The Sunday Papers

All of RPS is hungover, except for John. Man! We are bad.

An aftermath of a games journalist stag-do is never a pretty thing, clearly. So what’s best to do is to sit down and compile a list of interesting bits and bobs of articles for RPS readers to read in a similarly leisurely fashion while trying to not include a passive-aggressive linking of a song as a direct message to another of the RPS-collective. And since that’s best, that’s exactly what I’ve done.

  • Author and Futurist Bruce Sterling presented his thoughts about the future of games at the GDC in Austin. Phenomenally clever as Sterling is, we’ve got a few reservations – as Jim says, like many non-gamer Futurists are, they miss some crucial details about the form – but there’s sections which are sheer poetry and there’s one bit that had 3/4s of RPS ranting about its genius last night. But more on that anon.
  • Man Vs Horse, two non-MMO guys, decide to go off and play three MMO’s free trials to try and make some sense of this nonsense. They come back and write three articles: one about City of Heroes, one about World of Warcraft and one about Eve Online. It’s interesting in as much they aren’t completely new to the genre – they’re entering the world with their preconceptions of the form, and it’s quite fun to see how that directs their thought. It’s fun evidence that once you are a gamer, it’s hard to actually look with virginal eyes at anything – we’ve all heard stuff about almost any game that shapes our initial thoughts.
  • Crytek Producer Bernd Diemer talks about what the company has learned since Crysis and how that feeds into Warhead. We’ll try and do a Warhead Verdict next week at some point, as I believe most of us have played it.
  • Auntie Pixelante (of Mighty Jill Off) interviews Jesse venbrux. In her words: “Jesse venbrux is one of the most important game designers working right now. he continually subverts player expectations, challenging player assumptions about games. his use of persistence between games has informed my own work, and remains fairly unique in the medium. in our two-and-a-half hour chat, jesse and i talked about game design school, his work, future projects, and the game he never made: GAME OVER FOREVER.” Read it here.
  • To Alec, as decided about 3am last night stumbling through the streets of Bath: Be Aggressive – Faith No More.



  1. Dinger says:

    Bruce’s silly little thing: there’s no necessity the world will get any better.
    venbrux’s worry that game-design schools will take over is ill-founded.
    Right now, we have an industry that’s obsessed with developing content. Look at WoW – $1 Bil. + in sales every year, and most of the cash they put into the game is going into content and content control. They’re paying people to construct narratives, build models, do sound effects. And then they’re paying other people to make sure that the people who are playing are playing according to the rules. The same is true for most big-title games.

    Yes, a game design school can train people to do those things. They are Sterling’s towel-makers.

    But — and here’s where Sterling’s “ignored groups,” the griefers, farmers and metagamers, come in — humans are hard-wired for establishing social structures, making things and generating content.

    So, Sterling’s correct in implying that the “game” is bigger than the retail box, and in the intimation that, no matter how hard they try, developers will never be in control of the game. But the reason is because humans organize themselves at a much more basic level.

    Take football. What we’re doing is making the football and the uniforms, constructing the rules and training the referees, building the stadia, filling them with fans, and hiring the riot cops.
    Would it work if we just made the football?

  2. EyeMessiah says:

    Panda Bear – Take Pills

    As decided at about 3am by stay-at-homes who have never been to bath.

  3. mandrill says:

    As to football, yes it would work but there would be no money in it.

  4. Dinger says:

    The UEFA Champions League’s gross income for 2007/08 is 824.5 million Euros.
    Adidas’ net income for 2007 is 2/3ds that. Their gross is more than ten times what the CL pulls in. Nike’s numbers are even bigger. Heck, even a “niche player” in the sporting goods market, like Jarden (their “Rawlings” brand makes baseball equipment) pulls in about as much revenue as one of the largest sporting leagues out there.

    So, actually, there is big money out there, just ask the video card manufacturers.

  5. Thomas Lawrence says:

    Where’s that Spore verdict, then?

  6. Smileyfax says:

    That futurist piece by Sterling was the biggest load of pretentious crap I have ever read. While reading it, I couldn’t help but think of futurist predictions I read written decades ago: Everybody would live in plastic houses, fly their cars to work, and there would be a nuclear reactor on every street corner. The only thing in the entire article which even flirted with plausibility was the quantum computer — and I don’t know if it would take the form of a salt shaker.

