The Sunday Papers


Sundays are for remembering the costumes from the night before. And were all those beers a good idea? It’s hard to say. Perhaps we can trade these thoughts for meat. Pig meat, to be precise. While the hot fat pops and sizzles, we shall browse a collection of internet wordthinks.

  • As part of Kotaku’s PC gaming week, they’ve been asking various industry types what they think the future of PC gaming holds. Riot Games’ Marc Merrill said that the capacity to respond to player feedback and change even fundamental designs as the game is played would be definitive of PC gaming: “The future of PC gaming is being responsive to players and letting them decide the direction and priorities of game development.” It’s something lots of people have been observing about online gaming for a while now. But we’re also beginning to see why that might not be such a great idea, aren’t we? Can we really afford to lose the priority status of the vision of the designer?
  • Christopher Thursten penned a cracking analysis of Metro 2033, largely by way of comparisons with Bioshock, which contains observations such as: “Near-simulation and sustained learning provide a connection to the world curiously missing from the majority of western games, and particularly Bioshock. What does it feel like to have your arm turn into a seething beehive? Apparently, it is much like shooting lightning from your fingers, or plucking a grenade out of the air with your mind, or by extension, firing a pistol or swinging a wrench. All require no more thought than a trigger squeeze.”
  • Margaret Robinson seems to be enjoying finding different, highly articulate ways to describe Minecraft. At the recent Playful event in London she used the game itself to present an explanation of what Minecraft is. Here’s another take by her. This snippet is particularly significant to my own thoughts on this kind of design: “It could be overwhelming, but the dependency structure within the game assures that it’s not. I need wood to make a crafting table, I need a table to make a pick, I need a pick to get stone, I need stone to get coal. The tech tree becomes the mission structure, as I seek out each thing to get the next, each a manageable, discrete task.”
  • Minecraft is not a 2D side-scrolling fighting game. Here is a history of 2D fighting games.
  • This is a week or so old, but I somehow missed it before. It’s Jeffrey Matulef talking about design in Assassin’s Creed and Spy Party. Matulef says: “Playing as a spy I was extremely self-conscious as every action I performed felt obvious. Adding extra stress is that you can see the sniper’s laser sight caressing the party goers. I’ve never felt the same kind of pressure in a stealth game before.”
  • Rob Fahey suggests that the real issue with California’s M-rated games law could be commercial censorship, with retail chains simply not stocking violent products, therefore destroying the boxed product market. Could be. Seems to me like that would simply usher in that purely-digital console generation a little bit faster. (And Fahey suggests that is the “real” issue, whereas I’d be inclined to suggest that the general threat of censorship to all media is probably a bigger deal.) There are other issues too.
  • The latest generation of 2D platformers is not just a burst of awkward nostalgia claims The Brain Gamer. “I say we’re witnessing an exhilarating burst of collective creativity among designers, drawing inspiration from video games’ richest mine. If you love side-scrollers, this is the best time to be a gamer since the end of the 16-bit era. We’re in the midst of a platforming renaissance, and that’s a thing to celebrate.” Bacon is also a thing to celebrate.
  • I enjoyed this piece on digital revision over on Pop Matters. “I am loath to put Portal’s new ending in the same category as “Han Shot First” and “walkie-talkies instead of guns,” but the revision comes dangerously close to the aforementioned instances of flippancy in terms of its disregard for the message found in the original version. Having Chell dragged back into the facility by an apparently new character undercuts the isolated, personal contest between Chell and GlaDOS.” The article also quotes Kieron, for some reason.
  • Speaking of men we love to hate: AskMen put Bobby Kotick in their list of most influential men 2010. It’s horrible because it’s probably true.
  • “But will it run off my USB, or does it require an external adaptor?” Japan’s latest android woman comes scrambling up the sides of the uncanny valley to give you horrendous basal-ugment feelings of unnaturalness. A real-life NPC.

Music this weekend comes from Tribe Of Astronauts’ Digital Space Birds, which I really just clicked on because of the name.

More soon.

97 Comments

  1. Metalfish says:

    A good selection this week. But I’ve just now completed Planescape for the first time and, inevitably, I’m trying to avoid gushing about the whole experience. Instead, I’ll ask a question:

    What can change the nature of a man?

    • Tei says:

      “What can change the nature of a man?”

      Thats a easy question.

      1) Our pulmonary system is poorly designed, the birds one is better. Changing our pulmonary system would allow us get incredible feats, hell.. maybe even fly using our muscular force.
      2) Immortality. Or maybe the ability to get old to a more young yourself.
      3) Better calculation of statistical odds.

