The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on May 19th, 2013 at 11:00 am.


Sundays are for telepathy and cake. But that’s not all there is to life. There is also the contemplation of electronic contraptions. And they are many.

  • An important (for the desktop colonel) article on recent developments in the strategy genre: “Strategy no longer means what it once did. The prominence of League of Legends and DOTA 2 and the recent failure of games like Age of Empires Online and Fall of Nations has led to a shift in what publishers and developers think people want. MOBAs now dominate the online space, there’s no getting around that, and who can blame them? These games are easy to get into, have a huge and dedicated community. Why would you develop anything else?”
  • This is a conversation I have enjoyed following, starting with this article on PAR, and followed by the the talented Mr Brough: “There’s been more discussion recently of the “just make a great game and the rest will magically work out” fallacy. The thing is – this might work when what you want to make lines up with a wave that’s there to catch, but not otherwise. The “indie games scene” acts as a filter; it’s very hard for a game to reach the outside world without passing through it, the larger videogame community and the world as a whole trust small cliques to curate what might be of interest to them from the masses of stuff that gets made. But the games that might appeal to people out there but don’t conform to the tastes of the successful “indie game” clique just get lost. There’s no room for anything truly new if for anything to succeed it has to be liked by someone who likes the old things best.” And then there’s this: “On Twitter, more people retweeted and favorited a joke about wolverines that I wrote last night than all of my VERSU tweets combined.”
  • VG247 examines the Welsh games industry: “People are starting to realise that South Wales can do games, and that’s important.”
  • The Reticule offers a thank you to mod-makers, which I think we could all chime along with: “It gets even more remarkable when you start to realise that even many of the modding tools themselves have been created by the gaming community. The file-extractors, converters, sprite packers and unpackers, object viewers – the list goes on and on. Tools and devices taken for granted by so many people coalesced into being after hour after hour of painstaking labour, all so people could make their games, well, their games.”
  • Polygon tells the story of Incredipede, which – if you’ve not heard it – is a pretty good story.
  • True PC Gaming offers the take of a self-described “superfan” on Final Fantasy XIV: “But what saves these quests from devolving into skull-crushing monotony within the first 30 minutes is the writing. Each task is accompanied by incredibly verbose incentives, penned at a higher level of reading then found in typical MMO’s. It is the kind of writing that made me such a huge fan of Final Fantasy from the early days of spoony bards and “treasure hunters” – characters had believable problems that were accompanied with actual personalities.” I post this not because it’s necessarily a great piece of writing, but because it seems to be that there is very little written about MMOs these days that is not direct transmissions from press events, or carefully surveyed game-mechanic discussion relevant only to existing players. Just seeing a piece like this fills me with some hope for criticism of the genre.
  • A beautiful story about an impenetrably complex mathematical proof: “The first paper, entitled “Inter-universal Teichmuller Theory I: Construction of Hodge Theaters,” starts out by stating that the goal is “to establish an arithmetic version of Teichmuller theory for number fields equipped with an elliptic curve…by applying the theory of semi-graphs of anabelioids, Frobenioids, the etale theta function, and log-shells.””
  • Is The Next Generation the True Star Trek? This chap seems to think so.
  • I love the Fermi Paradox (“paradox”) and I love the proposed solutions to it even more: “It seems harsh, but there is a limit. Do we really want to make contact with meat?” “I agree one hundred percent. What’s there to say? ‘Hello, meat. How’s it going?’
  • This post on Imaginary Atlas speaks to my heart.

Music this week is Son House’s Preachin’ Blues.

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184 Comments »

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  1. Didden says:

    Easy to get into? Really? I’ve found DOBA2 to be very complex and nuanced, thus why people play it I guess.

    • misterT0AST says:

      I just opened Rock Paper Shotgun, opened this article, read the very first sentence, and I immediately wanted to object to that.
      The thing about Mobas for me is that they fulfill the need for adrenaline FPS players have, the need for lore, depth and teamwork that MMORPG players have, they have huge rosters of characters just like fighting games.
      They scratch so many itches it’s just ridiculous.

      • brickstool says:

        I agree completely about MOBAs scratching so many itches, but would also like to add that a traditional strategy/grand strategy lover like myself finds finds DOTA and the like so alien to what I’ve been playing for years. I don’t see why the mindset would be changing amongst lovers of maps and stuff.

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          Cinek says:

          I don’t even know why MOBA games supportingly belong to strategy games.
          If anything – they’re hack&slash RPGs with rather short sessions.

          • Magnusm1 says:

            @Cinek Hating on Dota-likes? Never seen that one before.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            So thinking MOBA’s don’t properly fit in the strategy genre now equals hating them? I realize most gamers are intellectual snobs who want to think their games are super intellectual no matter the genre, but MOBAs are the strategy equivalent of tic tac toe. They have a lot of great points, being of forum for strategy is not one of them

          • Triplanetary says:

            @Magnusm1 What’s your point, exactly? People have legitimate reasons to like MOBAs and legitimate reasons to dislike them. Implying that Cinek’s just jumping on some alleged bandwagon is just a lazy attempt at distraction.

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            FriendlyFire says:

            Especially if people consider them to be mutually exclusive – I don’t give a damn about Dota or LoL, give me more actual RTS games!

            Thankfully there’s some indies stepping up, but even then I’m fairly disappointed by how few. Planetary Annihilation is the one that holds the greatest promise to me, but I’d also like other styles of RTS to get some love. Company of Heroes 2 will scratch some of that itch, thankfully.

          • lameudgha says:

            A battle royale of Star Treks seems pretty uncontroversial, IMO. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1733785

          • belgand says:

            I certainly wouldn’t call them RPGs (even action-RPGs) or strategy games. They’re competitive, multiplayer action games. It’s not about playing a role or crafting a deep and challenging strategy.

            I think this rush is going to crash hard once they realize that they have a small, but dedicated fanbase that isn’t likely to jump onto something else. Sort of the same problem that companies trying to get into the MMORPG space haven’t seemed to notice. The casual players go for the big names and the dedicated fans don’t want to leave the community they’re already invested in.

      • Hawkseraph says:

        That is an awesome observation! It explains why everyone I know as gamer has at least played the games in the past. Ha.

        And stuff like what riot do (adding a new champion every week) the complexity is just skyrocketing. I remember when I used to know every single champion’s abilities. Stop playing for a few months and half the characters on screen are unknown to you! That’s just really, really, ridiculous. As a new player, it must be daunting to face such a roster of unknowns when you also have to get to grips with the game mechanics.

      • rockman29 says:

        Great point :):):)

        Maybe he meant from the article… “Easy to like once you’ve learned the ropes?”

      • Evilpigeon says:

        Unlike RTS games MOBAs have a very low barrier to entry for their strategic stuff. So much of the game is knowing how to react to your opponents and how to play the map. It does a really good job of scratching my rts itch. It just doesn’t have the same problem where mechanics totally eclipse the strategy element for most of the playerbase. No matter what your level of play is in something like lol, you will always be able to win games by acting or reacting correctly to the enemy team and how they’re playing.

        I’m not a great RTS player and so I just find myself losing over and over to the guy who can spam units faster than me. You can beat mechanically better players in LoL, it’s what half the whole Elo hell thing is all about, mechanically good players who don’t have a clue how to do teamplay losing to obviously weaker individual players who know where to go.

        On a separate note, still relating to the previous post; I wish there were more grand strategy games out there though, nothing else can scratch that itch.

        editted because apparently it wasn’t clear.

        • Joshua Northey says:

          If you think LoL is a grand strategy game I would love to introduce you to turn based strategy…

          • Slaadfax says:

            I’m pretty certain that his final comment was not related to the rest of his post. I don’t think many people would mistake lane-pushers for grand strategy O_o

        • iridescence says:

          Age of Empires Online failed because it was pay to win, had horribly ugly graphics and didn’t offer much in terms of gameplay that you couldn’t get playing the original AoE games. There is no doubt a lot of strategy in MOBAs but that doesn’t really make them strategy games. Strategy games have a really different audience than MOBAs do. . I think a strategy game could succeed online if it was good enough.

          Main barrier to entry for me in MOBAs is the horrible reputation their communities have. The games themselves seem fun but I always think I’m going to get constantly yelled at by bratty 13 year olds if I play them which is why I avoid.

          • maximiZe says:

            So if that actually happened in your first game – which is unlikely since you’ll be playing with a bunch of other absolute newcomers due to matchmaking – you can just mute the brat. Evidently you’re on the internet so your skin can’t be so thin that two hostile typo-ridden sentences from a 13 year old get to you, can it?

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            Malibu Stacey says:

            Strategy games have a really different audience than MOBAs do.

            How do you figure that one out? I play Dota 2 (a lot) and I play Crusader Kings 2, Galactic Civilizations II, AI War & plenty of other strategy games.

    • Mr Monotone says:

      Yeah, I read that and it raised an eyebrow. A genre that requires huge amounts of knowledge that’s often nowhere to be found in the game, with counter intuitive mechanics and where people will shout obscenities at you if you are terrible. Sounds super accessible.

