel says:

          The notion of “changing the way we live” is interesting. That must include negative as well as positive things, something the term “innovation” doesn’t imply. Weapons have hugely changed the way we live, and they are innovating in many interesting and scary ways. Not only have they changed the way we live – perhaps difficult to quantify – they have changed the way we DON’T live. The possibilities that are opened up and closed off by technology are very interesting to me. The technologies which allow us to mass-create and adjust antibiotics are hugely beneficial but they also create bird flu, swine flu etc., indirectly.

    • Quirk says:

      It would probably help to have the actual Neal Stephenson piece to read, in this context. Here it is:
      http://www.worldpolicy.org/journal/fall2011/innovation-starvation

      Roughly, his argument under Executing the Big Stuff is:

      - We have become vastly more risk-averse than the society of the 20th century
      - The Internet helps feed this risk-aversion by giving us information of previous failures, or niches that are already occupied
      - The corporate world is increasingly litigious
      - Companies are more than ever pressured to play it safe: shareholders will punish them for attempting to do things which look like earlier failures or which have a high chance of not coming off.

      I think that we are culturally more risk-averse and litigious than those living a century ago can scarcely be denied. The argument that the Internet empowers the risk-averse by giving them more data to make their case with seems somewhat plausible, but I suspect there are also other factors involved.

      • Kollega says:

        I have to say that i kind of agree with all the people complaining about the inability to get things done, especially when those things are relevant to space. Without a competing political force to measure proverbial dicks with (the Soviet bloc) and with capitalism being the ruling type of economy, the things like video games and iPods (immediately useful to a single person and practical) do kinda get more attention than going to space (immediately useful only to scientists and a lot less practical). Sure, i can have friends from other countries now, but visiting space, Moon, or Mars would still rock more than that. And i understand why it has come to this, but i don’t really like it.

        My only hope is that somewhere along the line, the main vector of doing things will shift from re-releasing the same iPad or Call of Duty every year and to actually polishing up the quality of life to a mirror shine in the richest countries, bringing said quality of life to the poor countries, and creating sustainable sources of energy and minerals to fuel all that.

        Of course, there’s the alternate solution: establishing a dictatorship and deliberately funneling money and power towards engineers, sidestepping the risk-aversion. But as the examples from Soviet Union (drained Aral Sea, hopelessly polluted industrial cities, 20 million people killed in the process of building the industry) show, it’s not a good idea as long as you value safety and sustainability – which are important. Risk-aversion and sustainability seem like two sides of the same coin, really.

      • subedii says:

        @ Quirk: That does help a lot, thanks for the summary.

        Personally I see the internet as a multiplier of previous behaviours, it just makes them more efficient in execution, and accelerates trends. In that respect it doesn’t help if your trend was risk aversion, but the root of that issue was never the internet.

        Likewise I think the internet’s also sped up things like social movements and allowed people to work together in that respect. Even in 3rd world countries where it’s not the internet, things like access to mobile phones have helped spread awareness on a number of projects and increase their efficiency.

        Basically if it’s about access to information, the internet allows you access to more of it and to disseminate it faster, wider, and more efficiently. But I’m not sure that necessarily equates to changing previous behavioural trends in themselves.

        • Kollega says:

          EDIT: i’m really rather sorry for wasting Internet Paper and Internet Ink, both in my original post and in this reply.

      • gwathdring says:

        A few I can think of: improved education, more transparent access to legal information, stronger support of particular types of individual rights, the further development of corporations as legal and social entities, the diminishing ability of governments to manage all of the data and infrastructure and resources necessary for economic function and a resultant dependency on the private sector’s input and to some extent control of relevant legal processes, and an increasingly interlocked global economy (this is not to say it is “more global” but rather more homogeneous).

        I’m also not convinced we are a more “risk-averse” society. I would argue we simply see different things as safe than we did in the early 20th century and thus the risks we take are different. We understand the science or social implications or whatnot behind a lot of the risks our society was willing to take 50 or 100 years ago in ways that we did not before. And there are all new mistakes and risks for us to misunderstand in this century.

        I don’t believe companies are less willing to take risks in a general sense either. The recent economic downturns and the absolutely insane types of speculation and economic sleight of hand banks and financial institutions have pulled in the past few decades speak a lot about risk taking in modern economics.

        I think companies have always disliked risk, and the current state of affairs in consumer goods allows companies to avoid risk more than ever before … but in spheres where our ability to gauge risk hasn’t changed substantially (the stock market, for example) the frequency of risk, and of failure, remains relatively intact.

        • gwathdring says:

          P.S. I guess I agree with and understand, as with the other article, many of Stephenson’s frustrations as he looks at the way the modern economy operates and how much better it could be. But I don’t share the conviction that it is quite so starkly different from how we have operated in the past. It feels like such a sluggish and natural extension of the behaviors and patterns we undertook in the periods of brilliant innovation these articles describe.

          Innovation comes from so many different people and places throughout history. There’s no magical formula for it, and it isn’t gone. I don’t think we need to recapture former glory anymore than we need to push blindly forward taking risk without thought for consequence. We need to look around and pull from both ahead and behind us to solve our problems, as the best and brightest of us always have.

        • Quirk says:

          But the reasons behind the stock market crash have nothing to do with risk appetite. In fact, the opposite could be argued.

          In essence, people were convinced that what they were doing was sound, because the Black-Scholes equations gave them a nice shiny mathematical proof that what they were doing was risk-free. What they were missing was that the base assumptions about distribution that the Black-Scholes equations made were not valid when applied to the credit default swap market. Some people seem to have realised this; others not. In any case, when the bottom fell out of the market, a lot of people got burned who did not realise that they were doing anything risky. Subsequent to this, in the last half-decade, we’ve seen a much higher degree of corporate risk aversion than has existed in my lifetime. Try getting investment for a start-up right now. Heck, go look at the level of holdings in bonds and gold vs equities – that, as much as anything, bellows that the world is terrified of taking risks with its money right now.

          From the money market perspective, we are therefore currently incredibly risk-averse, but that’s arguably more to do with recent history than the Net. Scientifically we have something of a mixed bag; much more stringent requirements for health and safety and ethics have had some impact on medicine, blue sky research generally can be difficult to get funded in certain places (e.g. the UK) – but on the other hand, CERN has just spent a decade building the Large Hadron Collider, which is a fantastic investment into blue sky research. However, making the push from science into engineering is something that requires investment from the venture capitalists, and while the world’s so pessimistic economically, that’s unlikely to happen soon on a large scale.

