The Sunday Papers


Sundays are for sitting somewhere in the Cambridgeshire countryside, hoping that RPS’ shonky automated scheduling has actually published The Sunday Papers that you prepared the day before. There’s simply no way of telling. Maybe it’ll end up getting published on Monday. Or perhaps it’s already been published and folks are merrily commenting away on the selection of links and things that you have compiled. The not knowing is the worst.

  • Eurogamer have a huge breakdown of the relationship between LA Noire creators Rockstar and Team Bondi. It makes for quite a read: “Every dog has its day and there’s going to be hell to pay for this one. I’ll never forget being treated like an absolute **** by these people,” says Team Bondi lead Brendan McNamara. Oof.
  • Sinister Design suggest 12 ways to improve turn-based RPG combat systems. Here’s one: “Give the player at least six characters. This one is absolutely key, and yet most western RPGs of the past 20 years have missed it. Imagine playing chess with only four pieces–you’d be looking at a game with greatly reduced tactical complexity and far less interesting matches.” I say “what turn-based RPGs are those then?”
  • This is an odd one. Caretaker development, in bringing the Oddworld series back from the past. VG247 talks to Just Add Water’s CEO and creative director, Stewart Gilray: “Four weeks before both Stranger’s Wrath and Munch’s Oddysee were due to launch on PC we also took over on Munch’s Oddysee, the development of which had become been a little troubled, shall we say, and we worked to get that to a releasable state. To be honest, we got a bit of stick from the PC gaming public for not delivering to them everything that had been promised and rightly so. So, we spent the first couple of months at the beginning of this year improving those titles, adding things like anti-aliasing and upping the frame rate.”
  • Mr Yang has been writing a love letter to a bridge. You know the one: “The bridge is made of widely spaced (2 inch thick?) wood planks resting on an exceptionally weak-looking wood frame that wouldn’t support the weight of a leaf in real-life. And the wood looks pale, old and rotten. And maybe there used to be railings but half of them have collapsed (?!) — it looks like a single bullet will shred the whole thing, or your feet (and grenades) will fall through the gaps; in short, it looks dangerous.” Pah, they always fall in love with the dangerous bridges.
  • Industry Gamers have got Mr Carmack predicting that mobile devices will be more powerful than consoles within a couple of years time. This feels like a bit of a non-headline: “MARCH OF TIME INEVITABLE, THINGS TO CHANGE, FEW INTERESTED.”
  • Simon Ludgate is writing a series about how MMO economies work: ” MMORPGs don’t scale. They can’t, really, because players of all different levels might wander into the same area at the same time. You wouldn’t want a game that would spawn a level 50 monster right next to a level 5 player just because a high level player was riding past. Thus MMORPGs scale their content in the same way that classical JRPGs did: monsters of various difficulty levels are intentionally painted over the landscape. Here’s one of my favorite examples of this: a map of Dereth, the game world from Asheron’s Call, showing the relative levels of monsters.” Hmm, I hope Mr Ludgate has played some Eve Online before he embarked on this. I notice that he doesn’t talk to anyone from Eve, meaning he’s taking MMO to mean “Everquest derivative”. Depressing.
  • An article about “crunch” at game studios. The conclusion here is that people should “get out” and make their own games, which I am not sure is entirely useful advice, but also that game directors need to step up to stop it happening. And they do, but it’s also worth noting that project management of larger projects is one of the hardest problems that the industry faces, and few people are really good at it. Crunch is often a result of that, and I can’t really see there being any easy solutions.
  • The Gambit Game Lab podcasts are getting really good. The current series is all about interviewing former members of Looking Glass. Which is making me wonder when we’ll get another studio that has as much impact.
  • EGTV talks about “The Future Of PC Gaming“. Which as we all know is very exciting. It’s EVEN MORE EXCITING WHEN EXPLAINED BY ALEC MEER AND WILL PORTER. Hot.
  • Ian Bogost looks back at something he wrote in 2004 about asynchronous multiplayer gaming, and sees what he got right and what he got wrong. It makes for interesting reading in the light of the past few years.
  • The Cosplay video is hilarious/incredible.

Music this week is by Spaces, who kept me noised with the progness of Nothing Exists but Atoms and the Void as I contemplated the inspiring, elegiac sight of last space shuttle launch. Sigh. Anyone else worried that humanity is now increasingly post-Space Age? Just me then…

223 Comments

  1. aircool says:

    Crunch is inevitable in pretty much any project in any industry. Things will always take twice as long as you expect, even if you double your estimate.

    • trooperdx3117 says:

      Not necessarily, in I.T. departments and in film making theres rarely any need for crunch periods because they have good project managers and every step of the way is laid out and timetabled. What the game industry really needs to stop crunch time is some professionalism and a timetable rather than just chucking everything they’re making on a board hoping everything will work out.

    • aerozol says:

      my bad (edit)

    • DSDan says:

      nevermind (edit)

    • Backov says:

      Crunch in theory is fine – you fuck up your scheduling, you do overtime to make the schedule. Fine. People fuck up, and software scheduling is hard.

      The part that’s not fine is that they plan for “crunch” from the beginning as part of the scheduling.. After all it’s “free.”

      If you’re crunching, and you’re not being paid for it like if you were a carpenter on overtime, then you are getting robbed. If you’re fine with that, you’re the reason the industry is as dysfunctional as it is.

    • royaltyinexile says:

      There’s a difference between ‘crunch’ and ‘structural crunch’, where features are only included on the basis of crunch time.

      It’s not just a product of bad project management and scheduling, but inflexible design at a lower level too, where core game play elements have too much dependency upon each other.

    • Telke says:

      Yeah, some crunch that happens when projects run into massive issues, that happens. Software companies pay their employees for that crunch, as well.

      Crunch within the game industry is far more often a result of bad management and practice at some level; be that team-leader or (much more often) higher-level deadline setting, particularly from a publisher that doesn’t visit the studio at all.

      Added to that, in several states in the US game development is counted under Entertainment, so companies get away with some pretty shoddy practices – forced overtime, not paying for that extra time, etc. If the laws were clarified, it would come under the same employment rules as software development, but for now, the gray area exists.

      So yeah….don’t defend crunch, it’s really a bad practice in nearly every videogame industry case.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      The only reason for ever running over schedule is the schedule was wrong in the first place.

    • Moni says:

      Slight segue, Ron Gilbert having a rant about the “vertical slice” link to grumpygamer.com

      Seems significant because it sort of explains why scheduling doesn’t always work out in game development.

    • Starky says:

      Every industry indeed has crunch, and as has been said it is a matter of scale. I work for an engineering firm and sometimes we have to do a day or 2 overtime (though usually paid, or given extra days holiday in lieu), worst case is a week or 2 of 12 hour shifts right before the end of a big contract.

      This is to be expected in any industry, schedules fall behind and crunch is required to get the job done.

      That said I can only agree with what has been said above, to plan “crunch” from the outset in order to get free labour is horrid management. Were that sort of thing to happen in my industry heads would roll, unions would get involved and chances are the business would fold as every talented engineer walked away from the company.

      I suppose the difference is that Engineering is a lost art in the UK and there is a shortage of skilled engineers – compared to the games industry where 1 skilled person can be replaced by 3 fresh out of uni kids willing to work 3 times as hard for a 3rd of the pay and believe that it is a dream job.

      Hell my company employs 3 software programmers which have come from the games industry, earning 3 times the pay and working half the hours of almost any video game programmer.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I would expect Ron Gilbert to be a better writer, and at least know that if you are going to rant about X, you should first make sure the audience know what X is.

      As for schedules, it seems the games industry could do with reading points 12 and 13 of Joel Spolsky’s writings on the topic. (Heh. It’s 11 years old, and there’s a DNF joke near the start.)

    • President Weasel says:

      there’s also the point that this article has employees talking about a permanent state of “last few months” crunch that lasted for several years.

    • Mike McQuaid says:

      “Crunch is inevitable in pretty much any project in any industry. Things will always take twice as long as you expect, even if you double your estimate.”

      Then make your estimate four times what you said? As someone who works as a software engineer and wouldn’t consider the mainstream games industry due to crunchtime (and poor pay) it’s really bizarre to see people say this. In the last two years at my current company I’ve never had to work overtime to make a deadline and no project I’ve lead has had any member of my team had to either.

      There are two (working) approaches to time estimation for software releases: feature based or time based. In a perfect world you’ll deliver all your features on time (and, with correct estimations, this should happen). Otherwise, if you’re running out of time you either cut features to make a time based release or you delay the release to deliver all the features you wanted.

      The games industry seems to believe these rules don’t apply to them and thinks the third option is “crunchtime”. Crunchtime demotivates employees, destroys creativity and doesn’t help meet deadlines anyway (read Peopleware where they cite studies indicating a 40 hour week is the most productive).

      In my experience doing “crunchtime” at a startup company we just ending up acruing huge quantities of technical debt. When you are tired and rushed you can introduce bugs in 30m work which take days to fix. It’s a completely false economy by people who don’t understand how programming works, don’t understand how people work and want to get more resources from people for nothing (except the cost of their motivation and health).

    • Shuck says:

      @Mike McQuaid: A lot of the problem comes from the dysfunctional dynamic between the publisher and developer in the game industry. The developer usually has firm deadlines for milestones/final release and if they miss them, the publisher can withhold the rest of their operating funds. The schedule set by mutual agreement between the two parties is usually a joke to begin with – the publisher is looking to minimize development time in order to minimize their costs and forces the developer to agree to an unrealistic schedule; the developer agrees because they want the money to make the game. When you start off your project knowing you don’t have the time you need to do the job properly it tends to skew thinking. Bad management compounds the problem. Bad management is rife in the industry when the qualifications for being a manager are often that you put up with the abuse for a certain number of years without quitting.

  2. phenom_x8 says:

    kinda sad reading about the team bondi case at eurogamer, though! I’ve always thought that All of you western people were always being passionate towards your job, so that it doesnt matter to spend your lifetime with it eventhough its doesnt paid you well! But, I think I’ve been watch too much of your movies, by reading the article I become realize that you all just a human being just like the rest of us!
    By the way, its my 1st time I’ve been able to read your sunday papers right when its appear,Jim! I’ve been waiting for it since morning (it’s already afternoon here)!

    • Alan Alda says:

      I must say it’s always quite nice to be recognized as a human being.

    • Binman88 says:

      It’s not that we’re human beings, it’s that we’ve finally been able to replicate what people perceive as “human”.

      Mission complete. Back in the spaceship guys!

    • Moni says:

      I’m still under the impression that a lot of the poor employee conditions in the games industry are because the management can get away with it.

      I would say the majority of game developers are absolutely passionate about what they do, so they’re willing to put up with more than they should.

    • drewski says:

      And because there are always hundreds and hundreds of new game dev grads coming through to take roles in developers who burn out their staff.

      It’s one of the reasons conditions in industries like law tend to be so crappy at the start – there’s way, way more lawyers than there are law jobs. Ditto game developers, especially in a country like Australia where your alternative to Team Bondi is probably earning even less for the same hours doing a poker app for iPhone.

  3. McDan says:

    We were watching that launch on rps steam chat and it is depressing how we’re stopping going into space. It really is.

    • mda says:

      Don’t worry, I’m an astronut.

