The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on June 8th, 2014 at 1:15 pm.

The funny pages.

Does it matter if you write some functioning code but don’t understand why it works the way it does? Sundays are for finding out, in between playing so much Floating Point that you dream about playing it in a Japanese tournament.

  • Jon Blyth, the funniest writer in videogame journalism, is no longer working in videogame journalism. He’s left his role as associate editor on OXM to go run a pub in Nottingham, which in many ways is the game journalist equivalent of being put out to stud. He’s typically apologetic:
  • I’m sorry to anyone who missed my gently coded warnings. When I said “we can’t wait to find out more,” at the end of a passionless regurgitation of a feature list, that was the closest thing I could professionally say to “I don’t even know what this game is”. The first time I heard someone say “we’ve really listened to our community”, I was impressed, and reported keenly on this consumer-orientated and responsive attitude. By the end of my career, all I wanted was one developer to say “we’ve ignored our community, as they are plainly fucking idiots”.

  • Over at Kotaku, Cara writes about American roads and videogames. And doesn’t once mention FUEL, the best game ever made about roads.
  • Tom Harper, the Curator of Antiquarian Mapping at the British Library told me last year that SimCity will go down as one of the great maps of the 20th century. “It has fashioned the world view – through maps, 3D perspective views, information expressed geographically – of a whole generation of European and North Americans,” he said. “The video game environment may have reflected much of their makers but subjectiveness is to be expected with the creation of any virtual world. …The player begins with a blank canvas: some grassy ground, some trees and a river on which to develop a city from scratch. Now, one might suppose from the idea of creating a city from scratch, the grid pattern development, or even the idea of undeveloped land as somehow a blank canvas, that the maker of the game was American in origin.”

  • Leigh Alexander took a break from writing all the game journalism in order to write a short fiction piece about writing game journalism. About the Atari dig for long lost ET cartridges:
  • The thing that makes me answer Phelan’s call promptly is imagining the first line of whatever Gentle would probably write about the landfill dig: I’m standing at the precipice and I am neither here nor there, and I’ve just risen from a hotel bed with a heartache and a dick-ache or something like that. This guy would inspire a hundred fellow-Gentles to leave comments like “oh man, I too have loved.” And “brilliant piece”, that death sentence of a comment.

  • Top videogame bread.
  • This is old but Eurogamer re-posted it this past week. Will Porter on the zombie game Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw were making before they joined Valve, which was stolen from them during a burglary.

    “It didn’t make a lot of sense,” sighs Faliszek, when we meet up in a crowded Starbucks to rake over the coals of The Great Zombie World Robbery. “You went down to Hell and fought zombies. But then, it wasn’t really Hell. It was a place where everyone who’d ever died was there in zombie form.” Not exactly zombie canon then? “Well, I don’t know why everyone in the afterlife would be a zombie. But… shut up! That’s how it worked!”

  • Stick with Eurogamer for something new. Christian Donlan writes ‘The game developer, the CIA, and the sculpture driving them crazy‘. That seems like an impossible title, but exactly describes the subject:
  • Although Dunin is now recognised as one of the leading authorities on Kryptos, arranging that first sighting would not be easy. Kryptos is an unusual piece of corporate art and, since the corporation in question is the Central Intelligence Agency, your chances of just rolling up at the gates and getting inside to take a look at it are not high. Kryptos was commissioned by the agency in 1988 for its new headquarters, and the piece was finished and installed in 1990. In essence, it’s a large wood and copper sculpture shaped like a scroll or perhaps a flag, with its face divided into four sections. These sections – sometimes known as K1 through K4 – contain four stencilled ciphertexts composed of around 1800 letters between them. To date, the first three texts have been cracked. Only K4, almost a quarter of a century after it was installed in a building that’s atypically full of people of the code-breaking persuasion, continues to repel all efforts.

  • VGJunk digs up a load of old adverts that sell their videogame by marketing how bad they are for you. This is an unusual trend I’d never really considered before, but an important part of what made videogames in the ’90s seem counter-cultural and cool rather than tediously mundane. Special shout-out for the one with the kid who seems to be microwaving his own crotch:
  • Catch the Taito heatwave! Catch its powerful radiation right in your crotch, rendering you sterile for the rest of your life!

