The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on April 20th, 2014 at 4:00 pm.

Sundays are for checking in late to write up notes on the week’s best games writing. Let’s get this done; there are games to be played.

  • Simon Parkin over at Eurogamer speaks to some of the key team members behind the creation of the original BioShock, including JP LeBreton and Jordan Thomas:
  • Not every aspect of the game evolved so effortlessly. At one point the team needed to create a demo for the American video game magazine Game Informer. The magazine was set to run a BioShock cover story. “The pressure was on to create something that would impress, and our deadline was looming,” says LeBreton. “In a level review, there was some discussion of how an AI should be presented in the short demo. Someone mentioned System Shock 2′s evasive cyborg ninjas as a reference point. Ken threw his glasses down and yelled: ‘I don’t want to hear anything about any f***ing cyborg ninjas!’”

    I thought I’d heard everything there was to know about the making of the game, but Parkin digs up good stuff on the tension between different team members.

  • On the newly launched Kotaku UK, Mike Rose talks to Vlambeer’s Jan Willem Nijman about their unreleased prototypes. There’s info on many interesting projects inside, including download links to a few:
  • “This was a narrative first-person shooter based on the movie High Noon. You walk around this little Western town for an actual real-life hour, waiting for the train to come with someone on it who you have to shoot.

    Me, Kitty Calis and some musicians spent a week working on that, got a whole town done and put some weird Easter eggs in, but then the train never actually comes… we never got around to making that. That game was very interesting to work on from a narrative point of view, because we started out with the idea that you have to wait for an hour and talk to people, and learn about who you shoot, so it would be this one really interesting kill, as opposed to the hundreds normally in games.

  • Over on PC Gamer, Chris Thursten’s Three Lane Highway column this week explains how to communicate in online Dota 2 matches against strangers. Informative and sexy.
  • Saying ‘Sorry’ at this point will make everybody feel better. In this way you can express sympathy for the 2800 MMR midlaner who knows that he’s really probably actually somewhere in the 5700 range and yet somehow—somehow!—he’s ended up trapped in the trench with shitbirds like you. Imagine being him. He dreams of restoring himself to his rightful place, playing mid against Dendi. He dreams of the moment when Dendi will give him a look and say good and then moments later he’ll be onstage at TI4 lifting the Aegis of Champions into the air and then Dendi will walk over and clap him on the back and be like gooood and everything will be light and money and hope and maybe he’ll get to meet Purge, too.

    Your presence in this young midlaner’s life is more or less proof that dreams are born to die, so damn right you’d better apologise.

  • Earlier in the week, helpful RPS commenters linked a number of Dwarf Fortress stories. Matul Remit was new to me (even though Quinns wrote about it years ago). It’s a long, illustrated Let’s Play, and perfect if you need a little break from the family today:
  • 13th Timber 1051
    We clashed with an elf monstrous and dead. The commander severed its limbs into the air. Sorc dodged an arm. There was traumatizing involved. The other elf will be hunted after a sunrise.

    14th Timber 1051
    The elf tore out the throat meat of Trumpet! I clashed with the elf to slash its meat. I severed its head for atonement.

    15th Timber 1051
    Trumpet recovered. He is the good mule.

  • You think this article is about only about football – it’s written by a footballer, taken from their biography – but there are videogames inside. What’s it like when footballers play football videogames?
  • I can’t say with any certainty how many virtual matches I’ve played over the last few years but, roughly speaking, it must be at least four times the number of real ones.

    Pirlo v Nesta was a classic duel back in our Milanello days. We’d get in early, have breakfast at 9am and then shut ourselves in our room and hit the PlayStation until 11. Training would follow, then we’d be back on the computer games until four in the afternoon. Truly a life of sacrifice.

  • I love things like this: The Pac-Man Dossier, a detailed study of every facet of Pac-Man. The link goes to Chapter 4, which deals with the ghosts.
  • All ghosts move at the same rate of speed when a level begins, but Blinky will increase his rate of speed twice each round based on the number of dots remaining in the maze (if Pac-Man dies this is not necessarily true – more on this in a moment). While in this accelerated state, Blinky is commonly called “Cruise Elroy”, yet no one seems to know where this custom was originated or what it means. On the first level, for example, Blinky becomes Elroy when there are 20 dots remaining in the maze, accelerating to be at least as fast as Pac-Man. More importantly, his scatter mode behavior is also modified at this time to keep targeting Pac-Man’s current tile in lieu of his typical fixed target tile for any remaining scatter periods in the level (he will still reverse direction when entering/exiting a scatter period).

    And so on.

  • Richard Cobbett continues to produce good stuff funded by his Patreon backers. I enjoyed his video take on the new Jane Jensen adventure, Moebius.
  • I enjoyed this comic about international travel (and went on to enjoy the rest of the comics on the site).
  • Music this week is Japanese rock band Number Girl. Start with Num-Ami-Dabutz.

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175 Comments »

  1. DatonKallandor says:

    They basically admit to every bullshit idioicy that Bioshock has rightly been criticized for and that the media has adamantly defended as Ken-Levine-can-do-no-wrong genius in that Bioshock article. From the lack of balls of making the “good” choice reward the player less, to the dumbing down of a proper RPG to a straight up shooter and other mainstreaming. It’s political correctness and dumbest-customer-is-right from start to finish.

    The article details perfectly the perils of Publisher interference, the corruption of a once-great developer by the lure of fame and commercial success-over-art and the power of giant marketing budgets.

    Even the people involved admit Bioshock is a pale shadow of previous Shock games with a prettier paintjob, but buying great scores with a big marketing and PR budget turned it into a “gaming milestone”.

    • c-Row says:

      No, public opinion and raving reviews turned it into a milestone, and several years later suddenly everybody claims that the games were shit to begin with. This seems to happen with a lot of games lately.

      • Phier says:

        Do I get some sort of cool points for not liking bioshock from the start then?

        • Tacroy says:

          Me too! But that’s largely because I tried to install my physical copy at a time when I had no Internet, and it wouldn’t let me because of bullshit DRM. I spent that week stuck in a motel playing Dwarf Fortress instead.

          • Taidan says:

            Me three, I remember posting a lengthy rant about how disappointing it was over on the PC Zone forums when I first played the game.

            DRM issues aside, (which caused me no end of grief personally), the key phrase that kept appearing all the way from that very first piece of concept art that accompanied its announcement up to (and way beyond) the reviews was “Spiritual sequel to System Shock 2″.

            What we got was a hugely pretty, but otherwise unremarkable FPS. The plasmids were little more than reskinned gimmicky guns. The setting was magnificent, but the actual gunplay was a significant step backwards when compared to the mechanics of other FPS’ of the previous decade. The mid-game twist was exactly the same as the one in System Shock 2. (Although I still love the brilliant way Bioshock makes its statement about the extent of player agency in that genre of game.)

            On the flipside, that meant when I eventually picked up the far superior Bioshock 2, I went in with expectations so low that I was completely blown away with how good that game was. The clear division of guns and Plasmids, and the allowing of one of each to be equipped at the same time made the gameplay a lot more interesting, and from a subjective point of view, I thought the story was far more engaging. Superb DLC, too.

        • bill says:

          No cool points, because we assume you’re just jumping on the bandwagon. ;-)

      • Xocrates says:

        The problem with Bioshock, and many other games that follow the “it’s awesome”-”It was never good to begin with” arc, is that the games are generally trend breaking and/or trend setting, so on release they’re praised for their perceived strengths, but end up so over-analyzed, that every problem becomes well known at the same time that new games that copy, and even improve upon, its strengths come out, diminishing the value of what was actually interesting to begin with.

        Bioshock was never that good to begin with, but I can understand the praise it received at the time, and I can respect it for what it achieved.

        • RedViv says:

          I’d put it like this: If you can apply the statement you make to feel yourself oh so much more witty and foresighted than anyone else, the one that just boils down to “Nuh-uh, told you so!”, to almost every game in hindsight as well – it’s really not a smart one.

          What’s far more interesting in that article than any conclusions about the perceived value of BioShock, much of which has entered the design of games after, is the story of a man seemingly going more and more bonkers by feeling so deviously compelled to grow, grow, grow the popularity of “his” creation.

      • basilisk says:

        I feel the key thing here is that the perception of the game shifted very strongly from what it is to what it is not. Because what it is is pretty clearly a major achievement on very many levels* and that’s where the hype came from. But later, people started digging into it, and saying “it’s not System Shock 3″, “it’s not an RPG”, “it’s not a profound critique of objectivism”, “it’s not a game about intricate moral choices”, “it’s not the messiah of gaming”. And that fed directly into the criticism of Infinite; very many people wrote very many words on what Infinite didn’t do even though they expected it to, rather than looking at it for what it did do (whether successfully or not).

        And obviously, anything at all can be seen as a failure if you only evaluate it from a position of your (possibly misguided) expectations.

        * Namely: setting and atmosphere, level design, absolutely astonishing intro sequence, writing referencing some fairly heavy concepts without overdoing it, having one single deep theme (parenthood) woven into absolutely everything, which is still something very rare in games etc.

        • jezcentral says:

          Agreed. Sometimes I feel that the original Deus Ex would be met today with “It’s a shit FPS.” ” No, it’s not. It’s a shit stealth game.” “No, it’s not. It’s a shit RPG.”

          • LionsPhil says:

            Deus Ex was called all those things. And, in isolation, the criticisms are quite fair—it’s a worse shooter than Half-Life, it’s a worse stealth game than Thief, etc.

            But what DX got praised for was its immersive-sim jack-of-all-trades-ness, and in that regard it actually lived up to it.

          • malkav11 says:

            Yeah, I still bristle when people call Deus Ex a good cRPG. It’s a brilliant game in a lot of ways but a lot of that is down to the level of detail they put into the gamespaces and the number of player approaches and actions they accounted for. The possibility space, as it were. But mechanically it’s barely got cRPG elements. It’s largely a shooter with optional stealth, and it’s pretty frustrating as those, too.

            (I know some people would say that that possibility space is what defines a cRPG and they would be wrong.)

          • baozi says:

            I’m interested to hear why you think this way (not a good cRPG, barely having cRPG elements, what defines a cRPG).

          • malkav11 says:

            The genre of a game is defined primarily by mechanics. Deus Ex, mechanically speaking, has only a couple of the mechanics traditionally associated with the CRPG genre and implements them weakly and without a great deal of interesting decisions to make in that regard. Heck, for all that Invisible War is a worse game, I felt it made stronger use of RPG mechanics, and Human Revolution certainly did. (Though they are all still shooter-primary in my view.)

