The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on November 18th, 2012 at 9:35 am.


Sundays are for listening to people talk. They are also for reading what people write. They are for taking a moment. So let’s do that.

  • Richard Moss on Cliff Johnson’s 25-year development of The Fool And His Money: “I am so delighted that I can say the game is finished,” Johnson chuckles. The Fool and his Money was a labor of love—a sequel to the award-winning cult-favorite 1987 Macintosh “meta-puzzle” The Fool’s Errand, which was later ported to Amiga, DOS, and Atari ST. “I’m glad [that] at the beginning I did not know the game would take me ten years,” Johnson confesses. “In some ways thinking it would be out every six months was my psychological way of dealing with oh my god oh my god oh my god.”
  • Randy Smith (astutely) argues that getting things right on Greenlight is less about the pitch and more about appealling to the culture of gamers who inhabit that system: “Tiger Style aspires to appeal to adult sensibilities, and one key point is play patterns. Our games are winnable within a few hours and playable in short sessions. They are simple to learn, with depth arising from clear and visible interactions. This appeals to casual gamers. Successful Greenlight games showed a very different pattern: massive pages of stats, hundreds of hours of playtime, games offering a hardcore hobby to sink your teeth into.”
  • Eurogamer examines “The Cult Of Total Biscuit” – wait, it’s a cult now? “I asked my Twitter followers what they thought about Total Biscuit yesterday. The response was as instant as it was polarised: ‘he’s arrogant’, ‘he’s passionate’, ‘he’s unique’, ‘he’s rude’, ‘he’s got a God complex’, ‘he’s just a dude’, ‘I can’t forgive him for something he said, and how he refused to back down’. In two short years he’s become more marmite than man.”
  • Wired looks at Why Pro Gamers Don’t Play Call of Duty: “But pro gamers have a fundamental problem with Call of Duty, and unfortunately, that problem is exactly the aspect of the series that causes Activision to make such obscene amounts of money off the franchise in the first place. Like clockwork, it releases a new Call of Duty on the second Tuesday of every November. To pull this off, the titles are developed by two different developers that switch off years. And every year, millions of players abandon the game they’ve been playing for the last 12 months and shift en masse to the new one on launch day.”
  • The Average Gamer argues that audio logs are a terrible way to tell stories (I only partially agree with this, since I think the games that do audiologs actually do a lot of the other stuff suggested here): “Audio logs are a problem; they’re a lazy solution to a necessary part of storytelling. We absolutely need ways to gradually have information revealed, but we can’t rely on the same method over and over. It’s tiresome, but it’s easily fixed. If you’re a game developer, here’s 4 better examples of ways to tell stories. If you’re playing games, here are 4 things to demand instead of boring audio.”
  • Hookshot talk to Simon Roth about Maia: “One of the great things about god games, especially from the likes of Bullfrog, is that they were years ahead of their time,” he says. “I replayed Dungeon Keeper recently and it felt surprisingly modern. Where I am pushing forward is finding new ways of displaying information to the player. A lot of management games quickly become spreadsheets. To me, that’s completely unnecessary. With my custom rendering engine I’m hoping to impart the majority of the data visually. An angry colonist can stomp his feet, an underpowered lamp will brown-out and flicker or a damaged computer will belch acrid smoke. There’s no need to intimidate the player with statistics and maths”.
  • Patricia Hernandez on how empty many game cities feel: “I thought about the kingdom under the tyranny of the lord regent, I thought of the great whale beasts that we killed to fuel our everyday conveniences—both things that I never really got to see in the game. I’m more acquainted with the rats of Dunwall, with the books of Dunwall than its actual everyday citizens.”
  • The weird tale of hackers in Dark Souls: “Getting help from a hacker leaves me with mixed feelings. I’m used to being invaded by them, toyed with, then killed in an ignominious fashion, such as being beaten to death barehanded or inundated in toxic dung pies. I’d never summoned a hacker before and I can’t tell whether Dickwraith’s motivations were altruistic or malevolent.”
  • Tadgh Kelly offers some thoughts on whether persuasive games really are persuasive: “The primary reason why these projects fail is that they are terrible as games. They are trite, earnest, cumbersome, badly engineered and slow. Their core systems (the rules, actions and outcomes) are limited and have no sense of delight. They lack robustness, are very easily exploited as a result, and the user reaches her maximum mastery very early. They’re just no fun.”
  • The ancient d20.

Music this week is Wolfgang Voight’s Gas, Zauberberg 7.

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163 Comments »

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  1. Magnusm1 says:

    2 days left for the Game Music Bundle!
    http://www.gamemusicbundle.com/

    • rockman29 says:

      Cool. If they ever have a FF collection I’ll buy it up.

  2. BooleanBob says:

    I remember the Fool’s Errand! It was a sort-of precursor to the Professor Layton games, in that the ‘meta’ part of the ‘meta-puzzling’ kind of slaps you round the face with its incongruity. But hey, tarot makes anything sexy.

    (I mean, obvs that’s not entirely fair. The puzzles and plot are actually a lot better integrated than in something like Layton, in which either the plot or the puzzles could actually be said to be 100% bolted-on from an extreme enough perspective, but it still kind of made my brain hurt the way they rubbed up together. I think it’s just leftover PSTD from a childhood being tormented by Attack of the Killer Puzzles.)

    It’s an interesting interview. “This is what I’ve been waiting for, to experience other people’s experiencing of what I’ve done.” Talk about the creative impulse in a nutshell, right?

    • TWOpies says:

      I’d say that that Professor Layton is to Fool’s Errand as Megablocks are to Lego.

      These are some seriously amazing puzzles. No explanations, and often you’re completely dumbfounded on how tor what to do. Then once you finally get it, you realize that all the clues were there to begin with.

      He is a master puzzle crafter and I love that he is both of the old school generation of gamers/developers and made it himself.

      My tips: Use paper and a pencil to work on solutions. Be patient. Think outside the box. Don’t expect to finish it anytime soon. And don’t cheat! I already looked up one and once I saw the solution it was crazy, but a let down that I couldn’t solve it.

    • Deano2099 says:

      I’m never normally one to moan about indie pricing, but as much as I want this I can’t justify $40 for it. $30 I’d probably go for, $20 in a heart-beat. But I guess it’s been in development for so long that it pre-dates the modern indie boom.

      It’s a shame as I really think the price is putting a lot of people off covering it. This should be the latest critical darling, but it’s going to go ignored as a curio.

      • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

        I agree, good sir! Though being a poor Central European farmer, my desired price tag is usually around 10$ for almost any game. (I am willing to wait for sales.)

        Especially since I am as old as the first game, I can’t really go from “no knowledge of the game” to “let’s pay 40$ for this!”.

        Oh, and here’s the link to The Fool and His Money homepage, so you don’t have to go looking for it.

        EDIT: Having played a part of the Teaser for the game, I am very much put off by the awful graphics, user interface and sound. I have no desire for a 3D FPS environment, but this game has very Paintbrush-looking images, strange choices of fonts and MIDI-like music.

        Younger people especially have no tolerance for bad interfaces and outdated graphics, and these people are the driving force behind game sales.

        And the feeling of it being rather amateurish is rooted far deeper than just in sub-par music, graphics and controls. The first minigame I played was a jigsaw puzzle with a timeout. A jigsaw puzzle with a timeout?! Why? Why would you put a timeout on a jigsaw puzzle? Am I a bad player for taking my time? Was it really necessary to put skulls and crossbones on my screen and forcing me to start anew? And Mr. Game, why didn’t you tell me there’s a time limit in the first place? Or a move limit maybe? By showing some clocks, some looming deadline, 110 moves left, perhaps? Why did you decide to just randomly kick me out of my jigsaw puzzle instead?

        I’m sure as the game progresses, the puzzles become more involved, but this is a glaring example of bad game design if I ever saw one.

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          basilisk says:

          I know exactly what you mean. Cliff isn’t a great artist (his choice of colours is often terrible) and his sound design sucks. He has basically no marketing skills, too. But he is a genius when it comes to designing puzzles.

          The game looks casual, but it’s anything but that. The puzzles are hard. Really hard (the jigsaw is there just to ease you in; the difficulty curve skyrockets from there). And there’s a lot of them, too, and they interlink together in a way that’s positively brilliant*. There’s a lot of amazing puzzle content in there, well worth $40. But yeah, I know very well it doesn’t look that way at all.

          The best demo for it is actually the original The Fool’s Errand, it’s free on Cliff’s website. TFaHM is the same thing, but bigger in pretty much every direction. Not pretty, but crammed full of content.

          (* To give an example, in each chapter, there are tons of puzzles the solutions to which are seven-letter words. Sixty-three of them in all. And all of those sixty-three are actually part of another bigger puzzle in which they naturally form nine groups of seven words each. It’s an incredibly elegant construction, and Cliff pulled this off four times in a row. I haven’t seen a hair of the metapuzzle spanning over this all, but knowing Cliff, its construction will be mind-blowing.)

          • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

            Thanks for the info.

            My frustration is not aimed at the game because the jigsaw puzzle was hard, by the way. However, I like puzzles without a time limit, where you can take your time to solve it, tinker with it, touch it, and, in the end, solve it. That’s a good thing in real-world jigsaw puzzles — even though you have thousands of pieces, you have all the time in the world to finish it. This puzzle, however, had an invisible timer. It doesn’t really make any sense to put it there. Even in a puzzle where there’s a seemingly clear solution and a hidden solution, you shouldn’t really do a pop up that says “you’re doing it wrong” and reset the puzzle. A puzzle should be hard because it’s tricky, not because you get punished for being too slow.

            (Just a side note: we have a pretty large subculture of puzzle solvers here in the Czech Rep., we even have several thousand people competing in an all-night game where your only go is to go from place to place and solve puzzles and not fall asleep. Awesome, eh?)

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            basilisk says:

            I know. You’re talking to a fellow Czech, mate :)

            By the way, the jigsaw is not timed. It is perfectly possible to take your time and solve the whole thing without ever triggering the skulls, you just have to figure out how it works (and if the skulls appear, you can click on them to make them go away, so it’s not game over). I think the “Help” screen gives you a nudge in the right direction – in fact, I’ve seen people argue the “Help” section should be called “Info”, because it often gives you information you absolutely need to solve the puzzle.

  3. Gassalasca says:

    Total Biscuit? Uninteresting.

    • Jimbo says:

      Totally Biscuit! : Totally Party

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      c-Row says:

      One of the few trustworthy sources of information on video games outside of RPS these days.

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        Vandelay says:

        I must say I agree with this, although he definitely comes across as a bit of dick outside of his reviews. His WTF… series always give some insightful views, even If I don’t necessarily agree with him every time. Being able to see the actual game being played with unedited footage gives you a much better sense of how the game will play too and I’ve not come across any other Youtuber that isn’t irritating, a fanboy and/or only aimed at consoles.

        I also enjoy watching him play Starcraft 2, as he is almost as shit as I am.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      When someone starts calling themselves Cynical as though it’s a form intellectual of sophistication and harsh truth telling, it’s time for the grown ups to summoned and to strike the person in question with an open hand repeatedly across the face until they reassess their priorities.

      That said, his main actual failing is that he isn’t Old Man Murray.

      • subedii says:

        Cynical is just a moniker. I don’t watch his videos for cynicism anymore than I come to RPS for buckshot.

        Though I must say there is a woeful lack of scissor based materials on this site, and the only paper I see referenced is the weekly column within which we are currently commenting.

        • I Got Pineapples says:

          See, that’d work except the dudes all owning the label in the article itself.

          I got nothing against the guy, I mean there are other better and better known angry British guys with opinions about video games. But there are also worse ones. So he kinda melds into the forgettable mess of angry britishism.

          But that shit seriously needs to stop.

          • subedii says:

            What exactly do you mean by “owning the label”, and what’s your issue with it?

            He is cynical of a lot of things as a personal character trait if that’s what you mean, but that’s not something he deliberately presses to define the commentary or the videos he makes. I mean if he finds something he likes he’ll gush about it endlessly.

            What he defines it as in the interview (if that’s what you mean by “owning it”) is “being honest” on his opinions and being straightforward on them. And I don’t really see that he does otherwise in his videos. He doesn’t castigate because “I’m cynical so I need to find issue with everything”, it’s a question of “here’s something I found issue with”. At which point it’s all down to delivery.

            I feel people make the same mistake with Yahtzee. “Oh he only craps all over everything”. Well no he doesn’t. He’s deliberately hyperbolic but that’s what makes the videos fun. The issues he points to are still ones that he has, and he usually tries to highlight stuff he particularly liked or found innovative as well.

          • PacketOfCrisps says:

            He “owns the label” because that is how he is in real life. He said it himself during the article that people watch him “because they like (or hate) my personality”. You don’t get anywhere on Youtube if you are just an average Joe; you have to stand out and cynicism is Totalbiscuit’s way of achieving that. However, I think the term cynicism is somewhat misleading. Cynical has a rather negative connotation and doesn’t really fit with the style of commentary he does as he can be very positive about the games that he plays. I think critical would be a better word to describe him, to be honest. I don’t see anything wrong with being critical; on the contrary, I think being critical is one of the most important skills for humans to master.

            In reference to some of the other comments in the thread I would say that, as a person, I couldn’t care less about him. I watch his videos because I think they are insightful and provide me with sufficient information as to whether I wish to purchase a certain game; his behaviour on Twitter and the like means nothing to me. I apply the same attitude to Tiger Woods and Wayne Rooney, I can still appreciate what they do in spite of some of their questionable acts.

      • mckertis says:

        “That said, his main actual failing is that he isn’t Old Man Murray.”

        You people just keep yammering about this guy, yet nobody outside of this little enclosure ever heard of him, and when i went to check his writings they happened to be inane ramblings, so what gives ?

        • zeroskill says:

          @I Got Pineapples:

          Don’t you even dare mentioning Old Man Murrey and TotalBandwagon in one sentence. The thought alone is beyond absurd. I mean, the guy makes Terraria let’s plays for view counts for crying out loud. There is no journalistic value of any sort in anything he does. I mean, this person compares amateur mod projects to AAA industry standards. Come on!

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            Vandelay says:

            I know what you mean; that is so unfair on AAA games!

          • Kilometrik says:

            I think that more or less that speaks of how MUCH AAA “industry standards” are sucking nowdays doesn’t it? If “Amateur mods” are way better games…

          • zeroskill says:

            @Kilometrik

            I think you misunderstood what I was saying. He was judging the quality of mods made for free by amateurs in their spare time by industry standarts of AAA companies. Not exactely what I would call sensible. And not what I expect somebody who fancys himself a professional would do.

        • Phantoon says:

          “This guy”

          You do realize OMM is two people, right? As in Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw, who wrote most of the lines in Portal?

          Your disrespect is because you are uninformed, hopefully not because you’re being willfully stupid.

          • zeroskill says:

            Not only Portal, they write most of the lines for all Valve games now. Including Portal 2, Left 4 Dead 2 and Team Fortress 2.

            Granted TF2 has not many lines but I understand they, or at least Erik, are also involved in making the “Meet the” videos. In any case, in Meet the Pyro, Eriks style is clearly visible, especially in the Scout’s lines, as far as I am capable of judging that.

            @mckertis

            So yeah, the people you accuse of insane ramblings are responsible for some of the best writing in video game history. Oh Snap.

            However, misinformation seems to be a common theme among TotalBiscuit and his minions.

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            Also Dota 2. Some of the heroes responses in that are hilarious (to the point where I laugh at them IRL when they come up).
            Try putting Tidehunter and Kunkka in the same lane on the same team & you’ll see what I mean.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        Slightly related… I find the use of “EPIC!” at the start of his videos to be somewhat obnoxious. I understand he’s tried to cut down his intro, but it seems counter-productive to have that as the “last word” in the attempt.

        That, and a style rather similar to Jim Sterling over at Destruictoid, means I gave up on his stuff (I did follow him for long enough that I noticed the pattern of angry rehashing of some topics).

        • Phantoon says:

          Yeah, Sterling is pretty intolerable.

          • Koozer says:

            I read your comment before Hoaxfish’s, and was readying myself to defend our great currency.

      • Nate says:

        When someone starts claiming that cynicism could not be interpreted as a form of intellectual sophistication and harsh truth telling, it’s time for the grown ups to start teaching about some pretty cool ancient Greeks like Diogenes. I’d give you a wikipedia link but then RPS wouldn’t approve the comment for the next week :) (If you’re not sure who the grown ups are, a good bet is that they’re the people that are educating, and not the people that are slapping.)

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      dangermouse76 says:

      It feels like he still has that attack is the best form of defense portion of his personality from childhood. The part of you that still defiantly stares into your fathers eyes after he has opened a can of whoop ass on you. He makes great points though and has a clear vision of the state of play in the games market.

      I enjoy listening to him as well, I just feel for his age he is pushing a little hard with the angst ridden child ( of sound reasoning and logic ) schtick. Not enough not to enjoy his opinion. ……….needless to say.

      Edit: Also I am 36 so maybe not his audience persay.

      • subedii says:

        That I will agree with. On occasion he does press on some issues with more angst than is necessary, but that doesn’t really stop me from watching the rest of his stuff. And I know that his angst is probably because he actually does feel strongly on those topics. It’s just that unlike him, I don’t tend to get as upset (normally) about videogames or when a company does something stupid.

        Or maybe it’s just that I agree with him more than I should, who knows. I know I largely agreed with his recent video on Medal of Honor / MMS’s in general.

      • Ich Will says:

        I think childlike is a good explanation of his online personality. I was first exposed to him when he misspelled a hashtag and linked to me on twitter on one of his crusades, cue me having to close my account due to the volume of abuse his followers launched on me – the painful thing was, was that they invaded every aspect of my online life, I had to change nearly every social networking account I have because they wormed their way in.

