The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on July 29th, 2012 at 12:50 pm.


Sundays. Sundays are for making quips about pig-racing. Sundays are for watching the rain dry up. Sundays are for pondering the future, and the past, and the flavour of videogames.

  • Quite a few people forwarded me this article about the end of 38 Studios this morning. If you are interested in what went wrong, then this is one of those classic tales of misfortune mixing with poor-judgment: “Schilling knew he’d been treated well during his baseball career, and wanted his staff at 38 Studios to feel the same. That meant gold-plated healthcare, for which employees had no paycheck deductions, and top-notch 401(k)s, with the company matching to the legal limit. As 38 Studios grew from 20 employees in 2006 to 42 in 2007 to 65 in 2008, there were plenty of other goodies along the way: free gym memberships, two homes the company rented to temporarily house new out-of-state hires (though that perk was short-lived), and, one year at Christmas, new laptop computers for every employee. Gifts like the computers came out of Schilling’s pocket — he says he spent as much as $2.5 million on that sort of largesse over the years.” It’s all very sad.
  • Why Viktor “City 17″ Antonov left Valve: “Valve is a great place, but I’m interested in projects, not in companies. I went to Valve specifically for Half-Life 2. I went and I collaborated with Arkane to do The Crossing and Dishonored. I put the project above everything else… Valve has grown into a much bigger company… and what I really enjoy about the philosophy of Arkane is that it’s a small, core team that does risky creative projects. And when I went to Valve, they were a small company. They’ve grown now, they’re much bigger, and I’m interested in a certain level of creative risk taking and a certain energy that can be compared to jazz, jamming or rock n’ roll, where it’s small, it’s intense and it’s about making revolutions in the media.”
  • One of the weeks most important articles seems to me to not be a good or interesting piece of writing at all, but instead a job ad for Irrational, in which the developer was required to have worked on a game with an 85%+ Metacritic score. There was an outcry over it – well documented here – and then it was removed entirely. Even though the company realised their mistake, it leaves a lingering thought out there over the idea that people are taking Metacritic seriously as a measure of the worth of a developer’s work. Some developers I spoke to privately even defended the idea, saying that at least it was a score, and not the number of sales. Still, I remain convinced of the general worthlessness of scores as a way of evaluating games, and this seems like a critical juncture for that. (As for the people who saying “scores are a good, quick shorthand for consumers to judge a purchase, I say that if they are going to spend the time it takes to read a number to evaluate spending $40, then they deserve to be dissatisfied with their purchase.)
  • The New Yorker on Christopher Nolan: “Nolan, though more critically praised than many directors and more commercially successful than most (“The Dark Knight” is the twelfth-highest grossing film of all time, and its sequel promises to crack the top ten), has been dismissed by many cineastes as slick and quasi-intellectual. I think this is because they misunderstand what his films are doing. Nolan’s entertainments, the best ones, anyway, are games. I don’t mean that they resemble puzzles or tricks (though they do that, too), I mean that they are most satisfying when understood as games, not as novelistic narratives. They are contests with rules and phases, gambits and defenses, many losers and the occasional victor, usually a Pyrrhus type.”
  • On Knightmare: “I am nine years old and I am running, the frost cutting into my thin pallid cheeks, the winter wind searing my ears raw, the sneering Scottish sun throwing its Vs at me from the red horizon. As my uncomfortable school shoes pinch, I imagine I am in the opening credits: I spring down the steps of my chosen shortcut, my books a shield on my arm, my schoolbag the knapsack of yore; the hood obscuring my view is that sacred helm. Knightmare is on in ten minutes, and there is no way on earth I am missing the opening gambit.”
  • Keith Stuart is very old: “I am aware, when I go on press trips now, that I am old enough to be the father of some of the other journalists I am with. I mean, that can’t be right. Increasingly often I reference games they never played, or that exist for them as dim childhood memories. I am ancient enough to remember playing games in black and white, on old Grandstand consoles; I played Pac-Man in a Blackpool arcade when it first arrived in Britain; I even remember when Sega was a serious force in the industry. That stuff makes me feel like Rutger Hauer as the majestic yet dying replicant in Bladerunner – I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. And I have, and they are part of me.”
  • Videogame Tourism looks at the beautiful work of screenshot bloggers.
  • Speaking of old people, does anyone remember Spy Vs Spy? “Black chops White in half at a tollbooth, White gives Black a hat filled with acid and his face melts off. Forget the cold war context, I had brothers and sisters. That was enough to ensure I understood the rules of this cruel new world. I would have killed for a real-life Trapulator.”
  • This is a really interesting thought on magic in games. (Magicka anyone?)
  • Lady Armour.
  • If only we could talk to the authors of Edge reviews. Now that would be something. Ten controversial Edge reviews.
  • Music this week is more Son House. Did I link this before? Probably. Amazing.

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140 Comments »

  1. CameO73 says:

    My Knightmare childhood memories: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-d3v-9fopC4

  2. Vorphalack says:

    ”Many games miss the opportunity to reinforce the strangeness of the magic in their lore by using tired and bland mechanics, but a little extra effort can allow magic to remain mysterious, dangerous, and interesting.”

    Couldn’t agree more. It doesn’t take much to elevate a magic system from mundane hot key pushing to something with depth or variance. Wild Mages from BG2 sprang to mind when I read this article. Although the random magic effects are purely dice based, the possibility of a double effect, suicidal fail, or humorous squirrel invasion made you think about what you were casting, and appreciate when a spell just worked.

    Magika and Legends of Grimrock work on a more active level, forcing you to input your spells in real time. This creates some tension by giving the player the opportunity to fail or cast something unexpected, while still retaining rules for what each set of magic does. I think there are limits as to how random you can make a magic system before it stops being fun, but it would be nice to see more games using either a more dynamic input system or a controlled amount of randomness.

    • marcusfell says:

      Magicka easily had the best magic system I know of, simply because it made everything depend on the player. If you were surrounded by goblins, and you know exactly what what you need to do, you still have to cast it yourself. The amount of stress you can come under was really quite insane, especially with four people, and your spells are going all over the place and interacting even after you cast them.

      Then you get things like the immunity system and the game goes from good to great.

      If I had to find flaws, i’d say that the level of feedback is not always helpful enough; too many times I would be trying to cast lightning while wet and would actually be electrocuting myself…

      • LionsPhil says:

        Particular bastard points for making lightning a component of the resurrection spell.

        (Yes, I’ve been the last one alive, trying to bring the team back, only to cook myself like a dunce.)

      • InternetBatman says:

        Arx Fatalis and Grimrock (as mentioned) had a somewhat similar magic system, where runes are letters and spells are words. I think Magicka does it a bit better though.

    • Dinger says:

      In all fairness, that’s true not only of Magic, but of every other combat skill. Enemies pop up via triggers or other tricks, so you don’t engage over range, you can’t retreat, and they can’t escape. One button to hack. Maybe some special moves. Stamina or Mana, or what have you, everyone gets some. They all affect hit points.

      It’s all an abstraction, and one that is numerically based. That’s Gary Gygax’s legacy, and it adapts great to computers. Make some really awesome-looking bad guys, but never feature engagements with more than a handful of baddies — just give them more hit points, and they’re tougher.

      Put it into a combat game, and Magic has huge problems. Most of the really dangerous/scary magic you can think up wouldn’t work in an applied setting and it would require unpredictable interactions with the world.

      That said, Magicka is awesome, and one hopes someone develops that mechanic further in some sort of squad-based system.

    • Koozer says:

      May I throw in some appreciation for Lost Magic on the DS: it had a wonderful system that involved drawing runes on the touchscreen to cast various spells. There were four runes under each branch of magic; fire, water, air, earth, dark and light. The clever part was that any rune could be combined with any other rune to create a different effect, and you would have no idea what any combination did until you tried. The number of different combinations was mind-boggling and varied, from bog-standard exploding fireballs to icy rain to mists of death to walls of fire to huge speed boosts. It added to the cleverness by making the power of the spell related to how accurately you drew the runes too, so naturally became more powerful, and faster at casting, with practice. God I love that game.

