The Sunday Papers

By Graham Smith on July 27th, 2014 at 1:00 pm.

Sundays are for returning from an extended absence to find that you’ve read little of the best games writing from the past week. Can we scrape it together anyway? Yes, with teamwork we can.

  • I haven’t had a chance to read this lengthy Brendan Vance article yet, but reader A Person On The Internet (and many others) assure me it’s excellent. Person writes: “It explores a myriad of topics including Steam, Spelunky, Social Media, the meaning of ‘content’ and much more besides.” Works for me. Especially since it appears the article argues that Spelunky is better than the bible.
  • Consider the Holy Bible as a product in a marketplace. It has several attractive qualities, foremost among them the tantalizing possibility that it contains the true word of a being who created the universe. But it has several worrisome drawbacks as well. Like most written anthologies it has poor replay value when compared to something like Spelunky; after you read it once you know more or less how it goes.

  • Submitted by the same reader (thanks Person!), Angela Cox writes an article about “retro” games, and how labels and time change the meaning of old games when played today:
  • I’m not making some originalist or purist claim; I’m not saying that we must somehow recreate the social context in which texts originally appeared in order to appreciate them (although I certainly endorse studying what those social contexts were). Retrogaming’s use of the games is as valid as the uses they were designed for. But we need to recognize that a game twenty or thirty years after its release isn’t quite the same as that same game was a year after its release. One major reason for this phenomenon is something Anis Bawarshi has called the “genre function.”

  • Emily Gera turns her funny wrath towards Patreon, pointing out that’s it’s not the meritocratic paradise people pretend, but rather a means of turning social currency into, you know, actual currency. That’s obvious, but something a lot of people seemed to be ignoring. It seems less a case of criticising those who use the service and more of criticising those who don’t back Richard Cobbett. But I don’t know, maybe that’s just me reading into it.
  • “The website’s own success stories are mostly a who’s who of writers already successful in their own right, having developed a name for themselves. Its forgotten contributors are writers who’ve yet to attain the personal success that’s required before the public will willingly support you. To succeed, says Patreon, writers need an already sizeable cult of personality built from months, often years, of earlier successes.”

  • Alice discovered this photojournal of a person’s ordinary life in Grand Theft Auto V, with each image taken using the in-game camera phone. Lovely.
  • RPS contributor Marsh Davies pitches in by linking me to a recent Andy Kelly piece at PCGamer.com, in which he takes to one of his favored subjects. No, not artfully shot videos of game worlds, but survival games. Specifically what’s wrong with them. The thing to note about this piece is that it’s 594 words long – every paragraph has a point, every word tells – and that’s a gift:
  • So why do survival games always have enemies in them? Zombies, cannibals, wild animals… it’s completely unnecessary. Nature has already done the hard work and designed the most formidable, intimidating, ruthless villain imaginable: itself. Survival sim developers seem to think they need to include some kind of threat to keep players interested, but that really isn’t the case. Being stranded in the middle of nowhere with no food, no fire, and night closing in is scarier than any monster.

  • Duncan Harris continues to celebrate the beauty of videogames, diving into the creation of the strangely coherent Wolfenstein: The New Order. It’s interesting from the off:
  • “My absolute favourite bit is that second ED-209 fight, which isn’t really a fight, when Robocop shows up outside OCP headquarters and blows up the top of ED-209 so the legs just fall down, and there’s this little twitch on one of its toes. It goes, ‘DRRRRT!’ That level of personality is what we strive for in everything. It’s one thing to design something cool, to make it sound cool, but giving it a personality is the key. Personality can survive a lot of execution errors. If you don’t have personality then you have to have flawless execution.”

  • The ever-interesting Harbour Master takes aim at Walking Simulators, not for the concept but the name. He has something much better in mind:
  • Titles like Dear Esther (The Chinese Room, 2012) and Proteus (Key & Kanaga, 2013) are lamented for not having “real challenge” and are thus judged “not games”. What they seem to be about is “simulating walking” with no other quality to vouch for them. But we’ve just spent most of this post discussing games that are not about challenge, but about poking around inside some developer-made structure to see how it works, what secrets it contains. That’s precisely what these “walking simulators” offer. Walking forms part of the experience, but the purpose of walking in these games is to take you to the developer’s secrets, whether that be the synaesthetic melodies of a Proteus pixelscape or the random monologues scattered around the island of Dear Esther.

  • Faces of Skyrim.
  • I linked to film editor Tony Zhou’s explanation of shot construction in Michael Bay movies a few weeks ago, but just as I began re-watching Paranoia Agent, he posted this seven-minute examination of the work of Japanese animator, writer and director Satoshi Kon. If you’ve seen any of it, this will make you appreciate it more. If you haven’t, this will make you want to correct that.
  • Rob Fearon – who maybe features in this column more than any actual game journalist? – writes about the need and importance for better documentation for game making tools. I am with him – how could you not be? – but I sorta find Game Maker’s built-in docs and tuts comparatively pretty good.

Not residing on a blog post, not tucked away in a “how to make a Mario engine” tutorial. Just there. A click of a button away. There because you know these are things that people will want to know when they use your tool and having that knowledge to hand means they don’t have to spend a few hours searching through a forum where every forum search is rubbish, they don’t have to spend a few hours waiting for someone to answer a question that’s been asked a thousand and twelvety times, they don’t have to bang their heads against a keyboard trying to search google for I don’t know, how am I supposed to search for this? They don’t have to spend out a few quid on something that they have no real idea if this is the thing they’re really looking for and even then, buying it won’t exactly explain how to do it.

Right. Apologies for the nothingness last weekActually we did post one last week, so apologies for nothing. Music this week is Mouth Silence, an endearing mash-up of, well, all sorts of things. I’m particularly fond of the pairing of Joe Esposito and the TaleSpin theme tune.

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107 Comments »

Top comments

  1. yoggesothothe says:

    “So why do survival games always have enemies in them?”

    Speaking as someone who has been developing a survival game without any combat for quite some time now, and in fact began the entire design process based on the Survivorman series, the answer is actually simple. It’s really hard to make the gameplay itself interesting if all you are doing is collecting stuff for survival.

    Part of this has to do with the fact that we tend to prefer skill based interaction in survival games; when it becomes purely about gathering, its quite difficult (not impossible, mind) to introduce challenge that isn’t based entirely on chance, which of course is not actually challenge at all.

    In the Survivorman show, the drama happens because, despite all that Les Stroud knows, he can’t necessarily make his knowledge useful unless the environment cooperates with him. Its random. That means there’s less player agency, which is what survival games are all about. Agency in the face of extreme challenge.

    A survival game without combat essential becomes something like Adam Saltsman and Robin Arnott’s Capsule. Which is fine. The other direction (and the one I’ve chosen), of course, becomes about RPG mechanics and proper character builds that allow survival within fixed environmental (non-random) situations.

  1. yoggesothothe says:

    “So why do survival games always have enemies in them?”

    Speaking as someone who has been developing a survival game without any combat for quite some time now, and in fact began the entire design process based on the Survivorman series, the answer is actually simple. It’s really hard to make the gameplay itself interesting if all you are doing is collecting stuff for survival.

    Part of this has to do with the fact that we tend to prefer skill based interaction in survival games; when it becomes purely about gathering, its quite difficult (not impossible, mind) to introduce challenge that isn’t based entirely on chance, which of course is not actually challenge at all.

