The Sunday Papers


Sundays are for thought. For rumination, cogitation, cerebration, introspection, meditation, reflection, ideation, speculation, theorization, and – in some unlikely event – understanding. The Sunday Papers are a kind of fuel for all these processes.

  • For rich thoughtfood, you might want to turn your attention to mod maestro Robert Yang’s epic series The Philosophy Of Game Design, which he has recently completed over on The Escapist. In the course of this epic he examines what makes a “good” game, and what the relationship between games and thought, via the lens of classic philosophy, might be. He concludes: “This, I think, is the hardest question facing videogame design today, that no one wants to bring up: What damage is being done by videogames, and what is the designer’s responsibility to mitigate that damage? How are today’s videogames shaping thought?” The first part is here, then two, three, and four.
  • Ooh, mild controversy! Speaking at the London Games Conference, BigPoint CEO Heiko Hubertz said: “If you look at a game like Star Wars from EA and BioWare, they estimated a development budget of more than $100 million. This is an online game for many million of subscribers, so a big publisher does not understand that a subscription model is not the future. With micro-transactions and longer lifetime maybe I see a chance for this game but I don’t think that EA or BioWare will be profitable with this game. Ever.” EA and Bioware will have something to say about that, I suspect, but the man also has a point. The market has changed, even if people don’t want to believe that free-to-play is a profitable model. It absolutely is, and the “oh that game has gone free-to-play because it is failing” is now only half true. That game has gone free-to-play because WoW has all the subs-paying audience, and Dungeons & Dragons Online is printing money.
  • Someone else with something to say about commercial models in games is PopCap founder John Vechey, who talks about social gaming’s relevance to PopCap’s titles over on GameSetWatch. Choice quote: “We have Bejeweled Blitz on Facebook… But we’re looking at all of our other games across all of our platforms and they could made better with social relevance. And it’s not that every game would be FarmVille. I’d probably kill myself and stop playing games.” I think I will keep playing games after I am dead, if that’s cool.
  • Kotaku’s The Many, Many Deaths Of PC Gaming. Moderately amusing, and actually a good reminder of what has happened in the past decade.
  • Rick Dakan has a few words to say about New Vegas’ two prostitution plots in Sex Workers and Sex Slavery in ‘Fallout: New Vegas’: “I think we’ve about gotten to a place where sexual relationships in video games can be interesting, believable, and not simply puerile big-boob-athons. The latter still exist in droves of course, but I’ve seen realistic and even moving tales of sex and love told in games like Dragon Age and Mass Effect and probably in some non-Bioware games too. However, I don’t recall playing another game that’s delved as deeply into or explored the different sides of prostitution the way that Fallout: New Vegas does.” What’s interesting, says, Dakan is the way the game handles both the lighter and darker side of this subject, leaving the morality in your hands.
  • Bit-tech take some time to argue that stealth games are dying. Did you even notice? No? That’ll be because they are stealth games… sorry. Worth a read, anyway. While you’re over there, those Bit-tech boys point a sceptical pair of eyeballs at 3D gaming, too.
  • Cheating in games seems to have caught the limelight a little in this past month. Josh Bycer spends some time examining the varying degrees of cheating in games. He breaks it down to four categories and, I think, misses out a good deal of what is interesting about cheating. Hmm! Ideas for an RPS Op Ed brewing… Hold that thought.
  • Unrelated to gaming, but nevertheless sounding like the basis for a French adventure game, Kieron lobbed this over during the week: the “true” and by that we mean real, if not some kind of complex hysteria/hoax, story of the lampshade that drives its owners mad. Actually pretty grisly once you start looking at the details.
  • Inevitable: Augmented reality tattoos. How long before tattoos that are somehow games? And in writing that I realise that they must already be, I just don’t know about it.

Right, I’m off to sit by an open fire and tell tales of when I was a lad, back when TV theme tunes sound a bit more like this awesome little collection of spookular electronic music by Pye Corner Audio Transcription Services. Beautiful stuff.

83 Comments

  1. Metalfish says:

    I remember one of those lampshades from my GCSE history book. It was not as disturbing as the enormous pile of eyeglasses on the adjacent page.

    • qrter says:

      One of the most shocking ‘death camp pictures’ I ever saw was a simple black and white photo of a large basin filled with a large mountain of discarded marriage rings.

      I think it hit me even harder because it took me a minute to process what it was I was actually looking at.

  2. Evil otto says:

    sundays are for waking up at twelve o’ clock and thinking? Shall I breakfast or lunch now?

  3. Sparvy says:

    So is stealth the prog rock of gaming? Everyone says they are a fan of “Dark Side of the Moon” but it was definitely a genre of its time. And that time was decades ago.

