The Sunday Papers

By Jim Rossignol on September 1st, 2013 at 8:30 am.


Sundays are for rest. But I can’t rest. Too much to do. Too much to know. Read:

  • Wired’s profile of Dean Hall and Day Z is an interesting read. I’m not sure about that training exercise, though. “Dean Hall was close to death in the jungles of Brunei. It was December 2010 and the officer cadet in the New Zealand army was alone on a survival-training mission. Given only two days’ worth of food for 20 days, he supplemented his diet with raw fish and ferns. He slept on a bed of sticks, and by the end of the mission he’d lost 44 pounds from his already lean frame. There were other trainees out there, and he started to plot raids on their food supplies. He thought of himself as an honorable person, but he was too hungry for honor. As he approached one man’s camp, the guy spotted him and tossed him some rancid ramen. Hall boiled the noodles and wolfed them down.”
  • Academics doing procedural gun generation: “We’re reading Team Blockhead Wars: Generating FPS Weapons in a Multiplayer Environment by Eric McDuffee and Alex Pantaleev. The paper describes a system they built that can create new weapons dynamically for an FPS game, and then use computational evolution to keep producing and mutating the weapons as players play the game and test the weapons out. It’s a lightweight system, but one that seems really promising right now, and easily extensible into different game genres or types of FPS.”
  • A F2P monetisation consultation explains why he is not a cancer on the games industry: “I know it’s hopeless; it is impossible to change someone’s mind on the internet. But I wanted a chance to explain that I am not a cancer on the games industry and if anything, my accidental career as a monetization consultant is a side effect of the true problem affecting the version of the games industry that Gamers hold dear.”
  • A music history of videogames.
  • Will Porter writes a list feature for how to write about games. “Being shit at games, or claiming that you’re shit at games, is the gateway to exceptional games writing. On a broad level folks appreciate honesty. They don’t like blowhards who proudly affix their ‘hardcore gamer’ name-tag and bang on about how they ‘beat this’ and ‘aced that’. Well, quaint British folks like me don’t like it anyway.”
  • Chris Schilling on intelligent new systems in games: “In the course of writing this, I found an unlikely ally. At a DICE event in Las Vegas back in February last year, David Jaffe spoke out about developers favouring story over gameplay. An over-emphasis on story, he claimed, “is a bad idea, waste of resources, of time and money and worst, has stuffed the progress of video games, to our own peril.” I don’t entirely agree with Jaffe’s assertion that games have “historically, continually been the worst medium to express philosophy, story and narrative” – there may be some truth in it, but why shouldn’t we challenge that notion? – but I do think he’s got a very good point when he says “we’ve let the gameplay muscle atrophy.”"
  • While you’re over at EG, read this interview with Hideki Kamiya “You’d think he’d be terrifying. Hideki Kamiya, the creator of Devil May Cry, Bayonetta and Okami, has a persona that has come to light through his brilliantly candid and often terse Twitter outbursts and has been cultivated since before he got into games: there’s a famous photo of a young Kamiya in a leather biker jacket, holding a Union Jack-gloved fist to his chest while a relative dressed in pink, perhaps his mother, stands politely beside him.”
  • On San Andreas’ Herobrine Bigfoot sightings: “Silver and Krimmel are not the only players who claim to have seen Bigfoot in the virtual forests of Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas, a video game released in 2004 in which players assume the role of a young gang member, Carl Johnson, in a story that draws upon various real-life events in Los Angeles, most centrally the rivalry between the Bloods and Crips street gangs. The game, set in 1992 within the fictional state of San Andreas, a geographical amalgam of California and Nevada, sold more than twenty-seven million copies worldwide. If the game’s developers had included a rare occurrence of a Bigfoot character in the Back o Beyond, occasional sightings from the masses of scouring players would be inevitable. Within months of the game’s release, videos allegedly showing sightings of Bigfoot appeared on YouTube, while viewers debated their authenticity in the comments.”
  • The team behind Last Jungle In Sector 17 talk about their failed Kickstarter: “Maybe we didn’t have enough following before the launch, maybe our Kickstarter pledge “prices” were calculated badly, maybe our Kickstarter video was badly edited or maybe the game just sucks, whatever the reason, I hope this is a lesson for all future indies who plan on crowdfunding their title. I’m not saying that this is what to expect, but I hope it gives a general idea of current attitude towards projects like ours.”
  • Some intelligent commentary in this Chris Pruett interview: “I think hardware will eventually become a standard, and games themselves will drive purchasing decisions. I think this will make a much larger array of games commercially viable, both from big and small developers, and I think it will lower the cost of game production significantly. I think that standardized hardware will also lower the cost of entry for players, and thus widen the audience that buys games. In short, this is a move that takes video games from being a large niche to being something that is available to the mainstream. And unlike today, it won’t be limited to mobile platforms (or, to put it another way, all our platforms, including our TV consoles, may be mobile).”
  • Chris Dahlen on slow games: “I recommend Knytt Underground to all of my friends, always with the caveat that they have to give it time, and they have to commit to those first few hours when nothing seems to have a point. The opening is like a test: if you can’t be patient this long, maybe you don’t deserve this vast, handcrafted world that Nifflas labored over for you. Maybe you’re a maximizer. We can’t have that in here.”
  • Lord Smingleigh is now writing regularly on Quinns’ boardgame site.
  • The cheapness of the current hype in the console war. As ever, hardware is nothing for a medium for games. Focus on those, please, corporations.
  • The dev scene in Vienna and Expander.
  • On UVB-76.
  • Woah.

Music this week is the title music from Sir, You Are Being Hunted, all day long. But I should probably share something less intense. So try this.

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168 Comments »

  1. Saint_loup says:

    I’m a little bit upset by the article on Knytt Underground. I consider myself a fan of Nifflas’ previous games, and a conoisseur of minimalist, contemplative games. But I found Knytt Underground to be plain boring, because the world was ugly as hell and didn’t give me any sense of wonder. Maybe I didn’t try hard enough, but these collages and halos of light were really offputting.

    • jrodman says:

      The article is pretty much wrong. Slow games don’t have to be dull, not even at the start.

    • Shepardus says:

      I love the look of Knytt and Knytt Stories, and Within a Deep Forest is also pretty decent, but I don’t feel the same magic in the rest of Nifflas’s games. There’s something elegant and beautiful about the original Knytt and Knytt Stories that I haven’t seen anywhere else.

      • Flavorfish says:

        Read my comment below, Knytt Underground is a game you need to give another shot, and start straight at Chapter 3 when the exploration really takes off.

      • vivlo says:

        Did you give a try at NightSky ? it is pretty great in my opinion, quite different from Knytt and Knytt underground but really beautiful with clever puzzles.

    • Flavorfish says:

      Please give it another shot. I found myself in the exact same boat, wishing it was Knytt and wishing that it ditched what initially felt like an overbearing story.

      Take my advice:

      Step 1: Go straight to chapter 3. S is to change to ball form and A is use powers.

      Step 2: EXPLORE!

      Step 3: Get lost in the game for 30 hours. Best enjoyed with a bit of weed in moderation. Find the overgrown underwater lab from WADF, find the rusted ruins of an underground industrial complex. Find mountains of trees growing from streams of lava, find artifacts that illuminate the game’s excellent post-apocolyptic lore.

      It really is an INCREDIBLE game if you give it a shot from Chapter 3. I initially hated it but once I was exploring mushroom plains to this: (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XLqozs5OqfE) I was completely hooked. It’s exploration is exceptionally high quality and seemingly endless and you’ll feel sad when you start to approach the end of explorable space.

  2. SomeDuder says:

    WRT the F2P dude – he lost all credibility when he wrote:

    “Take Square Enix for example. Over the past few years Square Enix has released some fantastic games for Gamers.”

    What the fuck. Besides that, I want F2P to fail (Too late, I know), I want to pay for a game and not use some in-game store, I have no problem with a monthly subscription (Keeps the scrubs out), why does this man and his ilk not get it oh shit I’ve activated my rambler

    • GernauMorat says:

      To me, he came across as a shit throughout; particularly the ‘its capitalism, deal with it’ passage. That always raises my hackles.

      • jrodman says:

        To that I reply “it’s entertainment, pissing off customers is bad capitalism.”

        • Shuck says:

          But one of his points, horrible as it is, is that F2P generates substantial amounts of money because there are enough people who don’t find it offensive. (And, oddly, the audience that claims the most offense is also the one putting the most money into F2P games…)

      • magos says:

        What I don’t understand is how F2P/microtransactions are a rational response to market saturation.

        • Lemming says:

          Because, like Wonga, it’s the hidden costs. It works solely on the principle of getting you to spend money you didn’t want to without realising how much you’ve actually spent. I’m not speaking personally, because I just don’t play those kind of games – but I’m sure there are thousands if not millions who do spend like that, after all – what is a recession for?