      This will change the nature of men, so a new nature of men is made (with his own problems, of course).

    • stahlwerk says:

      @Tei
      1) why? Do birds fly with their lungs?
      2) what?
      3) what?

      you confuse me, but maybe that was your point all along? confusion changes the nature of a man! I’m off to work on my new problems now.

    • Jack says:

      I cannot wait until exams are over and I can answer get the time to answer that question myself.

    • Azhrarn says:

      @stahlwerk: No they don’t, but their muscles work far better because their lungs are much more efficient at extracting usable oxygen from the atmosphere than our own set of lungs are.

      The capabilities of most of our body are limited by the rate at which those parts can be supplied with oxygen, since most can’t function without it for more than a brief period of time. By making our pulmonary system more efficient we’d become far stronger, faster than we’d ever been before. Simply because we’d be removing or at least reducing a major bottleneck.

    • jalf says:

      1) why? Do birds fly with their lungs?

      No, but they’re pretty weight-constrained, so they need to be able to absorb a lot of oxygen (to fuel some pretty serious muscle activity) from fairly small compact lungs. If memory serves (And I’m a computer scientist, not a biologist, so I’m probably wrong), birds are able to absorb something like 80% of the oxygen from every breath. Humans are in the 10-15% range.

    • stahlwerk says:

      So what would happen if we gene-spliced a whale with a duck?

    • jalf says:

      You’d get a winged mammal that’s too heavy to fly, but can hold its breath for hours… I guess?

    • EdBurst says:

      Belief can change the nature of a man.
      I’m pretty sure that’s the answer that gives you the most XP.

    • Lack_26 says:

      The problem with our lungs is that we utilise the same channels to move air into and out of the lung, which quite frankly is a stupid and inefficient way for lungs to operate since it means you have to move the air in and then back out again to refresh it with new air, it also leaves a base amount of air in the lungs at all times, the Residual Volume. Birds have and anterior and posterior sacs which they use to maintain a counter-current flow at all times, regardless of whether they are inhaling or exhaling, much more efficient. Or at least I think that’s how it works, it’s been a while.

    • Dawngreeter says:

      “3) Better calculation of statistical odds. ”

      I think this should be changed to:

      3) Capability to understand exponential functions

    • DavidK says:

      I love this comment fork. Only on RPS.

    • Matthew says:

      @Metalfish: I’d like to know what mods, if any, did you use to play Torment.

  2. poop says:

    *Camera zooms in on terrifying android woman’s breasts*

    • Metalfish says:

      I spotted that too. It was pretty sloppy camera work, almost like they were trying to film one-han… …euuch.

    • Zombat says:

      I wonder if robo-housewife has a robo-vagina yet?
      I’m betting it does.

    • Skurmedel says:

      Jeff Koons meets Ghost in the Shell.

  3. Oisin says:

    Hardcore Gaming 101 is the bible of gaming. And if those lonely soles want someone to talk to just draw two eyes on your hand and develop a bi-polar disorder. It’s also a sex toy to boot.

    • Urthman says:

      Someday the robots will start drawing eyes on their hands because they’re lonely.

  4. mandrill says:

    I for one welcome our new robot overlords

  5. Lambchops says:

    Ah, good old recovery bacon. Supplement that with a bottle of Irn Bru and you’ll be ready to take on the day!

  6. frenz0rz says:

    Love that article on 2D fighting games. As a connoisseur of the Neo Geo, I think I’m the only person here who could recognise that first screenshot as Waku Waku 7. Fun little game that, but for me nothing beats Samurai Shodown 4 or The Last Blade 2. Or Art of Fighting 2. Or King of Fighters 2002. Or Garou:MotW. Christ, there was a ton of godly fighting games on that console.

    • Lord Huggington says:

      I think they made it a little easy by making it a pic with Fernandez in it. :p Waku Waku 7 is one of my favorite fighting games just for its light-hearted good timed. I’m actually surprised Hardcore Gaming went with something largely in point form rather than their typically massive multi-page beastly articles that they normally do. Still a nice trip down memory lane for fighting games though.

    • Matthew says:

      Sorry mate, but that was the most obvious Waku Waku 7 screenshot I’ve ever seen :-)

      Legendary party game, btw. Second best thing on the Neo Geo, for me (after Garou, of course – everyone must play Garou, for it is godly).

  7. Metalfish says:

    Some of the ambient stuff from Tribe of Astronauts reminds me of the Freelancer soundtrack.