    • EALouise says:

      That’s a very good analogy. The original Splinter Cell was very much a product of it’s time; from what I remember, it basically came about because real-time lighting and shadowing was just becoming possible [citation needed].

    • Evil otto says:

      But Splinter Cell is still an enjoyable game. I think genres on the pc are immortal, simply because there are so much independent developers.

    • pagad says:

      ‘cept prog rock never died, it just disappeared from the public eye.

      Stealthily.

    • Rii says:

      Sifn’t mention Goldeneye 007 in any account of stealth gaming.

    • Xercies says:

      I think prog rock or prog rock like music is coming back a bit in vogue in peoples various albums. I know the new music hipsters like to use the style in there albums.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Yeah, your right but prog rock was mostly unnecessary. So music absorbed the good ideas from prog and it never really went away. Stealth deserves to live on though I think.

    • IvanHoeHo says:

      Wait, so I’m 23 but I listen to Dark Side of the Moon very other week. Does that mean I should stab myself in the ear and listen to [whatever that’s good now]?

  4. Mr Chug says:

    The stealth article is interesting- I can’t imagine stealth games will ever die, but it makes a good point about FPS shootybangs drawing far bigger crowds. I’ve never really cared for stealth games unless they’re near-perfect in execution, but Batman: AA deserves a mention it doesn’t receive in the article for having a smart way of dividing fisticuff scenes with stealth scenes by simply introducing guns that can completely tear you apart if you’re not careful.

  5. Bob Bobson says:

    I read about subdermal watches in Cyberpunk: 2020 back in the 80s and I’m constantly amazed they don’t yet exist. Maybe these tattoos are a stepping point in that direction.

    • Starky says:

      It’s not 2020 yet though…

      :)

    • Jack says:

      See, the sticking point for animated tattoos is that they’re on your skin. Either you actually make the skin pores writhe around horrifically in some insane genetic science, or you have to filter it through a computer that does the animating.

      Maybe if everyone in the world started wearing glasses with tiny computers in them…

  6. Tei says:

    Moving on to #2 we have “hacking”. For this entry hacking will be defined as:

    The player using an outside program to gain an advantage in a game.

    Commonly seen in multi player games hackers can ruin a legitimate player’s fun.

    WRONG

    The people that use hacks is script kiddie. Hackers is the people that make hacks.

    If you use drugs, you are not a chemical doctor or a drugmaker.

    I know is a common error, and because is a common error make me more angry :-(

    • Dreamhacker says:

      NOOOOO!

      Hackers are just programmers. Crackers are the people that makes the EULA-breaking, cheat-enabling and really darn cool stuff.

    • Clovis says:

      I thought “crackers” were people who broke DRM.

    • Pupsikaso says:

      I thought “crackers” were white people. Like me.

    • sinister agent says:

      No, you’re thinking of Robbie Coltrane.

    • Deston says:

      @Dreamhacker – Tei didn’t say that hackers weren’t programmers. He was pointing out a distinction between people finding vulnerabilities and coding exploits, and those who just re-use them without caring to learn about how they actually work.

      I agree with what you stated about crackers, but you’re not debating the same point. “Cracker” is a term for a subset of hackers (also, whitey, and some sort of crunchy biscuit thing) often specialising today in reverse engineering and breaking DRM systems.. But regardless of their typical activities and intents, they are hugely talented and knowledgeable in a way that “script kiddies” simply are not.

      Anyway, this is a debate of semantics that has plagued the InfoSec world for years. Ultimately – seeking to actually understand and create workarounds within a system of complex logical rules entails a vastly different mindset than, for example, blindly running Metasploit to autoroot a misconfigured web server and scrawl illiterate bollocks all over it, or using a pre-compiled binary to unlock a bunch of game achievements for misguided bragging rights. I believe that’s Tei’s point, and he illustrated it without using a car-based analogy too. :)

    • ix says:

      It’s not really an error, since it’s pretty much generally accepted usage now. Luckily, language is very flexible and words can have several, sometimes incompatible meanings. We just have to use context to figure out which is which.

      Does freak people out sometimes when I describe myself as a hacker though. Also telegraphs a certain sense elitism, I must say.

    • Bret says:

      Besides, Evil isn’t purely a distancing method. Read a lot of theology, philosophy, and the like mentioning heavily the potential for evil inherent in the human condition.

      It doesn’t mean you couldn’t ever do it. It means that if you do act in that manner, you have crossed a line.

    • Bret says:

      Ah. Reply system failure. Big surprise.

      Oh well.

  7. the wiseass says:

    Came for the articles, stayed for the music. “We have visitors” is an awesome tune.

