The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on August 12th, 2012 at 11:18 am.


Sundays are for preparation. Physical: with a cup of tea or coffee. Psychic: with a zen-like processing of this week’s writings about videogames and related ephemera.

  • Rab is really serving up something worth reading over at Eurogamer. This one is heartfelt and about the healing we all need, from time to time: “I’ve never been so unsure of something I’ve written in my life. I’ve probably never written something so personal. But I felt that to properly convey how important I think Ed Key and David Kanaga’s Proteus is, I had to be honest about why it really speaks to me.”
  • Also at Eurogamer, A Horse Named Gizmondo: The Inside Story of the World’s Greatest Failed Console
  • Piracy is a fact of life, so why not just have fun with it? “Under the Ocean, a fully-fledged sequel to 2010 free download Under the Garden, launched as a paid alpha build earlier this year, costing $7 for the base version of the game, and $25 for a special edition. However, there is also a third free “version” of the game, titled “Annoying Cockroach Edition” — although it’s not really a separate version at all. It’s simply a humorous acknowledgment that some people (well, “cockroaches”) will skip the two legitimate options for obtaining the game, and just pirate it. “Pirate the game when it comes out,” the cockroach version’s features list reads. “Not much we can do to stop you, is there?” There was even a link to infamous torrent website Pirate Bay, giving visitors access to a free, pirated version of the game.”
  • Also at Gamasutra, Cliff Bleszinski’s Game Developer Flashcards: “”It’s just X+Y” This is when a developer dismisses another successful product, sour grapes style, because he can easily see the formula. The fact that the formula is so simple and obvious is often why said product is so successful. For example, Words with Friends: “It’s just asynchronous Scrabble.” Yes, it is, and it’s brilliant.”
  • A different kind of “accessibility” for gaming: “Sometimes, my disability prevents me from moving my hands fast enough to execute certain sequences in games. For example, one of my favorite games of all time is Uncharted 2: Among Thieves. Near the end of the game Drake is in a Tibetan temple, in which there are levers he must crank to open doors. The way the player makes Drake open these doors is by tapping the triangle button repeatedly. Because of the delay in my muscles, there is no way for me to tap fast enough to get him to open the door. When I realized this, I was forced to confront the idea that I had just spent $60 on a game, progressed most of the way through it without help and now had to rely on somebody else to get me past that point. Beyond that point, however, the game was easy for my hands to handle. It was literally two small sequences, opening two small doors that made the game inaccessible. For me, game accessibility is not an empty phrase or a buzzword – it’s a part of my life.”
  • The Problem With Half-Life: “Times have changed. It feels weird to carry around 12 different guns at any one time, it’s strange to shoot distant targets from the hip, it’s odd to move through the environment like Ice Man and the qucksave dance between death and combat now feels awkward… Most troublesome however is that shooting down an alien gunship just isn’t as fun as it used to be, taking on a Strider has become an obstacle instead of a spectacle. Fundamentally the game suddenly feels like a game, instead of the immersive, atmospheric and mysterious experience it once was.” Don’t really agree with this. It’s a highly subjective judgement, although one I have heard plenty of people state.
  • There’s a great point in here, that the author doesn’t quite bring to the surface. It’s about how game story-telling could look to Dungeon Mastering as a fundamental design philosophy: “I like to think of Deus Ex as the best example, because it never says, “here are your choices, now push button to receive ending.” Instead, you just play the game, and the game reacts. You didn’t kill a boss early on? Well now they’re back, and conflict seems unavoidable this time. I suppose that you could argue that non-linearity in terms of plot is unnecessary, and you’d be correct. A game can pull you in by just leaving you to play with the mechanics in the way you see fit, but considering that this is the only medium where plot choices can be made, I’d say it’s reasonable to desire just a few game-changing decisions every once in a while. Call them choices, call them “optional quests,” but whatever they are, this is the only place on the planet that we can effectively use them in our storytelling, and yet we’re constantly avoiding it.”
  • An interview with Hidden Path (who just successfully Kickstarted Defense Grid 2): “We wanted a world that took itself seriously so that you could suspend disbelief that it was a “real” place if you wanted. We recognized that we hadn’t invested into this story the same amount that an amazing author puts into creating a new world, but we wanted the character and events in the story to take themselves seriously and seem real to them. From that point, once we got to there, the character could joke or muse, or be a little silly, or be serious, and that’s all allowable, because they’re never questioning whether they are real or not by their actions or words. They’re being consistent with the human condition of “what would I do if I found myself in this situation?” and that to us was the most important part of getting the feel correct.”
  • Mr Yang talks Thief: “In “Assassins,” you are told to gather supplies and infiltrate a local Hammerite temple… except within the first few seconds, your supplier gets shot in the face (by thugs sent to kill you) and your objectives change to tail, undetected, your would-be assassins through the streets of the City, back to whoever sent them after you. It’s the first time the designers so quickly mislead your expectations with the objectives list.”
  • A beautiful Tumblr of British airfields.
  • Why China has two internets.

Music this week is The Sight Below’s Without Motion.

.

181 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

    “Clearly Valve recognise this and clearly that’s why the follow-up to Episode 2 is taking a long time.”

    That’s one hell of a bold statement.

    In general I disagree with the entire piece on Half-Life and it’s not really well written either.

    “It doesn’t help that every facet of the series has been twisted, contorted and abused by Garry’s Mod, how can anyone take these characters seriously after seeing them like this all over the internet[...]”

    That’s a completely useless question.

    The author takes his own stance on HL2 and supposes that everyone shares it. Highly dubious and it leads to a rather silly article.

    • kuddles says:

      Yeah, I don’t understand his point other than he’s not into that type of game anymore, and then he takes that feeling and reaches the conclusion that the game design is so dated it’s no longer fun.

      I also don’t know why someone would find the idea of carrying multiple guns at a time something that breaks his immersion, compared to modern FPS titles where everyone has a glowing “Follow” mark above their head and you’re not allowed to open doors on your own.

      • mikmanner says:

        There’s still fun to be had, it’s just not cutting edge – to me it feels a bit old school. I think Valve wouldn’t want to release a Half Life game that isn’t cutting edge, so I think they are having to update the design (much like they did between 1 and 2) before releasing a new title, which is possibly why it’s taking so long. I’m not arguing against the quality of the game. That’s my opinion though, happy to have people disagree with it.

        • AngoraFish says:

          After computer gaming since the 1980s I finally played HL2 last year. Somehow I just never got around to it… too many other games to play. For what it’s worth, HL2 was utterly brilliant playing it fresh in 2011. HL1, on the other hand… I did buy on Steam sale and try to play it but the graphics aren’t enough to retain my interest anymore.

          • mikmanner says:

            There could be an element of me having overplayed Half Life 2 I’ll admit. But I think many people have played a lot of Half Life 2 to make loose its edge.

          • DrGonzo says:

            Get Half Life Source, the increased resolution, improved lighting and reliability helps a lot. As much as I love Half Life 2, I think Half Life has dated better (not counting the graphics but the actual gameplay).

          • belgand says:

            Eh, I loved HL1, but when I played HL2 at launch it just didn’t do it for me. It felt distinctly inferior to the original and I still haven’t quite understood why it gets so much praise. My point is that while some people might still find it fresh and wonderful and some people might find it to have aged poorly, others just didn’t feel it at the time. It’s not a function of age, just that some things don’t always work for everyone.

        • Mman says:

          “I think they are having to update the design (much like they did between 1 and 2) before releasing a new title”

          Of course they will. However, as Valve are good developers I trust them to do that in ways that won’t destroy all combat depth and meaningful rewards for exploration like the “suggestions” in this article would.

        • Werthead says:

          Was HALF-LIFE 2 really that cutting-edge though? Games had had physics for more than a year by that point (MAX PAYNE 2 and FAR CRY, among others, made use of them), although HL2 was the first to really push physics puzzles. In a lot of other respects it was pretty old-school even by 2004 standards. Other games, such as HALO and FAR CRY, had already led the way with limited weapon load-outs and on release HL2 did feel a little out of touch with the times for not following this path.

          I think HL2 did a great job of combining a lot of innovations that had appeared before it in FPS games, but nothing in it was that radically original. In fact, visuals and physics aside, in some key areas it was a let-down compared to the first game (most notably in AI).

          • LionsPhil says:

            Yeah, the combine goons were not as much fun to fight as the HL1 marines.

          • Skabooga says:

            The great thing about the marines in the original Half-Life was that they were completely human, and so you assumed they would be on your side and help you fight the aliens, and man, it was great when the rolled up to the rescue and OH GOD WHY ARE THEY SHOOTING THE SCIENTISTS OH GOD STOP SHOOTING AT ME!

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I just finished playing Mission Improbable, and then promptly found myself re-starting it and enjoying it again, so for me his views also don’t feel like they apply. I cranked the difficulty up to ‘Hard’, and given that I have been used to being level 65 in skyrim recently, having more of a challenge was welcome. Oddly, the game being more difficult actually made me value and enjoy it more, and even make it seem more realistic.

