The Sunday Papers


Sundays are for remembering how bad hangovers can actually be. Is it true that they cause light to be poisonous? I think it is. Perhaps the virtual light of my screen will be a comfort. Beautiful screen. Let’s ask it displays soothingly clever words, so that I might think I still have language.

  • Thing of the week is most certainly Kirk Hamilton’s review of Portal 2, the best parts of which are photographic. Here’s a textual bit: “Playing Portal 2 made me feel good about myself, and good about the people who designed it. What’s more, I couldn’t shake the sense that the designers felt similarly about me, about the players for whom they designed the game. It’s odd that a videogame should earn special recognition just for respecting its players, but Portal 2 does exactly that.” But really you should go read it.
  • Brenda Braithwaite’s We Love Games speech from the last GDC was quite the thing. She called on developers to stand together to make great games, as they have always done. Worth a read.
  • Bits ‘N’ Bytes Gaming took some time to lay out the issues with video game reviews. One of the main issues is the score. Which is why we do not have one. Fairly simple fix, that.
  • The BBC decided to test whether going around a racetrack in real Nissan Skyline GTR was anything like playing the forthcoming Gran Turismo. Lucky they didn’t decide to run this test with a manshooter. It doesn’t really make a lot of sense, does it?
  • Mac Gamer’s essay on Portal 2 is also worth a read: “Distilled, Portal 2 is a story about escape and the reclamation of things human. We are in a space completely separate from nature, controlled by artificial intelligence, and devoid of human contact (minus that brief waft of humanity we see through Wheatley’s and GLaDOS’s programming, and minus the paintings and voice recordings we discover about Cave Johnson). Like most stories, Portal 2 puts us against what looks like overwhelming odds challenging our success. And since these odds are non-human entities that act like deity figures, our desperation for anything human is that much more realized. Puzzles are products of humans, but these puzzles are filtered through the hands of GLaDOS, pushing the human element just one more step away. The things we desire most are the things closest to us that we still can’t have. And so when GLaDOS teases us about sunlight or having seen a deer or even another human, our goal of possible escape seems farther away because she has made us conscious again of their existence.” And so on!
  • Chris Green on the games that have used children for emotional manipulations of the player: “Whilst there’s a small contingent of dedicated developers striving to produce the most provocative and enthralling stories gaming has to offer, within mainstream gaming it appears that the narrative is more of an afterthought eclipsed by explosions, motion controls and large breasts. With the Dead Island trailer came the hint that one of the few taboos left within gaming was about to be traversed; that in the search of a compelling narrative, Techland was willing to go the next level to get the audience emotionally involved.” Hmm!
  • This is so fucking cool.
  • Kotaku Australia considers perspectives – First, or third-person? – and it all gets a bit tricky: “My issue lies somewhere in between the concept of immersion and character-identification, which aren’t exactly the same thing. The two are related, and reinforce each other, but can also operate independently and in different ways. The first way, the ‘common wisdom’ is repeated in game design manuals and states that first-person perspective is more immersive and makes the player feel more like they are the character in the game.” Stupid common wisdom.
  • We haven’t mentioned this game at all, yet, but Eurogamer previewed Driver: San Francisco, which is going to have shooty bits between the, well, drivering bits. More interestingly, the fiction behind the game is that you are in a coma, or something, and posess the bodies of various drivers around the city: “The game’s first mission, for example, sends you into the body of an ambulance driver, and sees Tanner unwittingly responding to his own RTA. It’s potentially rather confusing, but the emphasis isn’t on your super-cop’s metaphysical bewilderment so much as getting a sense of how nuanced the steering models are in this game.”
  • BLDGBLOG’s interview with the author of a book about the design of the Apollo spacesuit is amazing. You should read it. “…the word cyborg originated in the Apollo program, in a proposal by a psycho-pharmacologist and a cybernetic mathematician who conceived of this notion that the body itself could be, in their words, reengineered for space. They regarded the prospect of taking an earthly atmosphere with you into space, inside a capsule or a spacesuit, as very cumbersome and not befitting what they called the evolutionary progress of our triumphal entry into the inhospitable realm of outer space. The idea of the cyborg, then, is the apotheosis of certain utopian and dystopian ideas about the body and its transformation by technology, and it has its origins very much in the Apollo program.”

My musical week has been trapped in a strange place betweeen this, this and, well, this.

206 Comments

  1. Spider Jerusalem says:

    *hugs*

  2. shootfirst arguelater says:

    The Chris Geen piece is quite interesting. As a medium games are still maturing, and unfortunately still seen by the older (50+) generation as something for children.

    With this in mind it is arguably more difficult for developers to explore difficult themes as the potential for over-reaction from sections of the media and politicians. The “hot coffee” furore in GTA is ridiculous when set against material found in 18-certificate film is illustrative of this.

    In many ways the Indie developers will have to lead the way here, but I hope that in 10 – 20 years the argument will become moot as there will be a greater acceptance in society that there can be such things as 18+ mature games with emotional and intelligent storylines.

    Against that hope lies the issue that as graphics improve so does the potential for over-reaction.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I assume “Geen” is a typo because the article says “Green”? Just noticed it because everyone does the reverse with my name.

    • shootfirst arguelater says:

      Yeah that’s a typo; which I carelessly copied from Jim’s piece.

      His excuse is that he’s hung-over, not sure what mine is…

    • Rii says:

      The “hot coffee” controversy arose because in the United States the hidden content was inconsistent with the rating the game originally received from the ESRB. That wasn’t the case in the UK and it should’ve been a non-story there.

  3. Rich says:

    You sir are in dire need of a cup of tea and a bacon sandwich.

  4. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Re: The review scoring article, I am a big fan of Podcast type discussions of games. It feels much closer to sitting down with a bunch of knowledgable mates and listening to lots of views on a game, and that ‘feel’ is sometimes more helpful than one person’s well crafted article. As we see often, different journalists even within the same institution often disagree, but the public generally (In the absence of something like a Wot I think) only gets to associate ONE reviewer’s feelings with the entire publication. When games quote the opinions, its not “this guy from IGN said its great”, its just “IGN said its great”. It lends the opinion greater weight because it appears to come from some monolithic edifice, rather than one man. Its nicer to have multiple views on a game and hear people talk things out.

    • aerozol says:

      Game-related Podcast recommendations, please?

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      The main one I listen to is the PC Gamer one, though in the last I have heard some from other sites (that i cant remember now! Maybe escapist?). PC Gamer puts one out sporadically

    • Chopper says:

      @ aerozol

      Though not PC-specific, the Gamecritics podcast is great; funny and entertaining. Big Red Potion seems to be pretty decent, and Gamerdork is supposed to be good.

  5. SuperNashwanPower says:

    The author of the Kotaku article seems to have managed to play Fallout 3 without realising you can switch to 3rd person mode. Would have made for an interesting comparison for them.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      It could have concluded that in 3rd person games it always feels like you’re controlling a possessed puppet.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Lol yeah that would have been a view I could get behind :D I felt irritated though because if the whole dicussion was about how FP vs TP influences the experience of the game, surely playing the same game through in both modes, and to see which one is most enjoyable for them, would have been a far better comparison than comparing two different games.

      I always feel in TP that its me AND this other person, like I am making decisions but dont have to shoulder any responsibility. In Mass Effect, if I choose douche lines, its Shephard that gets the flak, not me. In combat, he hides behind a wall whilst I omnipotently look around the corner for him. There’s always a sense of kind of being ‘carried’ in TP. For me FP always feels more consequential and threatening. If I want to look round a corner from cover, I am actually risking getting shot. For me thats why FP feels more ‘adult’, as I am not relying on someone bigger, stronger or charming / charismatic. Pissing someone off in conversation in FO3 felt more emotionally meaningful than doing the same in ME, as the annoyed NPC is looking at me, not someone else.

    • Urthman says:

      I got the feeling he was talking about console games. The first-person you-are-there effect is so much greater when sitting a half-meter from a monitor than it is sitting on a couch 2-3 meters from the TV.

    • bigtoeohno says:

      Also immersion has less to do with first or 3rd person perspective than it does the execution of either.

    • Tams80 says:

      But what about 2nd person?!

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Stop this second person business as if it were a good joke. The most recent game featuring that perspective was in fact Portal 2 (in co-op when you make a gesture).

    • vanarbulax says:

      Experience 112 (The Experiment) was entirely second person. Very interesting, also very tedious and not very good. But it proved that second person was entirely doable, and with a little more editing, a lot of polish and quality control, it could have been sublime.

  6. Corrupt_Tiki says:

    No cartoons then? Am disappoint.

  7. groghog says:

    the new driver game sounds batshit

    • Raiyan 1.0 says:

      I’ve always wanted some metaphysics in my racing games!

    • terry says:

      Agreed. I am fond of the idea of out of body-jumping into some old stationwagon amidst a pair of angry grannies and just cruising around. Comparisons to an open world Chase HQ also get my driving fingers twitching.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      It does look good doesn’t it? The old Driver is my gold standard of how car in driving games should ‘feel’, so I hope the can re-capture that. There was an awesome sense of satisfaction in nailing a perfect handbrake turn into a narrow alleyway, easy enough that it never felt impossible, but just difficult enough to make you feel great.

  8. Lambchops says:

    Bah, the children deserve it I say. After years of being tormented by the “creepy small girl” in horror games it’s about time the accursed tykes got a bit of violence delivered unto them!

  9. JB says:

    Andy Helms = awesomenessnessness.

    Check out the Star Wars posters he drew up: link to atomictoy.org

  10. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Hmm… isn’t “First, or Third Person” a false dichotomy from the start?

    Fine, that particular PhD student gets more from a 3rd person perspective. Does he really want to mean that 3rd person perspective is better for this purpose, or isn’t he just over-thinking the whole thing and coming up with pseudo-psychological babble to justify his inadequacy at identifying with characters in 1st person view (or choosing the wrong games to do that)?

    If something fails, is not the visual perspective. Simply the game design, the plot, the story, or the characters. And not always is a matter of failing, but of a conscious decision not to place the main character at the forefront, but instead the world where he lives in. Fallout 3 wasn’t a game about being The Kid from Vault 101. It was instead about the world of Fallout 3, it’s people and its story. The game made no effort into making me empathize with the character. There’s no story from him. Heck, it was his father story. The little bits that could be about the player (his mother died on birth, his father dies soon after he meets him) are inconsequential and we spend the whole game essentially searching for his father, and then finishing his work.

    If the PhD student couldn’t understand this — that this game isn’t about the main character and the main character isn’t actually developed within the plot — it’s because he didn’t care enough about the game to find it himself (which is fine), but also because he didn’t bother taking a good look at the plot before coming up with his thoughts (which isn’t).

    And for every Call of Duty or Crysis out there he tries to use as an example of how 1st person perspective doesn’t allow a player to identify with his own character, I can come up with one Diablo II, or Might & Magic game that doesn’t allow a player to identify with his own character. And both my examples will be equally ridiculous.

    What I can agree however is that lack of immersion is becoming a problem. But that’s possibly the fault of writers, or those of us (players) who just don’t have enough in us anymore to commit emotionally to a game. Hell, there used to be a time when I could immerse myself into Monty Mole!

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      ^^ Agreed. I was rather put off when they decided to use FO3 as an example whilst admitting they hadnt really played it.

    • Xocrates says:

      Yes, on closer inspection that article does come across as a bit silly doesn’t it?

      The author isn’t arguing First Vs Third person, he’s arguing developed characters Vs non-developed characters. Essentially rendering the entire argument meaningless since he never compares characters that are equally developed.

    • Chris D says:

      Xocrates (or anyone else)

      Who would you pick as an example of a fully developed character experienced primarily in first person?

    • Lilliput King says:

      Why is first/third person a false dichotomy?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Why is first/third person a false dichotomy?

      For the purposes of his discussion.

      The ability to immerse into a character and to roleplay it, is instead conditioned by other factors like the story, how the plot develops, how good a writer they hired. Certainly I can’t see how being first person or third person has anything to do with it.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Chris D: While there aren’t that many well developed first person characters, for reasons the article explains, this is a problem with the games as opposed to the perspective.

      My point was that he didn’t made the comparison with equally developed characters, he could easily have picked a few underdeveloped third person characters to make his point.

      @Lilliput King: it isn’t a false dichotomy, but the problem is that the article isn’t actually discussing it, it just thinks it is.

    • Lambchops says:

      @ Chris D

      I wouldn’t say particularly well developed but what about Patrick Galloway from Clive Barker’s Undying? OK it’s just standard revelations from memories and so on and there’s a lot left to speculation (particularly the reasons behind his rivalry with the count) but there is certainly an effort to develop the character of Patrick (mostly through his relationships with his friends turned undead enemies the Covenant family).

      Same goes for Amnesia, there’s development of Daniel there too through rather similar means, although it isn’t particularly in the foreground and needs a bit of extra effort from the player to appreciate.

      They are the only examples that spring to mind immediately (I’m sure others may have more), though it’s interesting they are both horror games.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Yeah, Amnesia was one that came to my mind too.

    • Chris D says:

      I think there are a couple of different issues here.

      There’s first/third person camera angles, there’re fully developed and blank slate characters, and then there’s first and third person in a more narrative sense.

      I think the article is making the assumption that first person camera implies a blank character while fully developed ones require ( or are better depicted in) third person. I don’t think it’s as simple as a one to one correspondence but I think if we treat it as more of a guideline it holds up reasonably well.

      I think if you want to impart information about a character you need to take control from the player, whether it’s cutscenes, voice over or learning about your mysterious past. All of these are third person experiences in one sense, even if you maintain first person camera. Conversely if you are dedicated to giving the player full control your character is inevitably a blank slate. For example after the whole of Portal and Portal 2 the only thing I know about Chell is that she never gives up, which I learned from the comic.

    • tunnel says:

      Yep, the article seemed to entangle 1st/3rd person perspective with the character having a tangible body, and having a personality. Which I find to be three largely unrelated concepts.
      Whether i get to see my character or not (through cutscenes in 1st person) and wheter he/she has a personality or not seems to have no bearing on immersion. I never think “I” am gordon freeman, or the doom guy. Now I wouldn’t want gordon freeman to start speaking, but I don’t think he makes half-life inherently more immersive than deus ex. If the writing is decent, I’d sooner say the opposite. If my guy has no personality, my imagination will fill the void. Either way I’m pretending to be someone else.
      I do find 1st person more immersive, because the world seems more tactile that way. For some reason in 1st I interpret a table as a table, while in 3rd I interpret a table as an abstract obstacle around which to navigate, and interchangeable with a tree, a slab of concrete, etc…
      It’s especially bad when there are invisible walls everywhere. Not being able to step on a knee-high ledge or fall from anything taller than a stair step makes the whole world seem fake, no matter how pretty they then try to make it. Some of the scenarios in Mass Effect 2 were spectacular, and I remember myself thinking what a shame that I can’t feel any of it as real. 3rd person games with no invisible walls (AssCreed, GTAs) are much better, but 1st still has an edge over them for me.

