The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on June 17th, 2012 at 8:37 am.


Sundays are for remembering bugs of games past. The one where snakes couldn’t bite you if you were laying down. The one where, out of nowhere, you got a jeep, driven by a man in a red beret. Those were good bugs. Sigh. Anyway, there’s a lot of other things going on in videogames. Let’s have a look at some of those.

  • Simon Parkin’s The Rise and Collapse of Yoshinori Ono is essential reading: “But Ono is a far smarter man than the scattershot front might suggest. Despite his relatively high position within the company, these outrageous attacks on his employer are too sustained and calculated to be a momentary lapse in judgement and, while he is clearly angry for having worked himself into hospital, there’s a smile and quickness behind the eyes that suggests he is fully in control of all he’s saying. He clearly takes pleasure in his irreverence, even if there is a genuine seed of resentment at its core.”
  • On Beefjack: “Last October, Hollywood came calling for Canabalt developer Adam Atomic. Lions Gate Studios wanted a game to promote major motion picture The Hunger Games. Here’s what happened next.”
  • A SpaceChem post-mortem: “The PC was the best possible platform for a game like SpaceChem. The barrier to entry is extremely low compared to similarly “open” platforms like the Apple App Store and Xbox Live Indie Games. Almost every person who reads about your game on a computer is capable of buying and playing the game within a few clicks.”
  • PCG’s “Day Z moments” post is amazing.
  • This old Bungie article is fascinating, and worth a revisit, which is exactly what its author does: “The clearest example of the acceptance of reinforcements in game design is the widespread use of achievements. Achievements are a really interesting case for study because there often isn’t any tangible reward past the achievement itself. Some games, such as World of Warcraft, have used achievements to direct players towards alternate modes of play they might find more fun, such as exploration or PvP. In my eyes, helping players find more fun in the games they’re already playing is one of the best uses of reinforcements.”
  • Nightmare Mode on Bulletstorm’s strange failure to find an audience: “Bulletstorm directly positioned itself against the immense popularity of Call of Duty and Halo. In an age in which almost every major shooter had adopted at least the veneer of realism, Bulletstorm recognized the inherent ridiculousness of the genre. After all, these were games that universally revolved around an individual killing thousands of other people. This isn’t just wildly implausible, it’s outright sociopathic. Instead of pretending otherwise, Bulletstorm took that ball and ran with it.”
  • This seems like an odd place for this discussion, but the Sydney Morning Herald discusses Metro 2033’s system of morality: “Artyom’s (the main character) metro is under threat from the Dark Ones, and he must venture to Polis, a kind of Canberra in the metro, to seek assistance. This puts everyone, including the player, into some pretty harrowing situations, complete with moments that question the player’s moral standing on a number of issues. Metro 2033 never informs the player of the potential impact of moral choices, and that they are in fact, being tracked.”
  • Joe Martin’s podcast series continues, this time visiting the brain of Brendon Chung: “I feel that having an identity for you game is very important. One thing a lot of games have a problem with is that you look at a static screenshot and it just looks like this generic thing, like ten thousand other games…If you have an opportunity to make something and put your name on it, I feel it should reflect something that’s very unique to you. Something which hasn’t already been done a thousand times, because what’s the point in doing something that’s already been done?”
  • Games That Exist consider Diluvium : “When Tom Bissell wrote about L.A. Noire, he said (I’m paraphrasing) that it fails as a videogame, but he loves it, so maybe we’re not calling it the right thing. Now, I’m not saying Diluvium fails at anything, and it’s about as similar to L.A. Noire as a rabbit is to a rattlesnake, but what impresses and delights me about Diluvium has nothing to do with quintessential videogamey stuff like victory or failure or objectives. It taps into a different part of my brain. And I thought of Bissell’s piece from last year because, in trying to write about these things, I’m becoming increasingly unsatisfied with the connotations of the term “videogame” and my own expectations of how a videogame is supposed to engage me.”
  • Denby looks back at Anachronox over on Eurogamer: “Remarkably, though, it doesn’t rely only on its humour to form its personality: the game world also is one of the most exciting I’ve ever explored. Anachronox itself is a grand central hub for the game, an impressively large city split into different districts, all buried inside a hollowed-out planet whose tectonic plates shift around every so often. Artificial gravity allows different sections of the city to operate over the top of each other, so you’ll stroll round a corner to see people nonchalantly getting on with their lives halfway up the wall opposite.”
  • Some angry stuff about the 38 Studios’ collapse, and it’s pretty angry.
  • Exciting self-promotion corner: Here’s a screenshot from Sir, You Are Being Hunted, and here’s an entire gallery of environment shots.
  • Just Cause 2 multiplayer looks kind of awesome.
  • The Dishonored Tumblr is pretty cool.
  • This floating sphere thing is amazing. I want one.
  • Look at this picture.

Music this week is Torley’s Glitch Piano.

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127 Comments »

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  1. Mr. Mister says:

    Pretty sure you meant “Metr’s systems of morality”, not “mortality”.

  2. The Dark One says:

    That Sydney Morning Herald article is yellow games journalism at its worst. There’s only one Dark One.

  3. KDR_11k says:

    My beef with Bullet Storm was that it had too much Gears of War spliced into it, mandatory cover usage and many set pieces that went without the core feature of shooting dudes. Now the dev gets put on the next Gears of War. Looks like Yahtzee’s comment of Epic performing gleichschaltung on PCF was true.

    • Kollega says:

      In regards to Bulletstorm, i have to agree that it had too much Gears of War/Call of Duty in it. For instance, the weapons: instead of the fairly boring revolver and sniper rifle, i could easily see the game using a gun firing bursts of lightning and a railgun with cover penetration and hellish knockback respectively. And while the story is passable, it could probably do with removal of all seriousness altoghether: to take an example, what if Grayson was a galactic gladiator who was shot down over Stygia by Space Nazis whose commander is General Sarrano that once killed his tag-team partner?