    • Caiman says:

      That stuff is almost brilliant, but not quite. I love the idea, but they way overdo “the effect” on some tracks. Electronic Rhythm Track Three is fantastic. Theme Number Four is borderline unlistenable.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Some great tracks on there, could listen to We Have Visitors all day. Made me think of a John Carpenter soundtrack. Most probably because just last week Resident Advisor got Alan Howarth to make a mix of tracks from his films.

      Had it on repeat for most of the week. Highly recommended if you’re a fan of his films.

      link to residentadvisor.net

      link to io9.com

      io9’s article has a link to it if you don’t want to register with RA to get it.

    • the wiseass says:

      @DiamondDog: This is good stuff indeed. Dark Star FTW :)

    • DiamondDog says:

      Everyone forgets that masterpiece.

  8. Huggster says:

    Okay, so now I am totally creeped out by the light shade story.
    I though Ian Banks “Use of Weapons” was chilling enough, but I was wrong.

    • ix says:

      I thought it was interesting how he eventually managed to get away from the whole “evil” aspect of it and it morphed more to sadness. We call the holocaust evil for a good reason, of course, but at the same time, I feel “evil” is a word you use for something you can never imagine doing. And we know from experience that is not how it played out. So many were complicit, dehumanizing them is just another way of sticking your head in the sand.

      This is somewhat harsh reading for a lazy sunday afternoon, though. I think I need a drink.

    • sinister agent says:

      So many were complicit, dehumanizing them is just another way of sticking your head in the sand.

      This is exactly right. It’s why people call men like Hitler and Stalin ‘monsters’, and dismiss things as simply ‘evil’; it’s an entirely self-serving way to distance the speaker from the act in question, and make themselves feel better by comparison. Much easier than to actually consider how and why such things come about, and of course, much more likely to ultimately mean that the same thing ends up happening again.

      But anyway. Games, eh? What’s that all about?

    • jeremypeel says:

      Yeah, definitely on to something there. Evil as a concept is ultimate, ancient, and implies no reason other than in and of itself. The Holocaust was founded on a twisted kind of reason, sustained and justified through the usual processes of logic. Evil implies that we couldn’t possibly be complicit in such a thing, because we all believe that, on some base level, we are Good people.

      On the subject of the article: I feel perturbed enough having read about the lamp that I can easily imagine losing it, owning an object like that.

    • Huggster says:

      Yeah I can totally see how it would drive you a bit crazy. Its like an M R James story but far more morbid.
      I many ways something like this, tied with madness, is far scarier than anything HP Lovecraft ever penned.
      So, Amnesia was pretty disturbing, but actually seeing the “devices” in London or York is even more chilling.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Right. But what possible reason is there for making a lampshade from human flesh, except ‘evil’? Is it not just the term we use when malicious acts are committed purely for malice’ sake?

    • sinister agent says:

      @Lilliput King

      It can be used to describe malice for its own sake, certainly, and that’s the closest I think one can get to a working definition (indeed, anecdotally, I’ve struggled in vain to find a way to describe one person’s conduct as anything other than evil, precisely because said conduct was malice for its own sake, benefitting no-one).

      But it seems to me it’s most often used to describe anything bad (or simply disagreeable to whoever does the desribing) that people do, whatever their reasons. Classic case – anything whatsoever to do with paedophilia, or ‘insurgents’ in countries we’ve bomb into the dust.

  9. Xercies says:

    Heiko Huberz is right until you look at games like EVE Online and the like, sure people who want to make wow clones have the wrong idea about still using subscriptions. But the subscription model still isn’t dead yet and still really hasn’t been utilised to its strongest degree. If a publisher wanted to make a game where they only need say 100,000 subs to survive instead of always wanting the millions of warcraft they could still have subs and survive.

    I always have been thinking that the stealth game has been dead for awhile now, its a shame since my most favourite games are stealth games. They seem to embody the great game aspect of them…in showing different ways to get pass someone and you having to choose which way. Thats why i think deus ex and maybe crysis a little are more stealth games then they are actiony shooters.

    That Human Lampshade is very interesting and I wouldn’t mind seeking out the book to be honest. I always love those kind of weird stories.

    • Delusibeta says:

      RE: MMO subscriptions. Don’t forget City of Heroes, which seem to have no sign of dropping the subscription model. Plus, I’d argue that LotRO going free to play was less to do with lack of subscribers and more to do with the mad success of D&DO going free to play.

      Can’t help but feel that Bigpoint is just whinging.

      (Heh, captcha: SWtR)

    • Nethlem says:

      I don’t even know why this guys opinion is considered that important. Bigpoint hasn’t done anything besides crappy casual browser games, it’s like asking zygia about the future of hardcore games…. Of course he will claim that F2P is the future, but the actual market out there shows evidence quite contrary to his statement.