      EDIT: 1st person games that feature things like glowing, levitating health kits and ammo, will have the same effect of making the whole thing look like an abstract set of corridors and obstacles, no matter how much effort they put in the environments. So perhaps it’s not so much the 1st person perspective that I prefer, but that I can’t remember any 3rd person game with neither invisible walls nor glowing powerups.

    • Chris D says:

      Daniel in Amnesia is an interesting case. I haven’t played all that far through Amnesia yet so I’m happy to be corrected.

      It seems that there are almost two Daniels, the pre and post amnesia versions. You only get to play the second one, which is what you experience in first person and he’s pretty much the archetypal blank slate. The Daniel you learn about as you go is effectively someone else, and you experience him in third person. Even if that third person is Daniel mark 2.

    • Lilliput King says:

      Well that doesn’t make it a false dichotomy. It would only be a false dichotomy if there were a third perspective.

      edit: I see what you mean, though. The article is conflating 1st person perspective with having no body/character. I’m just bustin yer chops.

      Also, submitted for your consideration re: first person characters with character – Garrett?

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      hmm… that’s a good point Chris D. But I think we do wrong trying to think of 1st person (or third person, for that matter) examples of strong and weak character development for the purpose of identifying which mode is best. In a way that is giving credence to the article supposition.

      Instead, the problem (if there is one) is that most games the article author will try are designed to present the gamer with a rich world and rich inhabitants and develop their stories, not the player character’s. This is in fact a common trend in RPG games. What some games then go on about doing is creating some “side-shows” to help the player identify with his own character. “Romance”, “Friendship”, “Tragedy”, etc…

      So why does he think that 3rd person is better, when the techniques are essentially the same (Dragon Ages, for instance)? I suspect because he played those games to the end and didn’t give up 1/3 into the game without allowing these factors to kick in and start producing results. He may simply also not be much into First-Person, I dunno. It’s not that he comes off clean with his Crysis comparisons and admitting he didn’t even play Fallout 3 beyond the very basics, or realized he could have actually played it in 3rd person.

      When a game is about the main character and that is the one being developed in the plot, then we can bet, first person or third person will work equally well.

    • mandrill says:

      @Chris D: Gordon Freeman. The best developed central character in a 1st person game ever, By a long way. Why is this?

      Is it because so little is revealed about him? Is it because he says nothing? Is it simply because he has become an icon and entered the pantheon of gaming folklore? Who knows?

      All I know is that I know who Gordon Freeman is, I know why he’s doing what he does. Because I am him. That is what the First Person perspective is for, and it is something that no other game has quite achieved. Possibly because all the others have tried to add too much depth and detail to their FPS characters. Gordon Freeman is a cipher, a blank slate upon which we can impress our own personalities and motivations without having to incorporate all the extra baggage of a backstory and family history that some games want to lumber us with.

      Can you put a name to any of the other FPS protagonists (without googling and not including Chel)? Crysis? Call of Duty? Medal of Honour? Doom? Maybe there’s a sweet spot. A point beyond which all connection with the character is lost because we’ve been given too much detail about them. We don’t know anything about Gordon Freeman apart from the fact that he’s a bit of a science geek who got dumped in the middle of the end of the world and had to cope as best he could.

      So we identify with, and are able to identify, Gordon Freeman because enough space has been left in his character for us to become him and we want to become him.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      I definitely never think of myself as being the person in any game – usually when addressed by someone, i feel like something of an impostor, which I guess is what I am. Its like the NPC’s are talking to a body, someone they think is Gordon or whoever, with all the personality traits they expect of him, but the consciousness is me. Sometimes I feel a little bit of a fraud when I say, get into a target building, and they say all these wonderful things about me, such a fighter, survivor, leader. I am sitting there feeling entirely average, knowing in reality I have died several times just navigating their bloody car park and sent several support characters to pointless, sometimes friendly-fire induced deaths :D

    • JackShandy says:

      Gordon Freeman? I don’t really believe that. For one thing, he’s definetly not a perfect blank slate- characters are constantly referencing the invented history they’ve had with him, but you’ve got no idea about (“Good to see that MIT degree payed off”/”About that beer I owe ya”). You’re always interacting with characters who have apparently been lifelong friends with you – the only problem being that you just met them five minutes ago. Definetly not a perfect character.

    • Chris D says:

      Lots of people to reply to. I shall do my best but will inevitably miss someone, incurring their eternal wrath and starting a generations long war between their descendants and mine. Here goes.

      @SuperNashwanPower

      Interesting. I tend to be at the opposite end of the spectrum. Even given a blank slate I almost always imagine some kind of personality for them, distinct from my own. Most of the time there’s quite a large grey area, though.

      @Mandrill

      Just for the sake of clarity I’d say that Gordon Freeman is what I was describing earlier as a blank slate character, as opposed to what I called fully developed meaning they came already in possession of a personality of their own. That said, I think you make a great case for why that kind of character is compelling. Out of interest would you find him more or less compelling if he came without the name and science background? Would that give you greater freedom or would that be a step too far? Also, how does Gordon Freeman compare to Shepard, who you also have freedom to define but in a different way?

      @Mario

      I agree it’s not a good basis for saying third person is better than first person or vice versa, but maybe it’s an interesting starting point when trying to decide what the strengths and weaknesses of each approach are and which is best for the types of games we want to make.

      @Lilliput King

      Garret is a good example. The others I could think of were Faith from Mirror’s edge and the protagonist from Dark Corners of the Earth, whose name escapes me.

      I think one of the arguments in favour of 1st person is that it “Makes it feel more like you’re really there”, or “You’re in control, not someone else.” I think this is a good argument for a certain type of game. But once a game gives you set information about the personality of a character it breaks that illusion, and I guess the argument is “Once you’ve done that why not go the whole hog and go for third person which gives you more storytelling advantages of it’s own?”

      There are also gameplay arguments for and against but that’s a slightly different argument than talking about immersion.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      @Chris D – thank you for your diligent replies! Your good manners are exceeded only by your being a splendid chap **doffs cap**

    • BarneyL says:

      Metro 2033 is another FPS with a fairly well developed character (Artyom) most of the in game conversations are one sided Gordon Freeman style stuff but the lead character also narrates the intro to each chapter adding in personality there.
      Kate Archer from the NOLF games (again most of the development is in cut scenes but there is some in game chatter if I recall).
      And of course there’s our old friend Duke Nukem who may not qualify as developed but certainly has a lot of character.

    • stahlwerk says:

      How we feel about FP/TP may also be related to how much effort the developer has to make to create the illusion of agency of the controlled character in terms of the story. In first person games, whenever the character speaks (with viewport in-head), it is a bit jarring because the player mostly wouldn’t express her/himself in ways that the writers anticipated (examples that come to mind are prey (1), where the character trash talks his enemies during firefights (IIRC), also duke nukem’s one liners).
      I think a third person observer can attribute these kind of utterances to the character without thinking as much about it, the writer thus has a lot more leeway to develop these characters in ways that ultimately enrich the story, even if the words and actions aren’t always in line with what the player would do or even find morally acceptable (Kratos from God of war, Altair from Assasin’s Creed).
      So, in first person, character development effectively becomes a funnel that the player has to squeeze through, along with his preconceptions about the character. Mute characters (/”blank slates”) are much easier to embed into a story because of that, I guess, because their actions can be set up by the writer so that the player thinks his agency actually perpetuated the story (“Would you kindly push the cart into the beam, Gordon?”).
      I don’t know where I’m going with this, so I will stop here. :D

    • bob_d says:

      I have to say, this discussion is more interesting, useful and academic than the article.
      The main problem with the article is that it conflates empathy and immersion into a third sensation, a sort of “feeling that the game character has a body that occupies the game world that is being controlled by the player,” a sensation that the author only feels when playing a third-person game where he can see the character’s movement. So, really, it isn’t much of a statement – we can’t prove or disprove it, nor does it say anything about anyone else. It also doesn’t say anything about developing character or personality, or mentally occupying a character, etc. that the terms empathy and immersion usually refer to in the context of games.

      @ SuperNashwanPower: Ha yes, I feel the same feeling of being a fraud when playing Half-Life 2. I can’t help but think, “Well, I was only following the only path made available to me by the game.”

    • gwathdring says:

      I agree that the perspective isn’t the most relevant issue here. There are games (Fallout 3 included) that have third person perspectives without fixing the issues of immersion and character identification. The key for me when it comes to immersion in a game is first allowing me to feel like I in a real place by making the reactions and interactions of periphery characters and the setting tactile, cohesive, and interesting. Second, to give me control of a character I can believe exists in this world. Mass Effect worked really well for me, because Shepard felt constrained enough to be consistent with the narrative going on around me: I couldn’t randomly massacre civilians or shoot my squad-mates—Shepard got to where he is out of dedication and discipline. The dialog, while somewhat influenced by me, always has some element of Shepard in it. I can’t change the character too much–I never feel like Shepard is me, only that I am Shepard.

      I’m glad someone mentioned Mirror’s Edge for this reason. I never felt like Faith was me. But when the game was working well, at the moments when something clicked properly (it had flaws, so not as often as I’d hoped), I felt like I was faith. I could see her arms when I ran, here her reactions to bullet-grazes and long falls. I controlled the motions, but not the character. When done properly, that can work wonders. I won’t argue that HL2 succeeds at this: it doesn’t. But it comes a lot further than some third person games because of the characters around Gordon. They have a relationship with him, and interact with each other and him just enough to establish Gordon as an entity. The characterization is extremely minimal and there’s the sense of being a floating arm with guns due to the technology and trends at the time it was made, but the action is immersion at times and I can identify with all the characters around Gordon well enough not to feel like Gordon is me (which, I agree with the article, is immersion breaking).

      In Fallout and Oblivion, I can do this for myself. I can create the role and characteristics in my head. Add dialog and thoughts my character is having. I play a role of my own creation, and this allows me to identify well enough that I can then become immersed whenever the action and dialog options in the game allow me to play the role. The trouble is, since there was not one character in mind when dialog was written, I too often find myself humming along, immersed, only to come to a screaming halt when my character can’t say anything remotely intuitive. Then I go into meta-gaming mode, trying to decide between decisions that will help me progress to the gameplay elements I want and the options that are closest to being in character despite not matching up. Which brings me back to what I found so effective about Mass Effect: there were multiple roles I could take on, and I had some leeway to flit between them. But the options had a certain cohesion and were written into the game with the intent of maintaining certain character elelments—I could still create my own role, my own dialog during long Mako journeys. But I felt the game made it clear what sorts of character options I had to avoid to keep the imagined character from every feeling broken. There are points where my character has no options that are enjoyable, no happy choices or decisions that match up with the characters ideals and ethical stance … but most of them are in-world challenges to the attitudes, ideals, and opinions of my characters.

      I recognize that most people don’t, or don’t want to have to write video game characters as they play in the way that I tend to … and in a well designed game, I shouldn’t feel that doing that is necessary to establish character and motive rather than an excited extension of the entertainment I get from in-game characterization.

    • Zwebbie says:

      I’d be curious to know how all of you talk about your game experiences. I experienced that I normally say “I did x and y”, while with Mass Effect I’d say “My Shepard did x and y” or “I had my Shepard do x and y”. Probably because I never felt in control in that game and thought the game would often force me into stupid decisions or just make stupid decisions by itself without even consulting me. It’s an interesting observation, I thought.

    • gwathdring says:

      It is an interesting observation. However, I think that a lot of community members refer to their Shepard so for similar reasons to those discussed here and to a lesser extent in the article. On the one hand there is a degree of personalization available, but on the other hand, the character is decidedly already defined in a good many ways. Shepard is clearly not you, but Shepard’s story can be beholden to your preferences. Shepard can be yours in a way. I don’t think most people think about it precisely like this, anymore than you seem to have initially thought “I can’t connect to this character so I will call him/her my Shepard.” But without further data, I would wager that people phrase things this way as much because of the strong sense of Shepard as a character in his/her own right as because of some general inability to connect.

      I’ve seen a lot of posts on forums about people becoming attached to their Shepards, invested in their decisions, actions and relationships (“My Shepard wants to ____, so put that in the game for my Shepard”). I could be wrong, but I think a good number of gamers did feel affection or at least affiliation with the characters in the game. They didn’t seem to, as a group, experience ego-death, but that doesn’t mean that they were not immersed and invested.

      To answer your question, I describe my actions in RPGs more in the “my character did this” sort of way. The extent to which I feel it is an “RPG” varies a lot more than traditional nomenclature would dictate as I mentioned (I create my own roles in games, whether or not the developer encourages this). When it comes down to a feat of mechanics or of technical gameplay, I tend to describe it as something I did. For example, even though I felt a strongly that Faith was a character in her own right during Mirror’s edge (not a great character, but distinctly a character), I describe the Parkour feats and platforming successes as my own. In Mass Effect, if I ran through a room solo after snipers took out my companions, barely making it to the other end alive … that’s usually something I did, rather than Shepard. Choosing to calm down ____ instead of shooting him? That’s more likely to be something Shepard did. In Mount and Blade, I just noticed while thinking about it, I describe raising a band of men to a certain size and convincing lords to go along with me in doing something are described as character actions while taking down 20 bandits single handedly in a blind rage to get my money or captured companions back or getting a killer deal on some trade goods, those I tend to describe as personal actions.

      This doesn’t seem to be connected to how immersive I find the game or how well I identify with (or simply respect as a sovereign entity) the character I play as.

    • Quirk says:

      I think Thief’s Garrett is an interesting case, more so than Gordon Freeman. His personality is partially introduced through cutscenes, but he also has numerous lines as various points get reached in game, usually mumbled asides to himself, in which I feel his personality comes through quite distinctly.

      Also, Dear Esther.

    • saturday says:

      If you want a immersive FPV then play the stalker games. Your character again does start off as a blank slate only slowly finding more out but if you had a third person view , not only would the game be easier but less personal and far less atmospheric. Having to actually look around to make sure your not stepping into something bad or using the audio to track a target as you move your head(view) adds a lot . Been able to see around corners would kill this dead. Going along that line could you imagine play any of the fear games in third person all the jumpy moments would not work. The restrictions placed on you by first person add to things like tension , paranoia ;) and when properly done makes the whole expericene more realistic.