      • AngoraFish says:

        I agree with all of what you said, and yet, millions play MOBAs every day… go figure.

        • Mr Monotone says:

          Oh don’t get me wrong, I actually like DOTA clones, but suggesting they are popular because of ease of access seems bizarre. Maybe it’s because I’ve been playing RTS a lot longer but they seem far more obvious to me. Things like ancient stacking are built on the idiosyncrasies of a decade old game engine and aren’t exactly obvious. I still remember trying to explain why you would deny a minion or tower to a friend who had never played before.

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            Vandelay says:

            I’ve seen this confusion over denying and complaints that it is a rather obtuse game mechanic many a time, yet I still don’t really see where it comes from. Killing creeps gives you money and experience. You want to stop your opponent from getting that money and experience. It isn’t that much of a logical leap to figure out that killing your own creeps would (sometimes) be an effective method of doing this.

            And I do agree with the original articles claim, that MOBAs have a low level of entry. There are obvious complexities at work in them, mainly through the number of heroes, items and spells these games have, as well as the necessity to work as a team, but the actual objective is pretty straightforward. You can also actually win games fairly regular with only a limited knowledge of the mechanics too, as long as you use the simpler heroes, which is something that you could not say about a traditional RTS game.

            What I do not agree with is that 2012 was a good year for strategy games. I’ll give him XCom and Crusader King 2 (not played the later though,) but there was very little else of note. The mentions of FTL seem out of place, as it can hardly be considered a strategy and there was nothing for those of us that like the traditional RTS game, unless you were still playing SC2.

            I hope that Age of Empires 2 HD has done well on Steam, so publishers can see there is still an appetite for that style of game (Rise of Nations 2 please!)

        • Universal Quitter says:

          Millions of people do all kinds of stupid shit. Remember when guitar hero type games were a big deal?

          Popularity means it’s popular, which humanity has time and again proved to mean very little.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Not to mention the communities don’t want you joining them.
        Seriously, MOBA is notoriously the least accessible genre.

        • maximiZe says:

          That’s bs, first of all because there’s no such thing as one homogenous community in ARTS, or any multiplayer game for that matter. Less experienced players seldom reject other newcomers. The same goes for people who’ve played the respective game for years – they simply might not want to play with them, and understandably so. It’s unnerving for either side, which is why matchmaking systems have become standard a long time ago.
          So in a nutshell, experienced players effectively can’t not welcome newbies because they don’t get to play with them. Outside of the game on the other hand you can go to any place of discussion you fancy and are bound to find people of every skill level helping out each other, all the time.

          • dE says:

            Uhm? So according to your post, since there is no homogenous community, all communities are homogenous towards each other. That’s just wrong.

          • maximiZe says:

            Wait, what? I’m saying, among other things, that generalizations are stupid.

    • bluebomberman says:

      It’s “accessible” in the same way football and basketball are. Conceptually it’s extremely simple. Then comes the nuance and the teamwork and the swearing.

      EDIT: Come to think of it, chess might be the ultimate example of this. Learning what all the pieces do is pretty simple after all.

      EDIT x2: Though with chess there’s no teamwork and less emphasis on reflexes; hence, less cussing.

      • rockman29 says:

        Excellent point too :)

      • Joshua Northey says:

        Chess is an extremely simple game. That is why computers can be good at it. Compared to say something like Wesnoth chess is candy land. But because of this traceable nature chess theory is crazy well developed and the level of play reaches very close to optimum. So the best chess players play 99percent of perfect, whereas the best Wesnoth players play at only 50percent optimum. It is the same with MOBAs. They seem deep because the level of play is so high.

    • maximiZe says:

      Yup, sounds like the author has played three rounds of Smite at best. Also, “Games are embracing difficulty like never before […]” – seriously? Because there’s Dark Souls and a few Indies fitting that description? Fella also keeps mentioning FTL a tad too often and ignores Starcraft II almost entirely.

      • rockman29 says:

        I don’t understand that either, ignoring SC2 so much.

        It’s like authors don’t want RTS to exists, because we have MOBAs? It’s very weird.

        Just because developers aren’t making RTS games well anymore (except for Blizzard) doesn’t mean we don’t want great RTS games!!!

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          Cinek says:

          and Paradox. And Creative Assembly. And Fraxis… ;)

        • Stiletto says:

          Starcraft II? Pft.

          Supreme Commander and SC: Forged Alliance. That’s all you need for your RTS needs. It’s where the big boys come to play.

          ‘Nuff said.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Even then, C&C of old used to cover a nice middle-ground, not quite as slow as the TA lineage, nowhere near as much of a clickfest as Starcraft.

          • rockman29 says:

            All of those games are pre-Starcraft II though, that’s the problem.

            SupCom, Command & Conquer, and so many real-time RTS games are just not even close to where they used to be… most of the best RTS games other than the few recent great ones are pre-2002 or something :(

            The last modern ones I really liked were WarCraft III, Supreme Commander, and StarCraft II.

            And the truth is DotA 2 and others have supplanted the RTS. Not just because they are so popular, but because they play amazingly well and are a ton of fun.

            And what’s even worse I don’t see many developers coming to carry the torch forward for real-time RTS, because they can’t replicate the magic for some reason. But they also can’t replicate DotA 2 or other MOBAs either :(

            I don’t know what the future for real-time RTS with base-building is. And it’s sad, because the first PC games I loved when I was a kid were WarCraft II and Red Alert 1.

    • Obc says:

      its easier to get into than lets say Crusader Kings, Starcraft or even Civilization. You have a hero, he has 4 abilites and a passive, beat enemies and destroy their base. thats what everyone who starts his first game realizes right away.

      of course, there are many nuances, jargon, metagame and the likes to consider but superficially its easy to grasp.

      • rockman29 says:

        That’s another interesting point about games like DotA 2. That they only have one character to control, for some or maybe many players, that seems less unwieldy maybe, because in most games you are really only controlling one character and the new arena games tend to reflect that too.

      • belgand says:

        I would disagree as I feel that, on a mechanical level, Civilization is a much easier game to learn. For one it’s single-player so you go at your own speed. You don’t have to worry about teammates or other players at all and if something goes especially pear-shaped you can just reload an earlier save or start an entirely new game. In part this encourages experimentation.

        More importantly is that it’s also turn-based and very discrete in terms of actions. All the actions in the game are digital without any analog fuzziness. If I move a unit it moves precisely the number of spaces that it is allowed to move. There’s no issue of player control, reflexes, or dexterity to get in the way of learning the rules. By being turn-based it means that whenever you need to learn these rules you can always sit down and spend as long as you want looking them up. If I move unit X to a certain position and it is attacked by unit Y I know exactly what the odds are in that battle and can consider this action at my leisure.

        Is there a lot to learn? Yeah, more or less. But the ease in which it can be learned makes a huge difference and, unlike a competitive game, everything is laid out for you. There is no complex meta-game to learn.

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          Malibu Stacey says:

          For one it’s single-player so you go at your own speed. You don’t have to worry about teammates or other players at all and if something goes especially pear-shaped you can just reload an earlier save or start an entirely new game. In part this encourages experimentation.

          Can’t speak for any other games but Dota 2 has had bots for some time. In a bot game any of the other 9 players can be either human or bot.
          Hell it even has an option to search for a game with a team of humans vs bots which is ideal for learning as that’s the definition of “practice game” in the DotA-clone genre.

    • Fazer says:

      I understand it as “easy to learn, hard to master”. The first part relies on simple mechanics of controlling only one hero – you can move, attack, and finally cast a spell from a small set. You don’t have to construct buildings and know what units to produce and in what numbers. It’s even easier than FPSs, because you see everything around you, not just in front of you.

      The second part is knowing strong and weak points of all the heroes, counters to them, proper build orders for items, map awareness, decision making and spell timing. Considering how much each match can differ in terms of hero and item picks, you never stop experiencing new combinations and learning.

      • rockman29 says:

        Very true, the carry or support on one team to the next is almost never the same hero and never having the same build. It’s always a different battle even when you’re fighting some of the same heroes :)

        I guess the human intelligence (as opposed to AI) and dynamism of humans playing together and against each other… it really shines through in these games.

        I think this randomness is a huge part of the allure of these games :)

    • BockoPower says:

      As someone who played DotA since version 6.13 I feel really offended how people think the name is DOTA. It’s Defence of the Ancients. Just like LoL is League of Legends. Valve and IceFrog himself destoroyed the name and gameplay. DOTA 2 feels so different for vets like me. Almost none of the people I used to play DotA with played DOTA 2 for more than a month. Exceptions are the players who earn money from it like Maelk, Vigoss, Loda etc.
      I even tried to “recruit” Maelk for LoL when DOTA 2 was released but he had contract with MYM and Valve was sposoring some teams to advertise the “sequel”. I am sure he regrets it now when he sees how many more $$$’s the LoL pros make and it’s too late to catch up even if he wants to.

