The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on May 4th, 2014 at 2:30 pm.

Sundays are for recovering from Saturday’s bus trip to Wales by frying as many eggs as will fit in the pan, playing some obtuse ASCII game, and wondering what cartoons you might watch come night time.

  • James Patton writes a eulogy for the recently departed freeindiegam.es, and why the kinds of games it traded in are important.
  • These games were not about pushing out a finished product ready to sell, which preoccupies a lot of indie dev culture at present. They were about playfulness, exploration, a breathless desire to just throw some assets together and make something real. These games were working on the frontier, going to strange, unexplored places and unlocking our ideas about games and our potential to make them in unexpected ways.

    Long live Live Free Play Hard.

  • The High School Starleague was setup to support teenagers in playing competitive eSports. Now as games like StarCraft, League of Legends and Dota 2 grow in popularity, the group are able to offer scholarships as prizes. Philippa Warr interviewed its organisers about its growth and its future.
  • The big change, surprisingly, is that teachers now understand eSports more than ever – they get it’s a viable vocation now, and a hobby worth nurturing. “These days there are a lot of teachers who grew up with video games and they’re really excited and passionate about it,” says Wang. He’s talking about the swell of interest from teachers in the HSL. “We’ve never had the growth in faculty involvement that we’ve had this year.”

  • PCGamesN’s Steve Hogarty does strong work as always from EVE Fanfest, where he shows EVE Online’s lead spaceship designer some of his own ideas for potential spaceships. Top aluminium facts, too.
  • PCGamesN: I’m a big fan of dogs. This is a dog spaceship. How would you implement this into EVE Online?

    Josh Bayer: Very nice. We actually already have a ship called Cerberus in the game right now, and it’s very similar to this. It’s a missile shooting ship, a medium-sized cruiser that’s pretty fast and lobs missiles from long-range. But obviously this Cerberus is a very fast ship too.

    PCGN: Well it’s got thrusters on each paw.

    JB: Yes.

  • I’ve been meaning to write something somewhere about Hoplite for months now, but let’s assume that’s never going to happen. Let’s assume that these things between us will remain unsaid. Let’s assume instead that you should go ahead and read Tom Francis’ breakdown of it “neat, clever and satisfying” mechanics.
  • As the difficulty ramps up from there, the way your chosen abilities play off each other to let you overcome the endlessly increasing challenge becomes elegant, then balletic, then sublime. These calculated chains of sweeps, leaps and thrusts let you dance through a minefield with precision and grace, felling everything around you. It’s hard to fully explain how neat, clever and satisfying it feels – so I made a GIF.

  • Escaping into Skyrim.

    From real life, I remember when I took her back from the hospital I was scared that I’d never bring her back to life. She was empty and broken. I brought her tea and beans on toast and when she slept I played. Sometimes, when the loading screens went on too long, I’d start crying. She would call to me and I would pause the game and go and sit with her and tell her that the important thing was that she was well and safe and that she would get better. I had gathered up all the folic acid, the baby books and the red and blue babygrow that said “Just Like Daddy” on it and stuffed it in a plastic bag and hid it in a drawer. So she wouldn’t have to see any of it. Sometimes a visitor would come round and I’d make them tea and we’d sit and they would leave their coats on. Everyone had such serious faces. In Skyrim, I had decided the Nords were racists and sided with the Imperials.

  • Nathan now has a corner of Kotaku to call his own, where he posts the sorts of things which don’t fit into his (continuing!) RPS work. I especially enjoyed this piece on Why Those Dumb Buzzfeed Quizzes Are Actually Great Videogames.
  • t’s like the character development portion of an RPG, only you get the full effect of all those branching conversations in under a minute (or maybe a bit more if you reeeeeally need to think about which sandwich condiment depicted in a Ryan Gosling movie is your favorite). It’s just a few actions off from playing a slot machine, and that’s the brilliance of it. Push some buttons, pull a lever, get a prize. But there’s also more to it than that…

  • I’ve only just had time to start reading it, but Cara’s new Embed With feature is about Katharine Neil and Harvey Smith.
  • Katharine has been telling me she is unsurprised to hear that no one has heard of her, but she is appalled that anyone who makes games would ask who Dishonored’s Harvey Smith is. Yet Katharine Neil is the never-heard-of game developer that everyone should know about. I shift uncomfortably every time Katharine self-denigrates, which is often.

