The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on February 24th, 2013 at 1:02 pm.


Sundays are for waking up, and then going back to sleep again. And waking up, and going back to sleep again. And waking up and Oh My God it’s time for tea! And possibly The Sunday Papers.

  • An interview with Teleglitch’s creators: “We originally had a fully-destructible world and the resolution was actually even smaller, but somehow it transformed to Teleglitch. Somewhere along the way I got inspired by roguelikes, permadeath and ultra-replayability and without much consideration implemented procedural levels. A random level generator is also much more fun to code than a mid-level saving system. Those black shadows are clearly inspired from Nox, I really loved how you never knew what will happen behind the next door. The combination system was inspired by Notrium, a really awesome game about surviving in an alien world.”
  • Leigh Alexander asking ‘What are previews for?’ sparked a lot of discussion: “When we work in a system that virtually obligates us to show up to these things, a system that (much like scored review culture) many of us would not have chosen to install, how much should “respect” for the process be a journalist’s concern, though? It’s clear we don’t have good answers about these things. We dispute and debate, whisper our private hypotheses about those early glimpses and how we think they might turn out, but in the end everyone publishes an obedient preview at the appointed embargo lift, cautiously optimistic.”
  • Leigh and Quintin’s letters series continue on Polygon. This time the tricky issue of nostalgia.
  • Examining the geology of Skyrim: “From this analysis, it’s interesting to see that Bethesda was faithful to real-world geological principles when creating Skyrim. I asked some members of Bethesda’s Skyrim developer team about the geology of Skyrim, assuming that the geology must be deliberate. Surprisingly, they didn’t have a consulting geologist on their team, but instead had a dedicated team of artists and developers that did their research without any background knowledge. I believe Bethesda deserves some serious kudos for that.”
  • Simon Parkin on the importance of videogame violence: “That’s not to say that video games don’t have the capacity to depict violence in its grim, real-world horror. Indeed, they are the optimum medium, with their unreal actors and easily fabricated tools and effects of violence. But few game-makers currently appear interested in exploring this space. In part this is because the independent game movement, which drove Hollywood’s interest in truer violence post-1966 is more interested in non-violent games. When violence is the staple of the mainstream the subversive creative space is in creating games devoid of the stuff.”
  • TPCG tackle Old School Gaming.
  • Split Screen on the relationship between console and PC hardware.
  • Thoughts on games as conceptual art from Mr Yang: “Most people play chess with pieces and a board, but to many players that’s not the actual game — it’s just a mnemonic aid, a thing that keeps track of chesspiece locations so you don’t have to remember where your rook is. The people who live and breathe chess, however, can play chess just by reading chess notation in a book, which is to say that the game takes place entirely in their minds. This is more or less what happens when you lose a heated multiplayer match of Starcraft and agonize over what you could’ve should’ve didn’t do, and wonder what alternate paths you might’ve taken. Likewise, I’d imagine the most skilled Starcraft players can play Starcraft entirely in their minds.”
  • This is crazy.

Music this week is play Teleglitch, for goodness sake.

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114 Comments »

  1. Legionary says:

    That article on Skyrim geology is brilliant. I love that kind of real-world analysis of video game worlds. It’s actually pretty much necessary for me to be immersed in a game for there to be some kind of consistent logic to its world. Too many games would have rocks scattered at random for purely visual reasons.

    It’s a testament to the game design team that people did this off their own backs. I think it’s necessary for a highly motivated team of people who genuinely care to be working on open-world games, in order for those games to really take off. Where does this river flow, and why? If this area is volcanic, what are the knock-on effects for level design? These aren’t incidental questions.

    To the people responsible at Bethesda, I say simply: rock on.

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      RedViv says:

      And here’s why Skyrim is the main character of, well, Skyrim. If similar efforts were to be put in other areas, people would be far more pleased with the game.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        I am ‘people’ and was very pleased with the game :)

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          RedViv says:

          These comments should teach me not too speak too widely. I guess I am just overcompensating for my usually rather horological attitude towards wordsmithing.

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          • Berzee says:

            You talk about clocks a lot, huh?

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        AndrewC says:

        Am also people.

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        jrodman says:

        I am a robot.

      • Spengbab says:

        This people, speaking for this people, was very satisfied with the geography, but autistically unimpressed by everything else. Especially the parts that were not good.