      • Kitsunin says:

        As far as the abbreviation goes: People call DotA DOTA because it’s easier to type, but still understandable. Personally, if I’m in an IM chat I’ll just type dota since it’s even easier. People still call LoL LoL because typing LOL or lol would be confusing. DOTA’s name, at least, is not some weird personal sleight against old players. Valve simply can’t call it Defense of the Ancients 2 thanks to copyright.

        Regardless, I play DOTA 2 because playing or watching DotA nowadays makes me want to barf. I’m sure there are all kinds of changes that suck for people who are used to the old way it was, but IMO it is quite simply the most entertaining esports game there is to watch.

        • BockoPower says:

          Actually Valve owns the copyright:
          According to the agreement, Valve will continue to use DOTA commercially, including DOTA 2, while Blizzard will preserve noncommercial use of DOTA for its community with regard to player-created maps for Warcraft III and StarCraft II.
          Source: http://www.gameinformer.com/b/news/archive/2012/05/11/valve-blizzard-reach-dota-trademark-agreement.aspx

          They just use it all with big letters, because everyone loves CAPS LOCKS and it saves the lifes of million Shift keys on billion keyboards. Also saves the extremely valuable time of the 11 years old hat lovers who doesn’t know about the Shift key trick.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            Valve has the trademark for Dota, not Defense of the Ancients.

      • AngoraFish says:

        DotA AllStars was widely and predominantly known simply as “DOTA” from very early on. For example, Basshunter’s “Dota” anthem was recorded in 2006. As another veteran of the period, I certainly can’t remember hearing the full title much at all.

      • rockman29 says:

        I’ve been playing since long before 6.xx and I completely disagree with everything you just said.

        • Vorphalack says:

          I also completely disagree with him, but it wouldn’t be a legitimate DotA thread without at least one troll. At least he tried to sound sincere.

          • Sassenach says:

            1) “I know pros, thus am correct”
            2) “Everyone’s opinion is valid (but yours is wrong because you’re part of a submissive hivemind)”
            3) “Pros who play your game do it for the money, despite more money to be had in my game”

            I’ve seen better.

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          Cinek says:

          this.

        • BockoPower says:

          You disagree with me, I disagree with you. That’s a good thing. Would be stupid if everyone agrees with each other, wouldn’t it ? That’s how our minds evolve afterall- with disagreement. Anyway, It’s cool you stayed loyal to DotA and IceFrog.

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      Gap Gen says:

      I think one thing is that it’s unfriendly to newcomers because if you suck you hurt your team, who will not hesitate to let you know it. So while it’s easy to pick up at first because it’s just one character with some abilities, it (apparently) generates an unfriendly atmosphere for newcomers, which is where this image of being difficult to get into comes in (as well as being genuinely very tough to master).

      • ernierock says:

        My friend really pushed me into trying LoL with him (but I just don’t really like MOBAs) and it was the worst gaming experience I ever had. He even called me out for trolling while I was legitimately trying my best, and that was my own friend. I did try it again afterwards with another, more patient, friend though which was more fun but again, MOBAs aren’t my piece of cake.

        It’s really hard to get into.

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          Gap Gen says:

          There are some games that are great at making otherwise reasonable people very angry. I remember continuously swearing at people in L4D.

          • Lawful Evil says:

            They simply allow other aspects of yourself to surface. Do not think that anger is any less legitimate aspect of yourself than being calm and reasonable.

      • MattM says:

        Its a game with millions of players that uses a skill level matchmaking system. You will always suck at it since any improvement in your play will just lead to your elo score rising and your opponents getting tougher.

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        Malibu Stacey says:

        To be fair there’s only so many times you can politely say “don’t autoattack the creeps” followed quickly by “stop autoattacking the creeps” to the guy in lane with you before you snap & tell him to fuck off & ruin someone else’s game.

    • JackShandy says:

      Mark is setting up a false dichotomy between XCOM and FTL as the old, slower, complex stuff, and DOTA as the new shit.

      “On one hand we have every other studio under the sun pushing out MOBAs, and then we have games who are the spiritual successors to games from the early 2000s and before.”

      The first version of Dota appeared in 2003. I also think it’s fair to say that DOTA is more complex than FTL or X-com. Not using that as a judgement call, just saying that it has more characters, abilities and items.

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        Malibu Stacey says:

        The original Starcraft map Aeon of Strife pre-dates Warcraft 3 DotA by a couple of years and was ported to Warcraft 3 after it’s release but didn’t garner the popularity of Eul’s DotA.

  2. Ernesto25 says:

    I agree about TNG representing the “real star trek” or what i like about trek, and games that let you role-playing in general. Not just “i shoot you and now everything’s ok” .

    Edit: Shame the TNG films had forgotten that. Saw into the darkness yesterday pretty fun with nice nods to its origins almost makes me want to see the new star wars.

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      soulblur says:

      I agree that TNG is likely the quintessential Trek. But my favourite is DS9 – For the 5 or so seasons I watched, I loved the politicking and the character development.

      It’s true though, that no one sits on chair like Riker.

      EDIT: Of course, DOWN on the chair. Typing on a phone, yeesh.

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        RedViv says:

        Nobody sits down on a chair like Riker. That’s the important part.

      • karry says:

        “I loved the politicking and the character development. ”

        Development – maybe, but oh my Zeus almighty, that black main guy and his retarded way of speaking…it’s new heights in discipline of silly overacting, worse than the worst of Shattner parody impressions. In the end, i couldnt take that guy anymore. Voyager is the best 90’s Star Trek, with its position strengthened by the fact that it actually has a good game after its name. None of the other Star Trek series have any that is any good.

        • Don Reba says:

          Avery Brooks does not overact. I think you just have not seen enough of that type of people. In my opinion, Sisko was the best ST captain, hands down. Better than Picard.

        • Werthead says:

          “Voyager is the best 90′s Star Trek”

          Indeed. But only in the parallel universe where ANGEL OF DARKNESS is the best TOMB RAIDER game, THE PHANTOM MENACE is the best STAR WARS movie and MASS EFFECT 3’s ending was universally beloved.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Welcome weary dimension traveller, in this universe you’ll also have to get used to not capitalising proper nouns, we only capitalise the first letter of each word!

            I also think Voyager was the best.

          • Noise says:

            Though I personally think DS9 is the best trek series, I feel I must mention that Voyager is awesome 90s Star Trek. So much fun and personality.

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            soulblur says:

            Voyager was horrific. I cannot accept your opinion. Although Seven of Nine was a cool concept.

            I’m really more of a BSG man anyway. Or Firefly! *sigh* I miss Firefly.

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            Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

            I love Star Trek. Lady Smingleigh laughs at the crazy technobabble that I don’t understand, then she goes off to watch a medical drama filled with medical terminology she doesn’t understand.

      • belgand says:

        Yes, Babylon 5 was quite an amazing achievement. I doubt we’ll ever see it’s likes again.

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      RedViv says:

      Into Darkness was… certainly a film. I might call it enjoyable, but then I remember the third act.
      That’s not how you do effective ANYTHING, folks. Watch it, and learn.

      I would have very much liked to see NuTrek turn to the exploration of society and politics and philosophy and nature and all these wonderful sci-fi things that are far more important than metal ships in space shooting lasers at each other while the crew babbles and quips.
      But if the team responsible for NuTrek can’t even grasp the very basics of what made the grandest Trek film into such an achievement… Well. To quote a still smarter SF franchise: Hope is the first step on the road to disappointment.

      • bluebomberman says:

        Well the NuTrek (is that what they call it?) seems like a reflection of society today. We don’t want deep thoughts about the wars we engage in or the enemies that try to kill us. Instead we seek to forget about it with special effects and sexy actors.

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          RedViv says:

          Ah, the Yohalem approach. Always an option.

          • bluebomberman says:

            Think it’s a bit unfair to single him out. It’s more of a general observation.

            We haven’t seen a great deal of successes from creative works that delve deeply into the issues generated by recent wars and today’s terrorism. The Hurt Locker, the Battlestar Galactica remake, maybe Homeland? (Confession: have not watched Homeland.) Most people would rather watch Simon Cowell act snide or Gordon Ramsey grill someone or Alice Eve with nothing but a phaser and underwear.

            Arguably it’s even worse in the world of video games. How many games have willingly delved into these issues with thoughtfulness and nuance these past few years? Only Deus Ex: HR comes to mind. (Don’t say Medal of Honor, please.) If there are more, I am ignorant of their existence.

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            RedViv says:

            Aye, it’s unfair because it was really just meant to be a silly snarky remark. Admittedly, there are far too many people that just ignore the rather insightful nature of his comments after release and just brush them away like that. But there is nothing, before or after release of either NuTrek films, that would suggest that they were going for anything other than pure “I want ST to be more like Star Wars!” attitudes. Which is a bit sad.

            I would very much welcome more games approaching these themes. Yes, it might be uncomfortable, but that can be exactly the point – people tend to not get overly observant unless they feel inconvenienced. The rather “Baby’s First Subversion” approach in storytelling in most A+ games these days though, that is in the way.

