The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for remembering why it is that you got into that writing lark in the first place. It was because you didn’t want to have a proper job. Now you haven’t got one, you are able to wake up on a Sunday and realise it’s time to work. Hmm, that doesn’t seem right. Anyway, let’s take a look at some of the literature generated by the tiny robots of our collective consciousness.

  • Sitting in the vein of our own Gaming Made Me articles, Gamasutra has an article by Mathew Stone entitled “Games that made Me want to be a Better Person: Planescape: Torment.” Here’s a sample: “A complicated relationship that grows into a genuine friendship over the course of the game. The character that I thought was going to be nothing but sex jokes ended up moving me at my very core. It hit me full-force, like a knife in the gut when he explained himself. It felt like a real moment of togetherness when we had that conversation. It trumps every line of dialogue I saw while playing Mass Effect or Dragon Age.”
  • The comments by made by Brian Moriarty as “An Apology for For Roger Ebert” have certainly generated some discussion. He seems to be a bit confused in terms of seeing art and industry as mutually exclusive, and there are fair number of folks keen to call bullshit on his wider definitions. I am not sure Ebert needs anyone to apologise for him, either.
  • Aha, this link is related to the Ebert thing. It’s from the increasingly excellent Killscreen, which poses this suggest by Jamin Warren: “Game designers want to be artists without knowing what that means.” Ooh, controversial! Actually, it’s not that controversial if you actually read the whole thing. Turns out that people who have not had an art theory or history education don’t know much about art theory, or art history.
  • VG247 got to take a look at Dead Island. It sounds intriguing: “Dead Island isn’t what I would call survival horror. It doesn’t trade on sudden scares and creeping dread, like the older Resident Evils or Dead Space. Instead the fear comes from being overwhelmed; in an open-world environment where the undead are omnipresent, your chances are fairly slim.”
  • GayGamer’s excellent examination of the character of Sander Cohen in Bioshock.
  • Digital Foundry have a consideration of Crysis 2’s tech bits. “On the minus side however, texture quality on the PC version is fairly uniform with the console SKUs. Some environmental artwork looks blocky even at the target 720p resolution, and the deficiencies of these textures become much more apparent at 1680×1050 and beyond. While the additional visual refinements afforded by the engine are very welcome, it’s difficult to believe that higher-resolution versions of the base art assets don’t exist. “
  • 3am Thinkings takes some time to consider the state of co-operative play, and takes care to make a definition between “loose” and “close” co-op.
  • The Escapist talks about GRAW2 and its relationship with the real city of Juarez. Interesting stuff in terms of people’s response to how their homes are portrayed in videogames. (Thanks, Ben!)
  • Beefjack’s Simon Williams takes some time to interview Gamer’s Voice Chairman Paul Gibson. He has an enormous amount to say, including some comments on the Black Ops bugginess thing: “The majority of complaints went to our contact account, and we currently have well over a 1,000 emails in there. They’re not all related to Call of Duty: Black Ops. We do have other games that people have been commenting upon such as Fallout: New Vegas, and the console Sims 3 game is apparently atrociously buggy as well. We’re looking at those at the moment, but we only have finite resources. We can only deal with one aspect at a time, so we focused on Black Ops.”
  • An interesting interview with the past: Falcon 4.0’s lead programmer, Keven Klemmick looks back on the landmark sim. What is he most proud of? “Definitely the Dynamic Campaign. It’s the first and last time I was able to design and code a part of a game pretty much on my own, which had been my experience doing games as a hobby up until then. In the rest of the gaming industry you really don’t have very much input on the design of a game as a programmer. I was still pretty green at the time though and looking back I can see so much that could have been done better, but I am still quite proud of that.”
  • RPS chum Mark Wallace has started making a strategy game, which has led him to start studying the metrics around which these kinds of games are constructed.
  • An interesting consideration of the cost of culture.
  • This map of the evolution of science fiction is quite the thing.
  • One man’s week of aurora on film. Beautiful.

I’ve finally got around to listening to the new Mogwai album, and I’m now cursing myself for giving up my tickets to see them in February. It’s a gentler album than previously, but that’s okay. This has been getting a lot of air time in the Rossignol research crater.


  1. Meat Circus says:

    The Rossignol Manouevre of putting surplus full-stops at the end of links strikes again.

    (The Planescape link no worky)

  2. robrobrob says:

    Saw Mogwai at the Brixton Academy and they were amazing. Sorry Jim :(

    • arghstupid says:

      Maybe I should give the new LP another go. Got in on release day and was overwhelmed by meh. Did get me listening to Ten Rapid again however which is still a lovely listen, so I shouldn’t really complain.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      HWND,BYW is now my favourite album of theirs, actually. Very good stuff.

  3. Navagon says:

    People bag on Tom Clancy’s writing, but the licensed games – regardless of how much Tom Clancy (isn’t) involved in the process – do sometimes have a knack of being accurate predictions of how the given situation will develop.

    • Bilbo says:

      I’ll take po-faced serious techno-thriller stuff over ludicrous michael bay superwar stuff any day. I’ve got a lot of love for the Rainbow Six games in particular, just wish they’d left them as hardcore tactical shooters rather than “evolved” them into average cover shooters

    • Navagon says:

      As far as the pre-Vegas Rainbow 6 games are concerned, I just wish that the planning phase wasn’t just there for the sole purpose of having you program what passed for AI in those games.

      Even in Rainbow Six 3 the AI was a lot worse than that found in Doom. If you shot the enemies in the back in Doom they responded and opened fire. If your squad gets shot in R6 3 they carry on with their plan until they all fall over dead. There was also the fact that they could pull off shots through the tiniest of gaps over a hundred metres away without even aiming (or having a scope to aim with). In Doom they could actually miss.

      SWAT 4 wasn’t much better. But the problem there was the fact that your team mates where all bloody Gandhi. They weren’t even keen on using non-lethal weapons against perps that had just gunned down one of them. This could see them all wiped out fast. The game needed something akin to L4D’s AI director so the rules of engagement could be properly interpreted. So an armed perp running towards you was an armed perp running towards you, not a poor innocent suspect running away.

      The Vegas games may have made many sacrifices, but those were necessary sacrifices to actually make the games polished, playable and complete (even if the arsenal was drastically reduced and even most of that was useless).

      It’s just a shame that nobody has picked up where R6 3 left off and produced a game with planning and AI.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      People bag on Tom Clancy’s writing, but the licensed games – regardless of how much Tom Clancy (isn’t) involved in the process – do sometimes have a knack of being accurate predictions of how the given situation will develop.

      In much the same way as a stopped clock is correct twice a day, I suspect. His writing is as mad as a box of hats.

    • Navagon says:

      I suspect that other people actually write the game’s storylines for him. I’d be amazed if there was anything more from him than his name involved in their creation.

    • Man Raised by Puffins says:

      Regardless, the game writers do a good job of capturing his particular brand of crazy.

    • Navagon says:

      So you don’t think that half a million terrorists are on the verge of invading Vegas? Well we’ll have to wait and see whose right about that, but the lunatic writers haven’t lead us astray yet.

    • Jumwa says:

      Most of the Tom Clancy novels are written by ghost writers you never know the name of, so they can pump out a lot of work with his name on it and rake in the cash from fans.

      I don’t know if he writes anything himself anymore.

    • Navagon says:

      A couple more posts and we’re going to be debating whether or not Tom Clancy ever did exist at all.

    • Thants says:

      Everyone knows Tom Clancy faked the moon landing.

    • Navagon says:

      Let’s not forget that he also convinced JFK to go back in time and assassinate himself.

  4. karry says:

    “Planescape: Torment is a monumental game, in every way. *skip* Once, at my brother’s engagement party, his best man spoke at me for a good three hours about it.”

    Nnnnneeeeeeeeeeeeerrrrd !

  5. Tomm says:

    Jim you’ll be annoyed to know they broadcast a gig live last night. It was amazing.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It’s more being in the room to be crushed by waves of ultra-noise that I am annoyed about missing. I’ve seen them live a bunch of times, and it is always amazing.

    • Monchberter says:

      May I suggest Jim if you ever reach a stage where Mogwai’s crushitude just isn’t crushing enough you look up the label Southern Lord and aqquaint yourself with their back catalogue. Nadja are pretty good too in that respect.

      Or try the excellent Supersonic Festival in Birmingham in October. Wonderful noise!

    • Tomm says:

      Of course, but failing that, the online gig was a good middle-ground :) And it was spectacular.

  6. Freud says:

    About games wanting to be art without knowing how.