          • baozi says:

            I tend to play these kinds of games as a stealth-type character, so I disagree that Deus Ex is mainly a shooter and think it’s more of a jack of all trades as LionsPhil said above.

            (Wrote a wall of text, but I think I’ll have to think about all this RPG stuff further, so I’ll spare you the mess. Made a list of things I associate with RPGs but found that Borderlands would fulfill most of them, and I think of it as an action game with RPG elements, like Dark Souls.)

            ***

            Instead, I’m interested in how Invisible War and Human Revolution make stronger use of RPG mechanics.

            I agree with Invisible War, though I’m not sure if it’s for the same reasons. Being able to control robots was cool because it enabled you to better role-play a sneaky hacker, and I remember reading somewhere that someone role-played Invisible War as a kind of future vampire, absorbing the life energy of dead people and avoiding churches. So they brought in skills that allow for more diverse role-playing.

            (But I guess that is about role-playing, as opposed to »RPGs«.)

            The main thing about Human Revolution that I remember is that they caught the Deus Ex atmosphere pretty well and that it felt more cinematic, but I don’t remember anything about RPG mechanics; thought the new cover mechanic made it feel more like a shooter.

        • LionsPhil says:

          People started making very irritated “it’s not X” claims because an overexcited throng of people falling overthemselves to declare it a Signifcant Masterpiece had previously been claiming that it was those things.

          It’s pretty much your standard hype pendulum. Gaming media and fanbases are terrible for fuelling it on the upswing, RPS sadly included.

        • Damn Rookie says:

          Couldn’t agree more.

        • Geebs says:

          Ironically, given that demos are nowadays believed only to have a negative impact on sales, as far as I can remember most of the fevered excitement for Bioshock came about more because it had a really gobsmackingly awesome demo than any particular press hype-parade.

          I have always found the whole “it only gave a shallow view of Objectivism” criticism hilarious though. It only takes about two seconds to realise that objectivism is totally stupid, and a deeper reading really isn’t necessary. Instead, Bioshock does a pretty good job of exploring hypocrisy, in a surprisingly even-handed way.

          • Pundabaya says:

            Yeah, Bioshock was really a cracking first hour (and demo), a cracking level (Fort Frolic) and a really well done twist, some good miniboss fights and a lot of ‘meh, its all polished and it plays reasonably well, but meh’. Oh and a horrible escort quest and a pretty awful boss fight,

            Bioshock 2 was way more fun to actually play.

            I actually quite enjoyed Infinite though. Sooo…

      • bill says:

        I don’t think people should feel somehow guilty for getting all excited about a game that people later point out had some flaws. Many of my favorite games/movies/books have massive flaws, but that doesn’t take away from the joy that I experienced when I watched them, or even the joy when I watch them again.

        Unless I notice the flaws while experiencing it for the first time, in which case they are probably (a) much more major and impactful(?) flaws, or (b) the work isn’t drawing me in enough that I overlook them.

      • tetracycloide says:

        Don’t do that. Plenty of people pointed at the game’s glaring flaws when it first released just like the most recent installment. Don’t play revisionist history in a vane attempt to somehow invalidate his opinion. He’s right to, the game pulls punches to make itself more palatable to a mainstream audience.

        • bill says:

          Some people will always point out flaws when something is new. That doesn’t invalidate the idea that there is a shift from positive to negative over time. It also doesn’t make the game bad, it’s just a function of different people, different tastes/priorities.
          At the beginning most people loved it and a few focused on the flaws. Over time that has shifted (at least in terms of who is vocal, i’d still bet that the majority of people are positive about it).

          I’d imagine that many of those who focused on the flaws initially were those who were more invested in the ‘franchise’ beforehand, as tends to be the case. As someone who went in expecting nothing in particular, I enjoyed the experience immensely. If i’d gone in expecting system shock / an RPG then I might have been disappointed, but I didn’t.

          • Baines says:

            The shift from positive to negative includes people less invested in the game simply drifting on to other subjects of praise.

            After all, Bioshock can only be your “greatest game ever” until the next greatest game ever comes along. But it is more than that. People who have negative opinions about a game tend to keep them, and stay willing to voice them even years later. People who have positive opinions express those opinions in the early days of open praise, and then move on.

            Sometimes those opinions are from people who haven’t even played the game at the time. Which happens a bit with any game that builds either word of mouth praise or disdain. The way Bioshock was lauded at release, it probably pulled a lot of second-hand praise. The desire to keep heaping second hand praise can diminish years later, either from people actually playing the game and finding their own opinions differed from what they’d heard, or simply losing interest (possibly from having encountered new targets to praise or deride.)

            It can also just take time for the “new amazing” feeling to die down, allowing people originally wowed to look at a title more critically.

        • basilisk says:

          That’s not revisionist history. I never said BioShock is beyond criticism, or that there weren’t people critical of it back in the day. I am just saying that the strongest signal that seemed to emanate from the noise of the internet way back was “BioShock is brilliant/remarkable”, but today it’s “BioShock is deeply flawed”.

          Dig up some old RPS articles on BioShock (there were many) and look at the discussions about the game then and now. There really has been a change.

    • Lemming says:

      Did you look at the design doc scans? It was clearly a shooter with RPG elements, and always was. Ken and the powers that be just wanted to bring the shooter elements to the fore of the media campaign, not change the game around them. System Shock 2 is also a shooter first, RPG elements second, game. There’s no outrageous bait-and-switch here.

      Bioshock: Infinite on the other hand…

      • Geebs says:

        Yeah, Bioshock really turned out way better than it so easily could have. For all System Shock 2′s brilliance, it’s pig ugly, a lot of the level design makes no sense as a space, and fricking respawning explode-o-droids. I wish people were mature enough to like two different things for their individual good points without all this hyperbole-of-awful.

        • Arren says:

          Seconded.

        • Listlurker says:

          Indeed so. Too much of the Bioshock criticism still ultimately boils down to “disliking things that are popular means that I’m so much smarter and nuanced in my tastes than the people who liked it”. Same old gaming-commentary ego-wank in this season’s latest clothes.

          I have no problem with people legitimately liking or disliking the Bioshock franchise; it’s the disingenuous motives of certain commentors which have made me so tired of what purports to be “The Bioshock Discussion”.

      • Muzman says:

        That’s really not true at all. SS2 is not a very good shooter by anyone’s standards and the RPG elements are far more than just windowdressing. They fundamentally alter how you play the game and what weapons you can and can’t use. Resource management is a core mechanic in SS2. At no point in Bioshock do you have to really go looking for those extra bits of screws and hosepipe to make the thing you want. That connection to the individual components is all but irrelevant. They’re essentially a few different kinds of ‘money’. Stuff you pick up casually and with little consequence.
        The impermanence of Bioshock’s powers makes them far different. They’re a Hexen like spells and buffs system. In System Shock 2 you are creating and playing a character in fairly true CRPG style. Bioshock departs little from its core. It’s a shooter with a toybox. System Shock 2 is an RPG with some survival horror.

        Did Bioshock change much from the pitch? Maybe not. During development they talked about things like dropping the inventory and so on which surely did tip it in the shooter direction further as time went on. I’m pretty sure the record supports this even if it seemed always in the post.
        With each new reveal of features being dropped or streamlined, Ken himself did assure the old guard on several occasions that the same deep SS2 experience would be maintained in large part and not to worry about the stuff in the press. He was telling porkies, or confused as to exactly what was important to that experience (I plunk for a mixture of the two. Creators don’t necessarily understand their creations. Sounds a lot like Ken actively disliked his). The article does generally support that impression at the time of a gradually changing focus for the game.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Yes; the way you could replumb your plasmids at Gene Banks made the RPG angle of Bioshock radically different form SS2′s harsh regieme.

          • Geebs says:

            The way that the guns in Bioshock didn’t break every five seconds was a radical departure from SS2′s harsh regime, too!

            Don’t forget that there are plenty of upgrade options in SS2 which are totally useless and liable to leave the player screwed in the last quarter of the game, and that Bioshock had far more potential to set up traps and adopt different fighting styles on the fly.

          • DatonKallandor says:

            It’s come up in some Podcast, but the way the respawn chambers work in System Shock compared to Bioshock really sums up everything wrong with Bioshock’s dumbing down of the formula. System Shock 2 had far more leeway when it came to player death than other FPS games at the time. They let you respawn! You kept all your items! You kept all your progression! All you had to do was find the respawn point, and if you died it cost you some money, and the enemies probably had full health again/respawned.

            Bioshock made respawning literally free. Damage done to enemies stuck. It cost you no money at all. You could literally wrench down every single enemy in the game for no cost whatsoever.

          • Geebs says:

            Yeah, but it didn’t matter if you could respawn if all of your guns were broken and you had picked the wrong upgrades because they sounded useful, but the developers never actually implemented gameplay where they mattered.

            To this day, I get a huge kick out of playing SS2 because that game is so ridiculously tense; but pretty much all of that tension comes from scarcity and I can’t help wondering whether that was accidental from dodgy balancing rather than the revisionist “gameplay so tough only the PC master race can handle it” line.

            In this day and age, role-playing no longer means “all of the real traps are in a skill tree only a Diablo 2 player could love” and I think we’re better off for it. Come to think of it, criticising Bioshock for its role playing elements is kind of missing the point when it’s really an anti-RPG.

          • bill says:

            Am I the only one who never actually used a respawn chamber in Bioshock? I just reflexively hit the quick-load button every time I died.

            As others have mentioned elsewhere (see link to Tom Francis article below), they did miss a massive chance with the respawn chambers. There is actually a logical plot related point to them in the first half of the game, but then they don’t follow through on that in the second half. Which is a missed opportunity.

            I think the first half of the game is perfect. They miss some major chances to really change things up in the second half, but I think that’s the main criticism I have of the game. And it seems harsh to criticise a game for missed chances that would have taken a huge budget and big balls to pull off.

            SS2 is awesome, but it also has massive flaws. We overlook those flaws because we love the good bits… as I do with Bioshock.

          • drinniol says:

            I think that was the gameplay they were aiming for – most players just quickload anyway so build it into the gameworld.

          • Geebs says:

            You could, at a huge stretch, call the vita-chambers thematically appropriate – the player character doesn’t even get the choice to die, while, as a dyed-in-the wool believer in capitalism and exceptionalism the only thing Ryan can do to retard the hero’s progress is try to hurt him economically by charging him money to regenerate.

          • Muzman says:

            Geebs you seem to be arguing that Bioshock is totally different to SS2, where calling them overly similar in gameplay and concept terms was the point of disagreement in the first place.

