The Sunday Papers

Gaze not into the Alt Text, for the Alt text gazes also

I went to see Opera last night. Opera! And not even Space-Opera or hiphopera. Madness. This means I’m RPS’ most cultivated member, and the man to do the Sunday task of collating a week’s worth of intelligent gaming reading into a list while trying not to link to late nineties Northern-soul-indie-pop-records I’ve just written a comic about for reasons to be disclosed.

  • Following on from the approaching Ensemble closing, Edge speak to Microsoft’s Shane Kim wherein he says that this was done purely for financial reasons, Microsoft are firmly behind PC game creation and there will be future Age games. Which I can only actually interpret as “Future Age games will be done on the cheap”.
  • Blizzardwatch! I’m not sure why Sunday Papers links to so many Blizzard interviews, but this Crispygamer’s recent chat with VP of Product Development Frank Pearce about the problems of satisfying trad Starcrafters (i.e. The Nation of South Korea) and newcomers. What most caught my eye was the writer, Billy Berghammer, who has the best name a games journalist has ever possessed. Man! We’re bloody jealous.
  • Actually, while we’re at CrispyGamer Tom Chick – which is a pretty good name too, now I come to think about it – did his top 10 tips for playing RTS games. Perhaps unsurprisingly for followers of Chick, this involves Hotkeys. If a key’s not hot, Tom doesn’t give a damn.
  • Spore malarkies! Will Wright interview-off-cuts by Lev Grossman on the internal dynamics of the Spore team. Specifically, Cute versus Science. Which sounds like a theme for an RTS if I’ve ever heard one. Meanwhile what Jim has described in the Sunday Paper document as “tech blather”.
  • A couple of MMO pieces. Firstly, Terra Nova examining Ever Quest 2. Opening quote: “As some on this list know, my research group has been working on a joint project with Sony Online Entertainment for the last two years. This collaboration has enabled our team to collect virtual world data on–as far as we know–an unprecedented scale. SOE has let us access the full data logs generated and collected by the world Everquest II.” Crikey. Lots of demographic elements to be found, clearly. Lighter reading over at PopCultureOfDestruction in their Rockstars of Warhammer feature, talking about how different personalities inside the team has been used to position the games in different ways. English posh people on drugs versus serious RvR balancing issues, basically.
  • Spearmint – Sweeping the Nation. Bottom of the MySpace player.



  1. Orange says:

    I would preferred a more scientific approach to Spore, some cuteness on the visuals is alright but they went a bit overboard.

  2. The Hammer says:

    Eeek, the Blizzard interview doesn’t have a link attached!

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    Hammer: Added.


  4. Adam says:

    Orange: I agree. I remember seeing some new visuals a year ago, and thinking that they toned down the realism quite a bit. What it tells me, is that with Spore they were more interested in getting that E rating, and attracting lots of customers, than making the best game they could. It seems that Will Wright mistakes “cute” for “fun”.
    Also, I am very afraid at their talk of a Spore franchise, which also suggests that first and foremost, Spore is a money-grabbing exercise.
    Apart from that I actually quite like the game.

  5. Esha says:

    I had no problems with Spore, really. It’s not all that different from Star Trek – in that when one tries to introduce the teachings of Science to a form of entertainment, any learning value gets twisted beyond recognition. This has pretty much been true of A Space Odyssey and every video-media form of Sci-fi since forever.

    Has there ever been a good example of a really entertaining show, movie, or game that properly incorporates current day Scientific knowledge without twisting it beyond recognition?

    Still, I look to New Scientist for my Science, such is as it should be. Love you, New Scientist. I get my fix of pseudo-Science from the Fortean Times and Science Fiction novels, which can be quite fascinating at times. I get my fix of hilarious Not Science from the video media.

    The issue here is: How do we change that which is? And should we even change it? Spore isn’t really an exception but a simple continuation of the rule. Should Science be properly incorporated into forms of video entertainment that pretend to incorporate Science? I know not.

    I don’t really have much more to add beyond that besides perhaps a quiet lament for the fate of the Age games, but I shall remember them as they were, rather than the shills they’ll likely become. That might not be the case, of course, but with the current Neo Microsoft attitude towards PC gaming… I won’t keep my hopes too high.

  6. Tom says:

    Spearmint – bit dull, some good tunes though. Just stumbled across The Black Eyes – Magic Potion. Freakin’ awesome.

  7. Preachy Preach says:

    What was the opera?

  8. The_B says:

    I wanna be. Berghammer. WHY DON’T YOU CALL MY NAME?

  9. randomnine says:

    Esha: give Planetes a shot – decent entertaining near-future hard SF, with no sound in space ;)

    Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex is quite awesomely solid on science as well, paying as much attention to sociology as fun things like robots, so check out the first series.

    Fullmetal Alchemist has several fantasy elements, but it takes the basic science of chemistry very seriously.

    Sadly it seems like decent science fiction is somewhat niche, so normal TV and film can’t justify it unless they’re going to use the necessarily huge CGI budget for massive explosions and possibly kung fu. That’s always been one of the strengths of animation, I guess… it’s easier to draw a spaceship than an office.

    Actually, come to think of it, Battlestar Galactica is pretty solid. The opening miniseries in particular is worth a look.

