The Sunday Papers


Oof, fuzzybrained Sunday morning syndrome. You’ll have to forgive my slowness today, because this particular Sunday is for being slow. Fortunately that can easily be offset by the quick wits of the internet, some of which I have compiled below for your continued erudition.

  • Link of the week is the New York Times on Dwarf Fortress, which I am not sure whether it’s worth me linking to since EVERYONE IN THE WORLD already sent me the link. But anyway, it’s a big deal and it says stuff like this: “Many simulation games offer players a bag of building blocks, but few dangle a bag as deep, or blocks as small and intricately interlocking, as Dwarf Fortress. Beneath the game’s rudimentary facade is a dizzying array of moving parts, algorithms that model everything from dwarves’ personalities (some are depressive; many appreciate art) to the climate and economic patterns of the simulated world. The story of a fortress’s rise and fall isn’t scripted beforehand — in most games narratives progress along an essentially set path — but, rather, generated on the fly by a multitude of variables. The brothers themselves are often startled by what their game spits out. “We didn’t know that carp were going to eat dwarves,” Zach says. “But we’d written them as carnivorous and roughly the same size as dwarves, so that just happened, and it was great.””
  • Industry Gamers have Epic’s Mike Capps saying that they haven’t been giving Unreal “the attention it deserves”. Could that be the sound of a new Unreal game on the horizon?
  • Tom Chick has a new strategy gaming column over at GameSpy. He explains the feeling among certain big companies that strategy gaming is not contemporary. What happened, Tom? “Well, the main thing that happened is that E3 isn’t a barometer for anything other than what’s showing at E3. And the other thing that happened is nothing at all, because I still believe we’re in a golden age of strategy gaming — so long as you don’t measure golden ages by advertising dollars or comments from higher-ups at 2K. The genre is alive, well, thriving, and more commercially viable than ever, and not just because you people are buying downloadable Vikings and whatnot for the brain-dead Civilization V. I can think of some far better reasons why it’s a great time to be the sort of person who would read a column on strategy games.” And then he makes a list. It’s a good list. I wish I had written it.
  • Ethan Gilsdorf writes a lot of good stuff about gaming in general, although I do understand why some people dislike the timbre of his book. Here he is writing about D&D for Salon. It’s a bit of a Gaming Made Me: “I now see it was no accident that the year I found D&D, or it found me, coincided with my mother’s return from the hospital. It took courage for a teenage boy to deal with the Momster — more courage than I could muster at the time. I couldn’t face down the creature that plagued my own house. But playing D&D let me act out imaginary, possibly symbolic battles instead, and distracted me from the prospect of facing the real ones waged within my family’s four walls. In the D&D playscape, I learned to be confident and decisive, and feel powerful.”
  • Richard’s Saturday Crapshoot remains one of the internet’s current best fixtures.
  • More Metacritic observations, this time via Mr Abbott: “The data suggests that if you’re developing a AAA game, you’re probably headed for a B+, an A- if you’re lucky, or a plain old B if you’re not. Don’t worry about a C. That just won’t happen. Unless your name is Duke.” Which is something I have been saying a lot recently: AAA games are so focus-tested into oblivion that mainstream games reviewers are stuck in the 8/10 band for most of their existence. It must be refreshing to get some genuine crap to review. Related: it’s been over a year since I last put a number at the end of a piece of writing about a game, and it feels good.
  • Eurogamer are explaining How To Be A Pro Gamer. My top tip: be young, and have a lot of time.
  • Ars Technica have explained why they are increasing their commitment to PC gaming coverage: “The point is, PC gaming should always have a strong focus here, and today we’re pleased to say that we’re strengthening it. It’s the right time!” Oh yeah, well we are going to DOUBLE COMMIT ourselves! Beat that, Ars! BRING IT ON.
  • Werner Herzog is one of my heroes. He’s at Comic-Con, for some reason. This paragraph is so perfectly Herzogian: “Mr. Herzog, meanwhile, was absorbing the Breughel-like atmospherics, while taking a break from his own next project with Mr. Nelson, a death row documentary. It is so intense, he said, it has caused him to start smoking again. “Not a lot, just sometimes,” said Mr. Herzog. “I can only work on this for five hours at a time. I’m usually an eight-hour guy.””
  • Here’s a write-up of TIGJam UK 5, which sounds like a fine time for all involved.
  • Minecraft Middle-Earth is mental.
  • Stewart Lee’s What I really think about Michael McIntyre is funny and interesting, but only if you know who Michael McIntyre is, I suspect. (Or follow British comedy and newspaper politics at least as superficially as I do.)
  • Appropos of nothing, this old trailer of Kingdom Under Fire 2 has me wishing there was more epic melee in gaming.