      I would argue that there are more subscription based MMO’s out there that work and pull a profit then there are bad examples like APB. Even Starwars galaxies which has been considered a pretty crappy MMO by MMO standards is still around and i guess they have been making profits for quite a while now.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It all depends on what standards you apply. The games you mention may be “successful” by their own standards, but looking at the marketplace as a whole, their shares count in single percentages.

    • Nethlem says:

      If you go by marketshares then the huge majority of games are a “failure”.
      Is an FPS game automaticly an failure if it can’t top MW2?
      Is an RTS game automaticly an failure if it can’t tiP SC2?
      So why is every MMO that can’t top WoW considered a failure?

      Marketshare isn’t everything and shouldn’t be the meassure of success, profitability should be the meassure of success. This pure focus on marketshares is just another bean-counter trait that shouldn’t belong to gaming as it ultimatley hampers innovative progress.

    • bob_d says:

      Surviving on 100K subscribers requires a relatively cheap (for an MMO) game, but it’s also a fairly unachievable level of success these days – you really have to come up with something new (that carves out its own niche) and engaging to reach that level.
      On the other hand, free-to-play may be reaching its saturation point, which means all free-to-play games are going to see a hit in numbers. With a subscription-based MMO, the time and money already invested in a game are factors that encourage people to keep playing it. A free MMO has only the time invested – if your friends are playing another game, the barrier to switching games just isn’t there like it is with subscription games; it doesn’t cost players anything to just drop the game they’re playing and pick up a new one. The player base is more fickle (and therefore less likely to get so far into a game that they’ll stat spending money on it).

    • bob_d says:

      @ Nethlem: Only players on gaming sites talk about games being failures because of market share in this way. “Bean counters” don’t calculate success this way. They calculate success based on the profit made, and that’s where the actual problem lies. Dumb investors saw dollar signs when WoW hit it big and said, “We, too, can make that kind of profit if we only put up that kind of money to make an MMO.” The result has been a string of failed MMOs that spent in the $100 million range that didn’t make their money back. That’s failure. There are a lot of MMOs you didn’t even hear about because the companies collapsed (after spending many tens of millions of dollars) before they were even released. Some MMOs made back their investment but couldn’t sustain enough income to support their development staff. In simple terms of money lost and developers being laid off, (western) MMOs have been a disaster overall.

  10. poop says:

    the article on stealthgames had me thinking that it was pretty close to the “death” of adventure games in that the target audience is actually pretty big and hasn’t gone away but the audience for shooters is bigger so developers will just follow the money.

    still makes me pretty angry seing as how games like Blood Money actually sold pretty well but people (including the developers :/ ) decided to not follow it in favor of making another fucking gears clone.

  11. poop says:

    a inanimate really irritates a writer and occasionally drives people insane? sounds like the next Stephen King bestseller to me

  12. Jimbo says:

    F2P may be the future, but only from the perspective of companies that can’t compete with Blizzard. Truth is, there’s an audience for both payment models and there probably always will be – and I doubt the total F2P dollars will come close to the total Subscription dollars anytime soon.

    The F2P model was viable the whole time, it just took a while for a lot of companies to realise that they simply weren’t good enough to compete with Blizzard in the (higher stakes) subscription side of the market, and needed to look for easier pickings elsewhere.

    If anybody does have a chance of existing profitably alongside WoW (nobody needs to be a ‘WoW Killer’ to be successful) then it’s Bioware with EA’s marketing muscle and the Star Wars license. If they do get it out the door for $100M (which seems low to me) then I think they have every chance of being profitable, and I don’t really see why they’d need ‘many million’ subscribers to do it either. Three million unit sales and one million subscribers ought to get them somewhere handy to breaking even in the first year. I’m not saying they’ll *definitely* achieve that (the subscription market definitely has higher stakes and higher risk), but they aren’t unreasonable numbers to be aiming for.

    I don’t think they’re doomed to failure just because they decided to make a subscription game and throw a lot of money at it. If it turns out good then they’ll be fine. If they pass the intial taste test with gamers then they’ll go on to make stacks of money. If it doesn’t turn out so great then they can make it F2P after 6-12 months and limit the damage and/or still make money.

    • Rii says:

      The article neglects to mention that $100m is merely TOR’s voiceover budget. > >

    • colganc says:

      Initial purchase income: 3,000,000 * 50 = 150,000,000

      Subscription income: 1,000,000 * 12 * 15 = 180,000,000

      Combined: 150,000,000 + 180,000,000 = 330,000,000

      That doesn’t take into account the first year operating cost of the infrastructure and the costs of the initial purchase (marketing, logisitics, blah blah blah). In short, you are way off.