    • RedViv says:

      He just drops points all over the place in the typical “Oh hey capitalism, so it works” manner, so it’s a really irritating read. Maybe I need to buy some KotaKoins to buy the rest of the article, or read 237 more of them to unlock that for free, to get to the part where he actually discusses something other than monetary credibility?

      • LionsPhil says:

        Basically.

        Also, starting with several paragraphs of “oh, woe, poor misunderstood me” very rarely works to do anything but turn people with no particular opinion yet formed into people who don’t like you.

    • Dog Pants says:

      Among all the excuses about capitalism and how traditional gamers can’t keep the industry afloat any more, he states that F2P and microtransactions can be okay when done properly, and I agree with that. I don’t mind spending money for cosmetics and other things that enhance my enjoyment of the game, providing other people aren’t also buying things which detract from it (for example, pay-to-win is only fun when you’re the guy winning). I may not have ever played Planetside 2 or Dota 2 if they had a £30 price tag, but as it stands I could have a go at them and then pay money in if the games grab me.

      Have you considered that one of the reasons people might not buy a multiplayer game is elitism? People wanting to ‘keep the scrubs out?’ Without the entry price they might have a look and find that it’s not as bad as they thought (my experience with Dota 2), and paid some money in. From your point of view that might be fine, keeping a small and impenetrable community, but companies aren’t going to make games which don’t make money just to be someone’s private club.

      • Emeraude says:

        I fail to see how that issue couldn’t be addressed by the existence of proper demos…
        Nor how being a supporter of the traditional model implies elitism. The entry price to the community being skill, not money…

        How do you go from one to the other, may I ask ?

        • Kitsunin says:

          Because demos probably just don’t work, so the number say. Extra Credits did a great episode on why that is: If there is a demo, most people will play it before purchasing the game, eliminating part of the impulse purchase possibility. If your game is great but your demo isn’t great, people who would have bought the game will play the demo and be convinced the game is mediocre despite reviews claiming otherwise. If your game is great but your demo is great, will that really cause people who would not have bought your game otherwise to buy it? The numbers say: Nope. Perhaps for indies, but certainly not for big budget titles.

          In the context of multiplayer games which are most likely to be FTP already, do you honestly think LoL could work in any way with a demo and purchase instead of FTP, for instance?

          In the case of single player titles I am very skeptical of FTP, but I think that as long as you end up with a total price tag for the entire experience which is equal to or less than it would have been otherwise, that is no problem at all. Take the way Mini Ninjas did it iirc, splitting itself up so that the entire experience was normal price, but you could pay as you went, making the game cheaper if you got bored partway through!

          The elitism stems from the concept TF2 players who played before the game was free created, of “Free to play noobs” “Ruining” their game. Obviously that’s stupid, it’s just people arriving late to the party, but I do think that if you buy a multiplayer game late, there is that fear that everyone is already better than you. That’s not really the same when said game is free.

          • Emeraude says:

            Edit: Post-Internet Syndrome just below addressed what I meant to say by “proper demo”.

            Hell, I would argue spawn installs played a great part in making Blizzard what it is today.
            I would say a modern equivalent could only be good for those multi-player games.

          • Emeraude says:

            If there is a demo, most people will play it before purchasing the game, eliminating part of the impulse purchase possibility.

            Just re-read that, and I have to say I am impressed by how candidly one can brush trying to trick customers into an unsatisfying commercial transaction as something perfectly normal.

            (Probably not what you meant, but that is it comes off from the publisher’s mouth.)

          • Stellar Duck says:

            “Because demos probably just don’t work, so the number say. Extra Credits did a great episode on why that is: If there is a demo, most people will play it before purchasing the game, eliminating part of the impulse purchase possibility. If your game is great but your demo isn’t great, people who would have bought the game will play the demo and be convinced the game is mediocre despite reviews claiming otherwise. If your game is great but your demo is great, will that really cause people who would not have bought your game otherwise to buy it? The numbers say: Nope. Perhaps for indies, but certainly not for big budget titles.”

            As the customer and the one who has to part with the money I don’t give a toss. It’s not my problem.

            Release a demo and I may buy the game if it seems good. If not, I’ll likely either not buy it or wait until it’s at a price where I can justify buying without trying first. Which is about a tenner. It’s not my job to make sure they make money. It’s my job to make sure I don’t waste mine. So, unless there is a demo my money stays in my pocket. It’s really simple. I don’t care about numbers and how the devs aren’t making money of demos. Not. My. Problem.

            As for F2P, it can generally go die in a fire. It’s just a way of obfuscating how much something costs and especially when you introduce fake currencies to add another layer of trickery.

            Short version: it’s not my job to make sure people make money, nor do I care if they do.

          • Don Reba says:

            My position on this issue is: demos are a waste of time. If I have any doubt about the quality of a game, I will try the full free version and then decide whether to pay for it. I really don’t care for any attempts by the developer to mislead me with a limited demo.

          • Shuck says:

            @Stellar Duck: And the game developer/publisher whose job it is to make a financially viable game doesn’t give a toss that you don’t give a toss. (Oddly enough, game companies do care about doing things that are financially successful; otherwise they wouldn’t exist.) Thus no demos and the existence of F2P.

          • Emeraude says:

            otherwise they wouldn’t exist.

            Of course they would.

            The purpose of a company is to produce a good or service that is deemed desirable by/for the social body.
            Being financially responsible is a condition for doing so, not the end objective.

            Companies exist that are not financially viable, but allowed to survive because we deem their survival desirable.

            (In before “video game publishers”.)

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Obviously they generally don’t give a toss about me.

            My beef isn’t as much with them as with the apologist who will defend their practices even when those practices are anti consumer and in opposition to their own interests. It really annoys me. Even more when people say that ‘that’s capitalism’. Obviously it is. But from that follows that I must act in my own interest and that’s what so many people tend to get wrong. If a company makes a game I want I’ll buy it. If they don’t, I wont. If they go under I don’t care. If they do well I don’t really care either. That’s also capitalism I’d argue. Or at least from the consumer perspective. People become apologists for the devs because, frankly I have no clue. Fandom, I suppose? Desire to be part of it? Whatever it is, it’s stupid. The relationship between consumer and developer is one of opposite interests. Just as the relation between employer and employee. Frankly, it baffles me when people act against their own interests in either case.

            It’s like people will accept the tenet of capitalism that supposedly says that companies exist to make money. From there follows that a consumers job is to hand over as little of that money to said companies. Anything else is delusions and idiocy. Short of breaking the law, it’s my job to cheat the companies of as much of my money as possible while getting the products I want. The lack of demos, in my case, makes most new games a no buy even if I’m interested. So instead of 50€ now the dev get’s 5-10€ later if I haven’t forgotten the game again.

          • Shuck says:

            @Emeraude: Er, that doesn’t make any sense. If companies weren’t financially viable, they’d shut down. That’s kind of how it works.

          • Emeraude says:

            @Shuck:

            a) state support ?
            b) As I said, being financially responsible is a necessary condition. Not the main objective.

        • Dog Pants says:

          A demo would be a valid way too, but nobody seems to make those any more. Maybe it’s a perspective thing – more people feel like they’re getting a full game with F2P, while a demo is only a taster.

          Regarding the elitism thing, that was only in response to SomeDuder’s use of the statement ‘keeps the scrubs out.’ I don’t think any game developer is looking to reduce their player base to only those who consider themselves hardcore. I’m not suggesting subscription models or normal up-front pricing are elitist.

          • Emeraude says:

            Apologies for the misreading.

          • Dog Pants says:

            Not at all, thanks for asking me to clarify.

          • Lemming says:

            I’d argue demos can work (assuming your game is not shit), but they have to work like a cliff-hanger TV episode. It’s pointless to just rip out the first level of your game and use it as a demo if there’s nothing interesting happening until level 3.

            Even better ( if you can afford it), make a level just for the demo where you can include a wide variety of game play. Playing the first area of your epic 48 hour RPG where you do nothing but talk to friendly villagers is hardly going to make a sale.

            Having said all that, I usually find a written review, and a gameplay video on Youtube more than sufficient to know if I’ll like a game or not.

          • Dog Pants says:

            That would be a wonderful thing, but the developers would either have to design the game specifically with a level in mind, or create new content for a demo. That has a cost overhead, and I imagine it’s safer just to spend that money on PR.

