The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on January 26th, 2014 at 1:30 pm.

I'm going to start getting this up in the mornings, I swear.

Sundays are for spying a glimpse of the finish line and stretching wide in preparation for the final sprint home. Sundays are for this.

  • I forgot this one last week: Tom Chatfield on Wired writing about how in videogames, difficulty is the point. “Time is of the essence when it comes to almost every aspect of the field. Even the most difficult works of literature or philosophy tend to take at most tens of hours to read. Yet far simpler games can demand a hundred hours or more of play if they are to be exhaustively explored, while some online games raise the pitch of this expertise to thousands (hello, EVE).”
  • Chris Livingston isn’t just funny and writing about games, he’s writing about games funnily. The rare mix of entertainment and information laying on top of one another, instead of side by side. Pretty hot. This week for PC Gamer, he marries a giant spider in a Crusader Kings Middle Earth mod. “As a Balrog, I have a couple ambitions. I’d like to have a daughter. I want to research some new technology. I want to hire a capable council. And, of course, I want to kill Gandalf, that bearded prick who trespassed in my house and then had the gall to smash my bridge — while I was on it! — when I came up from the basement to politely ask him to keep the noise down. So, I send an assassin after him.”
  • Eurogamer’s Oli Welsh fires some small spitballs at Shigeru Miyamoto, suggesting that maybe it’s the designer and Nintendo’s games, not Iwata and the company’s tech, which are to blame for their currently ailing (though not that ailing) fortunes. Agree about the games, disagree about placing that at the feet of Miyamoto.
  • Quinns still exists, though it’s hard to confirm that beyond these weird videos of him putting his face close to painted cardboard. Watch him do that while reviewing Eldritch Horror, a game that can be played not on your computer but on your dining table. As you watch, try counting the number of cuts/shots and estimating how long this twelve-minute video took to produce. Apply that Effort Modifier to your final Enjoyment Rating to calculate your overall Appreciation Score. (To those who asked in the comments that I report back about how my first D&D session went: it went well. The game is way better than the cartoon of my youth, and Ulmo the Halfling Warlock survives to fight another day.)
  • Sometimes I worry that words are redundant, as video does half the work of describing or explaining a game for you just by being in motion. Then I remember that the real threat is GIFs. IndieGames.com round up some indie game GIFs, as maybe (hopefully) a new weekly feature. Look at that Lovers In A Dangerous Spacetime one right at the top. It cuts more to the core of the game than even playing the game. (FYI: which is why we also needs words).
  • I’ve spent the week with Stuart Campbell’s two articles about OutRun 2 open, one a review, one a review from after a further week of play. They were not written this week, but they make me want to start hating simulation games. It would only be a pose, but who would know. “The Xbox’s processing power is used here not to perform eight trillion calculations about the precise effect on the alignment of each tyre of every bump in the road, or the exact amount of torque applied to the flange-shaft when you press slightly harder on the grommet-toggling button, but simply to provide the most stunning playground possible for the player to fling his new four-wheeled toy around in, WHICH IS THE WAY IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE.”
  • Speaking of OutRun, Parkin writes for EG about videogames disappearing from digital distribution. OutRun 2: Coast 2 Coast is no longer available from Steam because a licensing agreement with Ferrari expired, which is sad, but makes me feel extra-special when I play it because it’s now exclusive and rare. “Some might argue that the deleted games hold little significance: primarily comprised of dated sports games and barely concealed adver-games. But for Cifaldi it’s not just an issue of not being able to preserve games that are considered culturally significant today. “The maddening part about preserving video game history is that we just don’t know what’s going to be important 50 years from now.”"
  • Has the Sunday Papers ever linked to Tone Control? We should have. It’s a podcast in which Steve Gaynor talks design in-depth with designers, including the likes of Clint Hocking, Randy Smith and in last week’s episode, Atom Zombie Smasher/Quadrilateral Cowboy/30 Flights of Loving’s Brendon Chung.
  • Music this week is Three Trapped Tigers.

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103 Comments »

  1. TillEulenspiegel says:

    the journey of discovery and incremental mastery

    A pretty good description of game-games, and how they’re distinct from AAA narrative experiences or indie art projects. Without the opportunity for mastery, there can be no satisfying game as such.

    • phuzz says:

      I like your notion that a game is something where you can gain mastery, or in some way improve your skills, but the last game I played was The Wolf Among Us. Other than finding my way around the interface, I don’t feel like I got any ‘better’ at playing the game, but I did enjoy myself and felt satisfied. Is it still a game?

      • Sam says:

        That’s specifically a “game-game” that you gain mastery from playing. Wolf Among Us isn’t such a game, but it is still a game.
        Like how encyclopaedias, novels, text books, popular science, philosophy are all quite different types of book. But they’re still books.
        We need to get around to making up some new words for all the types of game. And none of this using existing words with a hyphen stuff, let’s get some fresh vocabulary that we can smugly use in Scrabble.

        • The Random One says:

          Yeah, this is at the heart of the “formalists vs. zinesters” debates. It appears that a lot of people think only “game-games”, for lack of a better word, are games; this is undertstandable, since for the longest time the industry thought every game should be a game-game, and even though most people approached sandbox games like GTA and Just Cause and SimCity and Rollercoaster Tycoon with a looser mindset, just trying to meddle with the system and seeing how it responds instead of trying to complete missions, the fact that the “game-game” element of success through mastery exists caused those people to not question their definition of the word.

          Clearly I do not have that mastery in not writing run-on sentences, Jesus Christ what did I do here.

          • aepervius says:

            We have different form of entertainment, some calling up different skills, example Mazing : mapping stuff in your memory, racing and similar : reflex, and so forth, and we have film where you are 100% passive with the medium, and have no action. There is a whole spectrum from the form of entertainment where you have no action whatsoever but a story, to the one where you have only action (think pacman, or even pong).

