Spec Ops, FC3 Writers On What’s Next, Futurism, BioShock

By Nathan Grayson on April 13th, 2013 at 4:00 pm.

Who shoots the shooters? Well, I don’t think Spec Ops: The Line and Far Cry 3 writers Walt Williams and Jeffrey Yohalem have ever shot anybody, but they are attempting to skewer gaming’s shooter genre – or at least give it a good paddling. In the previous two installments of this gigantic chat, we discussed everything from the art of critique, to violence, to the effect of treating gamers like they’re stupid, to Dante’s Inferno and the Sistine Chapel. Seriously. It’s been a very long and interesting road, but now we’re finally at its end. In this thrill-a-millisecond conclusion, we discuss real, long-form criticism of games (including that one guy who wrote a book about Spec Ops), what’s next for these sorts of dissection of videogame culture, games as tools for exploring the future, and where games like BioShock Infinite fit into that.

RPS: In regards to players (usually correctly) assuming games are going to tell them a dumb story full of shallow, offensive moments and characters, we have seen the slight beginnings of a movement away from that. Walt, where do you think things like Brendan Keogh’s book about Spec Ops, Killing is Harmless, fit into all this?

Williams: Brendan and I actually had the opportunity to sit down and talk about that. I have not read the book. I own it, I printed it out, bound, and I’ve read parts of it. But I haven’t read all of it yet. As a creator, I didn’t know how to interact with it, because no one had ever looked at, one, a game that deeply. Two, it’s just odd to me. I didn’t really know exactly how I was supposed to interact with him or his work.

We want to give you that drink of water in the desert.

The world is much smaller. He and I had spoken on Twitter and things. I had a couple of things that I had noticed. There were some things he had pointed out that were absolutely, totally correct, and in reviews of the book online, people were slagging him and saying, “That’s totally wrong. That’s not in there. You’re seeing things. You’re digging too deep. You’re literally finding things that are not there and just writing a book about it.”

But the thing is, they actually are there. I was like, “Should I jump in? Should I let them know that this guy’s right? Or should I [hold off]?” Because ultimately critical discussion is discussion. Once the work is out there, as the author, am I supposed to say anything else that is directly involved in the discussion, or am I simply supposed to let it be out there and have people debate and discuss it? And I genuinely still don’t know the answer to that [laughs].

Yohalem: It’s interesting that you bring this up, because it’s not a new problem. Joseph Turner, the painter… John Ruskin wrote all this stuff about Turner, saying, “Oh, you’ve created this new movement, here are the rules of the movement that you created,” and Turner was like, “I wasn’t trying to create anything.” Whenever Ruskin would approach Turner in a room, Turner would leave. And Ruskin was like, “Come on, I love your work, talk to me!” And Turner was like, “No. I don’t know what to do with this.” That’s the same experience.

Williams: The thing is, having met Brendan, I think his writing is fantastic. I really want to hang out with this guy more. Now that I’ve actually met him and we sat down and talked, I do feel much more comfortable about reading him. I’m going to finish his book this week when I go home.

But there is something… We’re broaching into a new area, and I think what Brendan has done is amazing. I think it’s necessary, and I can’t wait to see more of critics going deeper into these works. I think it’s going to inspire creators to make games that [really go places].

Yohalem: Critics will have this incredible opportunity. They get to play this incredible game where they go deeply into a work and look at it. I think that makes their job more fun. As creators, we can make their life more interesting. As a critic, you can go, “Wow, this is a really rich work that I can sink my teeth into.” That should be exciting.

Williams: Yeah. Especially like we were saying earlier, how turning the game off is a choice. It is for everyone except you guys. Especially if you’re getting paid to review it, you have to play the whole thing.

Yohalem: We want to give you that drink of water in the desert.

Williams: You are the guys that we ultimately get to interact with when it’s done. We get to sit down and have these conversations. Occasionally I do get to meet a gamer and I can talk one-on-one and have an in-depth conversation with them. But 95 percent of the time it’s going to be you guys. That’s where it’s so wonderful to be able to sit down and talk in-depth about the work with someone who has been able to digest it all and think about it and have that back and forth with you.

For better or for worse, this is our life’s work. This is what we put out into the world with our efforts and our blood, sweat, and tears. To know that there is meaning to it and to be able to interact with the people who feel that meaning, obviously it’s my favorite part of the job. Frankly, making games is fucking hard sometimes.

Yohalem: If you really put your heart and soul into it, It’s two years, most of the time. Sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. You give up your life. I ended a relationship because of Far Cry 3. It was the game’s fault. It’s because, at the end of the day, we want you guys to say, “Aha, you’ve made our lives a little better for that brief moment in time.”

For me, from a very young age, I was terrified about death. The only time I can feel free is when I play something or watch something or read something that transports me out of that fear. I guess that’s kind of like an addiction. It’s that half an hour a day, an hour a day, and then you need more. That, for me, is healthy. It’s like eating.

RPS: So now that both of you have taken your respective steps into starting this deeper discussion, where do you head next? How do you continue it? How should the gaming industry continue it?

Williams: Honestly, I don’t know that I have much more to say on it, on the discussion of violence. I feel like I put everything I have to say about it into Spec Ops. I thought a lot about this. When I got into writing games, the trait in myself that I was most proud of as a writer was that I treated it like a service. I am a woodworker. You want a bookshelf? Tell me what kind of bookshelf you want. I will build it. It’ll be straight. It’ll hold your books. It’ll be exactly what you want. I’ll get it done under budget, on time, and it’ll be exactly to specifications. My boss at the time, as I was working on Spec Ops, he said, “What I want is, I want you to make your own bookshelf.” I fought him so hard on this.

Yohalem: Because you’re trained to do that.

Williams: Exactly. Let me just give you what you want! I can do that! He was like, “What I want is your bookshelf.” Finally, Spec Ops ended up… I said something very personal in Spec Ops. Coming off that, I had a very hard time – especially right now in an industry where shooters are really what we like to put out.

Can I write a shooter after this? I could do it simply as a job. I don’t know that I have anything more personal to say about shooters. But even then, if it’s just a job, is that something I actually want to do? It’s very unpalatable to me. The idea of simply taking a step back from everything I said in Spec Ops and saying, “Here are some guns. Have fun, guys.”

I think there’s a way of, if I were working on a shooter again, wanting to… Like I was talking about earlier, with this survival horror kind of thing. Making shooting a very impactful moment throughout an entire game. Treating violence all around more realistically so that you can tell a different type of story through it.

Or simply doing something similar within another genre. Taking the mechanics that we’ve just accepted as they are and treating them realistically. I think RPGs are particularly very open to looking at their mechanics and saying, “Okay, what if this is real throughout the entire world?” Because when you think of an RPG, your mechanics are essentially, “I’m going to kill things until I grow stronger, and then I will be able to defeat the silent evil secretly eating at the world.” That’s like a letter that a serial killer sends to a newspaper. And you’re doing that in a game where you kill too many rabbits and suddenly you’re a farmer who can summon a fucking meteor from the sky. You have control of elemental forces. You can essentially become a god if you want to.

And you’re the only person in the world who has figured this out. Everyone else is sitting around like, “Duhhh…” What happens to that world when suddenly everyone understands how the world works? You’d have an existence where every single one of us could be a god, and the only thing that stands between us and godhood is everybody else.

Yohalem: That’s one thing I like about Infinity Blade, because it actually admits to that. You’re fighting people who have also leveled up with you and it makes sense.

Williams: There’s a lot of interesting things to discover there, but also, I just think, looking towards the future of the medium, I think we’re at a point where – because we’re now more critical about what we’re doing – we should become the new generation of futurists. We are an incredibly intelligent industry. By that I just mean the collective intelligence of the people in it. Instead of just continuing to re-create the brutishness of our world, [we should do more].

I kinda compare it to Star Trek. Gene Roddenberry had this vision of the future. Kids grew up watching it. 20-30 years down the line they took the ideas and things that they saw and they started building these technologies, like, “I want to bring that into the world.” We as creators, I’m not saying we have to move away from games that have violence, but trying to genuinely discover new ways of approaching violence and conflict resolution [is something we should do].

We could define the future, define societies, rather than justifying doing these horrible things over and over.

We can create any technology we want, because our entire world is made of simulations. We can inspire future generations to build, in reality, the concepts that we’re prototyping now in these simulated worlds. We literally could define the future, and define future societies, rather than focusing on simply what the world is like and justifying doing these horrible things over and over. That’s what I’d love to do.

Now, convincing a publisher to let me do that, that’s a whole ‘nother step [laughs]. But I think that’s where we’re heading. It’s going to be amazing when we start to do that, because there are so many brilliant people in this industry. Far more brilliant than I will ever be. I think that when we really start applying our minds and our brainpower to coming up with new answers to things like interactions and conflict resolution and all this, it’s going to blow everyone away. We just have to get there.

Yohalem: The goal of Far Cry 3 for me was to create a modern game. The idea was, all these other games are about target practice. They’re about hunting and gathering. They’re these primitive activities. They aren’t very valid in today’s society. What would a modern game be? To me, a modern game would be one that looks at something like gamification, which is this new social trend, and says, “Okay, let’s do a game that shows you what gamification does to your brain.” So that when, in reality, someone tries to do that to my brain, I run. Or, if I love it, then I say, “Yes, I love that. Give me more of that.”

But at least you know. The game is packed with it. So in Far Cry 3 you practice dealing with gamification’s effects on people. Hopefully that helps you in your own life. If it doesn’t, then I don’t think it’s effective. Like you said, games should be this way of showing what the world is. Again I’d point to Sweatshop, because that’s like… I play it and all of a sudden I understand something about the way the world works that I didn’t before. And I can also create a new way that the world works, like Star Trek did. I can live it and see how it goes.