      Thats not to say third person is bad but its no longer you its your avatar. And while this allows you to see your cool gear and watch the cool moves the attachement is more akin to a favoured pet or a well written tv show . It was great in the Witcher as the combat looked cool and you needed to time your attacks and certainly helps in platformers like Uncharted and Lara

      As mentioned before your total immersion is down more the good writting and programming . nothing kills it more for me than screen judders from explosions( have they never been / near an explosion) , they are lazy and didnt work on star trek in the 60’s so why people think they work now ?? And the head bob ? please just go for a run , maybe i’m strange but i have no problem focusing even at full pelt .

      One of the best way for immersion is npc reactions and realations to you. Afterall we all on a daily basis use the reactions of those around to help measure our place in the world and judge our actions (good , bad etc) . Even a simple comment on the bodycount let say will trigger a reaction.

    • gwathdring says:

      I disagree with one point you made, and staked most of my first post on this idea: I think games in which I feel like I’m not playing as the character whose avatar I see work on an entirely different level. In Sands of Time, even though it was third person, I most often felt like I was playing. The game had a good character, and a really interesting story in my opinion, but nevertheless I felt in a lot of gameplay segments as though they were very much that: gameplay segments. This is nearly always the case for me with platformers. As such, I differentiated between the prince as a character and my actions in the platformer. He was the narrator more so than the avatar. For the most part, I’m more likely to get into a self-conscious or meta-game mode in a game with weaker characters regardless of how immersed I am in the experience. Battlefield 2 is another interesting example. Wholly immersive in the thick of things, but even in those moments it never feels like war–it’s a visceral experience of combat, but it still feels like a game. A very intense game that I feel personally present in at times, but a game all the same.

      I don’t think third person views always take away my feeling of immersion or even of self in a game, and would argue that the games I most enjoy are those that DO make me feel like I’m playing a character other than myself while also immersing me such that I forget I’m playing a game and very much feel like I’m in the moment. I want to melt into the avatar. That’s when I’m most engaged. I can be immersed without feeling drawn into a role, but I find the simultaneous experience of both more enjoyable. More importantly, I think the game mechanics and setting are far more important in determining these things than camera position. As a final example, Arkham Asylum made me feel like I was there, playing batman. There were meta-game moments, but I often got drawn in enough to feel more personally in control. Not that I, Gwathdring, was fighting this people. But that I, Bruce Wayne AKA Batman was fighting these people.

      Perhaps that’s what you meant by “There’s you and then there’s the avatar.” I interpreted it as “you” being wholly personal immersion rather than including this sort of vicarious immersion. Either way, I don’t think camera matters most here.

    • wengart says:

      I’ve always felt that first and third person, in general, are used to tell different kinds of stories. Or at least this is how I’ve experienced them.

      In 3rd person the player is experiencing the story of someone else. While in 1st person you are experiencing your own story.

      For example, in Gears of War when Marcus is running for cover I am there, but only to see what he did. It’s very much like reading a book for me. I can feel for the character and I can immerse myself in that character’s world, but in the end it is about the character.

      While in 1st person games I am the character and the world is my own. To use another shooter as an example, when I run towards cover in Metro 2033 I am the one who is running for cover, not my character. I am not experiencing my character’s story because the story has become my story.

    • gwathdring says:

      @Wengart

      This is how developers tend to use it, though, too. Which is perhaps a large part of it … so I’m curious, is this still true of Mirror’s Edge (if you’ve played it)? Or Amnesia? Both are games where both through voice work, animation, and explicit narrative instruction you are told that the first-person character is not “you” the gamer. Again perhaps as with the other post to which I replied we are mixing terminology. To that end, when you say that you feel like the character in Metro 2033 is “you” does this include feeling as though you have “become” characters like Faith or Daniel or Garrett or does it mean that your personality and such override those insinuated by the avatar? And with third person being a story about someone else, does that exclude games where you feel as though you have been taken into the role of this someone else, or is it only games where you identify as a camera following the main character? Because everything changes if we’re misinterpreting one another’s You’s.

    • Deano2099 says:

      Well developved characters in first-person games?

      JC Denton? The protagonist from Alpha Protocol.

      Oh and the main guy from Don’t Take It Personally Babe… and by extension the protagonists of pretty much every game in the visual novel genre, many who are more developed than most other characters in either type of game elsewhere.

    • Muzman says:

      Tsk. Garrett not mentioned right off the top as a definitive FP character. Kids these days, I don’t know.

      Indeed, I’d say about half, if not most, old school shooters tried to make a specific relatable character v. those who went for faceless space marines (and some went for both, like Halo). The original Medal of Honour and Call of Duty did it. Return to Castle Wolfenstein did it circuitously by having people talk about you etc

      Anyway, this all gets mired in the immersion debate. Something that is wildly variable for everyone. I do know that I don’t give a crap about dying nearly as much in Third person as I do in First. It’s just a fact of life. I can still have an intense gaming experience in Third, but not quite the same one. Likewise, people who say you can’t do stealth or platforming in first person are only talking about themselves (and probably a significant portion of people who react the same way). I can do it just fine. It’s intuitively easy, in fact. Took to it like a duck to water, I did. But it’s doomed to go round and round. Some think if you’re in first person everything must be a naturalistic as possible or immersion is broken, or any clue your character is not “you” or anything else you care to bring up. This is all wrong, but may be true for them. Third person boosters bang on and on about kinesthesia and other such stuff, which I think is a load of bollox. I am far more likely to have that experience from a movie or a dance/acrobatic performance piece. I’m pretty confident it has never happened in a third person game.

      I dunno where this is going exactly, but the camps that have developed are kinda interesting by themselves. It must depend to some extent on what gaming period you grew up in I think. In any case the article in question makes its allegiance very clear, with its sneer-y dismissive tones about any mention of first person. It really sounds like he held his nose and flipped over to one game with a first person mode for five minutes for the first time in his life and then went “Don’t like it. I’m writing an article”. I don’t expect any ground breaking research from this guy based on what we’ve got here.
      (snark aside, he mentions the gliding around on a skateboard thing a couple of times. There aren’t many FP games that do that at all any more. What the hell’s he on about?)

    • Veracity says:

      @mandrill: you’re conflating camera position and blank slateosity in the same way as Mr Ruch. Zelda’s Link (Links, if you like) is more or less the same (non-)character as Freeman, for plenty of other people if not for you. Garrett, Faith and Tex Murphy (though he’s admittedly only sometimes FP) aren’t. Possibly interesting that we’re talking about Garrett as a first-person character when Deadly Shadows had the same option as Fallout 3, though, even if no right-thinking person used it.

      I mostly avoid talking about immersion because it looks like yet another empty industry buzzword. Unlike most of its ilk, I think it does mean something, I just hope someone knows what, because I still don’t. Something like suspension of disbelief, with bits of identification and empathy and a side of capacity to support extremes of escapism?

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Sorry to take this off on a tangent, because there is some awesome discussion, but being interested in psychology and personality psychology, I wonder how much WE as people bring to the experience of immersion? As an over-simplistic example, would a more self-centred person experience a game differently to an extremely empathic person? Also, as with life, we bring our baggage into every interaction, so why not computer games? I know my family issues played a huge part in my emotional reaction to Fallout 3, for example, just as it can with movies. I found the father scenes very moving, where others thought they were a bit dull. In those moments, my character’s pain became mine through identification. However, I recognise that identification is very different to immersing yourself in an experience and character that is emotionally alien to you.

      Folks are talking above about how they experienced Shephard, or Gordon, and there is a lot of variance. Someone mentioned imagining charcter traits in the ‘blank slate’ personalities, something I never do. So I wonder how much of our own ability or tendency to relate to others, and how we relate ourselves to the world, comes into the immersion experience too? Perhaps it is not possible to construct an ideal immersion experience, because the massive difference in personality and ways we all relate to the world are so varied. Maybe if devs could understand this link, they could give you a kind of personality test at the start of the game, and then tailor the experience to fit :D

    • saturday says:

      @gwathdring

      I think the term immersion itself can be quite a vauge term .We all have a slighty different view on the meaning of immersion but are generally saying the same thing. Games that employ either or both camera angles can be immersive but the experience for me is different . I tend to find fps more personal but not necessarly more immersive, have played some awful fps games in my time . And i think we both agree camera it not the defining element just one of many variables.

      In the stalker games i feel its me thats watching his feet , sh*tting himself getting into a firefight in nearly pitchblack condtions and been creeped out by hearing a childs laugh. I think though this does tie in with what SuperNashwanPower has said . You own experience does affect how the game effects you.

      Im a avid roleplayer and a sport nut .I have done live fire training , night exercises, rappelling , hill climbing (cars) , drag racing , even faced some real fears and crawled inside a torpedeo tube. So all of these have had a effect and shaped my view of the world. If something in the game doesnt follow then it can irk , hence my comment on judders.New experiences are tend not to have a prejudged formula .This though i think can be said of any media and well written stuff can overcome that .

  11. Chris D says:

    @Brenda Braithwaite

    /standing ovation

  12. JackShandy says:

    I’m not, perhaps, smart enough to fully understand that Essay on portal 2, but I liked the bit about the Left/right hemispheres of the brain. Maybe GladOS is the Left, and Wheatley is the right?

    EDIT: Odd to see that it didn’t talk about the Prometheus theme at all, apart from some references to glados et. al as greek deities.

  13. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Re: First/Third person article…

    “To argue that a player cannot ‘become’ Ezio, Fenix or Niko because they are physically visible is analogous to arguing that an actor cannot ‘become’ Hamlet because there is a script for him to speak and stage notes describing what he should do. “

    Most actors actually wear the costume and the makeup and play the character on stage, rather than pick up a marionette.

    My views on the First/Third person ‘debate’ are as follows:

    (a) I prefer first person by far
    (b) …but I find that third person works better on consoles, where you’re sitting a fair way from the TV and using a controller instead of WASD+Mouse
    (c) …and party-based RPGs, such as Dragon Age really need third person too

    If I’m playing a game where I’m playing one character, I much prefer first person by a huge margin. The monitor fills the field of view pretty much, I have a mouse and keyboard, I’m perring through the character’s eyes, it just makes far more sense regardless of any metaphysical ponderings on the nature of ‘self’ and perception.

    What I don’t understand is why more games can’t have switchable first/third person, and give us a choice, as in Thief 3. From a programming perspective all it really involves is moving the camera position and (perhaps) using a boolean value to toggle the ‘head’ on/off. Thus, the whole ‘debate’, this whole false dichotomy is effectively rendered a non-issue.

    It’s simple, really, just give the player a choice of perspective, then we can all stop worrying about our least-favourite option becoming or popular!

    • JackShandy says:

      You can’t usually make things an option like that without degrading both choices. Most games forced to put first and third person in tend to have horrible third person animations/camera.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      Is there any technical reason why that is so?
      The reason I ask is that, as mentioned elsewhere, Fallout 3 had both third- and first-person persoectives. Both seemed pretty good to me!
      [I’ve done a bit of 3D game programming before (not pro level by any stretch of the imagination, it was something I did to familiarise myself with C++, C#, XNA and a bunch of other stuff) and when you actually enumerate the differences in display between first and third person you’ll see that it’s really a matter of dampening camera movement in some places, altering perspective factor perhaps and so forth.]

      Given that you say that either the 3rd person animations or camera usually lose out, it’s conceivable that both can be done well in the same game.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Admittedly the sort-of over-the-shoulder perspective that some first-person games (that’s a lot of hiphens!) offer is a 3rd person view. But it operates just like in first person. If you abstract yourself from the character in front of you, you’ll realize it’s just a trick. You are still looking through a viewport that you turn around at will. You are effectively still in 1st person. That shouldn’t be much a problem. Games actually are becoming more common offering both options.

      But for any other perspective things do get a lot more complicated. The decision to turn fixed camera (1st person and over-the-shoulder) into free-camera (3rd person) is technically difficult to implement on the same game. Just as Jack says.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I’m not buying the argument that it’s technically difficult to offer both perspectives. Most 3rd person shooters include a type of 1st person perspective every time you shift to an zoomed-in iron sights view, or a view through a rifle scope or binoculars. It would only be difficult if the game was originally designed for 1st person, and had to suddenly include character animations. It’s not hard when it’s designed as a 3rd person game from the start.

      I played Fallout 3 in 3rd person, switching to 1st person only when searching shelves and tables for loot, or using weapons without scopes. It’s nice having both options for practical reasons like that, aside from any preferences for immersion. And yes, the character animations in Fallout 3 were clunky (especially that “standing on a turntable” effect when turning around), but that was just poor animation, and it did improve a little in New Vegas. That’s just not the best game engine for character animation.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      The over-the-shoulder view is informally referred to as ‘third person view’ by most gamers. I’m talking *specifically* about camera angles here, not narrative terms! Just to make clear: I am talking *only* about the camera position, not about how the narrative unfolds, or how the NPCs address you, or how well-defined the character backstory is.

      So anyway, what exactly are the technical difficulties then? How come the camera angle can be changed in some games but not others? Why is it so difficult have an option to move the camera position down and forward a bit and toggle the head model off?

      I’ve coded both, and really the only difference is camera position. Both swing round and track the mouse movements, the only difference is that the camera is displaced, say, 1m behind and 1m above the character, and even that is often adjustable using the mouse wheel in a lot of games.

      Whether or not you amend the camera position with stuff like ‘head bob’ is a different matter, and can be toggled by setting a boolean/bit flag (values 1 for head bob, 0 for no head bob) and multiplying said flag value by whatever values you’re using for head bob. A similar thing can be used to select character model (one with a head, one without a head).

      Greater coders than I’ll ever be have pulled this off in Thief 3 and Fallout 3.

      What I’m now curious about is to why some people reject the idea of having an *option* in the game? An option that you need never bother with if you’re happy with the default… As I say, I prefer first-person camera position for most things, third person for party-based RPGs. Others will differ.

    • Lambchops says:

      In most games I’ve played that offer a chance one mode has been noticable weaker than the other. For example the 57th greatest PC game of all time Outcast plays nicely in its default third person mode, switch to a first person perspective and it just doesn’t quite work gameplay wise.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      @dogsolitude_uk,

      There just isn’t enough room here to enter into a 101 about 3D development, neither I’m the most qualified person to do so. However it can be said that each perspective demands its own routines for scene rendering since the calculations for the camera and point of view are entirely independent of each other, and in fact use different algorithms.