      I like Half-Life’s range of weapons, and the choice that gives you for each battle. Its satisfying to chuck a grenade and scatter my enemies, switch to the gravity gun and punt a tyre at a scared soldier, then finish off his comrades with some point-blank shotgun blasts, before mopping up the damn headcrabs with a crowbar. I LIKE being a walking arsenal :)

      • benjamin says:

        I agree, Mission Improbable reminded me of everything I liked about Half Life 2 gameplay…

        The nervous anticipation of playing it through the first time about what’s about to come next…firing wildly into the distance because a headcrab has jumped out and scared me…hearing the squawk of Combine radio chatter and getting ready to kick ass…firing a rocket at a poison zombie because you had one spare and you loath the things…trying a tactic, failing, quickloading and doing it better…hating hunters with a passion because they eat up clips before they die…

        Good times!

        • Jorum says:

          Hehe, I rocket-launcher’d that poison zombie instantly as well.
          It went dark, I saw the shape come round corner and thougt “oh shit, just fuck this” BOOM

          Hunters I haven’t got past yet will try again later..

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Keep all your magnum rounds for the hunters! I found they go down much quicker with a couple of good ol Dirty Harry bullets to the face. Rockets probably work too, but I was too trigger happy on my first playthrough and wasted the good stuff. This time I am trying to use the crowbar and gravity gun for the more ubiquitous enemies. Also had fun with appropriating the turret to take out that first wave of antlions. If you run past the turret, you can pick it up from behind then set it up, facing away from you so it doesn’t trigger, in a good spot to kill the bloody insects.

        • Skabooga says:

          I’ve recently been playing a good bit of Arma 2, so when I played through the Mission Improbable mod this weekend, believe me when I say that I’m unable to fully articulate how much I enjoyed carrying an entire arsenal on my back, moving silky-smooth everywhere, running and shooting at the same time, and being able to hit distant enemies without having to block out my entire screen with a pair of goddamn ironsights.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      The “you can carry a ton of weapons” thing is still common in all kinds of games, I’m not sure where he’s really coming from there. The BioShock games let you do it, and they’re supposedly the epitome of modern shooters or something.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Bioshock? Modern? They look nigh-on a decade old with that miserably bad engine.

        • Xardas Kane says:

          Hater much? The engine is just fine, and since when are graphics the deciding factor exactly?

      • AgamemnonV2 says:

        Did you seriously just call BioShock a modern shooter?

        Please, pull up a chair and explain to me how BioShock is anything like the shooter drivel we have these days with Call of Honor: Bad Modern Ops.

        Honestly, you can’t even compare BioShock to Half-Life 2 as well. I think Kurt Russel had more lines in Soldier than the entirety of the dialogue spoken in HL2. And at least BioShock explained mostly everything to you. The Half-Life story is still one big enigma, 14 years after the fact.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Not sure why RPS is giving him a soapbox, really.

      • subedii says:

        Controversy breeds hits is the only thing I can imagine. I mean it’s a short piece that doesn’t really go into proper depth on anything, just a list of complaints and presumptions that aren’t explained or examined.

        • Godwhacker says:

          “Controversy breeds hits is the only thing I can imagine”

          It’s an article that someone has written about computer games, being linked to in a weekly compilation of articles that people have written about computer games. I’m pretty sure any cynicism is on your end.

          • subedii says:

            There are hundreds of articles about computer games written every week. Trust me when I say I could have found any of a dozen better written and more well thought out articles that came out this week.

            Although in fairness, I think I am being overly cynical. I think it’s just as Jim said, he’s heard people expressing this view, and so he posted an article about it.

        • AgamemnonV2 says:

          Of course! This is the only logical explanation, because Gaben is God and everything he has done is the epitome of perfection.

    • Dinger says:

      Should file under the “Game Critics Getting Old” column. I see similar things too, in games. I don’t have time for that formulaic BS I had earlier. I used to eat up all those pages and pages of B.S. that line the bookshelves of every fantasy RPG franchise out there. Now, who cares? Tell me what I need to know for the plot, and let’s get on with it. I don’t have time to read yet another hackneyed load of crap shat out during crunch time by an assistant designer with questionable English skills and only a vague conception of genre.

      That makes me old, not the game. You might want to go back and watch the feature films you thought were the great blockbusters of ten years ago. You’ll find you don’t have time for them either.

    • Premium User Badge bear912 says:

      Half-Life is still quite lovely as far as I’m concerned.

    • Urthman says:

      That poor man. EA and Activision have actually trained him to hate fun.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      Agreed. I don’t just disagree with it, I also think it’s poorly written and not at all objective. Like reading a forum rant.

      Anything, better or worse, shoved down your throat long enough will begin to feel like the norm. That doesn’t mean it’s better. Slower pacing, aiming down the sights and other such things were invented to compensate for slower gamepad aiming. If the industry focus ever turns away from that again, be it back to PC or to motion or otherwise new controllers, game design will change again.

      • Premium User Badge Stellar Duck says:

        The thing is, I don’t mind bias. If he had written a text ranting about how HL2 is shit I wouldn’t mind one way or the other.

        But this piece is badly written and he uses cheap rhetorical tricks and uses his own opinion as a stand in for whatever the consensus might be. It’s all rather solipsistic.

        • subedii says:

          I not only agree with you (I don’t care if it’s a piece about how bad HL2 is as long as it’s at least well thought out and written), I also learned a new word today. :)

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Weren’t you here for last week’s threads? Objectivity is evil and must be stamped out wherever found.

  2. Rich says:

    The Crudepixel article is just wrong. No subjectivity about it.

    • callmecheez says:

      Agree – am just playing through the fantastic ‘Mission Improbable’ mod for HL2 and the shooting mechanics are still fun, and the game engine still looks pretty nice.

      Also – shameless plug, but. HL1 still has the best intro to any game…

    • Lhowon says:

      Some of the points the article makes you could call wrong (and I’d likely agree) but the bit Jim quotes can be taken as subjective – it’s a statement of the author’s experience.

      In fact I share his feeling somewhat, albeit not quite so strongly. Playing Mission Improbable I realised the gameplay that used to enthral me has lost a fair amount of its appeal. It feels a bit too mechanical now and the spectacle – beautifully crafted environments, sounds and scripting – isn’t thrilling enough any more to entirely make up for it.

      Don’t get me wrong, I did enjoy MI and by no means dislike the Half-Life gameplay. I just can’t honestly say it grips me the way it used to, and I think part of the reason is that my tastes have moved on in the past five years. I value a kind of immediacy and lack of abstraction in my gameplay whereas Half-Life 2 is, in some respects, more of a throwback to earlier FPS games. A glorious and masterful one, unquestionably, but a style I don’t find myself entirely engaged by in 2012.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I quit the original Half Life when it started throwing hoards of headcrabs at me. Force me to shoot tons of annoying, erratic moving, jumping, tiny enemies. Um, no. I’m good thanks.

      • Mman says:

        “Force me to shoot tons of annoying, erratic moving, jumping, tiny enemies.”

        Or you could just throw a grenade, lure them into an environmental trap/in-fight, keep back and safely snipe them or one of several other options you get to safely deal with them (not to mention their movement is quite predictable and not really erratic at all).

        • LionsPhil says:

          Or you could just whack them with a crowbar and save your ammo for real threats.

          If you don’t have the timing for the (immensely satisfying) NOPE swing as they launch for your face, sidestep and batter them to death while they’re slooooowly trying to shuffle around for a second leap. Headcrabs are badly unmanveuverable at everything except jumping.

          • identiti_crisis says:

            Ah, yes, so satisfying. The extra variations in HL2 made them more of a challenge (either faster on the ground, or more deadly in the air) so it was a case of carefully choosing to swipe or sidestep, rather than getting away with either with the vanilla ‘crabs. In any case, crowbar-to-headcrab is one of gaming’s great moments of “connection”.

    • Nate says:

      Huh, that’s interesting.

      It’s easy to forget how long ago half-life came out. It was in competition with Sin and Daikatana as the hotly anticipated quake games– Unreal came out just a little earlier as the first competition to Quake. Remember all that? Games really were different.

      And Half-life did a few new things, and they turned out to be good things. It put in cut scenes, but cut scenes that worked a little differently than they ever had before. It had story, but it didn’t rub it in your face. Those marines? The reason they were so cool was because they were throwing grenades at you, even though they couldn’t see you. That was revolutionary. It completely changed single player gameplay.

      I can’t claim to understand what anybody saw in Half-Life 2. It had a few nice environments, I’ll grant it that. Physics puzzles weren’t new, and HL2′s implementation was poor, in that there was no sense behind what was a physics puzzle and what wasn’t. (I remember carefully arranging a bunch of crates to get over a caged ladder, only to hit an invisible clip wall after much tedium, and discover that I was supposed to shoot the lock on the cage. Episode 2′s intro was a perfect example of immersion-breaking gameplay in the first minute, all related to the gravity gun.) And the cut scenes of HL1 were no longer new– worse, HL2 extended them, dragged them out, with ridiculous story, myst-style lever-pull interactivity thrown in without any good reason, uninteresting stereotyped characters (alyx so sassy! and so verbose), all the while, breaking the sense of actually being there that, the sense that existed in HL1 thanks mostly to the anonymity of Freeman. In HL1, you could pretend you were freeman, because all he ever did was kick ass. In HL2, characters’ responded to your unspoken words, in ways that made it clear that Freeman had said something I never would have.