        • Kestrel says:

          “I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother. I work in the gardens, with my mother.”

          ~ Skyrim

          It amazes me how loathsome the NPC interactions are yet brilliant the geography is.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            It amazes me how there seems to be a mod for everything
            http://skyrim.nexusmods.com/mods/746

          • Kestrel says:

            But then how will I know his entire backstory the moment I walk by him?!

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            “This mod stops all that, either by eliminating the chatter entirely or by reducing the distance required between the player and an NPC before they’ll start talking to you outside of dialogue mode”

            Set it so you need to be virtually kissing him before he talks :)

          • Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

            Like you, I enjoyed the geology of Skyrim and the NPC interactions until I took an arrow to the knee.

      • Droopy The Dog says:

        Some days I think I’m people, and it must be adorable because it gets me extra table scraps.

        I liked skyrim, so many bones to collect…

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        drewski says:

        I’m not sure you get to speak for “people” here, given Skyrim’s a massive blockbuster with around 15 million copies sold…

        An awful lot of “people” seem to be very pleased with it indeed.

    • Jams O'Donnell says:

      I was on vacation on South Uist (Outer Hebrides) last October, and I remarked to Mrs Jams how much the landscape, and particularly how the light was reflecting on rocky outcroppings in the morning, was very much like how the coastal parts of Skyrim looked. Those parts of Skyrim had until that point seemed kind of fakey and half-arsed to me — I was proven wrong.

    • Tacroy says:

      I’m pretty sure I saw something along those lines but for dragons, I think it was a biology graduate student examining the bones…

      Right, here we go: http://imgur.com/6VNSh

      • Caiman says:

        Conversely, as another biologist I found the animal behavior in Skyrim to be severely underwhelming. It’s to be expected given that considerable resources would need to go into modelling it more accurately, but it’s another side-effect of having more realistic-looking worlds (and higher expectations) when things within that world don’t behave or act as realistically as they look. Predators lie around every third corner and attack instantly when you come with range, herbivores wander like lost chickens and only flee if you get within spitting distance etc. I can dream though.

    • Ernesto says:

      It’s not surprising that Skyrims geology is accurate.

      Inspired by beautiful real world landscapes, there is no way around that. You look at a mountain for inspiration. Then you create a similar mountain in the game world. Naturally you try to get the colors and textures right. I assume, that the author of the article determines the kind of rock by looking at it. Or is there a ‘geology’ feature in Skyrim?

      I should add, that I didn’t play Skyrim and have no idea how it looks other than screenshots ;) I like what I saw, but it’s not a big surprise, that designers can create a ‘scientifically believable’ world without the help of a geologist, imho.

      • Archonsod says:

        He’s actually talking about the distribution of mineral mines (gold, felspar etc). Which is a lot less likely to get right than copying a mountain. Unless you have X-ray vision of course.

      • Droopy The Dog says:

        The geologist is talking about the macro scale design, not the rock textures.

        Looking at a picture of a mountain doesn’t tell you how if there should be lowlands or another mountain miles to the east, or what type of metal ores should be most abundant, only reading up on and thinking about some geology fundamentals does that. And apparently that’s what someone at Bethesda did.

        I think it’s kind of cool that they went to the effort to do so.

  2. LuNatic says:

    I find a policy of not trusting any preview more than 3 months from the release date is an effective way of sidestepping buzzwords, empty promises and pipe dreams. Assuming the developer even has playable code before that time, I expect that the particle effect and textures will be 50% better than what is available in the release game, because they took 2 months over-optimising 10 minutes of gameplay just to get it to run smoothly on a $3000 preview box.

    Oh, and the sound budget allocated for the preview level will be equal to that for the rest of the entire game.

    • Somerled says:

      Why trust at all? Unless you want the limited collector figurines (and are thus not in it for just the game), there’s nothing you could miss out on by coming to the party fashionably late, i.e. after reviews of the actual game hit.

    • Shuck says:

      Heck, the previews are often run on (high-end) PCs, while the final product has to be optimized to work on consoles (often even the PC version). Speaking to a friend at Gearbox, that’s apparently what happened with Colonial Marines. Worse, there were last minute changes that occurred when it was over memory-budget for the PS3. They changed the rendering and lighting which had knock-on effects that messed up AI and pathfinding, etc. A lot of the developers were taken by surprise by this, as they had already done their part and gone off for their end-of-year/end-of-project vacation; they came back to work to find an unexpected broken, crappy-looking version of Colonial Marines had shipped in the meantime.

