The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on September 2nd, 2012 at 11:00 am.


Sundays are for packing yourself to the countryside to hunt owlbeasts with a catapult. It’s what I do every Sunday, and this one is no exception. Goddamn owlbeasts.

Music this week is the trailer for Berberian Sound Studio.

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63 Comments »

  1. Terragot says:

    David Cage can suck on my mushroom tip.

    Stop wasting all these talented peoples time by making bad video games and go make movies for channel 5.

    What I don’t get is the idea that a fusion of video games and film is a good idea, it’s a fundamentally botched idea. What is the point of interaction when the scope for user choice / input is so strict in order to drive a narrative? I can’t change the core of the story because the designers & writers insist I experience their vision, this isn’t bad, it’s just with film it’s so much better and easier to do.

    Heck, I don’t know, It’s just I really don’t understand the thinking that goes into games like this. I guess I’m miffed because I recently finished a AAA open world adventure wherein the penultimate gameplay moment (the ending) was a quick time event. Does nobody else feel that these designs are completely insane? I’d prefer a cutscene where I can sip my cup of tea and appreciate everyone’s hard work, rather than ignoring the visuals, voice work, scripted sequence and keep an eye out for that “Press F to not die” icon.

    Bah.

    • Moni says:

      I quite like Heavy Rain, the script just needs a bit of a trim.

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Nij3SPa_V-k&feature=player_detailpage#t=7s

    • woodsey says:

      I’m reluctant to click it on it myself, if only because I find him insufferable. But yes, the only impression I’ve ever gotten from him is that he fucked up a film career along the way and now he’s defaulted to an industry he sees as a reserve.

      I almost bloody cried when Warren Spector called him “a genius” – for his writing! And that, I think, is my biggest problem with him. He’s revered for writing when he can’t write.

    • greenbananas says:

      The problem isn’t trying to fuse games and films. The problem is trying to cram a film plot into a first/third person shooter and ending up sacrificing gameplay, non-linearity, sheer size, and putting up QTEs side-by-side with shooter mechanics. That’s the fault of hundreds of game designers who decided to copy Half Life and did it poorly, not of David Cage. All the guy did was make 3 games, (at least) 2 of which where the focus was on interactive narrative and NOT shooter gameplay. They’re not very good at being games. They’re semi-successful at being coherent narratives (although the plot on Fahrenheit was horrid). They’re stepping stones to something better, something like Telltale’s Walking Dead.

      I completely understand your hatred of cutscene-driven, situational “gameplay”, QTE-style getting in the way of the game proper. Blaming someone who’s not at fault for it (and who’s attempted to create alternatives to standard AAA fodder, however succesfully/unsuccesfully) is just silly, tho.

      • marcusfell says:

        True that. I once tried to write the sroty for a Sci-Fi game, and ended up writing a novel instead. The world building was just too much fun, and the schemes and counter-schemes were too complex to fit inside a game without severely crowding the gameplay.

        However, I would like to make the point that books are much more interactive experiences than movies, if not more than games. Reading books just takes a significant time investment, and during that time its very satisfying to make predictions, make notes, read other books at the same time, and generally process the information in a more meaningful way.

        With film, all you’ve got is around 15-min between actually important scenes to watch… Something? I guess I’m not a big fan of film, but there are some really, really good ones that nail audience immersion (The Dark Knight (not Dark Knight Rises) comes to mind). But artists of either industry aren’t gonna learn jack from each other if they don’t even bother to try.

      • Wisq says:

        I’m confused how anyone can be said to “copy Half Life” (even poorly) by making cutscene-heavy third person games full of QTEs that don’t focus on shooting.

        Did we play the same Half-Life?

    • Hoaxfish says:

      For all his denial about being a failed film director… he still comes across as a failed film director. Using Ellen Page just reinforces it.

    • belgand says:

      I would further state that the story was the worst thing about Heavy Rain. It was in every way derivative and offered no real advantage for being made vaguely interactive. At worst the lack of fail states often made the game much, much worse by denying me the ability to make substantive decisions.