        Not his fault I know, I know he fights an endless battle against what he describes as his “fan-atics” but when I attempted to engage with him, in a very open and friendly way, to say – look dude, you linked to me mistakenly and you completely messed up a lot of my online life he simply banned and blocked me, not even sorry or anything.

        The funny thing is, I am a regular listener now after that, I really like his content and his unashamed honesty. I even got a question read out on the mailbox some months ago but my god, I wouldn’t even attempt to be a part of any community he tries to setup, to many 4channers and redditers and something awfulers of the very worst kind keep themselves far too close to him like self appointed generals!

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          Henke says:

          Holy crap, that sucks. :(

          There’s a lot of assholes out there who get their kicks out of harrasing strangers online if they feel so much as moderately “in the right” doing so.

    • Yosharian says:

      People love to hate on a guy who has the balls to do what TB does. He isn’t a genius, but he isn’t the guy these haters make him out to be either. We need more cynicism in our video reviews, not less. Angry Joe, for example, is quite entertaining but is way too lenient on bad games.

      • Nathan Grayson says:

        I have to take issue with this. We need more skepticism in our game reviews – not more cynicism. We already have an incredible amount of cynicism and bile and negativity in this industry. But there’s a huge difference between that and a keen critical eye. It’s a common misconception in this day and age that cynicism equals intellect. That’s an awful point of view. Cynicism uses negativity as its base. It begins by assuming the worst and works from there. Honestly, it’s just as bad as being irrationally positive and uncritical of everything – just in a different way.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          I agree. In fact I think too much cynicism is worse than too much optimism.

          On the other hand, none of the TB videos I’ve watched so far (I haven’t watched many) contained any cynicism. It was all just angry shouting from a man who’s not very good at games. Which isn’t a criticism.

    • MOKKA says:

      Well Total Biscuit is a dick. TotalBiscuit on the other hand is ok. At least he knows how to state an opinion and how to provoke reactions in other people.

    • DXN says:

      I like Total Biscuit. I don’t think he’s a troll, or arrogant, or deliberately negative in the way that Yahtzee is (I enjoy Yahtzee a lot, but not as a source of objective analysis). As above, I think he’s very honest, straightforward and consistent in his opinion and that’s a valuable thing. He also puts a hell of a lot of work into what he does and is very professional about it. That’s a valuable thing as well.

      If I had to level a criticism it’s that he sometimes comes across as a little glib; he doesn’t often dig down under the surface of games or go off on random flights of fancy in the same way that RPS/Idle Thumbs/Giant Bomb/Eurogamer are wont to do. But you know what? That’s fine with me. I don’t need all my critics to operate in the same way, and to me a TB review is a good way of determining what a game is like on its face, and also how it’s likely to be perceived by the larger market.

      Didn’t he have a column on RPS a while back? I wonder what happened to that.

    • Unaco says:

      I don’t use the Twitters, but my experience with the man in question was quite similar to “I can’t forgive him for something he said, and how he refused to back down”. When the Duke Nukem Forever Demo rolled out, he claimed the full game was a Day 1 Purchase… I felt this was more about the name than the current game (nostalgia, expecting it to be DN3D 2), and mentioned this to him, along with the other side of the coin, those who would dismiss the game due to the delays and the strained development. Mainly to say how difficult it was to hear a nice balanced view/impression, what with the two sides bawling at each other overhead. I also questioned whether he’d played the full game, and he proceeded to mock me for not realising he was a ‘reviewer’/’celebrity’, and that of course he’d played the full game… how else could he claim it was a Day 1 purchase?

      Cut then to his Duke Nukem Forever WTF… and the game is terrible. So what the f*ck was with the previous Day 1 Purchase recommendation? Turns out that was based on the marketing and the demo. He hadn’t played the full game. He was basing it on nostalgia and his own hopes and dreams… pretty much as I’d said originally.

      So yeah… that kind of settled my mind on him: He isn’t a very good reviewer, and he isn’t a very nice man. I don’t hate him. I don’t stalk him, looking to pick apart his work or anything. I simply ignore him. He has no relevance to me (aside from being one of the famous people who have insulted me!). I don’t watch his videos (actually, I watched an early PS2 Alpha vid of his, muted) or read his writings (if he does write).

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        Fiyenyaa says:

        I *think* the incident of something said and a subsequent refusal to back down was something from a while back where he used a lovely and popular-among-competitive-gaming-smack-talkers homophobic word beginning with the letter F.
        When called out, he used the old “hey man, I don’t mean it homophobically. It’s just a word, it doesn’t mean anything” style excuse and basically refused to admit any wrongdoing.

        Disclaimer; I heard about this a while ago, so it’s very paraphrased.

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        ffordesoon says:

        See, that’s a valid complaint. If things happened as you say they did, then that would be a reason to dislike the guy. The problem is that the article only interviews him. Those who don’t care for his work are reduced to a nebulous mass of Other, which makes them easier to dismiss.

        That being said, I watched the demo impressions of DNF, and he really tore into it. I don’t follow him on Twitter or anything, so I don’t know how he conducts himself on it. I’m just saying that he was pretty scathing about the game in the demo impressions, so it seems weird that he would be so hard on you. But what do I know?

        • Unaco says:

          You’re right. It wasn’t the demo release… it was from the launch trailer release… which I think was a day before/after the demo. The exchange is here.

      • zeroskill says:

        Well, thankfully he doesn’t write.

        Once again Unaco, you ninja’d my thoughts.

        For me, i’ve had enough of anything this person had to offer after, by accident, I stumbled upon him playing Black Mesa on his live stream. It was embarrassing to say the least. After watching that, he lost the last little bit’s of journalistic integrity, if he ever had any.

        • Phantoon says:

          Just because people review games doesn’t not make them games journalists. That’s reserved for gents like Jim who ask questions that people don’t want to hear.

      • Hoaxfish says:

        I think there was an incident around GW2’s release, where having done preview videos about the game beforehand highlighting some positive change in the MMO forumla, he then made a new video for GW2 which complained about the lack of that feature in MMOs.

        I.e. he was playing GW2, complaining about a lack of said feature which he had both noted in GW2 during an earlier video, and still existed in the version he was currently playing.

        If I remember correctly, he got a load of comments from GW2 fans correcting him, then removed the whole video, then made another video complaining about unreasonable fan expectation.

        • Phantoon says:

          Oh yeah! I remember that now. It was one of the few times he’s passed over my radar at all.

          Yeah, I don’t know how anyone can refer to themselves as “cynical” without having ANY introspection.

    • Mattressi says:

      Yep, my feelings exactly. I’ve not yet watched anything of his and I don’t plan to. If I’m not mistaken, he’s the guy who makes videos about the first hour or so of him playing a game. That’s the main reason I’ve not yet watched anything of his – why would I care what someone has to say about the first hour of a game? So many games have had a great first hour, then sucked (or ended); while others have started out bad or have a steep learning curve and become good later on. It just seems utterly, ridiculously pointless to me.

      Besides that, I just don’t care to listen to people playing games. I have actually watched parts of his videos to see the game footage, but it was War of the Roses and he seemed to really suck at it. I certainly didn’t want to hear what he said about it.

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        ffordesoon says:

        You can tell a lot from the first hour of a game ninety percent of the time, actually. Yes, plenty of games have great first hours, and the occasional game has a crap first hour and turns into something great, but you can usually extrapolate a lot from your first impressions, like whether or not a certain feature that seems a tad bothersome now will become utterly infuriating over the length of the game.

        If nothing else, the WTF Is… series is an object lesson for developers on how to make a good first impression. It’s valuable for that alone.

    • Obc says:

      i watched him a lot some years ago but when i saw him play so very poorly on some game that i had to wince all that time, i cant watch him play and speak about games anymore. i dont like him much not because of his personality (though there are some issues, as he even invaded a wow lore forum just to bitch and whine) but because he is not a good gamer. he has given bad opinions on games just because he sucked at them. he wished them to be easier to understand/or certain mechanics to be changed when clearly he was ignoring every sign the game offered to guide/teach him. from then on i saw so many glaring issues with his playstyle and the concluding opinion based on his bad gameplay. now i havent watched him for a long while or how he is doing “publically”. i wish him the best, its not that i hate him or anything. but i just dont enjoy him anymore. i liked his wow beta coverage back in the day but alas he isnt the “professional video gaming review/impression” source anymore for me.

      btw i really like NanosuitNinja right now. that guy also has a british accent if you care for it. he’s a very good gamer and very informative. he isnt some review dude. he just plays some stuff and uploads it while talking over. this doesnt sound much but it really is. even more because he is very good at them. through him i have come to enjoy SShock. (right now he is doing a very long series on Anno)

      • Gunsmith says:

        that’s quite the complement, the anno series should be over soon, im currently trying to think of what to do next.

