The Sunday Papers

By John Walker on November 11th, 2012 at 2:00 pm.

Sundays are for staring in bemusement as the BBC attempts to self-destruct, and being grateful that there’s good games writing out there with which to distract yourself.

  • It’s tempting to wonder if other people have put more thought about what they want to see in Elite 4 than David Braben. One of the most interesting discussions of what should be in there comes from PCGamesN’s Steve Hogarty, who really gets to the nub of the issues: “‘Cooperate on adventures or chase your friends down to get that booty,’ wrote David Braben on Elite: Dangerous’s Kickstarter page, betraying a keen understanding of why the game he co-created was any good. But what is that booty?” This is insight.
  • Old Frieds: An Ode To Defence Of The Ancients: My goodness, if you want someone to write entertainingly about DOTA, you turn to Cara Ellison. “‘AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAH!’ I scream, mashing the push-to-talk button down so hard it was almost pressing through the keyboard into wood. ‘AAAAAAAAAH THEY FOUND ME AAAAAAAAH!’
  • What’s Inside The Skinner Box?: Could Molyneux’s box of tricks be one of the most exploitative games ever made? That’s the argument being put forward by Chris Chapman on his Trioptimum Trumblr. “So, let’s play a game. There’s a huge sheet of graph paper, about 400 square metres with a 2mm grid, and every player—thousands of them—is holding a pencil. You all simultaneously colour in the tiny squares on the graph paper, one by one.”
  • Exploring Dear Esther With Robert Briscoe: Jamie Donnelly goes into extensive depth with Briscoe over on Beefjack about Dear Esther and what lies beyond it. At the start he notes, “It divided audiences, and while everyone seemed to agree its ability to tell a story through its environment was incredible, some couldn’t get past the fact it contained no traditional gameplay to speak of.” I’d point out that I couldn’t get past the fact that it just wasn’t very good at telling its self-important story. But hey-ho!
  • Dark Souls Diaries: Matt Sakey has been keeping meticulous records of every death he’s experienced in Dark Souls, up to around 700 now, and telling his “disinterested” friends. He’s edited those communications into a series of articles.
  • Hollow Worlds – Looking For “Look At”: Richard Cobbett does love a grumble. Here he is on Eurogamer’s soapbox, pointing out that open worlds really need to improve. He rather brilliantly argues that games need to reintroduce the adventuring concept of “look at”.
  • Unpredictability And Control In Turn-Based Combat: I think usefully following on from Jim’s argument that games are best when everything’s going wrong comes an essay from indie developers Sinister Design’s Craig Stern. Here he’s exploring the role that random elements of gaming play in create tension, and the costs involved. “Randomness creates uncertainty, it is true, but so do other elements. This piece will examine a variety of tension-building elements, from the basic die roll to other methods that—quite undeservedly—receive less attention and respect.”
  • Change The Game: Yannick LeJacq takes a look at games journalists’ reactions to freemium gaming, and what he calls “the gamification of an industry”. “What scares game critics about gamification is the thought that it saps any of the artistry from games themselves. Stripping them to their bear essentials, they worry that the magic of games may be revealed as nothing more than a few titillated nerve endings, quivering at the excitement of a possible reward.”
  • Journey – And Evening With Robin Hunicke: Daniel Golding at Crikey.com reflectively contemplates on an evening’s audience with Journey developer Hunicke, and the emotions the game engenders. “There is not an ounce of exclusion in Journey’s blood. It is a game that has the warm embrace of pensioned romance, or the familial caress of shelter from cold rain.”

Want some music? It won’t be as good as Jim’s! This week I think it’s important to remember how great The Hold Steady’s Citrus was.

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114 Comments »

  1. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    How bad can one be at video games? This Matt Sakey is probably the worst player I’ve ever heard about. In any game.

    • tobecooper says:

      I’ve once played Dungeon Keeper. And I was bad in it. Very bad. You might even say evil. So I would like to think that I was the evilest and worsest player in there. In that game.

      Now that you heard my story, I hope I can take that prestigious ‘the worst player Dr I am a Doctor has ever heard about’ away from Sakey..

    • gschmidl says:

      Reading the articles, it seems it’s because he refuses to pay attention. Which Dark Souls punishes swiftly and repeatedly. I did my initial exploration at the speed of a quadriplegic slug and died about twice up to the point where he’s near death #137. And I’m terrible at games like this.

    • JackShandy says:

      Seems like he’s putting his points in instead of int, which means he won’t be doing much damage as a sorcerer. Could be part of it.

    • DarkFenix says:

      At least it’s quite amusing reading about it (as opposed to watching someone bad at games playing them, that is physically painful). I laughed out loud at “I wonder what’s over that bridgOHDEARFUCKINGCHRISTIT’SADRAGON”, because it basically mirrored my own reaction first time round.

    • ffordesoon says:

      Or maybe he deliberately paid less attention so the article would be more entertaining?

      Remember, this is for the edification and entertainment of “disinterested friends.”

      Also, I don’t care what you say, it is totally possible for someone who is pretty okay at games to die seven hundred times in Dark Souls. It is a hard game. That’s kind of its whole deal. Not to mention that it’s an entirely valid strategy for learning what will and won’t kill you.

      • sebmojo says:

        Because, amazingly, no grammar pedant has arisen to make this point yet I will make it – disinterested does not mean uninterested. Uninterested is what everyone should be using here.