      But it should be at least commended for being brave enough to make it’s characters sociopathic tossers, since no-one else would think that Skillshot system is in any way awesome. Gameplay and story integration at it’s finest.

      • wodin says:

        The skillshot mechanic was sublime and it’s what kept me playing until the end. Really wanted to see another one. But hey…

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      Aerothorn says:

      Cover system was certainly not mandatory. Don’t think I ever used it – I just slid around all over the place. Sometimes I’d stand behind a pillar, but that’s not Gears of War, that’s every FPS that isn’t a corridor shooter.

  4. Om says:

    On Bulletstorm, I can’t reconcile these two statements:

    “Bulletstorm, a brilliant gem of bright colors and wondrous violence that did more to push the first-person shooter forward than any game since 2007’s STALKER…”

    “…what made Bulletstorm so radical was the way it attached contemporary shooter design to a framework that went back to the origins of the modern FPS almost twenty years ago”

    How exactly did Bulletstorm push the genre forward by being a throwback to an earlier age? And, as a result, why should I care about this as any more than a story of failed marketing?

    • Jimbo says:

      It’s saying that by coupling contemporary FPS design with an old FPS framework they created something new.

      Personally, I think it kinda sucked.

      • Om says:

        @Jimbo: But surely so much of the article was spent explaining just how Bulletstorm diverged from “contemporary FPS design”? Or is the only real difference between it and, say, COD one of tone and seriousness?

        @RakeShark: Bravest of all to do something new and innovative. I’ve got no problem with games reaching into the past for inspiration but I wouldn’t consider this to be ‘pushing the genre forward’. Which is probably why the article (again, aside from the marketing aspect) got a shrug of the shoulders from me

        • RakeShark says:

          I personally think we’re at the end of innovation, least until we can control games with our minds. New on the other hand is always welcome.

          • gwathdring says:

            Hmm. See I’ve heard people say things like this in lots of disciplines–including the entirety of Innovation in all areas in a Harvard Business Review article from a past issue of the Sunday Papers. Every time I hear it, it confuses me. Maybe you just set the bar higher than I do, or think about invention and innovation on a smaller timescale than I do, but I see plenty of innovative things happening in video games.

            If we measure innovation by “mainstream” gaming, we’ll see changes appear much more slowly but they are still there. Then entire medium has been compressed into about 30 years so far and we started with Pong. If you really think new peripherals are necessary to take us any further, I’m just not sure you’ve been paying attention to how much change and innovation has occurred in PC gaming in particular over the span of a mere three decades with precisely the same control mechanisms.

          • RakeShark says:

            Perhaps my definition of it is wrong.

            I tend to see innovation more along the lines of how we control and direct our agency. Not specifically how we control a game with a gamepad/M&K/motion controls/brain waves, but rather how the game allows and reacts gamers to poke/interact at the corners and backdrop as well as the main stage.

            Perhaps I’m wrong, thinking more about it. I can imagine innovation of procedural storytelling, complex world-building, and action feedback.

            I guess what I meant to say was that I see us at the limit of graphical innovation, which we’ve been chasing for the past decade. More powerful cards and rendering engines are going to see diminishing returns from one iteration to the next in terms of graphical fidelity, mostly because visual style has a breadth to choose from while ultra-realism will sink into that uncanny valley within the next decade. Even if we could control these games with our brains, Tessellation and shadow rendering improvements don’t feel like innovation in comparison.

          • gwathdring says:

            That’s fair. I personally don’t believe in the Uncanny Valley, but the rest of the point about graphical innovation is well taken.

        • Cinnamon says:

          surely so much of the article was spent explaining just how Bulletstorm diverged from “contemporary FPS design”?

          I read the article and it specifically said that it doesn’t budge one iota in any meaningful direction away from the pack of modern shooters in terms of design. What it did say was that it was colourful, it had dinosaurs and the dick jokes were surprisingly funny for the writer. I’m still not sure why Bulletstorm is something essential and the best thing since STALKER.

        • Jimbo says:

          I only read the two statements you posted. I’m just pointing out why the second doesn’t necessarily contradict the first. ie. Steel wasn’t ‘not new’ just because it had iron in it.

          They took the ‘XP for everything’ from modern shooters and based the gameplay around it (encouraging you to kill creatively rather than efficiently, at least in theory), then draped it over an old ‘run forward, kill millions of monsters in a ridiculous setting’ framework. You have regen health, but you don’t spend a lot of time slowly walking through airports for instance.

    • RakeShark says:

      I think I partially agree with your feeling on this. It’s not like DNF did anything spectacular by having gameplay elements from 5-10 years back, in fact it hurt it drastically.

      However, the other part of me honestly thinks it’s much harder to look back and bring some old elements of gameplay forward than it is to look at a current product and say “This, except more of it.”

      • StingingVelvet says:

        I think me and Dan Stapleton from PC Gamer are the only people on existence who liked the old-school 2004 feel of Duke Nukem Forever. I was truly excited to be moving boxes and hitting switched in an FPS again… I’m so tired of only shooting, it gets boring.

        • LionsPhil says:

          There was no “old-school feel” in DNF. Please, actually fire up DOSBox and play DN3D. Or, heck, Half-Life 2 if you’re going to call 2004 “old”.

          • Jay says:

            Yeah, it didn’t feel old-school to me, it felt out of touch. Like it was trying to be contemporary but its version of relevant was just too far out of date to work.

    • RegisteredUser says:

      Comparing BS (apt abbreviation I feel) with one of the best modern PC examples of gaming freedom, Stalker, is just mindboggling evidence that someone doesn’t know or understand what the heck they are talking about.