  7. mandrill says:

    Ah but there is only money in it for Adidas and Nike because the rest of the infrastructure is there to push their brands. If you don’t have a football superstar who plays by the FA’s rules in a big staduim surrounded by screaming fans and riot police wearing adidas’s shirt then Adidas have no visibility (or at least a lot less visibility). And your analogy didn’t even mention shirts. If footballs were all Adidas and Nike made you can bet that their income wouldn’t be anywhere near as high. They have subsidiary markets in clothing, footwear, other sports, fashion, propping up their ‘football manufacturing’ which just wouldn’t turn as big a profit on its own.

    So my answer stands; without the huge infrastructure and supporting industries that go with professional football, making footballs would not be worth it.

    I’ve forgotten what the original point you were trying to make was. Which (upon going back and re-reading it) proves it to a certain degree. You made a football, we kicked it about abit and went off in a direction which was outside the bounds of the original discussion.

    As a point of interest does the gross income for the UEFA Champions League include the income of all the clubs and players that take part, or is that just the league itself, because that sounds like an awfully low figure if it isn’t?

  8. A-Scale says:

    A word about my experience with Warhead
    The story is much better than the original.
    The graphics are actually LESS optimized in my experience. I can play Crysis on very high on my 3.6ghz 4gigs of ram 8800gts machine, but I had to crank much of Warhead down to medium or high to get it to run above 15 fps. Boo.

  9. Groglvr says:

    my roommate got warhead so, for lack of a more interesting aa gaming option, i worked through it fri/sat (its not very long). ive got to say, im a crysis hater. i didnt understand the 10/10 ratings for crysis and now i dont understand the 9/10 ratings for warhead. theyre almost the same game. the visuals are of course fucking incredible. like the ambient occlusion is one of those graphic options that adds an enormous amount of pretty to the game. but to me, thats it. graphics. the gameplay and the story are, as bernd diemer hints at, vanilla. its so boringgg! dont developers realize this? look at halflife2. there are a bunch of different mechanics that keep levels from blending into each other. you have to use the big magnet on this level, keep off the sand the next, only drive from here to there, use the buckyballs for this, etc. whatever. level variety, sonic variety (ie guns), enemy variety = no variety in crysis/warhead.

    anyway, “lesson learned”.. i dont think theyve been to class. hey BERND! do something interesting!!
    *goes off to play more interesting than crysis free indie games*

  10. Rook says:

    The Warhead verdict better be: buy this game as it’s awesome.

  11. Dinger says:

    Sporting equipment manufacturers were making money long before professional athletes (or their bosses were). Chariot makers had a living long before the hooligans for the blue team ever raised a ruckus. So, making footballs has always been worth it, but the organizations that the football has made possible have caused its worth to increase far beyond its original value.

    My point is threefold:
    A. much of videogame design right now is vertically integrated across very different fields.
    B. concentrating on the “higher-order” stuff, like complex narratives, or social engineering, is a proposition of diminishing returns.
    C. Because humans automatically create narratives, establish social hierarchies, and make additional rules.

    It’s shown again and again, that, with a simple language (like that of The Sims), people will construct their own narrative. Throw in interaction with other players, and they develop their own social structures too (which, of course, was the problem with The Sims Online).

    Right now, the sandbox is where kids pee and cats shit.

    oh and, yeah, that’s mostly the TV rights.

  12. azwipe says:

    Be Aggressive is my favorite song (about giving a blowjob).

  13. dhex says:

    warhead is pretty snappy if you liked the original.

    if you didn’t then warhead is not going to convince you otherwise.

  14. Jocho says:

    @ Thomas Lawrence: The Spore Verdict was posted a few days ago. Scroll down a bit on the main and you should find it (dunno if you’ll have to change page yet).

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    Thomas: It’s in the sidebar in the “Our finest words” section.

    link to


  16. Mman says:

    Groglvr: “to me”

    Ever consider that might be the part of your opinion where the emphasis lies?

  17. Pace says:

    Hmm, was the Sterling bit that had 3/4 of RPS ranting the virtual banking bit? That was what caught my eye. Games as a virtual front for real-life commerce? Rather, becoming real-life commerce?

  18. subedii says:

    Crysis Warhead is Awesome.

    But having install limits, even on the Steam version? Frikkin’ ridiculous, not to mention redundant. If someone would care to explain how this kind of DRM stops piracy, I’m all ears.