        Disinterested means you have no financial interest in the results of a transaction. Uninterested means you don’t give a shit.

        THE MORE YOU KNOW

        • elderman says:

          The word disinterested can mean ‘not having a self-serving interest’ and can also be a synonym for ‘uninterested’ according to Merriam Webster and the Wiktionary.

          The way I see it, the problem with playing the part of grammar pedant is that it’s gratuitous and open to easy sniping from the peanut gallery.

        • the_p says:

          Think John anticipated this with his cunning use of inverted commas.

  2. phenom_x8 says:

    This Sim-plicity series at PC Gamer is a must for every sunday in your live :
    http://www.pcgamer.com/tag/sim-plicity/

  3. Xocrates says:

    I don’t quite get that article about curiosity.

    I was always under the impression that the game being a huge waste of time and effort to be the point. As an experiment I find it a fascinating one, and as such I find it weird that the guy is complaining about the game doing exactly what it was meant to do.

    He makes, maybe, one good point regarding the 50.000$ DLC and only because it assumes some schmuck who can’t afford it may buy it.

    But the complaint that it’s a waste of time? One could do that about any game he didn’t like and reach the same conclusion.

    • trioptimum says:

      I wouldn’t lightly call something wasted time. And perhaps I’m overreaching when I say it’s true of Curiosity. Maybe people out there are genuinely having fun (as opposed to merely having their attention captured) tapping cubelet after cubelet, I don’t know. If that’s true, then playing the game is its own reward, and the argument doesn’t work.

      To address the first point: just because the game is doing exactly what it’s meant to do it doesn’t mean it’s above criticism for doing so. I’m not claiming insight into something hidden; just calling out something for being bad.

      • Xocrates says:

        But that only raises more questions regarding your blog post. You never make it quite clear why it’s bad other than being a waste of time. Especially since you only bring about the “micro”-transaction thing after establishing that it’s bad.

        • trioptimum says:

          I did an admittedly poor job of distinguishing a couple of different meanings of ‘bad’.

          The ‘waste of 3 million man-hours’ thing is just disappointing. And I don’t think time spent playing games is usually wasted. There must be a huge number of amazing and unappreciated games that have never seen and will never see more than a fraction of that playtime, and some those games would surely bring more enjoyment to players than Curiosity. But maybe it’s more ‘sad’ than ‘bad’ to think of 3 million hours disappearing that could be better used on virtually anything else.

          The DLC thing, targetting whales, etc. is ‘bad’ as in it’s a genuine social ill. I wasn’t trying to bridge the two.

          • Xocrates says:

            But you didn’t focus on the “bad”, you focused on the “sad” – which by itself is pretty sad – , and more importantly you did so while ignoring the context.

            You can argue that the DLC side of the issue is despicable, but by ignoring the “experimental” side the argument feels flat. It’s an ideological opposition instead of a rational one.

            You could have argued, quite successfully even, that even if for experimental purposes it would be wrong to charge (so much) money, but even then you would have to argue the value of the game as an experiment, which you never ever do – in either the “sad” or the “bad”.

          • trioptimum says:

            I don’t completely buy the description of it as an ‘experiment’, though. It feels like a bit of a cover story. It’s clearly a game, created by a game designer, with scoring and power-ups and powerful compulsion loops; a very minimal game, but not one that feels more experiment than game.

            I think that the description of it as an experiment may just be a strategy to hide sins that are generally frowned upon in games. And I don’t think it justifies the $50K either way. But you’re right, I should have gone down that route.

          • Xocrates says:

            Yes, and the disclosure of that opinion makes for an entirely different read of the article. It probably still isn’t one I agree with, but at least now it’s one I understand.

            So, thank you for that.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            @Xocrates

            OK, he explained what he meant. Now you’re basically being a dick and expecting a new blog post or some kind of retraction. Why are you taking it so personally?

            IT’S OKAY THAT PEOPLE DISAGREE ABOUT THINGS. In fact, if you’ve ever cracked a history book, you’d already know that it’s actually a good thing.

            EDIT: Upon retrospect, after reading a few more of your posts, I regret responding to you. I wouldn’t exactly call you a troll, since you’re coherent and consistent, but you seem to be extremely contrary, beyond the point of it being useful or appreciable. Good luck, dude. I feel like you need it.

          • Xocrates says:

            @Universal Quitter: To be perfectly honest, I tend to exaggerate my contrariness for the purpose of getting people to explain themselves better.

            Though I will admit I found your post a bit puzzling since you called me “beyond the point of it being useful or appreciable” after I both got my “opponent” to clarify his position and thanked him for doing so.

      • fitzroy_doll says:

        It’s a valid point: what is the fundamental difference between 200 hours of Skyrim and 200 hours of cube tapping? Is there a way to describe why one is less acceptable than the other?

        • trioptimum says:

          People play Skyrim because it’s fun.

          • Xocrates says:

            To whom?

          • trioptimum says:

            To the player. I don’t see anyone calling Curiosity fun, not even Molyneux. He’s all about it being interesting, but even there he’s talking about it being interesting to watch from his god’s eye view. I don’t recall a single statement from Molyneux about the player’s experience at all.

          • Xocrates says:

            “To the player”? What, all of them? Pretty sure I heard plenty of people saying the Skyrim was dull and shallow.