            What the heck is an ‘anti-RPG’? Were they making a ‘spiritual sequel’ to SS2 or Call of Duty?

          • Geebs says:

            Well, an RPG is about the choices you make as a player affecting the world and building your character. Bioshock does the exact opposite – the world builds you and makes all of your choices for you; it tells you what your role is, while you gradually learn that your character is actually a blank slate. Hence anti-RPG.

          • Muzman says:

            AKA a linear/hub based shooter game with some self awareness in its plot? Yes, ok. I don’t think it precludes Bioshock from being more interesting and complex in certain areas though. It’d probably make the punch more interesting too.

            It’s ironic that the game all about choice, the lack thereof, and its permanence in consequence would take away that aspect from character building. You aren’t forced to live with your choices in weapons and plasmids etc. This is at least equally compelling thematically as the end result we got (and I’d say moreso. Much of the mechanics always felt to me like a shooter game grafted onto something else entirely and the two never gel)

      • steviebops says:

        I just didn’t take to Infinite, I like a good shooter and a good RPG, but it’s mechanics just left me cold. A lot like Rage from id.

        • welverin says:

          I agree with you on Infinite, but I do not agree with you on RAGE. I found RAGE’s gameplay quite enjoyable.

        • DatonKallandor says:

          Try RAGE again. Getting the textures to stop popping in is a chore, and the first hour or so is boring as hell. But once you’ve got 6+ guns all of which have 4 different ammo types it turns into a really fun shooter. Good enough to forgive the atrocious console UI even.

        • Philomelle says:

          RAGE is another case of a game being hated for what it’s not rather than loved for what it is.

          RAGE is a fantastic arcade shooter in the vein of original Quake. It’s exactly the kind of game id excels at doing, a FPS that is mastered by combining mobility with good shooting, not just by taking cover somewhere, zooming in your aim and seeking out the enemy head the way you do in many modern FPS (Homefront comes to mind).

          But then id mentioned RPG elements and a relatively open world, and everyone decided to expect another Deus Ex. So when it came out, everyone criticized it for being “not post-apocalyptic Deux Ex” rather than enjoying it for “post-apocalyptic Quake with some extra features”.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Not that it really matters to your point, but I’ve got to disagree with “RAGE is a fantastic arcade shooter in the vein of original Quake”. It’s way, way more sticky and sluggish to move about in, unless that somehow fixes itself after the first couple of missions. (That’s about how far I got in the free weekend before I found myself desperately wanting to do anything else than waddle around as another unfit, overweight FPS protagonist.)

          • Philomelle says:

            IMO, it does fix itself. The very first missions in RAGE were, in my experience, the worst ones and a bad example of how it ultimately feels.

            Like the person above points out, RAGE suffers from severely cockblocking the player early. You need all of its numerous guns, traps and tricks before you start really tapping into its combat, but you don’t really start getting them until after the unfortunately lengthy prologue (where you only get two guns and one trap, to my memory).

    • Mman says:

      Given the hype narrative that Bioshock was some sort of magnum opus unblemished by commercial concerns it’s certainly interesting to read things like that the “moral” system was intentionally compromised to try and draw in a bigger audience.

    • pilouuuu says:

      Bioshock was great for what it was. I consider it more as an FPS and not an RPG. I agree that the lack of consequence for good/bad decisions was underwhelming, but overall it’s a very good game, just not very complex.
      Bioshock Infinite was shit!

      I guess it was much better when they didn’t try to make a living city. And ghosts?!? C’mon!

    • LionsPhil says:

      The real takeaway I’m getting from that article is that Levine is a tremendous bell-end, between shouting at people during meetings and:

      According to the designer the decision to force the team to work without [even weekends] off came directly from Levine; the game’s producer, Alyssa Finley (who would later become studio head of 2K Marin) was against the move. “I’m dubious of any real quality gains from the decision,” says LeBreton, “especially given the morale cost.”

      I sincerely hope, massively unlikely as it may be, that he is never in any kind of management position again with him having “wound down” Irrational recently.

      • El Goose says:

        So Levine was a baddy all along eh? Interesting. I wonder what the dynamic was between Looking Glass and Irrational when SS2 was made, and whether Levine latent megalomania had already begun to make an appearance by then.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Even Henry Ford knew that productivity drops sharply after 40 hours per week. Bizarre that people still don’t realize that…

        • Geebs says:

          I think this might actually be a bit unfair to Irrational – regardless of the game design or plot points discussed here, the original Bioshock was an incredibly slick and polished experience. I have a great deal of difficulty remembering any huge scripting or AI bugs and I can’t remember getting stuck in geometry either.

          Not that I’m saying it’s good to crunch, but Irrational managed to maintain a high level of quality at release despite management unpleasantness (yes, the copy protection was annoying but that’s 2K’s fault)

          • DrollRemark says:

            Quality of the final product is hardly a good way to judge working methods. Particularly when there’s no direct alternative to compare with.

          • Geebs says:

            What I don’t even.

            How about another AAA Unreal engine shooter where you constantly get stuck on scenery or fall out of the level entirely? Why hello, Mass Effect 3!

          • LionsPhil says:

            All this really demonstrates is that the guys at the bottom were willing and able to throw themselves under a train, which is somewhat the tragedy of the games industry in that capable people are so desperate to work in it that they allow themselves to be horribly exploited by massive dicks like Levine. The result is burnout and departures, ill for the longer-term health of the studio.

            I’m not really sure what you’re defending here, because I’m sure it’s not this work practice.

          • Geebs says:

            It’s a bit complicated so, brace yourselves, meandering bullet-pointed commentathon commences:

            1) I was mostly just giving props to the staff of Irrational for turning out really solid work; I think that it’s odd that in all of the is/isn’t art debates nobody mentions that it’s also really well made.

            2) Levine seems to be a pretty divisive figure, but a lot of the people interviewed for that article take a more nuanced approach than coming out and saying he’s a tosspot. I don’t know if you’ve ever done any collaborative creative stuff, but from my experiences (music) the stress of trying to create something good, and to not appear foolish in public, means that fights, up to and including physical violence, are surprisingly common even between people who otherwise like and respect each other. Reference: see “the making of” pretty much any classic album ever. Add in the fact that the guy was directly answerable to the publisher and responsible for justifying the staff’s wages and yes, you’d expect a few outbursts.

            3) I totally understand your point about working conditions, but can you really produce a counter-example where a studio where it was all sunshine and flowers and no stress produced something as polished within budget and on time? It’s the nature of most projects in most fields that life gets more miserable towards the deadline. Otherwise you get Daikatana.

            4) A lot of guys from Irrational seem to be doing pretty well for themselves. That’s because of their own merits and ability, but it’s not like nobody from the studio ever worked in the industry again. Some of them even still work with Levine!

          • hilltop says:

            I don’t get it Geebs. You seem to be implying it is unrealistic for a manager not to be occasionally childish, prone to outbursts and callous with their workers.

            The bar doesn’t seem to be set all that high.

          • Geebs says:

            In a manager that’s pretty awful, but not uncommon; but Levine isn’t just a manager.

            To take it to the other extreme – show me, for example, a community mod project without interpersonal drama and I’ll show you a one-man team.

            It’s not that I want to canonise the guy, but I think demonising him is ludicrously simplistic.

            The other point I’m interested in discussing is; we hear a lot about how development could be less stressful, but where are the actual results? I mean it’s nice to think that this could be avoided but it would be nice to have some examples, otherwise the received wisdom that there are other models is nice-but-bogus. For example, the recent interview with the Stanley Parable guys was very sympathetic to them but there was still a strong whiff of artistic drama.

          • LionsPhil says:

            It’s the nature of most projects in most fields that life gets more miserable towards the deadline.

            Not really, no. Business software dev isn’t anywhere near as broken as gamedev. It’s not sexy and nobody (within rounding error) will willingly stand up and sacrifice their daily lives for the priviledge to work on it, so management can’t get away with demanding it. And management themselves have cooler heads and are mindful of longer-term predictable performance and avoiding the hiring/training costs of staff churn.

            Sure, there’s pride and argument, even there. But not blowing your top at people is basic workplace professionalism. That kind of behaviour is simply not acceptable, and is ultimately destructive toward the product. At that point his immediate manager should have been stepping in with disciplinary action. I’m guessing it never got reported up the chain because, again, games industry.

            I don’t think I really do need to provide a counterexample. This is tosspot behaviour. That he may have good company does not change that it is tosspot behaviour. But—AFAIK Spector never behaved like this, and is also Looking Glass allumni with some major works under his belt. (There was almost certainly crunch, because games industry, but I can’t see him behaving like this in meetings or with regard to required working hours.)

            Really, I’m hoping one of the effects of the strengthening independent scene is that it will bleed some of the glamour out of gamedev as a career path and eventually fix this “if you’re not hungry enough for the job, we’ll replace you with someone who is” mentality.

          • DrollRemark says:

            What I don’t even.

            How about another AAA Unreal engine shooter where you constantly get stuck on scenery or fall out of the level entirely? Why hello, Mass Effect 3!

            And you know for a certainty that the Mass Effect 3 development involved no crunch time and that everything was plain sailing for them?

            My point, if it wasn’t clear, was that it’s impossible to prove whether the overwork was actually responsible for the solid game construction of Bioshock, or simply a misguided drive by an under-pressure management which yielded no significant improvement. Correlation != causation, and all that. To reference the old Henry Ford story again, we proved years ago that ridiculous hours don’t increase productivity, and can in fact harm it. Especially when applied to the kind of extended lengths of time the games industry is all too fond of.

            As LionsPhil has mentioned, the world of general software development regularly produces code that’s as good as anything I’ve ever seen in a game, with a lot more appreciation of their workers (mainly because the latter actually hold some of the balance of power). The cult-like way so many companies expect people to sacrifice their lives for them because “hey cool games yeah?” was eventually what drove me away from ever in games dev. Well, that and my terrible higher maths.

          • Geebs says:

            @LionsPhil

            Spector is a producer, not a creative. I think even he’s a bit surprised how often he gets mistaken for a designer.

            @DrollRemark

            Quality of the final product is hardly a good way to judge working methods.

            You said that the amount of work you put into something, and the way in which you structure that effort, has no effect on the quality of the final result. That is obviously bogus. Quoting Henry Ford as some sort of prescient genius of game development techniques and industrial relations doesn’t really qualify as a supporting argument.

            Like I said: this is a thought experiment. Now that we’ve entered the brave new world of game development, breaking out from the yoke of triple-A, what do we have? Failed kickstarters and paid-alpha early releases, which nobody will still be playing by the time they get finished. It seems that the business model which works IRL is exploitation and crunching. It’s not nice, but it seems to have more tangible results to back it, no?