    In the Survivorman show, the drama happens because, despite all that Les Stroud knows, he can’t necessarily make his knowledge useful unless the environment cooperates with him. Its random. That means there’s less player agency, which is what survival games are all about. Agency in the face of extreme challenge.

    A survival game without combat essential becomes something like Adam Saltsman and Robin Arnott’s Capsule. Which is fine. The other direction (and the one I’ve chosen), of course, becomes about RPG mechanics and proper character builds that allow survival within fixed environmental (non-random) situations.

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I think I would enjoy a survival game minus combat with a dynamic environment. Imagine a post-apocalyptic world with sand storms, acid rain, tornadoes, etc that you need to take cover from, creating a greater sense of urgency. Weather patterns would change to hint at these impending natural disasters to create a sense of dread, and each mini cataclysm would leave permanent marks on the environment (perhaps creating new obstacles).

      • yoggesothothe says:

        Oh that’s genuinely interesting. Weather based survival instead of a resource based one. And there’s skill in reading the signs. That’s reallllly interesting.

      • jonahcutter says:

        The Long Dark is doing this. While there are wolves that are dangerous, they are fairly uncommon and reasonably easy to avoid.

        It’s the weather that is the real threat. Snow, blizzards, wind chill and temperature. It’s quite easy to find yourself faced with being stuck in a shack, have no food (or worse canned food and no opener) and facing a white-out blizzard outside.

        You collect food, boil water, craft and repair your gear. You can get food poisoning. You can sprain your ankle sliding down a hillside. You make tough decisions with extremely limited information. It’s looking quite promising. Though there are the wolves, and I think there will eventually be other humans to deal with as well.

        Then there’s Don’t Starve. Yes there are a plenty of enemies. But the biggest threat really is the extremities of the seasons. Without the dire cold of winter, scalding heat of summer and madness-inducing rain of spring, the enemies would be relatively easy to manipulate. Dangerous enemies are the spice to the main ingredients of hunger, mental state and of the weather/seasons.

        Those are two games where they could conceivably work still without the enemies. TLD’s wolves aren’t central to the gameplay at all. And DS without baddies would likely be about as good of an example of what a more complete and enemy-less survival sim would be. (I just checked. You can adjust any mob, resource, and weather type from “None” to “Lots” in the new game world options. You can even adjust the length of the different parts of the day. Setting it to “No Night” should remove the threat of Charlie completely. So have at it if you wish.)

        There is also Banished. I’d consider it a village-survival sim. There’s no enemies or combat though. I can’t really judge it, as I haven’t played it. It looked flat to me, but more from the villagers being mindless automatons than the lack of enemies to fight.

        • yoggesothothe says:

          Good points these, but Don’t Starve and Banished are seasonal right? As opposed to random/dynamic. I can’t speak for The Long Dark, but that also seems not quite dynamic in that its essentially a given that you have to have clothing protection all the time and the like. Like Neo-Scavenger?

          A truly dynamic weather system (at least, in the manner I think Raiyan and I are conceiving it) would be something more along the lines of you would actually be at a severe disadvantage if you prepared for the wrong weather system.

          • jonahcutter says:

            Well, Don’t Starve’s system is specific to the season. So you need specific gear to counteract the effects. And it’s not one set rate. Seasons are sometimes longer or shorter, with no numbered indicator of when they change. Only visual cues. And they wax and wane. Rain comes and goes. Snow can fade a bit and give you a sense of false change, then come back.

            As well, all gear degrades over time or through use. So you can be stuck with a rare, valuable tool being close to wearing out on you. Inventory slots are limited so if you need to travel more than a day from your base, you need to make choices in how to prepare.

            I’ve always been impressed with DS’s weather and seasonal system. The game is really remarkable.

            The Long Dark is basically winter in a colder climate. So it’s pretty uniform in that sense. But there are variable weather patterns. Storms come. Blizzards kick up. There’s non-blizzard grey, hazy times. There’s crystal clear times. Temperature changes throughout the day. It’s not just a binary day=warmer, night=colder.

            Gear itself has weight so if you wear heavier stuff you are warmer, but can carry less. It is found in various conditions and degrades through use, needing repairing. If you don’t pay attention and don’t repair it, it will wear out and be gone. Which makes starvation even more frustrating (in a good gameplay way) when you have cans of food but forgot to repair your can opener and it broke.

            Though basically only a single season, there is gameplay-affecting variety. I’d guess at more coming too. And within that single, climate/season, the atmosphere is just great. They really summon up a sense of snowbound forests, raging blizzards, and those moments of spooky silence as the snow seems to just hang in the air.

            I only briefly checked out Neo-Scavenger, so I’m not familiar with its systems.

          • darkshadow42 says:

            Actually while Banished followed seasons, the weather and temperature is random. Winters can be mild or severe sometimes the snow arrives mid autumn while rarely a winter doesn’t drop below freezing. Sometimes a second cold snap arrives in spring. A hybrid system of seasons with variation is the most exciting. A just random system would be annoying.

        • Geebs says:

          From a certain point of view, the process of playing a pure deprivation sim on a thousand pound computer in a developed nation is entirely vulgar. Trimalchio would have gone nuts for it. I think having competition from NPCs is the only way the genre could save itself from that trap.

          • sweetjer says:

            Vulgar how exactly?

          • DrollRemark says:

            You’re only allowed to have rich people fantasies in your computer games.

          • P.Funk says:

            Vulgar in a way that learning to build a fire with sticks and stones is apparently vulgar because we have bics and lighter fluid and those poor africans don’t.

            Wanna know whats really vulgar actually? That we have all this developed wealth and standard of living and much of its had because we fucked over the starving people and refuse to actually help them not starve. If only we were more deprived maybe they wouldn’t be starving so much.

            I suppose this makes the Boy Scouts evil for totally different reasons than the boy buggery.

          • Geebs says:

            Hey, you got your politics in my aesthetic argument! I meant that it’s ok to do this stuff yourself in real life for sense of adventure, self improvement etc. It’s slightly worse to do it vicariously through television, worse still to watch somebody pretend to live in the wild and actually have a hotel laid on.

            Engaging in a simulation where you pretend to have nothing, and where there’s not the slightest bit of personal risk? Fine if it’s educational, fine if you physically could never do the activity otherwise, but isn’t it a bit Thoreau-lives-in-the-wild-but-his-mum-does-his-socks?

            (Technically speaking developed vs. developing world comparisons don’t count. As in, wiping out a nation isn’t actually vulgar, dressing up as them at a party is)

          • P.Funk says:

            I still think your point is off. As humans become more and more stable and less and less subject to dangers from survival in a less developed world there is always going to be a fascination with it. We are programmed genetically for survival. Its in us, just like in our pets. Your cat hunts rats for a reason. He doesn’t need to eat them to survive but its in his blood.

            Humans are very good at solving problems and overcoming adversity. There is nothing more pure than the naked man in the wild for adversity. Its a pure setting to explore that fundamental human trait. In the convenience obsessed world of today having to cope with problems such as keeping dry from rain and making warmth out of fire is alien and perhaps we think we’ve lost touch with something because of that.

            Is it vulgar to enjoy watching that show that comes on PBS every now and then about the dude that went to live alone in Alaska where he filmed himself building his cabin and we watch it as someone narrates it with entries from his journal? People today don’t build much themselves. The idea of building our own home, building our own tools, catching our own food, its a notion that will always capture the mind of a person who never has to do that.

            This is why we go camping too I presume. Why else would we want to pitch a tent and get bit by bugs when we can have warm hotels and room service? I think there’s something essential to acknowledging our nature and to understanding our past in building your own fire rather than sparking up some propane.