        • rockman29 says:

          I think the article made a lot of good points about how the “niche” Star Trek is a better fit for TV. And it also noted how large that niche was (I was surprised to hear that ratings were often better than the best of Mad Men).

          It does seem like compromise and peaceful resolution isn’t the best type of story to have on the big screen too. I really liked Star Trek 2011, and it certainly has elements of Star Trek, but I agree with the article that it’s also not Star Trek at the same time! :)

    • BooleanBob says:

      I think it’s a nostalgia thing; whichever you spent the most substantial amount of time growing up with is the ‘best’ trek. Just like your favourite Mario game, or your favourite C&C, or whatever.

      That said, here’s a better article on why TNG is the best star trek. I wanted to submit it to the Sunday Papers back when Brian Philips (yes! The Pro Vercelli guy!) put it out last year, forgot, and have basically been waiting for an excuse to link to it ever since.

      • Vorphalack says:

        ”I think it’s a nostalgia thing”

        Nah. I watched primarily TNG growing up, but after getting the DS9 box set last year, I can confidently declare it my favorite series.

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          I love DS9 but don’t like any other Star Trek stuff. It’s also something I only got into recently on Netflix, so no nostalgia. It’s pretty good as far as TV goes.

      • bluebomberman says:

        A battle royale of Star Treks seems pretty uncontroversial, IMO.

        The original blazed many paths but also dragged a lot of hokey stuff with it. (At least some of the movies have held up better.) TNG/DS9 were great for its time and I bet many of its best episodes have aged well. (Though I find the TNG movies to be pretty awful.) Voyager was pretty mediocre (and being somewhat infamous for helping spawn the Battlestar Galactica reboot), and Enterprise was unwatchable. And NuTrek just seems like grade-A action and sexiness, for better and worse.

        • Ernesto25 says:

          The TNG filsm were pretty poor in terms of stark trek content, to me the “NUtrek” is basically star wars in star trek clothing for better or for worse. I enjoy them but it doesn’t beat TNG / DS9 in terms of story.

        • WrenBoy says:

          Surely Battlestar Galactica is better than any of the Treks?

          • bluebomberman says:

            That’s a much tougher debate. I think that starts to get into unresolvable territory, like the painful Star Trek vs. Star Wars battles of old.

            To declare one “better” than the other seems too extreme, as if declaring one the superior work invalidates the worth of the other. The world is better for having both the BSG reboot and TNG/DS9.

            As long as we agree to forget Voyager existed…

          • Werthead says:

            Yes and no. Looking at BSG from the pilot through to the end of the New Caprica arc (at the start of Season 3), you can say that’s probably the most sustained run of quality episodes in any SF series – including any STAR TREK series – to date. Even the two much-commented-on bad episodes in that run (‘Black Market’ and ‘Sacrifice’) are only really bad compared to the episodes around them. On their own, they’re serviceable.

            Once you get into Season 3, you start getting episodes that are downright unwatchably terrible, like ‘Hero’, and character arcs that devolve into hideous, tedious messes, like the Starbuck/Apollo love quadrology of doom. Even promising premises are badly let down: Baltar on a Cylon basestar should have been interesting, but instead it’s a subplot so camp and hammy, and on sets so poor, the original 1978 BSG would have turned its nose up at it. The Final Five and ‘the song’ are the sort of notions that needed to be much more thoroughly explored and explained, rather than the producers going with it because it seemed cool (and throughout the latter half of the series, Moore repeatedly did this, after planning out the first half of the series ahead of time, if only roughly).

            Things get better later on – the mutiny arc and the episode where they discover ‘Earth’ to be a blasted radioactive wasteland and the aftermath of that – but the finale is terrible and the episodes immediately before it, instead of helping wrap up long-gestating plot and character arcs, simply make things even weirder and more complicated.

            So the first half of BSG is pretty superb, but is let down badly by the rest of it. None of the STAR TREK series had anything like as close a run of quality, but certainly both TNG and DS9 are superior series over their entire lengths (though both are also considerably longer than BSG’s run).

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            Cinek says:

            As long as you don’t watch the final – in did, BSG is better.
            But final is so horrible that it basically breaks the whole series.
            So at the end of a day I would say that Star Trek wins easily.

            (and that said – I’m pre-disney Star Wars fan)

          • WrenBoy says:

            @bluebomberman
            Voyager is certainly rubbish. On that we, the world and his mother can agree.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @Cinek
            I named my firstborn after a BSG character so I guess Im foolishly biased. Agree with Werthead on the quality arc though.

          • bluebomberman says:

            I guess I’m one of the few that liked (or at least accepted) the BGS ending.

            *SPOILERS*!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            From a creative standpoint I don’t see, with all the ties laid down to mythical religious stories that turned out to all be true, how the ending could have been appreciably altered. They chose to weave in a lot of religious, mythical stuff from the start. And since religion and myth tends to not follow logic, it lost a lot of the hard edge the show began with; the intensity of seeing flawed, mortal people struggling just to survive another 33 minutes inevitably gave way. Combine that with the limitations that they absolutely had to find Earth (as in this Earth) and had to find some way to explain why the Cylons won’t just swing by and occupy Earth or nuke it from space, and you get the only ending that could work.

            To me the ending solved all these problems. They found Earth. They left no trace of their old tech for archaeologists to unearth. And the Cylons would not end humanity with one push of a button.

            That’s not to say I don’t see major problems with the 2nd half of the show. Specifically, I have to agree that Baltar on the Cylon ship was surprisingly dreadful.

            That said, most of the first 2.25 seasons of BSG and the miniseries was some of the best sci-fi ever produced.

          • Ernesto25 says:

            @bluebomberman
            SPOILERS

            The ending though was weak in the sense it felt like a child wrote it, did everyone die at 30? Did all the type 1 diabetics cry as there insulin was crashed into the sun? Did many die from smallpox etcetc. That said i loved the show but for different reason’s than trek starbuck annoyed me but apart from that one of the most gripping things ive seen bar the wire

          • Tagiri says:

            While the BSG pilot miniseries is one of my favourite pieces of sci-fi television ever, I feel like more often than not the series as a whole was a shallow/ridiculous story elevated by the commitment level of the actors involved.

            Pretty much every commentary involving Ron Moore shows a stunning ignorance about pretty much everything (wanting the Cylon who was gang-raped to become a prostitute so she could “work through her issues”, completely uncritically referencing Cortez burning his ships in the finale, etc). The way soldiers with ptsd are treated on the show (especially Starbuck post-New Caprica) is downright irresponsible considering real-world attitudes toward mental illness. People are eating this up because so much of sci-fi TV lately has been so short-lived and/or silly, but plotlines involving current events were only around for “very special episodes” and never mentioned again.

            I feel like 3/4 of the praise BSG gets from people is solely because of the ‘grimdark’ setting.

          • belgand says:

            I enjoyed it, but I still say that the best run of uninterrupted greatness in a sci-fi TV show was Babylon 5. In part due to the consistency of having a single person write it for that period of time and a definite plot arc running from beginning to end (mostly… season 5 being the strange thing that it was due to network meddling and such).

      • LionsPhil says:

        That’s a pretty neat article.

        • BooleanBob says:

          It is! I implore everyone to ignore my stupid opinions and just give it a whirl.

      • Werthead says:

        It’s a well-written article, but it’s based on nostalgia. Also, it talks very well about TNG’s strengths (and some of its flaws), but it doesn’t contrast them against the other TREK series. I didn’t see anything in it arguing for TNG as the best TREK series. The Slate article, although less well-written, did at least make some interesting points about DS9 (particularly challenging the cliche that it’s ‘the dark STAR TREK’) and VOYAGER.

    • Bhazor says:

      NERRRRDS

      • LionsPhil says:

        Well, we all know that computer games are only for nerds, so it shouldn’t be surprising that a computer game blog can stir up a “which Star Trek captain was best” discussion.

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        FriendlyFire says:

        Ah, Bhazor, always making insightful comments about the essence of humanity in the perspective of technological progress and the alienation of our digital selves from our physical selves.

  3. eeldvark says:

    Delightful short film based on potential Fermi Paradox solution 4:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gaFZTAOb7IE
    It’s only 7-odd minutes, totally worth your time.

  4. Lawful Evil says:

    “A beautiful story about an impenetrably complex mathematical proof: “The first paper, entitled “Inter-universal Teichmuller Theory I: Construction of Hodge Theaters,” starts out by stating that the goal is “to establish an arithmetic version of Teichmuller theory for number fields equipped with an elliptic curve…by applying the theory of semi-graphs of anabelioids, Frobenioids, the etale theta function, and log-shells.”””

    !?

    • Premium User Badge

      RedViv says:

      Yeah. Point of the article. Showing how no mathematician could really understand it initially either.

      I think the maths part of my brain was injured once it came to higher algebra in school.
      Now all I hear or read about complex maths turns into white noise in my head.

      • Lawful Evil says:

        “Now all I hear or read about complex maths turns into white noise in my head.”

        I know…

    • apocraphyn says:

      Quite an entertaining read.