            Game development seems to have more in common with the utterly cutthroat film/TV industries than business software development. It involves much faster generation of much more content, and a much higher reliance on wringing out as much performance as possible from a wide variety of hardware, and then selling it much more cheaply than business software.

          • DrollRemark says:

            You said that the amount of work you put into something, and the way in which you structure that effort, has no effect on the quality of the final result.

            Eh? No I didn’t. I stated that trying to pinpoint a single factor within a product’s workflow as a reason for its success, when no decent empirical study is being done on that factor, and when so many other factors will inevitably be in play, is a deeply flawed approach to championing that factor. “Bioshock is a solidly built game” -> “Bioshock had a crunch period” -> “Therefore crunches are good” is massively fallacious. I mean come on.

            Quoting Henry Ford as some sort of prescient genius of game development techniques and industrial relations doesn’t really qualify as a supporting argument.

            Why not? Because it was a different industry, and a long time ago? Sorry, but no. I mention Ford because he was one of the first examples of a big businessman (rather than some radical lefty union leader) realising that there’s a maximum amount of time a person can work for until they start to lose productivity. It’s doesn’t matter if its construction line manual labour, desk-based work, or anything in-between. It’s basic human physiology that more hours don’t equal more work done.

            I’ve just spent a good half an hour looking for decent sources, and whilst there are tons, there’s nothing that can be boiled down into a nice comment-section soundbite. There are some decent studies linked here, assuming you’re actually interested in reading further, and not simply shooting me down because I don’t have evidence.

            Like I said: this is a thought experiment. Now that we’ve entered the brave new world of game development, breaking out from the yoke of triple-A, what do we have? Failed kickstarters and paid-alpha early releases, which nobody will still be playing by the time they get finished. It seems that the business model which works IRL is exploitation and crunching. It’s not nice, but it seems to have more tangible results to back it, no?

            Oh come on now, could your try and tar a little more of absolutely everything ever with that brush please?

            If you really want real-world examples, why have you ignored both mine and Phil’s mention of non-game development? At the basic level, writing core object oriented code in either discipline really isn’t all that different. And yet, one side seems far more switched on in how to treat their workers, without any apparent loss of quality.

        • Geebs says:

          You’re quite right, why would I want to use relevant examples from the area we’re actually discussing, when I could make tenuous analogies to totally different business models and appeal to the pronouncements of dead industrialists? I am suitably chastened.

          (n.b: in reply to drollRemark; threading fail)

          • DrollRemark says:

            That’s a little unfair, isn’t it? You blanket accused nearly all indie development of being poor and unfinished (which seems more than a little unfair, given the major studio projects that are also abandoned, lose components, or get released with bugs), you can hardly blame me for calling you out on it.

            Anyway, this appears to be getting tetchy now, and I’ve no desire to resort to snipey comments. I’ll just end by saying that yes, I believe studies from the wider world of work are perfectly applicable, because at the end of the day games development is still performed by human beings under exactly the same kind of pressures and emotions as anywhere else.

            Agree to disagree, eh?

    • Urthman says:

      Everyone should read the fantastic thing Tom Francis wrote redesigning the end of BioShock:

      http://www.pentadact.com/2009-04-15-ending-bioshock/

      When I think back on BioShock, I like to imagine having played it with Tom’s ending, and now–in my memory–the game is amazing.

    • bill says:

      As others have said, Bioshock was a (mostly) great game at what it tried to be. And it was praised for that on launch.
      It had some flaws, which people have focused on over time, and it also wasn’t what some people wanted – which people have REALLY focused on over time.

      But I don’t think it deserves a lot of the complaints it gets. It was a very fun FPS experience with a great location, nice graphics, good atmosphere, good characters and an innovative and unusual setting. That’s all I ever expected it to be and it more than lived up to those expectations.

      The first half was stronger than the second, narratively, and it could have done with a bit more player freedom later on (imho). But overall it was a big success.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      To the people that Bioshock was shit to begin with: 1) reinstall the game 2) play Medical Pavillon and Arcadia 3) come back and apologize for saying nonsense

      • Xocrates says:

        My memories of Arcadia is as a filler level that was impossible to navigate, but was kind of pretty.

        • Michael Fogg says:

          I meant the Sander Cohen level, I remembered that was called Fort Frolic, sorry.

          • Xocrates says:

            Correction noted :)

            But that’s kind of the thing though, Bioshock has two noteworthy levels in about a dozen, and tellingly both of those levels are significant detours from the main plot, to the point that the only connection Fort Frolic has to the rest of the plot is that the Eve’s Garden happens to be there.

            Bioshock essentially lives on isolated setpieces, leaving the “whole” feeling disjointed and awkward.
            This is fine when you’re just there to visit the place, but it’s kind of boring otherwise. Bioshock was a toured visit to Rapture, with all the good and bad that implies.

      • DatonKallandor says:

        Oh you mean Medical Pavilion, the one that’s basically a straight rip of the Medical Deck from SS2? And Fort Frolic which is completely unconnected to the rest of the game and only exists because one of the designers went nuts trying to show off and became obsessed with that section?

    • bill says:

      The article doesn’t seem to really say anything out of the ordinary or unexpected. I’d imagine 99% of games follow a similar path.

    • Runs With Foxes says:

      My feeling is that Bioshock simply came along at the right time to be played by a number of fresh game critics from the Xbox generation who lacked much knowledge about the medium they were writing about. There was a tendency (still is I think) for critics to see Bioshock as some kind of industry turning point where The Potential Of Our Medium was realised, meaning that it conveyed a veneer of intellectualism. It’s a poor game, always was, but much of the pre-release hype firmly planted the idea in people’s minds that it was a smart game that paved the way for some artistic future.

      • hilltop says:

        I don’t think it was a poor game. It was a good game.

        It just doesn’t deserve the credit for being some sort of turning point in the medium, is all.

    • Megakoresh says:

      I agree, the story of Infinite, it’s utter and complete linearity as well as the shooting itself were quite bad. Especially the plot. It was one of most contrived and retarded things I have seen that year.

      But it’s not without it’s moments though. The sections with skyrails make for some interesting, if rather easy, combat encounters and the AI companion is very well integrated into the gameplay. Better than in most games. I dare say, I have not been so pleased with AI companion’s integration since the time I played Star Wars: Republic Commando.

      It’s definitely worse than the previous Bioshock games, but I feel it is mostly because of the dumb plot, as the franchise was always focused around the story, thus making Infinite inferior as the one having the inferior storyline. But it’s not a bad game per se. It’s just worse than what we’ve come to expect from the series.

      And frankly, “media” is full of shit. Especially those that give scores. I stopped reading “media” coverage ages ago and bought better games ever since. I just read Wot I think, watch TB first impressions and read Steam Reviews. This a beter way than listening to a bunch of biased and nonobjective people giving arbitrary numbers to games.

  2. Hodge says:

    The Pacman Dossier is brilliant and it’s well worth setting 2-3 hours aside to plough through the entire thing.

    Also, Ars Technica did a massive Steam study which (I think!) wasn’t covered by RPS during the week. It turns out that DOTA 2 is absolutely freaking huge.

    • DatonKallandor says:

      The DOTA2 stats are very, very suspect however. Dota has a history of massively inflating player numbers, DotA 2 has a history of player reports coming from sources that don’t disclose their methodology, and of course any analysis of steam metrics has to account for the faulty “hours played” reporting (the exact bugs of which aren’t documented yet) and the fact that it’s a free 2 play game, with a rampant culture of smurf accounts. All of which inflates both it’s user numbers and hours played numbers.

    • bill says:

      Yeah, I was surprised RPS didn’t report that one, as it had some interesting stats. F2P game popularity. The number of unplayed games that people have. Etc..

      Maybe most of it was stuff we already suspected, but it’s interesting to have some actual research/numbers.

  3. rockman29 says:

    Funny Dota article! Solo queue really is a mixed bag experience. You never know how the game will go most of the time. It can be depressing when the game is decided completely irrespective to your performance and that can happen quite often.

    For example, a team I had played against recently had a Legion Commander who intentionally rushed our Tier 1 tower on the top lane three times in the first 10 minutes. They surprisingly won a couple of teamfights at Tier 2 towers, but in the end still lost the game.

    An extreme example, and in many years since I first played WarCraft III Dota, it was easily one of the worst horror of teammates I had witnessed. Even still it illustrates the randomness of experience Dota matchmaking will lead to, particularly in solo queue.

    I’m sure there is some maths and algorithm behind the matchmaking in solo queue, but I still find it hard to believe it is any better than simply throwing any selection of 10 random players together pre- or post-MMR ratings in Dota, I would say that in the days of selecting players from the pool of WarCraft III owners, the “matchmaking,” which was essentially equivalent to pure randomness, offered essentially the same experience in solo queuing.

    • PikaBot says:

      Dear lord, no. I remember the dark days of battle.net Dota, and actually having matchmaking is the frigging promised land by comparison. Every game there was someone who had literally never played before, or who ragequit after first blood, or deliberately fed because they thought it was hilarious, or…

      It was so bad that players took it upon themselves to fix it through leagues run through bot hosts, some of which had their own matchmaking systems. In Dota 2, although everyone loves to complain about the matchmaking, all attempts to create secondary systems like that have flopped because there’s no real need for them.

      • Martel says:

        The problem with matchmaking systems is that people don’t like to lose. I think the DOTA2 matchmaker works pretty well most of the time. The problem comes in (or the perceived problem) because people want to win 100% of the time, and a good matchmaker means you’re only winning ~50% of the time.

    • Falcon says:

      I find that Dota 2 matchmaking does a pretty good job. The thing is that there are so many different skillsets at play that even at the same MMR, people may be at wildly different levels at different skills. e.g. – pure mechanical skill, game knowledge, game sense, how to communicate with your team effectively, how to keep a team from falling apart, etc. People may be amazing at one of those and crap at another, and it’s easy to ignore your own weak spots while noticing others’. All of those skills can win games and it’s highly unlikely that everybody’s skills in each of those will be the same at any MMR.

      There’s no way I’d want to go back to the WC3 DotA days. Even with the leagues that tried to solve the problems with playing with completely random people (I played a lot of TDA DotA games way back when) matches were all over the place in a way that rarely happens to me in Dota 2. Sure, you’ll get muted players and trolls from time to time, but that happens at any MMR, really.

      • drinniol says:

        And even then, there’s no way to tell how an individual player will perform in that particular game. He might be in the zone or might be fending off kids and cats and wives etc.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I just laughed at the lovelife jokes.