      • Muzman says:

        The Stalker games did this rather well. While clearly not pure survival games with no enemies the amount the weather brought to the table (both special weather and regular) was always a highlight.
        Do you want to venture out when there’s Blowout forecast? Will you get where you need to go before it hits? Is there anywhere safe on the way?
        It’s a rare thought process in games.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      My first though at ‘survival without combat’ was ’2001, A Space Game’, and that made me wonder if Portal could be considered a survival game. Genres, eh.

    • DrMcCoy says:

      Yeah, that’s why I found http://www.mobygames.com/game/schiffbruch really unfair back in th day

    • DrollRemark says:

      Yeah, that was my first thought on reading the article too. Ramp up the nature nastiness, and you’re essentially ramping up the randomness too. It sounds like a great idea to have a world where you have to survive purely by your own wits, but people would hate playing a game where there’ a chance you could end up spawning somewhere with no food available, or getting bitten by a poisonous animal with no warning.

    • Blackcompany says:

      Very well said.

      I think a lot of the problem with survival oriented game play is made obvious in Fallout: New Vegas, as well as any of the Bethesda RPG’s on the same engine (when you apply real needs mods). These games basically become inventory management simulators. That is, players spend the majority of their game wading through inventory screens, trying to determine what the best “resource” is to click on this time.

      If that sounds like fun, more power to you. For me its anything but enjoyable.

      What I find really odd, however – and this is coming from the standpoint of human psychology, now – is that more and more people want to make the “danger” in video games more and more realistic with each new game. Its almost as if we are completely desensitized now to fictional violence. So more and more gamers have begun to crave realism in their danger where gaming is concerned.

      I think I know why.

      Video game protagonists are never in any real danger. They are the Bear Grylls of the Action Movie world. No matter how dangerous a situation looks they always have the save game hotel and the reload doctor on hand if things go badly for them. Once upon a time, however, we could lose a game. All of our time, our progress and our hard work: gone. Back when games featured consequences for failure I think they also offered something of the rush that being in danger brings with it. Now, however, that rush is gone and its left us going through the motions and looking for adrenaline-fueled excitement where there isn’t any.

      One possible consequence of this, is a push for more realistic violence and danger in games. Games based on such realism would of course not feature the standard die and reload strategy. It doesnt work. Death in these games is game over. Try again. From the very beginning. And because of this we experience some of the rush that real danger – and the consequence of real, permanent loss – brings to the table. Many gamers are finally waking up to the realization that games without the possibility of failure are nothing more than $60 movies with an interact button and its leaving us craving some more, or at least something different.

      Of course there’s another edge to the sword of craving realistic danger. How far some brains, or some personality types, will go with the craving is a matter that might bear some looking into. Mind you, this isnt the ‘violent games make violent people’ argument. This is more along the lines of a concern about the craving for realistic danger and the consequences that come with it driving some people to dive in way over their heads and try to turn their own lives into a Bear Grylls or Les Shroud simulator, except without the proper training. Craving more believable danger and greater consequences for failure is all fine and good – until it pushes certain more vulnerable individuals to set up their own Antarctic expedition based on information they read in their 9th grade geography textbook.

      All of which is to say that games really need more in the way of consequences. I dont claim to know exactly how to fix the problem. Though I will posit that systems such as Dark Souls 1 (yes, I did it again) featured are a step in the right direction. Because surely there has to be some happy medium between infinitely reloading a save game and completely losing everything every time you die.

      I would posit that its time for gaming to find it.

      • TechnicalBen says:

        Dwarf Fortress Adventure gets close to doing it right. Though without a crafting mod, your not really doing anything except moving from place a-b to survive. With crafting, the worlds dynamics come to life… though admittedly, it’s not setup to play the out correctly.

        So something with the world depth of Dwarf Fortress with the proper crafting/scavenging mechanics could be interesting.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      I agree it’s hard. But hope that other developers look at ways of changing that. How? By adding environmental and temporal (time, that is moth and rust) challenges.

      In real life, surviving in the wilderness or in space, is all about the environment, before we ever face “nasty monsters” or other enemies.

      That’s what I like about KSP and Space Engineers. No need for aliens, the harshness of space alone is a taskmaster. Though both games don’t even try to tackle equipment wear and wear and tear (though most will fall apart with enough knocks anyhow! ).

    • zal says:

      what about Skill/knowledge based gathering interactions? such as learning that most of your berry brambles don’t grow under pine trees, or that wetland areas can be spotted before you’re slogging through them based on the vegetation.

      Better yet? make it a coherent alien/fantastic world, one where we don’t get to walk in knowing the rules but have to slowly figure them out. Progressing from:
      “I remember there are purple fronded tubers that are edible in the direction of the 2nd sunrise (its a binary star??) from my starting position”
      to
      Hey these purple fronded tubers always grow under the shade of these big burgundy barked trees, and those trees always seem to grow near cliff faces, but not near streams. also those damn gliding spider-monkey things make a ton of racket and attract trouble from the trees by day, but it seems they sleep at night.

      Give the character limited chemical/biological analysis methods so that they have to carefully decide when to chance a potentially toxic taste test, and randomize some elements of the game so that its not JUST memorizing knowledge but developing a set of survival skills that allow the player to progress.

      Yea that requires effort, and is more involved than… um its some tree sprites to punch and zombies. but survival doesn’t have to be RPG progression, or run-through-woods pacman, but for food and water instead of pellets.

    • Leafy Twigs says:

      I think what’s needed is survival with a goal independent of simply surviving. One of my favorite survival games is Skyrim with Frostfall, realistic wildlife (forget the exact name), and tent-making/campfire/cooking mods. You have a goal to find some macguffin in a Dwemer ruin, you decide to cross the mountains to get there, and the difficulty in surviving the trip is part of the adventure and not the end goal.

      The other nice thing about using Skyrim this way is the survival stuff doesn’t feel completely lonely. After making the difficult trek through the mountains and back, you can stop in a small village on the edge of the wilderness, Drink a beer, talk to the innkeeper, listen to the bard mangle a song, and sleep in a real bed for a night before heading out again.

      I think something like the Lewis and Clark expedition would be a great survival game. Your goal is to map as much of the land as you can and to discover a route to the sea. Start off on a city on one coast, outfit an expedition based on the fragmented reports of the very few people who have been in the wilderness, and head out for a while, mapping as you go (using a compass, clock, sextant, telescope), keeping an eye on the weather (using a barometer to help). Realistic animal behavior, i.e., make enough noise and the bear will decide you’re more trouble than you’re worth, and spooking a buffalo herd is a bad idea. Combat, with animals or people, is something to be avoided because there’s no health potions and there’s no gun store in the great beyond, so every bullet has an immense value. Have villages (and the rare city) of native humans for occasional interactions, which are hopefully good interactions since they outnumber you and they can provide food or directions as trade if they like you.

      The goal is to map as much of the land as possible. Return to your civilization with a big enough map and you’ll get more money for sending another expedition out. The rumors and stories told by people in your city give the equivalent of side quests. This drunk trapper claims he saw a city of gold and pyramids in a valley where three rivers meet. This hunter swears there’s a tribe of friendly natives who will give you emeralds in exchange for furs and they’re located somewhere in the western shadow of the Wasenee Mountains, on the edge of an aspen grove. Are these stories true? Maybe. Maybe not.