    • Lukasz says:

      Initial income is not 50 dollars.

      for that level the game would have cost i think around 200-300 bucks.

    • bob_d says:

      Your sales and subscriber numbers are absurdly optimistic. Three million sales is a monster hit for a PC-only release (although that’s why they’re now moving towards console releases), and most subscribers drop MMOs after about a month. If the advance word about the game is true, the game play is lacking. People aren’t going to buy and stick with an MMO because it has voice acting. The fact that it’s fully voiced means that content expansions are going to be slim and long in coming as well, so retaining players is going to be difficult. The most important thing you missed though was the advertising budget; that can be greater than the development costs, even (especially) with AAA games (the more money spent on marketing, the higher the sales; if you’ve already spent over $100M, your marketing costs are going to have to be huge.) Add another $100 million in marketing costs (at least). Seriously. It’s not looking nearly so rosy now, is it?
      Any game that assumes it’s going to have run-away sales numbers in order to justify its budget is in trouble. Hellgate: London and APB learned that the hard way.

      @ colganc: Your numbers are off, too, actually. Boxed copies are going to be important, so over half the cost of game goes to retailers and distribution issues (even direct, digital sales won’t bring in the full price to the publisher). Some (much smaller) portion of the $15 a month is going to credit card processing, etc. If 3 million people did buy the game, customer service and operating costs are going to be substantial. Plus the nature of the content means you’re going to need a huge live team to keep pumping out content; that ‘s going to be costly. So even with unrealistic sales & subscription numbers, a sustainable profit isn’t guaranteed.

    • Jimbo says:

      Like I said, I think $100m is low anyway even for development, but that’s the number the guy pitched. As for my fag packet estimate, I allowed $20 income per sale ($60m) and then a few bucks per subscription after running costs. My point was you do not need ‘many millions’ of subscribers for this project to stack up at $100m.

      TBH, I don’t think the outcome changes a great deal whether you allow $100m or double it or treble it. I suspect it will either fall a long way short or easily surpass it. If it gets to $100m, the chances are it will have enough going for it to only be a matter of time before it surpasses whatever the budget may be.

      As for my numbers, I don’t think 3 million sales and a million subs are *that* unimaginable, given the license and the amount of marketing they will surely throw at it (obviously I’m giving the benefit of the doubt and assuming the game will be good – if it isn’t then it’ll tank regardless). I think this has broader appeal than SC2 and they hit those sales number. The Star Wars brand still has a ridiculous amount of pull (just look at how many copies the mediocre Force Unleashed sold). Being an MMO should prevent it being pirated to death.

      They certainly aren’t “counting on having WoW-level sales” as you suggest lower down. WoW’s success makes any numbers being thrown about here look like chump change.

    • bob_d says:

      @ Jimbo(2): Your point about MMOs being able to generate large sums of money with relatively few sales is very true; that’s the fundamental appeal of MMOs to game companies. However, much more cheaply made MMOs have had a hard time getting the subscriber numbers they need to survive, and it’s getting worse. It’s also true, “The Force Unleashed” sold very well and eventually reached six million sales, but the problem is that those sales were spread across the following platforms: Xbox360, PS3, PS2, PSP, Wii, DS, iPhone, N-Gage, mobile phone, Windows and Mac (whew!), which means it was essentially three or four completely different games that collectively had those numbers. (If SWTOR comes out on multiple platforms, it’ll have a much easier time of hitting the sales targets needed to be successful.) For comparison though, Warcraft III alone had over 4.5 million PC sales. SC2 has had a lot of sales, but it’s a sequel to one of the top-5 best selling PC games of all time, and sequels have consistent sales (i.e. usually higher than the original); games using the same IP aren’t so predictable. Considering this game will be the most expensive MMO (at least upon its release), with the most expensive localization costs, the most expensive content expansions and a substantial live team, it’s going to need to have short-term sales more in line with WoW than any other MMO. (Long term, I don’t see the game growing anything like WoW did, in part because of the difficulties in content expansion.) A lot depends on how many platforms SWTOR comes out on – 3 million sales is huge for PC-only. If the game ends up costing $300M, it’ll have to hold on for a quite a while to just break even, assuming its successful.
      The real issue, however, is who the audience is. (I.e. is there a big enough audience to make this a success?) Is there a huge group of Star Wars fans who would like to play an MMO but aren’t, currently? Are there millions of WoW players who will abandon that for a less-feature-rich MMO just because it’s Star Wars? The thing about MMOs is that the more time people invest in a game, the less likely they are to leave it (essentially the opposite dynamic of single-player games, where people play through content and then move on to similar games if they really liked it). If they’re counting on capturing a certain percent of WoW players, they could easily be disappointed.

