The Sundays Papers

They Sunday Papers! Here they are again, this is what Sundays are for. I’ve been detonating dynamite in the murky depths of the internet and collecting what floats to the surface. Let’s take a look at my sack full of stunned links.

  • Well I don’t usually put video links as the lead article on the SP, but GDC have posted Thomas Grip’s Evoking Emotions and Achieving Success By Breaking All The Rules, a talk about the making of Amnesia. Everyone who is even vaguely interested in how games are made, and why they are made in the way that they are made, should watch this. (Oh and you should buy Amnesia, if you haven’t already.)
  • Richard Cobbett explains How To Save Adventure Games.
  • This article (a few months old now) on Ultima, Wizardry, and issues of video game historiography raises a few issues about the rapidly dwindling capacity to access gaming’s past that we bump into on RPS from time to time. Worth a look.
  • Eurogamer’s Martin Robinson asks: What’s the best story a videogame has ever told? I am sure we’ve discussed this on RPS, too. It’s one of those topics that will always haunt us.
  • Via Blues, this is an interesting analysis of microtransactions. Businessy, yes, but tight. And it points out where some of the dangers lie.
  • The creators of rather lovely puzzly shooter, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, (which may or may not be coming to PC) talk to Gamasutra about going indie full time: ” I worked in Hollywood for 15 years. I was head of special effects for Warner Brothers Feature Animation. I could have kept going — climbing up the ladder. I had a big team. I was the head of my department. But I wanted to pursue my individual artistic vision, rather than dealing with the executives and the system. Since then, I’ve been doing books, graphic novels, and short films. One was shortlisted for an Oscar. Shadow Planet is the next part of my vision.”
  • Are games reviewers bad at games? Well John is a terrible healer.
  • Are we headed for a second videogame crash? Probably not.
  • If you want more Jonathan Blow then I advise you check out the Brainy Gamer podcast, where they speak to him.
  • The Guardian’s Keith Stuart talks DXHR and choice: “Providing choice within a functioning narrative is complex, because player choices often clash with pre-prepared plot sequences. I met the producers of Far Cry 2 a couple of months before the game’s launch and they were burned out wrecks – they’d spent months designing the plot and its attendant cut-scenes and webs of causation, so that the player couldn’t stumble upon inaccuracies or discrepancies by trying missions in the ‘wrong order’. They weren’t entirely successful, of course, and the nightmare of this endeavour perhaps explains why Far Cry 3 looks to be a much more focused beast.”
  • Kotaku have been busy cataloguing the various Easter Eggs to be found in DXHR.
  • Leigh Alexander writes about that console game with the messed-up relationships, Catherine, over on The Escapist: “while some of the early hype may have simply been a consequence of the old “sex sells” principle, I prefer to believe gamers were exceptionally attentive to Catherine because of the promise it seemed to make with surreal dream images and the presentation of a deceptively-complex romantic choice: That it would be a “mature” game in the truest sense, that it would deal with adulthood and sexuality – less that there would be attractive women on display therein.”
  • Another me-link this week, except I didn’t actually write this one. How To Make An Infinite World is a piece by my dev team’s programmer Tom Betts, where he talks about the voxel-engine he is making for our second game, Lodestone.
  • The Game Design Of Everyday Things, by Tom Armitage.
  • My new favourite Flickr feed.

Music this week is via Notch, who points out that Plaid’s Squance is great. This track by Plaid is good, too. Plaid are good.


  1. StingingVelvet says:

    Deus Ex HR doesn’t really offer much story choice… I mean here and there you can decide some stuff, but the series was always about gameplay choice rather than narrative choice. It’s nothing like New Vegas or The Witcher 2 as far as you deciding how everything happens in the story or a particular quest.

    • JackShandy says:

      Reply Fail! But while I’m here, I felt HR was more about a personal choice- what your stance on augmentation is.

    • unangbangkay says:

      The Guardian author made a mistake here, but not the one you’re thinking of. His mistake is in noting how you change the story of DXHR in reference to the narrative. That’s not true at all. The “story” of HOW you got to the predetermined point in the narrative is where it matters.

      In fact, that’s the way it’s been for Deus Ex as well. You mostly talked to the same people and hit the same beats until you were confronted with a save point that you can see all three/four endings from, but whether you took the stairs, the ladder, or the vent, chose to sneak, fight, or what-have-you, that’s always been the defining aspect of Deus Ex, rather than quest-based branching as you might see in the Witcher et al.

      That’s not to say that that isn’t in DXHR (a certain quest involving a key character is a pretty good indicator of changing the story via your method of tackling the objective), but for the most part the plot is the same no matter what you do.

    • DrGonzo says:

      So far I’ve played Detroit through twice, and it’s played out in two very different ways for me so far. The main plot points remain the same, but Jensen doesn’t.

    • metalangel says:

      Look how many ways you can kill the girlfriend’s mother!

    • StingingVelvet says:

      @ DrGonzo

      I played through the game twice and it was 95% the same story-wise, same as the original game. How I acted in the missions was different, stealthy pacifist versus lethal hunter, but the story and mission structure was pretty much identical all the way through.

      For all the hate Invisible War gets it’s actually the one that did offer story choice.

    • Freud says:

      *** Some spoilers ***

      I wish I would have had less choice in the end. I think it would have fit better to have me be a a Sarif guy through the entire game. I think the issues they wanted to illuminate with the endings would have been properly examined without the multiple endings.

      After 30 hours of go there, do this suddenly they figure we want to be Denton for the last five minutes. Just felt very disjointed.

    • Ankheg says:


      Oh, gosh, somebody sane.

      AI is trash, that’s for sure, and that is the only thing that makes me sad in boss battles. All in all they are too easy and could be defeated with no_battle_aug guy. And again – they do not break immersion. They are really logical.

  2. McDan says:

    I thought that Leigh Alexander article was really good, partly because I’m still looking forward to actually playing the game when it eventually gets released here. On the subject on games reviewers being bad at games I don’t think it matters too much, I think it’s good that they aren’t too good at games, otherwise we wouldn’t get gems like the adventures of captain smith (I’d put a link here but I don’t know how to do it in these comments yet) and that AI war article (which shold really be finished seeing as it is just sitting on someones hard drive I think someone said). Also nice music.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      If you watch some videos on giantbomb or similar sites you will see how a journalist being bad can impact the experience. I remember recently watching the FEAR 3 video on giantbomb where the reviewer just runs around willy-nilly and keeps getting killed, or runs around forever not able to find the path… then he complains the game is too hard and needs objective arrows. That kind of stuff is really detrimental to games if you ask me.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I am amazing at games.

    • McDan says:

      Yeah I’ve seen some like that as well StingingVelvet, they are annoying, which is why I mostly tend to not watch video reviews of games. And stick to RPS which, as Jim so rightly points out, is full of the best gamers.

    • Dominic White says:

      Seconding that a lot of the videos on GiantBomb are utterly maddening. These are supposedly people who have been playing and reviewing games for the past decade at least, and asking questions like ‘How do I know what weapon I have equipped?’ when it SAYS IT on the SCREEN right THERE YOU MORON.

      That, and they skip constantly over tutorial/explanatory stuff and then complain that they’ve not been told how to do anything. It really doesn’t help show you the game at all.

    • Symitri says:

      @ StingingVelvet

      I regularly watch TotalBiscuit, the Yogscast and OMFGCata’s video ‘reviews’ to get an idea on whether a game is any good or not. I wouldn’t say any of them are paragons of gaming who inspire me with their abilities – they often play at either an average or poor level depending on the title. This doesn’t force me to think the games are hard or terrible just because somebody else doesn’t excel at it.

      It’s like saying that those Portal 2 trick shot videos (link to act as promotional material for the game because it shows people excelling at it, it’s all besides the point of what makes a game decent.

      The videos exist to give you a general idea of the look and feel of the game and tend to do a much better job than written reviews do if just because it gives you the chance to decide if it’s worth the money, based on what you see in the game itself, rather than by what the reviewer is saying.

      If anything, you could argue a video review is better if just because you can’t really tell if a person is a bad gamer from reading a written review as you’re not sitting beside them while they play and can’t accurately judge for yourself.

    • reticulate says:

      The thing that gets me about some of the GB Quick Looks is that in a lot of them, at least one of the guys has actually finished the game/trade demo/etc for a review or something so he can guide the others; but in some instances it’s painfully obvious none of them have actually bothered to do even a cursory playthrough to get a feel for how everything works. It reflects badly on the game and even worse on their own ability to judge a title.

      I’m a huge fan of Giant Bomb and the independent games journalist community as a whole, but sometimes I cringe a little.

    • terry says:

      Quick looks are not reviews.

    • Jumwa says:

      I’m of mixed mind on the difficulty thing. I’ve seen games where the difficulty was just too high, and it desperately needed easier modes.

      Then I’ve seen people, such as pointed out here, in video reviews, refusing to turn game difficulty down, skipping tutorials, then running around like idiots and complaining the game is unintuitive and overly hard.

      Such as (I think) the Yoggcast for Hunted. They kept decrying the game for being lousy, over-hard and explaining nothing, but they had skipped the tutorial, and had the difficulty up.

      So yeah, I’d definitely like to see a wide array of difficulty settings in games, accessibility and stress-free options for gameplay, but these reviewers who seem to purposely set a game up for looking bad and claiming it’s too hard (perhaps just for cheap pot-shot laughs at the games expense?) need to stop. It’s very unprofessional.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Watch the Yogscast video of the Space Marine demo and tell me it doesn’t make you want to slap them! It’s frustrating to see them dismiss a game because they haven’t read the instructions and are playing it wrong. They essentially think it’s Gears of War for the whole video and try and get their health back through hiding and expecting it to recharge.

    • metalangel says:

      Remember Cybernet? Half the time the person playing the games was completely hopeless. I remember their review of the original Grand Theft Auto, crashing into everything.

    • Kadayi says:

      I think a good reviewer knows his/her genre strengths and weaknesses and so should their editor. Mis-steps in reviews tend to occur when the reviewer isn’t familiar with the genre or knowledgeable of legacy issues. A famous example that springs to mind is the Eurogamer review of Mafia 2, where in the reviewer seemed to take exception to the fact that the game wasn’t GTA IV 1940s, rather than a sequel to Mafia and that ‘it’s not GTA’ thinking coloured his perception. I don’t think Mafia 2 was an out and out classic, but an appreciation of its legacy might of made it easier for him to undertanding what 2K Czech were at least attempting.

    • Azradesh says:

      Both TB and the Yogscast are amazingly awful at most games, but TB knows when he’s crap and is actually good at a few.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      To be fair to them, Simon (particularly) and Lewis often comment on their gaming ineptness. But that’s half the charm, and makes them no less enjoyable.

    • Baines says:

      I think reviewers who are bad at games harm both game reviews and game development. I also think that most of the reviewers who call themselves “average” or “a little better than casual” are over-estimating their ability, sometimes grossly.

      Even missing the skillful tricks and quirks of a game can be as damaging as it is useful, but we have reviewers who miss the basic functionality of games. That level of mistake benefits no one.