      What HL2 had going for it was a certain 1984 dystopic world– and it was an interesting take on that, a little different than most games do it, even if the basic idea wasn’t particularly original. The art style was a little original. I haven’t seen stalkers in any game before or since– but then, I believe that’s because stalkers look a little dumb, and not very threatening, and they’d be rejected from most other games. Still, I give Valve props for trying to do something interesting on that front.

      It’s not that Valve is a bad developer. They’ve proven, time and again, that they’re very good at combining good, if cliched, gameplay elements with just enough innovation to make good, fun games. But when a franchise is respected enough, it’s almost impossible to make a sequel, and Half-Life is of course their baby. I thought Half Life was a brilliant game for its time, but I have no interest in Half Life 3. It is too important of a game commercially to take any risks, and I believe that with Valve’s philosophy and the time they’ve spent, it’s going to be overengineered. I am sure that it will be commercially succesful, however.

      • Skabooga says:

        I’ve heard more than a few adjectives used to describe Alyx Vance, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard someone describe her as “sassy”. I’d say she is low-key and remarkably polite. The only time she ever really mouths off at someone is Judith Mossman, and I suspected that was mostly because Alyx was jealous of her father’s attention and didn’t want someone else muscling in on that territory.

        • Nate says:

          The Escapist, Kotaku, x360 magazine, on just the first page of google hits for “alyx vance” + “sassy”. 45k results, but then they’re not all about HL2.

  3. RvLeshrac says:

    Accessibility: The problem is that there are plenty of perfectly able-bodied gamers who can’t execute sequences in games. Where’s the line drawn between a challenging segment and an inaccessible one? And what’s the solution that doesn’t involve giving everyone a “just play this for me” button?

    • Rich says:

      What’s wrong with a “just play this for me” button? I wouldn’t have minded one for the first boss in DX:HR.

      • wcq says:

        On one hand, it would be nice to have a button like that. You could use it to skip the parts that you’re not enjoying, just like you can skip rubbish parts in a book or a movie.

        On the other hand, it kind of implies that the developers just gave up. “We couldn’t make this part good or enjoyable, sorry. Just press this here button to skip it.”

        • Chris D says:

          I’m not sure that would be any worse than “We couldn’t make this part good or enjoyable but just tough it out like a man, you wuss!”

          Sure we’d all like all sections of all games to be good and enjoyable but people have varying capabilities so making it possible of all the people all of the time is no easy task. A skip button would mean you don’t have to miss out on a game you were otherwise enjoying just because of one bad section (I am looking at you Deus EX:Human Revolution)

        • JoeMartin says:

          That’s exactly the problem: A button like that becomes a way to excuse bad game design.

          The solution is to have a design where there isn’t a problem, not to have a design which allows bypassing of problems.

          • Premium User Badge FhnuZoag says:

            Well, I would never, ever, ever have been able to complete Doom without cheat codes as a kid, but I think few would argue that game was badly designed.

            I don’t think a gameplay skip is that bad, or even that new a solution, really. It’s more something games seem to have forgotten about.

          • LionsPhil says:

            The difference is that IDDQD still lets you push through the content at your own rate. There is still play in shooting everything between you and the exit. That then requires that said content is all within the normal game mechanics, and thus failure can be avoided by just making yourself invulnerable.

            When trying to pretend that AWSUM ACTION SCENES WE CHOREOGRAPHED are gameplay by cramming in quick-time events, removing the normal gameplay failures isn’t going to help. The only solution is for the game to auto-win for you, since your only input anyway is “press a key to not fail”.

            (Basically, quick-time events are awful, and mean the developers failed their first career choice as action film writers. News at 11.)

          • JoeMartin says:

            The difference is that a cheat code is implied to be hidden. IDDQD was not something that was formalised in to the games design as a feature you were expected to interact with – you needed to explicitly look for it to find what it was.

            A boss-skipping button is (implicitly, by the fact that it’s a button and therefore visible) something that has been deliberately put into the game to accommodate a weakness in the design and balance. A cheat code, by virtue of being hidden, speaks to different intentions and – as a tool applicable to a wider range of contexts – can’t be judged so narrowly as that.

          • The Random One says:

            Everything can become a design crutch. About a month ago I played the Ridge Racer Unbounded demo and realized that even though the track was covered in bright pulsating arrows telling me where to go I still often had no idea of the path I should take (in a racing game!) because the devs thought that the bright pulsating arrows would excuse them from having a level design that can be read.

            Doesn’t mean something shouldn’t even be tried because it won’t work. Letting people play games regardless of their ability (without the staple of just offering an easy mode, which only helps if combat is frustrating, not if it’s boring because then it just becomes a different kind of boring) should be something designers should think of in these days of everyone playing Farmville because it’s there.

        • LionsPhil says:

          The more recent Alone in the Dark remake thing tried it, and was widely mocked for it.

          • The Random One says:

            It might not have been so throughly mocked had it not been so awful.

          • Josh W says:

            Alone in the dark allowed you to skip, but it had a collection based inventory system, with success at puzzles meaning that you had more useful things in your inventory. This meant that whenever you skip ahead, your cache is depleted to some random collection of items they thought were dramatically interesting, meaning that resources you’ve been carefully shepharding were removed.

            And as a slightly more unfair point, they had manual blinking early in the game. It is not hard to mock manual blinking.

      • Narbotic says:

        Objectively, I can see the practical viability of being able to skip unwanted gameplay, but this concept feels downright repulsive to my subjective game-playing self. As in cinema, I feel games have their own “suspension of disbelief” – and I imagine a “play it for me” button would serve as an efficient way to completely obliterate this delicate structure and the potential satisfaction it offers. Seeing a realtime, flawless playthrough of a level that was previously testing my own abilities has a great way of draining my interest in the experience as a whole.

        A recent example of something I’m glad I couldn’t skip – the large semi-circular room in Mass Effect 3′s “Grissom Academy” mission. The game suddenly started to completely kick my ass at this point. While frustrated at first, playing it repeatedly revealed how many different approaches I could take and subsequently a greater depth to the game.

        as always, YMMV.

        • NathanH says:

          I think we have to trust gamers not simply to use such features whenever they start losing, but only where necessary.

          • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

            Personally I’d use a tool like that nearly every time I was losing. Which is only necessary in any game that wants to be challenging.

        • Jay says:

          I certainly don’t see it being any worse than using quicksaving to fudge your way through an especially tricky part, and that’s something most PC gamers take for granted, to the point of calling devs out when they choose not to include it.

          There was a game recently that let you choose to skip sections following your third failure in a row (I think it was LA Noire). That seemed like a decent balance.

        • arccos says:

          I don’t see any problems in general with a “Skip Gameplay” button. I never understood the hate Jennifer Hepler received for openly suggesting it. Different people like different parts of a game for different reasons. Why make them play the parts they don’t like to get to the parts they do?

          We already usually include a “skip cutscene” and often a “skip dialog” button. If I could skip the missions in Citizen Kabuto I didn’t like or the Milkman mission in Psychonauts, I probably would have finished both games.

          • Eddy9000 says:

            I totally agree with everything you said apart from the crazy notion that the milkman level in Psychonaughts should be skipped, for which I’m branding you a fool and a half-wit.

          • Shuck says:

            “I never understood the hate Jennifer Hepler received for openly suggesting it.”
            Unfortunately that was pretty obvious – it was because she’s a woman. It got a misogynist “oh noes, the womens are getting into our cherished boyz-only games and ruining them with their girly ideas!” response. The fact that LA Noire used that functionality with not a peep of protest says it all.

      • Azradesh says:

        I wouldn’t want to be tempted to use it and if I did use it it’d ruin the fun of the game for me.

        • Rich says:

          You’d just have to exert a little self control.

          • Azradesh says:

            True, but say you get to an annoying part or maybe you’re just not playing as well as you should, but then you use it. You think to yourself, “this bit is bull shit, I’ll just use this once”. But once you’ve used it once it becomes easier and easier to let yourself use it again. I’d rather it just never be an option.

          • Shuck says:

            @Azradesh: Easily fixed. You include the functionality but just have the option of permanently disabling the feature, so you won’t be tempted. That way you want to be able to skip things, you can, and if you don’t, you can’t.

          • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

            It’s a nice thought, though game designers will worry about those who set such a flag and then get stuck.

            But we currently get by with ‘hard core’ permanent death modes and the like. It seems like it could work, placed appropriately in the UI.

          • Baines says:

            People are bad at self-control.

            And then they complain that the game is too easy. Don’t believe me? Look back at previous games.

            I remember when magazines like EGM and others would review shmups. A shmup that allowed infinite continues from the start with no real penalty (respawn where you die, and with recoverable powerups) would get docked points for being “too short”. Why? Because the reviewers would use and abuse those infinite continues to power through the game in one sitting.

            Look at save anywhere PC games. PC gamers would quick save/reload through challenges. Developers even realized this behavior, and made greater, or at least more random, challenges that expected the players to abuse the save/reload system. (I remember manuals that flat out told the player to save every few steps.)