          • gwathdring says:

            I think the equation was a much smaller part of it than analysts suggest. American companies are still trading money they don’t have and selling stocks at inappropriate values all over the place. The US government is assisting larger banks with riskier portfolios to acquire small, successful local banks so they can repair their lost capital from all of their foolish investments. But I’m making the wrong argument, there, because in essence I agree. People tend not to take risks and companies do these sorts of things because, wrong though they may be, they think these are safe ways to make a quick buck before anything bad happens. But then they all keep doing it because nothing bad has happened yet … and what do you know, something bad happens.

            I would instead argue that things weren’t that much different at the turn of the century. Or fifty years ago. Companies didn’t proceed to use toxic herbicides because they were risk takers but because they either didn’t know the full story behind the chemicals they used or they didn’t care enough until regulation made it a financial problem. We didn’t send a man into space because it we were better at taking risks. A lot of experiments were done first to make sure it was safe, and while it was certainly an ambitious goal to shoot for we didn’t pursue it with wild abandon. We didn’t pursue nuclear technology becasue we were better at taking risks. The perceived risk of other countries mastering the technology first was greater. Companies didn’t invest willy-nilly in projects that ultimately became the crown jewels of innovation. Sure there are standout cases, but stand out cases still exist today. Most of the crucial technological developments I can think of from the hit list were slow burners, developed by many different people and rejected by plenty of backers until someone with enough money took an interest (or stole an interest).

            I don’t see our past as marked by greater risk taking.

          • Quirk says:

            “We didn’t send a man into space because it we were better at taking risks. A lot of experiments were done first to make sure it was safe”
            - but the whole point was that it was -not- safe, it was never safe. Out of 439 astronauts, 22 have died in a spacecraft. There have been a number of training deaths in addition (including that of Yuri Gagarin) and probably more deaths in construction than both of these categories put together. But, in an era shortly after the Second World War, where many of the population had lost friends and family to the war, having the official stamp of approval on an endeavour with a relatively high risk of killing people wasn’t the looming PR disaster that it has become in the modern era.

            Now arguably there were pressures throughout this period which pushed risk-taking – the World Wars and the Cold War meant several generations growing up with the threat of annihilation hanging over them, making it hard to be too precious about personal safety. The pace of technological progress in post-Renaissance Europe, full of countries eyeing each other like hungry wolves, far outstripped that of stable China. Our current world stability is probably a far greater brake on risk appetite and big thinking than the Net is.

            I’d also say though that as people’s lives get safer and safer, paranoia about what constitutes a risk has exploded. As child mortality has decreased (owing largely to medical advances), children are increasingly kept inside, sheltered from the perceived risk of dangerous strangers. We submit to useless security theatre at airports, in the name of preventing terrorism; our governments destroy civil liberties in pursuit of the same goal; meanwhile the actual risk of being a victim of a terrorist attack in the developed West is incredibly low. (Myself, I was born in Derry during the Troubles, and when terrorism was actually a part of daily life, people there were pretty blasé about it).

          • newprince says:

            @gwathdring:

            I really cannot see how you can honestly believe we are just as risk-taking as we were in the 20th century. I mean, really. We have no draft in the US anymore. In the 20th century, the US took part in TWO World Wars after being relatively isolationist since its inception. For God’s sake, read some Hemingway or well, any literature from the 20th century and then compare it to anything produced from 2000.

            We did NOT make it safe to go to the moon before we went there. Patently false. Many people died and still could have during the moon landing. That was still a monumental risk that the US would simply not take under a Republican or Democratic administration anymore.

            I’m honestly looking for how your argument could be right. At all.

          • gwathdring says:

            @ Newprince: The general public did not do those things of it’s own volition. WWII was not a decision that we all made happily. It was not a risk we undertook because we as a society were full of thrill seekers. I’m quite perturbed that you see these events so simply, separating them from their contexts in such an idealized fashion like we all used to be Indiana Jones, rolling up our shirt sleeves and sustained on a diet of uncooked gumption.

            Hemingway’s writing no more described your average turn-of-the-century person than Fight Club explained the 1950s. Hemingway leaves us plenty to consider about his generation and plenty to analyze, but one cannot simply look to the subject of those few novels remembered as timeless classics and guesstimate the approximate gusto with which a generation threw themselves into danger.

            Space travel was not safe, no. But I don’t think we flaunted danger in pursuing it. I think it was ambition, fear, wonder and a host of other things that made it possible and drove us onward. The Cold War was happening. This wasn’t just a bunch of people who up and decided we ought to go to space for the hell of it. And I know that’s not what you’re suggesting either–but this is not a safe, cozy harmless world without war violence or danger. And I don’t think we take fewer risks of the sort you describe because we as people are significantly more worried and cautious and scared. We were worried and cautious and scared then too. We were just scared of different things, afraid to chance different risks. This is a world that doesn’t support those kinds of risky economic ventures for a host of reasons that have little to do with personal willingness to do something that jeopardizes stability.

          • Quirk says:

            @gwathrding:
            Ah, no. Consider it the other way round: it is not that people are risk-seeking, therefore we go to war, but that when we are faced with the devastation of war that we put smaller risks into perspective.

            Recently my company sent round an email stating that there was a crack in a window on the second floor, and requesting that people keep away from that area (in case, standing nearby, they tripped and fell over and the window gave way and they plummeted to the ground below). It’s all but inconceivable that such a communication would have been made at any point earlier than the latest parts of the 20th century. The risk of actually deliberately leaning against the window would probably be meaninglessly low, whereas the chances that someone nearby would stumble into it are… well, hard to quantify; to the best of my knowledge it’s never been done. This is not a particularly singular communication; I hear similar tales of ludicrously over-careful warnings told by friends in the NHS, in the corporate world, in academia.

            Could you elucidate, please, precisely which risks you feel people of the early 20th century shrunk from that we now dismiss today?

          • NathanH says:

            I suspect that the window-story wouldn’t have happened in the past simply because the risk to the employer of having to pay compensation in the event of an accident was nonexistent, whereas now it would likely be certain. The risks have changed, rather than the attitude towards them. I work in Belgium at the moment, and the attitudes towards such health and safety issues are much more old-fashioned. There’s no way such a communication would be made here. They’re currently doing extensive work on our building, and the things I see from day to day would make a British employer scream in terror.

      • Janto says:

        I’ve always felt Neal Stephenson is a bit dodgy, politically/economically. As in, the Ron Paul type of conservative. So I’m not sure I’d like live in his perfect world order.

        • gwathdring says:

          This is my first exposure to him outside of his books.

          I like Ron Paul in that he is a principled, coherent and thoughtful politician. His specific theories and positions are another matter entirely … but I much prefer hearing them from someone both willing AND able to defend them than from someone who holds them less as political convictions and more as mantras. He is a breath of fresh air onto embers and dry kindling.

