The Sunday Papers

Sundays! They can be for all kinds of stuff. Singing, dancing, rejoicing. But it’s possible you’re having a quieter time. You’re sat down somewhere with a glowing screen, and you’re filtering through information. So much of it… Here comes some now.

  • Read of the week, for me at least, was the Frozen Synapse post-mortem: “Commercially, our targets were: Focus completely on digital; achieve Steam distribution; sell over 100k copies within a year from release without a significant marketing spend; create a game that would be popular with core PC gamers; we wanted to make something that would really appeal to readers of RockPaperShotgun!” Well, that’s always a good idea.
  • Tom Bissell wrote a bunch of stuff about Skyrim. It went a bit like this: “Review Skyrim? You may as well try reviewing last month. “It started out strong, but by the end I was definitely ready for it to be over. Some great things went down, along with some stuff that kind of blew. I nevertheless recommend last month. Lots of variety. 3½ stars.””
  • On Gamasutra Greg Lastowka looks at whether players can and should be granted legal ownership of virtual items: “In 2004, a Chinese gamer from Shanghai, Qiu Chengwei, found a Dragon Saber in the Korean MMORPG Legend of Mir. The Dragon Saber was so powerful that it was worth almost a thousand dollars. A friend of Qiu, Zhu Caoyuan, asked him if he could borrow the sword. When Qiu transferred the sword, Zhu sold it to another player and pocketed the money. Qiu had not just lost his virtual sword; he had lost a substantial sum of money. I do not know if Qiu went to the game company, but he did complain to the Chinese police. The police, however, turned him away, explaining that according to the law, the Dragon Saber wasn’t his legal property.” But if that was the case… And so on! It’s all fun and games on the virtuality frontier.
  • The Making Of Flotilla on Next-Gen is a good read, if just because it reminded me that I need to play it: “When you’re not locked in space battles, you pilot your ship between planets and a tree of choices pops up. You might encounter a pair of white-collar porcine criminals asking for help, or Rastafarian cats who appear in a burst of dub. Joining a karaoke contest might win you an extra ship or power-ups like a faster fire rate. You might even have to choose what to do about a bunch of baby yetis that have chewed through your ship’s wiring: defang them or blast them out the airlock?”
  • Did Bioshock ruin FPS games for you? No, that was Stalker.
  • Can review scores be fixed? Andrew Meade thinks maybe they can. That’s the spirit, Meade.
  • Kotaku point to Wizardcore. You won’t want to look away.
  • A lovely feature about Runescape over on PC Gamer: “Fights were tough, and weren’t made any easier by a zoomed-in interface that made it almost impossible to move and talk at the same time. To compensate, players would boil down messages to impenetrable acronyms that, even now, make very little sense. Sporadic bursts of movement paired with exclamations of “HH” usually translated as: “Oh God, help me! I’m being killed by a goblin!” Few players ever worked out these cries, causing me to fall again and again to depressingly avoidable deaths.”
  • This confusing editorial on VG247 argues that games do cause violence, but that we shouldn’t care. Or something. A bit baffling.
  • This Batman installation illustration made a lot of people cringe. It should be making the publishers cringe, too. But it won’t, because they’ll never play their own game on PC.
  • Leigh Alexander on living with a robotic dinosaur.
  • John Arr made you a crossword puzzle. The password for the answers is horace, apparently.
  • Another fine speech about the state of things by Bruce Sterling.

Music this is week from Nils Frahm. Try this.

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  1. Spoit says:

    Bioshock was a great game and all, especially with its narrative, but I still think that it’s silly that it’s so widely hailed as a ‘revolutionary’ game, when so many of it’s cues are clearly Evolutionary, drawing from the earlier FPS with RPG elements like Deus Ex and System Shock. And just being a tad in front of the curve as the FPS genre as a whole grew to have a greater grasp of intricate scripted sequences

    And as an actual FPS, it’s shooting was rather clunky and the economy was nothing to write home about either, beyond it’s existence and the silly Good/Evil dilemas that were starting to get passe last generation

    • Mo says:

      Bioshock’s greatest achievement was to take the best bits of the immersive sim genre, and put them in a game that was actually intuitive enough to be played by normal people. In design terms, that’s an incredibly difficult challenge, moreso than just making a really complex game.

