The Sunday Papers

It’s an unusual Sunday in many ways. I sit in Comrade Rossignol’s front room, belly full with the fruit of the pig with men in cars on the television. But while the situation may be unusual, I still have a familiar task ahead of me. To compile a list of some of the smarter and most enthralling links I found this week for you to read while relaxing, and trying not to link to a video of a sadly-missed San Diego revue-punk bands.



  1. Mogs says:

    GTA4 is not important to the PC. Important for Games for Windows (Live) maybe, but not to the PC.

  2. nabeel says:

    Preview was such a tease :/


  3. FhnuZoag says:

    Reading Soren Johnson’s designer notes, the thing I couldn’t stop thinking of was Alpha Centauri. Alpha Centauri is a game that in many ways was all about the story, or at least all about the text and flavour and the narrative shown by the environment. So, well, I disagree totally that story doesn’t belong in a strategy game. Heck, even Civ4 is only really fun because we have the storyline of the world in your mind.

  4. Mogs says:

    Imagine Warcraft 3 or to a lesser extent C&C without the story elements. Wouldn’t be half the games they are.

  5. Switchbreak says:

    Yeah, StarCraft and WarCraft tell stories very well through strategy games. On the other hand, if StarCraft had offered some kind of non-linear conquer the galaxy mode without a story, I would have loved it.

  6. Troy Goodfellow says:

    So, well, I disagree totally that story doesn’t belong in a strategy game. Heck, even Civ4 is only really fun because we have the storyline of the world in your mind.

    Johnson isn’t saying that story doesn’t belong in a strategy game, only that it should be in the right place. His Rise of Legends example argues that the pretty good campaign mode was shackled (and only available) by playing a series of scripted story missions. This is very different from what Big Huge Games did in Rise of Nations, and very different from the emergent stories that come from the game mechanics themselves, such as progress in a Civ or Total War game.

  7. Gap Gen says:

    FhnuZoag: The thing about SMAC was that it was very powerful at creating its own narrative. The text tided it along, but it was very sparse and rarely interfered with the game. There were no mission objectives beyond the victory conditions that are generally similar in all Civ-like TBS games.

    I disagree, too, that stories are always a bad idea – especially in WiC, which was as close to an FPS as a strategy game can get without actually having a crosshair on the screen.

  8. perilisk says:

    I always liked the story in Blizzard RTS games. I think it’s largely a question of how well it’s done. It also probably works better for games that are a linear set of missions, rather than an open-ended conquer the world game like Civ.

  9. Arathain says:

    Strategy games, and in particular good turn based strategy games are a strong medium for creating a personal, unscripted story. If a scripted story is to be added, best make sure it’s compelling and that it doesn’t interfere too much with the game letting the player act flexibly. Otherwise it’s a distraction.

  10. FhnuZoag says:

    Well, that’s how I read ‘The worst offense, however, is when a story gets stuck somewhere it really doesn’t belong. Like in a strategy game.’

    In any case, I disagree. The emergent story doesn’t come from the game mechanic itself, at least not alone. A key component is the context that shrouds the mechanics. For Civ4, if we didn’t have the names that went around each unit (like if we only had 4/city defense units instead of ‘archers’, and only had Politics 2 instead of Monotheism), then the game would not be quite so interesting.

    Civ4 does in fact have a story – the story is the history of the world, the tale that we all know of how civilisations rose and fell and so on. The game mechanics is derived from and supports the story. Those games don’t make the player try to imagine a story for themselves. Alpha Centauri is a stronger example, with its scripted interludes, and tons of text, because it’s trying to tell a story that the players don’t already know. (Also a breaking of his rule on there being not too much stuff.)

    Ok, my point might be kinda pedantic. But well, if he meant ‘no cutscenes’, or ‘no series of missions strung into a campaign’, or ‘no scripting’ (which he already had for rule 1), he should say it. Rather than disparage designers trying to tell stories in their games in general.

  11. The_B says:

    Was sexy brought back, in the end?

