The Monday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on December 17th, 2012 at 1:00 pm.


Sundays are for realising that you have no internet, and must now survive alone in the wilderness. Cut off from the mothership, I scavenged autonomously on the surface of that alien planet until I was rescued on Monday by a trip into town.

  • Rick Lane discusses a topic close to my own heart: sword-fighting in games: “Even the basic action of swinging a sword is wrongly depicted in gaming. In The Witcher 2, for example, sword-fights often consist of a series of traded blows. You swing, the enemy dodges or parries, then the enemy swings and you parry. A real sword-fight is a far more complex, nuanced affair. “We’ve got only two things that look remotely like a parry in the traditional sense.” Martin says. “It’s entirely possible, with a two-handed weapon, to parry an incoming blow with one end of your sword while cutting the top of the other guy’s head off with the tip. So you’re basically parrying and attacking with the same weapon at the same time.””
  • Brainy Gamer’s things of the year is worth a read: “I’ve been thinking about things that stuck with me playing games this year. Little moments. Surprises. Disappointments. People who made me stop and think. So I decided to make my own highly subjective list to account for them. Here are a few of my favorite things (and one not-so-favorite), 2012 edition.”
  • An amusing, but saddening piece about how bold futurist positivity is missing from Star Trek Online: “What Star Trek Online presents is a war-ravaged future where factionalism is the rule of the day. Allies are on the verge of becoming bitter rivals, ancestral homes are wiped out, enemies infiltrate the highest ranks of leadership, and the most common response to a tense situation is to atomize someone with a high-powered laser rifle. There’s a bit of a disconnect from the “highly evolved” state of humanity that Captain Picard triumphed, to be sure.”
  • Beefjack interviewed The Tomorrow Corporation about Little Inferno: “We enjoy the bewildered Youtube comments from folks like: “What?! You throw things in a fire to get money to buy more things to throw in a fire? That’s pointless and stupid!” And of course it’s pointless and stupid! The characters in the game muse about the very same thing in different ways.”
  • PC Gamer suggest the 15-best co-op games, which reminded me that I want to play Alien Swarm again: “People love swarms. The swarms of aliens in Alien Swarm (clue’s in the name), are best dealt with by coordination: one of your group becomes point-man, clearing rooms with shotguns and flamethrowers. Another takes up the rear, machinegun blaring to dissuade any would-be alien pouncers. This coordination is the result of a kind of natural, happy trance that players fall into, rather than tiresome enforcement.”
  • Some serious criticism of games journalism from Mr Kuchera: “You find yourself in surreal circumstances once you begin to see how bad sourcing in game reporting has become. I once got into an argument with a site about a PAR story that was re-written without a single link back to our content. It turns out they were actually re-writing another article that had re-written our article and only provided a single link at the bottom. The problem was fixed once I had contacted the editors at both sites, but you can literally spend every morning unraveling the game of telephone if you let yourself.”
  • An interesting article on different gaming educations, replying to my “educated elite” comment: “One way to phrase this is that education is itself a game in which players are rewarded for learning certain skills and having certain abilities and that our culture thinks some of these games are more hardcore than others. In his book Half-Real, Jesper Juul defines games as having “negotiable consequences” and illustrates by contrasting ‘games’ with ‘elections’. But elections are negotiable too; their consequences have already been negotiated by power elites and their inherent negotiability is obscured by the respect or even pseudo-biblical reverence we give to constitutional authorities. Accordingly, some of these games are broken.”
  • The TPCG podcast features Jonathan Chey, and contains some discussion of System Shock 2, among other things.
  • Mary Hamilton wrote something pretty stark.
  • Patricia Hernandez on Journey: “Nearly defeated, my chime does not radiate like it once did. But I keep climbing the mountain. I keep climbing the mountain even though the storm pushes me back. I keep climbing the mountain even though gravestones surround me everywhere. And when I finally fall into the snow, when this overwhelming, undeniable force finally buries me, I don’t feel surprised.”
  • Last year a friend of mine bought me a huge book with a lot of these in. The best of Communist architecture, basically. They still amaze me.

Music this week is from Tim Hecker and Daniel Lopatin.

__________________

« | »

.