        • Obc says:

          oh, hi there ;) why not do xcom ironman on the higher difficulty? or maybe something more fast paced would be best after all the anno videos.

          • Gunsmith says:

            Im with you on the faster pacing, I was thinking of Ironmaning F.E.A.R

            blew the dust off it the other night, forgot just how fucking awesome it was.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Yeah, dust is pretty great.

        • Hahaha says:

          “Go and retreat to your mothers whereabouts and cry in her arms while she utters you to sleep because she is the only one in the equation who gives a flying fuck”

          LMFAO

          HAHA email to phone…… can do the same thing with the book of face messenger, ahhhhh good times.

      • Baines says:

        I still watch his WTF’s because they do a decent job of showing gameplay. I just take them with a rather sizable grain of salt when it comes to anything regarding difficulty or questionable mechanics, because he honestly isn’t very good at most of the games he shows. It certainly does not help that he tends to ignore any tutorials or pop-up advice, so he fumbles about misunderstanding basic mechanics. Even when he mentions a mechanic out-loud, he often enough doesn’t seem to apply it. And he isn’t particularly skilled at figuring out a mechanic on his own.

        I think of:
        The Dungeonland play where neither he nor his friends figured out how the game dealt with death, when figuring that out should have been a priority (as it greatly affects how you should approach such a game.) Instead they just assumed that you recovered with no limits.

        The Sideways WTF where he couldn’t grasp how orientation and platforms interacted, and spent a while trying to grab some items from the wrong orientation before finally giving up.

        Any game WTF where he feels it necessary to disclaim that he is terrible at puzzle games, where he then proceeds to fail at something because he didn’t bother to learn or use the basic mechanics of the game.

        I also remember the WTF for Homefront’s multiplayer, where he goes off for a while on an anti-sniper rant. Not for the rant itself (which is pretty standard spiel amongst FPS players), but because in the same video starts stalking the edge of the map with an assault rifle, trying to pick off guys in combat in the middle. The main differences between his play style there is that he is moving (but he still stays well out of the central combat), and he’s failing to get kills because he isn’t using the best weapon (sniper rifle) for that type of play style. Or how he complains about snipers not being team players, sneaks up on a sniper, stands behind the sniper for a while without trying to kill him, and then complains when another sniper snipes him (saving the guy he was standing behind).

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Vell, TB’s just zis guy, you know?

    • LionsPhil says:

      In dire need of an editor’s pruning shears.

      You see how RPS articles generally aren’t longer than a minute or two of reading, even though Jim et. al. are all seasoned professionals in control of their own site and words are an insignificant fraction of the bandwidth usage? Brevity is important. Keeps the quality up, because forcing yourself to cut work to the bone means you throw out all the chaff that ultimately wasn’t that great or doesn’t really matter.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Absolutely. Writers say this again and again in different forms. My favorite is:

        “Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”

        It contrasts pretty sharply against TotalBiscuit’s hour long reviews.

        • Phantoon says:

          I truly believe he likes listening to himself talk.

          Or really hates editing.

    • dE says:

      I don’t much like the guy’s online representation, he does his best to come across as a bit of an arse and a hypocrite. Might be part of his constructed persona though and need not necessarily reflect on his actual personality.
      Luckily, I don’t have to like him anyways, to appreciate some of the videos. He does put some effort into them and when he isn’t on a (every once in a while) youtube money rampage (read: Controversial Raging for Views), he attempts to present balanced points of views and reflects on his own role and point of view. The latter part kinda “makes” the videos for me, as those parts help understand the context of his criticism. And it’s mostly the latter part which makes me watch the WTFs of games I might be interested in.

      I don’t much get the personality cult behind him, and I don’t get the people behind it either. Why adore a persona that is constantly telling you that you’re kind of a dipshit for even watching his stuff. It’s probably a Rock-Band thing, where the lead guy constantly insults their audience, telling them to fuck themselves and how little they are worth in his eyes, taunting them with “youtube money”.

      As with everything criticism related, it can be summarized with two basic rules:
      Always consider the context of the Author
      Never be satisfied with just one point of view

    • Jenks says:

      I’ve never heard of him. I also have never heard of “Yogcast” and “Syndicate” which are mentioned early in the article and implied to have huge followings. Just today I saw Polygon.com has opened, too.

      I think I spend too much time actually playing games and not enough time scouring the internet for what other people think about games.

      • Phantoon says:

        Yogscast’ incidental personality cult is even stranger.

        I occasionally tune in for their running Minecraft series, but that’s more like an actual show than anything else.

        • LionsPhil says:

          All I know about them is that they ruined a perfectly good (if somewhat straightforward) Sanctum map by yammering all over it in stupid voices saying very stupid things. (And it wasn’t even done in the music channel or something so you could turn it off.)

          Not exactly endeared as a result.

          • Tei says:

            I have tried myself to comment on games, but its hard, being talkative about what you are doing and why, and not being a cliche machine is hard. Yogcast, TotalBiscuit… These people manage to do that and be interesting and likeable. Perhaps yogcast style is more having fun, and tb style is being informative. I like getting drunk with friends and laught at everything, being stupid can be stupidely fun. Yogcast do that, fun with friends, by watching a few of his video you get into this motion, and is like these two are some of your friends.. Thats the idea.

    • Moraven says:

      Doing well enough for himself, his wife now manages 3 Korean (just signed the 3rd) Korean SC2 pros, who were left teamless from SlayerS. Be interesting to see that succeed. Anything he does is criticized at this point based on who he is. Everyone claimed he left WoW videos for SC2 just for a money grab, despite hosting online tournaments where all the add money went into the next one and now putting money into a few pros.

  4. sbs says:

    I think the worst part about the Dark Souls port is not the controls or lack of polish for pc, but actually the online portion. It really is frustrating to have summoning and invading fail again and again, and optimizing settings for it is just one part of it, understanding how the matchmaking works and trying to get oneself in a position that is most prone to sucessfully invading, being invaded, summoning and to be summoned feels like performing some ancient ritual.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Careful, you’ll have the Miyazaki Mutaween (Dark Souls Religious Enforcers) come down on you. The Gospel According to Shouty People on Forums states difficulty setting up invasion was intended by Miyazaki to be akin to a real life pilgrimage to find the holy grail, and not just a shonky bit of programming. Penance for blaspheming is a 2 page ‘corrective’ reply thread and 50 “Hail ENB’s” (patron saint of swearing a lot).

      I don’t play online at all (an offence that I believe carries a sentence of actual death, with pointy sticks) and just use the NPC’s when I need some help. The only downside for me is when I pick up an item, get all excited and then see “Online play item” in its description.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      Though I think one of the issues with summoning is a player density issue. There simply aren’t the sheer number of folk available that the xbox has.

      Which is also why I’d like a PC port of Dragon’s Dogma, I’m also aware that it wouldn’t work out so hot for much the same reason.

      • Kaira- says:

        Well, it’s not even necessarily a density issue, I think the netcode has some serious problems no matter what platform. The game was known as “SUMMONING/INVASION FAILED: The Game” in some portions of the internet for a good while. :P

        • Phantoon says:

          Oh no, it’s not a PC only thing. I have it for the PS3, and it and its predecessor Demon’s Souls are just as wonky.

          • Kaira- says:

            That was my point, I’ve owned the game on X360 since release and the summonings were always a hit-or-miss thing. Some of the patches have seemingly made the summoning a bit easier than it was but it’s still very unreliable.

    • dE says:

      I wouldn’t blame the port for the online system shortcomings. It was a huge mess on the consoles too, if not worse. The idea and feel of it was great, but their execution of it really bad.

  5. greg_ritter says:

    Well, it seems I need to play Analogue. Man, if only it was more western in its presentation, insted of this God-awful oriental style.

    Also, I don’t know who is this TotalBiscuit, but are there REALLY people who enjoy marmite?

    • bill says:

      Don’t troll about Marmite!

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Yes, but they aren’t people, so it evens out.

    • tobecooper says:

      For the love of Western civilization!
      There are two characters drawn in as you call it ‘oriental’ style. Despite their looks they have more personality than ten characters from a Western game. Besides you spend more time reading a pretty fantastic, well-written story than interacting with these two AI abominations!
      Would you kindly play Analogue, sir?

      • greg_ritter says:

        Oh, ok, you big bully.

        • tobecooper says:

          I prefer the big daddy moniker!

          I didn’t find the game cynical like Jack, though. It’s very different from the usual visual novel stuff – that’s true. But it’s also rather serious and heartfelt in moments. Of course, your millage may vary.

    • JackShandy says:

      The Oriental style is the point. The game is mostly a kind of cynical poke at Japanese novel-games.

      • greg_ritter says:

        Well, it seems I just misunderstood its trailer.
        Thank you for clarification.

  6. bill says:

    What happened to Total Biscuit’s column on RPS? Was it overwhelmed by the unwise decision to attach it to real biscuits? Bring it back without the real biscuits.