    • Peanut says:

      Although I didn’t see much similarity, the Freelancer soundtrack is one of the best examples of space ambience I have ever had the pleasure of listening to. Those Tribe of Astronauts tracks were definitely up there too though.

  8. yhancik says:

    That article on Metro 2033 is full of pretty good things (on what games should be in general).

    My favourite : “It’s a game that could only have come from an eastern European development culture whose holy grail is absolute simulation as opposed to absolute cinematic integrity, where implementing ideas that a player may never experience is not a failure but the defining characteristic of interactive media”.

    “THIS”, as they say on the internets.

    I don’t see anything scary in that unsexy-nurse robot-lady. It seems to be a fashionable reaction, when exposed to a relatively realistic android / cgi character to make a shocked face and scream “oh my gawwwd uncanny valley”. A disputed theory, if I can remind you.
    There are way scarier things :p

    • Huggster says:

      I think you are wrong, it was plain disturbing!

    • yhancik says:

      This is way more disturbing : link to youtube.com :p

    • Saiko Kila says:

      Some people are disturbed sooo easily. Come on, these are just robots. Not politicians, nor priests, just fucking robots. What they could do to you? And, and I know it’s a matter of personal taste, they’re quite cute.

  9. Huggster says:

    The Metro 2033 article is spot on, and is exactly how I felt about the game.

    On robots, how many years till the first sex-bot, eh?

    • stahlwerk says:

      Considering the fact that development of such contraptions would never be admitted to officially anyway… negative 20? give or take 5 years.

    • Bob Bobson says:

      Why do you think such a thing wouldn’t be admitted to?
      What is a vibrator but a primative sex-bot? I’m not going to google for it, but I suspect you can already get a combination blow-up humanoid figure and vibrator which takes it one step further. Capitalism dictates we’ll get whatever tech level you call a “sex-bot” when it’s fairly cheap to do so.

    • .backslash says:

      Can’t link to an article about it since Spamatron is especially hungry today, but google “roxxxy truecompanion”. So yeah. I’m curious though, why do you think no one would have admitted it?

    • stahlwerk says:

      Yeah, I wasn’t quite awake when I posted that. I meant in a robotics/scientific way. But, I figure the amount of money to be made would ensure “practical applications” hitting the market rather quickly.

  10. Hippo says:

    Have they changed the Portal ending? Wow, even for Valve that is taking it a little bit too far. I mean, I’ve learned to accept that they will always ruin/change their multiplayer games through unneeded patching, so that they end up not being what you paid for but something entirely different, but changing one of the best parts of a single player game for marketing reasons? That’s a new one.

    • yhancik says:

      But an old new one, if you ask me :p

      link to rockpapershotgun.com
      link to rockpapershotgun.com

      It was rather cleverly done, if you ask me.. a creative use of their updating system, a very nerdy and playful arg-like thing. And the “ending” change itself really isn’t that drastic. As far as retcons go, it’s still pretty acceptable. Or, from the article itself “Because of their talent, Valve is able to pull this off tastefully”.
      That’s all.

    • TSA says:

      The Portal ending is worrying, yes. The original that I knew and loved is now redacted out of existence forever. The changes may be minor, but it’s important to note that they’re irreversible.

      I have a parallel problem with Left4Dead 2. I and a few friends play that game completely differently than the immature ADHD jerks found in Valve’s forums. We slowly and deliberately play the campaigns on high difficulty, as a team. That means that we have to all make time to play, and due to various circumstances we haven’t gotten very far. (We also take care not to play ahead of the others in the group, so the first playthrough is a discovery for us all.)

      Now they’ve gone and changed the campaigns to something clever with the original survivors, meaning we’ve had the privilege of a mandatory 3.5 GB (!) download completely overwriting the experience we paid for originally. We’ll never be able to see the levels as released, and don’t have a clue of why the changes are clever or what the message is.

      This needs to stop. At least give us the option to turn this stuff off.

    • AndrewC says:

      ‘redacted’.

      Thank you, that’s given me my first good chuckle of the day. Now I can face the world with a smile.

    • Tomm says:

      TSA, they haven’t changed the original L4D2 campaigns at all. They’ve merely added an extra mini-campaign, which furthers the story.

    • DrGonzo says:

      They didn’t change the ending. They simply extended it, plus it was the natural conclusion. Giant killer robots don’t generally come in a room with instructions on how to destroy them. You never escaped it was all a set up. If it wasn’t I’m going to be pretty disappointed as it means what I thought was a really well told story was actually a bit pants.