    Dragon Age 2 had all this hoopla about the story being told by someone else and how it was so clever. It was the most pointless thing ever. It didn’t add to the story in any way. It didn’t build expectation or add understanding. Basically all it was was a few scenes with a dwarf saying “here is what happened next” to a woman. Oh, and it did set up a Scarface pop culture gag, I suppose.

    It was obvious someone at Bioware had read some book about script writing and was extremely impressed with frame narrative and had to use it, but had no skill to actually use it.

    Keyser Snööze.

    • Meat Circus says:

      The thing is, I believe we’re conditioned to believe that the use of the particular method of framing implies a moment of dramatic irony later on, a turning point in the plot, a pull back, a reveal.

      This never happens in Dragon Age 2, so the entire framing of the plot in this way achieves nothing useful.

    • Archonsod says:

      I figured they did it solely to smooth out the three year skipping during the game.

    • bleeters says:

      On the bright side, it did make Varric’s act 2 personal quest hilarious.

    • HermitUK says:

      With more time to actually make the game, I think the technique would have been much more effective. It was a nice way to gloss over the three year time-skips, but next to nothing actually seems to happen in the three years you’re not watching Hawke. Likewise the gag with Varric’s quest in Act 2 is a neat idea, but you could so much more with it. Which I suspect they would have done, if they didn’t need to put out a sequel to a game that took five years to make in just 18 months.

      Course, what it REALLY does is makes DLC really easy to add in later. You can insert it into any part of Hawke’s story by simply having Varric frame it as an aside from the main narrative.

  7. Daniel Rivas says:

    The price of culture piece was interesting. To me, an ebook’s worth lies between £5 and £7. I doubt I’d buy one for 99 cents, because I’m a terrible snob and I’d expect it to be rubbish.

    And I didn’t realise Sander Cohen was supposed to be gay. Which is sort of the point of that article, I suppose.

    • Meat Circus says:

      I don’t think Ken Levine realised he was “supposed” to be gay either. Levine’s position seems to be that he’s not really sure, but he probably might have been, or something.

      Now having a mental image of Andrew Ryan using a few plasmids and his “would you kindly” schtick on Sander Cohen in some fantasy BDSM/kinky scifi sex wrongness.

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      And it’s steampunk, so there’d be lots of hissing valves and probably some balloons, too.


    • Bilbo says:

      Yes, because any non-hetero relations are automatically kinky and extreme


      I apologise

    • Daniel Rivas says:

      I bet Andrew Ryan’d be into some weird shit. Just look at him.

    • Bilbo says:

      Sander does the whole “freezing people and posing them artfully” thing too. That’s definitely deviant behaviour

    • JackShandy says:

      “Here’s the Chain of industry, and over there’s the Whip of industry.”

      “Sir, I’m not sure-”


    • Baf says:

      Regardless of whether he was “supposed” to be gay, I thought it was pretty clear that certain other characters thought he was.

  8. Zogtee says:

    Yes, yes, old Bioware games beats the new ones, we know this by now.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Depends on how you look at it. Old Bioware would never have produced anything quite like the magnificent Mass Effect 2. Mainstream gaming has changed, and Bioware have changed with it.

    • karry says:

      Except PST was a Black Isle game.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Black Isle: we are not Bioware

      link to

    • Wulf says:

      I always thought that Black Isle was better than Bioware, but that’s just personal opinion, I like the stories that they tell. Bioware stuff just never clicked with me because they were more typical. Bioware was doing the usual medieval fantasy stuff, and Obsidian was doing the more batshit, crazy stuff. And between them they attracted different audiences.

      Bioware: We do typical, conventional medieval RPGs and we do them well, in a polished way.
      Obsidian: We do holyfuckwhatwasthat, and we do it in a mindbending way.

      Of course, with Mass Effect 2 I actually felt that Bioware was trying to incur into Obsidian’s territory, because as I’ve said, I really liked ME2. A lot! Really a lot. It didn’t click with me immediately, but the more I played, the more I liked it. Legion was a very unusual character for Bioware, he’s the sort of character that I’d never see them writing in a billion years. And the Garrus romance reminded me of some of my favourite Obsidian ones.

      ME2 was them saying ‘yes, we can be different’ and I suppose that’s why I was a bit disappointed by DA:O, which generally went back to more of the same. Of course, some people like that, and some people enjoy watching Coronation Street more than Doctor Who, which goes to show that there are some very different people in the world, some that befuddle me.

      I will admit though that after Bioware showing me that they can be different, I’m eager for ME3, and I’m even mildly curious of DA2 now after hearing some things about it, despite it being a typical setting it sounds like they at least tried to do somewhat unusual things with it. To me though it looks like there are two sides of Bioware fighting for dominance at the moment – one that wants to make more traditional games (SW:TOR) and one that wants to make more vividly strange games (ME2).

      I’m going to be selfish and hope that the latter wins.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I had genuine difficulty parsing “what can change the nature of a man” into an intelligible question. Obviously everything changes the nature of a man. The nature of a man is in constant flux by sheer necessity.

      The gamasutra fella concluding that “love” changes the nature of a man is just the most soppy, wet, limp wristed hand wringing I can possibly imagine, made worse by it making no sense.

      I decided by the end that the question was “what can retcon the nature of a man” i.e., what can a man do to erase past mistakes. And given that TNO goes to the equivalent of purgatory regardless of what you do, I think the game has a fairly unequivocal response.

    • Meat Circus says:

      I think that may be the point of the question. By the point you meet Ravel, and she asks The Nameless One the question, it matters not what answer you give (except refusing to answer). She’s prepared to accept any answer from him, and none from anyone else.

      That said, if there *is* a proper answer to her riddle, that answer is “belief”, being the thing that makes the planes turn and the multiverse hold together. In practical terms, each incarnation of The Nameless One’s nature is defined by what, and how, he chose to believe.

    • daphne says:

      @Lilliput King: I am not so certain that the nature of a man is in constant flux. I’m basing the following on nothing at all, but there is the idea of a character trait. A generally lazy person will stay generally lazy the following day. If a person is fond of staying at home reading in silence it seems unlikely that the next day s/he will have overpowering impulses to go somewhere else and meet new people. And although it is culturally desirable and encouraged for people to “learn from their mistakes” it is generally the case that people do make the same mistakes over and over again quite often. Usually, a great motivation, mostly pressure exerted by an external event is required to change at all. So keeping in mind the preceding opinions are all mine, I would say the game is asking what it could be that changes this cyclical relationship between a person and his/her surroundings. But of course, as Meat Circus rightly notes it has to be framed within the context of the belief-malleable Planescape.

    • JackShandy says:

      Even if we say that “Man” only applies to males above 18 (Which I’m fairly sure isn’t the way the game intended the word) man’s nature changes with every tiny damn thing that happens.

      I’m studying at uni, so fairly soon I will have to go and get a job in the real world and move out from my parent’s house. After than I might marry, settle down, have kids, retire, and then later on I might get hit over the head and suffer severe brain damage. All of these things would change my nature completely.

      The question is posed as if man’s nature is an immovable object that no-one can shift, which just doesn’t seem to make sense. Perhaps by “Nature” it meant something deeper than personality – what makes us human, for instance, a much trickier question.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The nature of someone is not everything about them, it’s the fundamentals. Think about your moral values. Think about the basic aspects of your personality. Not the superficial stuff. The core.

      These are things that are quite different from one person to the next, but rarely change over someone’s life.

    • JackShandy says:

      I disagree. Man learns and evolves over his lifetime – that IS his nature, really. The moral values I held when I was younger have changed, subtly but importantly.

      We can at least agree, I hope, that your core personality and moral values change in the period between age 1 and age 18. I’d say it never really stops changing after that, although people do get more set in their ways as time passes.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      that your core personality and moral values change in the period between age 1 and age 18

      No, not particularly. Look at a kid when he’s about 12, and I think 99% of the time you have quite a good idea of the kind of person he’ll grow up to be.

      Does a shy person become a natural extrovert? Does an extrovert become withdrawn? Does a cruel person become kind? Almost never, not without some major trauma. One person can wear a lot of masks, but you know who you are.

      I’m not saying that’s someone’s nature is static, but past childhood development, it’s going to take a genuine life-changing moment, or a lot of slow, gradual movement.

    • Sunjumper says:

      And it is exactly these kind of discussion that makes Torment such a good game.

    • Nick says:

      You are confusing nature with nurture.

    • Kadayi says:

      Yes, everything was better in the old days. Nothing that’s come since (or will come since) is any good in any way shape or form whatsoever. Developers should just give up now.