    As for audio logs, I always thought they were mainly a technology limitation.. since we couldn’t do realistic and emotionally involving NPCs.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That was the design rationale given for System Shock 1, yes.

      I suspect in some later games it’s “because System Shock did it that way”. Spector et. al. went on to do Deus Ex, where they went for realistic and emotionally involving NPCs (succeeding or not—most people seem to feel bad for not saving Paul, at least, for all the speeled drinks) for the most part instead, and scattered Datacubes and e-mails just sit on the periphery making the world feel that little bit bigger for relatively little development cost.

      • Low Life says:

        Real men saved Paul.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Sure. And a good chunk of them do it because the game successfully makes you feel bad if he dies, not because *beep-boop* ACHIEVEMENT UNLOCKED: I Hear You Knocking: Fight your way out of the ‘Ton’s front door, saving Paul.

          • Phantoon says:

            I didn’t even know that leaving Paul to die was an option until I read it on RPS!

            I died right as soon as the guys came in the first time, and reloaded before it could cut to the next thing because I thought I was dead. The next time I placed a few mines in the entry and blasted my way out the room, all the way to Gunther, who I attempted to stealth past. I was very confused when I hit a wall.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        That reminds me; I need to record my thoughts on individual cassette players and leave them around my lab in case something goes wrong and a mute commando needs to find out what happened.

  7. afarrell says:

    Just as a mild warning, there’s a couple of (early) puzzles spoiled in the Fool and His Money screenshots in the Cliff Johnson interview.

  8. McDan says:

    Ah Gas, thoroughly excellent pieces of music there.

  9. Muzman says:

    The grandmammy of all audio log use, System Shock, is still the best implementation by some distance.
    Yup, better than System Shock 2 (even though it’s very good)
    In fact since the original aced it so, their use has only become more inexplicable, excessive and convenient in placement and more obvious in their writing (Bioshock, for instance, quite often has very good writing and acting in its audio logs in character and story terms, but as believable features of the world they are absurd).
    This is probably because people found the original so hard. But having to tease out important clues from seemingly irrelevant conversation, that’s all out of temporal order too, is completely unforgetable.

    • njursten says:

      I’m reminded of the audio logs of SS2 every now and then. So loved it! SS1 was quite good too.

      “They tell me I will float through the air and strike at the foes of our biomass with my mind!”

    • Reapy says:

      Garbled audio logs from the early 1900 s describing demons and other nefarious creatures are something that should never go away. Long live the audio logs!

  10. bill says:

    Surely games these days should be revealing their messages via social networks? Twitter, Facebook and Instagram feeds.

    I always rather liked the implementations in things like Deus Ex and Vampire: Bloodlines where you can access people’s computers and read their emails. It felt more realistic. Bioshock had great audio logs, but why was everyone making audio logs???

    • Premium User Badge

      Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      Bioshock’s audiologs made perfect sense. It was a city full of monumental narcissists! Of course they’re going to preserve their incomprehensibly awesome wisdom for the ages.

      In times to come, future generations will weep, weep, I tell you, because they do not live in such an age as that which brought forth these audio logs.

    • The Random One says:

      I think Bioshock fell just short of adequately explaining that everyone had dictaphones because dictaphones were pretty much marketed as the iPhones of Rapture and it is a world in which marketing is king. There is a lot in a game we’ll forgive if it’s well explained.

      And don’t call me Shirley.

  11. Carbonated Dan says:

    - that d20 is perfect

    – who the hump is this graham chap? Marcus and djWHEAT I know, but graham? graham is a folk singer with an ashen beard, not a shoutcaster

    – game cities are nasty places and I’m glad I don’t live in one – the other week we had an article on the One City Block, and while the abundance of systemic opportunities appeal to the Harvey Smiths, rather than all the human dramas, games will never over come this
    vaguely related, I wondered this morning if the first two resident evil games, in the mansion and policestation, are the Gone Home/1CB ‘environment study as character’ of blockbusters

    • The Random One says:

      Neither the mansion nor the police station make much sense as either a mansion or a police station. They are strictly video game levels.

      For the mansion, actually, this makes sense, since it isn’t supposed to be a mansion as much as it’s supposed to be Umbrella Super Secret Labs Entry #5, but the police station I’m pretty sure is just a police station.

      • Carbonated Dan says:

        well that’s fair enough, I haven’t played either, I was just chatting to someone who brought them up and showed me some screenies of the environments and how even paintings can be viewed in detail, but the secret lab stuff is kind of a deal breaker

    • LionsPhil says:

      That D20 article has a great “living in the future” line in it:

      Now all we need is for someone to 3D-model this so we can print it out

  12. Binho says:

    I agree with Patricia that game cities are empty. I’d include Assassin’s creed in there as well. I have beef with how they handle the past, and one part of it is they do a very poor job at characterising the cultures who’s buildings you are jumping off of.

    Heck, I’d go so far as saying game worlds in general are equally empty. When you step outside the city walls in any game world, you are greeted with what’s usually an empty ‘wild’ landscape, almost devoid of life, commerce, agriculture and industry. Sure, there may be a few token ‘farms’ with tiny garden plots, or lumber mills – but nothing on the scale of what would be needed to sustain the sizeable cities in most games.

    Games need to work on improving their worlds. Despite the beautiful artwork, most seem lifeless and entirely artificial. This really struck me hard in GW2 actually. It’s all there for the player. Like a theme park…

    • fitzroy_doll says:

      Metro 2033 is the stand-out exception, with its station towns. You couldn’t interact with everyone, but they were busy, crowded places that seemed convincingly alive.

    • qrter says:

      It’s interesting to try to think of cities in games that get it right.. the only one I can come up with at the moment is Planescape: Torment‘s Sigil. That felt like a bustling, alive place.

    • tobecooper says:

      I’d argue that the first Assassin had really nice live environments. I mean, it might have the problem of characterizing the people living there as you mention, but it definitely had life outside of city walls. There was a large in-between-cities territory with little villages, traveling people, guard’s outposts and all the other stuff. And there were no missions to do, even though you could easily imagine another chapter taking place in there. A fantastic area in a deeply flawed game ;(

    • Binho says:

      I haven’t played Metro, but that does sound interesting. I’ll have to check it out.

      If I were to think of cities in games that do get it right, the best one so far to me is Vizima in the first Witcher. It’s not perfect, but I think its the incidental details that do it. Like birds flying away as you walk by. The mud, the people. The market and the street performers in the Trade Quarter. Little details like planks laid across the open drains by the sides of the road. It adds depth not only to the sense of place, but the society that lives there.

      • MrStones says:

        Well you can’t take a walk through Vizima without someone shouting it at you, might as well be me :)

        “Yer Mother sucks dwarf cock”

        On that note i think it’s the repetitiveness of npcs that make city’s (even “busy” ones) feel empty, You could have thousands of npcs but if it’s only a dozen textures/voices it’s going to feel hollow and empty. For example assassins creed while it has tons of npcs on screen they all may as well be scenery (which come to think of it IS all they are)

        • fitzroy_doll says:

          Was going to make this point exactly – Vizima was really cool the first time. But since it’s also a mission hub, the 20th time you pass through on the way to the blacksmith, the magic is much diminished. This is also what helped Metro 2033’s settlements – because it’s essentially a corridor shooter, you only see each of them once.

        • Binho says:

          That is a very, very good point. I agree it’s probably why a lot of games feel so hollow.

          It’s probably another argument in favour of the “one city block” game. That really is something that needs to happen.

    • sonson says:

      Both Witcher games are some of the best at making communities feel vibrant and alive. Steelport in Saints Row the Third did a pretty good job as well, given the scale involved.

      • The Random One says:

        Steelport, as far as urban architecture is concerned, is rubbish. It’s several steps down from Stilwater, which at least makes a modicum of sense as far as the placement of neighborhoods go. Steelport is just Manhattan incronguously placed between two generic suburban neighborhoods.

    • dE says:

      I remember Gothic 2 blowing me out of the water with its city and surroundings back then. It all seemed so lively at the time. Towncriers shouted the latest news, the people at the market were gossiping or working, the fields too seemed lively with farmhands gathering the crop.
      I went back years later and “met my childhood hero” (more like late teen hero). I was disappointed. One, it wasn’t as lively as I remembered it and two, it once again showed me that video games haven’t really progressed too much in areas other than presentation, in my opinion. Because, despite being old and not having aged well (imo), it was still better or on par with what we have today.

  13. Premium User Badge

    dangermouse76 says:

    I can connect with the empty city feeling from the Kotaku piece. In my head places like GTA IV have become so detailed ( environmentally and architecturally ) that the narrative is struggling to interact meaningfully with it.

    It has been a growing feeling for me with open world games. As open worlds have become larger and more detailed, the dissonance between narrative and environment has grown. It’s like the film West World, the surface is to easily scratched to reveal the underlying mechanics.

    This is all a matter of progress though, narrative and environment can work really well in certain situations ( RDR ).