So for me, with Far Cry 3, I tried to create the definitive shooter. It said everything I could possibly say about the shooting mechanic and about systems. That’s what the game is about. To me, it says everything I have to say about that. And so what I’m working on next is very different. I don’t think I can make a shooter right now. Maybe at some point there will be more to say if some of the mechanics change. If the mechanics are identical then there’s nothing more I can say, because that was the story about those mechanics.

RPS: Spec Ops, unfortunately, didn’t sell very well, and Far Cry 3 sold more on its super satisfying mechanics than the meaning behind them. So, I mean, are we in a place where this discussion can continue? Will publishers accept more pitches like this when history’s made it seem like a not particularly great idea?

Williams: It’s different when you’re saying creators in general versus triple-A. Ultimately, if sales show that gamers aren’t interested in a game that will narratively take them a bit deeper into the things that they’re doing, then admittedly, a publisher has very good reason to not necessarily do that again. Especially if they’re a publicly traded company.

But that’s also the beauty about the way that currently works. Anyone making games can make a game that speaks to whatever aspect, of gameplay or world or whatever else. Triple-A is just… Like I said earlier, you’re working with someone else’s millions of dollars. The livelihoods of the people on your team and the people in your studio and everything are dependent upon the success of the game. Sometimes you give and you take.

I actually think we could learn a little something from Hollywood in this regard. George Clooney seems to have a very good system working with him where he makes a big movie for a studio, gets some billions of dollars, and then they go, “Here’s the money to make that small black and white film you wanted to make about a newscaster. Have fun. Come back when you’re done and we’ll do Ocean’s Fifteen.” And he goes back and forth.

I think we could learn something for the game market from that. Do your big game that’s going to be a bit more focused on the mass market, then go for something that’s a little bit high-risk, but a little less resource-intensive. It puts more out there in the triple-A market. It gives creative teams room to stretch and grow creatively and feel like they’re flexing their muscles a little bit and distinguishing the things that are mainly focused at reaching a more entertainment-driven audience. I think that’s a model we could learn from and start to implement in how we make triple-A games.

Ultimately, I’d love to see more risky – and as a writer, narrative-driven – triple-A games out there. I mentioned this the other day. BioShock Infinite is going to be a big read on the barometer of where gamers in general are with a game that’s really narrative-driven and really about the emotions that are caught up in that world, and not just someone saying, “Hey, here’s a bunch of actions.” Have you had a chance to play it yet?

[Note: This took place in the middle of GDC]

Yohalem: No.

RPS: I wish.

Williams: Then you, as well, are going to find the barometer when you play it. I was lucky enough to be able to play it a couple of weeks ago when I was out here because 2K is the publisher. So I was in the office and saying, “So, I know we’ve got this game…” Fortunately it was a weekend.

It does narrative stuff in that game that we haven’t really done before in how it merges the narrative into the moment-to-moment gameplay and really just says, “You are in a story.” The authorial intent in BioShock Infinite is very obvious. It’s the story that they want you to experience. The way they implement it in the world in this moment-to-moment gameplay is fantastic.

I think it’s going to really let us know, even more so, how [much players want this]. When Far Cry started off, that game was a bit of barometer on what gamers were willing to accept. I think BioShock Infinite is going to be the next one. Honestly, I think that’s where the industry is going to be for a while, because we’re growing and we’re trying new things. I think The Last Of Us is going to be another one, and Beyond: Two Souls. Any big game Cage puts out is obviously gives us something about what people are willing to accept. There’s always going to be a segment of the audience that’s willing to interact with anything, that will play anything. You just have to find that way of balancing when you’re working in the triple-A market.

Yohalem: There are people who play games, like triple-A games. There’s a number of people who love their mechanics. There’s a huge, huge audience missing. I think we’re on a journey to find that audience. The goal with Far Cry 3 was to look for that. We alienated some of the hardcore players on some level, because we were looking for this other audience. I think that the themes that that audience is searching for are story-driven, mechanic-wise.

James Cameron is actually a great example, because both Titanic and Avatar are almost video games disguised as movies, in the sense that they’re about the world. You’re exploring the world of the ship. You’re exploring the world of this planet. There’s a story about that world, but it’s the world that draws people in. I think BioShock Infinite is another game that does that. I think that audience is there, and we can go in that direction.

We’re trying to forge a path there. There’s a question about whether the audience is ready for this. We’re going off into the woods looking for this other audience.

Williams: Also, I think that we’re just letting the audience know that there’s this [other side to games]. Like I was saying earlier, the audience hasn’t been trained. I think we as creators, when we look at numbers and stuff, I think we forget that gamers can only play what we make. They’re only playing what we give them. And then we’re looking at… “But we gave them that and they didn’t like that.” To use the pizza metaphor again, you gave them a supreme when they wanted pepperoni. You gave them cheese when they really wanted a margherita. That’s the thing. You’ve gotta say, “Hey, guys, we’ve got buffalo wings.” There are other things. It’s just about putting them on the menu.

Ultimately I think Spec Ops didn’t sell because – and I take some of the blame for it – there was the first part of the game that was specifically designed to lure you in to feeling like it was every other military shooter you ever played. That was the demo that got released. Everyone who played that demo says, “I’ve played this game before.” Of course you’re going to think that, because it doesn’t have the next part in the game that says, “No, you haven’t.” They had the part that we could give away for free and feel uncomfortable that we hadn’t given away too much. It was a lot of stuff. We just couldn’t sell the game at first.

That was really one of the main reasons behind pushing any kind of connection to Apocalypse Now, even though it’s really not an Apocalypse Now story. Just the general overlay and conceits of what it’s called and the action that happens in Apocalypse Now. At least it gave players something to connect with going into the concept of the game. Like, “Oh, that’s intriguing, that movie is intriguing, I like that.” Then, when they get into it, “Oh, wait, this is actually totally different from that.” It allowed them to connect with it in a way that said, “Look, this is a modern-day military shooter that’s going to make you think differently about what you’re interacting with,” without saying, “This is what you’re actually going to be interacting with.”

Whether or not that worked to a larger extent to sell the units that we did sell, I don’t know. I’m the writer. There’s a whole part of the industry that I really don’t deal with.

Yohalem: I think we’re trying to create the idea of [authorship] in video games. I think that’s very important. If I play a game by Walt, if I start saying, “This is what a Walt-flavored game is like,” and then I want to be where it brings me, then the next game he makes… It’s just like Gordon Ramsay, the chef, would say. He goes to Spain and he says he’s going to do a tapas restaurant. I go to the Gordon Ramsay tapas restaurant because I appreciate Gordon Ramsay’s vision. So then Gordon Ramsay is introducing me to more ideas.

People don’t see me. They think games are written by a conglomerate that they don’t recognize.

This is something that I think surfaced a little in Far Cry 3, was that… I wrote Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood. I thought, “People see Jeffrey as this kind of an author.” When I write Far Cry 3, people come to it and say, “This looks like one thing, but I know Jeffrey, and I know the kind of thing he wrote before. In Brotherhood there were all these strong female characters that actually overcome… They’re actually stronger than all the other men in that game. So it doesn’t make sense that I would create an anti-feminist game. So why is he doing this?”

That would be the question, and it would actually open up the world. But people don’t see me as the writer of Brotherhood. They think that games are written by a conglomerate that they don’t recognize. Then we can’t bring these experiences to people. Then it becomes, “Oh, a tapas restaurant opened up down the street,” and everyone’s reaction is, “What’s that?” It really helps to have a person who you can trust take you there.

RPS: Yeah. That comes down to making people more visible in the industry, because right now, we view those as very separate series. People barely factor. Players say, “OK, Assassin’s Creed is one thing, Far Cry 3 is a very different thing.” People look at them and don’t see much of a connection.

Yohalem: You know the quote at the beginning of the game, the Alice quote? Down with Alice, down in the hole. At the beginning of Assassin’s Creed III, Corey, the lead writer for Assassin’s Creed III, we were together on Assassin’s Creed II, we talked about that beforehand. I thought it, very early on, actually was an accident that we both chose that quote. But we worked together. So it was kind of the mindset. Then I caught it and we talked about it, and we said that we were going to leave it, because we wanted the connection. There is an authorial vision behind these that’s not just random.

RPS: Thank you both very, very much for your time.

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195 Comments »

  1. misterT0AST says:

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  2. Secundus says:

    the worlds three biggest hacks continue to circlejerk for another 500000 words

    • fbjim says:

      This is, in all honesty, the worst series of articles I’ve ever seen on this site. Two people made bad game narratives, somehow passed it off as a commentary on bad game narratives (in other, much less clever games), and now they feel like they can lecture us all on how we SHOULD be playing games (to listen to their great ideas, obviously, not to enjoy mechanics)

      • bhlaab says:

        “Spec Ops, unfortunately, didn’t sell very well, and Far Cry 3 sold more on its super satisfying mechanics than the meaning behind them. ”

        Yeah, it’s unfortunate that people play games to be engaged by their mechanics. More people should have played Far Cry 3 purely for its awesome narrative.

        • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

          Hey, hey. Spec Ops’ narrative was about as great as a hipster scrawling “fuck you mainstream’ on a canvas.

      • Laurentius says:

        I had to agree, these articles are terrible but as a look inside into heads of these “top writers” of video games (plus Rihanna Pratchet interview) …wow, what a mess.

        • Bhazor says:

          Hey now. Tomb Raider was a work of feminist genius. It showed that women can be unlikable schizophrenic bipolar sociopaths just like men.

        • Danda says:

          I’m appalled by the comments here. This interview was really interesting (Williams said some pretty fascinating stuff) and these guys are definitely not hacks. Maybe the intent didn’t match the results, but come on, they tried something different… and I personally think that they succeeded. For me the writing is essential in both games and I’m shocked because a lot of people just don’t get even the most obvious things about them. (For instance, you are not supposed to like Jason and his rich, spoiled “bros” at all.)

          • i saw dasein says:

            Who cares whether or not you’re supposed to like them? The world is full of boring, self-centered young men. Why would I want to spend any of my leisure time with particularly obnoxious frat boys, even if they are deliberately obnoxious?