    • danw13335 says:

      DrGonzo, you seem to be jumping to a pretty big conclusion that it was all a set-up. Are you saying it was GlaDOS who set you up? I don’t see why she would let herself be destroyed, then.

      And, if you’ve watched any of the Portal 2 videos, it’s pretty clear that you did actually destroy GlaDOS, though obviously not permanently. I don’t know how they’re going to bridge the several-hundred-year gap between the two games, but I think the fact that there is a several-hundred-year gap shows that GlaDOS didn’t let you escape.

      Also, kind of related, but I was under the impression that the original ending of Portal 1 had Chell extremely injured, if not dying, since she was lying on the ground not moving after a huge explosion. I thought that she, willingly or not, had sacrificed herself to kill GlaDOS – not that she escaped (though the new ending changes that).

    • Shadram says:

      I wonder if the reaction would be different if, rather than tacking the new ending onto Portal 1, they started Portal 2 with you lying on the ground outside Aperture Science, and then had you being dragged away? Would people still call it a retcon? I didn’t see that way at all. Originally, you lie there and the screen fades to black, but then they gave you a few seconds more and you see yourself dragged away before the screen fades to black. I certainly don’t feel we “lost” anything with the change.

    • Vinraith says:

      I wonder if the reaction would be different if, rather than tacking the new ending onto Portal 1, they started Portal 2 with you lying on the ground outside Aperture Science, and then had you being dragged away?

      I know that would bother me far, far less. The tone of the ending of the first game is preserved, new action is reserved for the beginning of the second game, I have no idea why they didn’t do it that way instead.

    • lilgamefreek says:

      The ending may have been a natural conclusion to make, but it does devalue the experience a bit. It would’ve been better if the player had simply awakened to portal 2 from the original ending of portal 1, and explained the ending themselves or within portal 2, rather than changing the experience of portal 1. Originally, portal 1 was its on, self contained experience. Now it relies on portal 2 to “finish” the story.

    • Oak says:

      @DrGonzo:

      So what you mean is that they didn’t change the ending, they only changed it.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      danw13335:
      “Are you saying it was GlaDOS who set you up? I don’t see why she would let herself be destroyed, then.”

      Here’s a well-presented theory as to how it’s a set up (though I disagree):

      link to game-ism.com

      link to game-ism.com

      link to game-ism.com

  11. Xercies says:

    The Metro 2033 article is spot on about that and a lot of European games, i do feel that we should see more of them over here because i have to say there the future of gaming for me. Really bizzare and wonderful ideas, sure there usually borked and need thousands of patches but they have….a soul.

    Saying that i do think more games should have a visionary designer not a community designer. i don’t think the good future is making the game to the players. Just look at some MW2 players and there wining soemtimes. One mans beautiful cutscene is another mans skip to get to the fight, and general stuff like that. How can you tailor to the players when some players want some things and other players want other things. You need a visionary that wants his idea and then the players who like it will flock to that.

    You know the Pop maters guy is right, its so hard to find our past sometimes, sure going on blogs like this you can find thousands of games that were influential to some people. But what about the obscurer ones, my favourite game that really made me a gamer was Sky Roads. Modern people have never heard of it. We really need a game museum to basically hold onto these things. I think MMOs go with this as well…just look at Star Wars galaxy people are trying to make the game how it originally was.

  12. Alexander Norris says:

    I love Metro 2033. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a more atmospheric game; it made me explore a genuinely alien universe that made me want to learn more about it. I really hope they make a sequel that manages to somehow both deliver more of the same atmosphere and be new enough that I won’t know what’s coming.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Agreed. I thought it was a fantastic game. Yeah it was flawed, but so much more interesting than all the Halo’s and MW’s out there.

      My console gaming friend rented Metro 2033 after I recommended it. He only played about 2 hours of it then gave up. I am worried about gaming, if it’s not got space marines or something equally as bland, or levelling up, the masses don’t seem to like it. I just hope games like Metro 2033 can be made on small budgets so that they can exist with out getting massive sales figures.

  13. stahlwerk says:

    Frakking Toasters!

  14. yhancik says:

    (yes, I said “if you ask me” twice, and of course you didn’t ask me anything)

  15. the wiseass says:

    Oh, lot’s of interesting articles this week. Here are my 2 cents:

    1. I really don’t mind that they changed the ending in Portal. To be honest, I enjoyed the game and it’s ending tremendously but the whole thing about portal was that it only worked one single time. After the magic is spilled, there is really no reason to return to the game, since you know all about the story. A change in the ending might change that for the sequel and keep things fresh.

