The Sunday Papers

The Sunday Papers: A Sunday List compiled from Monday to Saturday by RPS of the finest Monday to Saturday game-related commentary we’ve seen and then published on a Sunday – in a list – of said articles (except the Monday to Saturday articles we’ve had second thoughts about) and trying to avoid linking to some Sunday lo-fi pop-punk thing an Monday to Saturday artist mate of mine linked to on Monday to Saturday.

  • Gamasutra publish the Bioshock Postmortem. I was considering spinning this off into a full post, but haven’t got time to go through it and pull out the interesting bits and comment, but time presses. Let’s just get people chatting with one of the concluding remarks: “Our goal when we set out to make BioShock was very clear. We wanted to get to the next level, moving beyond our suite of critically acclaimed games to make a blockbuster.”
  • We’ve never linked to Tim Rogers before, I believe. Not sure why – I suspect it tends to be inflammatory. But he’s reviewing a PC-indie touchstone Cave Story here, and is in a relatively accessible form, so let’s give it a shot. “Relatively accessible” doesn’t mean “not really like how anyone else does it”, however. The contextualisation for once here is some fun and worthwhile meditations of games auterism. Yay!
  • I wasn’t at PAX but friend of RPS Andrew Mayer was, who did a presentation about When Player Feedback Backfires which Gamespot have written up. It’s essentially about knowing when to tell your audience to fuck right off.
  • We’ve linked to the Silent Amateur before. It’s a gentleman who’s playing through the series-best Hitman: Blood Money missions in the stupidest way possible. Screenshots make it, but the text shimmers too. Anyway – it’s all done now.
  • Leigh takes a break from staring longingly at the shelves of Hentai titles to take on the classic What Do Women Want In Games? title. I link because it’s fun and that – as described in the article – Leigh and I seem to be the only people in the reviewing community who genuinely love Mercenaries 2. And this needs to be said. Worth stressing I haven’t played the PC version yet, which sounds even twitchier than the pretty-fuckin’-twitchy 360 one.
  • PC advocacy malarkies! Lorne Lanning of Oddworld fame thinks that consoles are the problem for lots of really quite sensible reasons. Meanwhile PCG:US’ Editor in Chief Kristen Salvatore writes a little manifesto about how you can save the PC. Manifesto, eh? Tricky blighters.
  • Blizzard interview watch! Frank Pearce describes Blizzard’s success as “exhausting”. Which kind of got an aww! diddums! response from the assembled RPSites. Meanwhile, Jay Wilson talks Diablo III with special reference to the accusations of homosexual preference – akin to World of Warcraft’s – in the colour scheme. And, just for the record, the OMFG! Diablo3ghey!!!! debate is the most ludicrous talking point in PC gaming this year.
  • Almost not linked to for the casual use of “raping”, but Games Radar’s David Houghton explains why you’re playing the bad guys in Gears of War.
  • Simon Parkin having a big ol’ think about why, after the internet response to Guitar Praise (since we haven’t covered it: Basically, Guitar hero but with Christian Rock) Christian gaming is so Maligned. Agreeably Even-handed.
  • The Okmoniks: Scuzzy tweekfuzz fanzine punk stuff.

Failed.

34 Comments

  1. bluesapcetiger says:

    I’m getting this displayed in just plain text with none of the site’s formatting (its just a white background and plain font with no bullet points). Same problem in IE. Anyone else having trouble?

    EDIT: Looks to have been fixed now. Blame me for trying to read an article too soon after its been posted.

    Ooh, hitman: blood money. I’ve just acquired a copy of that but I’m putting off playing it until I get a new graphics card. That article shall just make the wait harder!

  2. Meat Circus says:

    2K did move beyond their suite of critically acclaimed games to make a blockbuster.

    Unfortunately, they produced a critically acclaimed but perhaps necessarily flawed blockbuster as a result.

  3. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    The link to the Leigh Alexander article seems to have gone AWOL.