          • mouton says:

            It is one of those cases when internet proves – yet again – there is an opposite opinion for every opinion I might have, even the most obvious and seemingly ironclad.

            Then again, every piece of art has hateful detractors, so why gems like Spec Ops should be different? It is, after all, just a point of view.

          • shitflap says:

            i saw dasein;
            *That’s precisely the point of the story*

          • i saw dasein says:

            @shitflap

            Then it’s a dumb story. I don’t need a game to tell me that young, boorish men are young and boorish. I already know that. If the point of the story is truly that we shouldn’t want to spend time with stupid characters, then I guess the game was a success, because I turned it off about 90 minutes in.

          • bhlaab says:

            They didn’t try anything different. They did the same thing and put a new type of wrapping paper on it.

          • DXN says:

            Well for me the comments on this interview (including the other two parts) are some of the best on RPS, IMO. Especially some of the ones on part 2. I don’t think people are hating on these guys for the hell of it, people are putting thought into their reactions and explaining them at length. That’s cool!

            Having said that I don’t really see much need to cut these guys too much slack (and it’s mostly Yohalem that people are ragging on). The medium’s never going to get better if we accept this frankly shoddy standard of writing and get in people with interesting things to say, a real skill in saying them, and the leeway and accomodation of the rest of the studio to make their vision real.

          • shitflap says:

            i saw dasein;
            That’s the relevance. You weren’t able to put the story aside to play the game part. For you they were interconnected and a barrier to playing. You may apply this to the next mass-murder simulator you play or not, but in this case, the story achieved EXACTLY what it was meant to. In most games the story is simply tolerated, as payment for the gamey parts, in this it actively fucked you off to the point that you didn’t play it. This is a good thing, the flaw within being it’s predicated on paying actual money for the games one way or another.
            EDIT: It should make us realise that most games narratives are shite, we deserve better, we are buying these products, after all.

          • i saw dasein says:

            @shitflap

            Again, who cares? I’m willing to accept that Yohalem’s underlying message is that FPS have bad stories, or that we shoot expect more of narratives in games. But I think that’s a dumb point, and his way of addressing that point is ill-considered.

            First, I think the game fails as a piece of entertainment. When a game is designed to be so bad you turn it off in 90 minutes–which I accept is Yohalem’s intention–you guarantee that the game will not be enjoyable as such. And indeed, I thought FC3 was truly execrable on every level other than the basic game systems it inherited from FC2. I think you will probably concede that for many players the game failed on this level.

            It’s OK if a game is not entertaining or enjoyable. I like many books and films that are not entertaining or enjoyable per se. But if a piece of art is not entertaining or enjoyable, then it needs to tell me something new or interesting.

            And FC3 fails on that level too. I already know that young, boorish men are boring and obnoxious. I already know that games have dumb stories. I already know that “gamification” (e.g. tying everything to experience-type systems) can be addictive for some people, although not me: I just find “gamification intensely irritating and want nothing to do with it. These are all things I already knew, things that are perfectly obvious, and things that don’t require a multi-million dollar project to point out.

            But the worst part is that there are already answers to these questions. You don’t have to make a game about young, boorish men! If you think games have dumb stories, write a story that isn’t dumb, or even better, ditch the story and focus on creating better game systems that allow the player to construct their own stories. If gamification is insidious, don’t include it in your game!

            So given that the game isn’t enjoyable, due in part to the terrible dialogue, characters, and story, and given that the game isn’t actually saying anything interesting, the fact that the game has an underlying “point” Is irrelevant as far as I’m concerned. Having a “point” isn’t enough: the point actually has to be interesting and worthwhile, especially if exploring that point actively hinders the gameplay, which in FC3 I believe it did.

            EDIT- Just in terms of “we are buying these products, after all”. I don’t really buy or play many shooters. I haven’t ever played COD or Battlefield, and I don’t have much interest in doing so. I bought FC3 solely on the strength of the earlier games in the series, which were largely content to put narrative on the backburner in favour of satisfying, player-driven systems. Maybe if I was a regular purchaser of FPS games Yohalem’s point would seem less trite to me.

          • JackShandy says:

            “I already know that games have dumb stories. I already know that “gamification” (e.g. tying everything to experience-type systems) can be addictive for some people, although not me:”

            There are many people who do not know the problems with shooters, and I think Far Cry 3 and Spec Ops are perfectly placed to target those people.

          • shitflap says:

            @i saw dasein
            There are many people who care. Just not you.
            Obviously you feel, somehow, hard done by. You describe how every element of this game offended you somehow. It was clearly aimed at people who derive pleasure in the gamified, box-ticking aspects of such games, like me. It was also aimed at people who like shooters, like me. And people who find the narrative tropes of “kill a billion people, you good-guy, you”, increasingly hard to resolve in the writing of such games. Like me. And people who wanted something other than, “Anti-terrorism Attack Squad Delta Raptor Strike Force” bullshit. Like me.
            If you already knew that all these things were things that you would have no interest in, you probably shouldn’t have bought it in the first place, seeing as none of these things were kept a secret from you.
            You can be as dismissive as you like, but if; “Why would I want to spend any of my leisure time with particularly obnoxious frat boys, even if they are deliberately obnoxious?”, why’d you buy it?
            And why complain? These are only our opinions after all, yours as valid as mine, equally pointless, but it seems like you bought a game you knew you wouldn’t like.
            Caveat emptor.

          • i saw dasein says:

            @shitflap

            I bought it because I loved the first two Far Cry games, Far Cry 2 in particular, and I expected Far Cry 3 to be a game in the same mould: a game that is content to allow the player to explore gameplay systems and generate narrative from those systems. At most, the narrative in the earlier Far Cry games is a framing device for player experiences. Instead, I got basically the Assassin’s Creed experience, complete with dumb swooping camera shoots, unnecessary XP system, magical minimap, crafting, and all of the other trappings of crappy AAA games.

            So yeah, I do feel hard done by. I feel like Yohalem et al took my favourite series of games and covered it in pointless garbage. The fact that he did so in support of a really dumb and obvious point just makes it even worse.

          • shitflap says:

            Totally fair.
            Although, I wouldn’t dismiss this one entirely. I had a few base assaults that equaled the fun/panic I’ve had in FC2, if not surpassed it, but the story does sit a lot heavier on this one, true.
            Anyway, thank you for all this. For once I feel like I had a discussion on the internet, a phenomena that is becoming all too rare these days.

          • El_Emmental says:

            I’m glad I read through the whole discussion, otherwise I would have thought “i saw dasein” was just whining – he wasn’t.

            @dasein:

            I fully understand how you felt betrayed by FC3, and felt the same for many other game series.

            I think (hope ?) you’ll eventually reach a point where you no longer care about series, about characters or universes. I’ve been disappointed too many times to believe in any developers, even the indie devs, even when they’ve got the money, fail to respect game series (see RO2).

            Forget about your beloved series – they either died out or failed to have a respectful sequel, not catering to a “wider audience”.

            The video game industry is not capable of “respecting” series, the system is made so they maximize sales by pretending to be like the previous title, while marketing it to the main audience as the “same stuff you’re buying, slightly modified” (“Skyrim, with guns !”).

            Whenever the emotional value of an IP appears, it has to be liquidated as soon as possible: make quick cash with the brand. Never buy a sequel of a game you liked, unless it’s at least 50% off.

      • S Jay says:

        I really liked the article series. If you didn’t, I am surprised you got to the end of it. Why not skip it? This is the internet, just press “next” or type 9gag.com or whatever.

        I also liked Spec Ops. Didn’t play FC3 yet.

    • PopeBob says:

      I’m so pleased that Jeffy Yohalem is here to explore such new and exciting intellectual ground as “Killing people is maybe wrong,” and “torture is kinda’ uncool especially when perpetrated against those closest to you.”

      The intensely ridiculous tonal shift from game-to-outside narrative is not a powerful commentary because it doesn’t deliver the goods. The devs coded/modeled/animated their games to be incredibly cinematic in their violence- not at all realistic or brutal in the visceral and frightening sense. They intended the games to be cartoonish and fun (though SpecOps failed spectacularly in that regard with its atrocious gamefeel and degradation of the TPS formula). And yet, the writers want to tack on the judgement that your pastime is wrongheaded and that the hard work of their coworkers was put toward something unclean and indefensible, thus making the work they (and they alone) did somehow holy and glorious. It is self-serving in the extreme and fails to teach anybody a single thing they didn’t already know just from existing in a modern society of laws and prevailing morality.

      And holy shit if I ever have to read Williams say that “you could have just turned the game off!” again, I will lose five years of my life from sheer internal agony. By divorcing your “question” from the game itself and putting it on the player you fail to lend power to the experience of the game. You work outside the framework of your chosen medium, insulting not only your consumer but your colleagues. It simply says “ha ha, made you play” when its loading screens call you, the second person, not Walker, a monster.

      • Arglebargle says:

        I turned off Spec Ops in the tutorial. Went through that on a friends computer, and somewhere around the grenade spam intro I decided I couldn’t handle the mechanics, even if the story was eventually interesting. Far Cry 3 I never got; waited to hear reports on it, then decided it wasn’t my type of game.

        Guess I am just the ‘Right Kind of Guy’ then!

      • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

        I love you.

      • Laurentius says:

        So true, if you make a game when progressing means shooting people in the head and game visually gratify them for this kind of progressing and then you add nartive that is saying different story and blame players for “not getting it “, do they even understand medium they are using ?

      • fbjim says:

        That’s exactly right; at the end of the day, Spec Ops and FC3 provide positive feedback for killing people, and the only defense they can come up with is the weak-ass “But it’s a commentary!” excuse. There is no mechanical difference separating them from the shooters they claim to hate, and in gaming, that means there’s no difference at all.

