The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on November 24th, 2013 at 3:00 pm.

If you link me, I will link you.

Sundays are for staring into the empty link cupboard and rooting around at the back until, among the sauces and spilled flour, you find the week’s best edible games reporting.

  • Nathan “Edge Magazine” Brown linked this on Twitter this week: Thinking About Design – Options as the Greatest Resource. It’s sort of about Magic: The Gathering, sort of about fighting games, sort of about all game design. “Though we have come a long way from the early days of Street Fighter II, many developers still don’t seem to fully understand this concept of options being the most valuable resource, and it’s possible that they never will. MTG still prints unbalanced cards and thus fighting game developers will most likely continue to make unbalanced characters.”
  • Bob Whitaker, an historian in training at the University of Texas, has started a project called History Respawned. In it, he plays games alongside historians, and the first 40 minute episode explores Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag and the realities of piracy.
  • So many controversies. The excellent Matt Lees took Microsoft to task this past week for hiring unpleasant-for-lots-of-reasons YouTuber KSI to be a part of their XBox One launch show. KSI seemingly responded by filing a copyright claim against the original video so that YouTube would take it down which, unsurprisingly, just made things worse. Microsoft severed all ties and KSI’s manager attempted damage control.
  • Related, and mainly for the strong title: The Golden Age of Watching Other People Play Video Games. Which is true, has been true for a while, and I think a lot of people still haven’t caught up.
  • This is a couple of weeks old, but I only just got around to reading it. Parkin does more good work at the New Yorker with The Video-Game Invasion of Iraq. It’s a neat glimpse of the ways in which games can affect lives in dangerous places. I should know, I’m from Scotland. “Currently, though, some online video-game stores, including Steam, the most popular PC gaming company, refuse to accept Iraqi credit cards. (“We constantly work to add more convenient payment methods for Steam customers,” a spokesperson for Valve, the company behind the service, told me, blandly.) This has led to the rise of online-gaming middlemen. “You can now pay Iraqis who own British or American credit cards to sign into your Steam account and buy the game for you,” said Abdulla, who is often employed by Army officers to install fast Internet connections so that they can play online games. “Of course, they charge hugely high interest for the service.””
  • These guys radically changed the shape of my week.
  • There is too much music this week, so have this and this and this and this.

    Got links for next week’s Sunday Papers? Email me.

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142 Comments »

  1. dangermouse76 says:

    Sundays are for going through my steam collection in alphabetical order and completing every game I have not finished. Arkham Asylum done now on to City !

    Ps 138 games 10 completed to date. This will take a while………..and some tea.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Sundays are for sleeping in until 11, hundering, then sleeping again until 4.

      • TWChristine says:

        What on Earth is “hundering”?

        • BooleanBob says:

          You’ll have to wait til 4 to find out!

        • rustybroomhandle says:

          Well, “hund” is the German word for dog… so “hundering” must mean dogging.

        • dE says:

          It’s the evil stepbrother of hunkering down. Only far more powerful. In essence it includes time travel and placing yourself in a timelocked pocket universe – and hoping someone doesn’t pull a deus ex machina to tear you out of it.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Oddly enough, the top Google result for it is a web page telling me that it is not a valid word in any language of Scrabble or any Scrabble derivative.

          I now wonder if there are an infinite number of such pages, and if so why this one has risen to such prominance.

          • The Random One says:

            And, if not, why is “hundering” a word so favoured as a bluff by bad Scrabble players.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I have a wart.

      • Geebs says:

        Did you omit?

    • AndrewC says:

      I approve of this arbitrary criteria for game-choosing. I may do it myself.

      I hope it is a hundering success.

      • The Random One says:

        I’d do it differently and start from opposite alphabetical order. Then I wouldn’t have Amnesia clogging up the queue because I’m so afraid to play it.

  2. Viroso says:

    That Shoryuken article can be applied to single player games too, specially RPGs. A lot of games just keep giving you more tools as you progress. It makes sense to give you more tools because it helps keeping the game fresh. Every new thing you get adds a twist to the game.

    But then, at the end of the game you have a ton of tools at your disposal. The result is that the later levels actually become easier than the middle of the game. At the end you have so many options you can deal with any threat, and worse, because so many options are available sometimes developers don’t fully realize how they can be used in conjunction, but players do. In the age of the Internet, one player figuring out an exploit means every player knows it.

    This is why I generally think simpler games are better games.

    • BarneyL says:

      I’m not bothered with games becoming easier towards the end as long as they do it in a fun way. Saints Row 3 would be a good example, you’re likely to be literally invincible in the last few missions but it feels like that’s the point as you’ve spent the whole game working to become stronger.
      Unfortunately many others do just become a slow grind through to the inevitable end RPGs often being the worst offenders.

      • Viroso says:

        XCOM was guilty of this. By the end you have a lot of choices. The end of the game wasn’t nearly as hard as the middle of the game.

        • Bull0 says:

          I think it’s meant to be that way, though – the whole point is you start off outnumbered and outgunned, and you progress to a point where you’re beating the aliens at their own game. It fits the story, the whole point of the project was to develop to a point where we could beat the aliens by nicking their tech. And it feels good, the first time, at least.

        • Unrein says:

          Also probably done in the interest of the Ironman difficulty modifier. Losing in the late game would suck even more.

        • MattM says:

          In impossible and classic it was an even bigger problem. The first 10-20 missions were incredibly hard and slow paced. Once you finally got plasma weapons and some leveled up soldiers it became much easier. I’d like to see it rebalanced so that the earlier missions are a bit easier, the later are a bit harder, and that the penalty for failure in the early missions isn’t so steep. The way the satellites and abduction missions worked mean that early mission failures would quickly force the player into a inescapable downward spiral. Later in the game a loss was a set back but it didn’t wreck your chances of succeeding in the next mission.