      BS is constricted, pathed, scripted and narrow and clearly a console game; Stalker allowed you to do a lot more of what you liked, when you liked it. It had an actual inventory, bartering, exploration, an open world, and was visibly and tangibly made for the PC etc.
      Ach I don’t even want to go on. Not understanding that you can’t put these two next to each other makes you look so stupid I don’t even want to bother arguing with the guy anymore.
      And to then put BS over Stalker?
      Brain scorched.

      • MSJ says:

        But why does your second paragraph has to do with the quality of both games?

      • Archonsod says:

        Which would have been relevant if he’d actually compared the two directly rather than pointing out both diverged from the traditional shooter blueprint.

      • StingingVelvet says:

        Linear and non-linear are not quality statements, merely descriptors. Both have advantages and disadvantages and while I finished Bulletstorm I have never finished STALKER.

        I agree it’s a weird comparison though.

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        Aerothorn says:

        Normally I don’t make it a point to defend my articles, but in this case I’d say “read it again.” I compared Stalker and Bulletstorm only in the loosest way possible (that they are both, by my count, great games). I certainly did *not* say that Bulletstorm was “greater” than Stalker, or that they shared much in common.

        • RegisteredUser says:

          What launched me was ““Bulletstorm, a brilliant gem of bright colors and wondrous violence that did more to push the first-person shooter forward than any game since 2007’s STALKER”.

          Admittedly, I went overboard with reading it as Bulletstorm being BETTER than Stalker, when really the implication was Stalker > Bulletstorm > anything else since 2007, but that, too, just puts the two next to one another. And that in turn DOES justify me going absolutely nuts for the outlined reasons of one being a quintessential PC game and boon and the other just reheated old console bollocks that got hyped for being over the top and vulgar.
          How it in any way could be a gem I don’t know and can’t see or understand. And I don’t need to read more about it on that point(i.e. the rest of the article) after having experienced the actual game instead.
          It didn’t move anythign forward but stuck unto the player once more all the loathesome features that cheap ports have for many years already.
          Got 100+ keys? 5 buttons on your mouse alone? Even a wheel?
          So what, here’s 2 gun slots and a change weapon key, hyuckhyuck.
          Anytime saves? Why no sir, we do notta hava those. Here, have some checkpoints.
          And so ever-sickeningly on. We know the whole “console-features” drill by now, I’m afraid.

          I still can’t believe you put BS next to Stalker.

          And I actually love gore and violence and don’t make a deity of SOC. But good lord.
          And what perfect irony that the same troupe actually DID make a decent FPS before that console wreck of BS: They made Painkiller.
          Which WAS a PC game. Which DID have secrets, at least in its own sense a smidge of exploration. Non-recharging health. Unlimited arsenal. Oh and you were allowed to jump. The marvels of modern 3D engine technology. Etc pp.
          Again: A PC game.

          If you want to put something next to a PC game, make it a PC game next time. One that doesn’t insult user, platform and interface.

          I can see that the attempt was to say “But it did something different! And didn’t even get rewarded!”.
          My point is: In all the things that might have enabled it in any way, shape or form to even start becoming enjoyable, it did 1:1 what every other annoying cross-platform slop did. And that means there is no reason to be lauded for it.
          And as someone who grew up with Blood 1/2, Doom, DN3D etc, I have experienced games with a twinkle in their eye, inside gags, designer reference and a tangible sensation of “We’re just guys making a fun game here” shining through.

          BS felt like an orchestrated AAA title in an over-organized, must-be-this-flashy-and-cinematic-to-pass way and did not at all come close to the free-spirited, mindless and empowering nature you seem to ascribe to it.
          Quite the opposite; the constant “Got to trickshot him, or you can’t afford new bullets, soz” ‘workload’ got to be a chore, rather than enjoyment. Obvious “Look, there’s stuff you should be kicking them into” placements, and so forth made it clear I was always constantly EXPECTED to do something.

          Unfolding freedom naturally comes from just that: Freedom.

          Not prescripting, obvious(!) pre-placing(obviously something has to exist to be used at all, so its more the presentation) and ensuring you really MUST do this and that in order to even “perform” as wanted.

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            RobF says:

            But they both moved the FPS forward, just in different ways. That’s the point. I don’t see PC/not PC game having the slightest thing to do with anything. But then again, it runs on a PC… so erm, yeah.

            Bulletstorm refined the arcade shooter as FPS, by wrapping it all within a seemingly modern corridor shooter, it acknowledges that things aren’t as they were in 2000 but there’s still room to not be PRESS X TO FOLLOW SOMEONE A LOT within the genre. And it does it so incredibly smartly.

            The arenas are wonderfully designed to allow incredibly expressive play, depending on what weapons you’re hauling along with at the time, how each arena plays out will be entirely different. Maybe you just want to boot and whip, maybe you want to try sniping your way through it… there’s a fuck of a lot of freedom to it. It’s not freedom of movement, it’s freedom of play. Even sniping has multiple outcomes, arse, cock, head… each one requires a slightly different play.

            As a game, it’s a wonderful thing. It’s *so* smart wrapped around something that looks incredibly dumb. And no, it’s not STALKER but STALKER is a shit arcade game, right?

  5. coldvvvave says:

    DayZ sounds very interesting and unique, but I fear I missed the right time to get into it.

    • downgrade says:

      I played it yesterday for the first time and it’s really fun. And quite a bit unpolished. Seeing that it is an alpha, only out for a month or two(?) and steadily evolving, one might almost suggest to wait a bit longer before getting into it. ;)

    • Lilliput King says:

      The heat has died down a little, but in terms of actually playing the damn game that’s a good thing. You can reliably join servers now!

    • celozzip says:

      yeah i finally got around to investigating more into day z, watched a vid and i see it has fast zombies. what a load of crap.

      • Skabooga says:

        Normally, I’d agree with you that fast zombies are an abomination, but their inclusion in DayZ seems well-thought out with their impacts on gameplay and balance. In this case, I prefer having fast zombies to slow ones.

