Electric Dreams, Part 4: The Lost Art Of Dreaming

By Michael Cook on March 27th, 2015.

Electric Dreams is a five-part series about AI, academic research and video games, and how together they’re shaping the industry. Part one on the lost future of AI is here.

The more we play games, the more we forget how much time it took us to learn the mysterious toolbox of language and skills that they require. Mostly we think of this toolbox as being full of things that enable us to do new things, like circle-strafing or that sixth sense that tells you to stuff ladders and paperclips into your pants in an adventure game, but in truth a lot of it actually controls what we think and do. If you’ve ever sat down to watch someone less familiar with games play something, you’ve probably witnessed something along these lines. They’ll do things that you instinctively know aren’t possible – trying to open doors that we know are part of the scenery, or repeating an action in an adventure game when we know it’s always going to have the same outcome. Sometimes when I play with someone new to games, they’ll ask me ‘How did you know that was the solution?’ and the answer is simply because I’ve been here before. On the surface it looks like skill, but in reality it’s a sign that we’ve learned to be obedient. A lifetime of playing games has taught us to be followers, and it is now a major factor in slowing down innovation and experimentation in games.

So far in Electric Dreams we’ve discussed how innovation and artificial intelligence in particular has stalled somewhat, but now it’s time to look to the future, and talk about how to start it up again. In this article I want to turn the spotlight on you, RPS readers, and talk about a culture shift I’d like to see happen to games. A shift from knowing that things aren’t possible, to wondering if they could be. A chance to start dreaming again, to ask big questions so that people have a reason to go and find answers. I think we can do it, but you might need to forget everything you’ve ever learned about games to make it happen.

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Join The RPS Supporter Program, Fund Great Writing, Receive Free Gifts, And Satisfy Horace The Endless Bear

By RPS on March 27th, 2015.

It’s been six months since we launched the RPS Supporter Program, the method through which wonderful people help us produce words and videos about PC games. This means that, for those who paid for the six month package, your accounts will be about to expire.

This is where we try to compel you to re-subscribe, with new gifts and reminders of all we’ve accomplished together.

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Impressions: Homesick

By Alec Meer on March 27th, 2015.

Not quite walking Dear Esther, not quite Myst, Homesick‘s an extremely pretty first-person mood piece propelled by environmental puzzles. I think the unfinished version I’ve played has some big flaws, but I also think a lot of people are going to love it. My eyes certainly did.
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Bad Medicine, Good Money: Hands-On With Big Pharma

By Alec Meer on March 27th, 2015.

I’ve never much thought about what goes into the little white tablet I swallow when I’m hungover, have the sniffles or another bout of Geek’s Disease.* It’s just chalky magic, right? Well, no: it’s the result of millions of dollars, aggressive R&D, production facilities of breathtaking size and precision, ruthless marketeering and impossibly sinister downplaying and mitigation of side effects. While medicine-themed management game Big Pharma doesn’t go for pharmaceutical industry’s jugular, Goldacre-style, its pills-as-merciless-industry approach is certainly a welcome change from the bland, smiling, comfortable faces that advertising tells us medicine are all about.
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The Flare Path: Demonstrably Narcissistic

By Tim Stone on March 27th, 2015.

Five and a half of the following seven questions will be answered in today’s column:

* What happens when you pass a red signal in World of Subways 4?
* Do wargame demos work?
* Whatever happened to Command Ops?
* Just how dreamy is the Assetto Corsa Dream Pack?
* How much does my neighbour’s ex-wife make an hour?
* Was Glenn Miller’s Norseman brought down by Nazi geese?
* Daffodils? Read the rest of this entry »

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Why You (Might) Need A Decent PC Case

By Jeremy Laird on March 26th, 2015.

The ultimate in modular construction and max-flow air cooling...

Do you need a proper PC case? Not really, no. In fact, you don’t strictly need a PC case at all. A fully functional PC will actually hang together perfectly well without one. Would you appreciate one? Ah, now that’s more complicated question. I therefore present to you the proverbial good PC case, and a semi-serious dissertation that examines some of the more convincing reasons why you might want one.
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COGWATCH – 1. Crypt Of The Necrodancer

By Quintin Smith on March 26th, 2015.