            Also for save anywhere games, look at PC versus early console versions. While PC games tended to have save anywhere, consoles tended to go with save spots and checkpoints. PC gamers would quicksave/reload their way through challenges where the console gamers had to keep replaying until they learned how to play the game through a section. There were plenty of arguments at the time, when PC gamers would complain about how not having a save anywhere quicksave/reload feature made titles “unplayable”, and console gamers wondering why PC gamers were so whiny about it. A friend once told me a story about how when he was talking about how hard MDK2 was, a friend of his had said that the game was really easy. The difference in opinion wasn’t a matter of skill. The friend of a friend had played it on a PC and constantly quicksaved, including quicksaving pretty much after every shot in boss fights. If he took any damage, he reloaded. The first friend had played the game on the Dreamcast, which used a checkpoint system.

            And once people have it easy, it can become harder to take the more challenging path. For this, look at emulated classic games, and how many people use save states in them.

            Also note this is separate from things like offering a difficulty selection. You can have someone pick a medium or even high difficulty, and then still abuse quicksave to the point of making the difficulty selection meaningless, *and* not even see an issue with it.

        • Eddy9000 says:

          I manage to play all my games on the hardest difficulty without succumbing to the temptation to bump it down to easy, and the inclusion of an easy mode doesn’t spoil the game for me. In fact several games have a ‘traveller mode’ or some such below easy that make it impossible to die. What would the difference be?

      • NathanH says:

        PC games ought always to have console commands or cheat codes or similar.

        • Tancosin says:

          This would be best. You’d be able to get around annoying parts, but it wouldn’t take you out of the game, as cheats/console commands aren’t really built in to the game.

        • Vinraith says:

          Yup. This kind of thing is what cheat codes are for, it doesn’t need to be an “official” feature beyond that.

    • Gregg B says:

      That would actually solve a lot of problems from an accessibility point of view as well as a ‘I can’t be arsed with this bullshit’ point of view. It’s probably not the most elegant or ideal solution but it would at least dislodge disgruntled players stuck in whatever kind of rut.

      I think we can all recall those moments where we’d like to have skipped a section because it was ill-conceived/poorly designed/inconsistently difficulty. I can think of a number of games with horrible latter sections that I’d have happily hit a button to play themselves. Beyond Good and Evil, Psychonauts, Uncharted, the first Modern Warfare. Wasn’t the Metro 2033 stealth section a pain in the arse?

      • AJ_Wings says:

        I found the stealth sections very fun. That is if you know where you were going and memorized the guard patrol routes at heart. Biggest problem to Metro’s stealth is that it brutally punishes the player once caught. You can’t hide from the guards once exposed Thief/Splinter Cell style.

      • fiddlesticks says:

        The stealth level in Metro: 2033 was kind of a pain, but nothing in the game gave me such a huge sense of accomplishment when I managed to pull it off, so I’m still happy I played it.

        Besides, for the most part it’s not that hard to brute force your way through if you’re careful about selecting your targets.

      • InternetBatman says:

        I don’t even know which level you’re referring to as the stealth section. If it’s the library, a lot of the enemies can be stared down if they see you. All the other levels had stealth options that were difficult, but not really that bad, and certainly not mandatory.

    • Chris D says:

      Is a “Just play this for me button” really such a bad idea? It’s not like someone will use it for the entire game, only for certain sections. But even if they do it doesn’t affect how anyone else will play the game.

      Challenge is entirely subjective anyway, it’s relative to the skill of the person playing, not any objective standard. Allow players to adjust difficulty up or down as they wish, and if that includes skipping a particular section then so be it.

      There are thngs you can do to reduce the need for this, though. Generally if for the most part your game relys on mastering one set of skills to progress don’t then set up a challenge that requires an entirely different set of skills, as in the Uncharted door example, and make that compulsory in order to get any further.

    • Premium User Badge RobF says:

      There are plenty of solutions that don’t just require a “play me now” button and plenty of solutions that -currently- for the most part need to be applied using external tools. The idea that accessibility somehow comes down to something being done to the exclusion of current gamer likes or something isn’t the goal of most advocates, it’s to augment the game in ways that those who need assists have assists. Those who don’t need these assists, don’t ever have to use them.

      Things like being able to slow the game down, having alternatives to QTE that don’t require rapid button presses, allowing automation of things like firing/targeting, designing with head tracking or access to switch controls in mind of which re-definable controls takes a lot of the work from that, closed captions, positional sound, difficulty levels that run the breadth of skill levels from incredibly easy (Rez tourist mode) to a challenge. It’s not about taking stuff away or replacing and more often than anything, it’s stuff that once its in place, benefits -everyone-.

      That’s what the fight for more accessible games is about.

      I’ve been including (and will be doing a lot more with my next one) different accessibility options in my games for the past 5 years now, from special colour blindness builds to being able to turn enemies off, rag the FPS down to 5fps if you choose, closed captioning in a silly shooter and invincibility. The net result of this hasn’t been people moaning that these things are in the game, it’s been more people playing my games and being able to play them at a level they’re comfortable with.

      And for all my years now pushing accessibility out there, that’s been the constant thing I’ve found. More people getting to play more games and being happier because there’s more games for them to play.

      That’s fucking ace. So let’s not get all possessive and ooh, where do you draw the line because that’s crap.

      • Archonsod says:

        I think 7th Guest actually had the best means of dealing with it – if you couldn’t finish a puzzle, you could ask for a clue. If you did this three times, the game then gave you the option of completing it for you.

      • LionsPhil says:

        rag the FPS down to 5fps if you choose

        Hunh. Who’s that for? Or do you just mean slow the game down, and the simrate is locked to the framerate?

        • Premium User Badge RobF says:

          I’ve had to use both at varying times. Some of my games run over the course of 1 minute with things appearing on timed cues so slowing the game logic down solely would result in the whole thing falling apart or requiring a massive rethink in how I approach stuff.

          In games where you’re not on a timer and things don’t appear on a timer, obviously, it’s preferable to be able to just slow the game down using normal means (slower player movement, enemy movement slower etc…). Allowing people to drop the framerate keeps the game doing what it’s supposed to do in the order it’s supposed to do but running slow enough for those with different reactions to still play.

          Fairly often, CPU Killer is used for these purposes instead so all I’d be doing is removing the need for an external aid in that case.

          You can’t really have it going too slow, even though to me, you or most people, it would seem horrifically unplayable or useless. Accessibility stuff can be funny like that.

    • ChiefOfBeef says:

      Games which are not difficult but just tedious come in for well-deserved and valid criticism. The accessibility issue here is one of them. This is not a person who can’t play Uncharted 2 yet still chooses to do so without any foresight; it is just a a very small part of the game which adds nothing but tedium.

      I don’t meant to be personal, but I doubt you would trot out the same canard when it was a non-disabled person complaining about this. Able-bodied gamers and reviewers complain about tedious shit all the time and don’t spark this discussion. Funny how only when it affects someone with a condition it gets brought up.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        The article is not written from a “this is tedious and adds nothing to the game” POV. It is written from a “this is too difficult for me to accomplish” POV.

        What we have all over these comments is able-bodied people wanting to dumb games down because the poor cripples can’t play them.

        What we NEED to have all over these comments is able-bodied people wanting to improve the accessibility of games for the disabled.

        Pity that most people can’t tell the difference between the two.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’ve found that one of the better ways to do accessibility is to have the harder areas be optional. I’ve completed VVVV, but never beat veni vidi vici ( down to the last two screens on the return). Personally I think there’s nothing wrong with a play it for me button (it worked well in Donkey Kong Returns), but it’s a bit less immersion breaking if you just make the extra difficulty things like score, secret areas, and special levels.

      Nintendo is a fascinating study for all of this, because they’ve clearly given it a lot of thought and are on the bleeding edge of accessibility if nothing else.

      • Eddy9000 says:

        Oh mate honestly, you should crack on with veni vidi. It took me a good solid 4 hours of practice but that feeling when you complete it is magic. Almost made up for the time I did it the whole way through and then landed on the wrong side of the tiny block. Don’t think another games made me go through those emotions since!

        • gwathdring says:

          I found Prize for the Reckless even more rewarding through it wasn’t quite as technical. It took a bit of sleuthing to figure it out.

          Also the moment I realized how difficult it would be to get to the shiny trinket from the otherwise easy room “I’m so sorry” (and, I think, figured out why it was ACTUALLY called that) was also pretty awesome.

          But finishing Veni, Vidi, Vici felt pretty damn good.

    • Stochastic says:

      Although truly making games accessible requires thinking of the accessibility of the design/mechanics from the get-go, a band aid fix that could help a lot would be to have some sort of handicap/accessibility toggle. Many Valve games already have a color blind mode. Something similar could be implemented for games that would do things like bypass QTEs and the like. Ideally, game companies would hire playtesters whose only job would be to identify areas of the game that could be tweaked to make them more accessible in this mode.

      Also, I don’t want to be cruel, but I also think that if you have certain kinds of disabilities (e.g. inability to rapidly press buttons) then it’s probably best if you stay away from certain kinds of games. It’s understandable why you would want to play a game like Uncharted 2 so I think it’s reasonable to demand some kind of accessibility mode there, but with other games (e.g. twitch shooters, platformers) we shouldn’t expect designers to always make their games playable for everyone. However, when it makes sense for the game then I definitely think this is one area that should be focused on more.

      • Premium User Badge RobF says:

        Nah, there’s absolutely no reason to discriminate by genre. If I can put these things into arena shooters, they can go in anything.