  10. Cunningbeef says:

    The WAR article is entirely true. I first heard about WAR in a video from some convention or other, which had an interview with Paul Barnett talking about squig herders or something. It was really early on in development but I couldn’t help but feel excited about it seeing him go on.

    He’s really the best video game PR guy I’ve ever seen, and he doesn’t even work in PR.

    Edit: Also, I’ve never even been inclined to play Warhammer or anything. The most experience I’ve had with the franchise is walking by a Games Workshop occasionally and going “hey, that’s kinda neat”. Then seeing the price tags.

  11. Pod says:

    cultivated? Like a flower patch?

  12. YggdrasilHugger says:

    SF is fiction. People just irresponsibly make up scientific knowledge, the cads. I guess that good writers, writing for adults, do try to be consistant with what is already known. Gattaca is a good example of a more adult SF movie in my opinion as it has science that you might hear about on the news and isn’t about comic book heroes or talking animals and the like.

  13. richmcc says:

    I saw an opera version of the Handmaid’s Tale once. It totally ruined post-feminist examinations of gender relations in dystopian societies for me. The opera bastard.

  14. Dinger says:

    Dang, that Everquest-Terra Nova study raises some questions.
    So there are more EQ2 players in their thirties than in their twenties: is this true in general for MMOs, or does it reflect that the Everquest-Everquest2 community is nearly ten years old, and that the “core demographic” tends to age with the game?

    Religion and Mental Illness. US EQ players are generally less religious than the US population as a whole, and have a higher incidence of mental illness.
    Does this mean that online communities provide the source of belonging that many people find in their local organized religion and a place for those who have real-world social impediments? Or is it simply a reflection of the fact, shown elsewhere in the study, that the EQ2 population as a whole is considerably better-educated and better paid, making it a demographic that is less religious and more likely to seek diagnosis for mental illness?

    Finally, geezus, look at those average playing times! 20-24 hours/week! That’s worse than television. I wonder how the demographic maps against those susceptible to addiction. It’s just too bad that Mr. Blow only gets linked to for his comments on exploiting the mechanics of addiction.

    (okay, someone on slashdot linked to “Operant Conditioning”. Mutatis mutandine, I suppose)

  15. RichPowers says:

    @Adam: EA’s made it well-known that Spore will drive a massive expansion and merchandise store. From Wikipedia:

    There will be an iTunes-style “Spore Store” built into the game, allowing players to purchase external Spore licensed merchandise, such as t-shirts, posters, and future Spore expansion packs.[72] There are also plans for the creation of a type of Spore collectible card game based on the Sporepedia cards of the creatures, buildings, vehicles, and planets that have been created by the players.[21] There are also indications of plans for the creation of customized creature figurines; some of those who designed their own creatures at E3 2006 later received 3D printed models of the creatures they created.[81] The Spore Store also allows people to put their creatures on such items as T-shirts, mugs and stickers.[82]

  16. Adam says:

    @Rich: Good god, that stuff is horrifyingly scary. I would of thought Will Wright was quite wealthy already from The Sims, and its fifty million expansion packs. I for one will not buy anything from this “Spore Store”.

  17. Noc says:

    Fullmetal Alchemist has several fantasy elements, but it takes the basic science of chemistry very seriously.


    No. The “Law of Conservation of Plot Elements” is not science.

  18. Radiant says:

    You linked to that Tom Chick piece before.

  19. Frosty840 says:

    ::Insert sad, tired repeat of now-ten-year-old rant about EA/Maxis releasing “expansion” packs that are actually “paying extra money for features deliberately left out of the main game” packs.::

    EDIT: @RichPowers’ comment

  20. Polysynchronicity says:

    Fullmetal Alchemist wouldn’t be what I called chemically accurate. But as far as I remember, it paid attention to conservation of mass and (sometimes) chemical composition – Ed listing the elements that go into a human body is what springs to mind.

    That’s ignoring the Philosopher’s Stone, with which you can pretty much do anything.

  21. kellner says:

    Esha – Read any Greg Egan? BTW, New Scientist is good, but, like all pop science never really tells the entire story with all the context and ramifications. For the real thing you need to check out the peer-reviewed journals, or at least Nature.
    As for videogames I’ve always credited my 3D visualisation abilities to TIE Fighter etc, and nothing will give you an intuitive handle on orbital dynamics like playing Elite without the autopilot.

  22. Esha says:


    I have an Egan book or two (I’ll admit though that the only one I can remember the name of is Permutation City… but, I mean… Permutation City, how could I even forget that?), but my favourite Science Fiction author is still Mr. Banks, it’s just something about the way he writes that appeals to the transhumanist in me.

    And yes, I do occasionally read Nature too. I have to admit though that even for one such as I it can sometimes be a little too heady, New Scientist just allows me to take in a bigger data-dump at once, if somewhat truncated (as you’ve pointed out there). I can usually separate the news from the science within the confines of mine own noggin, anyway.

    But yes, love Nature when I have the time to sit down and really digest it and let it percolate.

  23. Zuffox says:

    You should give the Sore Thumbs tumblelog some attention; it’s one of the best penultimate game blogs on the interweb.

    Also; please consider converting your comments to Disqus. It’ll make it much easier to follow the discussion and particular users on your blog.