    • Gonefornow says:

      And that is exactly why I didn’t like Bioshock.
      It’ like an immersive sim, but really it’s not.
      My main gripe was the god awful linear structure of the story.
      Everytime I was starting to get even a lil’bit immersed in the gameplay, there was a predictable plot twist and no way to avert it.

    • Urthman says:

      People thinking BioShock is the greatest FPS ever and sneering at Call of Duty fans are like 9th graders lording it over 8th graders because they’ve heard of this one cool band that’s not on the popular radio stations.

    • JackShandy says:

      I honestly don’t understand this guys’ article at all. The only point I can actually find explaining why he liked Bioshock is “Rapture truly seemed like a living, breathing, fully-realized world.”

      That’s bullshit. Bioshock was a shooter. The environments were suggestive of a society, yes, the voice acting suggested complicated personalities, sure, but the game was a succession of linear levels with enemies that spawn and attack you. There was no inventory, no hubs, no NPC’s beyond a handful of invincible plot-givers. In short, no attempt to model anything but killing dudes. You can’t talk to the monsters.

      Then he claims Human Revolution was a disappointment for him – a game that actually had big hubs full of friendly NPC’s. So maybe he wants better writing? More Objectivist satire? He just spends the entire article talking about what he doesn’t want, without pointing out what he does.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I liked Bioshock a lot. But i suspect that’s because i thought it was more intelligent than it actually was.

      The narrative i thought was a comment on the linearity in games and how regardless of what you did the game played out the same, “would you kindly…”

      It would have been a fantastic full stop on the linear shooter. Unfortunately i think i just read into it too much and actually its just a pretty good game with fantastic audio and visual design.

      People need to stop hating it for what other people think of it, or hyped it up to be and just appreciate it on its own terms. A shooter that isn’t entirely generic.

    • Nova says:

      Yeah, Bioshock is a strange pick. Not least because (apart from other issues) the main mechanic, the shooting just wasn’t good enough.
      I would also go for Stalker.

    • John Brindle says:

      I actually really enjoy the combat in Bioshock – but almost certainly more for its tactical elements, trap-lined hallways, plasmid powers and mischievous hacking than for the joy of simply firing a bullet. ‘Clunky’ is the right word. A shame, since the combat takes up so much of a game.

      It’s a lovely game, but odd, I think, to hail it as revolutionary or, er, pinnacular. Where it ranks highly is in the ‘coherent artistic intention’ stakes: it’s rare (albeit not unique) for a game’s art, level design, story, voice acting, graphics, advertising and power-ups to work so well in concert towards a consciously and explicitly ideological whole. Of course there are big flaws in that (e.g. the infamous moral dilemmas).

    • Kadayi says:


      Agreed. There’s a massive disconnect between Rapture as experienced during the opening scene and Rapture as experienced as an environment you move through with its largely non-sensical spaces and winding corridors, filled with venting machines whose only remit is to somehow advantage the player in combat. Shoving a bunch of period appropriate furniture and art pieces into a series of combat spaces doesn’t equate to making it feel like a living breathing City.

    • noilly says:

      Agreed. Honestly, Halflife 1 ruined linear FPS games for me (I think STALKER ruined the open world, sim-y FPS category).

    • JuJuCam says:

      The first time I played Bioshock I got to the “Would you kindly” reveal and played a little more after that and then quit and didn’t touch it again for a few months. When I replayed it I completed it but again I felt annoyed after that point in the game.

      The thing is, it would have been an amazing opportunity to unlock the linearity of the game after that point and give the player a sense of the freedom he could experience having broken the shackles of his programming. Instead we get more of the same – someone pushing you around and telling you what to do rather than showing you what is possible and allowing you to make the decision.