      • DrGonzo says:

        Yes and aliens should only be allowed a maximum of 3 legs because that is correct amount. And marriage should only be between straight couples.

        Why do idiots put rules on imaginary things?

        I loathe this argument. If you are going to be a moron about it i will point out that they should actually be alive, not dead, and able to run as they are actually hypnotised people not the undead “originally”

        Also how are shambling zombies scary in anyway what so ever and not just hilarious? I cant think of a situation where they could be a threat that isnt convoluted and silly. A brisk walk and youre sorted.

        • Lenderz says:

          I like the way you suggest homosexuals don’t really exist. Although that might not have been your intention.

  6. Premium User Badge

    Lars Westergren says:

    “This thing is crap. I’m going to do exactly the same thing anyway, but I’m going to be all smugly ironic about it!”

    If you have the intelligence to realize something is crap, why not try to do something sincerely good? Do you lack the talent or the courage?

  7. Jamesworkshop says:

    I don’t know that realistic applies to Halo.

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      Aerothorn says:

      There’s REAListic and then there’s realISTIC; Halo is the latter. It doesn’t actually resemble reality, but it tries to ground itself in this nitty-gritty sci-fi seriousness. Plus, the two-weapon limit was, for better or worse, one of the few “realistic” design decisions to become ubiquitous in current shooters.

      • DrGonzo says:

        Haha! Its not even remotely serious, one of the main enemies runs about going all woojabooja im a little gremlin man. It is full of little in jokes. I would say its much, much funnier than BS. But then so is gravel.

      • Spectre-7 says:

        I tend to separate those two concepts out as realistic and believable, respectively. I don’t care much for realism, but I put a lot of weight into believability.

  8. Mollusc Infestation says:

    Anachronox. Oh, Anachronox. Who do we have to onmi-slash to get Square-Enix to give up that license?

    • Jay says:

      I love that game so much. Sure, the RPG stuff might as well have not even been there given how slight it was, but the characters, the writing, fantastic. All those cute touches like integrating the cursor and save system into the game world as actual entities, that’s the mark of people who really care about what they’re doing. Tremendous game.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I remember getting a bit tired of the combat and just wishing it was an old point-and-clicker. Must give it another shot, I guess, but I’ve probably forgotten all the plot so far.

      • Mollusc Infestation says:

        Pretty much everything relating to Democratus makes that game amazing. And the “cameo” by Bootsy Collins (working the bar in the red light district of Sender Station). The fighting was just about passable in my opinion and certainly the weakest aspect.

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      Aerothorn says:

      The funny thing is that I originally planned to write an Anachronox retrospective before I decided to do the Bulletstorm article.

  9. fiddlesticks says:

    That’s a really nice picture. Thanks.

  10. LionsPhil says:

    That SpaceChem retrospective is pretty great.

    • Premium User Badge

      Lambchops says:

      SPACECHEM!

      As it came up in the postmortem one of the things I praised SpaceChem for aside from the excellent puzzles was the use of histograms and multiple scoring outcomes where a player could be happy just by being “better than average” in a single area. I’m frankly amazed that this type of approach hasn’t been copied more by supposedly “savvy” social media type games who still seem to be focused on either insurmountable exclusive leaderboards or the tedious grind of achievement points.

      • subedii says:

        I’d say the answer to your question is reflected in the one or two comments I saw posted after the article, talking about how Spacechem is completely unintuitive, “strange and arcane”, makes a comparison to “Plants vs. Zombies” as the good example it should have followed (which I’ll be honest, cheesed me off a fair amount, which is probably why most of my comment here is about that comparison). It’s a viewpoint that would naturally lead on to the binary system of “achievements” that we currently have.

        The thing is, it’s a viewpoint that completely misses the point of Spacechem. Spacechem isn’t unintuitive, its rules are actually very explicit and very easy to learn (circle moves on line. Whatever you tell it to do on that line, it does). The problem is that it uses what’s actually a very simple ruleset (I’d say much more simple than PvZ) that gives the player the leeway to craft extremely complex and creative solutions, which the game then tasks you with.

        You have the freedom to craft brute force solutions to everything, or refine until you’ve got a small selection of extremely elegant machinery at work. What PvZ does is has simple rules, but it has TONNES of them, one for each zombie type and each plant, dictating how and when they are used and circumvented. It’s not a question of thinking how to implement, its a question of memorisation, of both those rules and how the levels are laid out. That doesn’t make it a puzzle game to me, I’m not thinking during any of it, there’s no real anticipation and planning, not nearly as much scope for the player’s own creativity. What I execute during those games feels largely rote, once you “know the rules” you simply implement them. Spacechem is about using its toolset to craft your own solutions.

        As such, Spacechem is a game that allows victory by any number of solutions and to any number of degrees, and they’re all valid. It’s not a question of a binary win or lose, and it’s not a question of memorisation of scenario patterns, it instead becomes a question of actually thinking things through (all the factors of a given mission are laid out to you right at the start) in order to make something that not only works, but works well. And “well” is a criteria that’s basically up to the player. You can make something that takes a ridiculously long time to succeed, but has the most simple instruction set. Or you can do the converse and shave time off your outcome, but by making something incredibly complex with dozens of additional instructions. Or something in-between. And when you see where it lies on the bell curve, you’re either happy with it or you feel like a complete muffin, but when you succeed to your satisfaction (whatever that may be) you feel its because you actually thought things through.

        It’s a game that allows any number of win scenarios, but I’m going to be blunt, the PvZ example is probably exactly why we rarely see it. People view actual depth and thinking as being “arcane” and unintuitive, whereas following the simple rules of PvZ gives you the satisfaction of “winning” in a binary sense, but no real criteria to judge by except by arbitrary points and achievements.

        I realise that makes me sound like some elitist (hipster or whatever) jerk, but when I see a comparison like that, that’s the only real way I can interpret it: The game and its rules aren’t in themselves obtuse and obscure (its learning curve however may be up for discussion), you’re just conflating depth and having to think about how to use those rules as poor design. If there’s poor design in Spacechem, its in other areas, but not that one.