  3. Cytrom says:

    Uh oh, a positive piece about skyrim… I can already hear the squeeling of the leet part of the rps community.

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      stahlwerk says:

      Huh, what are you talking about? I was not aware of any fundamental animosity towards Skyrim (or most games, for that matter) in the general readership of this here gamesblog (glog?).

      • Jumwa says:

        The comments about how Skyrim (or all Elder Scrolls) games suck, how it’s only redeeming feature is modding so that “modders can do it better/fix it”, etc., etc., is rather pervasive in most every online gaming community. Here no exception from my experience.

        The nature of gaming culture online seems to just lead to that sort of negative hyperbole on most everything.

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Pretty much. I am no expert on these things, but I know what I like, and Steam is telling me I like Skyrim to the tune of 350 hours. If that means I’m not leet, then I am happy with the fact :D I also liked all the STALKER games to the tune of about 70-80 hours apiece, Fallout 3 to 170, and FNV to 120. Currently working through System Shock 2, I have no idea how many hours are in that. Good times.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          I find it rather humorous that for the first year or so of an Elder Scrolls release, the gaming community is all over it like drool on a baby’s chin. After the “OMG GREATEST GAME EVAR” excitement dies down, people start to see the chronic flaws that are inherent to the entire series.

          It’s not hyperbole per se, it’s more like retrospective guilt-rage over getting sucked in by the disingenuous media hype that seems to come with every Elder Scrolls game.

          • noom says:

            I don’t think it’s getting sucked in by disingenuous media hype. It’s just as you say; the games are great until the cracks start to show. It’s like there’s a very fine veneer of polish over the whole thing that renders it immensely enjoyable… until you start scratching it at. Logged around 130 hours here, but everytime I try and play it again now it seems a very shallow experience.

            I’m not complaining. That’s a lot longer than I get from most games before they devolve from absorbing worlds to a stream of 1s and 0s.

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Its like when you first fall in love – you don’t care about their “cute little foibles” because so much about them makes you want to snog their face off. Then two years later, you want to leap out of a window every time they blow their nose or laugh at Take Me Out.

          • Jumwa says:

            If it takes a year for you to stop having fun with a single player game, than that is one damn fine game I’d say.

          • iridescence says:

            Most games, especially RPGs have a shelf life. Skyrim kept me entertained longer than most of them and I may go back to it at some point. Just amusing how many people complain about being bored of it after putting over 100 hours in it. Almost any game gets boring after triple digit hour investment.

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            drewski says:

            I think it’s more that, as with most pop culture phenomenon, the teeming massive move on, leaving only the truly dedicated fans and the the truly dedicated haters left to talk about it.

            The most common comments I hear about Skyrim from my gaming mates go along the lines of “oh yeah, Skyrim was fucking awesome. Have you played Far Cry 3 yet?”

        • Ninja Foodstuff says:

          Which is exactly what happened on RPS’ last Skyrim piece. Apparently a different breed of commenters to be found on the Sunday papers.

    • Ricc says:

      I find it funny how most of the time the “Oh man, here comes the haters…” comment is posted before any actual arguing and often starts said arguing.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Except for here, when it came after
        EDIT: Well, physically speaking, if not temporally :)

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        Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        Just like a few months ago it was “zomg ur just doin controversy for the hits!”, and now it’s fashionable to just drip disdain from every pore for the site or blog that has the sheer, unmitigated gall to both exist and allow you to post your opinion about it.

        At the moment we have some who are still on “pick a writer to hate and hate like you can kill with your eyes“, and others who have moved on to to “in before the haters” because they know they can then feel superior to those who haven’t moved on yet, while still contributing nothing to the discussion.

        I assume next they’ll find some way to claim superiority to those who are still “in before”ing.

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          RedViv says:

          A few months? Good Sir, you might check your clothing, for you are possibly experiencing temporal pair’o'socks!

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            Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            My chronological velocipede is accurate to the highest degree! Why, just last week I watched Tony Blair step down as Prime Minister!

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            Rise / Run says:

            Being picky about silly, I know… But I thought velocipedes were like bicycles. Only big-wheeled and sillier. But maybe in a back to the future kinda way you could rig one up for time travel…

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            jrodman says:

            They are proto-bicycles that lack pedals or gears and you power them by pushing with your feet against the ground! A fine device to amplify one’s time-travel socks.