      Could be that the guy is a genius on a level with Tesla, could be that he’s a madman on a level with Tesla.

      tl;dr: If you solve an ‘impossible’ problem and can’t put it into terms that anyone else can understand, you haven’t solved it for anyone but yourself.

      • Wonkyth says:

        Sucks to be not Mochizuki. :P

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        AlwaysRight says:

        It’s and incredibly interesting read. Maybe Shinichi Mochizuki is the worlds most intellectual troll? Like the mathematical equivalent of Hidetaka Miyazaki’s Pendant in Dark Souls

      • brog says:

        It’s more a question of whether anyone else can afford the time to understand the solution. It’s a 500-page proof, and a page of mathematics in modern notation is equivalent to several pages of plain English – it’s very dense. For all we know he might have put it in the simplest possible terms, it’s just that there’s a lot of them and the amount of time they’ll take to read through and understand (a year or more) is kind of hard for someone who’s expected to be publishing their own work at the same time to commit to.

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          Cinek says:

          Which is kinda silly, cause I always thought all these mathematicians out there should be to do something actually useful instead of floating in safe zone of university teaching all their lives.

          So now we have a chance of discovering one of most genius people in our generation, and yet – noone seems to be bothered by that. I would hate if people would prove he was right after his death, like it happened many many times with different scientists during the course of history. We live in freakin 21 century with nearly unlimited access to knowledge, and yet I have an impression some people are stuck in 16th century.

          • NathanH says:

            The thing is that reading 500 pages of advanced mathematics that haven’t been written with the purpose of communicating well is basically pure pain.

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            FriendlyFire says:

            I very much invite you to get to the level required to understand the proof and then spend a decade analyzing it to see whether it’s actually true or just crackpot ramblings. Remember, a single error in 500 pages of mathematical derivations will invalidate the entire thing.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      It’s an interesting point about science communities and is absolutely true; telling other people about your work is most of the point of science, otherwise you’re just farting into the wind. I totally get the existential angst of people who know they should read the papers but reeeallly don’t want to.

      • Lawful Evil says:

        “telling other people about your work is most of the point of science, otherwise you’re just farting into the wind.”

        I agree.

      • Fluka says:

        Seriously. Maybe it’s because I work in a science field which is dependent on large amounts of public funding, and thus is *required* to “show the work” publicly and repeatedly, but that story seriously made my blood boil. The proof may in fact be correct. But Mochizuki seems to think that because he is right, he has no responsibility to clearly express his ideas to the community. It’s a type of poor communication and arrogance which suspiciously reminds me of my worst undergraduate mathematics courses…

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        FriendlyFire says:

        Yes and no. The point of science is to understand things, but communicating them with people outside of your (often very narrow) field isn’t necessary for science to be worthwhile. It just implies that there is an important baggage necessary to understand the discoveries made, which is fairly accurate for most disciplines in this day and age. Many fields require a ridiculous amount of prior knowledge to grasp what’s going on at the top because they’re working off millennia of past discoveries.

        This is why, for instance, a physics BSc is pretty much worthless in and of itself. At the end of it, you’re at the minimum level to start understanding papers, but far from actually understanding them, let alone producing new ones.

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          Gap Gen says:

          Ah, but if you don’t communicate your work to the community it might as well not exist.

          • cowardly says:

            To other people, yes, but there is a large amount of fulfillment to be gained by solving a problem. Most of the maths I do (at a graduate level, admittedly) is for my own benefit, and it’s only incidentally that I will discuss it.
            I do agree that it’s unfair to do what he did, though ; while not necessary to explain it to everyone, making sure that at least some others can understand it so the proof can spread is not only common courtesy, it’s also giving back to the mathematical community that, given his background, has nurtured him.

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            Gap Gen says:

            Sure, plenty of research work isn’t published (the debate about whether negative results should be more visible is an interesting one, mind) and is done for your own edification or just dicking around trying things. And granted, he did publish his work online, but it sounds like he’s not really in it for anyone other than himself. Which is fine, but it’s sort of frustrating for other people.

          • Lawful Evil says:

            @cowardly:

            “I do agree that it’s unfair to do what he did”

            Why? Because of this:

            “giving back to the mathematical community that, given his background, has nurtured him.”?

            Their nurture was voluntary, and he has no obligation to “give back” anything (putting aside morality).

          • Kitsunin says:

            @Lawful Evil
            But, isn’t morality like half of what matters? If you put it aside of course nothing will be unfair. If he were contractually obligated to assist it would still be fair of him not to just as long as he could get away with it, by your logic.

      • blackmyron says:

        Exactly. Inscrutability is not proof. The problem, apparently, is that he created his own nomenclature and mathematical concepts to make the proof and doesn’t feel the need to explain it. Could you imagine taking a introductory Calculus class where the teacher starts immediately on advanced concepts, and tells you that you should figure out the preliminary material yourself?
        I’ve had to write scientific papers (in my case, for physics journals), and readability is vital – because if others cannot understand your results, it’s not science. Similarly, if other mathematicians can’t reach the same conclusions you did using your proof, it’s not math.
        There’s a reason that he self-published a paper, and it’s the same reason that a crackpot does it – he had no interest in peer review. Being an actual mathematician with a PhD isn’t an excuse.

    • FCA says:

      As a professional mathematician (in a field related to this field even), my reaction at the time was the same. The article (the one linked in the Sunday papers, not the original mathematics paper!) is a fascinating read, even though I know most of the story. What failed to really stress though is that Mochizuki is not incommunicado, he promised explanations and corrections, which never came.

      On the other hand this sort of thing illustrates some of the fundamental issues with mathematics (and I guess with science in general): if, after years of trying to figure something out, you’ve finally found the answer, explaining this answer to someone else can be just as hard as figuring out the original answer itself. And nobody has the patience to hear a decade long explanation, not even when the proof is this important. That’s why mathematicians usually regularly give some sort of progress report, and try to interest people in this new language they’re developing (mathematics in many cases is just a very structured language, with each (sub)-field it’s own language familu). Mochizuki failed to do this, for reasons unknown.

      On the other hand, understanding mathematics, written up by other people is, even for mathematicians, very hard. As I’ve read it, Mochizuki is a different case, but at least for me, it can take months to work through even graduate textbooks. I do a lot of stuff besides the reading obviously, but the speed of reading must be very limited, otherwise I don’t end up understanding the stuff. This is the same source of frustration which many people have with learning mathematics in high school or college: understanding something new in mathematics takes a lot of time. This makes any attempt to understand Mochizuki’s proof so hard, and that’s why mathematicians shy away from it (not to mention all the other stuf we’re supposed to do, like original research of our own, refereeing, and teaching).

      That said, it would be amazing to know if this proof is correct, and can maybe made accessible in a form understandable to mere mortal mathematicians…

  5. bluebomberman says:

    Jim, I find it really odd that you would be so hopeful for better critical takes on MMOs. There’s really little about MMOs as constituted today that can be discussed in a compelling manner to a wider audience.

    If an MMO came out that could capture, say, the exhilaration of a perfect freeflow combat run in Batman: Arkham Asylum/City, or the sublime feeling generated by traversing Renaissance-era rooftops in the Assassin’s Creed games, or the moral complexities of a Bioshock game, then maybe. For reasons both creative and technical, MMOs by and large fail to invoke such memorable moments. So what’s left to talk about? You’re left with PR fluff, entire Internets worth of “mehs” from gamers hostile to or jaded of MMOs, esoteric analyses of game mechanics, terrible fan fiction.

    And maybe that’s fine. After all, MMOs that have reached for transcendence often end up being the most sordid failures. (SWTOR, Secret World, and so on.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Lobster9 says:

      I think the strength of the genre lies in social interaction (shocking!) all the memorable experiences I have had within MMOs have come from stories involving other players, be it friends, enemies, mass gatherings, etc. I find the most successful MMOs are the ones that build systems that encourage these kind of interactions, rather than trying to disguise or recreate elements of single player games as multiplayer features.

      This is why SWTOR failed in my opinion. One of it’s major selling points was that it was the first MMO to have a deep Bioware style personal story, complete with full voice acting and multiple moral choices. This is not what MMOs need. MMOs thrive in their endgame, and the shared experience of reaching it, and at no point in SWTOR’s buildup did Bioware seem interested in discussing what laid beyond the completion of the personal plot.

      When I come away from a game like World of Warcraft or EvE online, I am not bursting to tell someone how great it was to complete a boar hunting quest or to go ratting an asteroid belt. I am far more excited by the experience of hearing 20-40 people on a TeamSpeak cheer simultaneously when a boss goes down, following weeks of shared struggle, or mustering a posse of fellow players to go hunt an encroaching corporation that declared war on us, not knowing the enemies strength or numbers.

      If I were to offer critique to games in the genre, I would pick apart a companies reasoning for making a particular game an MMO in the first place. It stands for ‘Massively Multiplayer Online’ after all, and if I spend most of my first few weeks alone, with little or no interaction with human players, then personally I believe them to have failed at delivering on that.

      Apologies for the badly written rant!