          • Bull0 says:

            All of what you just described is the point of the game, though.

          • Steven Hutton says:

            Isn’t it worse if that’s the case?

            If I accidentally piss in your coffee surely that’s better than if I do it on purpose?

            If they decided that hey, the point of the game should be that it’s really bullshit and random for the first three months and then a boring cake walk for the final three months then that’s surely worse than if they tried to make the game interesting all the way through and failed.

          • Bull0 says:

            Obviously not, no. If they’d been aiming for the game to get steadily more difficult and it didn’t, they’d have failed. They were aiming to communicate that XCOM get steadily tougher as they turn the aliens’ tech against them. That’s the point of the game’s story. The difficulty curve reflects that. That’s all I’m trying to say.

            Who decided that a game that doesn’t get steadily difficult until the credits end is the design equivalent of “pissing in your coffee”? So dramatic. At least it’s different. If you didn’t like it, that’s fine.

      • LionsPhil says:

        SR3′s finale is also set to Holding Out For A Hero. And asks you to be said hero. So it knows how to make you make the most satisfying use of that power.

      • Baines says:

        Saints Row 3′s power buildup also takes away most of the reason to have free roam available after you beat the game. The city goes back to its starting difficulty, while you can truly be permanently invincible to damage. (And you cannot disable that invincibility if you bought the skills.) The only reason to stay around at that point is to just finish up the side-missions that you didn’t bother to complete before because they were probably too boring.

        (Volition also did a fairly weak “good/hero path” mission. Shooting bombs away with the knockback cannon and having a weak gimmick item boss battle, followed by the space parody mission that is really dull and again has a weak gimmick boss battle? The “bad/revenge path” was much better constructed, but Volition obviously favored people picking the much weaker “good” path.)

        • LionsPhil says:

          Yeah, being unable to disable invulnerability sucked somewhat.

          • The Random One says:

            I reloaded a save in which I hadn’t bought invulnerability to bullets.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Unfortunately, it took me a while to realize my error. Thankfully it was the only invulnerability I picked, so Boss still does the “She’s On Fire” dance.

    • Blackcompany says:

      I have actually come to refer to this as “Elder Scrolls Syndrome.” As in: I’m level 30, I have 50 magical spells, sixteen rare weapons and literally every enemy I fight rolls over and dies to SOMETHING in my arsenal. This game suffers from Elder Scrolls Syndrome.

      To be fair though, its a problem plaguing most RPG games to date. The one exception I can think of off the top of my head is Witcher/Witcher 2. Your limited number of signs and weapon types mean you have to combine different signs and strategies to find solutions to different enemies. Sometimes a heavy strike or an Aard will break a block; sometimes enemies are weak to Igni. As opposed to giving you unlimited choices, a la Elder Scrolls, Witcher games limit your options and ask you to create solutions to challenges. Oddly, this is – contrary to Bethesda’s belief – far more empowering than the Elder Scrolls unlimited list of endless tools.

      Options are a valuable resource in games, granted. I thoroughly agree with that observation. They are perhaps the best resource available for keeping a game fresh and interesting through multiple playthroughs. But too many options can also be a bad thing. Too many variables make proper balance impossible, and too much empowerment removes any element of risk involved in playing a game. Which is bad, since without the possibility of failure one cannot truly succeed. Which, in turn, is why so many modern games are ‘finished’ as opposed to ‘beaten.’

      tl;dr – Options are fine. But too many options are bad. And if you want to see a proper use of options/choices as a resource in card games, forget modern Magic and its ilk. Check out Small Box Games.

      • Quirk says:

        Um, the Witcher very much had this in the endgame in my experience. My superpowered Igni rolled unstoppably over everything in the very last stages. I’m not complaining in the least, as it felt thematically right to me to have Geralt as a coldly furious, unstoppable nemesis pursuing de Aldersberg to a climactic confrontation, but I wouldn’t cite it as an example of a game which managed to prevent the player being overpowered at the ending.

        • Blackcompany says:

          Good point, Quirk. I admit, I was thinking more of the Witcher 2, than the first one, here. But then too, I will readily confess that I am not the best or most skilled “fast twitch” gamer. So…that could be the source of my position on this issue regarding the Witcher 2 as well.

          • tormos says:

            Only on RPS do I see this level of civility on the internet.

      • Viroso says:

        I liked that beaten vs finished thing you mentioned, that’s so true. It’s also why it feels very refreshing to pick a game like limbo, binding of isaac or super hexagon. A lot of games nowadays you have to keep track of a bunch of things in the game at once. In a game like binding of isaac, I mean yeah there’s that, but only for that playthough. Sure there some unlockables but it barely feels like it does in other games. In a title like Limbo then, it’s just progression and nothing else.

        Also one of the reasons why I like Portal so much. It’s not that the collecting and the 100%ing is bad, it’s just that it gets exhausting at some point, and it can feel like a weight.

      • LVX156 says:

        In games, and role-playing games especially I think there has to be a sense of progression. That’s why I haven’t played a single Bethesda game since Morrowind without modding it to be more difficult in the beginning and easier towards the end (essentially by reducing level scaling). In my opinion it’s much more satisfying to begin the game as a total wimp who gets killed by a giant rat and then get stronger over time rather than the opposite. I don’t mind the end being easier, especially not in a game like Skyrim, where you are actually the Dragonborn, the savior of Tamriel. It makes perfect sense that as you learn to harness your innate power of the dragon blood you will become if not a god then at least a demi-god.

        The same holds true for a game like Fallout New Vegas. I like starting out as someone who’s been shot in the head and left for dead and from there relearn my skills, improve them further and end up as the king of Vegas, basically.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Interesting point, and certainly true. I’d say it comes down to games having difficulty matching up player strength with enemy strength.

