The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on April 28th, 2013 at 9:30 am.


Sundays are for retreating to your fortress of solitude as the heroic armies of light make a mess of your empire of darkness. Ah, well, there’s always next week, Lord Evil.

  • Polygon’s profile of the handsome Norwegian adventure-game tsar, Ragnar Tornquist, is worth a read: “It’s about really coming into yourself. About growing up and settling down and becoming who you are meant to be and accepting that. It’s about turning the page and realizing you’re not where you thought you’d be, but be okay with that or to fight against it, make a conscious decision to say, ‘This is not where I’m meant to be.’ It’s about characters who are at a point in their lives where things are changing and they need to change and they need to accept that change.”
  • Edge Online takes a look at MMO “power-gamers”: “When I first started playing Wrath Of The Lich King,” Delise says, “I was a decent-enough player. I took playing the game seriously. At the point at which I quit raiding to focus on PvP, I’d nearly reached the pinnacle of skill possible solely in PvE [player versus environment, the AI monsters and nonhuman systems arranged by the game’s designers to challenge gamers]. The transition from a casual player who takes their play seriously to a ‘powergamer’ was a deliberate one. In time, it became an obsession. At first I wanted to become very good at the game. In time, my only interest was in becoming the best.” THE BEST, GOD DAMNIT.
  • Is Steam Greenlight working? That might be one of the most important questions for PC gaming right now. “How can a game that has been accepted with open arms on one platform be shut out on another? It is truly a fascinating case study. The 3DS audience is more-than-likely very different than the Steam audience, which is one factor for sure. I suppose Steam’s original rejection of Mutant Mudds is somewhat justified now that the community itself has also not accepted the game. Perhaps this means that a game like Mutant Mudds is not suitable for Steam. But, hang on… there are games like VVVVV, Offspring Fling!, Capsized, Beep, Braid, Serious Sam Double D, Super Meat Boy, and even Commander Keen available on Steam right now.”
  • What’s the future for very wide screen gaming? “The great news on the PC front is that by and large our content isn’t created at a predefined aspect ratio and resolution. We can fire up a game and select 3840×2160. If you can’t select it, then an .ini tweak will probably make it available. Will the HUD be positioned properly? Will it be the correct size, or will it be really tiny? These are things that either our community or the developer community can potentially fix. You simply can’t do that with TV or movie content.”
  • Bruce Sterling on design fictions.
  • Have I ever mentioned what a superb site Bldgblog is?
  • True PC Gaming talks to DXHR lead, Jean-François Dugas: “It’s human nature – it’s the same when we work on a game for many years; it comes to a point where you see a feature in the game for 2-3 years every single day, and you start to think the feature is no good; it needs to be revisited or replaced. We’re all subject to this; it’s a trap. That’s what happened with the highlight on the objects, I think. People saw it on the video and thought it was too much. We knew it wasn’t, but we talked about it internally and we knew we’d have time to answer fans’ prayers, so we did, by giving players the option to turn it off.”
  • Michael Cook’s research blog is worth a read.
  • After all of the usual suspects doing their Bioshock Analysis, how about this from a conservative Christian? “So it seems that the game is both better than its critics feared, and worse. It does not wholly eviscerate the Right, or enshrine the Left. It does, however, eviscerate God while attempting to enshrine man as his own redeemer. Rather than a full-throated attack upon American ideals, the game serves as a complex fantasy prescribing an abandonment of faith. Ironic though it may seem, Ayn Rand might have approved.”
  • Forge’s devs on what’s been going on with their PvP game: ” Our first generation of players, the ones who had been with us since beta launch, have become badasses. Just really amazing players. On top of them we also had professional players in our community and they just smacked around any new player who came in to learn the game. It was a massacre. This is especially problematic because we built Forge to be a session-based PvP game that would allow gamers to play for 15 minutes to an hour, have a great time and get out. It’s hard to accomplish this when you are being tooled by 15 hardcore Forge vets. You know it’s a problem when many of the games developers can’t get a kill in.”

Music this week is from the new Haxan Cloak.

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185 Comments »

  1. dangermouse76 says:

    Discover-ability ( ? ) seems to be the issue with Greenlight. I like their idea of expanding into curated stores. let the journalists and eager public do the hard graft of finding great games and holding them in their personal stores.

    Would you use a RPS curated store on steam ? I would, or a Totalbiscuit store. Anyone you have the time for really.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m not totally sure what that would gain me, beyond another thing to remember to check. RPS itself does the job of bringing attention to interesting new things.

      • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

        Agreed. Plus I wouldn’t like RPS doing Valve’s work (their policy is to do their job as curators sloppily and not provide any feedback) and Valve profiting from it. Reviewing games right here gets RPS money through ads and it allows us to decide what distribution channel to pick. (I tend to prefer the one which gives the most money to the dev but if people love Steam they can go for that exclusively.)

      • dangermouse76 says:

        For me I am pretty lazy I basically read this site and 1 or 2 others, centralizing around the steam client would work for me as it keeps recommendations in the one area. So when I am in steam I can check out recommendations of people I respect the opinion of.

        Of course a site might not want their traffic driven away from themselves and to steam, I can understand that.
        And also as Jim states below they may or may not be in a place to be validating the current system ( it’s certainly not perfect ).

        But I am using RPS as an example it could be one of your friends or PCgamer etc etc. I don’t mind digging a little for games, but as a user ( not a developer ) it does feel like work discovering games still.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Doing that would mean endorsing the way Greenlight works, of course. I am not sure that we do that right now.

      • Aaax says:

        Why not have a weekly RPS feature with hand-picked greenlight titles?

      • Red Machine D says:

        How would you change things, then? I feel the current system is fairly decent.

        • emertonom says:

          They don’t appear to have studied other social curation sites at all. Greenlight doesn’t explain its systems terribly well, but as far as I can tell, it gives you a totally unfiltered view of all the submissions, and the only other option is searching for a game you’ve heard of from an outside source. If they were taking a cue from, say, Reddit, then the default view would be for games that are currently “hot,” closest to being greenlighted. If you chose to, you could instead choose to view all games by submission date, or games that have a strong polarizing response, and so forth. Also, games could self-identify into particular subcategories, and could identify more than one category, so that Mutant Mudds could identify itself as, say, a 2d platformer, and as “retro” or “16-bit” in reference to the graphics. Other sorts of categories, like “games which offer a demo,” would also be possible; the whole idea is that the system would be self-organizing, and the community would come up with the sorts of categories it found interesting and relevant. Another important change would be to make the comments more interactive, enabling replies to particular other commenters, allowing conversations to develop, and creating more of a sense of community.

          All these things would make a visit to greenlight much more rewarding. Instead of being greeted by a morass of undifferentiated games, largely of poor quality, you’d be likely to find some games that might be interesting, and might even be able to play some demos. You’d be able to engage with a community of other game fans, and likely the developers as well, and discuss the games. You could see how the discussion around games that interested you developed. It’d be a far superior system. The sorts of external promotions that currently get games greenlighted would still work, but there’d also be a degree of discoverability reinforced by merit, which would make it much easier for small studios to bootstrap.

          (It occurred to me as I was writing this to wonder if there was a subreddit like this already, since external links into greenlight do work, so we could potentially fix this without steam’s help. And there is: /r/greenlightquality/ . It doesn’t seem to have a lot of users yet (about 1k), but I may dive in if it seems worthwhile.)

          • The Random One says:

            I generally agree with your ideas, but a system that by default would show the best-rated games first would be incredibly biased. The default should be the most recently added, because 1) they are by definition the ones most needing votes and less likely to having seen before, and 2) it’s such an utterly useless way to classify games that most people who took Greenlight seriously would see fit to change it to something more fitting to the way they personally want to look at these games.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        That’s fair enough I get that, but extending the idea beyond Greenlight to the steam catalogue in general. Creating curated shop fronts has some legs I think. Again my perspective is , that accessing recommendations quickly from people whose opinions I rate, within the client trumps trampling around the net to different sites and following links.

        Steam could act more like a gaming high-street, shops can be voted up or recommended by others etc.
        I am throwing stuff at a wall here but I think Valve could make this work, whether others ( ie people like yourself ) would want to do it is of course another matter.

      • InternetBatman says:

        That’s a misread of GabeN’s idea, which was basically that Greenlight would go away and all games would be accepted but game journos etc. would have their own stores where they promote games they like and get a cut.