      Perhaps the best example that comes to mind is at the very end. I had already beaten the game once and was going back to get all of the endings. I reach the point where you simply need to free your son. The music swells, you’re told how desperate the situation is and how there’s no time to lose… and I waited. In reality I just wanted to get an ending where the child didn’t live, but as I waited I devised my own narrative. I had gone on this journey and, at the last moment, made a capricious choice that I didn’t really love my son and felt I would be better off without him. I became a heartless bastard who wanted to stand back and watch his only son die in front of him. Great! A truly compelling and exciting gameplay moment that I created for myself while still working within the basic outlines of the story as it was programmed.

      But it didn’t happen. I just stood there are the prompts insisted I had no time, but in reality I spent a solid 15 minutes just doing nothing and both of us feeling a tad bit embarrassed and awkward as the music kept swelling to the point of madness and the camera swooped dramatically only to start all over again.

      My presence wasn’t in any way as a player or actor in the scene, but merely a monkey to push the buttons so the story could continue. Making the game mildly interactive had actually made the game appreciably worse.

      • DAdvocate says:

        I had the opposite experience, I absolutely loved Heavy rain and rank it amongst my favourite gaming experiences alongside the Witcher and Planescape. To enjoy it requires a different approach from the usual RPG min-maxing or exhaustively going through dialogue trees to obtain the “perfect” route.

        I went through the entire game without a single reload, accepting the events as they came so that from my perspective, every action had meaning. The majority of QTEs make no more difference than the animation shown for the following few seconds but because I never replayed any scene I never knew which ones were inconsequential and which would profoundly alter the storyline. This meant I cared about every QTE and so shared the protagonists feelings, a threatening chase scene had both me and my character panicking trying to keep on top of the QTEs.

        My overall ending was far from perfect with some characters dead or crazy but it was an immensely satisfying journey and replaying the game to see other endings would ruin the story for me.

        • Schaap says:

          The problem I had was that i found the story to be awful. There were some pretty huge plot holes

          Spoilers ahead!

          Like Ethan Mars’ blackouts and waking up with an origami figure in his hand. No connection to the murders and is never adressed later. Or the cheap way they throw you off of Shelby’s trail with the murder in the antique/clock shop. This is just flat out lying: the game, not the story, has you strolling about the shop but at the end it shows that while you were controlling shelby he was actually killing the shop owner.
          I felt so betrayed after that it really spoiled the entire game for me.

      • fish99 says:

        Heavy Rain managed to annoy me enough in the first 30 minutes that I never played it again.

    • lurkalisk says:

      Yeah, I can’t stand the guy. He just seems to damn oblivious to the industry he claims his own, and then runs his mouth about it like he’s some sort of videogame messiah.

      • KenTWOu says:

        David Cage: I don’t pretend that what we do was created from scratch. There were predecessors and inspirations, including in the game space…

    • Wisq says:

      Although I haven’t played his earlier games, I do tend to agree with this. The trailer looks like it would be a decent film trailer (assuming the characters went to full live action mode instead of CGI). In fact, a welcome relief from most modern movie trailers, in that it actually has decent pacing and doesn’t just leap straight into the insane.

      But as a video game trailer? No way. Not unless those were just a few key plot scenes from an otherwise epic open world game. I don’t mind a little forced cinematic narrative if it gives me plenty of freedom inbetween (e.g. Sleeping Dogs), but IMO, there are only a few linear games where that level of cutscenery would be tolerable. Those sorts of games should be telling story through gameplay.

    • The Random One says:

      David Cage is the H. P. Lovecraft of our time. He does have some interesting ideas, but is completely incompetent at realizing them to their potential and we’re better off waiting for someone who actually understands the medium to follow up on them. Also a substantive part of his work will make you wince over the blatant misogyny.

    • TariqOne says:

      I didn’t care much for Heavy Rain in the 30 minutes I managed to play of it before wandering off in boredom, but I’ll say this: it’s worlds more insightful and interesting than “suck on my mushroom tip.” Seriously. You’re execrable.

  2. phelix says:

    Love the Google Earth Fractals page. It’s stunning if you realize how much splendid things are packed together on this tiny planet.