    • aliksy says:

      Agree so hard. Too many games make magic boring, boring, BORING. Often it’s not particularly distinguishable from archery save for the visual effects. If your archery and mage types play basically the same, you have failed as a game designer.

    • hexapodium says:

      It’s prose fiction rather than videogames, but I rather like Sam Hughes’ take on a structural and predictable magic – warning, lots of individual and loosely related chapters, but worth it to read around. More recent stuff is more narrative, but it’s also not being written chronologically, which is exactly as hard to follow as that sounds. I’m surprised full-on magical “composition” hasn’t been done in games (Magicka comes close) before, given that it’s a programmer-engineer-pure mathematician’s take on magic and those guys tend to crop up in gamemaking circles a bit.

      Now, of course, I want to see Introversion do a game about magic. That would be fascinating.

    • The Snee says:

      With regards to unpredictable and mysterious magic systems, I’d strongly recommend Thaumcraft, a mod for Minecraft. As opposed to gaining spells and slinging fireballs, it sees you as a thaumaturge, tinkering in your workshop to research more powerful and arcane artifacts, constructing devices and tools to increase your power, and harvest the inherent magical energy of the world.

      At first, you take small steps, filled with glee as you smelt your first few items into raw magical energy, and infuse it to create a wand of fire. You march into the night, igniting all who oppose you with the inferno-on-demand you wield. Your inferno, crafted by your efforts and exploits. You feel invincible. Then a creeper blows you up. You aren’t invincible, not yet. You need more power.

      You dig deeper, search harder, ripping crystals of elemental energy from the earth to power your creations, tearing down ancient magical trees that have stood for eons to fuel your industries. You master the arcane seals of power, letting your realm manage and defend itself, you delve into forbidden necromancy, and let the preserved brains of the dead process your quest for more knowledge. You venture into the eldrich monoliths of the ancient ones, and return with secrets that twist your mind. You are unstoppable.

      Then, as you travel kilometers with a stride, an undead army at your command, it happens. The tank bursts, the purple filth spreading, corrupting all it touches. Your animals mutate and grow hostile, strange plants pump foul substances into the air, and you feel sick just standing on the tainted ground. What have you done? Your quest for power, your hubris has all lead to this: Your machines of magic have polluted the world, torn the aura from the air to fuel your ambition and left nothing but raw evil. Now it spreads, unchecked. It must be stopped, and only you have the tools to undo your mistake.

      http://thaumcraft2.wikispaces.com/

      ‘s pretty good, all told.

  3. Italianmoose says:

    Reading some of these (particularly the New Yorker), I almost don’t want gaming to be an art form. Art has an unerring ability to make people act like pretentious snobs. This is a bit harsh, perhaps, but it is rather annoying how they behave, and how they treat people who don’t agree with them. What I’ve seen of art-and I fully accept I may be far from the mark-has been rampant fanboyism, a lack of innovation, certain individuals doing crazy things to drive the medium forward, and gratuitous overuse of certain methods or symbolisms to get noticed. Sound familiar?

    • Terragot says:

      As a game developer, I insist that what we create isn’t to be portrayed as art, but rather as a craft.

      Art is the subjective, desperate attempt at criticism from people who feed of off fame and reverence. It serves no real purpose to the majority, or other people. It is literally a circle jerk of fools vomiting hot air.

      Craft is designed for a specific purpose. It can fail, it can succeed. It doesn’t hide behind pseudo-definitions of “WHAT IS ART/GOOD/EVIL/MORALS”. It applies itself to the people views, fears and desires and challenges itself to fit purposefully within them. It can fail, it has a need and it is faceless.

      Art is a word that doesn’t even need to exist. Art is irrelevant outside of it’s creator. Art is the act of fooling.

      So if I make something, I want to be judged, I want to be criticise, then I want to revise the original creation. Art ignores this critical process, and justifies it’s lack of improvement on the falsity of ‘originality’ or ‘a statement of the…’.

      • Italianmoose says:

        Craft! That is a superb way of describing it (gaming/games)! Thank-you!

        Edit: As in what I want them to be/they should be

      • Josh04 says:

        gaming will be stuck at this level of ‘maybe the author JUST MEANT IT WAS BLUE’ for a long time, i fear

      • Idiot says:

        Cool I can’t wait to play your game that is completely uninformed by books, music, film, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry, interactive media or any other art form.

        • Terragot says:

          My argument is against the notion of art, not books, music, film, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry or interactive media; which are not art, they are books, music, film, painting, sculpture, dance, poetry and interactive media. The idea of art is just ridiculous, it’s exist on the basis of nepotism, and not on the works themselves.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I completely agree with you that a game is a craft, however I think you are a fool if you think artistic talent has no place in any crafts. Do you really think there is no artistic talent in writing a book or painting a canvas?

            Do you think the blacksmith puts scrolls and spirals into a gate he is making for some structural reason? Nope, pure aesthetics. Art in his craft. To show what an artisan he is.

            There is art in games and unfortunately you seem to have associated art with this TV stereotype which is actually very very rare in real life (except amongst students, who by very definition are still learning and the pretentious stage is one they need to get through – there’s a reason most non students hate socialising with students, nothing worse with their unique blend of arrogance, ignorance and lack of experience talking to adults as an equal). As for nepotism, most artists get guilt tripped into giving their family their work for free, but if you have some references to back this assertion up, I’m all ears.

            As far as I’m concerned, art can be put into anything, you can take a very informative photograph of a war memorial or you can apply your knowledge of what looks good and how best to present the war memorial, how best to light it etc and put some artistic talent into it, and suddenly your photograph not only is an informative document, but it is one which has artistic merit too. But I guess you wouldn’t see the value of the effort the artist put into his photograph and judge them equal as “photographs of a bit of stone with words on”

      • jalf says:

        Shouldn’t you speak for yourself? If someone else wants to make a videogame as an art piece, are you really in a position to “insist” that it’s a craft instead?

        It’s silly to argue about whether “games” are “art”, just as much as it’s silly to argue that “movies” or “books” or “paintings” are art.

        Some are, or can be. Some obviously aren’t. Some are a craft, some are plain incompetent rubbish.

        Some books are widely believed to be art, based on their content. I also own a few shelves full of books which nobody in their right minds could claim are “art” (my programming textbooks come to mind as an example). It’s not the fact that they’re books that make them art or not-art, it’s the content.

        Why should games be different?

        Why should the same label have to apply to *all* games?

        What *you* create is a craft. But that doesn’t mean others can’t make art in the form of a game. Does it?

        And vice versa, of course. If someone else creates a game and insists that “this is art”, that doesn’t make *your* games any more art.

        I really wish people would outgrow this notion of “games” as one single uniform mass, this idea that all games are equal, all games attempt to do the same things, and all games must succeed at the same things and be judged against the same criteria.

        And “insisting” that games are not art is every bit as short-sighted and narrow-minded as insisting that games are art.

        Sigh….

        • Terragot says:

          you confirm my view that art is in it’s own existence a worthless idea.

          What would we achieve by calling games art? Does calling a book a piece of art change your perception of it? If it does then you really need to open your own eyes to subjective taste and ignore simple euphemisms.

          It’s not the works of ‘art’ I have a problem with, it’s the grouping and usage of this stupid term ‘art’. The argument for games as art is as pointless as the argument for painting as art. There need be no argument because there need be no labelling as art.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            OK, lets call art flobberdip then and artists flobberdippians and artisans flobheads. Would that make you happier?

            Just because you don’t like the word art doesn’t mean that it’s not valid, just because you don’t like grouping together under one umbrella term an effort to make your particular thing as amazing as possible, doesn’t mean that the concept isn’t important.