      I like Total Biscuit’s video impressions. He’s pretty good at showing gameplay as well as highlighting flaws. But I find myself too often screaming at the monitor when he misses completely obvious things for minutes at a time. With the Duke Nukem Forever demo, he spends a while complaining about not having the right weapon to snipe enemies across a bridge, while all the time completely missing the glowing sniper rifle pick-up right next to the bridge. With the dwarf mining game, he simply ignores the warnings of off-screen lava flow, and even apparently just forgets about it at times after seeing it. With the card game, he spends around a minute failing to see a basic card play. With Terraria, he has avideo where he repeatedly fails to build a wall, and I believe even mentions that he had previously watched a video that included showing how to build a wall. While Death and the Fly has issues, and his particular stumbling block is a problem, he spends way too long failing to find the entrance of the level (even I believe mousing past it and failing to see it light up?).

      But this isn’t an attempt to bury Total Biscuit. He is a prime example simply because he uses video of his own gameplay with his words, and I’ve watched so many of his videos because overall they are good. I’d use Giant Bomb examples, but I’ve forgotten most of their reviews. I do remember them having similar issues. There are text-only reviewers who are quite probably worse, but their play style and experience is hidden. You don’t notice their mistakes until you either look at other accounts of a game, or play the game yourself. (Although some times the mistakes are so evident that you can notice them even if you’ve never played the game, or at the very least be suspect of them.)

      If it were book reviews instead of games, it is like reading reviews by someone who forgets every other chapter, or skips every fourth sentence, or doesn’t know essential words and refuses to look them up in a dictionary. (And then argues that the book doesn’t have enough reminders of previous scenes in it, or doesn’t make sense, or that words are too big/obscure.)

    • Archonsod says:

      “Mis-steps in reviews tend to occur when the reviewer isn’t familiar with the genre or knowledgeable of legacy issues.”

      . I’d say approaching it as someone completely new to the series/genre is just as valid as placing it within it’s context. Moreso in fact, since you can probably safely assume extant fans of the genre/series already have the ability to place the game in context.

  3. Evil Otto says:

    Dan McPharlin is an amazing artist.

  4. schizopol says:

    i love how iphone apps are compared to cartridge shovelware, as if users can’t tell the difference between good and bad portable storefronts. Money sunk into a microtransaction fiefdom like the app store is money carved out of a market all its own. Platform plays the part of “key difference” here: Is the portable game market imploding over the iphone itself? I believe it was established a long while ago, but only in as much as the consumers, ready and willing to combine phones and gaming devices, will indulge the trend. (At this rate they will tear it apart, as the 3DS sets our bar) The PS Vita is almost a straight up answer to such a demand.

    Are “games” headed for a crash, though? Maybe the home console market, but only because of all the useless peripheral devices, I think the peripherals (an over abundance of specialized and ephemeral HARDWARE, if you will grant the categorization) are more centrally killers, and it was the hardware abundance which sundered the industry in 83.. shovelware and that E.T. developer atmosphere make great anecdotes, but they were both symptomatic, dependent on a fractured market of so many consoles: consumers saught a maximization on the diminishing return (in both value and gameplay) from their investments into gimmicky hardware through the cheap “thrills” of a bargain bin so unpalatable and grotesque as to resemble a cesspool. But the whitenoise of bad games can be gotten over, it’s easily surmountable, especially with press, advertising, corporate investment. Bad hardware? less so. And where do we place the blame for bad hardware? Not on Activision or Venetian Blinds* and not on the game developers of today, either.

    As for PC, PSN, and XBLA, the dream is alive and well. Confidence in indie developers is romantic and many sided. as long as they continue to change (and how can they not,with such high turnover?) everyone fauns. And for the hardcore crowd, e-sports sell their own dream. It would be like saying baseball is crashing. Did the sandlots stop existing? (sorry, i’m ignorant of cricket or fussboden or whatever it is you charming brits like to play, so insert proper analogy here)

    Bad games do not kill industries, they kill genres. they crush the souls of bright eyed young developers. they make it a jungle and they keep things interesting. It seems like the author is conflating the demand for developers (wobbly) with the demand for games (steadier). Very different things.


    • Rii says:

      “I think the peripherals (an over abundance of specialized and ephemeral HARDWARE, if you will grant the categorization) are more centrally killers”

      Talk about a near-complete disconnect from the realities of the industry and the place of Kinect and Move in their vendors’ respective ecosystems…

    • schizopol says:

      You should read the whole post before hitting reply. The kinect and the move are doing well, I never mentioned the kinect or the more. There is no oversaturation of motion devices as of yet. (though nintendo pushes it a bit) When I say peripherals/hardware, I don’t simply mean kinect and move. Look at the broader picture, you’ll see how the 3 consoles of today are nothing in comparison to the dozen consoles of 83 (Here’s the wikipedia info for you to skim: )

      “Atari 2600, the Atari 5200, the Bally Astrocade, the ColecoVision, the Coleco Gemini (a 2600 clone), the Emerson Arcadia 2001, the Fairchild Channel F System II, the Magnavox Odyssey2, the Mattel Intellivision (and its just-released update with several peripherals, the Intellivision II), the Sears Tele-Games systems (which included both 2600 and Intellivision clones), the TandyvisioN (an Intellivision clone for Radio Shack), and the Vectrex.

      Each one of these consoles had its own library of games, and many had large third-party libraries. Likewise, many of these same companies announced yet another generation of consoles for 1984, such as the Odyssey3, and Atari 7800.[2]”

      I don’t personally believe we’re headed for a home market crash, but I do believe peripheral over product is coming back to the fore, (and peripherals aren’t usually compatible across platforms) Look at Rock Band/Guitar Hero, a far more apt example than the Kinect or Move. The former get rehashed and become obsolete within the year, while the latter are seen only once in this generation and bring legitimate steps forward to the platform.

      Incidentally, have you looked at any of the commercial games for the kinect? They’re mostly on rails. Developers are counting on the gimmick too heavily, as if there’s no place to go with it. Luckily, independent and student developers are pushing the boundaries of that stuff and better titles may be incoming.

  5. reticulate says:

    Re: the Kotaku piece, I love the UNATCO theme and it should be in all the things.

    • CMaster says:

      It is good. They’re wrong about the Gramophone playing the DX theme though – that’s the Paris (cathedral at least) theme. There are bums in Detroit who whistle the DX theme though.

    • reticulate says:

      Hah, when I first heard someone whistling the theme in Detroit, I was insistent on trying to find that particular hobo.

      Also very true regarding the Paris theme on the gramophone. I almost like that more, since I really enjoyed the Paris levels.

    • LTK says:

      There are lots of instances of the original Deus Ex music. The Paris Cathedral theme is indeed what plays on the gramophone, but in the intermissions on the conspiracy nut radio station many different bits of the soundtrack can be heard.

      You know, I’m surprised Kotaku didn’t pick up on the Look Of Disapproval thermos that can be found almost everywhere. I’m pretty sure there are a few easter eggs missing that I noticed in my playthrough.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      What’s-his-name, the receptionist at the Detroit Police Station, will whistle the DX theme if you harass him enough.

      Edit: That article on easter eggs is really stretching the definition of an easter egg.

    • povu says:

      Yeah those e-mails are just funny e-mails, and not really hidden. Wouldn’t call those easter eggs. Like the Nigerian spam one.

  6. Cinnamon says:

    How to save adventure games. I have my own opinions on this and it has not much to do with murder mysteries or removing puzzles. (Warning, old men, etc.)

    The basic idea of an adventure game is that you can play as being an “adventurer.” This is key in my opinion, and the main failing of many modern attempts at the genre but Machinarium got it right and so did Zack & Wiki. An adventurer is someone in dangerous situations who survives by their wits. What gameplay mechanics best simulate someone coming to an intuitive solution and surviving by their wits? Puzzles. Maybe if someone is really bad at puzzle there could be an option to play the games with puzzles that wouldn’t stump an infant, but still.

    It’s pretty hard to see how solving a cryptic crossword puzzle would help Indiana Jones get away while being chased by Nazis. But the feeling of play is vitally important. It is just no good, in my opinion, for the game maker to take away all the chances for the player to play in the world and ruin the pace and do things that are wrong.

    A murder scene is not a classic adventure scenario but being stranded on a desert island is. I think that there should be some relation between gameplay and the fictional genre. A crime investigation, even if just part of a larger scenario or hybridised, is not an adventure with dangerous situations that are solved by wits but a situation where you collect information and collate it. Maybe this is more like a problem that can be solved mechanically than the sort of crazy intuitive leap that you expect from a daring adventurer.

    As far as characters in adventure stories the only character that really matters is the main character who is tested by adversity. You could just have him (or her) alone surviving in an empty environment and it wouldn’t be a problem.

    • schizopol says:

      i wholeheartedly agree about the puzzles. This is why I like Puzzle Agent, easy though it may be. By bringing in classic brainteasers the title makes adventure games into something fun for an audience which would never connect with obtuse gabriel knight “adventure” but Puzzle Agent sustains the feeling of adventure – simulating the wit by stimulating it.

    • ABearWithAGun says:

      Old men. Warning. Warning.

    • LionsPhil says:

      I’m not really sure where you were going with that, but Zack & Wiki was well worth a mention in the context of adventures mutating. One of the better adventure/puzzle game things I’ve seen in a while, and a really interesting take on it with limited inventory and monster/item transformations.

    • LTK says:

      I’ve never been attracted to adventure games, but I did give the demo of Machinarium a try. Like the adventure games before it, it failed to compel me. Like you say, an adventurer is someone in a dangerous situation who tries to survive. After putting a little robot together, there was no longer any danger in Machinarium, and I didn’t feel like I had any reason to continue beyond being able to. So I don’t understand why people liked Machinarium so much.

    • Cinnamon says:

      @LTK, interesting. I just replayed the Machinarium demo to refresh my memory and the robot does more adventury risk taking things in the second two screens than the first. In the second he sneaks past a police checkpoint and in the third he climbs precariously, derails a mine cart and takes a ride into the unknown.

      At that point It doesn’t tell you why he is doing this to get into a city that obviously doesn’t want him but would that really make a difference in motivating you to continue? Is it just that something isn’t seen as risky in a game unless there are shootouts and the like or the action has a quick time event?

      Myself, I was pretty interested in why he was in that position in the first place and why he wanted to get back in. And the animations pretty much sold me on the robot being a sympathetic character who was in danger.

    • LTK says:

      To answer your question: I see something as risky in a game when there is a consequence of failure. If the protagonist is putting himself in danger, then he’d better have good reason to. Otherwise, what’s the point?

      I think this feeling is a result of me being accustomed to action games, since adventure games (the ones I can recall) rarely see the protagonist suffer a negative consequence after failing to complete a puzzle. The little robot doesn’t get shot when he fails to fool the security guard into letting the bridge down. I’m not saying that it should, but it might be the reason someone accustomed to action games fails to see the point of continuing.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Oh, well then. Play some of the early Sierra adventures. >:D

      [Restore] [Restart] [Quit]

  7. reticulate says:

    Also, as to Eurogamer’s piece, I’d say the way Rockstar has approached and matured the storytelling process with GTAIV and RDR deserves all the attention they get. Yes, they’re not perfect, they mostly set the scene for fetch/and or kill quests, but my god do I ever feel for my protagonist character.