      • gwathdring says:

        I agree generally. I think we definitely need accessible video games, but that doesn’t mean all or even most games need to have accessibility features–except the simpler things to implement. Subtitles for dialog, synchronized visual and audio cues wherever possible, etc.

        More than any of that … a game should be relatively consistent and logical. It’s fine for the game to get progressively more difficult. It can even have a steep difficulty curve. But in a game where the primary mechanics are slow-paced button presses, there’s no reason to require a rapid-press QTE out of no-where. Rapid-press QTE’s bother me anyway–in the Arkham games I had to rapidly hit my spacebar/one of my gamepad buttons to open grates. If I was firing some sort of repeating in-game mechanism (like a gun or something) it would have been fine. If it was meant to be difficult because of the rhythm or speed required that would have been fine. But neither was the case. Just unnecessary tedium and wear on my gaming equipment to open a grate. One of my favorite Features in AC was being able to slide Batman through grates at speed. I could skip the tedious button pushing and I could fit in three such attempts (if I was in a tight space and had trouble timing the slide) into the amount of time the QTE took. Same with the “Don’t Die” grappling hook rapid-fire QTE. It’s not meant to be hard, so why not make it a single press?

        • Premium User Badge RobF says:

          “I agree generally. I think we definitely need accessible video games, but that doesn’t mean all or even most games need to have accessibility features–except the simpler things to implement. Subtitles for dialog, synchronized visual and audio cues wherever possible, etc.”

          I’m going to *really* regret asking this but why? What gives you the right to make that decision for people with differing abilities?

          • RvLeshrac says:

            What gives us the right to determine that the blind aren’t allowed to drive cars?

            What gives us the right to determine that the deaf or mute aren’t allowed to staff call centres?

            My knee doesn’t allow me to play baseball or soccer, but I’m not demanding that they fundamentally alter the rules of the game so I can.

            You can’t fundamentally alter the rules of a genre purely because some people aren’t good at it. When you do, you end up with the inexorable slide toward mediocrity that is the modern FPS.

          • Premium User Badge RobF says:

            I’m not sure you’ve entirely thought that argument through before you typed it onto the internet.

            Would you like another try or shall we just move on?

          • The Random One says:

            The deaf are allowed to operate call centers. They just use special computers for deaf people that read out what’s on screen, and have separete channels on their headphones for the call and the computer’s readout.

          • Premium User Badge RobF says:

            Comparisons to field events are pretty bogus, the idea that you have to have a certain level of ability in order to play a digital game where everything can be adjusted if the programmer sees fit to allow it is, well, I don’t know what it is. I do know there’s no comparison between a field sport and and a videogame though, y’know?

            When games are made up of a series of zeroes and ones, when we can allow resolution changes, volume changes, difficulty level changes, prompts and huds to be switched on and off allowing people to play in different environments, adding more environmental variables to play with is every bit as harmless. You don’t change the resolution of your game to something silly so why would you change the access options unless you needed to, y’know?

            Large amounts of access needs can be dealt with to some degree by fairly trivial changes. Most of these things are solved problems. Some aren’t ideal solutions but still, all the same we have ways of catering to and working for different abilities. But we don’t do them. In fact, as this topic shows, people push against them even when they’re things that can be used to benefit them. When things are made adjustable, they don’t just have to be adjustable downwards.

            And to be blunt, if you were in a car accident tomorrow wouldn’t you want to be able to carry on playing games without someone telling you “tough, you can’t have that. It’s not for you”? Because that’s what arguing against access options comes down to in the end. This isn’t like normal football where you need two legs to run down a pitch so we’re just drawing entirely arbitrary distinctions as to what’s allowed and what isn’t. And why do that when we don’t need to? Why do that when it’s stuff that will ultimately benefit everyone? When it’s stuff that one day you might just find really helpful.

      • RvLeshrac says:

        Accessibility such as making QTEs slightly more forgiving, adding adjustments for the colour-blind, and things like visible on-hit directionality indicators are examples of the good kind of “accessibility tuning” – Adjusting for people using alternative input devices, those with vision problems, and those with hearing problems, who have the skill to play. (Non-gaming examples: Wheelchair-basketball; modifications to bows and firearms for prosthetics; Traffic signals which make an audible ping)

        Fundamentally altering the game itself, such as dumbing-down enemies (without adjusting the game difficulty setting) or dumbing-down shot patterns is the bad kind: Adjusting your game because you think the poor crippled people can’t play it. (Non-gaming examples: Giving the wheelchair-bound non-physical ‘alternatives’ to a physical activity; reducing education standards)

  4. dethtoll says:

    I was just listening to the Assassins theme from the Thief Gold soundtrack… what’re the odds.

  5. RvLeshrac says:

    Let’s listen to CliffyB. He’s not constantly a massive asshole to developers and reviewers or anything.

    More seriously, though: “It’s just X+Y” isn’t meant to dismiss the quality of a game, usually, but to point out that the EXACT SAME GAME has existed for ages (There’s PBEM Scrabble. Hell, you can probably find PBEM turn-based Tetris. Next, we’re going to see some asshole making an “async RISK clone,” and it will sell fuckloads because some jackass decided it deserved more press than the dozens of other high-quality, well-presented, web-based RISK games with starving developers), and that no one gave a fuck about the concept until Some Douche wrote an article about the new game as though it was unique.

    • studenteternal says:

      I guess I might be in the minority here but I don’t think that “Its X + Y” is any commentary on the quality or even originality of the game. It is an attempt by the speaker to explain a concept to the listener. By using two familiar starting points you can quickly get onto the same page before discussing particulars.

  6. arrjayjee says:

    I would have gone in the opposite direction as Crudepixel. To me, Half Life 2′s “less spectacular” battles against Striders and what-not are more engrossing, not because they are smaller than the spectacle battles in other games, but because the story and world has given them weight. Striking a blow against the oppressive Combine, defending your friends and their last ditch effort to close the portal, it gives the battle an urgency and epic-ness that other games fail to achieve even with ten times the spectacle.

    Of course then there’s also the whole “Other games have since done what Half Life did better and therefore Half Life isn’t as good as the newer games that built off it” argument. Half Life changed games, the fact that other games have since adopted its changes isn’t a sign of its age or weakness, but of its greatness.

    • Igor Hardy says:

      Which games exactly have done what Half-Life did better? I’d like to play them.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I recently finally finished SiN: Episodes, and it’s actually really very much like a good episode of Half-Life 2. (Although the chronology means it doesn’t actually answer your question.)

        The demise of Relic Ritual is saddening. I bet they could have run with that; SiN 1 compares surprisingly well too.

        Oh. IIRC, Quake 4 learnt Half-Life’s lesson of immersing you deeper into the character by sticking fairly aggressively to a first-person perspective. Meant the Stroggification “cutscene” in the middle was actually pretty effective, despite whatever other criticisms you may have about it. (I thought it was a pretty good FPS with a misleading name, myself.)

        • MrTambourineMan says:

          Sin was made by Ritual entertainment not Relic.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Right you are. I’m terrible with mixing up names with the same leading character.

            Unfortunately, they’re still the one that got swallowed up and digested by a casual gaming publisher.

      • Muzman says:

        No One Lives Forever is probably the closest follower of the Half Life game type and it’s terrific in pretty much every way.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Brilliant as the NOLFs are, they were heavily mission-based with third-person cinematics, and objectives, which seems rather un-Half-Life. (Gordon spends much of his time just going with the flow; Cate has goals to aim for.)

          • Muzman says:

            True, but the gameplay is very similar in that it’s a semi-scripted shooter adventure with a few extra twists (more stealth etc).
            Most other big FP names from the period, critically speaking, are focused differently (Thief – Pure stealth, System Shock 2: survival horror rpg. Deus Ex: basically RPG etc)
            NOLF is roughly the same stripe of ‘evolved shooter’, even if it’s quite different narrative wise.
            It all does depend on what “Does the same things as Half Life” means of course..

      • Mman says:

        “Which games exactly have done what Half-Life did better? I’d like to play them.”

        This is the issue I come up against when I try to reason how anyone can talk about Half-Life 2 being “dated” due to games that have come since (as opposed to them just not liking it). Discounting borderline RPG’s like, say Stalker, Bioshock and Deus Ex; which is fair since they are targeting entirely different things. The only games I can think of that have actually tried to meaningfully add to the design ideas explored in HL 2 (as opposed to just copying them and generally not doing it as well) are Call of Duty 4; which unfortunately emphasised improving the mostly non-interactive aspects which inadvertently led to the SP FPS genre being in the pretty bad state it currently is, and Metro 2033; which, despite some flaws, actually tried to build on HL 2′s design while also taking it in a radically different direction with the survival horror twist.

  7. mckertis says:

    “We wanted a world that took itself seriously”

    It’s great that you want that, but how about nailing that gameplay first ? Defense Grid was one of the dullest, most uninspired commercial tower defense games i’ve ever played. It was really polished, but had not even a shadow of spark of life in it.

    • Gassalasca says:

      I found it utterly charming, and full of life. I wonder what’s the others’ take.

  8. Premium User Badge Anthile says:

    What’s the deal with RPS, anyway? It’s just asynchronous rocks, papers and shotguns.

  9. bill says:

    “it’s strange to shoot distant targets from the hip,”

    Moron.