    • Bhazor says:

      Hey, theres always the British space program.

      link to linuxfordevices.com

    • arqueturus says:

      I’m pretty sure our current period of space exploration is considered normal in near future Sci-Fi. There’s nearly no point in space until either:

      a) we make a major breakthrough that makes space travel much more viable.

      b) there’s something in space that makes space travel much more viable.

      It’ll happen, although perhaps not in our lifetime Jim.

      I think my favourite novel that deals with this is Fallen Dragon by Peter F Hamilton.

    • Kandon Arc says:

      To be honest it’s not like no one is going into space any more. China and India are still full steam ahead and the private sector is starting to become more feasible. I see this as a temporary lull in western space flight, caused by a lack of public enthusiasm and unsteady finances. In 10-20 years time I’m sure that we’ll be back in space.

    • DAdvocate says:

      Cancelling the shuttle program has been long overdue, it was consuming almost a third of NASA’s budget to maintain an old inefficient cargo ferry designed to carry bulky military satellites.

      This cancellation is in effect a massive internal cash transfer into R&D which is far more likely to lead to a future in space than maintaining the shuttle was.

    • McDan says:

      Yes, R&D is clearly a better way to spend the money, gotta love the research.

    • President Weasel says:

      the shuttle was a horribly compromised mess from the start, due to politics. Pork-barreled out to a dozen different states with influential senators and a hell of a lot less reusable than it was supposed to have been, crippled by a lack of the necessary budget at the beginning to make a really reusable air-launched orbiter, and a massive drain on NASA’s finances to keep running.
      They would have been better off continuing with heavy lift rockets, although stopping it now with a vague “start thinking about maybe making some heavy boosters in the future” is pretty pathetic.

    • DeathHamsterDude says:

      On the other hand, I’ve just finished reading Carl Sagan’s Pale Blue Dot, and in it he said that the entire budget of NASA was a tiny tiny fraction of America’s defense budget! Which is ridiculous, frankly. He also noted that while in the short-term space-travel isn’t very useful, but we should be looking in the long-term, where a lot of the technologies being made for the space industry could literally save the world.

    • Kaira- says:

      entire budget of NASA was 1/10000th of America’s defense budget

      Hell, even US Army air conditioning budget is larger than NASA’s entire budget.

    • The Colonel says:

      That’s why America has a finger in every state dictatorship and 3rd world producer on Earth, but we’re still to colonise the moon.

    • Bhazor says:

      @Kaira
      The comments for that article really drive home why you can’t even talk about cutting defense spending in America.

      Jesus. Fucking. Christ.

      Apparently a US soldier is an immortal god like being where disrespect should be punished by banishment to the forbidden zone.

    • arccos says:

      @Bhazor: That kind of thinking is unfortunately all too common during wartime, and since the US is now in a state of perpetual warfare, here we are. Cutting military funding is political suicide. Most federal politicians seem to think accused terrorists are super villains, able to turn invisible or walk through walls if they are brought into the US for holding, or God forbid, their constitutionally required trial.

      I recently re-listened to Eisenhower’s military industrial complex speech. Hard to believe the country I live in is a country that elected someone like that as president. I want to emigrate to Eisenhower’s America.

    • lightswitch37 says:

      We still have a manned space station, you know. The Russians are still operating the Soyuz rocket program. And these guys are supposed to start ferrying supplies and researchers up there in a couple years. Elon Musk just may be the man who saves the world.

  4. Alexander Norris says:

    Why on Earth has no one made an MMO where the game actively scales damage/HP/etc. on monsters and players, so that even though a 50th level player has more options and more specialised talents than a 1st level player, they can both fight the same enemy and they will do and take proportionally the same amount of damage? It would probably not work in a straight Everquest-alike with linear quest zone progression, but in a game where all the enemies are thematically tied so that you can have different ones from zone to zone without having zone X’s enemies being visibly more powerful than zone Y’s, it would be great.

    Also, nothing gets me clicking faster on a link than mentions of Looking Glass.

    (And that CRPG combat article links to another about D&D’s combat… obviously written by a man who hasn’t played D&D in approximately 20 years.)

    • Batolemaeus says:

      That would be incredibly counterintuitive, would it not?
      Horizontal progression instead of vertical progression is a good idea though, one that I’d love to see experimented with much, much more. It has many benefits too, since content wouldn’t become obsolete to players of higher levels. That alone would solve many headaches for content designers, let alone making the world feel more populated as everyone could play together.

    • Jumwa says:

      That’s a fine idea. I’ve been waiting and hoping for years for MMO developers to get their act together and stop walling players off from each other.

      They could also try making character power a static thing, but the number and variations of abilities and vanity gear what players strive for, instead of passive stats.

    • Chris D says:

      I believe Rikti invasions in City of Heroes used that mechanic. No need to worry what level you are, just turn up to the party and start whooping. Then you just havfe to worry about the frame rate plummeting like Superman with a bird strike from a kryptonite seagull.

      The thing is,if you apply that universally then effectively no one levels up, and lets face it, hardly anyone plays MMO’s for the plot.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      Bato: how would it be counter-intuitive? All you need to do is inform the players that they level sideways. Just because that’s not the case in other MMOs doesn’t make every deviation from the norm counter-intuitive.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      I understood your post as an idea to actively influence the amount of damage of all participants, which would make it a bit more complicated. I apologize if that was wrong.

      In a way, most of Guild Wars actually works as a game with horizontal progression. Skills acquired later aren’t necessarily better or straight upgrades.

    • Arathain says:

      Yeah, the giant monster and invasion mechanic from City of Heroes really strips away the levels and shows them to be not nearly as necessary as everyone seems to think. See also the brilliant Sidekick feature, where you become the level of the mission holder automatically.

      It shows that higher level characters are better because they have more powers, and those that they have are stronger, such that they’ll always be able to handle more stuff, even without the whole level thing.

      That said, the reason levelling in that game is nice is in going back to a lower level area and one-shotting big swarms of villains with your newest and flashiest power. Especially because things way below your level are far more heavily affected by knockback powers. You too can fly, Hellion thug- for a short while.

    • LionsPhil says:

      That said, the reason levelling in that game is nice is in going back to a lower level area and one-shotting big swarms of villains with your newest and flashiest power.

      Bingo. It’s all the sweeter if you previously, as a low-level character, ventured into a high-level monster area and got clobbered, to be able to later return as something capable of taking them on.

      If you want a game where every fight is exactly balanced to you, play unmodded Oblivion. It’s like eating porridge for breakfast, lunch, and dinner every day.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      obviously written by a man who hasn’t played D&D in approximately 20 years.

      In fairness, there’s not much in the editions after AD&D2 (1989) that’s worth talking about. Other games do the modern style far better (from Burning Wheel to Das Schwarze Auge 4), but old-school D&D is something special and unique. Just look at the little industry of retro clones like Swords & Wizardry and OSRIC.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      TillEulenspiegel: AD&D is an hilariously bad system, its clunky and illogical. Seriously, go back and loko at BG1/2 – do any of the mechanics make any kind of sense?

      DSA originated as a copy of D&D and hasn’t really progressed much beyond that as far as I’m aware. 3rd Ed onwards (DND) is actually quite a nice, sensible system, although the battle-grid stuff doesn’t work too well on computers, it is nice to have some alternatives to (yawn) threat-based systems…

    • marach says:

      You may want to take a look at “The Secret World” no levels just extra skills to be earned (apparently around 500 at release)

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Original Guild Wars had you stop at level 20… at which point you’d finished the tutorial. The rest of the PvE/PvP game was designed around everyone being level 20. That still left 1000s of new skills to unlock… essentially more skills, rather than bigger numbers for a handful.

      You don’t need to scale up, if you can simply unscale the players.

    • Nick says:

      Nah, Prophecies (original GW campaign) took way longer to reach 20, good chunk of the story. They did make you hit 20 faster in the other chapters though, thankfully.

    • Batolemaeus says:

      Prophecies indeed only had you hit level 20 halfway through the story. When you come out of the tutorial, you’re around level 5. The sequel/expansion however had you come out of the tutorial roughly around level 10 to 15, only to boost you straight to level 20. After that, it took (originally) quite some time until you could easily respec and change your secondary class, but most of the “progression” from that point was collecting skills you were missing to let your skill synergize better.

    • Squirrelfanatic says:

      DSA / TDE has developed extremely (!) since its beginnings. It surely was inspired by D&D but it is no way near to being a clone of that game. The rules and the setting are extremely different, with DSA taking a far more “low magic” approach than D&D (there is still enough magic left, but you will find far less ridiculously potent magic stuff flying about). Also, DSA was far ahead of D&D in describing its background, its world, the people living in that world in much more detail.

      I played both D&D (old and newer versions) and DSA (newer versions, 4.Ed.+) and am neither fanboy of the one nor the other.

  5. Col says:

    What on earth is going on with the guy narrating the eurogamer video? He is doing that bizarre newsreader intonation thing to an almost preposterous degree.

    • Veracity says:

      Is it the Minkley? He’s dreadful for that, but I quite like him, anyway. He also punctuates every other sentence with hand gestures so emphatic you’d think he was using that Newswipe sketch as a manual.

  6. noom says:

    While I’m sympathetic to those working for Team Bondi with the amount of pressure they were under, if I’d signed a contract with explicitly stated working hours and was then told I had to work more, I really would just refuse.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Same here – most important thing as a workeer is to value your own time, because if you don’t put a value on it, no one else will either.

    • Starky says:

      That’s the problem really isn’t it – they can’t because if they do they’ll just get fired and the company will hire 2 fresh faced graduates to replace them.
      Until the games industry gains some kind of union this stuff is going to keep on happening.

      Games industry seems to come down to those who believe it is the dream job still (and will work outrageous hours for little pay), those who know it is bullshit but lack the power to do anything about it (in large part because of that first group), and those who quit and get a better paying job with half the hours in another field (programmers go to business/industry coding, artists move to advertising so on so forth).

      Maybe a 4th small group that have the experience and the resume to really walk out of a crappy situation and be confident about finding another job quickly (which probably requires them to be willing to move city, if not country).

    • noom says:

      The unionisation point is good one, and the industry is sorely in need of a strong one. My thinking though is that if your contract states a certain number of hours then the company is breaching that by forcing people into working more. Therefore any dismissal on those grounds would surely be illegal. Of course there’s all kinda of other reasons that could be fabricated as a reason for dismissal, and it’s a big risk for anybody to take in argueing with the management, especially when this crap’s coming straight from the top.

      It’s the angry socialist in me really… I don’t take that kinda crap at my work and tend to be quite assertive with my co-workers that they shouldn’t do either. Though admittedly my job has nowhere near these levels of staff-abuse…

    • Xercies says:

      Maybe that guy was right, and the only solution is to make a game yourself.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Starky: if you get fired for not working mandatory unpaid overtime over, say 6 months then you sue your employers for unfair (and constructive) dimissal. That kind of thing just isn’t allowed.

    • Rinox says:

      That’s the problem really isn’t it – they can’t because if they do they’ll just get fired and the company will hire 2 fresh faced graduates to replace them.

      Can you really get fired that easily (without an urgent reason) in the states? I mean, I’m not doubting you, I really just am wondering.

    • Starky says:

      I’m British and in in a heavily unionised industry (elec engineering) so I can’t be fired that easily.