    I think we are at a point where the attempt at detailed human environments are in certain cases jarring against the narrative because the narratives are suggesting a world that isn’t as interactive as the writing hopes for, and the environment is a thin veil behind which there is no depth.

    Mr Biscuit described Elder scrolls as something like ” a 2 inch deep lake. ”

    These are not intractable problems though; just where I think we are with certain styles of game right now. I still enjoy the games, I just…….. notice the strings being pulled still to an extent.

    EDIT: For clarity and hang over !! Dam you red wine.
    EDIT 2: Ok the bacon roll hasn’t kicked in yet how about that ?

    • Premium User Badge

      AndrewC says:

      Mr Biscuit enjoys hyperbole as much as any other noisy internet denizen.

      But I do agree that it is a clash between narrative and gameworld that creates this sense of shallowness. It does not matter that the game world is only a veil, it only matters that it does what the story says it can do.

      You do not need to enter every house. You do not need to cut down trees. Not if the game isn’t about those things. If the story wants you to build a fire and you can’t pick up wood, then it all goes wrong.

      I don’t believe it is a technological problem, but a game design problem.

      Also, i am sad to say, no game will let you wander off and do whatever you like in a perfectly simulated world – no game can afford it. You may have to be disappointed, or learn to love Skyrim which, as it happens, is as close as we get, in games with graphics at least.

      EDIT: Don’t you go blaming the red wine now. The red wine was blameless! and tasty. Soooo tasty. Mmmm, red wine.

      • Premium User Badge

        dangermouse76 says:

        I am not disappointed, and agree that it’s about design to an extent depending on which games we choose to look at. You cant make the one block game for a city… yet. You have to pick your battles with narrative and environment.

        Portal, controlled environment great story, works. Minecraft open world controlled focused environmental tool set and emergent play, brilliant. There are lots of examples.

        I am more…. waiting to see what great writers and developers can do next with large open environments and how player authored stories, and directed narrative will develop in that space. There is great challenge in this area.

        And I am genuinely excited about where it could go.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      MIght be worth noting that in Hernandez’ article the examples she uses (Dishonored, Halo 4) are explicitly not open world games. As such it seems like she’s lamenting the failure of writers (and subsequently artists, designers, voice actors, etc) to add a human context to the conflicts in games, rather than the inability of devs to create a convincing living world. Someone above mentioned Metro 2033 as an example of a game that gets it right, and I think I agree. It’s a linear shooter, but every so often you’re presented with a very well-realised reminder that this world is more than soldiers and mutants.

      Edit: Totally off topic, but can a grammar person please tell me if it should be “Hernandez'”, or “Hernandez’s”? It’s killing me.

      • Premium User Badge

        dangermouse76 says:

        Metro is a good example of narrative and environment working for me. I felt like I was there, also ( this is personal to me ), the game objectives kept me moving through the space, almost in a dreamlike way. It never occurred to me to try to interact to much with all of the people around me and break that immersion.

        I accepted the environment for what it was, and that created a strong narrative and environmental connection. Also the art design and the colour space they used was really effective in grounding you to the surroundings. Great voice acting to. A cleverly controlled environment.

        Did I say environment enough ?

      • Premium User Badge

        dangermouse76 says:

        http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Is_Hernandez%27s_or_Hernandez%27_correct

        Best Answer
        The correct form is Hernandez’s.
        Apparently.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Thanks, though I still feel the need to dig up my old Strunk & White. Anyway, yeah, you said “environment” the perfect amount of times. Totally agree with you about the way in which Metro’s objectives pull you along, too. In a way that’s how open world games fail to convince – they give you the time to look behind the curtain.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Hey, look at that, S&W agree. In fact they recommend ‘s after everything, so “Charles’s” and “Quinns’s” etc. Good to know. TANGENT CLOSED.

        • The Random One says:

          Which obviously should be pronounced Hernandejshizij.

    • Binho says:

      You do make a great point about the narrative and the environment.

      I think the issue is that often the environment is not used in the story that’s being told. I’m having a hard time putting my thoughts in to words here, so bear with me. I’ll use Assassin’s Creed 2 as an example here, though this equally applies to TES games and more.

      In AssCreed 2 you do use the environment in a physical sense. You can climb it, jump off it, walk through it, etc. The story, as we know, is about a conspiracy regarding the Templars. The game is set in Late Medieval Italy. The story though, makes no use of that last fact in any real way. You are not placed in any situations which would be common in the daily life of an Italian during that time period. The story is generic: It would work just as well in any time period, if the name and the artwork was changed.

      TES is a bit better, in that the stories involve the mythology of Tamriel. Yet, you are never properly introduced to the world itself as it currently is or the people who live there.

      I think Half Life does it right in both installments, mainly by showing what the world is like before it is destroyed.

      Did any of that make sense? I would really like to see a game narrative/environment that’s like the documentary Ongka’s Big Moka (Youtube it!). Where the story is relevant to the society, yet has to explore all the facets of that society to be told properly.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        I knew there was another fine example. How could I forget Half Life 2? That game does exactly enough work to show you the little guys you’re there to save. All the more relevant here for the Dishonored connection.

      • Premium User Badge

        dangermouse76 says:

        I sure see what your getting at.

        It’s like games are strands of game play mechanic and narrative. GTA’s strand is gun play, and ( arguably driving ). Dishonored is stealth in the world, both inside and outside the buildings. Portal 2 is puzzle based with focused physics interactions and direction. All tied by and codependent on their story.

        I am really looking forward to tying a few more of these strands together in one place – one world one story – and seeing how that increases the the bond between narrative and environment. And how this can also expand emergent game play opportunities.

    • Nate says:

      I’m surprised that nobody has yet mentioned that empty cities are primarily a performance problem– a performance problem that gets larger the longer we ignore it.

      In a game where baddies are, say, 10k polygons each, with skins taking up maybe a mb of memory each, it’s clear that filling a city with equivalently detailed inhabitants is a losing proposition. If you want to show ten times as many characters on the screen at once, with the same performance, you need those characters to be a tenth as detailed. (You can do some reuse to save memory [not triangles] but then you end up with a city full of identical Mr. Smiths, which isn’t really much of a solution.)

      If you want your inhabitants to behave interestingly, then ten times as many inhabitants means your AI gets ten times as expensive. Pathfinding is a minor performance hit when you’re talking about a handful of badguys that don’t even move until you wake them. When you start talking about a few hundred or thousand entities, it gets expensive. Unlike the graphics hit, units have to pathfind even when they’re off-screen. See Dwarf Fortress for an example of this in action.

      If you want the inhabitants to behave even more realistically (like, go home at night, etc), then you’re talking about a decent amount of tedious development work assigning homes and workplaces to your however-many inhabitants. Multiply this by however interestingly you want your inhabitants to behave.

      It’s true that some games have gotten around this, just to a limited extent. But next time you play one of these games, look at the relative detail of areas where the developers expect to show large crowds, and compare it to the detail of areas where the developers expect no crowds. There’s a large difference. Crowds are expensive.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        This is definitely true, though I’d reiterate that Hernadez isn’t talking about convincing simulation so much as taking the time to add a human/civilian context to the conflicts in games. This isn’t necessarily a technical issue – it’s to do with writing and design. Maybe I’m misreading the article?

      • El Mariachi says:

        Could a form of procedural generation help with this? Maybe assemble crowdmembers on the fly from a library of noses, eyes, hairstyles, items of clothing, etc.? I’ve never used Massive but I would make an uneducated guess that it does something like this — not to save rendering cycles, but to save modelers from having to hand-build every single orc at Minas Tirith.

  14. Premium User Badge

    Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Has that D20 had all the 1s rolled out of it?

  15. NathanH says:

    I think the audiolog article is a bit weak, firstly because the complaints about audiologs aren’t particularly compelling to me, but mainly because the solutions provided aren’t any good. The first solution is a good one but only has limited utility. The other three require some big fundamental shift in the game, which is rarely going to be worth it for a bit of piddly backstory.

    Personally the thing I don’t like audiologs is that they’re so slow compared with reading the same content. So I agree with removing audiologs, but they should be replaced by books and notes, like in Thief. I’m not really against non-interactive stuff because backstory is non-interactive.

    Idea for a hipster backstory game: you’re exploring a deserted town, every time you enter a house you see some scene, and then you get the play out the events in that house that led to the scene. There are multiple paths, all ending up at the same scene but meaning different things and possibly affecting and being affected by the choices you made in the other houses.

    • qrter says:

      And the funny thing is that the BioShock games do include multiple occurrences of the first “solution”.

      Personally, I disagree with you on reading being quicker – one of the handy things about audiologs is that you can play them while still moving around the world, exploring, doing stuff (to be fair, this can also be annoying, when you land in an unexpected fight and stop listening to the audiolog). Having to read a text tends to grind the flow of a game to a halt.