  3. Secundus says:

    the worlds three biggest hacks continue to circlejerk for another 500000 words

    • Rian Snuff says:

      You took those filthy words right out of my stinkin’ mouth.
      The first thing I thought when I read the title, ha.
      Though I am optimistic about Bioshock..
      They have always had decent writing in my opinion.
      However for the others..
      Gag.. It hurt my head how bad the writing was and made me rage quit the games before I could finish.

    • Danda says:

      I just noticed… THREE hacks? What? Even the interviewer?

      If these guys are bad writers, who are the good shooter genre writers? Who did a better job for FPS and TPS games in 2012?

      • mouton says:

        Yeah, I really want to know who are the good writers if these are “hacks”.

      • d715 says:

        Well I’m one who thinks FPS should be more about the gameplay and atmosphere

        Metriod Prime is 8 billion times better than Spec Ops:2deep4u and it doesn’t really have a story

        its just Samus running around a planet. but the world is so well but the dozens of scanning info tight gameplay and world is amazing.

        And you know fun

      • Laurentius says:

        Everyone who undesrstands the medium and its limitations. Making a game that players progress by shooting people in the head in gratifing way that is suppose to deliver message “killing is bad” is very hard (if even possible ) and requires far more skill and thought then just shouting “I’m subverting things! “

  4. yogibbear says:

    I am actually offended by this article. They sound like they think gamers are “stupid” and the only people that they can discuss their works with are critics. Unfortunately for them I think a much larger percentage than they would like to think “get” the story nuances in these games, and they value it much more as part of what they are buying into the game for than these guys seem to think. In fact, the last part about gamers not knowing the people behind the games is almost completely wrong. Most gamers generally get interested in new game announcements based on who they know is working on it, especially the writers. E.g. Sam Lake working on Alan Wake. etc. If anything Kickstarter has demonstrated that there is a huge amount of faith given by the wider gaming community based on who is doing the game, and what their previous games were like. Perhaps I have read into it too much, but this article was all sorts of awesome, just these guys response sound all sorts of smug. I’m glad they are finally realising these things, but 10 yrs ago we had the same good themes in games, and it was only the new gen UE3 games that really dropped the ball where themes and story were concerned. Yeah gaming is growing up, but it took a huge nose-dive with most of the good nuanced themes and stories found off in the indie market. Luckily a few AAA games have kept decent people on board, willing to invest in these areas. Hopefully the trend returns to how it used to be (or seemed to be).

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I didn’t read it in this way. How often exactly do you get to actually talk with game writers? Not often, I’d presume. Critics are much more likely to do so, so by way of things they are the first and most prevalent audience to game writers.

      This isn’t to say gamers in general aren’t capable of the kind of dialogue they want, merely that there’s a gap between the audience and the creators which the industry doesn’t seem able to close.

      • Laythe_AD says:

        Exactly, and it’s also worth noting that “most” gamers are not the kind of people who read RockPaperShotgun. Most gamers don’t have a clue who makes games. They might have heard of Kojima, or Miyamoto, maybe (or maybe not) but no one else, and this doesn’t inform their game purchases.

    • The Random One says:

      It’s a curious stance, considering that, if RPS comments on this and the other installments is any sort of barometer, gamers are way more dismissive of their work, not because they want stuff that is dumb, but because they know what is smart and neither game was.

      • yogibbear says:

        Are you dismissing the entirety of Spec Ops just because you didn’t have a real choice about firing the white phosphorous?

        • The Random One says:

          Well, good job lumping me with people whose ideas are roughly in the same zip code as mine.

          I’m not dismissing Spec Ops. It was an interesting attempt full of flaws. The white phosphorus scene is not one of those flaws in my opinion – in fact, I think it was handled brilliantly, if the intent was to mirror similar scenes in CoD et al. But these guys are of the opinion that their games are perfect and that any flaws are the fault of a lazy culture that is unwilling to analyze them deeply. That’s bollocks. RPS and others have been analysing games that probably don’t bear that depth for decades. It’s just that the depths of those games aren’t very deep. In fact, by acting like that, they undermine what they’ve done. Those games should be looked at as first steps on the road to something greater, but they’re acting as if we’d already reached the destination.

        • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

          Is this another one of those dumb “you had a choice!!!11″ sort of arguments Spec Ops fans love to repeat? The White Phosphorous scene was incredibly annoying, and everything else that came afterward was basically the writers doing a jig around you and calling you Hitler.

  5. Zenicetus says:

    The real question here, is whether you can sell a game with a AAA budget that tells a compelling story, without having the player/protagonist leaving 1,000+ dead bodies on the floor. Like you do in Bioshock Infinite, Tomb Raider, Mass Effect, and on, and on.

    That’s the elephant in the AAA game room, and this article series didn’t really address it.

    • Laythe_AD says:

      Actually, it did address it, briefly. He spoke of shifting shooting mechanics to something more real, without the crazy body count, questioned if maybe survival horror was an indicator of how to take it in that direction.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      I’d wager that… they don’t know. It’s not been done before, so it’s hard to say. Gamers are a fickle bunch and while I’m sure you’d see a lot of praise, you also saw a lot of praise for games like Okami and that didn’t help sales much did it?

      The thing is, I’m not sure which publisher would be willing to try it. Perhaps the likeliest would be independent developers like Valve or CDPR instead of big publishers, but even then it could be a very risky proposition.

      • Laythe_AD says:

        I’d like to see The Last of Us try it. It’s the game coming that’s most suited to it. It won’t though.

      • yogibbear says:

        Isn’t there a game teased where you are a photographer reporting on a war? And depending on what photos you choose to publish it changes the story? Or am I dreaming……….

    • mesic says:

      If i remember correctly, kane and lynch 2 was AAA (or almost) and the writing was more than compelling imho.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Well, there’s Myst.

      But there’s no reason you couldn’t add a compelling narrative on top of, say, a racing game. That kind of stuff bores the hell out of me even when it’s supposedly good, but I’m sure most gamers would like it.

    • elgonzo says:

      Interesting question.

      There are lots of non-violent games with good story, not only from indie developers (Telltale adventures come to my mind).

      But, yes if you want to have a satisfying story with the big spectacle typical for big AAA titles, what would hinder the studios from making them?

      • Ernesto25 says:

        Quantic dream games are good at that though one is on ps3 booo !

        I think the real question is how to manage violence for people like me who grew up on MOH and the 1st 2 COD’s and loved fps’s but now are tired of just mindless shooting and want a it more behind getting a bigger body count in an fps. Im not saying fps don’t have good stories as plently have or shooting but when the consequences are implemented and implied its often ham fisted. Dishonored at least ties to attempt this. Bio-shock infinite did this well for the first half then seemed to forget it and i just seemed to be killing an entire city and no one cared bar SPOILER one child SPOILER.

        Its why i still like half life 1 and 2 in fps due to yeah theres alot of shooting but i have other time to explore the (linear) world and puzzles at my own pace.

    • i saw dasein says:

      I’m personally not that interested in adventure games, but “The Walking Dead” shows you can have a commercially successful game with a relatively low body count. It’s also vastly better written than Spec Ops and Far Cry 3.

    • JackShandy says:

      Well, Portal sold a bunch of copies. So did Super Mario Bros and Tetris. There’s plenty of successful games where you don’t kill a lot of people, slapping a story on an established game-type like that seems pretty easy.

  6. Sam says:

    I have a really hard time understanding what Yohalem is trying to say in many of his responses. For instance he talks about how the aim with Far Cry 3 was to create a modern game, in contrast to other (presumably pre-modern?) games:

    “The idea was, all these other games are about target practice. They’re about hunting and gathering. They aren’t very valid in today’s society. What would a modern game be? To me, a modern game would be one that looks at something like gamification [...] So in Far Cry 3 you practice dealing with gamification’s effects on people.”

    In what way was Far Cry 3 not about target practice, hunting, and gathering? That certainly seemed to be what I spent the vast majority of my time playing the game doing, and far more literally than other games. Where on Earth did an examination of gamificiation come in to it? Sure the player’s own behaviour is influenced by “gamification” effects, because they’re y’know, playing a game. But I didn’t get the sense that any character in the game was being influenced by structured reward systems or other artefacts of gamification. The pirates weren’t killing hostages to earn gold stars from Vaas.

    Is it meant to be some deep statement about the nature of games being stuck in a primitive mindset about humanity’s interaction with the world, by making a game that is stuck in a primitive mindset about humanity’s interaction with the world? If so, it’s a point terribly made. I’m left with the feeling that Yohalem is doing some kind of author-led variation on what Williams spoke about with regards critics of the Killing is Harmless book:

    “That’s not in there. You’re seeing things. You’re digging too deep. You’re literally finding things that are not there and just writing a book about it.”

    • yogibbear says:

      I think the blatant not-so-sure-if-you’d-count-it-as subtext in pretty much their entire dialogue and text in the game was used as a giant counter-point to balance off against the rest of the “game” that you spent the majority of the time playing. Yes, the gameplay part was typical game-type-stuff. But the meta, was in the poking-the-fun-at-itself subtext about the absurdity of what you were doing, and why you were making the choices you were all leading to the final choice, the ultimate meta, where one decision (in my opinion) was a demonstration that you either weren’t paying attention or have succumbed to the gamification brain-washing. Whereas the other, was the decision you literally had to make, otherwise you had missed the constant barrage of not-so-sure-if-you’d-count-it-as subtext telling you what you needed to do to save yourself (and by save yourself, I don’t just mean the character in the game).

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Yohalem is optimistically expecting people to read his work on anything other than a surface level, when he forgot to put anything other than the surface level in there. You can’t make your audience do all the work, even if you’re incapable of doing it yourself.

      I’ve always hated the “sure, this is dumb childish crap, but it’s dumb childish crap *on purpose* and that makes it deep” shtick everywhere it’s popped up, and am very dismayed that it’s arrived in games. I’d rather just have something that’s authentically dumb and owns it dumbness than something that tries to explain it away and fails.

      • Hmm-Hmm. says:

        I agree. That sort of narrative can really backfire. It’s probably better to make an experience which brings any issues it wants to impart upon the player close to home like Spec Ops attempted.