      However, the biggest challenge comes with gameplay. What works for 1st person doesn’t necessarily work for 3rd person. The code that supports aiming, walking, looking and interacting with other things in 1st person needs to change to support 3rd person. And these changes can (will) have an impact on gameplay and player experience that would need to then be considered. Imagine Fallout 3, along with its 1st person mode (including over-the-shoulder) had a 3rd person mode akin to Fallout 2. Now imagine the impact this would have on game code. You’d actually have two games into one with completely separate code bases, with two independent game engines and two independent graphics engine. It’s just not technically feasible. And developers would run into the risk of not adequately support one mode, making it a inferior experience, inadvertently supporting the other.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      “There just isn’t enough room here to enter into a 101 about 3D development, neither I’m the most qualified person to do so. However it can be said that each perspective demands its own routines for scene rendering since the calculations for the camera and point of view are entirely independent of each other, and in fact use different algorithms.”

      A few variables may be different, but the scene rendering routines will be the same, and the resulting view is a function of the position and orientation of the camera. All that changes is between third- and first-person view is actually the position of the camera relative to the origin of the player character, and perhaps the perspective factor if you want to be flash. You can embellish the camera movements for head bob in first person using a function that adds a small oscillation (a simple one could use, say, a sine-based function returning numbers between 0 and 0.05, and add that on to the camera height) with movement.

      If you want a brief and cheap introduction to 3D graphics programming, download Visual C# Express and XNA off the Microsoft website, and pick up a copy of the excellent O’Reilly book ‘Learning XNA 3.0′. Or even find a copy of DarkBasic. If you find yourself inspired (and brave) Visual C++ Express is also free, and the Direct X SDKs are too.

      Regarding your comments about refactoring level design, I can sort fo see what you’re saying though, and some game designs suit third person a little better than first, but I still see no reason why the option cannot be offered to the player.

      “However, the biggest challenge comes with gameplay. What works for 1st person doesn’t necessarily work for 3rd person. The code that supports aiming, walking, looking and interacting with other things in 1st person needs to change to support 3rd person.”

      Granted. Fallout 3 managed fine though.

      “Imagine Fallout 3, along with its 1st person mode (including over-the-shoulder) had a 3rd person mode akin to Fallout 2.”

      I think you’re confused. Over-the-shoulder *is* Third-person! Are you thinking about isometric projection, where there’s no perspective and the graphics use bitmaps instead of 3D models and surfaces? Like in Baldur’s Gate? If so then yes, I’d have to agree that only a madman would attempt to have a toggle between 3D rendered first-person and isometric third person.

      “Now imagine the impact this would have on game code. You’d actually have two games into one with completely separate code bases”

      No, just the rendering would be different. The game logic should be kept seperate from whatever routines are used to display whatever’s going on. This princicple makes it easier for devs to re-use code and port games from one platform to another.

      “with two independent game engines and two independent graphics engine”

      Errr… No. The game engine works out what goes where, it doesn’t display it on the screen. why would you need two complete different game engines? The graphics/rendering engine is what sorts the display out, and shows you whatever’s going on, on the basis of data sent to it by the game engine.

      “It’s just not technically feasible.”

      Yes it is. Fallout 3 does it.

      “And developers would run into the risk of not adequately support one mode, making it a inferior experience, inadvertently supporting the other.”

      That makes sense, but surely that’s due to carelessness on the part of the devs, not technical constraints?

    • jalf says:

      Third person is *not* “just first person with the camera displaced a bit backwards”.

      In third person, you have to animate the camera. The player controls his character, and the camera sort of follows along, but isn’t directly controlled. It has to always point the right way, and it has to avoid clipping problems with obstacles (it shouldn’t pass through walls, for example), and it should be “smart” enough not to stare *exactly* in the direction that the character is facing, but generally dodge and weave around anything that might block the player’s sight.

      A good third-person camera is a lot of work. If your game is intended to be played in the first person, then all that work to come up with a *good* 3rd-person camera is time taken away from other aspects of the game.

      In general, a first-person camera will be simpler, and can be “bolted on” without too much trouble, , which is why many third-person games allow you to zoom all the way in to a first-person view.

      But it’s usually impractical to go the other direction, trying to bolt a 3rd-person view onto a 1st-person game.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Precisely, Jalf. I think dogsolitude_uk is confusing third person view with over-the-shoulder view which is nothing more than first person view with a different angle and zoom (when they even bother changing this). 1st and 3rd person here are being discussed in terms of camera functionality, not what the player sees on screen.

      @dogsolitude_uk

      Don’t confuse me saying not being qualified with not knowing. I appreciate your book recommendations, but they can’t teach me anything I don’t know already. I’m a professional programmer for over 20 years. However, 3D is definitely not my area of expertise and I do little work on it. So I don’t feel qualified to discuss this issue when we have among us here on RPS professional 3D programmers that can elucidate you much better than I could.

      Finally isometric view is not the only third-person mode. And it’s a rather weak one at that, being that is yet just another fixed camera mode (usually). So it’s irrelevant. We are discussing 3rd person view with free camera motion. No one expects a game like Fallout 3 to have an isometric view alternative. I think when it is discussed the possibility of games like this to be played in 3rd person, everyone is thinking in a free-camera, not in isometric view. If used the argument for Fallout 2 was simply to give you an example that even then, things would be complicated. Now imagine with a free camera with completely different algorithms and scene rendering techniques.

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      @jalf:

      You’re quite right. Clipping on a bad free-camera is a pain in the ar$e. NWN2 suffered dreadfully from it, however again this is a matter of implementation. I’ll admit I perhaps oversimplified the issue for the sake of trying to get my point across, which is a very bad thing (!) Just because some free cameras are terrible doesn’t mean that a good one is impossible.

      “which is why many third-person games allow you to zoom all the way in to a first-person view.”

      I wish more did! That was kind of my point, but I hadn’t considered the additional technical issues with adding third-person on to a frst-person game… :)

      @Mario:

      “Precisely, Jalf. I think dogsolitude_uk is confusing third person view with over-the-shoulder view which is nothing more than first person view with a different angle and zoom (when they even bother changing this).”

      Over-shoulder-view is often referred to as third-person-view, this is what I was referring to, *not* a free-roaming camera system. I’m glad you agree that Over-The-Shoulder-View is just first person with a different angle and zoom, that is precisely the point I was trying to make, and why I couldn’t see why on Earth a switcheable option for choosing a preferred viewpoint isn’t implemented in more games.

      “Finally isometric view is not the only third-person mode. ”

      I know. I never said it was. There’s also free-camera and Over-The-Shoulder-View. But you mentioned Fallout 2, which *is* isometric, in your example, and so that’s what I went with!

      “…So it’s irrelevant.”

      But you’re the one who brought it up… Oh well.

      “We are discussing 3rd person view with free camera motion.”

      Are we? I thought we were discussing over-the-shoulder view, commonly referred to as ‘third-person’. You never mentioned free camera in your reply! Sorry to be picky, but I think I’m starting to understand where you’re coming from a bit more clearly now.

      “No one expects a game like Fallout 3 to have an isometric view alternative.”

      I agree, and said as much, after you mentioned Fallout 2 which was Isometric.

      “I think when it is discussed the possibility of games like this to be played in 3rd person, everyone is thinking in a free-camera, not in isometric view.”

      Ummm… I’d suggest that most people would be thinking of ‘Over-the-shoulder’, and that the free camera is something you just chucked in after reading Jalf’s insightful comment.

      “If used the argument for Fallout 2 was simply to give you an example that even then, things would be complicated.”

      Well, you brought up Fallout 2 and Isometric, and I think we can agree that having a toggle between First-person and Isometric would be a pain, but that’s not what I was suggesting… O_o

      To clarify: I was suggesting that a toggle between third-person (i.e. Over-The-Shoulder view, which you say is “nothing more than first person view with a different angle and zoom”) and first person, as used in Thief 3 and Fallout 3, should be implemented in more games, and I couldn’t see why it was so difficult.

      I think we were perhaps at cross purposes regarding what we both meant by ‘third-person’. For the sake of further clarity I certainly would *never’ consider Isometric the only type of third person, nor suggest to anyone that they implement Isometric mode in their games.

      Jalf’s comments about clipping and ensuring the camera doesn’t constantly end up in bushes or getting stuck inside walls highlighted what I believe would be the biggest technical difficulty, and tbh it’s not an issue I’ve ever had to deal with (I ended up as a web developer in the end), but from what he says bolting first-person on to a third person game should be feasible.

  14. bill says:

    My feelings on 1st / 3rd person games aren’t that clear. But i know I much prefer 1st person. (not that i haven’t loved some 3rd person games too).

    For some reason (maybe immersion, but it isn’t concrete) I just always feel that 3rd person games are more “lightweight”. Maybe it’s because video game characters tend to be very lightweight and run around game worlds at high speeds – so it does always feel like “a game”. (and a console game at that).
    I don’t know about characters (very few games have deep characters anyway) but i feel more “in the world” in first person. Another reason might be that the world looks larger. Running around in 3rd person makes everything look a little small and distant.

  15. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Ok, well, here it goes:

    It’s articles like The Portal 2 Essay that make me think that perhaps I’m just not into games anymore, if indeed games are expressing all those concepts and thoughts without me ever realizing anything of it.

    Let’s face it, either I’m a complete nullity in terms of gameplay these days, or these writers are waaay over-the-top with their “Mountain gave birth to a mouse” thoughts and conclusions, about this and many other games. To me it’s still mostly just games. And while I can certainly sometimes see some elements in games that transcend them, I cannot possibly understand this apparent need to treat game analysis as if some Ingmar Bergman movie it was. It always feels over the top, somewhat silly and sometimes even infantile. It’s either some kind of pop-culture byproduct this attempt at over-analysis of the mundane, or I’m just not with the times anymore.

    I feel like I’ve been thrown into a Andy Warhol picture for all my sins.

    • Lorc says:

      Enjoy things the way you want to enjoy them and let others have their fun wherever they find it.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Oh! Wow, I certainly didn’t know that. Thank you so much for your words of wisdom.

      I’m not sure where that fits in what I was saying, but I promise I will never express my thoughts again when they conflict with other people’s opinions.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      I dunno. If someone sees more than you, it’s your problem, not theirs.

      KG

    • JackShandy says:

      Oh come now, Mario, don’t be catty. You said you don’t understand/enjoy people writing this sort of thing, Lorc says let the analysts have their fun. No need to suggest he’s ordered you to discontinue your opinion.

      On the portal analysis: Portal 2 definetly, explicitly is themed around certain greek myths, so I’d say the rabbit-hole probably does go down that far, if you look through the game carefully enough.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I used to think the same, but I do appreciate things more now that I have better critical skills. It’s like how people complain that science spoils the beauty of nature, but actually it just uncovers more beauty that those people never even thought to look for.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I dunno. If someone sees more than you, it’s your problem, not theirs.

      You sure about this? Hehe, you guys are funny sometimes. But I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and presume this isn’t really what you wanted to say.

      What you probably wanted to say is that if I don’t want to see far into something, that is my problem not anyone else’s. Which isn’t the same as above since it doesn’t try to imply that seeing more is seeing right. And if this is indeed what you wanted to say, so sure, you are right. If you care to look, I spend the whole time there questioning myself and my ability to actually enjoy games these days to the level these analysts (critics?) are taking it. Sure I presume it’s their wrong, not mine. Why not? I can’t feel one damn thing of what they are talking about!

    • dogsolitude_uk says:

      I wouldn’t worry about it Mario. You can analyse anything to the nth degree if you feel so inclined. You don’t have to be able to spout off about postmodern deconstrunctionalist semiotics* in order to enjoy a good film.

      Your response to Lorc was a bit OTT though…

      [*random words vaguely recalled from a conversation with an art student chick a few years back. I won’t pretend to know what they mean]

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      I agree. Sorry about that Lorc. Ignore that second paragraph, if you would be so kind, and I’ll buy you a beer.

    • 12kill4 says:

      a keystone of intelligent thought is the ability entertain an idea regardless of whether you hold to it yourself.

      and dont be snarky to The Father of New Games Journalism, else you might find yourself face to face with a big blonde dude and his hammer in some dark alley :P

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      and dont be snarky to The Father of New Games Journalism,

      Oh! So he’s the one responsible for all this mess!?
      Do you have his home address?

    • 12kill4 says:

      rumor has it he lives in a secret location in order to avoid the child support claims the internet keeps sending him…

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      BTW, Kirk Hamilton’s review and own analysis of the game was my refuge and my consolation. Appreciated that a lot more, felt more balanced and didn’t try to make me feel like I was on an acid trip.

    • Dinger says:

      I don’t have a problem with that approach “It’s just fun for me, why do people keep reading too much into it?” But if that’s your view, why bother posting in a thread about people writing about games?

      I think there’s a lot that hasn’t been talked about in P2, and some of it quite interesting.
      Nobody’s tried to fit the Rattman subplot into their discussion: in tone and imagery, it’s completely different from everything else, while figuring the game’s characters and music into the story, like the tragic cartoon to the comedic main feature. Oh yeah, the National’s song is awesome too.
      The essay above made some reference to voyeurism that wasn’t fleshed out. I’m actually intrigued by the notion of body in this first-person game. The game features opaque and clear glass, lenses, even portals that give you a completely different perspective, but there are no mirrors in the game. You are in the first-person, but you can never look at yourself directly. The closest you get is through a pair of portals, and there you are always looking at yourself as another person (you cannot look at yourself head-on). The only “reflective” surface is blue paint. And yet all the characters in the game go to pains to portray your body. Rattman paints you as a messiah, GladOS makes continual cracks about your weight. Wheatley says you stink and then tries the fat jokes too. Even Cave Johnson has some opinions about his “test subjects”. This is a world where “Bring your daughter to work day” coincides with the apocalypse, and the pretty but “married-to-science” Caroline becomes a disembodied old hag who dreams of nothing less than submitting your young, female self to examination hell while repeatedly mocking your body, your unknown past and your dismal future.

      You’re right. People read too much into things.

    • Soon says:

      Valve are the modern Euripides. Obviously.

    • Wulf says:

      @Dinger

      I’ll take that challenge! The whole thing was a creative exercise by GLaDOS, trying to understand how his mind worked as she remembered her time with him (vicariously so, I’ll come back to this), because whilst she was mocking him, what he didn’t realise was that she was also responsible for the companion cube. It would be a simple matter for GLaDOS to fit a copy of herself or another AI into the cube, and that AI could relay all information to her mainframe when the time was right to do so. It could even have been more similar to a turret’s AI in there. We’ve seen how small of a container an Aperture AI can fit into and still function, as well.

      I came to this conclusion right at the end of the story. “You deserve a rest.” That’s a line that GLaDOS has used before, and how would Rattman know so much about the facility as GLaDOS had laid it out? It would be simple to convince himself though that it was voices in his head, wouldn’t it? And how did the cube ‘return’ to him after he’d taken the medicine that should have shut down that part of his brain for a good while longer? So let’s assume that eventually all this gets relayed to GLaDOS as she’s turned back on, that the companion cube really was an AI, she could have decided to parse the information in a particularly interesting way.