  4. Kieron Gillen says:

    Fixedolio!

    KG

  5. Dinger says:

    The central thrust of Simon Parkin’s piece is based on a fundamental error:

    The word Christian is, in the strict sense, a noun.

    . In the strict sense, ‘Christian’ is an adjective, and, substantified, applies to people. That means it’s primarily an adjective and secondarily a noun, not the other way around (as in the case of abuses of the word ‘woman,’ e.g., ‘woman doctor’). As a result, we talk about “Christian doctrine”, “Christian beliefs”, “Christian practices”, “Christian countries”, and so on.

    At no point in history can you find unanimous agreement among humans as to what “Christian” meant, beyond a religious association with Jesus of Nazareth. This doesn’t bother Christians since the definition of the term is one of the matters of faith (be it “someone who professes the Niceo-Constantinopolitan Creed”, or “we who believe everything in the Bible to be the absolute truth”, or “What He Said”).

    The problem here is branding. There’s a big difference between Zoo Race and Guitar Praise. The former is made by a group of guys who thought they could make video games and make money. The latter is outright marketing to a demographic, in this case one that buys things based on the “Christian” label (to be honest, so is ZR, I suppose).

    Religion has made a major and essential contribution to the development of practically all art forms (Paramount studios existed long before Mel Gibson, and they weren’t innovators either). I don’t see why videogames should be different, and thus it is happening at some level beyond that of marketing shibboleth and lyrical phariseesm.

  6. Pavel says:

    Its too bad that in today’s world, making a blockbuster equals simplifying it.Hopefully they will try something more with BioShock 2, maybe try to deusexize it a little?

  7. Half Broken Glass says:

    Desexualize? No more Little Sisters?

  8. James G says:

    Edit: Uhhh, that was a little longer than I expected.

    Mayer has a good point, but the article seems to lack some of the nuances which should be important to the argument. (I don’t know if Mayer covered them at PAX)

    Its true that gamers don’t always know what works, and I believe that this is something Valve often highlighted as part of their development process. For example, with respect to grenades in TF2. Personally I’ve also observed that games with significant customisation options, such as say the later Worms games, are easy to break if you approach the game without considering balance.

    He also mentions not limiting your audience by developing specifically for a small group of hardcore gamers. This is certainly worth considering, especially when the improvements for unfamiliar players will have benefits for the hardcore. Improvements in the interface, that may be more easily identified in inexperienced players, will often have benefits for the more hardcore. (Although I have noticed some hardcore players becoming belligerent when their favourite technique previously buried and difficult to access due to poor interface design, suddenly becomes accessible)

    However, not every game can, or should, be designed for the widest audience. Games have a language, a series of rules that experienced players pick up on. Just as a theatre goer understands why one character doesn’t react to another’s soliloquy, gamers understand that barrels will be explosive, that you probably need to disperse the queue rather than wait in it, and that the flashy patch on that huge enemy is vulnerable. This language of games if one that can make games inaccessible to that unfamiliar player, but it also allows games to introduce ideas and concepts quickly and efficiently to the experienced player. On another level, the ‘twist’ in Bioshock contains a level of meaning that would be lost on someone who wasn’t already experienced with the tropes of gaming. Similarly, the appeal of ROM CHECK FAIL lies in our familiarity with the games it borrows from, and also experience of the 8-bit era.

    Other art-forms have the accessible and the inaccessible, so this shouldn’t be seen as anything necessarily elitist about gaming. Unfortunately gaming does have the disadvantage of not having a cheap access point, unlike film, books, etc. The cheapest current gen gaming system is the XBox 360 Arcade, which still weighs in at £159.99 RRP. This is substantially more than the £29.99 DVD player picked up in Tesco. The medium also has a greater reputation for being expensive, and targeted at a specialist audience. The Wii seems to be making good strides in finally challenging this, but I don’t know if we’ll see an influx of people to the less immediately accessible titles.