      So I only know of second hand tales from friends and colleagues, but yes you can be fired that easily – or at least made redundant. Some excuse can be made up by the company and they’ll find a way to get rid of you if they want too – I know of one guy who was let go from a casual games studio in London for “not working to a standard befitting the company ethos” or something like that. That standard like this case was 12-14 hour days plus weekends for fairly low pay (£25k or so), no benefits at all, and poor working conditions – I saw some pictures of his office and it looked like a Chinese gold farming operation, fold up chairs and tables, dismal lighting so on.

      Now the guy earns way more than I do (about £75k), has a company car and is away by 5-6pm every night, and only works every other Saturday.
      Almost makes me wish I didn’t quit IT to go back into education for Engineering (still 5 years and I might be on that much, one can dream).

    • arccos says:

      @Rinox: In the US, you can be fired or laid off for pretty much any reason at all. If you aren’t unionized, there isn’t anything you can do about it, except collect unemployment for a bit and touch up your resume. If you are unionized, there probably still isn’t anything you can do about it unless they’re firing a good chunk of people at once.

    • Mo says:

      “if I’d signed a contract with explicitly stated working hours and was then told I had to work more, I really would just refuse”

      Good luck working in software at all. All software development jobs (even outside of videogames) will expect you to work overtime w/o extra pay. The difference, of course, is that I’ve worked maybe 2 weeks of 10 hour crunch in the past two years, versus the perpetual crunch that happens in game development.

  7. aerozol says:

    Team Bondi.. Holy shit, take a look at the letter on page 3.
    Explaining why they can require them to work an extra hour without pay, and are not legally required to update their contracts, amongst other things? Ridiculous. They do flexibly let them choose between 9-4 or 10-5 on Saturday though, so that makes up for it by far. Phew!
    @ noom I agree in spirit, but in a company/corporate environment it’s really easy to get pushed into a corner, especially over years.

  8. Moni says:

    I feel quite optimistic about the last shuttle launch. The shuttle was only an orbital vessel, which was kind of a step back after going all the way to the frickin’ moon.

    Retiring the shuttle is a necessary sacrifice to free up resources to start working on going back to the moon, and then beyond.

    • Moni says:

      Reading that back, it looks like I’m buying in to the politics.

    • Diziet Sma says:

      There’s nothing wrong with that, if the politics are accurate. I hope the funds that are freed up by this stay within NASA. A manned mission to mars is sorely needed, we have no need to revisit the moon unless it’s for some mining operation.

    • Moni says:

      I think going to the moon first is important because it’s sort of like a practise run.

      John Carmack put it best, “People will die”.

      link to bethblog.com (Episode 5)

    • LionsPhil says:

      A manned mission to mars is sorely needed

      Why?

    • Om says:

      Sure why not? Its not as if the money could be spent on schools or hospitals or the like

    • Bhazor says:

      Nasa Budget : $17.1 Billion
      Defense Budget : $689 Billion
      Annual national debt interest : $197 Billion

      Nasa has been picked off as a low hanging fruit.

  9. 8-bit says:

    the rise of mobile tech has worried me for a while, I know that apple wont be replacing nintendo consoles anytime soon, but we are already seeing signs that nintendo are moving away from the traditional box under the telly. the thing is I don’t want to play games on a tablet, I don’t even own a mobile phone for heaven sake. the idea that there is even a chance that, at some point my source of gaming time away from the PC will be limited to a tablet is scary..

    in other news I just finished reading the most amazing blog about two homeless characters in the sims 3. and thats a sentence I never thought I would say, here is another. I am currently reinstalling the sims 3.

    • Zorganist says:

      Except that Nintendo aren’t moving away from the ‘box under a telly’ model. It’s more moving towards an ‘extra telly in the controller’ model.

      I’m still skeptical about mobile gaming. It doesn’t matter how powerful a phone is, it’s still a phone. Without traditional methods of input, face buttons, analog sticks and the like, they’re still only good for a really limited number of genres.

      Personally, I’ll be dissapointed if gaming in the future amounts to paying hundreds of pounds for a mobile device, and then only being able to play physics puzzlers involving disgruntled animals. At least PC Gaming isn’t dying, right?

    • arqueturus says:

      roBurky’s blog?

    • 8-bit says:

      I disagree, the thing itself it is just an extra telly but the idea of it is clearly inspired by the ipad and I can see this idea becoming a bigger part of the next few generations, that’s what has me worried.
      Microsoft are moving to integrate xbox live features in the windows phone, already we have a playstation phone which plays ps1 games, then there is the vita which looks like it might be able to take the idea even further than the wiiU.

      I just see all of this as a sign that the platform holders are looking to move away from the traditional console. If for no other reason than people seem to be willing to spend (much) more money on a tablet than a console and expensive yearly upgrades seem to be easy to get away with.

      @arqueturus
      yes that’s the one, Alice and Kev.

    • Haywire says:

      If you’re willing to play on an xbox that’s ‘only good for a few genres’ compared to a pc, why not play on a mobile platform that’s just a little more limited?

      Understand it’s not that I question why anyone wouldn’t play on a pc, but why mobile gaming is an unacceptable compromise compared to other products.

  10. Jumwa says:

    Turn-based RPGs? They still make those?

    Kidding aside, the only place I can really think up some titles in that genre are on the consoles/handhelds. Last turn-based RPG I played was GoldenSun for DS, before that, FireEmblem for Wii. FireEmblem succeeded in giving you a ton of characters to organize tactics with, and perma-death for any that dropped in battle.

    It’s a fine point I suppose, though the genre just seems like a near irrelevant one, and this coming from someone who’s always been a huge fan of turn-based tactics/strategy games.

    And unless it’s a tactical grid based combat game, I don’t know that it really helps. In the old JRPG style of two opponents just whacking at each other arranged in parallel lines I don’t see what it adds, except more buttons to mindlessly hit to drag out the experience even further.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Ghost Recon (or X-Com 8 as I like to call it) on the 3DS is pretty nifty, although not quite as good as Fire Emblem (permadeath > level restart)

    • Jumwa says:

      Oh, and the pre-4.0 D&D rulesets were all terrible for game mechanics, in my opinion. I never did play a D&D based game that stuck true to the rulesets that wasn’t held back by it.

      Being designed for tabletop gaming, they were at once too convoluted and far too over-simplistic for actual video games. They hid the mechanics behind terms people who aren’t already familiar with D&Ds rules wouldn’t understand, but the stats and calculations themselves were so rudimentary for a game being “DMed” by a machine as to make things clunky and dull.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Jumwa: There are two main types of turn-based combat in CRPGs, both, incidentally, originating from the west. Games with free individual character movement (mainly top down/isometric, with or without a grid), and those without (like most JRPGs, as you put it).

      Now, I do agree with you in that I prefer those with individual character movement (and over a grid). However, I still think that you can pull off interesting CRPGs without it. One notable example is the later Wizardry games that perfected the style.

      Also, the D&D CRPGs are some of the best. I’ve said before that they have some of the best combat systems in the entire genre. If that’s not proof that D&D is fit for purpose then I don’t know what is.

    • thegooseking says:

      It really depends on the type of game you want. Having D&D rules in a CRPG isn’t a waste if you want the ruleset to be transparent and comprehensible to the player: after all, those rules were designed to be understood by a human being (though I agree that CRPGs that are based on D&D rules aren’t good enough at explaining D&D rules to people who have never played D&D). However, it’s worth remembering that the rulesets of PnPRPGs are intended to be interpreted by humans (with the addition of “house rules” when the rules don’t make sense or simply don’t fit the players’ tastes), not to be slavishly followed by a machine.

      Computers can implement far more complex rules, but that only works if they’re hidden from the player, otherwise the whole thing is too complex to understand. The only way to make a game fair when (some of) the rules are hidden is to make the hidden rules exactly mirror what is intuitive. That’s more fair than transparent rules when it works, because it’s less open to exploitation, but it’s also more likely to not work because making intuitive rules is hard, at which point it becomes unfair.

    • Jumwa says:

      I tried playing numerous CRPGs based on the D&D rulesets before ever playing or understanding D&D itself, and I can say it is neither done transparently or in a manner that’s easy to understand to the uninitiated. I know nobody who went into the games without a D&D background who found it easy to follow.

      Comparing it to the intuitive manner in which most other RPG designs go about stats is like night and day.

      The games themselves always appeared cumbersome, slow and poorly balanced. The stats, skills and feats and their uses weren’t all apparent unless you had experience reading through a Player’s Handbook for D&D. Nothing was explained well and it was about as transparent as tar. I never even came across a single such game that explained what terminology such as “1d20” means.

      That side, they just tended to make for poor action experiences with the constant misses and the slow pace of fighting. What works well for a table top group does not work for a video game experience necessarily.

      It’s my opinion that only the power of nostalgia and fandom for D&D really saves those games and gives them any degree of popularity or critical acclaim.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      before…understanding D&D itself

      Well, that’s the problem. If you just jump into the game without understanding THAC0, etc, it’s just a bunch of numbers you don’t care about. If you understand what’s going on, it’s much more satisfying. I expect the manuals in most such games explain things well enough that buying the PHB is unnecessary. They exist to be read.

      Comparing it to the intuitive manner in which most other RPG designs go about stats is like night and day.

      Examples?

      D&D games expose all their gory mechanics for you to see. That’s the transparency. Other games often present simple stats to a player and perform more complex algorithms behind the scenes.

    • Jumwa says:

      I don’t know how you can possibly think that D&D rules are easier to grasp than your typical RPG. The big book of rules and guidelines you’re given in D&D dwarfs any readily apparent and brief rundown you get on your abilities and progression in a game such as Fallout, Final Fantasy, Elder Scrolls, the Mario RPGs, Fire Emblem, etc., etc., etc..

      D&D rules are made to be easier to work out for humans, of course, but they requires the human players to understand a lot more of the machinations behind the numbers than a video game would typically require.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Who said anything about easier? Besides, D&D is the very definition of “your typical RPG”.

      but they requires the human players to understand a lot more of the machinations behind the numbers than a video game would typically require.

      You look at that and say “yuck”. Others say “brilliant!”

      Human-exposed complexity is not necessarily good or bad. But it does make for a very different type of game.

    • Jumwa says:

      The notion that we’re actually arguing about whether a system designed for table top gaming is superior or equal to a system designed explicitly for video games, at video games, is just absurd to me.

      I wouldn’t recommend using a video games rules for a table top experience just as I wouldn’t using a tabletops for a video game. They just don’t work that well in an environment they were never designed to work in.

      I never was knocking D&D, the strength of D&D is as a table top game run by humans with the flexibility to be adapted as such.

      It’s strength as a tabletop game is its weakness as a video game ruleset. The numbers are basic, they lack depth compared to what is possible on a PC or console, but the rules behind them maintain a high level of complexity. At its most basic level, a +1 to my dodge is just more convoluted then being told I have an extra 5% chance of dodging.

      On top of that, the malleability of the rules for all players–another big plus for the players–evaporates when you have an unyielding machine behind them.

    • Wizardry says:

      I think it’s worth expanding on one point here, that of being able to understand the rules. The vast majority of CRPGs including just about every single JRPG in existence uses hidden rules. Given your character’s statistics and equipment, and given the enemy type, can you accurately predict the damage range and chance to hit of each of your character’s attacks? No. You can’t. But you can in the D&D CRPGs because damage calculations and to hit calculations are open for all to see. You know exactly what your character will gain upon levelling up, from resistances to THAC0 bonus, from extra weapon proficiency points to additional spell slots. You know exactly what enemy mages are currently immune to because they cast the exact same spells as you have access to. You know exactly what range the enemy archers have because you know what bows they are using. This sort of thing isn’t possible in CRPGs without publicly defined game rules.