    • Nenjin says:

      I think you just need to watch a show like Survivorman and see what people actually struggle with, to get inspiration for a threat-less survival game. For example, small cuts and bruises getting infected, falling and actually hurting yourself. Water and food-borne diseases. Trying to do things at which you’re not skilled. Temperature, metabolism, caloric intake and energy use. There’s a whole biomechanical side to survival that most games breeze over or reduce down to its simplest components. And then they find those systems can be mastered, players get bored, so they put in enemies to disrupt player’s well-honed routines.

      • Baines says:

        Implementing those risks in a videogame would often feel like the player is getting punished for random reasons.

        In real life, you slip because you didn’t keep your footing or weren’t looking or whatever. In a videogame, you slip because the game rolled a bad number. Or you slip because you tried to move on the wrong terrain, which either is marked different enough from “safe” terrain that it looks like a videogame world, or is so identical to regular terrain that you feel like you just happened to randomly walk over “bad” terrain.

        Having a cut become infected raises several issues. First is how you received the cut. Was it again “random” chance? Does it turn out to be repetitive in a bad way? (Not in a “don’t walk through thorn bushes” way but rather “this game is really limited in interactions and outcomes” way.) Second is how is it treated and/or found? Does the player need to do a full body search after every walk outdoors? Does he have a limited number of bandages, ignoring that in real life a person could use various makeshift materials and treatments? Third, how common are cuts and how high is the risk of infection? Videogame characters tend to face unrealistic environments and challenges. The average FPS character, for example, will have hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands more bullet wounds over their life than the average real person.

        • P.Funk says:

          When you twist your ankle its because you misjudged the steepness of the hill or the height of the fall. A game which respects the natural inclination of humans to gauge risk would allow for less random chance to be involved.

          Frankly I find people’s lack of imagination about this hard to understand. Random chance plays into lots of things. Procedural worlds are very much about random chance screwing you over, and whats more people’s affection for rogue likes says that players are on some level tired of games that always reward them in predictable linear and easily achievable ways.

          A game which poses weather and seasonal variations as a threat implicitly says its random. The problem isn’t that weather is random and will punish you, its that it will appear randomly and present threats you need to account for. If you always know the variation and it comes on a predictable scale then you can plan for it like its a non factor. Its a finite limitation, like being given a fixed day/night period to work with. Nobody complains in minecraft that the creeper snuck up on them and blew them up when its night because they know what night means. Random weather just means you don’t get to predict when the blizzard or the sand storm or the freezing rain comes like we predict the darkness.

          Randomize the environment but make it so that all player decisions are about evaluating the risk. It would be hard to implement more natural things like people being careless about catching a foot on a root, but trying to aggressively job down a steep rocky slope should punish you with a sprain. If anything is randomized it could be foot blisters that lead to sores that lead to infection. This happens because of a series of predictable factors the player failed to prevent. First the failure to have adequate footwear, then the failure to properly treat a blister then failure to adequately treat a sore. This is something that happens in real life, if people neglect things it becomes an issue.

          I think players are just inured to idea that survival games are just action games with a procedural and more abstract leveling process. In minecraft you level up by collecting objects to craft into better objects. Its basically unregulated by experience points, or was in it original state, but is basically just a linear progression with predictable limits. It would be nice however if we had a game where you had to conserve firewood, learn to use flint without using it up, have some gesture based skill system for putting a fire together.

          I think its all a matter of the developer having the ambition and the imagination to create a totally new way to interface with the environment. Ambition meaning to risk total failure on something that people won’t try if they want to make money. It would be challenging. I can imagine a full bodied fire starting system based on mouse and keyboard combined gestures. You manipulate the things you hold to point flint and rock to make the sparks land where they should, you have to know the things in the environment to know which stuffs will make good kindling. I would be fascinated if there were a game where the skill isn’t abstracted into an RPG model nor is it abstracted into merely a time sink combined with a collection model where its just about holding Mouse1 til the block is broken and you need X blocks plus Y crafted items to succeed.

          I think I’ve been watching too much Star Trek because it all sounds like a Holodeck adventure more than a game as we know it. Still, I wonder what we’ll be doing in 20 years in gaming. I think as things progress we’ll have to find a way to break down the abstractions eventually. For something as essentially human as ‘survival’ without industrial means the unrealism of the typical game environment with its menus and overlays and what not really kills the immersion.

    • Moraven says:

      People play MMOs solely for the crafting.

      That is what a non combat Survival game would seem like to me. Other than that you can die also and have to work to survive and sustain yourself.

    • Phier says:

      Basically without enemies, its simply life, and kinda dull.
      If it were a VERY highly detailed survival simulator of sorts, it would at least be educational and interesting for real knowledge it gives you, but usually things are a bit more basic than that.

      In real life, survival is a every day goal, but in a game you can’t taste the food, enjoy the good nights rest, look forward to the new day.

      This is why in games you will commonly conquer the world but in RL only a few have really attempted. Most people get to a point where they have “enough” want to enjoy their riches, but in a game the only reward is victory.

      • P.Funk says:

        “but in a game the only reward is victory.”

        This is not true at all. What victory is there in sandbox minecraft? Or any sandbox game? When someone goes into GTA and decides to see how much mayhem they can sow before they inevitably die thats not victory. When I fly a Cessna in X-Plane on a VFR flightplan just at twilight and enjoy the scenery wheres my victory?

        You could say the goal is the victory, achieving it, but flying a Cessna for most simmers is not really something they can fail at, its pretty much predetermined success. When someone puts blocks together to build a structure many people know they’ll never finish, just like they knew they’d never finish whatever they built with legos when they were little.

        There is a very specific game and type of gamer where victory over some measurable challenge with known victory conditions exists. Its not invalid, but its not the only thing. Perhaps our society does a lot to create the idea of this kind of game, extended through life. We just assume things like schooling involves grading and conditions for success, but there are alternative schools that avoid competition between students and giving grades because its not particularly useful unless you ascribe to a given mindset.

        The games I have gravitated towards are ones where the ultimate goal is an endless bank of skills to improve, capabilities to explore. Simming (I mean legitimate simming, not this fake eastern european banality simming fad) lends to this thought process. One friend I fly with in DCS A-10C says to him its all about flying “the perfect mission” which means using a boat load of skills in this complex sim in a mission to achieve an arbitrary end with nary a flaw in the execution. A perfect mission is elusive, nearly unachievable for a gamer when the real combat pilots spend hundreds of hours just preparing. This isn’t even that abstract, but its depth is far beyond what most goal oriented gaming is.

        There were times in my lazier youth when I’d literally do silly random things in GTA San Andreas just for the fun of it. A good example is circumnavigating the game world on a BMX. I didn’t even set the goal to circumnavigation, it just seemed the logical way to go about it. If there was an endless straight road that never ended I’d have taken that instead. I did something similar in GTA Vice City where I sailed a boat all around the islands, admiring the day night cycle.

        I think games are much more than just victory.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I really like the idea of a pure survival game with minimal enemies. However, I have always thought that the best approach would task the player with travelling from A to B, rather than simply becoming self-sufficient in a hostile landscape.

      I’m thinking of the solitary travel described in, like, Blood Meridian or something, wherein the protagonist is always moving with the goal of reaching civilisation or reuniting with his companions. In my head the game would include a horse, and so the relationship with the horse, and all of the mechanical challenges this entails, compensates for the lack of hostile NPCs. Of course this doesn’t necessarily compensate for a lack of combat, but it could be a nice alternative.

  2. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    Satoshi Kon, with just four films under his belt, had so much more to give to the world. We lost him way too early.