No music this week, but instead Robots Of Brixton, which some of you will already have seen, but is proof that I have had my head under a heavy rock for the past month.

71 Comments

  1. Flint says:

    If there is a chance of a new Unreal game, then please please please let it be a singleplayer experience akin to the first one instead of another Tournament game.

    • Creeping Death says:

      I wouldn’t get your hopes up. MP seems to be the biggest selling point for FPS games this generation. And I guess for good reason too, I’m more likely to drop £30 for a good mp experience than I am for a 4 to 6 hour campaign.

    • Rich says:

      “4 to 6 hour campaign”
      That’s the problem. It used to be more like 10-15 hours in the good old days.
      Half-life to me forever to complete the first time.

    • Tusque D'Ivoire says:

      Also, Unreal 2 was a huge waste of everything that went into it.

    • BathroomCitizen says:

      But someone said that Unreal 2 MP was actually very good.

      Anyway, I’ll buy anything Unreal.

    • Krawall says:

      Unreal 1 has 38 singleplayer levels in very diverse locations. Some are huge, nonlinear, atmospheric, and full of secrets that really reward exploring. “Bluff Eversmoking”, “Cellars at Dasa Pass” or “Nali Castle” for example. It also has an excellent soundtrack.
      You are travelling on a strange, wonderful, alien planet. Enemies are agile and partially with good AI. Log files provide little stories about other humans and the native Nalis. The protagonist is silent – and actually, there’s no voice-acting in the game at all. It’s just you, your gun, and the world.
      I can’t imagine that a hypothetical Unreal 3 could be like Unreal 1. Would the guys at Epic have the courage to go against the current grain this much? Or would they include voice-acting, quests or missions from superiors, constant action? Could the soundtrack be as good if there’s also voice-acting and no quiet moments?
      Last week’s Sunday Papers had a link to a good article: Why Video Games with Silent Heroes Had the Best Soundtracks

      It seems that the specific achievement of Unreal 1 is hardly possible to repeat by today’s AAA developers. They’d (have to?) try to reach a broader audience. It seems to me that Unreal 1 is especially suited for introverts who are annoyed by constant macho chatter, in contrast to today’s shooters.
      A small group of independent developers is more likely to make something similar, I think – but maybe the scope of a game like Unreal 1 is actually too large for indies? You’d need several people for several years. If that’s the case, then its scope is in no man’s land – not blockbuster enough for AAA developers, too big for indies.

    • BathroomCitizen says:

      Some day ago I was thinking something when I browsed the Tribes: Ascend forums. Its developers are messing with the basic gameplay of the old Tribes series because they thought it wouldn’t be fit for modern audiences, and that they needed an easier approach for new and casual players.

      This made me thinking: what would happen if an AAA developer would ship a remake exactly as the original game but with improved orgasmic graphics that we can muster nowadays?

      Nobody has tried yet, they are too fearful. Maybe it would have huge success, maybe not, but still we haven’t got any clue. Remember that today pc gaming has a bigger audience than in ’98 or ’99, we can reach more people.

      Developers try to cater to casual gamers with simplified gameplay, but if they present them something a bit more deep I don’t think they’ll be intimidated or too stupid to comprehend these deeper mechanics.

      Hope I explained myself.

    • PiratePuncher says:

      Serious Sam did pretty much exactly what you described. I haven’t palyed much of the originals, but it seems like all they really did was use a new engine to reamke the same game.

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  2. mlaskus says:

    Is that Minecraft Middle-Earth world file available for download? It looks great, but I’m not interested in multiplayer.

  3. McDan says:

    Holy shit, Werner Herzog was at comic-con?! I love that guy, he’s so mental. And Minecraft middle-earth when it’s finished will definetely be the best minecraft thing ever, they’re even doing tours of Moria! So doing that. It’ll probably ridiculously large when finished though, like, stupidly fucking large.