      Therefore there are two types of CRPGs. One that shows you your character’s statistics, telling you that “higher is good” or “lower is good” for each number. The other shows you those same statistics but also tells you the formula or look-up table needed to work out just what each point in those statistics does. Personally, I prefer this second type, though many of my favourites (and indeed the vast majority of the genre) follow the first convention.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Jumwa: You haven’t really explained to me why the CRPGs with the best combat systems are D&D based. The Gold Box series, the Dark Sun games, Temple of Elemental Evil and Knights of the Chalice have the best combat systems in the genre. And it’s not just my point of view. Even many D&D haters can acknowledge it. In comparison the combat systems created by game developers for their own games tend to be second best. You keep saying that they are more complicated and better for computers, but are they really? Is the damage calculation in, say, Oblivion really more complex than the damage calculation in AD&D? And what non-D&D CRPG has a combat system that can rival the best of them? Wizardry 6, 7 and 8 all have great character development systems and combat systems, but it’s definitely not of the tactical variety of D&D games.

    • Jumwa says:

      I have never played those titles you listed, Wizardy. All the D&D ruleset based RPGs I’ve played felt like slow, clunky juvenile impersonations of actual video game RPGs. And I can only speak to my experience. However, claiming that some old D&D ruleset games are superior to all others just sounds like personal taste through nostalgia-goggles.

      And the math behind a game such as those in the Elder Scrolls would undoubtedly be more complicated than D&D. It’s calculating not just weapon damage, armour rating, hit/miss/dodge chances and such, but working in percentiles of your gears repair/damage level, the (sometimes) dozens of enchantments and spells that you would be getting from the myriad pieces of gear (though not so much in Oblivion) and casts, your crit chance based off numerous variables. Not only would it be working in more variables, but the numbers themselves are just more complicated. They aren’t chained to working on a 1 to 20 scale, they can have numbers and percentiles calculated to wildly varying and specific degrees.

    • Wizardry says:

      And the actual gameplay difference between a 1-20 and a 1-100 range is what exactly? It’s not like the d20 is a must have for explained game rules. You could switch to a d100 (percentile) system and have public rules. Things like weapon deterioration affecting your damage would be just like encumberance affecting your movement points in Pool of Radiance. In fact, if you’ve played those D&D CRPGs you’ll realise that you stop working out the calculations in your head about 5 minutes into the game as you start to learn the effects of actions from experience. But that’s the beauty of having a transparent system, you can learn and use it as required, treating encounters of varying importance differently. Up against a small band of kobolds? Just attack. Up against a powerful ogre mage boss with four ogre bodyguards? Sit back, think, and calculate in greater detail. Most of the time you’ll end up going by the relative statistics of your party. Who has the lowest armor class? You can tank. Who can backstab? You flank. Who can cast a fireball? You take aim. Who out of the remaining characters has the most hit points? You can guard a side passage next to the archers. Can you do this in a non-transparent system? Yes, sort of. But you can’t pre-calculate the actual in game differences between someone with an armor class of 5 and someone else with an armor class of 3. In a JRPG the difference might be negligible. In D&D the difference is rather large at lower levels but irrelevant at high levels.

    • Jumwa says:

      You’re arguing against a point I never even brought up. I never took issue with all “transparent systems” as you call them.

      My point was just that, prior to exploring table top D&D for myself, I spent considerable time playing RPGs of various sorts. The only time I ever had issue understanding the mechanics while simultaneously finding them slow and clunky were with strict implementation of D&D rulesets in a video game. And now, even though I do grasp the mechanics, I still find those games a poor substitute for the RPGs designed for a video game from the base up, gameplay wise.

      You say there’s no difference in the math at all, then you say the difference doesn’t matter, then it’s just back around in a circle. I think this’ll just have to be a case of agree to disagree, because it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere.

    • Wizardry says:

      I do understand what you are saying, but I can’t quite get past my feeling that you’ve just been playing the wrong D&D games. If you haven’t played any of the games I mentioned previously, all that is left is the Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Neverwinter Nights games. Both Neverwinter Nights games have an incredibly poor real-time implementation, while Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale are generally better but still far from strict and very “clunky” due to being real-time instead of turn-based like D&D is supposed to be. I don’t think it’s fair to assess the worth of D&D in video games when you haven’t experienced those strict turn-based implementations.

      The Infinity Engine games and the Neverwinter Nights series are on the low end of the D&D implementation accuracy scale. They are games that have forced a turn-based rule set into a real-time body. They are clunky precisely because they do a poor job of implementing the rules.

      Out of interest, which D&D CRPG left a sour taste? I’m guessing Baldur’s Gate II.

    • Arglebargle says:

      D&D rules have always been a hodge podge of unrelated bits, cobbled together by people who didn’t sew so well. Murky. Haphazard. And poorly explained, to boot. Simplifying them into computer form should actually make them better, especially as they wouldn’t have to continually come up with more dross to add, to sell more books. The closer you follow the original though, the more likely you are to run into the quirks or broken elements.

      No one I know who worked on D&D, in any of its forms, still plays D&D. They’ve moved on to systems that made more sense for them. You’d be far better off to work up your own system for a computer game, dispensing with the fossilized conceptions of the old school…

    • Quirk says:

      Speaking as someone who’s been playing through Baldur’s Gate co-op recently…
      The old AD&D system is an unwieldy bit of nonsense. It’s sufficiently complicated to require explanation to the new player, and frankly that explanation itself leaves you embarrassed for the game. The central numbers in fighting are AC and THAC0, for God’s sake, and it’s hard to come up with a worse way to simulate actual combat. Two people swinging away like Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots, the only factor in combat whether you can pierce the other guy’s armour? And for this purpose, a little dart is as likely to get through as a halberd?

      Being complicated in the name of providing a decently accurate simulation would be defensible. This is not simulationist, not even particularly tactical at any interesting level outside spellcasting, which would be as good in any other system; it’s an inelegant, horrible kludge. It also provides very few options in its lengthy list of rules outside combat and theft. In many ways that makes for easier computer game design, as you can just have piles of mooks to give the player something to do, but it fails to be flexible as an RPG system anyway.

      That the CRPGs using AD&D still hold up as games counts for very little. Planescape’s terrible combat interface does not prevent it from being the best of them; what made the games interesting was rarely the combat. If you doubt, go play through Icewind Dale, which is all combat and little story, and screamingly dull.

      There is one good thing to be said about AD&D though: being pretty terrible, it inspired a lot of people who began by playing it to go out and write their own systems, which were almost uniformly a lot better, and now there are many interesting and competently made RPGs on the market.

    • Jumwa says:

      @Wizardry

      The Icewind Dale games, Neverwinter Nights (and it’s horrendous abomination of a sequel), and others I am forgetting the name of right now. They were not saved even by automatic pausing between each round of combat to allow the players to treat it like a turn-based game.

      Since last night though I see others have added their take on the issue and they mirror my own. In my experience that’s been the universal take on these sorts of games from people who didn’t start off with a D&D background, and even those friends I’ve made later in life who have long been D&D fans admit such games only ever succeed in spite of the rulesets, not because of.

      Anyhow, I think some of the newer commentators have said it better than I at this point anyhow, and seem to have experience with at least some of the titles you speak of that I don’t.

      I really enjoy playing D&D with my friends these days. I enjoyed it when we were using 3.5, and I enjoy it even more now that we use fourth edition (in most respects, though not all). I invested silly amounts into rulebooks and even novels (I became rather into the Forgotten Realms lore). But none of my fondness for it changes my opinion that a system suited for table top makes a poor direct transition to a video game.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Quirk: Baldur’s Gate, Icewind Dale and Planescape: Torment are god awful examples of D&D games. The games aren’t tactical outside of spells? Of course they aren’t because they don’t implement any of the rules often used for non-spell combat. You can’t criticize D&D in video games by playing shit that is the Infinity Engine. Can you at least come back after having played an actual proper D&D video game and not some real-time junk? Thanks.

      Now I know why people get pissed off when people hold up the Infinity Engine games as the holy grail of CRPGs.

      Do you think there are any modern CRPGs do it better. Can you explain which ones? The AD&D CRPGs still stand as the ones with the best combat. Hardly any other CRPGs come close, and those that do are heavily inspired by AD&D anyway.

  11. JohnArr says:

    In recognition of the final launch, I hereby grant the Shuttle Atlantis the highest order of the RPS comments thread.

    link to youtubedoubler.com

  12. Burning Man says:

    Englishmen, I will be graduating in ’bout six months time and am scared as fuck right now after reading those Team Bondi mails.

    While my eventual goal is to enter marketing and probably destroy several lives through the blatant overselling of decidedly unnecessary products, I am terrified of being steamrollered through open-ended company policies before I ever get to realize my dream.

    Those of you who do earn a salary, how do you protect yourselves against company exploitation?

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      If you want to go into marketing at the time of graduation, you have no soul. Nothing to destroy here.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Like I mentioned above – stand up for yourself and realise that your time is worth the company’s money. And if you do end up in a job you hate, go and find another one – but its much easier to find work while you still are in work.

      If things do turn for the worse BCC any important emails to your external address and take witnesses into meetings with management…

      But it really shouldn’t get to that.

    • Burning Man says:

      But-but you WANT that decidedly overpriced thingamajig that does something we don’t quite understand either. I’m just helping you realize it *big grin*

      But fear not, I need to work elsewhere before I can round up the work experience needed for an MBA. Still some time to go before my journey to the dark side is KOMPLEAT.

    • Starky says:

      Gotta agree with Malawi,

      You only go into marketing/PR AFTER you’ve failed at your dream job, be that journalism, writing, directing or what have you…

      To choose to go into marketing from the outset… is just… wrong.

      After all you can’t effectively crush other peoples dreams until your own have been crushed – and that is an essential skill for any would be marketing exec.

    • randomnine says:

      First, recognise what constitutes somewhere exploitative. You’ll need to find out where the good workplaces are, where the bad workplaces are and how to tell the difference. This research will be difficult: none of the information you need is public, so you’ll have to network hard and learn to read between the lines. If you don’t have professional contacts in the industry, you need to start forming them now so you can get some perspective.

      If you end up somewhere exploitative, then sorry – you’re stuck there for a while. Work hard, excel and make friends. In the short term, your leverage to push back against exploitation is limited by your usefulness and your ability with office politics. Try to push back without antagonising people.

      Long term: get to know people in your industry outside your company as well and learn where you’d like to work instead. It’s harder to get hired at a good workplace than a bad one – job openings are rarer and more heavily contested – so make sure your CV looks good. When you can, make the jump.

      If it turns out that your entire industry sucks, seriously consider a career change.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Disagree that you’ve got to stay at a place that sucks – you’re better off jumping ship immediately. You probably don’t want to make a habit of moving every 3 months, but a little bit of that on a CV isn’t a problem.