            Also, the reason Molyneux never said that curiosity was fun is because it isn’t supposed to be. Why do you think he called it an experience? He even admitted to be surprised by both the amount of players and the time they logged (he claimed to be expecting an average play time of a few minutes, the actual value is several hours)

          • Vorphalack says:

            Perhaps if Molyneux wasn’t a prominent game developer, he refrained from using words such as ”play”, and this experiment wasn’t being covered so much in the gaming press, he would have an easier time justifying the inherent boredom. We know this is a dull experience for anyone who isn’t into data analysis and psychology, and yet it still seems to be trying to pass itself off as a game. That doesn’t sit right in my mind.

          • NathanH says:

            Xocrates, ounds like you’ve just accepted that Skyrim and Curiosity are very different, thus agreeing with this optimum fella.

            Personally I don’t have much of a problem with Curiosity apart from instantly identifying it as silly. The problem I have is that it is continuing to get attention from supposedly serious sources.

          • fitzroy_doll says:

            I’m reminded of a Gilbert and George quote: “All my life I give you nothing but still you ask for more.”

          • trioptimum says:

            Well, yeah, I didn’t mean everyone found Skyrim fun. I mean the players who cranked up 200 hours of playtime did so because they found it to be fun (I hope).

            If you say Curiosity wasn’t built to be fun, I believe you, but it was plainly built to be addictive. Chaining huge multipliers and not wanting to lose them; big bonuses for clearing screens; getting drawn back in a few hours later to see if the picture on the next layer is recognisable yet. They knew what they were doing. Molyneux may be being disingenuous in his surprise at people’s play times; this game was built to hook.

          • The Random One says:

            You can’t really compare Skyrim to Curiosity. One is a dull, repetitive excuse for a game that asks nothing of its players except that they perform the same activity over and over and over again under the pretence that as they play it becomes slightly different. Everyone knows where I’m going with this joke already but I’m going all the way anyway: the other is an experiment by Peter Molyneux.

            I’m not saying that just to be contrarian. I played Skyrim for about a week (on the funbox, while my PC was on the fritz; it was a gift from a friend). Dear Lord, how dull it is. The combat is dull, the ‘exploration’ is dull, the story is the acme of dullness. I’d rather tap away at Moly’s cube forever than to have anyone else ask my fabled hero of legend to go fetch them something. (But I can’t because it doesn’t run on my Smartphone. Sad face :-( )

            Saying that one game is better than the other because one is ‘fun’ and the other is not is pointless and ridiculous. It’s a true scotsman fallacy. People have different ideas of fun, and the entire point of reviewing and analysing games is to figure out what kind of fun this game provides, what are the mechanics, objectively, that provide this fun and how well the game provides it. Whatever it is that Curiosity’s players find fun (probably the metagame of so many people coexisting on the same world) is what should be analyzed, otherwise you’re no different than a fanboy shouting tech-sounding gibberish to explay when the OneBox is better than the OtherBox.

          • trioptimum says:

            People have different ideas of fun, and the entire point of reviewing and analysing games is to figure out what kind of fun this game provides, what are the mechanics, objectively, that provide this fun and how well the game provides it. Whatever it is that Curiosity’s players find fun (probably the metagame of so many people coexisting on the same world) is what should be analyzed, otherwise you’re no different than a fanboy shouting tech-sounding gibberish to explay when the OneBox is better than the OtherBox.

            You’re right. It was a dumb assertion. Thanks for the criticism.

            So: can someone who genuinely finds the game fun tell us why?

          • Vorphalack says:

            ”So: can someone who genuinely finds the game fun tell us why?”

            It’s arguably not a game.

          • Nogo says:

            I quite enjoy it for what it is. Reading the article felt like being chastised at work because I sat down for a few minutes to pop some bubble wrap.

            The boxes break nicely with a ding, the sense of scale is impressive, there’s an odd feeling of comradery, the music is pleasant, it’s free and I’ve tapped my phone in new, strange ways. I wouldn’t call it fun but it’s certainly satisfying, bit meditative. Not a terrible way to spend a minute.

            It is a bit weird some people are putting in several hours, but since it’s very much ‘you get what you see’ I don’t consider it abusing the tactics used by Farmville and its ilk.

          • Josh W says:

            Curiosity is both an experiment on the people playing it, and an attempt to test network infrastructure. And part of it’s experimental nature is a sort of void as far as value is concerned.

            What do I mean by that? Basically the game asks, “Is this fun?” or slightly more insidiously, “Will people keep doing this?”. They don’t really know if it will be fun, it might well be, and I think for those people who doodle endless rectangles on pieces of paper, or pick at things, it will be at least as fun as that.

            And that’s a weird thing about computer games; sometimes you just get people to do stuff and see if it’s fun. Look at all the old fashioned arcade games that were basically made to keep people putting coins in. Some of them are pure frustration machines, but others have created really valuable experiences. But making new games is something that is really served by a sort of amorality as far as wasting people’s time is concerned: You have to be willing to try things, get people to play them, and see if they’re fun.

            I feel like making a weird side track here; if you design games to make a certain experience, you limit the power of present tense playtesting, letting the game itself find a voice, not in some mystical way, but because a game has a unique kind of value in play that you can’t get just by thinking about games. In fact loads of what we do here on this website is trying to get the state of our thoughts about games up to scratch to express the experiences we have had. This means that sometimes you just have to be willing to find out whether jumping on heads of turtles is fun, and if not, how to make it so.

            Following this path purely can mean starting from something really crap and slowly working it up into something interesting. So you can actually start with “how could this incredibly boring thing be fun”?