    John Marston, for me, was a high point in game characterisation simply because you know how very weary he is of all this. And when he eventually finds peace – well, it’s all the more heartbreaking for not giving his family the life he wanted for them.

    Same goes for Niko Bellic. I say, let THQ do the stupid sandbox crime game with Saint’s Row. There’s nothing wrong with that. Make GTA and (hopefully) new Red Dead a little less zany and a little more melancholy.

    • Thirith says:

      So very much agree with this. Rockstar hasn’t quite managed to solve the problem of gameplay vs. story yet, but just because they haven’t got it 100% right doesn’t mean they shouldn’t keep trying. In terms of integrating storytelling (and especially characterisation) and gameplay, they’re still miles ahead of so many of their competitors, consistently doing more and more interesting things.

    • reticulate says:

      It got me thinking some more, because it’s Sunday night here and I’ve had a couple glasses of wine.

      I played Marston as Marston in Red Dead, and did things a certain way because that’s what Marston would do. How many games can I name that altered my playing style to such an extent simply because of cutscenes? Not many. And they’re mostly Rockstar games. Whatever gold they’re spinning, I think they should keep at it.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Forget Valve – Rockstar are the most important gae developers out there.

    • dog says:

      rockstar are gay?

    • Mad Hamish says:

      eh I kinda preferred the the gamier more zany antics of CJ and co in San Andreas. That’s what GTA is to me anyway. I though Niki Belic was a complete tosser. Couldn’t get on with his character at all or bring myself to care about him. Though John Marsten and RDR were right on the money, I can’t really give an answer as to why I stopped playing it.

      Though to be honest, the older i get the less I care about story. A good story is icing on the cake. The last game I was interested in the story was Braid. It wasn’t intrusive, you could totally ignore it if you want, but it was well written and cleverly incorporated into the game. And humble. The stories devs are coming up with these days are trying to hard to be “epic” , desperate as they are to make the next big franchise. Most stories with in the AAA games these days make we wanna gag with how totally contrived they are.

    • Torgen says:

      Please, Red Dead Redemption on PC… please… (sobs)

    • Rii says:

      “Forget Valve – Rockstar are the most important gae developers out there.”

      Pity about their empire being built on glorifying gangsters and bashing hookers, then.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Red Dead Redemption was good, I enjoyed it. But the story telling in it was abysmal! One particular plot point that was very important at the end was forced. There was no reason I couldn’t get out of that shed and kill everyone, I had gone against worse odds several times throughout the game.

      Also, cutscenes are the worst form of storytelling in games, let me play the story or gtfo.

      @Rii, that is the last thing I would say Red Dead Redemption or LA Noire were about.

    • Rii says:

      Not coincidentally, RDR is the first Rockstar game I’ve ever bought. L.A. Noire is of some interest also.

    • AlwaysRight says:

      GTA and RDR had had rubbish storytelling and characterisation. Fact!

      GTA was pieced together from discarded offcuts of macho gangster films, and RDR forced me to help out rapists and necrophilliacs.

      Rockstar need to read more books and stop cutting and pasting set pieces from movies.

      Edit: whoa, that reads angrier than it sounded in my head. I thought the last chapter of RDR was really good and enjoyed both games a great deal mechanistically. I just think storytelling in games has a long way to go and the whole guns and boobs attitude of most games really gets me down.

    • Koozer says:

      I must say I got bored of GTA IV and RDR long before the conclusion of their stories – I just wasn’t interested or drawn in in the slightest, and became bored of having to complete tedious missions to reveal new features. I’m more interested in how Just Cause 2 will resolve its plot, a game I’m still attempting to ‘finish.’

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      Pity about their empire being built on glorifying gangsters and bashing hookers, then

      Because GTAIV glamorises gangsterism. Oh no, that’s actually the opposite of the story.

    • Archonsod says:

      “eh I kinda preferred the the gamier more zany antics of CJ and co in San Andreas.”

      Yup. To be honest I don’t care how much Rockstar improve their story telling ability, until they’re actually capable of telling a decent story then it’s completely wasted effort. For me GTA peaked around 2, when you still had the Hare Krisna and Loonies as factions. The story presentation may not have been amazing, but it was over the top, hilarious and above all fun.

  8. LionsPhil says:

    Yay Richard Cobbet.

    Although I disagree with “we expect more of a flow these days, and for our stories to have pace”—one of the good things about adventures is that they aren’t constantly screamining in your face to CLICK FASTER GO GO GO. Conversely, moments of time pressure have been around since the old Sierra AGI games—the Space Quest trilogy [you know, the good ones] being fond of giving you the sheer panic of walking off-screen with a lustful alien or murderous robot on your heels while quickly typing “drop bucket”. And while I generally don’t like real-time elements as a way to get into unwinnable situations easily, the start of King’s Quest III was certainly a memorable variation, working around a unpleasable wizard’s schedule. Gabriel Knight 1 has its perious zombie tomb sequence, too. Sierra could do pacing; they had time pressure when in danger, and could let you relax otherwise. LucasArts mostly managed the same in Full Throttle.

    Bit incongruous that Telltale get praised with faint damns near the end, though, given just a page ago we get the battered housewife thing. Their success has a smack of desperation to just buy the closest thing to an adventure even if it’s rubbish about it. Far from saving the genre, Telltale’s efforts mostly seem to be a celebration of everything that was tedious about it—and some new things that weren’t, like abysmal controls.

    (Proofing nitpicker’s corner: “‘Befpre’ we continue”.)

    • Richard Cobbett says:

      “Although I disagree with “we expect more of a flow these days, and for our stories to have pace”—one of the good things about adventures is that they aren’t constantly screamining in your face to CLICK FASTER GO GO GO”

      Flow doesn’t necessarily mean time pressure. It’s as much about avoiding things like being put in a character you don’t know, locked in a big empty room, and expected to put in an hour’s worth of boring poking around before it gets to the point and gives you anything interesting to do.

    • LionsPhil says:

      “Start when things are happening” is, I believe, standard writing advice, but there are good games that break such a rule. Half-Life is an obvious example, and until you push the sample into the beam could have been a first-person adventure like Penumbra since you have no weaponry, just an environment to explore to find the thing that begins the plot.

      Which games are you thinking of here? A quick skim down memory and ScummVM digs up only Future Wars as a game that settles you into mundanery before the event happens that upsets it.

    • Xercies says:

      I also have to disagree that Action Adventures are a watered down version, if you think about it zelda, arkham asylum and some others are really great adventure game with a little bit of action with them. You can do quite a lot with them if you wanted to by combining the best of adventures with the best of action.

    • FunkyBadger3 says:

      “Start when things are happening” is, I believe, standard writing advice

      In media res – start at the action, not the beginning of the story. The Iliad being the prime example.

      That said, if you start writing armed only with that and “show, don’t tell” you’re going to end up with a pretty shit story.

    • metalangel says:

      Those moments in Space Quest 2 where you had to type quickly and accurately while the Marrow-matic robot or the kissing alien were bearing down on you were terrifying. Hell, even the floor waxer was scary, because it still squashed you flat!

      I remember being astonished by a friend I swear managed to open the escape pod doors AND get into it before the robot got to him, as opposed to leading it all the way back to the shuttle bay.

    • Josh W says:

      One of the interesting things about the game n was that it’s pacing was so squify, (levels of varying complexity and only roughly with the harder ones being later) but they gave you multiple threads to follow at the same time, so that it would be a while before you were stalled on everything, and different kinds of levels, so even when you do get stalled everywhere, the eight different things you are stalled on probably require different skills.

      That kind of thing could be pretty valuable in an adventure game, although they generally don’t signal that “you’re getting somewhere” in as obvious a way. Item combination is quite good for that, particularly if the combinations can be reversed (no worry about losing items you will need). Room unlocking is ok, apart from the trudge that can build up when you start taking ages to get across the map when you want to alternate between puzzles.

      One of the machinarium developers said a great thing about pacing, where they suggested that you should be able to play about interactively before solving a puzzle, and enjoy being in the world, even if you don’t have a clue what to do next. Sort of like the bit where you sit in the cafe and play connect 6 with the old robot and listen to the radio.

      I think there’s a lot to be said for mixing in random fiddleable red herrings that are fun to do into your puzzles, reversible dynamic elements that fit with the main puzzle’s logic but don’t result in completion, even if you don’t go the whole hog and build full game-logic emergent effects. So instead of just playing against the old robot to unlock stuff, tactics of how you play connect 6 might flow into the game. Sort of like a more interactive version of what Blow is up to with the witness.

      And of course, if you start making multiple tracks of puzzles, and then allow people to skip puzzles out by doing extra well at others, then you’ve started to create deus ex-like branching structure, all you need to do then is add setting nuance to taking different paths, different perspectives on the same things, so the feel of the game builds up differently each time; responds in feel to the player’s playstyle.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      I found it really interesting to watch the GDC video on Amnesia after reading Richard’s article. Gets the brain going. (I really want to make another game now.)

  9. JackShandy says:

    Catherine’s interesting because video games are absolutely terrible at sex. I mean, honestly god-awful. Any game that frames a mechanic around it degenerates to your basic dating-sim give-them-stuff-till-they-fuck-you routine, any game with a sex scene has any eroticism totally annihalated by how hard it is to make 3D models touch each other right, and any stories we’ve made of it are stuck between mills and boon and sniggering innuendo.

    The problem with game sex is that it’s all innuendo. If you show a mermaid who’s naked, she just doesn’t care about wearing clothes, right? And there’s something mature about that. If you put a piece of carefully-positioned string over her naughty parts, the message suddenly changes. That’s what sex-appeal in games is all about, the innuendo, the crotch-floss – you’d never see someone who was just honestly topless.

    I tried ancient morrowind-precursor Daggerfall the other day and had the shock of my life in the inventory screen – if you remove your characters clothes, they’re actually naked. You can see nipples and everything. That’s something I’ve seen in no other game – nakedness that has nothing to do with sex.

    In conclusion: Maybe it’s the subject matter, but is the Busy Hands logo meant to represent a hand grabbing an arse?

    • Casimir Effect says:

      I’d say there are some exceptions to this. The Witcher 2 did what I thought was an excellent sex scene. There was build-up and maturity to it, and the nude models interacted well in the engine (weird as that is for me to say I thought at the time). If only Bioware would stop being so scared of Angry Protest Groups and do some decently mature relationship scenes then perhaps things would improve on that front.

      As for the handling of sex in games as a mechanic then you do have to plunder the Japanese visual novel things, from which I gather there are plenty done in an intelligent way. Such as, it’s not easy to get with any girl the game presents to you and the game isn’t just a dating sim – more a slice of life where drama and consequences play a large role. Unfortunately I haven’t played enough of these games to really be able to back this up – it’s most going on what I’ve heard from people who are fans. Those sorts of games also hold almost no appeal to me mainly because every single one seems to be set in some kind of school where all the characters look 15 but are really over 18… honest.

    • JackShandy says:

      Sure, not every game handles sex mechanics with a Love meter that rises when you give them presents, but every game has this same fundamental problem: Sex is something the other person has, that you want. It’s not too far removed from any other quest reward; if you give this person something, or do some tasks for them, or say the right sentences, they will let you do it to them. It’s just an unfortunate side-effect of the objective-based way games handle everything.