  13. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    Comment on the Craig Stern post:

    “The ONLY way to improve turn based combat is to make it real time. Turn based stuff is done IMHO. It just slows down the game. I am not even sure where turn based would fit better than real time. Combat systems such as those in Dragon Age: Origins really blur the lines between RPG and Action, I like that. When I am constantly slowed down by menu systems I am taken out of the story and the character. I am supposed to be ROLE PLAYING not MENU PLAYING.”

    The best troll.

    • Alexander Norris says:

      It’s great, because if you want actual roleplaying instead of just “choose between saint/mercenary/asshole” you need to go play an actual RPG and not a CRPG.

    • Bhazor says:

      I… actually almost agree. Certainly I think hybrid “pause and plan” systems (Dragon Age, Baldurs, Fallout) work better than straight turn based rpgs in realistic settings. In JRPGs though turn based can work better because the developers are willing to go much more stylised than Obsidian or Bioware would ever go.

    • Wizardry says:

      Funny how the people who advocate real-time RPGs are the same people who have only ever played Japanese turn-based “RPGs”, conveniently forgetting that some of the best computer role-playing games of all time were turn-based and were great partially because of being turn-based.

      Baldur’s Gate is a terrible example of a good hybrid. Why? Because the underlying rules are turn-based. You can completely break the game by doing things like kiting. The funny thing is, if you rank all computer RPGs in terms of the quality of their combat systems, you’ll get all the (proper) D&D games right near the top of the list.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Fallout was here. SPECIAL (which you can trace back to GURPS) laughs at your THAC0 shenanigans.

    • Wizardry says:

      Sorry but SPECIAL is awful. It was hacked up in a day to replace GURPS that it lost the license to use. The idea behind it is nice. The division between attributes, skills, tagged skills, traits and perks is great. However, mechanically, everything related to how combat works is insanely broken, especially when it comes to critical hits. The character advancement in D&D is far more fine tuned and better paced than SPECIAL. SPECIAL turns into an act of increasing critical hit damage and aiming for the eyes when you get to a high enough level.

    • LionsPhil says:

      High-level characters might break a combat system? Hold the presses! Using a D&D wizard making time his bitch, probably.

      In the meantime, being pure turn based + predominantly ranged attacks + cover means positioning matters, which is a big lump of delicious tactical fun missing from the Baldurs Gate lot, and until you’re at 95% to hit eyes and instakill everything that gets in range you get to make decisions about where to aim, or if to aim at all—“best damage/percentage tradeoff” is not the only answer, given that crippled limbs affect the combat ability and behaviour of opponents.

    • Nick says:

      There was no cover or positioning in Fallout combat that I remember.

    • LionsPhil says:

      You never made use of a doorway or a corner and some action points on movement, then?

    • Uthred says:

      “Funny how the people who advocate real-time RPGs are the same people who have only ever played Japanese turn-based “RPGs”, conveniently forgetting that some of the best computer role-playing games of all time were turn-based and were great partially because of being turn-based.”
      I wish I had your amazing psychic powers so I could automatically tell what people on the internet have and havent done. I cant help but feel that your skills are wasted posting in every thread in any way related to RPG’s.

    • Nick says:

      No, I didn’t, I just stood there and shot everyone to death, or ran towards them a bit and shot them to death with higher %s.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Fallout Tactics (yes the one “purists don’t like”) had stuff like kneeling (behind low objects) and lying prone as well as the normal “stand behind a wall/door” tactics.

    • Nick says:

      Yes, it did, but thats not what Phil was talking about. Besides, it was a turn based/real time strategy game rather than an RPG, but its combat was certainly more involved than Fallout/2s as a result.

      I quite liked it.

    • Wizardry says:

      @LionsPhil: Since when didn’t positioning matter in proper turn-based D&D games? Baldur’s Gate is such a shitty example because it’s real-time. Positioning matters so much more in the Gold Box games than in any Fallout game, mainly due to things like zones of control and spell area of effects. Fallout was just about popping in and out of cover.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @Nick: So turn the difficulty up or lean on the stims less.

      @Wizardry: Well, I’m going to have to concede on not playing the Gold Box ones, but from BG and tabletop D&D I’ve really not found it to matter much. Even then area attacks are in FO too (as are lines of fire, as anyone who gave Ian a SMG might remember! :) ).

    • pipman3000 says:

      lo0l shut up beardo fallout was great in-spite of it’s horrible turn-based combat engine and anyone who says otherwise is 1) blinded by nostalgia. and 2) breast-fed until they were 30.

    • Wizardry says:

      @LionsPhil: It’s alright. You should take a quick look at the following article that describes the combat system in the Gold Box series (remembering that the engine was created in 1988). It’s only a 5 minute read but you should know the basics afterwards.

      link to crpgaddict.blogspot.com

    • Nick says:

      stepping out and back behind a door doesn’t make it anymore tactical or engaging. I’d rather just get two shots off and kill the guy a turn faster..

      Don’t get me wrong though, I love Fallout 1 and 2 to bits and the combat was fun enough with the enemy speed turned way up for longer/trash fights.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @Wizardry: Yeah, I can see that’s a got some more neat touches from tabletop.

      @Nick: Dunno about you, but I don’t like standing around in front of Raiders with assault rifles if I can spend an AP or two going into cover instead and making them charge me instead of burst-fire my torso into meaty chunks. ;)

      Also IIRC those damn aliens down a mine in FO2 are a good example of using crippled limbs, since it will slow and deter them, whereas trying to just shoot them outright with mid-game weaponry will be a frustrating exercise in damage reduction (…I found this out the hard way).

  14. Metonymy says:

    Everything on that cosplay video should have been ‘purged’ in favor of more Adeptus Sororitas.

  15. Cinnamon says:

    I couldn’t bring myself to read all those points about how to improve turn based RPGs.

    The simple fact for me is that the RPG genre, like it or not, has it’s origins in table top strategy gaming. Over time that direction has been lost and almost all of the developers simply do not prioritise the strategy element like they should. I’m sure that many game developers are moderately intelligent fellows and could work out how to do strategy and tactics well in turn based or real time but it simply isn’t something that they give much priority to. If they do it feels weak and simplified. The RPG genre is mostly a lost cause if you want character based strategy gaming, for that it is best to stick to games that fall under the strategy genre.

    • Wizardry says:

      Good post. But I still have faith. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, CRPGs aren’t CRPGs any more, as odd as that sounds. CRPGs were computer adaptations of pen and paper RPGs. The “CRPGs” of today are video games (notably action games) with role-playing elements. Technically the word CRPG applies to them as they are computer games (action games) with role-playing in, but they aren’t computerised “RPGs” in the traditional sense, a concept that happened to be influential during the CRPG golden era of 1985 to 1993.

    • AndrewC says:

      “I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again”

      Oh dear, but I laughed.

      Terribly sorry, I am a bad person, do carry on.

    • thegooseking says:

      It actually has its origins in tabletop strategy gaming and fantasy literature. Choosing to emphasise one of those more than the other is not a mistake: That’s exactly what you’re doing, so why is it so wrong when people choose to emphasise the other?

    • Wizardry says:

      What? I’m emphasising its roots in pen and paper role-playing games, which in turn has roots in fantasy literature and wargaming. I’m not emphasising one over the other. I’m emphasising both. In fact, it’s those that neglect the whole wargaming part that aren’t being fair.

    • Cinnamon says:

      Being a fantasy themed game alone isn’t enough for me.

    • Wizardry says:

      It doesn’t have to be fantasy. There are lots of non-fantasy CRPGs to play, especially around the end of the 80s.

    • Cinnamon says:

      They are all heavily influenced by fantasy of one sort or another.

  16. Freud says:

    My big problem with turnbased combat is that it becomes routine and tedious once you master it. Fallout 1 & 2 are filled with so much pointless fighting that takes to much time that it detracts from the games. Most of the time when the combat mode was enabled in those games I sighed. Not again.

    The big advantage of real time combat systems (DA:O) is that a lot of this filler combat is over mercifully quickly.

    I do realize this isn’t an argument against turn based combat as such. But more a problem with poor game design where combat becomes stale too quickly.

    • Wizardry says:

      Some flaws. Why pick out one of the worst examples of a turn-based RPG that there is? Fallout has an atrocious combat system specifically because of a single player controlled character. Can you at least be a bit fair and compare party-based RPGs? You are comparing a real-time party-based game, Dragon Age: Origins with… Fallout? That’s not fair at all in my view. It’ll be much more accurate if you compare Dragon Age: Origins with something like the Gold Box engine games. Turn-based and party-based AD&D at its finest.

    • Freud says:

      With more characters, filler combat takes even longer. I’ve yet to play any RPG where most encounters aren’t pure routine after a while and the quicker they are over the happier I am. Most of the time fighting seems to be a xp mechanic more than anything (excluding boss fights).

      Pretty much every RPG with turn based combat that I’ve played (from Darklands to now) has has so much filler that no matter how entertaining the initial learning curve is, it turns into a chore once you ‘solve’ it.

      I guess a RPG that didn’t have any random encounters but where every fight is designed to provide a challenge and where they constantly introduce new things so you have to adopt all the time might work.

    • Wizardry says:

      Darklands wasn’t turn-based, though I guess you meant turn-based games from Darklands (1992) to now, which includes… not many from western developers as turn-based died out around 1993.

      On the topic of scrapping filler combat, I do agree with you somewhat. I think 1988 was the turning point in the reduction of filler combat because of Ultima V and Pool of Radiance that came out that year.

      What Ultima V did was severely reduce enemy encounters in the wilderness, while also preventing dungeon rooms (rooms in a dungeon that combined enemies and puzzles together, requiring you to solve puzzles while fighting) from “respawning” on exit. This meant that the game’s combat portion ultimately became a series of developer created rooms that you could progress through one at a time.

      What Pool of Radiance did was allow entire areas of the game world to be cleared of enemies for good once certain conditions were met. This could be something like killing the boss at the end of the area or beating enough random battles in the area. Alternately, there could be a reduction in the amount/frequency of random battles as you beat each fixed/developer created battle in the area.

      Did you play any of those CRPGs with optional auto-resolved combat? This allowed you to skip through trash encounters very quickly without having to do any work. I remember the old SSI games having this option. If you come across a challenging encounter you can play through it manually and have some fun. If you come across an easy encounter full of useless enemies then you can tell the game to fight for you.

    • Metonymy says:

      I don’t know about you guys, but when I played x-com 1/2 and I lost a guy, I reloaded and tried again, because I knew it was better to level up my starting crew than hire some new meat.

      This was tedious. X-com was an alternate version of JRPGs, you were just slightly more likely to die or make a mistake you couldn’t have predicted.

      The move away from ‘death’ or ‘reloading’ as a possible outcome makes a game more casual, but for most players it makes the game a more realistic investment of time. (and more profitable)

    • Nick says:

      Its *your* fault that it was tedious, you chose to play that way, the game was entirely beatable without doing that and a lot more intense.

    • Freud says:

      So avoiding combat if the combat is shitty solves the problem of combat being shitty?

    • Metonymy says:

      The point being discussed is the tedious nature of failure in a pretend world. Losing a high level soldier costs hours, reloading a mission costs 10 minutes. So your proposal, which is that I intentionally neglect to optimize my play, supports my point far more solidly than anything I said.