            But while that might stand for getting friends and family to sit through another crappy version of your game, while you tweak it, does the shear scale of curiosity change things? The fact that it inherently requires hours of time?

            Maybe, although as developed the game seems to have strayed from being actually about the centre of the box, and more about the intermediate experience of clicking. Presumably the game would have a better ratio of “life changing” to clicking if there was only 80 pixels to click, but on the other hand, the clicking game is what he is actually testing, and so presumably, improving.

            The problem is the extent to which they really aren’t trying to find value, but agreement. Take an analogy to marketing; if someone bamboozles you into buying something, they can say happily that seen as you said yes, you obviously wanted it. The simple cooperation with their plan that you displayed can be interpreted by them as them doing you some good.

            In the same way, people can say “well, people are still playing and paying aren’t they?” as if the simple cooperation with the system validates it. But it doesn’t consider at what level people are cooperating: The best games I’ve played have been viscerally, intellectually, and emotionally engaging, jumping the full spectrum from shocks to philosophy. Others are what people might call guilty pleasures, only really dealing with a certain level of me as a person, so that on other levels I cannot justify them at all.

            To some extent that’s ok, I think anyone would agree that not every game has to have everything, and sometimes you’re tired of high brow things and want something simple, but the problem is not so much on the consumers side for being simplistic, but on the makers of the experience’s side, according to the extent that they play to these impulses.

            I brought up marketing before because this exact problem appears in “retail therapy”; people cooperate in a system of marketing particularly because they don’t have to think, and people will make them feel transiently good about their purchases. Surely there is some ethical problem in the way that people interact here, where the shopper is intentionally suspending their judgement, and putting themselves in the hands of the marketing department of shops, only for the sales departments to disregard that trust and push that impulse beyond it’s limits.

            The same is true of any simple visceral game. There is a responsibility on behalf of game’s designers, because of the way that players of these games are dropping their guard, letting themselves be compulsive, or whatever other highly visceral emotional reaction applies, and there is a certain trust laid in the hands of the designer of that game not to utilise it for their own profit to an extent that is dangerous or unhealthy.

          • ffordesoon says:

            I enjoy it. It’s an interesting little game. I don’t know if I would call it fun, but it is pleasant. The cubes pop in a satisfying way, and it doesn’t ask anything of me besides time. It’s bubble wrap I can pop while listening to podcasts.

      • Vinraith says:

        Curiosity is a great deal like the lottery, it’s a tax on people that don’t understand probability. As of yet it’s purely a tax on the time of those people, at least until it becomes monetized. The $50,000 DLC doesn’t concern me much, because anyone dumb enough to invest that kind of money in this kind of proposition doesn’t have $50,000 to blow. Molyneux would be much, much smarter to be selling $5 DLC’s that marginally increase your odds of winning, he’d make millions.

        • Arren says:

          anyone dumb enough to invest that kind of money in this kind of proposition doesn’t have $50,000 to blow.

          Yeah. It’s great we live in a world where the daft are never wealthy — phew!

          • Vinraith says:

            Oh, all kinds of daft people are wealthy, but the kind of person that would spend $50k on this wouldn’t be wealthy for long. They’re also dumb enough that I propose we shouldn’t particularly care what they waste their cash on. If it wasn’t this idiotic thing, it’d be some other equally idiotic thing.

    • Skabooga says:

      I enjoy a good discussion/argument as much as the next person . . . but damn.

  4. Unaco says:

    This is a good piece of news, and a good move by 343 and Microsoft…

    http://uk.gamespot.com/news/halo-4-devs-speak-out-against-sexism-6399205

    But mostly you should read it for the greatest name in video gaming (at the least). Kiki Wolfkill.

    Shitty comment section though, but what did I expect.

  5. jnik says:

    Honestly, the only thing I want to see in Elite 4 is Ian Bell, which seems unlikely. (I’d say “impossible” but that’s what they said about the Two Guys from Andromeda….)

    • Lanfranc says:

      Why, actually? People complain that Braben hasn’t done anything since Elite, but at least he made Frontier and First Encounters, and has been running a game company with several big projects. What has Bell been doing in terms of game-related projects since Eite?

    • Will Tomas says:

      I hear his batting average is pretty good these days.

  6. Cooper says:

    The thing that saddens me about Molyneus screaming “this is a great experiment” is that:
    a) No, it’s not that good an experiment.
    and
    b) There are vast, vast amounts of studies on these kinds of habits out there. And how destructive they are, how exploitative they are. There is nothing Molyneux could learn from this that he cannot by spending half a week in the library of whatever is his nearest university.

    It is at best an interesting ethnographic study. Some of the output is fun, if not particularly illuminating.

    Apprently when highly intelligent creatures are confronted with a medium, they attempt to use that in a creative and occasionally vulgar way. No shit Mr. Molyneux.

    • Xocrates says:

      A few points:

      1) The thing about a good experiment is that you, as the test subject, aren’t supposed to know what they’re actually testing.
      As such it’s desingenious to say it’s a not a good experiment when we may not even know what the experiment actually was.

      2) Just because A has been done before, does not mean A should never be done again. Even if this sort of experiment was done before, I doubt it was done on this scale.
      Until this reaches a point where it actually proves to be harmful, I’m all for this sort of experiment to go on.