  4. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Pirlo can write!

    • Fenix says:

      He’s a really smart guy in a career choice where being intelligent is not recognized as a virtue. It’s kind of sad that a footballer being able to write is a ‘surprise’.

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Actually, I remember Ajax Amsterdam having a system at their football academy called TIPS, which stood for Technique, Intelligence, Personality, Speed. Of course, with intelligence they probably mean insight in the game, but I always liked the fact that half of the qualities they focused on were mental rather than physical.

      • bill says:

        Living in Japan, I always find it strange when the Japanese team players are interviewed on TV and they are intelligent well-spoken articulate people.
        Maybe it’s just British footballers who seem unable to put two words together in an interview.

  5. subedii says:

    I always preferred Bioshock 2 to Bioshock 1. Not just the general gameplay but also the drastically improved way they handled the ending, felt way more fitting to me.

    Infinite… well I’ve already said my piece on Infinite. Let’s just say I feel that a lot of the gaming press got hit hard by a runaway hype train and neglected to examine the game as critically as they could have.

    • Fenix says:

      I had played Bioshock and enjoyed it, but I missed the sequel and my friends actually talked me into ignoring it completely as they told me it’s worthless. Thanfully I didn’t listen to them and still tried 2, and it was a very good game. The story was rambly and not-going-anywhere for the first one third of the game but then it got into a much more solid story than Bioshock 1.

      • RedViv says:

        It’s also interesting because the second half of BioShock 2 picks up some shared themes with Infinite, and brings them to a far more satisfying and apt conclusion.

        • Xocrates says:

          That’s something I found weird with Infinite. The game shares a lot of parallels with Bioshock 2, to the point I expected them to be intentional, but the DLC ignores, and even outright contradicts Bioshock 2.

          • malkav11 says:

            I don’t find that particularly surprising. Bioshock 2 was made by a different developer. It would be like insisting that Blizzard integrate the storyline from one of those third party Starcraft campaigns that were sold in stores back in the 90s when working on StarCraft II.

            Or like (if Crytek had the ability to work with the Far Cry IP) having Crytek integrate Far Cry 2 into their story for a hypothetical Crytek-helmed Far Cry sequel.

          • Xocrates says:

            You misunderstood me, I didn’t say I expect them to include Bioshock 2, in fact I expected for there to be no connection at all, my point was there were so many similarities that it looked like they did (much in the same vein of the “there’s always a lighthouse”)

        • Alphadrop says:

          That and I found Eleanor way more relatable and less punchable than Elizabeth.

          • subedii says:

            Agreed. Although in fairness, Eleanor isn’t around nearly as much as Elizabeth so she doesn’t really get a chance to become annoying.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        I wouldn’t say the first third, but much as I love the game – it’s easily one of my all-time favourites – the opening does make it a little too obvious they were struggling to think of how best to explain why, exactly, anyone needed to go back to Rapture. Which is a shame, really, because taken in isolation that intro is terrific, and Johnny Topside as a character idea is great, the kind of playing around with the mythos the first game never even goes anywhere near. Still, I can’t blame them for falling prey to nerves, seeing as just about every gaming website jumped straight on the “Why do we need to go back?” bandwagon.

        I was so happy B2 was great, I really was. I liked Bioshock – I still do – but reading people rhapsodise about this rich, living, storied world Levine had created drove me up the wall when it was objectively anything but, or how it was this sterling reinvention of the FPS when I found it far from innovative, let alone particularly challenging. And when Levine started putting the boot into B2, God, I thought he came across as so bloody insufferably smug, for all he was clearly a very smart man who’d come up with some fantastic ideas in his time. It was a relief to play Infinite and find out he was, arguably, full of it, that for all the money and talent on display it was no deeper either mechanically or thematically than the sequel he’d publicly dismissed, and reading that article just convinces me even further. He got sidetracked by the need to keep his own hype machine going and most people cheerfully bought into it, because Racism and Politics and Really Big Words, whereas the sequel no-one asked for comfortably outdid him on all counts and never once did interviews about how on earth they were going to balance keeping the bros and the literati happy.

        • subedii says:

          Yeah it was kind of weird to me when I kept hearing people slate Bioshock 2 on release as being a crappy game not nearly on the level on the first one, and having played them both I just couldn’t understand the venom.

          I could never get an answer as to why that was supposed be the case, and every time I’d probe the question, the most definitive answer I would get is that it didn’t have that twist in it. Which to be honest, I’m glad it didn’t try to replicate, it just would have felt forced.

          Going to go very subjective here, but (personally) I think in some ways that a lot of Bioshock’s plaudits has been heavily influenced by hype, Bioshock 2 was hit by the negative side of that praise. Bioshock 2 was in some respects the game that nobody wanted. It was a retread of a setting that was original but was now being wheeled out again.Everyone knew the original team wasn’t behind it, that Levine wasn’t keen on it even being made and that this was largely a publisher driven move. Given all that, it HAS to be worse.

          Like I said, subjective. I know some people genuinely do prefer Bioshock 1 to 2, but I also think that 2 got a lot more stick than it deserved, and more irking to me, got called out on flaws that were way worse in the original game.

          • malkav11 says:

            I still haven’t played enough of Bioshock 2 to judge it, but coming off 1, I did not think that a direct sequel in the same setting was warranted and I felt like Bioshock 1 had adequately explored what was interesting about Rapture. Furthermore, it was being handed off to a different studio, which also did not bode well. Irrational maybe wasn’t perfect (and apparently rougher to work for than I’d known) but they turned out a steady parade of awesome for years and years. It was difficult to see a relative unknown executing on the same level.

            And frankly, the early bits of Bioshock 2 seemed to be bearing out my fairly low expectations. It felt very much like a retread of the original with some gameplay tweaks, right down to an early setpiece that was practically identical. I have heard enough good things about it, and particularly the Minerva’s Den DLC, that I will continue playing it at some point and may well have a higher opinion by the end, but that’s been my initial impression.

          • Xocrates says:

            @malkav11: You aren’t wrong. The biggest problem, and largest source of complaints about Bioshock 2, is that it is an unnecessary sequel that retreads a lot of ground.

            As a general rule of thumb, everything that was good about Bioshock, Bioshock 2 copied, while everything that that was problematic Bioshock 2 improved on.
            This means the end result is generally a derivative, but much more solid game. If you’re one of those that holds the original as a masterpiece, you’ll be unimpressed.

            Bioshock is the better experience, Bioshock 2 is the better GAME.

          • Eight Rooks says:

            On the Bioshocks as an “experience” versus a “game” – I acknowledge that B2 would never have happened without B1, and that part of the initial awkwardness is probably down to them desperately trying to get people who never played the first one up to speed, and I remember playing the intro to B1 for the first time, and playing the Andrew Ryan bit at 4am fuelled by four or five cans of Relentless and my jaw just dropping open – partly from caffeine poisoning, yes, but partly at the sheer nigh-on perfectly-pitched dramatic fury of it all.

            But I had shivers down my spine the first time I saw B2′s intro, too (“This is not your daughter… she is mine“), or walked into Pauper’s Drop and heard Grace’s speech for the first time (“Wrong turn, tin daddy…”), or followed Eleanor’s relationship with her mother through the audio logs, or so many other things – I still do thrill to the memories – and I will cheerfully admit I wept, I was in tears (in a good way, shut your face) at the “good” ending. B2 did almost everything better. It copied nothing.

            B2 took a passable shooter with some decent set design, a solid gimmick and a couple of cracking dramatic moments, and it improved on it in just about every single way, and for the most part the best it got from the gaming press was “Eh, s’all right… but these guys are no Ken Levine”. Pah, I say. Pah.

          • Xocrates says:

            @Eight Rooks: Oh, I most certainly agree. Bioshock 2 story is more consistent, better paced, and with better characters and character development – and this does not contradict what I’ve said before for the simple reason that I consider Bioshock’s story to be one of the problematic details, and this is particularly visible in the last third of the game that was fairly bad in Bioshock while in Bioshock 2 it was one of the high points of the series .

            However I will argue that Bioshock’s story is more memorable, not that it’s better. But that’s largely due to the writing approach. Characters in Bioshock are these larger than life individuals, that represent ideas more than real persons. Bioshock 2 in the meantime does an amazing job humanizing its characters and situations (including Andrew Ryan, which re-contextualizes his actions in the first game in a much more interesting light), but what you remember is “A man chooses, a slave obeys”.

            But let’s be honest here, for the first two thirds Bioshock 2 copies fairly closely the structure and character archetypes of the original (Lamb for Ryan, Sinclair for Atlas, even Alexander the Great for Sander Cohen), and is noticeably poorer in terms of environmental storytelling.

            Bioshock 2 is most certainly a really good experience, but it’s not as defining as Bioshock.

          • drewski says:

            I’m about 2/3rds of the way through BS2 right now and whilst I’m enjoying it, it hasn’t grabbed me like BS1 did.

            It’s almost snore inducingly easy, too. Most of the criticisms with the combat from BS1 absolutely apply to BS2, to the point that I’m baffled anyone holds the sequel’s combat up as superior. I’m playing on the hardest difficulty setting for my first playthrough, but it’s still a piece of cake. Not using magic chambers either. The vast majority of plasmids are completely useless (which ones, precisely, will depend on your playstyle), you just use whatever guns you decided to focus on over and over and none of the enemies are particularly threatening. It just feels like the lack of threat post-twist BS1, but over the whole game.

            I mean, I actually like this sort of thing in the most part so I’m not complaining as such, but I really do struggle to see how it’s very different from Bioshock. Or Infinite, frankly. They all have the same flaws, and I’d say BS2 so far has the fewest strengths.

          • subedii says:

            I can sort of accept the complaint against it comparing its combat to Bioshock 1, but Infinite? That’s just way beyond me. Infinite’s combat felt so very dull to me, and the design decisions with the Vigors and the weapon limits / upgrades just amplified that.

    • Lemming says:

      I’ve never played it. It’s an answer to a question I don’t have. Bioshock is this great story and world with a beginning and an end for me, and I didn’t really feel like it needed another. I’m sure it’s a great game, but I don’t really want my enjoyment of the first game diluted.

      • The Random One says:

        I disagree with your assessment, yet find it very wise.

      • bill says:

        Me too. I liked Bioshock a lot, but I purposefully avoided the sequel as it felt unnecessary. Some stories feel complete and self contained. Adding more to them, even if it is good, seems to just dilute the experience.

        I do keep hearing good things about Bioshock 2 though, so it is getting more tempting. I might have given in and tried it eventually if I didn’t already have a big stack of unplayed games.