    I always look forward to Tony Zhou’s videos.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Kon is/was odd in that I really, truly admired the guy and was quite upset when he died but I didn’t actually like any of his films as much as lots of other people seemed to. I’m very hesitant to watch that video since I don’t doubt there’s a ton of mind-boggling editing going on in his small body of work but I thought Perfect Blue was silly, vapid trash, Tokyo Godfathers was ephemeral, treacly melodrama (a Hollywood movie copying it note for note would be quickly forgotten) and Paprika was okay, but annoyingly smug, half-baked and not a patch on Mind Game or Tekkon Kinkreet (or nearly anything by Studio 4C, who’ve forever gone ignored by the mainstream for the most part. Even stuff like The Animatrix never really made their name, IMO). Kon and his collaborators were full of astonishing ideas and imagery and technical flair but I’d say the man never really managed to pull them together into anything half as good as their critical reception suggested.

      • Muzman says:

        Now, it might not really nail the finish -and few such films do really -, but Perfect Blue is an awesome piece of psychological thriller filmmaking worthy of Hitchcock and Polanski.
        I don’t know why you’d call it vapid or silly. It’s a little trashy but it uses that material well.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          Because I couldn’t understand why, underneath the style (which wasn’t particularly special to start with), it was really that different from your average late night DTV exploitation flick. I didn’t care about any of the characters or find them particularly interesting, the final reveal fell completely flat and the whole thing seemed to be banking on little more than “OoOoOoOo!!!11!! She’s going insane! Or is she?????” The art was solid, the animation was great and the soundtrack was fantastic (the score, not the Jpop numbers), but none of these could elevate what was basically the same weaksauce plotting I’d seen countless times on network TV programming in the small hours. I’m sure it’s plainly the work of a master craftsman if you’re a film school type, but as a captivating story and a coherent, stimulating, thought-provoking whole it was pretty much a failure by my standards.

          • Muzman says:

            The difference between a cheap expy flick and a good film is 90% execution and the execution of this was pretty remarkable, which you seem to agree with. So I dunno. All the stories have been told, all the techniques have been used. For the most part anyway. So lacking perfect novelty isn’t much of a criticism in the end these days.
            Besides, it’s not like the unraveling inner life of a former pop star trying to go serious in acting and failing is a wildly overdone subject. How that was portrayed showed a lot of artistry, in a way that was more than technically clever but also sympathetic.
            The potboilerish elements can be a bit obvious, but if tropes bother you too much you run out of films to watch pretty fast.

          • Prokroustis says:

            Millennium Actress is the best one anyway.

      • Acorino says:

        If Perfect Blue is silly vapid trash, then so is Psycho.

    • BLACKOUT-MK2 says:

      I agree. That video was really interesting. I’m definitely going to appreciate direction a lot more when I watch stuff now, especially in anime. I actually plan on watching Perfect Blue soon. Never seen it, but I hear it’s good.

    • Acorino says:

      Yeah, I feel we lost Kon before he could deliver his best work, his magnus opus. Still, what we have from him is for the most part a treat.

  3. altum videtur says:

    Survival without actual enemies gets boring because the only way to distract myself is to quench the all-consuming bloodlust that rages in my heart.

  4. Melody says:

    I think it’s worth linking to Nathan’s article on GaymerX over at Kotaku
    http://kotaku.com/the-best-games-convention-ive-been-to-may-soon-be-no-mo-1610589647

  5. FriarZero says:

    That first link was a gut busting parody of Hegel. I’d love to see more of that, really takes me back to my philosophy undergrad days.

  6. Jannakar says:

    Patreon is busking for journalists. If you think you need it to use it, you’re pretty much fucked.

  7. SirMonkeyWrench says:

    Satoshi Kon was truly a visionary creator with few peers in any medium. As small as it is his filmography is something most lesser creators couldn’t rival in many lifetimes.

  8. kwyjibo says:

    I like Gera’s Patreon piece a lot. Go fund her work – http://www.patreon.com/emilygera

  9. GameCat says:

    Sundays are for applying templates to endless stream of vehicle parts on local equivalent of ebay. :(

  10. BooleanBob says:

    I was confused by the patreon article. It felt like the same allegation being made over and over – ‘it’s just a popularity contest’ – only the writer provided no examples, or data, or really anything at all to back up the claim. Which is a shame because I don’t really know much about the subject and I’d have been interested to read something informative about it.

    If I have a problem with Harbour Master’s piece, it’s that, well, doesn’t Rick Dangerous then become a secret box game? In that you’re sifting among the various potential routes to find the arbitrarily designated right one, making it – by HM’s mooted definition – the rather unlikely genre stable-mate of Dear Esther, Gone Home and Twine games.

    • Geebs says:

      My problem with Patreon (apart from not having any money to spend on it) is basically that I don’t want to be somebody’s employer. Just to rub it in, it uses a rather libertarian model of employing people – you’re not providing healthcare, paying national insurance, whatever. I worry that it enables people to become dependent on the goodwill of strangers while taking away the safety net ‘real’ jobs would (at least theoretically) offer.

      • RobF says:

        I have a few quid set aside that I chuck across on Patreon monthly to a few folks. I know for them, they’re more acutely aware of the what, why and how of Patreon than the article seems to credit. They’re also very aware of how it’s a bandage at best to a bigger problem and how incredibly fragile a thing it is but, bluntly, right now it helps them go out and get some food or go towards making rent and that’s better than not being able to do that. I dunno how well that goes across the rest of the patreon-o-sphere though.

        And that’s sort of how I look at my contributions as well. They’re a quid here and there towards helping someone get some food. I don’t really see it as paying someone to do a thing. Maybe that says more about who I choose to patr(e)onise than Patreon as a sytem?

      • P.Funk says:

        So what you’re saying is that you’re concerned that people don’t need to submit to wage slavery in a job which they aren’t particularly interested in because some mechanism exists now which allows these people to instead spend their time on pursuits which gratify them greatly and which is supported entirely by direct input from those who enjoy it rather than having that process governed by a disinterested middle man who would take the bulk of the money from it and put terms and limits on both the creator and the consumer purely for his own gain?

        I at first found Patreon obnoxious, then I realized that it satisfies in many ways the desire many lefties have for that elusive goal, for the worker to control the means of production. God forbid the creator should have some means to avoid needing a boss.

        Its interesting that you’re afraid this will make people less interested in “legitimate jobs”. How would it do that? By being successful at challenging the status quo of our society? God forbid some whacky leftist notion actually be successful.

        I take it you think that socialists and anarchists and libertarians are lazy and unmotivated and without the lash of the boss he won’t be bothered to work hard?

        • Geebs says:

          What does patronage have to do with communism? If you mean top-down patronage then somebody has to go out into a market environment and get a job to pay for it. If you mean bottom up patronage, you’re advocating a rather grotesque exceptionalism where anybody who doesn’t have artistic leanings is fit only to go into the factory and generate a bit of surplus in the energy budget for the more aesthetically able to take advantage of.

          Good job using my concern about the lack of workers’ rights, sick pay, etc. to argue that I’m some sort of right wing crusader though.

          • P.Funk says:

            Where did I mention communism?

            And why does liking the idea of this mechanism mean that I”m relegating the entire population to admiring only the artistically inclined?

            I like the way the mechanism creates a totally different way of rewarding people for their pursuits. Writers who get “legitimate jobs” are heavily edited and have their work rejected because of marketability concerns. Writers who can sustain themselves with this mechanism can possibly publish things which are much more provoking. The modern “legitimate job” stifles a lot of creativity in how it handles the output of creative people.