    • RobF says:

      Other things the experiment can reveal include how a small group of people can manage an intensive amount of people hooking up to a server, how the same small group can manage changing data on the fly and many more things. How long will users stick around for virtual bubble wrap before saying no more? We know we can monetize this shit but how far can we push monetizing this shit? Is there a point where someone just snaps and buys the big one to end it all and could we apply what we learn from that to something larger?

      I don’t think he’s looking to uncover any great truths about humanity here but there’s still many things of real world value for 22Cans to discover through this.

      • Baines says:

        I believe Molyneux himself has mentioned that Curiosity is an experiment in tech, to handle a large number of simultaneous users in a shared world, as well as an experiment in human nature.

        Considering the excuse for not releasing a PC version was that the phone version was already pushing the server-side, it sounds like the experiment has either shown a greater interest than expected or shown the tech side to be lacking in the ability to support that many users. Either way, it has shown something, and 22 Cans is presumably trying to improve the tech side anyway.

        • The Random One says:

          Someone pointed out that the 22 experiments don’t mean 22 games; some games are running several experiments, and possibly some experiments will run across several games. It may be the case that the server-side communication is one side of this experiment, and the social issues are other.

          Have you noticed that when you repeat the word ‘experiment’ too often instead of it losing all meaning it just becomes more and more pretentious?

    • Cooper says:

      Leigh Alexander recently intervied Molyneux:
      http://gamasutra.com/view/news/181114/Not_even_Apple_knows_whats_inside_Curiositys_cube.php

      He talks about wonder that people are using this to communicate, be creative.

      What does he think of people if he is surprised that we are creative, communicative things?

      If what comes out of this is interesting tech as to dealing with thousands of connections at once; so be it. But to sell it as some kind of great experiment into the behaviour of people is just wrong. All it produces on that front is occasionally interesting anecdotes.

      • RobF says:

        Why wouldn’t he be all excited about that? Person who created something happy that people are using something he created shocker?

        The second part of the interview is far more revealing in respect to what we’re discussing. You know metrics and user behaviour analysis is the stuff of closed door mentality most of the time, firms covet that shit like no bugger. And here’s Petey tracking as much as he can and about to throw it all out there.

        I’m not even for a second implying this is a force for good thing, if social games have taught us anything over recent years it’s they’re a force for monetizing that shit hard as hard can be but it’s still numbers and stats that other people, maybe less unscrupulous can walk away with at the end of this and maybe they’ll look at it and go “so if someone does this 30 times, maybe I can get them to do this instead and that’ll make for a better thing?” or maybe it’ll all just get used by Zynga to destroy the Earth.

        It’s more data for the data gods and I’m not sure there’s more value in saying “we’ve got enough already, thanks” because I’m not actually sure we really do.

  7. Oozo says:

    Another pretty outstanding text about Dark Souls over on Nightmare Mode:
    http://nightmaremode.net/2012/11/dark-souls-the-hollowed-killer-of-lordran-22991/

    It’s a somewhat lyrical retelling of a playthrough in which the player kills every last friendly soul in this most hostile of worlds. Reads much better than this description might imply.

    • Salix says:

      That was amazing, I think it’s the first thing I’ve read that’s genuinely made me want to buy and play Dark Souls.

  8. SlappyBag says:

    Robert Yang talks about the heart in Dishonored and how it leads the player in multiple ways

    http://www.blog.radiator.debacle.us/2012/11/dishonoreds-narrative-design-how-heart.html

    • hypercrisis says:

      What an utterly pointless piece. Why are people compelled to write a-level film studies quality articles on the subject of Dishonored?

    • Pindie says:

      I saw the title and immediately wanted to punch myself for being so stupid.

      I have not played Dishonored yet. I watched first 15 minutes or so and I heard the heart talk, I at once recognized the VA and just said “yup, it’s her heart, that’s the great reveal”.

      So here I am, month later, reading the title of the article and nearly falling off the chair:
      they are geniuses! They tricked everybody just as Bioshock did! The heart is an unreliable narrator in style of book classic: it took the voice of empress since sh is dear to you and told you nothing but lies about every character you have used it upon, manipulating you towards sinister goals! it even fed you rewards to condition you, the player, to think it’s a friend…!

      Then I red the article.

      Game industry, you are such a disappointment. Once again it turns out the times of great plot twists nobody could have foreseen are over.

      • Hidden_7 says:

        To be fair, if that were the case, it would have been an odd sort of un-twist, since it would be a twist on an unstated thing. That is, there never is a “reveal” that the Heart is the Empresses, unless you count the credits where it lists them as having the same voice actress. You’re just supposed to come to that conclusion yourself because it has the same voice actress. Aside from that there’s a line about the possibility of keeping a soul alive through keeping a heart alive, suggesting that the Heart was once somebody and not spun out of whole cloth, and the Heart mentions her past life, but since you don’t actually know anything about the Empress, that’s not really helpful.

        Overall, it’s not supposed to be a big reveal, since the plot doesn’t swing, even a little, on the presence of the Heart; it’s totally optional. Dishonored’s plot is a pretty straightforward one, and I don’t think there were supposed to be any real twists. Even the so-called big surprise is heavily forecast, and I think you’re supposed to have seen it coming. It really doesn’t have much to say about anything either, unlike Bioshock which used its revelation as commentary.

        Dishonored just isn’t that sort of game.

  9. trioptimum says:

    Wow. If I’d known it was going to be Sunday Papered I would have proofread the thing before posting it.

    • Ajh says:

      Congratulations?