      I think the game represents a high point in world-building and ambient storytelling but as far as the gameplay goes it goes so far as to hang a lantern on a big problem with its own gameplay and then not do anything to fix it. It’s a real shame.

    • Tomhai says:

      I think the key to understand this articel is in this sentence “…in that moment when I do put the controller down…”
      Well if you play your FPS with a controller, Bioshock might be a tad above the rest. But we know better. It would not be even in top10 of all time FPS-s.

    • Basilicus says:

      No one’s yet talked about how the front half of Bioshock is essentially the first quarter of System Shock 2 stretched out, plot point for plot point, beat for beat?

      Except without making as much use of the hub system. And with the terrific sneaking elements removed. And without challenging hacking. And without playable minigames. And without weapon maintenance. And with biological research requiring sidequests for chemical components dumbed down to “take its photo!”

      Fine, I’ll be that guy.

    • Arona Daal says:

      System Shock 2 had less bloomy graphics , no “death is meaningless” Respawn-o-booths,meatier weapons,scarier enemies (except Big Daddies),a good Story with its own twists ,and a more interesting believable world than underwater-Carnival Rapture was.

      Bioshock (for me) was a large Step ,if not backwards,at least sideways from a great Gameconcept.

      I would have preferred a System Shock 3,or something similar.

      Edit:oops beaten to it by Basilicus.

    • bill says:

      It was Deus EX (1) for me…. can’t say I hugely enjoyed many shooters after that, as i always felt too limited.

      But after a while I kind of forgot and found that (admittedly great) games like Half Life 2 and Bioshock were fun.

      Bioshock was a far better game than stalker, even if stalker was in many ways more ambitious or unique.

    • Zenicetus says:

      I can appreciate a game with some design flaws if the art direction is good, and the visual design of Bioshock was very, very good. I’m a fan of the Deco style, so it grabbed me right away.

      Sure, I was disappointed that it wasn’t exactly what we had been led to expect as the “successor to System Shock.” It was just another shooter with a few extra tricks and one plot twist. But man, I loved moving around that environment. I’m worried that Bioshock Infinity will be way too much plot-on-rails for my taste, based on the previews. But I’ll probably slog through it anyway, just to see the artwork and world-building. I’m a sucker for interesting graphic design.

    • Yosharian says:

      The gameplay / character development (I mean, in the sense of progression of abilities in a gameplay sense) was baaaaaad. One thing they did far better in Bioshock 2 that made me enjoy that game far more.

      Bioshock was a good game but it’s definitely overrated.

    • negativedge says:

      Bioshock is so bad, but it doesn’t even matter because Urthman cut to the heart of the stupid piece regardless of what you may or may not think about the game.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I liked Bioshock. I thought its gameplay was fun. The clunkiness of some of the weapons suited the aesthetics of the game. The abilities were especially fun to play with. It was just a really well done game, not the best ever, but well done.

      Then again, I can’t get System Shock 2 to work on my computer.

    • Wonko the Sane says:

      Stalker is one of the only games I’ve played to make me jump out of my mother-loving skin. Several times. Plus the GP37 was way sweet. But mostly, killer combination of atmosphere and (very) solid shooty-stuff. Different league to Bioshock, which was merely clever, if you hadn’t played SS2.

      …and can GOG please release System Shock 2, like, yesterday? cheersthxbi

    • DocSeuss says:

      @Mo: But… uh… the best bits of the immersive sim were to create a living, breathing world that players can interact with. Bioshock didn’t have that. It had spaces that enemies would walk around and then attack you. Skyrim and Fallout were infinitely better immersive sims.

      I think the key is to make more games like those (or, y’know, a STALKER that’s more forgiving at the onset) but without the abstraction of RPG number systems.

      Bioshock’s biggest thing was that it was an original, unique world players had never explored before. Other than that, it was nothing special. Oh, and I guess it also made the totally WRONG point that “good stories can only be told if players have no freedom.” Don’t know why everyone thinks that’s so profound, because while it’s cleverly told, it is, as I just said, fundamentally wrong.