    • walldad says:

      Yohalem comes off with maybe half decent sense for rhetoric. His forte is some form of the ol’ Gish Gallop, in particular. His game fails to even signal to the player that it’s operating on a deeper level. It’s a very game-y game to be sure, in a pretty grating way, but the story and characters only aggravate this by being staggeringly stupid. I suppose if the goal was to get me to stop playing, he accomplished his mission.

      I will say this: he’s pretty slick for someone with such terrible English skills, at least in the context of “games journalism” Y’know, as opposed to real journalism, where howlers like his will at least be scrutinized a little.

  7. MOKKA says:

    Regarding Autheurship in games. Wasn’t that one of the things that were actually better in the ‘good old days’? Teams were so small that you could see the influence of every member.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Teams got reasonably large by the early 90s, I’d say.

      But hey, look around. There’s never been more games developed by 1-3 people. The vast majority of them are garbage, far more than Sturgeon’s Law would suggest, and a disturbing number of the recognizable indie developers tend to behave like arseholes, but there’s some decent stuff out there.

  8. KenTWOu says:

    For me, from a very young age, I was terrified about death. The only time I can feel free is when I play something or watch something or read something that transports me out of that fear…

    Anyone else got that feeling?

    • Drayk says:

      Sadly, I do.

      • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

        I didn’t particularly mind the billions of years prior to my birth, indeed I find myself continually surprised by the remarkable copulation that roused me from that state. Besides, there’s far worse things than death; chronic pain, complete psychological deterioration, intolerable sadness and Coldplay.

    • elgonzo says:

      No, not really.

      For me death is how i felt in the year 1830 (or any other year before i was born). The way i will be in the year 2199 will pretty much be the same i was in 1830. I am not scared about that.

      What really scares the hell out of me is slow, painful dying. We had a case of gall bladder cancer in our family. When it was diagnosed (because of pain symptoms) it was already too late. With the digestive tract damaged beyond repair, and an emergency surgery that cut away large chunks of stomach and duodendum, chemo therapy couldn’t be continued as it would have been fatal. It was starving to death over a time of little more than a year, with the cancer further spreading. The last days in her life, the pain was so bad she had to be drowned in morphine.

      That is what i am really scared about. Death itself, no. Why?

      • mouton says:

        Congratulations. You have actually managed to intellectualize away the actual issue.

        I am not being sarcastic. I wish I could do the same.

      • Baines says:

        Death doesn’t bother me either.

        I don’t believe in an afterlife, so everything is actually meaningless. It ultimately doesn’t matter what I do or don’t do. After I die, I’m not going to exist any more. It won’t matter what anyone thinks of me. It won’t matter what my history is. Everyone dies. Everything dies. The idea of living on in memories or through loved ones is as much a fiction as any other religion. There is nothing immortal. There is nothing to live on afterwards. There is no legacy that matters to the dead.

        So there is no point in fearing death.

        Like elgonzo, I’m not exactly happy with the idea of slow, painful dying. The whole painful part happens while you are alive, after all. Even if everything is ultimately meaningless, that doesn’t mean that pain doesn’t hurt.

      • Josh W says:

        For our next trick, let’s solve life!

        (Translation; here’s another suggestion of a fundamental existential problem which can be solved by absorbing yourself in someone else’s game world, this time the problems of our drive to live itself)

  9. Jimbo says:

    Games have writers?!

    • Obc says:

      chris avellone says hi ;)

    • GamerOS says:

      They do, but a large number of them want to write for movies instead.

      • elgonzo says:

        …a large number of them couldn’t write for movies… …perhaps?

        • mouton says:

          Oh, they sure could. Obviously, it is not a compliment.

          • AlwaysRight says:

            Maybe Jeffrey Yohalem could reboot the Transformers francise. He could write a cutting satire of the previous films by making it exactly the same, but you know… ironically.

          • luukdeman111 says:

            @ alwaysright: While i do not neccesarily agree with you, that was an incredibly clever comment, and i must applaud you for that….

    • yogibbear says:

      Yeah it all started with the writer of tetris. The young black sheep of the family, the S shaped bit with only four blocks shaped like an ugly piece of pasta, ready to be discarded into the bin would be spewed out from the top of the screen into the players view, forcing them to dread it’s entrance, and which corner of the room to make it take a seat, so that nobody else would notice and break the harmony they had been creating to invite the rest of their block shaped friends into the room, to discuss world peace and domination in one foul swoop of ingenuity. Once the player learned to deal with this ugly duckling, by a sleight of hand, utilising amazing sense of dexterity to slide it underneath another friendly piece in the room at precise the moment it made its final descent, allowing the perfect symmetry to continue to bloom, the war could be won with no casualties. Fear the S shaped black sheep, but treat it with respect and whisper in its heart and you will have the ultimate prize, the highest score.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yeah, it’s often the programmers who do the writing, hence why a lot of the earlier games were based around protagonists such as noble warrior Ifdef Foreach and the wily Japanese trickster Goto, and why most of the dialogue involved curly brackets. Plot inconsistencies were explained as the characters’ memories leaking. Often, entire buildings crucial to the story arc, such as the mighty Fort Ran, would disappear as addresses were carelessly deleted or overwritten.

  10. Gap Gen says:

    Bravo on the first picture.

  11. Smion says:

    “In Brotherhood there were all these strong female characters that actually overcome… They’re actually stronger than all the other men in that game. So it doesn’t make sense that I would create an anti-feminist game.”

    I might be getting games mixed here, but wasn’t brotherhood the one where you got to have sex with someone you just met after you beat her at horseracing. Complete with terribly obvious innuendo about riding and stallions?

    If so, the man is literally a literary genius!

  12. noclip says:

    What neither of them seems to acknowledge is that game writers don’t have nearly the level of authorial control that writers in other media do. I’m willing to take them at their word that they were trying to create games with a modicum of intelligence, I just wonder if it wouldn’t have helped the execution if everyone else on the development teams knew that (especially in the case of Far Cry 3).

    • Zenicetus says:

      The division of labor does have some consequences…

      Ken Levine (in my head): “Okay everyone, I’ll write all the cut-scenes and audio diaries that explain the story in Infinite. Everyone else, start working on the shooting galleries between cut scenes. Make sure there are enough shooty bits to extend the game out to 15 hours or so”

      Which is how most AAA games work, these days.

      • elgonzo says:

        Crap stories are not a consequence of division of labor.

        It is usually because of lack of direction — which game stories often suffer from, as the story is usually subordinate to the game(play) design (mission structure, player progression, etc…). There seem to be only very, very few big developers where game and story development go hand in hand.

        • Zenicetus says:

          Well, whether we call it division of labor or a consequence of game design, it amounts to the same thing.

          The writer can establish an overall setting, like the island in Tomb Raider or Colombia in Infinite, but they only get to tell the actual story at checkpoint intervals. The player spends most of his or her time shooting and stabbing their way through piles of enemies, as brainless filler.

          This is one of the big differences between games and movies. A film director doesn’t just concentrate on a few important bits, while they send off Units B, C, and D to shoot filler material to extend the experience.

          • elgonzo says:

            I totally agree with you. I just didn’t get what you meant with division of labor the first time :)

  13. elgonzo says:

    The first time, it was entertaining, in a silly way.
    The second time, it was, you know, like the kind of attraction that makes you watch car crashes.
    The third time, nah… cannot be bothered to read more of that nonsense.

    Still, i came here, if only because of the comments. Scrollbars FTW!

  14. zachforrest says:

    While ACII did have characters, themes etc, to suggest that any of these elements were ‘written’ is disingenuous. They were at best scrawled on a whiteboard, but more likely mumbled at meetings.

  15. Grape Flavor says:

    It’s funny how viewpoints that are on opposite ends of the so-called political spectrum so frequently resemble a mirror image of each other. Yes, I realize RPS approaches its moralizing anti-sex-and-violence crusade from a very different worldview than, say, Fox News, but the premise is basically identical. Which is, that the ethical purity of our society is beseiged by trashy low culture that we must organize against lest we ourselves become morally tainted by it. That media which does not promote proper “values” to its audience is degenerative and dangerous.

    Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing inherently wrong with having a discussion about these things, though RPS always makes the “right” position pretty clear. I just find it interesting how RPS is inadvertently keeping some strange company by joining the crowd of those that wag their fingers and shake their heads at every gory kill or scantily clad female.

    • yogibbear says:

      They did post that absurd article that proclaimed that FC3 was somehow racist, which was practically as bad as a Fox News report, with conjunctions.

      • The Random One says:

        That article which mentions, rather offhandedly and apologetically, that if you look at it in a certain way Far Cry 3′s story might be construed as racist, and that, due to the current state of video game culture that amplifies it, that might be a bad thing?

        Yeah that is literally as bad as the Gestapo.

      • Shooop says:

        Because there is absolutely nothing even remotely racist about having a Caucasian man single-handedly liberate an entire island of thugs at the urging of the indigenous population right?

    • Gap Gen says:

      If we don’t choose our values than they will choose us. It’s impossible to live in an ideological vacuum. In the late 1700s fighting for liberal values against a conservative patriarchy used to mean something. Kids these days.

    • walldad says:

      You’re being disingenuous. It’s a matter of context with sex and violence, or whatever else people object to. The key difference is that Fox News has no context for its understanding of games or the game of the month they’re trying to drum up moral panic over. They’re also writing for the same kind of audience.

      Criticizing media on political or moral grounds will always be valid with a sufficient understanding, and leveling criticism of this nature does not entail closing yourself off from the world, but rather the opposite.

  16. BreadBitten says:

    All this talk of games with an authorial vision behind them kind of made me think of Kojima and the Houser brothers from Rockstar, their games have a distinct “something” that just make them feel connected in some way. Err, Am I doing it right?

    • walldad says:

      Kojima is one of the only auteurs in gaming — and I mean that in a small-a sense, not elevating his writing to the level of “high art”. Konami let him put “A Hideo Kojima Game” on MGS2, in 2001, at least.