      Thank you for the interesting take on a “game” I know a lot of people are “playing” while I look on and shake my head in wonder. Whatever’s in there won’t be worth all that effort. It’s probably absolutely nothing, and he’s trolling..though that would be epic. Think about it. Millions of people trolled by one man.

  10. Squishpoke says:

    Speaking of Dark Souls, I finally got around to bringing it to playability. (Xbox 360 controller emulation, resolution fix, text and gui fix, 60 FPS unlock, jesus this game is BAD unless you mod it.)

    It’s been a fun hoot for awhile. I managed to beat that big troll ogre thing first thing, and made it out to the top of this hill thing. There’s a cemetery to the left, and for the life of me I cannot figure out a way to soundly thrash those reassembling skeletons. My sword barely does 1/15th of damage to their health bars, and they can slash me up in three good shots. I did manage to lure most of them off the edge of the cliff, but there are MORE of them in the catacombs further, and it’s much harder to get them to fall into the center pit.

    Seriously, guys, I still have the ragged, tattered robes from the dungeon I started the game in. Okay, people weren’t lying when they said that this game was hard, but I didn’t think it would be downright IMPOSSIBLE.

    • JackShandy says:

      Don’t go that way. Go another way.

      I commend your resourcefulness in kicking the skeletons off the cliff to kill them, though. I guess you figured out that they just resurrect if you kill them normally.

      • Squishpoke says:

        Thanks, guys. I’m definitely going to look for a different place and never go back to the cemetery until I have to. It’s bad on the blood pressure, ya know?

    • Claidheamh says:

      If you can’t go in one way, find another.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      SPOILERS IN CASE THE CLUES YOU’VE BEEN GIVEN DON’T HELP ENOUGH

      Don’t go into the cemetery just yet, look for a path leading up a cliff!

    • Soon says:

      If you’re stubborn, though. There’s a mace nearby which makes skeletons easier as you can break them apart with each hit (probably only strong hit/leap. I can’t remember).

  11. Faldrath says:

    Cara’s article was good, poignant fun. Richard’s article was pretty interesting as well – he’s usually good at trying to figure out what we really should take from older games into this future we’re building, and that was no exception.

  12. Continuity says:

    IMO Dear Esther near perfectly achieved what it set out to achieve, that the game divided opinion so sharply just goes to show its value: I.e. its providing something novel that isn’t bland and broad enough to appeal to everyone, and I say bravo to that.

    Dear Esther is a game that earned scathing and dismissive reviews from may prominent critics, to them I say fuck off you self important twats. You’re entitled to an opinion, but don’t forget that it is just an opinion, you’re not objectively correct, you’re merely expressing a dislike for something that you don’t appreciate, admit that and I may refrain from calling you twats in the future (no promise).

  13. NathanH says:

    Stern’s article about randomization in RPGs is quite good apart from completely ignoring what one of the main points of randomization in RPGs is. If all you’re trying to do is make a good skill-based strategy game then fair enough, but an RPG should have a loftier goal: that the results of your chosen action are determined through the abilities of the characters in question. Randomization is a emph{modelling} tool for this, rather than a mechanic adopted for strategic purposes.

    As an analysis of randomization as a tool in strategy games, though, I don’t have an issue with it, although the constant assertions about “invisible, randomized” numbers is odd, since visibility and randomness are orthogonal concepts, so those statements need to be tightened up to make it clear what he means (is it invisibility that is bad, or randomness, or invisible randomness?)

  14. razorramone says:

    I dont understand this criticism of Molyneux and his new game. Clearly he is being ironic.

    • trioptimum says:

      If the whole project is an intricate delivery mechanism for a PSA about exploitative social games, I’ll laugh like a giddy child at being so well trolled, and I’ll be loud with the praise.

      • The Random One says:

        If it is that I’ll just sneer and say, ‘Pfft. Ian Bogost did it first and better.’

        • LionsPhil says:

          Progress Quest predates Cow Clicker by eight years. Facebookery may have brought paying for pointless grind to even larger masses, but MMOs had been doing it for years.

      • fitzroy_doll says:

        It’s already been stated that there is something else going on:

        There’s a surprise. There is something we haven’t told everybody about when you play the cube. When you play the cube you’re also doing something else. You don’t realise you’re doing it.

        You see, this technology we’ve got is amazing. It’s all about persistence. Curiosity tests about connecting people together. But it also is about persistence. That’s a clue. You’re not just doing things in the cube. You don’t realise it but you’re doing something in something else as well at the same time.

  15. Eschatos says:

    I saw “Elite 4″ and thought that first article was about Pokemon for far too long.

  16. Pindie says:

    Craig Stern pretty much explained game worlds and their mechanics in layman’s terms.

    We have spend a lot of time discussing new Xcom and what problems it has, thanks to the article I can just say IMO it substituted randomness where original had complexity.
    I had a lot of people argue complexity is not necessary for game to be good, I hope now they get the point.

    What else? Most articles were pretty dull this week.
    Gamification is the dumbest neologism ever and it will likely die in a couple of years after a long agony of life support. Can we agree to stop using it already? Please?

    Gamification is just a smartass way of saying incentivization, which already exists as a real word (arguably it sounds less PR-friendly and is harder to spell). Stop this filth from spreading!

    • NathanH says:

      Was the orignal really less random? There were things like the random positioning of enemies at the start of missions (particularly terror missions) that could cause chaos. I wouldn’t say the principle difference was randomness vs complexity, but rather boardgame-ness vs simulation. Apart from line-of-sight issues you could probably play the new XCOM fairly comfortably as a board game (strategy layer included!) whereas the original was more “we’re simulating an alien invasion, you go and stop it”.