    • Hindenburg says:

      @JackShandy: you can say that about pretty much everything in life and still be correct, mate. Can’t really see why videogames mimicking this in their own particular crappy way is all that different.

      Nihilism, ho!

    • pilouuuu says:

      Yeah, isn’t life like that too? You wouldn’t believe the quests I had to complete to have sex!

    • Lukasz says:

      Life works the same way Jack

      Location: a club
      You see a female. You check her stats with your perception stat. If her stats are high enough you approach her and say hello/smile.
      Then if your beauty/appearance stat is high enough she responds positively.
      Then you have to go through few dialog choices, some of them are depended on your charisma, intelligence, wits stats.
      each sentence rises or lowers your reputation meter. Giving gifts like alcohol might rise your reputation and lower her intelligence but it is based on your luck stat.
      After some time and if your dancing skill are high enough you might get an option to ask her to your place.
      Your physical attributes, your reputation will be then added and if it is sufficiently high it will result in yes.
      The similar situation will be taking place up to the moment of sexual encounter when you finally receive your xp and will be able to write it in a log as quest completed.

      so you see Jack. To get in someone else panties/boxers you indeed play a mass effect style romance.

    • MaXimillion says:

      A lot of japanese Visual Novels do sex quite well, but then it’s mostly because they’re not much more than chose your own adventure books in digital from, and writing good sex scenes isn’t terribly hard.

      For anything 3D sex does generally look horrible since not only are 3D models in games not bad at interacting with things in general, the animations and interactions required to make a convincing sex scene would be a lot of work for such a small part of a game. It’s not really just a problem with sex, see the drinking animation in ME2 for example.

    • JackShandy says:

      So it’s impossible that a girl would approach you instead of the other way around, lukasz? I’m sorry, don’t answer that. I’m just saying that, ideally, sex should be the most mutual thing in the world.

      Think of it in terms of game Friendships: if you say the right things to them, this person will become your friend. Because you want them to be your friend, you say whatever pleases them. It’s manipulative. I’m sure there are some circumstances where you’d say whatever a person will like most to get in their pants/be friends with them, but it’s a pretty sleazy model of interaction.

    • Hindenburg says:

      Which is why relationships tend to be optional. You don’t need to be a manipulative bastard if you don’t want to. Obviously, you won’t get as many results (in theory), but hey, there’s probably some payoff, and if there isn’t no big loss, you stuck to your moral compass, fwiw.

      Sex usually is a mutual thing, no one’s denying that (and i suspect no one will deny that here, either). It’s just a matter of what’s being given in exchange.

      One chap’s sleazy is the other’s candid, and allathat. Which is, again, why you usually aren’t forced to play the game fucking everybody, but the choice is there should you choose to follow it.

  10. Tengil says:

    Has there been any good analysis of the casual racism in DXHR yet. Thinking particularly of that famous Letitia the trash lady thing but also Zeke Sanders, and the portrayals of Chinese characters

    • Dominic White says:

      I don’t have the link (need to dig it up), but I saw an article by a guy who has been living in China most his life that they actually got the accents and dialogue absolutely spot-on for the Hengsha characters.

    • Nighthood says:

      I found that the balance of white, black and Asian poor people in the game was identical to the balance of white, black and Asian rich people, which I would say is the OPPOSITE of racism.

      The game seemed to suggest poverty, wealth and success was no longer based on skin colour.

      Edit: In terms of Sanders, it is worth noting that *mild spoiler ahead* his brother was shown completely differently, suggesting the characters are written as individual characters, not general stereotypes like you implied.

    • JackShandy says:

      What these two said. If you go out onto the street and talk to someone rooting through a bin, they’ll speak like a crazy uneducated stereotype. And if you go back to Sarif and talk to the african-american guards, civilians and scientists, they sound like- well, guards, civilians and scientists.

      I haven’t talked to a lot of people who scavenge through bins, but the ones I’ve met did not talk normally.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yeah, the only vaguely ‘stereotypical’ black person you find in the entire game (and there’s dozens of black characters) is a filthy hobo, possibly drunk and/or high, who you find with her head in a rubbish bin, which is about on par with all the other homeless people you find – many of them are incoherent, slurring messes. I’ve read accusations that the developers have never met a black person before, or are desperately trying to sneak in as much racism as possible because of that one character.

      And yet the game has probably the broadest ethnic mix of characters I’ve seen in a game in years. White, black, asian, indian and everything inbetween. Plenty of acccents from all round, too.

      People seem to have latched onto that one character far too hard. One guy I saw was even arguing at length that she was even MORE racist because she liked beer, and that ‘Hot Devil’ sounded like malt liquor, which of course black stereotypes like, because that’s…

      Yeah. Some people are projecting. Hard.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      malt liquor, which of course black stereotypes like

      I’m thinking some non-Americans here don’t quite understand just how much of a racist stereotype that character is.

      Sure, it’s “just one” example in a big game. But it’s a pretty awful one.

    • Dominic White says:

      My point was that there’s no indication that it is malt liquor. It’s just mentioned as the brand of beer she likes. Hence the projecting. As for her voice – well… I never thought much of it, because she sounds a lot like my girlfriends mother, only more drunk.

      On that note, I’d like to think that I’m not being racist or encouraging such things here – it’d be a surprise to find out of I was, as my girlfriend is very much african-american. Hopefully she’ll mention it if I am.

      (On a tangent, my favourite beers are 8 and 12% alcohol respectively)

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s not (just) the voice, it’s the phrases used.

      The horrible broken English Letitia speaks is so far removed from any actual slang that it renders the character practically extra-terrestrial. It’s not from an alien planet, though. That slang harkens back to the worst blackface minstrelsy of the last century.

      link to

      Nobody’s accusing you of racism. I just get the sense that it’s a bit like “spaz” in the British consciousness, which Americans are wholly ignorant of. I’m talking about decades of media that you probably haven’t been exposed to.

    • JackShandy says:

      I’ve got to admit I don’t know a lot about american racial stereotypes, and if this character fits them so well that she’s obviously been designed for it, that’s terrible.

      I don’t know what Tengil’s problems with Zeke and the people in Heng Sha were, but as far as I can tell most people are just reacting to the voices, not the way she and the other characters are portrayed. I haven’t seen anyone complain that she’s shown as living on the street or rummaging through a bin. It just seems a bit knee-jerk to accuse the devs of racism because a character talks with a certain accent. I don’t know – I suppose giving a character a certain type of voice could be racist. Either way, the game obviously isn’t giving out the message that all black people are like letita.

    • DrGonzo says:

      Oh lordy! I talk this way because this is how all black people talk foo!

    • metalangel says:

      Mammy’s little baby loves shortin’ bread!

    • Azradesh says:

      You realise that *some* people exist that are very much a walking stereotype. If *all* the NPCs of a race acted and sounded the same way in the game you may have a point, but they do not. One drunken homeless southern black woman does *not* make the game racist.

    • StingingVelvet says:

      I’ve met a good number of Black women who talk just like that woman, it’s not some dead accent that no longer exists. As someone else said, if EVERY Black character talked like her then that would be pretty weird and racist, but they don’t. She is an outlier, same as women who talk like that still exist but are outliers. And I have NO idea what the issue with Zeke and Hengsha civilians is… that reminds me of people complaining Liliana in Dragon Age sounded like a bad French caricature, only for Bioware to reveal she was voiced by a real French woman.

      In any event I think DX:HR handles race admirably, though maybe a few more Black people in power would have been good.

    • Azradesh says:

      This is the woman the voiced Josie Thrope, Letitia and Michelle Walters.

      link to

      And shockingly all the asian characters are voiced by asians. Clearly they are getting the accents wrong. /s

    • Dominic White says:

      No, no! You don’t understand! That black woman was deliberately being racist against black women, by being… a black woman! I don’t think you understand just how racist she was in that performance!

      I wonder how she’d react to finding a lot of angry nerds accusing her of being white and trying too hard to sound black.

      “that reminds me of people complaining Liliana in Dragon Age sounded like a bad French caricature, only for Bioware to reveal she was voiced by a real French woman.”

      Oh, so completely on the money. In fact, I think it was one of the RPS writers – Alec, maybe? That accused her of having the worst fake French accent he’s heard in years. And then it turns out that she’s really French. From Paris, even.

    • Lukasz says:

      so a single woman is a stereotype and its racists? even tough there are many other black people who are police, office workers, scientist?

      I met Poles who are thieves
      I met Russian who are drunks
      I met lazy blacks
      I met nerdy Japanese
      I met fat American
      I met neonazi German
      I met slutty French girl
      I met many other stereotypical people.

      They exists!! There is NOTHING wrong with them existing in the media. Pretending that they do not… That’s racists. That’s a wrong thing to do.

    • Zenicetus says:

      “TillEulenspiegel says:
      I’m thinking some non-Americans here don’t quite understand just how much of a racist stereotype that character is.

      Sure, it’s “just one” example in a big game. But it’s a pretty awful one.”

      Yeah, this. There are some specific elements in that dialog, like Letitia referring to Adam as “Cap’n” that directly relate to the negro stereotyping in American films of the 20’s and 30’s…. the Stepin Fetchit era. If you’re not familiar with that history, it won’t resonate.

    • Dominic White says:

      That, or because he was the *captain of the SWAT team*, and it seems that he knew her back when he was a beat cop.

    • Azradesh says:

      I feel that some Americans don’t travel enough to realise that some people still talk like that!

      @ Dominic

      Yes, it’s exactly that. I have no idea why people try so damn hard to find something as racist. I’d love to hear what her voice actor has to say about all this bollocks.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      It’s not the accent, it’s the words. At this point, you’re crossing the line into willful ignorance / denial.

      Just…read the article I linked back up there.

      If you’re an American, and you didn’t cringe when confronted with that character, I don’t know who the fuck you are. I’ve lived all over New York State in crap neighborhoods, traveled on tons of dodgy buses around the Great Lakes area, and met a whole lot of poor people – and none of them sounded like they stepped out of a fucking minstrel show.

    • Azradesh says:

      That “article” is written by a bitter moron, the same moron that thought having black zombie in Africa was racist.

      Just one comment that from that “article” that stood out.

      “I sound like this. My girl, she sound like this. My parents sounded a lot like this. Are you calling us stupid? Is there any reason why black folk should be offended by brothers and sisters like us who sound like this? You want all of us to sound like whites and Chinese? I’m not a genius but I got my bachelors in economics and work in banking. My girl only got an AA in English but she’s a house wife. My parents only had high school degrees but let me tell you something, while they were not booksmart like you might be, they sure as hell knew what the real world was like and prepared me for it. If you sound like a white person It’s cool, no hate from me. But don’t you dare be offended when someone talks like myself. These are tough times and we need to stop looking down on eachother and help eachother.”

      Not to mention that the voice actor sure as hell had no issue with it. If you want to stop racism then STOP making race an issue! Especially when there is no fucking issue! One tramp lady talks a bit funny and it’s because she’s black?! I’m sorry, you can’t just have someone talk a bit funny because they talk a bit funny? I guess people that DO talk like this and DO use similar language are been racist then?