            Within our system this is a thought provoking mechanism. I never said its the template for a social revolution. However I think your entire conception of the “legitimate job” brings far too many issues up for me to properly comment without turning this into a short paper.

          • Geebs says:

            There was a dude called Marx who said something once about the workers controlling the means of production; you used that phrase, so I assumed you were talking communism. Sorry about the assumption.

            I’ve never actually said “legitimate” job, but you’ve quoted me saying it twice. “Real” in quote marks was meant to denote “the employer is responsible for the employee”.

  11. malkav11 says:

    Patreon seems like a pretty good approach to solving the modern problem of “how do I get paid for doing cool things in a digital age where piracy is easy and traditional revenue sources are increasingly problematic?”. It’s not really its fault that it doesn’t also solve the age old problem of “how do I get people to pay attention to my work?”, especially when that doesn’t appear to be something it’s attempted to do.

    • Cara Ellison says:

      You certainly have to PR separately, which can be exhausting, and something that a website does readily for you when you get regular work there just by having your byline there.

  12. Baffle Mint says:

    To succeed, says Patreon, writers need an already sizeable cult of personality built from months, often years, of earlier successes.

    This is, of course, in sharp contrast to the pre-Patreon era, when all work was published anonymously so that nobody had a chance to build up a reputation.

    Remember those days, back when names like Stephen King meant nothing to us, and he was regularly outsold by your hairdresser?

    No, seriously, how on earth does this differ from the artistic status quo of the last several centuries?

    EDIT: And on a more serious note, it’s not at all unheard of for somebody to come out of nowhere on Kickstarter and raise a ton of money despite being previously unknown.

    Obviously, popular people are in a better position to do crowdfunding, but they’re also in a better position to get noticed by a publisher, or get studio backing for a movie, or whatever.

    I mean, is that your complaint? It’s easier for famous artists to get funding than it is for unknowns? When in history has that not been the case?

    • Cara Ellison says:

      This is exactly my feeling. For example, I feel like most sites that write about games (RPS excepted) hire on the basis of their journalists’ ‘fame’. Aren’t they being monetarily compensated for their popularity? It’s important to bring readers with you when you make a hire for a writer these days.

      However, what Patreon does enable that traditional model websites don’t is it allows already known writers to be paid for work that is *unusual*, would *not* be published anywhere else because editors wouldn’t pay for those pieces. None of my work on Embed With would have been possible without 450 people clubbing together to give me the price of a flight to a developer’s couch. As a result Patreon can give us new, risky material from people who were stuck in the old model before. And the writer takes all the risk.

    • Henson says:

      While Gera views this from the ‘only the popular survive’ lamentation (and I certainly understand!), I see it as a smart investment. Patrons and employers want to know that a person can deliver consistently, and this can best be proven by showing a large body of past work; a portfolio. The attitude that some people have that they can or should be able to build a successful Patreon based on no track record bugs me. Unless you stand out from the crowd, you can’t just get consumer support from the word ‘Go’. We support not just those who write well, but those who write regularly.

      • Cara Ellison says:

        Also the system of Patreon works on you being able to deliver consistently, or you don’t get paid. You can’t afford to get sick. Or have an off week.

        • zal says:

          It’s still on par with many other industries (sadly). As a patreon recipient if you keep delivering content you’ll probably keep getting paid, if you’re working food service/packing/shipping/warehouse/retail etc… you can show up eager to work and get told “eh, its slow, you get 6 hours this week. also no paid vacation or sick time for you!”
          not only that, it frequently ranges somewhere between difficult and impossible to get holidays off, as those are the busiest times and they’ll just fire you if you’re not present.

          I’m glad that’s not my situation, and I wouldn’t recommend it to people, and would hope there’s a better way, but secure funding and a consistent leave/illness safety net is not a problem unique to content generators, and is actually worse in many other large business sectors.

          • Cara Ellison says:

            Yes, but if you work full time writing at a website I suspect you can get sick and be okay. At least in the UK.

          • P.Funk says:

            Perhaps if this kind of direct consumer to creator relationship were more of a norm you could see it being a better source of income so that you can basically bank enough that being sick is more affordable. For all we know there could also become a system of Patreon guilds where people of similar interest band together to form mutual support, pay a duty to the group so that people have sick compensation and support one another through advertizing each other’s work via their own successful channels.

            This of course is where we get into all kinds of anarchist or socialist theories about how people go about supporting each other without the massive government there to do it for you. Its worth remembering that just because we’re used to this system doesn’t mean we can’t have another and have it be successful. The digital age could bring some interesting experiments with new angles on traditional far left organizational ideas.

        • frenchy2k1 says:

          You are asking Patreon to solve problems it purposefully did NOT intend to.
          The goal of Patreon (as I understand it) is to formalise the donations and direct relations of creators to consumers. Instead of going through an intermediary, like an editor for writings, you can give small sums directly to “fund” work. This is an improved tip jar.
          This does not solve the whole “creator as independent fiscal entity” problem which makes that a creator is only paid on delivering. No output = no pay. I’ve had similar discussions with a friend of mine that is a published author, that content creators are wearers of many hats if they want to be successful (PR/publicists, accountants, networking, creators…) and I had to remind him that a small business owner is in the same situation (most often without the protection of copyright on top).
          Patreon changes none of that. It only allows for a direct relation, cutting the middle men that have acted as gate keepers for so long and allowing lots of creators to enjoy the long tail of diversity.
          My experience with Patreon is little (I have no funded anyone there), limited to what one of the author I follow has said about it. She has had a tip jar and subscription on her website for years, self publish through her own website and amazon, but she is already receiving more through Patreon than her own site’s subscriptions. There is something to be said about a trustable intermediary.
          Her patreon is http://www.patreon.com/AlexandraErin (Warning: some of her material can be NSFW, although something on her Patreon page).

          I also wanted to recount a tale of crowd funding before Patreon. A comic author dared his readers to fund him. He was mad at some of the comments he had received about update frequency while working full time for a minimum wage (~$24k/year) full time thank less job. He received $4k in the first day and more than his last year pay in a month. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/R._K._Milholland

          TL;DR Patreon is a new way to connect creators and consumers, not for creators to be paid (still independents, still responsible for their own insurance and pretty much only paid when they create).

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      Patreon is great for starving independent art bro’s like Pewds. http://www.patreon.com/PDP ;)

      It’s great good for smaller but growing youtube let’s players with a few dedicated followers. If you’re trying to build your brand while planning on not wasting time on a full time job to have a roof over your head.

      Next I hope those poor beggar romanians outside the grocery store will start a patreon so I don’t have to see their sad eyes when I’m shopping groceries. Perhaps if they do something cool their problems are solved.

  13. Baffle Mint says:

    But we need to recognize that a game twenty or thirty years after its release isn’t quite the same as that same game was a year after its release.

    Do we really? Do we really need to do that?

    Actually, I honestly wasn’t convinced by the argument, since it’s mostly about the visual components of games. We judge graphics differently for older games than for newer ones; the FX chip isn’t quite the revelation it was when Star Fox was first released.

    That said, we don’t just look at games, we play them, and I wonder how much change there is in our interactions on that level. When I play the original Half-Life, are the tasks I’m completing and my perception of those tasks significantly different than they would’ve been 15 years ago?