      The guy who does the Mother series, Shigesato Itoi fits the criteria as well, though he may never make another game … and maybe Fumito Ueda, the Team Ico guy.

      I’m drawing a blank on western games.

      • Smion says:

        Though certainly not a shining example, there is David Cage.

      • Oozo says:

        They’re easy enough to find in the indie-sector. Cactus, Messhof, Jeff Minter, Anthropy, Brendan Chung, Christine Love, etc. pp. (To make a kinda ecclectic list. More examples could easily be found.)

        In the AA- or AAA-sector though? Kinda hard to say indeed. Even somebody celebrated for their work like Shafer, Levine or Avellone does not have that same autheury nimbus to himself, somehow. (You could add Suda to the list of Japanese devs, though, I guess.) It’s sad to say, but Cage really is one of the few names that come to mind.
        Probably something to do with the structure of the industry, but it’s way too late at night to think about that seriously.

        • Bhazor says:

          Well Ken Levine is always keen to stress he doesn’t work alone. I remember after Bioshock there was an interview he actually said he was sick of people labelling it as his. But I’d say with Avellone you could call Planescape a auteur piece. Certainly he wrote the vast majority of the script. Might also say the same about Kotor 2 but its less clear how much of that he actually wrote.

          You might be able to say that Lord British is an auteur, or does he just put his name over the door?

          I think western developers are just scared to put their names front and centre. In this industry it probably seems like sticking your head over the parapet and waiting for someone to chop it off.

        • walldad says:

          You mentioned structural factors in the gaming industry, and I was immediately reminded of this blaze of glory/final fuck you to Sony from a former Naughty Dog developer:

          https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uhmYENdFZc8

          His main complaint is that talent is forced to serve the needs PR and marketing side, and is otherwise disposable. While I guess this is semi-common knowledge about game development, he goes into it in great detail. It reminds me of certain artists in the recording industry to some extent.

  17. Ernesto25 says:

    I did want to play specs ops the line after reading this probably will do but was put off a little bit by this article would feel the same way about FC3 if i hadn’t played it. I liked the hunting sections not because i wanted to shoot but it gave me a tangible purpose to do side quests that didn’t feel like a side quest to me. Yohalem is clearly passionate but comes off insane and making assumptions which some i guess are true what FC3 represents but to me the story came off as some half decent characters and ideas not utilized to their potential.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s still worth playing Spec Ops. But you’re not really playing because it’s a fun game.

  18. Jason Moyer says:

    I’d kinda like to play a Walt Williams cRPG.

  19. PopeRatzo says:

    A little less navel gazing and a little more developing games that provide value to match their very high prices. Please.

    The age of the Rock Star Game Dev does not make me optimistic about getting to play some really good games.

    And please, can we stop holding AAA game devs to a standard, when it comes to violence, sexism and questionable political statements, unless we’re going to hold indie developers to the same standard.

    Senseless violence, sexism, etc is not made more acceptable because of retro graphics and a slammin’ soundtrack (Miami:Hotline v Far Cry 3). Either we’re going to let creative people say what they want to say or we’re not.

    But if they’re going to say it, let them say it in their games and not in some back-rub of an interview.

    • elgonzo says:

      What? Wait, wait!

      I was just starting to hold up the average newsstand to exactly those same standards, with all the mags having cover shots of desirable women with boobies and bikinis. All women in my neighborhood got mentally ill because of that practice. Look, I just prepared my flamethrower, and now you come and tell me to stop that…??? :(

    • yogibbear says:

      I challenge you to validate why Hotline Miami doesn’t use violence in a perfect way to match the point of the game they’re trying to make. And how is it sexist? Does it say press [R] to rape?

      • yogibbear says:

        Reply fail… meant to be @elgonzo

        • elgonzo says:

          @yogibbear: Wut?

          My response was an ironical retort in the sense of: If you are talking about moral standards you can’t pick your cherries just because they suit your argument and blissfully ignore everything else. In which i agree with PopeRatzo. Adding to this my ongoing wonder of how the RPS staff reacts in daily life when facing something they would perhaps describe as sexist, like when visiting a newsstand, or seeing an ad with sexual connotation.

          And no, i didn’t play Hotline Miami. Not my type of game. But that’s not because of violence, but the gameplay itself is not my preference.

          • The Random One says:

            So by your definition, unless the RPS guys and one girl fight sexism in every corner of the Earth with the same vigour they do when talking about a subject they know very well, are entrenched in, and have the chance to talk to some relatively high profile people related to, they are hypocrites and should not be heard?

            I think I’ll go lie down in my bed forever.

            I’m constantly amazed at how some people put into their heads that RPS is mindlessly attacking all depictions of sex and violence (because RPS attacked one such depiction that they, personally, didn’t find that bad) and then use the fact that they didn’t attack another as proof that they are inconsistent, biased and hypocritical, when it just means that maybe they think Hotline Miami lived up to its attempt to criticise its own megaviolence whereas Far Cry 3 didn’t and they are not, in fact, mindlessly attacking all depictions.

          • Tagiri says:

            @TheRandomOne

            I think what they’re saying is that saying “this thing was problematic” on a website is the same thing as torching a magazine stand . . .

    • Gap Gen says:

      I’m pretty sure that Bioshock: Infinite would be a considerably worse game if it didn’t have a whole bunch of clever ideas in it. I’d rather have more roughly-made interesting things than more well-produced dumb rocks. Then again, as long as it’s just dumb and benign, I don’t really care. My issue with modern war shooters is the violent, xenophobic subtext, not the overt on-screen violence.

      As for Hotline Miami, well that’s an interesting discussion, and yes, subtext is absolutely very important.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    Also, Walt Williams is Heisenberg, right?

  21. junsumoney says:

    Why the fuck are you guys posting these interviews? This is just shitty circlejerking. Fucking interview Brendon Chung or Anthony Burch or Team Meat.

  22. Shooop says:

    Yohalem actually used James Cameron as an example of someone who makes deep meaningful movies?

    You should have ended the internet right then, right there. What a joke.

    • Stackler says:

      This is the only thing that came to my mind, after I read this Yohalems Statement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9PR_rzF8ofw

    • walldad says:

      No no no…you see, his movies are like video games, because they’re about exploring locations…and stuff!

      • Shooop says:

        Oh right! I forgot! Movies totally encourage you to explore places in them! You absolutely can use your remote to turn the camera when watching Titanic or Avatar and examine the sets instead of just watching what Cameron decided you should see!

        And Titanic was brilliant world! It wasn’t just a luxury cruise ship, but an entire world!

    • Ravenholme says:

      The REAL Point

      Your Head.

      He didn’t say that James Cameron made good movies – He said that James Cameron built compelling worlds. Which he does. He just can’t write a story worth a damn to fill them.

      • Shooop says:

        He tried to say people were exploring the “world” of the Titanic? A ship? There was no “world” in Titanic. There was no world to “explore” in that movie, it was a ship. It wasn’t a documentary, it was in his own words, “a romance movie where everyone dies.”

        He has NO goddamn clue what the hell he’s talking about. I feel like my IQ has dropped a few points just reading the things he said, he’s so insanely stupid.

        • shitflap says:

          There was no world. There was no scene setting, no insights into what life in 1912 was like, no reveal into what such transport was like or the mentality of the people who’d tried to get on to the most advanced cruise liner of the day. None of that stuff.
          Or you’re a fucking idiot, holding to your opinion as the truth, cos everyone’s right on the internet.
          Just cos you don’t see it, doesn’t mean it isn’t there. It means you don’t see it.
          I think I feel stupider for bothering to reply to this, I’m sure I know what it’ll achieve

          • Shooop says:

            Watching the movie Titanic to gain insight to how life was aboard the ship is like reading Dracula like a biography of Vlad Tepes.

            It is a romanticism of a real thing. Are you that incredibly ignorant you can’t tell the difference? Next you’ll be telling us The Patriot staring Mel Gibson was a documentary.

            Seek professional help. I worry for yours and the safety of those around you since it’s obvious your mind is unable to separate fantasy from reality. Then maybe you can work on learning how to spell “because”.

          • shitflap says:

            I was hoping to hide what an unhinged fantasist I was, but you saw right through me, internet warrior.
            Because of your wonderful insight, I’ll be sure to seek help, you’re clearly right.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            Aaand you completely missed the point. It doesn’t matter how real or fake Titanic is (for this discussion, at least.) They said James Cameron does great worldbuilding. He packed in a lot of detail in his version of Titanic. It doesn’t matter if he made the Titanic nuclear powered, showed how it worked, and somehow made it plausible, that would still be worldbuilding. It only matters that it feel real, like a place you could visit.

            Unlike Titanic, Avatar is COMPLETELY fictional, and it also has great worldbuilding. It certainly didn’t make nearly three billion off of the strength of its characters or plot.

          • walldad says:

            And yet comparing a video game world to a cinematic one is no less absurd after this little aside.

            Thanks for playing.

  23. Yglorba says:

    I think that part of the problem Spec Ops had, regarding its sales, was that it didn’t look like a game with a message or a story to tell. I mean, that was part of what made it work, but it also meant that the people who would have bought that kind of game if they knew what it was just passed it over, thinking it was just another generic shooter.

  24. strangeloup says:

    I… um… I thought this series of articles was really interesting. Spec Ops is, for me, up there with Requiem for a Dream — in both cases I felt absolutely brutalised by the end, but at the same time that I’d got some insight from the horribleness. I told several people that I thought it was an important game to play, though forewarning them that it’d likely make them feel terrible, and it’s spawned some really interesting discussions. (I also bought Killing is Harmless, but I’ve yet to start reading it.)

    I wanted to progress further in FC3 but I found myself rather at odds with some of the mechanics. Constant pop-ups and glowy things telling me I could do this, that or the other were very distracting, and more than once I got a game over for reasons the mission never indicated as fail conditions. Essentially, I seem to have had the opposite experience to a lot of people; what I saw of the story seemed really interesting, if a little heavy-handed, but I couldn’t get on with numerous aspects of the gameplay.