        • HadToLogin says:

          I think demo died with internet AND core-gamers not being mainstream gamers. Those 15-20 years ago developer needed to show game mostly to core-gamers and they only could get attention through paper-magazines and demos on CDs.
          Now core gamers are a niche and there’s youtube all you need to get hype are trailers, along some teasers and teasers-of-teasers and even RPS will be more than willing to write about every single one of them…

          • jezcentral says:

            I would have thought demos just got a shot in the arm with EA’s new Origin refund policy. Especially if Steam matches it.

            The actual game being the demo is a pretty radical idea.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I’ve bought a few games I otherwise wouldn’t have on the basis of a free weekend on Steam letting me discover that I liked them.

          • Baines says:

            Demos died when publishers realized that demos were more likely to convince people to not buy a game than to buy it. (People not interested in your game aren’t going to try your demo. Only fence sitters and people who already plan to buy your game will try the demo. If you allow for opposing fence sitters to cancel out, you are still losing “confirmed buys” who decide against buying your game after trying the demo.)

      • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

        I can easily imagine more MP games having a system similar to SC2′s Starter Edition: A scaled-down free client that can play the full game but with limits, for example only matches hosted by people with the full game. This kind of “demo” fulfills that same purpose of populating servers and providing content in the form of players for paying customers, but avoids the microtransactions and exploitative design that almost inevitably results from F2P.

        The central problem with F2P is that it encourages designing the game to be less entertaining. If you go the DOTA2 route of only being able to pay for cosmetics, that might work, but too few games do this.

        • Dog Pants says:

          I agree, and while I have no issue with the principles of F2P and microtransactions, I don’t see it done well very often. There’s a distinction to be made between the models of LoL, Planetside 2, Dota 2 etc, where the players spend money if they enjoy the game and choose to invest into it, and those of ‘monetization’ games like Candy Crush where it is specifically designed to lure you into paying more and more money just to keep playing.

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          “If you’re not paying for the product, you are the product.”

      • KDR_11k says:

        Talk about how traditional sales don’t keep the industry afloat is usually based on AAA games that cost so friggin much to develop that they need to sell several millions just to break even. F2P wouldn’t help there, the cure is smaller budgets, not trying to find some magical business model that lets you keep all your hubris the same.

        Also the core problem I have with F2P is that it changes the developer’s goal from making a good game to making a monetizable game. Whereas previously difficulty curves were tuned to grow with player skill and gear now they are tuned specifically to exceed what the player is capable of to make him pay money in order to bridge the gap.

        Even when it’s not horribly exploitative it still ruins the feel of the game by forcing you into a guarded state where you need to make sure you aren’t being tricked into some BS payment. You can no longer trust the game or the developer.

        • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

          I quite agree.

        • Dog Pants says:

          I think you’re being a little cynical, but I understand why that is. Free to play doesn’t have to be calculated around paywalls and monetization. it’s just that is quite often is, especially in mobile games. More developers are learning that making a good game will encourage people to willingly spend money on it. Take Team Fortress 2 for example. Clearly that wasn’t designed with skill gaps to lure players into paying to overcome them, and yet it’s still hugely profitable.

          Unfortunately I think your sentiment of always being suspicious of being fleeced is common, and even more unfortunately I think it’s justified at the moment, but hopefully as more people pick up on it and gravitate to those games which don’t treat players as a resource the trend will change to good games which make money because people want to pay to embed themselves in the game they enjoy, rather than buying cheats to let them skip hard levels.

          • Reapy says:

            It’s this god damn grind design of the present. Can we just get a well balanced game that is fun with all the fucking weapons unlocked for once? F2p just makes it worse by making longer grinds you can skip for money, or it becomes some sort of meta game just to try different play styles within a game.

            Just. Give. Me. The. fucking. Game.

            I will happily grind out cosmetics, and welcome visual transformations for cash, no problem. Just man, I would love to start up and be able to try the play styles all out and pick the one I want to stick with, or, I know crazy, but damn I might want to switch up what role I’m playing in the same night. Amazing, I know, but when you have to grind for a week to be effective, it just makes me tend to quit games from boredom faster.

            Imagine playing quake 3 having to spend a week grinding the rocket launcher, and another for the rail. Sad.

          • Baines says:

            Cynical? Levy’s article was his response to the negative way that Kotaku and commenters viewed his example of how to monetize Super Mario Bros 3. Kotaku links to the SMB3 article, so it is easy enough to read.

            Levy’s SMB3 ideas included things like removing the free life for every 100 coins. That was because he proposed instead having lives regenerate on a 30 minute timer, which could be skipped if you paid real money. Coins would instead be turned into an in-game currency that you’d grind to spend on pretty much everything. Instead of Toad’s mini-game and end-of-level granting items, they would grant crafting components (and the EOL reward would be time-restricted as well).

            That isn’t a guy parodying monitaztion and f2p, that is a guy pushing for companies to accept them, promoting some of the worst sins of the model. Why does his defense of his job article take a slightly different tone? Because he is talking to a different audience. In his “not a cancer” article, he’s trying to sell gamers and detractors on the idea that monitization and f2p can be done well. But when he’s speaking to the companies that will implement his ideas, he’s not selling them on gamer positives of f2p, he’s selling the massive money-making potential of every manipulation and trick available.

            It’s like the two faces of a payday loan guy. Payday loans are a profitable business that exploits people by locking them into a cycle of debt that can be hard to escape. But when the news stations and attorney general start investigating, the payday loan guy argues how he is providing a service to help people who for only one month need a quick influx of cash. He may be speaking truth, but it is only a fraction of the whole truth, and has little to do with how he actually targets and runs the business.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            Imagine playing quake 3 having to spend a week grinding the rocket launcher, and another for the rail. Sad.

            This is one of the main reasons I refuse to play Call of Duty, Battlefield & their ilk.

            The other being they’re vapid nonsense completely lacking in gameplay beyond “shoot angry mans in face”.

          • Baines says:

            Getting weapons in Call of Duty isn’t that bad, for two reasons. First, you level fast in COD. Second, as much as people knock COD’s weapons for all being the same, the similarities mean that you aren’t really hurt that much if your favorite gun happens to be a late unlock.

    • Prime says:

      Cancer should not be able to speak to you. Make it stop!

      This whole piece read like Satan describing why he and his minions aren’t such a bad lot, and actually they only exist because it’s all your fault really, so if you end up with a red hot poker rammed inside your penis while demons are fucking your eye sockets it’s because YOU failed to support them when they asked politely.

      I especially loved the whole “I speak about emotions” justification for developers to use to stop them feeling like such manipulative douchebags (I paraphrased a little towards the end there). Yes, because cynically applying psychological con-tricks is EXACTLY the same thing as providing a great experience that draws players in emotionally.

      Cancer that doesn’t even recognise itself as cancer. Kill it with fire.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        It’s like a fund manager trying to explain that short-selling and collateralized debt obligation swaps aren’t bad, they’re actually important and necessary.

        They’re not necessary, they are bad, and the only reason they’re saying they aren’t bad is because it gives them a very lucrative job and is a great way to bilk customers.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Just think how much more easily we could diagnose it early if it could, though.

        And the anguished screams you’d hear during chemotherapy.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        I like the way he spends half the piece talking about the virtues of capitalism but concludes with the quite epic “You are the problem for not buying games you will never play”

    • rxyz says:

      Besides that, I want F2P to fail (Too late, I know)

      I want F2P to succeed so much that all big AAA publisher go exclusively F2P leaving the field open to developers who actually care about good game mechanics, writing etc. that actually makes a good game as opposed to a good monetization platform. And hopefully it would mean the F2P space is so fully crowded that only AAA games get decently sized player bases.

    • Synesthesia says:

      Does anyone have at hand that amazing piece about f2p design, that long, 13 page piece? I think it was called ghost stories, or something like that. i remember a section called ” the man who spent two dollars and fifty cents” Cant seem to find it by myself. Boo!

    • draglikepull says:

      The thing that strikes me about his bit on the sales of Square games is how much he misses what seems to be the real point to me: the insane expectations of publishers. He cites *physical* sales of the latest Hitman game at 3.6 million units and Tomb Raider at 3.4 million. Both games presumably sold a reasonable number of units digitally as well (Tomb Raider was a headline deal one day in the Steam summer sale and also got a big promotion on the Playstation Network a few months back). I don’t know how many units they sold digitally, but I think it’s fair to guess to both of them easily eclipsed 4 million units sold in total between physical and digital.

      In what universe is 4 million units sold not good enough? Those games were never going to sell like Call of Duty or Grand Theft Auto. According to Wikipedia (grain of salt alert) Uncharted 2 sold 5 million copies in its first two years on the market. It was one of the biggest, most highly touted Playstation 3 games. But Hitman and Tomb Raider sold nearly as many copies and are somehow big disappointments?