            At the most basic level , some of us feel that a form of entertainment where you have no action whatsoever except read description , and hear stuff, where there is absolutely no difficulty, test, or expertise, is not a game, it is a form of entertainment, yes, but more like a film, a book, toward that end of the spectra. It isn’t a question of hardcore , or casual , as even pong or candy crush saga belong to the same side of the “game” scale. It is simply a question that those form of entertainment like stanley parable or gone home, are far more akin a fixed book. Heck “book of your own adventure” are far more on the game scale than stanley parable or gone home is is.

            On the otehr hand some of us which describe *every* form of entertainment using a PC as a game. RPS seems to stand on that as well as many other here. They simply place the bar on what is game or not game far nearer the non interractive scale.

            It is a matter of perception really. I tend to belong to the former group, but I also tend to recognize that it seems a matter of opinion, and one own’s life history rather than really cemented definition.

    • AngelTear says:

      According to your definition, most unmodded Elder Scrolls games stop being “games” after you’ve levelled up a bit; and by the same token, most games are “games” on hard difficulty but “not-games” on easy.

      I thought we called those things “mechanics” or “difficulty level/balance”, not “games”.

    • altum videtur says:

      Like METAL GEAR RISING: REVENGEANCE. Comes with a nice side dish of rather disturbing ludonarrative synergy.
      As you gain mastery over chopping people into hamburger, so does Raiden lose his faith in his own righteousness and embrace/master the raging psychopath he locked away in his head until in the end, he abandons his ideals in service of an unwinnable war for the sake of his own REVENGEANCE.

      Why the fuck is that game so daft and yet something?

    • MOKKA says:

      What the hell is a ‘game-game’?

      • Evilpigeon says:

        A “game-game” is a game where the challenge of the gameplay is the main focus of the game, as opposed to story, atmosphere or any other part of the game. Game :)

        Think Super Meat Boy or anything else which is really, really focused on making you perfect its central mechanics.

        • MOKKA says:

          So what you mean is that it’s just another one of those meaningless categories? It’s hard to keep track of them these days.

          Can’t wait for the ‘this game game is not a game game, but only a game’ debate.

    • malkav11 says:

      The idea that difficulty is required for a satisfying game experience is a common, pernicious bit of nonsense. Surmounting obstacles is one type of satisfaction a game can produce, but it’s certainly not the only one and is in fact one of the hardest tools to successfully use for that purpose. The problem is, for difficulty to be satisfying, it must block you just enough for it to be palpable and your subsequent success to feel meaningful and not a moment longer, otherwise it crosses from satisfying to frustrating. And sufficiently frustrating or sufficiently frequently frustrating obstacles won’t make a satisfying game experience, they’ll simply cause people to stop playing the game. Problem is, players are human beings and like all humans, they come in a vast variety of personality types, individual skill levels, frustration thresholds, etc. So, you can try to rely on difficulty to make the experience of playing your game satisfying, but if you do you either need to be uncannily good at design with an incredibly good autobalancing system or some such, or comfortable leaving out large chunks of your potential playerbase.

      In my experience very few games are that well designed, and I’d much rather enjoy the game than get roadblocked, so I value things other than difficulty far more.

      • Runs With Foxes says:

        The reverse is true too. A lot of people enjoy challenging games and will avoid ones without it. The recent renaissance in difficult games has been really interesting.

        Also difficulty doesn’t just mean twitch skills. I don’t really like the term ‘mastery’ because it suggests a kind of physical ability. That’s the problem with a lot of these ‘what is a game’ debates. People tend to frame it as system-less narrative-heavy games on one side vs twitch shooters on the other, leaving no room for, say, tactical games or many RPGs which don’t rely on reflexes. Ideally it shouldn’t be possible to ‘master’ the tactical side of a game because at that point it becomes boring. Though we do use the term ‘chess master’, so

        • malkav11 says:

          I certainly recognize that there are people who derive satisfaction from challenge – hell, I’m one of them if it’s pitched right – and more importantly, only derive satisfaction from that as opposed to other qualities of a game (obviously I am not one of that category). But I don’t think the latter is nearly as large a category as some people seem to think, and my contention is that it’s awfully tough to scratch that itch for the broader spectrum of the first category in a way that works for everyone involved, whereas it’s significantly easier to be good at other aspects like narrative, power fantasy, etc. I’d also contend that the handful of really successful new “difficult” games are games that have a very very high level of quality of craftmanship and design. Certainly Dark Souls is one of the best made games I’ve ever encountered. And even there, I doubt more than a fraction of people that take the plunge ever get very far.

          • strangeloup says:

            I think the issue with difficulty balancing in general, and with Dark Souls in particular, is the need for the reward for passing a challenge to be concomitant — generally speaking, equal to or slightly greater than — to the difficulty of overcoming it, which is quite often not successfully done. The main example in DaS is the silver knight archers in Anor Londo — a notoriously difficult section to pass, with no substantial reward other than you never have to do that bit again. And shortly thereafter you get to have your arse kicked by Snorlax and Pikachu, making it no wonder that this is (anecdotally at least) the quitting point for a lot of people.

  2. SuffixTreeMonkey says:

    Basically a “Gaming Made Me” article was on slate.com this week:

    Robot Odyssey: The Hardest Computer Game of All Time

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I’m hesitant to give something I haven’t played in nearly 30 years this sort of recognition, but Robot Odyssey might be my favorite game of all time. I really wish in the flurry of remakes and demakes that someone would make a new one.

  3. Scumbag says:

    “Sundays are for spying a glimpse of the finish line and stretching wide in preparation for the final sprint home.”