          • subedii says:

            I don’t generally follow US politics much, but my (brief) impression of Ron Paul was the same on both points (don’t necessarily agree with him but at least he has views that go further than just rhetoric).

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            “I mean, say what you like about the tenets of National Socialism, Dude, at least it’s an ethos.”

          • Reefpirate says:

            He’s actually quite a prolific writer, Ron Paul. Though he doesn’t do as good a job of defending his philosophy as some of his libertarian academic buddies, his writing is more substantive than his 4 minute interviews on cable news or 30 seconds in network debates.

            I think his argument here would be that in order to innovate on a grand scale you need capital, and a good way to amass capital is in the consumer goods markets. As long as the economy continues to grow and prosper, humans will naturally innovate, and innovate more with access to greater resources. A big dumb screw-up in the economy like we’ve had recently (caused, of course, by ‘big government’ security and central bank enabling) is bad for innovation, and should be avoided.

          • newprince says:

            The problem with Ron Paul is that he has all the convenience of never being proven wrong, the same luxury that a socialist like Bernie Sanders enjoys. Moderates on both sides can look to them and say “Yeah! That’s what we need!” but yet none of their ideas will come to pass. It’s an ivory tower.

            The simple fact is that governments are useful organizations and any illusion that they can be cut to the most basic of services is just that.

          • Reefpirate says:

            Yep, they’re real useful like when they prevent crippling 4+ year recessions or perpetual debt bombs like you’re enjoying over in the EU. If it weren’t for them, we’d be back in the Stone Age or something.

          • subedii says:

            @ Dances to Podcasts: Oh thank you so much for Godwinning the thread, I was just thinking things were a bit too civil.

          • gwathdring says:

            @reefpirate

            Well, among the many things that differentiates neolithic organization from paleolithic organization over the course of the agricultural revolution would be the establishment of governments. ;)

            More seriously, physically shrinking territories and coordinating a larger number of smaller national entities intrigues me immensely. As does increasing the power of local layers in pre-existing governmental systems. But I don’t buy that metaphorically shrinking the government provides some sort of inherent protection against corruption and economic strife. Banks that abuse regulations, attempt to assert control in governmental processes and use all the sleight of hand they can muster to eat up smaller banks, hide toxic assets, and invent profits that don’t exist are probably still going to do those or similar things in a minimal-government system that still incorporates said banks in its economic structure.

          • Dances to Podcasts says:

            @subedii – It’s a Big Lebowski quote. It just happens to address the sentiment that while someone’s ideas may be bad, at least he’s thinking/talking consistenty about it (and should be praised for it) that came up here. No WW2 referencing intended!

    • Xocrates says:

      Aye, that article it disingenuous to say the least. It appears to both expect too much from the internet and give it too little credit. It ignores what the internet actually achieved while blaming it for stuff that is, at best, tangentially its fault.

      The internet revolutionized the way we communicate and our access our information. It’s easy to dismiss it because it didn’t lead to jetpacks (nevermind the technological challenges, or the fact that’s a pointless or bad idea) while ignoring the fact that geneticists, as an example, have access to a database containing the DNA sequence of every sequenced organism at their fingertips and updated to the minute.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Absolutely, both to the fact that giving people flying cars would result in a huge increase in flaming death and that technological change has become a lot more subtle since you could tell how advanced society was from how many cogs a man had glued to his clothing.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I do think that a lot of smart people who would have previously been engineers are now sucked into the IT field, and it’s a bit of a loss for society. However, the article completely ignores what I believe is the greatest and most impressive project humans have ever created, Wikipedia, which relies on the internet. Wikipedia is our library of Alexandria. To take the vast majority of human knowledge and make it available to almost everyone for free and let anyone edit it but monitor for trolls is of incalculable public value.

      To ignore this fact is to ignore one of the greatest accomplishments in human history.

      • newprince says:

        I’ll give you that one. I’m unfortunately in a field (librarians) where a lot of people have this irrational hatred of Wikipedia, claiming it’s not accurate, but in the same breath saying that quantity, not quality, is important to building digital libraries! Wikpedia is a big deal.

        • dE says:

          I don’t think it’s irrational. Wikipedias biggest problem is a fundamental one:
          It’s about what most people think is true, not about what’s actually true. In the majority of cases at the moment, that’s no problem as the two end up being identical. But with the news media we have and the rise of filter bubbles we’re looking at a pretty big problem. A problem wikipedia is vulnerable to.

          • Premium User Badge

            lurkalisk says:

            Wikipedia CAN’T be about absolute truth. Every source of published information, before and since wikipedia, has been the result of what a majority simply believed. And while Wikipedia is obviously different from, say, a book, one needs simply to check sources (a step most people don’t seem to think possible). But then you’ll still arrive at the same problem with those sources, and those sources’ sources.

            Here’s a good example: For over a century, just about everyone in the developed world has understood that spinach is super rich in iron. In reality, the iron content was the result of a typo. It has no more iron than watermelon, and has an absorption inhibitor that effectively makes spinach utterly worthless when it comes to dietary iron. Despite this, looking in most places for information just perpetuates this myth, including many well respected sources. Because Encyclopedia Brittanica (2) is more the REAL truth than Wikipedia, right?

          • dE says:

            A tad passive aggressive there… I guess people really do feel very strongly about wikipedia.
            Mistakes do happen, but Wikipedia is by its very nature vulnerable to them. Please do tell me, how can wikipedia be in any fashion accurate (because it was called irrational to fear for its accuracy) when there are countless editwars, hordes of sockpuppets, ridiculous amounts of internal politics and lobbying, a rather astounding habit to treat tabloid news articles and private homepages as equal sources to scientific research and last but not least, let’s not forget the army of trolls looking to intentionally bolster articles with false information.
            Those things could be sorted out over time and in some hypothetical place it’s all candy and the next evolutionary step of mankind. Shared information, ooh shiny. But these things make informations on wikipedia inaccurate and unreliable at the best of times. Want a quick glance at things? Tough luck, prepare for downright false informations with no quick way to discern which is which. Want an in depth look at things? Pick the bloody sourcebooks and not the troll distilled extract on wikipedia.

            So in a way to use wikipedia, you need to check the sources. But if you’re doing that, like you should, no like you absolutely must, it’s very easy to make the argument that there is no point to wikipedia other than a linklist to go through, relegating it to something akin to linksharing services.