  4. Koozer says:

    Eeeh, the Skyrim geology piece just tells me that artists know what mountain ranges should look like on a map, and googled ‘where is gold ore found?’. I’d be more impressed if Skyrim had the underlying layers of rock modelled, so we could, say, see some nice exposures at different angles across the map, showing us there was some sort of fold going on.

    • onodera says:

      Yeah, I actually expected it to point out some realistic geological formations or explain the abundance of caves. The amount of data handled in the article is negligible and can also mean “the artists just got lucky I matched moonstone with feldspar”.

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      AndrewC says:

      I would be more impressed if they modelled the landscape down two miles procedurally dating back one hundred million years for each ‘new game’ to allow for real time tectonic movement and complete deformality of a believably evolved landmass with AAA graphics and a cup of tea every time you gain a level. That would make me more impressed,

    • gritz says:

      I just googled “where is gold ore found?” and the answer is Minecraft.

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      drewski says:

      I’d be more impressed if they’d modelled the physical laws of an entire universe model, on a sub-atomic level, then randomly seeded billions of potential universes, then selected only the best regions on the best planets in the best solar systems in the best galaxies in the best universes to create a shortlist of potential Skyrim geographies, then held some sort of rigourous fungineering analysis to discover the absolutely best possibly landscape to build Skyrim on.

      Cheapskates.

  5. Paul says:

    Skyrim’s geography might make some sense, but its world really doesn’t.
    See:
    http://warhorsestudios.cz/index.php?page=blog&entry=blog_011

    • GameCat says:

      That was interesing read, thanks.

    • Reapy says:

      Very nice read, thank you. I was ok with things being close by, but I did have a problem with the population. I can’t wait until rpg guys use an assassins creed crowd in rpg games. Take 10 generic guys and mix match them, and randomly spawn them in around you, leave the key npcs still walking round and sticking out in their unique gear. Just need the illusion of people, not really the ability to interact with them all.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      All I got from that link was this:

      “The design map of today’s RPGs is useless, because everything is compressed so that every ten metres you could find something fantastic or at least could be attacked by a monster every ten seconds, because otherwise it would just be ‘boring’…”

      “We started to look at real life maps and found they were impossible to create with todays technology”

      “We reduced the scale of Tenerife by 20X”

      “We discovered that spreading interesting stuff out to 20X less than realistic distances makes the game really boring”

      “Guys, what should we do? We really don’t want to include fast travel on principle and we really want lots of empty spaces that the player has to walk through for realism but it turns out that walking for ages with nothing happening makes for a boring game.”

      • sinister agent says:

        If people care that the world’s too cramped and packed with stuff all close together (which isn’t necessarily an unfair complaint), they already have the option to slow down and walk around, taking in the scenery and atmosphere, rather than sprinting everywhere and then whingeing. If you made the game world huge and more spread out, you’d have the opposite problem, with everyone forced to run constantly but still be really bored throughout, or teleport around, thus defeating the point of the large map in the first place.

        Plus the larger, the less detail, or the more reliance on procedurally generated stuff there must be. The latter isn’t bad, of course, but it’s generally less interesting than a handcrafted world.

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        Gap Gen says:

        Op Fap’s maps were fine. But yes, a real adventure across a Europe-sized continent takes hours by plane, and weeks if not months on foot. I buy that towns could be more bustling, though.

        We used to play a mission called Escape in ArmA (by Monty in the forum), where you were placed randomly on the north half of the map and had to escape to an island off the coast. That was a perfect size, I think. It had a decent amount of variation but you could get across it easily enough if you stole a car or hiked hard.

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        Rise / Run says:

        I kind of liked how Gothic I/II did things: it feels pretty large (though it’s not, really), takes a fair bit of time to walk around, but as you advance in the game you gain fast travel. By that time you’ve probably seen the sights enough. The first two Gothics definitely have an overly dense “stuff” placement, (ever nook and cranny has a nook and cranny), but somehow I think they hit the sweet spot in those games.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I loved Gothic and II’s map design. I think the real difference there is that they made physical models of their map before implementing it. That helped make all those neat nooks and crannies. Even Gothic III had this (despite it’s other deficiencies).