    Yohalem seems to be buying into his own mythology a little too much, but I’ve enjoyed reading the thoughts of both interviewees. I can’t remember where I saw the quote or who said it, but recently there was some discussion of whether games need to be fun. In just about every other medium there are examples that could not really be considered enjoyable, or at the least have substantial elements that way, but are still highly praised, because they are still compelling.

    As for Bioshock Infinite, I’ve played for about six hours so far, and I’m pretty much blown away by it. The only point I can really criticise it on is that numerous times I’ve come across a big room, and by repetition of this element I’ve realised that I’m going to be fighting a bunch of bad guys, probably in waves. To an extent it seems like padding, but I’m pretty willing to forgive it on the basis that the fights are generally pretty engaging and such rooms are often a good place to give new tactics a try.

    • davorschwarz says:

      anyone who has troble with FC3 i hear you i hated the hand holding aspect of it, glowing wallhacks and minimap, plants and hunting etc
      i played it for 1h and turned off but then i recently i found some fantastic mods, turn off map and tagging, remove hud and messages improved ai and ballistisc, no leveling up, wingsuit from day one second island from day one and you can choose if you want to capture a camp or keep coming back to fight again.

      well i finished the game and now im just having a blast PLAYING driving CAPTURING camps or whatever fk i want to do on the island and without any stupid story or cutsceenes. AWESOME.

      I thought maybee there are some clever mods for FC2 to and there are so now in going through it.

      • Josh W says:

        Don’t go so far: No minimap, respawning/rebuilding camps, and no popups or story?
        All it needs now is to replace the normal hunting mechanic with a hunger system, and you’ve got a nice, (if sparse) sandbox game.

  25. drvoke says:

    The comment sections for this series of interviews has been fucking poisonous. I am seriously baffled.

    • Upper Class Twit says:

      I dunno dude. I mean ,these two guys wrote for video games that I haven’t played and/or don’t much care for. By my book, that makes them pretty despicable human beings, and worthy of any and all abuse directed at them on the internet. Cause y’know, I take my video games very seriously.

    • Shooop says:

      I know!

      Who would have thought that two men blaming their own shortcomings on their audience instead of admitting they made less-than-perfect works would result in said audience pointing out those shortcomings?

      Inconceivable!

    • sass says:

      Yeah, the comments section over these articles has been pretty ordinary, but then that seems to be the norm for any article on RPS that attempts to discuss games in a broader sense, issues around the games industry or what-have-you… Anything outside of traditional games media coverage/reviews.

      I don’t understand it. Some people dislike the brand of cool-aid that RPS have on tap, which is fine. The people that know the brand & yet they return -likely multiple times in a day- to drink the RPS cool-aid, log in to comment on how terrible it tastes? I wonder if they’re insane or have some non-specified personality disorder. (I’m assuming they’re not just trolling.)

      And to be quite clear, I don’t have a problem discussion or constructive criticism; the negativity & abuse is just unnecessary, doesn’t provide any real entertainment (for me) & just negates any worthwhile message the commentor may have had in the first instance. Lucky there’s a ‘Block’ function!

      • The Random One says:

        Uh, could you point me to any of the comments saying that RPS shouldn’t have done this interview? I only see one by Lower Case Guy on the first page.

        No one here is complaining that RPS is trying to treat games seriously, we’re complaining that the people who are apparently trying to get the games they made taken seriously are bonkers.

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s a shame that people feel the need to express mild disagreement through insults. Turns what could have been an interesting discussion into a hate war. Oh well, this is the internet, I suppose.

  26. shitflap says:

    All this negativity is bullshit. I really enjoyed these pieces, I’m currently finding Far Cry 3 fascinating, for precisely the reasons intended. It’s gonna lose me, I’m sure, but the half that most people played was incredibly interesting. Mostly mechanically. As soon as I could see when my rewards kicked in, I played the fuck outta the bits that would reward me something, and then dropped them like stones,
    Seems to be quite a lot of opinions formed here that are impervious to challenge. “Clearly these writers don’t know the intent behind their own work, these games were shit and their explanations make them dicks”, kinda thing.
    This disappoints me.
    EDIT: After reading the comment more thoroughly, it seem to be a bit more subtle than that, in places. I still can’t understand how people are *offended*.
    It’s not like we, as RPS readers, are creating anything more worthwhile or valuable…

  27. ass wasp says:

    If there’s anything bioshock infinite doesn’t do it’s futurism
    As a construction, colombia is pretty much the zenith of futruist architecture, the application fo technology to create a truly perfect society.
    Of course i’d like to clarify that colombia is far from perfect in the eyes of anyone but the reddest redneck, but the futurists, a large number of which who went on to do propaganda for mussolini and his fascists would have truly adored colombia.

  28. d715 says:

    Is anyone else really tried of people sucking spec ops and its writer’s dick?

    Yes, yes it made some good point and made fun of CoD (what’s that Call of Duty isn’t a realistic take on war?! NOOOOOO SHITTT!!!) but gezz its just a meh game.

    You know its just going to give them a massive ego and just going to do the same game over and over only I don’t know make you rape some 14 year old.

    • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

      You’re not alone, Jesus Christ. It’s basically only popular because gaming hipsters are tired of COD of Battlefield and decided to unironically suck its cock (and missing its stupid, heavy-handed point of “all violence in video games is wrong”, not just because the US military is involved), and even then, the only defense of the game is “don’t play”. WELL, GEE, WHAT’S THE POINT OF THE STORY, THEN???? Oh, not to mention the game keeps calling Walker/the player a pile of shit, and in the end, he’ll most likely commit suicide. Subtle there, writers. Subtle.

      News flash: Killing for entertainment is harmless. The “video game players are violent jackoff thugs” shit is poorly, boringly written, and relies on assuming that players don’t know killing people in real life is bad.

      If you wanted an actual deconstruction of COD of Battlefield of Honor (I miss the old Medal of Honor games), go play ArmA or the old Rainbow Sixes. In the meantime, stop getting your panties in a bunch about military shooters.

      • Harlander says:

        Other things that probably shouldn’t be done unironically:

        Describing excessive positive criticism of something as “sucking its cock”

        • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

          But cock is nice…

        • Gap Gen says:

          Agreed. I’m glad you like this game so much you’re willing to compare it to oral sex.

          • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

            Hey, now, I’m saying that people like this one game so much, they want to blow its silicon (are CD discs sillicon?) genitals, but not I, personally, for I believe its sexual organs to be disgusting.

            Personally, I’d rather fellate the member of Crysis or Bioshock.

            Though I guess you can twist it so that giving head to a silicon disc is better than not getting any, or… this analogue is taking us to sexy depths.

          • Gap Gen says:

            What happens if it washed its member functions once in a while?

    • Laurentius says:

      It’s just the caste of “wordsmiths” who like self-infulgance and try to wrench gaming from evil masses (even for short time ) : “Look we can talk about Spec.Ops for hours and even write books about them, and what can you do ? Play Minecraft of Super Hexagon? Pfft”

  29. davorschwarz says:

    ah the shitty times we are living/gaming in. all this political correctnes and violence issues and legal liability laws. i remember times when teenagers would go throug time in their live pondering questins of who am i what am i, than they grow up and become something, someone or noone.

    people/gamers like violence – well not true NOT ALL GAMERS DO only a percentage does if we are reaching or heading towards some violence infused appocaliptical future due to people liking violent games i dont see it.

    lets step back and look at this from another perspective.
    how many copies of FARMING SIMULATOR have been sold? there is a large group of people enjoing it f me if i was a car manufacturer id want to do something about it because surely that must mean that people in cities will start buying tractors and plowers instead of cars.

    we are living in a world where there is no grown ups, no common sense and above all no understanding and respect for human diferences. its like the society doesnt only want to pigeonhole us but put us all into the same pidgeon hole so when a new fkn product is released they can be assured every one will buy it. and that is the problem with aaa aa etc games to.

    there is no fkn holly grail of gaming the story and gameplay that everyone will love and once they accept that we might start getting better games. UNLESS THEY MAKE A GAME that will involve kittens and funniest homevideos because everyone love those right + it would be hard to infused it with statements about violence sexism and racism – unless you are mr Y cause he could turn any pile of shit into a lecture worthy of his $150.000 education.

    like why make bioshock infinite with shooting? – that game realy pisses me of i realy want to finish it but i feel like every time there is fighting setpiece activated i just want to quit let me fkn read the posters tem se soak in the atmosphere let me find whats going on dont bug me with the stupid fighting bits

    in contrast to FC3 where i just wanted to explore the island, fight the pirates, fight for the bases survive the wildlife but no i had to sit through mindles cutsceenes with some draged out mushroom lover than some retarded “lets party dude” characters and those anoying girls. way to spoil it mr writter buddy.

    in good old days by now we would have a Mod that would be just an island and 1 mission – escape the island. which by the way is how i love to play crysis.

    as for violence in todays society – my grandma was married to a wife beater she had to live with it.
    my father wasnt the most peacefull man
    i would get slapped across my face if i was troublemaker in school
    if i was a screeming wining kid in a shop people strangers would tem me know that my behaviour was inapropriate.
    and so on

    compare that to todays kids or middle class teens and tell me what real violence are they experiencing
    how are they geting disciplined and what punishment other than you cant play that nasty violent game that will turn you into a rapist and a psychopath, do they ever experience.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I realise that saying “in the good old days, people learned grammar and punctuation” is dickish, so I’m just going to ask whether you’re arguing that the past was better because domestic violence was socially acceptable.