      Also I’m kind of curious as to why I should care in particular what Mathew Stone (who dat?) thinks on the subject to extent that he qualifies for a Sunday papers mention tbh?

    • malkav11 says:

      PS: Dragon Age came out before Mass Effect 2. They didn’t “go back” to anything with it. Except possibly in a loose sort of way Baldur’s Gate. Mass Effect 2 definitely seems to be an indicator of the way they are going, which is unfortunate because I disagreed with pretty much every game design decision they made in ME2. Strongly, strongly disagreed, in fact. I mean, the characters are lovely, some of the stories told in their personal missions are neat (though the main plot falls a bit flat)….but the gameplay? Hated it.

    • drewski says:

      @ Kadayi – no, they just need to stop writing depressingly manipulative sexmances and go back to writing thoughtful characters.

      And, in general, anyone who writes well and interestingly that Jim trips over can get a TSP mention. There is no authority telling you what to believe, I’m afraid. If you don’t agree with that article, that’s fine.

    • Lilliput King says:

      daphne, tilleulen: “So keeping in mind the preceding opinions are all mine, I would say the game is asking what it could be that changes this cyclical relationship between a person and his/her surroundings.”

      I suppose I was looking at it too analytically. It seemed to me that moment to moment a man is acted upon by a number of causes, and so is changed. He is not the same man because he has different experiences and memories which constitute his nature. This is actually how people change. Ignoring the granular in favour of the dramatic is ignoring the cause in favour of something more existentially satisfying.

      But I guess we were meant to look for the existential satisfaction. The question wasn’t meant to be interpreted literally.

      e: Still, I enjoy playing the game as if it was about my revised question more. It’s difficult to enjoy the original after you realise how crudely it’s tugging on the heartstrings.

    • JackShandy says:

      “A Man can never cross the same river twice. After the first time it’s not the same river, and he’s not the same man.”

    • Kdansky says:

      While ME2 vs DA2 is silly [1], any Mass Effect or Dragon Age game vs the magnificient Planescape: Torment is outright ridiculous.

      [1]Giant three-eyed space Terminator made out of abducted humans that have been processed to grey goo defeated by shooting at the conveniently placed glass tubes? Really??

  9. Longrat says:

    That aurora borealis film trumps it all. Absolutely breathtaking. Thanks so much for the link!

    • terry says:

      Yes, I never realized how much I need a stop motion control dolly in my life :-)

    • Shih Tzu says:

      I went and looked up aurorae on Wikipedia afterwards, and according to the article, during a particularly strong solar storm, a pair of telegraph operators switched off their batteries and spent a few hours transmitting signals -entirely- powered by the aurora. That is BADASS.

    • vader says:

      Awesome movie. I live in a place where we get auroras frequently but I still never get tired of seeing them.

    • Land says:

      That movie made my day… so beautiful.

  10. misterk says:

    On pricing, I feel like she misses the point. Prices are at what the market supports, and it might be that a digital product might actually make more money at a lower price point. 1 dollar certainly seems low for a product which the user will end up reading for hours… providing they like it of course.

    • DAdvocate says:

      Charles Stross (a rather successful SF author) goes into a great deal of detail over the costs and time required to produce a novel and why ebooks are priced as they are:

      link to

      The problem with the AppStore 99p model is that while the top 10 apps/books make a great deal of money at 99p, there are many thousands that make only pennies. Therefore if you enjoy reading anything other than what the currently most popular book is, then you’re in trouble.

  11. phenom_x8 says:

    Digital Foundry investigation kinda interesting and in their last paragraph they clearly state :

    “However, a crucial element of what made Crysis feel unique was the way in which it seemed almost like an open-world game, despite being relatively linear. The transfer across to the concrete jungle of New York City narrows the focus of the piece and limits the gameplay opportunities in comparison, and in the process makes the extraordinary concept behind Crysis feel a little more pedestrian.”

    But, Jim you didnt want to admit that crysis 2 was a stepback in your wot i think yesterday and it’s kinda make curious, whether you’re ashamed or there’s conspiracies behind :)

    P.S : It was a joke,Jim! I love your crysis 2 review because you seems don’t put it as Crysis sequel directly, but more as a new game in a new setting that obviously better than any trend emerge in recent FPS’es today! It’s totally fair!

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Actually, I think the original Crysis failed to use its open areas all that well. I’d love to see some more attempts at open FPS games, but I think a model like Stalker or Red Faction: Guerilla would be more interesting than what Crysis 1 did.

      Crysis 2 is a linear shooter, there’s no getting away from it. I don’t think it’s a step back from Crysis as such. Maybe from the Far Cry games…

    • Vandelay says:

      I saw that Digital Foundry piece yesterday and a couple of things really struck me in the comparison videos. Firstly, how incredibly jerky the console footage was next to the PC. Are all console games like that? Secondly, how insignificant the changes between the graphics settings in the PC version really are. Lighting seems to change slightly, with a few shadows being of higher quality being the most noticeable effect, but detail in the objects and texturing just does not change one iota.

      On the upside, it seems to look magnificent on all of these settings, but it does seem a little disappointing that things don’t go further for those that can support it. Seeing as, by almost all accounts, the engine is meant to be exceptionally smooth even on middling systems, its a pity that Crytek didn’t try to see how far they could push the high end settings. It certainly would have been more interesting than Cryengine 2, which definitely had some suspect coding going on in the background. I’m hoping that the DirectX 11 patch, if it ever comes, will include some high res textures, as the Dragon Age 2 patch did.

      Still fairly disgraceful that there are not more options to tinker with. Having access to the console to make lots of changes is nice, but an advanced graphics option menu is pretty basic stuff, particularly in a game that uses lots of post-processing effects (such as motion blur and depth of field) that are often down to personal preference.

      Edit: @Jim – I have to disagree. Although Stalker and Red Faction: Guerilla are great games, they are definitely more in the vein of open world games than Crysis or Far Cry, with Stalker becoming more of one with each iteration. Crysis 1 was still a linear shooter, much like Crysis 2 is supposed to be, but just had a much wider playing field than we are used to. The comparison between that and Stalker/RF:G can’t really be made.

      From what I’ve heard, Crysis 2 seems to be very similar to the first in what it attempts to do, but the setting restricts the freedom of movement slightly. I think they made a mistake choosing New York as the setting, with its very uniform structure of blocks not lending itself particular well to the open design Crytek had previously gone for.

    • Icarus says:

      I’d love to see an FPS akin to the first few levels of Far Cry 1. For example, you might have to approach a base and destroy/steal the macguffin inside. Vast, sprawling outdoor levels with patrols, guard posts and so on where you could take any approach you liked. Stealthy sniper, pistol/shotgun close range wetwork, rocket launcher mayhem (with that approach bringing the enemy down on your head) and so on.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      @Vandelay – I’m not sure what you are disagreeing with.

    • phenom_x8 says:

      @ Jim
      I was thinking that Crysis/Warhead open areas were great, but lacks of incentives to make us going forward and explore it except we do it by our own will! I agree with you on STALKER though, it was so tempting to explore and finished (just playing CoP recently). Wish that Crysis had that kind of moment (but not as an open world game, cause like vandelay said, its different) !

      DX 11 and texture patch wont be enough! Looks like the community will totally forgive Crytek if the patch include an open world setting of New York (just like Spiderman,maybe!). Although, it will totally pain in the a** to reprogram the AI for larger areas! Hmm… maybe its just a dream !

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Actually I think we absolutely *should* be contrasting open world games with this kind of game. The argument I think is futile is the Crysis 1 vs Crysis 2 battle that seems to be going on – Crysis 1’s arenas were larger, yes, but they were still part of a strictly linear game.

      I’d rather see more beating of the drum for genuinely open or sandboxy environments, because I think they’re genuinely more interesting, which was my point upthread. Linear has been done to death, while sandboxy has barely been explored, particularly in “proper” shooters.

      However, there’s also a significant difference between criticising the overall trend towards linear shooters, and judging them critically on that basis. Crysis 2 I’d judge on the basis of linear shooters generally – because those are its peers and competition – rather than in any wider context of How Games Could Be.

    • Xercies says:

      I think I will say something with the Crysis 1 verses Far Cry 2 debate…Crysis 1 to me was a better game because it was linear but had big open spaces, Far Cry 2 for me was way to big for its own good so basically it got very boring and very old fast. Because Crysis 1 had that linearity you could change it up a little bit and it was a lot more fun but with Far Cry 2 the same thing over and over again could do the trick.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Far Cry 2 was a waste of an open world model, as I discussed here: link to

    • Vandelay says:

      Jim said: “Actually I think we absolutely *should* be contrasting open world games with this kind of game. The argument I think is futile is the Crysis 1 vs Crysis 2 battle that seems to be going on – Crysis 1′s arenas were larger, yes, but they were still part of a strictly linear game.