    Imagine if you went over to a friend’s house and they were sitting in that splay-legged position while they played their NES. Yeah.

  • Sports journalism may well be the best kind of entertainment journalism. It makes sense that crossing it with videogames would produce some of my favourite work. Jon Bois previously tortured the Madden series into submission, but more recently has turned his attention to bringing an end to basketball in NBA2K14.
  • This will be a death of the spirit. I want every single player in the league to be the worst player in the world. I want to render the NBA an unwatchable, miserable experience in which the notions of self-respect, good ideas, and effort go to die.

    I created 80 players and named each of them after the folks who sent me the poems about the NBA’s demise that I liked the most. (I read all 645 of them, and most of them were delightful.) These players are designed as pitifully as NBA 2K14 would allow: 5’3, 145 pounds, and awful at every basketball skill: shooting, passing, rebounding, defense, awareness, everything.

    It gets better and better from there.

  • I’ve been to E3 three or four times (I honestly can’t remember) and I’m relieved not to be attending this year’s show. I’ll miss the cameraderie with similarly grumpy, sunbaked British writers, and the sandwiches, but otherwise I’m glad to be viewing the confernece from afar. I’ll have a far better view of what’s actually happening, and I won’t need to navigate the concrete wastes of LA. This isn’t videogame related, but it’s a hell of a town.
  • This is the menu at a place called Cafe Gratitude. All of their dishes have “positive affirmations” rather than “names”, so when you order you’re meant to be like “I am beautiful” to the waiter, and then the waiter will look at you all sincere and go “you ARE beautiful!” *shudder*

    When I’ve told friends from back home about Cafe Gratitude they’ve been like, “ew, are you fucking kidding me? That place sounds like the worst thing ever” but here, people are all “I don’t see what your problem is, dude. Try not to be so negative all the time.”

    I could write the same kind of article about Bath, of course.

  • You should watch this re-make of the Hotline Miami 2 trailer, built using Team Fortress 2 and Source Filmmaker. For a glimpse of how similar it is to its 2D top-down source, try this.
  • I am hungry for new music and finding nothing to sate my appetite, but I’ve been enjoying Pomplamoose’s second season of covers and crafty music videos.

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    53 Comments »

    1. amateurviking says:

      I heart Log.

      ‘Bumbilical cord’

      • LionsPhil says:

        ‘Tis a cracking roundup of articles this weekend.

      • Jackablade says:

        It’s better than bad, it’s good!

      • Taidan says:

        I still have one of his hand-written notes that I acquired from him during the PC Zone years.

        I keep it in a very safe place. Occasionally I look at it longingly, and give it a good sniff. I may have even read it once, long ago.

        A dark day for Games Journalism, this is.

      • soulblur says:

        That’s certainly the funniest, grossest thing I’ve read today. It certainly had magazine-saving potential.

      • grimdanfango says:

        Log, you were one of the greats!
        Rest In Pub.

    2. Turkey says:

      That NBA 2K14 article is one of the funniest things I’ve ever read, and I don’t even like sports.

      • T-wester says:

        I very much agree, it’s definitely worth a read and if you cant read are the video at the end a masterpiece.

      • shaydeeadi says:

        After reading the diary, the .gifs actually have me in tears.

        • Pockets says:

          Yeah, I couldn’t stop laughing when it came to the “all is lost” bit. It’s amazing.

      • LionsPhil says:

        It’s wonderful, as is the Madden one.

        Also, wow, that game is kind of modern AAA graphics in a nutshell. Beautifully physically modelled cloth physics for their baggy clothes. And yet they’re apparently wearing roller skates, not trainers, as the models slide from one point to another while switching between various mocapped canned animations. The physicality of the actual characters is still just a point moving around on a plane.

        • shaydeeadi says:

          Isn’t that down to their stats being so bad in game that their simulated reactions are looking like poor floaty animations? It looks to me like the game isn’t prepared for the players to be that bad and the animations are out of sync with their braindead coordination.

          • Wulfram says:

            It seemed a quite realistic simulation of what the NBA would be like if every player was me

        • Dances to Podcasts says:

          Keep an eye on the trailers coming out of E3 soon. Fidelity sky high, animations… puppetry. There are very few developers who get that right.