    Being very tired made that very Freudian.

  4. Geebs says:

    I don’t think video games are really any more ephemeral than they used to be; in fact the means to preserve old games are far better than they ever were – all of the old Amiga and ST floppies are demagnetized now. Licensing bollocks has been around since forever.

    I guess the answer now, as it was in the 16 bit days, is piracy.

    • malkav11 says:

      Games are certainly more deliberately self-sabotaging than they were back in the day. You didn’t have to connect to a server run by the parent company to play anything on the Amiga (and thank goodness, because most of those companies no longer exist, at least in that form).

    • RobF says:

      Yes, the thing is it’s getting harder and harder to be able to rely on piracy these days. We’re tying our games into systems owned by other huge corporations over which we have no control and we’re doing it at increasingly fundamental levels. This is our new normal.

      It used to be the case that you’d get the rare bit of copy protection that spewed itself everywhere because someone thought they were being smart but in the main, you had an up front lock that when picked, everything else would still continue to work. There’s a few notable exceptions to this, Ocean’s attempt at using dongles (Epic, floundered when copies were being distributed with the dongle locks removed before the game came out) and on but in the main, before we got a real DRM boner in recent years, nothing too invasive.

      Obviously that’s changed. Luckily in large parts most DRM has been cracked and that problem solved in the main (assuming we accept piracy as our only sensible solution to these things in the absence of corporations caring about their work) but as that base got covered, we’ve had the rise of services. And these can go from DRM solutions to reliance on online high score modes, friends lists, achievements, simple things but perhaps integral to the functioning of the game to the more extreme ends of requiring server emulation in order to break. Often, multiple services integrated at once. Like with iOS, I dread to think how many games got crippled or lost when OpenFeint went to the wall. And the large amount of games released with it integrated, I doubt we’ll ever be able to know either.

      The main reason why things are worse now is we’re building in more points of failure. In the push for social, in the push for connectiveness, in the push for Steamworks integration, with console store front and features needing tying to games, with a myriad of services relied upon to provide back end support for networks, for high scores to function, for chunks of the game to function, it’s a matter of scale. And the scale of this problem is, and I wish I was understating for dramatic effect but it’s massive.

      So it’s no longer a case of just breaking the lock in order to preserve games. Now it’s breaking the lock, emulating or closing off functionality in games, emulating or closing off links to services. The trend towards removing dedicated community servers makes helping multiplayer games survive all the more difficult, each and every service makes preserving each and every game with them embedded more difficult. On the one hand, a bright side of digital only makes the reproduction of titles easier, on the other it makes their disappearance easier also because there’s a smaller chance of hard copies changing hands. And with the amount of services, the amount of game modes that might rely on these services and the sheer scale we’re doing this on… It’s fairly agreed amongst archivists and preservationists that we’re going to lose huge chunks of our culture and there’s little to nothing we can do about it.

      Which is how you sort of end up with Dr Jimmy and Frank and others having to ponder how to salvage what we can from this big old mess. Piracy alone can’t save it anymore. It helps but this is bigger than piracy.

      • Geebs says:

        Excellent points, I hadn’t considered a lot of that because I haven’t been a “social” gamer since the days of Q3A. For a lot of those games I think the community is probably much more important than the actual software, and you’re never going to preserve that for posterity.

        Did Epic have a dongle? God, that is definitely a game that should stay in the memory rather than being revisited; I loved it at the time because it was the closest my ST was ever going to get to Wing Commander, but looking back on it now…

        • RobF says:

          Yeah, there was that and Robocop 3 that shipped with a dongle if I remember right.

          Still looks fairly nice in a low res low poly sort of way but dear me, yeah. Not a great game.

          • CookPassBabtridge says:

            Robocop 3 most certainly had a dongle, a little flat black plastic thing that plugged into the joystick port. I remember because I always had two joysticks in port 1 and 2 so I could play with my friend, and playing Robocop 3 meant fannying around with pulling one of them out. Later of course I lost the dongle, but that wasn’t so bad because I couldn’t get past the damn car bit anyway. It was almost impossible to tell what was going on in an environment made of about 3 polygons, especially on my little 14″ Hitachi monitor. That and I might have been rubbish at it.

            EDIT: I just went and watched a longplay of it. It would appear that I maybe possibly a bit might not have got past the second level ever. So I was rubbish then.

          • RobF says:

            Just watched a video myself and I don’t think I’d ever seen the indoors bit. I’d also forgotten how horrendous some of the art is in it. Those faces. *shudder*

  5. LionsPhil says:

    Nintendo must really be on the rocks if an article that tongue-bathing is starting to see the cracks of making the same few games over and over and over for decades.

    • HadToLogin says:

      According to some maths, if Nintendo will still lose that kind of money they do each year, they will barely make it until 2050 – after that, they will have to sell their assets. And around 2075 they will be forced to sell Mario, Zelda and other licences.
      Looks pretty grim.

      • Koozer says:

        In business reporting land, companies can only exist in two states – fabulously successful or doomed to failure.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        Dammit, I hoped I wouldn’t be dead before I saw their games on other platforms.

      • drewski says:

        Business never, ever, ever works like that.

        • ulix says:

          In this case, it does. Last year, Nintendo reportedly had around 800 billion Yen in the bank, which translates to about 8 billion US-$ or 5.6 billion € at today’s exchange rates.

          They made a loss of 36 billion Yen in 2013. If they continue at that pace (which of course they won’t, they’ll just cut back on production), they can easily survive the next 20-25 years without ever having to take a loan, without having to look for outside investors, and without even selling any assets.

          How is that possible, you might ask?

          Well, Nintendo had it’s first annual loss since 30 years (since 1981 to be excat) in 2012. Which means they had profits flowing steadily for over 30 years, and a lot of that money is still fresh from the incredible and unexpected successes of the DS and the Wii.