          • The Colonel says:

            Wikipedia ought to constantly remind us about the frailty of knowledge and warn us about the trustworthiness of what we read. One of the really strong aspects of Wikipedia is, to my mind, the fact that, unlike with many other sources, people are immanently aware that what they are reading may not be accurate and may have biases. That keeps Wikipedia what it should be.

            The errant nature of Wikipedia is more than compensated in that you can get a fair approximation of most of formal western knowledge either directly on Wikipedia or accessible via it. Fair trade.

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Anyone who thinks tech is stagnating needs to watch some TED.com and realize how wrong they are

      • newprince says:

        Fair enough, but a lot of TED talks never produce anything tangible, and just make the public and academia drool.

        Or they base a whole talk on something we haven’t question adequately in the first place, like say, gamification.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      My take is that technological change is innovation + capital. America is typically excellent at generating capital, and marketing its goods to the rest of the world. The fact that it controls the world’s oceans and defines how global trade operates helps. So taking an idea and making money out of it isn’t such a big deal in the US, in the same way that Apple doesn’t do new things, it just takes existing ideas and makes them into something that people want to buy.

      The reason the 20th Century saw technological advance at such a huge rate was conflict. The Space Race was an extension of the Cold War arms race, and various technological advances came out of the World Wars. Militaries and governments were instrumental in kick-starting these things, from stuff like the US highway system to the satellite industry to the internet. Business took over and made them profitable; we’re only just seeing this starting with space travel. Once the Cold War was over, the US lacked a single threatening power that it really needed to spend government money on huge, expensive R&D programmes.

      So I don’t think it’s a question of the Internet killing innovation. Rather, it’s the fact that the vast amount of government spending at a loss needed to kick-start leaps in technology simply hasn’t been there since the Soviet Union folded. It’s possible that this will change in the near future, as countries grow to genuinely challenge the US in parts of the world, but for now the US is in no mood for expensive crash R&D programmes.

      • Contrafibularity says:

        @Cap Gen

        That’s a tired and flawed argument, and lacking in knowledge of the scientific discoveries and events which led to said technologies. Yes two world wars spawned medical advances, the atom bomb and Turing’s code-breaker computer, and it’s certainly true it can work to catalyse such developments – necessity can be the mother of invention, BUT..

        it’s also one of the biggest cases of confirmation bias in recent history, when we look back at major conflicts and connect them to related discoveries, we’re forgetting how it’s the scientific process itself, as well as sheer accident, most advances the sciences and thus, technology. What we now call Blue Skies research has led to the foundations of virtually every scientific discipline known to man. People tend to forget how astronomy, as well as textile weaving did as much to bring about the computer revolution as anything else, or how an alchemist looking for gold in human urine led to the discovery of phosphorous (which challenged long-standing models eventually leading to the discovery of other elements and eventually the periodic table). There are countless examples, but since they’re not as firmly pressed in our collective memory we tend to look back at the 20th century through our personalised goggles and wrongly assume war is the greatest thing for science somehow, thereby perfectly forgetting how previous centuries laid the foundations for those discoveries, more-so in peacetime than in war.

        I highly recommend watching a few beeb docus;
        BBC Atom
        The Secret Life of Chaos
        The Story of Science
        Absolute Zero
        Darwin’s Dangerous Idea
        etc. (I’d recommend Horizon too but the list would become too long)

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Interesting. Worth pointing out that astronomy is also a government programme, since no company would put up the capital for a science that is unlikely to pay for itself in anyone’s lifetime. My job involves running multi-TB simulations of galaxies that have virtually no direct commercialisation options*, though of course they have plenty of indirect applications to industry.

        I think I garbled my point a little, so I’ll restate it: markets only support innovations that can generate profit in a few years; large, expensive programmes need the capital and willingness to absorb losses that only a decent-sized state has. Space travel *will* turn a vast profit at some point in the future, but even now the feted Space X launch was a third funded by the US government. Many of the more visible innovations in the 20th Century were funded by government programmes, which were often fuelled by conflict, such as the computing advances spurred by WWII code-breaking or the launch of Sputnik by the Soviets. Sure, atomic physics had its foundations in turn-of-the-20th-century theory in universities, but it was WWII that spurred the creation of atomic weapons, and hence atomic power. France’s vast nuclear power infrastructure exists mainly as a result of de Gaulle wanting an independent nuclear arsenal to resist the Soviet Union in the event the US left Europe on its own.

        So while I wholly agree that conflict does not create the theoretical ideas behind innovations, it does spur the governmental spending necessary to turn an idea into a practical thing, which can then be commercialised once the initial net loss of capital in development has been absorbed by the state. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, there hasn’t been a credible threat to US hegemony (which is changing on a regional level thanks to the US focussing on the Middle East in the ’00s). Hence, other than maybe military drones, I can’t think of many overt innovations on a similar scale to computing, nuclear power, powered flight, space travel, etc, that have been pushed forward in recent years.

        I completely agree that technological advances aren’t limited to big engineering projects (someone mentioned genetics here, and you point out textiles, which were part of the industrial revolution, but I’d argue that was only possible due to the explosion of capital in the UK from British imperialism) but I get the sense that this is what people talk about when they think about technological change, rather than the huge number of people developing new steering systems for cars or ways to make washing clothes more efficient.

        EDIT: Whoah, that was a bit long. Oops.


        * Astronomers sometimes say how good they are at programming given how much they do of it and how much data they process, which is kinda cute, given how many projects are still in Fortan/IDL. Not a debate for here, though.

  7. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Regarding the High Noon article:

    “When I remember Half-Life 2 I don’t remember just shooting things, I remember moments, like the escape from the boat, or crossing the bridge, or investigating the farm or invading the prison.” –4A Games’ Huw Beynon on the forthcoming Metro 2033: Last Light

    Does he mean the escape IN a boat, e.g the airboat level? I am sitting here racking my brains for a level where I escaped FROM a boat, and I can’t remember one – unless you count the ‘Missing Information’ Borealis mod thing that came out years ago?

    • fitzroy_doll says:

      Maybe he doesn’t remember as well as he thinks he does.

    • dE says:

      I do remember a boat.
      After being forced to drive around with it, being ridiculously annoyed with how it handled, I indeed escaped from it with tears of joy, hoping to never see it again.

    • Lemming says:

      The only thing I can think of is he’s talking about being in the airboat and escaping from the gunship.

      I think he’s just muddled his brain somewhere.

      Also, the airboat and car sections of HL2 were great! No FPS has done vehicle sections better. Not one.

      replayed this recently and I was reminded just how fun it is to go through most of Nova Prospekt without touching a single fucking gun. Once you’ve had Antlion minions, you never want to let them go!