    Sorry. I try to be nice on the Internet but sometimes it’s not possible. Any game that forces me to use redundant iron-sights for anything other than a sniper rifle can sod off.

    • Lhowon says:

      That’s just, like, your opinion, man. But really, it’s absurd to claim ironsights are “redundant”. It’s fine if you prefer crosshairs, but clearly there’s a point to having players aim down sights to hit distant (and not so distant) targets. Personally I find it makes the gameplay more interesting and and the game more immersive.

      • Mman says:

        Guess I’ll edit what I posted on the Black Mesa Source video post:

        Universal Iron-sights dictate the design of a whole game (at least in a well-thought out one); iron sights intentionally slow down player movement and aiming is crippled if you don’t use them, which would force the game to be slowed down. Conversely, if iron-sights are completely optional and don’t change the game at all, why are they even there except as some arbitrary lip-service to people who aren’t going to enjoy a run and gun shooter anyway?

        Iron-sights are inherently antithetical to everything I (and obviously many, many others) enjoy about Half-Life’s combat.

    • Jay says:

      I’m really starting to get fed up with the whole ‘iron sights everywhere’ design model. To the point where if it’s not a realistic military shooter, I’m really not interested. A great example would be the choice to include them in Aliens: Colonial Marines, which just doesn’t seem like a good fit for the game at all. The Aliens should be fast and deadly enough that taking the time to draw a precise bead on them should be suicide, and then should move fast enough to make them near impossible to keep in your raised sights. Or that’s how I feel about it at least.

      On top of that, I’d really rather not spend the majority of my time looking at the stunningly rendered environments in modern gaming through what feels like a pinhole. Just change the iron sights option to ‘a bit of a zoom’ instead if you must. For a lot of shooters it just isn’t a good fit.

    • MrTambourineMan says:

      I heard that SAS commandos are actually shooting from a hip for example in CQB. (This documentary: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bym0Xgj0wfs at about 11:10 min. – though they’re helped by flashlights in this case) it’s what they call “instinctive shooting”, you can google it to learn more hehe :)

    • Skabooga says:

      Let’s just put it this way: if I had a time machine, I would use it to go back in time to prevent gun makers the world over from ever putting ironsights on real-world guns, just so that there would never be a chance of them appearing in video games in the present day. One might ask, “Wouldn’t it be simpler and less of an uphill battle to simple go back in time and prevent video game designers from putting ironsights in their creations, instead of trying to stymie actual gunsmiths from adding such an obvious and utilitarian feature to their weapons?” To which I would respond, “That’s not taking it far enough.”

      Knowing my luck, removing gun sights would probably create an alternate history where the Nazis win WWII. Admittedly, that would not be worth it.

      I do recognize that my preference for not having ironsights is no more legitimate than a preference for having ironsights, just different tastes and all that. Even so, this knowledge does nothing to lessen the heat of my enmity towards them.

    • welverin says:

      I read the Double Fine article already, quite interesting.

      • DuddBudda says:

        “The best thing about a partner like Dracogen is [his name]”
        Dracogen.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          The best thing about Dengler is that he’s awesome. Dracogen is just a close second.

    • Josh W says:

      Nice to see people slowly pulling out of the poverty trap that is conventional publishing, and with their studio intact too.

  10. Premium User Badge Hodge says:

    That CliffyB piece is hugely reminiscent of an earlier Gamasutra article on game dev lingo (which I think was linked here at the time), which is also worth a (re-)read.

  11. Azradesh says:

    Here’s a pretty interesting forum post about doing PC ports from an Ex-Ubisoft dev.

    http://brokenforum.com/index.php?threads/dark-souls.294/page-43#post-208718

    • subedii says:

      Wow. I mean, I started reading, but when he dives headfirst into “YOU ALL PC GAMERS ARE PRETENTIOUS WHINY &$%&^s!” territory with every point he makes, it kind of makes it hard for me to even care what his opinions are.

      That, and it makes it all the more evident why Ubisoft out of all publishers seems to have the most problem with doing anything PC related. Grief, Capcom were a dedicated console dev for most of their existence, and even they manage it far better today.

      EDIT: Wow, his response to Jam as well, and he was being completely polite. It’s weird that he rails against people being pretentious and whiny, and then gets off swearing at people who make polite posts.

      • D3xter says:

        And further down he seems to disqualify himself in regards to knowledge of the PC architecture because of the “3Ghz” comments, not that his initial Post doesn’t seem… questionable at best xD

      • Azradesh says:

        The post is in relation to the Dark Souls port and I think his main point is the cost to change thing for a game that was purely designed with consoles in mind from the start.

        The whining he’s talking about is in relation to Dark Souls.

        • subedii says:

          The subject is Dark Souls, but the people he’s railing against are “Whiny Entitled PC Gamers” (his words, not mine).

          Good grief, is he even aware that Dark Souls lists 3GHz processor speed as minimum system requirement? I just checked, that already puts it outside of 80% of Steam users, purely because of the single threading he talks about. I don’t see anything wrong with pointing out that “This. May. Be. An. Issue.”. But no, to point that out makes you ‘entitled’ and a ‘whiner’.

          EDIT: Oh look, someone else has pointed it out to him now.

          And when Jam (again, very politely) points out that it’s not entitlement if people expect the game to live up to technical standards set by every other game on the platform, is it right for him to then be called a “graphics whore”?

          Sorry, no. If he wanted to make a point about how big jerks Those PC Gamers are (or whatever his point was), it would have been easy enough without acting like one himself.

          I mean look, when CD-Projekt ported The Witcher 2 over to the 360, they had zero console experience as well (there were certainly endless forum posts about CD-Projekt “holding out” on the console community by not publishing it there). But it would have been utterly, UTTERLY lazy and stupid to call any 360 users “entitled” or “whiny” if they expected something running at or around 720p and a decent framerate.

          Incidentally, this is a rundown on the 360 version:

          http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/digitalfoundry-the-witcher-2-tech-analysis

    • Jason Moyer says:

      “Hey guys, sorry my CD sounds really bad, but my primary target audience was 128k mp3 users.”

      Pretty much every single point that guy makes is nonsensical and either comes down to a.) not having high quality versions of the game’s assets, which seems unlikely if they did any sort of pre-rendered trailers or cutscenes or b.) vastly underestimating the capabilities of any decent GPU made during the past 10 years

      The whole sub-conversation about Japenese devs doing PC ports would be interesting if I didn’t have a fully functional PC version of From Software’s own Ninja Blade that runs flawlessly at true 1080p on an old, mid-range system.

      • Azradesh says:

        The post is in relation to the Dark Souls port and I think his main point is the cost to change thing for a game that was purely designed with consoles in mind from the start.

        • RvLeshrac says:

          The “main point” is *completely* *fucking* *invalid*. They aren’t selling the game for the price of a mediocre port of a console game, they’re selling it for the price of a mid-tier PC release.

          This is the equivalent of calling people “Whiny, entitled little shits” for complaining that the bricks of gold you sold them were only actually gold about 1/2 of the way through, on the basis of previous customers not having melted them down.

          • subedii says:

            Indeed. However good he may or may not think Dark Souls is, it is not a precious little snowflake that deserves to be judged by completely different criteria to every other game that other developers put out. Especially when they are still releasing it at the same pricepoint.

            I don’t even mind that it’s a year later. Alan Wake came two years late. But that was a port that managed to make back its porting costs in two days, and on playing it you can see why.

            Yes, From Software are a Japanese developer. That ultimately doesn’t factor into how people should expect the game to perform, nor will it factor into how well the game sells when it’s competing against a tonne of other high profile, full priced games releasing at the same time. Games which have the benefit of far more hype since they’re not releasing a year after their marketing campaign. In those circumstances, putting out a bad port is one more factor working against it.

            And all that’s said even before I’m willing to assess whether it does or doesn’t work well as a port. I don’t know that. Nobody really does yet. But this is the scenario that DS is walking into, and being a bad port on top is just one more precursor to bad sales is one more precursor to them saying “Well, they CLEARLY didn’t want the title”. And should it come to that, I hate it when guys like HIM start flat out blaming the fanbase, the ones that actually signed that petition (and me? I’m not even one of them) when the issues lie elsewhere.

          • Azradesh says:

            I think it’s an amazing game, and as long as it works on PC you should get it. Graphics be damned.

          • subedii says:

            Maybe I will. But here’s the thing:

            I actually really wanted to try Dark Souls after everything I’d heard about it. I was definitely looking forward to it more than Darksiders 2 at the time.

            Today? I have Darksiders 2 pre-ordered and waiting. I have a good expectation on how it’s going to play. I WOULD have pre-ordered Dark Souls but I have no idea how it’s even going to run, and I’m not going to order it until I do know.

            Purely by dint of what we know now, Dark Souls has already been put at a hefty sales disadvantage.

            That is NOT the player’s fault, much as anyone might rail about “entitlement”. Empty freaking meaningless usage of the word that it always is when it crops up in these discussions.

            I don’t feel it’s in any way unreasonable to hold fire on a game when you’re worried about whether the port means you’ll be playing at 15 frames a second (or even not at all given the GFWL logout thing), I don’t care if he thinks it’s “the greatest game made”. It could give me free candy for all I care but if I can’t even run it then who the heck even freaking CARES?