  3. AngoraFish says:

    This may also be of interest to RPS readers: Drone DMND Controller Scam Suspended On Kickstarter. Title says it all.

  4. Jamesworkshop says:

    “Look at that game, look at how expensive their video looks… They don’t need our money.” Meanwhile, our company bank account was getting dangerously low.”

    That seems like it might have something to do with it

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I’m a bit bemused by that Republique article… “It looks too good” just seems like an incentive to back it when it’s a small unknown studio (it’s certainly not a reason I’d ever seen publicly). If they can pull off a good looking game on iOS then it’d be tempting. Established studios (e.g. Auditorium 2) are the ones I see being accused of “don’t they already have the money”.

      The main “concern” I saw with Republique seemed to be the lack of, then late addition of, PC/MAC versions… something they seem to gloss over in the article.

      Lacking PC, etc, means they couldn’t tap into the same group of people who had been pushing the headlines for games kickstarters.
      Adding it late came across as a last ditch attempt to gather the money, and that it’d be a basic mobile port (with all the design limitations a mobile platform comes with).

      • belgand says:

        That’s the boat I was in. It seemed like a compelling game, but I simply wasn’t interested in a game that was only coming out on phones. Even worse, a game that was only coming out on iOS when I’m a firm Android adherent.

        It seems like perhaps they didn’t learn this lesson though and that’s what worries me the most. Kickstarter should ideally have been a perfect situation to learn about your audience: hmm… people don’t want this game on phones, they want a game they can play on their PC, maybe we should reconsider just what we’re doing here.

        Even if they remained firm that the game needed to be made for phones they might have acknowledged that iOS-exclusive was probably the wrong place for it. Just because your team is composed of Apple fans doesn’t mean that the rest of world is made up of them. Kickstarter especially would seem to me to be much more of an Android sort of place. By cutting out Android they needlessly hurt their core concept of “high-quality games for phones”.

        I know it can be tough to be told that your idea is, in a sense, bad, but a good author knows how to deal with that properly or better target the niche that is interested. Perhaps people really don’t want “high-quality games for phones”. That core gamers actively resist the idea because they genuinely dislike it, not because the right game just hasn’t come along. That comes dangerously close to saying that nobody appreciates your genius. This seems more like they’re blaming the audience than responding to it.

      • abandonhope says:

        I’m one of the apparently many people who watched the project closely, but really had no interest in a phone game of its kind. After the retooling for PC/Mac, I thought they did a decent job justifying the decision and explaining how this version would play to the strengths of the platform. I still didn’t much want it.

        I think they initially focused way too much on the idea that this would be a game to prove that iOS (and smart devices in general, I suppose) was a viable space for serious games. That’s vaguely interesting but not particularly relevant to me, as I don’t plan to have a handheld Apple device any time ever. My current phone strongly resembles a Jitterbug. In the end I think the late (and seemingly crucial) PC/Mac addition disproved their stated goal.

        It seems that there are quite a number of timing-related factors to Kickstarter that are not fully understood. Payton failed to mention the success of Starlight Inception that occurred three days before his project’s funding deadline. That project was a hotbed of irrationality and good will after its backers managed to save it from certain doom, and in a post-victory high they descended on Republique in a grassroots campaign to see it succeed. A cursory glance shows that many of them pledged to both projects, and I saw more than a few comments from backers who had little interest in the game itself but still wanted to see it funded.

        I don’t have data to back this up, but I suspect that the timing and unfolding of events here was critical to creating momentum for Republique. That Payton spends no time discussing this in his long analysis seems indicative of what an unwieldy, difficult-to-understand beast Kickstarter can be.

      • InternetBatman says:

        The article annoyed me due to its complete lack of introspection. He mentions that his video got as many views as a Kickstart that made twice as much, but the reasons he offers are: no initial pc port, too late to the Kickstarter party, video too polished, and purple sweater.

        Maybe it’s that the game looks exactly like a ton of games that traditional publishers are making right now, and the publishers are doing a good job. Maybe people really don’t care about visual fidelity, motion capture, and voice acting on iPhone games. Maybe the game looks too cinematic for the indie crowd that kickstarter draws. Maybe the time distribution (2/3rds on the game, 1/3rd on the video) was a bad decision. Maybe the idea was flawed from conception and received a tepid reaction because of it.