      What I don’t understand about the original author’s article is how the audiologs in BioShock are supposed to be so alien – ” they shouldn’t be there, it’s odd that they are and they are rarely explained”. The author never explains what exactly is so odd about it – the inhabitants of Rapture are technology-minded egomaniacs, why wouldn’t they be recording their thoughts on tape?

      • Premium User Badge

        ffordesoon says:

        I agree with you to a point about the denizens of Rapture, but I think it’s more that there are moments caught on tape that don’t feel like they could’ve realistically been caught on tape – or at least not in the “radio drama” way that Bioshock sometimes resorts to. I would provide some examples, but it’s been so long since I played the game that I can’t remember any relevant ones.

        To be clear, I view audio logs as a storytelling tool that can be used effectively or poorly, and I think a certain amount of suspension of disbelief is required for it and most things like it. It is worth criticizing, but every medium has certain unrealistic devices it relies on to convey the proper amount of information to the audience. An audio log is roughly equivalent to the guy in a spy thriller who conveniently dies just before he reveals the name of the mole. Which is also a practice worthy of criticism, yes, but the audience has to learn the information somehow for the plot to move forward, and the hope is that they’ll forget the heavy-handed staginess of the delivery mechanism and focus on the information acquired.

  16. mckertis says:

    “Eurogamer examines “The Cult Of Total Biscuit””

    Wait, so he’s not even a Brit ? Just another USian ? One more reason to ignore him.

    • Carbonated Dan says:

      Welcome one and all to the internet, a magical land which jingoism and ignorance call home

    • Xocrates says:

      How the bloody hell does someone living in a country other than the one of his birth means he’s not a citizen of his original country?

      TB was even forbidden to go to the US until earlier this year (for some reason or another) and he’s not a US citizen.

      By all means dislike the guy as much as you want, but now you’re just pulling excuses out of your ass.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Andy_Panthro says:

    I don’t particularly like audio logs, I always feel like I have to stop and listen to them before moving on. Otherwise you can get the problem where you wander into enemies, or more logs, or whatever. If you’re playing something like Dear Esther, it’s easy to listen and walk (because there’s not a huge amount to do/see). But for Bioshock, I was always running into splicers and more audio logs, so if I didn’t stop and hide while I was listening then I ended up just ignoring them.

    Deus Ex: Human Revolutions emails and such were a bit better for me.

  18. Premium User Badge

    Oozo says:

    “Successful Greenlight games showed a very different pattern: massive pages of stats, hundreds of hours of playtime, games offering a hardcore hobby to sink your teeth into.”

    Like McPixel?
    …apart from that, I figure Mr Smith’s analysis is mostly correct.

  19. povu says:

    BISCUITFACE

  20. Premium User Badge

    ffordesoon says:

    Are people really that annoyed by TotalBiscuit? Why?

    He’s a guy who talks honestly and passionately about games, gets angry at stuff he thinks is shitty, and praises stuff he thinks is cool. I’ve agreed with him and disagreed with him, but I’ve never been under the impression that he’s “arrogant” because he expresses his honest opinion in a blunt way.

    The EG commenters seem to have a problem with him because he has some sort of anti-console bias. Does he? I mean, anti-console bias tends to make me want to gouge my own eyes out, because I think it’s dumb, but he doesn’t strike me as particularly biased against them. There are console-focused design trends he hates, but plenty of AAA developers will outright say they’re console-focused decisions in interviews and never get remotely criticized for it, which actually annoys the shit out of me. Not because I fault them for making a console-centric design choice, but because it shows a fundamental lack of respect for the player. There are differences between the platforms, to be sure, but they’re not nearly as numerous as publishers and developers seem to think. Deciding to cut a feature because it isn’t fun is one thing, but deciding to cut a feature because “console players” (read: a broad generalization of people who are likely to play console games based on a focus group this one guy on the development team and/or the publisher’s marketing department went to one time) won’t like it is repulsive and disgusting and simply doesn’t work. It might work by accident, but it never, ever, ever works on purpose. The focus should always be on making the best game possible, not designing for any one platform. The only time when the limitations of a console setup should be a factor at all is with regard to the genuine practical limitations of the hardware, and even then it shouldn’t be nearly as much of a factor as it is.

    Not to, er, go off on a rant or anything.

    (FULL DISCLOSURE: As the above shows, I may be partial to TotalBiscuit simply because I recognize a bit of myself in him, but, y’know, yeah.)

    Anyway, he’s obviously a PC gamer first and foremost, but there’s a clear difference between a guy who says “Console ga(y)mes are lame and for n00bs, lawl” and a guy who calls out bad PC ports for being bad PC ports. And the only other complaint seems to be from people who liked a game he didn’t like, and therefore feel compelled to lecture him about what games he should and shouldn’t post videos of. And it’s like, if you don’t care about his opinion as you claim, why are you putting it on a pedestal to the point that you’re yelling at him for not liking a game you like? If you don’t like the opinions of someone who makes money by sharing his opinions, why not just stop watching the man’s videos and find someone whose opinions match yours, rather than asking the guy whose fans don’t want him to change to change solely for you?

    It’s bizarre.

    (NOTE: May have been composed in a sleepless haze, adjust expectations accordingly.)

    • subedii says:

      I wouldn’t say he’s console biased so much as PC focused. He does all his reviews on PC when he can, and he turns special attention to aspects of games that they should get right and shouldn’t simply be ignored when ported PC-side (like menu options).

      He was basically one of the leading instigators of the whole “bring Dark Souls to PC” thing. He did that because he thought it was a really really good game. Console or not didn’t come into it, he just felt it would work well PC-side as well and that there was an audience for it.

      Also: The Eurogamer comments section is pretty bad for most things, but it has a particular thing for platform wars. See also: Every time Digital Foundry does ANY article.

      • woodsey says:

        I believe he also had a hand in getting 2K to implement a FOV slider in The Darkness 2.

    • Soon says:

      Bitter are the eyes that see success in another and such.

  21. phenom_x8 says:

    Another one :
    http://www.reddit.com/r/Games/comments/132gxq/pc_gamer_gives_hitman_absolution_a_62100/

    Tom Francis, PC Gamer UK writer, who review this games seems like adore Hitman Blood Money very much-beside its sexism towards men and women in the game – from the way he wrote this article :

    http://www.pentadact.com/2006-09-23-blood-money-and-sex/

    So, I dont know the truth about his absolution review, Whether he is very dissapointed by it or he just finishing the tutorial section of the game like one of the commenter said in gameranx article or reddit!

    • woodsey says:

      I very much doubt Tom only played the tutorial.

      As for Absolution, this isn’t exactly getting me stoked: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wh3a4stNaf4

      Skip to about 40 seconds if you want to miss the Hitman 2 gameplay.

      Seems the reply button failed, this is in response to the post above.

    • Premium User Badge

      ffordesoon says:

      Yeah, except that’s not a real grade, if I recall correctly. Someone made it up to troll Redditors.

      EDIT: On the other hand, maybe it’s real. It sounds right in line with the RPS review.

    • Phantoon says:

      Okay seriously what the hell, I cannot reply to that comment above.

      But yes, Tom Francis needs to finish Gunpoint. At gun point, if need be.

  22. phenom_x8 says:

    Good read :
    Hitman : Blood money retrospective :
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2012-11-18-hitman-blood-money-retrospective

    Arggh.. I’m replaying again this game last month, and for the n-th times, I’m stuck in Mardi Grass!! Damn! How to kill that black crow customed sniper? No, dont tell me, I will find it myself as a professional assassin!!

    note : My edit function are not working and when I said add it in a replay it says awaiting moderation(thought as a spam maybe), so gonna add this one :
    http://www.gameranx.com/updates/id/10682/article/hitman-absolution-is-a-mess-gets-torn-apart-in-pc-gamer-review/

  23. Zanpa says:

    This article on Call of Duty says that it’s not played competitively because it changes every year. I’d like to argue that this is only one side of the problem.
    Really, the more important reason is, in my opinion, that the game is built for “casual” gaming. It helps the player whenever it can, and lacks any significant depth that allows a very good player to differentiate himself from a good player.
    Guns having no recoil, killstreaks and weapon attachments allowing you to see the position of every enemy player even through walls, and many, many more, are symptoms of a game created without thinking about competitive play.
    Even a game like Battlefield 3 has much more depth, be it in mastering the weapons (which eventualy happens, but not as fast as CoD) or the vehicles (which never really happens).

    So… yeah. There’s a good reason why Call of Duty 4 is the only game of the series with a (small) competitive scene, and it’s because it is the only game where “skill” still meant a tiny something.

    But in my opinion, only a game created for rewarding players that invest a great amount of time in it can have some sort of competitive scene.

    (Sorry if my english isn’t the best, please ignore the badly worded sentences and possible grammar or spelling errors)

    • subedii says:

      I don’t believe it’s an issue with lack of depth as such. CS has pretty much been the go to game for competitive FPS’s for the past decade, but it’s based off of extremely simply rules, in a fair few areas simpler than MW4. The depth comes from an endless focus on refinement of roles, plays and playstyles that have been built up by focusing really hard on specific aspects of the game.