    Graphics have changed a lot over the years, but shooting dudes in the head maybe hasn’t changed that much.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I think the point to make here is that everything has a context, and while games might remain the same at the level of how they play, players themselves don’t, and context changes all the time. Without falling into the “kids nowadays” camp, put some kid that really enjoys Skyrim to play Ultima Underworld, and the perception of the game will be completely different to that of someone who enjoyed Ultima Underworld back in the day (speaking as if that someone was frozen in time, or stopped playing videogames for good) as well as to that of someone who was able to enjoy Ultima Underworld back then and now enjoys Skyrim.

      Shooting dudes in the head, for example, has changed a whole lot at the level of play too. Sure, abstractly, the ‘task’ is the same, but the systems that make up that task have changed enough, otherwise we wouldn’t have people going nostalgic over the super-fast weightless movement of DOOM against the super-grounded movement of the newer CODs. Level design has a lot of influence on this, I think, and while Half Life 2 was incredibly innovative when it came out, many of its designs have been taken up by other shooters, so that if you go back after having played many a recent shooter (or, I imagine, playing HL2 for the first time after having played more recent shooters) you’ll find most of them already familiar in some sense, when in their own context/time they were not something familiar to players.

    • pepperfez says:

      I was about to basically rewrite the linked article in this comment, but I think it does a pretty good job answering your objection. In general, while the actual contents of the game haven’t changed, you have changed (because you recognize Half-Life as a classic, rather than a breakthrough; because you’ve played other shooters that have incorporated so many of its innovations; because you’ve already played Half-Life; etc.), so your experience of those game contents will have changed.

    • Frank says:

      That article looks like someone’s humanities homework project. I’m sure Bleak House has been used a bajillion times to illustrate the idea of a work in its original context. I’d rather see someone write about how (if at all) this sort of criticism/analysis differs for games; we don’t need another intro to the concept of context (or whatever Foucault, et al call it).

      The author’s quoting selectively to make a point. The GOG review is shown in its entirety to show off the tone of nostalgia; while the old review is cropped just to its description of the cutscenes and technical advances to emphasize (the author’s notion) that new games are always reviewed in a shallow way, which is kinda bull.

      And it would take a particular kind of silliness to argue that “bestseller” and “classic” are genres. King’s Quest was an adventure game then, and it’s an adventure game now.

      • pepperfez says:

        Bookstores have best-seller shelves, classics shelves, fantasy shelves, romance shelves, etc. Wuthering Heights never shows up under horror or romance, even though it’s pretty squarely both, because it’s now a classic that has qualities of those other genres. The Dickens example is overused because it’s so useful. It shows a text going from serialized pulp to assigned reading with not a word changed, just like games go from daring, cutting-edge experiment to influential museum piece.

        • JFS says:

          Just like, well, everything does. So what’s the point, really?

          • pepperfez says:

            I mean, if you’re not interested in the evolution of media and genres, it’s not going to be interesting to you. But I think understanding how one thing (game, book) can be two completely different things over time, and what that means, is pretty worthwhile.

        • cpt_freakout says:

          I agree with this objection – I thought the article has the right mindset, but then goes into a path that is easy to dismantle because a classic is most definitely not a genre, but a change in the perception of any given work due to cultural and therefore social value. A game is not a text, and applying a flimsy literary theory to talk about what is better described as historical development and historical contingency is to add a whole set of unnecessary problems to something that is quite straightforward, at least if you have a mind for history. The place that nostalgia has in videogames is quite different from the nostalgia conceivably evoked by other media, at least because, you know, most people alive today grew up with some form of (popular) cinema, books, whatever, while videogames as mass media are no more than 30-35 years old.

          There are other, much more interesting discussions, I think. One would be to see how retro games resist actualization due to technological limitations such as, for example, not being able to run a copy of Grim Fandango in a context where the OS and most of the systems the game relies on for running are no longer common. Another would be how ‘new retrogames’ as the article calls them, could possibly have nothing to do with nostalgia but with an expansion of videogame culture that, apart from all the economic considerations about indies and the like, is articulating a way for players to make sense of their own experience as such, since games change so much every five years or so. I mean, were we really over the 2D platformer when 3D replaced it? We assume it to be obsolete (hence ‘nostalgia’), but in reality we haven’t had the time to, as players, think all of its various logics through, in the same way anyone without a PhD in Literature can tell you what kind of thinking is going on in a novel, or anyone that is not a world class chess player can tell you what a strategy is. Right now, I can barely tell you why Mario moves to the right, or why early adventures emulated speech by getting you to write all sorts of stupid words until you got The One. And I mean beyond tech limits – the reasoning behind all of it remains to be studied seriously, I think.

          • Frank says:

            … which is not to say the yesteryear’s tech limits angle isn’t also interesting (if you’re interested in games themselves as much as in games as a reflection of society).

            Anyway, here’s hoping you write your thoughts down and get them into the Sunday Papers for us all to discuss.

          • Baffle Mint says:

            This is a much better explanation of what I was groping towards. I think games function differently from texts like novels and movies, and that those differences should be incorporated into any analysis like this.

            I’m still going to make my original argument, although Half-Life was maybe not the greatest example. Maybe something like Tetris would be better; My response to Tetris as a graphical experience has certainly changed since I played it on the original Game Boy, but I’d still argue that my response to Tetris as a task to be completed has changed very little.

            On the other hand, there certainly are old games whose mechanics now seem unbearably clunky, or whose mechanics simply went out of fashion; and, on the other hand, it’s certainly true that nothing I do now is done in the same way I did it as an 8 year old.

            But I still think this dynamic works differently for games than it does for other kinds of art, and it would be useful to talk about the differences.

    • valrus says:

      I think some of the same goes for gameplay. (Actually, for me it goes more for gameplay. I find it easier to step back into my old aesthetic shoes, which still fit much the same.)

      I still remember reviews that gush over gameplay mechanics that today would be old hat, to the point that we wouldn’t notice them at all. It’s not that the gameplay has changed, and it’s not necessarily that the mechanics are no longer enjoyable; it’s just that we can’t view the “text” from the same place that contemporaries did. The gameplay of Super Mario Bros. may be eternal, but your jaw isn’t going to drop when you realize that the levels are so much larger than the screen. (I can appreciate that this was, for many gamers, the first scrolling platformer they ever saw, and I might even remember my own state of mind then, but those are different attitudes from the attitude of the person playing in 1985.)

      This goes for games of the HL era, too. I can remember the reviews for Thief, and how novel it was. I never played Thief, but if I did now I couldn’t have the experience that a contemporary did, even though I’d be having the same interactions.

    • Geebs says:

      Stipulating a comparison with “a year after a release” is a bit of a mistake, I think. Although the 16-bit era was quite long lived, for much of the rest of the history of games things were moving so quickly that everything seemed dated a year after it came out, and doesn’t seem to have become any more dated since.

  14. Muzman says:

    The dream survival game threat described actually was Miasmata for me. I hardly ever saw the beast, except in the the distance or I was running like crazy the other way. It was mostly a ‘threat in being’ that rarely turned up, but I had to prepare for regardless. It was pretty cool.

  15. JFS says:

    “Classic retrogame”?! That lady doesn’t seem to understand the difference between retro and vintage… The article itself is also mainly inflated repetition of a very basic thought, namely “you can’t step into the same river twice”. Too much liberal arts for me at this time of day.

    • pepperfez says:

      No, “vintage” and “retro” are describing different aspects of a game. “Vintage” just refers to its age, “retro” is attempting to capture some qualities of the look, play, or feel of the game – to serve as a genre identifier like RPG or Shooter. You may not think that’s useful for various reasons (doesn’t pick out a concrete set of characteristics, is unnecessarily broad, whatever) but she is using “retro” for a reason.