80 Comments »

  1. wodin says:

    “It’s entirely possible, with a two-handed weapon, to parry an incoming blow with one end of your sword while cutting the top of the other guy’s head off with the tip. So you’re basically parrying and attacking with the same weapon at the same time.””…ouch

    • goettel says:

      Note to developers: will pay moneys for that !

      • Wut The Melon says:

        As will I! Though the word ‘realistic’ has been grossly overused in that article (but then again, I strongly feel it shouldn’t be anywhere near ‘gaming’), but some sword gameplay that is NOT just trading blows with a maximum of three different moves would be quite something.

    • rapier17 says:

      The majority of Martial Arts (Western & Eastern) are based around the concept of hitting the other guy but making sure you’re safe generally by the positioning of the body (embodied most of all in the treatise of two rapier maestro’s Giacomo di Grassi (around 1570) & Ridulfo Capo Ferro (1610)). All sorts of rapier movements, such as the passata sotto, have beautiful, graceful movements which take the body completely out of harm whilst endangering your foe – it’s those sorts of attacks & counters that give rapier fighting it’s flamboyant nature but it is utterly practical.

    • domogrue says:

      Wow, the sword article just came out around another Gamasutra article about unrealistic sword use in games from an animator’s point of view.

      http://gamasutra.com/view/feature/183412/art_of_war_animating_realistic_.php

      More technically focused, but also pretty awesome.

  2. Squirly says:

    I knew there was something missing yesterday, but I just couldn’t put my finger on it.

    All is well now.

  3. bill says:

    The problem with fighting in games always seems to be the same… fighting tends to involve reading the subtle signs of someone’s attack, but in games it tends to involve fixed actions and responses.

    Game fighting also tends to involve hitting each other until someone falls down, whereas real fighting involves not hitting each other until someone get hit.

    I don’t think any game has really even been able to pull of a decent simple 1 on 1 knife fight that has much depth.

    • Kasab says:

      When all that Clang! business was going on, someone insightful on a forum I regular said something I think should always be considered when approaching any virtual representation of men and women swording each other to death: if you go out into your garden and hit someone with a stick, you’re getting effectively the best simulation of sword combat possible. No peripherals or animation engines can beat that. There’s also that small issue of movement being crucial to melee combat that waggle-swordery games, something that can’t really be simulated properly until Carmack uploads himself into the digi-matrix.

    • deejayem says:

      I remember being impressed back in the day by the sword-fighting in the first Assassin’s Creed. Although it was tiresomely over-used by the end, it was the first game I played that allowed you to put together sequences that actually made sense – such as feinting to draw out an opponent’s attack so that you could parry and riposte.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Really? I thought the invulnerable block and counter ruined it.

        • deejayem says:

          Didn’t the knights later on start breaking your block? Maybe my memories are rose-tinted – it’s been a while since I played. I do remember being thoroughly sick of the fighting by the end, but there were segments that felt like real fencing. I can’t think of another game that’s actually used proper feints.

    • MuscleHorse says:

      The only reason any of us play games is for the dream of a good, one on one knife fight.

      • Kasab says:

        No doubt someone remembers Severance: Blade of Darkness, the miserably titled sword combat with the horrific controls. There’s also Rune, which is more Jedi Knight saber-jousting than Joachim Meÿer. Chivalry is the de facto home of anyone with a burning desire for sprays of arterial blood and A Song of Ice and Fire puns in the chatlog, but I don’t think we’ve quite hit the pinnacle of emulating man’s milennia-long love affair with sword-based violence.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          Clearly a direct simulation of sword combat is a pipe dream, but there are games that very successfully evoke the feeling of fencing/swashbuckling as we know it from films and books etc. Chivalry is the best in my opinion, and one of the reasons is that it takes mastery.

          Often what we want from sword fighting in games is not to literally fight with a sword, but to feel like we’ve bested an opponent through superior skill and/or instincts. Chivalry is more or less the best at delivering on this. Dark Souls succeeds for similar reasons, though it’s a very different sort of representation.

        • sinister agent says:

          Rune was kind of like Mount and Blade as a platformer, with the story and structure of an FPS. Bloody fun game, but yeah, it’s not an amazing simulation. It’s probably one of the more realistic ones though, since positioning and timing are more important than memorising controls or counters.