  13. pkt-zer0 says:

    The cheating article was pretty bad. Factually incorrect, generally clueless, and with a bunch of typos and grammatical errors.

    However, there’s been some fairly interesting cheat-related happenings lately:
    Blood Bowl determines dice rolls client-side, which is a rather obvious and large security hole, as it lets players predict future dice rolls. The solution would be simple: calculate dice rolls server-side, like any sensibly written application would. The third party hacks exploiting this flaw have remained private, though, and so Cyanide has done nothing to address this issue (much like the rest of the problems with the game’s online part). One of the modders, however, has now decided to release a public hack, which seems to have given the developers sufficient motivation to finally fix this glaring error. Obviously, this could screw with the multiplayer community a bit until it gets patched.

    Do the ends justify the means? Does something like “ethical hacking” exist for games as well?

    • DrGonzo says:

      Hacking is seen in a ridiculous light in our society though. It can be pretty terrible and at times and cost people a lot of money, but that’s all it is – money. It should go alongside theft as a pretty minor crime, no one gets hurt after all.

    • Bret says:

      Odd definition of nobody gets hurt there, Chief.

      Ever read “Going Postal” by Sir Terry Pratchett?

      Con man gets his crimes read to him in fractions of lives destroyed.

      Theft isn’t the same as killing millions and using the flesh for lamps, but it still can be damn bad.

      I mean, “Just money” is how you remain solvent in society, and even stealing from megacorps rather than ordinary individuals can lead to increased costs, lower quality less risky products, layoffs, and all kinds of unpleasantness.

      There are more important things than money, true, but one of them is not being a rat bastard to your fellow man, and most theft fails that little test.

  14. Evo says:

    I think that many people had a negative perception of free-to-play games, viewing them as lower quality than subs-based games. Turbine going free-to-play with LOTRO and D&D has changed that perception, and new subs-based games will have a harder time being successful because they will be judged against the likes of LOTRO, which is obviously a high quality game.

    If SWTOR cost $100 million, I don’t see any reason why it won’t be profitable, even in the first year. $100 million isn’t an unheard of sum in the industry, and both the Star Wars and Bioware brands will sell units. SWTOR is probably one of the few games that can succeed using the traditional subs model at the moment.

    • bob_d says:

      $100 million (at least) so far. You’ve got advertising (another $100 million) and operating costs (tens of millions of dollars) on top of the final development cost. Whatever the final cost ends up being, they’re counting on having WoW-level sales. (No other MMO comes close.) That’s a scary assumption.
      Just because a game sold a certain number of copies doesn’t mean other games can hit the same level of success. In fact, the odds are low. The odds are, indeed, improved by having a beloved IP and an anticipated game, but plenty of games with those things have failed, too.
      The fact that it’s fully voice acted tells me that people will likely burn through the content in a matter of months. In addition, localization costs, normally quite low, will also be huge.

  15. jaheira says:

    Debussy rocks.

  16. SirKicksalot says:

    I was expecting a thorough investigation of 3D gaming in the Bit-tech article, not just one game that doesn’t work properly. “We were careful to choose a game that was rated by Nvidia as having ‘Excellent’ compatibility” – why not one that was rated as 3D-Ready too? “Excellent” is the second rating on Nvidia’s scale, and most of them provide an excellent experience if you tweak them a bit according to the Nvidia 3D guide. I’m quite sure they didn’t bother to modify convergence and frustum, only depth. Those settings help a lot regarding headaches, eye strain and (obviously) the quality of the 3D effect. And the glasses come with three nose pads, so I hope everybody tried them all before rating the physical comfort factor :)

    I own the same Acer monitor they do. The Nvidia 3D-Ready games work perfectly. A ton of other games like Torchlight, Dark Messiah, Fallout and Empire TW are incredible too. It breathes new life into many games I already played. Words can’t describe the titanic battles of Empire or Medieval 2 in 3D… In many games – like Crysis and GRID – you have to sacrifice some settings and carefully tweak the 3D, but I think it’s a fair trade-off.
    Nvidia does their best to support 3D gaming. The drivers constantly improve the 3D experience, they work with many developers to optimise the games for the effect, they have a comprehensive tweak guide for hundreds of games and even a bunch of medical advices!

    • Dinger says:

      I too had to question using GRID. Racing games may get a benefit from 3D, but they’ll be so much better with head tracking (and GRID does, I believe, support TrackIR). When you drive, you look where you want to go, not where your car is pointing. That fact alone is why so many driving games give you an external perspective.
      Seeing other cars in 3D, in a half-assed implementation really isn’t going to change the experience much.
      Better to use a game where moving through space is much more irregular.