    • Vandelay says:

      And yet, Super Mario 3D World and Pikmin 3 are by far the most imaginative and enjoyable games I played in 2013 (although, the later was the first in series I had actually played and, in the world of gaming, a third entry is hardly bleeding a franchise dry.)

      Nintendo might have a few well used mascots, but I would not accuse them of repeating the same gameplay year on year with them. Each entry in a character’s respective series are normally very different to what came before, especially with Mario.

      That isn’t to say everything is rosy for them on the game front though. The lack of third party support they have has become a big issue with the Wii U. I really can see a point where there are zero games being released for the system, besides those from Nintendo.

      What Nintendo really needs to do is build the player base, something that Mario games and Zelda remakes probably won’t achieve. Instead, they should look back at the older franchise and bring back Starfox, Metroid and F-Zero. Three new games in those series being released around the same time would be a massive boon for the system.

      • welverin says:

        “That isn’t to say everything is rosy for them on the game front though. The lack of third party support they have has become a big issue with the Wii U. I really can see a point where there are zero games being released for the system, besides those from Nintendo.”

        Nintendo has had that exact problem with everyone of their consoles post SNES, the Gamecube was the only one that even slightly reversed that trend.

        Third party support won’t reach zero, but it will never be good. Their under powered and innovative hardware the for the Wii and WiiU has guaranteed that, it makes it too hard for third parties to bring their multiplatform games to Nintendo’s systems and there isn’t enough profit in developing exclusives to justify it.

      • KenTWOu says:

        Each entry in a character’s respective series are normally very different to what came before, especially with Mario.

        IMHO It’s relatively easy to change everything in gameplay when your character is so abstract as Mario. When they will make something more realistic and mainstream, something like System Shock, Deus Ex, BioShock or Far Cry 2… Something that has really great narrative, innovative and emergent gameplay, but almost ideal from every angle so it doesn’t have ludonarrative dissonance and other typical issues of AAA games (like shooting lots of enemies) and it will get 96 on Metacritic, I will say that Nintendo has great game designers.

        • Mman says:

          Given that Mario has probably sold more than all those games put together your definition of “mainstream” is questionable.

          “and other typical issues of AAA games (like shooting lots of enemies)”

          Also Deus Ex is the only game on your list that avoids this (but only if you play it in certain ways), so your criteria seem a bit selective.

          • KenTWOu says:

            Also Deus Ex is the only game on your list that avoids this (but only if you play it in certain ways), so your criteria seem a bit selective.

            Man, that’s my point actually! These games have flaws because they are about shooting people in the face. Nintendo has really great game designers? Cool! Therefore, they should know how to do the same thing flawlessly. How to do really cool ‘The-Last-Of-Us-that-defines-the-last-generation’ which has the same emotional impact but without its typical flawed structure: shooting-people-then-narrative-via-cut-scene-repeat. By the way, I could put almost any name here. So something like Dishonored, DayZ or Minecraft or any other significant game will do the trick. Something about systems and simulation, about embedded and emergent narrative, about narrative through gameplay, about first person view and immersion.

    • misterT0AST says:

      Can we just make it clear that Nintendo is one of the most daring and innovative companies out there?

      After single handedly saving the market from the Video Game Crash , after inventing 2d platforming and 3d platforming as we know it, they invented the whole Kart racing sub-genre, and mini-games based games like Mario Party and Wario Ware, also with Pikmin they invented out of nowhere a new subgenre of strategy followed by Overlord and Brutal Legend, they started the motion control craze where Sony and Microsoft followed through, then they went on with Wiisports and Brain Training to create out of nowhere a huge market that was never touched before, the one of older casual gamers, and the Wiii sold like hotcakes, in terms of hardware they constantly try new things, 3d, motion controls, Virtual Reality (the Virtual Boy that failed miserably), touch screens, no other company ever took these many risks.
      Many of their games cannot be categorized in any traditional genre (what is Luigi’s Mansion? What is Animal Crossing? What is Kid Icarus Uprising? What is Elektroplankton? What is Punchout? What is Donkey Kong King of Swing? What is Smash Bros. ? A 4 players fighting game with items and platforming? Had you ever seen that before?).

      And then there’s the games they publish as exclusives, which never get sequels, and always have something to say, from Rare titles in times long gone to Eternal Darkness, Mad World, Redsteel, ZombiU, Wonderful 101.

      And what about the main franchises? What about the HUGE gap between Majora’s Mask and Wind Waker (to mention one) in theme, in graphic style, in gameplay, in tone? What about Metroid, 2d platformer, then first person shooter, then 3rd person action with Other M. What about Mario? From 2d platformers to 3d platformers to racing games, golf games, football games, tennis games, rpg games, in Mario Sunshine they stuck a water gun to his back and they centered the whole game about that, Doctor Mario is a puzzle game, Mario vs Donkey Kong a puzzler.

      I guess people blame them for always using their iconic characters, and having ongoing series like Pokemon (where they keep inventing hundreds of new character every game anyway), Mario Kart, Mario Party that they never stop selling and therefore never stop making, but their main series never go past 2 or 3 similar iterations, be it Zelda, Metroid or Mario, and this doesn’t mean they don’t have new things, because they do. They invented at least a whole new genre for every generation, and if the WiiU doesn’t die maybe something will come up even there.

      I can already tell you they are doomed, because for some absurd reason they want to keep making hardware and their online service has always been ten steps behind their competition, but they are a daring company, that has always been taking big risks, having great moments of success and huge moments of failure. And I’m not talking about the long gone past, but the 3ds and the Wii/Wii U generation.

      Nintendo’s strategy is many things, but stale isn’t one of them. They always try new things (especially with their main franchises), and they often fail.