      • Urthman says:

        If that’s what you love and you haven’t yet played the HL2 mod Research and Development, then wow do you have a tasty treat waiting for you…

  8. Skipperoo says:

    Would love that Sam and Max painting as a mouse mat.

  9. lizzardborn says:

    Shooters are not a dying bread. They are already dead for a good couple of years. What we have nowadays ,at least in the single player, is some badly directed Hollywood b movie wannabes that try to take the game out of gameplay. I can think of only a couple of A+ games in the last few years that were shooters – they did not try to obstruct you and stand between you and the shooting. So instead of the game being the canvas on which to draw my bloody and gory gameplay picture, what we have is some experience where you should pass everything exactly the way the director has envisioned it, no imagination and creativity required or allowed. The main problem with that approach is that game developers seems to suck at directing and we get those generic feeling products.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Aye. Rye.

      • Antsy says:

        Yeah, there’s no way shooters are a dying bread. That guy just isn’t using his loaf.

      • Premium User Badge

        Arathain says:

        Wheat are you folks talking about?

        • Chris D says:

          Now, now guys. It was a simple mistake. No need to go making a whole meal of it.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        The genre has gone in that direction because that’s where the dough is.

    • Bob says:

      What Izzardborn said here: “So instead of the game being the canvas on which to draw my bloody and gory gameplay picture, what we have is some experience where you should pass everything exactly the way the director has envisioned it, no imagination and creativity required or allowed. ”

      Let us play the *game* not some scripted cinematic. Also give us options, the more the better.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’m sorry, but I think the vast majority of pure shooters are dying. Sure some’ll survive, but most of it will mutate into other genres. Think about Bulletstorm vs. Borderlands or Deus Ex or GTA. Shooting is just one way of playing, and I think games that encompass more types of play styles will become more popular. For now, genre purity is something we can only expect of a few titles, most of which are indie. Shooters are too large to be indie, hence the decline.

      • Avish says:

        Hard reset is an indie “pure shooter” game (a good game that could be great with little fixes, like removing checkpoint in favor of ordinary saves), but it didn not sell well probably because it was not good enough or maybe because there is no market for this kind of game.

        I think people (especially console people) expect the games to be more “Cinematic” than “pure games”, these days and that’s the main reason there aren’t any.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I think that five years ago Hard Reset would have gotten much better reviews even if they didn’t judge it on graphics.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Hard Reset was fun, but it wasn’t really a very good purebreed shooter, because the protagonist was so slow on his feet, and weaponswitching was kind of a faff too with the two-slot multi-configuration thing. There was some tactical positioning in there (you can just about sidestep a charging gorilla to let it slam into an electrical box), but you can forget rocket-jumping, or even much circle-strafing. Put it up against the likes of Quake (even unloved runt Quake 4), and gameplay-wise it’s toast.

  10. Kadayi says:

    Real shame that the Activision suit got settled, as it would of been amusing to see Bobby K sweating in a court explaining his dubious actions to judge and jury. Albeit the extent of the settlement is unknown, it will likely turn up in their next financial quarterly report under liabilities. Interesting to see (dependent on the extent of it) whether Kotick retains his position given how things have blown up. No doubt paying the original staff bonuses and retaining West and Zampella would likely have been a much cheaper option than going down this particular route one suspects.

  11. Easy says:

    Mysterious and handsome. That. Especially when the Sunday papers are delivered just as I roll out of my deep slumber.

  12. Soon says:

    I don’t think the classic cyberspace concept is dead, it’s just more complicated than it first seems and therefore still a way off. The rise of “The Cloud”, with the removal of a distinction between local and online space, could see us to start launching games straight from within the virtual world and be integrated seamlessly. The world adapts and becomes the game or application not just a launchpad for them. It would need everything to be connected to work (which is going to need a mass of agreed standards and would essentially kill off many current formats). It can’t just be a 3D UI or chatroom, it would sort of serve as an engine for everything.

    So, yeah, still a way off.

  13. Kollega says:

    In regards to Sir, You Are Being Hunted: the best thing this game does is being very very British. Mr. Rossingnol speaks the truth when he says more developers should be inspired by their local culture instead of producing something bland and tedious that based off Aliens. For instance, were Russia not so hopelessly corrupt, more developers could sprout up in there and make games with interesting settings – not just the decaying post-Soviet mess like STALKER or Metro 2033, but also games based of Russian mythology (imagine a fantasy RPG where you go after Koschei the Immortal, the original lich), tsarist Russia (for example, a stealth action set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic wars where you are trying to sabotage the plots of both foreign invaders and your fellow royalty), or “the glory days” of the USSR (an example would be an alternate-future game where USSR won the Cold War and space marines trying to exploit alien worlds while fighting off blue-skinned space cat-people are Russian, Ukrainian, Kazakh, Uzbek, Armenian, Bulgarian, Czech, and Polish instead of standard-issue Americans and Brits).

    The article about FPSes mirroring the history of westerns is also good, and hopefully today’s mediocrity will pave the way for tomorrow’s deconstruction and re-examination of the genre’s tropes like one-man armies effortlessly slaughtering thousands of enemies without so much as blinking.

    • bill says:

      i just hope it’s proper British, rather than stereotypical british ( or what americans seem to weirdly imagine that britain is like).

      Can’t see why it wouldn’t be, given who is making it… but living overseas has given me a very disturbing idea of what most people imagine the UK is like.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        I hope it’s proper British, too!

        You can have a look at our first attempt at Britishness here: http://www.e4.com/game/fallen-city/play.e4

        That’s Fallen City, our free educational game commissioned by Channel 4. Set in sort of a British town. Sort of.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        I agree. To catpure True Britishness, there must be young men in hooded tops pretending to speak like they are from Jamaica, asking you to either “Lend me a pound, innit” or “Get me twenty B and H” – all to the background ambience of JLS playing from a tinny mobile phone speaker. Only then will I believe the game’s creator has spent any time at all in our fair land. Also, combat will involve drunken friday night punch ups, with vomit mechanic and ‘picking glass out of your face’ QTE’s.

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          “Let me walk through the stinking alleys / To the music of drunken beatings”

        • The Colonel says:

          The whites have become black!

      • Premium User Badge

        Durkonkell says:

        I hope it’s not proper British, as that would involve the game being about drinking, being drunk, vomiting, being arrested, and being unable to spell or otherwise articulate yourself properly. There would probably be some mindless thuggery in there somewhere, too.

        I’d much prefer it if it was about politeness, Shakespeare, digestive biscuits and drinking. Drinking tea, that is. Vast quantities of tea. Top hats and monocles I can take or leave. I imagine shotguns will be involved at some point.