      In the same way that a “timing push” wasn’t a concept inherently built into Starcraft when they released it (it’s something that evolved from large amounts of very competitive play getting to the point where differentiation between skills comes down implementing plans within windows of seconds) , likewise a lot of what defines what modern high level CS play is today, wasn’t anything specifically implemented as a mechanic, it’s just something that the players pushed on until it came down to “who can implement it or adapt to it better / smarter / faster”.

      If there’s an additional factor that prevents the games becoming more competitive, I’d say it’s more to do with a greater inherrent randomness within them, making situations unpredictable, and as such any specific “plays” come down more to random chance than skill because you simply can’t formulate a plan for them. It’s far harder to say “the optimal behaviour for the enemy is X therefore I will do Y” because there’s so many other factors to take into account.

      Part of the reason that CS survived so long is that it’s very “pure” in that respect. There’s extremely little randomness in the game. Apart from bullet spread (which is to a degree predictable and also a skill to work at), where you can be and where the enemy can be at any specific point in time. Who can hit where and when and how.

      At that point, the depth of very high level play doesn’t come down to the “rules” of the game as such. The rules have been built up over the past decade, it’s a common language amongst the top tier players. Outside of raw skill (which basically evens out after a certain point), the depth comes from organising plays and trying to out-predict your opponent’s maneuvers.

      A game like CoD can build up that same kind of focus at high enough levels of play, once the maps and the weapons are hammered out and balanced. The problem occurs when the game rules themselves mean that making those predictions becomes so much more difficult. The article makes note to mention that even in competitive MW4, the game modes favoured are the ones without things like killstreaks and perks.

      It’s not that the serious players don’t like fun, it’s that if the game’s unpredictable to both sides then it’s not really a test of which side is more skilled. You can execute a plan near perfectly and still lose, not because the other team anticipated your actions, or executed their plan better, but they just happened to have the right set of circumstances and events occur. Circumstances which they themselves didn’t predict would be important or specifically plan for to happen.

      This is also the reason why TF2, despite having a huge playerbase, has a very small competitive scene (if that). And even there, the emphasis was on 6v6, and the basic roles have already been solidified to the extent that some classes are simply side-lined altogether. Standard TF2 is a fun game, but it is monumentally random and unpredictable.

      Getting back to the need to “hammer out” the balance and the minute fine-tuning of weapon handling and map layouts, that’s why the article places such an emphasis on the yearly releases being a problem. EVERYTHING changes, so nobody can really establish those ground rules for the game. This is going to sound completely pretentious, but in the same way that a high level chess player will have an understanding of different openings and plays, so too will a high level CS player. That becomes the background knowledge and understanding, and the baseline from which more in-depth and nuanced strategies proceed. But that understanding can only develop if all the rules to the game remain the same and don’t keep changing every year.

      There’s a whole load more that could be written on the topic (like how “fun” and “competitiveness” can often be at odds with each other in game design). But in general, I feel that the “depth” in the sense of the kind of high level play you see in CS (or even 1v1 Quake) can be created in many games, but it requires the right style of gameplay, and the right circumstances.

      EDIT: Wow, that was far longer than I anticipated it would be.

      • Premium User Badge

        Malibu Stacey says:

        This is also the reason why TF2, despite having a huge player base, has a very small competitive scene (if that). And even there, the emphasis was on 6v6, and the basic roles have already been solidified to the extent that some classes are simply side-lined altogether. Standard TF2 is a fun game, but it is monumentally random and unpredictable.

        ETF2L, WireplayTF2L & the dozens of other leagues would disagree with you.
        TF2’s main problem with becoming a behemoth in the competitive scene is basically CS exists (in all of it’s forms).
        The reason why some classes are sidelined in competitive is because competitive TF2 is generally played on 5 CP maps and requires a lot of speed. Hence more defensive classes (Engineer, Heavy & Sniper) and less maneuverable classes (again Engineer, Heavy & Sniper) have limited usefulness compared to the others.
        Also competitive TF2 has server configs which reduce if not completely remove the randomness and unpredictability (no random crits & no bullet spread to mention the main ones).

        If Activision care about making a ‘competitive CoD then they should take a leaf out of the TF2 book and allow competitive configs to remove/limit the randomness. I assume this is what the ‘Promod’ for CoD4 does. Also dedicated servers are a requirement (surprised CoD4 is the only competitively viable of the recent CoD releases?) so good luck with that.

        Other than that an excellent post. The majority of which also applies to the DotA scene.

  24. Tei says:

    Youtubers provide video comentary of games from inside games. Its fresh and actual, Tv have tried and failed to cover games… I hope more people learn to make the type of videos that Tb make so we have more varied opinions.

  25. Premium User Badge

    PikaBot says:

    One of the better uses of audio log storytelling I’ve seen was in the original FEAR. They weren’t ‘audio logs’ as such, they were messages left on answering machines from each other. In addition, if you found a laptop, your Voice In Your Ear would analyze it’s hard drive’s contents and tell you what he’d found.

  26. MistyMike says:

    Speaking of Tadgh Kelly let me again recommend another article of his that people should really take into account:
    http://www.whatgamesare.com/2012/11/games-dont-need-saving.html

  27. Citrus says:

    I like TB’s reviews. Compared to even RPS, he actually spends time talking about Video options (which is pretty damn important) along with controls section for game. I have noticed sometime that he fails to “get” some games and ends up playing badly raging at the poor game for his failure (but then again, I am pretty sure such stuff happens with other reviewers who don’t make videos).

    As for Dark Souls. Played an hour of that overhyped piece of turd on PC. Quit, uninstalled and never went back. Shit port, terrible art style and visuals, and gameplay bored the poo out of me (the heat seaking arrows were hilarious). I never understood the hype behind the game and the dying was completely pointless as well (why even give a checkpoint? just respawn me right at the place on death to save time).

    • GameCat says:

      Wait, what?

      Sure, you can say that PC version of DS is a bad port. But Jesus Christ, bad art style? In Dark Souls?
      Damn, how THIS http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7KkMUOv6Ias can be a “bad art style”? Show me a game with such beautiful place and enemy. I can recall only Shadow of Colossus.

      And about respawning in the same place where you die. Why even keep health bar then?

      • Citrus says:

        Just because the game got a place and a enemy or two right doesn’t mean overall art style is amazing (or even close to it). The starting area itself looks like shit, like it was made with BSP brushes or something (and I am playing on 1080p with res mod so I can only imagine how this would’ve looked without the mod).

        Also, the health bar should indeed be removed. Just dying and conveniently respawning at a checkpoint nearby isn’t challenging. Dying and loosing a piece of gear one by one everytime you respawn however, IS challenging.

        I am guessing that console kids and their types on PC, who are too lazy to try same section over and over again are the ones so thrilled by a pointless death/respawn system.

        “Oh god no, I died. Now I will have to fight all the enemies again and run all ,the way back to the last area where I died. THE HORROR. BEST GAME EVAR!!!”

        • zeroskill says:

          “The starting area itself looks like shit, like it was made with BSP brushes or something”

          Are you sure you truly understand the definition of art style? It hasn’t anything to do with texture quality or level of detail of the geometry used. Sounds like you are just bitching about a game you don’t like.

          Calling it an “overhyped piece of turd” is clearly uncalled for, since there are enough people who enjoy the game to great extend.

          • Citrus says:

            Art style in a game includes the visual style and the way the levels are designed. And yes, Demon Souls has shit art style.

            As far as gameplay is concerned, I don’t really care how many people liked it. I personally found it boring and that’s what I was talking about. No one said anything about whole world hating it. I still think it’s overhyped.

  28. sonson says:

    Says it in the article but it bears repeating: TotalBiscuit is basically Jeremy Clarkson but he’s into games rather than cars. Whether that is a good thing or a bad thing depends on who is reading it I guess.

    • Phantoon says:

      What? What?

      Nooooo. No.

      Top Gear is a great show. Complete Cake is a twerp that likes to hear himself talk.

      I’m not English, so I’m clearly not in the know of whatever untenable acts he’s done to make people dislike him so. But Top Gear is a great show.

      • sonson says:

        Top Gear is very good at times, although it has rather been absorbed by the ego of it’s presenters of late. But Clarkson does more than that and most of is soft right wing egotisitcal drivel

  29. Frank says:

    I found this piece on X-COM vs XCOM interesting. It matches the way I think about the two, except that I enjoyed XCOM quite a bit more. You can get the gist of it from the URL:

    http://www.gamasutra.com/blogs/EricSchwarz/20121116/181726/Why_XCOM_Didnt_Work_For_Me_Simulation_vs_Strategy.php

  30. Caiman says:

    That Dark Souls piece reminds me why I never, ever play with a random stranger. The chances of getting one that isn’t cheating, isn’t socially reprehensible, or isn’t interested in cooperating is about 95%, and that’s way too high for my liking.