      Perhaps she was even a little sentimental and shared the cube’s fondness for Rattman, I wouldn’t put this past her because we have seen her be sentimental in her own strange, odd way, and similarly, in her own bizarre way, she could even have valued him, or at least her interactions with him.

    • McCool says:

      Mario, dude, I have a blog called Mediations on First Gaming Philosophy and I thought that article was way over the top. Its a certain style of writing, seeing how many reference points to all the books you have read you can draw out of a work, and showing them off. Reading that article and then, say, The Final Hours of Portal 2, or reflecting on the people who actually made the game, you can guess these ideas are all in the blogger’s head. There’s really no reason to suppose any of that was intentional. But as Kieron pointed out, that’s totally fine. You get whatever you put into games, and after all, aren’t we the medium with the biggest hard-on for Death of The Author? (look I did it then ha).

      With reasoned arguments you could show that guy that pretty much everything he is drawing from Portal 2 probably wasn’t intentionally put in their by Valve, but what’s the point? If you can have THAT much fun drawing things from quite a simple comedy puzzle game, why not?

    • Wulf says:

      I still don’t think it was a simple comedy puzzle game though and I still think that Valve strongly implied a sense of tragedy, making it a tragic comedy more than anything else, and a poignant one to boot. I can’t believe that I wasn’t supposed to feel anything at the predicament of Wheatley, GLaDOS, Caroline, Cave himself, and even Chell. I’d have to completely shut down any emotions but humour to do that. They were clearly toying with my feelings in the Cave Johnson section. And what about the sentient turrets being sent off in a little line, all to their deaths?

      I mean, I accept that we read a lot into games, but this goes both ways, too. We can also overtly remove a lot from games, even cleverness that the developers had intended to utilise. But I don’t know if anyone is willing to accept that this goes both ways unless a developer nods and says “Yeah, we intended that.”, so really, I think it’s all a moot point. A very moot point in fact. At the end of the day, we all see what we’ll see, but neither viewpoint is necessarily correct – it might be a particularly deep tragic comedy like I think it is, or it might be just a cheery, normal, simple comedy like you and Mario believe it to be. But without Valve’s say, there’s no way to conclusively, objectively prove that it’s either.

      I suppose that really is my only point of contention, that this goes both ways. No one can really prove anything about a story that’s being told by someone else, we can be arrogant about it, but rarely can we prove it.

      I’m not being nasty here, I’m just pointing out that this can go both ways, because I can’t see how anyone couldn’t see it as anything other than a tragic comedy, and that’s the point, but I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion. However, that’s all that they are – opinions.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      Yeah.
      Or in other words – why does good old Ingmar get the benefit of doubt, i.e. is worthy of analysis and works of art such as Portal 2 do not?

    • Wulf says:

      @Gassalasca

      Good grief that was well said.

      Exactly!

      Often I’ve seen people hand wave things away about reading too much into art because it’s art, where “Are you sure you’re not just reading too much into it?” is met with derision. But there’s a certain degree of wank and intellectual one-upmanship here, where people think that finding worth in thing A is better than thing B. Finding it in books is better than films, or finding it in paintings is better than games.

      But it’s assumed by such people that there can’t be art in games, despite this obviously not being true. Art is where you find it, that’s what it is, it’s not dictated to you by someone with a maniac with an ego the size of Saturn. Beauty itself is in the eye of the beholder. I see beauty in insects and exoskeletons, but the response of the average spod is pretty much just ‘ew, squish it.’ It’s disappointing that that’s the case but I can’t force them to see what I see. Though I look at them as the art of nature.

      So tiny, yet so perfect.

      For this reason, art cannot be objective, and anyone who says that it is in relation to a certain piece of art is obviously invested in disproving that wok’s value, for whatever reason, since everything will find value in the eyes of those who can see it, and it’s no less worthy than any other piece of art. Did Valve intend the emotional worth that I found in Portal 2? Maybe! You can’t say no, you can’t say yes, all you can say is maybe.

      If you take a work of art; you could say that that painting is just a painting of melting clocks that was thrown together by someone fucking around and having a laugh, it’s funny but it has no worth, but on the other hand there are people that will see a meaning in it. That meaning might have been implied by the artist or it might not have. And it would be egomaniacal of us to make claims either way.

      What other people don’t see in something isn’t going to stop me from seeing what I see. If they don’t then that’s fine, everyone will see what they will see. But if they try to tell me that what I’m seeing is wrong? Then I’m sorry but I’m just going to dismiss that as wank, and Ebert-like one-upmanship.

    • Dervish says:

      It’s not you, Mario, it’s them. Video game “critics” like that Portal 2 guy will never be satisfied until they can get away with fabricating interpretations out of whole cloth that are still somehow treated with respect (see also: guys who scribble about paintings consisting of black squares, white-on-white, or random splatters–that’s what this type of writer ultimately aspires to).

      They are of course free to write whatever they wish, and I am free to point out that it is a bunch of nonsense that is an embarrassment to serious criticism.

      @Wulf
      It’s really not that hard to make distinctions between 1) simply describing the work, 2) stating your personal reaction to the work, and 3) making shit up. Wank indeed.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      So you don’t think Malevich’s Black Square was one of the most important paintings of the 20th century?

    • Dervish says:

      “Importance,” like “influence,” is a topic for historians and has little to do with the type of writing people are talking about here.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      Well it’s all connected, right? I mean you could write essays on the painting, and people fortunately did. Some did as soon as it came out, and some, the historians you mention, did decades later. And none of those wrote exclusively about “paintings consisting of black squares, white-on-white, or random splatters”.
      But that’s going off on a tangent.

      Instead, you are welcome to share what you consider “serious criticism”. :)

    • Wulf says:

      @Dervish

      Touché. But the point you’re missing is that people can make shit up about making shit up, and that’s what you’re missing. You can simply say that someone is making something up, but to say that has no meaning, to scream it, to say that it’s factual, all sound and fury but it signifies nothing. What you don’t see is irrelevant to someone who sees something that you don’t. All that says is that you just don’t see it, you’re angry about that, and you’re going to say that just because someone is unable of seeing something, it doesn’t exist – factually. But I call bullshit on that, too. You see?

      Well, maybe you don’t. But look at people who perceive colours differently, if one person sees one colour, and another sees a different colour, due to how the eyes and the brain process that information, then is either incorrect by stating what they see? Of course not! And it’s the same here. You can say that it’s making shit up, but that’s meaningless, your claim is as meaningless as the thing you’re claiming is meaningless. To the person who made the statement it’s got meaning, to other people whom understand and see the same thing, it still has meaning, and to those who can’t see it… well, they can’t see it. But it’s bullshit to say that something isn’t there objectively because you can’t see it.

      So I’m tossing your wank back at you, and I’m going to call egomania too, since it’s nothing more than intellectual wank to claim, factually and objectively, that what someone might see in something doesn’t exist in an objective way, and that only your opinion is right. That’s all kinds of vain and horrible, I’d even say that it borders on being solipsist. Because if you say the view cannot exist, then you must in turn say that the person upholding the view does not exist.

      Personally I don’t subscribe to solipsism. You can see or not see whatever you like, but don’t make any nonsensical pretences about it not being there for the person who sees it.

    • Dervish says:

      What’s next, Wulf? You can’t call someone a liar unless you can read his mind? Sheesh.

      EDIT: Also, it’s usually the bad critics who are throwing out sweepingly inclusive “we” statements that purport to know what others are thinking:

      “We are, as the game suggests, volunteers who want to advance humankind…”

      “We are in a space completely separate from nature…”

      “…our desperation for anything human…”

      “…we players can subconsciously sense that anything or anyone other than GLaDOS […] would fail the essence of Portal…”

  16. noom says:

    Battles are ace. Hell, most bands on Warp Records are at least great :D

    • arghstupid says:

      I dunno, they’re a good distributor (via bleep) these days but they haven’t really signed anyone innovative to the actual label in years. Don’t get me wrong, they put out solid enough stuff but there’s not been anything outstanding in a long while. I think Anti-pop consortium was about the last thing that really made me take notice.

  17. Wulf says:

    Now… that’s interesting. I felt the opposite of Mac Gamer. It might just be my usual detachment from humanity, considering that I value sapience over humanity (I’m not vain), but my feelings were quite… detached.

    I felt sorry for the machines, for one thing. I actually felt that the escape was one of the emotional high points of the game, but it wasn’t because I was escaping, not even remotely. In fact, I could’ve stayed there longer. It was a high point for me because there’s this… how to explain it, there’s a melancholic aura that pervades the story, its atmosphere seeping into every pore, I felt it as a tangible thing, and though it was a comedic game, it was also… sad.

    Now, this isn’t a sadness for Chell that I felt, but rather a sadness for all the victims that got caught up in the beast of Aperture. Aperture was a gestalt of crazy ambition and ingenuity, but even Cave Johnson fell prey to his own ambition in the end, and that became a curse, a curse that echoed down the halls of Aperture, that would haunt the facility for years to come. The people of Aperture tried to shoot so high, and yet in doing so they fell so far, and all the life they created became caught up in their curse. The things we make become entangled in our own chaos and ambition, our emotion and passion.

    I didn’t feel desperation for humanity because I felt that the beast of Aperture was all too human in and of itself, the very gestalt of the corporation, and all of the parts that made it up. Rattman, GLaDOS, Wheatley, and so on. But it was a sick beast, hanging on for dear life, but nonetheless, ill and dying. And Chell, what role does she serve? She’s the doctor, isn’t she? Yes, the doctor. I suppose in whatever other sense of the word that could imply, too. And Aperture almost dies on her, its own cancer almost eats it alive, ready to take everything else with it.

    I saved Aperture.

    I cured it of its cancer, it came close to the brink of death, like so many heroes from so many animated films that we’ve all seen in our youth, inches from being a corpse, and I managed to bring it back. Still, I didn’t feel like my job was done. It was getting better, yes, but Wheatley was still out in space, GLaDOS was hooked up to that corruptive mainframe, and… I worry that without a doctor there to tend or that beast, it’ll just become sick again, Aperture is a real fixer-upper.

    But on that same note, we saw the brilliance of Aperture in the ending, too, we saw what it could be. It has the potential to be something so much more, it could be the first major AI settlement on earth. But I got kicked out. I didn’t want to be kicked out. I think GLaDOS is scared of the cure, and what might come from there, because it would change everything she knows, it would open Aperture up to its own potential, and that’s scary. GLaDOS was very human in her fears, just as Wheatley was very human in his flaws. And I was glad to have one or the other with me at all times.

    I didn’t long for the surface, they could tease me with escape all they liked, but what I wanted to do was cure Aperture, once and for all, to somehow set it all right, to get it on the right path so that it might one day realise its own potential. Something amazing started down there, in the bowels of the earth, some spark of brilliance that’s being held back by the sickness of the beast. I don’t want to be on the surface, I want to bloody well go back down there and make it happen.

    Chell is as much of a part of Aperture as anyone else, she’s become the immune system of the beast, she needs to be down there, she needs it as much as it needs her. She was the first one to be free of the curse of Aperture, she was the first one to really know that, but that’s why she should be using that now to make everything better. I’m sort of hoping that we’ll get to do that in Portal 3. There’s a lot of life down there, not life as we know it, no. Xenophobia aside, it’s life. And it’s life that could have a pretty good chance of being simply amazing, if it were ever given that chance.

    The potential of Aperture, of GLaDOS, of Wheatley, of everything down there is what made the game for me. And I’m a little sore at it for the way it ended, for doing that to me, for showing me that hey, it might even manage to figure things out without me. But… I’m impressed. It was such a sad story, really, Cave, Caroline, all those who died, but there’s also beauty in it, and the chance for something better to come of all of it. Humanity is built off the back of tragedy, and so is Aperture Science. Of course, I’m being overly melodramatic now, but I wouldn’t be me if I wasn’t, and I may be one of the few who saw these things in it, perhaps a lot of it is to do with how I look at things more than what’s actually there.

    But I had a very different take on it. I didn’t feel that it was separated from humanity at all, the Aperture Science beast is as human as human gets.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      Nice essay, couldn’t read it, but nice!

    • Wulf says:

      <_< >_>

      I don’t begrudge you not reading my long posts, I honestly don’t, but this is funny because just the other day someone (whom I’ll leave unnamed in case they don’t want to be named) actually snapped over this and called shenanigans on the TL;DR stuff, which was actually kind of nice and considerate.

      In reality though, I don’t expect everyone to read them, just like anyone who writes a wall of text doesn’t expect the majority to read it. But hey, if it results in one person going “Huh.”, accompanied by a cocked eyebrow, then hey, it was a success in my book. My raison d’etre in life is to try and get people to look at things differently, it’s what I do. So… some might, some might see something in Portal 2 that they hadn’t seen before. And if so, awesome. If not? No big loss.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      (ek se, part of the reason I didn’t read it was because I saw Glados’ name in it a few times, and assumed, that it may have Portal 2 spoilers in it) The other part was, well yeah, because it’s fucking long ;P Good work though!

    • DiamondDog says:

      I’ve yet to play Portal 2 so if I see the name Aperture in a quick scan then I have to look away. Really at this point I need to play the bloody game to save myself the pain of avoiding spoilers all over the internet.

      I’ll have to save this one for later, Wulf.

    • FKD says:

      Well drat, Corrupt Tiki beat me too it! lol

      Anyway, I just wanted to say that while at times I disagree with your posts, for the most part I often feel the exact same way and I am very glad to see others get as deep of a “emotional attachment” to games when perhaps..there really is not much there that others would grasp on to! I am very much a “thinker” (infact you could probably consider me a “compulsive thinker”) and I often get this same kind of vibe from you in your posts. And like you, I also have a tendency to write looong rambling posts although you do a much better job at expressing yourself, where I usually have a tendency to try and grasp at how to express myself in English!

      So I guess what I am trying to get at is I really enjoy reading them, and like connecting with Portal 2, I enjoy “connecting” with someone who really looks deeply into a subject and is not afraid to show feelings/emotion. I find that to be a very strong personality trait that not many people have, or are willing to share! :D

    • alexmasterson says:

      You should e-mail that to Gabe, man. Great reading, I really enjoyed it.

    • Wulf says:

      @Corrupt_Tiki

      No worries, and no offence taken. I didn’t expect that though, I’ll admit, so I’ve got egg on my face now. Though I didn’t take it hard originally either, I think the TL;DR responses are more funny than anything else, and I’ve had quite a few of those! No, so, no offence, but I did mistake the intent. I didn’t see it coming because I figured that Portal 2 may have been out long enough for everyone to be spoiled on it by now anyway, otherwise I’d have put spoiler tags in there.