        • YourMessageHere says:

          “I hope it’s not proper British, as that would involve the game being about drinking, being drunk, vomiting, being arrested, and being unable to spell or otherwise articulate yourself properly. There would probably be some mindless thuggery in there somewhere, too.”

          I think you’re mistaken. Arseholery is an international language. No – panglobal, and pancultural.

        • Premium User Badge

          Harlander says:

          It seems pretty clear from these comments that “true Britishness” is embodied by whining about how terrible Britain is.

          • ScottTFrazer says:

            You misspelled “whinging.” :-)

          • Terragot says:

            Pretty much this.

            Being British is about championing the underdog ’till the dog is a champion, then becoming sick of hearing about that dog. British is also about doubt, cynicism, multi-cultural society, the class system, neo-feudalism, racism, tea with milk, northerners, southerners, the Midlands, binge drinking, the M6, ect, ect.

            Tweed and tea hasn’t been British since the Mancunians championed the parka, Leeds adopted the Barbour and Starbucks / Costa paved the way of the coffee fuelled middle classes.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Being British is about championing the underdog ’till the dog is a champion, then becoming sick of hearing about that dog.

            A thousand times this: the British hate success. The whole plucky-underdog WW2-ish mentality has festered into a horrible tumour of loathing at anyone who actually achieves anything (c.f. America).

          • Soon says:

            And the self-deprecation. “Sir, You Are Being Hunted! (But I’m terrible at this. Couldn’t hit the broadside of a robo-elephant at point-blank range, me. Heh.)”

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Also, by “Britiish” do you all mean “English”?

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Basically yes, as most of the other countries in the Union couldn’t give a badger’s bumbag about being British. As an englishman living in Aberdeen, trust me on this.

    • lijenstina says:

      Maybe they could make a game about how the Russians see the British and how the British see the Russians. First part of the game you play the same events from the side of the British prejudices and then from the side of Russian ones. At the end, both characters meet and conclude that they hate similar things, become friends under a double rainbow while teapots and little vodka bottles fall from the sky.

    • Urthman says:

      There’s something almost disingenuous about Jim always going on about Sirs being “lo-fi” when he knows:

      A: it looks great right now, and

      B: in ten years, when Skyrim and Assassin’s Creed look terrible, stuck way down in the Uncanny Valley, Sirs is still gonna look great.

  14. bill says:

    I was thinking a few days back that we’ve actually suddenly come closer to the classic hacker/cyberspace idea.

    For a long time it didn’t happen, and I remember reading the Dragon tattoo novels and thinking it’s idea of hackers was quaintly old-style. But then recently there’s been the rise of anonymous, and the recent cyber warfare and targeted viruses against the middle east and nuclear reactors…

    it’s just that instead of flying through cyberspace we have second life.

    • gwathdring says:

      And Orgia Romanus.

      I was reading some articles about Cyberpunk trying to find new books to satisfy my craving and I came across something that made me think back fondly to Snow Crash. It mentioned how Stephenson (oddly appropriate given other articles in the Papers) did a really good job capturing just how awkward, hedonistic and weird the Internet would be while a lot of cyberpunk had a much more sober and seemingly logical conception of what hyper-connectedness and the digital age would look like. 1996 Otherland did an even better job getting Internet persona but that was about the only thing I liked about the book and it had a bit more of a jump on some of the Internet’s rising weird factor–and it didn’t do as good a job with virtual worlds, hacking, or digitized society despite it’s jump (and it lacked the lovely, mad bullshit that was neurolinguistic hacking).

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’ve been thinking something very similar. A part of me is very glad that people like Anonymous are out there, because its been seeming more and more like corporations have subverted the beautiful creative chaos that internet originally promised. Eh, I sound like a crackpot. Pay no attention here.

      • gwathdring says:

        Anonymous is fighting the corporations? Effectively?

        Anonymous is beautiful?

        I don’t know. I see plenty of beauty and chaos in the Internet, sometimes together. Anonymous doesn’t look like much of either to me.

        You don’t sound like too much of a crackpot though. ;) There’s a lot of wild stuff these wires could be doing that just isn’t happening (yet?). For example, it’s unfortunate there isn’t a good alternative to ISPs by now.

        Edit: Other than hijacking someone else’s connection, of course.

  15. Klarden says:

    And a bit of shameless self-promotion from me: my loong and exciting (hopefully) talk with Dan Pinchbeck of thechineseroom in 4 parts, if someone’s interested: http://dumdoi.com/klarden/tag/talking-with-dan-pinchbeck/ (there are versions in english and russian, so don’t get surprised, when you see russian)

  16. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    Jim Rossignol posting about Jim Rossignol’s next game? I think this is a suspicious conflict of interest and as a concerned member of the public I demand a parliamentary inquiry on what I feel is a breech of journalistic ethics.

    • Lacero says:

      All inquiries into Jim Rossignol are carried out by Jim Rossignol.

      Should he find your demand vexatious you will be referred to Jim Rossignol for trial and sentencing.

      All glory to the Rossignol.

      • Premium User Badge

        RedViv says:

        We’ll just go right out and restructure this language and Rossignol every Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol. Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol, Rossignol Rossignol Rossignol!

    • Sorth_31 says:

      “A breech of journalistic ethics.” (For reference breeches: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Breeches)

      Sorry, I don’t normally point these things out, but I love the idea of Jim explaining why he wears an old style of trousers and why that’s against journalistic ethics.

    • lijenstina says:

      It’s like the JP Morgan’s CEO as a member of the New York’s Fed board made a loan to JP Morgan.
      Jim seems to know how the world works. :)

  17. InternetBatman says:

    I think the article about RPG combat comes close to hitting on issue I’ve been confronting in my D&D campaign. Combat is a part of any realistic world. Game designers have been using combat as fillers to entertain players or to slow down player progress so they need to make less content. Combat is content and there should be little separation between the world at large, and combat in particular.

    Obsidian consistently plays on this line in their games (black isle did it better), but it’s a hard practical problem to solve.

    • NathanH says:

      I think the main “problem” is that combat in RPGs is the core game mechanic and for core game mechanics it is usually better to make it mechanically good rather than realistic.

      For instance, take the example in article. We should not be surprised that resurrection of Cylons is treated different from the resurrection of RPG character because the former is a story element and the latter is a gameplay element.

      Of course I don’t think this is a problem at all, it’s just a fact of life and I would be much more concerned that trying to deal with the “problem” would create some real problems.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I just wish the mechanics were more inclusive.