        • lordcooper says:

          “game journos” “promote games” “get a cut”

          Seeing the problem here?

          • InternetBatman says:

            In the long run no, because people would flock to the most credible stores, and credibility could replace ad sales as a websites greatest asset. In the short run, yes.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            You’re giving people (i.e. consumers) way too much credit, InternetBatman. I just can’t see a journo-endorsed sales system having any positive effect, especially in such an advertising-driven marketplace like Steam.

          • Ninja Foodstuff says:

            Why? It’s what I do already, the only difference being I don’t make any money from steam referrals

        • dangermouse76 says:

          @SkittleDiddler
          I don’t prescribe to the ” most consumers are idiots ” idea. EDIT: Or are incapable of making sound informed judgements of their own.

          Over time I feel the signal to noise ratio of good and bad stores fronts would work it’s self out. I don’t believe that it would become a mess of paid for to promote stores.

          Either way and as ever we live in interesting times in the PC space.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I wish I was more optimistic, but I’m a crotchety old man with a background in advertising and psychology, therefore my views on consumer behavior are going to reflect my training and experience. I’m the kind of person that believes behavioral marketing tactics such as targeted advertising should be banned outright, so feel free to take anything I say with a grain of salt.

            At the very least, a journo-endorsed Steam system would be an interesting case study.

    • Text_Fish says:

      “there are games like VVVVV, Offspring Fling!, Capsized, Beep, Braid, Serious Sam Double D, Super Meat Boy, and even Commander Keen available on Steam right now.”

      I think that guy might have summed up the disappointing reaction to his game right there. I know whenever I look through Greenlight I’m generally looking to reward projects that look really unique, and 2D platformers with big pixels are two a penny these days. I guess the problem is that Greenlight voting is often based entirely upon these first impressions, and I imagine the same can be said of the old style Steam submission process as well as they must be regularly inundated with submissions.

      • Shuck says:

        That’s true for games discovered within Steam, but as Jools correctly points out, that’s not how Greenlight works. You can’t get a game advanced through the approval process without a substantial PR effort (which can only be done outside of the Greenlight system). Success in Greenlight is purely a measure of one’s ability to bring a large audience to Steam, and that’s it.

        • Text_Fish says:

          Then his problem isn’t with Greenlight, Valve or Steam.

          • Shuck says:

            Ultimately, that’s true. Though the lack of transparency on Valve’s part obviously bothers him, and that’s continued over to Greenlight as well – it’s unclear what the threshold is for when a game gets accepted under the new system.

    • slerbal says:

      As a former videogames developer I really hate the opaqueness of Steam/Valve.

      They charge the same cut that other platforms do but unlike say Apple they do not curate, and unlike Google Play they put up arbitrary and inconsistent blocks to joining the service.

      Then they introduced Greenlight and allowed games like WarZ to jump past but forced other developers who already had games on Steam to have to use the system which frankly is full of junk and is a popularity contest.

      If it were not for the indie bundles I think the situation would be even more dire. Those bundles are a great way to gain awareness of games, offer a very compelling price and have let me ply some excellent games. I now buy 95% of my games through bundles with only the occasional game such as Arma3 bought through Steam (and always through the developer if I can).

      Short version: Steam is broken, greenlight is a bandaid that doesn’t work.

      Edit: I’ve edited the post down as I think I did a poor job of explaining some of the issues but also I think the comments section is the wrong place to be having this conversation.

      • bigjig says:

        “They charge the same 30% cut that other platforms do but unlike say Apple they do not curate, and unlike Google Play they put up arbitrary and inconsistent blocks to joining the service. Steam do nothing to justify a 30% cut.”

        While I can’t really comment on your personal gripes you’ve got against steam…

        1) Apple doesn’t curate their store half as well as you think they do – otherwise you wouldn’t hear stories of plagiarized games day in, day out, and

        2) Steam puts your game in front of an audience of millions. There’s your justification for the 30% cut. Feel free to try selling your game from your own web site if you don’t think so.

        • slerbal says:

          I did post a longer reply, but I said everything I wanted to say in the original post and briefly forgot that I was on the internet

      • InternetBatman says:

        The idea that Steam doesn’t do anything to deserve its place is patently ridiculous.

        They make multiplayer work. Steamworks makes multiplayer so much easier than other third party solutions, with controls against cheats.
        They provide acceptable DRM.
        They help promote new games.

        These three alone are worth their weight in gold.

      • AngoraFish says:

        Valve/Steam supplies delivery services and integrated patch support for hundreds of games that are on average significantly more bandwidth intensive than the vast majority of apps sold by Apple and Google, by several orders of magnitude.

        Furthermore, this bandwidth is provided for a practically infinite period, years at least, well past the date that any money changes hands.

        Steam is also fairly generous with supplying Steam keys to developers, which is what gives many of these bundles their momentum, and as far as I am aware Steam doesn’t take any kind of cut on the majority of these keys.

        Steam also provides a well-featured, integrated social gaming platform with voice chat, mod support, networking and steam achievements all of which have significant appeal to a large number of gamers.

        • slerbal says:

          Those are all good things, which I have no problem with. What I was specifically commenting on is they opaqueness of their internal processes and the limitations of the Greenlight system. There is no clarity on how they operate and I think that is a real shame. Trying to get answers out of them is difficult for many, many developers.

          For everyone who seems intent on casting me as anti-valve, it isn’t anti someone to request improvements. Valve are not above criticism.

          • lordcooper says:

            “There is no clarity on how they operate”

            If what I’ve read is true, that’s also the case internally. While brilliant for a game developer, I’m starting to see their shortcomings as Lord and Master of PC gaming. They’re still far and away the best option as a consumer (and probably as a developer) though.

          • drewski says:

            I think people are more prepared to accept criticism when it is not filled with blatant untruths.

            You may not think Valve’s services are worth a 30% cut, but claiming Steam “do[es] nothing” to earn that cut is clearly completely false.

            More precise criticsm of Valve’s value for money proposition will likely garner a more positive reactive.

          • Josh W says:

            I think this is why valve are quite wise to be getting out of publishing. There are a whole layer of different tasks expected from a platform builder compared to a creative company:

            You need clarity, expressions of purpose, redress or apology if those standards are not met, basic community policing on your networks, good documentation and faqs, and a certain amount of feature stability, particularly where other people are supposed to build off things.

            Whereas a creative company needs fast iteration, flexibility, a dedication to good internal tools, people expressing their own insights and personality, and the capacity for development to upend itself if some different turns out to be the driver of improvement in the game.

            Messaging, justice, reliability and structure is much more important in the former, actual functional work, expression and features matter more in the latter.

            Interestingly, an mmo business seems to cross these two sides pretty fluidly.

          • RobF says:

            Well, you can always see what you get elsewhere for 30%.

            Apple curation comes at the price of store wide discovery. There is no store wide discovery, since 6.1 you’re reliant on lists and that slight selection, without store wide discovery rising up the ranks to anywhere close to decent sales is , well, let’s say it’s not going to be an easy task for most people anyway. They also don’t have the “come sale with us” that Steam do so forget your chance of a summer sale, a winter sale, a daily deal feature or anything else. They simply do not exist so no discovery then. Fun fact, most people putting an app on the app store don’t make their dev licence money back so… 30% for what, exactly?

            Google Play? The store is shit. You’re paying a small fee to be thrown into a big pond and expected to survive on your own. Most people will fail with that. Most people do fail with that. It’s an uphill struggle for even the most established on there. It’s like the Wild West.

            How about elsewhere? Gamersgate? Desura? Gamefly? All similar splits, right? And what do they do for you for their split? Not.a.lot.

            Further out there? You’ll be lucky to come out with 30% and hope for the best. How about XBLA? Oh, I know, I can’t stop laughing either. Silly XBLA.

            So stacked up against the competition here, stacked up against every single other digital storefront, what do Steam do to get your 30%? Vastly, vastly more than every other solution out there. -Every- one of them.

            I’m sure there’s many issues with how Valve operate Steam but that 30%? Just the eyeballs on the storefront alone compared to every other storefront out there makes the difference there.

      • drewski says:

        If you don’t think the marketing, storefront, distribution, DRM and patching systems Steam offer are worth 30%, don’t put your games on Steam. Pretty simple really.