          Good call on Severance. A badly flawed game, but a shame, as its combat could have made for a fun game if it had been rejigged a little.

        • Spacewalk says:

          There’s also Die By the Sword which mapped your sword arm to mouse movements but was even worse to control than Severance. Severance at least had a lock-on key, in DBtS you were out of luck. Trying to move forwards and backwards, strafe, turn and jump with one hand whilst you swung the mouse around like a maniac with the other was an absolute nightmare when facing more than one foe.

    • Gap Gen says:

      There’s always the input problem, but then games have always had to deal with abstraction somehow. I remember someone (Jim?) saying that going back to normal FPS controls after playing ArmA with head tracking was like playing inside a fridge box with eyeholes cut into the front.

    • diamondmx says:

      Does noone remember Bushido Blade? I mean, it was kinda buggy, but it did this in the 90′s.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Bushido Blade was the best! That we played, anyway. My skill at judging maia (entering distance) led me to a great (living room) career as a short sword fighter. Sad to see that it was never really followed up well. Loved it far more than the overly complex button-punching special-move flavors of fighting games.

    • Baines says:

      Game fighting also has a lack of variation.

      In a game, you only have so many possible moves. And, barring the occasional special game mechanic (like a stamina system that slows speed as you tire, or an “anti-cheese” mechanic that lowers damage with repetition), they all tend to consistently execute with the same path and speed and same result every time. Indeed, fighting game fans can reject inbuilt variation, because it can alter the reliability of combos and juggles.

      In a real fight… Well, people can train to “machine-like precision”. But watch any kind of real fight and see how that holds up in the end, when you’ve got two people moving and doing different things, adjusting for each other, tiring and recovering and reeling from damage, sometimes intentionally altering their timing, sometimes pouring on offense as fast as they can at times with little regard for form, etc… And then you get one of those lucky or unlucky breaks, a knock-out punch out of nowhere, a weapon lost, a chance kill, that would send a game player screaming about unfairness or how the game effectively picked a winner at random.

    • Nate says:

      “Game fighting also tends to involve hitting each other until someone falls down, whereas real fighting involves not hitting each other until someone get hit.”

      The idea of hit points needs to go away. It’s a forty year old abstraction that never did a good job at representing what it was supposed to anyways, and it’s been adopted as a standard by almost everyone. (Thanks Dwarf Fortress for being the ONLY EXCEPTION I CAN THINK OF.)

      The other cliche that needs to go away, unrelated, is the idea of a fixed range beyond which you cannot hit. And I can’t think of even a single exception for this one, although there are probably some FPS without any concept of max range.

      • Berzee says:

        “The other cliche that needs to go away, unrelated, is the idea of a fixed range beyond which you cannot hit.”

        So that games will be a more realistic representation of our infinitely long arms? =S

  4. Gap Gen says:

    Re: the press X not to die article, I think a person’s relationship with games and mental health is fascinating. I used games in the past to escape from problems at home, and I think that although on balance I should have made more of an effort to get out and meet people, games probably did save some of my sanity as a teenager as a result of being able to escape into a different space.

  5. Kollega says:

    As a Russian, i should have a lot to say about Communist architecture. Of course, my experiences are fairly limited, since i didn’t travel the whole former USSR territory, and probably won’t, but i still have something to say. And that is that the title of the relevant article, “The Ugly-Beauty of Brutalism”, is very apt indeed. To an American or Western-European audience, all those buildings probably look ugly or dystopian, which is fair, but at the same time they’re so bold, so in-your-face, that it’s hard not to admire them. Some, like the Gosprom building shown in the article or the little-known Shu railroad station from southern Kazakhstan (where i have personally been), look like some giant preschooler made them out of similarly giant Lego bricks, and it’s pretty awesome.

    And i also have to say that it’s pretty sad that Star Trek Online has none of the “better living through technology” spirit of the original. Even though i never watched Star Trek, i appreciate it for stating that the future will be better and many of humanity’s ills will eventually be overcome.

  6. frightlever says:

    The Star Trek essay acknowledges that the actual problem isn’t with STO it’s with the franchise, which got quite dark during DS9 when the Federation was riddled with spies and there was an on-going arms race that produced pure war ships for the first time.