          • Jason Moyer says:

            As I mentioned, From Software basically have no excuses considering that their Ninja Blade port is perfectly fine as far as ports go. I can’t imagine playing it with the keyboard and mouse, so I can’t comment on how that works, but from a purely technical standpoint it looks great and runs well.

      • subedii says:

        How about Capcom? They do exceptional ports these days.

        Until recently their PC experience was effectively zero. They say in that thread that you need to buy it even if it’s bad because that encourages more development.

        This is precisely the inverse of what happened with Capcom. Capcom released Resident Evil 4 on PC, and it was atrocious, and tanked hard. Ironically it had a lot of the same problems that the guy in the link would have called you “whiny” and”entitled” for daring to suggest were even issues.

        However, it was precisely BECAUSE Resident Evil 4 was such a terrible port (yes I bought and played it. Certainly one of the worst ports I’ve played. And I even modded it as well, which made it pretty decent), and this point was thoroughly hammered home to them, that they decided merely bodging it and throwing stuff onto the platform without thought wasn’t going to work. They were sacrificing sales for the sake of a cheap port, and it wasn’t working.

        Meanwhile today? I can play DMC 4 on my PC, and I will happily call it not just an exceptionally good port, but probably the definitive version of the game. Simlar with Super Street Fighter 4. The thing is, if Capcom had maintained the level of shoddy porting that was evidenced in RE4, by the standards he sets out in his post I would have been a “Whiny Entitled PC Gamer” for not buying their other releases, because the good core game is in there somewhere amongst the horrible horrible port. Which is a completely tripe opinion to hold.

        You see, I’m pretty likely to buy DS anyway. I have a high tolerance for such things (if I didn’t, I never would have survived the days when terrible ports were standard), and at the moment, I don’t know what the final status of the port is going to be, good OR bad.

        But sod him if he thinks having what are ultimately reasonable expections of a title’s platform release somehow makes you an elitist, and it genuinely doesn’t matter if it’s “THE BEST GAME EVER!” or not, that’s a separate issue. I am tired of that kind of crap.

        EDIT: Haha, I just checked. Resident Evil 4 was published PC-side by Ubisoft. All of a sudden, the opinions at work make a lot more sense.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That’s just an incredibly belligerent post, and the logic used in it pretty much argues that we should accept any number of technical flaws in the name of having a port at all.

      If making a proper port is expensive and the developers don’t want to pay the costs, then they shouldn’t make one at all. That requires a lot of integrity on the part of the developers, but it’s the right decision.

  12. Kester says:

    Those pictures of airfields are lovely. As built environments which necessarily have to have a lot of open space, they end up with a certain haunting quality, a feeling that the space used to be filled but whatever was there has just vanished, unexplained.

    I grew up not too far from RAF Oakington, and if you were willing to fight through the brambles you could get some beautiful views by walking up the old railway tracks adjacent (now a guided busway, but I assume the views are still available, and probably easier to access). The hangars have a certain majesty solely due to their size. I always wonder what future archaeologists might make of some of our larger buildings, and whether purely utilitarian structures might somehow be mistaken for symbolic or religious sites – it’s usually cooling towers which inspire the latter thought, but those abandoned hangars do it too.

  13. thepaleking says:

    “the game suddenly feels like a game”

    That might be because it IS a game. Blade Runner looks like a film, because it is a film. The Starry Night looks like a painting, because it is a painting. There’s nothing wrong with a game feeling like what it is. I’d say it’s a much bigger problem when a game tries to be a movie.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “It feels like a game” is just a bit of a klunky way of saying “my suspension of disbelief is wavering”, though. A good film doesn’t feel like sitting in front of a series of rapidly-changing pictures, even though that’s what a film is. All that detail is pushed aside because you’re too engrossed, much as how when you walk Freeman forward, you’re not thinking about pressing “W”.

  14. Robin says:

    The Half Life 2 thing’s bollocks. Those design concepts aren’t dated, the FPS genre has just spent the last ten years being forced by commercial pressures to rip out anything approaching challenge or control subtlety for the sake of supporting hopelessly unsuited joypads.

  15. Jahkaivah says:

    I thought Half Life 2 characters fired their weapons at shoulder level, not from the hip.

  16. Jake Albano says:

    I have an idea on how do solve that accessibility problem: Just do away with those kinds of button tapping events. They’re tedious and annoying.

    • Premium User Badge jrodman says:

      What? You didn’t find Track & Field to be the pinnacle of gaming?

  17. Unaco says:

    What Rab says about Proteus is quite interesting. I’d quite like to try it… but it doesn’t seem to have a demo, and I’m pretty broke at the moment. I wonder if Rab could suggest an alternative way of getting hold of it?

    • equatorian says:

      Wasn’t there a really, really old alpha a while back? It’s probably completely different now, but I enjoyed what little game there was even back then.

    • The Hammer says:

      Ho ho ho, Unaco.

      • Unaco says:

        Are you suggesting I wait until Christmas? And receive the game as a gift from friends or family? But… but… I can’t! It is a cultural event, being aggressively marketed towards me… I can’t be left out in the cold until the weather is such that I can, literally, be left out in the cold.

    • pakoito says:

      You could get the Alpha 0.1 if you preordered the game in February or something like that. I also stumbled in an old prototype from October last year while I was combing my download folder.

  18. equatorian says:

    As someone who has recovered from some nasty shit ™, though I can’t speak for anyone else here who also has, I’d say that there is a gaping hole for games that provide some sort of healing. The Japanese DO have some, as theirs is a culture stressed to hell and back, but I have to strain quite a bit to come up with some in the Western sphere. It’s something that we need, I think. Certainly not all the time. There will always be a place, and a bigger place at that, for warfaces and conflicts and brown things exploding in pretty fiery colours. But there ought to be niche for a game that offers healing. Not ‘cute enough that it makes you feel better’. No ‘attempts to teach you meditation techniques/crytal/color/yoga/alternative thing enjoyed by hippies’ Just healing and beauty. As they say it in Japan, iyashikei games.

    I’d be really happy if the indie space is the one to provide it.

    • Similar says:

      I’ve used Far Cry and Oblivion for that ‘being somewhere pleasant’ feeling, but of course, it’s a little different if you have to kill something in order to be left alone.
      Second Life has also worked for me at times, but there it also hinges on finding a sim that is both pleasant and deserted.

      I can’t think of anything I’ve tried that was specifically made for it.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Maybe I’m not quite understanding the requirements, but Minetest/craft in peaceful mode, just exploring the randomly-generated vistas?

    • Eddy9000 says:

      I’ve downloaded a ‘no dragons’ mod for Skyrim so that my trips around the countryside on horseback aren’t ruined by having an annoying battle every 10 mins.

      Also if you have an iToy I would really reccomend ‘Bloom’. It’s an uber-paired down procedural music generator. Not a game as such but certainly a lovely toy. Also ‘zen bound’, I’m not sure what your physical restrictions are but if you’re able to use a mouse (PC) or rotate your phone it really is very relaxing.

  19. Shooop says:

    My problem with Half-Life 2 is the shooting itself just doesn’t feel solid. Take away the gravity gun (which is useless unless there’s something around to pick up with it) and it’s just a game of whoever has the bigger gun and more health. Everything else about it is brilliant, but if you’re making a FPS you need to make sure the shooting is the game’s strongest point. It wasn’t in Half-Life 2.

    More to the point of the article, GMod didn’t ruin anything about the game’s story for me. I’ve watched plenty of videos like the wonderfully zany GMod Idiot Box before and it was easy to take the characters seriously thanks to the quality writing and acting. The problem in this case is all yours Mr. Manning, not Half-Life’s. Tell me, do you think Leonardo DiCaprio is just a shameless grab for young girls’ attention like he was in (the laughably terrible) Titanic when you see him in The Departed?

    • Vorphalack says:

      ”if you’re making a FPS you need to make sure the shooting is the game’s strongest point. It wasn’t in Half-Life 2.”

      Personally I thought the core FPS bits were really solid. Why did you not like the HL2 shooting?

      • Shooop says:

        One big factor was the lack of enemy reaction to being shot. It’s as if the game’s code only processed “alive” and “dead” states and nothing else.

        • Vorphalack says:

          That was probably intentional for the combine, they were supposed to be augmented humans who don’t feel pain or emotion and can take a shotgun blast to the torso and keep on running. The resistance fighters do react to being hit, although it’s a bit limited. They have ”I’m hit!” voice lines and some limited animations. I don’t think it really matters too much for the aliens / zombies.

    • JackShandy says:

      “Everything else about it is brilliant, but if you’re making a FPS you need to make sure the shooting is the game’s strongest point.”

      Deus Ex.

      • Shooop says:

        Isn’t Deus Ex considered much more a RPG than shooter?

        • JackShandy says:

          Fair call.

          • GameCat says:

            Sorry, but that terrible, terrible broken shooting mechanism in Deus Ex KILLED this game for me.

            “Hurr durr, I’m a special agent and I must aim 10 seconds to hit this guy”
            Also:
            “Hurr durr, I’m a special agent, I can’t climb obstacle higher than 40cm”
            No, just no. It’s terrible. Thank god that System Shock 2 do it right.