    • Philomelle says:

      I don’t think it was quite hype. Bioshock Infinite, to me, felt like a game that was absolutely brilliant to experience for the first time. It left me in a content, wonderful haze that took a good week to shake off.

      The problem with both Infinite and original Bioshock is that Ken Levine, when allowed full creative control, becomes the Christopher Nolan of video games. He makes these gorgeous, mind-blowing experiences that leave the player immensely satisfied for the first week, but have very flimsy internal logic that doesn’t hold up against careful analysis. And like with Nolan’s movies, I found them much better when treated like theatrical plays and fairy tales – something that leaves you with thoughts to ponder and philosophized about, but shouldn’t be dissected on a logical level because it simply doesn’t hold up against that.

      And to everyone who thinks Bioshock can be interpreted as a scientific story, repeat after me – MAGICAL SUPER-POWER OCEAN SLUGS.

      • subedii says:

        Can sort of agree with that assessment, except that I was questioning the internal logic of Infinite pretty much as soon as it ended, so I never really had that “satisfied” sense at the end of it. To me the ending almost felt like a 20 minute on-rails info-dump trying to explain away the myriad issues that they SHOULD have explained over the course of the game, and even then didn’t really make enough sense to tie everything up.

        • Philomelle says:

          I think the problem with the ending isn’t so much that they should have explained those things during the game, it’s that they should have foreshadowed the ultimate reveal more thoroughly. It ultimately made sense to me because it was a vehicle for concluding Booker’s narrative arc, which I felt was a more central theme of the story than all the things peopleargue about.

          Bioshock Infinite was, in my eyes, not about dystopia, racism, fatherhood or whatever else people assigned to it. Those were secondary themes that played into the world and sometimes reasoning behind the primary theme. But the core of the narrative arc was guilt, which Booker personified and which permeated every single step of his actions.

          I didn’t try to apply logic to tears and BI’s portrayal of the multiverse, especially since the latter was so heavily romanticized. It’s very difficult to apply logic to a setting where 70% of its traits (advanced tech, magic and so on) are explained with WE STOLE IT FROM AN ALTERNATE UNIVERSE. A universe where 80% of peculiar traits are explained with BECAUSE MAGICAL SUPER-POWER OCEAN SLUGS.

          • subedii says:

            I didn’t try to apply logic to tears and BI’s portrayal of the multiverse, especially since the latter was so heavily romanticized.

            Neither did I, at least for the most part (until the hand-wavy ending anyway. Let’s just say the “reasons” for how it had to end that way just felt like after-the-fact justifications to give a “heartfelt” ending that I just didn’t feel was particularly earned by the way the narrative panned out).

            However, my main issue was probably that the characters themselves and their motives didn’t really make a whole lot of sense, Comstock in particular.

          • Philomelle says:

            Comstock’s motivations are difficult to understand because he is an extremely shallow person. He absolved himself of all feelings of guilt and literally believes he can do no wrong as a result. He tortures Elizabeth because he doesn’t care how he’ll get his perfect daughter. He nukes NYC because he thinks a world that doesn’t follow his ideology doesn’t deserve to exist. He is a narcissist who believes he knows exactly how the world should be and he doesn’t feel a single ounce of guilt about how he achieves that.

            It’s what makes him a final boss for Booker. As a person who thinks he can do no wrong because he cannot feel guilt, he is a perfect antithesis to someone who is so weighed down by his own guilt that he’s willing to take on the guilt of others as long as he’s eventually buried under and crushed by it.

            They are both utterly awful people. It’s just that Booker still understands the horror of doing the wrong thing, so he still has a vague grasp of how to do the right thing.

          • subedii says:

            Let’s just say, those aren’t my issues with the character. His whole origin makes zero sense but I’d rather not get into spoiler territory, and it’s only one of my issues with the game’s story in general.

            The 4:00 minute mark onward (although the whole video provides context) of this video pretty much sums up my issue with that particular character:

          • Philomelle says:

            Yeah, that guy really sounds like he didn’t pay attention.

            Saying that the only thing Booker and Comstock have in common is guilt makes no sense because the whole point behind Comstock is that he is incapable of feeling guilty. Although the baptism he undergoes is essentially a fancy name for an identity change (keep in mind that Slate doesn’t recognize Comstock as Booker at all, meaning that Comstock essentially wiped his record as a war criminal by adopting a new legal identity), that he can so easily discard all the shit he’s done with that change affected Comstock in a visceral way. He doesn’t feel guilty for Wounded Knee. He cannot feel guilty for anything. That is his entire point as a character.

            Furthermore, I’m pretty sure the game made clear that the only god Comstock worships is Comstock himself. My understanding is that he built himself a cult even before the Columbia, and the way his enforcers act reflects that. They will die, kill and commit any atrocity for Comstock. He is their god, just as he is his own god. Christian motiphs are merely a window dressing.

            It’s why I said both Booker and Comstock are awful people. Because it takes that one identity change for Booker to decide that he can do whatever he wants and not feel guilty about it at all, since innocence can be literally bought at any given time.

          • subedii says:

            Guess I’m venturing into spoiler territory.

            Again, doesn’t make any sense. Booker’s sole impetus for the baptism was his guilt over wounded knee, and seeking absolution. Having attained this it makes no sense whatsoever that you then… do a complete about-face and CELEBRATE everything that happened there, and also recast yourself as the hero of it. There’s no reason for you to do so, and as the video says, that’s not how baptisms work (heck, the preacher specifically starts out asking whether you hate the sins you have committed. Turning around and embracing them following this makes no sense).

            Bruce Wayne’s parents get murdered, and the trauma leads him to train and abandon his life, so that he can stop it from ever happening to anyone else as Batman.

            Booker Dewitt commits atrocities at Wounded Knee, the sheer guilt of this act leads him to seek forgiveness so that he can… do it all over again only 1000 times worse and upon all of humanity this time as Comstock?

            And that’s all leaving aside that that baptism (we’ll leave later day Comstock and his own faith’s form of Baptism for another time) only has any meaning in a Christian context. At which point dumping everything of the faith and starting your own with yourself as God (As you’re saying he does now. And on an aside, as far as I’m aware, he never says anything like that so I don’t buy into that premise to begin with) basically makes the baptism meaningless, either as a character turning point (you can choose to forgive yourself at any time) or as a means of forgiveness in general.

            And THAT’s all leaving aside that his forming a nutty super cult based on manifest destiny in the wake of wounded knee, his justifications of his actions and all that jazz doesn’t have to or need to have anything to do with the baptism, that can all happen regardless if you’re so inclined.

            It seems like the sole reason that the game hinges on the baptism and all the nutty stuff having to stem from it even though it makes no sense for it to, is with the justification that “religion happened, then he went crazy”. Which just isn’t enough to justify the character (or the plot hinging on that one specific moment). “He went crazy” isn’t a plot point or character development, it’s just a justification for what you wanted the plot to turn into without having to explain it.

  6. Muzman says:

    What’s interesting about reading that about Bioshock is how much that it sounds like Infinite. Indeed the mixed opinions on Infinite now sounds about the same as my reaction to Bioshock back then: A deeply flawed game choked by its own ambition, a focused shooter with pretty poor shooting, a revolutionary story that’s actually pretty nonsensical if you think about it. Nice scenery though.

    As much as Bioshock is an ok game, I guess, it’s still profoundly disappointing and often terrible. So very far from the revolution it was hailed as being. The article is fascinating for talking about those compromises. It’s also fascinating for tip-toe-ing around ‘the legend of the masterpiece’ or whatever. I guess people still love it to bits. Still, that game got perfect scores. It’s madness

  7. Randomer says:

    Oops! The music of the week just links back to this page!

  8. The Random One says:

    In case anyone read that comic and is wondering what is the right colour of underwear Brazilians wear, it depends on what you want for the new year. Red is for love, green is for money, and IIRC yellow is for health.

  9. GameCat says:

    That comic blog is beauitful. I want to go to France again right now. ;_;

  10. Tams80 says:

    The Num-Ami-Dabutz link links to… The Sunday Papers.

    Yes, I am to lazy to search for it myself.

  11. PopeRatzo says:

    There is such a desperate desire to see a really worthy AAA title that most big-budget games are getting default raves, until people realize there’s little to no replay value and the game only took a handful of hours to complete.

    You know what games don’t have the “awesome…failure” arc? Games that give good value. The initial scores were only about 8 out of 10, but most people who bought Need for Speed Rivals are still playing it. You don’t have anyone who initially said it was a great game suddenly changing his mind. Same thing with Saints Row IV, or Just Cause 2, or Far Cry 3 or Fallout 3 and its progeny. If a game still has value to you months after you first played it, you are less inclined to decide it just wasn’t that good to begin with.

    Price per hour played really does matter. Because if it sucks, you’re not going to play it for 50+ hours. Sorry devs, I know how you believe your grand vision is the true value of your creation. It’s just not so.

    • The Random One says:

      But you don’t need to play a game for 50+ hours. You need to play it only once and enjoy it. How long does it take to complete System Shock 2?

      This backlash doesn’t come, I think, from people changing their minds, but simply from people with different opinions gaining the upper hand on discourse. When a game comes out everything about it is new and people who like it will be heard, since what they’re saying matches the hype. After a few months they die down and people with different opinions start to be heard (plus, a few months is how long people who weren’t excited about a game but who consider videogames to be important will wait before playing a game they don’t think they’ll enjoy). People who thought the game was only OK may have felt strange that they didn’t like the game as much as they believed they should have and may give a lot of voice to these complaints.

      The four games you mentioned happend to be system-heavy games, which means they can be played for a long time while still technically being the same playthrough. This, I believe, stops people from thinking about them more critically, since they’re in the honeymoon of their first playthrough for longer.

      Plus, saying that there was no backlash to the hype about Far Cry 3 and Fallout 3 is outright wrong.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        How long does it take to complete System Shock 2?

        How many times did you play System Shock 2? Now how many times did you play Bioshock?

        The four games you mentioned happend to be system-heavy games, which means they can be played for a long time while still technically being the same playthrough. This, I believe, stops people from thinking about them more critically, since they’re in the honeymoon of their first playthrough for longer.

        That’s elitist, and something you’d hear from someone who cares more about developers than about games. When your “honeymoon” lasts a couple of dozen hours, you’ve just defined the “great game”.

        I’m really glad there is resistance to the “game dev as rock star” notion. The last thing we need now is for game devs to get even lazier. They’re already too lazy to finish a game and kickstarter and “early access” have just enabled further laziness.

        Plus, saying that there was no backlash to the hype about Far Cry 3 and Fallout 3 is outright wrong.