    • Prime says:

      ..which makes it sound as if the author blamed it on DS9 but he actually went to pains to say he didn’t blame DS9 at all, that DS9 also held quite fiercely onto its human positivity during those dark years of war with the Gamma Quadrant. It was under threat, certainly, but we watched all the main characters struggle to keep their inner lights shining, which was essentially what made the show so compelling to watch.

      Games, however, have always struggled to reflect this side of Star Trek. It’s much easier to depict space battles and phaser fights than show complex diplomacy. This is why the gaming universe should literally be screaming publishers doors down for an updated version of Birth of the Federation, one of the only games to ever present Star Trek as a whole evolving universe. Instead, we got STO. Sadface.

    • Lowbrow says:

      “There’s a bit of a disconnect from the “highly evolved” state of humanity that Captain Picard triumphed, to be sure.”

      I couldn’t keep reading after this sentence. It just really got under my skin.

    • Archonsod says:

      It’s not just DS9. The only diplomacy Kirk ever believed in was the kind that had “gunboat” in front of it.

  7. RandomEsa says:

    This is rich. Ben Kuchera talking about fact checking and games journalism when he was one of the many who disregarded forbes when they dared to have their facts checked about infamous “Jennifer Hepler incident” and ME 3 ending debacle.

    But I do agree with him and I like few of his articles ( he is still a douche tho).

  8. tomeoftom says:

    Haha, I was waiting for the new Tim Hecker album to show up here.

  9. mckertis says:

    “Mechanic of the Year – Dishonoured’s Blink ”

    I thought it was a cheap cop out of a mechanic.

    • JackShandy says:

      Explain.

      Personally I think the infinite re-usability of it made it too easy to ignore most of the games challenges, but I can understand the free-and-easy toybox philosophy they were going for.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Blink ruins Dishonored as a stealth game because it’s basically a cheat in that context, but fits perfectly in the Dishonored as action game where you shoot and stab people. The game always nudges and winks and implies it’s also the former when in reality it would be better off just being unapologetically the latter (thankfully it doesn’t prevent you from perceiving it as such either).

      • Avish says:

        Most of your tools are not relevant for stealth and if you play a non-lethal game, it’s even less than that. and that was a big let down for me.

        I completely agree that the “blink” in stealth felt like cheating.

      • Kasab says:

        Verticality is horribly OP in Dishonored, but it’s really down to you whether you use Blink or not. Provided you upgrade Agility, Blink isn’t required; it’s never mandatory for progression. This doesn’t take away from the fact that Dishonored is (with Blink) one of the easiest stealth games I’ve ever played, but you can opt out of using it and still have a lot of fun. Shame most of the game’s tools are for lethal playthroughs.

      • ohnoabear says:

        I don’t think of Dishonored as a stealth game or an action game. It’s a traversal game, a game about providing challenges related to moving around in a 3D space, much like Mirror’s Edge was. And in that context, Blink is beautiful and perfect.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      As a combat mechanic. it’s great. As a stealth mechanic, it’s shite.

      Dishonored isn’t a stealth game anyway, so it doesn’t really matter.

    • Soon says:

      It often felt like the levels were designed before blink was. But using it was still fun.

  10. jhng says:

    Loved the gaming education article. He does a brilliant job of pulling out a lot of the threads underlying our cultural relationship with games.

    It got me thinking about the difference between exclusionary and inclusionary challenge in games. Without dissing one or the other, it seems to me that there is a qualitative difference between a game like Dark Souls where the nature of the difficulty presupposes a high degree of game education (even in terms of basic controller use) and a game like Super Hexagon where the nature of the challenge is far more universal.

    For me Dark Souls is a lovely, but mostly closed, book (still at the first bonfire in Undead Burg after 10+ hours) simply because I don’t have the time to get over the access barrier in terms of controller and third-person skills (neither of which I have much), while Super Hexagon I got straight into (bought it on both iPhone and PC) and was able to start enjoying and appreciating the fail/repeat/learn process immediately (despite still being crap at it).

    As I say, I’m not dissing one or the other — but it does flag up the fact that a game can potentially be accessible and inclusive without sacrificing challenge and hardcore credentials.

  11. Radiant says:

    Monday.
    This would never have happened under Gillen.