      • BooleanBob says:

        No no, I think you’re both on to something here. I’m doing that ‘speaking for everyone’ thing again, but who here doesn’t feel, having lived through (say) the Everquest to SWTOR era, a little (or a lottle) betrayed by the reality of what MMOs became, given the general misalignment with those first imagined promises of living, breathing, virtual worlds?

        • bluebomberman says:

          I just don’t think it’s possible for the foreseeable future, if ever.

          The ascendancy of the WoW model has a lot to do with how downright inhospitable MMOs like Second Life, the Sims Online, and perhaps even Ultima Online were. People wanted a lot less of the griefing and the brokenness. So much has to be bolted down and regulated as a result.

          You can argue that this is bad, terrible even. I don’t.

          EVE’s probably the most cited example of a MMO that lets the players create and control so much of what happens, but it’s very much an outlier. And to be frank I’m not sure you want to be inspired by EVE, a game where people essentially seem to organize into mostly unaccountable galaxy-spanning triads.

          To me the promise of living, breathing virtual worlds gave way to the realization that these worlds, much like many parts of the real world, can get incredibly messed up. I doubt many people get into the games business to make virtual failed states.

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            I think living, breathing virtual worlds that aren’t broken are possible, but they need to be designed from the ground up with the knowledge the players aren’t going to conform to social norms on their own. If the developers want to create a game where random grief killings don’t happen, the mechanics need to be in place to prevent it. The obvious, brute-force solution is to disallow open PvP, but that shuts down a lot of possible interaction and game play.

            For a better solution, you’d have to start by disincentivising random killing. That’s quite easy, the system just has to be set up so that there is very little mechanical benefit in killing weaker players. That means that the only real reason to do so is grief killing. The next step is to add mechanics for murderers to be easily identified, that’s fairly simple as well, you can explain it with magic. Then you add a bounty feature. Murdered players go to the bounty office and post a bounty. The reward is supplied by the NPC organisation, otherwise it’d only be of use to rich players. Players can go to the bounty office, get the details of a bounty and hunt the offender. It’d also make sense to include mechanics that allowed players to circumvent this system when appropriate. For example, two guilds in a mutually agreed state of war could attack each other without consequence, or one player could challenge another. I’d also make it that a player could defeat another, leaving them temporarily incapacitated and lootable, without actually killing them. Finishing them off would be a conscious decision.

            It takes a lot more work, but it is possible. I just hope the prevalence of theme park MMOs spawned by EQ and popularised by WoW don’t kill off all chances of such a game being made.

          • bluebomberman says:

            If it was that simple…

            I must add that these programmers probably don’t have a lot of actual working knowledge of social science and policy to work with. EVE might be the only MMO with an employee qualified to specialize in dealing with the game economy.

            Also, you have to remember that people who find a MMO not fun can always just ragequit and play something else; that’s often not an option in the real world.

          • Premium User Badge

            FriendlyFire says:

            I don’t know how much they’ve managed/will manage to implement, but what you’ve described sounds extremely similar to Salem. There’s been a fair amount of criticism surrounding the game, but the sales pitch was basically just that: open world, no limits to what you can do, player killing, permadeath. People would have to organize themselves into governments to take care of rogue individuals, either through bounties or a police force, etc.

            Bear in mind I’ve absolutely no idea where the game’s at right now.

          • Arglebargle says:

            The problem I see is that the griefers aren’t playing the MMO game: They are playing the ‘make the person at the other end of the keyboard feel bad’ game. In game penalties don’t matter if it doesn’t affect their ability to ruin folks days. Open pvp is a strong attractor to these sorts, because it gives them more scope for their broken glee.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      Have you played many MMOs? Because even if you don’t find them very interesting (and I don’t think most themepark MMOs are very interesting either personally), it’s just wrong to claim that they don’t have memorable moments. Maybe not the moments you want from a game, but the people involved in any number of major emergent EVE Online incidents will have an incredible number of memorable moments. Even players of themepark MMOs will have a lot of great memories; they wouldn’t play the same game for years on end otherwise.

      The moments you’ve listed as examples of what you want don’t appeal to me, and I think those games are kinda shit, so maybe it’s just a personal preference thing.

    • webwielder says:

      “moral complexities of a Bioshock game”

      LOL

  6. LordOfPain says:

    I actually found the story behind Incredipede to be one of naivete and sweeping generalisations. If I were being uncharitable, I might even say Western middle-class guilt. But that probably wouldn’t be fair.
    From the very first part where it mentioned their discomfort with having a housekeeper I was a bit dismayed. And I should think if they had travelled so widely they might have noticed how happiness does not correlate to ‘wealth’ as such. Perhaps they did and it merely was not brought out in the article. I don’t know. :/

    • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

      I’ve spent 13 years living in SE Asia, and 2 years living in South America, one of them in the remote Amazon.

      I’m too tired to get into specifics, but that article made me want to throttle them. Typical wishy-washy , university-grade pop-philosophy crap from transient backpacker types who bounce from place to place for a few months and think they’ve suddenly discovered some kind of amazing insight.

      I’ve got a cleaner. I wasn’t particularly keen on having someone wait on me hand and foot, so do you know what I did? Kept paying her the same amount she’d have been paid if she did everything up to and including wiping my arse, told her she can do the floors and dusting, keep the place generally clean and maybe throw out the bins if I haven’t done them for a few days. I do my own shopping, my own dishes and wipe my own arse. Evidently that last minute change I made from computer science degree to zoology helped out, because otherwise I might have been ‘stumped’.

      • WrenBoy says:

        Are you working there as a cleaner? Why not?

        • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

          Do you work as a cleaner wherever you come from? You do realise you get them in Europe and the US too? Ever worked as a bin man? Why not? Street sweeper?

          Would probably be worth my while though – due to being able to work for more people than just me (I only have her come in 2 days a week) my cleaner earns more a month on average than I do. This is in Cambodia by the way, it makes the Philippines and Honduras look positively minted.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Actually where I come a large proportion of the cleaners are immigrants from developing countries.

            In this way, citizens of wealthy countries are in a win win situation. In our own countries we are able employ relatively cheap imported labour to perform menial tasks and if we wish to live abroad in poorer countries we can afford to pay the locals to do what we could not be bothered to ourselves.

            We are in this win win scenario because of the unfair distribution of wealth in the world. Its easy to sneer at people who had to go on a hippy tour of the world in order to appreciate this fact but there citizens from wealthy nations who have lived 15 years in the developing world, employ servants and yet only have a superficial understanding of why they are in such a position.

            Edit: Ive never encountered someone who earns less per hour than a cleaner and yet hires one for 2 days a week and deliberately overpays them. I find this claim interesting as for it to be true you would have to be spending about 40% of your salary on a service you claim you dont really need.

          • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

            For your edit: I’m not single, and I don’t tend to work for money any more.

            Anyway, I’m far knackered and as pointed out below it’s an article about a computer game. If I was going to get into this properly I’d be writing a dissertation sized piece, and arguing on the internet is completely stupid.

            I’ll just say I find their attitude pretty ignorant and patronising. Much like everything I ever tend to read about developing countries. Know what kind of articles I’d like to read about developing countries on a gaming website:

            An article on piracy that actually factors them in. My introduction to DOTA was from my Burmese friends when I lived there – they all played it on their cruddy work laptops because WC3 ran well enough. They played loads of stuff. In bloody Burma, let alone Thailand or Indonesia or Malaysia. There’s a huge PC gaming scene in most of SE Asia, and it’s almost all pirated. Why do they never, ever get a mention in all the millions of articles written about global piracy when they make up an absolutely massive percentage? The PS2 is still the biggest selling console in this neck of the woods, has been for years. Because it’s easily hacked and it’s cheap. Go into any piss-ant village in Burma and there’ll be a shack with a bunch of TVs and PS2s filled with kids playing FIFA. My family in Indonesia had PS2s modded with internal hard-drive and billions of copied games years ago. They had hardly any furniture in the house, but still a TV, a DVD player and a hacked PS2. Why is there very little attempt by publishers to rectify the situation? They release cheaper versions in the former Soviet states to counter it, but try buying an original game in Thailand or Malaysia and you’ll bankrupt yourself. In most other places, just don’t even bother trying. Never once seen a mention to anywhere outside Europe or the US when the piracy argument rears its head.

            Somewhat related, always online connections. Sure, we’ll get told how some poor saps in the US or Blighty have cruddy net connections. No mention of the fact that there’s a huge emerging market that’s being completely ignored and that in many places has piss-poor infrastructure. But hey, my net connection’s fine so fuck them. Or, if we’re against the argument, let’s consider some poor git in the Outer Hebrides, but we’ll forget about the vast majority of the planet.

            I’m just sick and tired of reading condescending ‘oh those poor people’ bullshit articles. It’s tiring and it’s misrepresentative, and reading one here just stuck in my craw. Apologies for my acrid tone, I’m not meaning to come across like a mad dick. Anyway, I’m off to bed.