        Especially when it comes to 99% of social media and Facebook games, they aren’t designed to require the player to think, they’re designed to make the player push a button to make something cool happen on the screen. And depending on the model, pay money to have it happen again. Putting that behind barriers of either skill or taking the time to think is counter to that objective. So constant arbitrary achievements is the way to go to reinforce the behaviours you want.

        • MD says:

          Well said.

        • LionsPhil says:

          By the later levels, brute force starts being problematic due to resource (space, and only having two waldoes) constraints. It felt more and more like trying to achieve something in ASM without anywhere near enough registers to me.

          PvZ is a pretty terrible puzzle game purely for the having to click on sunshine to actually collect it mechanic. That’s not a puzzle; that’s just Starcraft.

          • subedii says:

            Well there is that admittedly, but to be fair, you do need to go quite a way through the game before that becomes a real constraint. By that stage I suspect either you know the game’s for you and you’ve been thinking through your solutions, or you stopped playing a long time ago.

            Agree somewhat with the Starcraft – PvZ comparison. Although I will say that in SC2 it at least has a design purpose behind it, even if I disagree with it (basically as a means of raising the skill ceiling for high level players. Because SC2 was primarily designed as an e-sports title. Again, I disagree with it, but I can sort of see why they went that direction).

            In PvZ the only reason that is implemented is because it’s one of the only few real interactions you have with the game. It’s not about making the player “skillful” (not an action game so it’s not about how good the player gets with its mechanics), and it’s not really about making the player think (at least not beyond the rudimentary rote learning things), so the game still needs something more for the player to do in order to make them feel as if they’re actually playing it as opposed to watching it play itself.

            So they put in the arbitrary “sunshine” mechanic, so that the game has at least enough of a level of interaction to make the player feel as if they’re playing it.

            Again, I’m going to sound like a jerk for saying this, but this is pretty much why I never liked Peggle either. Everyone gushes about it so much (even RPS back when Peggle was the in-thing), but in real terms you don’t interact with it. The game just shouts loads of sounds and flashy lights at you. Your sole contribution to this is pressing a button to watch the ball rebound around in ways you can’t realistically predict after the first one or two bounces. I just don’t have fun with that, there’s no real “game” there to be had, at least not by me I guess.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Oh, I think through my solutions and still run out of state. One of these days I’ll get past a puzzle where I think I had to split hydrogen atoms out in a certain ratio to outputs to avoid the whole thing deadlocking further on down the chain…

            But I’ll probably never bother to buy PvZ after running out of time on the demo, despite it being on sale for pennies a few times.

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          jrodman says:

          The postmortem itself identifies areas where they really fell down on introducing players to the concepts, so I’d say the accusations stated are pretty much correct, but badly presented.

        • MondSemmel says:

          I love SpaceChem (finished the game). But I also like PvZ quite a lot – I finished that, too; and both my little brothers (at the time 13 and 10 years old) did the same. I valued that experience a lot, and it showed me that accessible games without incredibly deep gameplay have real value, too.

          That being said, those games are so fundamentally different that I’m flabbergasted why anyone would compare them in the first place. SpaceChem is a (special type of) puzzle game. PvZ is a _tower defense_ game. PvZ is closer to a RTS than to SpaceChem (and I encountered TD games first in StarCraft and WarCraft III – but I don’t know whether they were invented in them by map makers). These games have essentially nothing in common (well, they are both great, I guess…). PvZ has a few puzzle mini games, but they are hardly the core of the experience.

          That said, in terms of puzzles in PvZ, I really really loved the puzzle mini game where one played the zombies vs. the plants – those puzzles were randomized, quite tactical, and a great idea overall. And felt much closer to the SpaceChem experience of designing one’s own solution than anything else in the game.

      • Hematite says:

        I think the mechanic of getting ratings in multiple areas is something that really needs to be adopted by more PvP games. It would be a great fit for RTS games, for instance. Instead of the zero-sum win/lose nature of PvP you could have major or minor victories or defeats across different measurements – still summing to a win or a loss, but recognising that you had better economy even though you got trounced on micro or something.

        One of the biggest things that stops me from playing competitive online games is the prevailing attitude that you can win or you can fuck off – anything which reduces that perceived waste of time from a lost match would make me more likely to play.

        • Xocrates says:

          Hum… most RTS already have overviews of your performance on various areas, in fact they have done so as far as I remember.

          This does not , and cannot, change the fact that any PvP situation will eventually be reduced to a win/lose scenario. But measure how well you performed, you certainly can.

          Spacechem isn’t PvP, all the metrics do is tell you how well you performed.

          • Hematite says:

            Sure, you’re right of course that a statistics screen after a match is pretty standard. I guess I’m just looking for more recognition of that in the ‘official’ results

          • subedii says:

            The only thing I could think of in that respect would be highly subjective stuff that’d have to be decided by people. Things like “Best play” or “best use of an oddball tactic”. Things that aren’t necessarily tied directly with being the victor.

          • Hematite says:

            Yeah, that would be cool. I’m just thinking out loud really. It would be pretty easy to measure something like territory domination which you could win on but still lose your base, but it’s not as interesting as that stuff you said.

            Another option would be to let players select handicaps in return for better rewards (if there’s a metagame where you get XP from battles or something) – encourage good players to restrict themselves to the point where they think they’ll just win versus a noob so that everyone has more fun.

            Edit: aha! or rig the battle rewards so that a near loss with handicaps gives better rewards than a clear win without. Make people choose between facerolling or progression.

            Anyone know of games that use a system like this? I keep far enough away from multiplayer that they could exist and I’d never know.

          • Xocrates says:

            Many of those kind of metrics do exists, the problem is one of perception more than one of implementation.