          In a good story, as the hero develops, the challenges he faces become similarly more difficult. If they start out as a wimpy kid, they’ll probably be struggling to survive the natural dangers of the world. If they mature into the greatest hero ever halfway into a story, they will probably find themselves up against some godly power that even a the strongest of humans would be unable to defeat.

          Games try to do that, but because the player has choice, they often misstep in a number of ways. I think it comes down to accepting that for a badass hero slaughtering rats and skeletons shouldn’t be any problem at all, while providing context and reason for you to be fighting demons and crazy monsters that would be difficult for even our awesomest of saviors.

        • GameCat says:

          I hate starting as a weak, lame ass, stupid, not trained etc. person in RPGs, because if you can gain a level by killing rats in some old barn what was your character doing for the rest of his life? Was he just lying on the bed and various servants was giving him food etc.? WTF?
          I would love to see a RPG where your character starts with 20 lvl and max cap is actually 60, so you will not play as someone who was locked in the vault since forever. Oh, wait…

      • drewski says:

        Yeah, it’s a pretty typical role playing problem. I remember a lot of criticism about the old CRPGs – with something like AD&D, by level 20 you’re supposed to be a walking army, a warlord, an absolute beast. But how do you convey that in a videogame? It’s pretty hard, so here’s 5 wyverns to kill instead of 4.

        Ditto the Elder Scrolls games – by level 100 you’re basically a demigod, the living embobidment of prophecy, a whirlwind who can near enough bend reality to your will. Here’s some rats to kill. Wait…plagued rats.

        Scaling challenge to player power without just making enemies hordes or sponges is pretty hard. You have to change the paradigm of the game design. And that’s hard.

    • Wulfram says:

      I think part of the solution would be to change difficulty settings so that the harder settings have more dramatic differences at high levels.

      The impact of player skill levels is far greater at the end of the game with all those options than when you’re 1st or second level, but the hitponit/damage bonuses remain constant.

  3. BooleanBob says:

    This piece about free-to-play microstranctions showing up in premium-price games is remarkable, if for no other reason than that so conspicuously few others like it seem to be circulating in the games press.

    Is this to be the new norm? If so, I’m saddened, but not really surprised. Each new generation has brought its own wave of innovation, but these efforts seem increasingly to focus less on realising the hidden potential of the medium, and more on maximising revenues above and beyond the point of sale.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I don’t especially mind paid cheats that are blatantly cheats and not at all required to progress. Football Manager’s Classic mode store is a reasonably good example of this, and from the article it sounds like Crimson Dragon is as well.

      All the other kinds are of course disgraceful. Even releasing tons of mediocre DLC is preferable to crippling your game design in the quest for even more money.

      • Moraven says:

        I miss the days when cheats were easter eggs or were simply given by the devs so you could have fun and play how you wanted.

        • Blackcompany says:

          Likewise. Can you imagine the old Contra 99 Lives cheat as paid DLC? “How much more ridiculousness the average game will shell out for,” seems to be the question publishers are asking. I cannot help but think that, at some point, they’ll cross that line and go too far, and gamers will simply say, “Too far.” Not with their mouths after the sale, but with their wallets, beforehand.

          Here’s to hoping, anyway.

        • Merus says:

          Most ‘cheats’ were testing tools that for some bizarre reason shipped in the final product. These days developers use tools that can have separate ‘test’ and ‘production’ builds, so developers usually only ship cheats if they explicitly design them. (And many developers believe that putting in cheats encourages people to skip the actual game part, so it reduces the replayability instead of enhancing it.)

          People like to think that this only happened when they could start charging for cheats, but that first started around 2007, 2008 or so and cheats disappeared about 2002.

          • Moraven says:

            Right and you had items like GameShark that could put them in yourself. Really it was a feature that was a happy accident. Even if they never intended to add them the plan is to nickel and dime everyone for a high score or rush through the game.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Crimson Dragon also throws up gates like “pay 3000 credits to play this mission” which seem to serve no purpose except making you grind or buy currency.

    • dE says:

      I sometimes wonder if it’s some evil-moneygrabber nostalgia going on.
      “Remember ye olde days, when those idiots had to pay for each life? Where’d we go wrong, why don’t we do that anymore?”. It all seems like the industry really, really wants to go back to that time. Tablet Gaming is already paving the way.

      The article reads

      “It took the best part of a generation for the concept of DLC to settle in, and for it to become a respected”

      To me, even DLC hasn’t settled in yet. I’m certainly not respecting it and can’t see an ounce of good in it. What used to be fun cheats and gimmicks is now sold for cash, what was once an expansion is divided by 20 and sold for 10 times the money. But – and that’s important – I’m obviously being phased out of gaming. New gamers have entered the picture and they bloody adore DLC. They grew up on it, grabbing a costume for 10$, yeah sure, of course they’ll slot that credit card in.
      Give or take another generation and we’ll be paying for each extra-life again. And we’ll gladly and happily do so. Well perhaps not “we”, but the gamers that come after us. I’ll just be sitting here, on my lawn – shotgun at hand – and shouting “Get of my lawn young ones, we embraced gaming without paid continues and you run back to your overlords to get it back!”.

      • Bull0 says:

        I think paying per-life makes sense in the context of an arcade where you haven’t bought the hardware and software yourself. Even with free-to-install games on phones paying per-life grates a little because you’ve paid for the phone.

        • Kitsunin says:

          Yeah, the idea is that you pay per life is because you’re effectively renting the system. They decided that it would make more sense in the context of a game to let you continue to use said system until you die for the same reason that when you buy a movie ticket you continue until the movie ends; renting the facility per minute or hour just doesn’t make sense.

          On the other hand if you own the device obviously being forced to rent the game is ridiculous.

    • Lucid Spleen says:

      Agreed, makes a depressing read. I have only bought one game that uses micro-transactions, Dead Space 3, but I have most definitely learned a lesson and won’t be doing that again.