    Of course, stuck out here on the peninsula PC, we have simultaneously the most, and the least accessible gaming platform. Anyone with an internet capable PC is instantly able to access hundreds of thousands of games which will run on even the most sluggish of systems. Many of these are easily accessible, and there is enough variety to fill all tastes. Then however, Mr. Flash Addict, then hears about Spore, a game positioned to capture the interest of more ‘casual’ players. Suddenly however he has to understand system specs, and work out whether he is capable of running it, let alone something like Crysis. The number of times I’ve seen people in Game, trying to work out if there PC can play whatever game has captured their interest is uncountable, and 50% of the time the only piece of information they can provide to the sales assistant is, “its Windows.” Unfortunately this is something beyond the control of games designers, and is fundamental to the way in which the PC will sadly never be as accessible as the £29.99 DVD player.

  9. The_B says:

    OK, I fear I may be treading on dangerous ground here, but I do have a problem with Guitar Praise. Although it’s not in the game itself. It’s the marketing, with comments in the what others are saying like:

    “I just couldn’t bare the thought of some of the lyrics they would be embedding into their minds.”

    “I have advised the other parents that the guitar hero system has graphics and lyrics that are not suitable for our children.”

    Whereas fair enough these may be true statements that people are saying about GH, I feel using them in such a way as to promote their game is the wrong way to go about it. In a lot of respects it seems almost no different than, say Crytek saying “Buy Crysis because Gabe Newell steals money from children.” – Surely they can promote their game without demonizing their rivals?

  10. Dinger says:

    If you’re selling to people who already believe your rivals are the servants of Satan, you’re not demonizing them, but treating them as they really are. While you’re despoiling the Egyptians of their Gold and Silver, you might as well point out that they’re Egyptians.

  11. Kato says:

    Casual use? Really? It seems to be perfectly justified use to me–that really is what they’re doing.

  12. Alex says:

    .. Leigh and I seem to be the only people in the reviewing community who genuinely love Mercenaries 2..

    Nope, Garnett Lee of 1up really loves Mercenaries 2 too, which might not be such great critical company as Leigh might be.. ;)

  13. Alex says:

    Whereas fair enough these may be true statements that people are saying about GH, I feel using them in such a way as to promote their game is the wrong way to go about it.

    It’s their unique sellingpoint, why wouldn’t they use it? If I made a Halo-clone without blood and violence, I’d be an idiot to market it without making references to the bloody violent original.

  14. Korgan says:

    Am I alone in my desire to never hear another word about Bioshock for at least 10 years?

  15. AlexW says:

    To be fair, religion is the very source of demonising. At least they’re not saying ‘Kill the GH players!’

    Baby steps and all that.

    Great collection of articles this week, I think. I especially liked the women-targeting and Gears ones.

  16. James says:

    While I agree with a large amount of what the piece on Christian gaming is saying, I feel it’s necessary to point out that none of my negative reaction to Zoo Race was any sort of “ideological and theological issue with religious gaming”, rather that it was one of the most bewildering pieces of advertising I’ve seen, regardless of medium, and I’m sure I’m not the only one. I think that when you have a blocky horse streaking across the starry sky on the back of a rocket it may be safe to say that not all derision is due to its theological message.

  17. Gap Gen says:

    Amo amateurem.

  18. Mr Lizard says:

    The day gamers started thinking they were too good for games like Zoo Race (in which librarians are transformed into miniature animals and commanded by God himself to race, firing themselves out of cannons and strapping themselves to the back of rockets in the process) was the day videogames died.

  19. Dreamhacker says:

    My contribution on the debate of religion and PC gamers Kristen
    Salvatore: Kristen means Christian in atleast one scandinavian language.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    The day gamers started thinking they were too good for games like Zoo Race (in which librarians are transformed into miniature animals and commanded by God himself to race, firing themselves out of cannons and strapping themselves to the back of rockets in the process) was the day videogames died.

    That sounds less Christian, more sacrelicious.