    And about being a pro-gamer: sure it’d be fun (probably, seeing as it would be kind of like a job at that point, and games do get repetitive) at first at least, but surely this doesn’t do wonders for the representation of gaming to outsiders? Usually I don’t really care when anyone thinks about gaming in a negative way but this just seems to give us a really bad image, especially seeing as these are youngish people spending lots of time on this and not on other productive things such as say: education. But I don’t know what they fully do, so they might fit that in somewhere. Go on commentors, hate on me.

    • pepper says:

      People of all ages do unproductive things. I dont quite think that argument works. And really, how is this different from participating in other sports at a high level?

    • Rinox says:

      I’d say that any sort of mastery (true mastery) would require one to do it over and over and over again while they’re young, effectively sacrificing every other aspect of their youth. Goes for sports, music, academic excellence…pretty much anything really. It’s just that games are seen as well, games by most people. I.e. more pointless or less desirable than the other things I mentioned.

    • McDan says:

      God point pepper, I was just saying how them doing it isn’t bad in itself, it’s just teh stereotype of gaming that they are portraying isn’t a good one to people who don’t know about it. But yes, it is pretty much the same as proffesionalls at pretty much anything.

    • pepper says:

      Mcdan, maybe we shouldnt care so much for the stereotype, if people dont want to take the time to get to know ‘gamers’ or, for that matter anybody else they feel they can so easily judge over. Then why should we care so much what these people think?

  4. choconutjoe says:

    “On the positive side, my wife worked for The Daily Mail as a researcher in the early Noughties and, as a punishment for this, whenever it runs a stupid made-up story about something I’ve worked on, I make her have sex with me.”

    LOL. Stewart Lee really is wonderful.

  5. Marijn says:

    You’re going to commit yourselves? Double commit yourselves, even?

    Well, I applaud that decision, and I can even recommend a few asylums.

  6. frenz0rz says:

    Every game should ship with downloadable Vikings. Every single one.

  7. thegooseking says:

    I love Stewart Lee.

    In other news, I left a comment on Michael Abbott’s post, and then I read an interview with Squenix U.S. president Mike Fischer that almost certainly wasn’t responding directly to my comment, but might as well have been. I don’t agree with everything he says – I think my music industry analogy is still sound – but it’s an interesting accidental dialogue.

  8. Delusibeta says:

    Carpe Fulgur on localisation and what they do, and the reasons for doing what they do.
    link to carpefulgur.com

    Also details the major differences between the script of their version of Recettear and the original Japanese version, so major spoilers from about half way down (specifically from the picture of Recette down).

    Also right at the bottom is a spoiler for (what should be) the next RPS post.

  9. Real Horrorshow says:

    Civ V is braindead?

    • drewski says:

      I’d appreciate some elaboration on that point, too.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      Civ V is a bit light on the gameplay mechanics when compared to Civ IV. It really does need a big expansion to flesh it out. Instead they just keep pumping out new races which really don’t add much to the experience.

    • Nick says:

      pretty much, yes.

    • Oak says:

      Read his review.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That review was written soon after release. There have been several patches to the AI since then, that make it more enjoyable to play. I wouldn’t call it brain-dead, anyway. I think Civ 5 is one of those almost great games, but it suffers from a bland tech tree and too-similar units between factions.

      Steam still has it on sale (through today only?) for $17 USD, which is a good bargain. Just don’t waste money on the additional mini-DLC unless you have some emotional investment in a particular civ. They don’t add that much.

    • GenBanks says:

      I agree, Civ V is far from braindead, it just lacks some of the features found in Civ IV… a game which is complex now in part because of its two large expansion packs.

  10. Malawi Frontier Guard says:

    What are “Breughel-like atmospherics”?

    Someone explain this to me, I dare you.

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      Those redolent of the ones present in the works of the famous Flemish painter Pieter Breugel?

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      Which Breughel/Brueghel/Bruegel though?? This is important!

    • Premium User Badge

      Gassalasca says:

      Let us, lacking any explicit evidence, assume the first and the most famous one, Breugel the Elder.
      He’s usually got some people and such milling around his paintings.

    • formivore says:

      The Elder surely. A teeming mass of squalid, joyous little people ignorant of the folly of their lives, sounds like ComiCon to me.

  11. Koozer says:

    I love the commenter on the DF piece who suggests putting it on the iPad.

    • pakoito says:

      If you want molten processors and fused batteries, sure, put a CPU intensive game into a GPU based gaming device.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The iPad 2 has a dual-core 1GHz processor. That ain’t bad.