  • I haven’t had time to read this at all yet, but PC Gamer have done a long investigation of the creation and sale of Counter-Strike cheats. Let’s pick a quote at random.
  • I wanted to see how far I could push it. I was paying for this. I wanted to feel powerful and get my money’s worth. I turned on auto-aim, and auto-trigger, which fires your weapon automatically when you point your cursor at an enemy.

    I played with these options and others for a handful of matches. They didn’t seem as useful as wallhacking, or they simply didn’t work as well, but I was vote-kicked out of a match before I could make an educated decision. Halfway into my next match, two hours total since I started cheating, I was VAC-banned from CS:GO.

  • In remembrance of Bob Hoskins.

Music this week is still various flavours of Japanese rock, but I’ve also been enjoying this funk band. I feel bad for not posting something electronic for a while, so take Skinemax, an hour-long mix of electronic music cut to clips from ’80s films. “Skinemax is Koyaanisqatsi for a generation raised on late night television and B-movie VHS tapes. It’s long form entertainment for short attention spans. An hour long VJ odyssey, it will move your body and warp your mind.” I agree.

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62 Comments »

  1. Dances to Podcasts says:

    I recommend Planetes as cartoon for the evening, if you haven’t seen it yet.

    • GernauMorat says:

      One of the few mangas I actually like. Genuine hard sci-fi, and interesting characters.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      I can confirm that not only is Planet ES far away from the usual high-octane endless testosterone-fuelled fighting of most mainstream anime… it’s simply good light sci-fi but with a very human “angle”. It focuses on space janitors after all, and the writing is quite self-aware.

    • guygodbois00 says:

      Planetes is absolutelly marvelous. Highest recommendations.

  2. thedosbox says:

    she is appalled that anyone who makes games would ask who Dishonored’s Harvey Smith is.

    She’s not the only one.

  3. trollomat says:

    Sundays are for forgetting to take a break.

  4. GernauMorat says:

    Sundays are for writing the entirety of your research project which you left to the last minute because you are an idiot

    • Cockles says:

      I’m with you, how I long to leave this world of ANOVAs and instead get killed repeadtedly in Drangelic, or call up my friend who is asking me to play some Arma 2 with him and say “Yes, my war-brother, let’s go fly some apaches”. If only I hadn’t left this damnable research project until the last minute…

    • Noburu says:

      Most of my best work in college was writing papers at 2am when they were due at 8am :D Good luck sir!

    • dE says:

      Curious, this runs counter to my experiences with Research Papers. In my case it’s usually several months of bitching at people to get their asses off their couches so we can go about that forced team effort. It never works and the excuses get more ridiculous everytime. Like that guy whose grandfather died. 3 times in 12 months. Or that girl that had to be away for important emotional family business. Tagged on a Facebook Photo at a Festival. I’ve collected an unhealthy amount of rage about lazy co-workers that lie to me in an effort to get it done without any work on their part.

      Not saying you’re one of those. Just my experiences with Papers at University.

    • Fiatil says:

      I feel you are a kindred spirit as I work from home to meet deadlines tomorrow and dual box SWGEmu resource gathering.

    • Asdfreak says:

      Sundays are for wanting to start learning for your final that will make up one third of your grade on your highschool diploma, but reading on the internet instead. Some part of me is insane and the rest of my consciousness just stands by in shock and does nothing.

  5. dangermouse76 says:

    Sundays are for reading Sunday papers, listening to co-optional podcast, and holding your hand above your heart because you cut half your finger nail off with a sashimi knife.

    Also yes ramp sneak up on Skyrim and get a Deadric bow and a Blades sword; plus enchant your gear for hit damage and it’s game over for the vast majority of the population. Also if you have the longest paralyse spell…….you the boss.

    And it’s the snooker final, stimulus overload !

    What a journey though !

  6. Lambchops says:

    “Long live Live Free Play Hard.”

    I agree with this, but now that the ex freeindiegam.es crew presumably have a bit more free time, has RPS considered asking any of them to alternate with Porpentine at doing the column or do occasional guest slots? While Porp does an excellent job and throws up some interesting games that I might otherwise never have considered playing, Porp’s tastes do congregate in certain areas and it would be good to see a different aspect of the free indie gaming world get its time in the sun now and again; maybe a bit more focus on puzzle/adventure games or whatever else that might otherwise fall between the cracks.