    • Arathain says:

      I remember when free-to-play appeared on the scene the big concern was that the need to compel players to spend would compromise the design. This has obviously occurred, and become somewhat normal and accepted with a large part of the player base. With actual F2P games I don’t really mind, since they’re easy come, easy go to a large extent*.

      Seeing the designs of full price pay-to-play titles become obviously similarly compromised is much more concerning. Publishers are demonstrating that producing a complete, well thought out experience for the player is very much a secondary consideration, and that has to be kept in mind when making a purchase.

      *leaving out concerns in attempting to induce and exploit compulsive behaviour in susceptible consumers as a whole other topic: it concerns me, but doesn’t apply directly to me, and here I’m speaking for myself.

    • phuzz says:

      I’ve banged on about this recently, but I’m still a bit pissed off at Bioware for putting the Mass Effect games on sale periodically, but never putting the DLC on sale. As the DLC for Mass Effect is a pretty big part of the story, you’ll end up spending several times the price of the game, just to have a complete experience.
      That said, I gave them my money, so I guess I’m part of the problem.

    • flownerous says:

      I wonder how this sort of thing is affecting gamers with disabilities? Knew someone with limited functionality in his hands who could still enjoy games in god mode.

  4. Faldrath says:

    Lately I feel very old when I say to someone I have no interest in watching streams, Let’s Play, etc. I very rarely watch gaming videos at all (although I admit to watching an youtube clip or two to help me get past some points where I was stuck in games).

    I don’t have anything deeper to add, no rant about “games are meant to be played, not watched”, etc. I just am genuinely puzzled about the rise of streaming.

    • Bull0 says:

      Right there with you, buddy. Only useful in situations where it’s some thing everyone’s playing that I want to know about but don’t know if I want to physically buy myself. Think the last time I watched a “youtuber” playing a game was probably in the earliest days of minecraft alpha, right before I decided to buy it.

      On the subject of streaming, Twitch went into a bit of a meltdown this week over the conduct of one of their admins, that’s fairly interesting. http://www.reddit.com/r/gaming/comments/1r64e8/apology_official_twitch_response_to_controversy/

      • dE says:

        Ugh, I read through some of that a few days ago. I’ve had three questions in my head at all times.

        1) Why.
        2) All this, because of fucking smilies? Seriously?
        3) Why, oh fucking why?

        • Bull0 says:

          Yeah, it was crazy. Just a silly thing that escalated extremely quickly. Whole thing was very unprofessional given how big Twitch have become, I thought. Definitely could’ve been handled much better.

      • Niko says:

        Same here. I like to play games, watching somebody else do that feels too time-wasting to me. I do watch an occasional Total Biscuit video, but still it’s always way more convenient to read a Wot I Think on RPS.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I like the idea, at least as something to have on in the background while doing something else. But in practice, I’ve tried a number of popular YouTubers and streamers (no e-sports, because zero interest), and they’re all…not for me.

      Either they’re annoying teenagers (sometimes literally, sometimes they just act like it), or hideously unfunny, or just plain boring.

      • SomeDuder says:

        Yea, having the option to watch people play games is fine, it’s just that I mostly don’t like the people who stream.

        The streams I can enjoy most are the ones of just the videogame – no box showing the face of the player (I dont want to look at your neckbeard or fedora) and no voice. Extroverts are so goddamn weird I don’t even

        As for the games, it’s mostly old console RPGs that I watch streams of. And yesterday, I managed to watch 5 minutes of Reaper of Souls beta before I had to close the Twitch app out of sheer teenage angst overload.

    • pepperfez says:

      I’m not into watching streams unless the streamer is obviously, spectacularly better at the game than I am (and I care about it at all). That mostly means fighting game tournaments and tool-assisted speedruns for me. I agree that watching some average dude/lady putz through a game is pretty baffling.

    • Arathain says:

      It’s partially a generational thing, I think. And it’s far more widespread than just gaming videos. More people than ever like to absorb their media in the form of discrete video. I don’t- give me a nice page of text anytime. I like to read various blogs by the Economist. More and more of the entries are some form of video. I could take 10 minutes to watch a video, which will be paced all wrong for my brain. Or I could read an article in 3 minutes, and focus on taking my time on the new information.

      I think other people approach information in different ways than me, and I don’t mind that they are provided with that, even if it’s not for me.

      • Vinraith says:

        Yeah, I find the whole “video news” thing frustrating for the same reason. It’s so needlessly slow, so ill-paced, and there’s just no reason not to also provide a text article I can read through.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Text is also easier to skim, to search, and to cite.

          • Vinraith says:

            Yes, yes, and emphatically yes. The value of that last one really can’t be overstated.

          • Shieldmaiden says:

            I really hadn’t thought of that last one. I took some gaming-related classes at uni and it was bad enough trying to search through website after website to find information that I knew to be true, but had to find a source for. I can’t imagine how bad it would be if there was a majority shift towards video. Ugh.

    • Vinraith says:

      The whole thing strikes me as a completely different hobby. That’s fine for people that are interested in it, I guess, but I can’t personally see the appeal.

    • mineshaft says:

      I fell into them kind of sideways. A friend is a caster for StarCraft and I watched his videos, and that was all for a while.

      There are lots of sorts of things to watch on Twitch. Speed running of all kinds of games. Lethalfrag’s challenge, where he plays all kinds of great indie games every night for two years. The fighting game tournaments with commentary on level up live. The Minecraft speed building league by Lodeclaw (your theme is witch’s house, your now is creative, your twenty minutes start now). The binding of Isaac racing league. The Spelunky world record holder. People with great voices. And especially, people playing games that you are personally good at, and can empathize with as they play your favorite.