            As humans we have words for things. We happen to have a word for someone who tries to do something in the best way possible and practices hard to raise their skill. That word is artist. Get over it because we have no other word to precisely take it’s place. A craftsman is someone who makes something as skilfully as possible, therefore by definition every craftsman is an artist but not every artist is a craftsman.

          • RobF says:

            The craft is a means to an end as far as I’m concerned. Nothing more, nothing less. It’s a thing I have to endure to spit out the vague jumble of crap that resides in my head. It’s the thing that allows me to make the art. The more I learn, the more ways I have to express myself.

            I find the idea of games not being able to be viewed in this magical abstract way, like art, to be repulsive though, y’know? I don’t want my works to be viewed in the mechanical sense and I don’t want to start viewing other folks games in the mechanical sense. The engineering mindset is not for me, y’know?

            I can break down the component elements of Space Giraffe, I can see the beauty in its craft, I can see how wonderfully thoughtful it is about bringing all these systems together, I can appreciate the time and the effort that’s gone into shader upon shader, particle effect upon particle effect but more than any of that, I can appreciate that it all comes together in this most glorious spellbinding, mind bogglingly beautiful way. That each of these systems working together, the craft that’s gone into it, makes it something sublime. Something art.

            And I don’t really care if someone has a problem with art at that point. I don’t really care if someone has a problem with something being subjective because that’s what *I* want from games. I can see the art where there’s little craft, I can see the beauty in the jar of piss (I dunno, Stalin Vs Martians if you want or Don’t Shit Your Pants or any number of Trainwrecks) and yeah, art becomes vague and nebulous and mightily subjective. My art is not your art. A formal declaration of art is to state that this is art to me. A formal declaration of art from an author is a statement of intent, the intent to make art, to challenge, to provoke or just to wind you the fuck up. Or something entirely different. Its beauty is in subjectivity. It’s a magic.

            Mechanical definitions be damned, you know? They’re boring. Life’s already boring enough. Let’s have some magic because sometimes believing in magic is to believe in impossible things and to reach for impossible things. And sometimes it’s just about setting yourself on fire.

            Either way, something good might come of it.

          • Skabooga says:

            Rob’s arguments above are as good as any for the existence and persistence of the term ‘art’. Beautiful.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I’d argue that many games are art even if they don’t try to be. Call of Duty and Battlefield 3′s campaigns are highly representative of its designers’ politics, even if they don’t truly intend to make a political statement. A game designer is a person with a set of ideas about the world, and as soon as they step up from a completely abstract setting they imbue those ideas into their game. Hence my point about Spec Ops and Bastion being great – they get what war is, and what it does to people, which elevates them above war games that do not.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Your definition of art indeed suggests your work never will be. There is as much art in gaming as craft, though. That’s why there’s a different term for things like movies, graphic design, industrial design, and also games.

        They’re called applied arts.

      • Aardvarkk says:

        “Art is the subjective, desperate attempt at criticism from people who feed of off fame and reverence. It serves no real purpose to the majority, or other people.”

        While I think that the modern art of the last 80 years or so has broken away from what the average person can consider art (I’m thinking of Kandinsky, Pollock and his ilk), to make a blanket statement saying all art serves no purpose is misinformed.

        Poetry, music, paintings, literature.. they all speak to us on a human level. They help us delve deeper into our souls and (hopefully) become better people and find out who we are.

        To say all that means nothing to us is to say we have no soul. (It’s the only think that separates us from robots. When the robots take over we’ll need to be ready, take up arms!)

        • The Godzilla Hunter says:

          I think we should just separate the terms. On the one hand we have art, which we will use for things that are beautiful, thought provoking, emotional etc. and on the other hand is True Art, where the artists main skill is being able to make really long winded statements about dots.

          Robert A. Heinlein, in my opinion anyways, nailed down what is wrong with True Art “[O]ne does have to learn to look at art. But it’s up to the artist to use the language that can be understood. Most of these jokers don’t want to use the language you and I can learn; they would rather sneer because we ‘fail’ to see what they’re driving at. If anything. Obscurity is the refuge of the incompetent.”

      • MarcP says:

        Had to register only to express how much I agree with you, Terragot. Thank you.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Um, wow.

      Personally, I love the art aspects of games. Art is what elevated Bastion from being a competent game about beating things with hammers into a treatise on war. Art is what elevates Spec Ops: The Line above being another hubristic, right-wing modern war FPS. Art is what gives Alpha Centauri weight and meaning, beyond being an interesting strategy game. Art is what gives games relevance beyond turning a map one colour or making all the terrorist models lie down.

      I suspect that we have different definitions for art, but I’d also argue that even the wankier aspects of art inform some of the truly great books, music, etc. Art isn’t just people in berets discussing a solid blue canvas over tiny espressos, it’s what people create to express their ideas and their culture. Pomp and Circumstance is a product of the British empire in the same way that Rambo represents the American worldview at the time (and the transition from First Blood as an anti-war film and the sequels as pro-war is interesting in itself). It’s incredibly short-sighted to argue that Rambo has no cultural significance or connection to the way people saw the world. So arguing that making games is solely a technical accomplishment akin to making a sturdy chair or a fine cheese misses something. Sure, you can just make arena shooters and abstract strategy or puzzle games, but games *can* be culturally relevant and express complex ideas, and that is often what makes a good game truly great.

      (Unless I’m missing something about your point, of course – I’m unsure how you define art, so I’m sticking my head out and defining it for the purposes of this post.)

      • Terragot says:

        I’m really not degrading those works, I think those games are great, and the ideas they choose to explore should be commended. My line of thinking is that I just don’t understand the need to distinguish things by the weightless term art.

        Indeed, bastion was elevated above a cold mechanical game by it’s writing, the performance of the narrator, the presentation of these ideas, the imagery and the audio exposition. Art doesn’t need to be used to describe it.

        What I’m getting at is, why do games need to get the gratification of the word art, when it doesn’t have a singular definition or can range from being a model of Jesus Christ submerged in a jar of piss (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piss_Christ) or the seemingly never ending work that is the Sagrada Família.

        I’m aware it’s easier to define someone such as Leonardo da Vanci as an artist, rather than a painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist or writer. Yet, at the same time it has been allowed to mean so much that it inevitably takes away from what is important, the work.

        I’m not bashing art, I’m just lost to the term’s purpose. Every time I see the word art being used as association, I can’t help but think of a term that is more accurate, more specific and much more important.

      • Gap Gen says:

        So I think from what I read that we basically agree about the concepts, and the notion that games (or for that matter any form of expression) requires a certain level of skill and craftsmanship, and that our main disagreement is the use of the word “art”. I’m arguing that it’s a useful phrase for describing the depiction of ideas in various media, and you (correct me if I’m wrong) are using it as a shorthand for pretention or laziness in expression. While I’d rather claw back the term and use it in a positive way rather than abandoning it completely*, one thing I do believe is that arguments about the definition of words are some of the most dull arguments you can have, so I’m happy to call it a day here.

        *In this case, I think it’s important to distinguish between a “craft” such as cheesemaking, which does not seek to transmit ideas particularly, and something (which I’m calling “art”) that uses craftsmanship to present ideas, thoughts and emotions.

    • LTK says:

      The New Yorker article contains significant spoilers for Memento. I am not happy about that, not happy at all.

  4. Spengbab says:

    Regarding the 38 Studios story:

    “Creating a video game would be what catapulted him to that wealth. More specifically, he would build a massively multiplayer online game (or, blessedly abbreviated, an MMO) — the type that allows people from across the world to play with and against one another. As a kid, Schilling had been obsessed with computers (his first was an Apple II), and during his baseball career, rather than go out carousing, he spent his time playing MMOs. A favorite of his was the industry leader, World of Warcraft, a vast fantasy landscape filled with wizards, elves, and warriors that has more than 10 million paying subscribers.“

    So no alarmbells were sounding anywhere, at all, when an unexperienced moneybag wants to overthrow WoW? That is, overthrow WoW (That videogame with almost 10 years of development, support, communitylife and whatnot in it) by making his own fantasy MMO, with a company that only made 1 underwhelming single player ARPG to date.