      • JFS says:

        Yeah, when she has the screenshot comparison, she calls King’s Quest “classic retrogame”, which is BS. King’s Quest isn’t “classic retro”, it’s old. It’s actually just old, like for-real-old. Vintage, if you will. That’s what I meant. Retro may well be a genre, but you can’t apply it to something that really is from the past.

        • pepperfez says:

          But what are the qualities of a game that place it in the retro genre? It seems perverse for them not to be qualities often displayed in actual old games, because that’s what “retro” means. So naturally there will be old retro games.

          Compare “classical music”: It’s still being made, but we define it with reference to music of the past, which is also called “classical”. There are a variety of forms associated with classical music (ballet, symphony, opera, etc.), just like there are retro shooters, platformers, or RPGs, but we recognize a sort of family resemblance between them all.

          • Frank says:

            I think “retro” describes self-consciously aping an old fashion that has gone out of style.

            As the cpt explains above, 2D platformers (and the other old styles) may not qualify. Thick glasses can go in and out of fashion every 30 years, but it would be weird to expect the same to happen to basic gaming interfaces, like side scrolling with a gravity-bound avatar.

            Oh, and the music analogy would be a modern composer working on Italian Baroque again (which would be awesome).

          • RobF says:

            “I think “retro” describes self-consciously aping an old fashion that has gone out of style.”

            It does but “retrogaming” tends to refer to the playing of old games and “retrogamer” to the players of old games. It’s a fuzzy word thing and not entirely something to lay at the feet of the author.

            Generally though, the article rambles around the point a bit but I think there’s some definite food for thought in there. Like, let’s say Shovel Knight, right? When we look at and play Shovel Knight, because of it wearing the clothes of videogames gone by, it does sort of step into a weird place when we come to look at it critically. We don’t necessarily judge it on the terms of it being like an actual real old game, just that sort of spacey-memory-thing of old games that comes with the time and distance of them. But also, as it’s wearing the clothes of videogames gone by, it sort of asks in a way that we sidestep judging it as a.n.modern.game as well. I find that sort of thing interesting to mull over, especially when it comes to thinking about how we talk about games in general.

          • Frank says:

            Haven’t tried Shovel Knight yet. Locamolito sounds like he makes the stuff you’re talking about.

  16. jorygriffis says:

    Is GTAV just the nicest looking game or what? I know it’s not that impressive a feat for a game with a hundred-billion-dollar budget, but every moment of the game just shimmers with a weird, melancholy life. The game itself (especially its story) is kind of dismal but I keep going back to it every few months just to soak in the atmosphere of Los Santos. Can’t wait to see what people do with the PC version (aside from modding away the game’s beautiful color design…)

  17. SuddenSight says:

    The article on walking simulators makes me sad. Both RPS’s recent article and HM’s article linked here have well-informed writers voicing a surprisingly strong dislike for the *name* walking simulator.

    What I don’t understand is all the perceived negativity of the term. Looking at how the tag is used on RPS shows a fairly consistent application towards DE/Proteus-alikes, and nowhere is there claims of “not-a-game.” The use of the term on Steam is less consistent, but by no means negative (outside of your regular collection of rude people). The term seems perfectly usable from a categorical sense, and it doesn’t seem overwhelmed with negative associations.

    But if this is my perception, why are there so many people with such a negative view of the term? Both HM and Ed Key (Proteus creator) have a *very* strong dislike of the term, and their primary reason is the disparaging connotations they have seen *others* use it for (often rude or silly people I would usually ignore).

    But that is *NOT* my perception. The primary negative associations with the term I have seen have come *FROM* HM and Ed Key. I don’t want to say they are wrong for disliking a term, but I am sad and a little annoyed that so many smart people have allowed the stupid opinions of other internet users to so negatively color their own ideas.

  18. Wytefang says:

    Man, that Brandon Vance article was just a slog-fest of too much over-analysis. Ugh. There’s a few minutes of my life I won’t ever get back.

    • Jambe says:

      Yeah it needs to be edited way the hell down. Umpteen words about the importance of medium to the conveyance of meaning, some rather superficial musings about the money-funneling, criticality-quashing nature of capitalist enterprise, and a capper of “your stuff isn’t a commodity, so build a home for it”.

      What does that mean? I don’t know, and I don’t even think the author does. Ironically, it seems awfully similar to the kinds of platitude that infect Twitter and startup culture more generally.

      • Wytefang says:

        You nailed it better than I could. I appreciate that he was ruminating on some deeper stuff though. Some of it seemed fairly interesting, some of it seemed like pedantic ramblings…

      • P.Funk says:

        Actually while you’re right thats its meandering that line about the work not being a commodity makes its own sense in the context of what he’s talking about. Its a cheesy line, a lazy bit of writing you probably learn from a bad writing class. Wrap up a meandering point with a catching one liner.

        Nevertheless its easy to miss what he was trying to say by focusing on his sharp criticism of capitalism which for many status quoers will be a red flag for ignoring it (which you shouldn’t). He’s saying don’t just be a producer of a commodity for consumption, because that guts the product of its art and its humanity and that its not how anyone will actually create anything. A career conducted through twitter is by its very nature incapable of being influential beyond just the moment, and he’s saying that our culture is driven by an economic attitude which is not prone to creating influential art, but rather meaningless empty products for mass consumption which is discarded just as soon as the money is counted.

        Its a pretty standard criticism of our consumer culture and I tend to agree with much of it in spirit, just its hard when its written with so much self indulgence. If you’re trying to reach out to people it helps to not use so much academic jargon. Its sad but true that we can’t be as eloquent as we were in the past because, as he puts it, words are rendered often to their base meaning, such as with free meaning gratis. Its a fine line between self indulgent and eloquent in the more traditional form but that line gets finer with our modern “straight forward” colloquial interpretation of language it seems.

        If you don’t know what he means then you clearly didn’t read the last paragraph. Its all there. I cringe at the turn of phrase he used but I have no problems understanding what he means. Whether you agree is another thing altogether. Lets not bash the guy’s point just because he was self indulgent and effete.

        • Wytefang says:

          Fair enough. Though I don’t think I meant to imply I didn’t understand it – it wasn’t rocket science, imho.

        • Jambe says:

          I like long reads and I find meandering thoughts interesting sometimes, but I felt shortchanged at the end of that rather than enlightened or entertained. I empathize as a writer, but if the base idea gets lost (or buried) in the mix instead of standing out, I call it a failure. Maybe condense the three pieces into one that’s a third the total length and a clearer path from observation and anecdote to actionable or stirring ideas might materialize.

          It’s prudent to be critical of inconsiderate consumption habits and the broader systems (witting and non) which engender and extend them, but… well, “think about what you buy and how you sell, and do your own thang, maaaaaaaaan” is trite. The long and rambling road makes it a schlep with a let-down destination.

  19. alert says:

    Unreal world is a survival game without a threat and with a hostile natural environment. It’s also pretty O.G and predates most of the current indie zombie pish. Bit weird and ascii graphics but pretty good nonetheless.

  20. HadToLogin says:

    1) Referal – by using this link you give author some $$$
    2) While Tremor is nice and you can get some cheap bundle games from them, it’s practically only for First World, best things are locked to North America and maybe few selected EU countries. I know I couldn’t use it. No free humble bundle game for me for watching ads :(

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