      That doesn’t suggest to me that “core” gamers aren’t buying enough games or that AAA games are a dying breed, it suggests to me that Square’s executives and/or shareholders are insane. If you can’t make money selling millions of copies of what was pretty obviously never going to be a CoD-esque blockbuster that’s a failure of planning, not the market.

      • endaround says:

        Yep. Square Enix had incredibly unrealistic expectations of sales because FFXIV was still eating money after its failed launch and FFXIII-2 was not the cash grab they thought it would be. The sales of those games were great. Square had other issues.

        • Baines says:

          A few people went as far as to say that Square-Enix had to give some excuse to (Japanese) stockholders for money shortcomings, and simply decided to throw their Western developed games under the bus rather than admit issues with their Eastern developed games.

    • WHS says:

      The thing about F2P and DLC is that they have a very sound formal economic explanation; they’re forms of price discrimination, which has traditionally been treated by economists as an unambiguously good thing for producers to do. The problem is that this ignores the effect on consumers: even using the economists’ own logic, price discrimination is designed to make consumers less happy with their purchases. That’s exactly what it’s done. I wrote a longer thing about this on my personal blog: http://www.417am.com/2013/09/free-to-play-games-are-awful-and.html

      (I apologize for being a little bit spammy and posting links to the blog and all, but it doesn’t have much of a gamer readership!)

      Basically, I think in the short term, F2P is making companies a lot of money, but in the long term, even the most sympathetic understanding of the practice has to recognize that it drains consumer goodwill out of the industry. It’s literally a sales practice designed to make sure no one feels like they’ve gotten a bargain when they buy a game.

      • aepervius says:

        friendly advice : avoid dark background (blue) with dark font color (black) that makes your blog difficult on the eye.

        • WHS says:

          Mind if I ask what you’re viewing from? The background is supposed to be light blue but it seems like it doesn’t load right for some people.

          • Baines says:

            Before the gradient background appears, the original background is dark blue. Couldn’t you change the original background to a lighter blue, in case you never find out where/why it isn’t loading correctly for some people?

          • WHS says:

            Well, ideally. But then the gradient ends up looking wonky because the dark blue is what makes it work. There’s probably some sort of magical internet wizardry that I can use to change that, but I’m completely incompetent in the web design arena. I’ll check with my internet wizard friends to see anything can be done, though.

          • stahlwerk says:

            I find even the light blue a bit hard to read. Maybe think about dropping fancyness from the text container Background altogether?

            </unsolicited_web_design_advice>

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I do sympathize with people who are passionate about making video games, but find that they can’t make a living making good games in today’s industry. That must really suck. If games are your passion, I can certainly see where you’d want to find ways to get past that and make a living rather than just giving up and going to work for a bank.

      Where you lose me is where you decide that if you genuinely can’t sell good games, you should instead sell shitty, cynical, exploitative ones. Making shitty F2P games no more honors your gaming “passion” than writing high-speed trading shit for the banks would. It genuinely sucks that you had to euthanize your ideals to feed your family, but don’t make hand-puppets out of their corpses and try to convince me they’re still alive. Have some fucking dignity.

      (It’s true that not all F2P games are terrible. Some of them are actually quite tasteful and well-done. 99%+ are not, and if you want to convince me that you’re a good-guy F2P developer you need start off by convincing me that yours don’t do the terrible bits. Instead, Ethan Levy chose to tell me about monetizing emotions, quickly and clear demonstrating that he *is* one of the terribles.)

      • Baboonanza says:

        I agree completely, with the exception of feeling sorry for developers. So you can’t make money following your passion? Boo-fucking-hoo, neither can 99% of humanity.

    • Contrafibularity says:

      Ehm, F2P _is_ failing! It’s failing to produce interesting, fun games. The only thing F2P has successfully accomplished is learning how to exploit social bonds and rivalries for profit, and how to blur the lines between skill games and money games (hint: if you have to ask, it’s a money game).

      See: Gamasutra: The Top F2P Monetization Tricks

      Of course a “F2P monetisation consultant” would think otherwise. Just because there’s an audience of unsuspecting first-time gamers and vulnerable users does not however mean that it’s okay to exploit these people. And F2P shits actually call the most vulnerable people, who are easily manipulated into spending theirs and their family’s life savings on a crap flash game “whales”, as if to imply that their need to surface and breathe renders them helpless, as if they’re just some massive money stuffed piñata. If that’s not enough to prove willing intent to exploit vulnerable people I don’t know what is.

      In 10 years time F2P will have destroyed more lives than all conventional compulsive gambling combined, and the games industry will gain another stigma for other mass media to clobber it over the head with. And “F2P monetisation experts” will still be defending it with the same old F2P shibboleths “but we’re CONNECTING so many people!”, “no one is forcing anyone to pay” (an outright lie as most of their revenue comes from vulnerable people, and their malware is specifically designed to appeal to them and to remove whatever mental brakes stand in the way of spending ever more, see the linked article) and of course last but not least “it’s not our fault there will always be problem users”.

      It’s perhaps some small consolation that no F2P malware will ever be remembered as a real videogame.

  3. Emeraude says:

    “I Am Not A ‘Cancer’ On The Game Industry” reads like a perfect example of how, in their own narrative, no one is the villain.

    I find it mildly amusing that the argument fails to address any of the design, and design-related ethical issues raised by F2P, and mainly concentrate on the economical aspect, and then, in my opinion, fails to present any clear argument as to why, how and when F2P could be a good thing.
    Reads like one of those argument one makes not so much to convince others as to comforts oneself in one’s opinions and doings.

    • Grygus says:

      The first few paragraphs express contempt for his customer base and you could pretty much stop right there.

    • BlueTemplar says:

      We sometimes have to make a choice in life : doing the right thing, or making money. The excuse “but I need money to pay the bills!”, doesn’t make choosing the money any less wrong.

      • Lone Gunman says:

        But we all do that to some extent. I for one can’t afford expensive clothes so I buy the cheaper stuff. I haven’t actually looked into why it is cheap but it wouldn’t surprise me if it coming from sweatshops is the reason.

        • Emeraude says:

          But then you don’t go arguing that sweatshops aren’t something one should be ashamed of owning/managing.

        • BlueTemplar says:

          Same thing, buying inexpensive clothes that you suspect are produced in sweatshops is still wrong even if you can’t afford expensive non-sweatshop ones. Realizing that it’s wrong is already a step towards making it less wrong.

          It’s sadly not possible to _always_ do the right thing, often because you don’t even have the information as to what the right thing is – but you can prioritize your choices in life to do the most good / do the least wrong, according to your capabilities.

          I doubt that being a F2P-P2W apologist was the only way the guy could make enough money to make ends meet…

    • stupid_mcgee says:

      “I Am Not A ‘Cancer’ On The Game Industry” reads like a perfect example of how, in their own narrative, no one is the villain.

      Pretty spot on.

      “I am not a cancer on the agricultural industry!” proclaims Monsanto.

      You can say it all you want, but that doesn’t make it true.

      • gwathdring says:

        Monsanto’s hypothetical protestation also has a disadvantage in that Monsanto causes literal cancer.

    • TimorousBeastie says:

      Ok, here’s the one Free to Play design feature that’s very important and the reason it’s not likely going to go away:

      Multiplayer Games rely on an active user-base.

      That’s pretty much it. With F2P you can much easier guarantee a large number of players coming through the door throughout a games life-span, as there is no investment other than initial bandwidth cost and download time (which is why download size is incredibly important in an F2P product). It really doesn’t matter if your game is amazing or not if you don’t have full servers. For most multiplayer games interaction with other players is a major focus of the design, and without them your product will fail. Paid products have a habit of failing to draw these crowds without stupid amounts of money spent on advertising, or other tricks, and it’s always awful seeing some pretty great games fall into relative obscurity due to lack of players (Showdown Effect and Shootmania, I’m looking at you guys).

      How many games have you played that should be great but don’t have anyone playing (and you end up facing the same 2-3 guys over and over), or ones that rely on free weekends to try and bolster their user-bases. F2P allows for more niche products to exist, as players that wouldn’t have otherwise even thought about trying it out will give them a go and potentially stick around. Without any initial cost to play, you can afford much lower retention rates by using niche mechanics. Now of course F2P isn’t the only way to remove the initial barrier to entry (there’s a reason TF2 shipped in the Orange box rather than standalone), but it is probably the most effective.

      Now the problem with F2P is that unless you’re Valve, just selling customisation items doesn’t generally net you enough profit to keep running (and even then, TF2 has probably the most manipulative implementation around), and there are a lot of pretty nasty tricks that you can do to convert your player-base. Regardless of good intentions unless you’re fairly indie there’s likely going to be a suit somewhere upstairs that doesn’t care about ethical obligations and will be happy to throw in random-boxes, chests, roulette wheels, etc etc to attempt to push conversion (and conversion is the one area you don’t want to be focusing on if you’re wanting to walk away with any morals intact). The Pay-2-Win thing isn’t actually much of a problem, as most western developers are pretty adamant about avoiding it, and most publishers are smart enough to understand that if they want to keep their developers, they’ll not push the subject, but that doesn’t reduce the player perception that it can potentially exist.