      I’d rather see more beating of the drum for genuinely open or sandboxy environments, because I think they’re genuinely more interesting, which was my point upthread. Linear has been done to death, while sandboxy has barely been explored, particularly in “proper” shooters.

      However, there’s also a significant difference between criticising the overall trend towards linear shooters, and judging them critically on that basis. Crysis 2 I’d judge on the basis of linear shooters generally – because those are its peers and competition – rather than in any wider context of How Games Could Be.”

      Yep, this was basically what I was referring to when I said I disagreed with you. I don’t really think that you can compare these two types of games. A better comparison for Crysis, 1 or 2, is Half Life or Call of Duty.

      I certainly agree that we have only touched the surface with sandbox shooters, with Far Cry 2’s many failings showing just how little developers seem to know about what they should be doing, but I don’t believe that completely negates the worth of the linear shooter. I feel similarly about it as I do for the old argument about base building strategy versus non-base building strategy, that most of the arguments come down to personal preference, instead of, how you put it, How Games Could Be.

    • drewski says:

      I found Far Cry’s alleged non-linearity incredibly overrated. “Go up this path to this bunker and disable a power station. But you we’ll give you this enormous irrelevant map before you get to the path! You can go left, right, up the middle (but, obviously, not TOO far left or right because of the magic helicopters!) but, erm, yes, you’ll still have to come back to the path.”

      I enjoyed the variety of options available, don’t get me wrong. But it was still a straight linear shooter, just on big maps with magic helicopter walls instead of actual walls.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Crysis used open areas perfectly in my opinion. Many situations and they could all be won in a variety of ways, Far Cry used it quite well too but Crysis really was an excellent evolution of that idea and better in every way.

      Stalker is a fantastic ‘open world’ game, however it feels more linear than Crysis in many ways. Ignoring the naff cut scenes and story from Crysis, everyone’s stories of combat will play out differently, ya know the actual game part. In a cheesy way, Crysis is really limited by the players imagination.

      In Stalker all combat ends up boiling down to shooting people in the face or walking past unnoticed, I loved the game and all, but the actual combat was one of the low points. You felt free to explore the narrative and the plot but not the combat, it was boring old shooty-bang-bang. It was the atmosphere and world that was so captivating.

      So, I disagree that Crysis is linear completely. No one’s game will have played out quite the same as each others and everyone has their own narrative. Obviously when I say ‘linear’ I mean it in the warped gaming sense. Really it’s completely impossible for a game to be non-linear.

    • manveruppd says:

      I think the reason we’ve been seeing fewer open-world shooters lately is that bigger worlds take so much longer to make. I’m hoping id Tech 5 will make that a bit easier, cause from what I remember Carmack saying in an interview it really cuts down on the time an artist needs to generate a piece of scenery and texture it.
      Sadly, of course, they won’t license it out…

    • JuJuCam says:

      DrGonzo: I think you’ve hit upon what I’ve always struggled with in terms of Stalker. To this day I still haven’t completed a playthrough of the first game, precisely because the momentary interactions between myself and my enemies seemed so limited. Consequently I’ve never made it as far as any point where I felt any degree of freedom over my actions. I’m still just going where I’m told to go and doing what I’m told to do and shooting things in the face as I go. Maybe at some point there are some meaningful decisions about what faction to fight for or something, but I can never get past the “walk forward and shoot” element.

    • Muzman says:

      I’m not sure I understand the problem with Stalker’s shooting in this chat except that you don’t wear a power suit and can’t stealth/ leap around and smash buildings, is that it?
      I might sound dismissive, but it’s not meant to be. That’s the core difference isn’t it? Otherwise Crysis and Stalker present similar situations; usually a group of human enemies with guns holed up in a building or on the move. If you’re supposed to attack them you’ve got to choose your approach, factoring in line of sight vantage points etc. Emergent factors will come into play like allies and the enemy behaviour (and wildlife and even weather in Stalker’s case) and things will play out.
      One’s got a more realistic tilt and the other tilts the other way, without going as far as your crazier sci-fi nonsense.
      There’s nothing wrong with preferring one over the other, I’m just not sure how Stalker’s combat is less meaningful than Crysis when it comes to options and emergent properties.

    • Baboonanza says:

      Yes, it’s unfair to compare Crysis to open-world games because they are fundamentally different beasts. But there is a middle ground found by the first sections of Far Cry that, to me, combines some of the best qualities of both. I love the idea of wide-open semi-sandbox areas that are linearly arranged to make up the game, almost like a puzzle game. This can give the player the freedom, challenge and a sense of discovery that I love from sadnbox games with the direction and focus of linear shooters.

      Far Cry did this so well that I feel like it’s a promise that has been left unfullfilled, particularly by Crysis 1 since superficially it looked the same but lost some of the magical freedom and discovery. And that makes me sad.

  12. BooleanBob says:

    The sci-fi diagram really needs to be control-effable. I have to say it’s a lot more graceful than I would have managed, which would just have been a picture of Herbert, Dick, Simmons et al standing around a disinterred grave marked ‘Literature’ with a spades in hand and sacks over shoulder.


    • Bilbo says:

      “Disinterred” is the right word but I’ve never heard it before. How exciting, I learnt a word! I’d probably have just said “exhumed” before today, but “disinterred” is much more interesting!

    • BooleanBob says:

      Happy to help, dude. Words are awesome.

    • El Mariachi says:

      Actually neither disinterred nor exhumed are quite correct. The corpse is disinterred or exhumed, the grave is simply dug up or excavated.

  13. MarkN says:

    That Kill Screen article made me a little angry by it’s presumptions. I’m a game designer. I have only ever considered my job as making games. I think most game designers will tell you the same. Also, I used to be an artist, as did many (perhaps most) of the other designers I know personally. We have art backgrounds and we know what art is (or at least have a strong personal opinion on what it is). We also know we’re not trying to make it.

    I’m not sure who keeps raising the “games as art” debate, but if it’s ever a designer they’re speaking for themselves, not their profession.

    Game designers generally love games. If they wanted to make art they’d be artists instead (perhaps failed artists, but artists nonetheless). (OK – some of the wrong ones clearly want to make films rather than games but that’s a different matter entirely.)

    • apricotsoup says:

      I’m in a similar position, though our company is small enough that I’m both the main (often only) artist and games designer on particular projects.

      Safe to say, I and most people I know in a similar position are simply trying to build fun into our games, anything profound is at best a secondary concern.

    • Xercies says:

      I think thats equally wrong, you should really be striving I think to try and make “arty” games, games that try to say something. Hey you might make a really good and fun game from it!

    • BobsLawnService says:

      The whole “games are art” debate is perpetuated by game journalists and a certain class of gamer who desperately want games to be art so as to legitimise the fact that they spend so much of their time playing games instead of doing something with meaning which is honestly quite pathetic in my opinion. Games are purely recreation and I wish they’d lose the inferiority complexes and just accept it.

    • drewski says:

      I think games can be art in the same way that film can be art, TV can be art, photos can be art, or food can be art.

      But sometimes a cheese sandwich is such a cheese sandwich, and as long as it fills you up, that’s all that matters.

    • Xocrates says:

      The fact that games are able to be more than pure recreation means neither that most games should be more than that or that most people should see them as more than that.

      No-one is saying that all games should be arty, or that games should stop being fun. That argument would be the equivalent of saying movie summer blockbusters should stop existing altogether. The entire point of the “games as art” debate is pointing out that games CAN be more than mindless fun, not that they all should be.

      Of course, the fact that game designers themselves think games SHOULDN’T be more than fun diversions is disheartening, as it means that even the industry themselves either don’t realize of what games could accomplish or simply don’t like the idea that the industry could be treated as a serious and meaningful contribution to human culture.

      *obligatory Rev Rant link*

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Jim, I’m a huge fan of The Idler so I prefer the word idle over slacking.

      Also, in these debates I’m always reminded of something Negley Farson wrote in his fishing memoirs – Gone Fishing. He was basically walking about how fishing or hunting in the early 20th century was synonymous with the lower class and seen as an unproductive wate of time but within twenty years the same activites were suddenly being monopolised by the rich and to-do. Wasting time gaming may become fashionable yet.