        An example of a major difference between D&D and D&D based video games is the use of skill checks in combat. Even in stuff like Baldur’s Gate dialog appears and then combat happens. What if there was a mechanic where you could use diplomacy checks in a real time game, and they would beat up on you while you were selecting options? What if that mechanic became more effective the lower their health was? What if you could convince people to run away and then stab them in the back. What if your party members reacted to this? It could work for turn-based and real time with pause as well.

        I’m saying this poorly, but whenever a DM or an rpg game railroads you, I think it normally represents a failure of world design or writing. Mechanics should spring from a believable and inclusive representation of the world, and game design will come from that. I’m not a game designer, so I don’t know the practical difficulties. But, I feel like more and more games have been developed with story and combat and visuals as separate mechanics, not mechanical pieces of the same system. Mass Effect in particular and Bioware in general are guilty of this. Emergent play and stories will arise if you give the player the opportunity and you don’t have to take control away from the player.

        I feel like RPGs in general have veered more towards story and authorial control, leaving freedom in the hands of sandboxes that don’t have very good writing or world design just a lot of world with a lot of cool things to do. Then again, I haven’t played Oblivion yet and I thought New Vegas was inching closer to the ideal.

        • NathanH says:

          I think i see what you mean now, and I agree somewhat, although the necessary steps to get where you want to be are large and will take some work, and maybe when you get there you’ll decide you didn’t want to be there at all.

          The problem is that allowing mechanics to determine story directions and so on is that good game mechanics in RPGs give so many options. A good reason for the segregation of story and gameplay is that it’s the only practically feasible way to have hand-crafted dialogues that we’re used to seeing in Bioware games and the like. If we’re going to closely integrate the gameplay with the storyline in a more convincing way, we’re going to lose the option of hand-crafted dialogue and carefully-written stories and end up somewhere much more crude, at least initially. I’d like to go there, but it’s certainly not a trivial place to go, and it’s far from obvious that many people would like this way better.

          Consider for instance when you’re DMing. What is roleplaying? It’s when the players choose actions for their characters from a very large set of options (the set of all plausible things the character could do in the given situation). The DM with the help of the rules chooses the response, and the game sets off down that route, with the DM making things up as they go along. Switch that to a video game setting, and we don’t have the DM to run things. Either we have to have robust mechanics that decide what’s going to happen next, which will probably require relatively generic responses and the occasional incomprehensible situation to develop, or we reduce the player’s set of options to the extent that they’re not playing a roleplaying game any more, but instead playing a choose-your-own-adventure.

          It’s the latter case that we’re used to now. Of course, in certain circumstances like combat, we can implement proper roleplaying systems, because individual combats are much easier for the machine to sensibly deal with than plot and dialogue and so on. But at the end of every combat we have to make sure that every player is, plot-wise, in basically the same place so we can switch back to choose-your-own-adventure mode and carry on.

          For instance, consider the way that in Bioware games your follows cannot permanently die. This has changed from the original Bioware games. I can’t believe they did this primarily to make things easier; they did this because they wanted to make your followers more important, but having to deal with the possibilities of each of them dying at every possible point would be too much trouble. Mass Effect 3 must have been troublesome enough to deal with, with the dead characters from previous games, without the possibility of your crew dying at any moment.

          In particular, I have to say that I imagine that attempts to make a complete roleplaying experience wouldn’t be a matter of good writing, because the demands being placed upon the system would be such that the idea of a human writing lines for characters to use in very specific circumstances becomes ridiculous.

          Anyway, I’d be happy to see some experiments with trying to create a more complete roleplaying experience, but it’d be really hard work and probably wouldn’t be very well received at the end.

          • Wizardry says:

            Indeed. This is why combat isn’t the problem in CRPGs. It’s everything else that is the problem. Any game element that requires the developers to tread every single one of its possible paths is necessarily implemented in the wrong way. Combat doesn’t require this. The narrative does.

          • InternetBatman says:

            “Anyway, I’d be happy to see some experiments with trying to create a more complete roleplaying experience, but it’d be really hard work and probably wouldn’t be very well received at the end.”

            And I believe that is the perfect summation of the idea from the industry’s perspective. I agree that such efforts do lead to broken situations that aren’t as well curated, but I believe VO is equally a problem. That’s a whole different topic though.

          • NathanH says:

            Ah, VO, the greatest enemy of the RPG. Alas, another battle that is already lost.

        • Wizardry says:

          A number of CRPGs let you use diplomacy in or before combat in a mechanical way. This isn’t a problem. The problem is making this diplomacy affect the story, but this is purely a problem with the way stories are told and not a problem with the mechanics.

          • InternetBatman says:

            I don’t have an incredibly broad span of played games, but I’ve only ever seen it in combat in the final boss battle for Kotor II. It’d be neat to queue up a diplomacy attempt the same way you queue up an attack.

          • Wizardry says:

            Well, Pool of Radiance lets you choose a number of simple stances before combat to avoid battle and/or gain information. These are haughty, sly, meek, nice and abusive, with different encounters being more receptive to some than others.

            Star Command, another SSI game from the same year, has a sort of diplomatic phase to combat in addition to movement and attacking phases. The diplomatic options in this phase have a greater chance to succeed the closer you are to victory. This means you can batter the enemy into submission without having to kill them outright.

            There was also this Bard’s Tale clone in 1990 called Legend of Faerghail. I remember that, upon encountering a group of potential enemies, you are given options to greet and attempt to talk to them on top of attacking and withdrawing. My memory is a bit shaky but I believe you could even initiate trades and also persuade enemies to join your party for a while. What’s cool about this concept was that the game featured multiple languages for you to learn. There was a common language, and separate languages for orcs, lizards, dwarves and elves. On top of that you could talk to animals with classes like druids and perhaps rangers, and there was also a magic user language of some kind.

            I’m sure there are lots more examples if you look back at older CRPGs. It was an avenue that was just about to be explored before the genre pretty much died and everything was replaced with rigid dialogue trees.

    • gwathdring says:

      @OP Well put. This was my biggest problem with the big Guns/Swords and Conversations games–Dragon Age, Mass Effect, to a lesser extent Deus Ex:HR and the Witcher. Mass Effect 2 had what I felt to be the most pronounced division despite both parts feeling well polished and designed to me. Even some games that effectively create engaging interactivity outside of combat feel the need to make combat the “main” game.

      If the narrative and the world are supposed to be a major part of the game, I want there to be a more satisfying connection to the combat sections. I would sometimes rather play one game even if that means no combat or no branching storyline than have an experience that feels like its at war with itself.

      The Deus Ex boss battles are sort of a cheap shot, as that’s the most extreme example I can think of, but I might as well give it a nod while I’m here.

      • NathanH says:

        I don’t really understand what you want. Can you be more specific?