    • try2bcool69 says:

      I hated System Shock, Deus Ex, Bioshock, and Dead Space…I don’t know why exactly, I just couldn’t keep myself interested in any of them.

      Maybe it shows his age that Half-Life or Half-Life 2 isn’t the game that comes to mind as the one that set the bar for immersive gameplay, because Bioshock owes it’s heart and soul to Valve.

    • Yosharian says:

      @NegativeEdge Ok.. I’m just saying that there are better FPS games than Bioshock out there.

    • KenTWOu says:

      BioShocks have incredible level of interactivity. For example, you could freeze a turret by plasmid and got more time to hack it, cause mini-game liquid is frozen too! Or you could cast level 3 lighting bolt at the first enemy, then it strikes the second enemy and strikes the third… broken electronic lock which opens the door for you. This is astonishing stuff! And System Shocks don’t have it and don’t have such approach at all! Even Deus Ex doesn’t have it. So stop saying that BioShock isn’t System Shock 3. It’s a different game with its own merits.

  2. Brumisator says:

    Damn, this crossword puzzle is insulting my gamer credibility, I’ve only found 16/32.

    Keep ’em coming, it’s a great sunday idea!

    • Gnoupi says:

      Yep, same me. Outside of the witcher, halflife/portal/tf2, and grim fandango references, I can’t find a thing.

    • telpscorei says:

      Having looked at the answers now, I can confirm I am an idiot.

    • Museli says:

      Nothing beats a good Sunday crossword, even if it kicks my arse. More, please!

    • Squishpoke says:

      I figured out some good ones! Morte, Redeemer, Spinfuzor, Atlas, and idkfa!

    • Mattrex says:

      I got all but six off the top of my head, though for a couple of them I had to look up the correct spelling (it still counts!).

    • edwardoka says:

      I love a good Thief reference. I miss Thief. :-(

    • InternetBatman says:

      It’s fun, but the problem is that the words don’t really work together like they do in a normal crossword puzzle, so when you can’t get one you have limited opportunities to guess and solve the problem which is one of the most enjoyable parts of crossword puzzles.

      My favorite answer was from BGII.

  3. Eamo says:

    I just started playing Dawn of War 2 and went through the same OnLive rigmarole. My personal favourite part was when I entered my email address, was told an OnLive account already existed for that email address, clicked the reset my password link and was told that there was no OnLive account associated with that email address. After trying this twice I had to use a different email address altogether …

    • DrGonzo says:

      Had almost the same issue!

      Although a bigger issue for me is I bought saints row the third and it looks like shit and runs even worse. I’m not talking about connection problems but the settings and shockingly bad performance at their end. I’ve tried a few other games on the service but have only experienced this with saints row 3.

  4. phenom_x8 says:

    This Skyrim lag analysis also very tempting! I just dont know how can bethesda mess up with their main target platform (which is console)! Thanks God we still have modder around!

    link to
    link to

    • Unaco says:

      ” I admittedly have no established programming skills, only what I’ve learned by being an avid gamer, and realize this is basically all conjecture at the moment.”

      “Confirmation of Memory Leak.”

      Conjecture. Confirmation. Conjecture, confirmation. Conjaculation?

  5. tomeoftom says:

    Apparently one of the coal miners from the Runescape article responded in the comments section. It’s such a funny story.

    • Mirdini says:

      If you check farther down in the comments it’s just a troll who created the account in response to the article which was honestly pretty obvious in the first place hum.

      The article itself was a fun read though.

    • Hoaxfish says:

      I think that whole thing is quite funny, especially when he gets into the whole guilt of the situation. Brilliant read in general.

  6. thepaleking says:

    I remember when Valve used to say their goal when making a game was to not have it trashed by Old Man Murray. Great developers think alike I guess. It’s kind of depressing to log onto Frozen Synapse now days, though, as there is usually only one active server and it tops out at about 40 players. Hopefully the game sold enough to fund whatever their next project is.

    • John Brindle says:

      No way! Don’t tell me nobody plays this game anymore! I just went on a break and now if I come back I’ll find it a post-apocalyptic wasteland?