      I guess all I’m saying is that there is no lack of variety out there. All these things have such individual feels. If you’re not watching, it’s more like you’re just not into the thing as a whole.

      Life is short and all that. But some of this stuff is easily more entertaining than reality TV or professional sports.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I find there are basically two reasons:
      * It is a game I would never play, but am still interested in. Anything that tests skills I don’t have, or have the patience to develop, are good candidates here, like evil-bastard platformers.
      * The LPer is an entertaining character. (This is pretty rare, sadly—almost everyone wants to be a hooting bro yelling down a clipped headset microphone. The Research Indicates Tresspasser LP is a very notable example, and there’s a good SysShock 2 playthrough out there by another calm individual.) Edit: Cara’s adventures in Half-Life fit this category, too.

      Raocow’s playthrough of Bunny Must Die is a good example of both. He’s a bit LOUD AMERICAN, but I found it worth it for his joyful-suffering throughout the game.

      I was trapped under a cat at the time, though, so “stare at the Internet” was largely the option available to me.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        That LP by Research Indicates is still the best one I’ve seen.

        It really should be the gold standard. Instead we get… well, all sorts of shit.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Oddly enough Bunny Must Die is still sitting at 0 reviews on Metacritic.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Hunh. I’m even more surprised to see it’s got on Steam within the last couple of months.

          I also forgot to mention: one of the things Raocow did absolutely right with his playthrough was to edit it. The game has a lot of repetative suffering, but he fast-forwards and timeskips through them, so you get the joy of listening to him losing it (in his happy, laughing way) without actually having to sit there for three days as he jumps, falls into spikes, and has to go back to the title menu to reload back to the checkpoint to then navigate down to the spikes to jump and fall into the spikes and…

      • realitysconcierge says:

        I’d have to say those are the exact reasons I spend a good amount of time watching LPs.

    • Blackcompany says:

      I think the sadder state of affairs here is that developers continue to make games that lend themselves so aptly to BEING WATCHED. Its not enough to structure every action game as if it were a Michael Bay movie with an interact button to be pressed when directed to do so. Its not enough that gaming cannot seem to shake this feeling that it ought to be MORE like movies, not LESS. Now, we have these sites dedicated to allowing people to WATCH games.

      To be honest, I guess its nice for those who think of some games like E-Sports. I doubt I ever will be one of those folks, but to each their own. If we’re making electronic games into spectator sports – Starcraft and what not – I guess I can see why some folks might want to watch a match. You’re both spectating and studying the meta, such as it is.

      But in regards to modern, single player games, I don’t know which I find sadder: That people want to watch other people play them (for purposes other than a review, of course) or that they still, after all this time, lend themselves so readily to an outside audience, as opposed to participating players.

      • Josh W says:

        Exactly, on the other hand, games that are good to watch is actually a real advantage for living room gaming, easier to get the tv if other people will have fun watching you. I don’t know how many games I have watched rather than played, sometimes while browsing this exact website on my laptop!

    • strangeloup says:

      I generally think that if I’m interested in a game, I’ll play it at some point, and if I’m not interested in it, then… there doesn’t really seem to be any point watching a video of it.

      I sometimes get the feeling I’m missing something here, but as another commenter pointed out, it might be generational. I don’t watch many videos in general; I’d rather read an article.

    • drvoke says:

      I’m 31 and i love watching Let’s Play videos. Not every game and every player (pewdiepie can go straight to hell), but I don’t think it’s anything to do with age. That’s kind of a shabby sentiment, isn’t it, to imply that since you are so wizened and mature, you are above such frivolities as enjoying watching another person’s tragedies and triumphs in a video game? Though there’s every reason to believe you didn’t mean that, I’m going to assume it for the sake of wanting to post about Let’s Play videos.

      • Faldrath says:

        No, I never meant to say that I feel “more mature”, “smarter”, etc. I said I feel old because I feel the generational divide, pretty much (I’m 35). No value judgment attached.

        • Reapy says:

          Well, I do agree that I feel more lets play watchers are younger (am 34), but it might be more about quality expectations (few are good) and limited time. When younger I had way more time to waste.

    • Freud says:

      The only games that works as Let’s Plays for me are games that have a good story and bad gameplay..

      Which pretty much means Deadly Premonition.

    • drewski says:

      I don’t get streams or Let’s Plays, really, but I do enjoy watching friends play videogames in person.

    • Thrippy says:

      Watching other people play games is a large topic.

      Ten years ago, I got hooked on watching Wacraft III: Frozen Throne replays from wcreplays. Grubby, Moon, 4Kings, et al. world class pro-gamers. But also immensely hilarious commentaries from Clan Imperial Guard’s Emperor who often showcased less than world class players. You downloaded the replay and an MP3. Played the MP3 in an external player while synching the replay from inside the game. The last decade has seen developers respond to the demand by proving better support i.e. stream casting directly from inside the game client. This is a pretty big deal transforming the spectating process from wonky to feasible to robustly easy.

      In a sense, if you’re playing competitive multiplayer regularly, it is a waste of your time not to watch how the best players play. Across all robust, balanced games, again and again, it is only a very few top players that innovate new strategies and tactics. They tend to dictate how a game is played at high level play. But only a handful a games each year are suitable for the pro-gaming circuit.

      I don’t think it is an accident or passing fad that the categories of Expert and Funny have remained popular for a decade. As for the Let’s play phenomenon, I don’t get it either. Most of it lacks either proficiency or amusement.

  5. Lucid Spleen says:

    The Matt Lees video was interesting. Silly, silly MS. On a side note: the idea that there is a generation of gamers coming up that are getting their gaming news etc. from someone like this KSI, as one of the articles suggests, sends a solitary shiver down my spine and gives me a strange sense of foreboding. Fortunately, I have a pretty short attenti…..