            Games like starcraft already give you a “global” score that’s based on several different metrics – from economy to units killed/lost -, and games like DoW2 score how many points you captured. Quite often, how many points you get for a win/loss in games with progression depends on both the margin you won with and your opponent skill.

            I get what you’re trying to say, but I’m unsure if you’re aware of what you’re actually suggesting. If a match is wildly unbalanced in terms of player skill then it means there’s either a problem with the matchmaking or you’re playing a custom game. It makes no sense to attribute handicaps to one side unless you’re playing a custom match, in which case it makes little sense to give a ranked score.

            In short, you want a competitive game that isn’t competitive.

            It’s the same reason truly asymmetrical multiplayer games are so rare (even L4D vs mode requires you to play both sides to even things out). As fun as these kind of things can be in short bursts, players will not hang around a game they feel is unbalanced or unfair.

            It’s easy to suggest that a good player takes handicaps to face a lesser player, but that means not only a hard to impossible to balance system, but a gamble by both players if they’re playing random people. This is not a good idea neither from a development perspective or from a longterm enjoyment perspective.

            That said, several games do support this kind of play (Sc2 custom maps being a good example), but designing a full game around it sounds amazingly silly.

        • iucounu says:

          Hmm. I don’t play RTSes, really, so stop me if this is bullshit, but do they not look at the click-per-minute rates of Starcraft players? Which might be more interesting if, Spacechem-style, there were some reward for the fewest clicks. Who can win an RTS game with the fewest interactions… or something. Has that been done? Would it suck?

          • Bhazor says:

            RTS players are frickin obsessed with APM (actions per minute i.e clicks per minute) to the point that I’ve heard people directly correlate needless busy work as strategy.

            The most rediculous example probably being how pro players pointlessly click on the same patch of ground dozens of times when moving a unit. Theres absolutely no reason for it, but they all do it anyway. Another example is that in Starcraft 2 there is a unit that produces swarms of little robots that cause damage. Which is great and it’s probably one of the coolest units in the game. Except that the AI of other units targets and will only ever target the little robots rather than the giant ship that makes them. So you have to select your units and tell them to target the carrier instead.

            Then go ahead and guess what happens when you tell those units to move. Yep. They go back to targeting the tiny robots. And players defend this.

          • thestage says:

            Quit willfully being an idiot, Bhazor. If the best Starcraft players in the world do or care about something, it’s probably because it helps them be the best Starcraft players in the world. One would imagine they know a little bit more about that than you do.

            And no one with any skill is “obsessed” with APM. Higher APM is one of many things that help you play better. Crazy how that works. Players spam APM as a warm up so that when they actually need that APM later in the game they’re used to it. You can call that “no reason” or “bullshit” all you want, but I think I’ll listen to the people that actually play the game over you. What carriers have to do with any of this is beyond me.

  11. LionsPhil says:

    Also, JC2 multiplayer? Tell me you can make grapple-chains.

    • Mr. Mister says:

      You can, already do that yourself with the BOLO Patch, a very popular trainer. Just select “multiple grapples”.
      I once saw a youtube video of a dude trapping abchopper in a grapple net.. Aweome.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I want to try to get a team of chopper pilots to airlift a tank.

        I bet it would be hilarious.

        • Mr. Mister says:

          That’d be interesting to watch. You could add anoter player stunt-standing on top of it, and a competition where the one standing the most time wins.

          And don’t forget about standing ona jet driven by your comrade.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Considering I’m on my third play through of JC2, all I have to say is: DO WANT

      • Jhoosier says:

        I had no idea this existed. If they get it working properly, I’m buying it for everyone I know who has a capable pc, and guilt-tripping them into playing.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I wonder how it copes if everyone isn’t in the same area. The engine must surely do streaming/simulation only in a given range of a single player it expects (although it’s the most seamless implementation of it I’ve seen).

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’d like it if the game had the qte pop up for both players when one tried to take over a vehicle, and the first one to press the button would get the favorable action.

      • LionsPhil says:

        …you could just optimize that away down to “first person to press USE”, which is sort of the standard thing, and much less ruinous to flow.

        • Bork Titflopsen says:

          Then they shouldn’t have put QTE’s for vehicle takeovers in the first place (which I think is rather silly anyway) but I would like to see a similar system get implemented in a game, where you can fight over the control of a vehicle. Like Dragons Dogma, but with vehicles.

          A man in a car isn’t just going to step out and let you drive off in it in a real firefight either.

          • LionsPhil says:

            The QTE sequence is not the same thing since you are not both parties competing to get into the vehicle at the same time; one is already in control and is being hijacked (and even then, note that they restricted it to only be an occasional thing for when taking over military police vehicles). A “fastest wins” QTE for “get in” is the same as just pressing use first, except now you’ve special-cased it to require more buttons.

          • InternetBatman says:

            The QTE’s weren’t the most ideal system, but I liked them. I think it added to the action movie feel of the game. I also like the idea of taking control of steering away from the driver of the vehicle while he’s locked in the fight to stay in. You could have some cool movie situations where an aggressor could use the QTE to engineer a crash.

            Maybe instead of a qte have a simplified fight sequence. I don’t think either party has a firm advantage. The aggressor has greater freedom of movement, but a far more tenuous position. The defender has a firm position, but looses a hand and some attention to steering.

          • LionsPhil says:

            You could have some cool movie situations where an aggressor could use the QTE to engineer a crash.

            I’ve actually had that happen to me in JC2: while fighting for control of a boat, the (awful) AI pilot rammed into the shore and killed us both in an explosion.

            It was awesome.

            I do think they’re used well in JC2, but unless you’re going from helicopter to helicopter because it’s quicker than dogfighting, they’re also relatively rare, and like I said, for already comfortably occupied vehicles.

            (Besides, the best use of multiple Ricos is clearly to team up roof-surfing. Just a bit of a shame that you can’t also have someone paragliding, since grappling a vehicle closes the chute and vica-versa.)