      • Jac says:

        Nintendos problem isn’t that they keep wanting to make hardware, its that their current hardware (WiiU) is not compelling to own for the majority of people due to lack of third party games. First party games and miyamato is most definitly is not the problem.

        Yeah they rehash their characters but the quality is there game after game and what new games are on the consoles that are performing well?? Basically all sequals and iterations.

        Taking console exclusives only, they have the better games. The artical is a nonsense as it even admits that the recently released Mario was game of the year and the old Wii one was game of the generation.

        They just have a console that on balance isn’t the best console to have if you could only own one. If they released a new one that competed with xbox and ps on a graphical level so people could get their fifa / cod fixes they would be fine. Again not a software problem. But they do have a problem.

        • drewski says:

          The problem is that the first party games for Nintendo no longer seem to outweigh the sheer volume of third party games for the other two consoles, as they did on the Wii.

          It doesn’t matter how good Mario is if you have to choose between him and literally every single EA and Activision game (and most of the Ubisoft ones).

      • The Random One says:

        There is a big gap between “inventing a brand new genre” and “adding new characters to a decades-old franchise, a good deal of them resembling bad Digimon fanfiction”.

        • InternetBatman says:

          Nintendo does both, although they are too conservative in making new IP (Kirby’s Epic Yarn wasn’t a Kirby game originally). I have a hard time thinking of a game that’s been more innovative or genre defining than wii sports since it came out.

          Nintendo has a raft of problems, online system being near the top, but creativity is not one of them.

          • drewski says:

            I’d agree – it’s not creativity or innovation that are the problem, it’s creation. There just isn’t enough content on the platform to compete.

            And that’s what the article is suggesting – if every time Miyamoto finished a game, he set up a new studio to continue making those games and started doing something entirely new, Nintendo might actually have a broad, deep software catalogue now. Instead, well, I hope you like Mario!

          • Gap Gen says:

            As people above have mentioned, Nintendo has a problem in that if no one else is developing for the WiiU, people will pick the console with the most games, all things being considered. At that point it doesn’t matter if Nintendo are publishing great games in-house or not, they’re losing to the combined might of every other videogame company publishing for consoles. That said, I have no idea why WiiU sales are apparently poor, could just be that the casual market got bored after the first Wii, or have all bought Kinects.

          • malkav11 says:

            I’d say it’s because the WiiU has barely any compelling software, the pad controller is super gimmicky, and Wii motion controls turned out to be terrible, but that would require early adopters to be making rational value assessments so who knows what the actual answer is.

      • hypercrisis says:

        You must exist in another universe to me, in the one I know Nintendo have consistently shot themselves in the foot for their refusal to move forward on a lot of issues (see: N64 and GC), and when they found a golden egg (the Wii) they decided to just sit on it and get comfortable rather than move forward, resulting in the dismal failure of the WiiU thus far. Not to mention their insistence on retaining the draconian closed-system policies they’ve clung onto since the NES which were barbaric and borderline illegal then, and have no place in 2014

    • neonordnance says:

      Can I just say that, regarding Iwata, the 2DS is one of the finest systems ever made? It truly feels like a successor to the Game Boy Advance SP. It is small, light, sturdy, cheap, and controls extremely well (although the stylus-requiring touchscreen feels a bit outdated when compared to modern tablets). The 3DS is bulky, cramped, hard to hold for long periods, and initially priced waaaay too high. Not to mention 3D is more of a gimmick than a game-changer.

      As for the WII-U, it’s a wonderful idea, but giving your console almost the exact same name as the previous version is not a good way to convince buyers that it is new, especially when it is aesthetically almost identical. They should have called it the WII-2 and made it blue or something, so that it LOOKED new. Sony and Microsoft have this branding down. As it is, the already uninformed casual crowd had difficulty understanding that it was even a new system, instead of just a slight upgrade on the Wii.

      I like the author’s thesis that Nintendo needs a new tentpole franchise. But while they work on that, there is one huge and glaring thing that Nintendo could do almost immediately that would bring a lot of money in:

      Put SNES and GBA games on 3ds virtual console.

      It literally boggles my mind why my handheld is powerful enough to run N64 games, yet the vast majority of VC titles are either NES or Game Boy games. There aren’t even GBA games on there, which seems like a total no-brainer! Putting up Metroid Fusion or Advance Wars or a Link to the Past or Super Mario Bros 3 just seems like a license to print money. If I were Nintendo, I would start putting the best GBA/SNES games up there ASAP!

  6. siegarettes says:

    It’s been ten years since the last actual new Outrun. That’s very depressing.

  7. Llewyn says:

    WHICH IS THE WAY IT SHOULD ALWAYS BE

    Is it possible to be any more Wrong?

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      I think it was said for semi-comedic emphasis, but yeah – proper racing sims can give a thrill unlike more ‘arcadey’ games because there is a greater sense of actually mastering a physical environment, and seeing the rightful physical response (speed, overtaking, a lap time dropping)

      • RobF says:

        Turns out, yes, yes, you can.

        I think you’ll find it’s impossible to beat Outrun 2. Unless we’re discussing Outrun 2:Coast to Coast or Outrun 2:HD. Then and only then is it currently possible to beat Outrun 2.

        I don’t make the rules, soz.

        • Llewyn says:

          Outrun’s largely irrelevant to this (although you are clearly Dangerously Wrong, Rob). The idea that there’s a single right way to make – and to enjoy – games, especially when backed up by mockery of any other tastes, doesn’t seem like something particularly healthy.

          • RobF says:

            No, I’m definitely right. I checked with the police and everything and they definitely said I’m right. You can ask their mums too. Their mums said I’m right too.