      Another good comment from that piece of textual stupidity you call an article.

      “No, you know what the biggest problem is? It’s people like you who have
      absolutely no idea what you’re talking about regarding dialect
      suggesting that huge populations of speakers speak don’t exist and
      calling their dialects “horrible broken English”.

      First, there is nothing broken about the sort of English she’s speaking.
      It’s just as systematic, just as complex (in fact, these dialects
      typically have more complex negation and several more tense and aspect
      distinctions than most other English dialects). The vocabulary items she’s using are all very standard and very popular in certain social groups.

      The notion that this is a caricature is just as damaging as actual
      caricatures are because it ISN’T just a caricature. There are
      populations of speakers that have speech patterns very, very similar to
      this and you’re suggesting that they’re representative of the worst
      aspects of their social group. Well, you’re suggesting they don’t exist,
      but this is the implication given that they DO exist. And claiming that
      people don’t exist seems a bit marginalizing to me too.

      In effect, what you are suggesting is that it’s a caricature because
      they’re not speaking “proper English” like rich white people. “Proper
      English” is a socioeconomic distinction, not a linguistic one. The
      English isn’t “broken” like someone in the process of acquiring English
      as a second language might speak “broken” English, it’s just a dialect
      other than the socioeconomically priveleged dialect.

      Suggesting that it’s racist to depict minorities speaking the dialects
      of the social groups they come from, dialects that are just as
      expressive, just as regular, and just as complex, rather than the
      dialects of the socioeconomic elite is as backwards an argument as I can
      possibly imagine.”

      It is you that has crossed the line into willful ignorance and/or denial.

    • Archonsod says:

      “There are some specific elements in that dialog, like Letitia referring to Adam as “Cap’n” that directly relate to the negro stereotyping in American films of the 20′s and 30′s…”

      What, you mean like the old detective noire thrillers that the cyberpunk genre drew on as it’s main inspiration?

    • Azradesh says:

      And as Dom said he used to be a SWAT Captain in the police, which is how he knew her. But hey, lets not get facts in the way.

    • Starky says:

      Stereotypes exist for a reason.

      One character who fits a stereotype in a game filled with every ethnicity at every social and economic position imaginable doesn’t make a game racist.

      Complaining that one (debatably bad) character depiction makes the whole product racist is stupid. Equally stupid to similar accusations TV shows suffer, for example, The Wire accused of racism because a few of the characters adhere to negative stereotypes.

      It’s moronic.

      It’s actually kind of pathetic, like all of the people complaining about the Asian accents and claiming it is racist – when the voice actors were all asian, and the game depicts Asians at all different levels of English fluency, from broken clipped words, to fully articulate. Which is a pretty damn realistic depiction.

      Though a Chinese buddy (who himself has a fairly accented[to my British ears], but highly articulate grasp of English) of mine did complain that a few of the Chinese characters spoke proper mandarin while others clearly were speaking phonetically and didn’t actually speak the language, or at least spoke it badly as a second language. He didn’t even mention the chinese accents when speaking English (i didn’t ask though) – we were talking about the game, not racism in the game.

    • Tengil says:

      Some clarifications: If Letitia spoke like an actual poor, black person there would be no problem. However, as several people mention, she speaks like a 30′s stereotype of a poor, black person. Zeke’s constant use of slang struck me as problematic as the only point of it seemed to be to reinforce that he was hispanic, but I’m willing to concede this point. As for Hengsha I didn’t react to any particular character as much as the whole arc with Tai Yong, where the conniving Chinese can still only beat Sarif and other western companies by copying their designs and producing inferior knockoffs at reduced prices. The fact that only the Chinese corporation mistreats its workers and engage in illegal business practices also struck me as problematic, as odds are an American corporation would have its goods produced by the exact same Chinese wage-slaves under the exact same horrifying conditions.

    • Starky says:

      Well from what I’ve been reading all over the net (and quoted above) it isn’t a dead accent or dialect, and living people today still speak like that – it reflects more poorly on the (most likely) white people who automatically associate it with some kind of negative black stereotype than on black people I think. I just thought of it as a southern American accent, no worse or insulting than the accents I hear on any number of TV shows (Such as the Wire, or Treme), from black and white actors – I’d be willing to wager that the Deus Ex producers and the black actress they hired to voice the part thought the same.

      As for the Chinese thing, hate to break it to you mate, but as an Engineer, the chinese corporations stealing designs, patents and producing inferior knock-offs at reduced prices is a REAL issue in this industry. Just as much an issue as companies undercutting costs by shipping production to near slave labour is. The company I work was basically forced to move some manufacturing to china to stay competitive – at the cost of quality.
      And china today has a piss poor workers rights record. I’ve been to a factory in china, a good one by Chinese standards, where the workers got to sleep in military style 3 high bunk beds rather than in the halls and on the floor like some factories. The sad thing about it was almost every worker I spoke too was so happy at the work – though how much of this was them been told to be happy for the white guy getting a tour I cannot say – but it seemed genuine.
      Because it was a much higher wage than most other factories (about £3 per day I worked it out as), and provided them with 1 free meal a day (rice, bread, chicken [I think] and some veg – I think it might have been leek, but I wasn’t sure – tasted okay), and only working 12 hour shifts (in rotation) rather than the 16-18 some other factories require.
      From what colleagues have told me, working conditions in some factories in England in the 60’s and 70s were just as bad, it wasn’t until health and safety acts were enforced that things improved here.

      You expect that to improve in a dystopian future? In the world of Deus Ex (or any cyber punk for that matter) all the corporations are just as bad as each other.

      I really don’t understand why people expect a fiction set in a darker, meaner version of reality to be nicer to one particular ethnic group than another.
      Deus Ex would be racist if it had shown the chinese as corrupt, and dishonest and then shown the white Americans to be shining paragons of virtue and honesty – but that is clearly not the case, everyone in that setting is as fucked up as everyone else. There are a few honest, even nice characters in Hengsha – Just as there are in Detroit, but lets face it the vast majority of people in Deus Ex are assholes, no matter the level of melanin in their skin.

  11. BobsLawnService says:

    I do think that games reviewers are not the corect person to be judging games for me personally. I’m not sure wh but I know that I enjoy an awful lot of games that are reviewed as being average and end up being very underwhelmed by games that get rave reviews. I may be mistaken but it seems that the only thing a game needs to do well in order to be drooled over is to be polished and streamlined to within an inch of not being a game. Maybe it is becuase when you play games all day, every day you start appreciating a polished game a whole lot more. I don’t have much time to game so I’m just happy to play a reasonably fun game that tries a few interesting things even if it has a few flaws.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I am not sure that is representative of all games reviewers.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I have the perfect example. I persoanlly think that Alpha Protocol was a lot better than both Deus Ex and Mass Effect 2. Now show me the reviewer who would say the same thing? Now consider how few risks and how polished the latter two were compared to AP.

    • CMaster says:

      What did AP do better than DXHR? They’re very, very similar games really, but I left AP having enjoyed it but with numerous frustrations, while DXHR the only regret I had was that level design wise, it was much more AP and DX.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Bobs is arguing for the primacy of his own subjectivity in terms of how useful game reviews are, rather than actually making any sensible criticism of critics or the games he mentions, so it’s not something we can easily debate.

    • CMaster says:

      Jim, I’m aware that I’m going off on a tangent and his core complaint is “nobody thinks exactly the same as me.” (And I’d be inclined to disagree with the idea that reviewers are less tolerant of unpolished games than the gaming public at large). It’s just that I thought DXHR was massivley like AP, except without the feeling of constantly fighting bad design decisions, so I’m curious as to what anyone might think AP does better.

    • Soon says:

      But if the reviewer didn’t enjoy it but tells you it tries some interesting new things, then isn’t that what’s useful to you? Not how they rate it compared to other games.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      (WordPress ate three much better posts earlier so this one is quick and nasty because I just don’t have the energy left anymore. Apologies)

      I’m advancing a theory as to why I think there is such a huge difference between my opinion of games and those of most reviewers. I’d love to hear others though. My opinion also explains why Call of Duty and Modern Warfare, etc. always seem to get 90% ratings absolutely everywhere.

      As to why I think that AP is better than DE : HR. I prefer the former’s approach to non-linearity and the fact that the characters are interesting and do not just come across as opinion vending machines (The only characters in DE : HR who didn’t fall into this trap were the pilot and Prichard.). The levels in AP also feel more like real locations and not just finely polished and honed gameplay vending devices – vents that lead from one room to another so you can sneak, conveniently placed weak walls, conveniently placed gas filled tunnels, etc. Even the ending is a vendding machine – Press 1 for Coke. Press 2 for Pepsi. Press 3 for Sprite. Press 4 to swallow your coin. DE : HR is a lot more polished but underneath that it is just very average to me. It is easy to pick up and finish though.

    • CMaster says:

      Really? The levels in AP seemed less like they were just there for the player’s benefit?
      I literally can not think of a single level in AP that isn’t a silly winding corridor for the sake of the game. The closest it comes to an exception is perhaps the Embassy level, which might actually be a senisible building you are just corridored through.. DXHR is guilty of the same thing almost all the time (Contrast witht he original DX, which had corridor elements, but frequently gave you a whole building or even multi-building facility/block to tackle as you pleased), however it does have exceptions in the Omega Ranch and the city hubs.

      The characters thing is just a taste thing I guess. I wouldn’t necessarily pick either one over the other.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      “Really? The levels in AP seemed less like they were just there for the player’s benefit?”

      It’s the impression that I got whicle playing. I won’t disagree that the levels were just as linear, just that they weren’t riddled with contrivances and obvious paths to the extent that Deus Ex was to make different paths for the different augmentations.

      I’d love to go into why I thought the characters were so blatantly black and white but I don’t want spoilers. Even most of the side quests seemed designed to lecture the gamer about a certain opinion about human enhancement.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Most of the levels in AP had multiple entry points to each major area and/or multiple paths through the level. For the most part they were still “get from point A to point B” but I don’t remember feeling like I was being forced down a specific route except for a few areas during the final hour or two.

    • CMaster says:

      I’d have said that a similar number of DXHR’s areas offered the same “multiple accesses” as in AP. They were often a lot less obvious in HR though. Really, I think you need to go back and look at AP’s level design again. While yes, it often did less of HR’s “here’s the stealth path and here’s the other path”, it much more frequently didn’t offer any real path choice at all, and it never once branched out into something more open like HR’s hubs or Omega Ranch – AP’s high point for options and space was probably the Saudi airfield. That said, both games were pretty damn disappointing in the level design aspect.

      As for the characters. Yeah, HR was rather over focused on the aug debate. It didn’t seem to rely on stock caricatures as much as AP did though. (It did however completely fail to do any characterization for the antagonists).

      Edit: For the record I liked AP, enough that I’ve done two full playthroughs and another up to the last mission. It’s just that it frustrated me a lot with all the things it does do wrong – and while HR repeats some of these errors, everything else it seemed to do better.