        That so many people are prepared to pay Valve 30% of the revenue from their titles indicated that your opinion that Steam is broken is a pretty minority one.

        • fish99 says:

          Putting your game on Steam isn’t exactly an endorsement of Valves terms, it’s more like a financial necessity because Steam is such a huge player in the digital marketplace.

      • walldad says:

        This sounds like a nightmare, honestly. It probably sounds like FUD to some, but even as a lowly consumer I see it. Steam support is notoriously capricious, and the forums/community features are a complete mess.

      • Shooop says:

        They put a game in front of a very, very large audience. That’s worth something.

        The problems you’re describing have more to do with technical issues.

        • Emeraude says:

          So, I guess, basically , you could describe Steam as the winOS of the gaming market.

          An apt comparison now that I think of it.

      • Ultra Superior says:

        Greenlight is broken.

    • walldad says:

      Does anyone else think the fact that Greenlight is buried in the still-pretty-bad Steam UI is the first problem, as far as even getting Steam users to use it goes? I suppose the drop-down menus are a start.

      I’m not sure it’s a good idea at all to allow YouTube e-celebs or blogs to pick winners, either. It just makes the selection process even more arbitrary, when the main complaint is that it’s not meritocratic. Oh and of course, these potential curators also have their own reviews and videos to do that with.

      • Dave Toulouse says:

        Yeah the UI ain’t great and the the search results are just a joke. Much like Steam’s store I guess. Seems every games are part of all categories so it’s really hard to find what you’re really interested in if it’s not on the front page. I wonder why they don’t put more efforts into better classification or at least just a better way to search for games.

  2. CobraLad says:

    Greenlight sucks.
    Its sad that Light, amateur russian Unity engine game got greenlighted. I playedit, and its very simple Unity game, where you just seek random items for half a hour on a small level and then you hear that humanity sucks because its do bombs and war footage. And its treats itself like piece of art. Pleasure Dome of Cubla Han is more complex, and its free.
    And this is while Drox Operative, maybe the best ARPG of the last year which made by people, who already got their games on Steam is not yet greenlighted.

    • Red Machine D says:

      Well, it’s generated mostly on user vote, otherwise we’d already have the Doctor Who adventure games on steam instead of having to wait around for Whovians to notice they’re on Greenlight.

      • Caiman says:

        What gets me is that people say it’s a reflection of what Steam users want. I question that. Exactly how many Steam users actually use Greenlight? Reading the comments under Greenlight game submissions, I sure as hell hope the audience doesn’t represent all of Steam users, because holy crap there are some idiots out there. I wouldn’t be surprised if only 5% of Steam users actually use Greenlight regularly. It may be closer to 0.005% actually. Any way of finding these figures out? There is clearly an audience for a game like Mutant Mudds, but dangle it in front of the crowd that is responsible for getting Greenlit games through, and I’m not surprised it gets rejected.

        • slerbal says:

          I’d be interested in knowing that too. I barely ever look at it and neither do any of my friends on Steam.

          I think we go to it specifically for a game that we have heard is on there and think should be approved, but I think I have browsed it once since launch.

        • slerbal says:

          Edit: Double posted for some reason…

        • drewski says:

          I guess the question is, why should Valve spend time and resources vetting games that people can’t even be bothered to use Greenlight to get?

          I don’t use Greenlight either, but I’m perfectly aware that that means I don’t really have much authenticity when it comes to complaining about which games are, and are not, Greenlit. If I really want these games, and gamers like me really want these games, presumably we’ll get off our lazy arses and actually click a button to get them.

          If we can’t be bothered to do that, what exactly are we complaining about? I could probably have vetted 10 games in the time it’s taken me to write this…

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Every other store in the world manages to select it’s own stock, in fact, many take pride in doing so and use it as a selling point.

          • drewski says:

            Lots of stores do lots of things. There’s no particular reason Steam *has* to be like them.

          • Shuck says:

            The problem is that Greenlight is an incredibly lousy tool to browse games and even worse at figuring out anything about the games. I don’t know if it was intentional (I don’t think it was – Valve didn’t think it through very well, given the avoidable problems Greenlight has had), but it works by developers creating a dedicated fan base elsewhere and bringing them to Greeenlight, not by finding promising games in Greenlight itself.

          • Josh W says:

            If someone asks you to do a job, you don’t need to do the job for a few months before you complain that it is a poor job!

            That’s the problem with the “making an effort” argument, anyone can create systems where you have the capacity to avoid problems by a (possibly large) investment of effort, and then suggest that it is your fault for not being willing to do so. This is even worse when they have created those problems.

            To make that more practical again, if I want to encourage new indie talent via steam, I need to search through various websites, find games, and then go back, see if they are on greenlight and vote for them. Then eventually buy them.

            More logically, steam should set up a payment checker that records when people have bought a specific game, and then passes you onto paypal/amazon etc.

            That way I could literally vote with my pounds, with each real purchase of a game encouraging it’s inclusion on steam.

            This way crowds of early adopters, just doing what they do, would pass information onto steam and so the wider public less willing to dig for games.

            Just to be fair, steam should also publically publish this information, so that there isn’t this weird thing of valve gobbling data that loads of people are creating for free, and then making money off it.

            This is still imperfect, in that a lesser known game will have a few months of low exposure before it ramps up to proper sales, but on the other hand that may allow smoother launches.

          • belgand says:

            Precisely. I’ve tried browsing through games I might like before and had just a terrible time trying to get something as simple as a genre-based filtering to work properly. I’ve been so unable to find a game on Steam by searching for it directly by name that Googling for the game, finding the official site, and then using their link to Greenlight was easier.

            Why they still us horrible auto-play videos when the rest of Steam lets you turn such nonsense off is odd as well. It discourages me from opening multiple games in tabs because I’ll have them all screaming at me at the same time. It also overly prioritizes videos over text, which it often tends to bury and hide in a poor interface. Kickstarter isn’t much better with their focus on videos as well, but it’s still easier to separate the useful text out and just read through and get an idea of the game. If it’s badly formatted or designed it’s more likely than not the fault of the developer rather than the platform.

          • RobF says:

            ” If I really want these games, and gamers like me really want these games, presumably we’ll get off our lazy arses and actually click a button to get them.”

            But as a person who writes games there’s only two things I want you to be doing.

            1) I want you to click the buy button.
            2) I want you to want to play the game.

            Anything else is superfluous and unwanted bullshit between me, the game and you. I don’t want any other steps because every step that makes buying more difficult is one more step where someone can go “fuck it, can’t be arsed”.

            Greenlight makes everyone waste their time. You don’t necessarily get the result you want by voting me up, I don’t necessarily get the result I want from you voting me up. Valve don’t necessarily get the results they’d want from people voting.

            And all these things add up to too many points where people who would buy something can’t buy it or can walk away because it’s one or more steps away from just buying and playing the game.

          • drewski says:

            And you have every right to do that, RobF. In any number of ways. But not necessarily on Steam.

            Valve aren’t obligated to give *anyone* access to their platform. They give people who can make a commercial case access – either through the sheer quality of the game, or through the support of the community.

        • Dave Toulouse says:

          Well from the stats I see in my Greenlight page the top 50 games get an average of 82,429 views. If you check Steam’s stats (http://store.steampowered.com/stats/) you’ll see that 4-5 millions concurrent users is not unusual so that probably means there are more users than that.

          So with incomplete stats but setting say total users at 4 millions (even if it’s much high than that) it means about 2% of Steam’s users are checking Greenlight. With complete stats you can say for sure this number is way lower than 2% I guess.

          • RobF says:

            Yeah, it’ll be way lower.

            A large proportion of those recorded will have been sent to specific pages from Twitter/Facebook/developers campaigns or whatever so the number of potential eyeballs within Greenlight will be even smaller still, drastically so I’d bet.

        • Faxmachinen says:

          I did cast my vote on 230 games on greenlight. That being said, greenlight doesn’t represent what the community wants. It represents what the community wants after Valve has filtered out anything they don’t want.

  3. Red Machine D says:

    It seems that Mr Watsham’s criticisms are less about the validity of Steam Greenlight as a platform for exhibition and selection by Steam users, and more about the refusal of Steam users to put his own game on a pedestal. Which, if we’re honest, it doesn’t deserve. There are approximately ten billion “*-bit revival” games on Steam and Greenlight right now, His game does not present or offer anything that hasn’t been done in dozens of other games put out in the last couple of years.