          • LionsPhil says:

            Well, yes. Like I said, modern AAA graphics—it’s not a problem unique to this game by a long, long shot.

      • KDR_11k says:

        Opening that page gives me a redirect to some page saying “update your Java” and automatically initiating a .exe download. That page is badly translated and hosted on some strange server, definitely nothing official from Oracle. Looks like a trojan placement attempt to me.

      • stonetoes says:

        The whole tone reminded me of this funeral dirge by Godspeed You Black Emperor.
        Makes good background music for the piece.

        • Faren22 says:

          Great minds think alike, stonetoes. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CeKC7cH1-kI

        • ThTa says:

          On a similar note: I was listening to some pretty upbeat chiptunes before making the decision to switch to Planetary Annihilation’s soundtrack, which features orchestral tracks with wonderful titles like “Destiny into Darkness”, “A Prelude to Destruction” and “Into the Void”.

          The HTML5 embeds ended up having more emotional impact and sense of dread than pretty much all actual Doomsday films.

          That said, I did kind of expect Eternal President Obama to make a surprise appearance in one of the drafts once all the teams were doomed.

      • teije says:

        That was incredibly funny. Brought tears to my eyes. Well worth a read, even if you’re not much of a sports fan (which I’m not).

      • Fiatil says:

        It’s a fantastic article. The gifs are going to have me giggling for days.

      • Winstons says:

        Totally agreed, the NBA post is genius – I was too almost in tears of laughter, some of the GIFs are brilliant and the whole write up is superb.

    3. Scurra says:

      Being someone with no life (hey, I read RPS), I did solve K1 and K3 on my own in the early 2000s. Even now I am not sure whether I should be happy or sad to have done that…

    4. TillEulenspiegel says:

      The modern view of “addictive” as a positive quality in games is probably even more bizarre. You see it from publishers/developers, players, and even journalists. It’s an especially popular term with mobile games which aren’t actually good (I’m thinking particularly of all the Farmville derivatives), just deliberately engineered to be compulsive.

      Addictiveness is a negative thing. There are a ton of “addictive” games that don’t make you happy, they just compel your brain to keep playing. Contrast this with very long games (eg, Civ) that are actually enjoyable throughout. Not the same thing.

      • Zunt says:

        That’s a good point. If you have a novel that you love you may find it difficult to put down but once you’ve finished you don’t immediately read it again, and again, and again.

      • LionsPhil says:

        The Quake III one is particularly amusing in our modern world of “nuh-uh, PC games aren’t lurking in a fetid basements, gaming is mainstream, your mom does it on her tablet!”.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        But Civ is addictive, and “just one more turn!” spawned from that. I think the marketing for Civ 5 played that up.

      • Gap Gen says:

        There are some F2P games that go as far to say that you won’t see your friends again, they’ll ruin your life, etc. No idea why that’s a good thing, and it’s kinda scary to think that it’s carefully targeted at someone.

    5. kwyjibo says:

      The Team Fortress/Hotline Miami mashup comes across as a Ballardian nightmare. I want it.

      • Frank says:

        I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, but that trailer was great. I wish more TF2 maps took advantage of that Hong Kong backdrop.

    6. Fenix says:

      I know absolutely nothing about professional basketball but that NBA thing was magnificent. I was dying at the gifs at the end, thanks for sharing!

    7. LionsPhil says:

      why is there bread

      there is so much bread

    8. Kollega says:

      Y’know, reading that article about roads made me think again that, despite all its faults, Just Cause 2′s map is still one of the best I’ve had the pleasure of exploring in open-world games. And really, the reason is simple and logical: when the game offers me jet planes, sports cars, and parasailing capacity, it better feature a map that I won’t be able to cross in two minutes by using those features. Just Cause 2 does it right. I can just take a fifth-gen jet fighter to my destination (not to mention the magical supersonic transport helicopter), OR I can take my time and get myself a car for a roadtrip or a speedboat to navigate between the islands to my destination. Freedom of approach, people. If you give me jet planes, don’t make them practically unneccesary. A map that I can fly across in a minute breaks my immersion real hard.

      • Baines says:

        One of the faults of Saints Row 3 to me was the pointlessness of air travel, outside of using it as a lifeless fast travel system.