          • WrenBoy says:

            @Bent Wooden Spoon
            For someone “too tired to go into the specifics”, you sure spent a lot of time tangentially discussing piracy and DRM in developing countries.

            So when you earlier said that your cleaner had it so good that it would be worth your while taking up cleaning yourself, what you actually meant was that your household was sufficiently wealthy that you didnt need to work for money. Hmmm.

          • Arglebargle says:

            I lived in Burma a long, long time ago; kinda interesting to hear little bits about how things have changed there. And we had way more than one amah….

    • bluebomberman says:

      I don’t understand the extent of the hostility this story is generating. Is it really that bad for two young people to have a culture clash, to look at a situation they deem to be not optimal and struggle to choose the least bad option? Would they be more sympathetic if they tweeted “Yes we have our own servant! WOOHOO!”

      • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

        No, they’d be more sympathetic if they hadn’t been on what amounts to a bunch of extended holidays in various countries (it takes a good couple of years of proper living somewhere and being fluent in the language before you can even begin to think you’re scratching the surface of another culture, not a few months) and all then start talking a whole load of knobbed-up pretentious bollocks.

        I’m aware I’m being incredibly hostile here, which is a tad unusual for me. I’ll excuse myself by saying that firstly I’ve been drinking, and secondly I have had years worth of clueless bloody backpapackers spraffing complete arse at me – the kind of complete arse that arises when people know enough about something to think they know far, far more than they do, usually resulting in over-simplified and idealised black-and-white nonsense that only helps to obfuscate the actual tangible, actionable issues behind stuff. The couple in this article positively hum of that.

        • bluebomberman says:

          Yeah, I think you’re reading too much into this. We’re talking about a couple who took a little experience and made a game about picking cherries.

          • Viroso says:

            From my perspective, their point of view sounded like they didn’t see much dignity in her work.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Anthile says:

    Did the person from the Star Trek article just call Far Beyond The Stars a bizarre episode? Dude…

    • Don Reba says:

      Calm down, dear boy. We’re writers, not vikings.
      It was one of the best episodes for sure, but it was also undeniably bizarre.

      • Premium User Badge

        Anthile says:

        Yes, but the article seemingly reduced to merely being bizarre. Not few people believe it’s one of the best DS9 episodes. Voyager’s “Threshold” was bizarre and not much else.

    • Fluka says:

      Matt Yglesias is one of those opinion writers who is remarkable in his ability to be Wrong, consistently and thoroughly. (If you search for “matt yglesias is wrong”, the diversity of results you get is amazing!)

  8. Wonkyth says:

    Mochizuki and the ABC Conjecture. Awesome book, fascinating characters. Will definitely read again, and will absolutely recommend. 9/10.

  9. Viroso says:

    So what is this indie community anyway? People from all around the globe are making games, people everywhere are discussing it. There are a lot of big places out there you can show people your game. I’ve seen discussion on the indie community a few times in the past weeks, all of them critical, all of them leaving me wondering just what and where exactly is this group of people.

    Because on the Internet I can’t believe anything is gated by a tight-knit group of people, it is too decentralized, things are happening all over the world and people trust more what a friend says than a video game website or an IGF award. Just look at Candy Box.

    Just making a great game won’t suffice, I believe that. It takes lucky and visibility. I just don’t believe that there’s any relevant group of people curating anything.

    But what do I know, I’m no indie dev. I just wish those articles were less vague.

    • brog says:

      Sure things spread by word of mouth, but that has to start somewhere – very often your friend who recommends a game heard about it from a review, a Steam sale, a bundle..

      Promotions on things like Steam or the Apple app store, console releases, whatever – these make a huge difference, and one of the ways these companies choose among indie games is by asking successful indie developers to recommend others. An IGF award makes a difference too – and hey the IGF judges are mostly successful indie developers. And reviews – mostly how reviewers discover indie games is by following the devs they already know about on twitter. Jonathan Blow tweeted about one of my games and the next day I had a few hundred sales, up from next to nothing. He tweeted incessantly about Starseed Pilgrim for a few weeks and then everyone started reviewing it.

      So being lifted up by other indie devs isn’t the *only* way that knowledge of our games gets spread, but it’s the main way it gets started. Word of mouth happens afterwards. First nobody talks about a game, then other game developers, then from there it spreads to others. Just look at Candy Box.

      And this isn’t a bad thing, it’s mostly pretty great, but it’s not perfect – and that’s the context these posts are in.

    • bluebomberman says:

      A more obvious example is how a blessing from Notch (or heck, you can even throw in TotalBiscuit if you’re feeling generous) can draw a massive bunch of eyeballs.

      • Viroso says:

        Well, that sounds like too much weight put on a few indie devs. They aren’t the only people who find out about games, or talk about games. RPS talks about games, an email and their interest will do the job. Large forums dedicated to video games, Steam Greenlight, Newgrounds even Piratebay. Whenever a game gets featured on a big video game website it gets a lot of sales. And we aren’t even talking about the iOS universe.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hypocee says:

      I love the hipster dipshit supposition in the pullquote that indie-facing journalists “only like the old stuff”.

    • JackShandy says:

      The indie community is anyone who has:

      -A computer
      -An internet connection
      -Enough leisure time to use those things to play games
      -Enough dedication that they seek out and play, not only the polished titles that are marketed all over the place, but the weird independent games they have to track down.
      -Enough interest on top of that that they’re willing to find forums and websites and blogs where people talk about those games, and post something.

      That’s a pretty distinct group. It is led by people who have all of the above AND start their own forums or websites or blogs where they can talk about indie games all the time.

  10. Lawful Evil says:

    “I love the Fermi Paradox (“paradox”) and I love the proposed solutions to it even more”

    My (but not mine) solution – there are no ETIs and thus there is no such thing as “paradox” as defined by Fermi Paradox.

    • Lanfranc says:

      The paradox lies in the extremely low probability that Earth is the only place in the galaxy where intelligent life has evolved.

      • Lawful Evil says:

        Or, in other words the “apparent contradiction between high estimates of the probability of the existence of extraterrestrial civilization and humanity’s lack of contact with, or evidence for, such civilizations” (Wikipedia). I assume there is a significant probability of such a thing, when scientific method is employed to estimate it, but you will have to excuse my views of such things which are not based on science alone.

        Anyway, just thought I would give my little comment, nothing more.

      • Premium User Badge

        Gap Gen says:

        Given how little we know about planet formation so far, it’s entirely possible that life is that rare. If habitable planets around habitable stars are difficult to make, then it’s entirely possible that there are no civilisations that have spread that far. Again, it’s entirely possible that something weird is happening, but we can’t rule out the more mundane explanations.

        That said, I like this paper, which (tongue-in-cheek, perhaps) suggests that if complexity of life goes something like Moore’s Law, then life on Earth is older than Earth: http://arxiv.org/abs/1304.3381

      • blackmyron says:

        The Fermi Paradox was also made in a period where we had no direct proof there was a single planet orbiting another star, much less a potentially ‘habitable’ one.
        It’s amazing to think sometimes that the first true exoplanet wasn’t even discovered until the end of the 20th century.

  11. Lanfranc says:

    Maybe it’s just me, but most of those “11 weirdest Fermi Paradox explanations” don’t sound all that weird to me; most of them actually seem pretty reasonable. (Except maybe no. 5. That one is a little weird.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Gap Gen says:

      I love that on a games forum, the weirdest for someone is number 5.

    • BooleanBob says:

      My go-to solution is that our universe is a controlled experiment by some other race of (really, really big) people. Presumably sitting forgotten on a shelf, somewhere. Eventually, the batteries are going to give out.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      Many of those are pretty far-fetched.

      (1) and (3) are biased towards giving us importance. This is normal in the perspective of humans, but it’s probably not true. Chances are if anybody’s out there, they don’t really give a shit about us any more than other races. I also have my doubts that any species would waste resources locking off an entire sector of the galaxy just to preserve us, a random species of moderately intelligent mammals.

      (2) assumes that, for some reason, all sentient life thinks the same way. This is very unlikely considering that we don’t think that way – if it weren’t for technical and economical limitations, we’d already be exploring the cosmos.

      (4) is funny, but there’s little credence to it. Machines do not self-develop. Yes, we might find intelligence based off an entirely different setup than ours (extremophiles, different “life” atom like, say, Si, etc.), but they’d still follow the same process of evolution that we went through, which very much goes against the idea of “machines”, which tend to be structured and designed. Plus, it’s also likely that they’d either be made out of meat, like us, or have no idea what meat is because they’ve evolved in a world where meat didn’t exist at all. It’s incredibly unlikely that a species would have a negative connotation for meat, and even less likely that all potential species we could communicate with do.

      (5) could always happen, but I doubt it. Too much Matrix watching.

      (6) doesn’t really work out, because radio signals can come from different time periods in a civilization’s evolution. There is almost no way that all species in the observable universe have decided to go silent before they’ve evolved the ability to do so. They’d do just like us and use things like radio for decades or even centuries, broadcasting their signals far out, before perhaps deciding to notch it down. We’re nowhere near doing that, for instance.