    • Zwebbie says:

      I did a small study: of the 16 Metacritic 90+ games on Steam that I have played, I really liked only 3, and really disliked another 3 (among which the 96 rated pile of rubbish that is BioShock). Which roughly means that if the press unanimously thinks something is genius, I have a 50% change of being disappointed by it when going in with expectations of an average game. Meanwhile, some of my all-time favourites like Vampire: tM – Bloodlines and The Void end up with 80 and 77, respectively.

    • CMaster says:

      To make that comparable though, you’d have to buy and play 70%+ rated games as consistently as you do 90% rated and compare how many you like.

    • Archonsod says:

      The problem for the reviewer though is that games such as Bloodlines are demonstratively flawed in their execution, while something like Mass Effect 2 is less so. The important thing to remember is all a reviewer can really tell you is how well the game is put together, they can’t tell you if you’ll like the game or not; doesn’t matter how well executed Bloodlines was, if you dislike first person RPGs then you’re not going to like it. So yes, rating games down due to a lack of polish is perfectly fine because there will be people out there who might love the game in concept, but find it marred by the rough edges.

      This does of course assume the reviewer is capable of writing an informative review and the reader is capable of taking that information and drawing their own conclusions.

    • Ex Lion Tamer says:

      @Bob: A couple things.

      I do think you’re offering some interesting speculation about the constant deadline effect on reviewers’ relative weighting of “polish” as an asset in games. Neither of us is particularly well-qualified by experience to evaluate (I’m assuming), but it’s an interesting thought.

      Problem: You are (at least indirectly) including Jim here in the “games reviewers” category. Since he’s apparently too nice (this week) to point it out, I’m going to speak for him: this is the man who liked (and recommended) PRECURSORS. Not necessarily a shining example of AAA-standard polish. And of course, that brings us to all the RPS writers, contributors, and the similarly broad-minded types all over the internet (and in some print publications) who’ve beaten the drum for the unusual, the quirky, and the brilliant-but-flawed.

  12. Rii says:

    This is terrible etiquette, but I’m going to venture a link of my own accord, courtesy of Tiger Beatdown: Enter Ye Myne Mystic World of Gayng-Raype: What the “R” Stands for in “George R.R. Martin”.

    Sady Doyle offers up here a virtuoso display of cutting wit and provocative insight that spurs – amongst other things – a thoughtful discussion that even those (like myself) who’ve only seen the television series are likely to find fascinating.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      cutting wit and provocative insight

      Er, no. It’s pointlessly “snarky” and hideously ignorant.

      I’m all for feminist critique of literature. It’s a valuable endeavour. But this shows absolutely no understanding of the material. It’s the lightest skim of the surface. The latest blog post a shining example of the author’s inability to understand things, as her own commenters ably point out.

    • Kaira- says:

      Well, I found the G.R.R. Martin article raising some interesting points about the books, but it was written with way too much “look how X this guy is!”-mentality. And needless simplications, which is one of the worst things you can do when writing criticism, if you ask me.

    • Zorganist says:

      I feel ashamed at myself for hitting that link, since the first couple of sentences made it glaringly obvious that the entire article was nothing more than a load of baseless nerd-baiting, as opposed to any sort of reasonable, intellectual discussion.

      I’d point out all of the problems with that article, but I don’t want to feed the troll.

    • Unaco says:

      Wow… That is a snarky, condescending, offensive, wilfully misleading piece of spite filled invective. Not only is it horribly written (which, as Zorganist points out, seems to be purely to bait ‘nerds’), but it’s also quite wrong in many ways… as if she has deliberately misread or twisted parts of the books in order to fit her agenda.

      It’s an unpleasant piece of vitriol, and I’m sorry I sullied my Sunday afternoon reading it.

    • Binho says:

      Alyssa Rosenberg wrote a much better article in response to Sady’s accusations: link to

      Basically saying Sady really was just nerd baiting and being condescending.

    • Apples says:

      I only read the first book, so I don’t know how accurate the summaries of the others are in that article, but I’d say the first is spot on. And I agree with most of the criticisms. It’s one thing to write a fantasy book and include rape and pedophilia, but it’s another to write it in such a glorified, sexual way, detailing every moment of incest or a 13-year-old’s rape. It definitely did come across as creepy to me – at some point, GRRM made a conscious decision to write entire paragraphs about such essential and scintillating topics as ‘seed’ trickling down a child’s thighs. Great.

      I’m glad the article is full of vitriol. That’s how I felt about the book, and I like to see hate for it amidst the endless nerd-wank over how amazing ASOIAF is.

    • Unaco says:

      Apple… You and Sady are both wrong in your criticism there. As Alyssa Rosenberg points out in her piece. Point 3.

    • Zorganist says:

      @Apples It’s not so much the criticisms that are made in the article that I find grating (I think you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone who doesn’t find the sex scenes in the books to be depraved and uncomfortable to read, which may well be Martin’s aim with them), but the way the arguments are presented and the logic used to support them.

      Not only is the article written in a way designed solely to aggravate ‘nerds’, instead of provoking reasoned debate, it also promotes the idea that all works of fiction must comply to modern standards of sexual and racial equality, even where it makes no sense for them to, and any work that doesn’t is instantly advocating and gloryfying racism and sexism.

      Sady is also massively negligent of elements of the books that don’t fit with her agenda; for instance, she states that Daenarys is instantly worshipped and revered by all of the ‘people of colour’ she meets, when, in actuality, the Dothraki only do as she says because she is married to Khal Drogo (who kills everyone who defies her), leading almost all of the Dothraki to abandon her at his death, and from the second book onwards, everyone is only trying to impress her because of her dragons, who they all want to get at.

      Another one of the most glaring discrepancies was the complete denial of Tyrion’s role throughout the books, becuase he is a minority character that is competent and successful and OH SHIT, this doesn’t support my argument, IGNORE, IGNORE!

      I agree that there are elements of A Song of Ice and Fire that can be critiqued and discussed (personally, I found the revelation that Ser Jorah’s support for Daenarys came out of the fact that he fancied her, to be particularly trite), that article went about in completely the wrong way and, instead of opening the topic for discussion, served to do little more than make the author look condescending and ignorant.

      Also, when trying to argue against discrimination and stereotyping, it’s best not to open your argument with discrimination and stereotyping.

    • Rii says:

      So apparently some folks here don’t appreciate Sady’s style. I suspect that in many cases that’s a matter of being too close to the action, which is unfortunate. I think the ability to laugh at oneself and the things one holds dear is one of the more commendable traits to which one may aspire. Of course it’s hardly as simple a matter as all that; there are many factors affecting our ability to appreciate humour impinging on ourselves: the speaker, audience, perceived intent, what we ate for breakfast, etc.

      But let’s pretend all that is a non-factor and that everyone objecting to Sady’s style here is doing so because they are constitutionally unable to appreciate it. Ok, that’s fair enough. For my part when I read Sady I get echoes of Douglas Adams, War Nerd, Stuff White People Like, even RPS. “Sygmagfhdflkglll” makes me giggle every time I read it. That’s just me. If you’re not like me, that’s cool … I guess. Just don’t try and convince me that [insert-American-sitcom-that-isn’t-The-Simpsons-here] is actually funny.

      So here we come to the meaty bit: those who can laugh at themselves, do find Sady’s brand of wit funny, but nonetheless object to it here on the grounds that it’s unproductive (see “nerd baiting” etc. above) or whatever. I sympathise with this objection, I really do. Indeed you’ll notice that I only described as ‘thoughtful’ the discussion that arose in the comments, not the piece itself. I agree that hostile, condescending postures such as Sady’s are rarely productive. Rather than encouraging a fan of the series to consider it in a different light, the piece is likely to provoke knee-jerk reactions which will in turn further polarise both sides, reducing the potential for all parties to hear and learn from one another. In most real world situations, these sorts of postures – which usually come minus the humour – serve to impede progress and reconciliation everywhere one cares to look. All of that is true.

      But here’s the thing: none of this really matters. What difference does it make if the fans and critics of a book series are at each others’ throats? Should we really be pushing for ‘productive dialogue’ here except insofar as we’re personally inclined in that direction? Like Sady says, she could’ve written a more balanced critique, but it probably wouldn’t have been nearly as funny and would’ve taken far more time and effort and why should she? Yeah, she’s playing to the crowd… but what’s wrong with that? RPS does it all the time re: console gaming.

      Again: the meatier and more nuanced discussion is in the comments. They’re part of the link too.

    • Archonsod says:

      “it also promotes the idea that all works of fiction must comply to modern standards of sexual and racial equality, even where it makes no sense for them to, and any work that doesn’t is instantly advocating and gloryfying racism and sexism.”

      I get the feeling her beef is mainly with the justification used for it. Claiming it’s “authentic” or “realistic” to have it in there when it’s the only thing which could be described as such (despite the fact that historically speaking, it’s not) is a bit like saying you only buy Playboy to read the articles.
      Also I think you missed her point with Daenarys (which as you point out, would have been yet another example of her “women is dependent on men” arguments); she’s drawing the comparison to the colonial era in Africa which Martin is essentially doing; just replace the dragons with guns.

      Also the nerd baiting failed. She could have provoked a far more fun response if she’d took the time to point out that the entire series is one extended trashy afternoon soap opera. She even drew a comparison in her criticism of the first book.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      I get the feeling her beef is mainly with the justification used for it. Claiming it’s “authentic” or “realistic” to have it in there when it’s the only thing which could be described as such

      It’s not supposed to be “realistic”, it’s supposed to be awful. Did you miss the graphic torture scenes of all and sundry? The brutal, not-remotely-glorified killing?

      It’s an absolutely horrific world. To say that there’s implicit endorsement of any of it by the author is so fucking stupid, I wouldn’t even know where to begin. But as I pointed out, Sady is pretty dense. Or, more charitably, a complete troll.

      Shit blog with a funny name, but that’s it. Won’t waste any more time on it.

    • ShedMonkey says:

      You’re absolutely right, Rii. It is terrible ettiquette.

    • Binho says:

      Rii, I’m all for laughing at myself and laughing at the things I love. I constantly make fun of ASOIAF for how unecessarily grim-dark and violent it is, and how every other main character gets killed off. If Sady was just making fun of how ridiculous ASOIAF can be, it probably would be funny. Hell even if she was just insulting nerds for the fun of it, it might be funny.

      The problem is, the way she approaches it just makes her sound snooty and condescending. And frankly, it sounds a lot more like she is pushing her agenda than anything else. In fact, almost everything she says seems to be a deliberate attack on people she considers “nerds”. Like she considers herself better than everyone who reads the books or watches the shows, and that they are all mysoginistic-incestous-paedophile-rapists. Hilariously, by the sound of it she is probably a bigger “nerd” than most of the people I know who’ve read and enjoy the books.

      And Archonsod, what do you mean? ASOIAF would be a much more “authentic” and “realistic” medieval world than most of the AAA game industry or Hollywood medieval fantasies, even despite the rape and the marrying off of children as soon as they reach sexual maturity. The latter isn’t even particulary unrealistic in modern days (Look at ages of consent in modern Europe) and was much more common in the past. I mean, there are farms in ASOIAF. That already makes it about 300% more “accurate” than every fantasy RPG ever made. And considering most people wear fairly sensible clothes, that makes it significantly less trashy than most RPG’s out there as well. Can it be ridiculous at times? Yup. Is it a 100% “authentic” feeling medieval fantasy world? God no. Is it Trashy? Not more than most fiction. Sure, the sex scenes can be titillating and a bit trashy, and if he didn’t include them I wouldn’t really mind. Why is it wrong to describe sex and not violence though? Would you rather get stabbed with a sword, or have sex?