  12. EyeMessiah says:

    “Games launched under the Games for Windows banner are required to adhere to Vista’s system of marking everything with a Windows Experience Rating. This could be a boon: Instead of a list of requirements, a gamer would be presented with a number between 1 and 5.9, which could be easily compared with their system’s rating. They’d know, at a glance, whether their machine could handle the game in question.”

    Good luck with that!

  13. qrter says:

    I thought the “splendid-Journalist” Chris Remo missed a big, big point in his piece for PA:

    It looks like we’re at five activations per game now, up from three; that’s unlimited installs on each of five PCs, as I understand it, and a deauthorization tool is coming. Realistically, how much more do you need? Obviously, it’s not as good as “infinity installs (plus one)” but can’t we just come to terms with the fact that no amount of internet petitioning or Amazon guerrilla warfare is going to take the activation limit out of the realms of the finite?

    This has been discussed before, ofcourse – we’ve all come into contact with the peculiarities of PC gaming or should I say Windows, where an installation goes awry or Windows implodes. With a bit of bad luck you’ll need more than 5 activations, it’s in the nature of PC gaming. Most of us can deal with that, it can be annoying, but we move on – having a limit of installs just makes the whole process all the more annoying.

    The worst part – it does so completely unnecessarily. And here’s what annoyed me about Remo’s piece the most – he mentions the word “realistically” in his piece, implying that the consumer has to be realistic but nowhere does he mention that all these countermeasures don’t actually counter what they’re supposed to. Realistically, they don’t work. Realistically, they shouldn’t be there.

  14. Frank says:

    Stop trying to persuade people to love you more by hitting them a rusty pipe. Put down the pipe, and give up on DRM.

    Hehe. Good stuff

  15. Kadayi says:

    No gives a shit about GFW. MS ballsed that up a long time ago and more’s the pity that GTAIV PC is going to be lumbered with it rather than coming out via Steam…

  16. DSX says:

    Nate Ralph: “As each successive console generation provides gamers with options that are more affordable…”

    er.. perhaps Nate hasn’t seen the trend of consoles becoming more expensive. Console titles becoming twice as expensive as PC titles. Where as higher end PC hardware is becoming dramatically cheaper. PC titles are becoming cheaper as digital distro becomes more popular.

    Microsoft’s attempt to strangle PC gaming into the console mold *CAN ONLY* hurt the fundamental potential PC titles always have had over consoles. In their vision MMO’s will end up being the only PC game. Thank you for windows, but suck my balls Microsoft games.

  17. Matt says:

    Turtally awesome is RFTC, missed a chance to see them at Leeds Festival 2001 due to not knowing who they were/tiredness (was only 16 and into stuff like Deftones at the time). I suck.

  18. Azhrarn says:

    About the EVE article by Massively, CCP recently (last tuesday to be exact) deployed their StacklessIO technology to Tranquility along with 64-bit server code on selected nodes, you can read up on it in the Dev-blogs on the EVE website, but you’ll need an EVE account to do so.
    The effect was pretty impressive, Jita playable with over 1000 players in local, fleet battles up to 300 per side with only minimal server side lag, overal a massive strike against the lag in Tranquility and with the planned hardware upgrades it’ll only get better.

  19. Jason says:

    “Rocket’s from the Crypt – Born in ‘69. Miss you guys!”

    Definitely. And it’s a shame to think that there was a time when my gang would take Rocket shows for granted.
    “So what are we doing tonight?”
    “Rocket’s playing.”
    “Nah, we’ll see them next time. Let’s go drink cough syrup.”

    John Reis’ other bands, Drive Like Jehu & Hot Snakes, were pretty nifty. His current band, The Night Marchers, ain’t bad either, but don’t have the same magic for me. They’re playing in London on October 21st if you’re interested.

  20. Mike says:

    So, uh… So one of Soren’s sins:

    3. Limited play variety
    No matter how good your game, it is going to get stale after awhile.

    Um. Which part of Spore did he work on, again?

  21. john t says:


    That Star Trek video made me desperately want Different Class as Rockband DLC

  22. Mark Stephenson says:

    GTA4 was a turd on console and will be a turd on PC. The only thing remotely important about it is whether it’s a dog turd or some rare turd of a turdy creature that is extinct but may possibly be saved from DNA scapings in it’s poop.