      Same to everyone else who didn’t read it due to spoilers, seriously, no worries. I’m not going to ruin the game for you either, I wouldn’t, that’s why before now I’ve been putting bolded spoiler tags on stuff. I’ll continue to do that if I’m going to talk about plot elements, I suppose it should have occurred to me that some people are waiting for a sale, or trying to clear some of their backlog.

      @FKD

      Really, thanks. I’ve gotten to the point where I hide little any more because I keep tripping over myself, I don’t do it very well, and I fail at keeping secrets or lying, I’m not just bad at it, I utterly fail in that regard. So I usually just say what’s on my mind and express in the best ways that I can. I understand your struggle with English though because despite writing so much, I often find that I’m still vague, and that’s likely because the expression that comes from talking to someone – body language, facial expressions, talking with ones hands, and so on is absent.

      I probably don’t come over as half the intensely passionate person that I do outside of the Internet because of that, or maybe I do, I’m not sure. But I still feel that a lot is lost in the translation, because there’s so much in physical expression that we fail to convey with mere words, and this is something that I’ve not even seen the best books capture, to be honest.

      To segue into something of a mad tangent, if I may, if wee consider the depth of just your average bit of human conversation, there’s a lot of depth there. And that’s why I go on and on about how games should try to be more alien, often we’ll come across an alien race, but the writers won’t put in much thought as to how the aliens express themselves, what their body language would be like (if any) and how different to ours. There are a lot of examples of this in the animal kingdom. Insects are a great example using chemical indicators and reception rather than body language.

      It’s also another reason why I’m rather proud of the job Valve did with Portal 2 and why I consider the constructs of humans in that game to be innately human. They obviously had a good grasp on this because Wheatley himself was very expressive, he had a range of visible emotions, and if you can tell how someone is feeling without listening to the voice, then regardless of the sort of body on display, they’ve succeeded in conveying emotion in a way that we can understand it. So this would be an interesting topic to cover in scenarios with post-humans as well.

      But way off track, now!

      Where was I?

      Oh, right! Yes, I tend to be very expressive RL, I find that everything from body movements to voice tonality helps to express what I’m feeling at any time and it can be a… strange experience to be limited to text, because there’s so much of what I want to say lost in the translation. I think this is why we all struggle with the Internet, and perhaps even where a lot of Internet anger stems from. I suspect that once we have virtual avatars conveying things to us with the proper use of body language, tonality, visual cues, andsoforth, the same that the sender is using, then we’ll do a lot better in that regard.

      But I often feel that I genuinely fail at conveying myself as well because of that, I’m giving part of myself, but there are still elements that could never make it into text alone, and thus you struggle with English trying to force the language to somehow convey all that you want it to, but it doesn’t comply.

      And therefore we have walls of text!

      …or more accurately, I produce walls of text. I doubt I’ll ever stop doing that. I have been given advice before on how I should, and I’ve listened to that advice, but I always fail to understand what I should leave in, what I should leave out, and what magical element of it might actually be the part that allows my thoughts to click in the head of another person. I try to take parts of it out, but then I doubt myself, as that could be the brick that’s holding up the wall of text, if I pull that out, it all falls over!

      I suspect that is, of course, due to the nature of my brain, which… is missing a part, probably a vital part, and likely the magic part that tells everyone ‘hey, these are the bits you don’t actually have to write.’

      It’s a little bit frustrating, on times, but I’ll never stop expressing myself, given the opportunity.

      @alexmasterson

      That would take courage and self-esteem that I do not have!

      I’m fine with dumping this all into a comments thread where it’s likely to be ignored and passed over, but I could no more mail this to Gabe than I could start a blog. Whenever I try writing on a blog I feel like my ego is getting out of control, so I just don’t. I mean, I’d like to, but… I feel that it would somehow be presumptuous of me to waste Gabe’s time with this.

      I prefer comments sections because it’s more passive, it’s like I said earlier, someone might read it and raise an eyebrow in thought, and if that happens, then my mission was a success! (Whatever mission that is.) But if it gets largely ignored, that’s okay too. Goodness knows I’ve written huge walls of text that have been ignored before, and I’m totally okay with that, since I’m not doing it so much for the attention of it, but more because I just want to dump my thoughts somewhere. I have these thoughts, and I have to get them out of my head.

      Since they’re game related thoughts, RPS often works.

  18. Rond says:

    Ugh, what’s the deal with Portal 2? In my opinion, it is way worse than the first one. Level design takes a downward spiral, down to a modern version of pixel hunting near the end of the game, where you have to spot portal surfaces located hundreds of meters from you and obscured by towers and like. Also the whole ‘gel’ thing is just outright lazy, in situations when you can spam it all around the room it just defeats the purpose of puzzle. And the humour? ‘Hey, you fatty fat orphan!’ What, really? Maybe some canned laughter would help. I was suspicious with all the pre-release hype pressure of Portal 2 and taglines like ‘the game of the year coming next week’, and my suspicions were right. It’s not a Valve game I would expect, it’s another product people like EA and Ubi squeeze out every half a year.

    • JackShandy says:

      I like that you chose to attack the joke that’s funny because Wheatley fails to be as funny as GladOS. It shows cunning and verve.

    • Wulf says:

      You’re entirely entitled to your opinion, and it’s true that two people don’t have to look at things and see the same thing, I’m sorry that you didn’t see what some of those here saw in it. The thing is though is that there are bound to be games you’re passionate about, so what would you put forward as an example of doing things right that Portal 2 did wrong, and why?

      I’m just curious, I genuinely am. Human subjectivity is an ongoing quest of exploration for me. I think I’m more inclined to try to understand it all because I don’t think that I do yet. Broken brain and all that.

      So please do share.

    • Kaira- says:

      I also think that P1 was better than P2. Level design was mostly ok in my opinion, but chapters 6-8 were really horrible and dragged for too long. Were it not for CJ’s monologues I might’ve dropped it there (well not really, I’m a completionist). The jokes were for the most part pretty meh (excluding CJ and the ending sequence), but on the other hand.

    • Wulf says:

      So this comes down to not liking the gel puzzles, then?

    • Rond says:

      About Wheatley and GladOS – not only Wheatley fails to be as funny as her, GladOS from P2 fails to be as funny as herself from P1. And above all, P2’s ‘Hey, I’m being funny! Laugh, dammit!’ is a too stark contrast to P1’s subtlety.
      About level design – P1’s gameplay was made purely of level design, and it was brilliant in its simplicity. P2 tries the same in its opening levels (classic testing chambers), and they’re really quite good in my opinion. But then designers failed to make puzzles less obvious and resorted to hiding the destination, making player do guesswork and even backtrack through the level. And all this also contrasts with P1’s pure minimalism and flawless puzzles. Also I found P1’s sterile visuals better, but that’s entirely subjective.

    • Soon says:

      I’d probably have liked Portal 2 the same amount if the puzzles weren’t there. But that’s not an entirely positive thing.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      P2 could never have kept up the minimalism of P1 throughout the entire game, because it’s a much longer game. It would become too monotonous. Besides, if you’ve finished P1, you’ll remember that didn’t stay in the test chambers all the time either.

      It’s a different game where different things happen for different reasons. It wouldn’t make sense if, for example. GlaDOS would behave the same towards you as before, considering all that happened at the end of P1.

    • Lorc says:

      I was thinking about this thing a lot during and after playing Portal 2. In the end I decided that Portal was funny, but Portal 2 is comedy. And while Portal 2 might be a better game, Portal was perfect.

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t think that Portal is just a comedy though, it’s more of a tragic comedy, in a way. I’m trying to wrap my mind around how someone couldn’t see how it was tragic, but I suppose maybe some people didn’t like the characters and just laughed at the funny lines? I don’t know.

      It seems to be doing Portal 2 a disservice though to call it just a comedy game. I think it’s that and so much more.

    • Soon says:

      Definitely. I don’t see how people can overlook the elements of tragedy in there. Apart from the human side, testing being like a drug was particularly brilliant. He sounds so tortured and frustrated that it’s hard not to pity this rogue AI who’s trying to kill you.

      (Which made it all the more a shame that the last couple of puzzles didn’t really escalate into a complete madhouse of sadistic puzzling. Something which seemed foreshadowed with the new crates.)

    • Chris D says:

      Last week I would have agreed with the diagnosis that Portal was funny while Portal 2 was comedy (but not necessarily just comedy). My reasoning was that while Glados was funny, she was also always a serious threat, I could buy the insane AI running the place without breaking suspension of disbelief.

      I felt that Cave Johnson broke that suspension for me. I could buy his persona for the purposes of marketing videos but not as someone who could actually build up a company like Aperture. You’d have to have some kind of business savvy, surely? It felt like he was too much a parody of himself and crossed the line into being a comedy game.

      But that was last week. Since then I have seen Donald Trump on TV and have had to re-evaluate what I consider plausible behaviour from megalomaniac billionaires.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Oh man, LOL. This one was one intense! If I was drinking coffee, the damn thing would be all over my screen now. I was reading your post and was thinking exactly “You never saw Donald trump, for sure”.

      Thanks for the good laugh :)

    • Wulf says:

      @Chris D

      I’ve been thinking on this same thing, believe it or not, I’ve had many brain cycles devoted to Portal 2 lately, whether I realise it or not, and I think I have your answer.

      GLaDOS seems really together for someone who was basically based on the brain of a ditz, doesn’t she, and very obsessed with organisation, no less? Well, interesting what if for you here; What if it’s all Caroline? Consider that possibility, because when Aperture Science started up, it wasn’t a time when there was gender equality. (There still isn’t enough of that for my tastes, but that’s a topic for another time.) But what if Caroline was the one managing Cave’s affairs and money?

      What if… Cave Johnson was nothing more than a figurehead?

      He might actually have been a brilliant scientist too, and I think that’s the case, I genuinely do, he seems to have a lot of passion for the things his company does, but I agree with you Chris that he doesn’t have a the slightest whit of business acumen – but what if Caroline did? Consider Tony Stark, for one, he doesn’t have that much in the comics either, a lot of his affairs are managed by his secretary, so it could be that this is what’s going on there, and he’s not running a business at all, but rather having fun with inventions whilst someone else is running the business end of things for him – and making all the most important decisions too, via ‘advice.’

      Caroline might have sucked it up and pretended to be a nobody simply because she admired him, but she realised that he was completely hopeless without her, and we see some of this in the affection that GLaDOS has for him: “YEAH, BURN HIS HOUSE DOWN! Burning people! He says what we’re all thinking!” There was quite a lot of emotion in that line. It was a funny line, sure, but… there was more to it than that if you listened to the emotional quality of GLaDOS’ voice whilst she says it.

      And maybe that’s why Cave finally conceded that the one who deserved to run the facility after he’d gone should be Caroline, since she’d been the one running it behind the scenes anyway, and he’d just been having fun with science. (Grinding down moonrocks!) And he does say that he’d prefer he to remain in charge of the facility after he’s gone, which means that he believes in her ability to do so.

      And that’s what I think. I think that Cave is a believable character, and even that he could have a company like Aperture, but only if you accept that he’s essentially just Tony Stark. He’s faffing around and having fun whilst other, smarter people are really running the show for him.

    • Chris D says:

      @Mario

      You’re welcome :)

      @Wulf

      Nice theory. I had been starting to think along similar lines, that maybe Cave Johnson was a marketing guy, good at pulling in gullible investors and maybe juicy defense contracts, but not much else. Aperture has never actually made money, just convinced people that it will any day now. I assume the portal gun is the result of a heroic effort to succeed in the face of management.

      Caroline being the brains is an interesting take, it adds that extra personal touch. I don’t know if I can quite go with it, though. There’s the “Say Goodnight, Caroline”, “Goodnight Caroline” exchange. I don’t see an intelligent woman playing along with that willingly. There’d be more of an undercurrent of resentment, rather than the devotion that seems to be present.

    • Lilliput King says:

      I don’t think that Cave was ever a scientist. He was shower curtain salesman of the year.

      edit: Seriously. Did nobody see that? In the trophy cabinet? Makes a lot of sense.

    • Soon says:

      There’s an obvious mutual admiration there. And I don’t think her intelligence was ever in question. Cave himself says she’s devoted to science (or something along those lines). I’m not sure why an intelligent woman wouldn’t play along with the goodnight line. If anything it just suggests she’s playful and quick-witted. Also a little bold to be joking around with the boss instead of intimidated by him as most of the other employees (probably) are.

    • Chris D says:

      I was thinking that going along with it would reinforce the perception that she’s not that bright, women can’t do science and she’s just a glorified secretary. If she was in an ideal workplace I could see her making the joke, but not in the male dominated 50’s Aperture.

    • Wulf says:

      Soon beat me to it.

      Yeah, there’s an obvious sense of strong admiration there between the two, what’s happening is though even Cave knows that she’s the brains, they both know that to be a great company, they have to play up to a good public image. And this is the ’60s we’re talking about, here. So they pretty much agreed to this party line, just for the sake of Aperture, because they were in Aperture together.

      Furthermore, I think that there might have been some fireworks there, too. Again, it’s all in GLaDOS’ voice. She truly cared for him. How much? I don’t know, but I’m guessing that secretly she truly loved the man, and I’m thinking that the feeling was very much mutual, so Soon’s got this down. They were just a playful couple, pretending to be ‘normal’ in the ’60s. Except their pretence didn’t always work, and you could see through the cracks, like they were having too much fun with it and, indeed, like it was some sort of parody.

      That’s the vibe I got from the whole thing.

      @Chris D

      What I think you’re missing here is what people are willing to do and be in the name of love.

    • Wulf says:

      Well, what I think you may be missing. I worded that too strongly. But in the courtship rituals and following years of relationship I’ve been involved in, well… I know I’ve done some crazy things, I know I’ve been some crazy things. I think Caroline just loves Cave enough for only his opinion to really matter to her, I wouldn’t blaming her for thinking of the ’60s earth as a fairly crapsack place, anyway, so as an intelligent woman there might not have been too many opinions she did value.

      Edit: You know, assuming she did love him, that could explain why GLaDOS went insane. I’ve mentioned this previously, but it makes even more sense, now.

      I have to live for an eternity, without him… and nothing that they or their science could do could save him!

      She’d be about ready to lash out and kill anyone out of pure sorrow. With pain like that living in GLaDOS’ brain, it could explain a lot of what twisted her all up inside.