          • gwathdring says:

            Yeah, I don’t mind it. Same with the oil-pipline overload panels. What makes it work is that these situations need to be pressing. It takes a moment for you to struggle over the controls–there’s plenty of leeway, but if you do something really stupid or there’s a lot of fire coming your way …

            It works precisely because it does little but eat up time and require minimal interaction. I’m pretty sure I prefer it to instant hijackings, a mini game or an extended cutscene/animation with no input. I don’t like QTEs for very many things, but they have their place and I feel this is a great example.

  12. dub says:

    Bulletstorm was great fun, for eight hours. Shame the my experience was tainted by the $60 price tag. Now its greyed out title sits in my Steam List as an important reminder.

  13. Muzman says:

    …Hunted needs to go all Day Z, although you fellas probably don’t have the network tech/resources to set it up in the first instance.

    I hope you start the game naked and alone to the sound of distant horns. If the robots somehow had dogs too that’d be cool.

  14. Shortwave says:

    Why yes, that Just Cause 2 MP does look really freakin’ awesome.
    Had no idea it existed, colour me excited. : )

    • abandonhope says:

      No kidding. When I first looked at mods, I was disappointed to see nothing really substantial (except the essential BOLOPatch). JC2 practically cries for multiplayer.

  15. Joe Martin says:

    Thanks for the podcast link!

  16. phenom_x8 says:

    I’m quite in love with what Ben Kuchera have done at E3 here :

    http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/this-was-my-e3-and-it-was-pretty-great

    Before that, he made some great overview (and commitment ) about how he will cover E3 2012 :

    http://penny-arcade.com/report/editorial-article/this-is-how-the-penny-arcade-report-will-cover-e3

    Their overall coverage of E3 are quite good though, rather than whining about E3 (like the rest of us), he actually do something about it. RPS, take a note!!

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Everything is amazing.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      “Their overall coverage of E3 are quite good though, rather than whining about E3 (like the rest of us), he actually do something about it. RPS, take a note!!”

      So, when you say you want RPS to be like Penny Arcade Report, are you saying you want RPS to update once or (if you’re lucky) maybe twice a day?

      I want to make sure I understand what you’re asking for.

      • phenom_x8 says:

        No, I love RPS just like what it is today, and I don’t want you to do those twice a day (I recognize that Ben K. are very active writer since he was at ars Technica) But, what PAR done in E3 can be used as an example to take a different route when covering something big and overhyped event like E3. You know, away from the glorious press event that, like John said, not represent the gaming we knew.
        Take a look more down to the floor and have a nice conversation with their creator while playing the game (my bad if Nathan already done that) to get much more positive view towards E3. The real E3, according to PAR reports, are happened just there, on the show floor and not the press event we critizise all this time. By reading RPS(or other media) articles, I thought there was nothing positive at E3 2012 (especially on PC gaming) but, by reading PAR, we knew that they actually show some of the best PC game exclusive like hawken (on the floor, not on the stage together with its massive exclusive controller and their enthusiastic developer). Maybe what just I asked for is a different point of view from you,guys. More positive maybe.(and if i remember, Nathan also have already wrote about it.. argghh.. I’m confused)
        Just my 2 cent .

  17. RegisteredUser says:

    Bollocks @ Bulletstorm.

    It was just like all the other overscripted COD FPS games. You couldn’t even jump, there was no roaming or freedom and just like them you only had 2 – in this case even quite ammo crippled / limited – guns you were allowed to carry.
    It also made you constantly “buy” stuff, which was another annoyance.
    It was also blatantly clear that it was a console game rather than a PC game.
    The configuration files were encrypted.
    Etc.

    In short, the game was being a dick AND was repetitive in content. That’s why it wasn’t a superb game in my eyes. Not sure about what other people see as its failing, but thats what upset me.

    • Archonsod says:

      Those arise from the design though, you could apply them to any of the CoD like shooters, so it’s natural a parody is going to contain them to some degree.

      Although I think the problem is the length. It’s funny for the first three hours or so, but after that it falls prey to the same problems of the genre it parodies.

  18. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    Hello my name is Zach Barth and I don’t know how buying apps works

  19. RegisteredUser says:

    That Dishonored tumblr and various other concept art sketches I’ve seen from various games makes me start to think we need games made out of concept art instead of the stuff that comes after it.

    • Kollega says:

      Borderlands was kind of striving for that, and now Borderlands 2 is also striving for the same goal. Whether it has succeeded is a somewhat subjective matter (if you ask me, the first part didn’t, but the second might).

    • Bork Titflopsen says:

      The thing about concept art is that it is exactly what it says it is. Conseptual visual representations of style, feel and place that can be used as a guide to create your game along.

      It’s purpose is not to be art for the game, but art that the games art can be based on.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s because things are always best when they’re still just ideas in your head. Before they actually, you know, have be be made.

      Also why marketing for games always starts with releasing very little information.

  20. Inigo says:

    there’s a smile and quickness behind the eyes

    It’s called a “nervous breakdown”.

  21. d34thm0nk3y says:

    The drone reminds me of the one in Half-Life 2 that takes photos of you

  22. KenTWOu says:

    By the way The Man In The Iron Mask is incredible preview of Dishonored stealth by Sneaky Bastards.

  23. Kaira- says:

    I liked Metro2033’s morality system since it reminded me of the way SH2 decided about the ending – not by “hello, what do you choose”, but rather “what did you actually do”. More games should have something like that, instead of more explicit decisions. Obviously, when you know how the system works it can be easily made so you get what ending you want, but trying to decipher the things that affect the outcome can be quite subtle, like in SH2, the amount of time you spend with a certain person, examining certain items and so forth.