      • Emeraude says:

        See up there the discussion about demos/spawn installs/SC2-like starter editions.
        Not exactly a rebuttal, but complementary I’d say.

      • Post-Internet Syndrome says:

        This is pretty much exactly what that old presentation about the development of Battlefield Heroes said. They initially tried to stay “clean”, but pressure from suits and clueless players who actually didn’t mind paying for extra damage led them down the path of darkness.

        As I mentioned above though, I feel at least some games could handle the player base problem by having a free version of the game, with full access to all the maps and gamemodes, but reduced customization or other nonessential features. You would pay a one-time fee to get access to the full game if you wanted, and that would be that. This would – hopefully – keep the game populated while relieveing the developers of the pressure to make the game grindy or otherwise compromise the fun with micros.

        There would likely be problems with this implementation too, and who knows, maybe it just won’t work, or work as well, for various psychological reasons, but I’d like to see developers try it at least.

        • The Random One says:

          It’s worth remembering that in that Battlefield Heroes story they said MOST players wanted to pay for extra damage and other P2W stuff. So take ideas like “all players hate F2P” with a grain of salt. Most literate, highly involved gamers hate F2P; a big MP game that appeals only to those players cannot sustain itself.

        • Jack Mack says:

          Quake 3 let you have one map (the best map) and pay for the rest of the game if you wanted.

          I’ve heard it never actually made a profit because of that. I can’t find a source for that now, though, so take it with a pinch of salt.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            What? If you’re talking about Q3Test then you’re sort of half right. Maybe that applies to Quake Live (haven’t played it myself so I don’t know) but Quake 3 Arena was a full priced commercial product with everything included.

    • Frank says:

      Yeah, the guy completely forgot to make an actual f***ing argument for F2P per se. I’m not interested in arguments for being sympathetic to game developers; those are completely beside the point.

      I was hoping he could put in into the historical context of other ways games are financed and describe what it’s useful for and what it isn’t, and why.

      Instead, he’s just the guy who worked on that Flash Dragon Age game and was born again as an F2P guru. I guess the title of the post was a very accurate description of it’s content, anyway: pure apologetics.

    • dE says:

      You either hunt the Whale or you hunt the Dudebro. An entire industry seems to be in pursuit of two mythological creatures. Two unspeakable horrors of hypothetically unimaginable riches, yet no one has ever seen one in the flesh. Only whatever muck they leave behind when they’ve moved on.
      I’m starting to wonder whether the ship might have to sink for the industry to realize there’s a perfectly healthy audience for “core” games far away from those two imaginary ghosts sprung from a bad statisticians dream. One that is quite happy with games that have essence over fluff. Alas, Ahab demands the hunt continues, throw more money at the sinking ship, we will catch it yet!

      /edit:
      To make it clear, this is no “gaming is dying” message. Gaming will prevail. The industry in it’s current state, probably not.

  4. Commander Gun says:

    I kinda liked the F2P article tbh. Granted, not everything he says is right, for example, apparently he sees the score of metacritic as an indicator that a game is ‘good’, while we all know (especially the rps readers) that scores are almost always too high.If there is a real metacritic score, it is that of the users and not that of the professional reviewers.

    However, he makes some good points too. Especially:
    “The supply of unique, high quality games being developed for Gamers is too great. Greater than the total demand for those games, as measured by dollars spent on (non-used) copies. That is why studios get shut down.32P
    When I was younger and had all the time in the world to play games, I did not have the money to buy them. Now that I have money to spend on games, I have very little time to play them.”

    This at least for me is very recognizable, to the point that i have a backlog of more than a year of games to play (not that this is bad, i simply buy all games for at least 75% discount because they are so “old”).

    • Emeraude says:

      He raises some valid issues, he just fails to connect how F2P happens to be a decent solution to those.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Yeah, how exactly would F2P help if the market is oversaturated and people don’t even get around to playing the game? Why would they spend money when they aren’t playing? I’d say F2P is even worse for a supply overload because it consumes more total play time to generate money than a traditional game and most adults are time constrained, not money constrained.

        • bleeters says:

          It’s the typical reasoning I’ve seen thrown around by industry folk before: they can’t get enough blood out of the stone, so they require additional mechanisms to squeeze rocks with. And we should all be grateful and supportive of that end, because who else will supply us with blood if they can’t anymore?

        • Sparkasaurusmex says:

          Also with the amount of F2P games available I can probably play all day long by jumping from one to another every time a transaction comes up. That wouldn’t be fun at all (for me) but possible.

          So far the best way to do F2P (seemingly) is to speed up XP gain or something. You pay for a package to get faster increases. Well, devs surely test this and there is a balance somewhere in the ration of playing time to experience gained. I’m sure the default rate is slower than the “fun” rate, and the transactions give you a temporary ticket for the “fun” rate.

          But the whole genre (?) is devolving to this make-numbers-go-up-faster (and cosmetics) certain games seem designed from the ground up to push players towards paying for these packages. That’s obviously a recipe for a not-fun game.

        • Baines says:

          F2p is a “solution” because it cannibalizes money from pay-to-play games. For the guy selling the concept of f2p, and for the companies looking to find more money, all that matters is that it produces more profits in the short term.

          If, in the long term, f2p starts to dominate the market, then the f2p salesmen/supporters will change their focus and sales pitch on how you need to implement their ideas to stay competitive.

  5. Emeraude says:

    The “Will Porter” list raise an issue I have been having trying to tackle about writing for/about games.

    There’s a huge discrepancy in experience between the invested, the occasional, and the casual audiences.

    I recently was looking at a friend play, and get stuck in a game. He was unable to solve a puzzle. I took one look at the screen and the solution was self-evident to me. The idea that you could get stuck on that was mind-blowing to me.
    Thing is, I know my gaming grammar to the tip of my fingers. I’ve been playing games for the good part of 30 years, extensively.

    It’s very hard to cross and properly evaluate the experience each audience you’re nto a part of might have.

    Conversely, it’s becoming more and more difficult to design a game that hold the interest of all audiences. Close to impossible I’d say.

  6. Danda says:

    The Day Z article is really interesting. I didn’t know Dean Hall was a true adventurer.

    Can we expect a new Kickstarter Katchup article soon? Will it mention the new Mega Man game?

    • Gap Gen says:

      It’s awesome that Day Z is basically autobiographical.

      • Synesthesia says:

        Sometimes, to reminisce old times, Rocket just goes on a walk and kills everyone that walks into his field of view. Ah, nostalgia.

    • SkittleDiddler says:

      Too bad Hall didn’t put any of that sense of adventure into Day Z.

      • skullBaseknowledge says:

        Can somebody say something smart about the Day Z article? Something about Dean Hall’s Everest tour, leaving a person to die in the mountain, and saying “it was a Day Z-moment” makes me feel really uncomfortable. What is it with military guys, shooters and near-death-pathos-bullshit?

        • Saarlaender39 says:

          I’d say it’s a “do or die” – situation, maybe in the most literal sense.

          http://altereddimensions.net/2012/dead-bodies-on-mount-everest

          Edit: or actually maybe more of a “do (try to help) and die” – situation.

          Quote:”Given that a person can die between breaths, many dead are not recognized as such until quite some time after they succumb. In an environment where the climber’s every step is a struggle, rescue of the dead or dying is all but impossible and bodies of the dead are almost always irretrievable. The bodies become part of the landscape and many become “landmarks” that later climbers use as way markers during their climb. There are an estimated 200 bodies lying around the topmost part of Mount Everest.”

          Quote 2:”The popular South East Ridge Route to the top of Mount Everest was at one time called by climbers “The Rainbow Valley” because of the sheer number of bodies that littered the route to the summit, all dressed in various colorful climbing gear. It was impossible to summit by this route without coming close to and seeing many of these dead climbers. Over the years, climbers have cut ropes and pushed some of these bodies over the side while snow and ice have covered others. But even today, multiple bodies are visible along the South Ridge Route.