    • MondSemmel says:

      I got Mutant Mudds as part of a 5 platformers for X $ deal on GoG, tried it, and hated it.
      My thoughts then: “Like Oniken, this platformer takes us back to a time when everything was supposedly right in gaming. Yet when you take off your rose-tinted glasses and remember what amazing innovations have occured in the platformer genre (Super Meat Boy is the elephant in the room), most design choices in Mutant Mudds seem anachronistic. Specifically: Absurdly low speed. No checkpoints. These two combined made me hate the game within minutes of starting it. — Why make such a game?”
      So I agree he is probably not in a good position to greenlight it.

      That said, La-Mulana took forever to get greenlit, and it’s now among my all-time favorite games…

      • Jackablade says:

        Hm. I wrote La Mulana off as a knock-off of Spelunky. I suppose maybe I should take a closer look at it.

        • StenL says:

          It came out years before Spelunky and is a Metroidvania, not a Roguelike. What the fuck, man ?

        • I Got Pineapples says:

          Along with Cave Story, Aki Dracula and a couple of other things, it’s part of a parcel of japanese 8-bitish looking freeware games that came out the same that we pretend don’t exist so we can pretend they had nothing to do with the plethora of very similar games that came out roughly a development cycle after the aforementioned were translated into english that make up the first legs of the indie boom.

          Then Phil Fish yells at the Japanese a bit.

          Though La-Mulana was more a love letter to the MSX than anything.

          • Shepardus says:

            What’s this Aki Dracula game? I Googled it but found nothing.

        • Shepardus says:

          La-Mulana is one of Spelunky’s main inspirations. It’s also one of the most incredible games ever made.

          • I Got Pineapples says:

            That would be because I got the title completely wrong.

            What I actually meant there was Akuji The Demon.

          • mihor_fego says:

            Akuji! Man, you just took me to a trip years back! Great game…

          • Shepardus says:

            Many thanks! Looks like a fun game; I’ll give it a try soon.

    • HadToLogin says:

      I think he’s annoyed with Valve’s “f-ck you” he received in response. But, seeing how Valve starts to forget what made them great (have fun looking for greenlighted Black Mesa or No More Room in Hell on Steam), I wonder if they’ll wake up, or they won’t because we’re brainwashed enough…

      • SuffixTreeMonkey says:

        The latter. Look at any Origin-based game review on RPS and check the comments. Even some DRM-free game reviews have comments saying that “No Steam, no sale”.

      • Dominic White says:

        Erm. The reason Black Mesa isn’t on Steam yet isn’t because of Valve apparently backing out on greenlight titles (they PICKED those), but because the Black Mesa team apparently want to wait until it’s fully complete (the current version doesn’t have the rebuild Xen at all) before rolling it out.

    • InternetBatman says:

      His game does the neat foreground background thing, but like you said other games have done it. I own Mutant Mudds. I’ve played it. I love platformers. Mutant Mudds just isn’t that good. It’s a mediocre game, and the PC version has a 60 on Metacritic. Even it’s award winning 3DS version only has an 80, and I bet they were using the foreground tricks in 3D, which is far more impressive.

      There are many legitimate problems with greenlight. A mediocre game maker expressing sour grapes weakens the discussion of these problems.

    • Shuck says:

      Yes, but he also does, along the way, identify how Greenlight works and what’s wrong with it.

  4. Kynrael says:

    Interesting Bioshock Infinite analysis. I gave it a try and was bored by the sudden onslaught of violence, but maybe i’ll give it a second chance.

    • DrScuttles says:

      It really is just a game about shooting lots of people in the face. Sometimes with magic. And more linear than I remember Bioshock to be.

      • Yosharian says:

        It really isn’t just a game about shooting people in the face, it’s a lot more than that.

        • DrScuttles says:

          There’s more meat to it than a straight up corridor manshoot, but comparing it to is predecessors and spiritual forefathers it’s a reductive face shooter with Themes.
          That it’s been so well reviewed speaks more negatively about most AAA FPS games rather than positively about itself.
          Of course, other opinions are available.

          • Yosharian says:

            Sorry, I don’t buy it. Bioshock is just as much of a shooter as Infinite. Infinite’s gameplay is far, far better. And Bioshock’s overrated in a lot of ways. Fuck that ending, for example.

          • DrScuttles says:

            Agreed, Bioshock 1 went downhill immediately after the twist. I think we’ll just disagree on what we took away from Bioshock Infinite.

          • Yosharian says:

            Don’t get me wrong, it’s no system shock 2.

          • Jumwa says:

            I’d comment, but I never made it through the first Bioshock. I found it interesting enough to begin with, but very quickly I just grew bored with the gameplay.

            Endlessly shooting people repetitiously was bad enough, but the mechanics just felt imprecise, unrefined and detached. Like baby’s first FPS.

            The storyline intrigued me, I was very interested to see what appeared — to me at least — as a critique of that sort of Ayn Randian madness, but the gameplay just could not keep me entertained.

          • drewski says:

            I think Infinite is “more than a shooter”; but if you’re not prepared to engage with it *as a shooter* then it’s probably not for you.

            It’s still first, and foremost, about shooting people in the face. It’s just got a lot of other, very interesting, things going on as well.

          • sabrage says:

            Some food for thought: Bobby Kotick amongst the highest-paid CEOs in the country

            Edit: How did this get here? I meant to make a separate thread, but now I look like a villainous spammer.

        • Tacroy says:

          It’s a game about shooting people in the face.

          It’s also a story about the inner of the universe, the nature of love, redemption and consequences and ideology and companionship and spirituality and reality.

          The story is a lot better than the game.

          As Campster says, it’s a book with its pages stuck together – there’s some sweet, delicious plot in there but in order to get at it you have to shoot men in the face.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          Meh, not really. Like the Matrix movies, Infinite (along with the other Bioshock games) tries to present itself as offering a deep philosophical discussion, but only succeeds at high school-level discourse.

          It really is all about shooting people in the face.

          • Triplanetary says:

            Srsly, what a lot of the college students who think The Matrix is deep and philosophical won’t admit is that they wouldn’t have bothered with it if it hadn’t been an action movie – one with quite a lot of well-choreographed action, no less. That, not its themez, is The Matrix’s main strength. Some people just really like the idea that they can be watching a popcorn movie and a Serious Thoughtful Movie at the same time, because they don’t have the attention span for actual Serious Thoughtful Movies.

            I suppose my point is you could argue that the same thing applies to Binfinite.

          • Nick says:

            Which is why they have probably never seen Dark City.

          • Triplanetary says:

            I love Dark City. Many people (such as myself) watched it and, having seen enough other sci-fi as well, realized that there’s hardly a single original thought in The Matrix.

          • Arglebargle says:

            Dark City was some seriously good stuff! And it didn’t follow the usual Hollywood tropes at the end.

            Matrix would have been a bit better had the ijit producers not forced the ‘Use humans for power’ dumbnosity, instead of the original, ‘Use human brains for computational power’ idea that was there originally.

      • mouton says:

        You are going to have a lot of fun with plenty of things, with such approach.

    • aepervius says:

      I am not sure the analyzis is that good, mostly because I disagree with the premise. I think that the sin credo from Christian is the most evil and manipulative credo of all religion I have been acquainted to. *shrug* I guess to each his own.

      • Josh W says:

        I think confucianism probably wins actually, it specifically suggests that the correct posture is to use ritual specifically to inculate guilt and shame in every layer of society, such that people are too internally restricted to break down the social order, and the expected pattern of deference.

        On the other hand, it also suggests that rulers should seek to be virtuous, and seek the highest standards of ethics and consideration for other people, such that their people will love and respect them. And that such a development of virtue is based on a clear investigation of the nature of reality, such that there is clarity of thought and organisation, and not going overboard on anything.

        So there’s definately nice parts of it, but given that people are specifically encouraged to manipulate people into feeling ashamed if they step outside of the social order, within it’s core texts (although limited details are given of how to actually do it) it probably wins the manipulativeness competition.

        • Emeraude says:

          You might be interested in checking Ogyū Sorai’s work if you haven’t already.

          I personally found them interesting on the practical side of Confucianist manipulation.

          “it probably wins the manipulativeness competition.”