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        jrodman says:

        I’d say that’s a bit unfair to the writer. Dan, the writer, admits there are valid reasons for doing things the way they are done, but he’s trying to figure out a better way to do it. He doesn’t want hills included just to hide stuff, or weird sinkholes for the same reason. He wants the world to feel natural and navigable.

        So he’s struggling with how to achieve that.

        It may turn out he’s wrong and that the best way to do it is the way it is done by other games.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          Maybe I seem like I’m being unfair, but I find it very difficult to believe that he can’t see the issues from a game design perspective.

          If you space out your encounters to “realistic” distances i.e. far apart, in order to stop hours and hours of your game being spent holding down the w key to move from encounter to encounter while a realistic sized field scrolls past at 3mph and beautifully rendered hedgerows remain your view for hours upon hours.

          In order to create a game which isn’t boring, the actual gameplay needs to be the predominant thing you are doing, rather than travelling. Maybe you make the travelling a lot of fun – GTA, maybe you allow the character to move quickly – Red Dead Redemption, maybe you let them skip the travelling – Dragon Age Origins, maybe you compress the world – Elder Scrolls, maybe you much around with scale – kings bounty.

          What he’s tried to do was stretch out the world without any thought to the gameplay, failed to make something fun and ask the readers of his blog to choose between three options of various travelling times, using language which makes it crystal clear which option he wants them to choose (He’s spent the entire article slagging off two of the three options) and has not even tried to think out of the box to try to make the time travelling actually be fun.

          Realism =/= good game design (Unless you are writing a hardcore sim – A hardcore RPG sim is an intriguing idea though, managing the logistics of questing etc)

    • Arglebargle says:

      While researching Chinese sword and sorcery (over a thousand years old, sadly, little translated), I discovered that they used fast travel! Genre convention ignored the boring parts. The conventional phrase, as I understand it, was; ‘They ate when they were hungry, they drank when they were thirsty, they slept when they became tired. Then they arrived in Shanghai.’

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        Gap Gen says:

        To be fair, most Western books skip over that kind of thing too. Although you could have fun with Inception-like layers of characters taking dumps, and reading books on the toilet whose characters also have to defecate, etc.

        Perhaps this is one reason books avoid that kind of thing – to avoid infinite loops.

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        drewski says:

        Douglas Adams plays with this a bit in his later books too, explaining about all the boring life stuff he didn’t put in the earlier books because, well, it’s boring life stuff.

        Personally, I think anything to escape tedium in games is probably a pretty good thing. If your game design can’t figure out how not to be tedious, well, you’re probably not making a very good game.

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    Crimsoneer says:

    I’d add this:
    http://arcengames.blogspot.co.uk/2013/02/valley-2-official-1001-mouse-aiming-for.html

    Arcen have just released AVWW2, but apparently are also in some pretty serious trouble because nobody is buying it, while a lot of people are raging at the control scheme. It’s a shame, because I’m really enjoying it. The whole story of AVWW 1 – 2 would make for a great article.

    • dE says:

      I reckon the issues with the control scheme aren’t really with the method itself, but that the game itself is not made for it. In classics like Actraiser or Super Metroid, the Level Design is based on fixed increments in height. Super Metroid had slopes, but they were rare and quickly showed the issue with directional aiming. Nonetheless, the fixed heights and fitting level design made sure you always had an easy to reach firing angle.

      AVWW 1 and 2 occasionally use fixed heights but even more dominantly slopes and randomised level design. The problem with that is that you’re wrestling with pixels to hit the enemy, if you can only fire in certain directions. This is further amplified by how many projectiles fly in curves and follow your movement as a player after you shot them.
      Can I hit it yet? Nope, gonna need that one pixel. Can I hit it yet? Nah, your shots curved into the ground. Take another step, this time? Uh that looks like it’s clipping halfway through the ground… damn, it hit an invisible obstacle. Can I hit it yet? It curved upwards this time, oh I see, I jumped after I shot it… But yeh, more a conceptual issue.

      Now the comment section of that article… that’s some compressed internet angry.

      • onodera says:

        Also, there was no mouse for SNES. I don’t think anyone would’ve tolerated the 8-dir aiming mode. I remember successfully playing Front Mission: Gun Hazard, which has a more fine-grained but still of course gamepad-driven aiming mode, but when I loaded a late-game save several months after beating it, I was infuriated with the controls.