            But more seriously. It’s a statement taken from the middle of a review of an arcade game reboot, discussing how the arcade game has been rebooted and what the processing power is being used for, in an arcade game reboot.

            So I guess if you take it out of that context then it’s awkwardly prescriptive. If you read it in the middle of a review of a game that’s pretty much the gold standard alongside Pacman CE/CEDX in “how to update an arcade game for modern times” then it makes perfect and absolute sense. It’s to emphasise how Sumo have concentrated their efforts on the things that matter -in an arcade game- and not gone all oh god, videogames, stop it during the update.

            I don’t think it’s wrong in context at all.

          • Llewyn says:

            Oh, well, if the police said it, it must be right!

            I guess it’s a matter of interpretation – to me the contrast he was highlighting was closer to arcade vs sim racers rather than good arcade vs bad arcade racers.

          • RobF says:

            It’s Stu so I wouldn’t entirely rule that out anyway if only because he knows full well it’ll really, really annoy some people.

  8. Gap Gen says:

    The gifs are great; I like the idea of something that shows what a game looks like in motion but isn’t as heavy as a trailer.

    • Sam says:

      The cruel thing is that the GIF format is wildly less efficient than a sensibly compressed video, so a “proper” video of the same couple of seconds is going to be a much smaller.
      But I totally understand the feeling of ease of consumption of a GIF compared to loading an embedded YouTube video or whatever. I just feel bad for the internet tubes.

      Probably I should mention http://gfycat.com/ which attempts to replace an animated GIF with an identical but much smaller HTML5-handled embedded video. If you find yourself embedding GIFs in a website some time.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, I totally agree that it’s a pain waiting for gifs to load. And thanks for the link!

  9. pepperfez says:

    I’m not sure I buy that fully mastering a game and reading a dense book are equivalent. Plenty of people spend their whole careers mastering, for instance, Ulysses or Inferno or Macbeth. At least someone plays through Street Fighter’s story mode and considers it finished.

    • Evilpigeon says:

      Plenty of people would also read those books once and consider them finished. In both cases there is additional depth to be discovered through further play/reading

    • cpt_freakout says:

      It isn’t. It’s very, very far-fetched to think that the difficulty of reading Ulysses is equivalent or even similar to that of playing, say, Dark Souls. That’s because the article assumes that the reward of Ulysses lies in understanding its ‘mechanics’, but to anyone who has ever read even the easiest of books it’s clear that mechanics are not everything, that there is no singular reward, and that such things usually reside elsewhere. Sure, going through Finnegans Wake is an achievement, but that’s not the point of it or the point of many a difficult text.

      If we really need to keep the comparison (which leads to the useless ‘games are art’ debate) I think it would be much more apt to understand difficulty in terms not of mechanics but of concept / realization. In that sense, stuff like Proteus, the catamites’ games, and much of what Porpentine’s column usually links to are much closer to the sort of difficulty that literature presents (let alone other kinds of texts) because you are able to interpret them in many ways, understand their mechanics in many ways, and put together an understanding of the whole thing that might be significant to you, while being open to a ‘serious’ discussion. In contrast, there’s only so much you can say about playing Street Fighter on the hardest mode…

      • joa says:

        On the contrary, much of what “Porpentine” links to is pretentious rubbish. In these contexts the mechanics of gameplay are unweildy and only serve to obstruct whatever point the writer is trying to make. If these people put there ideas in books it would be plain for all to see how uninteresting they are. But because it’s in a game it’s supposed to be interesting…

        • The Random One says:

          There are also many serious people who say Finnegan Wake is pretentious rubbish, so that’s not really a point of difference.

          €: Also, even if I admit to your conclustion, there are a lot of written works (and in other media) that consist of poor ideas hidden by gimmicky presentation. I suppose games may be better at that since they may be better at being gimmicky, but that’s not enough to cast off the comparison.

          • joa says:

            Well I haven’t read Finnegans Wake but I don’t think you can compare it to those games. These web-based indie games strike me as something someone thinks of at the pub and goes “hey wouldn’t it be cool if…” but then actually makes a game out of it. And then the elitist indie clique ooh and aah over it, and everyone feels validated in their opinions.

            I’m sure you’ve heard of Dear Esther. A few years ago people liked that. It was an interesting experience, although some people found it boring. Now it’s persona non grata in indie land – it’s like blasphemy to even mention it without going on a rant about how crap it is. When something goes from being viewed as good but not everyone’s cup of tea to being viewed as rubbish, you know you’re not dealing with honest people. You’re dealing with people that want to seem edgy and avant-garde in there opinions — oooh that’s too mainstream now let’s ditch it.

          • RobF says:

            “Now it’s persona non grata in indie land – it’s like blasphemy to even mention it without going on a rant about how crap it is”

            First I’ve heard!

          • JamesPatton says:

            This is my problem with defining “games” too narrowly. Sure it’d help to have some better definitions, but if we say “Dear Esther isn’t a game so NOBODY CAN EVER PLAY IT WITHOUT SHAME” then we’re just limiting the field. Better to have it messy and open than closed and tidy.

            Not that I think you disagree with me – just putting in my two cents.

          • Geebs says:

            Dear Esther:game or no game, you were crap.

            SURPRISE SEAGULL

          • The Random One says:

            The Dear Esther case seems to be the same thing that happened to, say, Skyrim or Bioshock Infinite – a game that was beloved when it came out and then not so much. In all of those cases what happened is that the very first adopters loved and cherished it, and then after a while the hype died down and then the critics (who either were speaking from the beginning but weren’t being heard, or weren’t speaking from the beginning because they weren’t interested beforehand, which probably also explains their different conclusions) started to pan the games, and the people who were extolling the virtues of these games started to listen. In Dear’s case I think that it’s a lot of people realizing that it was threading new grounds, then realizing that it wasn’t threading new grounds particularly well.