          I’d say not at all, it lost as soon as it made the process consciously defined to some.
          Other moral systems don’t do otherwise as far as manipulation is concerned, they just process in such a way that every participant in the conditioning, even, and especially, the ritually delegated enforcers, isn’t conscious of the manipulation while being the very first victim of it.

          • Josh W says:

            Oooh that’s clever! But I do think that if someone builds a manipulative religion on say “ultimate freedom”, then there can come a point where content fights structure: “If we want to free people from the limits of x, why do we accept these limits, we should push it further”

            Not to be too harsh to catholic people, it might be that this is what happened in some areas during the reformation; inspiration from what was supposed to be going on overwhelmed the existing structure of ritual and status.

            Haven’t come across Ogyū Sorai, but really should have. His stuff sounds fascinating!

    • Tacroy says:

      Ugh that analysis just reminded me why I don’t read Christian stuff on the Internet any more.

      I mean, just look at this:

      Christianity stands unique among worldviews in not only acknowledging our congenital moral defect, but also in explaining how we contracted it while offering a cure.

      Really. Christianity is the only worldview that acknowledges this, explains where it came from, and tells us how to stop being idiots. So Buddhism, with its noble eightfold path to enlightenment, doesn’t? Confucianism doesn’t? Literally every other religion ever doesn’t? (Well okay maybe Judaism doesn’t, their God is kind of a laissez-faire troll)

      It’s just enraging. The only basis that Christians have for making that claim (which is a very common one) is that they think they’re the ones who invented the idea of sin – that is, the idea that mortal can transgress against God, which is in itself kinda dumb – so therefore nobody else has ever thought “oh hey maybe humans are flawed”.

      Good grief. The way they can put their ignorance on a banner and wave it in your face within the first few paragraphs just makes it impossible for me to read any of the stuff they write, even if it’s good.

      • Triplanetary says:

        Christianity stands unique among worldviews in not only acknowledging our congenital moral defect, but also in explaining how we contracted it while offering a cure.

        Ha, I’ve heard claims like these, mainly from dumbass Baptist preachers with a degree in “ministry” or something like that. (EDIT: I just remembered that my mom’s preacher has an honorary degree in ministry, which is hilarious.)

        At any rate, PJ Media is a real powerhouse of unintelligent conservative Christian “thought.” I don’t really know why RPS thought it worthy of putting up here. I’m fine with different viewpoints, but not all viewpoints are created equal, and this one brings nothing to the discussion except an opportunity to observe how inane PJ Media is.

      • Shuck says:

        I’ve read quotes like that before – you’re reading it too broadly. What they really mean is that Christianity is the only worldview that encapsulates the tenets of Christianity. Which is, indeed, ridiculously, pointlessly circular.

      • c-Row says:

        Any religion that claims to be “the best” or “the only right” makes me highly suspicious.

    • rockman29 says:

      I’d rather just avoid a website/author devoted to defending objectivist filth… poor article imo.

  5. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I think the problem with objective highlights in HR was that at some point I realised that I wasn’t actually playing the game or engaging with the world; I was just chasing down all the flashing arrows.

    Maybe they do add to the “smoothness” of the experience, but I remain unconvinced.

    • Roxton says:

      Absolutely agree. Maybe it’s just my 100% completionist mind-set or some other mental quirk, but whenever there are things like highlighted objective markers or % complete HUDs I almost instantly switch to “hunt the shiny” mode and stop engaging in any real way.

      • Yosharian says:

        Yes, exactly. I’m surprised the devs don’t realise that.

      • thegooseking says:

        I just don’t see how that inevitably leads to disengagement, though engagement is a slippery thing, and what you mean by it is probably not what I mean by it, which is in turn probably not what someone else means by it.

        I guess the two relevant factors of engagement here are attentional focus and transportation (or ‘presence’). The other factors aren’t so relevant. I don’t agree with the charge that it diminishes transportation, since it turns out our brains are very good at interpreting stylistically nonrealistic scenes as potentially real places.

        The charge that it diminishes attentional focus is more reasonable (and the one it sounds like you’re getting at), but it’s not so accurate to say that it diminishes it so much as it divides it – the entire attention is still on the game as a holistic artefact, just on different aspects. Engaging with another part of the game cannot by any reasonable definition be called disengagement.

        But I think the real problem with object highlighting has nothing to do with engagement; it’s simply that it increases the pace of the game in a way that Deus Ex’s pace is not supposed to be increased. Deus Ex is supposed to be slow-paced, supposed to be about taking the time to look around and investigate. Object highlighting offers a shortcut that skips over that core element of gameplay.

        • Roxton says:

          Oh, I’m sure it’s not inevitable – at least not for everyone. I personally find it very distracting, and it seems that some others do as well. However, obviously this doesn’t apply to everyone.

          Re. the ability of the brain to cope with a stylised rendering of an environment, I completely agree, and that’s kind of my point. Let’s forget DXHR for a moment and think about Dishonoured. Before I got the magic see-through-walls ability I would carefully examine the environment around me for goodies and ammo to loot, checking lockers and drawers and so on even if they were probably empty. Once I had the upgrade I could instantly see where everything was without having to explore, and my engagement dropped dramatically because instead of “dresser/bureaux/bookshelf” I saw “glowing loot/empty/empty”. I was no longer immersed in the world in the same way because I wasn’t seeing it as a world any more, but rather a series of shinies. (I’m well aware that says as much about me as it does the game).

          Now let’s bring that back into DXHR. The problem here wasn’t as acute as it wouldn’t show you shinies through walls, but the effect was similar. Before I saw “an office – let’s have a look on the desk and see if there’s anything I can use – check the bookcase too – hmm wonder if there’s something in the bin.” With the highlight on it was instead “shiny there, shiny there, check drawer, shiny there, ok that’s it next room.”

          The same applies to usable objects like diaries and computers and so on. A large part of immersion is learning how the world works, and part of that is learning to recognise the subtle visual cues that tell you that you can use this screen but not that one, or that you can read e-books but not use telephones. After a while you know instinctively what you can and can’t do, but the time spent examining inert objects has lead you into a sense of greater familiarity with the world – you feel as though you know it well. When things just glow orange and you never have to work out what to do or where to go you lose the build-up to that knowledge and immersion – and engagement – suffer. As you said, “Object highlighting offers a shortcut that skips over that core element of gameplay.”

          tl;dr: I think we’re in agreement.

      • MarcP says:

        “Maybe it’s just my 100% completionist mind-set or some other mental quirk”

        No doubt you’re not alone, but it’s not something universally shared. I’ve never felt that need to chase the shiny, explore everything, collect everything. I like HUD hints, be it object or objective highlights. It lets me wander around and do my thing without ending up hopelessly lost, and it avoids tedious “find the right pixel” (or its modern equivalent, “move into the press E to use prompt spot”) situations.

        It’s always a bit baffling to see commenters in Minecraft LPs complaining about the caster not mining every single coal or iron ore block. The perspective is so alien to me I often forget it exists. Perhaps some developers are in the same boat.

        Removing such features entirely would kind of suck for people like me. Having optional highlights seems about as good as a middle point you can find.

        • Roxton says:

          That’s the thing, isn’t it: it’s different for different people, and I thoroughly agree that optional markers and the like are probably the best compromise. The only thing I’d add is that ideally the game would be developed without those markers, and they would be added in afterwards. Otherwise you run the risk of developing a world which is frustratingly difficult to navigate without the markers.

          A rather extreme example: Thief 1/2 vs. Thief 3. In the first two you learnt what was lootable and what wasn’t by trial and error and coming to recognise certain characteristics – e.g. “It’s gold!”. This built immersion and meant that even if they had included an option to have the darkness punctuated by shiny outlines everywhere a player could play perfectly well with it turned off. Thief 3 however relied entirely on its glowing blue outlines to designate loot, with no option to turn it off. Many people (myself included) found that the atmosphere of the game was rather impaired by every coin looking as though it were haunted and found a way to disable it in the .ini. Having done that, however, it was almost impossible to know what was and wasn’t loot short of picking up every single item in the game because there were no visual cues except the glow.

          • Triplanetary says:

            People complain about this in Skyrim a lot. And I agree with those complaints. Many quests are impossible to follow without the quest markers; neither the dialogue nor the quest journal nor anything in the environment will help you out. I really wish Skyrim had been developed without quest markers and then had them added as an option (or not at all, for all I care).