    Then again, the rest of the article is even more disgusting (Cushy positions for family members, fe). Im not sure what the point of this piece was, but it doesnt generate pity for this guy.

    • Shuck says:

      When I first read about the formation of his company, alarm bells were ringing all over the place for me, and I didn’t know he had formed the company in order to make loads of money. (I assumed it was an expensive vanity project done for fun.) Anyone in the game industry would have laughed at him for thinking that the game industry is lucrative, even, especially, making an MMO. Too many companies had destroyed themselves by that point trying to emulate the success of WoW; it was clear that only one company was going to make the big bucks off MMOs and they weren’t going to be unseated.
      It sounds like Schilling surrounded himself with “yes men” who told him only what he wanted to hear and anyone else who conflicted with his delusions got ignored or fired. The upper management of Big Huge Games, for example, all were laid off mid-development (much to the detriment of the game) when they disagreed with his (completely outrageous) sales projections for Amalur. The more I read about the situation, the more Schilling seems to have done everything wrong.

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Yeah that part of that article seemed like insanity to me. I assumed he was at best hoping to break even, the idea he was going to become even more wealthy as someone who had no experience in the industry is just laughable. The hubris of someone who has focused his whole life on the thing he is best at and ignored everything else.

        I have no idea how more of his handlers didn’t lead him off that path, and after reading that article I don’t really feel sorry for anyone who lost their jobs there as there were about a thousand warning signs. YOU…just you, and no one else, are responsible for sussing out the financial health of your employer before they hire you. It is very common for desperate companies to go on hiring binges and if you don’t make sure you aren’t being hired by a desperate company that is your own fault.

    • afarrell says:

      No no no, you’ve got it all wrong – he company hadn’t anything at the time that he was been given these shovelloads of cash.

      • Shuck says:

        In some sense, 38 Studios under Schilling never released a game, since the RPG that would become Amalur was already half finished by Big Huge Games when Schilling bought them, and they remained a separate studio (with its own management until Schilling fired them for pointing out how delusional he was). He really deserves negative credit for the making of that game, since his interference was entirely destructive, not constructive; a lesser studio would have folded after what he did to them.

  5. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    Wow, Schilling is almost a stereotypically awful big business owner. Arrogant, greedy, nepotistic, deluded, deceitful and a massive hypocrite. I mean damn, how does the thought process go that leads from “I am good at baseball” to “therefore I will manage to be very successful in multiple fields I have little to no understanding of!” ?

    While Rhode Island clearly should not have given him the loans he asked for, clearly all those other investors passing on the project should’ve rung alarm bells, it is a great shame that politicians who share Schilling’s “small government” beliefs will try to use the $100m shortfall as an excuse to slash services and jobs the citizens of RI rely on.

    Schilling’s hubris is something a lot of people will suffer for.

    • afarrell says:

      I think the fault there may be that some positions in some sports (and a lot of sports coverage) lead you to the idea that willpower alone is the key to succeed. The American thing of Wanting It More. Particularly for Curt Schilling, whose high point was pitching a game in considerable pain after knackering his ankle, the crowd watching the patch of blood on his sock, etc. Which doesn’t work very well for actual business (or, in fairness, a lot of sports).

  6. woodsey says:

    ‘Nolan… has been dismissed by many cineastes as slick and quasi-intellectual.’

    I do always find it interesting how there’s an invisible barrier that’s apparently been erected at some point in time, so that even when people immensely enjoy a particular director’s work (and the guy has a fantastic track-record, from Memento to TDKR), you’re not allowed to suggest they’re an exceptional director in leagues with other exceptional directors.

    I agree with the article though to an extent, although I’ve never really thought of it in that way; Inception’s the real point of comparison though. The other arguments are a little weak – kind of feels like two articles spliced together.

    Oh, and The Prestige is vastly underrated. I think it did pretty well critically, but no one ever seems to talk about it. It is funny though how many critics did lay into the ending somewhat and clearly didn’t ‘get it’ (as much as I hating saying that).

    • Rii says:

      I suspect that Nolan is forever doomed to big budget mediocrity at this point. Inception could’ve been a great film if it hadn’t been drowned in action and CGI.

      The Prestige is a thoroughly underrated film, tho, I agree.

      • Xocrates says:

        Underrated, perhaps, surprising that’s the case, no.

        Even setting aside that it is probably Nolan’s most flawed film (though not necessarily the worst), the third act can feel like a jarring departure from the rest of film if you were not expecting it, and the movie doesn’t do a great job at setting it up.

        • Jackablade says:

          It’s certainly one that benefits from a few rewatches to pick up all of the breadcrumbs. It might not be Nolan’s best film on a technical level, but it’s my favourite by a significant margin.

        • woodsey says:

          You’re not meant to expect it (although I agree with the above that re-watching it, you’ll pick up on an awful lot of clues – and one outright visual statement of it early on), nor are you meant to particularly like it or find it satisfying. It’s the film itself reflecting the subject of the film.

          I can understand why people might be disappointed that you’re ultimately left only with the ability to appreciate it on a technical level (because no, it’s not an emotional satisfaction), but for that film and it’s subject matter, that’s entirely appropriate. As is the ‘jarring’ third act in a film about subversion.

          • Xocrates says:

            All valid points, certainly, but it only highlights the problem: If you require re-watches to fully grasp it, then people who only watched it once (i.e. most everyone who wasn’t impressed the first time) will never appreciate it as much as it should.

            Like I said, the movie might be underrated, it’s just not surprising that’s the case.

            This is amplified by the fact that the other Nolan films also gain from multiple rewatches, but are fully enjoyable first time around even if you don’t fully grasp them.

          • Just Endless says:

            You’re not supposed to expect it?

            This highlights exactly my problem with Nolan’s film is that I DO EXPECT IT. I went into Inception after 25 people told me it was brilliant, and hard to follow, or a mind****, and saw what I wish James Bond movies were, each of them. I’m not that intelligent of a viewer (I’m a twenty year old student), and I miss things, I missed the day/night continuity error in DKR, I miss stuff.
            It’s just that in EVERY (non-memento) Nolan film, he take a brilliant concept, and in the process of performing the trick, shows you all of his damn cards at every step along the way!

        • sinister agent says:

          I enjoyed the Prestige, but I felt it suffered at the end from trying to be too clever by half. Too many twists in rapid succession don’t leave me wowed – they leave me feeling like they’re trying too hard, or wondering why I should bother paying attention when they’re just going to change everything again anyway.

      • woodsey says:

        Most of the effects in Inception aren’t CGI; or at least, nowhere near enough of them to validate the idea that it’s ‘drowning’ in it.

        • Jay says:

          Very true. There’s some incredible practical effects work in there, I was genuinely surprised how little CGI they used.

        • DrGonzo says:

          Inception is drowning in cgi. A few bits had actors in as well as cgi. For example, they claim the cafe exploding scene isn’t cgi, but it is. Without the cgi it’s a couple of people having Styrofoam thrown at them.

          • marcusfell says:

            Air cannons filled with paper and some clever flim editing isnt cgi.

          • liquidsoap89 says:

            Sure there are scenes where CG is used to do something that wasn’t done with practical effects. But when -arguably- one of the most difficult scenes to make without CG (the spinning hotel room) was done with a REAL spinning hallway, Inception kind of earns a badge to claim it didn’t rely on CG.

            And why is this even a discussion? Nolan’s always been adamant about using real effects whenever possible, hell, most of the Bat Wing scenes in TDKR were shot with a real ship on top of a truck. Yes the truck and cables and all the stuff holding it up were removed from the final shot (which IS CG work), but that hardly constitutes the claim that there’s a lot (or too much) CG. Especially considering how many other movies that we wouldn’t consider CG use tools like that throughout their entire length.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        That comment could have had some merit if Inception didn’t have around 3 times less CG effects than a regular action movies. In fact it has less CGI than, say, Benjamin Button.