  21. Kirian says:

    I run equally hot and cold on Tim Rogers. Occasionally he writes well. Occasionally he writes terribly, so I stopped trying and discarded him with a backward glance. He is horribly post-modern (I think) and attempts to be gonzo/NGJ (at least the core sentiment) without the proviso that these must first and foremost have a quality to them that would allow them to exist without their movements. See also: Despatches by Herr, a work all journalists should read in my inexpert opinion.

    Unless I am missing the point, and it has been known to happen, Rogers needs some form of self or external editing for many of his pieces. Even the ones that are good could be great if they were more focused, instead of great energy dissipated over a wide area. Still, I liked this piece and a few more recent ones I ventured into, so perhaps I should try again and stop whinnying.

    However, Alex Kierkegaard annoys me no end. Can someone explain him to me?

  22. Martin says:

    JamesG wrote:

    Games have a language, a series of rules that experienced players pick up on.

    I agree but I don’t think this is acceptable as I find it lazy for a developer to assume that a player automatically “knows” that a barrel can be explosive (or that you should smash crates in order for them to drop loot, for that matter).

    The comparison to theatre is also lacking a bit as there is no other way for the actors to convey thoughts and inner monologues. Games can introduce rules and mechanics to the player without assuming that they’ve been gaming before.

  23. BrokenSymmetry says:

    I loved this Tim Rogers review of Cave Story. I’m now reading through all his reviews in ActionButton.net’s all-time top 25 games, and I’m finding them all to be pretty interesting to read, though time-consuming.

  24. Jay says:

    Very interesting take on Gears of War.

  25. spd from Russia says:

    ah yeah, consoles are the problem! there are too many and each needs different approach. breaking up the market and forcing the developers to spend more if they go multiplatform

  26. Pidesco says:

    “Our goal when we set out to make BioShock was very clear. We wanted to get to the next level, moving beyond our suite of critically acclaimed games to make a blockbuster.”

    I bet that if System Shock 2 had been marketed in a similar way to Bioshock, it would have sold enough to be a blockbuster.

  27. Ginger Yellow says:

    I have to say, I’ve always felt the humans were the bad guys in Gears.

  28. Mo says:

    I’ve said this before, but it’s worth mentioning again: SS2 was not an accessible game by any means. Even if it had been marketed like Bioshock, it wouldn’t have picked up. Bioshock sold on hype, yes, but I suspect it also sold on word of mouth.

    SS2 wouldn’t have done the same. People would buy into the hype, sure, but upon playing the game, would realize that it has a rather counter-intuitive interface, and as a result, wouldn’t recommend it to a friend.

  29. Phil H says:

    I rented Mercenaries 2 this weekend(on the PS3 side), despite this nagging feeling that it should look better and occasionally really dumb AI, I’m having quite a fun time with it- blowing everything up, hijacking vehicles, and messing around with the goofy vehicle physics(try taking a motorcycle up and over a hill at top speed!). I have the feeling I’ll be adding it to my permanent library, but I’m undecided on which platform to get it for and just how much I’m willing to pay for it.

  30. terry says:

    I would’ve thought the Bioshock postmortem could at least contain an acknowledgement of the complete dog’s breakfast made of the last stages.

  31. brog says:

    Re: Gears of War.. it sounds like he thinks he’s really clever for having figured this out.

  32. Meat Circus says:

    Tim Rogers: full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

    His writing resembles what I imagine would be the outcome of setting off a small explosive embedded in Kieron Gillen’s brain.

  33. Björn says:

    Unless I am missing the point, and it has been known to happen, Rogers needs some form of self or external editing for many of his pieces.

    You know what Rogers really needs? A fucking readable website, something that’s not white on black text with lack of line spacing. I had to override his stylesheet immediately to make it slightly more bearable. Perhaps I’m just getting old.

  34. KingMob says:

    Tim Rogers is too cool for readability, or editing.

    Seriously though, everyone should go play Cave Story right now if you’ve never played it.