          One infamous example was that of German climber Hannelore Schmatz. In 1979 she died on her descent after summiting. At the time she was the first woman to die on the upper slopes of Everest. Exhausted and caught at 8,300 meters (27,200 feet) just below the summit, Ms. Schmatz and another climber made the decision to bivouac as darkness fell. The Sherpa’s urged her and American climber Ray Gennet to descend, but they laid down to rest and never got up. Genet’s body disappeared and has never been seen, but for years, climbers would pass the frozen remains of Ms. Schmatz, still sitting and leaning against her pack, eyes wide open and long hair blowing in the constant wind. A climber who had to pass her body to reach the summit described the experience: “It’s not far now. I cannot escape the sinister guard. Approximately 100 meters above Camp IV she sits leaning against her pack, as if taking a short break. A woman with her eyes wide open and her hair waving in each gust of wind…..it feels as if she follows me with her eyes as I pass by. Her presence reminds me that we are here on the conditions of the mountain.”

          Five years after she died, two climbers attempted to recover her body. Yogendra Bahadur Thapa and Sherpa Ang Dorje somehow became tangled in their ropes and both fell to their deaths while trying to recover the body. Years later the wind finally blew her body over the edge of the mountain.”

          Quote 3:”On May 22, 1998, climber Francys Arsentiev accomplished one of the “Everest Firsts”, by becoming the first woman from the USA to summit without bottled oxygen. Unfortunately, she never lived to celebrate this accomplishment. Arsentiev and her husband climbing partner Sergei Arsentiev were in position to reach the summit on May 20 and May 21 but had to turn around both times. On May 22nd on their third attempt they made it. But they had been in the “Death Zone” above 8,000 meters for almost three days. Because they were exhausted from spending so much time above 8,000 meters they summited late in the day and had to camp and spend another night above 8,000 meters. The next morning they descended but somehow got separated. Sergei reached camp and found she was not there. He immediately went back up to find her carrying oxygen and medicine.

          Late that morning an Uzbek team found Arsentiev frozen and struggling to survive. They attempted to help her and brought her down as far as they could before they became too exhausted to do more. They saw Sergei on his way back up the mountain as they descended. That was the last anyone would ever see of Sergei Arsentiev alive.

          The next morning a team of climbers including Ian Woodall and Cathy O’Dowd found Francys Arsentiev where the Uzbek team had left her, amazingly, still alive, but barely. Sergei had left his ice axe and rope but there was no sign of him. There was nothing Woodall, O’Dowd and their party could do to save her and she died that morning. For a true account of what happened as told by O’Dowd, read this article.

          Woodall and O’Dowd gave up their own chance at summiting to stay with her and care for her as much as they could. But they had to leave her where she died, and her body remained as one of the “landmarks” along the path from high camp to the summit for all subsequent climbers to see as they passed her on their way to the top. Sergie’s body was found a year later down the mountain face. He apparently fell to his death trying to save his wife.

          For almost ten years the memory of her death haunted Ian Woodall and he set out in 2007 to try to reach her body and give her some manner of dignified burial. Although he was unable to free the body of “Green Boots” on this mission back to Mount Everest he called “The Tao of Everest”, Woodall did reach the body of Francys Arsentiev. After a brief ritual, Woodall lowered her body to a lower section of the mountain where she would no longer be visible to climbers passing by on their way to the top of Mount Everest.”

          • L3TUC3 says:

            Wow, thanks for the link. This was pretty a pretty fascinating and shocking read to me as I wasn’t aware of the sheer amount of dead on the everest. What mostly struck me is the personal stories behind each of the bodies, although many of them appear are bound to be lost to the ages.

            It makes me sad to think about it.

          • tigershuffle says:

            Thank you for that. Will have to do a bit more reading now cos it sounds fascinating.

          • Baines says:

            Most people probably aren’t aware of how deadly Everest is. You hear constantly about people going to climb it, or saying that they are going to climb it, to the point that it just sounds like any other vacation.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            But to be fair, they are mostly talking about “climbing” up to base camp, which is in itself an amazing achievement but for most fit people basically a tough walking holiday.

  7. Kadayi says:

    Surprised at Jaffe bemoaning storytelling in games given he cited 30 flights of loving as his GoTY in 2012

    http://www.giantbomb.com/videos/david-jaffes-top-10-games-of-2012/2300-6921/

    possibly one of the worst offenders of ‘not a game’ Vs vaguely interactive fiction when you get down to it.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Because sometimes great story takes over poor gameplay/mechanics (Walking Dead).

      But we don’t need Shakespears writing Battle of Duty, they only need good shooting mechanics.

      Great example where storytelling affected game – Hitman Absolution, where story forced mechanics to change, making practically a new, different game.

      • Kadayi says:

        But there is no game play to 30FOL. There’s no decision making or anything.

        • The Random One says:

          Because they are unnecessary. It’s a game solely so that your feelings can be directly project on the player characters, while also keeping them dissociated through the fast-cuts. Any “real” gameplay would just harm its central concept.

    • FriendlyFire says:

      He says that in general the focus on storytelling makes the game worse by diminishing the gameplay. That doesn’t mean there aren’t exceptions to the rule. If a game can work with a heavy focus on storytelling, great, but his point is that most of the time it fails thanks to lackluster gameplay.

      • Kadayi says:

        I think the main thing we’re running up against is largely in the arena of the 3rd person action adventure catagory. Everything from Tomb Raider, Max Payne, Hitman through to GTA & Assassins creed. Principally because any and all of those games run up against limited game play inputs and that invariably lead to high levels of event repetition that kind of break the experience.

    • Wisq says:

      To call 30FoL a “worst offender” of being “not a game” is to miss the point of it. A game is an experience. Sometimes games are pure gameplay, devoid of story. Why can’t the opposite be true as well?

      Think of the Holodeck in Star Trek. On many occasions, characters play out scenes from history or fiction. They get to participate in the story. They may choose to carve their own path and see what happens (branching gameplay), or they may choose to just play their role in the event / story as it happened / was written. They experience the story first-hand, even if they had no say in how it plays out. And a lot of those stories are just dramas or mysteries or whatnot, not glorious Klingon battles, so sometimes they’re not even really doing anything interesting — just experiencing.

      Games are the closest analogue we have to this, because movies don’t let you experience these stories first-hand; they just chronicle the story, either from an impassive third-person view, or (rarely) from someone else’s first-person view. And sometimes, you’re given choices; other times, you’re simply led along a path. But either way, experiencing it, even if you have little choice in the matter, is still much different than watching a movie.

      If anything, I prefer 30FoL to the (many) games these days that give you a similarly linear story but pad it out with boring unrelated gameplay, while drip-feeding the story to you to keep you interested. Few things suck more than slogging through bad gameplay just so you can see how the game ends. Whereas 30FoL keeps it brief and to-the-point, and avoids endless exposition, leaving you to fill in the blanks in your mind. Which I quite like, and I wish more games (and movies) would do.

      • Vinraith says:

        Why would you want to call something without gameplay a game? Calling it a game creates the expectation of gameplay, which in turn is just going to produce a parade of disgruntled, angry customers who feel they were mislead. Wouldn’t it be better to label experiences like this something else, so that it’s clear to everyone what they are in the first place and so they won’t be judged by the criteria we judge games by?

        • The Random One says:

          I wouldn’t think any disgruntled customers would angrily return Italo Calvino’s The Invisible Cities because it’s referred to as a novel but doesn’t have a story per se and is mostly a collection of freeform poems.

          The word “game” describes perfectly what 30FoL does, because it uses the language of games, the control schemes of games, and riffs off the expectation of games to tell its story. To say that a new word is needed would be like someone in the 20′s saying movies with speech need a new name to define them because a movie is defined by its lack of sound.

        • ffordesoon says:

          Why would you call a picture book that’s not meant to be funny a comic?

          Why would you call a work of fiction that isn’t bursting with originality a novel?

          Why would you call something that doesn’t rhyme a poem?

          Why would you call fiction about things that are scientifically impossible science fiction?

          Et cetera.

        • Jack Mack says:

          Because Gameplay is such a meaningless term. Pretty much all not-games still involve surpassing obstacles in order to achieve a goal. How can you decide which ones deserve the “Gameplay inside!” sticker?

          If puzzles make something like Phoenix Wright into a “Game” – what makes a puzzle substantial enough to be called “Gameplay? We might agree that the rubber-chicken-with-a-pulley-in-the-middle puzzle is clearly gameplay, but what about puzzles that just require you to click on the right piece of dialogue? If those aren’t gameplay; what if some dialogue options gave you a stat increase, or changed NPC’s opinions, or played into a full-on negotiation minigame? Where do you draw the line?

          There is not a clear delineation between Game and Not-Game. Instead, all games exist on a sliding scale between More and Less Gamey*. Visual novels take up the latter end of the spectrum, followed by Dear Esther, TFoL, Call of Duty, Guitar hero, until you get to games like Crusader Kings 2, Chess, etc.

          *Terms deliberately vague. I’ll tentatively define gamey-ness as “Level of Interactivity”, but it’s a pretty rough theory. “Gamey” is clearly a terrible term, not least because I believe stuff like Dear Esther is still just as much a game as anything else.