    • yogibbear says:

      You know I’ve never heard of Matt Lees or KSI before so have no idea what I was watching really, but personally it seemed a little weird to me to be referencing a year old video that was taken for someone’s own Youtube channel (and seems to have been fully raged/apologised for at the time and he already suffered consequences of losing his then at the time job with Razor & being banned from that event) and use that against them being able to represent a company now. Seems like there’s more to the story, more like some sort of personal grudge battle rather than an actual point. Personally the guy getting berated may have made some dumb videos that not everyone finds funny, but this was in the past, and shouldn’t mean that external parties should use this to get someone fired from their current employer (who should be the one making these decisions themselves/ doing their own background checks / performance evaluations).

      • tossrStu says:

        KSI issued a mealy-mouthed non-apology for that incident and carried on doing his “being awkward in public” videos (asking a girl how much she’d suck dick for, telling a 14-year-old girl she’s “cock-length”, etc.), tweeted a joke a few months ago about threatening to rape a girl at knifepoint, etc. so he clearly doesn’t give a fuck, really.

        • yogibbear says:

          OK well if that is the case, then I take back what I said. I only saw the original referenced video and have never heard of these other incidents. Repeat offender = criticism allowed for him being an unsuitable corporate representative.

        • SkittleDiddler says:

          KSI is a disgusting little piece of shit. I hope he decides to get a career doing something where his talents would be more appreciated — maybe he could be a gonzo porn commentator or a moderator at a MRA website.

      • taristo says:

        He’s the perfect example of all that is wrong with game journalism nowadays: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rSKJ1MsPtg4&hd=1

    • Moraven says:

      It baffles me also for people to watch Destiny streaming SC2 and other games. Although time to time he actually talks on streams very well related to the game, but generally is a dick and there are a lot of people out there who like that.

    • Martel says:

      I can’t believe that not only do people follow KSI, but that he gets paid for anything. What a complete twat

  6. Cooper says:

    The video begins by hinting at a huge issue that a journalist really needs to do an extended piece on.

    YouTubers are regularly being paid by companies to attend and cover events. These same YouTubers are offering opinions that are intended to be advice to potential buyers through their videos.

    This is a bloody godspend to PR companies. Why bother with coverage in sources that maintain their independence anymore?

    • LionsPhil says:

      If this leads to the breaking down of the remnants of the notion that there is some kind of class of source which is intrinsically accurate, fair and honest by virtue of being a proper organization, so much the better. Evaluating sources has always required trust built up by experience regarding their accuracy, fairness, and honesty, largely by cross-comparison, largely with primary sources (in the case of games-that-are-your-kind-of-fun, that’d be “playing it yourself”).

      tl;dr Doritosgate. People already needed to approach sources with critical thinking engaged.

      • Cooper says:

        As someone who constantly meets the incredulity of undergrads when I tell them that the BBC is not, actually, a reliable source, I could not agree more.

        Journalists will always have biases, inaccuracies, slants, techniques for getting readership that divert from the impossible dream of a fully honest and accurate portrayal. But there’s no inherent conflict of interest here: though they may attempt to change your mind because they believe something (and we should be critical of why they believe such a thing) they are not being paid to change your mind to a given viewpoint as determined by their paymasters. (There are, of course, counter examples to this, but as general rule of thumb, I think we can say there is a signifciant difference between a journalist and an advertiser that is still important to make).

        Once output intended for consumer consumption is funded by marketing departments there is an immediate conflict: The output is desired, at least by the funders, if not the author, to change the minds of readers / viewers. The inherent ineuqality of employee / employer means that the author cannot maintain independence from these desires.

        If an author can maintain the semblance of independence yet be in the pay of marketeers we basically have stealth marketing.

        It’s not about holding onto the pipe-dream of objective journalism, but rather the more modest desire that journalism / consumer advice be as independent as possible from marketing / advertising. In doing so, there’s greater transparency in the authorship of these work so that everything you suggest: the critical eye to the output, the evaluation of sources, is actually easier.

    • Baines says:

      If video game sites did do such a piece, it would probably be received by readers as the sites trying to bring YouTube channels down into the same muck that the sites have wallowed in for years.

      It is like, or at least it would likely be perceived as, an athlete plagued by steroid/PED scandals crying out “You guys like X and Y, well they use steroids and PEDs too.” From there, it could be seen as petty revenge (against both the others that get away with it and the fans that support them), an attempt at a “Everyone does it, so don’t blame me for doing it” defense, or even an attempt to get fans to turn even harder against the hidden abusers than against the already known (and for better or worse accepted) abusers.

      And since the public opinion of most “professional” gaming sites is that they’d sell out whatever remaining ethics they might have for a free Xbox One controller…

  7. goettel says:

    Microsoft should just hire a cohort of random blowies to figure their marketing for them – they can’t be worse than their current team.

    Not even joking.

    • LionsPhil says:

      So you didn’t have a Windows 7 launch party?

      Bless ‘em. Always doomed to be the uncool dad trying to hang with the kids.

  8. LVX156 says:

    Also, I don’t understand why gamers think it’s so weird that people like watching other people play games. Does anyone think it’s weird that someone who likes playing soccer also like watching other people play soccer? That someone who likes driving cars very fast also likes to watch other people driving cars very fast? Or that someone who likes cooking also likes to watch other people cook? What is it about gaming that sets it apart and makes it unfathomable that you can like playing games AND watch other people play them?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Well, I guess gaming has more people complaining about games that just want to be watched, with you occasionally having to press X when told. We have an awkward blurring there that doesn’t really map across, at least unless F1 reduces into having the driver turn the wheel to the computer-designated angle while cruise control handles the throttle and braking fo them.

      • yogibbear says:

        I couldn’t watch the America’s cup races as that has become too computer controlled… there is no sailing anymore at that $$$/vessel.