        • jalf says:

          You’ve counted, I assume? How exactly do you count CGI effects?
          How many did each of those two movies have, then?

          And it sure is nice to hear that his comment objectively speaking Has No Merit. Because it is obviously inconceivable that some people might, *gasp*, disagree.

          But against a statement like yours, there can be no appeal. The Jury Hath Spoken. This isn’t about subjective opinions about a movie, no, the ULTIMATE truth is that “that comment has no merit”.

          Thanks for letting us know in such absolute terms. That cleared up any doubts any of us might have had.

          • mckertis says:

            “How exactly do you count CGI effects?”

            Officially its reported as a number of frames. You can generally assume that studios of comparable skill will spend about the same amount of man/hours on a given frame.

          • Xardas Kane says:

            mckertis answered your question. You think studios have no idea exactly how much CGI is in their movie? That each and every frame of CG costs them money? How cute, you didn’t think much before typing that in, did you? Doesn’t make much sense now, does it?

            Nolan is a strong believer in the use of actual sets and mechanical effects over CG. Inception has around 500 visual effects shots. Batman Begins has over 600. The Avengers has 2200 shots. Almost FIVE TIMES more than Inception.

            But of course, you can continue with those pathetic personal attacks and laughable sarcasm, cuz ur so kwl and I was absolutely wrong for criticizing the statement that Inception was “drowned by CGI”. Ummm, no it was not. The OP is free to dislike the movie and to be fair, it has its faults, extensive use of CGI is not one of them. That IS a fact, hon’.

          • pilouuuu says:

            I don’t think CGI is bad per se, just how it’s commonly used nowadays, as its quality still doesn’t allow it to look completely realistic.

            What I hate is how cheap movies look nowadays when they use CGI in excess. Just compare the original Star Wars trilogy to the new one. As long as CGI is undistingishable from reality, good directors use them elegantly balanced with other techniques like Peter Jackson, Guillermo del Toro and Nolan.

      • AlwaysRight says:

        The Prestige is instantly amazing for me because one of my heroes plays another one of my heroes, David Bowie as Nikola Tesla, awesome… his accent… not so much.

      • bill says:

        The Prestige was excellent and highly under-rated, and also really depressing. One of those films I don’t want to watch again.

        Actually, most of his films are like that… Is Batman Begins the only one with a happy(-ish) ending?

  7. sparkes says:

    I was due to appear on Knightmare but the teachers strike meant it didn’t happen and our school sent a group of kids in the year below me the next year :( I’d have owned that game.

    Yes I do realise this makes me almost as old as Keith Stuart I commented on that story in the week :)

  8. BigJonno says:

    The speed in which gaming has evolved makes it very easy to feel old before your time. I’m 29 and I was in a few game studies classes with people 5-10 years younger than me. I started gaming on a Spectrum +3 with a tape player attached and I’m with guys who hadn’t used cartridges (other than for handhelds) or floppies, let alone cassettes. It makes you wonder how long it’ll be until there is a generation of gamers who have never used physical media at all.

    • wodin says:

      I’m 41, there as no such thing as game classes. I remember in ’83 my dad came home with a BBC B 32k. I was 11, my life had changed forever. Elite became my world for a good year or more, before the save game tape was chewed by the cassette player…imagine the pain of over a years playing chewed up..

      We had computer lessons of sorts the schools also had BBC B 32k. Sadly I just wanted to play games, how I wish I had actually done what my dad kept nagging me to do and that was learn how to programme, however after spending 2 days copying out code from a magazine that if you did get it working consisted of a stick man going up a road and you had to avoid squares I soon got disheartened. still I did create a text adventure.

      Oh before the BBC B we had one of those TV game things which had tennis on and maybe something else, was it a binatone?? Not sure. My dad still has them all in the attic.

      • Burning Man says:

        I must ask, are you perchance the Wodin of ‘Wodin, the Troll Servant’ fame?

      • Gasmask Hero says:

        It’s never too late to learn a programming or scripting language. And it’s never been easier to make your own games.

        And there’s nothing wrong with just wanting to play them, you know.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I haven’t bought a physical music CD or game in ages (I’ve bought DVDs, thanks to the film industry not having made the leap to digital with any gusto yet).

  9. Vegard Pompey says:

    That article on 38 Studios was excellent. Someone should base a movie on it. It’d make a terrific character study and tragicomedy all at once.

  10. Similar says:

    heh. Spy Vs Spy. A friend and I had planned to get up early to go fishing, so he slept over and we got up around four in the morning, ate breakfast and … around noon we found ourselves still sitting in front of my C64 playing the game. We never made it to the lake.

    It had a very special atmosphere (which I won’t even try to explain. I just remember it as being very unique).

  11. Xardas Kane says:

    1. Read this a few days ago. Really seems to coincide with my version of what was going on at 38 Studios. Schilling had all the best intentions, but didn’t really know what he was doing. And in the end of the day hundreds of people suffered for it. I would’ve said that this is what happens when some millionaire schmuck without any experience in the industry decides to play video game designer, but then again, that’s how Valve got started. That one worked out pretty well I think.

    2. He has been saying that for years. Hardly news, he’s always been open about his reasons for leaving Valve.

    3. It would take me thousands of character to express how wrong that system is. And this coming from Irrational… For shame.

    4. An absolutely PATHETIC article, missing both the point of Nolan’s movies AND what games are all about. The part about cheats and mods just made me burst into laughter, by that logic every Bond movie is a video game as well. Before there even were video games, mind you. Without writing a wall of text – here is a direct quote from Nolan himself – “I think audiences get too comfortable and familiar in today’s movies. They believe everything they’re hearing and seeing. I like to shake that up.” He admires Kubrick and creates elaborate story puzzles that always leave the audience guessing what will happen next. Admittedly his movies are neither character-driven nor that emotional, a weakness he shares with Kubrick and one he is very open about. The games thing however? Please. A pathetic fluff piece written by someone stuck in the ’80s.

    5. Oh my, that sounds wonderful, I wish I had gotten my hands on Knightmare when I was a kid.

    6. It’s the sad reality of a medium that has yet to really establish itself. There is no going just around that. An interesting read in any case and I wish Stuart many more years of happy game journalism.

    7. Wow, some of these compositions are really great! I never thought about screenshots from such a perspective, but I have to say the shots look truly great.

    8. A vague, wonderful childhood memory. I guess I am one of those young whipper snappers Stuart was talking about

    9. I hate any kind of randomness in games when it comes to my character’s capabilities. What I think magic lacks in games is indeed mystery, but also power, exclusiveness and versatility.

    Mages are always supposed to be all-powerful beings capable of wiping out small armies just by looking at them, yet in all fantasy games they have to essentially be “nerfed” for the sake of gameplay balance. This has been done in a much better way in the Gothic games – you can’t become a mage until you’ve put quite a bit of hours into the game and even then it would take a lot more leveling to become powerful. Throughout around 60% of the game you feel excessively underpowered, but when you do get going towards the end… Well, let’s just say that in the final battle you have to fight a small army, which can be quite difficult for a warrior. As a mage I just raised my hands and they all died. Quite literally.

    That brings me to exclusivity, which I already touched upon. Magic us supposed to be a unique gift that only a handful have, yet it’s always accessible to the player from the get-go. Again, scarificing believability for gameplay, but I think it could be done in a much better way.

    As for versatility – magic is always about manipulating the world around you in some way. In most fantasy settings mages can, say, conjure up fire and are limited only by their imagination in their use of this ability. Wizards are almost always also scientists that explore new ways to use the power at their disposal. Yet in games all we get is a list of spells that can be used in only one way, the experimentation and creativity magic has to offer drained away by gameplay conventions.

    10. I hate online comics. Yet I loled, despite the grammatical errors :)

    11. I gave up on Edge more than a decade ago. I don’t know if they are just trying to be controversial or actually are idiots, but quite frankly, I couldn’t care less at this point.