    • Low Life says:

      Do note that the discussion in the article is not about objective, but object highlighting (like, ladders being orange). Objective markers are quite a terrible thing and every game should have an option to disable them (fortunately, DX:HR does have that).

      As for the object highlighting in DX:HR, I thought it fits the world but I still prefer having it disabled. I like running around rooms to find the interactable objects instead of seeing them all the moment I step through the door.

      • Yosharian says:

        The way Bioshock and its sequels does this is perfect IMO. Interactive objects ‘glint’, so they’re still fairly hard to spot if you’re just Quaking it through the game, but if you stop to stare carefully at a room, you can spot them without too much time wasting.

        DE:HR’s object outline is far too intrusive by comparison.

        • Low Life says:

          That’s true, a less intrusive highlighting would be nice. I’ve actually always had object hightlighting enabled in Bioshock games, maybe that’s the difference.

      • WrenBoy says:

        Talk about your reaction to the fan reception from initial gameplay footage which displayed an overabundance of highlighted objects and quest markers.

        If you re-read the question I think you will see he was asked about both.

        Speaking about games in general, I dont think the problem is solved by having an option to turn off quest markers either. If the game is designed to be played with quest markers then it wont include enough information for you play the game without it so turning them off will frequently be frustrating.

        • Reiver says:

          Yeah this is a big problem. I especially noticed it in Dishonored where turning off the highlights made completing some quests and sub quests rather difficult. Same with Oblivion and Skyrim. I don’t remember it being such a problem in DXHR though.

          • cowardly says:

            I didn’t notice that in Dishonoured at all, and I played through it with all indicators off. I guess it depends on how you play, but I find that in the more constrained environment of Dishonoured, it was easier to explore everything, and so people who have a mildly obsessive compulsion to see it all and pick up all the shinies could easily do so without indicators.

            I can’t really comment on DXHR, as I haven’t played it (yet), but in terms of a game that did highlights well (IMHO), Mirror’s Edge comes to mind. The colour design was just spot on, and really helped make the game flow, I found. In fact, the entire game (if one pretends the shooty bits didn’t exist) had an excellent pace to it, which even manage to counteract my magpie tendencies and made me ignore all the shiny things in my general focus on continuous movement.

          • Reiver says:

            There were a couple of times that you were given a mission with no explanation of where the objective was. It wasn’t so boggling i had to turn the hints on but it meant that i had to break my stealthy route to explore and ID the location then reload. Not terrible in itself but all for want of a properly written objective description or dialogue. It’s a minor oversight but still felt a little sloppy.

          • WrenBoy says:

            DXHR and to a lesser extent, Dishonored, are quite linear though so the problem is less pronounced.

            Skyrim, on the other hand, probably had the worst mission design I have ever seen in terms of its absolute reliance on mission markers.

          • KenTWOu says:

            @cowardly says:

            I didn’t notice that in Dishonoured at all, and I played through it with all indicators off.

            Next time try to hide Captain Curnow’s unconscious body without indicators.

          • Thiefsie says:

            Holy shit hiding Captain Curnow’s body made me furious… I tried countless bins until I realised it will be the bloody objective marker to fix that. What a fucking preposterous requirement for it to be a particular bin, rather than ‘one outside’ or to the east, let alone any godamned bin. Argh that made me fucking angry for such an otherwise pleasant game upto that point.

        • Low Life says:

          You are correct, I missed that. I’ll defend myself by noting that the answer seemed to concentrate on the object highlighting (which caused a silly shitstorm when the first gameplay footage was released).

          • sabrage says:

            A “silly shitstorm” that mended an issue that otherwise would have gone unnoticed.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The problem I found before the dialogue drove me away was that the game had been designed with object highlights in mind, so spotting interactable things amongst all the detritus when everything is so modern and indistinctly dreary was a substantial amount of faff. It wasn’t exploritary reward, it was “scrutinize all of these piles of things to see if you can spot that specific kind of thing in it”.

        (See also: trying to do a stealth run without using the cover system, because they designed it such that you would.)

        • KenTWOu says:

          The problem I found before the dialogue drove me away was that the game had been designed with object highlights in mind…

          I don’t think so. I’ve played DXHR without that highlighting, didn’t have any issues at all, because they made objects design distinctive enough. Unfortunately, can’t say the same about cover system.

    • Lacessit says:

      I only played DXHR in Give me Deus Ex-mode (which is funny because I never played the original) I never saw any highlighted stuff. I can’t really see how the game would’ve been improved by it, it would most definitely have killed a lot of the tension of finding my own way. So I can’t say I agree with the devs POV that it really had to be played that way.

      Also, am I the only one to have serious issues with DXHR as a ‘modern classic’? The gameplay was good, but storywise it REALLY fell well short of what I expect a classic to be.

      • Yosharian says:

        Oh yeah, totally agree. Game is pretty overrated actually, aug system is terrible (Hobson’s Choice), story is terrible, endings were terrible, plot is terrible (I wanted to kill Megan Reed myself by the end), characters were forgettable, boring, 2-dimensional.

        But it’s Deus Ex, so it’s still a million times better than most of the other crap out there.

        I actually felt the DLC mission they released was quite a bit better than most of the main game =p

        • LionsPhil says:

          Hobson’s Choice

          Hunh. Who says gaming discussion isn’t educational?

          Even if it sounds like a rather delicious brand of biscuits.

          • Yosharian says:

            I stole it from a PC Gamer (or was it Edge? can’t remember) review, they mentioned it, I looked it up. It’s quite cute, describes perfectly the problems that the aug system has.

          • Henson says:

            Pretty good movie, too.

          • slerbal says:

            Heh, it made me think of “Hobb’s End” the HP Lovecraft / Stephen King village in the terrible-but-awesome film “In The Mouth of Madness”.

            I’m guessing Hobson’s Choice has nothing to do with tentacular horror or the end of the world? :D

          • drewski says:

            Destructoid is the source of the Hobson’s Choice reference, according to my good friend Google.

        • NothingFunny says:

          You should really put that in perspective, compared to the stale ‘safe’ AAA gamedesign it was a big step forward in a right direction. It left a lot to be desired, but it offered a lot as well.

    • Yosharian says:

      Very disingenuous of him to say this “In the end, a lot of the players who voiced their concerns about that feature admitted playing the game with the highlights on. It wasn’t breaking the immersion, for them; it was actually adding to the smoothness of the experience. Funny, isn’t it?”

      I hate developers sometimes.

      • thegooseking says:

        What’s disingenuous about that? That is a thing that happened.

        • Yosharian says:

          He knows full well there are a LOT of players out there who were very happy to have the option to turn off all the intrusive HUD stuff, and he’s trying to pass it off like: ‘it was only a minor group and most of them played with the HUD on anyway!!!111′. He’s dismissing a very important issue, and bigging himself up in the process. It’s PR bullshit.

          • thegooseking says:

            No, what’s happening here is that you are dismissing the people who actually did have that response as some minor group.

            Edit: Uhh, perhaps that was too aggressive. I just think you’re reading too much into it. I don’t think the point he was trying to make was that the people who still disliked it didn’t have valid opinions, but that the people who made premature judgements about it were just that, premature.

          • Yosharian says:

            Of course they are a minor group, a couple of people on the forums say they turned the HUD on anyway, that’s not evidence that ‘a lot’ of the people who asked for the ability to turn off HUD elements played with it on anyway. He is being dishonest in an attempt to play down the issue of the intrusive HUD, and you are defending him. End of discussion.

          • cowardly says:

            Might I suggest that it’s selective bias on both parts, rather than disingenousness? You dislike instrusive HUDs (as do I), so you tend to notice and agree with those who crticise them, and maybe not so much for others. He approves of his own design to a large extent, so my seek reassurances in that aspect.

            Plus, it could also be a case of testers actually being postive about the HUD elements because of what was mentioned higher up : that games that were designer to have indicators don’t necessarily play as well without them (become tedious, or other such things).

            What I mean is : I agree with you that intrusive HUDs are a pox, but I don’t see that he was being disingenuous or expressing “PR bullshit”, but rather trying to be positive about his own game, and defending his own position. Being agressive or insulting tends to be an inefficient way of getting people to take you seriously, as does dismissing them offhand.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @cowardly
            Very much this.