        Also, quotes like this also fail to convince me that the PC version is more than a moneygrab:

        “And most importantly, the team’s happy — we’re still developing our dream iOS game while also knowing that we have a second Christmas when we can deliver a unique version of the game for PC and Mac users.”

        “In fact, as something of a happy accident, we stumbled upon a reward tier strategy that led to an increase in individual pledges: reward tiers that allowed pledgers to double-dip on the game, getting both iOS and desktop versions.”

  5. Moni says:

    “They [females] have a range of emotions that is actually larger than male characters.” – David Cage.

    Consider that quote next time you play the strip dance bit in Heavy Rain.

    • tobecooper says:

      Cage may spin it however he wants to, but it seems pretty obvious he’d put naked women even into a Teletubbies game. They are essential to the Cage gamin’ experience (TM), even if these darned breasts never fit into the plot.

    • JackShandy says:

      I love breasts, I just wish he wasn’t so creepy about them. We get these lovingly crafted voyeuristic shower shots, and then Madison gets attacked by six guys? Boy, cage, I don’t know what you’re trying for there, but it sure seems like we’re meant to be turned on by this whole thing.

    • belgand says:

      I felt that the stripping had problems when it tried to force my hand into notstripping. There’s something to be said for character, but ideally a game should allow the player to define the character to a certain degree themselves. Maybe my version of Madison wants to lure him into a false sense of security by stripping before making her move, maybe she’s willing to have sex with him to accomplish her goals, but no, the game tells me how to feel. If she strips down all the way you eventually reach a point where your hand is forced — after lots of painfully direct cues as to the “correct” solution — and get an achievement about how ashamed you are.

      If I’m not able to portray the character the way I want I’m just watching a movie and pressing a button every so often to see that it continues.

  6. Arglebargle says:

    Love seeing Warren Spector talk on games. He loves ‘em, and loves Disney stuff too. Of course, it helps here that I was one of those six roleplayers yakking and fighting way back when. Things could indeed go 90 degrees off course easily, and Warren was a prime instigator. He used to dogsit for me! Changing times…

    Hope he keeps it up. I was surprisingly charmed by the music video from the new Mickey. It tweaked the Busby Berkely fan in me. And he’s right about the narrowcasting aspect of games presentation. It doesn’t even make that good of a business sense to me, fighting over the scraps of the pedestrian shooter gamers. Go mine(craft) in the many other fields available.

  7. Vorphalack says:

    Just had a quick look at that website the Guardian used for PC hardware comparison, and I think it’s fair to say it’s absolute garbage. I’m all for improved clarification in hardware comparisons, but one does not simply use two completely separate sets of benchmarks between processors and then compare score. Half the processors aren’t even benched, although based on the results of ones that are, it’s probably better that they aren’t. Sadly this sort of article will likely perpetuate the myth that a good gaming PC will set you back a few months worth of mortgage payments.

    • Stromko says:

      The Guardian is awful, but the Digital Foundry article kind of lost me when they suggested a 1.6 ghz dual-core netbook could happily run Battlefield 3. Going with an Intel chip and an ATI card on a budget rig doesn’t make sense to me either. I suspect it’s a bit of a brand mismatch that one would want to avoid if they had the option, for greater compatibility. AMD is generally much cheaper as well, though perhaps in £ it’s a different story.

      (Says the guy who last upgraded his GPU from a GeForce 450 to a 550, despite that his current (replacement) computer has an ATI motherboard and chip. It still works well enough, though it was fairly useless as an upgrade. Maybe 10% faster for my 100$ and despite meager performance gains it overheats even more, despite massively more space committed to cooling pipes and whatnot. I do wonder if it’s bottle-necked due to lack of communication between Intel/Nvidia and AMD/ATI.)

  8. Anthile says:

    Anyone else having the sudden urge to add a single word to that Shakespeare article?

  9. pakoito says:

    Project Zomboid is hiring real developers? About time already!