    12. “Unfortunately, this SME music-content is not available in Germany because GEMA has not granted the respective music publishing rights.”

    I hate Germany. Can’t wait to get back home where half of YouTube isn’t blocked, among other annoyances.

    • Saarlaender39 says:

      At least, you can leave it all behind. ;)

    • aliksy says:

      On magic: I personally HATE the “you suck now, but you’re awesome later!” type of design. I’m playing a game, not trying to set up and fulfill an illusionary sense of “accomplishment”. If it’s not fun for the first n hours, I’m going to play something else.

      • Xardas Kane says:

        By all means, play a warrior. That’s the point. It actually solidifers the differences between classes even further, the experience of being a mage would be vastly different than that of a warrior not only because of the skill set, but also because of the difficulty curve.

        • aliksy says:

          No, no, no, NO. I don’t want to play a warrior. I want to play a mage. I want to shoot lightning at people, call fire down from the heavens, summon strange and horrible beasts from the beyond. Playing a warrior scratches 0 of those itches, and mandating a “you have to suffer through 3 magic missiles per day for the first six hours” does NOTHING to make the game better for me.

          Magicka got this pretty much exactly right. You don’t need to “level up” your elemental powers or slowly unlock additional slots, and it’s a much better game for it.

          Some exceptions exist, I guess. If the early, low-power game is actually fun, that’s acceptable. If the point of the game is the journey from lowly apprentice to archmage, then maybe, MAYBE it’s acceptable. But putting that sort of suck-to-awesome progression alongside a “always pretty good” progression? That’s bullshit.

          • Pattom says:

            What I think is fascinating is that Magicka does sort of have that skill limitation at the start, but it’s not one imposed by the developer: it’s borne of the player’s ignorance about the ways all of the elements interact. You have all of them at the start of the game, but because you don’t know what they really do, you tend to start making spells of just one element. “Oh, I can knock someone down by throwing a rock, and then I can electrocute them by shooting lightning.” Then you realize that coating the rock in water knocks them back further AND lets your lighting do more damage; by the end of the game, you’ve devised a “flamethrower” out of steam clouds and lightning that can stunlock enemies. Magicka gets it right by telling you exactly what tools you have but leaving you to learn what those tools are capable of through experimentation.

            (And yes, the shockthrower spell really works. Hands down the best spell I’ve thought up.)

          • Xardas Kane says:

            You didn’t seem to understand what I was talking about. It’s not about being able to cast only 3 magic missiles a day. It’s about having to make a significant gameplay investment into magic and not having ANY access to it from the get-go, rather it becomes unlocked if you choose to pursue it. It has nothing to do with silly limitations like the one you listed. It’s about a sense of progression. If i can shoot lightning out of my ass at level 1, how am I different from a warrior? Isn’t magic supposed to be a gift that few have, and one that should be nurtured for years? Sure as hell doesn’t feel like it.

            Again, look at how Gothic did it. That’s what I am talking about. It isn’t restrictive it’s progressive. And once you climb that mountain, when you start throwing lightning bolts at everything that moves and have essentially become a half-god, you actually feel like you’ve accomplished something.

          • aliksy says:

            Never played Gothic so it’s not the best example for me.

            I think the “sense of accomplishment” thing is vastly overrated, and often poorly executed. That is, it’s often “you do crap damage, die easily, and need to wait a long time for your power to recharge.” That’s shit and I’m not going to enjoy playing it. If the beginning is not fun I don’t care if it gets better hours later.

            Also, Magicka starts you off with almost all the tools you’re going to get, and there’s definitely a sense of progression as you play.

            “If I can shoot lightning out of my ass at level 1, how am I different than a warrior?” – I think the lighting out of your ass would be a start.

          • sinister agent says:

            I’m in agreement with you, Aliksy. Any game with an idea of “progression” that can be summarised as “Hey, let’s cripple this guy, and hide his crutches” can go lick a socket as far as I’m concerned. If I wanted to be shit at something until I’d been doing it for ten hours, I’d buy a guitar.

    • Malibu Stacey says:

      I would’ve said that this is what happens when some millionaire schmuck without any experience in the industry decides to play video game designer, but then again, that’s how Valve got started. That one worked out pretty well I think.

      Except Gabe Newell worked in the software development industry before founding VALVe & not some completely unrelated industry like professional sports.

      So yeah nothing like that at all then.

  12. Jannakar says:

    On Irrational Games and Metacritic:

    The perverse things is they are saving maybe 1 or 2 hours office admin time.

    “Please, take this pile of resumes and throw away the ones without a Metacritic rating of 85+. And some coffee, please.”

    If they want to be dicks, at least they could do it in private.

  13. Saarlaender39 says:

    *lol*

    ‘Simon, Sidestep To Your Left’

    Well, I guess, after that day, his friends were done with him.

    And I thought, only women had a “left-right” – malfunction.

    • LionsPhil says:

      And I thought, only women had a “left-right” – malfunction.

      What the fuck.

      • Unaco says:

        There is a link between gender and prevalence of Left/Right confusion… although there isn’t a wealth of research on the condition. Studies from Michigan State and Auburn University, however, have found that the condition is reported by females more than men. Same with work at Gottingen in Germany.

        It may be, however, that this is just down to reporting of condition (that is, women are more likely to report that they suffer from Left/Right confusion than men, when tests for the condition show no effect for gender – women over report, men under report).

        So, not a condition that exclusively effects females, but one that may definitely be more prevalent in females… or may be seen to be more prevalent in females.

      • Saarlaender39 says:

        If you have ever ridden in the passenger seat next to a woman, you know what I’m talking about.

        True story below:

        My wife and I driving along a three-lane road. She drives, I handle the map. We are approaching an intersection.

        Me: “Up front, we have to turn right.”
        Her: “OK.”

        She sets the turning – signal, moves over to the left turn-lane…no oncoming traffic, so she is turning left, without hesitation.
        I stare at her.

        Me: “What are you doing?”
        Her: “Turning.”
        Me: “But I said: to the right!”
        Her (looking confused): “Yes, and?”
        Me: “I meant the “other” right!”
        Her: “You said, up front, I should turn right!”
        Me (also confused): “Ye-es?”
        Her: “And so I did!”
        Me: “Sweetheart, I told you to turn right, but you turned left instead.”

        ..
        .

        That continued on for a while, but I don`t want to bore you too much, since I am aware, that those of you who are in a relationship, know how such things work out.

        Ah, the joys of marriage. ;)

        • The Greatness says:

          Heheh, at least the girl I know who has this problem will ask you which way left/right is when you refer to them.

        • Thiefsie says:

          And this is why with my girlfriend, I point rather than say left/right… virtually the same thing happens repeatedly

        • The Random One says:

          For what it’s worth, I am a man and I have left-right confusion. In fact, the only way I can discern is by remembering which arm I usually wear my watch.

          This also means it takes me too long to remember which buttons are L1 and R1 on a game controller and I was confused the first time I saw a map of Zork, because I also confuse east and west and my mental map was precise but mirrored.

  14. wodin says:

    Attic Attack was a great game.

    I left high school in ’87 so Knightmare was out after I stopped watching kids TV. Obviously since I started watching cartoons but at that age I had moved onto other things. Plus I suppose it didn’t have that scare factor when your 16 than it did for say a 10 year old.

    Still I do remember playing Bards Tale which I preferred to watching Knightmare the times I did see it on the Tellybox.

  15. Dante says:

    From the magic article:

    Most of the great writers of fantasy know that magic works best when left unexplained, when it is allowed to be mysterious and unpredictable.

    Neither every, nor most fantasy writers believe this. In fact many believe the exact opposite.

    Brandon Sanderson famously said “An author’s ability to solve conflict satisfactorily with magic is directly proportional to how well the reader understands said magic.”