        There’s a big difference between “backlash to hype” and someone who raved about a game at first looking back and thinking it sucked. Again, it’s elitist. Who really cares about “backlash to hype” but game journos and devs? Far Cry 3 and Fallout 3 remain in high esteem among gamers, and the older I get, the more I realize that their opinion is more reliable than that of the self-appointed game judiciary.

        • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

          “Fallout 3 and Far Cry 3 remain in high esteem among gamers”

          *Which* gamers? I don’t understand how you’re coming to these conclusions. Are you talking about a numerical majority? Only counting the “hardcore”? Only counting people who’ve played RPGs for n number of years? I’m not trying to be mean here, but these sorts of far-reaching and ephemeral statements of reception are really just generalisations stoked up by the exact games journalists that you don’t seem to rate so highly.

          Speaking purely personally, I thought Far Cry 3 was adequate but nothing special, I thought Fallout 3 was one of the worst (and most damaging) RPGs in years until Skyrim came out and was worse in every way, but I did think New Vegas was really good. A friend of mine has the same opinions re: the Bethesda games, but really liked Far Cry 3. Go on the internet and I dare say you could find some violent defender of Fallout 3 who disliked New Vegas, or someone who only plays the original games, or someone who likes everything with the word “Fallout” in it. (and don’t even get me started on how polarising Far Cry 2 is!)

          At the end of the day, we all think our opinions are close to truth, but our perception of the product in question is usually based on our own previous experience as well as our own personal expectations. To go back to the Fallout analogy, for me, 3 was Oblivion with guns, NV was more like Morrowind with guns (neither was like Fallout). Since I like Morrowind but don’t like Oblvion, I much preferred NV

          To go back to your original point, I agree (broadly) that content=replayability=value=a good game, but the content has to be enjoyable for that to wash. I regret every penny I spent on Fallout 3, despite finishing it, whereas Gunpoint, that little 4 hour indie game by Tom Francis, was well worth the fiver I spent on it. Sometimes, the quality of the content is more important than the sheer quantity of it, although lots of both is nice.

        • basilisk says:

          How many times did you play System Shock 2? Now how many times did you play Bioshock?

          I know the question wasn’t directed at me, but I played SS2 three times and BioShock twice. Infinite, also twice. BioShock 2 once, and System Shock once (and a half, I think; it’s been a few years). What does that tell anyone about anything? (Ranked by my personal preference, they are SS > BSI > BS > SS2 > BS2, by the way, so hardly any correlation there.)

          Far Cry 3 and Fallout 3 remain in high esteem among gamers

          Since when have “gamers” been a group that can have a consensus about anything? I remember talking to lots of people who strongly dislike FC3 and F3, and always have.

        • DrollRemark says:

          I’m really glad there is resistance to the “game dev as rock star” notion. The last thing we need now is for game devs to get even lazier. They’re already too lazy to finish a game and kickstarter and “early access” have just enabled further laziness.

          The only thing lazy here is this cliche.

        • bill says:

          Many artistic works follow similar paths. A lot of great/good/popular movies debut pretty high in Imdb rankings, but tend to drop down over time.

          It seems mainly because we get caught up in enjoying the art and this allows us to overlook and weaknesses. But often the longer we think the more our mind notices and focused on those weaknesses.
          (For example, I had a similar response to The Dark Knight and Looper).
          People who voice their opinions later tend to be more likely to mention those negatives, and those that join the conversation later tend to be exposed to those negatives.

          The question is whether the later negatives over-ride the enjoyment at the beginning. (For me, for TDK, Looper and Bioshock they didn’t. For other movies and games they do).
          Some games do also tend to suffer more from repeated playthroughs than movies might. Though personally I almost never replay games. (SS2 = 1, Bioshock = 1).

          Sandbox / Systems / Racing / Open games tend to be designed with replayability in mind, so maybe they suffer from less of a backlash later. But Bioshock was a linear narrative FPS, so it’s hard to compare it to an open world racer. Then again, Bethesda games always suffer from major backlash, so maybe not.

          I have never played Fallout 3, but to say that game didn’t suffer from a backlash is plain wrong. I don’t think I’ve read a single fallout 3 related post that wasn’t full of critical comments.

        • The Random One says:

          When your “honeymoon” lasts a couple of dozen hours, you’ve just defined the “great game”.

          Well, no. Again, you’re saying time equals quality. There are some games which you start playing, go bug-eyed at how awesome it is, let it eat all of your free time in the weekend, then Monday you go to work and forget about it for ever until several months later you read a review describing it as a hidden gem and think ‘huh, that game was cool’. That game might be cool, or interesting, or tightly designed, but once its spell is broken it holds no more appeal. I think I’d say Just Cause 2 is one such game – I keep coming back to it, but I get bored after a short time with it.

          At any rate, my point wasn’t how some games keep the honeymoon going on for a longer time. I was thinking about how people tend to forget what they went into the next room to do because our brains consider passing through a door a ‘mental threshold’ and thus clear our short-term memory. I was suggesting that some people don’t look at a game critically until they feel they are ‘done’ with them (I certainly am guilty of this) and thus a game with a longer campaign takes longer for people to sit down and think about. It’s the difference between a couple that is still acting like newlyweds after five years and a couple that is super rich and take a six month honeymoon but by the third month are treating each other like twice removed cousins.

    • Mman says:

      “There is such a desperate desire to see a really worthy AAA title that most big-budget games are getting default raves, until people realize there’s little to no replay value and the game only took a handful of hours to complete.”

      I found Far Cry 3 exactly this sort of game, despite being long. It’s an empty Ubisoft sandbox full of meaningless collectables and endless filler (including, like, the whole second island), and stuff like the RPG systems mostly just work against it and mean you’re crippled the first few hours until you get the no-brainer upgrades and finally “earn” your fun.

      Blood Dragon is pretty much FC3 with most of the filler removed and enjoyable parts preserved, far less barriers in the way of having fun and writing that’s ridiculous but fun rather than ridiculously awful.

    • malkav11 says:

      The notion that replayability and length have anything to do with the quality of the experience is baffling to me. We aren’t in an era where it’s hard to fill one’s time exclusively with videogames if one so chose (and if you want to also experience other things, good luck -ever- playing all the must-play games), or where price is much of an obstacle (unless you’re desperately poor and can’t afford $5, which is a price nearly every game reaches inside a couple of years nowadays; in which case there are still recourses but I would not venture to recommend them here).

      I don’t say that replayability is a bad thing, per se – I have happily gone back to old favorites in the past, and I do value games like Civilization or Marvel Heroes for being comfort food sorts of things that I can just dip back into whenever – but it hardly rates next to being really gripping the first time through, and the Bioshocks have definitely delivered on that front for me. Why should I care if that experience is repeatable? I have another 500 games on my list.

      • bill says:

        This. Though naturally it depends on the game type. A football game with no replayability wouldn’t really work.

        Time spent playing and replayability are almost non-factors for me with most games.

      • derbefrier says:

        Yeah its a silly argument. 99 percent of games are gonna have little replay value for most people. Some games I love but have less than 10 hours in some I hate but have the potential for 100s of hours. Replay value comes from liking the game enough to play it again. Its like movies I love star wars but I don’t need to watch it for 100s of hours to realize that. I only need to see it once. I love half life 2 one of my favorite fps of all time. Times played through it in a 10 year period? Twice.

        For the record I never got thw whole bioshockmania. They are descent games but were never ground breaking. Just good solid AAA releases. But yeah in a world were games are so readily available for cheap replay value isn’t a big deal anymore. Back in the day it was when a game was potentially the only one you were gonna get for months but now? Nah

        • bill says:

          For me, as someone who missed out on most pre-release / ken-levine hype, the main appeal was that it was an FPS that wasn’t set in a brown world and about army dudes shooting terrorists. I think it gets massive bonus points for that alone.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      So where does Portal fit in your thesis on why Dota 2 and League of Legends are the greatest games ever made?

    • welverin says:

      “Price per hour played really does matter. Because if it sucks, you’re not going to play it for 50+ hours. Sorry devs, I know how you believe your grand vision is the true value of your creation. It’s just not so.”

      No, it doesn’t. Excluding extreme edge cases, a $60 game that’s two hours long there’s a problem. But I’ll take a twelve hour game that’s good from start to finish over a fifty hour game that’s ten hours of fun lost amidst forty hours of filler and grinding.

      • Vinraith says:

        Why would you play a game for 50 hours to get ten hours of fun out of it?

        For my part, the time I spend playing a game vs. how much I spent on it is a perfect measure of value. I don’t play bad games for more than an hour or two, I play great games as long as I can and replay them if that’s an enjoyable thing to do (and if the game is actually great then, by definition, it is). Hours of enjoyment per dollar is really the only measure of value that makes any sense to me in gaming.

        • bill says:

          But aren’t you measuring “hours of enjoyment” rather than “hours of enjoyment per dollar”?

          For me, price might affect my choice to buy it, but it doesn’t (except extreme edge cases) affect my enjoyment.

          That would mean that getting a game on sale would make it a better game than if i’d paid full price. And it would mean that open ended strategy games like Civ would always be better games than linear story based games, unless strategy games were priced at $90 and story games were priced at $8.

          It might be a way to decide how to spend your x amount of ‘entertainment dollars’, but it isn’t a way to decide the quality of a game.

          • Vinraith says:

            It isn’t about being a “better game,” it’s about being a “better value” and of course cost has to factor into that.

          • bill says:

            Cost factors into my buying decisions for games, but I can’t say that value often does.
            If I buy a TV or PC then value might factor in, but if I buy a game then it’s mostly cost.

            And once I buy the game then I either enjoy it or I don’t. The amount I paid for it doesn’t really enter my mind. (excepting edge cases).

            The insane cost of movie tickets here means that I don’t go to watch as many movies as I used to. But the length of the movie doesn’t factor into my choice. And once I’ve bought my ticket I don’t tend to consider the price or length when deciding if I liked it or not.
            (note: Alexander Director’s cut: 16 minutes shorter and much better. Aliens Director’s Cut: 10ish minutes longer and worse. Alien 4 director’s cut: longer and no better. LOTR director’s cuts: longer and much better. )

          • The Random One says:

            @Vinraith: I have, on average, a lot more money to spend on videogames than I have time to enjoy them. A game’s value, for me, is not a ratio of hours I had fun to money spent, but a ratio of hours I had fun to hours I spent playing. It’s totally OK if you feel differently and think money spent is a better indicator – I don’t know how your life is – but your experience is not universal.

        • drewski says:

          By that notion, an average cheap or even free game is likely to be better than an amazing game that cost full price.