  10. FhnuZoag says:

    I hate the dumb wikipedia article length comparison, because such comparisons speak more about how wikipedia is organised, than anything else. ‘William Shakespeare’ might be shorter than FFVII, but ‘Romeo and Juliet’ has 2000 more words than FFVII, and that’s not counting the individual articles to each character, each adaptation, the history of adaptation of the play to the screen.

    Meanwhile, Square-Enix’s page is only 1000-odd words.

  11. Toberoth says:

    Tim Rogers bores me to tears. I don’t really understand the point of his article, apart from trying to provoke people. Someone enlighten me?

    • jikavak says:

      It’s trying to provoke people.That is all there is to it.That is what Kotaku does.

    • DonDrapersAcidTrip says:

      The point is… to express his opinion?

      • Wisq says:

        But he wasn’t. He was pretending to have a contrary opinion. Basically just strawmanning.

        • Toberoth says:

          Yeah, that’s basically what I got from it: “Here’s a series of controversial opinions that I don’t really have about a game that is notorious for attracting some of the most ardent defenders and equally ardent detractors in all of gaming. It’s all just for a laugh though so you can’t say anything bad about me or my writing. Toodles!”

          It just seems irrelevant to me. I read comments like this one:

          “Speaking of which: what’s with the run button? This is the developers acknowledging that the character’s default movement speed is too slow and that players might want to move a little more quickly. That seems like a fundamental flaw, right there.”

          and I think right, ok, so what? Do you have an original argument or something new to say, or…? In the whole 300 hours or something I put into FFVII, I can’t remember ever once being put out by the fact that I had to hold down a button to run. What is the point of nitpicking a fifteen year old title like this?

    • Jae Armstrong says:

      The impression I got from the article was that he’d recently revisited the game and found a lot of little things that bugged him, and I guess he just wanted to vent about that, maybe? I mean, it’s right there in the intro.

      Or I guess it could have gone a little like this: “You’re such a Final Fantasy fanboy, I bet you couldn’t say something bad about it if you tried!” “Nuh-uh! Watch me!”

      Or: “We need a link-bait piece. What’ve you been doing this week?” “FFVII.” “Perfect.”

      Or he could be trying to make A Point, in that very Tim Rogers way where he spends a lot of time talking about seemingly inconsequential and/or irrelevant shit while sidling up to the central thesis. That last point he makes, that FFVII could have been a better game if it hadn’t been FFVII, is pretty interesting, and I think worth writing an article about all by itself.

      Take your pick.

      Though I got to say, while I tend to like Rogers’ stuff, this one seemed a bit lacking in substance. (It’s so short!) I think this is a much better piece of his on FFVII.

      • Toberoth says:

        I pick all of the above. But really, sidling around the point like that doesn’t strike me as being like, a cute or clever form of debate. It’s just hot air. I mean look at his Kotaku page here: http://kotaku.com/tim-rogers/

        Look to the right, at the titles of the articles. Put simply, the man writes inane crap. And look at the hits: his most popular articles are Japan: It’s Not Funny Anymore, 10 Stupid Things Terribly Wrong with The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, and 10 Things I Hate About Skyrim. The first of the three is the article that finally put me off reading Kotaku, because it’s so fucking long, so fucking rambling, and I got banned for making a comment expressing my displeasure at it. The second two articles are classic link-baiting. And the thing is, I wouldn’t MIND him expressing controversial opinions if he did it intelligently and incisively, but he just waffles on, goes in circles, and never seems to say anything original. It’s bad writing.

        /rant

  12. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Final Fantasy VII (for the PC, no less) is one the two games that got me into videogames (the other was Warcraft II). It’s always made me sad that it doesn’t hold up better: the story is goofy, the graphics are an ugly mess, and I never realized how little I enjoyed the materia system until I tried to return to it.