    That means that if you go for ill defined magic, you get a sense of wonder, but it becomes useless, because the moment you use it to resolve a situation it becomes a deus ex machina. In games, we necessarily use magic to solve problems a lot, if we can cast spells we’re going to do it. Thus, in order for it to stay dramatically satisfying, we need it to be explained.

    You can’t just have your mage pull a new spell out of his arse for the bossfight. It might be wondrous and spectacular, but it undermines the narrative tension.

    • mckertis says:

      Can you NAME any authors who thus believe ? Apart from the all-things-D&D – i’d say even the concept of a videogame-like, carved-in-stone, “spell” – is something of a rarity. Especially in a fantasy book that’s any good. Harry Potter is the only series i can think of that actually DOES have videogame-like notions of magic. Rest of them are usually rather vaguely defined. Zelazny, Dixon, Jordan, Asprin, Feist, Bakker, Cook, etc.

      • Janto says:

        I disagree with you both!

        Well, sort of. Actually, there’s elements of truth to both sides – ‘A wizard did it’ is not satisfactory, but you don’t need to know all the nerdy mechanics the author’s so proud of cobbling together. It’s like midichlorians and the Jedi – knowing more about the mechanics of the Force is pointless and saps the mysticism from the whole setting. You don’t need to have an explanation of how the Emperor is shooting lightening from his fingertips when Vader never did for the scene to work.

        I know far too much about how magic works in Airport Fantasy settings – the worst is Eddings, that I can recall, but Jordan’s magical training moments were also pretty trying. Trying to justify a new metaphysics in excruciating detail is the mark of a not very good author, in my opinion.

        • malkav11 says:

          I dunno. There’s explaining what people can do with magic, and then there’s explaining why they can do it. What Jedi can do with the Force is actually fairly explicitly explained. As it’s grown into a juggernaut of a franchise, authors have come up with various funky specialized Force tricks that particular people have mastered, but they tend to all be specialized uses of the basics – light mind control, psychokinesis, electrical projection, IIRC a certain amount of future prediction, maybe one or two other things I’m forgetting. We’re also told that Force users can be corrupted by certain emotions – fear, hate, etc. Midichlorians are an attempt to explain -why- they can use Force abilities, and are silly, unnecessary bullshit.

          I think explaining and exploring the parameters of the magic system(s) in a fantasy are important unless your only real purpose for having magic in the story is as an authorial deus ex machina. Explaining why it works, probably not.

        • fish99 says:

          Eddings did it for a reason though, he needed to explain how ‘magic’ worked so you’d accept all the limitations constantly placed on its use, because without those limitations there would be no danger and therefore no tension.

      • malkav11 says:

        Well, Brandon Sanderson, for one. All of his original fiction is in significant part devoted to setting up funky, cool magic systems that he then exploits for action and plot movement.

      • Unaco says:

        Fairly sure Bakker also goes a fair way in explaining the ‘magic’ in The Prince of Nothing/Aspect Emperor trilogies. It being the redefining of reality through a person’s will… with the differences between the Gnosis and the Anagogic disciplines (the Gnosis can use abstractions), and the Psûkhe of the Cishaurim (being based on emotion, rather than logic and semantics).

    • gwathdring says:

      Indeed. Sanderson does a good job keeping the mysticism and fear prevalent when there is uncertainty … but scaling back that uncertainty when appropriate as well.

      For me it comes down to this: if magic can do anything, it’s likely to be boring. There need to be limits. But there are many ways to create those limits. The limits can be personal (I promised I wouldn’t) environmental (copper halts my power) or magical themselves (this accursed cage has held my power at bay for centuries). When the limits are purely narrative? It still can work … but it’s damn hard to make it fun, convincing or interesting (the author hadn’t made up that he could do that until just now).

      Sanderson makes those limits clear by making magic just another universe’s physics–stuff that would be impossible here is possible and has rules and such there. Those rules are not always understood by the characters involved so he still has control over mystery by virtue of in-world understanding rather than by virtue of Deus Ex Machina.

      Another of the many ways to handle this is the Tolkien method. Magic is ubiquitous, poorly defined, and mysterious. It rarely acts explicitly upon anything. Blades glow or hum, locks require passwords, and rings render folk invisible … but these are the extremities of magic as encountered in The Lord of the Rings–and especially in The Hobbit. While the workings of magic are never clearly explained, the uncertainty and mystery of magic doesn’t obscure the plot and it never leverages that uncertainty against the reader to create artificial tension. Magic is mostly background material, and it stays that way. If you dip into the other Tolkien words set in the same Universe, magic becomes more prevalent but it maintains that sense of … subtlety? Belonging? Restraint? It’s hard to put a finger on it once we’re outside of the classic four Tolkien books, but I think it’s still there in a form I can’t quite name.

      Harry Potter springs plenty of surprises upon readers in the long form … to be fair, each in-world Deus Ex Machina is suggested to the reader plenty ahead of time. At a cost. Spells are learned conveniently before they become important. This can create a sense of artificiality–magic is almost always explained before it determines the rules of the plot … but in an unnatural seeming way that makes those times it isn’t so explained feel all the more artificial. Saving Harry Potter is that the moment-to-moment plot hinges less on magic and more on teenage angst and antics in this peculiar setting.

      I guess all of this rambling sums to this: I don’t think it matters if you take Sanderson’s magic-as-science approach or Tolkien’s magic-as-an-all-pervading-mystery approach or Garth Nix’s magic-understood-well-in-world-but-explained-to-reader-only-as-necessary approach or Terry Pratchett’s magic-as-all-pervading-fabric-understood-through-science-and-mysterious-as-all-get-out-anyway-because-it’s-more-funny-that-way approach. There isn’t really a proper approach to magic nor do we lack a variety of approaches to magic in fiction. If “a wizard did it” falls flat as an explanation … it is becasue the explanation was made overly flat.

      And that is where most games fall short. The flatness of their magical fictions, not the lack of mystery in the mechanics of magic. The problem I had in Dragon Age, for example, was how little people reacted to my use of magic. I didn’t care that within the Circle it was understood and that my character progression wasn’t fundamentally different from that of Warriors and Rogues. People fear what they do not understand–not just what no-one understands. I was irritated that the common folk of Ferelden did not fear magic as much as the entire fiction (and many plot-centric conversations) required them too. Plenty of people distrust religions that are no stranger or poorly understood than their own faiths–so could they distrust a well understood magic system.

      • malkav11 says:

        The whole thing was even more glaring in Dragon Age II. In the first Dragon Age, you’re a Circle mage and thus an accepted part of society even if you shouldn’t be terribly popular with the average layperson. In Dragon Age II, you’re an apostate in a city where tensions are already extremely high between the templars and the Circle mages, much less between templars and apostates. And not only does that never really matter, but you can outright use blood magic in the streets of the city with plenty of onlookers and never get so much as a batted eye.

    • Josh W says:

      To me it feels like magic is not opposed to understanding, but to comodification. To take an example, a toaster is a pretty non-magic thing, it just does it’s toasting, but to a hacker, a toaster can become magical; the wires in it can be taken out to do all sorts of things, as can the springs, maybe you can use parts of the case as parts of something else, or the timing mechanism. It blossoms into a flower of possibilities, not because of unpredictability, but because of versatility.

      Straight and simple magic effects, packaged up like a self contained and polite toaster, probably will never feel that magical. It’s when stuff starts interacting in interesting ways, when it has subtleties, that it starts getting magic.

      This means that a feeling of magic and the desire to provide intuitive systems fight one another, magical seeming systems don’t give their mysteries up all at once, which means you need to ease people in gently if they’re going to be making choices with long term consequences.

      But magic isn’t just depth and wonder, it’s hacking for poets. People don’t just want the usual “connect the pipes, balance the water pressure” stuff, they want systems that take as important different things, often (in romantic worlds) things that are aesthetically important to humans, but have proved frustratingly inactive in the real world.

      You want things where the sound of someone’s voice or the light of the moon or particularly nice patterns have some power, and need to be accounted for. Or even if it’s not cliched things, it’s weird little things like bending paperclips into the shape of swans, putting eggs inside metal boxes or something more weird and metaphysical.