    Just a thought, seems like it might be an opportunity to expand RPS coverage in this area.

  7. InternetBatman says:

    Kotaku seems like a good match for Nathan. Glad he’s working there.

  8. Tei says:

    Heres a idea for a ship name:

    Eight Equals Equals Equals Equalds D

  9. LionsPhil says:

    That’s always the big concern with anything we do in the game, we have to be aware of the TTP of it, the Time To Penis.

    They’ve really got their finger on the pulse of player creativity.

    • TimorousBeastie says:

      I was QA on the original All Points Bulletin. One of our internal running jokes about the customisation studios was ‘Time to Swasticock’. Needless to say, it was less than an hour into friends and family beta before someone had the genius idea to place a few phallus’ just so.

  10. Laurentius says:

    In some way it’s really sad. I’ve been playing videogames for like over 20 years at least and I don’t know almost any names behind games i play and love. Sid Meier, Peter Moulynex, Frederic Raynal, Eric Chachi, Collyer brothers. For years I didn’t know the name behind UFO or Fallout. I still don’t know the names of people that made MoM, MoO2, FFVII, Diablo, Guildwars or GTA and other many dozens of games that i played for thousends hours of my life. On the other hand I know very well names of writers, directors, comic authors, songwriters etc.

    • Ich Will says:

      You’re not the only one – a band will stay together for decades quite often and writers retain control of their series’. In games, there may be 5 people who made decisions at the start of a game and 10 others who made decisions in the final years. The next title produced by the studio may be made by entirely different teams and the sequel may be made by by a different studio entirely.

    • Frank says:

      Most games I like (TF2, Fallout) are team efforts more than “auteur” work (the exceptions being van Caneghem’s HoMM and Ancel’s BGE, as long as we’re using acronyms). Anyway, David Jones, the GTA guy, has got an interesting track record. You might like browsing Mobygames for others, though you probably know of it already.

      Which article above prompted this, by the way?

    • Philomelle says:

      Final Fantasy VII was directed by Yoshinori Kitase (his work sadly worsened over the years), produced by Hironobu Sakaguchi (creator of the franchise), written by Kazushige Nojima (also wrote the Glory of Heracles series; widely considered to be a complete hack, many people toasted and cheered after he was kicked off the Kingdom Hearts series following the embarrassing mess that was KH2) and composed by Nobuo Uematsu, one of the greatest modern composers.

      Diablo, in the meantime, was a combined effort of Max and Eric Schaefer (co-founded Runic and created Torchlight, but have since moved on), David Brevik (currently the president of Gazillion Entertainment, working on Marvel Heroes) and Bill Roper (another developer who makes people wonder what the hell happened there, as his inane design directions murdered Hellgate: London and severely harmed both Star Trek Online and Champions Online; is currently working in Disney, which might explain the decline of their video game division). The composer was Matt Uelman (currently composing music for Torchlight) and the artist was Eric Sexton (currently drawing spooky creaturethings for Borderlands).

      Not a complete list, obviously, but it should help expand your knowledge of names.

      • Laurentius says:

        I was rather pointing out not my inability to found those names or to look for information about those people but my general indifference towards people that create the medium that is important part of my life. And I am not sure really where to attribute the reason for this indifference. At first I thought i could blame this for pre-interent video gaming press but for example some time ago I dig out some old game magazine from the time where Planescape:Torment came out with interview with Chris Avallone and I did remember i read but i didn’t register the name in tiniest fashion, it was just “dude” who made a game.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Beside obvious “most of those games aren’t one man work” I would “blame” gaming sites as they don’t write “Sid Meier seen drunk in bar” articles :)

      But that slowly changes, as we’re seeing less “we’re talking with MAKER about HIS GAME” and more “we’re talking with MAKER about HIS FAVOURITE COOKIES and games” interviews.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      The thing is, most of us are used to conflating teams and developers with the studios or companies they work for, so when we think Baldur’s Gate II we think Black Isle and Bioware at a very specific moment in history. Obviously, Bioware is still Bioware in name and probably structure as an organization, but the configuration in personnel they had 15 years ago is long gone. The other important thing here is that most of these people, all these writers and devs and artists and whatnot, have worked all over the industry along their careers, so it’s really hard to pinpoint authorship of any one game not only because of the collective nature of game development but also because the identity of studios themselves isn’t fixed.