      I’m doing a reasonable level of real-time simulation with a) Python [lots of overhead], b) at 550MHz, c) on a single-core, older-generation ARM processor.

      You could absolutely do a version of DF for the iPad. Smaller map, fewer dwarves, pregenerated world. It’ll never happen, of course. Maybe Goblin Camp, though.

    • Koozer says:

      “Smaller map, fewer dwarves, pregenerated world”

      Then it isn’t DF! Those obsidian towers don’t build themselves you know. [smiley here]

      I think Tarn gave up on dual-core optimisation anyway, it would be a monstrous task to rewrite everything at this stage apparently.

    • pakoito says:

      1GHZ on portable microprocessors =/= 1GHZ PC. Performance is lower.

      Taking that into account, my 1.2 Celeron has problems in later phases of DF.

    • gwathdring says:

      Yeah, the clock speed stopped mattering much quite a few years ago. The processor architecture is very different.

    • Cognitect says:

      Tarn gave up on multicore optimization? Really? That sounds like it could become a serious problem, as nobody is expecting single-core performance to increase much from its current levels. The way I see it, Tarn should just bite the bullet and start re-architecting DF with massively parallel CPUs (and general purpose GPUs) in mind right now, when the task is still at least remotely feasible.

  12. magnus says:

    Werner Herzog at Comic-Con, wow! My favourite director either than Alejandro Joderowski and David Lynch.

  13. formivore says:

    So now that the New York Times has written about Dwarf Fortress that means its over right?

    • Pointless Puppies says:

      Yep. It’s “hit the mainstream”, so now all the hipsters will call the devs “sellouts” and move onto something else.

    • BooleanBob says:

      I really loved this line

      “Beneath the game’s rudimentary facade is a dizzying array of moving parts, algorithms that model everything from dwarves’ personalities (some are depressive; many appreciate art)”

      I mean, that’s a master-class on how to win the sympathies of an NYT reader right there.

  14. Xercies says:

    I love Stewert Lee, in fact after watching both of his comedy Roadshows and liking him so much I really can’t go back and enjoy Mock The Week and those populist Comedians anymore.

    Also Michael Mcintyre was quite funny i thought at first but then he got a bit to popular and his face was everywhere and basically his stuff got lazier and his schict got old fast

    • Lambchops says:

      There’s brilliace and rubbish alike in both mainstream and alternative comedy. I guess I may be just easily amused but I tend to enjoy both. Though that said Andy Parsons is the one thing that makes it hard to watch Mock the Week. Starting to talk loUDER AND LOUDER does not a funny joke make.

    • Vandelay says:

      Agreed. Personally, I do find the odd routine of McIntyre very funny indeed, although I’ve not watched much of his stuff since the first series of his Comedy “not at all Live at the Apollo” Roadshow programme. I also enjoy Peter Kay a crazy amount. Not a big fan of Mock the Week so much any more, but I like Dara O’Briain and Hugh Dennis a lot in their other work.

      But, Stewert Lee is probably the funniest comedian of the moment, closely followed by his former comedy partner, Richard Herring.

    • Starky says:

      It’s still worth watching for the moments When Dara goes off on a little side rant, he’s probably the funniest and most intelligent mainstream comedian on that show.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I believe you mean Mock the Weak.

    • Xercies says:

      With Mock The Week, its to similar with each episode. It also feels a lot more scripted then it did before which ruins the atmosphere a lot, i know it was scripted all throughout but there is something about now a days that makes it feel a lot like there jus treading fro ma script.

      Its like, a lot of the jokes are very similar from week to week, harp on some celebrity that has had a sex scandal or something, or say that Eric Pickles is fat for ALL THE JOKES. Its just…lazy.

    • The Hammer says:

      Have I Got News For You has always been a better satirical news quiz show than Mock The Week, though. Merton and Hislop are so quick it hurts, and the assortment of guests they get on the show are almost all entertaining.

      Mock The Week has always been the McDonalds variant. And I say this as a former fan, who always figured he enjoyed HIGNFY better.

    • Legionary says:

      Stewart Lee is the kind of librarian you have to have seen a lot of other librarians to like.

  15. pakoito says:

    What happened to Kingdom Under Fire 2? It’s been under development since FOREVER.