      EDIT: Rii, I apologise. The comments were much better. She makes good points, I just dislike the way she words them.

    • Rii says:

      @Shedmonkey: “You’re absolutely right, Rii. It is terrible ettiquette.”

      Seems to have done alright mind.

    • ShedMonkey says:

      “Seems to have done alright mind.”

      What a revealing answer. You’ve elicited a lot of mostly negative responses by hijacking Jim’s weekly column. It’s not just poor ettiquette – it’s downright rude.

    • Rii says:

      Mr. Rossignol is free to moderate my posts into oblivion if he believes the link and the discussion it has generated has been unproductive or otherwise unbecoming of the Sunday Papers, or if he believes that by offering it I’ve overstepped my bounds or impugned the dignity of RPS or what have you. Alternatively, we could do pistols at dawn.

      Actually what happened is that I was intending to submit the link for Mr. Rossignol’s consideration but forgot about it only to be reminded upon seeing the published papers. And the link would’ve been a fortnight old by the time the next issue rolled around. So I decided to throw it out there that it might sink or swim as the readership saw fit. Scandal!

    • Archonsod says:

      “And Archonsod, what do you mean? ASOIAF would be a much more “authentic” and “realistic” medieval world than most of the AAA game industry or Hollywood medieval fantasies”

      No, it’s about as realistic as Monty Python and the Holy Grail from what I’ve seen of it. The point she is making is that it is somewhat silly to claim realism and authenticity as a defence when in every other respect you’ve completely ignored such things. The implication being that it has more to do with titillation than it does anything else.

      ” there are farms in ASOIAF. That already makes it about 300% more “accurate” than every fantasy RPG ever made.”

      Farms. In a world where winter lasts years? And that’s realistic? I think someone perhaps didn’t think things through with that one …

      “Why is it wrong to describe sex and not violence though?”
      She doesn’t claim it is.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      Erm, that was awful.

      Some reasons why, briefly:

      -The return to the Middle Ages isn’t some sort of conservative nostalgia — it’s to recast the fantasy novel in the light of medieval power politics, showing just how brutal and amoral this supposedly “pious” time period really was. The whole series is modeled loosely on the War of the Roses.
      -The “gratuitous” sex and violence are an early and easy way of hammering in this point, and while it’s certainly arguable that the sex scenes can enter romance novel territory, that’s a flaw present in literature from Orwell to Updike.
      -Many of the characterizations in the article are over-simplified. Catelyn, for instance, isn’t meant to be merely “sympathetic” because she’s the typical “hero’s wife” — her treatment of Jon is cruel and mostly unwarranted (but understandable, given he’s Ned’s bastard), a blot on her character. Other characters get a similarly shallow treatment.
      -Not to retread the previous point, but the character she gets even more wrong is Sansa. Her naivete is meant to be a mirror for an unwitting reader of fantasy novels; yes, she likes boys and parties, but in the context of holding cherished beliefs about the society of the Middle Ages, like knightly chivalry and aristocratic etiquette. Sansa believes in these myths because she’s always been trained to; her disillusionment, which does happen eventually, is an important growth for her character and an important thematic arc of the series.
      -The idea that Dany is nothing more than a sex idol and Kahl Drogo a rapist whom she grows to love is patently absurd and makes me wonder if the reviewer read the book at all.

      I won’t lie, I didn’t read the whole thing, but some of that vitriol is just nonsensical. It was a bad sign when the article began on such a defensive note — how many hundreds of words were wasted on caricaturing GRRM fans? — and I have to say I’m disappointed that RPS has been infested by such fatuous drivel.

  13. TillEulenspiegel says:

    raises a few issues about the rapidly dwindling capacity to access gaming’s past that we bump into on RPS from time to time. Worth a look.

    Lies! It’s an article purely about chronology and sales numbers (and therefore, influence).

    We don’t necessarily have the specific details of the human history of lots of things. The games speak for themselves; the rest is interesting, but not terribly important.

    It’s a worthy sort of project, of course, to document the history of games. But it sort of misses the point of actually examining, criticizing, and playing those old games.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      It still raises those issues simply *by* documenting, because what matters for most people is being able to play that stuff.

    • Thants says:

      Piracy, if nothing else, is the savior of our gaming history. There are countless old games that would be lost forever if not for pirated copies. But as it is, pirates have kept nearly every game ever made available and playable on modern computers.

      I’m not sure what my point is exactly; I just think it’s interesting. Certainly, it’s a solid argument for shortening copyright terms.

  14. Fox89 says:

    Thomas Grip lecture was great. I was talking about something very similar to his ‘removing competitive mechanics’ points just the other day, when talking about Human Revolution’s XP system.

  15. str4 says:

    I’m convinced, after many many of the Sunday Paper’s music recommendations (not all of them), Notch sending people off to hear music, hearing gamers talk about music, and tracking down gamer’s Last.fms, that gamers have THE worst taste in music. 12 year old girls listen to more thought out drivel than most people who’d refer to themselves as being fans of video games.

    You can listen to electronic bullshit and still not be perpetuating the bottom of the barrel like you guys do. This Plaid shit is LAME. Not even in a “I don’t like the way it sounds” kinda way. Anyone ever pay attention to song structure? It’s not a map that you have to adhere to coldly, you can play with it and twist it and make it yours… but this dude doesn’t even know it EXISTS. Sounds like he is drunk playing with a piano roll or a midi controller with some SWEET sounds he just downloaded. The Drums? What about fills? I think I heard one… during 5 minutes! His build toward the end? “I’ma layer abunch of sounds and melodies I already made fifteen minutes ago that everyone has been listening to for four minutes now and it’ll work out swell and everyone will think I’m SO smart!” Oh and that climax was so worth the five minutes… It just ENDS while playing the same shit is has been. Thanks for thinking there at the end mr. Plaid.

    I’m asking for improvement. Show me gamer’s don’t have shit taste in music. Give me something where I can actually hear they put time into it and WORKED. Some dude spending thirty minutes masturbating with a loop program does not count.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Plaid’s success has had basically nothing to do with “fans of videogames”, and everything to do with fans of electronic music liking their stuff. They’ve been around since at least the mid 90’s and have had a semblance of popularity that entire time. I’m not sure why, as I’ve always thought they were incredibly bland, but whatever. They’re a completely generic Warp band from the 90’s, gaming has nothing to do with anything.

    • str4 says:

      That was my point exactly. Plaid was made popular by gamers. You’ve proved me wrong. I’m so sorry.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      You used Plaid as your specific example, so I figured I’d point out that they’ve been around for 20 years and popular with all sorts of people during that time.

      I’m not sure there’s a way to refute the idea that gamers have shitty taste in music. Other than game-related music, I don’t see what sort of common thread you’d find between the sorts of things that gamers listen to. Gaming as a subculture is defined by the act of playing games; unlike other subcultures there’s no strong association with fashion or art or film or music.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Go listen to anything by Alexander Brandon and his peers. You are broadly insulting a great number of professional composers who work in game development.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      “I’m not sure there’s a way to refute the idea that gamers have shitty taste in music.”

      Other than it clearly being a ludicrous generalisation that fails to stand up to any scrutiny at all? Two people have edited The Sunday Papers, and you’d be hard pushed to find a connection between the types of music recommended by either of us.

      Even in my particular case of posting quite a lot of electronic nonsense, there are examples of quite different types of music, from early 20th century blues through to classical stuff. It’s ridiculous to try and draw any line under “gamers” from that.

    • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

      I for one have a bad taste in music.

      I would link something but you probably never heard of it (because it’s bad).

    • DiamondDog says:

      What an extraordinary rant.

      Edit: Oh and there is this thread on the forums:

      link to

      A quite wonderful selection of music and a good place to go looking for some artists you hadn’t heard before (for me, anyway). Some of it isn’t electronic bullshit!

      Not to mention the threads dedicated to punk and metal. Do you approve? Actually, fuck you.

    • Rii says:

      I like Ke$ha. What’re you gonna do about it?

    • felisc says:

      That was a weird rant indeed.
      “Gamers” (whatever that means) don’t have “one” taste. And as Jim pointed out the different music posted here go from old blues to Tim Hecker.

    • Starky says:

      While I happen to agree that the linked song was a pretty poor example of electronic music (I’ve heard better from amateur hobbyist forums for the popular DAW sequencers (live, reason, sonar etc…)

      I have to agree the rant against “gamers” tastes is a dumb one, gamers probably tend towards rock, or electronic music (or both) on average – but like any large group of individuals with such a wide age range, taste, likes and dislikes varies massively.

      The only real link to gamers and gamers musical taste is that gamers are probably the only group who appreciate video game music (For example I very much doubt a non-gamer would know who Nobuo Uematsu was) beyond that, there is no link.

    • Josh W says:

      I’m guessing you don’t like psychadelic music either!

      Remember that sometimes people are not making music to show off how damn clever they are, even if they use a structure you don’t recognise. Some people are just chilling out and producing something that suits themselves:

      I personally like polyrhythmic 7/4 4/4 stuff. It’s just naturally nice to me. So if I make some random piece of music, it’ll probably have some of that type stuff in it. Especially if I’m not trying to show off!

    • Casimir's Blake says:


      You’re ignorant, is the honest answer. You have your taste and I’m not going to argue that you’re entitled to it. But you are talking as though a “rock” mentality is the only legitimate one by which music can be made.

      7 minutes of Derrick May (or Plaid for that matter) smashing some keys on his synths while muting mixer channels and tweaking filter cutoffs is equally valid as any rock band ploughing through a verse-chorus-verse-ROCKIN’ SOLO-chorus (etc) structure, as is a 3 minute pop song, a 24 minute prog-rock extravaganza, a 2 minute punk song, a 1 minute hardcore-rock song, or a CD-length classical concerto.

      On another note, as it happens I don’t like Plaid much, they stick to awkward modes and keys and push the IDM buttons a bit too much for me. However they made some sterling stuff around the Undoneson to Booc era, in fact the entire Booc EP is their crowning achievement IMHO with some stunning, arresting synth melodies. Turner and Handly lost something vital when they split from the other two Black Dog crew. I’d argue the latter have a larger body of enjoyable music than Plaid, but they are more “techno” than Plaid’s wonky IDM-ery.

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      Casmir: Are we sure that he’s even talking about a rock mindset? His original post is interestingly devoid of specific references. I suspect deliberately. He says what he likes and he’s just making himself vulnerable.

      Jim: “you’d be hard pushed to find a connection between the types of music recommended by either of us.”

      Nick Cave! Mogwai! Mick Jagger Trapped Inside Dogs!


    • Urthman says:

      str4, I’ll wager $25,000 that your taste in music sucks.

    • Josh W says:

      I’ll bet Kieron went through all the previous sunday papers until he found those links! (but not for any money though)

    • Kieron Gillen says:

      We used to live in the same house. I just had to think about what we both had blaring out.