    • sinister agent says:

      I don’t think any developer “should” be making anything, other than the games that they want to make. Artsy or not, I really don’t care – if attention and skill are put into it because it’s what the dev wants to do, that’ll usually make for a better game, which is all that matters.

    • field_studies says:

      I liked that Jim Sharp does eventually say this “That’s the punk rocker in me, that loves the way they’re tweaking games; but from the point of view of someone who wants to advance the cause of games, I see them as something different. They’re not trying to work with games in a constructive way.”

      …because this is what the art world often does with a popular medium: investigate, disrupt, dismantle, etc. Which is necessary, and can make for interesting art (I do like the examples offered here), but not, as Sharp admits, good games. When I was in art school, I was making comic books, and trying to bring everything I was learning about contemporary art and theory into a popular form that I was sure was capable (and had) produced art. It frustrated me to no end that some instructors continued to push me to do work like, say, Raymond Pettibon, who, like Lichtenstein, was interested in appropriating the form, but not really using it. Their work looks like comics, but it’s not comics. I don’t have a problem with those artists, but they weren’t truly engaging with the medium the way that I wanted to.

      And that seems true of many of these examples of art approaching gaming. What I wish was discussed further (this article was very brief!) was what gaming approaching art looked like.

    • SeeBeeW says:

      The whole idea would be almost laughable to someone already in a scene of people who often make and play games as art if it weren’t kind of insulting.
      The real qualifier for art from an artist’s perspective isn’t whether something functions as art or even whether it’s taken to be art from all levels of design to production to public presentation, but whether it’s directly involved in the contemporary art oligopoly.
      In this case, games aren’t art simply because their developers haven’t come up through the New York art scene and they don’t have MFAs.
      If someone from that background decides to make a game, then it’s art, because they have the right pedigree. If you or I make a game to express ourselves, to get a message across or even just for aesthetic purposes, it isn’t art.
      It’s a social system in place to make sure art always stays in the hands of the right people.

    • bill says:

      Did ebert ever say if he considers movies to be art? And if so, all movies or just some? Because i’d really like to see where he draws the line. Brazil? The Godfather? The town? Spiderman?

      Cos the whole debate falls down on having no clear definition of art. That being art depends on the artistic background of the maker seems one of the worst definitions. Many great artists had no artistic background or training. Does it depend on the view of the maker, or the viewer? Does it need a message? Does it need skill? Can it be collaborative or must it be a single vision? Must new art always fit some old/existing definition?

      It seems to me that being art isn’t a particularly exclusive categorisation… it’s basically inclusive. You don’t have to meet all the criteria, just one. The range of things we consider to be art is so wide that it includes things that have nothing in common. As such, the idea that some games might be art isn’t really anything special. And it isn’t really necessary to explain why they are.

  14. BurningPet says:

    That beatifull map has dune smaller than SW. highly unapproval.

    • CapeMonkey says:

      It has Dune the movie smaller than Star Wars, and Dune the movie really ought to be smaller than Star Wars as it is nowhere near as influential. It also has Dune the novels in a different stream with larger text (just below the bright blue box containing Harlan Ellison’s Dangerous Visions). Slightly smaller, but in a more cramped space which makes it feel bigger.

  15. McDan says:

    Sundays are for opening many tabs from sunday papers, and then indulgently not moving for however long it takes to read through all the articles. Good times.

  16. JackShandy says:

    It would be nice if people could descend into the Ert debate without having to make sweeping, innacurate statements about every game/comment about games ever made. It seems to come part and parcel with the whole argument.

    “No one in or out of the field has ever been able to cite a game worthy of comparison with the great dramatists, poets, filmmakers, novelists and composers.”, wrote Ebert, and “As Ebert never tired of pointing out, not one of the thousands of comments he received seriously attempted any such comparison.” agrees Moriarty. Which is strange, because they fucking did. All over the place. I think the most legitimate sounding one was comparing GTA: San Andreas to Crash, but I can’t find the link.

    And then he goes down the next well-trampled path of looking through what the great philosophers thought about art – as if Aristotle and Kant are going to provide some blinding insight on videogames! How are the opinions of people born centuries before this medium existed at all relevant? Chess and Go don’t count, Professor, and you know it. People act like Kant laid down Art at the beginning of time and ever since then we have to check back to make sure he’s ok with everything new we’re creating.

    Urgh, I guess I’m just sick of this. Videogames are fine. Trying to be one of the cool kids isn’t helping. Everything is art. Stick to battling holmes.

    EDIT: Here is something nice about cakes.

    link to

    • Sunjumper says:


    • tomeoftom says:

      Absolutely thirded.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      “I think the most legitimate sounding one was comparing GTA: San Andreas to Crash” – Wait, what?

      I think that either you seriously misunderstood what Crash was about or you have strange ideas about the ghetto simulator that was GTA:SA.

    • Consumatopia says:

      Moriarty’s essay was absolutely, unreadably abysmal. I only got about a third of the way through it because I lost track of all the logical errors it was making. Does anyone other than Moriarty himself find it convincing?

      Ebert was wrong about some things, but at least he was well-argued (if not well-informed) in his wrongness. He deserves a better apologist than Moriarty.

    • drewski says:

      @ Bob – I think you’re doing San Andreas a disservice.

      Then again, I think Crash is a joke of a film.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Wait, are we talking about the same Crash that was written by J.G. Ballard which offered a harrowing view into the dark side of human nature and the fragility of the human psyche?

      And are we talking about the same GTA:SA which basically wasthe weakest entry in the GTA series about being a gangbanger in a fictional city and glorifying the gangsta lifestyle?

    • DrGonzo says:

      Crash was a pretty dreadful film I agree. It had Call of Duties pacing, but with shooting replaced by depressing-ness. Which means after about 30 minutes you’re immune to any of the ’emotional’ bits and just start laughing at it and it’s absurdity.

    • Nick says:

      Crash the film about people getting sexually aroused by car accidents or Crash the boring one?

    • sinister agent says:

      Formally registering my hope that a crossover of the two will one day be released.

    • Keep says:

      Let me admit some things. I’ve been to classical concerts from the Boston Symphony Hall that Moriarty mentioned, to a small opera in a Roman churchyard. I’ve been to the Uffizi gallery, the Met, the Louvre. I’ve read Ulysses and War & Peace. I’ve pored over Yeats and Donne and Eliot. I’ve experienced a reasonable amount of the typical ‘high’ art of Western culture.

      So I’m biased. I’m an elitist snob. Ok?

      But c’mon, so far in videogame history, it’s just embarassing to try and point at an existing example and ask for it to be included in the grand canon. Why? Because they’re all shit compared – not just to Beethoven or Rodin or Virgil – but to the POTENTIAL of videogames themselves.

    • JackShandy says:

      Here, found the link: link to

      “Well, here you go. Let me state it clearly and for the record:Taken as wholes, GTA: San Andreas is a more compelling, meaningful and important work of art than Crash.”

      You can go over and argue the point with Clint Hocking, if you like. I’ve never seen the film or completed the game but the rest of his piece was good enough that I assumed he knows what he’s talking about here.

    • drewski says:

      @ Bob – you obviously drank a lot more of the Crash koolaid than I did. It was a cartoon world of “emotion”, and about as harrowing as fast food.

  17. Inglourious Badger says:

    Love the Sci-Fi map, it’s very good but mad.

    I’ve been getting back into sci-fi books after reading, of all things, STALKER’s inspiration: Roadside Picnic. It’s a fine book! One thing that book, and this map, reminds me is they just don’t make Sci-Fi novels like they used to. There was such a burst of inspirational imagination in the middle of last century, but post Star Wars, with a few rare exceptions, everything’s pretty much been a rehash of ideas from that period. Maybe I’ve just not read the right books. Anyone suggest any great post-1975 sci-fi books?

    • Giaddon says:

      Blindsight, by Peter Watts, is probably my favorite sci-fi of the last few years. Altered Carbon (by Richard Morgan) is also good. As are most of the Culture books (Iain Banks). My favorite of those is Excession.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Indeed, Star Wars seems to have ruined (much of) scifi, pushed it back into the pulp era. :(

      I’m a big fan of Alastair Reynolds, myself. Particularly the Revelation Space books. Big ideas, and such.

    • gganate says:

      The Road by Cormac McCarthy, which is a great read especially if you’ve just played a Fallout game.

    • Fumarole says:

      Lucifer’s Hammer by Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle. Not exactly sci-fi, but post-apoc (comet strike) done very well. It’s the book I desperately want every game developer who does a zombie/post-apoc game to read. Highly recommended.