          • The Random One says:

            I got your point, Yossarian. It’d be like Ken Levine adding an achievement for playing through Binfinite without killing anyone, without changing anything else in the game, then said that people who complained it’s a violent shooter ended up killing a lot of people in their playthroughs anyway.

            The players aren’t failing to keep up to the standards they set for themselves. The devs are failing to provide a way for the players to play the way they want.

            If I had a dime for each game I’ve played where devs used highlights instead of good game design, I’d buy a lot more games.

      • TreuloseTomate says:

        That’s how most game developers think. If the player doesn’t constantly make progress there must be something wrong with the game. It’s the same reason why Portal 2′s gameplay is so much simpler than Portal’s. Playtesters getting stuck on one puzzle for more than 10 seconds? Better add more subtle hints, arrows, plates and stuff.

        • Yosharian says:

          Uhhh I can’t say I agree with you there, I found Portal 2 to be just as challenging as the original. Portal 2 has some problems, but dumbing down on the puzzles is not it. In fact, it’s amazing that they were able to come up with so many new ideas for the puzzles, considering.

          • LionsPhil says:

            A lot, but not all, of Portal 2 really does prod you very hard in how to solve a puzzle. In many cases it’s “click on the only part of the wall that’s portalable”. I think I only got truly stuck once, and while I can’t remember how I think I was overcomplicating a solution because despite scouring the room I’d managed to miss that I could put a portal in a particular place or such.

            Half of that I’d lay at the steps of P2 wanting to tell a tale and take you through a guided tour of some scenery, though.

            (The real difficulty slash, though, was the one for fast, accurate aiming. Nothing like P1′s series of “steps” you had to repeatedly re-fire at while twisting in midair to “climb” up. Personally, more to my taste that way.)

          • Reiver says:

            While Portal 2 did occasionally stump me it did feel a lot more prescribed in its solutions. I don’t really feel like i went off the beaten track and bodged a solution due to relatively limited interactivity. It seemed more a case of find what the devs wanted you to do rather than find a solution (however ugly).

          • Yosharian says:

            Hm, ok I see what you mean, yeah I suppose there are elements of that. You’re always going to have a certain amount of that happening though, what with the portal gun only working on flat surfaces, and Portal 2 being set in a non-test chamber environment a lot of the time. But yeah, I agree that perhaps it happens a little more often.

            I just don’t agree that it constitutes ‘dumbing down’ of the puzzles, it’s more of a design problem.

          • KenTWOu says:

            @Yosharian
            It seems like you didn’t notice that even Portal 2 white walls have special mosaic tiles to explain you where you should create next portal to solve puzzle faster. Just one example.

        • Sander Bos says:

          I still haven’t finished Portal 2 (in part because I just don’t like it), I think it’s a very hard game, occasionally I go back to it and try a few more levels (and have looked at walkthroughs about 3 times already). Meanwhile, I finished Portal 1 in 2 sessions without any outside help. Where are those hints you speak of? I want hints…

      • NothingFunny says:

        I simply HAD to turn on the hi-lighting because there is so much clutter everywhere it becomes hard to spot the pickable objects and it feels like playing an annoying pixel-hunting\hidden object game.
        It could’ve been done better with more subtle but still prominent visual distinction of pickups and interactive objects.

        • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

          Same here. I fully intended to play with both highlighting and objective markes off, but it quickly became clear to me that the game had been designed with those in mind and playing without them was just annoying, since there was often no information in the game of where stuff were.

          What infuriated me even more was that if highlighting was turned off, objects wouldn’t highlight even if you aimed at them, the game only showed the use icon. That made locating the one interactive drawer in a big cabinet a huge chore. The original DX had an excellent system: Highlight stuff the player looks directly at from a certain distance.

          So yeah, it’s nice that they put in the option as a response to fan feedback, but the basic problem remained unsolved.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Why not have a key that highlights objects that can be interacted with when pressed? Neverwinter Nights did that 10 years ago and it was great.

    • Emeraude says:

      Engaging is the operative word here I guess.

      There is this problem here with modern game design where *everything* has to be immediately intelligible and knowable, and it is diminishing the experiences offered overall.
      Slowing down players, confounding them and forcing them to actually engage in the game’s mechanics and story , to decipher by themselves the processes and meanings is now considered inherently bad.

      Basically, what modern game design is doing is analogue to taking all movies an give them the Blade Runner voice over treatment.

      Arguably, the current model makes for overall better products, but severely limits, if not destroy altogether the possibility of good oeuvres to reach the mass market.

      (On another notice, I’m quite puzzled seeing Portal – a piece of software I generally describe as “The over-extended tutorial to a game that was never made” – described as hard. But then, on the opposite, I don’t understand people saying Antichamber was *too* hard, when it was in my opinion so beautifully designed to make you *engage* with its mechanics while short enough to not overcome its stay.)

      • sabrage says:

        I’m going to have to go with David Lynch’s Dune over Blade Runner in the “overbearing voice-over” department. For all the issues I have with Dune, Kyle MacLachlan’s voice is permanently etched into my brain in the worst way.

  6. AlwaysRight says:

    Jim Rossignol – Walt Whitmanic

    Love it. And well done on ‘Sir’ sir, It looks amazing.

  7. daphne says:

    Music this week should really have been the symphonic EVE Online OST. I expected as much from you, Jim!

    • Emeraude says:

      This just reinforce my opinion that orchestral music is generally so inferior as to be a waste of resource.

      I’ll never get the love for it.

      To each his own I guess.

      • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

        I often feel that game and film music seldom utilize the orchestra in a meaningful way and sound way inferior to the old classics that sprung out of centuries of development of the form, but would say that this piece is one of the exceptions.

  8. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    I don’t know how old this is, but it’s been starting to really get to me lately.

    I’d just like to say, the ‘Outbrain’ advertisement links are really horrendous and quite intrusive.

    They take away from what is otherwise a good site.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      They were gone for a while, and there was rejoicing. Now they’re back, but it seems like they’re less offensive this time, though still as pointless.

      • Corrupt_Tiki says:

        Well, considering mine are, “Jeweller punches man in face” and “Jennifer Lawrence Nude in body paint”, yeah I’d say that’s a tad offensive.

        And subtracts from this websites reputation (In my eyes at least)

        Maybe adblock will have to go back on.

        • AngoraFish says:

          Absolutely horrible, and completely counter to the RPS feminist campaign.

          I literally don’t think I’ve ever seen a version without Jennifer Lawrence in nude body paint, and Kim Kardashian’s arse makes a disturbingly regular appearance. These link-bait articles are jarring and hypocritical.

          …not to mention the persistent necroing of RPS articles from 2007, which is also somewhat disconcerting.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Mine seem to be links to stories that are themselves harmless enough but are advertised with sleazy images of various female body parts, for instance a link to what appears to be a story on french bus drivers threatening strike action is advertised with an image of a womans bum.

          • Shooop says:

            RPS doesn’t have any control over what ads they run. One of the editors said that already, and the only thing they can do is wait until someone reports an ad that’s offensive and they can then remove it.

            Get proactive, contact the staff when you see an offensive ad. If they don’t do anything about then complain.

          • Josh W says:

            The problem is that this particular ad system is consistently offensive and rubbish, and does not clearly mark itself as an ad, distinct from the content of the website itself. The seemingly random use of old rps articles seems like an attempt to claim some kind of thematic or valuable link, not just

            “ok so you looked at that, now look at this”.

            RPS doesn’t have any popups, nor does it have page blanking intro ads, nor does it have paid for feature articles. This seems like another category of bad advertising ideas that they should avoid.

        • slerbal says:

          I turned adblock on for that section, but I make sure to keep it off for the rest of RPS and to make sure they get their ad money I dutifully click on any ads that are not offensive and see what they have to offer. Sadly, not one has convinced me to part with cash, so I hope they are not being paid per sale.

          I’m not a fan of advertising but I make an exception for sites like RPS because the site and writers are awesome and they need that money to keep them fed, though they deserve so much more.

          So maybe see if you can block that section rather than the whole lot?

        • Rikard Peterson says:

          Oh, then I was mistaken, and I’ve just been lucky for a while. I’ve not seen any nude thing since the brief absence of the Outbrain, which was why I thought it had improved. (I’m seeing ads for tech sites – uninteresting and slightly annoying, but not actively offensive as the things I’ve seen there before, or those that you mention.)