      Oh yeah, and 3D sucks anyway.

      Cheats? I wouldn’t be too hard on the kid. Before you can talk about cheats, you need to know what the game is. He just wanted to provide a structural classification for A) developer-included bypasses (used for debugging, among other things), B) user-developed bypasses (hacks, trainers, u.s.w.), C) unintended consequences/bugs D) Optimizations that result in players exceeding the intended bounds of the game.

      That’s completely different from talking about cheating.

  17. Arathain says:

    I enjoyed Mr. Yang’s Escapist articles. Some interesting thoughts. I think it’s a fairly nice encapsulation of the most of the main schools of thought in game design. It’s nice to see them presented in a well written format.

    Regarding subs vs. FTP MMOs: WoW really is a heavily distorting force on everyone’s perceptions. One of the things it hides is that it has been perfectly possible to have a subscription based MMO that would be considered a fine financial success in any other universe that didn’t contain WoW. You can have 100,000 subscribers for 5 years, and you’ll make plenty of money. You won’t be able to making enough money to buy small nations, but if you didn’t know that could happen you’d never expect to.

    • DrGonzo says:

      That is very true of most MMO’s, but probably not with the Star Wars MMO as it has such a huge budget.

    • bob_d says:

      Leaving aside the issue of how many sales and subscribers the Star Wars MMO will need to break even, how many MMOs have kept 100K subscribers for five years? Damn few, especially considering how many MMOs have been made. A few have started with over 100k on first release, but those numbers plummet within a matter of months (e.g. Star Trek Online). Not counting kids online games with cheap subscription costs, right now the total number of MMOs with 100K or more subscribers is probably around half-a-dozen (and how many of those have been around as long as WoW?).

      The fact of the matter is that MMOs are inherently more expensive than single player games; every part of the game is more complex and requires more time and resources to develop. An online game has substantial ongoing costs that single player games don’t have, either. The only MMO company I know of that is rolling in money is WoW (though the yearly costs for that game also have to be staggering). Most MMO developers just want to make enough money to keep the company going, and they’re failing. A few developers are starting to be more realistic about the time and resources they can afford to spend on MMOs, but I notice they tend to get slammed by players who expect to see the features and polish of games that had much bigger (i.e. unsustainable) budgets.

  18. oatish says:

    damn I`m all for thePye Corner

  19. MrEvilGuy says:

    That lampshade article strangely resembled something I might read in The Onion, except this is real!

  20. Στέλιος says:

    I am quite pleasantly surprised by the musical selection. “Electronic Rhythm Number Three especially reminds me of some of the loading music for the miggy game Hired Guns (I miss you Psygnosis ).. Fabulous stuff!

  21. Azhrarn says:

    Thanks for pointing me to Bandcamp, lots of cool music on there.
    Didn’t know it existed, and already bought a couple of nice FLAC albums from them.
    Very cool to finally grab some legal digital music online in this country (Netherlands), we only get iTunes, which I despise.

  22. Metal_circus says:

    Fallout New Vegas is a really, really good video game.

    Discuss.

    • steggieav says:

      Really good, but has some serious flaws. Best part is the writing, especially compared to Fallout ‘Where’s my dad? He’s a middle aged man’ 3. Worst are the bugs and crappy engine. In this regard, it’s a lot like Obsidian’s other games.

    • Wulf says:

      I’ll still insist that it’s less buggy than Fallout 3 was at launch, though. I’ve only seen two quests I couldn’t fully complete without mod patches, and those were my only bugs. This is compared to around 10 in Fallout 3, which includes one frustrating moment where I couldn’t get NPCs to actually go to their location, because they kept walking back and forth along a road, instead of to their destination (this was the quest where you escort the ex-slaves to their new home), and another where I couldn’t actually get to the bloody water purifier because that whole section of the game was causing lockups (a widely known thing, and something they took ages to patch, the Internet was on fire about that, since it was about 5% of the map that was left inaccessible by it, including a chunk of the outside of Rivet City).

      Compared to my incredibly buggy Fallout 3 experiences, New Vegas has been clear sailing. A lot of the previous Fallout 3 issues have actually been fixed. Some new ones crept in, sure, but it’s still nowhere near as buggy as Fallout 3. Of course, it’s heresy to criticise Fallout 3, since that was an AAA game by Bethesda, and New Vegas? New Vegas is by Obsidian, and more expansion-packy than AAA. So it’s completely okay to chide Obsidian for the problems that everyone overlooked in Fallout 3. I think that’s the part that annoys me the most when it comes to all this.