    • SuicideKing says:

      I think…it’s because people think that the watchers should just do the playing themselves? I mean, you have to be at a certain fitness level to play football (or “soccer” as some call it), and you can’t just randomly go out and start playing (need team mates, space to play, etc.). For games…

      Actually fuck this, i could make almost the exact same arguments for playing video games.

      I don’t know, lol. I watch on occassion, but that’s more from a review point of view, or if it’s something like Cara’s HL play-through.

    • pepperfez says:

      I think there has to be room for me to learn something from watching someone else play, so good streaming games need to have a high skill ceiling. So if you’re not into any of the “esports” (what a gross word) genres, I can’t see how streaming is a fun thing.

      • LVX156 says:

        I agree, I don’t like streaming, but I love good Let’s Plays. I primarily watch videos of sandbox/open world RPG’s/strategy games (Civilization etc.), where your own experience will be vastly different from everyone else’s, and I have no interest at all in eSports. Sometimes I’ll watch a series on a game that I am interested in, but don’t want to play myself. I hardly ever play first person shooters, because it’s not a style of gameplay I enjoy, but I can certainly enjoy watching someone play a good story-driven FPS.

    • Shieldmaiden says:

      What I find unfathomable is that people enjoying watching some random pleb play games. I understand watching esports, or preview-style videos, or people playing games at incredibly high levels of skill. I don’t get watching someone else just playing a game.

    • dE says:

      Here’s grandfather dE speaking again, so don’t mind my rambling.
      When did it stop being normal to watch other people play videogames? We used to sit in front of Television and enjoy the games. I remember playing Bard’s Tale with my friend drawing a map and me listening to his directions. It was some of the best fun I’ve had with videogames.

      I’ve got little trouble interpreting Let’s Plays as the online version of that. There’s joy to be had, in experiencing a game together. Coming up with these weird ideas, piecing together the storylines in series. The joy of let’s say Dark Souls, trying to decipher the story and making sense of the world. The joy of piecing together the shattered Zelda Timeline. The simple nitpick of “you missed something over there”.
      It’s all there. You’ve even got the archetypes from back then (TM). There’s the controller hog, that one guy that’ll just keep on playing and ignore everyone else. They were a bore back then too. Then there’s the social guy, constantly listening in on what others have to say and trying to incorporate it. Or there’s this completely nuts woman that absolutely has to collect every single piece of game information she can, or the abandonment brother that starts a hundred games and just won’t finish a single one, no matter how much you want to see the end.

      • tormos says:

        Looked at through that lens it’s not surprising that LPs started in Something Awful, which has a really strong sense of community as a site.

        • Snargelfargen says:

          Is that really where they started? Must have been a long time ago.

          Participating in ongoing lp threads there is quite a bit of fun though. Lots of discussion and bickering and there’s always someone who drops in with extra translations, art or background info about the game. Kind of a different experience compared to livestreaming exports though.

      • Moraven says:

        Agree, I remember a time young and sitting around with a group watching each other play single player games.

  9. Misnomer says:

    I hope all of RPS read that New Yorker article, especially John Walker. Maybe they will keep this paragraph from the article in mind the next time they feel the need to write about military shooters and “brown people”:

    “Any video game that’s set within Iraq and involves killing terrorists becomes instantly famous here,” he said. “Everyone wants to play it. We have been through so much because of terror. Shooting terrorists in a game is cathartic. We can have our revenge in some small way.” Alanseri agreed: “Any game that has a level set in Iraq is popular. They always sell more copies than other games because they are related in some way to our lives.” The games have even established a kind of empathy for foreign gaming partners that Alanseri said he would not otherwise have. “I have learned a lot of things, like Western-world values, culture, life style, and even the way that they think through video games.”

    Americans, it seems, should be concerned that they come across as actual humans in these games not just war mongering meatheads (see MoH: Warfighter v. COD: MW#). While it is fair to worry about demonizing the “enemy” ethnicities, it seems that accusations of blanket racism are probably still more attributable to post-imperial guilt complex than reality.

    • pepperfez says:

      Similarly to the arguments re: sexy female characters, my issue with brownmanshoots is just that they’re boring. We can create games about literally anything anyone can imagine and this is what we get?

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        Shooters in general, really. I grew up playing Wolf3d and DOOM, and at this point I’m just so so tired of shooting mens in the faces. I was pleased to see this issue come to a head when there was a significant strain of criticism asking why BioShock Infinite had to be a shooter.

        It’s just the default setting for any AAA story-driven game, which is a little bit fucked up.

        • FriendlyFire says:

          Bulletstorm is probably the last shooter I liked in recent memory, and that’s because it was, you know, a little different. I don’t think the genre itself is tired, but the current extremely rigid and confined interpretation of it certainly is.

        • TWChristine says:

          I rather agree. There was a time when I (somewhat) enjoyed FPS games, but for me it’s changed because of a mix of: It all seems the same, the stories are a joke of the serious material they are trying to portray, and probably just regular old growing out of that type of game. I think the only FPS I’ve played in years is Planetside 2. And all I really do is run around “shooting” people with my heal-o-ray.

      • LVX156 says:

        Games have always been about current events. When I grew up I played Red Storm Rising, Green Beret, Gunship 2000, The Hunt for Red October, A-10 Attack!, F29 Retaliator and countless other games that were all about the cold war. Now the focus is on “the war on terror”, so it’s only natural that video games will focus on that.

        I agree that other settings would be welcome, but even so it can still be done well by a studio that tries to do it well – Spec Ops: The Line is proof of that.

    • The Random One says:

      No, the article doesn’t say Iraqis like the games because they treat Iraqis like humans. It says Iraqis like the games because the games demonize terrorists and then let you kill them. Of course the context the Iraqis find themselves in allow them to easily see a divide between the terrorists and themselves, but you can’t tell that context exists in the game itself – all of the Americans are heroes and all of the Iraqis are terrorists.