    2. Margaret Robertson wrote: “My first five minutes were the same as your first five minutes. Baffling. Underwhelming. Confusing. A brutalist lo-fi world empty of even of the rawest materials for fun.”

    I totally disagree with that since that was not my feeling as well. I never found the world to be “brutalist lo-fi” or underwhelming. And seriously, if you’re already confused by minecraft, which is not very complicated to be honest, then you might as well better stop playing PC games and stick to the consoles. But then again, I’ve played a lot of retro and indie games, maybe I’m just used to simple graphics and harsh gameplay. But I’m pretty sure minecraft is neither.

    3. Metro 2033 is a totally underrated game and it certainly deserves more praise. I think eastern games like Metro an STALKER, are far superior to most western games. Compared to Metro and STALKER, Bioshock is totally and utterly overrated.

    • TSA says:

      Re: Portal ending – Trouble is, my GF is currently playing through for the first time. She won’t – ever – have the option of experiencing the game as originally intended.

      Same problem I outline for myself wrt l4d2 above. Don’t assume everyone’s seen it.

    • Tomm says:

      But the game is for the post part exactly the same! Apart from the radios, the only addition is an extra few seconds at the end of the game where a robot carries you off.

    • danw13335 says:

      TSA – As Tomm says, they barely changed anything. Worst case scenario for a new player (in terms of changes from the original game), the radios are a fun easter egg puzzle for the player. Best case scenario, they’re just normal parts of the level and aren’t noticed at all. And the ending probably wouldn’t seem out of place either, since GlaDOS starts singing her Still Alive song right after. All the new ending really ruins is the question of whether or not there’ll be a sequel – which was hardly a big part of the original game’s atmosphere.

      I have no idea what you’re on about with L4D2 – all Valve did was add a mini-campaign and the No Mercy campaign where you can play as the original survivors. The standard L4D2 campaigns have been completely unaltered.

    • DrGonzo says:

      But, they didn’t change anything, they just extended it. If they had gone back and changed something I could understand people being miffed, but they didn’t, they just showed you what happened next.

  16. Bas says:

    Does everyone at RPS listen to shit modern “art” music? Why can’t nobody like any “normal” music?

    • Vinraith says:

      What’s the point in linking something everyone’s already heard?

    • stahlwerk says:

      What’s the point in linking something everyone’s already heard?

      T,FTFY.
      /smugdog

    • Lambchops says:

      A look at the RPS Last.Fm group

      link to last.fm

      Suggests that overall mostly “normal” music is the most listened to.

    • Lambchops says:

      Oh and link to something nobody would have heard, it’s a lovely electro pop song about w wimpy Lumberjack!:

      link to youtube.com

      That done I’m off to listen to normal music.

    • DiamondDog says:

      I’d like to know what we are defining as “normal”.

    • Lendemain says:

      @Bah

      Ohoho, you think this is art music. This is art music. Old, though.

    • Bret says:

      Talking Heads aren’t normal music? Kieron mentioned them more than once

      What a sad life you live.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I think when he said that he meant, iPod-y-Macbook-using-writing-your-screenplay-in-a-coffee-shop-music.

    • Lendemain says:

      @DrGonzo

      I would have noticed, but I was busy with the screenplay.

    • Mad Hamish says:

      Because “nomal” music is shit? Allow me to make a sweeping generalisation. People who usualy say they listen to “normal” music say crap like “oh I listen to everything” or “a bit of everything” which almost always a complete lie. What they are actually saying is they have no taste in music what so ever and they look down on people who’s taste is a bit more specialised.

  17. noobnob says:

    I’ve never seen a developer so engaged in keeping in touch with their community as Riot Games is. They’re always replying to players’ queries in their forums, not all of them, but you know they’re always reading the forums. Pretty much every employee posts there, from tech support to the “President” himself.

    With this said, I believe they know what they’re doing in terms of gathering player feedback/criticism. Some of their designers are willing to reply to players who come up with some silly ideas to say, in a subtle way, “you didn’t put enough thought in this”. They’ve made several mistakes in the design of several champions based on player feedback before, but the game overall has improved.

  18. panther says:

    Just got home, in my Kickass costume, and I am also wondering if all those beers were a good idea

  19. Jack says:

    @kobzon Well, yes, except that Minecraft doesn’t have missions. The player has to make up their own goals, so they usually set “I want to be able to craft X!” as their personal objective.

  20. kutkh says:

    I’m the author of the Metro 2033 piece – thanks very much for the plug. I’ll hopefully have another couple of essays going up this week if people are interested – this is the kick I needed to get me to finish them.

    (Also, my name is spelled Thursten.)