        • dE says:

          There was a mouse for the SNES :O
          But I get what you mean. The controls in Gun Hazard are… infuriating. But that pretty much shows how much it comes down to level design as well. In Cybernator for example, which used the same engine (and even sprites), the space levels were a real mess to play because of that aiming method – and for the same reasons as in AVWW – trying to align shots while wrestling pixels.

          • onodera says:

            Oh my Lord, there really was one :O
            Still, looks like there was only one worthy game that supported it, Cannon Fodder.
            By the way, were there any PC-platformers with mouse aim before Abuse?

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Just another to confirm playing SNES with a mouse. Mario Paint rocked.

    • aepervius says:

      Frankly the developper should have known better. He did the same for AVWW1 and there was an outcry and poof we got mouse aiming.

      And what does he do for AVWW2 ? The same error. And the same outcry came. No lessons learned here.
      He could have implemented from start but he made the same error of thinking that the control scheme he had in mind was the best and therefore on PC, a plateform *known* for asking customization control and mouse control , did not have it in. And his justification was more or less down to “I don’t like mouse aiming I think it is inferior” and “creative licence”.

      I am willing to bet he did not bother to testcheck his decision with people liking mouse aiming. After the first outcry in AVWW1 he should have at least thought of it.

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        jrodman says:

        If nothing else, it seems he doesn’t know how to write about touchy decisions in a manner that won’t annoy people.

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    Lambchops says:

    Okay, I’ll play Teleglitch, despite my suspicion it’ll just be too bloody hard.

    Enjoyed the Leigh and Quinns piece on adventure games (Loom is one of the one’s I’ve never got around to playing and is sitting in my Steam library ready to go). Also can’t help but feel that Quinns’ would (a few misplaced “Towers of Babel” style puzzle aside) rather enjoy the likes of Machinarium and Botanicula which offer a slightly different take on the adventure game and feel more like an interactive playground than a story stitched together by puzzles.

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      Lambchops says:

      Hmm, Teleglitch does seem too hard (ran out of ammo fast!) but I was enjoying myself so I reckon I’ll buy it.

    • Xercies says:

      I think Quinns would probably love the first third of Machinarium and hate the rest because it is great at that looking around the room and solving the puzzle and its not at all unlogical and really makes sense and is very satisfying while also adding atmosphere and story to it. The the rest of it goes into standard do some crazy logic puzzles. I’ve not played the other one but if they do the first third all the way through it probably would be a better game.

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      Gap Gen says:

      There are some horrible puzzles in Machinarium. But I liked that you could play a minigame for solutions.

      My approach to puzzle games is that I’m being told a story, and I’m happy to skim through walkthroughs rather than bash my head against the game.

  8. Alexander says:

    Gamespot had an awesome interview with JBlow some time ago. It’s there somewhere.

  9. Jambe says:

    wrt previews: I virtually never consume them. I do often read pre-release interviews with developers, though; do those constitute previews?

    I suppose (good) interviews don’t have the analytic experience-and-mechanics commentary part of a traditional preview (e.g. here’s how it feels, here’s a bit of story, here’s x and y mechanic), and that’s why I tolerate them. I feel like I lose something to previews, whereas if an interview is honest and non-spoilery, I feel enriched.

    … which is why I prefer RPS’ interviews. The best interviews seem almost like preview postmortems. They highlight the whys and hows of the development process, expectations and surprises, motivation and inspiration, etc. They make eventual full-reviews and postmortems more interesting as opposed to deflating them.

    Then you have things like Alec’s Ken Levine chat or Cara’s meeting with Michael Read which are meta enough to stand as commentary on other topics (and since I’m interested in the whole culture of gaming as opposed to merely games themselves, such meta-commentary often seems more interesting than a standard interview, anyway).

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      drewski says:

      I’ve never really understood the point of previews, but I guess they must get traffic or else nobody would write them.

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        Malibu Stacey says:

        They’re an artifact of a bygone era. When monthly magazines were pretty much the only way of getting information about games they had a purpose which was to inform the customers of what was coming next.
        These days there literally is no point to them. It’s extremely rare that they are anything more than what the Marketing/PR department of the game’s publisher or developer have already said/shown.