    • Wizardry says:

      In old CRPGs you had to cycle through around 30 party members until you managed to get your whole party to level 2. Resurrection was just too costly at low levels. The best option upon the death of a character was to kick them out and create a new one, hoping that they would survive long enough to reach level 2 and beyond. It actually improved the role-playing and story aspect in many ways. In modern day CRPGs all your characters survive until the end, with no drama outside of what is written in by the developers. In old CRPGs the game mechanics created the drama themselves.

      @Freud: Is that in reply to me? Not at all. Where does shit combat come into this? We are talking about low level encounters when high level in games without level scaling. Automatically resolving easy encounters that you’ve beaten many times before isn’t such a bad thing and doesn’t indicate bad combat mechanics at all.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      The answer isn’t “change the combat system”, then answer is “remove the filler”.

      There’s damn all filler in the Gold Boxes – I’m getting all misty eyed just thinking of Champions of Krynn.

      (Did anyone ever play the Buck Rogers “Gold Box” type game?)

    • mcnostril says:

      I don’t know, I found the turn-based combat in Temple of Elemental Evil to be wonderful. Every single fight was exciting just through the sheer breadth of options. There weren’t even that many, but it felt like more; using your skills and juggling the areas of influence of your enemies with a large party never got old, even in those ridiculously easy fights (where it became a game to see how efficient you could get).
      It actually makes me a bit sad that no other game has implemented the D&D ruleset in quite the same way. Hell, I’d be happy with a system that just feels similar.

    • Wizardry says:

      @mcnostril: Try the 11 Gold Box games if you want something similar. They are probably the best D&D video games of all time. They don’t have stories as good as the Infinity Engine games and aren’t as in-depth as Temple of Elemental Evil due to being 1E instead of 3.5E, but they are a nice mix of the two. Good, solid stories, if lacking in significant plot twists, fantastic turn-based combat with zones of control and attacks of opportunity (unlike the Infinity Engine games), as well as encounter design that beats Temple of Elemental Evil and almost equals the best of Baldur’s Gate II. For something newer, check out Knights of the Chalice that was released in 2009. It’s an independent CRPG using the OGL. Pretty similar to Temple of Elemental Evil in many ways.

      @FunkyBadger3: I have. Matrix Cubed isn’t the best Gold Box game, though. In fact, it’s one of the worst. Still not bad. Countdown to Doomsday is one of the greatest, and a contender for best CRPG from 1990. It feels so much different from the other games as it contains totally different classes and races, as well as a proper skill system like in older SSI CRPGs. Definitely recommended.

    • Nick says:

      Hey and roguelikes are too easy if I save scum them, thats not my fault is it? Or is it?

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Wizardry: ta… I just wonder if there’s a way of getting them playing on modern computers…

    • Veracity says:

      DOSBox. They tend to revolve around drawing maps on graph paper, though. I wouldn’t bother unless you like Etrian Odyssey.

      Spiderweb’s stuff, particularly Avernum/Exile, is somewhat similar. Mostly about poking big (auto)maps for nooks with shinies in while killing anything that doesn’t look like you and taking its stuff.

    • Wizardry says:

      Yep. They all work fine in DOSBox.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Awesome. I do like Etrian Odyssey, and I can probably remember at least half of the maps from Champions of Krynn by heart…

    • Wizardry says:

      They are all abandonware if you don’t know where the find them.

  17. BooleanBob says:

    This from the Bogost piece:
    “In 2004…”multiplayer games” referred almost entirely to MMORPGs. It wasn’t even clear that a conference on “multiplayer phenomena” would be interested in anything other than those games.”

    I’m sorry, but what?

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea seriously, people were multiplayering RTS/FPSes well before MMORPGs became some sort of thing… the move away from games all including single-player content maybe.

  18. CMaster says:

    About the space-age thing.

    Yeah, the shuttle’s going away. But it was out of date, expensive, alarmingly dangerous (fatal disaster approx every 50 flights!) and could only achieve a fairly low orbit. What you perhaps don’t see is how much more space is in very day life now. Lots of people in the UK get their TV from a whole cluster of satellites. We navigate using one of (soon to be three competing/cooperating) satellite based navigation systems. You can buy a phone that works anywhere you can see the sky due to satellites. You can spend a month in (rather low) orbit if you have the cash.

    The thing about going further, about colonising the moon or whatever is this: it only makes sense to do it, when we are already doing in. The moon is doubtless stuffed with iron, aluminium, etc – useful resources. But as of now, there’s no real sense in getting them. The expense of supporting a mining industry on the moon, and of flying it back to earth means it isn’t a viable scheme. However, if you already have a multi-planetary civilization with a demand for spaceships, the cost of getting material to build spacecraft with to lunar surface to orbit is much lower than the cost from earth surface to orbit, and suddenly moon (and other body) colonization looks economic.

    • Bhazor says:

      “The universe is probably littered with the one-planet graves of cultures which made the sensible economic decision that there’s no good reason to go into space–each discovered, studied, and remembered by the ones who made the irrational decision.”

    • CMaster says:

      @Bhazor
      Yeah, I had that quote in mind when writing that. What I was getting at, is that once you become a multi-planet civ, suddenly it becomes economically sensible to be a multi-planet civ. Although not so much if those planets are in different solar systems, because they’re effectively forever isolated from each other.

    • CMaster says:

      I’m musing what a universe with humanity spread across several solar systems would be like – because while it would be a huge challenge, settling other systems isn’t beyond possibility.

      They’d be able to communicate with each other, but not engage in any real form of dialogue. Just sending a limited selection of messages to each other. It seems unlikely that the journey from one system to another would ever be made more than once, or be more than one-way. There’s no imaginable meaningful trade (even of that most valuable commodity – skilled individuals) that could exist with the time-scales and costs involved, although colonization of a new world would probably take place in waves.

    • Starky says:

      one of my favourite quotes along those lines is:

      “The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn’t have a space program. And if we become extinct because we don’t have a space program, it’ll serve us right!”

    • Zenicetus says:

      We needed a hiatus on dumping massive amounts of cash into a manned program, so yeah… I see it as a good thing to retire Shuttle.

      The tech to get past the Moon is nowhere near mature enough, and just getting back to the Moon would be a terrible goal, another short-term money sink. What’s needed is small steps towards orbital refueling (so we don’t need huge Earth lifters like Saturn), orbital assembly, and then a few manned missions to close asteroids, testing the radiation shielding and long-term life support we’ll need for a Mars mission. And THEN Mars, much further down the road.

      The more immediate concern is what the economy crunch is doing to basic research programs. Some idiots in the US Congress want to terminate the James Webb Space Telescope program, the successor to Hubble. Hopefully this won’t get out of committee, but this would be a far more devastating short-term loss, than not launching a few more humans into near-earth orbit.

      link to blogs.discovermagazine.com

    • CMaster says:

      Wouldn’t getting to asteroids actually be really difficult? There aren’t many very near earth (most being in the belt beyond Mars and all), and without any gravity well to speak of, getting and staying near them is going to be a hell of an exercise in precision and constant orbital adjustments, never mind a hell of a lot of braking makeovers.

    • Zenicetus says:

      An asteroid approach is do-able. In fact, just six days from now, the Dawn spacecraft will go into orbit around Vesta:

      link to nasa.gov

      It took a long time to get there, using a Mars gravity whip, but a manned mission would use more thrust. And it doesn’t have to be a mission all the way out to the Belt, it could investigate one of the strays on near-Earth trajectories, which might be good for gaining public support and funding. It could be billed as the first steps toward finding a way to deflect a potential Dinosaur-killer asteroid or comet strike.

      The main rationale I’ve heard for a manned asteroid mission ahead of Mars, is that it would deal with just the life-support and radiation shielding for a long mission outside the Earth’s protective magnetosphere. It avoids the added complications of an actual landing (a very tricky maneuver with the thin atmosphere of Mars), and having to carry enough fuel to climb back out of Mars’ gravity well and get home.

  19. reticulate says:

    I really like this bit about LA Noire – “Wonder why the open world is wasted because it’s so boring? We didn’t have any animators because they all left.”

    Probably the one thing that stopped that game from being a hands-down classic in my mind was the fact they gave us this stupendously-well visualised 1940’s LA, and sweet fuck all happens in it that isn’t a case location or (short) random radio mission. Seriously – if the random events in GTAIV or RDR pissed you off, you’ll be wishing for them back by the end of LA Noire.

    It’s a good adventure game. But it’s no sandbox, by a long shot. And I dread to think how much Rockstar sank into this thing to get it even to this point.

  20. Leo says:

    That cosplay video supplied some much needed morning LoL’s to enjoy behind my cup of coffee.

    Edit: Japan Expo … in Paris … wut?

    • CMaster says:

      There are a lot of (generally young) people into japanese culture in France (see more Manga shops and the like than in the UK, as well as they watch a lot more foregin TV/Cinema in general) and I’d say it was less of a “sweaty nerd” thing than in the anglophone world too. So not especially surprising really.

    • Dominic White says:

      You walk into any big-city book store in France and you’ll find a lot of exceptionally trendy-looking 20-somethings (college students, at lot of them) hanging out in the comics/manga section. It’s pretty popular/fashionable over here.

    • Kaira- says:

      I was quite surprised how popular manga/anime is in Paris when I visited there last autumn, there were about 10-15 comic book stores in the area we had booked the hotel and every single one had at least one wall dedicated to manga and/or anime.

  21. mbp says:

    Mr Meer and young Mr. Porter’s vid on the future of PC gaming was interesting but focussed too much on the graphics aspect. Imho indie titles like Minecraft and Magicka are just as important to the future of PC gaming as Crysis 3.

    Nevertheless I would have no objections if either of those two young gentlemen were offered the vacant bar stool in the Rock Paper Shotgun “office”.

    • Duckpoop says:

      Mr. Meer doesn’t look too heavy at all… I don’t think he needs 2 stools :P

  22. LionsPhil says:

    Ian Bogost article, talking about 2004:

    At that moment, “multiplayer games” referred almost entirely to MMORPGs.

    Quake 3 Arena/Unreal Tournament, when the two big boys of FPS decided “hey, this shooting-your-friends lark is big enough that we’re going to put it centre stage, rather than an extra mode on our single-player game”: 1999.

    Stopped reading right there.

  23. DK says:

    Jesus that PC Gaming Future video is filled to the brim with hypocrites. “Oh yeah we’re totally for PC” says Epic and ID. Yeah right. You’re all for PC right until the moment Microsoft waves a bunch of money in your face and then you’ll forget the PC even exists.

    • Wulf says:

      So long as UDK is available for PC developers…

    • LionsPhil says:

      You don’t need to be a hypemongering journalist to predict PC gaming’s future. The hand writing is on the wall: PC gaming faces a bleak future. In fact there won’t be any future at all for PC gaming because PC gaming is dying.

  24. Wedge says:

    Wasn’t the developer of RDR making a big bit of complaints about Rockstar a year or two ago too? Sounds like a great publisher to be working for…

  25. Wulf says:

    I feel kind of bad for Gilray, to be honest, because there’s a difference between making a complaint and just being a complete arsehole. I managed to solve 99.5% of my Stranger’s Wrath problems myself, and the rest were fixed swiftly, but the problem I saw was that people weren’t even willing to try the fixes that worked for me, because in doing so they’d have to admit that the problem was originating from the OS on their computer (Windows 7) rather than the game itself.