    Or perhaps I should be thinking more along the lines of how these measures help tackle that “other” problem the publishers want to put a stop to: the second-hand market.

  19. shon says:

    Regarding Man vs Horse, I found it interesting how their non-mmo expectations ran smack into the limitations of MMOs. Their description of EVE mining cracked me up.

    I also think this article proves once again how important avatar construction is for new player enjoyment. They lost their screenshots of their WoW characters and I don’t think they even cared while they still knew what their CoH characters looked like.

  20. RichPowers says:

    @subedii: You’re right. This is from EA’s FAQ on “Warhead on Steam”:

    The Steam and retail versions both use SecuROM product activation online … The Steam version of Crysis Warhead has the same activation limit as the retail version of 5 activations.

    The Steam Store’s Crysis Warhead page doesn’t mention SecuROM or install limits, which is disingenuous on Valve’s part. What the hell is the point of buying games over Steam if I’m unable to download them to as many computers as I want?

    As much as I like Steam for Valve products, this, along with the Bioshock DRM fiasco and Frontlines glitches, reminds me of why I still refuse to rent third-party games from the service. Valve and the other publishers really need to get their shit together with regards to redundant DRM and quality control.

  21. weirwood says:

    If you get all excited about Sterling, you might want to read some Vernor Vinge and Charles Stross. Rainbows End and Halting State, respectively.

  22. DSX says:

    Must be a slow poke, I’m still working on Clear Sky. Warhead and Witcher Enhanced are both still in the shopping bag under my desk.

    Some mods I found that are making Clear Sky a much better game imho: a Trader fix for slightly better sell price on scavenged junk, and a “gift” to myself of the -6 rad and +6 life artifacts. What this does is essentially turn the game into a COD style health system, where I can take a few hits and not die instantly if I find cover or retreat quickly. Otherwise I was finding the game to be a series of quicksave/load screens as I was getting killed every 5 minutes.

    It’s not blatant god mode though. I still die, and I still use plenty of bandages and med kits, but it places my frustrations back into the realm of “doh shouldn’t have done that” rather then “WTF Killed me?!”

    Some misc: removal of the startup intro screens, a real guns names fix, and a scope fix that gives you limited peripheral vision around the eyepiece / ocular sight.

  23. A-Scale says:

    An additional word on Warhead after further playing- This game has terrible level design. Three times now I have been dumbfounded as to where I was supposed to go next. I have played FPS games since MOHAA, but this one really takes the cake for zany routes. Just wait until you hit the portion on a ship which requires you to apparently enter a ship, kill some dudes for no good reason, and then leave the ship the same way you came in, without giving you any indication that that is the mission.

  24. Arathain says:

    I enjoyed the MMO article. About a year ago I did a similar bit of MMO tourism- going through all the free trials and just trying stuff out. I had much the same experience as they did. City of Heroes spoiled WoW for me in the same way- character customisation, FX laden, kinetic combat, feeling like a real hero. EVE showed its enormous potential, but was a bit too daunting for my life schedule.

    I surprised myself by ending up subscribed to City of Heroes/Villains, and I keep coming back to it. I do see complaints about low server populations, but there are several US servers (Freedom and Virtue in particular) with tons of people, and little trouble finding groups.

    I enjoyed the comments, too. The advocates always show up and try to gloss over the faults, and boy do all of those MMOs have faults.

  25. Mman says:

    “without giving you any indication that that is the mission.”

    Actually it does; there’s a bug that makes the game not give out missions sometimes; I had it in the second level, as there was only one path to follow at the time it didn’t take a genius to work out the route, but it could be bad on one of the more complex missions.

    From what I’ve played so far (and everything I’ve read and seen suggests that it does not go downhill at all), this is shaping up to be my “episodes” of this year, in terms of taking an already good formula and refining it.

  26. itsallcrap says:

    Be Aggressive is a brilliant track.

    What’s the story there, though?

  27. phuzz says:

    I enjoyed that Man vs Horse thing, too many reviews of MMOs are either pitched at someone who’s played WoW to death, or at people who need the acronym MMO explained. This was a comfortable middle ground.
    I kind of agreed with their opinion of Eve (not played the other two), just by being a space MMO, it gets my interest, and while the complete lack of user friendlyness should be a turn off, it really just makes me want to find out how it all works.
    At the end of the day it’s effectively having to buy the game again every month that really puts me off MMOs (although obviously I understand why they have to charge subscriptions).