      I don’t know, for example, I had read about Harvey Smith when Dishonored was about to be released, but with games it’s very hard to associate a work with a person as you would a book (even one that has more than one author) or an art piece. I don’t think even the comparison with cinema (where everything revolves around the director when it comes to ‘who the movie belongs to’) is apt, because the way games are made defy even the most tyrannical of designers (as we’ve seen in several articles now about Bioshock and Ken Levine) in the sense that perhaps they don’t have as much control over practical issues as a director does in cinema.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Despite the best efforts of indie game devs, consumers have been carefully avoiding the phenomenon of the indie game dev “rockstar”. And for good reason: so few of them produce games that are good enough to inspire that kind of devotion. Oh, they come up with interesting concepts, and sometimes a wonderful trailer, but when the games themselves hit the marketplace, they’re a lot more likely to be disappointments then they are to be the stuff of legend.

      It shows rare judgement on the part of gamers that they really don’t care that much about the “personalities” behind their games. That might change if the industry ever matures to the point where there are certain devs who put out really worthy efforts on a consistent basis. But it seems that with the current popular business models behind game development, that’s just not likely to happen.

      • RobF says:

        “It shows rare judgement on the part of gamers that they really don’t care that much about the “personalities” behind their games”

        Nah, I don’t think it’s that. Aside from the ownership stuff discussed in thread already, developers simply aren’t as up front and as visible as rock stars. It’s sort of why there’ll be fivety million people following a YouTube celebrity who *talks* about games and puts their face first and five people following the person who made the game somewhere. It’s not so much discernment as it is pretty much entirely about visibility.

        I mean, when people even slightly rise out of it (Rohrer, Blow, Notch etc…) then there *is* a comfortably large amount of people who hang off their words. It’s still there and no-one has rejected it but it’s not ever present and it’s not ever present partially because unlike rock/pop stars, it’s really hard to connect videogames and fucking together.

        It’s fucking that sells the image of the rockstar (fucking/wanting to fuck/lack of fucking). Videogames for all their progress are still more in the “oh no, we don’t do that sort of thing, oh no, we’re level 79 warlocks with dire wolves and fucking is not on the agenda thanking you” as a quick glance over the recent Rate My Beard thread on RPS testifies.

        So if you can’t sell a human that someone might want to get in the pants of, that’s half of that down the drain before you’ve even started.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Some game designers get reasonable credit for their games (Warren Spector), others get undeserved praise (Chris Roberts, Gary Gygax). It is harder to pinpoint influence in group designed efforts. Just reading the credit list might make one think that Stan Lee was responsible for that great Avengers movie.

      There’s also this idea that even the good ones will continue to create masterpiece after masterpiece. Not many folks are at the level of a Miles Davis who could reinvent himself creatively four or five times.

      I am also reminded of my friends who ran a successful game company for a while: They said that every time they dealt with investors, the investors required things that were bad for the games. One even tried to steal the company from them. Corporate influence is a lot like that at Hollywood, but without the power of the actual designers matching up in any way to those of movie directors/actors.

  11. Wedge says:

    The article on cheating is pretty interesting, especially when they get into why people cheat. Seems that some are sociopaths and others are essentially cowards. And I can really empathize with the latter. Though I’ve put in the hard time of being crap to ascend to some degree of competence in a number of different multiplayer games (even the year+ it takes for a commoner to understand Street Fighter), I’m still terrified of ever trying any new game, especially against random people.

  12. Frank says:

    Gah, Nathan keeps putting the triforce on top of his Kotaku stories, compelling me to click. Anyway, I like what I see, except some of the “Standing up for *real* video games!” comments on the linked article.

  13. The Random One says:

    Here is an interesting article about Games for Change (and related efforts) by molleindustria: http://www.molleindustria.org/blog/making-games-in-a-fucked-up-world-games-for-change-2014/

    I had meant to post that as a prelude to some other interesting article I read this week, but I didn’t bookmark it and can’t find it in my history. Oh sorrow!

    • El_Emmental says:

      It’s an interesting approach to their “mission”, how it could very well be pointless and inefficient, despite being filled with good intentions. That growing gap between “awareness”, communication, and actual change – how people (us included, if we don’t pay attention) are more willing to participate (as an organizer or as an enthusiast) in a “marketing” campaign about an issue, than working directly on actual changes.