      Or: since the Iraqis like the game so much, why not make an Iraqi character and let him be the hero for a bit? I wouldn’t think the Iraqis particularly enjoy the fact that they have to play as a foreign force to have the cathartic experience they desire, although I may be wrong on this as well.

      • mickygor says:

        If not for the Iraqis, then for the Western audiences. It’s very easy to forget that natives are fighting alongside us in both wars we’re in right now, because no one really publicises it outside of translator roles.

  10. Aerothorn says:

    ” MTG still prints unbalanced cards and thus fighting game developers will most likely continue to make unbalanced characters.”

    Admittedly haven’t read the article yet (so yes, I will, I should) but the pull quote, out of context, does not recommend it. MTG’s unbalanced cards/lack of options aren’t really a design decision – it’s not someone trying to make the best game they can and failing. It’s a commercial decision. The whole idea of a lot of rares is that they are BETTER than commons/uncommons. As for options, Magic intentionally keeps things simple and makes it so deckbuilding is 75% of the game, again mostly for marketing purposes.

    • pepperfez says:

      WotC claims, at least, that the existence of strictly better/worse cards is necessary for sealed-deck environments, where commons come up ten times as often as rares. So they’re trying to make the two best games they can, but with the same pool of resources.

      • Josh W says:

        I don’t have sources for this, but I’m pretty sure they have come out and said that they sometimes just make rares more powerful, and outclass certain older cards.

        There are a lot of good reasons that have been trotted out in the past, for creating better and worse cards: “cards will be better or worse in different contexts” “working out the right card for the situation is a skill” and “we intentionally shift the effectiveness of different strategies over time in order to create new metagames”.

        The problem is that they also intentionally try to invalidate old cards occasionally, or make cards that are effectively trap choices or filler.

        It would be totally possible to make sets that are both more powerful than the average in certain aspects and less in others, and only create a minimal upwards drift (accidents etc). In addition, because the power of a card is decided by context, you can make give the worse cards additional powers or conditions on them that will rarely apply within the set they are in, but potentially synergise outside of it.

        Basically the three classic excuses for making weak cards cancel each other out, it is possible to do create a situation where opening a pack does not mean going for bomb rares in themes this set emphasises, but instead considering what each rare needs to build around it, and what synergies are going to be emphasised or orphaned in this particular set.

        On the other hand, I know that the game has a attracted a number of people who gain a kind of lottery-like enthusiasm for opening packs. Maybe your cards will be bad, maybe they’ll be good, find out. This is a form of entertainment, but it’s not one I want, which is why in drafting, cube drafting (pre-created sets) is more interesting to me.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Magic the Gathering is a poor – extremely poor – choice of card game to represent options as a resource in gaming. The author TRIED to pick a card in the beginning of the article to represent options as a resource. But he obviously either is not a magic player, or wasn’t one back in the day when this card was utilized.

      Because everyone who plays, knows…you ALWAYS target yourself to draw the three cards. Card advantage FAR outweighs life in terms of value to the player in Magic. I have numerous times stabilized and taken control of a game whilst at or below 5 life, while using a blue control deck. Because of card advantage. So while the chosen card seems to represent options, in fact, it does the opposite; it represents a failed attempt at giving players options whilst in reality giving them what Magic generally offers: a card with only one RIGHT way to be utilized.

      For more discerning card gamers looking for real choices in their cardboard exploits, I have to recommend Small Box Games. Their games are hard to come by, as you usually have to weight until enough people purchase them for a print run to occur. But man are they worth it. Small Box can cram more choice and depth into a game with 100 cards – total – than WoTC can manage in a block of three 150-card sets.

      • Randomer says:

        I think you misunderstand the point the author was making about options. The option wasn’t “Target me with Ancestral Recall or target my opponent”. Rather, with Ancestral Recall, you are spending 1 mana to buy 3 options (i.e 3 new cards). Same with Necropotence. Basically, card advantage = more options.

        • Blackcompany says:

          Doh!

          You are exactly correct. Different kind of options and all that. For someone so familiar with the concept of Card Advantage, I sort of flubbed that one.

          Thanks for correcting me there. This does indeed lend the entire affair a different sort of weight.

  11. Lacero says:

    History Respawned is a nice idea. It’s struggles a bit with pacing but for a first episode it’s not bad.

    • tormos says:

      I saw a lot of promise in it AND managed to make it to the end. I think he needs to cut down on the amount of actual gameplay that’s being shown if he keeps playing games where most people know how they work.

  12. Jimbo says:

    Does Mr. Rossignol still write for RPS?

    • BooleanBob says:

      I believe he recently dual classed in Fatherhood. So he can’t do any Writing until he’s equal level in both.

  13. Hahaha says:

    So when you go to a restaurant your supposed to sit with empty plates while the staff chat about what they did during the week?

  14. Yosharian says:

    That KSI guy acted like a huge prick in that EG video. God knows why people choose to watch that shit.

    • 12inchPlasticToy says:

      I’d really like to go for “They’re too young to know better”, including KSI himself.

      • Moraven says:

        Yah it was interesting to read that big long PR message… That is why he was popular is how he acted. There is a huge crowd for that “content”. Just not the smartest thing to attach to a big company like Microsoft.

  15. psepho says:

    Can I have a tiny grumble?

    I know that we are all very multimedia these days; however, for me ‘Sunday Papers’ implies ‘written down with words’. It seems to me that there has been a significant increase in videos and a decline in written content in the Sunday Papers over the last few months. For me personally this is a shame. I have no interest in watching videos and come to the Sunday Papers for interesting things to read on my phone during quiet moments (like while waiting for the kids to settle).

    Please don’t go all youtubey on me…

  16. exce56 says:

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