    • thepaleking says:

      Sadly it’s pretty desolate. The RPS forums hold regular matches though; think you can still sign up for this league.

    • John Brindle says:

      Ooh, cheers. Still, maybe I’ll just play with friends. I’m scared of Real People.

    • subedii says:

      I haven’t played FS in a while, but back during the late days of the beta player numbers were around that level, maybe 60-90 at the outside IIRC. Things got boosted HEAVILY when it went on Steam, then naturally degraded back down with time. If you consider the beta was out for roughly a full year before release, it’s not really so surprising. Most people that were heavily into the game were probably into it from the start.

      The great thing about FS though is that the nature of the gameplay makes it a far more resilient game in the face of low player numbers, since it’s pretty much play-by e-mail.

      That, and I expect that there’ll be an inevitable spike in player numbers whenever that planned DLC comes out, whatever it is. Personally I’m hoping for a form of 2v2.

    • Baines says:

      I wanted to like Frozen Synapse, but trying the demo turned me off. The result of longer range firefights felt a bit too random, when a lucky shot means one side might lose 1/3rd of its force.

      The final straw though was setting a guy to cover a window, having him in place halfway through the turn, and then seeing him hold his fire until right before the end of the turn. He just waited there as an enemy went near the window, and continued to wait as the enemy moves and notices my guy. Only once the enemy is ready to attack does my guy fire. With only moments left in the turn, my guy misses, and the enemy kills my guy as the turn ends.

    • Arathain says:

      Frozen Synapse actually has no randomness at all. Success in a given firefight is determined by weapon, range and cover, mostly, but it’s the same every time- there’s no roll.

    • Wonko the Sane says:

      …then Valve bought OMM…

    • subedii says:

      What Arathain said. There’s zero randomness in this game, which is why the planning system works at all. If you plan out a series of events, and you and your enemy carry out that series of events exactly, then the exact same result will occur every single time. That’s the beauty of it, it’s all about planning.

      Basically in the scenario you describe, your guy was always going to lose that engagement, and without more details, we don’t know why, but trust me, there are reasons. Don’t think of it in terms of “missed shots” as such, think of it in terms of “time it would take for each combatant to hit their target, given all the factors in-play”. The one with the shortest time is the one that wins the firefight, each time, every time, at least with “direct fire” weapons like SMG’s and shotguns.

      When you say “cover a window”, do you mean that you were watching the window from a distance whilst the other guy was coming from the window? If so that alone gives a huge bonus to the guy in cover for example. Other factors include motion, type of weapons involved, were they both aiming, and a few other possible factors depending on circumstances.

  7. Lambchops says:

    I’m rubbish at that crossword!

    Good to see positive post mortems on Frozen Synapse and Flotilla, both of which were excellent games and it’s great to hear that the devs are in good positions to do moor (indeed we’ve already got the excellent Atom Zombie Smasher from Blendo).

    The Runescape article is hilarious, definitely my pick of this weeks papers.

  8. Metonymy says:

    Why is there a video about climate change in there? Is that a mis-post?

  9. Captain Hijinx says:

    Oh Christ

    It’s too early for a crossword… But.. Can’t.. Stop.

  10. Navagon says:

    “Did Bioshock ruin FPS games for you? No, that was Stalker.”

    Truer words have never been written. Now I just have to hope that Stalker 2 doesn’t get buggered up with DRM.

    • Jumwa says:

      Right there with you on all points.

      Oh Stalker, how I love thee. The finest single-player FPS to have ever come my way.

      And Biowho? Oh, that game I heard trumped up so much as a “RPG” that turned out to be such a linear, ‘okay’ shooter I gave up on, feeling misled? Yeah, can’t really comment on that.

    • Navagon says:

      Bioshock was marketed as a shooter. It even says in the difficulty options something along the lines of ‘choose this if you haven’t played a shooter before’. The problem there is that the gunplay really wasn’t its strongest aspect.

      By a long shot.

      Regardless of that, it is a good game. Overhyped. but a good game.