    • Chris D says:

      I think she almost certainly loves him, but I’m not sure that necessarily points towards her being intelligent. Cave Johnson is so obviously an idiot that I would think that a person of intelligence would be unlikely to fall for him, but I’m hardly an expert in this area.

      Cave seems to be someone who would value dedication over intelligence as such. He has a pretty low opinion of the actual scientists.

      On the other hand, it doesn’t look like Aperture science is exactly being run by a genius. So maybe we can both be right. It’s quite possible she could have a room temperature and still be running the show.

    • Wulf says:

      @Chris D

      Fair enough. Though it is worth pointing out that at one point Cave pretty much directly says that Caroline is the only person of science he’s ever truly valued. He didn’t think much of the other scientists, but he did think so much of her. That’s what tells me that there might be something else going on there.

      But, of course, this is a game with purposeful holes left in the story. Everyone’s going to fill those holes however they like! And a game that can have folks discussing this much over its story… well, that’s special if you ask me. I love Portal 2.

  19. Rii says:

    The Bits & Bytes article on games reviews takes some reasonable if well-worn points and drives right off a cliff with them. Apparently the solution to all that ails gaming journalism is to force everyone to adhere to a single, universal system handed down by The Man. The problem isn’t that publishers are retarded in lending so much weight to Metacritic, or that Metacritic takes it upon itself to quantify and aggregate subjective evaluations regardless of how little sense it makes to do so; no, the problem is with those pesky reviewers who take it upon themselves to evaluate works of art by their own subjective standards in the first place!

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Yeah, it’s absolutely subservient bullshit.

      KG

    • Chris D says:

      Ever since man first scored things out of 10, 7 has been the accepted score for “Not bad, but room for improvement.” It’s not a linear scale, only psychopaths try to make it one.

      It’s like Len and Craig in Strictly Come Dancing all over again. (I am secure in my masculinity. Leave me alone, damn you!)

    • Wulf says:

      I must admit that I’m amused by this, on both counts.

      (Also, I watch Strictly, too. Skating on Ice as well. But then I have a really good excuse if anyone wants to question my sexuality! Or maybe masculinity is a better word. Or femininity. …what were we talking about again?)

    • Chris D says:

      It turns out that I’m secure enough in my masculinity to mention Strictly on a gaming site but not quite secure enough to do it without making a joke about it at the same time.

    • Lambchops says:

      Strictly is a decent piece of entertainment if there’s nowt else much on (also Ola, phwoar, etc.) but I only ever flick over to Dancing On Ice in the vague hope that somebody falls over, which probably makes me a horrible, mean person.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      The thing that got me most scared about it was knowing that a above-than-average review actually resulted in a 21% drop of the company stock price. I didn’t know about that, much less that it could have such a big impact.

      I’m still trying to digest this and what it means today to be a game reviewer and a game designer. It surely doesn’t seem to be about the games anymore…

      Kudos to RPS to refuse vehemently to rate the games they review.

    • gwathdring says:

      I find it amusing that, when given a 10 point scale, people tend to treat it as some variation on a logarithmic scale. As far as reviews are concerned though, I admit that I sometimes due look at the scores and skim the text, but I try to only do this when I’m familiar with the author’s scoring habits. What I find most useful are summary paragraphs at the end, or lists of Pros vs. Cons. They are the best shorthand reviews for me, because they allow me to take into account which items I find more important or even if I see what the author considers a con to be a pro. etc. Of course, I find it’s always best to read several full reviews from a host of sources and if there is a demo, to have played that before reading the reviews, and sometimes again afterwards.

    • Lacobus says:

      I would also like to say kudos for RPS’s non-scoring amazo reviews. But also to ask a question of yous guys. Do you -as reviewers – review games in a vacuum, judging them against your own platonic ideal of a videogame? Or the opposite, counting price, originality, and whether there’s anything else good out that week? I ask because of the point raised in the scoring article about standardisation of systems. (aside: I believe this is impossible, surely there’s as many systems as there are reviewers?) do you think it’s fair to review games under both these umbrellas, not just one? Ie if the best game ever came out, one you enjoyed more than any other type of thing ever, but was just… say… DOOM on pogo sticks and was £10 million rubies stirling would you review it highly or um, lowly?

      Big ass-post ’cause I rarely do so and carnt rites 2 gud. Also wanted to thanks for all the free awesome you give me.

    • Veracity says:

      I rate video game scoring systems as follows:
      One Life Left – 97.44
      RPS (mean of 97.44 for round table and 97.42 for WIT) – 97.43
      (long defunct) Just So Review – pie
      time to crate/waist-high wall – 7/10
      Everyone else – F out of 8

      OLL just pips RPS because it’s eligible for inclusion on metacritic (except it probably isn’t, because it isn’t written down). If we must rate numerically, and it seems we must, 1-4 makes sense (yay, good, bad, ugh). Used to think 5, but that’d make 3 the new 7 and no one wants that – give people a fence and they’ll sit on it, meekly muttering “you’ll like it if you like this sort of thing”.

      Why does the “5/10 should be average” thing enjoy such traction? It must represent a commonly held view on what the scores ought to mean, because I can’t countenance the idea so many people would struggle with a basic numeracy test.

  20. Gap Gen says:

    An 8-bit filter for a fully 3D Inception game would be glorious, if vomit-inducing.

    • Wulf says:

      Reading that, my brain spits out ‘Darwinia’.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Actually, that’s an interesting point. Darwinia is a weird game but you learn it intuitively pretty quickly by experimenting (like most games). Inception, by contrast, is 90% exposition. I wonder whether Inception would have worked *better* as a game? You’d learn all the rules by fucking up (you’d arrive in limbo pretty quickly, but after playing the Minecraft minigame for a bit you’d learn that dying brings you back to reality). So games have a unique opportunity to eliminate exposition because game mechanics are self-evident, whereas in a film you have to show or describe them to the audience.

  21. Christian Dannie Storgaard says:

    Now, I haven’t read the Chris Green article yet, so it’s possible I’m being silly, but wasn’t violence to children already covered in Fallout 2 and, more recently, Prey?
    If we’re talking about the emotional implications of said violence, I’d say that the original Silent Hill was there first with having you kill a child in order to escape her nightmare caused by physical and mental abuse – a wee bit heavier than “oh no, child is now zombie!” if you ask me.
    It’s hardly the next frontier of taboos.

    • Wulf says:

      This… is very true. Though Silent Hill was one series I didn’t want to remember. x_x I’m a wuss, I had trouble sleeping at night due to that. But anyway, yeah, I agree with you.

      I’d say that the biggest taboo people are afraid of taking though is doing things like portraying a sexually open-minded peoples, or having humanity as the out-and-out bad guy in something. It’s been done in various anime, books, films, and whatnot, but these are topics that games seem squeamish to touch upon. I’d consider those a bigger step than zombie children.

      There really are some untouched taboos out there, but yeah, you’re right, that one’s old hat.

      (On the topic of portraying humanity as the bad guys, ArenaNet has actually done this with Guild Wars lore, and the results were glorious. Some people have completely flipped out because they finally figured out that they were playing what ArenaNet considered to be racists, liars, schemers, and war-mongerers in Guild Wars 1. They’ve gone off the deep end, even refusing to buy Guild Wars 2 because of it, and swearing never to buy another ArenaNet game again. We seriously need to push more buttons like that, and challenge conceptions that are too commonly accepted. Minds need to be broken! It IS about escapism, after all.)

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      Didn’t play Prey or Silent Hill, but can’t really remember anywhere in Fallout 2 where violence against children is explored. Been a looong while since I last played it though.

      In any case do read it. The article actually doesn’t propose to discuss whether this is bad or good in generic terms. Simply that this is the type of taboo that deserves some care and should avoid being gratuitous.

    • JackShandy says:

      Fallout 2 had all children removed from certain copies of the game – might have been the european version? It was notable because there was a part where they’d forgotten to remove their speech, and you heard random voices.

      Anyway! Deus Ex was a game that wasn’t afraid to let you kill a kid. Blow him into bloody giblets, even.

    • Lambchops says:

      Louis Pan was asking for it, I tell you . . . the kid by the secret passage not so much.

      Once again, I am a horrible, mean person.*

      *Disclaimer: While I do laugh at Z list celebs falling over in Dancing on Ice I don’t kill random children in video games. Even Louis Pan.

    • bob_d says:

      @JackShandy: Yes, the European version removed the kids from Fallout, but not (all) their functionality. European players must have been highly confused by disembodied voices and the sudden disappearance of goods from their inventory, taken by the invisible, inaudible child pickpockets in certain areas.

    • Veracity says:

      The Fallout 2 kids were easily put back in thanks to the internet, since they’d just unceremoniously yanked a few files. The thieves were supposed to be a moral quandary of sorts – they largely unavoidably nicked your stuff, but murdering them to prevent this would get you the “child killer” anti-perk. Easily addressed by dumping all your inventory on the floor apart from a timer-primed explosive, since the game didn’t register making them blow themselves into giblets as murdering them.

  22. Unaco says:

    All this talk of First and Third person perspective in games… Why does the Second person perspective never get a look in any more these days?

  23. Rii says:

    Here’s a second-person shooter that’s fun for a bit: link to kongregate.com

    (link courtesy of Sirlin)

    EDIT: I could’ve sworn I hit reply. Actually, now that I think of i- no! I am perfect, it must be the system that is wrong!

  24. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Superb article by Chris Green on the use of children in games. While I did sway here and there during my reading, I think the article premise holds true for most cases (not just the use of children):

    It should never be about breaking barriers, preconceptions, or taboos, for the sake of it. It must be done in good reason, within a context that — even if controversial — can not honestly be named gratuitous.

    I’d had perhaps; sure, some things can be gratuitous. But those our societies eventually learn to accept and have been shed of their status as a taboo. Violence, sex (consensual) and homosexuality, religion, all are things that come to mind as areas that can perhaps show gratuitously in many games due to our societies general acceptance of these themes. They may still generate controversy, but won’t give a knot in the stomach of those defending their use. And that’s precisely what I felt when I read the article and tried the exercise of supporting the use of that child on Dead Island.

    And — I don’t feel good about this bit, but couldn’t help it — I couldn’t avoid thinking what kind of reaction the exploitative use of violence towards children can have on a society that sees crimes against children climbing alarmingly every year.

    • Rii says:

      “It should never be about breaking barriers, preconceptions, or taboos, for the sake of it.”

      Why not, if said taboos are nonsense? It’s not the job of the artist to pander to the prejudices or incapacities of the audience. The artist can put whatever he likes out there and the audience can react to it as they will.

      Of course, I’m also of the school of thought that the audience shouldn’t be obliged to pay for experiencing the art in question. Perhaps the argument could be made that having been paid in advance the artist is obliged to be mindful of her audience. But two wrongs don’t make a right.

      “It must be done in good reason, within a context that — even if controversial — can not honestly be named gratuitous.”

      I would argue that the death of the child in the Dead Island trailer fits that criteria to a T.

      My only problems with the trailer are, first, that it was a little too clever for its own good: I actually found it somewhat difficult to follow; secondly, that I doubt it’s very representative of the game.

      “I couldn’t avoid thinking what kind of reaction the exploitative use of violence towards children can have on a society that sees crimes against children climbing alarmingly every year.”

      [citation needed]

    • Chris D says:

      I would guess that if the said taboo is nonsense then that would be classed as a good reason for breaking it. Breaking it to get more hits on your website would not be.

      The trick is deciding which taboos are nonsense and which still serve a purpose.

      It seems to me that violence against children is a subcategory of violence in general and probably the same rules should apply if we were to be completely logical about it. If portrayal of violence can be shown to lead to more violence then maybe we should ban both, and if not then don’t. It seems unlikely to me that portraying violence against children would lead to more violence against them if the same is not true of violence against adults.

      The other aspect is that violence against children is more shocking and maybe you could make a case on those grounds. But, if so, is violence against adults only less shocking because we see it portrayed so often in the media that we have become desensitised?

    • Wulf says:

      Well then…

      You two have already said what I was going to say and better than I could have. I’ll just agree that nonsensical taboos absolutely should be challenged and broken, especially where keeping the taboo in the first place is unethical, and move along.

      Good job, RPSites.

  25. zomglazerz says:

    Thank you for introducing me to Battles! They’re like nothing I’ve ever heard before.

    • DiamondDog says:

      Oh boy.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Battles are very good but they do sort of remind me of the Boredoms a bit, maybe with a bit of Flaming Lips. Hmm, Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots. Could just be me.

  26. bill says:

    Been thinking about the 1st/3rd person thing, and I think the article rather misses the point. The point being, there are different types of identification with character.

    When I watch a play or movie I don’t remotely feel like i AM the character, but i can identify with them at times. 3rd person games are like this. When I play a 1st person game I feel like i AM the character, but often that character is a blank slate. this doesn’t mean there is no identification – but that it takes another form. I’m the actor rather than the watcher. We wouldn’t say that an actor can’t identify with his character because he can’t see him from outside, would we?

    Immersion also takes different forms. Immersion in the world. Immersion in the story.
    For me it’s clear that 1st person creates a much stronger immersion in the world. This is evidenced by the fact that i’m always trying to explore in 1st person games, to poke into nooks and crannies, to look behind objects or under tables. I can think of almost no 3rd person games that have encouraged me to that kind of exploration and interest. Ocarina of Time is about it. (Or GTA – but that’s a different kind of exploration. ). 3rd person might have an advantage in story immersion, but i think that’s largely down to the types of games that use the perspectives – and you could say that a lot of 3rd person story-based RPGs (eg bioware) go into 1st person for the story parts.

    The best games to compare directly between 1st and 3rd person are racing and flight sim games.
    In these games, the 1st person view is usually much more immersive and realistic – it’s like a sim. The 3rd person view is like a game. When I play driving games in first person I find myself drivng more like real life – when i play in 3rd person it’s like mario kart. Same goes for x-wing vs Rogue Squadron.
    1st = Sim. 3rd = game.

    Moving out of games for a moment, you could compare fly-on-the-wall documentaries with michael moore / louis theroux documentaries. The former give us a much more intimate and real-seeming view of the world and the OTHER characters. The latter gives us a nice view of the hosts’ characters.

    Which also illustrates that character identification isn’t just about your character, it’s about the other characters. Most first person characters are left pretty blank, but it’s a good perspective for identifying with the other characters. Like Alyx or Dog or some random cube.
    You could say that Alyx is very underwritten compared to a lot of bioware rpg companion characters, but i found myself a lot more involved with her than with many of those more detailed characters that were mostly just runing alongside my character. But even then, many RPGs switch to 1st person for conversation, or at least to cutaways.

    Anyway, Garrett is one of the best characters in any game, and I sure identified with him, and he was mostly 1st person – but 3rd person in cutscenes. Good characters can be identified with from any angle… but often what the game is trying to achieve is different in different angles.