    This is a thing, really. It is a thing. They were egomaniacs in that forum, frothing, rabid, angry, and hateful. Some just outright attacked without even saying what their problems were, and… well, where does that get anyone, really? I can honestly say that it was just this festering hotbed of sociopathy. Very few people wanted to listen to reason, and fewer still gave enough of a damn to help out with computer awareness issues or reporting what problems they were actually having.

    Sure, you had a few good eggs, bless ’em, who provided detailed bug reports, but the majority… good grief. It just shows that a large chunk of the PC gaming community sometimes just needs to open the friggin’ door and walk outside for a bit.

    When he said that they were “given a bit of stick,” I honestly feel that’s too kind.

    Anyway, yeah, for those curious a lot of problems with Stranger’s Wrath were due to how amazingly broken OpenGL is in Windows Vista/7, it interacts badly with Aero, it plays it up at certain refresh rates, and in some cases, depending on a mix of visual settings, it can even appear in a tiny window with large black borders around it (I had his happen in Hoard). This is following the constant flickering issue that occurred in the Windows 7 beta due to broken OpenGL implementations.

    So yeah, who’s fault is it that Stranger’s Wrath ran at about 5FPS, sometimes appeared in a tiny space, might have had flickering, crashing, laggy controls, and goodness knows what else? In this case it was Microsoft’s.

    I honestly feel so, so bad for Gilray and co.

    You have no idea.

    This is why we can’t have nice things. I mean, who’ll want to develop for the PC if we keep chasing them off with sticks like this? :|

    • LionsPhil says:

      In this case it was Microsoft’s

      Bzzt. Try nVidia or ATi. The OpenGL implementation is provided by your graphics drivers.

    • Starky says:

      Actually I’d go a bit father and blame the whole openGL project for been a mismanaged pile of worthless crap right now.
      A standard all but abandoned by almost everyone because Khronos (the guys in charge of the standard) made pretty much every wrong decision they could have made and pissed off all the big companies that were supporting them.

      openGL could have been great, could have been a contender, hell it could of been the future of PC gaming and blew DirectX away (it was always cutting edge, if not very developer friendly), instead it got chained to bad management, and fear of rocking the boat, especially of backwards compatibility for industry.

      And now is basically dead.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Wasn’t there some weird thing where Windows Vista, and I guess Wn 7, pass OpenGL through DirectX?

    • LionsPhil says:

      There’s a fallback if your graphics drivers don’t provide an OpenGL implementation. Both ATi and nVidia do, though. A quick look on their website seems to indicate that this is also the case for quite a range of Intel chipsets. So, basically, it’s not going to be used.

  26. Craig Stern says:

    @Jim: just off the top of my head, the following western RPGs with turn-based or quasi-turn-based combat give you fewer than 6 characters for your party for either a) most of the game, or b) the entire game:

    –Neverwinter Nights (and all of its sequels)
    –Fallout
    –Fallout 2
    –Knights of the Old Republic
    –Knights of the Old Republic 2
    –Eschalon Book I
    –Eschalon Book II
    –Planescape Torment
    –Baldur’s Gate
    –Arcanum

    • Unaco says:

      Baldur’s Gate (Trilogy) gave you a party of 6… the Player Character, and (upto) 5 NPCs.

      Edit: And Planescape, just remembered. It was the same… Player Character (Nameless One), and upto 5 NPCs.

    • Wizardry says:

      Yep. Baldur’s Gate has six, just like the Gold Box games. Not sure why you included it. I do agree with you, though, that RPGs with six or more party members are generally better and a whole lot more tactical. I disagree, however, with your assessment of D&D combat.

    • Bhazor says:

      Don’t forget Dragon Age 1 ampersand 2.

    • Craig Stern says:

      Right, but even in those games which give you the baseline six controllable characters, you still have to go through most of the game with fewer.

      For instance, Nordom (if I’m not mistaken) is your first chance to get to 6 characters in Planescape Torment, and you’ll most likely be near the end of the game before that happens. If you don’t get Nordom, then Vhailor can do it for you, but he’s near the end also.

    • Nick says:

      You can have a party of 6 in BG1 within minutes.

      (to elaborate – Imoen, Monteron, Xzar, Jaheira and Khalid are the fastest, but you can pick up others pretty quickly too, in various places)

    • Bhazor says:

      No it’s definitely possible to fill your party before leaving Sigil in Planescape.
      Nameless One, Fall From Grace, Anna, Mort, Robot, Burning Wizard
      Also it’s been a while but I remember having a full party within an hour of starting both Baldur’s Gate games.
      BG1 Protagonist, [ninja-ed by Nick]
      BG2 Protagonist, Jaheria, Minsc, Yoshimo, Aerie, and any of three companions from the Copper Coronet (posh thief, knight, Drawf).

    • Craig Stern says:

      Nick: don’t Monteron and Xzar start fighting with Khalid and Jaheira pretty quickly after they’re all brought into the party together? If I recall, I couldn’t keep them all together for more than about 15 minutes before they started killing each other.

      Bhazor: by “Robot,” I’m guessing you mean Nordom? I mean, for people like you and I who’ve played through P:T, yeah, we can snatch him right up, but a new player isn’t likely to discover him until near the end of the game (if at all). Consequently, you don’t get a 6-character party for most of the game on a first playthrough.

    • Nick says:

      I did the whole of nashkel mines without them fighting the first time I played the game. Even then, you can pick up Garrick or Branwen, or Minsc and D-whatsername very soon and Xan after the mines.

    • Wizardry says:

      @Craig: Ignoring all evil characters such as Xzar, Montaron and even Kagain then, you can get Khalid, Jaheira, Ajantis, Kivan and Garrick within the first hour of a 80 to 100 hour game. Within 5 hours you’ll have met enough NPCs to make two entire parties of 6. It’s an absolute fallacy that you spend most of the game without a full party of 6. You spend at least 95% of the game with a full party of 6.

      Baldur’s Gate II is similar. In the very first dungeon you start in you’ll have a party of 5. Once you leave the dungeon it’ll go down to 4, but can shoot very quickly up to 6 just by exploring the city. You’ll have a full 6 before undertaking any of the major quests and before leaving the town for other places.

    • Craig Stern says:

      I didn’t list BG2, now did I? Hm, hm? :P

      All I know is, I played the original Baldur’s Gate for quite a few hours before I got to 6 characters. But no matter. On the whole, I think my point about relatively few western RPGs of the past 20 years offering the ability to control 6 or more characters at once remains valid.

      Mind you, I don’t even think that controlling 6 characters is all that great for tactical purposes: it’s just sort of the baseline that you need in order to have a diverse group of specialized units, with some reasonable opportunity for flanking and other positioning strategies.

    • Wizardry says:

      I agree. Eight is even better. If you go back further than 20 years you’ll see a lot more CRPGs with six or more characters per party. In many ways the Infinity Engine bucked the trend, only for the trend to continue afterwards. Now we’re lucky to get more than 4 characters per party, though I can’t say that any of those games even pretend to be tactical any more. Every time I hear people say that Dragon Age: Origins is a tactical RPG… I get angry and post a reply.

    • Bhazor says:

      @ Craig

      I agree, with four party members (Dragon Age for example) you are pretty much screwed unless you go cleric, mage, tank and rogue. You had far more flexibility in the older Infinity games. In Baldurs Gate 2 I actually had dilemmas on who to take but in Dragon Age and Neverwinter 2 I didn’t even give it a thought and just took the highest level of each.

    • JackShandy says:

      I love looking glass, but I don’t know if “As much impact” is genuous. (That’s… that’s the opposite of ingenuous, right? I can say that?)

      I mean, Bungie had more impact than Looking Glass. They’re amazing, but I don’t know if they really changed the industry.

  27. Vinraith says:

    Thanks for the music recommendation Jim, that’s some brilliant prog rock. And no, you’re not alone in your concern about the future of man in space. I guess we’ll see what the Chinese end up doing, and how/whether the western world reacts. A new space race would do us all good.

    • LionsPhil says:

      It’s certainly very backgroundable.

      I question what another Space Race could possibly provide except more frenzied wasted spending, given we’ve already reaped the benefits of getting out to orbit. It’s certainly cool, but that’s a long, long away from a justification.

    • Vinraith says:

      I question what another Space Race could possibly provide

      Massive innovation, economic stimulation, and a renewed national focus on science and engineering for a start.

    • Bhazor says:

      Hey don’t diss the space race. That’s where velcro came from.

      But seriously with all the developments regarding satellite communications, weather monitoring and assorted polymers and miscellaneous doohickeys NASA must have paid for itself ten times over by.

    • MiniTrue says:

      Meh, I think there’s already too much of a national focus on engineering and science. Economics and finance would be a much more productive national focus given how our economy is set up.

      City-boy, here.

    • LionsPhil says:

      @Bhazor: And we already have those things. What new problems would a repeat of the Space Race present that would trickle down to new benefits? Even if scaling up to man-on-Mars, what does it add that wasn’t already covered by man-on-the-Moon?

      It’s wobbly (warning, warning, armchair economics), but I can’t see “economic stimulation” as anything but an artificial bubble if it ultimately produces nothing of value. War provides “economic stimulation” by emptying the coffers and resources into building stuff you blow up and throw at other people. It’s not actually productive and it’s not sustainable because of it—at the end of the day, people need to making things which have value to other people.

    • Bhazor says:

      NASA is the worlds greatest collection of experimental scientists. The best way of getting a break through from such things is by setting them an impossible task.

      If you want to discover time travel go to NASA and order a large vegi-volcano pizza ($17.95) and tell the people present they must all split the bill equally.

  28. Rii says:

    “MARCH OF TIME INEVITABLE, THINGS TO CHANGE, FEW INTERESTED.”

    I think the take-home point here is that for the first time general consumer platforms like the iPad may well overtake PS3/X360 within those platforms’ useful lives. And when you put that alongside not only the burgeoning casual games market but also the fact that the industry currently struggles to finance AAA games such that it would probably be best for all concerned if any additional horsepower availed to them were cordoned off for improvements in framerate/resolution/anti-aliasing/filtering/other-post-process-shit-that-doesn’t-eat-money, you’re also at the point where you have to ask why we still need lumbering PCs and dedicated consoles at all when an audience that dwarfs the ‘core’ gaming market is already hauling around all the horsepower devs can reasonably take advantage of in their pocket?

    So yeah, that’s my prediction: the descendants of the iPhone/iPad are going to kill both PC and console gaming in their present forms. Probably within the decade.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      Don’t forget companies like Apple, Google, and even Microsoft are talking about “post-PC” as a thing… effectively not just PC gaming, but the PCs itself is being ousted from the position it occupies.

  29. kickme22 says:

    I was just wondering how many people here are european vs american I am american and find this site refreshing compared to other ones (like ign) but the only annoying thing is that most of the bargain bucket prices are in pounds and euros -_-

    • CMaster says:

      RPS is a primarily British site at core (all Brit authors, with certainly it’s “core” base in the UK and almost all the community servers etc are UK based), with the key part of its fanbase probably all Brits. In addition to that, PC gaming has always been bigger in europe as a whole than the US, while some of the things that US gamers seem to assume are universal (basically, playing a lot of classic Nintendo games) don’t really apply. However, it is an English-language site, so tends to naturally attract interest in the anglophone world.

      I’m sure the hivemind could enlighten you with actual stats if they cared to do so.