    • Archonsod says:

      Star Wars is science fantasy rather than science fiction, the reason it’s outstripped science fiction is real world based. If you look at the last few golden era’s they were spurred by real-world events. The space race in the 1950’s for example. These days there’s a lack of anything quite so inspiring; we’re going through an information revolution but that has already been done to death by the likes of Gibson.

    • Zenicetus says:

      If you enjoy “hard” sci-fi and space opera, then try Alastair Reynolds. Start with the Revelation Space series and move on from there. His short story collections like Zima Blue and Diamond Dogs are very good too. He reminds me of the old-school “big science idea” writers like Larry Niven, combined with a dark Harlan Ellison edge to the writing.

      link to

    • DiamondDog says:

      Really must get around to reading Revelation Space, started it once but it never hooked me. I’m not a big reader of sci-fi though. I ended up getting House of Suns so I didn’t have to commit to an entire series and didn’t like it much. Although I think that’s more down to personal taste. Loads of interesting ideas (at least for a newbie like me) but it was let down by a bunch of characters who were just there to push the story along. That’s just personal taste though, I suppose. I want to read about interesting characters not interesting concepts.

      Maybe I’m just reading the wrong stuff? Any books where the characters are first and the science second?

    • Zenicetus says:

      @ DiamondDog: House of Suns isn’t one of his better standalone novels (IMO). Like many hard sci-fi writers, he’s not real strong on characterization, except in the sense of creating a few really weird and twisted personalities here and there. The best character-driven novel of his is probably Century Rain. The story is as much about the developing relationship of the main characters, as it is about the big ideas.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Ah, I’ll have to give that one a try.

      Had a similar reaction to Peter F. Hamilton. Jumped in a bit blind and started reading The Reality Dysfunction. Got to a section where he spent many pages intricately describing the various weapons in a fight between two ships and started to hyperventilate.

    • PeopleLikeFrank says:

      The Mars trilogy by Kim Stanley Robinson, though containing much science and politics, is very character driven. The climate change trilogy he later wrote is a bit weak though. Larry Niven is good with characters as well. I’m sure there are more examples, but they’re escaping me at the moment.

      I also thought Blindsight was brilliant, if a bit soul-crushing (but we pompous humans need that occasionally.)

      I’ve just started reading the Culture novels, and rather enjoying them. Reading Banks’ non-genre stuff as well.

    • Inglourious Badger says:

      Cool, thanks for all the suggestions! Alistair Reynolds got a lot of mentions, I think I shall start there.

      Bit worried about all the Iain M Banks love, though. The couple of Culture books I read are the exact thing I’m talking about: Modern Sci-Fi just churning out old ideas, but trying to cram so many into each chapter to try and make up in quantity what he can’t produce in quality. Plus I felt like Banks writes each chapter seperately and forgets which book he’s writing each time, they’re so disjointed. I wasn’t impressed.

      Thanks for the tips, if all else fails I shall just have to return to Alfred Bester and Arther C Clarke

  18. Urael says:

    Ah, Planescape Torment. I’ll get around to playing you one day.

    …Possibly. (I haven’t seenFight Club or The Godfather films either)

    • JackShandy says:

      In the end you find out that Brad Pitt is actually a decent actor sometimes.

    • drewski says:

      Brad Pitt’s underrated, I think. He’s not given the credit his ability deserves because he’s so pretty.

    • jaheira says:

      He was great in “Twelve Monkeys”

    • Thirith says:

      He’s also done more and more interesting roles over the last 5-10 years. Getting older has done him good IMO.

    • bill says:

      Over the years i’m starting to think that there isn’t really much skill or talent involved in acting. People are often impressed by great performances, and then that actor does nothing else good ever. Or people talk about how difficult it is, and then untrained amateurs are stuck in a movie and do just as well, if not better, as the trained actors. And then supposedly terrible actors turn in a great performance, and supposedly great ones turn in a terrible one.

      Not sure what the differentiating factor is, but it seems to be just about all the stars aligning.

      (so yes, BP was good in all those movies… but is that something special?)

  19. Rhalle says:

    We really should stop praising PS:T out in the open.

    If it gains too much currency, some douchebags will try to cash in on its name and make a tardbox shooter ‘reboot’ out of it.

    • Meat Circus says:

      What can change the nature of a man?


    • Xercies says:

      Its gamings Citizen Kane!

      Way to over exposed and a little disappointing after hearing all the good stuff about it.

    • Navagon says:

      The problem with Citizen Kane now is that it seems like everything about it has been done before. But everything that has been done before it actually started.

    • Sarlix says:

      Yes I can see it now.

      PS:T 2 The third person tactical shooter you’ve been waiting for. More guns and less dialogue. Now with object highlighting!!!

    • Faldrath says:

      Yeah, I don’t think the analogy to Citizen Kane works, because the thing about CK is that it was hugely influential (which is why it can seem “disappointing” today). Planescape wasn’t influential (or, at least, nowhere near the scale CK was), and it stands out today mostly because of its uniqueness – especially because it managed to be unique in a genre that has pretty strong conventions that tend to be followed without questioning.

      (and PS:T does have object highlighting ;) )

    • Sarlix says:

      @Faldrath Ahh, but it’s optional? Only if you press TAB?

      …desperately tries to save face…..

    • Faldrath says:

      Oops, no, my mistake, actually. Just checked and it highlights when you mouse over something, but there’s no key to do it like in BG2. Your face is duly saved!

    • Xercies says:


      Actually I don’t think you got the joke that well.

      After all the hype of Citizen Kane it didn’t seem to me that film was worth all that hype because it was a little disappointing, the same thing happened to me with Planscape as well, After reading all the hype I played it and came out a little disappointed…

    • Jim Reaper says:


      But PS:T would be so much better with a first person perspective, a cover system and cinematic explosions! [/extreme sarcasm]

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I played PS:T back when it was just another poorly received RPG and was a bit dissapointed by it so don’t feel bad. There were shades of genius but it was let down by the horribly boring opening act. I’ll never forget how frustrating the Cursed Box quest was on my slow at the time PC. Being sent on one giant fedex quest between eight or nine people between the maps when it took longer for a map to load than to find the person and be directed to the next one was absolutely terrible.

    • drewski says:

      But the FedEx box quest has a neat and clever ending if you do it right (or, erm, wrong.)

      But yeah, it’s probably along the lines of minute to crate as far as how not to do RPG fetch quests go. I don’t bother with it on new playthroughs.

      I wouldn’t object to a Torment flavoured RPG in first person perspective (the perspective isn’t why it’s great), but I don’t know how plausible it would be to do; I doubt it would sell; and I don’t think there are many developers who could do it anything like justice, if any. Maybe one of those insane Russian developers.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Don’t get me wrong – I’d love to see another game set in the Planescape universe. I loved it when the game picked up about half way through and started dealing with fallen angels, the different factions, etc. The beginning was just painful. I would recommend that people play it through at least once even if it feels like a chore at times.

      I think that Faerun is a bit overdone as a setting.

    • sinister agent says:

      Forgive me, but if you’re given a cursed box to deliver and instructed not to open it, and you don’t immediately open it, you’re not actually human.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      To be honest the only thing I do remember about that quest was about how brutally awful it was and looking at the loading screen until I wanted defenestrate my PC out of frustration.

    • Kadayi says:

      Never finished it. I fought my way through past the skull pillar when it first came out, but lost my enthusiasm shortly afterwards (just not a big D&D fan tbh). I did have a look at picking up where I left of off a while back, but I’d long since lost the narrative thread and haven’t mustered the desire to bring myself up to speed on it all, let alone restart it.

    • dethtoll says:

      I propose we stop praising PS:T so openly because it’s not a very good game, all things considered.

      But nobody ever listens to me.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      You are right. I heard in the 9 pm news today that your opinion is more valid than others so we should stop praising Planescape:Torment because you said it’s not a good game.

      Anyways, as for the article it was nice. But didn’t understand at all what was the problem of the author with the beginning of the game. Painfully slow, he says? Not 2 years ago I replayed the game. I took the whole escape from the Mortuary as your typical “introduction to the game mechanics” as many other games of this type (and definitely from that time). Not more boring, not more exciting than many other RPGS.

    • bill says:

      If they remade it in 3d then maybe so many people wouldn’t get bored in the first act and give up before it (supposedly) gets good. Cover system optional.

    • Kadayi says:

      @Mario Figueiredo

      I think his point is about blindly praising it.

  20. bill says:

    As i’ve said before. I bounced off PS:T due to the slow start. And one of the reasons was that i thought Morte was an annoying character. I stopped reading this half way through as it sounded like it might have spoilers, but it made me want to go back and soldier on to see if i can get past the slow start.