    • Deston says:

      I’d just like to add I thought it was an insightful, balanced and well written article, you did a really good job there dude.

      I’ll keep an eye out for your other pieces.

  21. jalf says:

    I think it’s a shame about the “new” ending to Portal too. Sure, it makes a lot more sense in the context of Portal 2, but it’s just not as good an ending, and it seems absurd that we’ll never be able to see the “true” (as in, the one the developers intended to have when they made the game) ending again. A shame, really.

    • Vinraith says:

      Much like the Plants vs. Zombies dancing zombie edit, it’s one of those things that couldn’t have happened a few years ago, before auto-patching was ubiquitous. This notion that single player games are subject to change without notice is something I’m deeply uncomfortable with, and while one can always opt out of Steam updates for a game 1) a lot of folks don’t know that and 2) before this started happening it wasn’t clear that it was necessary.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I’m gonna say it once again. That clearly was the ending the developers intended. It is the natural conclusion to the game. Either that or the worst last boss and ending to the best game I’ve ever played.

    • Vinraith says:

      You can say it all you like, some of us obviously disagree. CHanging the ending changes the tone of the entire narrative in what is, to me, a very undesirable way. Hell, it even screws up the meaning of the song. Had I known they were going to do that in advance I’d have stowed an unpatched copy to keep it from happening, but the problem with auto-patching is that you seldom get a real chance to do that.

  22. The Hammer says:

    That game-preservation piece makes a lot of sense, and says a lot I hadn’t considered before.

    Patching can be the god or devil of gaming, although I’m happier in a world where it’s the norm. A lot of released games do have crippling bugs to them (whether through developer negligence or not) and to make them better games, these flaws need to be ironed out. I don’t really think technical bugs are precious enough to be documented, but changes in design decisions – such as in the PixelJunk Eden example – could definitely be considered as something which would destroy the chance to use primary sources when archiving games.

    This is one of the less talked about problems with digital distribution systems such as Steam, and it makes me glad that I still have non-Steam versions of Half Life, Blue Shift, and Opposing Force. The author notes that developers may store previous iterations of their games internally (Blizzard do this for all their games – they often have Lost Vikings and its historical ilk playable at Blizzcon – but I’m not sure if they do the same for their WOW patches. It’d be very interesting to go back to the first retail version of Ultima Online, or Everquest…).

    Once games are hooked up to the web they’re much harder to keep static, especially in multiplayer games. It might become the case that the -last- iteration of the game becomes the relevant one to gaming historians, but that would make it extremely hard to contextualise a game like Half Life, and understand why it was such a huge thing for the medium, when we have HD reworkings of the weapons, NPCs, and sounds.

    The whole issue lies not just in the games themselves, but in their framing. As mentioned in the piece, the only truly authentic way of experiencing Ocarina again isn’t to play it on the Virtual Console, but on the N64, with the classic controller in hand. Similarly, downloading games on the PC means that you don’t get to see their boxes and manuals, which were, in a pre- widespread Internet era, an integral part of games. Monkey Island’s DRM, for example, consisted of a paper wheel. But it also had beautiful box artwork. In our house, we still have our copy of it.

    As it stands, though, the Monkey Island special editions are probably the best, Internet-based way of remaking an old game. You have the original graphics, input systems and sounds, and you have a souped-up update, but they both run side by side, seamlessly. Such a direction also serves to highlight the contrast between the old and the new. What were computers capable of then, and how did they deal with limitations? Well, in Monkey Island they did this, this and this, while nowadays, if we turn over to the new version, they do this, this and this.

    Incidentally, Black Mesa, when it comes out, might be a good example of this change in how games are made now. From what it looks like, it’s not going to be a perfect representation of Half Life at all, with edited levels, entirely new sounds and music, and a world that looks 2010 rather than 1998. It doesn’t look like a b-movie anymore. That being said, it should be a fascinating case study in a game following the same gameplay ethics and narrative strands released more than a decade apart. What priorities have changed? How are old problems readdressed? Which elements of the original game are seen as shortcomings or triumphs? And crucially: do players still like the original Half Life style of gameplay?

    It usually doesn’t serve a commercial purpose to bundle old games in with remakes; Monkey Island is a delightful exception. It would be nice to see it done more often, though.

    On a final note: finite technology and limited number of original consoles severely dampen prospects to curate ye olde games. Physical console life-span is short, so what’s still there needs to be well maintained. The old Amigas and Spectrums are only going to be supplied to gaming museum groups through the goodwill of the public who took exceptional care of them and know their cultural value – the systems which used to be in place to distribute them are now long dead. I know that there ARE archive establishments out there, but as gaming matures, it would be great to see a truly universal effort spring up.