    But you know, it was crazy ambitious, which is a quality that Square had in abundance in the 90s, especially in their non-Final Fantasy titles. Threads of Fate was too easy, but it had well-written, likeable characters and a strange bifurcated narrative structure that I’ve never seen replicated in another game. Legend of Mana was for many years my favorite game of all time, and it’s sort of like…I dunno, really, like some hybrid of the Elder Scrolls and Zelda with some Final Fantasy thrown in, composed almost entirely of side quests and coated in a thick layer of charm and topped with a wonderful soundtrack. Chrono Cross was kind of a mess, story-wise, but it had a fantastic battle system that completely eliminated grind and allowed you to recruit something like 30-40 characters for your party. Vagrant Story is a game that I truly hate to play, and have never finished, but from time to time I think about it and deeply wish the gameplay was understandable enough that I could force my way through and see the ending.

    My PS1 library was almost entirely Squaresoft, which makes me sad that they aren’t nearly what they used to be. Oh, from time to time you’ll get something that has some of that madness about it–like the Last Remnant and its deeply weird battle system and refreshingly homoerotic undertones–but it’s been a long time since I could count them as a great developer. The one thing that gives me some hope is that they at least seem to have retained some of their old sensibilities as far as publishing goes. Human Revolution was a breath of fresh air, and Dungeon Siege III was, if not great or entirely successful, at least had a few ideas of its own about its genre. Here’s hoping.

  13. TheIronSky says:

    Warren Spector is my hero.

  14. origo says:

    What’s so interesting about Ragnar’s write-up about his game? Seems like a typical ‘everything is great, game is doing ok, updates will be coming in plenty until the end of time’. Taking a jab at some games adding elves or centaurs, while indirectly mentions adding vampyrism to game…

    • Josh W says:

      It does seem to have a strong note of “please do not stampede, we’ve taken a hit, but we’re not actually dead, everything is ok” translated into gritted teeth PR speak.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      It’s one of the biggest loads of shit I’ve ever read. Almost everything in there is rubbish.

      Freedom of class and levels isn’t true, it’s just obscured.

      It’s hilarious how they keep emphasising user review scores at Metacritic, like the game’s fans will be objective judges.

      He says they won’t back down from their original vision ‘regardless of the competition’. So why, then, did I receive an email linking me to a survey asking ‘What would make you play The Secret World?’, and why did the survey specifically ask how I thought TSW would stack up against GW2 and Pandasexscraft? Sounds like they’re actually quite prepared to alter their original vision in their desperation for players.

      TSW is going to ‘revolutionise the genre’? What the fuck kind of nonsense is this? GW2 has made the same claim in some of their marketing. It was disingenuous when they did it. But it’s just absurd when TSW claims to do it. Showering us in cutscenes does not make your stale shitty MMO a revolution.

      Not surprisingly he goes on about settingsettingsettingsetting, but that means nothing once you’ve played the game for a couple of hours and realise it sucks. It’s also rubbish to suggest you have a wonderfully unique setting when what you’re actually doing it recycling zombies and vampires, ripping of Lovecraft at every opportunity, and sticking in whatever cliched conspiracy theories you can find. The setting is no more original than the ‘elves and centaurs’ he criticises.

  15. Josh W says:

    Project zomboid seem to actually be in some kind of survival game of their own, where the mechanics are slowly revealed to them via near disaster, and they immediately try to fill the gaps.

    Considering they don’t have a game wiki to refer to, they seem to be doing pretty well.

  16. SonicTitan says:

    On the confusion surrounding the Rogers article – I read it as him making a point about gamers’ myopia – the whole scene DOES have a tendency to chew up, consume and shit out whatever new game is put on our plates, and then six months later bash the loving hell out of it for completely inconsequential reasons, refusing to look at the game in a bigger picture.

    That’s just my interpretation though, and if that’s what he meant to say he took a hell of a long time saying it.

  17. Josh W says:

    The thing I wonder about with that beyond thing is how they will go about folding all that superdetailed mocap into the branching that interactivity will require.

    It’s like the problem of splicing together branching dialog, but exploded into 3d dimensions plus momentum.

    Do they get the performers to go back to the exact positions they were in and go from there?

    Do they interpolate somehow?

  18. Johnny Lizard says:

    Not sure why you’ve linked to what I assume is a trailer for a new series of Nathan Barley, but it looks a bit disappointing.

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