  14. HairySammoth says:

    These games were not about pushing out a finished product ready to sell, which preoccupies a lot of indie dev culture at present. They were about playfulness, exploration, a breathless desire to just throw some assets together and make something real. These games were working on the frontier, going to strange, unexplored places and unlocking our ideas about games and our potential to make them in unexpected ways.
    — James Patton

    Huh. It’s not so much the user who’s playing, it’s the game creator. That makes a funky kind of sense.

  15. mr.black says:

    Escaping into Skyrim was a chilling and beautiful read with laser precision writing. If you want you psychological sinuses cleared in a hurry, go for it!

    • Gap Gen says:

      Yes, I’ve had a mixed relationship with games. On one hand they kept me sane growing up, but on the other they can allow you to avoid important issues in your life by burying yourself in a synthetic one.

      • Vodka, Crisps, Plutonium says:

        Basically, the article is a perfect photo-picture of usual “afterlife” gamer (when games aren’t so much awe-inspiring as just more likely an old habit that occasionally occur in attempt to find the exit from issues, which broke one’s life, burying themselves deeper in mountain mines, full of ones and zeros).

        Almost like the life of undead. Hollow. Huh.

        P.S.
        Dear Mr.Smith,
        It would be helpful to add the note “Don’t f*ckin’ read this article, if you are happy!” to “skyrim escapism” journal entry – I imagine it would let me down pretty quick some another day, but I currently feel myself very much smashed with the hammer, so I’ve managed to breeze through this sadistically painful story of life safely.

  16. PopeRatzo says:

    These games were not about pushing out a finished product ready to sell, which preoccupies a lot of indie dev culture at present.

    How is indie dev culture preoccupied with “pushing out a finished product ready to sell” when three out of four games hit the market as “early access” alphas?

    Please tell me a period in gaming history when this many games were sold to consumers in an unfinished state. If anything, “indie game dev culture” is more preoccupied with making a trailer for their next kickstarter project than they are with putting a finished product on the market.

    • El_Emmental says:

      “finished product” means a bastardized alpha-beta, where the user can somewhat “play” the game, even if it’s crashing, having massive FPS drops and doesn’t have most of the planned features.

      The opposite would be keeping the current alpha build in internal testing, and waiting for the game to be actually finished (or almost finished) to finally make it available for purchase.

      Indie developers often don’t have the “luxury” of being able to wait, so they try to get cash as soon as possible, and it hurts the perception of the game project along with the game development process (having a functioning build of the game, much earlier than usual, is an additional challenge), ultimately ruining the overall project.

    • JamesPatton says:

      Fair point but I was really contrasting what I’d like indie culture to be (creative, explorative, not too money-motivated) with the reality, in which most indies view money as a worthwhile goal in and of itself. I was thinking specifically of the Greenlight furore a few years ago, where half the indie world said that it was unfair to expect people to pay that much for what was essentially a punt, while the other half said that if you couldn’t afford that money then you weren’t a proper indie.

      Money’s important and a vital part of an indie business but I’m very concerned by this view that if you don’t have money then you’re a worthless human being.

      But yes, the goalposts have changed. Now you can sell alphas/betas instead of finished games. When I said “finished product”, I should have said “saleable product”.

    • The Random One says:

      That indies are selling games before they are done is a particularly sharp indicator of the extent to which they are commercially-minded. The article contrasts this with non-commercial hobbyist games. This is obvious to everyone but you, Lord Single Issue Forever.

  17. mechabuddha says:

    Absolutely correct: those Stormcloaks are bastards. They hate all races other than themselves, are super religious, hate the government, feel repressed/persecuted, and are willing to kill people for their beliefs. Remind you of anyone else?

  18. aethyrium says:

    Good! Nathan’s going to the Kotaku wasteland where his tripe belongs. While it says “continuing” RPS work, let’s hope that gets dusted under the rug with the quickness and we can get back to more quality articles this site was built on before the he came around to cheapen my beloved RPS.

    • AngelTear says:

      Well, some people here like Nathan, and would like to keep him here.
      I hope he stays and that Kotaku is only a thing on the side for him.

    • CookPassBabtridge says:

      @aethyrium – Odd. Nathan has actually become a rapid favourite of mine. I like that he can do the special brand of silly that makes RPS fun, but also like it when he is confrontational. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but yeah. I think he does it well.

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