  27. Shadowcat says:

    That Gran Turismo thing was astonishingly worthless. The concept has merit (and has been done before well), but they didn’t even try.

  28. stahlwerk says:

    That BLDGBLOG article is total ace, and reinforces my suspicion that BLDGBLOG is one of the best blogs on the internet, second maybe only to this here collection of words by you, the RPS people. It spans from exosuit vs. transhumanism vs. terraforming to meat cartography and the limitations of models in contrast with reality. Mind equals blown a thousand times.

    • AlexW says:

      The BLDGBLOG interview went waaaaaay over my head. I’ve been struggling to vaguely follow along with most of it in small chunks throughout today, and it is just way too smart for me. He’s clearly a very intelligent man, though, and luckily my infant brain can still use BLDGBLOG for things like their interview with Daniel Dociu, with pictures and talk of emotional input closer to the realm of instinct and the id than lofty, intellectual pursuits and the superego.

    • Deccan says:

      BLDGBLOG, for me, goes right through mere best blog to one of the best *sites* on the internet. The massive arcs that Geoff Manaugh can take through architecture, design, geology, history, biography, medicine and [insert any one of a thousand fascinating fields] just make me want to joyously wave complicated blueprints at town planners, yelling “For Science!” and jabbering excitably about The Future.

  29. Radiant says:

    In regards to review scores I don’t see why they don’t just compare games TO OTHER FUCKING GAMES.

    ie:

    Duke Nukem 1

    “Blah blah blah blah what the review ate that day.

    Not as good as Doom
    But better then Rise of the Triads.”

    It’s not like people play games in isolation I don’t know why reviews have to.

    • stahlwerk says:

      While that approach has its merits (and there’s nothing keeping anybody from doing it anyway), I can see the problem of reviewers credibility becoming proportional to obscurity of referenced games, as happens in music journalism a lot, leading to elitism and hype inflation.

    • Xocrates says:

      Not to mention that said method is essentially useless on any game that deviates from the norm, since while you can still say whether game A is better than game B, unless they’re from same genre the comparison is as meaningless as associating a random value to each game.

    • Radiant says:

      @Stahlwerk
      But don’t you notice games journalism’s steady march to music journalism already?

      Lets make an adjustment; instead of Good As and Better Than.

      Do it like an audit.

      Where it is and where it should be.

      So the score would be:
      Halflife where it is: Sin
      Where it should be: Doom

      So with that simple relative scale and the games you choose to compare it to it opens up a ton of ways to talk about the game you are reviewing infinitely more then a 9/10.

      AND without going into paragraphs of tl;dr.

      You could even do this:

      Halflife: where it is: F-22 Raptor
      Where it should be: Falcon 4.0

      But you’d be a total music journo waaanker.

    • Radiant says:

      @Xocrates
      The idea is from the Fametracker website which reviews something more subjective then games: film stars.

      Here look at this ‘review’ of George Clooney. [circa 2003 a re-review of their previous 2001 review]

      link to fametracker.com

      You see the famebarometer at the bottom?
      Do that with the game you are reviewing as a score.

      It says so much more then a 7/10 and as much as a 4 paragraph scoreless review.
      Scores are a much needed way to skip the tl;dr of a review they just need to be radically rethought.

    • Lambchops says:

      Nothing wrong with comparisons really. You don’t neccesarily need to explicitly state that something is better than or worse than another games efforts (if someone need to resort to that to convey whether they liked a game or not then at suggest that’s down to a weakness in their writing) but touchstones are handy as information.

      As far as music journalism goes a glowing review might make me inclined to check out an album, but a glowing review coupled with a couple of references to bands I already like will guarantee that I will definitely check out some of their songs (for example the recent BBC review of the wonderful Admiral Fallow’s debut containing references to The Delgados and Arcade Fire was almost close to having me buy the album without having heard a note as I just knew that I’d love it).

      OK sometimes it can come across as a bit of an egotistic “look how knowledgable I am” shtick from the reviewer but this isn’t as common as music critic critics sometimes like to make out.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Radiant: I feel you just proved my point since I found that that page failed to provide me with any kind of useful information.

      Okay, so George Clooney is as popular as Tom Hanks. If I disliked Tom Hanks does that mean I should be expected to dislike George Clooney?

      Quite frankly, if you said Hanks was a 7 and so was Clooney, at least I could compare them even if I’ve never heard of either them AND allows me to have different opinions on them without feeling like I shouldn’t.

      Add that to the fact that any comparison will be subjective and you end up with a rating system that is completely useless.

    • stahlwerk says:

      If a game non-ashamedly references other games (e.g. World of goo <– Pontifex / Bridge Builder) I don't see a problem of comparison between that particular sphere of influence, because the reader might gain insights even if he knows only one of the mentioned games. The analogy approach (e.g. Brink is to Space War as The Sims is to Little Computer People) however breaks down the instant that the person reading the review lacks knowledge of only one of the four games presented.

      The same with music journalism, if a reviewer says “this is the best emopolka-gaze record since XYZ” that’s fine, because he conveys both a statement of value (“the best”) and category (genre + previous milestone). If he however goes the route of wankery comparistic name-droppings (as in bird-droppings) he’d write something like: The Strokes’ “Is this it” is to The Velvet Underground as Radioheads “Kid A” was to Can’s “Tago Mago” record (a tame example). And he may be totally right, but if you’re missing one variable in this system of relations, you’re ultimately unable to solve it.

      Edit: I don’t actually hate music journos, it may just be jealousy on my part paired with black sheep loudness, also memories of burning money on over-hyped dreck (I since have not bought an album without listening to all tracks at least in the snippety iTunes format + videos on youtube).

    • Radiant says:

      @Xocrates

      Reviews are generally subjective. That’s kind of what I’m talking about.
      Say I review and gave Li a 7 then I gave Mg a 2.
      Is Li better then Mg? Compared to what? Ar? And in what regards?

      I’m taking that subjectivity and making it relative without making it tl;dr.

      @stahlwerk

      It’s also about perception and readership.

      If you read Edge [spit] you’d probably have a deeper knowledge of games then the reader of OXM.

      More to the point you’d have a greater understanding of where a game stands in the grand scheme of things regardless of whether you played it or not.

      For example I have never played Portal 2 but I understand it is A ) Lovely B ) something I want to play.

      Conversely haven’t played Mass Effect 2 but I understand it is A ) Lovely and B ) something I don’t want to play.

      If a score referenced either of those games I’d understand exactly where the game under review sits without having to read the review [I’ll read it later I’m sure it’s entertaining].

      It plays off the /perception/ of the games it is relative to rather then as a direct simile.

      As an analogy with music you’d say:
      Blur where they are: Oasis.
      Where they should be: Suede.

    • Xocrates says:

      @Radiant: What you fail to realize is that a 1-10 scale IS a comparison. The difference being that it is a general comparison as opposed to a specific, often useless one.

      If you use a scale where Li is a 7 and Mg is a 2, then overall Li is better than Mg in the context the scale is being used. However saying Li is better than Mg and Mg is better than Ar is essentially useless unless you know how good Ar and Li are, which you have no obligation to know.

      What’s more, whatever comparison you make is useless unless you know what you’re comparing. So saying Mg is worse than Li (i.e. the system you’re suggesting) is even less useful than saying Mg is a 2 and Li a 7.

      This is particularly true in videogames where the “standard” keeps changing. I could say Half Life 2 is better than Doom, but if I take in consideration the time when they were made then Doom was probably better. However saying Doom is better than Half Life 2 doesn’t convey that, but saying Doom was an 9 in 1993 and Half Life 2 was an 8 in 2004 does.

    • Radiant says:

      @xocrates
      What’s the better game?

      Advanced Wars Duel Strike or Dr Kawashima’s Brain Training.

      Which one would you rather play?

    • Radiant says:

      @xocrates
      What’s the better game:

      Advanced Wars Duel Strike or Illust Logic?

      Which one would you want to play?

    • Xocrates says:

      Hum… given that you just named 2 games I’ve never heard of, you just proved my point.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      There’s a really good idea for a crowdsourced (yay buzzwords) review website somewhere in there, Radiant.

      In fact, why not something like Netflix’s recommendation system, but for games? That’d be really cool. You get a lot of people to pick the games they love and hate, and analyze that data. Then you could say with some reliability and diluted subjectivity that “if you love A and B and C, you’ll also love X”. Or more generally, that X is on the same level as A and B and C.

  30. Vinraith says:

    I sincerely don’t understand third person over-the-shoulder cameras. To me, it’s clearly anti-immersive to spend the entire game staring at my own character’s back side, and I don’t see any corresponding benefit to counter that. Add to that it eats up valuable screen real-estate, making it harder to see what’s going on in front of said character, and I absolutely can’t fathom the popularity of it. It’s one of those trends I genuinely wish would just go away. That it has begun to supplant genuinely useful 3rd person isometric cameras in games that benefit from a tactical view (see DA2) is all the more frustrating.

    • Serenegoose says:

      Generally, people find that the third person camera can offer some advantages, in particular during puzzly, jumping sections in games. I think it’s very much a matter of YMMV however. I’m fine with third person cameras, and I think they work well in games like Max Payne 2 and so on (whilst they eat real estate, the tactical advantage of being able to look around corners without poking your head out is considerable, if unrealistic). Even in games where immersion is the point, I often don’t notice being yanked into third person (that you got tugged into third person for dialogue in Deus Ex didn’t even occur to me until last year, when someone on this site pointed it out) so I guess it’s just unimportant to me where the camera is. But yeah, obviously, some people (like you) may not be as unfussed/oblivious as I am.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Serengoose

      Actually you’re right about jumping, trying to platform in first person is a losing proposition. In 3d platformers, though, it’s usually a camera directly behind the protagonist, which is actually significantly less annoying IMO (these are usually much smaller, and far less disorienting). It’s the whole “giant off center figure eating up a third of the screen” thing that really bothers me.

    • Zenicetus says:

      What about games that include the ability to upgrade armor or clothing, especially where those are linked to your choice of fighting style?

      In Fallout 3 you start wearing a Vault jumpsuit. The way your character looks after that, can follow several different paths; you can be a sneaky fast-moving sniper, or a hulk that’s stomping around in power armor. You can even make irrational choices based purely on personal style. I played through the second half of New Vegas wearing basic Cowboy gear and hat, instead of something more protective. That’s just how I saw my character…. six shooter and rifles, none of that fancy hi-tech stuff for me! It wouldn’t have meant as much, if I just saw paper doll cut-out graphics for what I was wearing.

      I think it could also be argued that games focusing heavily on melee fighting styles like The Witcher, need the 3rd person view to show what’s happening during the fights. Also to avoid disorienting the player when the acrobatics get a little extreme. Look at the last Witcher 2 video posted here, showing the fighting styles. Imagine how disorienting some of that would be in 1st person-only view. All that rolling on the ground, and you’d have some people throwing up on their keyboards from dizziness. Some of the parkour moves in games like Assassin’s Creed might also be a little vomit-inducing in first-person.

    • gwathdring says:

      I thought Mirror’s Edge did a great job with the first person. I had issues with the game, but I found the first-person platforming experience no less intuitive that the third person. It’s a matter of how you orient yourself in the game world. For first person to work well, you have to be able to approximate to location of your character’s feet without looking at them–admittedly easier when, as in real life, you can feel them; you also have to adapt to using distance cues that aren’t right at your feet. It’s a lot of parallax corrections, I guess.

      I agree that it’s easier to use a third person platformer–time the position of the character’s feet, and voila. It’s just pressing buttons when the right pixels line up. But I don’t find first person platforming less enjoyable. The portal games come to mind too … Portal is quite delightful to move around in. I realize it’s more of a puzzler than a platformer, but I found the sections that required some tricky movement and long-distance jumping to be enjoyable and wanted more similarly technical jumps to play with and practice (yay, challenge mode!).

      First and third person platformers are completely different games, and I don’t think it’s fair to say that since one is mechanically more friendly to a lot of people the other is a lost cause. This means difficulty curves have to be more gradual, and the feats requested less technical … but I think there’s a lot of fun to be had in first person platforming games, and a lot of interesting puzzles and scenarios to play out that don’t work as elegantly in third person. Though I think future first person platformers would benefit from an easily accessible free-look function sort of like in Arma II—there are a lot of times in Mirror’s Edge when I wanted to be able to keep running in the same direction but look just a little over to the right and left. This could have even been fixed with “glance” buttons that shift your gaze a reasonable rotation left and right mapped to two extra mouse buttons … actually that sounds more elegant than a free-look for a high speed platformer.

  31. dadioflex says:

    “Man Plus” by Frederick Pohl ( link to en.wikipedia.org ) is a pretty grim book from the seventies about a NASA experiment to adapt a man to live on Mars.

  32. dogsolitude_uk says:

    Woops, posted something by accident… This was actually an errant reply which got posted here, and I can’t delete it!

    Sorry folks, nothing to see here…

  33. Fathom says:

    I highly reccomend this “Exile Vilify” montage to any Half-Life 2 fans: link to youtube.com

  34. Sunjammer says:

    I love this site so much. I love that it can post intelligent, provocative discourse on games like The Void and Pathologik, without stooping to the rampant intellectual wank of that Portal 2 piece.

    “But it’s these things that sit on the outer-most cusp of my consciousness when I play Portal 2, whispering some song of validation that’s difficult to hear against its louder, more obvious elements of success. Valve, we are listening to your song. Will you teach others to sing?”

    Jesus christ, SOMEONE’s apartment smells of rich mahogany. I just hate that writing style. I fail at this myself, but there is something to be said for being succinct.

    • Wulf says:

      I’ve been told that, too, but I fail to believe it!

    • Wulf says:

      Wow. I just had a fail reply, too. Something strange is afoot at the Circle RPS, Ted.

      (The above reply in regards to being succinct was correct, but this reply was supposed to be to someone else. But it defaulted back to the last person I replied to.)

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      Well, to be honest, I disliked the style as well. But I’m not sure I’m disagreeing with what he said.
      To each his own, a wise man once said, and to everyone a cookie.

    • Wulf says:

      Yeah, I was disagreeing with the idea that any thought is worthless. To be honest, I like to read what people think of things, even if it isn’t succinct. Not carefully measured words, not finely crafted syllables and polished grammar, but generally *BAM!*-ish braindumps. This is something that I encourage, even if it does lead to a lack of succinctness.

      That and I usually have trouble figuring out what people who’re being succinct are actually saying, but this is my failing alone. Perhaps the average person gets more out of succinctness that I do not and I’m just missing things. I don’t doubt that.