      • davorschwarz says:

        ah i have not mastered typing on mobile devices hence the slopppyness andvi write in couple of languages so i have turned off the selfcorrect suggest features. re domestic violence no what i was woffling on about is that i see no danger of violent games producing mass murderers and deeply disturbed individuals on a mass scale as some of the people debating the issue are implying.

        if anything im saying its opposite – domestic violence i see how that can affect raise in violence
        playing infinite or fc2 jet never beeing even in a danger of getting smacked – give me a break

        • Ernesto25 says:

          I think there point is everything has an impact, violence has always been around in societies but videos game possibly effecting that is an important question to ask. T which i don’t really think it does but reflection is still needed imo.

        • Gap Gen says:

          On my phone I have both French and English installed, and switch between them by pressing a button/swiping the space bar. Worth checking out, especially if your second language is accent-heavy.

          Well, sure, domestic violence *is* violence, so obviously hitting your wife/husband/children/grandparents raises violence rates. I think the criticism of some games is a little more subtle than that – for example, when I say that Battlefield 3′s single-player campaign was hateful bullshit, I’m not worried that it’ll increase violence per se. Rather, I think the authors of the game are presenting a confused, xenophobic view of the war between the US and its allies and militant Islamism. So I hate it because it’s awful in of itself, not because it’ll convince little Jimmy to gun down a classroom.

  30. Mr.Snowy says:

    Man what a pile of self-aggrandising wank.

    The only way that anyone could think that Spec Ops or FC3 has any merit in the story department would be if they had never read a book in their lives.

    Oh, and Bioshock? Average game, weak story, nice visuals.

    Please don’t give any more column space to these self-important purveyors of hot air.

    • Ernesto25 says:

      In its genre bio shock is well above average i assure you on that.

      Edit: Although (not on rps) but other places i have often got the “if you want a good story read a book” which i face palm to.

      • Mr.Snowy says:

        I have played it through and while it was decent shooter I don’t understand the fuss and thought the story contrived and more than a bit stupid.

        Also I am not saying that books > games in all cases, but the ‘stories’ waxed lyrical over in this article were awful, so why on earth are people clapping them on the back just because they are told in a different medium.

        • Ernesto25 says:

          Oh i know you aren’t just recalled that attitude.

          I kind of agree with the story i enjoyed the 1st half much more than the 2nd half. I still like ti because it made me think about the game but the whole SPOILER infinite world angle made it seem pointless.

          SPOILERS!!!! Also didn’t really understand why a baptism out of guilt would change the nature of a man to such a degree. really they could have just gone back to where elizabeth knocked him out and stopped that from happening and escape? I know the city would still be a threat but they have time to warn people and plan etc /ENDSPOILER

          • Widthwood says:

            The importance of baptism scene actually made sense.

            Comstock chose to just throw away his guilt about what he did during the war, and in the end he only changed his ideology but remained the same monster he was.
            Booker on the other hand refused the easy way out of his guilt and chose to live with what he did, changing himself.

            That is, according to the story. Unnecessary mass murder of 1000s of innocent policemen, security guards and separatists during the game’s shooty bits doesn’t fit anywhere, except in the end you kind of “fix” everything you’ve done during the game by reverting the timeline.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I’ve probably read more books than most and I thought Spec Ops had a fabulous story. It wouldn’t work as a novel or a movie, but it integrates perfectly with the gameplay which should be the primary goal of a game’s story imho.

  31. davorschwarz says:

    i see it like this – the problem with Y and Williams is that they might be good story writters but you write a story for a book or a movie and to me games are or should be different.

    if we are going to change the gaming landscape we need to start thinking different about what games are. if gaming realy has matured we should be able to stop mimicing books and movies we need people that can create a fantastic atmosphere wrap it into an amazing experience and not just take you on a ride like books and movies do but rather let you the gamer be the story writter let you write your own story. i think FC2 and FC3 had a good potential there and bioshock is just a fantastic book with tacked on fps elements

    the closest any game got to not beeing a book or movie is the stalker. i know it is based on a book but they truly tried something diferent. you go on a mission you fail thats it ces la vie move on no replay, you didnt feel like finishing the mission you just walk off and a lot more.

    mr y saying that fc3 is statement about the violence as we all realise is such a joke. he clearly never played dishonored. now this is a game that forced me to think about all the killing i did with fantastic mechanic. i did not realise what killing guards does to the city and the fact that now im knee deep in killer rats swarming everywhere to the point that i have to travel on roofs and pipes im reconsidering my actions and am going to start the game over and try not to kill.

    now thats some clever stuff

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I don’t see how Spec Ops or BioShock could exist as anything other than games. The “stories” in both games consisted of deconstructing the way we interact with them.

  32. Buttless Boy says:

    Love ya Nathan, but can we maybe get Cara to interview all the self-important jackasses from now on? I think it might go a little something like this…

    SIJ #1: My game is deep as fuck.
    SIJ #2: I know, right? Your game is awesome. So’s mine.
    CARA: I thought they sucked, but if you guys are gonna make out I’ll get my camera.

  33. Parrot says:

    Well well. Felt like reading an interview with Beavis and Butthead (talking about their new metal album, or dog food, or anything irrelevant).
    Thank you for letting us have a glimpse into the masterbrains of the v-game industry.

    “we should become the new generation of futurists. We are an incredibly intelligent industry.” Yes please! I almost pissed my pants reading this. Absolutely hilarious.

  34. ffordesoon says:

    I’m not a fan of FC3′s narrative at all, and I believe Jeffrey Yohalem is not half as clever as he thinks he is, but I loved this set of interviews. I love that there are writers within the AAA industry trying to put out work as rewarding intellectually as it is viscerally, and I love that they’re willing to talk about that struggle publicly.

    Williams and Yohalem both said many things I don’t agree with at all, and a couple of things I found tremendously frustrating. Yohalem also drifted into pretension annoyingly often. So what? At least both of these dudes are trying to do something meaningful.

    I hope RPS never stops putting out stuff that upsets the “Hipsters are super-lame” crowd.

  35. TCM says:

    There’s pretension, and then there’s deconstructionist writers.

    Similarly, there’s anti-intellectualism, and then there’s internet commenters.

    Lastly, there’s drive-by statements that contribute nothing to what could be a rich debate if people would learn to accept that not everyone thinks about or consumes media in the same way they do, with the same preferences they have, and both writers and consumers are at fault for assuming things about game stories, and then there’s this post.

    • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

      Why do people automatically think deconstruction is automatically good? Several video games have questioned violence in them far, far, far before Spec Ops began mocking the player.

      • Jason Moyer says:

        Care to give some examples?

        • A Boot Stomping a Human Face says:

          Kill.switch was the genesis of third-person cover-based shooters, and the player was a violent thug controlling a meat puppet to start a civil war, so an arms dealer could profit off the carnage. The player gets electrocuted halfway through the game.

          Army of Two: The 40th Day had morality choices that mattered very little in the end, and without the stupid “SO REALISTIC!!” attempts Spec Ops tried at.

          Metal Gear Solid 2 – while the story was a pretentious, brain-hurting pile of crap – did explore violence and player agency a bit better, culminating in the player character defying the expectations of his superiors (computer-generated AI running a simulation to control the populace) and defying the player (he throws off the dogtags that contained the player’s inputted name). And it’s written by Hideo Kojima, he of “NANOMACHINES and ANGRY, BITTER MERCENARIES, and a VILLAIN WHO MAKES BOND VILLAIN LOOK SANE”.

          Also, there was another FPS that was supposed to be a lot like Spec Ops, but it was an unsubtle, glitchy piece of crap – Haze, with the smart moral of “every soldier is a narcissistic, unthinking manchild”.

  36. noplan says:

    If they’re looking at the Hollywood system for inspiration like they mentioned earlier they’d also know that there are thousands of writers competing to get their first scripts to be made into movies. Only one or two get turned into movies that blow us away and are at least partly original every year.

    It’s not two or three mediocre guys (Levine and Dan Hauser come to mind) writing the same junk for every release.

    That alone, should be an indication of how poor the quality of writing and how much junk output there is in the videogame writing industry.

    And anyway they should be looking towards television writers for inspiration on how to hook people in to long form narratives. Hint – something happens in each episode to move the season’s story arc along. I’m sure everyone has a few shows they appreciate and the writing/plotting/dialogue on premium cable is miles above anything you can find in a game.

    These guys are blowing their own dongs. Name dropping their film 100 level inspirations and referencing guys who are more famous than them. Levine as well gives me the impression that he wants to project himself as a guy who is clever and listens to a lot of NPR. No decent artists goes out and explains their own work. Unless it’s a marketing tour. James Joyce (see I can name drop too) never went out and said Finnegan’s Wake is about x,y,z. David Lynch doesn’t say his work is x,y,z. Any decent artist lets the critic and audience figure it out for himself.

    so short version, if you want to make movies now instead of games, at least do it right.

    so please, games industry, spend money, have a decent budget for writing instead of marketing, solicit original scripts to allow for competition, and collaborate with people in tv and hollywood. (though that doesn’t work either, look at dead space written by warren ellis). then maybe you can deservingly blow yourselves for story instead of gameplay

  37. Josh W says:

    I have a recommendation for everyone who’s got grumpy, read this series back without reading Yolahem’s parts. Not to ignore him, but because he’s got far too much of the attention, while Williams has been saying some brilliant things:

    Eg: I would love to see publishers acting like hollywood does with their more trusted stars; with a recognised give and take in how much they intervene creatively in a project. Instead of constantly trying to say that this is a labour of love purely inspired by the developers, and meddling constantly, they could seesaw backwards and forwards, with a kind of “yeah this one is mostly for the cash, it’s approachable and pretty short though” to “here’s this game about a Pilipino man trying to start a rare camel zoo in his local mountainous area” dynamic, although probably less severe.

    This would also allow them to tune their interventions, as they would see what happens when they get involved a lot, and when they don’t, and when developers actually do better when going against things they would normally have discouraged, were they not holding their tongue on this particular game. It could also show them what interventions in a developer’s work are actually more effective, when they really focus on them.

  38. stillwater says:

    If Far Cry 3 really is a notable example of ‘thinking-outside-the-box’ games writing, then the industry is even more brain dead than anyone had feared.

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