          • Emeraude says:

            I’d say 30FOL is *play*, but barely *game*.
            If there’s a spectrum of game-ness, then it sits close to the lower edge, next to “games of pretend”.

            (Which has nothing to do with it being bad or good, I’m just talking from a critical theory standpoint here.)

          • Jack Mack says:

            I feel like games of pretend are the complete opposite to 30 Flights. 30 flights is rigidly restricted, linear, and gives you only one way to achieve your goal; in a game of pretend you set the goals yourself, you can achieve them in any way you choose, and the goals, obstacles and tools shift wildly from one moment to the next.

            Gaming is much more interesting to talk about if you include stuff like this.

          • Emeraude says:

            Just to be sure there is no misunderstanding:
            I didn’t say they were the same, I said they would be sitting close to each other on that scale.

            Which, for all the differences you mentioned, I find interesting.

          • Jack Mack says:

            Oh, I see. You’re completely right.

            Maybe if I create some kind of rotating ball-graph with 16 axes, we’ll finally be able to position games with pinpoint accuracy.

      • Baines says:

        Wisq, your comparison falls down because every other week the Star Trek Holodeck tries to trap you, kill you, or take over the ship. The Holodeck is more like one of those survival vacation experiences. Everything is fine and dandy and safe until you trip and end up with a tree branch piercing your lung in the middle of an Amazon rainforest.

  8. jrodman says:

    The console war snark article was weird. The author seems annoyed that gamers care about their rights (see pre-owned game sales). Microsoft spent many months trying to convince gamers that they should be happy at removing their ownership rights, and the author is surprised this occupies a fair amount of the brainspace surrounding the product.

    • Emeraude says:

      The writer pretty much comes off as being from that PC side of gaming that takes those rights as long already forfeited.

      Bit I found interesting is that quote: “The gaming industry is at a crossroads and it’s causing tension. Hardcore gamers are sensing that gaming is expanding to include people that do not fit their preconceived or historical notion of what gaming is about. Essentially, their culture is under fire.”

      Because on the one hand, I agree with it, but on the other: it has always been so. Each console generation expanded its audience by introducing the medium to a group that wasn’t aware it might have enjoyed it in the first place (from the jRPG explosion of the PS1 era to the so called “dudebro gaming” of the Xbox).

      Why is it that only now it seems to be such an issue and focus in the public discourse ?

      Seems to me like we are making a symptom the cause of an improperly defined problem.

    • Lemming says:

      Thing is, if Apple or Valve brought out a console that was purely digital, they’d get away with it (people would either buy it, or they wouldn’t). But that’s because they wouldn’t have already set a precedent and loyal customer base doing it the other way.

      The Xbox One is a new console, but doesn’t reset everything to zero, and Microsoft acting as if it does is hypocritical. You can’t court the favour of your existing customers with one hand, while claiming digital-only is the future with the other.

      This is of course, regardless of the fact a digital-only console in the age of the data cap is never capable of being universally enjoyed.

    • SuicideKing says:

      Yeah…i mean M$ deserved most of the snark they got…and the author’s mentioned that the PS4 got snark because it was absent from the initial reveal, but doesn’t mention that everyone was cheering for Sony from E3 onwards…

      Seems more like he’s defending the Xbone…

  9. Gap Gen says:

    The UVB-76 stuff is fascinating, similar to numbers stations (although presumably an internal communication system rather than something to transmit signals to agents abroad).

    Far-fetched though it may be, I really really hope that a single radio station is not a dead man’s switch for the entire Russian nuclear arsenal.

    • GameCat says:

      It must be fucking Metal Gear from MGS Peace Walker, a nuclear deterrent, someone call Solid Snake ASAP!

    • KDR_11k says:

      The Russians have (or at least had) a system called Perimeter (or “Dead Hand”), it was apparently a bit more complex than just a dead man’s switch with various sensor systems used to detect nuclear blasts.

  10. Don Reba says:

    Lord Smingleigh is now writing regularly on Quinns’ boardgame site.

    What?! (drops monocle)

  11. magos says:

    The cheapness of the current hype in the console war. As ever, hardware is nothing for a medium for games. Focus on those, please, corporations.

    Jim, sorry if I’ve misunderstood here, but this is a pretty stupid statement. Console hardware is the foundation of a generation of games: it represents the entire potential of that generation. As I’m sure you’re very much aware, game making is a process, and that process starts with your platform. It’s no great surprise that, with new hardware, the focus is on the platform rather than the games.

    Granted the Xbone’s focus on building an entertainment system was a misfire, but the whole article seemed to be a criticism of the recursively onanistic navel-gazing of social-media (blogs, anyone?), rather than the lack of focus on gaming by platform creators.

  12. ChrisGWaine says:

    “Being shit at games, or claiming that you’re shit at games, is the gateway to exceptional games writing.”

    I agree with there being value in writing that way, however there’s also value in the opposite, writing with insight that comes from a really good understanding of how to play the game well, and that is much rarer, so that’s what I feel would be “exceptional”…

    • RedViv says:

      A good understanding of how to play well does not require a grand ability to actually play the game. That’s how e-Sports has such good commentators.
      Doing well AND understanding the game and its interactions AND being able to write it up nicely, that would be exceptional.

      • Jesse L says:

        Anecdotally, my experience is that most games writers who mention their skill at games say that they’re ‘shit.’ I think they usually use that exact word. I don’t have an opinion about whether that’s good or bad. I don’t care, as long as the writer is good enough to get through most of the games she reviews, and doesn’t spend too much time moaning about being shit or bragging about being fantastic (which has never happened, as far as I remember).

        I DO have an opinion about Porter’s third point, that the first sentence sets the tone for the article. I’d like more writers to get to the point about what they’re writing right away. The example he gives about John’s Saints Row 4 is far and away the best of the three, though. Don’t waste my time being whacky, don’t waste my time with an anecdote from your childhood, TELL ME ABOUT THE GAME.

    • Viroso says:

      That being shit at games part, reminds me of Yahtzee. Occasionally his negative reviews complain about something that, for me, sounds like he just sucked at it, go frustrated, blamed the game. Sometimes reviewers do that, they suck at a game and blame the game, instead of trying perhaps a different approach.

      Example: Nathan’s review of Zeno Clash 2. For me it sounded like he sucked at the game and continued trying the same approach that simply wasn’t working. Then he said the game was at fault.

      I think it is important to recognize you can suck at games, but sucking in general isn’t really a good thing.

      • Don Reba says:

        That being shit at games part, reminds me of Yahtzee. Occasionally his negative reviews complain about something that, for me, sounds like he just sucked at it, go frustrated, blamed the game. Sometimes reviewers do that, they suck at a game and blame the game, instead of trying perhaps a different approach.

        Yahtzee’s Mirror’s Edge review comes to mind.

        • Michael Fogg says:

          IIRC he said there that he blazed through it in like 4 hours

          • Don Reba says:

            Just watched it again — he said he passed it in a day. Either way, he completely fails to understand the game’s mechanics. The game is short and easy enough that you don’t have to understand them to beat the story mode; it is the time trials that are really eye-opening.

      • Turkey says:

        Just speculation here, but I think a lot of that stuff has to do with the reviewers being exposed to so many games that their patience for on-screen text instructions is completely eroded away.

        I’ve seen a lot of Giant Bomb quick looks and the number one complaint in the comments is that they skip past the instruction screens and get stuck on something cause they never learned how to do the thing.

  13. Ricc says:

    I live in Vienna and have to say the Subotron guys are doing an awesome job of bringing the local scene together and getting people from around the world to give some great insight. I remember a really interesting discussion about Indie games including Rami Ismail recently. Also looking forward to the Tale of Tales presentation this month! :)

    • Ny24 says:

      Oh yeah. I will be there to. Really looking forward to it. I will visit it for the first time this week. Never heard of it before, but I’m pretty new to Vienna anyway.

  14. Lemming says:

    Good on yer, Smingleigh!

    • Sparkasaurusmex says:

      Yeehaw! Right on.
      I just hope this doesn’t mean we will see less of his silliness in these comments.

      • Lemming says:

        Who knows? The money, the fame, the opium dens…the hedonism may be too much for him to resist.

  15. Jekhar says:

    A music history of video games: Sounded (ha!) interesting, clicked the link, not even a passing mention of the C64, WTF?