      Not to mention that the only really serious bugs in New Vegas are either Gamebryo bugs (Bethesda’s fault), or Steamcloud bugs (Steam’s fault, the whole quicksave thing was, if you read up on it). So it’s kind of sad that Obsidian are catching slack for this, when it’s really amazing how fixed up the Gamebryo engine is versus Fallout 3. Hell, there are even points in the scripts where the devs complain about how much of a hackjob the Gamebryo engine is, and it is, everyone who’s modded with it knows this, from Oblivion and on.

      It’s a brilliant game, it has a believable world, fun characters (I completely love Raul), the best writing I’ve seen in a game in a long time, and less bugs than Fallout 3 had at launch.

    • panther says:

      “less bugs than Fallout 3 had at launch.”

      Disagree :)

    • ezekiel2517 says:

      I have to agree about New Vegas being an equal or better (I side with the latter) game than Fallout 3. I had no bug problems with Fallout 3 as I got the Game of the Year version a few months ago, but with New Vegas I did not run into any bugs that the wikia could not solve. This was 2 weeks after release.

      It’s biggest fault is probably being a sequel of sorts. If this game had come out before Fallout 3, It would have gotten all the praise the first got, if not more.

      The main thing that makes me think New Vegas has an edge over Fallout 3 is that I am playing the game a second time, while I felt 1 tour in the capital wasteland was enough.

      Obsidian getting trash for making sequels to Bioware and now Bethesda is not new. It is a very nice way to avoid the risk of making a hyped up sequel of a great game and the bad blood they could get for being unoriginal.

  23. Gary W says:

    New Vegas is like an enormous white loaf with a few delicious cherries inside.

    The good stuff (Vault 11, Nipton, White Glove Society) is surrounded by vast swathes of blandness (NCR fetch & repair missions, Boomer quests, Khans missions, Fiend bounties, deserted shacks, bottlecap collection etc).

    Anyway, I’m glad the writing is above par so that I can feel like I’m uncovering the “interesting” mystery of Vault 11 instead of shooting up a bunch of giant mantises in a series of dark corridors.

    Summary: skip it and go replay Vampire Bloodlines (up until the Hollywood sewers). At least it has some good environmental design in addition to writing.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Some of the environmental design is actually pretty good in New Vegas, particularly Mr. House’s penthouse apartment and deserted casino.

      The combat is still boring and these environments only really shine when compared with the desperate blandness of Fallout 3, though. And you’re right, there are a lot of terrible quests. But some really great ones (the robco/repconn factory was a great concept pulled off really well. There are loads of others, but man. What a great quest). And a reasonable number are above average. The boring ones can often intertwine with the interesting ones or lead you to the interesting ones geographically, which is something, at least. It’s good that I’m content with that side of things, because I haven’t found the writing particularly impressive, except in the case of a few characters or areas. The disguise/faction system is also rather nice, though I haven’t plumbed those depths fully, because, well, how could anyone side with some of those factions. I’m determined to try, eventually.

      That was a bit of a ramble. I like it, anyway. It’s not a great game at the moment, and it’s not destined to be a classic, but it’s worth an RPG fan’s time. Also I can only speak for myself, but it’s been pretty much bug free for me.

  24. dethtoll says:

    That fucking lampshade story is going to haunt my dreams now.

  25. deejayem says:

    The Vegas sex-worked article was interesting – especially the bit about it making you feel guilty for your actions as a player. Guilt has always struck me as an interesting emotion in games, because it’s so far away from what games ostensibly do (“it’s only a game”, ie it’s entertainment without consequences). Because games are often fantasies you can find yourself behaving in a way that – looked at cold-bloodedly from the outside – is actually pretty horrendous. Interesting to see a game that’s grown-up enough to allow you to operate within the fantasy, and then show you the consequences.

    I’m trying to think of other gaming moments that have made me feel guilty. The Heather sub-plot in Bloodlines is one. Accidentally screwing over the Rentons in Deus Ex was another. And they’re all great moments because it’s only when you start to feel guilty about your behaviour that you realise how engaged you are with the characters you’re abusing.

    • deejayem says:

      Just remembered RPS hivemind has already explored this (like, obv) in Walker’s fantastic Space Bastard articles.

  26. Jack says:

    Stealth games are still alive.

    AND THEY’RE RIGHT BEHIND YOU.

    • Jack says:

      but honestly: People always like to get worked up about everything dying all the times. Genre’s rise and fall and rise again. Text adventures were everything, then nothing, then came back in a slightly different form. Same thing for adventure games. Nothing ever dies as long as there’s still at least one guy on the internet who likes it enough to write an article.

      He’s also ignoring the weirder new branches of stealth coming out recently, like Amnesia and Spy party. And assuming that thi423f is vapourware.