    • The Hammer says:

      Quick add: Of course, when mentioning Black Mesa, I should also have noted how this will be one mod team’s interpretation of Valve’s first magnum opus (Yes,Valve are allowed to have more than one magnum opus!), so it should be viewed with that in mind. I still think it could be useful for analysing a general trend in FPS gaming from 1998 to 2010 or whenever the damn mod is getting released. Technical innovations such as vastly improved graphics and the inclusion of physics should definitely play a part in shaping the experience, as well as design decisions: it will be weird to play a modern game which doesn’t use the now globally accepted health-regeneration system.

      If the original creators at Valve were going to add to and edit Half Life now, what changes would they make, and would this fine-tuning be a good thing for the credibility of the game?

  23. hitnrun says:

    “It’s hard to say. Perhaps we can trade these thoughts for meat. Pig meat, to be precise. While the hot fat pops and sizzles, we shall browse a collection of internet wordthinks.”

    I just want to say…this turn of phrase…it brought a tear to my eye. Bravo, sir.

  24. hamster says:

    I played Monkey Island SE (1). Seemed like they only fixed the graphics. Some of the puzzles were fairly unintuitive (presumably the norm for old school adventure games). It was also a pain trekking back and forth between areas multiple times across the world map, and many of the destinations in the world map weren’t even marked.

    Also, the game felt (was?) rather short.

    I’d like to see something new for the adventure game genre. Probably should take a less artificial approach with the puzzles, what with the whole combining-items thing they do. How ’bout puzzles that are more physics based or any other mechanic that could be used flexibly and naturally in a large number of different scenarios? And maybe a few mechanical puzzles like those used in Samorst? (but please make them less illogical – more parts each with an obvious function).

    Along that line, mix the two together. Physics based manipulation ala Trine plus Samorst-esque puzzles means at least a variety of ways to solve puzzles.

    p.s. I’m being awfully vague here of course.

    • DrGonzo says:

      And by fixed of course you mean ruined.

    • Xercies says:

      I want puzzles like the start of Machinarium before it became a bit to much adventure game logic. The first puzzle where you create your guy and the second puzzle where you fix that lighbulb are really great…you know how to do them by the end of it and its satisfying to do them. Unfortunately they didn’t stick with this a lot of times and went with a bit to many illogical puzzles, but there were flashes of it throughout that game.

  25. sinister agent says:

    Can we really afford to lose the priority status of the vision of the designer?

    Mmm. The user-influenced design route is interesting, and there’s clearly a place for it, but I worry that… I mean it seems that …. well look, there’s no way to say this without sounding like a bit of a nob, but most people who play games, and particularly the very vocal ones who whinge at developers at the slightest provocation, are muppets. Even with the devs themselves screening out the most awful ideas, most fan bases would have every game turned into an identical clone of something else.

    But then, you do get people like Valve, who are very skilled at balancing that idiot factor with original or offbeat design. Aarggh, now I can’t decide!

    • Baines says:

      There is also hardly ever a consensus of users, other than vague ideas such as “add [X] mode”.

      Look at Sonic fandom for the nightmare scenario of a completely splintered audience, composed of very vocal fans who say that Sonic team is destroying the franchise, that everything since [X] (where [X] varies by person) has been terrible, and have ideas of how to save the franchise. But of course since they like different games, and have different visions of what “Sonic” is, their ideas are extremely different and often incompatible. And even when you’ve got two fans who agree on the basics, you can have wildly different details.

      That is all on top of the standard situation of gamers not necessarily knowing what they want.

      Personally, I think Call of Duty-style Killstreak Rewards are bad for FPS. In their best form, they are the game saying “You are doing really good, so I’ll help you do even better!”, which seems like flawed logic from the start. Of course, real world situations aren’t even the best form, and you instead get things like “You’ve ignored the game mode, camped safely and killed these guys, so I’ll kill some more guys for you!” Or for Modern Warfare, “You killed five guys by knowing where they spawned at the start of the match, so I’ll kill some more for you! Oh, wait! That was enough for the next reward, so I’ll just kill the entire enemy team for you! Oh, wait, the enemies are dying so fast to your awesome ability to push a single button that I’ll just end the game in your victory now!” (Okay, that last was slightly exaggerated, but only slightly.) Of course now there is a vocal contingent that wants kill streak rewards in everything. Even if they don’t want Modern Warfare-level abusiveness, they want some form of additional reward for killing people faster than they themselves die.