    • frymaster says:

      Or indeed the Amstrad CPC, Atari, or Amiga. But it does say personal history, so I can forgive it

  16. BobsLawnService says:

    I still think that those F2P consultants are pondslime. I’ve been playing Dungeons and Dragons for two years and I thought that they had a great F2P model. Essentially they were selling adventure packs (content.y and cosmetic and convenience items. I spent a LOT of money, mainly on adventure packs but also on convenience items. Lately though they have become completely obnoxious with the monetization. They’ve introduced in-game gambling with astral shards which are purchased with real cash. (In a game targeting under 18′s). In the last release they added a “reroll loot” button which costs astral shards but they have intentionally remodelled the interface to put the reroll loot button where the old “Loot all” button used to be. Nowhere in the interface is there ever a confirmation dialogue to spend real money. It has become a completely cynical cashgrab utilizing the most morally bankrupt practices. Needless to say I’ve stopped buying Turbine points completely and I rarely log in.

    • jrodman says:

      Short term success is such a strong draw for corps. That’s where i file all this horrible behavior.

      At my place of work we introduced “metrics” which ensure that we switch off our brains, only look at numbers, and only care if the numbers are going up month over month. It’s the typical way to ensure you make bad decisions.

  17. Jason Moyer says:

    I agree with basically everything in that Chris Schilling piece except that I think Gone Home is a poor example for the argument he’s making. Yes, the writing is fantastic but the reason the game stands out for me over something like Dear Esther is because it’s actually interactive, where Dear Esther is basically Call Of Duty (press forward through a corridor to see more of our crappy story) without the parts where you press a button to shoot people in the face. Gone Home reminds me a lot more of a narrative-focused Penumbra or Thief or something. Sure the story is important, but what sells the story is getting to explore the house and being able to manipulate it. The setting/story resonate more than it would if you were just taking a linear path through the house being fed snippets of plot or if you were using a Myst-like faux-3D interface. It feels like a real place inhabited by real people…like you’re actually there in the game world experiencing something.

    (And people need to stop looking for a gaming Citizen Kane. It already happened, and it was called Thief: The Dark Project).

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Well Said

    • GameCat says:

      Also Citizen Kane sure changed cinema, but aside of that it isn’t THAT great.
      I can name dozens of movies that are way, way better (at least for me).

  18. Bobtree says:

    Chris Park recently wrote an interesting 4 year retrospective on Arcen Games and AI War, with lots of numbers and thoughts on their business model: http://www.christophermpark.blogspot.com/2013/06/ai-war-first-four-years-postmortem-and.html

    • Vinraith says:

      That’s a very interesting article, thanks for posting it. Arcen’s one of the best developers out there, and I worry about them. I’m glad to see Skyward Collapse is doing so well for them, after a long string of poor performers.

  19. Baines says:

    While not an article, there is something potentially interesting happening on Kickstarter.

    We’ve already seen some Western “big names” turn to Kickstarter to raise large sums to fund their next projects, but now Keiji Inafune is running a Kickstarter Project to make a game that for legal reasons is not called Mega Man. It started yesterday, and has currently raised $500,000 of its $900,000 goal.

    Okay, this is a bit of a special case, driven by Capcom’s utter disregard towards making a new Mega Man game (cancelling Universe, cancelling Legends 3 before even releasing the “interest judging” test demo, not putting Mega Man in MvC3, putting Bad Box Art Mega Man in SFxT, and only releasing a Mega Man iOS game, etc)

    http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/mightyno9/mighty-no-9

    • RedViv says:

      Capcom is nuts (Oh hey, let’s fire most in-house talent! Then get cheaper people abroad! Then we can blame cheap people abroad for not making really good games!), and Inafune very much has my support.
      Seriously, what’s more honest than just making more of and expanding upon Really Good Game Everybody Loved?

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      I’m surprised this wasn’t on here, considering that these are mostly console-based developers making a mostly console-based game (or loose equivalent) for PC.

      • Baines says:

        Particularly when Mac and Linux versions are “only” a $1,350,000 stretch goal, while the various consoles are a $2,500,000 stretch goal. Putting console versions dead last seems like a fairly strong statement, or possibly just an acceptance that the people donating are largely going to be PC users.

        There are other things as well, though. Announcing the game at PAX. Teaming up with Humble Bundle and Fangamer to handle rewards. The overall professionalism (and Western suited) nature of the Kickstarter. The bit in the FAQ at the end where Inafune hopes that this project will help convince other Japanese developers and indie creators that crowdfunding is a viable option for their projects.

    • Don Reba says:

      I like the idea for Japanese-style and Western-style rewards. I wonder what it would be like if Nordic or Russian or .. British developers did that.

    • Emeraude says:

      Interesting to compare this and Project Phoenix…

  20. Radiant says:

    My man, whilst I love the thoughtfulness, hazard lights are no competition to putting your foot on the accelerator and driving the fuck away from THE GIANT BOULDER.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      There’s a longer version of that video on YT showing the damage the car took, even without the boulder striking it. Wow.

  21. Faxanadu says:

    Sunday topic:

    Why don’t games have cheats anymore? Why am I looking for trainers and patchers just so that I can activate godmode in my game?

    I was trying to get godmode in my RE:6 Revelations, but it was like bumping into an invisible wall at Google.

    • Napalm Sushi says:

      I’d guess it’s due to the rise of narrative in games. Blazing through sections of a game in ways that were never intended can cause you to miss more in a modern game than just red and blue keycards or even outright break the ability to progress, and most modern devs seem almost pathologically averse to allowing players to glimpse the cogs under the gilded casing, so to speak.

    • Baines says:

      Games still have cheats. Saints Row the Third even sold cheats as DLC.

      But really cheats were mostly meant as development tools, and not really meant for gamers. (Sure, some games had cheats for gamers even then.) As tech improved, there was less use for those built in cheats, better means to safely lock them out without potentially dangerous code removal, and at least one old risky method of getting to a debug vanished with the disappearance of cart systems (the method of improperly inserting, or removing, a cart).

      These days, the few accessible cheats that still exist tend to be as engineered for players as the rest of a game.

    • jrodman says:

      Maybe it has something to do with the inclusion of difficulty levels in games (now standard). Cheat codes become less needed because people can select the difficulty that suits them.

      I will say that the available trainers are less reliable now, with multiple spins of games existing (retail, steam, other vendors getting different binaries). I bought an account on cheathappens but it turns out the trainers frequently don’t even work at all.

      If you want to alter games to suit yourself, cheat engine is the way to go.

  22. Rodman1_r2 says:

    The stuff about Dean Hall losing 44 lbs over 20 days, yeah total BS and made up. Not possible to lose that much weight that fast. For example, 44 lbs = 3,500 calories per pound of fat = 154000 calories / 20 days = 7,700 calories; ie, he would have to be running a calorie deficit of 7700 a day to lose that much weight. Totally made up numbers.

    • jrodman says:

      Well you could lose maybe 10-15 in water weight as well, but that seems doubtful as you would be thirsty and probably not neglect to drink.

    • fucrate says:

      Dude, I know! I was doing the numbers in my head and kind of checked out of the article right there. The games media fucking loves to mythologize their game dev heroes, any tiny nugget of “story” is something to blow totally out of proportion.

    • Saarlaender39 says:

      In his book “This Game of Ghosts”, mountaineer Joe Simpson states the following:

      Quote: “I couldn’t understand why Simon was in such a hurry but I was too weak to argue. If I had seen myself, I would have known that it had nothing to do with a fear of infection. The sunken eyes and emaciated face would have been enough to tell me that my leg was the least of his worries. In FOUR DAYS of crawling alone down the mountain, dragging my unwanted limb behind me, I had lost over three stones (~19KG) in weight, almost 40% of my usual body weight.”

      So,…assumed not ALL mountaineers are liars and tell BS, and Hall states he had lost ~ 22KG in twenty days (without crawling and without dragging a broken leg behind) these numbers seem to be quite believable.

      Edit: I think, a lot of people still aren’t aware of the hostile and life-threatening conditions on Mount Everest.

      Up there is an extreme lack of oxygen, extreme cold, extreme windy and (believe it or not) extreme dry environment. All these conditions your body has constantly to fight.

      Nothing you can compare with your everyday situation.

  23. drewski says:

    Interesting reading about the difficulty of funding indie games projects on Kickstarter. Playable demo and still couldn’t get $5k? Ouch.

    But I think it’s possibly instructive of where the platform is at – you better have a pretty good pitch if you don’t have any big development pedigree in your studio, even if you’re asking for relative peanuts.

    • Deano2099 says:

      One of the Kickstarter rewards was that, if you pay $1000, you get to design a campaign for them. Now, the value they or anyone reading this put on writing may vary. Some people might think that’s fine, some people might think it’s appalling.

      But then you write to gaming sites to try and get coverage. You’re writing to people who either write for a living or want to write for a living. And you can bet those people are the ones that value writing pretty highly. And then you wonder why they won’t write about you.

      Sigh.