            While an outside observer could interpret this as “people loved this game and they didn’t and so they’re dishonest” I think it’s fairer to think that some people loved this game and some people hated it and both of those groups of people had the limelight at different times.

          • PikaBot says:

            As a graduate student on English literature with a strong background in Joyce, I feel qualified to state that Finnegans Wake is, in fact, objectively pretentious rubbish.

          • Geebs says:

            @ The Random One

            Yeah, I don’t think the actual existence of Dear Esther tells us anything about the Game Or Not debate. I think the reason it was initially popular was that it seemed new and got a lot of hype on the basis of that and the fact that the graphics were pretty. People got excited about that and then ignored the fact that it’s frustrating (can’t mantle, can’t jump, can’t run, invisible walls everywhere, nothing to interact with, can’t even go for a swim without being dragged back to the plot) and unrewarding (has all of the emotional impact of a motorway pilgrimage to the last remaining Wimpy Burger) as a game.

            It was also far too expensive for what it was, which caused a lot of backlash. Under normal circumstances if someone is going to listlessly jerk off in my face for an hour, I’d expect them to be paying me and not the other way around.

            In terms of going-for-a-walk simulators, I’d already had far more emotional impact, immersion, mind-bogglingly slow walking and random base jumping out of the first hour of Morrowind years before Dear Esther came out.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            In all of those cases what happened is that the very first adopters loved and cherished it, and then after a while the hype died down and then the critics started to pan the games, and the people who were extolling the virtues of these games started to listen.

            What I find is this:
            Game is released.
            Hype machine goes into overdrive.
            All the pre-ordering fanboys extoll the virtues of this amazing new game without even playing the game while the reviewers who are approved by the game’s publisher “play” through the game & throw out some reviews to placate the game publisher/their employer/the people who pay for the ads on their site.
            Time passes. Game is patched to fix all the issues found by the pre-order hype brigade & publisher approved reviewers.
            Regular people & less hype-machine driven reviewers (aka actual games journalists) pick up the game & start playing. A large majority of these people will actually play the game from start to finish before giving an opinion on it (or at least spend a large amount of time playing the game, obviously depends on the game).
            Actual criticism of the game now begins. This is often some weeks, possibly months after release.

        • CookPassBabtridge says:

          I mainly run away from most human beings so I still have very fond feelings for Dear Esther. I went into it wanting only an emotional experience, particularly one that related to mental health and loss, and for me it delivered.

    • willy359 says:

      Yeah, that was definitely a strange argument to make. Sure, you can spend hundreds of hours exhaustively exploring a game world, but how much of that time will be spend repetitively doing basically the same stuff you did in the first few hours? That was certainly my experience with, for example, Skyrim. On the other hand, I’ve never found myself unthinkingly turning through hundreds of book pages because they were pretty much the same as what I read in chapter one.

      • JamesPatton says:

        Ironically, the only time I’ve felt “I can just skip this text because it’s text just like chapter 1″ was when I played really literary text adventures. Adding the hyperlinks kind of strained my ability to be interested in it for the sake of the text.

    • JamesPatton says:

      Good point – though I feel there’s a difference between mastering the skills of dodging/attacking/jumping over the course of a single game and mastering the skills of critical analysis/close reading over the course of your entire life. For one thing, critical skills can be applied to all books to some degree, whereas mastering something like Super Meat Boy is only really applicable in Super Meat Boy.

      Also, the end goal of mastering Super Meat Boy is to become a brilliant performer of Super Meat Boy. You might have a certain nuance to your style of play, but the whole point is you play “within the lines”. Whereas you can go all over the place with critical thought: you can approach Macbeth (or any other much-discussed work of literature) from any one of a hundred approaches. There will be no “right answer” or correct “performance” of Macbeth either (which is ironic given that it’s, you know, a play). So maybe playing SMB is more like mastering a difficult piece of music.

      Also, something to think about: if you discount Choose Your Own Adventure books, surely the most “game-like” books are not the Giants of Literature but detective novels? You play a game of cat and mouse, of deduction and misdirection, with the author in an attempt to figure out who the criminal is before the detective reveals it. The biggest difference between this and a game-game, though, is that you have to play a game-game over and over to master it; with the detective novel, you can only “play” it the first time you read it, and then it’s sort of used up.

      • Mman says:

        “For one thing, critical skills can be applied to all books to some degree, whereas mastering something like Super Meat Boy is only really applicable in Super Meat Boy.”

        This isn’t really correct; skills at games are transferable in the majority of cases. I’ve made quick progress through games that others find super-hard because I’ve played (and in a few cases, mastered) many relatively similar games before (Super Meat Boy happens to be one example of that). Even in the case of unfamiliar game styles things can transfer, as many parts of games are similar mechanically even when the games themselves are fundamentally different on the surface.

  10. Noburu says:

    I really liked the game GIFs. That should totally be a standard when reviewing/previewing a game and/or on its store page. I will look at pics and GIFs but very rarely do i load a video and watch it.

  11. dE says:

    A place were videos really have taken off (and become a major annoyance) are walkthroughs and guides. I guess showing might be more helpful in some cases, but screw me if I can be arsed to skip through a one hour video on the hunt for that one small part where I’m stuck, and then skipping further back to find what I missed, all the while inadvertendly spoiling story left and right and constantly having to fight Youtubes very very very weird buffering system.
    It’s really not for me. But I guess it’s the new way. Less effort to just record it and I reckon it’s for monetary reasons as well, since you can funnel people into watching your videos instead of reading a text – and get paid for it.

    • Noburu says:

      Im completely agree. I would much rather skim through something and read just the little part I need if I need help. Doing so in a video can be infinitely more difficult. Im also not a fan of video reviews or Lets Plays though.