          • Vorphalack says:

            It is wrong to say ”terrible” and ”broken” when what you really mean is you just didn’t like it.

          • Josh W says:

            I don’t mind broken in this case, it was implausible, and difficult.

            But I personally really like it, just like I loved killzone on ps3, which is a straight shooter that uses the same mechanics (although with better tuned timings).

            The expanding reticule, along with leaning and similar cover mechanics, encourages shooting that is based on positioning rather than reaction speed.

            “Ruun crouch, take a few potshots, dive behind cover, manoeuvre around shoot them in the back.”

            (Yes I’m quoting gameplay, I don’t actually say this while playing)

            Weirdly, it was the level design of deus ex that let it down in that respect; the path they took to making the stealth challenging meant that there was a certain spacing to the nooks and crannies in levels, which were too diffuse to make a guerrilla cover-shooter work.

            Weirdly, deus ex human revolution would have been a little more suited to the variable accuracy system, thanks to the way it heightens the los element of stealth, encouraging more tangled pathing.

  20. Gonefornow says:

    “Fundamentally the game suddenly feels like a game, instead of the immersive, atmospheric and mysterious experience it once was.”

    To me Half-Life 2 always felt like that. A non immersive game. (Linearity being the immersion killer.)

    That’s not a detriment though, as modern FPS’ generally feel like sparsely interactive movies.

  21. Lacero says:

    Thief generates the absolute best games journalism.

  22. Jorum says:

    The thing is Half-Life 2 story and characterization made it’s scripted, “old-fashioned” style far more immersive and epic than modern shooters.

    BF3 had lots of amazing set-piece spectacles, but they were just that – spectacles to go “ohh that’s nice” . Not once did I really give a toss about what was happening or the characters.

    Conversely, by the time you take on a strider, with everyone screaming running in panic, you are invested in the situation and it means so much.

    These are the Resistance, your people, and you want to help them, save them.
    And the strider is more than an enemy – it is a symbol of alien domination, a symbol of just how pitifully outgunned the resistance are.
    And then you take it down and everyone cheers and it’s a symbolic moment of “fuck yeah, we can win this war!”

    • belgand says:

      Eh, it didn’t do that for me. I felt that the story did a really bad job of making me feel like I was ever involved. I just get tossed a crowbar and sent off and suddenly, after wandering around in the wasteland outside of town for a long time, I’m supposedly some sort of inspirational figure to a revolution that I know basically nothing about? Against an enemy I’m totally unfamiliar with? I felt thrown into the game and the plot without any chance to engage and it ended up just feeling confusing.

  23. Muzman says:

    Radiator ” …And that’s just the stuff going on in one 30 second segment in the first act of this mission. It’s why Thief is the “thinking woman’s FPS”, because it imbues basic 3D perspective rules with drama and absolutely soaks environments in tension. It’s also why Thief veterans hate how Thief 3 (and probably Thief 4 too) have a third person camera: all that juicy tension about incomplete information never develops and it just evaporates.”

    Absolutely goddam right.

    • Lacero says:

      You could play deadly shadows in firstperson!

      • Muzman says:

        I maintain that to some degree at least just having the option there is detrimental to the game. Not necessarily a huge amount, but some.
        It’s a ‘get out of immersion free’ button. Usually at this point I run up against the anti-creator dictated gaming argument (‘people should be able to play games however they want!’). Which is grudgingly acceptable as a position I guess. But I have to think about all the other FP games, on console no less, that felt no need to put such a view in and no one considered it important. At that point in the discussion you usually dig up a whole lot of people who say “you just can’t do stealth in first person”, which is utter hogwash, and the evidence for which invariably falls under “It’s too haaard! Make it more like Splinter Cell/Metal Gear. I want to see round corners” etc.
        A pure first person experience is the core from which everything that’s good about Thief extends. Everything.
        If it was as popular as Half Life no one would ever question that.

  24. pakoito says:

    Even though it rises valid points, the Dungeon Mastery piece again just looks at a segmentated part of the market. AAA console FPS/RPGs, completely forgetting about every other genre or quality level.

    Anyway most AAA stuff is bound to die in the next 5 years, IMO. Only a couple of superhuge titles, and everything else back to the AA market with limited budgets.

  25. Cockles says:

    I feel I must speak up for the people who don’t particularly like Half-Life 2, we do exist and I suspect there are a lot of those who are dismissive of popular things for contrarian’s sake but that’s certainly not the case for me.

    I loved the original because it was revolutionary in many ways, it certainly felt like Valve had seen that there were many stale and formulaic patterns in mainstream FPS’ and decided to give us something familiar yet with fresh ideas. I played through Half-Life 2 once and couldn’t bring myself to finish a 2nd playthrough despite the fact that there were many great ideas and sections, it felt like it had been too long in the making and insulated whilst the rest of the market had began to go in new directions for better or worse.

    I loved the atmosphere and setting of the first game; an anonymous scientist trapped in a remote lab complex with other anonymous scientists and security personnel who exist only to serve as plot helpers for the specific sections you’re in. It fitted with the design philosopohy (i.e. a linear corridor shooter with a silent protagonist) but the 2nd game was jarring for me once that security guy I’d seen die 100 times in the first game was now a singular character, I found it difficult to “realise” the characters of HL2 in any sense considering you don’t interact with them in any meaningful or human way.

    The concept of City-17 was great but the reality for me was that it became a bit of an illusion once it was apparent that there was not an huge amount of exploring to do within the city, a claustrophobic science lab in the desert seems more natural to a linear game than a city setting.

    Of course, this is only my opinion and I’m not critisising anyone who loves the game in any way, the majority of gamers (and critics judging from the scores) would disagree with me, but I just wanted to get across that I don’t think this is a brilliant game and not just because it’s cool to be different.

  26. bill says:

    The reason for the assualting is that he’s essentially saying that HL2 is bad because it’s not like CoD – and many people here feel that HL2 is vastly superior to CoD and are not keen on the idea of HL3 being like CoD.

    Trends and times change, but there seems to be some conception that new style automatically means better, and that old style automatically means bad.

    Clearly the tech and the experience of game developers has moved on and built on from HL2. And clearly playing an old game for a number of times will begin to break the suspension of disbelief. (personally, I rarely replay any game as I find almost all games lose their illusion of control when you replay them – but that’s just me).

    there have been a lot of great advancements in the FPS genre, but not all the advancements are great, and not all of them should be applied to all games.
    Iron sights and cover and 2 weapon limits might be great for a realistic (ahem) military shooter. But they don’t really fit an action game about fighting aliens in a dramatic action-filled way.
    (in the same way we don’t want action heroes to use guns in a slow and realistic way, but we don’t want characters in serious dramas leaping over tables with a gun in each hand).

    I’m sure a new HL game would have more large scale battles with more destructive environments (we need at least one falling skyscraper per FPS now, right?) . But personally I don’t want them to change the movement speed, or make me use iron sights, or limit me to two weapons. that is limiting my fin for the same of making a game about a scientist fighting aliens more realistic. That’s nuts.

    • mikmanner says:

      Not that HL2 is bad, it’s great! But that the mechanics felt nostalgic, pasting a conversation from the article;

      “What I’m wondering is if the longer we wait for a new Half Life do our expectations change? Will we be happy with another episode in the style of Half Life 2, or do we expect another generational shift as there was between 1 and 2?

      Has Half Life 2 (and its episodes) dated over the last 8 years? Personally for me, I felt like it has – this is not to say I don’t still enjoy it, but since playing it this weekend I have had to re-accustom myself to its mechanical design.

      I found the movement – that gliding, motionless, static camera which we control as the player pulled me out of the experience. It feels almost like how I imagine Quake 3 to feel now after having not played it for years.

      I kept wanting to focus my aim with the pistol when I was shooting people at a distance.

      I had several moments where I had quick-saved myself into a bad situation and had to frequently load back in quick succession to blag myself out of fights.

      The gun count was something that we very rarely see today and I had forgotten what it was like, it made me feel nostalgic.

      I understand how all of these elements are fundamental to what Half Life 2 is and how it plays, and don’t get me wrong I love it. I’m wondering if Half Life 3 will be any different. Does Valve want to release a nostalgia piece or something contemporary and cutting edge?

      The first time I experienced that Strider fight you mentioned, that whole helicopter sequence from Half Life 2, the first fight against the Hunters, the Follow Freeman! chapter…all of those things were remarkable – but I think by now they’ve been possibly overplayed, to do it again doesn’t quite excite me in the way that it used to.”

  27. belgand says:

    I feel like part of the reason for a reduction in weapons has more to do with hardware than software or changing attitudes. Back in the day most FPS were designed for PCs. As a result the standard quickly became that weapons were selected with number keys. Since on a standard keyboard you have access to ten of them (and maybe a few extra keys around the edges like the tilde) you typically saw about ten weapons in a game. Maybe with some alt-fire modes to add in additional options.

    More recently a lot of FPS are being developed with consoles in mind. They don’t have a set of number keys and a combination of the awkwardness of cycling through weapons and the need to use buttons for other purposes have conspired to make the d-pad the default method of selecting weapons. So now most games give you the option of carrying about 4 weapons at a time. Games might differ in a number of ways or provide varying slots, but this has become the new standard. Sure it may be sensible, but it also seems to be motivated more by the interface than design.