    • Vinraith says:

      I’ve bounced off it five times over ten years, and I say that as a huge fan of the setting and the system. Part of it’s not liking Morte, part of it is the incredible dullness of the opening, and part of it is feeling completely disengaged from the main character. I keep saying I’ll get around to pushing through it one of these days, but every time I try that seems less and less likely. It’s a pity, I’ve heard such good things.

    • drewski says:

      I honestly think you’re missing out, but, and I say this as a massive PS:T fan (as in it’s my second favourite game ever), I can’t say you’re at all wrong. It’s a real slow burner.

      Like, say, The Wire on the telebox. You’ll probably enjoy it if you can get past the beginning, but whether or not you can make it through without resentment which stops you enjoying the rest is really something you can only discover yourself.

      I’d encourage people who’ve not got through the opening bit to keep plugging away, though.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I actually think being completely disconnected from the main character is one of the big appeals of Planescape. Not quite sure why anyone would ever want to play themselves, or a character like themselves in a game. But then, I love playing characters that I hate.

      I suppose it works better in Planescape due to you wanting to figure out who or what you are.

    • sinister agent says:

      It wasn’t until my third attempt, years after the previous two, that I got far enough into Planescape to start enjoying it for more than a few moments every hour. The start is dreadfully slow, grey and frustrating, but when it opens up, it really does open up, both geographically (I was SO GLAD to see the back of that fucking sprawling hive) and in terms of story and character development.

      It is a very interesting game if you can get over the lousy opening act, which is admittedly quite the hurdle.

    • Archonsod says:

      It’s over rated. It’s a good RPG but when you break it down it’s not actually remarkably different from the rest of Black Isle’s output, or Obsidian and Bioware’s for that matter. His criticism could easily be reversed in fact, Morrigan has reasons she’s an easy lay which she explains, and is no less likely than trusting a floating skull because he asks you to or picking up a random barfly who claims to have known you. Similarly, Torment used pretty much the same reputation system as the rest of the infinity engine games, so once again it’s simply a matter of points; you just differ in how you get them. In fact, one complaint common at the time was you could be a complete dick to a character in conversations yet they’d be perfectly happy and contented members of your party providing your party rep didn’t drop below their magic numbers.
      The setting itself isn’t that extraordinary, Planescape is still D&D though of course if you’d never played D&D outside of the computerised versions it would be a novelty (though the same could be said of Spelljammer and Dark Suns, which also had computerised versions much earlier), especially since it’s peers were stuck firmly in the Forgotten Realms setting.

      The writing is excellent, and it’s perhaps notable as one of the few RPG’s which actually places the emphasis on the roleplaying rather than using the story as something to fill in the bits between combat. This is helped by the protagonist being immortal for the most part, which makes 99% of the combat completely irrelevant. Which is disappointing in a way; almost like they were pushing for an RPG where combat wasn’t the focus but didn’t quite have the guts to go all the way, so threw in your obligatory random mook battles just in case. Which becomes something of a meaningless gesture; you can’t lose so they’re not interesting from a game standpoint, and if you don’t go for a combat based character the majority of those encounters simply become a matter of banging your head against the wall till it crumbles.

    • Lilliput King says:


      Gonzo: Seemed to me the incarnation of TNO that the player controls was intended as a cipher for the player, rather than as an actual person. That’s why we know he did something horrible, and that he has a name, but we never know what those things are. Also, we define him before we take control with his stats, and later on how he reacts to the world (what he says and basically what he does).

      Contrast with those games where you are genuinely meant to be just controlling someone else (JRPGs and the like).

    • Zwebbie says:

      I, too, bounced off of Planescape Torment initially when I got it last year, but picked it up again last month and finished it. I’m glad I did, but it’s an overrated game, if you ask me.

      The article mentions that the game doesn’t answer the “what can change the nature of a man?”-question, but it totally does in the end if you’ve got a high Wisdom value. That’s very typical of the game; it’s very clever, but it allows very little room for the player to be clever. If you’ve got high Chr/Int/Wis, all you’ve got to do in the conversations is click the longest answer and it’ll always be the right one. That’s only a colour and a lengthiness away from Mass Effect’s mindless Paragon/Renegade options.

      @Vinraith: I personally thought The Nameless One was one of the better protagonists in RPGs. I didn’t need to pretend that I cared about a fictional father or a fictional world that needed saving, I could just be honest as myself and be curious about TNO’s past. You could argue it’s not really role playing if you’re playing yourself, but I think games are better if I don’t have to construct an artificial player character in between myself and the game. I’d rather care than play as someone who cares.

    • Nick says:

      “That’s only a colour and a lengthiness away from Mass Effect’s mindless Paragon/Renegade options.”

      Oh please.

  21. Xercies says:

    The same kind of argument was argued in Filmaking as well, what we need is our own Auteur Theory to say who is the author. You see in filmaking people had trouble saying “lots of people work in film, from the sound man to the director of photography, how can it have any authorship so how can it be art?” So magazines and film buffs and the like came up with “The director is the author, things go through and out of him so basically films can be art because of the director”. What we need to say is that the Director of gaming or whoever his official title is, is the author and then this games are art or not can kind of die down a little bit.

  22. tomeoftom says:

    Does that make Dead Island a non-survival horror?

  23. Dances to Podcasts says:

    We really need an option to favourite comments. :)

  24. lurk says:

    I’m by no means an artist or art critic, but surely who the artist is is irrelevant when criticising something? It should be judged on its own merits, so people can enjoy Lovecraft despite him incredibly racist and Ray Bradbury can completely misinterperet what Fahrenheit 451 is supposed to be about.

  25. bhlaab says:

    Dear Games Journalists:

    Please, please shut up about Roger Ebert already. He already did “apologize”– a YEAR ago. Let it go!

    • malkav11 says:

      It really wasn’t so much an apology as an acknowledgment that his opinion was fixed and unlikely to change and an agreement to disagree.

    • sinister agent says:

      I agree. I really don’t know why anyone bothered paying him attention over it anyway – it was a meaningless remark about someone in a completely different field with no influence at all over games or the games industry. Irrelevant, and in any case, it’s both been done to death and he’s said his final piece on it long ago. It should have been dead and buried last year.

    • JackShandy says:

      That apology was the worst I’ve ever heard, though.

      “Ok guys. I still think games aren’t art but I’ve realised I can’t really keep saying so with everybody buying me playstations and pressuring me so damn much to play a single game and whatnot. Jerks. So I guess you can all go on playing around with your stupid toys, then, I can’t be bothered to keep re-iterating the immediate and obvious reasons why games are shit.”

    • Acorino says:

      Yeah, I also was disappointed by his apology.
      Basically he was saying that he’d rather remain ignorant about this new medium than lose an argument.

  26. malkav11 says:

    Although Dead Island is sounding pretty neat, I will note that a) it does actually sound quite a bit survival horror – scarcity of resources is the big element that makes a game -survival- horror and not just horror, not jump scares and creeping dread, which can be found in a variety of horror games, and b) I would not call Dead Space a survival horror game for that reason. Tons of ammo and weapons and medpacks and stuff, and you can buy more from friggin’ vending machines.

    Seriously, there’s a wide range of approaches to horror. Just because most horror games to date have been of the survival horror subgenre doesn’t mean that that subgenre is in fact the genre.

  27. Defenestrator says:

    Kind of an anti-thesis article to the PS:T one about Why Strategy Games Make Us Think and Behave Like Brutal Psychopaths.

    Thanks FoS.

  28. Jumwa says:

    The article on co-op gaming struck off chord to me, which was strange, as it’s a topic near and dear to my heart. Truly, fully-integrated co-op gaming is what I yearn for most, but so rarely get. So then to write off most of those experiences because they aren’t defined so narrowly, ehh…

    And I find it, in large part, a very arbitrary distinction. Even a co-op game with interchangeable characters can allow the players to work together and coordinate their efforts, “You watch that alley, I’ll scout ahead!” While some games get unfairly lumped into “generic options”, like Borderlands. I am by no means trumpeting Borderlands as a masterwork, but the character options did have some interesting “talent tree” choices that were unique to each one. My partner and I found ourselves having to coordinate a great deal in that game, me specializing in healing and ammo regeneration, she was our “wall breaker”, counting on me for support as she took out key opponents.

    Frankly, just give me more fully integrated co-op play in general.