  12. DanMan says:

    This GIF business has to stop. We now have video support in HTML, so go and use that. Video compression codecs are WAY more efficient at storing a series of images.

    • joa says:

      Except that nobody can agree on which video codecs they are allowed to use in which browser and it takes about 5 hours to load the thing and no browser implements it except the beta version, which nobody uses. Whereas GIFs take about 5 seconds.

      • DanMan says:

        With h.264 and WebM you’re good. With the size we’re talking here (GIFs of a few MB), it will also just take seconds to load, and probably either look better or the file will be smaller.

        You also have an individual choice if you actually want to download one of them, whereas a GIF will always (or never if you set you browser up that way) be downloaded.

        • joa says:

          You might be right but in my experience “video loading” is a heavy operation – you can see everything lock up while the video area loads in and all the libraries and methods are prepared for doing video. Loading images on the other hand the browser is doing all the time – it’s optimized to be very fast, so even if it’s an inefficient codec for video, like animated GIF – it feels fast.

    • Noburu says:

      Except Im much more apt to watch a few short GIFs than to allow flash block to load a video to watch. Remember what YOU like isnt what everyone likes. Some of us dont care for watching videos of such things.

      • DanMan says:

        I’m not talking about Flash. Also, see my comment above.

        • Noburu says:

          Its still watching a video versus a quick GIF.

          • Malibu Stacey says:

            No it’s not. Use http://gfycat.com/ to convert one of those GIF’s, re-open your browser & time how long it takes to watch them both. You’ll find the HTML5 video loads faster than the GIF.

          • Urthman says:

            I just tried converting one of the gifs on that review page using gfycat. I fed it the URL and it refused to convert it with a “URL doesn’t pass the smell test” error. Then I downloaded the gif to my computer and tried uploading it to gfycat and got a “Key already in use. Please choose unique key or do not specify key” error. Neither error makes any obvious sense nor has any further explanation provided.

            So once again, the “simpler, easier, faster” alternative to gifs is neither simpler nor easier nor faster.

  13. SuicideKing says:

    Surprised Gender Swap didn’t get a mention.
    http://www.tomshardware.com/news/oculus-rift-gender-swap-vr,25862.html

  14. Aerothorn says:

    If it wasn’t for the screenshot in this article, I’d think that the fact that the Second Amendment was only a black screen was some sort of cheap commentary; as it is I think it’s just a bug in Unity that I can’t seem to work around :(

  15. TWChristine says:

    On the subject of Graham’s first D&D run, I had been considering asking on here if anyone was interested in starting up an RPS online D&& session. Once that popped up, I figured perhaps it was the perfect time to ask, and that the forums would be the best place to do so, only to find out that I needed a certain post count before being able to do so!

    Long story short, there is now a thread to discuss it under “Other Stuff” (unless it gets moved from me putting it in the wrong place) if anyone is interested! :)

  16. OrangyTang says:

    Since this week seems to be about Outrun, TheRegister had a really good history of the various versions of Outrun recently:

    http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/12/18/antique_code_show_sega_out_run/

    I miss the “blue skies” Sega. We need more of that kind of game and less grey manshoots.

  17. Commander Gun says:

    “Even the most difficult works of literature or philosophy tend to take at most tens of hours to read.”

    I dare you, try reading “Being and Time” by Martin Heidegger and then come back :)

  18. The Random One says:

    Here’s an interesting article about indie movies being crowdfunded that has some very familiar arguments:

    http://www.wired.com/underwire/2014/01/crowdfunding-2013/

  19. SuperTim says:

    I’m pretty surprised you referred to an XBox review of OutRun 2. The PC version is a bit different. After reading it I realised there’s no multiplayer nor unlockables in my PC version mentioned in the review. (Not that I mind reading Stuart Campbell’s stuff.) It’s still a pretty good 6-minutes game, as long as you don’t mind the 1 minute loading time _every_ time you want to play a round.

    As for not being sold any more. Coast to Coast still has a PC DVD version, and you can probably still find it on amazon or ebay. And it’s probably cheaper than the Steam version.

    • siegarettes says:

      Well, seeing as all digital versions of Outrun 2 no longer exist in stores due to the license expiring, physical is also your only option.

  20. pakoito says:

    From the GIF selection I’ve owned Moacube’s Bonfire for months, it’s a great coffee-break-sized roguelike. It has endless mode, several unlocks and player strats and a good handful of enemies.

  21. jeep says:

    “Speaking of OutRun, Parkin writes for EG about videogames disappearing from digital distribution.”

    It’s not just sports games. Elven Legacy got deleted from Steam and Desura as well. I saw it on another service (GMG) but there’s no Steam keys available, you have to use their DRM instead.

    I tried Beamdog but “Agggg we’ve run out of serial numbers from the Publisher! This sale has been temporarily suspended, but will be restarted once we get more keys! We’ll be sure to keep it going for awhile longer, so that everyone gets a chance to pick up Elven Legacy Collection.”

    It’s really strange to watch one disappear, and it’s odd to me that a company like Paradox would let a game come off those services no matter how low the sales are. The product literally costs them nothing to leave on the shelf at Steam/Desura/etc you’d think if they had something people periodically rediscovered they’d just leave it up forever.

    • Martel says:

      Except there is an expectation that if a game is on Steam it will be updated and work with current OS, etc. Doesn’t have to, but if you have no plans on supporting a game any longer, might as well stop selling it.

  22. Spacewalk says:

    There’s also CannonBall which is an enhanced version of OutRun. It requires roms which might be a bit iffy to some people but the call of OutRun is so strong those thoughts can be ignored.

    https://github.com/djyt/cannonball/wiki