  10. Zwebbie says:

    Concerning Leigh Alexander’s preview piece: one thing I think the comment section on Gamasutra has been overlooking in response to that article is that it isn’t just a case of journalistic integrity versus being a glorified PR person. As Leigh mentions, there’s very little that developers are actually willing to tell or show before a game gets out. That’s not entirely ununderstandable, but it’s the result of a paradox: developers want to tell you how good the game is, without telling you what the game actually is, for fear of spoiling. “I can’t tell you what’ll happen, but you’ll love it!” With that kind of information, who can write up a piece of proper journalism? It’s a mentality that doesn’t allow for journalism, because it assumed that you can only appreciate something by experiencing it going in like a newborn baby. If either the developer or a journalist explains why someone would like the game, it isn’t likeable anymore. And that’s a dubious mentality to me.

    Alec’s recent interview with Ken Levine was, in my opinion, very telling in that regard. Alec was being genuinely curious about a lot of aspects of BioShock Infinite, and Levine, not wanting to spoil the game, could only answer that there were reasons for things and that things were deeper than they appeared initially. The interviewer desperately looking for a question that the interviewee was actually prepared to answer at all. If memory serves, gameplay never got mentioned and we aren’t any wiser on the ‘story’ or Elizabeth’s role either. Had I been on the fence, this wouldn’t have persuaded me either way. Now, I know Alec was honest enough to admit that that wasn’t his finest hour, but from the transcript I found Levine’s dodging of questions to be more at fault than Mr. Meer’s questions; or perhaps it’s the questions that were at fault, for being about something that wasn’t, apparently, meant to be talked about. Perhaps the questions ought to be have been about anything but BioShock Infinite, so that the developer would’ve been at liberty to talk, at least; perhaps about the mistakes (of which there are plenty) in the previous game.

    In part I blame the obsession we seem to have developed with avoiding spoilers for our media. Which is funny, because I kind of knew how Hamlet or the St. Matthew’s Passion ended before I consumed them in the first place, and not to their detriment. Whether that much is possible with video games, I don’t know; certainly a puzzle loses its quality once you’ve been told the solution, but few games seem to actually be about creative solution and more about the appliance of skill or about a ‘story’. Regardless, there’s a measure of quantity too. Quinns spoiled tons of things about Pathologic in his essays on that here on RPS, but to the game’s praise, it ended up housing a good many more surprises of all sizes than were mentioned. In the end, it wasn’t the premise that got everyone so enthusiastic about the game after reading those pieces, but reading what happens when you’re on day 9 or so and the game has thoroughly subverted expectations and how it does that. Funnily enough, Quinns’s piece on Pathologic did more to convince me to buy Ice-Pick Lodge’s next game, The Void, than any preview of The Void would’ve been able to. Personally, I find retrospectives to be of enormously greater value than previews would be, interview or opinion or whatever. You can’t preview someone about something he or she is keeping under wraps.

    Disclaimer: I’m a historian, so I might overvalue retrospect by just a teensie tiny bit.

    Edit: this wasn’t mean to be this long!

    • Josh W says:

      I came at it from a different angle, where I’ve been avoiding any further background detail on bioshock infinite for months, and only read that article because the snippet implied that it wouldn’t be full of spoilers. This is because I want to experience the feeling of exploring the unknown, and will be relying on reviewers or friends to decide whether I buy it now or on sale.

      On the other hand I did also read the later article that was more about kevin levine, because it was basically a combination about games in general, and more of a general synoptic view of the games development process.

      In fact, I wonder whether previews should just be, “this is what people are trying to do, hoping to do” mixed with a bit of “this is what people think of other games”.

      Understanding the preferences of a developer in terms of the design vision behind the project is a lot more rewarding than trying to draw things impossibly from the future, the design process and intent is what is actually there now, it’s what you can reasonably investigate.

      And of course, this is likely immune to generic hype building, because it’s not about “how excited are you about your game”, but “what things make you more excited than others”. And if people start going into marketing buzzwords and mexapixels, you can check if that is really what most interests them in games.

      Of course, this means that some poor sods in bigger studios will probably be forced into claiming undying love for game types they don’t particularly like, but are doing their best on because it’s their job, so perhaps that can’t be a universal solution!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      Butchering Pathologic is one of my favourite articles on games. I have never played the game, but in many ways this is what “games journalism as travel journalism” means – an account of a personal journey to a place that you may well never visit yourself.

  11. jatan says:

    its a disgrace that there was no mention of death inc in this article ….

    oh what

    oh sorry am i too early….