        • gwathdring says:

          I want more interaction between combat and non-combat portions of these sorts of games. Part of that involves fixing the sorts of things that were alluded to in the article–comrades that can’t die or that die unceremoniously when it isn’t a cut-scene moment, defeat in combat almost always resulting in death or a similar “restart” condition (there was one great moment in Dragon age that subverted this particular issue), poorly armed bandits attacking bands of super soldiers with flaming swords and plate armor, discrepancies between how death and warfare are treated in the game’s fiction and in the game’s play, famous artifacts of great mystical power that are inferior to this thing you found lying around in a barrel … in general it feels like a lot of role playing games don’t sync the combat sections with the rest of the game world very well.

          More succinctly, I don’t want to feel like I’ve changed games once the shooting starts. I didn’t really in Deus Ex or in the Witcher, I did in Mass Effect(s) and Dragon Age. At the very least, it shouldn’t feel like the rules of the world has changed (this WAS a problem in Deus Ex with the way folks responded to violence in particular).

          The other part of it is a desire to seem more of these games start leaning on non-combat mechanics. Dragon Age throws a lot of empty fights at the player. Deus Ex has its boss fights, the Witcher had a lot of grind quests (though it was in-character grind, I suppose), Mass Effect had a lot of empty fights. But these are all games that succeeded at delivering stories and worlds was engaged to explore *as play* rather than merely as something to watch while I took a break. I would love to see mechanics developed that made this side of the games more robust than a conversation wheel and branching storyline–non-conversational narrative play. I would also like to see combat scaled back where appropriate. Fewer pointless ambushes by giant spiders, more options for diffusing combat situations dynamically when plot-crucial scripts aren’t at work.

          • NathanH says:

            See above for why I agree but think it’s a really hard problem to solve and is something that you can’t achieve without throwing away most of the current RPG storytelling model and replacing it with something speculative that might turn out to be total crap.

            When it comes to “empty” fights I think there are a few reasons why trash battles are a good idea and needed in RPGs: mainly, to give the player a sense of badassery, and to provide a low-risk environment for testing the effectiveness of new strategies and abilities.

          • Chris D says:

            It shouldn’t be that hard, should it? If you were going to klll them anyway then they’re out of the plot and there are lots of ways you can do that. Maybe they see the errors of their ways and go to work in another part of the kingdom, maybe they don’t pick a side but let you go on your way. Stories are resilient things and can handle a lot of changes. Games like Mass Effect and Alpha Protocol have shown they can deal with branching plots and changing relationships.

            I’m not seeing a reason why you couldn’t either write or design around this. What am I missing?

          • NathanH says:

            I can’t tell exactly what you’re talking about, so I can’t tell you what you’re missing! :-)

          • Chris D says:

            Hmm. I seem to have scrolled too quickly and replied to two different conversations in one go. Probably a bad move. Ignore me for now and I’ll try to say something more coherent in a bit.

  18. Urthman says:

    Why did they post a picture of Jeremy Renner next to that interview of Jim Rossignol?

  19. Soon says:

    Sir, You Are Being Hunted Fan Art. Created before the game was even announced because that’s how dedicated I am. Yes, this is a Look-I-Made-Something post. And on DeviantArt, no less. Sorry.

    But I could make some actual inspired-by stuff later. Like add a shotgun, or something.

  20. newprince says:

    DayZ has convinced me shooters are not dying, but going through a cleansing period. And they will be better for it.

    The publishers kept assuming we wanted the next blockbuster, the next ‘military’ shooter that was a weird parody of military action films, when really those were just playing to an audience that certainly exists but is only one of many different audiences out there. Part of the Long Tail. People that are comfortable with having to think for a second about non-shooting things. People who might even not like to kill other simulated human beings at a rate of 60 per hour.

    I don’t really agree with the ‘cinematic’ bashing though. Half-Life 2 is still brilliant, because it doesn’t pretend to be cool with the bros that think they know about AKs and sniping. It was always intended to be a cinematic experience. And it excelled in that area. You just have to make it… a good game.

    • rockman29 says:

      Good point. I am also happy with this niche genre in first person shooters. A lot of people tell me they are bored of shooters, but I’m not either. I’m quite happy with the shooters I pick out of larger bunch, with Half-Life, or the first Red Faction, or ArmA 3 and Dishonored and onwards.

      Action games are like action movies. They are the bread and butter for a lot of Hollywood, and a lot of gaming, but it doesn’t mean we need to see or play all of them. Just pick out what you think you will like, like the rest of life.

  21. Shooop says:

    I’m all for a crash in the FPS market. There hasn’t been any real standout game in that area for several years now thanks to the need to guarantee a huge seller – thus meaning no risk, no new ideas.

    The attitude towards Call of Honor: Future Battlefield are beginning to change very gradually, finally the “This again? Didn’t I already play this game before?” feelings are emerging from paying customers. Of course full-of-shit shills like Destructoid and Kotaku would never let you know this. But the user reviews on Metacritic and Amazon are becoming increasingly lukewarm at best.

    It’s about time. Activision, Ubisoft and EA are adding absolutely nothing of value to the genre, simply throwing more coats of Direct X paint on top of old products and calling them new and improved. It’s still a “move to point and wait for teammate to open door” simulation with exploit-riddled multiplayer bolted on. Studios like Bohemia will weather the storm just fine because they’ve proven to their fans they want to make a better game each time.

  22. rockman29 says:

    I have to strongly disagree with Brainygamer. I definitely understand where he is coming from, but the Western was a subgenre and was supplanted by the total genre of action films. I think the majority of blockbuster films are still brainless action films, whether that is Transformers, Cowboys vs. Aliens, Die Hard, or Mission Impossible. I find it much easier to think of an action movie from any given year than any other type of movie.

    In any case, I would like a Western wave to make a come back. They are way more fun than other types of modern/post-modern action movies in my opinion.

  23. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    On the comment on superheroes, the French-language comic book market seems much more diverse and read by a much wider cross-section of society. It’s possible that this is partly due to strong cultural icons like Tintin or Asterix ingrained in the childhood memories of many French-speaking people, but in general France is awash with comic book shops and isn’t the preserve of mostly male nerds. Sure, there’s a lot of war stuff or action stuff or whatever, and some of it is shit, but it’s not dominated by one genre as the Anglophone market is.

    Maybe I’m being overly pessimistic about the English-language market, but it is telling that Kieron, for example, is much more successful on the X-Men end of the spectrum of his work than he is on the Phonogram end of it. Not that I pretend to understand how the comics market works. I think there’s a whole lot of good non-spandex work out there, but it’s not as visible.