      Basically, in my experience, the common thread of magic is that it has weird subtleties that reach beyond any of it’s particular applications, but isn’t advanced chemistry or engineering. It’s another separate system that doesn’t care about atoms or masses, but other weird stuff, maybe human emotional stuff, maybe not.

  16. magnus says:

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Metacritic is useless because the reviews used to calculate the average score are never consistant and as magazines themselves are never consistant with their own scores it can hardly be descibed as being an accurate guide to the overall reception of a game.

    • suibhne says:

      The thing is, Metacritic acknowledges that and clearly says its scores shouldn’t be taken as statistically evidence of anything whatsoever. And not to bastardize someone cleverer than I – but if Metacritic didn’t exist, surely we would invent it.

      Alas, the problem here is squarely the fault of the people using that Metacritic data…and that’s a hard problem to tackle because it’s a widely-distributed attitude, not something we can fruitfully attack at a single source.

  17. fish99 says:

    How about Edge giving the original Alien vs Predator on the Jag 4/10. Wasn’t the best game ever but I had a ton of fun finishing it as all three races. Was worth a good 7.

    • Pattom says:

      Honestly, the Edge article had me laughing myself hoarse. Only among video games could it be controversial to say, “We gave this 8/10, but really it deserves the perfect 10.”

    • jezcentral says:

      I think the main problem is the one that we all have with games: The ones that were under-scored (Dragon Age, Fallout 3, GTA3, etc) got better later on, and the ones that were over-scored (rubbish ones that I can’t remember) were one-note wonders that palled quickly.

      That sounds like the usual problem with games. They can take too long to play to review properly.

  18. AlwaysRight says:

    Can we get a jolly loud hip hip hooray for John Walker’s Daily Mail article on his botherer blog that seems to be getting well deserved attention on Twitter:

    http://botherer.org/2012/07/28/the-daily-mail-and-how-an-nhs-death-means-racism-is-fine/

    • subedii says:

      Thanks for linking that, and pretty much wholly agree with everything he says.

      Hit pieces like the one in the Mail shouldn’t be ignored just because ” that’s what they always do”, they need to be challenged, precisely because they have so much influence.

      • AlwaysRight says:

        Exactly!

        John even comes across apologetic for attacking the obviously horrible Daily Mail because they are so blatently awful they’re considered a soft target. He’s probably avoiding trying to come across like a Guardian hack doing an article about how Katie Price isnt the worlds best role model or why Big Brother isnt as good as The Wire, but this stuff is really really important “All that evil needs to suceed is for good men to do nothing”. Weve seen the effect of this right here in the RPS comments section; someone drops a horrible or inaccurate comment and the RPS readership rip them to pieces with intelligence and wit. That person usually has a much more considered approach next time… Or just buggers off.

    • Xardas Kane says:

      Oh my… And the blogger even missed to tear apart a great quote at part 3 of the scans: “A whole 15 minutes at the top of the proceedings before viewers dozed off to the procession of banana republics and far-flung destinations nobody has heard of or even cares about.” Just… wow.

    • subedii says:

      Haha, it looks like the’ve literally pulled the entire article now and are trying to pretend it never existed.

      Grief. What’s truly sad for me isn’t that they didn’t even post a retraction, or that they were too cowardly to defend their position after having said it all.

      It’s that there’s a lot more where that came from, and in future they’ll just be doing it behind a better screen of dog-whistles.

    • mickygor says:

      I’m interested to hear of John’s 1000 reasons to get mad at people who do not support socialist institutions.

  19. Roshin says:

    I don’t think Edge has ever looked back on one of their worst reviews, that of Blood 2. This was a long time ago and I suppose most have forgotten about it. After the brilliant Blood, the sequel failed on all points, but the review was quite cheerful about it.

    • Dominic White says:

      I still think the worst review Edge have ever put out was for Zone of the Enders 2. An ultra-high-budget action game by Hideo Kojima, widely agreed on to this day as one of the best things ever released on the PS2 (a lot of people are very hyped for the upcoming HD remake), and their review was a half-page deal with a 4/10 score that spent most of the limited column inches kvetching about the camera.

      • malkav11 says:

        I tend to not pay that much attention to their reviews. They often seem to not like videogaming very much or miss the point entirely and I rarely agree with them. Also, the universal editorial voice as opposed to individual people reviewing the game means that I can’t identify a particular individual’s tastes and use that as an index to see how much I’m likely to agree with their take on a game, the way I can with critics like Tom Chick and (in a movie context) Roger Ebert. I like a lot of the rest of the magazine, though.

    • Ed123 says:

      Am I the only one who also finds it a bit…um…unsporting, towards the original authors of those reviews?

    • Kadayi says:

      5/10 for the original witcher. Whomever reviewed it didn’t even bother getting past the first chapter based on what they wrote about it IIRC. Sometimes anonymity is a bad thing when shoddy work should be brought to account.

    • bill says:

      EDGE were about the only ones to give the horribly average Jedi Knight 2: Outcast an average (5) score… for which they earned my eternal love.

      EDGE get a lot of stick sometimes, but (although I haven’t read it for years) I always really rated it as a magazine. While all the other games mags were puerile teen-boy fodder it at least had a bit of respect for the medium. Plus their covers were stunning.

      It’s worth remembering that reviews aren’t written by magazines/sites, but by individual writers, and as such reflect only the personal views of one guy. And he’s perfectly entitled to be unimpressed by doom if it isn’t his thing.

  20. Rinox says:

    It’s a sad world when “great health care” is looked upon as such an outrageous benefit that it’s mentioned as a prime reason for a company going under. How dare they offer such things!

    • LionsPhil says:

      What are you, a socialist?

    • Agnol117 says:

      I’m pretty sure the issue is less “how dare they offer such a thing” and more “it was foolish of an untried company to provide such benefits,” particularly as signs point to 38 Studios basically hemorrhaging money anyway.

      • Rinox says:

        Perhaps, but it’s still sad that offering health care should be such a massive cost for a company. The other stuff like the laptops and whatnot was obviously over the top, though.

      • Shuck says:

        Given all the issues at the studio, the relatively small per-employee cost of covering all their health insurance probably didn’t make a bit of difference to what happened. (I mean, if Schilling started a game company with the goal of making a lot of money, he clearly didn’t even do the most basic research before he entered into the endeavor; things went downhill from there.)
        Schilling was trying to attract top talent by offering good benefits and perks, health insurance being the least of them. That, in the US, employee benefits have so eroded over the years that something as basic as health care has now become a signifier of wanton excess is indeed pretty disturbing.

  21. Baines says:

    The “controversial” Edge reviews listed aren’t very controversial. A few popular games that were scored “low” and a few now forgotten games that were scored high.

    However, the reader comments bring a bit of controversy… With only eight comments at the present, we see commenters raising the issues of: the article avoiding the Zone of the Enders 2 review (arguably one of those reviews that puts videogame journalism in a bad light), ignoring commenter backlash topics such as The Witcher 2 or Killzone, knocking Turok 2′s design so long after the fact but not touching Halo, and bringing up allegations that Edge manipulated scores for PR (and other) reasons and that Turok 2′s 9 had been considered one of the major examples (which is not addressed in the Turok 2 entry).

  22. Chaz says:

    I want some Lady Armour; because well, I’m kinky like that.

    “Frankenfurter! It’s all over! Your mission was a failure! Your lifestyle’s too extre-e-eme!”

  23. Kevin says:

    I found it somewhat hilarious that the lady armour comic was accompanied by banner ads for Axe deodorant spray and body wash.

  24. suibhne says:

    Nice to see Edge doubling down on “If only you could talk to them”.

  25. wodin says:

    The developers of prototype have been closed down aswell. I never played it as I’m not keen on The Thing like tentacles shooting out of you. Still a sad day, I hope they find work quickly.

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