  12. Randomer says:

    I’m disappointed that the “Split Screen” article said nothing about the disappointing lack of splitscreen play in most PC games.

  13. wodin says:

    I want to play games with Leigh….I also think Quinns pissed Leigh off abit by saying Loom was nice..

  14. mrbeman says:

    Also worth having a peek at: Planetside 2 alters the models for women.

  15. Hoaxfish says:

    Tabloid edition:

    two things came out of the PS4 announcement…

    Sony didn’t get any women on-stage (one of the milder version of this article topic floating around). Apparently the lack of women was specifically Sony’s fault, rather than the industry having very few in the top ranks of the industry in general. Of course, it’s only been a year, so they could’ve easily got a bunch through college and promoted into visible positions to put on-stage at a 2hr Sony event. Of course, you wouldn’t want to end up with a bunch of women or men on stage who are just “show hosts” (i.e. have no knowledge of the industry and spout scripted “down with the kids” talk).

    On the other hand, Bungie doesn’t know what to do with its hands after being told they weren’t allowed to put them in their pockets.

  16. Acorino says:

    Oh man, a callout to Notrium, I freaking loved that game back then! The only thing that bothered me about it was that the developers never seemed to get the balancing right. Only in earlier builds did it feel like you were struggling for survival, later on not so much anymore. Well, I probably haven’t played the last version released, so maybe I take a look at it…

  17. Josh W says:

    Didn’t agree with that console article:

    “nothing has changed, so we should be more content with what we have”

    Rubbish. I like games, I’m happy with what I have, but that doesn’t mean I wouldn’t love to see more new kinds of game, with kinect and wii and move going beyond simple rhythm games.

    I love it when there are games with weird force feedback joysticks and touch controls and motion sensing, it’s cool. The problem is that new interfaces need development. You need to find how gameplay fits with them.

    I mean, to be honest, it took quite a while before we began using analog sticks to the their full potential, and they had the legacy of arcade sticks, let alone all these others.

    And the comment about boardgames is right, for the wrong reason, the physical configuration of space can matter, and games like js joust are perfect examples of taking advantage of that. We need more variety in control methods not just to match different styles of game, but attach them to different kinds of social activity, like those that work better without set players for example.

    The snag is that the hardware costs, and so the games that require it and take advantage of it get restricted in their reach, and there have to be a reasonable amount of them in order to make it worthwhile.

    That’s easier when it’s a pc, and you only need to buy a controller to open up a load of twin stick shooters, or a joystick to open up a load of flight simulators, but when it’s a non-backwards compatible console back end as well, the risks of innovation build up.

  18. Premium User Badge

    AlwaysRight says:

    Can you guys please just get Leigh to join Rock Paper Sausagefest already, she’s gud with thems there words.

    • Premium User Badge

      Malibu Stacey says:

      I e-mailed her last time they had someone leave (Quinns maybe?) and she said she doesn’t spend enough time on PC games to be able to write for a PC gaming site.

  19. pertusaria says:

    I really appreciated Leigh’s article about previews. I’ve been puzzled for a while as to why sites continue to bother with them, but from what she says, the games press pretty much has to, although I’m still not sure why. I’m guessing it’s to do with getting a review copy of the game, and possibly access to follow-up interviews at a time when the devs will answer useful questions?

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Still no excuse for some of the rubbish that gets written in them. Wired’s preview of Destiny last week labelled it a “masterpiece”. No one has even seen the game yet. “Masterpiece.”

      Games “journalism”.

      • Premium User Badge

        Malibu Stacey says:

        It’s Wired. They’d call shit in a box a ‘masterpiece’ if it came with an Apple logo or was by Peter Molyneux.

        • Brun says:

          This. Here’s a summary of Wired’s daily news content:

          1) 3D PRINTING ERHMAHGERD FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP
          2) Drones are bad ya’ll!
          3) Check out more 3D Printing Pictures here! FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP
          4) Defense project XYZ is spending a ton of money and not working!
          5) It’s stupid that Defense project XYZ is being cut when country ABC has project DEF in the works!
          6) Did we mention we like 3D Printing? FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP FAP.

  20. Sunjammer says:

    I get such a ludicrous word-boner for Simon’s writing. Just, bloody hell

  21. HatsAlEsman says:

    Good choice on this weeks music. I’ve been playing that non-stop.