  16. Vandelay says:

    Ah, more Tom Chick and more strategy coverage. Excellent stuff, although it does mean I will have to remember to look at Gamespy. Extra brownie points for including still being able to play Rise of Nations in his list of reasons why strategy games are still awesome. Wish there was still any chance of them making a true sequel to that game.

    Unfortunately, there doesn’t really seem to be that much very exciting coming up for strategy games. Except for Heart of the Swarm and potentially the new Dawn of War, depending on the soon to be announced details, there isn’t really anything on the horizon at all.

  17. shoptroll says:

    I like the Robots of Brixton video. Thanks for linking that.

    Also, crossing fingers on a new Unreal game. It’s been too long since we’ve seen a single-player entry.

    • World One Two says:

      It didn’t do much for me. It’s clear how much work went into it, but it felt like a filmmaker trying to run before they can walk. The animation was stilted and lifeless (and not in a pleasingly mechanical way), the message was heavy-handed, and the stream of stylistic shots was like a checklist of cinematographic tropes, showing no appreciation for /why/ a particular camera movement was warranted.

      I know I sound massively negative, and I do appreciate the effort, but it’s just it reminded me a lot of the kinds of work (albeit far stronger) that I saw from so many fellow students on my games computing degree. These were kids who would spend hours shading the curlicues on the hilt of a sketched sword in their notebook, then you’d pull back and the warrior they’d drawn wasn’t in proportion, and the perspective was all off, and they’d squashed the feet up to fit on the bottom of the page.

      Maybe it’s the engineer’s brain as oppose to the artist’s brain. Obviously both are valid approaches, and the games industry needs a balance of the two — but if you produce a narrative piece appealing to the emotions, then I’m going to judge it based on those terms. Robots of Brixton feels to me like someone rushing off into the corners to shade his curclicues, so to speak, without stepping back and outlining the basic shapes of his figure.

  18. Lewie Procter says:

    For anyone that is interested, I just posted my “So You Want To Be A Games Journalist” guide:
    link to savygamer.co.uk

  19. GenBanks says:

    I like the gamespy article, if only for the fact that he mentions Rise of Nations. God I love that game. It’s completely crazy that there hasn’t been a Rise of Nations 2, or at least another game which uses its ideas of borders and cities in an RTS. (yes I know about Rise of Legends, but even though it had some cool aspects it removed too much from the RoN formula… the dragon age 2 of the rise of nations series?)
    I think he’s too judgemental though… I don’t think Civ V was crap, and I don’t think the stuff Creative Assembly has done before Shogun 2 (Empire and Napoleon) was reason to ‘write them off’ as developers.

  20. Temple says:

    Please link to Tom every week because I’m an idiot and will forget to go myself.

    Just started re-reading some of his stuff because of this link to quartertothree.com

  21. gwathdring says:

    Silverdale consists of a shopping mall, a poorly designed road the shopping mall requested in exchange for existing and driving the economy YEARS ago when the mall was being planned (it’s easy to get into the mall, and there’s way more traffic than a town that small should have if you want to get anywhere else), and what, were it to secede from the union, could well be the third of fourth largest nuclear power in the world–after Russia and then the US and most likely before China.

    The town has some nice trails by this protected Salmon run, and a gorgeous but small artificial wetland–quite impressive until you realize that it had to be built because the Kitsap County commissioners let so many businesses build illegally on protected wetland areas essential to a town in a glacially tilled drainage basin/valley even if you don’t give a damn about the wildlife the law is there to protect … that to meet state law they had to build some new acres of wetland. Oh yes, and it’s not a city because the only city limit the commissioners would be willing to draw leaves out a lot of the wealthier homes halfway between the sticks and the shopping mall–both protecting them and the people further out both from municipal taxes …. and any benefits of being in a city instead of unincorporated county land where you pay county property taxes instead … so the vote hasn’t been raised often and it’s never passed.

    …. holy crap. Silverdale made the New York Times. Lucky bastards. WE didn’t make the times. HOLY SHIT! I live within driving distance of Dwarf Fortress HQ!!!

    • gwathdring says:

      If I’d only known, I could have applied for the RPS job and cited Silverdale as my requisite nearby game development capital. :P

  22. Vinraith says:

    That Tom Chick article is great, I’ll definitely be following his column. I’m always glad to see anyone who shares my opinion that Rise of Nations is still the pinnacle of the “traditional” RTS genre.