  23. subedii says:

    I’m going to go right ahead and call that article on GTA4 on the PC rubbish. Most of the stuff he’s saying could have been applied to other “Games for Windows” ports, include DMC4, Gears of War and Mass Effect, none of which managed to “save” Games for Windows. Gears of War certainly hasn’t saved GFW Live (the article fails to make a distinction between these two aspects, but it’s very important to do so), and that was a mega hit on the 360. He also somehow believes that instead of the “arcane” system requirements we currently have GFW games all have the experience index number instead. I have yet to see that used on the back of the box of even one single GFW title to date. That’s also leaving aside the sheer variance in the numbers for these titles (Ultra heavy hitter Crysis recommends a 5.0, whilst somehow DMC4 runs FAR faster but recommends a 5.6? Those number are just plain arbitrary and don’t even give the user the benefit of knowing what the actual system requirements are should we go that path).

    Microsoft messed up the GFW Live initiative for a long long time. It’s going to take a lot more than GTA4 to make it successful, and that’s assuming that GTA4 even takes off to the developer’s expectations (which I seriously doubt it will, everyone truly interested in the series would’ve probably bought it on the consoles by now if we’re honest. What we’ve got left on the PC isn’t likely to be too big an audience by comparison). If they do things right with GTA4, then that’s a solid first step, but that’s all it is, and certainly not enough on its own to correct having run the marathon in the wrong direction since the starting shot.

    This all however, presumes one thing: That Microsoft is even interested in devoting the time and the effort necessary to get things going smoothly on the PC and make the platform a decent competitor to the consoles. Ultimately it’s something I doubt. They have no need to do so, and they have so far shown no interest in doing so. They already know that their primary games platform isn’t the PC, it’s the 360. They’ve done absolutely amazing work with Xbox Live, and did nothing short of making online connectivity a mainstay of the console market where Sega and Sony failed miserably before. Their efforts on the PC side however, I can’t call anything less than half-arsed so far. Some of the requirements specifications, like widescreen and gamepad support, were genuinely good steps towards making a better platform, but they needed to go far further than just that.

    Ultimately the gist of the article is that it’s the GFW initiative that has to save PC gaming. If that’s the case then frankly PC Gaming died a long time ago. The company that has done more to unify and push forward the PC as a games platform than anyone else isn’t Microsoft, it’s been Valve. Everything that MS tried to implement with price tags attached (not to mention deliberately hamstringing multiplayer support in what few GFW Live games there were until you paid extra for a Gold account), Valve did better, and for free. They created a massive community with easy to access friends lists and community features integrated both inside and outside their games, where MS has not even given us so much as a GFWL widget to see whether friends are online or not ( you have to be in-game to do so).

    They’ve made things free now. It’s a start. There’s some interesting games on the horizon that are going to be making use of Live (Dawn of War II in particular). I can only HOPE they don’t screw things up further from here. If they’re truly interested in doing what they say they want to do with GFW Live, it’s going to require a hell of a lot more than lip service from them from now on. At the very least they need to stop saying that Steam is “trying to do something different to what we’ve been trying to do” (nobody believed it then, still don’t believe it now) and actually treat Valve as a real competitor.

    I’m not going to hold my breath. To date MS’s actions haven’t shown very much interest in pushing this initiative where it needs to go, and if they continue to treat GFW Live as XBL’s retarded younger brother and not actually devote some real work to it, they’re never going to either.


  24. Mogs says:

    subedii, allow me to summarise your post with the following sentiment:

    Microsoft LOL!

  25. EyeMessiah says:

    GFW is the just the same old MS story:

    1) Turn up late to the “invention of the wheel party”.
    2) Be inexplicably miffed by the fact that someone already invented the wheel.
    3) Ask all the party goers if they would like to stop playing with the wheel now, because you have just invented MS Rotating Object Network (MS:RON).
    4) Be inexplicably miffed when no one wants to use MSRON, because its broken and square and costs a fortune.
    5) Use your position as market leader in other fields in a vain attempt to force people to use MSRON whether they want it or not.