    • Danny252 says:

      “most of the bargain bucket prices are in pounds and euros”
      You what? The last bargain bucket had only 2 entries which lacked $ (which is less than the number which lacked €). The week before, there was even a $ exclusive offer, and no offers lacked $.
      Seriously, what are you on?

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      But Danny, here’s the thing – our colonial trauma has left us incapable of reading past those funny “£” marks. One eyeful of them and we’re curled up in the fetal position or pitching tea off docks. So don’t blame kickme22 for his culturally-determined reading handicap, blame the harsh imperial treatment that left the United States so stunted, weepy, and incapable of so much as glancing outside its borders.

    • Jake says:

      I found quite a cool addon for Firefox called Simple Currency Converter that swaps all the currency on a page to the correct way around.

  30. Craig Stern says:

    Dang it–didn’t mean to post this here.

  31. TheTourist314 says:

    I say we’re only Post-Space Age until we wring out the last of Earth’s resources and everyone starts panicking. Sigh.

  32. destroy.all.monsters says:

    The Cosplay video is incredible. The audio leaves much to be desired.

  33. jeremypeel says:

    That Sinister Design post is a corker, and I can find very little to disagree with there. Especially with regard to party-based RPGs. Interestingly – if I can dare to call my day-to-day gaming experiences interesting for anyone else – I’ve been playing through the original Neverwinter Nights campaign co-op over the last week or so and suddenly feel like I understand a game I’ve known for a decade. The difference is that of two seperate players, each with individually controlled AI companions and a new wealth of tactical exponential potential. And of two people making each other laugh with the silly voiceover commands.

    I’m also going to keep this piece close at hand whilst I draft the tactical dialogue system I’ve got planned for a Neverwinter Nights mod in the near future. RPG developers boast options, but all the mechanical depth lies in combat. I think somebody could make dialogue as compelling and viable if they tried, and I’m going to make a gruesome pass at it.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      Take a look at the Duel of Wits system in Burning Wheel (currently out of print, but the latest edition is going to be released very soon, a 600 page book for $25). It’s mostly intended for some kind of adversarial debate scenario with an audience, and it borrows some elements from the game’s unique combat system. A compromise may be reached depending on the margin of victory over a series of skill checks – you may get everything you want, or just minor concessions. Happily, the whole system is available as a free PDF.

      For one-on-one seduction, persuasion, etc, the Intrigue system from Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying might be more appropriate. Each character performs a series of skill checks or special actions (chosen from the likes of Fast Talk, Influence, Manipulate, Mollify, Shield of Reputation, …) until there’s one ultimate winner who gets their way. Again, not unlike combat. There’s an abbreviated version in the quickstart PDF.

      For the most part, this is all completely adaptable to a CRPG, at least in a limited fashion. You just have to set a list of actions and results for each character.

    • Wizardry says:

      I think it’s pretty easy to do. The challenge is to make the dialogue system make sense to the player. First you need to have as many variables and entities present as combat does. Then you need to define end points/results/goals for the conversation. Then you need to add mechanics that can be used to reach those end points by changing the variables in accordance to those entities and their statistics. Another important point to note is that you need varying degrees of success. You can’t just have success or failure, else it’s just a case of reloading. Combat in RPGs causes long term effects for the participants, from lower mana and health after the fight, to sustained injuries and status effects. You would need something similar in a tactical conversation system too to add the shades of grey.

      Some more thoughts. Have more than two participants. Make it party vs party, perhaps turn-based with the initiative handed to quick-thinking charismatic characters. Or maybe ordering the turns based on the attribute/skill that is most closely related to the current conversation topic. If it’s an intelligent conversation then intelligent characters should get earlier chances to speak, or even more frequent chances to speak (multiple turns like in Ultima V’s combat). Make it potentially beneficial for party members to shut the hell up and skip their turn.

      Allow for characters to target words at other characters specifically. Then add conversational abilities. This would allow you to slow down/confuse a vital opponent during the conversation, giving them less of a say in the overarching discussion. Add race/class/gender bonuses/penalties.

      On the topic of what variables to use, just use a simple one equivalent to hit points. Perhaps “confidence” or something. Once it hits zero for all opponents, you win the discussion. Once it hits zero for all of your characters, you lose the discussion. Maintain this variable across conversations so that it adds degrees of success and failure. Perhaps it can increase with conversational victories. Perhaps it heals with rest. Perhaps both.

      Make positioning matter. You can “tank” a conversation but sending the best speaker up front. Have everyone else on the “backbench”.

    • jeremypeel says:

      @ tilleulenspiegel – Thanks for the recommedations, I’ll take a look at both if economically possible. A Song of Fire and Ice’s skill check system sounds like a temptingly solid idea to base a system around; certainly DnD has everything I’d need by way of setting up skill checks according to the stats of characters involved in a conversation.

      The difficulty might lie in giving the player predetermined objectives and endpoints. ‘Getting your way’ is a shifting target depending on what your way might be in the moment, whereas killing an enemy is a fixed objective which allows the player to focus on how they want to get there.

      @ Wizardry – I think you’re absolutely right about needing varying degrees of success and failure – it’s the binary nature of dialogue-influenced morality systems which makes them feel, at worst, completely disconnected from the dialogue.

      I can’t think of a way of integrating a system of varied outcomes with proper conversation (I.e. words, not an entirely abstracted system a la Oblivion) without simply scripting at least a few unique outcomes for each conversation-battle. Which means a lot of work on creating meaningful conversations, fewer conversations overall. But I think that’s okay – narrower but deeper, right?

      Party-based conversations would be really interesting, but maybe at a later date. Much more tactical scope there, as you point out, but I think I want the basics down first. Intelligence, charisma and wisdom (using NWN’s interpretation of 3rd ed DnD) is something I want to factor in as heavily as strength, dexterity and constitution do in combat, so that would be ready to build on when the time comes.

      Ah, the time. Anyone got a dev team to spare?

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I edited in a link to the ASoIaF quickstart, which contains 90% of the crunch of the intrigue system, so there’s actually no need to buy anything.

      The difficulty might lie in giving the player predetermined objectives and endpoints.

      Yes. But it’s not so hard to write if you look at concrete examples. Maybe you’re trying to steal some priceless artifact from a nobleman’s manor, and you’ve managed to track down one of his servants. You try to persuade her. Possible outcomes, in order: she steals it for you, she gives you a key, she refuses to help and that’s the end of it, she runs off and tells someone about you and your intentions.

      Implementing all that is a lot of work. Much more so than putting some monsters in a dungeon. But it’s also a lot more interesting for most players, as each of those outcomes will lead to another step. Come up with the scenario and the characters, and it basically writes itself.

  34. FunkyBadger3 says:

    For one-on-one seduction, persuasion, etc, the Intrigue system from Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying might be more appropriate. Each character performs a series of skill checks (chosen from the likes of Fast Talk, Influence, Manipulate, Mollify, Shield of Reputation, …) until there’s one ultimate winner who gets their way.

    That sounds dreadful in almost every aspect.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The Narrator sets the scene. Rene had arranged the meeting to take
      place in the chapel, away from the ears of her enemies. Ambrose is
      there waiting. No one else is present. The Narrator mentions this scene
      has one quality, “With the Seven Watching,” to represent the painted
      statues of the Seven arranged before each wall of the sacred building.
      The Narrator explains that spending a Destiny Point here can grant
      Rene a +1B on Persuasion tests involving loyalty and honor.

      Hoping to acquire a spy inside the larger house, Rene believes the in-
      formation she might learn could give her own house a great advantage
      among her rivals. Rene’s objective is service. Ambrose sees this opportu-
      nity as a chance to seduce Rene and bed her. His objective is friendship.
      Rene wants to convince the hedge knight to help her, so she decides to
      use Convince. The hedge knight wants to bed the noble woman, so he
      uses Seduce.

      During this stage, Rene’s player initiates the conversation, slowly
      feeling out her opponent. Meanwhile, Ambrose, who’s operating un-
      der a misconception, pushes to seduce her, laying it on thick. Sensing an
      opportunity, Rene plays coy and maneuvers him by offering a possible
      tryst in exchange for his assistance.

      As Rene won the initiative, she goes first. She’s not certain what Am-
      brose’s disposition is even though he’s clearly interested in bedding her,
      so sensing an opportunity, she opts to Influence. She rolls a Persuasion
      test and gets an 18. Because she’s Amiable, she adds +1 to her result for
      19. Since her test beats Ambrose’s Intrigue Defense by 10, she succeeds
      with three degrees. Convince produces Influence equal to Rene’s Will,
      so she gets 3 Influence. With her degrees, though, she brings her Influ-
      ence up to 9. Ambrose reduces the Influence by his DR (3) and applies
      the rest to his Composure, reducing it to 6.

      It’s now Ambrose’s turn. He’s trying to seduce the noblewoman, so he
      rolls a Persuasion test to influence her. His roll was poor, resulting in
      a 7. He’s Amiable, so he adds +1 to his result for a total of 8. He didn’t
      beat Rene’s Defense, so he didn’t influence her at all.

      Since neither Ambrose nor Rene were defeated during the first ex-
      change of the intrigue, play returns to Step Three: Objective. Rene
      knows she’s close to defeating the knight, but she decides to use Decep-
      tion to mislead the knight into thinking that he might have some sort
      of physical reward for his service. She’s deceiving the knight to make
      a deal, so if she defeats him, she’ll resolve it as a Bargain. Ambrose,
      clueless, pushes on to seduce the noblewoman.

      The intrigue continues over a number of exchanges until there’s a
      clear victor, resulting from the defeat or yielding of an opponent. In
      the end, Rene defeats the knight, and he agrees to feed Lady Rene
      information in exchange for a tumble between the sheets. Since Rene
      won, she can set the terms and tells the hedge knight he will receive
      his reward once he brings her something of substance. Of course,
      Rene does not intend to sleep with the knight, so upon giving up
      the information, Rene will likely have to engage him in another
      intrigue to retain his service.

      Make sense now?

  35. Fyrus says:

    Did someone say prog? I LOVE PROG

  36. LuNatic says:

    Look at how large the Xbox360 and the PS3 are. Yet they can can barely boot without melting themselves. That kind of power running through gold/copper circuitry will never compact to handheld, except perhaps in a grenade or similar limb-removingly explosive device. For phones and the like to get much more powerful than they are now will require a large technological shift/breakthrough, such as a room temperature superconductor, or optical circuitry. Even Quantum computing wouldn’t likely help, as it relies on the same methods of internal data routing as our current tech uses.

    • Zyrusticae says:

      Wow, that is hilariously inaccurate.

      An important aspect of the constant and continuing miniaturization of electronics is that efficiency (that is to say, the amount of energy being converted to work instead of heat) continually climbs ever-upwards as manufacturing processes are improved upon year after year.

      Eventually, some day, we’ll reach 99.99999% efficiency, and the huge, burning-hot hunks of silicon we use today in our PCs will function perfectly well in handheld tablet PCs and other mobile devices. Eventually, the PC as we know it will simply become obsolete, because it won’t do anything special that a much smaller, more compact device can’t. That day is a long way off, but it WILL come. If I were to venture a guess, maybe 50 years from now. It sounds outrageous at first, but then you have to consider how much technology has changed in just the past two decades…

    • Thants says:

      “I predict that within 100 years, computers will be twice as powerful, 10,000 times larger, and so expensive that only the five richest kings of Europe will own them.”