Hey! It’s a new weekly video series from Quinns talking about one mechanic in one game. First up: rhythm-based movement in music-infused roguelike Crypt of the Necrodancer [official site].

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RPS Chat: Life Is Strange Mid-Season Thoughts

By Adam Smith on March 26th, 2015.

The problem with trying to review the second episode of Life is Strange [official site], Dontnod’s five-part teen drama, is that it would be largely the same as the first episode review except steeped in spoilers. That’s why our episode 2 coverage is going to be a conversation between Adam and me. Full of spoilers. Like, SWIMMING in spoilers. Hella spoilers. From the start.

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LoL: Reform, Reward and Prisoner’s Islands

By Philippa Warr on March 26th, 2015.

Note the lack of a banhammer

Over on the League of Legends dev blog, Jeffrey Lin and his colleagues on the player behaviour team have been digging into ideas like reform and punishment for players who misbehave. The series of posts has just concluded so I’m going to highlight some of the interesting snippets they shared over the last few months. Some of the concepts are familiar but I don’t think we’ve covered them on RPS before.

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Wot I Think: Pillars Of Eternity

By John Walker on March 26th, 2015.

Oh thank goodness. After 77,000 backers, $4 million raised and nearly three years in development, Obsidian’s Pillars Of Eternity [official site] is here, and it’s just stunning.

This is the RPG I’ve been craving since Planescape: Torment, the first to win my absolute love since Dragon Age: Origin. It’s a vast, deep and wonderfully written game, malleable to how you want to approach the genre, replete with companions, side-quests, an enormously involved combat system, and lasts a solid 60 hours. Here’s wot I think:

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Dote Night: LCS Is Like Holby City (And That’s Good)

By Philippa Warr on March 25th, 2015.

PASS ME MY TEEMO HAT.

Part of a miscellany of serious thoughts, animal gifs, and anecdotage from the realm of MOBAs/hero brawlers/lane-pushers/ARTS/tactical wizard-em-ups. One day Pip might even tell you the story of how she bumped into Na’Vi’s Dendi at a dessert buffet cart. THIS WEEK, however, she will be telling you why she’s preferring pro League to pro Dota and what any of that has to do with medical soap operas:

I’ve been away from my own PC for big chunks of the last couple of weeks. It’s mainly been for work reasons so in addition to not being able to play any Dota or League I’ve also been able to watch very little. The semi-absence has been irritating, in that I’ve missed gaming but it’s allowed some nebulous inklings and ideas to form into actual thoughts and opinions.

The most interesting was that while I prefer playing Dota to League, I prefer watching League to Dota.

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Citybuilder++ – Our Fave Cities Skylines Mods

By Alec Meer on March 25th, 2015.

Mirror's Edge mod = best mod

It’s crazy how big publishers seem so fearful of mods, given how they’ve a proven track record for keeping a game popular. Skyrim still generates regular news stories due to its thriving mod community, and I’m pretty sure Paradox’s rapturously-received townbuilder Cities: Skylines is going to do similar. To take a look at its Steam Workshop library of community creations is to disappear down a rabbit hole of tinkering, as hundreds of players seek to finetune the cities of their dreams. Compare this to be walled garden of SimCity and it’s clear to see why citybuilder fans have taken Skylines to heart.

Any claim to have made a definitive Best Of compilation is an insane one, given the speed at which new creations arrive, and due to the high subjectivity involved. An authetically-shaped Australian football pitch is probably a Godsend to someone, for instance, whereas something that automatically bulldozes abandoned or burned-out buildings was what made me rub my lazy hands with glee. But, for now, here are just a few selected highlights to be getting on with. Please do suggest more below.
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Wot I Think: Worlds Of Magic

By Alec Meer on March 25th, 2015.

I do like the big beetles, though

Given how spoilt for choice we are for fantasy strategy/roleplaying games, opting for Worlds of Magic [official site] over an Age of Wonders III or Endless Legend feels a bit like choosing to take home the one-eyed, geriatric dog with bladder problems instead of one of the cute puppies at the pound.

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