    Its telling that all the gamer-led discussion about GFW isn’t along the lines of “Gee I hope GFW, gets it together because that would be so awesome”, but rather “Gee I hope GFW buggers off because its seriously in danger of sucking all over game X which I am otherwise looking forward to.”

  26. Mogs says:

    Very well-put EyeMessiah. Agreed 100%.

  27. DSX says:

    @subedii “…gamepad support, were genuinely good steps towards making a better platform”

    Disagree. It forces developers to simplify games in order to minimize the number of commands, menus and available input options. It forces them to trade off the complexity and precision a mouse and keyboard can provide for a brick with a stick.

  28. Kadayi says:

    I can only imagine that R* got tied into some GFW PC Exclusivity deal with GTAIV as a clause in the $50 million DLC deal, because there seems to be absolutely no logical reason for them to choose GFW over Steam, esp given how well their back catalog has done on Steam. Personally I’ll be buying it retail for the box & artwork, but I’m hoping that somewhere down the line it ends up on Steam as well (The Witcher was/is GFW).

  29. Darth Benedict says:

    I’ve just come up with the perfect DRM system. You put a spring loaded boxing glove into every game box. That way, everyone who buys your game will get a punch in the face and you won’t accidentally annoy any pirates.

  30. Nick says:

    “everyone truly interested in the series would’ve probably bought it on the consoles by now if we’re honest”

    Nah, not really.

  31. drewski says:

    GTA4 will sell by the bucketloads on PC, and GFW will still be a useless irrelevance that nobody cares about.

  32. Klaus says:

    Providing my PC meets the requirements, I will get GTA4.

    Perfect DRM is having the company send over armed interns to your house to verify. Nobody reads the EULA and that’s how they get you.

    I was always interested in Eve Online, but my last comp could not handle it, or anything really, and my interest has heavily waned despite getting a comp 3 or 4x better.

  33. Simon says:

    Wow, you guys went up a whole bunch in my estimation. I remember being switched onto RftC a good 15 years ago or so, after wobbling back in from the local, switching on the TV, and seeing them on TFI Friday doing Born in 69. Grabbed everything I could find of theirs the next day and been a fan ever since, although never got to see them live. Good ol’ days (sniff). Didn’t hurt that I was actually born in 69 either.

  34. araczynski says:

    good reads. i agree with mogs on top, GTA4 is yawn to me, whether on a console or the pc. i suspect most pc gamers who cared about it already played through it on one of the consoles they own.

    somehow i don’t forsee anyone rushing out to buy a second copy of the game (until its in the bargain bin).

  35. araczynski says:

    are the bold links in articles gone again? or just my side.

  36. Morph says:

    I’m honestly not Kieron pretending to be an anoymous poster, but this seems as good an opportunity as any to say I just read Phonogram: Rue Britania and it was brilliant.

  37. cyrenic says:

    GTA IV will sell ok on the PC, it won’t meet the publishers unrealistically high sales projections, piracy will be blamed, clueless game pundits will claim PC gaming is dead.

    You heard it here first. Film at 11.

  38. Chris R says:

    Sad to say it, but cyrenic is right.

    This is similar to what happened with Crytek and the first Crysis. Crytek expected X number of sales, but when everyone heard about how graphic intensive the game was, they assumed they wouldn’t be able to run it, so they didn’t purchase the game. This lead to Crytek crying about the whole deal and saying PC gaming was dead.

    The same will happen with GTA4. Not everyone that has the game for the Xbox is going to buy it for PC. I am kicking myself in the ass for getting a 360 just to play GTA4. I loved the game to bits, but I’m just pissed that I got impatient and bought a 360 to play it. I should have waited for it to come out on the PC. Oh well. But I’ve already played GTA4 and even though I know it’ll be much more awesome on the PC, I’m not going to get it for the PC… too many other games to play.

    As a side note… I haven’t turned my 360 on since GTA4 came out… crazy no? What a waste of money that was, lol.