      • Pindie says:

        I think it was less random and more complex. The sample was bigger.
        You had many more soldiers, more bases and more alien missions, more vehicles. You had more control over gear and actions of individual soldiers, multi-craft interceptions to tip the odds etc.

        The alien missions also followed a logical pattern of preparation and execution. The conflict was escalating and deescalating based on your actions.

        Not to mention your soldiers had more than 1 shot per turn (by default) and you could tweak the odds by selecting various shooting styles or using a grenade at any time (freely, with no limitations).

        • FhnuZoag says:

          I’d argue the complete reverse is true. The original is both less complex, and more random. Beyond the early game, every one of your soldiers should be equipped identically (power armour/heavy plasma(or laser)/blaster launcher/alien grenade. So the verbs you have is reduced basically to shoot (yes, you have a choice of shooting modes, but autofire was basically optimal all of the time), throw grenade, or possibly shoot rocket. In turn, the aliens have the same set of verbs, mostly standing stationary, shooting at you back. All of these have huge chance factors, ranging from friendly fire, to simply not doing enough damage (because damage was taken to be uniformly likely over a wide range). Then you have vast parts of the games determined completely by die rolls that the player has no control over. ‘Does the enemy shoot a blaster launcher at me from out of LOS?’ ‘Does the enemy successfully mind control me?’ And so on.

          Contrast the new game. They’ve made a concerted effort to dial down the randomness. Damage is now (mostly) non-random, and the UI helpfully tells you if a shot might be fatal or not. There are now no attacks appearing from out of LOS. Reaction fire triggers immediately instead of on a dice roll. Maps are no longer randomised. The character class assignment (replacing the random rookie stat system) now tries to some extent to assign you vaguely balanced teams. The AI will no longer randomly decide to send uninterceptible ‘infiltration’ UFOs. In turn, complexity increases. You have fewer total characters, yes, but each of them have a lot more verbs to use. And more importantly, these verbs are no longer obvious choices. In turn even the most basic enemy, the sectoid, has a wider range of things to do itself. Many times, I had hid behind cover I presumed was safe, only to see the enemy totally unexpectedly do a mind merge or something and snipe my guy dead.

          It bothers me why people persistently claim the original was more complex. They did a good job in the new game making the complexity understandable, that’s all. The original obfuscated things with a ton of false choices and busywork.

          Also you can do multi-craft interceptions in the new game.

          • Pindie says:

            First off you ignored the argument about greater numbers smoothing out the distribution curve. It does. being able to fire two bursts and a snap shot if you are static is another thing you forgot about.
            Being able to fire first to move afterwards, or move-fire-move is yet another option. Inventory and load-outs – more options.
            No obvious choices there, sorry, there are some advanced tactics possible and they yield results. I trained a grenadier to the point she could throw sonic pulser across the map, then put two assistants to hand her primed grenades. Works great.
            You could also have assistant rocket launcher crew who carried extra rockets/torpedo.

            Second: if you arm all your soldiers the same and just let them loose you probably never played on Superhuman. You really need grenades and meele in TFTD at least. Also kudos to you if you menage to arm all your soldiers with endgame gear, it is not that common.

            Formations and tactics. New X-com has it greatly reduced.
            Read any amateur strategy guide. Scout-sniper tactics with any pair of soldiers, hot-potatoes game with grenades, specialized grenadier unit etc…
            Terrain destructibility is another thing you can use to your advantage.

            Finally the soldiers in old X-coms did not receive random stat upgrades. They had a random improvement chance on specific stat if they used related skill. This comment suggests to me you did not know how the RPG-lite layer worked.
            To clarify: this meant all you had to do is assign equipment and use the soldier the way you wanted and he would in time get better in that role. It is the most organic and intuitive system imaginable.
            The new system is artificial, with obvious choices and bad shots becoming snipers. You can also get a full squad of snipers by chance.

            You could intercept scouts and infiltration ships. You could also intercept terror ships. You could do two missions with two different skyriders if you had excessive cash to spend on those.

            Artificial limitations on grenade and med kits, stun equipment and terror mission choice are very gamey. They might create choices but those choices are immersion breakers.

            “It bothers me why people persistently claim the original was more complex.”
            Have you thought about it? How good do you know the original games?

          • FhnuZoag says:

            I’m not going to be able to persuade you that TFTD is a bad, and actually pretty simplistic game, but just one point here: I think you are misunderstanding what ‘complexity’ is, here. Take your example of the TU system letting you move and shoot arbitarily. Well, by analogy, in chess, if every piece can move to any space, would that be a more complex game? No!

            Restrictions actually add complexity, not reduce it. A system where you can bring tons of soldiers and so have all the ammo you want, grind up soldiers (I absolutely detest the do-things-to-progress levelling system, BTW. It encourages specialisation, which is anathema to complexity. And yes, it *is* random and non-complex, because the stat gains you get, unless you are purposefully grinding, are based on things like ‘number of hits taken -> health gained’ that you have no plausible ability to control, as opposed to stuff you select because you have a plan.) to have pathologically great grenade throwing skills is not complex. Having a really great dude is not a tactic. Tactical complexity is about offering the player a range of mutually exclusive options that are difficult to choose between. You call XCOM more gamey – I call it a more interesting game.