      Plus Ghostbusters, obv.


  16. Jason Moyer says:

    A second videogame crash? Sure, I could see that happening. Of course, like the North American crash in 1983, computer gaming should remain largely immune to it. The people who should be worried about a crash are the companies developing/publishing AAA-budget titles where the profitability of the game is highly dependent on selling product to non-gamers, which seems to me like a terrible way to sustain a business. On the other hand, the core gaming demographic is certainly larger/stronger than it was 30 years ago, so perhaps we’ll see more of a lull in the mainstream gaming industry rather than a full blown crash.

    • Rii says:

      “so perhaps we’ll see more of a lull in the mainstream gaming industry rather than a full blown crash.”

      I think we’re already in the midst of it and will be till, oh, 2025 or so. We’re basically waiting for hardware (all the horsepower that devs can use) to become a wristwatch commodity. Industry has the interim to work on streamlining production pipelines.

      Needless to say that when we emerge from this era of ‘breadth over depth’ both PCs and consoles in their present form will be long gone.

    • Shuck says:

      I think the AAA part of the industry is in the middle of a sustained crash (albeit one that will never lead to its complete destruction).
      “Industry has the interim to work on streamlining production pipelines.”
      Oh boy, do they ever need to do so. Unless we have the most awesome procedural content generators though, there are pretty hard limits to what can be done. I’m increasingly skeptical that the industry will ever really be able to get a handle on the problem. I’m afraid that we may have seen the peak of AAA games; they’re just too expensive for anything other than proven franchises. We’ll see incremental improvements in games from small developers as tools get better, but the lack of (human) resources will limit the scope of those games. All the old revenue models are fairly broken, and developers will have more tenuous existences, throwing out cheap, quick, half-finished games in the hope that one will get enough attention that it’s worthwhile to actually continue development on it.

  17. Sunjammer says:

    The story column is interesting and futile.

    I don’t understand why gamers are exempt from the subjective qualities of a narrative. Books don’t read the same to different people, films don’t view the same, and neither do games. Ebert’s critique of games as art was based entirely on the mechanical qualities of the narrative versus player input; He argues that players altering the work is a countering force to the influence of the author. Which is nonsense, but it DOES affect the objective quality of the story, when the player can choose to have a character jerk back and forth, exploiting the animation system to make him look like a prat when he should be doing something serious.

    You can’t really argue for a game’s core plot as a good story, but you can argue for the player experience becoming its own story that’s subjectively interesting for that particular player. That’s what makes shitty games good to some people and vice versa, yeah?

  18. corbain says:

    Neither of those Plaid tracks are quite as good in my opinion as Eyen

    • Starky says:

      The linked song (in the article) was a pretty poor track in my tastes, very generic sequenced electronic music – the likes of which you can find thousands of examples by hobbyists in Reason, Cakewalk Sonar or Ableton Live – In fact often the amateur stuff is better than that Plaid track.
      The likes of which I could probably write something similar too myself in am hour (or at least the basic frame of) with a sequencer and a few VSTi synths.

      That said I did quite like the first half of the song you linked (Eyen) – but It lost it’s flow half way though I think, the back half (when that synth base came in hammering 8th notes constantly @2:10, removing the nice and funky bass riff that was before it).

      It’s a shame really, that track could have been great if it had held to the feel of the first half, instead of just layering on more, and more sounds until it lost it’s charm.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes, I like that one too.

    • Casimir's Blake says:

      Come on chaps, Booc is where it’s at:

      And Orange Sky! Practically no-one mentions this essential and vastly underrated Plaid tune…

      Since Spokes they’ve gone particularly “weird for the sake of fucked-up-ness”, but then they ARE a Warp Records signing.

      @Starky: I assure you there are hobbyist Ableton Live users out there that DO produce something other than generic -pick your electronic genre here-. I somewhat humbly present my own works as an example:

    • DiamondDog says:

      Can’t have people enjoying any old music.

      Listen, this is why you’re wrong…

    • Dominic White says:

      Not mad keen on Eyen. But I love New Family.

      link to

      Bloody stupid arguing about it either way, though. It’s pretty niche music to begin with.

    • Starky says:

      @Cas, Oh I know that, but Sturgeon’s law and all that – most of what you do get is step sequenced rubbish using default sounds from (probably) pirated synths (most often Absynth or Zeta+ 2).

      Quickly scanned through your stuff, and it’s not too bad – not quite to my tastes (I go more towards bassy industrial stuff on the electronic side of things, bigbeat, dubstep, classic house, acid so on…).
      Though I did quite enjoy The Edge Of Venatici – from what I scanned it seemed your most coherently melodic in theme – a fancy way of saying it flowed well from start to finish.

      Velique’s Intention is pretty damn good too actually – really liking that bass riff, that and (again in my brief listen) seems to be the best mastered, everything just sits nicely in the mix.

      My only constructive criticism right now (and don’t take this to heart, I am after all listening to the MP3s, not FLAC, and using cheap headphones [good cheap monitoring headphones, superlux 668Bs, but headphones none the less]) – Is that some of your tracks could use some work on the stereo spacing, and the EQ balancing – some tracks are getting a bit muddy in the mids and mid-highs when they get busy.
      That said the mastering is a good chunk better than most hobbyist attempts, and as good if not better than some professional works – At least you haven’t made common hobbyist mistake of cranking up everything to the point of clipping, dynamic range be damned.

      Once my paypal account is unfrozen (ebay issue :( ) I will throw you a couple of quid for those 2 tracks.

  19. CMaster says:

    Reply fail :(

  20. Urthman says:

    I am really, really excited about Lodestone, Jim! I wish more people were jumping on the “explore huge, beautiful worlds” wheel of the Minecraft bandwagon, and not just on the “build stuff out of blocks” part.

    That screenshot is probably a very rough draft, but it makes it look like your aim for the game is really what I’m hoping for.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I think “people like building stuff!” has been perceived as the main lesson of Minecraft. “People like exploring stuff” is seldom a lesson perceived from anything at all, which would probably explain the lack of exploration games.

      The screenshots are all a bit of date already as we’ve constantly changed that stuff. You can find some shots from about a year ago (we’re doing Lodestone in our spare time) and you can see how different it is.

    • pakoito says:

      Terraria does a good job about that exploration stuff…up to the point of the “equipment wall” where you cannot beat any monster or boss without grinding new armor or finding that superduper weapon in a chest. Once you surpass that you’re almost endgame and there’s nothing new to explore neither in this nor in any other new world.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Yes, A Valley Without Wind is going to do something similar. In fact I think the majority of exploration games are 2D.

    • CMaster says:

      The more I think about it, the more that “Stalker without the enemies” thing I tweeted at you, Jim about creeps up my list of “games I’d like to make” (currently about 10-15 ideas written down, others float about from time to time). Basic idea is to stick the player in an alien environment – anything from the mundane: Jungle/Lost World/Deserted City; to the fantastical: other plane, extraterrestrial, conceptual and ask them to simply get about – visiting new areas is the purpose – either to find shelter, rescue, some important aretfact or simply because – the PC’s role could just be that of an (space) explorer. So they have to find places, find tools, figure ways of getting past obstacles etc. But in a “simmish” environment, where they can use whatever they find/have with whatever they encounter, rathen than a proscribed adventure game “this plank won’t go in this gap because ermm because” style.

    • Thants says:

      CMaster: I hope you’ve seen the movie Stalker, in that case.

  21. Muzman says:

    That Dan McPharlin guy is like all my favourite 20th century artists crammed into one.
    Isn’t there a name for when a sudden burst of pin point post-modernity sends some part of your brain for a loop for a while?
    Those album covers that look like sixties and seventies sci-fi book covers do that.

  22. Om says:

    That man Cobbett isn’t wrong. I’d like to see more of him around RPS

  23. Josh W says:

    [mechanical spoilers]
    An interesting combination there from the talk on amnesia and the thing about adventure games:

    Lay your mechanics around what causes the experience you want.

    Richard was saying about how adventure games were made up of a combination and tension between a tradition as puzzle games, as things to be solved, and the various experiences they wanted to produce. They wanted you to feel like this person so they gave you tools to match it.

    The striking thing is that amnesia had non-competative mechanics styled around putting the player in a position of powerlessness. In one sense it “goes easy” on the player who treats it as a stealth game, but that’s not really what it does at all; it’s designed to work with the player on putting them in a position of being spared, of getting away with it only just, by apparent luck, or certainly nothing you can rely on. This is an illusion, the illusion of getting away by the skin of your teeth.

    It’s an illusion because what appears to be random luck is actually mercy.

    I think this gives an insight into other stuff; suppose players are supposed to be in a situation that is not powerless, but is about a certain level of power.

    The system is not competitive, it’s not trying to beat you. Now like amnesia such a system would work against you stepping out of your role: Death takes you away from where you were and changes things, and it only happens when you step out of your role and go after the things the game expects you to run from.

    This is not penalties for failure, this is the truman show. This is finding ways to cover over the fact that the player played out of role, to blur it back into the setting.

    Now that gives an insight into adaptive difficulty: Amnesia had a challenge it adapted the difficulty of, but that challenge was just your part in the game’s story.

    So in car games where there is “rubberbanding”, and people chasing you slow down to match you or speed up to catch back up, this maintains the challenge but does not maintain the relationships you are supposed to be having! They are supposed to be doing their best to get you, and you are supposed to be runing from them.

    So instead of speeding the cars up, have them come from shortcuts you’ve set up for that exact purpose, or have the road traffic get more demanding. If the cars are coming too close behind, have traffic build up behind the player, make it harder for the pursuers! Amnesia gets very close to breaking the relationship you are supposed to have with the monsters, by having them avoid you. It evades this by limiting the lengths that it will correct via the monsters own AI, and has other factors take over.

    So what happens if you let yourself get caught in that example? You can get away with a bit of gaminess there, because a player acting this way has already shifted from the basic relationship you’ve set up. Criminal on the run turns himself in to the police? Tries to move things to a standoff?

    Ideally you want to either recognise this choice and expand the potential of what the game can be, including this as one of the approachs you want to be viable, (my favourite) or you want to get them back into line without making a fuss about it.
    Either they’re trying to play a character in line with the one set for them, and have failed (in which case they’ll want you to go back to where you were with the minimum of fuss),
    or they have a different idea of what such a character should be, (in which case unless you find out in playtesting and add it in, they may profoundly disagree with your games assumptions from here on in, and you can only hope to encourage them to see the value in your approach)
    or they are messing with you directly, and might have fun from seeing how you turn it around!

    It seems to me that if you want to create game situations that are not about challenges to be completed but a certain experience to be had, then don’t just adapt in terms of difficulty, hard/easy, but adapt by adding mitigating circumstances to bring it back to the type of events the game experience requires. So sometimes if a player does really well at something, don’t just make it harder. If the game experience requires it, cause something else to happen that cannot be dealt with that way, shift things around so that they are once again approaching the game in a way it’s designed to support. There are a whole host of tools in the rpg games master’s arsenal, filed under railroading.

  24. Ex Lion Tamer says:

    EDIT: My first reply-fail in ages. Now I’m all awash in nostalgia.

  25. Tengil says:

    failed reply