  12. Terragot says:

    Regarding the Mary Hamilton peice :

    I have no idea how help self harmers, but the ending of that article makes me feel just horrible for her. isn’t there is some sort of therapy that attacks the issue rather than avoiding it with games?

    • Arathain says:

      If I read the article right she was institutionalised for quite some time, and despite some rough patches is now happily married. So I would say that yes there is, and that, perhaps, it has helped. It’s a very hopeful piece.

  13. lordcooper says:

    I don’t quite understand the concept of ‘no internet’. Is it a bit like France?

  14. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    Hate to bring up console titles on RPS, but anyone else play Red Steel 2? I’d never say it was a realistic depiction of sword fighting, but damned if it isn’t one of the best games I played for the Wii. One of those titles that absolutely deserved to do well and ended up barely being played by anyone.

  15. Serpok says:

    15 ‘Best’ co-op games and no mention of “Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light”?

    Why would you mention fifa and HL2-mod and skip the single best Cooperative game of last years? One of precious few games where co-op goes beyond shooting bots together and “click these two buttons at same time”?

    Also they lis R6:Vegas (of all R6 games) and ignore S.W.A.T.4

    I thought PCgamer is better then that.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Raven Shield is incredible in co-op. Although I’m not sure I’d call shooting your squadmate who just walked through the door, before running into someone else’s grenade and dying “co-operative”.

      As for Vegas, when I played it co-op the first time we shot anyone all the AI on the level rushed us. Which is probably more realistic than ignoring gunfire, but it did confine the game to one tiny corner of the map as we killed anyone who ran into our line of sight.

    • CMaster says:

      Was about to say just that.
      No mention of SWAT 4 or GoL makes that list objectivley wrong.
      One or the other may have been forgivable. Both though…

    • InternetBatman says:

      I have no idea why they missed magicka. It’s barely a singleplayer game and when the coop works it’s brilliant.

  16. Joshua Northey says:

    Sword fighting in games/movies has been atrocious for decades. As anyone who has actually studied or practiced some sword-fighting knows, the actual sword fighting part of it ideally and frequently involves no actual touching of swords and typically a single blow ends the fight due to the serious nature. Basically one guy swings, if he hits he wins, if he misses the other guy wins with a counter swing. Fight over.

    • InternetBatman says:

      That sounds like Jedi Knight 2. Especially with realistic combat turned on.

      • Supahewok says:

        I always keep Jedi Academy installed, with save files for the lightsaber dueling lategame, simply for the dueling. You can give or take several little nicks, but one good hit and the fights are done. Or nearly so.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I kept a save right before the fight with Desann because it was such a perfect fight. The only one that was better than that might have been Kyle at the evil end of Academy. The Tavion fight was just a meh boss fight, but the Kyle fight really felt like you were going up against a master jedi.

  17. Alexander says:

    Oh, nice there;s the link I sent again. Would be nice if Jim would give a shout-out, like Kieron did.

  18. Jehuty says:

    I think the Little Inferno business may be a little hypocritical, or at least slightly unsound in its methodology. It strikes me a bit as trying to have one’s cake and eat it too. I think Hotline Miami had the same trouble earlier this year. I agree wholeheartedly with its message, but it seems a bit insulting to say “Look! Look at what you’re doing right now, in this game we sold to you. It’s stupid and wanton!” The best way to signify that you’ve accepted the game’s philosophy is to never play it at all.

    The difference, for me at least, is that Hotline Miami was fun and exciting to play regardless. Little Inferno, not so much.

  19. DrGonzo says:

    The same goes for the new Star Trek film. It’s a decent action film, but a bad Star Trek film. Plinkett sums it up better than me!

  20. Hoaxfish says:

    Not exactly the softest subject:

    In the early reporting after the recent shooting (i.e. the one still in the news) some of the USA media incorrectly identified the facebook account of the perpetrator (i.e. they pointed at the wrong person), including the fact he had “liked” Mass Effect… the end result is that the Mass Effect Facebook page got an influx of lunatics blaming Video Games again because someone unrelated to the event had liked it.

  21. SpakAttack says:

    That’s not music. That’s just noise!

Comment on this story

XHTML: Allowed code: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>