            Of course, I find it questionable that throwing stuff over and over again to create a guy that is good at throwing grenades is really at all ‘organic and intuitive’. And no, in the new game, it is not actually possible for bad shots to become snipers, because *all units of the same skill level have the same aim ability*.

  17. GameCat says:

    What? You didn’t mention this article http://www.theastronauts.com/2012/11/why-we-need-to-kill-gameplay-to-make-better-games/

    It caused some shitstorm around the internet. It was written by Adrian Chmielarz, that guy behind Painkiller and Bulletstorm.

    • Pindie says:

      I don’t find it significant enough to recommend.
      He makes some assertions and misses few crucial points, the style is nothing spectacular either.
      He also makes some implicit premises to make his argument.

      Not gonna discuss it here, but I did not find it interesting or provoking.

    • GameCat says:

      He mentioned one good point – either get rid of failure state or make it like in The Walking Dead – you’re doing something wrong – you must live with it. No restarting, loading pervious saved game etc.

      • Pindie says:

        That’s a great idea and it has been done to a point in OFP:Resistance (you can fail a mission and continue) and classic Rainbow 6 (dead soldiers stay dead and you change avatar).
        Removing character death and placing other mini-failure state will work in some genres, such as adventure games.
        One could consider getting “bad” endings in Silent Hill such non-lethal failure state (fail something in middle of game, finish game, get bad ending).

        I have a feeling this has been talked about back when we discussed (in comments) new Xcom, FTL and maybe Dishonored?

      • NathanH says:

        I think that statements like “get rid of the failure state”, or its inverse “there must always be a clear failure state”, are far too sweeping to really have any applicability. The idea that you can always follow such a statement and it’ll always improve matters is a little far-fetched.

  18. Dances to Podcasts says:

    You know what game has started doing that ‘look at’ thing? World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria: The Archaeology Bit.

  19. MistyMike says:

    I wish a lot of the commenters would read and internalize this article:
    http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/11/games-dont-need-saving.html

    • Pindie says:

      I’ll just point out the author generalizes based off really limited experience.
      Games have been around for a short time and maybe they do need saving.

      He makes it sound like every single generation of gamers went trough a specific middle-aged crisis based off…. Exactly one. The one he is talking to. The one he belongs to.

      Also I’ll point out in its short life the North American (home console) game industry already had one major crash and it was their fault.
      What was the reason for that? IIRC it was low quality games that were clones of each other released by publishers. Sounds familiar.

      I do not really think middle aged gamer needs a specific game crafted for him. Back in old days me and my father used to play the same games just fine. those games were more complex and difficult than the crap teenagers play now. I played Fallout trough in elementary school just fine so it’s not like we need “dumb” games for “dumb” teens. It’s more a case of “dumb” games rising a “weaker gamer” audience.

  20. FhnuZoag says:

    I think Craig has made one big mistake in his randomisation article. The assumption he seems to be making is that fewer dice rolls = less random result. This just isn’t true – often, more dice rolls actually reduce the randomness. So I’m a bit worried about his ideas for token bits of randomness in his games.

    • Josh W says:

      In tabletop, more dice per roll can create bell curves, especially if you rescale the output to that of one dice, but sticking one random roll on top of another is a classic way to increase randomness, such as in random walks, or in situations similar to “roll a d10 for x, then y then z”, compared to “roll a d10 for x, then set y and z to 5″.

  21. Bob says:

    I enjoyed Steve Hogarty’s piece about what should be in Elite: Dangerous. I know nothing about the previous iterations but found the article entertaining just the same.

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  23. pupsikaso says:

    There’s something strange reading these DoTA articles. I’m not sure whether it’s because these are coming out almost 10 years after DoTA’s “inception” so to say (yes, I know DoTA has been around in other forms prior to a Frozen Throne custom map, but it never gained such huge popularity until then).
    And these articles, they all describe what we’ve already went through, what we’ve already learned and done and got fed up with for so long now.
    It’s almost the same if somebody started blogging today about the wonders of the internet and all it’s little quarks and nuances like smileys and “lols”. That’d be pretty weird, right? That somebody is discovering this only now? It’s the same kind of weird that some people are discovering DoTA only now.

    Or maybe it’s also how very differently these people play DoTA. They have an entirely different perception of the gameplay. DoTA to us is so different to what DoTA is to them. I don’t know if it’s because they are new, or maybe because they’ve never even played WC3 before, nvm DoTA itself.

    It also saddens and kind of ticks me off that after almost 10 years DoTA is still the same freaking DoTA. The same freaking map. Yes, LoL tried a few different maps, but I think there were just 2, and that’s it. DoTA hasn’t changed at all in 10 freaking years. Valve’s DoTA2, which I assumed would be what TF2 was to TF1, is a carbon copy of DoTA. It’s the EXACT same thing is DoTA. There is nothing different to it save for the names of the items.
    Where is the innovation in this “subgenre” of games? How is DoTA going to survive if nothing ever changes in it? The people that used to play DoTA 10 years ago don’t care at all about it any more. They don’t care about LoL, they didn’t care about HoN, they don’t care about the dozen other less known DoTA-likes, and they don’t care about DoTA2. Same thing is going to happen with the current crop of players going crazy over it. They’ll play it for a few years, then they’ll burn out and then they’ll stop playing. And unless someone finally improves upon the DoTA formula and produces something that’s genuinely innovative, this whole subgenre is going to die without having a chance to shine.

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