      (7), (8), (9) and (10) all assume that all species in the galaxy which might be able to communicate with us are more advanced than we are. That’s a classic sci-fi trope, but it’s one that’s not really based in anything. Just looking at our own evolutionary process, it took us a few thousand years to go from hunter gatherers to satellites and radio. That’s a drop in the bucket on an astronomical timescale. It’s a lot more likely that there’s a lot of civilizations more advanced than us, less advanced than us, and roughly on par with us. Only a subset of those would be unable or unwilling to communicate.

      (11) is the most interesting hypothesis to me because it makes a certain degree of sense. The universe is expanding as it ages, which should diminish the probability of encountering a stellar body that could trigger a gamma ray burst. There’s also more areas with more stable stars. Still, that’d mean that there would have to be a very sudden drop in activity, and that it would’ve happened extremely recently, which still sounds unlikely.

      The simple answer is that we don’t know the answer. It’s a lot more likely that we’re just a lot more unique than we first thought.

      • Koozer says:

        Counter-points incoming!

        The scientific thing is to assume we’re insignificant on the grand scale of the Universe, but it is still possible if unlikely that our little ball of watery rock with squishy moving bits on top is a rare thing for whatever reason.

        A machine race could have been built by meat, who subsequently died out while the machines chose not to record their origins. Hypotheses are fun!

        Radio waves: the time a civilisation would be using them for also needs taking into account. Life has been around on Earth for millions of years, but we have only been using radio waves that have been pinging into space for a couple of hundred. we could be moving on to lasers at some point in the future, say in another few hundred years.

        If we are generous and assume a total radio wave transmission window of 1000 years, that’s still less than one percent of our time in existence up to that point. If a civilisation survives past this time, the window only gets relatively smaller. If we assume that life can and has started at any random point in the history of the universe (which goes against the gamma-burst metric idea), then it means that the chances of one civilisation’s radio phase is incredibly unlikely to overlap with another’s radio phase.

        The problem with this is that it assumes that noone is running a SETI program of their own, using crusty old radio technology alongside space lasers and other crazy future tech.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Gap Gen says:

    Re: the maths article: “Sarnak, the skeptic” is the best name.

    • NathanH says:

      Sarnak, the Skeptic {2}{U}{U}
      Legendary Creature — Human Mathematician

      {2}{U}, {T}: Exile target Theorem unless its controller pays {2}.

      “I’ll only believe it when it’s proved.” — Sarnak, the Skeptic

      1/4

      • Josh W says:

        DH 2/4 : Mana cost from 2UU to 1UU
        DH 3/4: Activation cost to U
        AN 6/4: Tempo gain on Theorum decks too strong, Activation cost to 4U
        DH 8/4: Mana cost to UU
        MP 20/4: He may be clever, but I just want him for his body..
        DH 22/4: Mana cost to 2U activation cost to 2UU

  13. dE says:

    I very much appreciated the article on Mods. It’s a scene that has gotten a lot of cynism and hate lately, despite the wonderous and great things it has brought.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Guessing DLCs (and mods becoming DLCs) are to blame.

    • Premium User Badge

      FriendlyFire says:

      I must’ve missed the hate? There’s always been a few rotten apples here and there, but I’ve rarely seen anything but praise for modders. The biggest jab/criticism is delays, especially with things like Black Mesa, but it actually released, so…

      • dE says:

        You really haven’t seen the posts “Oh mod support, better prepare for titties and piles of shit” and stuff like that?

        • Premium User Badge

          FriendlyFire says:

          Ah, that kind. That kind of criticism has always been there and is largely made by idiots who aren’t even worth listening to. It’s not especially more prevalent now.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      I’m waiting for the follow-up on Rockers.

  14. Calabi says:

    I like that maths story. Its like an X File or something. To solve a theory no one else has, he may have had to go into places no one else could, create his own language, become something other than what he was and everyone else is.

    He cant explain it to everyone else because he’s far away, he’s something else, they couldn’t understand it where they are. There all afraid to understand it, but don’t know why, its because to understand it, is to follow him and become like him.

    Its probably nothing like that, but still its weird.

    • Josh W says:

      It’s interesting that he’s so socially isolated, and years ago that could have led to this work languishing then suddenly being discovered years later by some historian of mathematics, who’d reveal it to the world after a few years study.

      Whereas now, with the information not being passed via the same social relationships that would normally transmit mathematical theorums, along with the personal understanding that allows interpretation, people can be directly confronted by how alien it is.

      It makes me wonder if there have been many thousands of strange obscure mathematical genii who’ve been too isolated by their anti-socialness that only their families have ever really gone through their papers.

  15. Strangerator says:

    This quote jumped out at me as an example of what I dislike about modern MMOs.

    “Complementing the UI are the small touches which facilitate tasks that would normally force the player to check journals or whatever mundane menu-driven task that ultimately breaks the immersion. Monsters that are quest-specific have a stylized “Q” next to their health bar, and those who still need to be slain for the Monster Journal will carry an icon next to their nameplate.”

    Nameplates, health bars, and stylized Q’s have been put into the category of immersive. It’s a sad statement on the state of MMOs that these things can be relatively immersive. To me, MMOs are total turnoffs because they are so completely “gamey.” If I had to design an MMO, the rule would be this… “complexity is good, but never give the player so much information that the game can be solved by math and spreadsheets.” Instead of a health bar, how about reflecting damage graphically? As for how to have an immersive way to mark which creatures relate to the quest, the only immersive way is to hold the player responsible for knowing what he’s hunting. Maybe this would entail looking at a picture in some bestiary or something. Even removing the nameplates from monsters’ heads would be an immersive move, and it would have the neat secondarily immersive effect of players forming their own names for creatures that they have fought, before they have memorized the proper names.

    Quests themselves often ruin immersion as well, as they attempt to create this narrative that YOU (insert character name) are the ONE AND ONLY HERO. It doesn’t make sense in MMO’s the same way it does in single player games. Events need to happen independent of what your character is doing to make you feel like you are a part of this actual living world.

    EVE can be immersive, but only because the plethora of menus and incredibly dense UI are all feasible in terms of what might be available on a spaceship’s control panel. And at the end of the day, the futility and depressing message of EVE made it hard to want to continue to play. Given immortality and the freedom to explore the universe, people still chose to attempt to control one another and wage endless wars. Give me an MMO set in simpler times without the overbearing UI, HUD, and gamey features cluttering up the world and screaming at me the whole time that “You’re only playing a game, this could never be a real place!” I think such a game would draw an entirely new crowd into the fold, and create a different type of player. Make the world dynamic and the main struggle against forces outside the control of players, so that a common struggle binds players to one another for support.

    Surely someone out there is working on such a game?…

    • Arglebargle says:

      There’s probably a happy medium somewhere in there. I have been in situations where my character would know things that I, the player, have forgotten. Couldn’t play for five days, can’t remember where the guy who wanted these McGuffins is at. Sorry, no clues in Mr. Hardass MMO. There should be a level of knowledge that you just pick up by being in an area for a while. Where the street of metalworkers is. Where the dives are. What the general knowledge of the local town or village is about the surrounding countryside. Games that don’t do that are pointlessly screwing up the players. And animals and such would all have names. It’s what humans do, pretty much, name things.

      There’s a balance point between giving out all the info and making everything too obtuse that should yield cool exploration fun.

  16. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Thanking mod makers is like thanking a welder for welding; It’s always a nice thing to say, but really not that necessary. We get our satisfaction seeing how many people download our work. No need to be scared: modders aren’t going to go away because we stopped publicly singing praise. Mod making is today a traditional and encrusted activity. It’s here to stay. Let’s move on…

    Now, I’ll counter the praise with two concerns of my own.

    – Many game developers, including large studios, aren’t doing their part. Games are still being developed with a stiff mod support that breaks old mods every other version/DLC/expansion, forcing modders into a constant maintenance cycle when they could spend their times doing more interesting things.

    – The modding community lacks cohesion and any form of self-regulation. Mods that break other mods and mods that are incompatible with other mods (but that could often become compatible with just a tad bit more effort), mods that require other mods, etc… are becoming too common for comfort. Some games+mods are starting to become a large web of complexity to install.

  17. Fenixp says:

    Right:
    MOBAs are not real-time strategy games. MOBAs are much closer to competitive action RPGs. Why on earth would anyone claim a MOBA to be an RTS?

  18. The Random One says:

    That article (and the linked documentary) about the eternal mapmaker is absolutely beautiful. Now I keep imagining towns in the middle of farmland being swallowed by the Void, narrow streets abruptly stopping when they reach blank nothingness.

  19. fish99 says:

    If Microsoft/Ensemble were to put out another AoE game that was as good as AoE2, it would absolutely sell. Starcraft 2 proved that, and then HotS proved it again. It’s not just Blizzard either, the PA kickstarter showed the appetite is still there for RTS…… IF it’s done properly.

    People didn’t want some weird pseudo-MMO style AoE, and they didn’t want P2W either. It didn’t do single player OR multiplayer right.