        • ceriphim says:

          Turning JS off on my iPad removed the Outbrain stuff but also gimps some website features… I’d be willing to subscribe if it removed all that annoying shit.

          I’ve found that Adblock, NoScript, and Ghostery make most browsing experiences pleasant enough as long as you’re willing to fiddle with them initially (Slate especially is a nightmare to get the comments working w/out getting blasted by beacons and cookies)

    • InternetBatman says:

      I’m not a fan of them either. Maybe they could have another game advertisement in that space. I don’t mind the size and shape of the ads, but the content is just offensive even if it is “individualized”. Yes, I look at porn on my computer. No, I don’t want softcore porn when I go to RPS.

      • slerbal says:

        A request for only appropriate, game-related advertising seems like a good thing to me and probably a sounder advertising policy. I’m never going to click on a non-game advert as it isn’t relevant to my interests or the site.

    • Bugamn says:

      Personally, I don’t block ads on my computer, just flash and scripts and I see that I already get a pleasanter internet. The outbrain is blocked on my computer and from what I’ve seen on other computers I won’t be unblocking it soon.

    • drewski says:

      I subscribed to RPS long ago, so I don’t feel too bad about blocking ads, but I’m pretty happy I get to avoid the Outbrain crap. What a disgusting service it is.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      Oh, I took a look at the RPS forum (which I don’t usually frequent), and found this thread: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?10256-Ads-on-the-site-lately

      You can find more info there, including a response from RPS.

  9. Text_Fish says:

    “there are games like VVVVV, Offspring Fling!, Capsized, Beep, Braid, Serious Sam Double D, Super Meat Boy, and even Commander Keen available on Steam right now.”

    I think that guy might have summed up the disappointing reaction to his game right there. I know whenever I look through Greenlight I’m generally looking to reward projects that look really unique, and 2D platformers with big pixels are two a penny these days. I guess the problem is that Greenlight voting is often based entirely upon these first impressions, and I imagine the same can be said of the old style Steam submission process as well as they must be regularly inundated with submissions.

  10. Reapy says:

    For the power gaming article, while I enjoy playing a game competitively and figuring things out, I don’t personally find as much value in gear and time grind oriented gameplay. Either someone has better gear than you and that advantage can be fun to try to overcome, it spoils the competition. Same with someone with less than yourself, there is no joy in victory.

    At my age with a family I prefer a game where players are all on equal footing and learning to use what you have better than others is the key. Not time in, luck of drops, or number of people backing you. Not that this style of competition is bad, or one better than the other, just, the former allows competitive play without life destroying sacrifices to be good.

  11. tomeoftom says:

    Sir on BLDGBLOG! Strewth.

    • j3w3l says:

      an amazing collection of often obscure yet fascinating pieces of architecture, both natural and man mad.

      I recommend reading with a bottle of read in a comfy chair

  12. Strangerator says:

    Object highlights:
    The original Deus Ex was really great in terms of hiding things and encouraging exploration. There were varying degrees of “hiddenness.” There was even a secret switch inside the tutorial level that congratulated you for your investigative skills. Finding hidden areas granted bonus experience points (exploration bonus!) along with the expected material rewards. And within the context of Deus Ex, this is an absolutely thematically appropriate way to play the game. The whole game was about questioning everything, uncovering conspiracies, and things hidden in plain sight. I’d have to say, that’s what I think many people loved about Deus Ex’s exploration system. It was completely unapologetic about saying, “taking your time and exploring everywhere is the CORRECT way to play the game.”

    Modern games diminish the incentive for exploration in a couple ways. First, they reduce the intrinsic rewards of exploration (i.e. joy of discovery) by trivializing the effort needed to find things. It’s hard to feel satisfied with one’s self if everything is highlighted or made extremely obvious. Second, they minimize the extrinsic game rewards (i.e. exp, unique items, etc) that can be obtained by exploring in the least obvious of places. They might toss you an extra health pack or some stupid “collectible”, but usually there aren’t very valuable items to be had. By comparison, in the original Deus Ex you could find limited items like gun mods if you really poked around in even the first area.

    The ever popular counter-argument for the reduction of in-game rewards for exploring is, “If you really just like exploration, shouldn’t you be happy with finding all 50 fluff items hidden throughout the game?” Usually the people who make this argument simply can’t be bothered to explore, and the idea of hiding something actually valuable in the game-world’s context threatens them in some unspeakable way. But this would be like arguing that no rewards should be given for combat in a game because, “don’t you just like fighting?” There’s this sort of prejudice against exploration as a valid form of gameplay, where the games tell you, “hey, we let you indulge in this silly compulsion of yours, what more do you really want?”

    I guess what disturbs me the most is the reasons the changes are being made. They communicate that a certain mode of play is no longer valued by designers (slow exploration), or if the designer does value it, his name is probably Jonathan Blow. It’s as if somehow “exploring the environment” is no longer a valid gameplay mechanic. Apologists for modern AAA games will swear up and down that games have gotten objectively better, but if so than how come they cater to fewer types of players? Deus Ex was an exploration game first, and exploring helped the player in both combat and stealth. In combat, players who explored would have better material assets while stealth players who explored would find all manner of hidden ductworks (sometimes fairly well hidden I’ll add).

    Most “hidden” content in games today are merely token gestures, and either offer very little real feeling of discovery or otherwise offer very little in terms of in-game reward. I can only speculate as to why this has happened, but it probably has to do with catering to the lowest common denominator who would bray loudly if “all the good things” in the game were not conferred to them in the most obvious manner possible.

    • Mman says:

      “The ever popular counter-argument for the reduction of in-game rewards for exploring is, “If you really just like exploration, shouldn’t you be happy with finding all 50 fluff items hidden throughout the game?” Usually the people who make this argument simply can’t be bothered to explore, and the idea of hiding something actually valuable in the game-world’s context threatens them in some unspeakable way. But this would be like arguing that no rewards should be given for combat in a game because, “don’t you just like fighting?” There’s this sort of prejudice against exploration as a valid form of gameplay, where the games tell you, “hey, we let you indulge in this silly compulsion of yours, what more do you really want?”

      Nailed it. There are still some games that get it right (like Demon/Dark souls) but the fundamental problem with how most modern games handle exploration is that the developers literally don’t seem to understand how it can be a valid type of gameplay in it’s own right. So they just treat it as a bit of OCD achievement fodder rather than a mechanic that is threaded through the whole design of the game.

    • Vorphalack says:

      I think console hardware limitations has some part to play in the diminished role of exploration. Less RAM means smaller levels, which in turn means fewer alternative routes and less places to hide things. Perfect example, going from Thief 2 into Thief 3 and having the level size roughly cut down by 2/3rds. It will be interesting to see if the next gen consoles change that. I have a suspicion that there will be a few years of brain lag while developers rediscover how to use all the extra space they can generate, and hopefully developers will want to generate larger spaces instead of just cramming the same tiered corridors with more graphics.

      • Mman says:

        That’s a good point and the amount of RAM in next-gen consoles is the main thing I’m excited about for exactly that reason; while the average PC will no doubt outstrip next-gen RAM numbers in no time, this is still basically the first time consoles have had an actually acceptable amount of RAM, and it opens up a ton of possibilities (even if most will probably squander it).

    • bill says:

      Well put.

      I have no problem with things like object highlights in some games.
      I have no real problem with game designers who want to add things like that for a good reason.

      But it’s worrying when game designers seem to have no understanding of the impact on the game or appreciation of the benefits/appeal of actually exploring.
      I am the strongest opponent of wasting time in games – my time is limited and valuable to me. But their opinion of what is wasting time and mine seem to differ at times.

  13. Pace says:

    Ahem, it’s either damn it, or dammit, not damnit! Really!
    Sorry, just a little personal crusade of mine.

    • cptgone says:

      you should demand indamnification!

    • The Random One says:

      I’ve seen damnit before, but now that you bring my attention to it, it sounds more like an insult that’s a mixture of dimwit and nitpick. Like what you call someone who nitpicks stupid things.

      “So, like they say the car is ten years old, but at the time the movie came out that model would only be nine years old, as only the 1967 model has those headlights…”
      “Ugh, it’s just a movie. Get over it, you damnit.”

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