          If you need to use price to justify an opinion, I kind of think you’ve failed to justify it any other way. “Why did you like this game?” “Well, I didn’t feel like I wasted my money!”

          Ringing endorsement there.

    • Baines says:

      Price per hour played really does matter. Because if it sucks, you’re not going to play it for 50+ hours.

      Not true. People will continue to play games that they don’t like, and gripe about it the whole time, as long as there is something holding them there. A bad game can be sustained by an online community, unlocks, or whatever.

      Developers know this. Some developers (particularly in the F2P area) abuse this. Developers also know the reverse, that a lack of such hooks (like unlocks) can lead to a short life for a title and complaints by fans.

      Don’t believe me? Make two fighting games. Release one version with all the characters unlocked from the start. Release the other version with half the characters locked behind time sink tasks. See which game gets played the most, and see which game draws the most damaging complaints. Why do I mention fighting games? Because this issue came up years ago in regards to console ports of arcade fighting games. But it is true for various games.

      Consider Modern Warfare 3, where people who admitted that they’d quit playing the game either from boredom or outright dislike came back to play again when Infinity War patched in 5 more Prestige levels after release. Those extra prestige levels added nothing to the gameplay, the gameplay that didn’t hold those players’ interest, yet brought those players back long enough to run through them.

  12. Gap Gen says:

    That is one hardcore donkey. “Tracheas? Who needs ‘em?”

  13. Bobtree says:

    The recently defunct TimeGate Studio’s game Minimum has been rescued by Atari and Human Head: http://www.pcgamesn.com/blocky-shooter-minimum-leaves-purgatory-after-being-rescued-atari

    The original Minimum announcement trailer was much better than that one though.

  14. bill says:

    That “High Noon” shooter sounds cool (having not read all the article yet).

  15. Baffle Mint says:

    I’ve just started playing Bioshock for the first time (I’m only in Neptune’s bounty) and it’s weird to hear about “compromising” the moral choice issue, because the Little Sisters are just about the least interesting moral question you could ask, which is “Will you personally murder a small child for personal profit?”

    Uh, no. Duh. Even a lot of genuinely evil people wouldn’t literally kill a small child with their bare hands, and the game would basically have to be redesigned from the ground up to make Rapture so dangerous and ugly that you would actually have any hesitation about how to answer or feel anything about it besides “I’m going to try for the bad ending this time”.

    More interesting is that you arrive in this city that has apparently collapsed and is now run by violent, spliced-up maniacs, and you immediately start collecting as many genetic modifications as you can, as well as adopting a “shoot anything that moves” policy. Basically, when you arrive in Rapture you completely buy into and participate in what passes for their culture, even as you feel horrified by it.

    Who are the real splicers?

    Anyway, I can’t tell if that’s an attempt at subtle commentary by the game-makers or just an example of bad video game writing.

    • Baffle Mint says:

      PS – I feel like making the Little Sisters invincible was a good idea just in terms of game design; Otherwise you’d have them getting blown up by friendly fire from rocket turrets or misdirected telepathic projectiles.

      The game isn’t really set up in a way where you can avoid firefights, so it would get irritating fast, reloading a save every time some Little Sister wandered in between you and a Splicer.

    • bill says:

      As someone who liked the game a lot, I can’t say that I really gave much thought to the moral choice aspect. But I also saved all the sisters because, well, that’s what you’d do.

      But it is a moral choice in the context of a videogame. I think the simple idea was to have something where the ‘right thing’ gave less benefits to the player than the ‘bad thing’ and see whether players would sacrifice powerups/levels for being nice. Not really a moral choice, but a “game system vs reality” choice.

      I’d imagine that a lot of people playing it as ‘just a game’ would have killed the sisters, but those who were more invested in the world/story might not. Though I have no evidence for that.

      I think it was at least an attempt to put that kind of thing into a game, when games famously don’t really do very well with stuff like that. I can’t say that I gave it a huge amount of thought though.

      • Baffle Mint says:

        I’d imagine that a lot of people playing it as ‘just a game’ would have killed the sisters, but those who were more invested in the world/story might not. Though I have no evidence for that.

        For me, it ends up being a question of which game rewards I want; Do I want more Adam and the bad ending, or less Adam but the good ending?

        I’m going for the good ending.

        The thing that actually upset me is that you can’t get the Little Sister without killing the Big Daddy. I don’t want to kill Big Daddy; he’s just minding his own business. What did he ever do to me?

        If you take the story seriously, you pretty much have the same relationship with Splicers and Big Daddies as you do with the Little Sisters; they’re these insane victims of Rapture who you kill because they have loot you need to survive. But that relationship is only presented as a dilemma in terms of the Little Sisters; In terms of Splicers and Big Daddies, it’s taken as a given that violence is the only possible interaction, and in fact in the early stages the game encourages you to ambush Splicers and kill them before they notice you or make any hostile moves.

        And, in fact, the game mechanics encourage that, because so far all Splicers are inevitably hostile; if I see somebody wearing one of those new years bird masks and dragging a lead pipe, I know for certain that they will definitely be enemies and I am completely justified in picking them off before they see me; it’s not a moral choice; it’s a response to the way they built the game mechanics.

        Like a lot of video games, it kind of feels like the mechanics are at war with the story-line. The story’s quite nice so far, but I’m not sure it’s told that well. Also, I’m playing it just after playing the original Half-Life for the first time, and honestly Half-Life had more sophisticated storytelling.

        • bill says:

          I didn’t really think about it as ‘going for an ending’. I rarely do. I just play as i feel at the time.

          What you say is somewhat true, although basically a limitation of the genre (and games themselves).
          I thought the story was pretty well told, and there are lots of lovely little touches and small stories to find. See how you feel about it after you finish the whole thing.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Yeah, as usual, an attempt to cover ~morality~ in games is deeply undermined by having your standard sociopath protagonist who regards all interactive elements of the universe as pinatas full of resources. (Slightly higher-level protagonist sociopaths sometimes regard them as vending machines full of resources that will disgorge them if you press the right dialogue buttons.)

        • The Random One says:

          “Do I want more Adam and the bad ending, or less Adam but the good ending?”

          A worse issue may be that this question can be replaced by “Do I want more Adam, or a little less Adam and a couple of unique and very useful plasmids?”

          • Philomelle says:

            I think even better would be saying “Do I want a lot of Adam now or A LOT of Adam in the long term?”.

            Simple maths will tell you that the Adam Little Easters leave in those gift baskets completely eclipses how much you’d gain by simply draining them. In the end, all the morality choice does is affect the rhythm of your power growth – “bad” makes you grow steadily as you proceed through the game, while “good” makes you grow slowly but with huge surges of power every second/third level.

    • bill says:

      PS/ Without spoiling too much for you, there’s one point in the middle of the game where I really thought they’d been very clever in terms of commentary about modern FPS design, and then they didn’t really follow it up. Leading me to wonder if they’d done it intentionally or not.
      It does seem to be a game that doesn’t follow through on its potential, though I still enjoyed it a lot.

      • subedii says:

        It wasn’t. Levine’s said that he doesn’t do that kind of thing, or at least that’s my interpretation of what he says here:

        Oh, spoilers BTW:

        http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2013-03-11-would-the-real-ken-levine-kindly-stand-up

        “There’s a meta-commentary in BioShock in a sense that, I think some people felt that just kind of talking about what you do in games, how you do that and how you follow directions, how you have no agency in games was enough.”

        “But we never broke the fourth wall. It’s hard because once you break the fourth wall it’s very hard to un-break it. For me it’s about bringing the player into the space and not pushing them away and breaking that fourth wall pushes you back – and that’s not to say it’s bad, I’m a gamer with pretty catholic tastes in terms of the stuff I enjoy, and certainly stuff like Kojima’s games, things like Bastion and so on. But the stuff I’m making I want to work on its own terms entirely, I guess.”

        Whatever the case, I agree, they didn’t follow it up. As a twist it works (and was pretty great as twists go), otherwise not so much.

        • bill says:

          SPOILERS:
          -
          -
          -
          I don’t think they needed to break the 4th wall to follow up. If the second half of the game had been deus ex to the first half’s half life, then I think that would have been much more satisfying. But I’m sure it would have killed the budget.

          • subedii says:

            Roughly my view as well. Which is why in conjunction with the above post, I think people credit Bioshock for a message they gave it but which Levine didn’t put in and doesn’t really hold up in context.

          • basilisk says:

            Here you have a counterinterview which says exactly the opposite thing, though. (Unfortunately the formatting is broken.)
            http://www.shacknews.com/article/48728/ken-levine-on-bioshock-the

          • subedii says:

            You weren’t kidding.

            Might read it some time, but I have to admit the solid wall of text is a bit off-putting.

    • Muzman says:

      It’s one of the many missed opportunities in the main plotline, yes. You becoming a splicer too would have been a great thing as a ‘path’ and gradual moral degeneration. But they dropped that ball along with a lot of others (the Big Daddy thing was just silly). I don’t think they paid very much attention to the core themes of their game after a certain point. They were just throwing in stuff that seemed cool, or that they had already (the silly escort mission for example, which totally undercuts the parental urges and attachment to the Little Sisters they spent so long building up).
      They spent a lot of energy on the backstory and its characters, to great effect generally. Some of the best ever. But the actual plot you play through was a confused mess that didn’t mesh well with the rest.

    • drewski says:

      I think the desire to not actually make Little Sisters a true moral choice was very much intentional.

      You would have to be a very, very brave designer – and almost certainly not one in charge of a game at a AAA studio – to design a game that outright encouraged people to murder small children. It’s *supposed* to not actually feel like a legitimate choice.

  16. czechsun says:

    Yussssssss I love number girl

  17. strangeloup says:

    This is going to sound sarcastic but it genuinely isn’t.

    The quote from the Dota 2 article makes no sense at all to me, and I think that’s awesome. I like that there are whole avenues of gaming that I haven’t the first damn clue about — even if I’ve played the game in question. The fact that there are certain genres/games that people can get so into that talking about them might as well be an alien language to people not similarly invested just blows me away.

    • subedii says:

      I sort of feel the same way about Starcraft.

      Never was interested in getting good at it, wasn’t much of my kind of game to play, but I used to love watching shoutcasts from TotalBiscuit and Day9.

      Watching last years Dota 2 International gave me a similar feel. It can be hard to follow a lot of the advanced stuff but you can start to get a feel for when a surprise attack or a good play is about to go down. Good casting helps a lot there.

  18. Noumenon says:

    Thanks for the link to the Natalie Nourigat comic, I enjoyed it also.

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