    • Doesntmeananything says:

      That, perhaps, was the only instance of actual co-operation in the game, besides ubiquitous running and shooting together. Being Borderland’s most attractive feature, co-op was still quite shallow. It’s indeed sad that fully-integrated co-op gaming is a rarity and is usually substituted by artificial roleplaying from the players (which albeit still can be a great fun).

    • duncan says:

      Thanks for reading and writing a response! Jumwa, I love co-op games, and I did not set out to write off any of them in this article (cheesy inflammatory openings aside). I like to pick apart and analyse things that are important to me, and co-op games fit this bill.
      I tried to make sense of things by looking at the possible spectrum of co-operative gameplay (in terms of the volume and depth of co-operation required) ranging from ‘minimal’ to ‘a lot’. This seems to cover all the possible ground, does not seem to arbitrarily start or stop, and is not divided into arbitrary categories. I admit that I chose to focus on this one spectrum and label it in this particular way, but I hope I have done so fairly, and without being too rigid.
      In distinguishing between “loose” and “close” co-op in itself, I am not making any value claims about the different parts of the spectrum. I do go on to make separate arguments and claims to try and explain why I am so particularly passionate about “close” co-op games, but I enjoy co-op gaming in all its forms. Because it is important to me, I am trying to work out where co-op gaming originates, and how it works. If anything, I wanted to champion close co-op gaming, as opposed to writing off anything else. I think we agree in terms of our general love of co-op games, even if not on some specifics, and I hope that my terminology and discussion of Borderlands does not obscure this too much. (For what it’s worth, I played Borderlands through 4 player co-op and have some very fond memories.) Thanks again for reading and replying!

    • Jumwa says:

      I certainly hope I didn’t come off as hostile or defensive in my response. Borderlands was one example that stuck out to me in particular because, quite frankly, my partner and I took a great deal of cooperation and communication to get through it. Any time one of us tried to “Rambo” our way through anything we quickly found ourselves down and hoping the other one could come rescue us.

      Perhaps it’s a matter of difficulty vs. skill with some willingness to communicate factored in that makes my perception of the matter change. We don’t claim to be greatly skilled players. I sit no more than three feet away from my partner, and her and I communicate constantly in such games, whether the Borderlands example or a typical generic shooter.

      I understand the premise of using game mechanics to force cooperation and team work, and some examples of it I certainly do enjoy (such as the nature of Left 4 Dead, where specials are designed purely to shaft the solo player, or puzzle games).

      Though the concept of group dynamics being too rigid and making the experience more frustrating than fun is perhaps scaring me off from sympathy to the argument. It reminds me of the changes made to World of Warcraft with Cataclysm, that pushed such a harsh cooperation requirement on groups that it made grouping with people you didn’t know almost invariably an exercise in frustration.

      Like I said, your argument kinda struck me off chord, but that’s not to say I don’t see any merits in it, and perhaps my own biases and circumstances (such as ability, willingness to communicate with my partner, etc.) is colouring my stance.

  29. TooNu says:

    The Sander Cohen piece was awesome. I like that some people take what to many was just another level, and take it apart and see what the characters are like..really think about them and tehn write about it.

    Also Mogwai’s new album was on my flight to New York last week, and I listened to that exact song and only that song, which is pretty odd considering it is now on RPS. I put it on because the title is typically Mogwai and to my dumb brain makes little sense.
    Best Mogwai song, New paths to Helicon 1. If you disagree you are wrong.

  30. RagingLion says:

    Personally it’s ‘White noise’ and ‘How to be a werewolf’ that get the repeat plays from me from the new Mogwai album and I’m really into both of those.

  31. manveruppd says:

    Didn’t like the map thingy, it’s clear that the guy doesn’t think much of fantasy, and hasn’t read that much of it. I do think sci-fi is a more “mature” and serious genre, but fantasy has also started coming into its own in the last couple of decades, with people like Gaiman, Bakker, Miéville (sp?) and Abercrombie. And why are “mythology” and “fantasy” at diametrically opposite ends of the map? Can you really write the words “fear and wonder” on any diagram and not have them close to names like Howard and Lovecraft? And how can Lord of the Rings be closer to the Conan stories than it is to Beowulf? Has the guy read NEITHER?

    Anyway. That Juarez article is probably the best piece of journalism I’ve read on the Escapist!

    And I’m glad someone other than me thinks that Mort wasn’t all that funny! :p I did like the character, but for the same reasons the author did, not for the supposed “comic relief” which most people tend to like him for. I love Avellone’s games, I think they’re masterpieces, but one thing I have to concede to Bioware is that they do comedy better than Black Isle/Obsidian do :)

    • JackShandy says:

      It’s a map of the history of science fiction, not grouping the genres of fantasy. He’s saying that everything came from Fear and Wonder, which lead to Mythology, which then eventually lead to fantasy. The close-ness of the titles is just indicating the time they were made in.

      Fantasy clearly branches off through one of those wormholes to become another beast altogether – one he hasn’t shown.

    • manveruppd says:

      Yeah but he has Howard and Tolkien on the same branch, whereas Tolkien should rather be on the same branch as Beowulf and all that (which kind of merges into other stuff instead). He was kind of a throwback, by about a millenium or two… :p

  32. Xercies says:


    Hmm I kind of agree, i think that’s why I actually kind of like some of the more “arty” games out there by Tales and the like, the gameplay might be a bit limited but the authorship is there definitly. You can see this a lot in Ragner tornquests stuff, he truly is a visionary, an author of his worlds if you will. Same with David Cage.

    In fact generally I agree with statements like, the manager of the game should also be the one who thinks of the idea and authors it. That way you get a truly throughout game, and gameplay and story that works together in tandem.

  33. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Google “death of the author” and then “criticism of death of the author” to start learning more.

    I’m well aware of the discussion, but I’ve always been firmly of the view that art is whatever the observer takes from it. What else could it be? If art is not communication, it is merely masturbation. When Christo puts up orange gates in Central Park, he may have a particular intention in mind, but what really matters is how observers experience it. And it was an incredible experience.

    When Jonathan Blow talks about Braid, I get the impression that he doesn’t really know what he was trying to say. But that doesn’t matter. It moved me in a way that was deeply personal and unique to me.

    I’ve never taken an art history course (I’ve just wound up dating only artists ever since I was 17 and talking about art constantly), so feel free to discount my opinion.

  34. kwyjibo says:

    You guys probably already know the ins and outs of Farmville, it’s been covered enough already.

    But this is an interesting take on sunk costs and how that applies to the Farmville model – link to

  35. Superbeing says:

    Sweet, thanks for the post, just picked up a key for AVP and registered it with Steam. Despite some poor reviews, I heard the multi-player was decent, and for $4 you can’t go wrong. I might pick up Dirt 2 while I’m at it.

    • dethtoll says:

      The game is better than the reviews suggest. The multiplayer is non-existent.

  36. Hammurabi says:


    Actually my thinking is very much in line with what you are saying. I think of art as an application of skill to evoke a response. It is a form of communication, but I don’ think it is absolutely necessary for an artist to truly understand what it is they are trying to evoke. In fact, there may be more power in those explorations where the artist is using their tools to find that thing they don’t fully understand.

    Also, Re: authorship in games. The problem seems that the player takes some part in authorship, making traditional analyses of art fail at understanding the medium. That being said, I think trying to define games as art is detrimental to games in general. I think games have the potential to be more powerful and more fundamentally transformative than simpler media. Games shouldn’t try to be art because games are better than that.

  37. Dozer says:

    The Falcon 4.0 dynamic campaign was written by Microprose’s intern??? The dynamic campaign in Falcon 4.0 is legendary, praised to the moon and back! I only played Falcon 4.0 for about fifteen minutes in 2009 before realising it’s just too old for me to get used to now; also, I don’t really want to spend a month learning how a F-16’s radar systems work. But ask anyone on a flight simulator forum about what they know about F4.0 – they’ll answer that the dynamic campaign is unmatched.

    • Zenicetus says:

      Old Gaming Geezer Alert! Let’s not forget that Falcon 3.0 also had a dynamic campaign. I was an inside beta tester for that, back in the pre-Web days when we could only talk about this stuff on Compuserve dial-up BBS forums. Now get off my lawn! Falcon 3.0 was a bug farm, but it set the stage for what could be done later on.

      I’d be interested to know if the 4.0 dynamic campaign was written from scratch, or used some of the 3.0 code and ideas. The 3.0 campaign side was great. Everything else was…. well, “iffy.”

  38. bill says:

    Is the player taking part in the authorship of the game much different than the viewer taking his own meaning from the art he sees?

  39. Rii says:

    That SF map is mankind’s greatest achievement.