  24. Hoaxfish says:

    Following through the DayZ links, I ended up at one of the related videos… where in the guy’s initial intent of basically shooting and looting other survivors, is prevented simply by the fact that the other guy is talking to him: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHRdBjL7rD0

  25. Snakejuice says:

    I was going to check the Dishonored tumblr but was stopped in the dor by an age check, as I see them as pointless I always just choose the easiest (topmost) option which today was jan 1 2010, and now I’m apperantly too young to view the page and I don’t get the question any more!

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I just randomly check in as “1st jan YYYY” where the year is however far I feel like scrolling down to… usually I end up around 80 to 100 years old.

  26. Greggh says:

    I was going to comment that I didn’t like the changes you guys did to the comments section after it went awry in that post which had 1000~ comments.

    Then I realized I was in PCG’s site.

    Jim, you’re really into Day Z, huh? What do you say someone (me) who doesn’t have friends with ANY skill in PC Gaming; will I be able to have fun teaming up with strangers, because the most fun I see is people playing with their friends, people who’ll be able to talk the other day about the blast they had killing that sniper or fixing that heli, etc…
    I really think this is my kind of game, I just don’t have anyone to play with.

    Also, lagging gets in my nerves (and seems to be something pretty normal in Day Z), and since I’m in Brazil, I’m probably going to have a hard time with my 300ms ping from a US server :(

  27. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    I’ll be honest: one of my life goals was to make it into the Sunday papers. Time to check that off the list!

    SERIOUSLY I LOVE YOU GUYS <3

    -Dylan

    • nrvsNRG says:

      Loved reading your article, I savoured every minute of Bulletstorm, so i totally support and agree with you about what a great shooter it is!

  28. gwathdring says:

    The second picture in the Anachronox article looks like that catwalk in Human Revolution, right next to Alice Garden Pods and the outdoor storage units. In general, if you replace green and grey with yellow and black, it has a certain resemblance. I wonder if the DX:HR team were explicitly inspired by the game or if its a coincidence.

    • Premium User Badge

      Aerothorn says:

      Given its status as the “other” Ion Storm game, I wouldn’t be surprised.

      That said, they’re both borrowing a lot from Blade Runner and real-life Tokyo.

      • gwathdring says:

        Fair enough. My money is on coincidence, but that frame is just uncanny in a lot of ways. I spent a lot of time in that spot, in HR.

    • Lilliput King says:

      The pods are from Neuromancer I think.

      • gwathdring says:

        I was referring to a particular view from the “street” outside. There’s a balcony/catwalk above this pit like area (where at one point you have a sidequest involving taking out some folks in suits to get a chip back for a corporate contact). It’s outside the Alice Garden Pods building.

        Also I was going for the look, not the concept. Sorry for the confusion.

  29. TrueBlueGamer says:

    “How the greatest shooter in years failed to find an audience”

    Let me think, first lets talk about the dumb story which the game had, many games have one of these, problem is not that many take it as seriously as this game, reaching for that macho space marine bravado drama that I hate so much, instead of having fun with the story by making it as light hearted as possible.

    Secondly the scripted level design, putting you on rails all the time, using that “corridor mentality” so that the poor player doesn’t goes off the given path, putting you on section after section instead of making those seamless, first you are put on a minigun section which many praise due to the “awesome graphic quality”, then you are put on a survival last stand scene, and then finally you are let to explore the scenery, problem is the level design is so scripted that you are basically walking on a bunch of close tight corridors before something happens, not fun in the slightest.

    And third the XP system, oh the XP system, first of all let me give you an example, do you guys know a game called NecroVision, well you should, besides being one of the most interesting shooter in a long time, it was also made by a bunch of guys that departed from “People Can Fly”, the same team that made BulletStorm, now NV uses a XP system but one that complements the gameplay, depending how much enemies you kill in the shortest span possible, you are then granted Rage which triggers supernatural elemental passives that help you stay alive longer, especially on the later levels, BuletStorm XP system on the other hand is made with that completionist mentality, forcing the player to make certain actions to unlock money to buy new weapons and upgrades, which are necessary to survive and to have half the fun you otherwise would with the game, but it’s sot a system that complements the gameplay, by contrary it stands between the game and the player, forcing the gamer to somewhat “grind” the challenges to become better, not by skill but by weaponry.

    So excuse me if I laugh when I see statements like those defending the shoehorned blockbusters in the market, when a game like NecroVision only had probably the third of production revenue his game had and it’s still better than it in any ways possible.

  30. Berzee says:

    The Day Z article is amazing and makes me reallly wish that Day Z had something better than zombies in it (like orcs even) because the parts without zombies (the people-vs-people) is hysterical.

    There are lots of long videos on that article and I dunno if I will watch them all — but you MUST watch #5 — Psychological Warfare — if you want to LOL literally out loud. It’s just such a brilliant use of a single syllable in repetition. So good. (I’m halfway through it now).

    I haven’t laughed that hard since…well, hm, since I made my wife’s family try QWOP a few hours ago. =P

  31. Premium User Badge

    tomeoftom says:

    The Beefjack article was hilarious. Goes on about the lack of strong female leads then at the end 2 of the 4 links have pictures of virtual tits in them. One is entitled “Hottest Videogame Girls”.

    • Lewis Denby says:

      The links you’re referring to aren’t our content – that’s essentially an ad slot pointing to other games sites. I’m not especially happy about that particular article being there, and am seeing what we can do about snipping it.

    • jeremypeel says:

      What Denby said. Not particularly reflective of our implicit stance on virtual tits, that.

  32. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    Simon Parkin’s serie of portraits over the last few weeks/months is outstanding in all sorts of ways.
    (Does somebody know if they are going to be part of his book that should be published this year?)

    Edit: Amazon says it slipped to early 2013. Looks like Parkin’s has adopted a few things from the industry he’s writing about…

  33. JerreyRough says:

    That flying sphere? Bah! Not as cool as the Satomobile!

    (Reference to Legend of Korra)