        The map was built for ground traffic. Helicopters are borderline okay, but the VTOL crosses the map quickly.

        And it is a boring trip regardless of the air vehicle of choice, because there is no life in the air. Outside of missions and high notoriety, nothing else is flying. Attack choppers and VTOLs are both overkill and surprisingly useless against ground forces. Weapons have ranges longer than the pop-out distance for vehicles and pedestrians. Gang events and missions have activation ranges designed from relatively close ground combat, meaning you have to be right on top of them with an air vehicle to trigger it and make it count. (There were similar issues with long range ground weapons like the sniper rifle.)

        Boats were even worse, because they had all the lifeless and pointless issues of air travel, without even being useful as a means of fast travel.

        It’s like they were there only because they were on a feature checklist, with no effort put into making them serve a purpose.

        • Kollega says:

          Hear, hear. I had many issues with Saints Row: The Third’s map, but that was one of the big ones.

          Do you want to know the single most pointless feature of the game? The A-10 facsimile that you get in your hangar if you purchase some airport property. It’s stupidly hard to even get in the air, it steers like a cow so using it in the skyscraper-laden part of the map is straight-up impossible, its weapons are worthless due to small pop-in distance you mentioned, and if you try to slow down to actually take potshots at ground vehicles, it goes below stall speed and drops like a stone. I just hope that if Volition’s next game has traditional attack aircraft like it, as opposed to VTOLs, they’ll put some thought into actual usability rather than just, as you said, leaving them tacked-on.

        • LionsPhil says:

          The VTOL was very cool, though.

          Flight mode, engaged.

          • dE says:

            To me, the VTOL saved the game. I’m one of those that really enjoyed Saint’s Row 2 and as a result didn’t click with Saint’s Row 3. But the VTOL? I probably ended up calling it in just about any mission I could. That thing was fun.

            • Gap Gen says:

              I ended up using the dubstep gun a whole lot. Was pleasantly surprising to find that a novelty weapon had a lot of use (even if you could just spam it, but then the whole game was OP by the end).

      • fish99 says:

        JC2 had a huge map and draw distance, but there wasn’t a lot in most of it. Outside of the settlements, it was just water, or jungle or snowy hillside, and most of the settlements themselves (outside of the main plot specific ones) were all kinda copy-paste with the same buildings and the same 20 things to blow up.

        GTAV has a much smaller map, but it feels like everything in it was hand placed. It’s denser, and pretty much everywhere you go there is something to see and do. I think the GTAV world is the right size for that sort of game, where you spend most of your time traveling via car.

        • Malibu Stacey says:

          JC2 had a huge map and draw distance, but there wasn’t a lot in most of it. Outside of the settlements, it was just water, or jungle or snowy hillside,

          Wonder where they got that idea from.

          [looks outside]

          Nope, I got nothing.

          • fish99 says:

            I dunno if you’re being deliberately obtuse, but it’s an interactive game, it needs to have things to do. Probably 50% of the land is jungle and probably 95% of that jungle has nothing in it but trees. Someone has modeled the land height, textured it, used a tool to place trees, but no one has placed any objects in it to make one bit of jungle different to another, or to give the player something to do. And there’s nothing to do on water either, and that’s 70% of the map.

            The world being big is of no benefit to the player if it’s all empty, it just makes the trips to find something interesting much longer. And in JC2 the majority of interesting things to do are just a town with 30 cut and paste buildings and the same 10 things to blow up as every other little town. The bulk of the game is very repetitive and it doesn’t feel hand made.

            Don’t get me wrong it’s a fun game, but 95% of it involves either blowing up red structures, or traveling to somewhere where you can blow up red structures.

    9. altum videtur says:

      Very Good! (so says Hawkeye Gough, and who am I to disagree)

    10. El Mariachi says:

      Café Gratitude actually serves astonishingly good raw vegan food, but its owners are devotees of a somewhat cultish organization, and you stand a good chance of being seated next to a white person with dreadlocks and body odor.

    11. Gap Gen says:

      Article about a game dev trying to crack a code on a CIA sculpture: http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-06-08-the-game-developer-the-cia-and-the-sculpture-driving-them-crazy

      Edit: and it is in the list. I am an observant person.

    12. green frog says:

      misreply