    • Dominic White says:

      The role of the designer should NEVER be understated. There’s a lot of mediocre designers out there who basically string together a series of ideas chosen by committee, but the really good ones have a clear, defined vision of how things should work.

      My current ‘play til my hands hurt’ game is Vanquish on the PS3 (also 360). Latest game by Shinji Mikami, a man who really knows his stuff – he’s responsible for Resident Evil 4 and God Hand (as reviewed by RPS’s own Rob Florence here – link to youtube.com ). And where God Hand is a game that’s just about punching people, Vanquish is a game purely about shooting robots.

      You can feel that it’s been designed around one mans vision the whole way through. The whole thing is a classic learning challenge – every level you pick up a new skill (although your character never grows much beyond ammo capacity upgrades), and it’s something you can apply to every level before and after. It’s pure, simple and has an enormously high skill cieling. My first time surviving one of the optional ‘challenge’ levels saw me beating it in 14 minutes. I considered this fairly impressive at the time. There are videos of people beating that same stage in under 120 seconds.

      It’s not a game designed for mass appeal (in fact, it’s barely selling at all), and it wasn’t designed by committee or focus groups. It’s what happens when a very clever designer takes a look at the third-person shooter as a genre, and sits down and thinks at length about how to improve it, make it faster, provide more room for player skill to shine, and how to reward good play while punishing mistakes.

      I don’t ever want to see that kind of vision become marginalized, but I feel it is.

  26. solipsistnation says:

    Wait, what? I have to play Metro 2033 again and get the nice ending. I didn’t even realize there WAS a nice ending. I guess I’m a jerk in computer games. :(

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I really enjoyed the way it didn’t signpost its “moral choices” as significant. Many of them are subtle, and a number of them aren’t even obviously choices.

  27. perilisk says:

    Re: Eurogamer article. Even the law in question has problems — unless California institutes its own ratings board, it’s ceding legal authority over what games are sold to an unaccountable, nondemocratic private organization. Plus, the law is going to be too restrictive for many parents, yet not restrictive enough for others. If they wanted to avoid the specter of censorship, they should ban sales to minors altogether. Of course, then they would have to explain why they haven’t done the same for movies and books, and the answer would be that they’re overreacting to stupid hysteria for political points.

  28. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Regarding Merrill’s prediction of player driven design I think it’s worth distinguishing between the metrics- and profit-driven social games and the public development seen in the indie community, making better games through early feedback from players and fellow developers…

    And of course Valve seems to be pretty good about balancing player opinion with its own designs.

  29. coldwave says:

    Ok, one thing that bothers me about Metro 2033.

    Taking a mag of bullets from a girl who has like 15 friendly armed men with her as a reward for saving her child?

    Sseriously, is that really such a terrible thing to do?

  30. alice says:

    Speaking of Assassin’s Creed and Spy Party, the third game in the trilogy Bloody Good Time came out this week. Will we be getting some RPS coverage?

  31. pupsikaso says:

    Why couldn’t they have just left the portal ending as is? It was obvious from the first ending that Chell survived, and that GlaDOS wasn’t completely destroyed either (still alive!). So in what way did that ending not fit with Portal 2? I just don’t see what they gained by re-doing the ending =/

    • Urthman says:

      It may seem lame now when you just say, They went back and changed the ending.

      But the day it happened? When Valve released a mysterious update to Portal saying, “changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations.” And people went back in the game and found the radios and started discussing them in the forums.

      And reading the forums in real time when someone posted, “Guys, I’m listening to the other files. I’m an amateur radio operator – they sound an awful lot like data.” And 20 minutes later, people were posting those creepy, grainy pictures that had been extracted via SSTV.

      All that was one of my coolest gaming experiences of the year. To me, the weird creepy way the game changed retroactively fit very well with the mood and story of Portal. The whole thing smelled of GladOs. To me, that is the real ending to the original Portal, and the fact that it didn’t happen until more than a year after I’d played the game is awesome. I don’t feel like they changed the game or the ending, I feel like we only just then realized there was an awesome bit to the game we hadn’t seen yet.

  32. Jack says:

    I know we’re all PC guys here, but a lot of people seem to be making a fairly obvious omission in regards to the changed portal ending: If five more seconds on the end of portal really bothers you that much, you can rent an xbox 360 and experience the untouched original as it was meant to be seen.

    I can’t imagine anyone caring enough to go to those lengths, though. I suppose it’s the principle of the thing, as if this is the first step on the slippery slope to valve making a deal to put the jonas bros. in half life 2.