    • Jumwa says:

      I never blamed the makers of Bioshock for misleading me, it was the droves of fans who swarmed me telling me it was the ultimate first-person RPG experience. I don’t know if that was a common thing people were doing at the time, but the people who pestered me to try it all claimed it was a RPG.

      Perhaps because they thought that might “sell” me on it better. Or perhaps because they genuinely thought the game had some claim to RPGness.

    • Navagon says:

      Fair enough. Yes, Bioshock would fail as an RPG. No doubt about it. I guess some people were too sold on the idea of it being a ‘shock’ game and thus there being something more of a connection between Bioshock and System Shock.

  11. Apples says:

    I think Bissell’s points about Skyrim’s dialogue are a bit stupid. Skyrim is a game made of excesses, exploration, and the simulation of a plausible environment; you ought to be able to do anything you like and find out as much as you want, and that’s what the extraneous dialogue is there to facilitate. Much of the dialogue is certainly useless in terms of pure gameplay – yes, nobody needs to know that this shopkeeper’s wife died or whatever – but for those who like finding those things out, it’s there and is usually obviously optional. Nobody except compulsive completionists NEEDS to go around fervently questioning every NPC on their history. Calling for its removal simply because he didn’t like it is ridiculous – I don’t like the smithing but people should still be allowed to do it if they want!

    It would also feel out-of-place, dull and transparently mechanical to have all the NPCs be history-less, personality-less questgivers that spew out their wishes in a single line, because TES is about the atmosphere and world just as much as mechanics. It ought to feel, at it’s perfection, that you are living and existing in an ancient, history-soaked world, not just following quest markers so that you can bash through some dungeons and do some inventory-shuffling. Lore in all forms has always been important. Beth’s attempts at it are of varible quality, but at least the dialogue shows they were thinking about it. I wonder if he would also like to see the books removed, since they’re ‘expository’?

    Basically I think Bissell enjoys a different, more mechanics-based form of RPG. Which is fine, but TES is not that, and should not be forced into being that. I can’t, to be honest, even envision a way that Skyrim would work in the way he wants. How can a game which is focused around a dramatic story (or two, or many) not at least attempt to show that drama? How would the quests be given, the story progressed? Environmental storytelling like he wants usually has very few NPCs and those that are there are, as he says, mechanical (selling or hinting), whereas Skyrim by its very nature needs loads to populate the world. Human drama is necessary to the game even if ineptly portrayed. It can’t be removed and replaced by more environment!

    • AndrewC says:

      Ooooo people who flick past quest-explanations are the WORST people.

    • JackShandy says:

      What’s odd is his praise for the dialogue of Dark Souls.

      “The NPCs in the Souls games have 1 percent as many lines as the NPCs in Skyrim and speak in a faux-Shakespearean dudgeon higher and more stylized than the characters of Skyrim, and yet none of the stuff they say winds up feeling like overwrought bullshit. This is because the characters in the Souls games serve two purposes. The first is mechanical, as when they have something to sell or teach you. The second is atmospheric, as when they cryptically hint at things you might soon encounter.

      The NPC’s in Skyrim serve both these purposes. Furthermore, the dialogue in Dark Souls feels exactly like overwrought bullshit, and I skipped every word. So he’s either asking for 99% less dialogue, or more faux-Shakespearean dudgeon.

      I’d love to play a scrolls-style game without dialogue. I can’t imagine how it’d work, but I’d love to play it.

    • Mattrex says:

      “Basically I think Bissell enjoys a different, more mechanics-based form of RPG.”

      This is a very tactful way of saying that Bissell has his head up his ass when it comes to games the likes of Skyrim–that is to say, games which attempt to achieve verisimilitude or present a coherent milieu. When he trotted out the phrase “the game’s self-serious devotion to its incurably dorky lore”, I knew right away that he really didn’t have any idea what he was talking about, despite his immediate attempt to save face by name-dropping Tolkien. He sounds like someone whose first experience with a video game was Halo, and who then, instead of trying to understand the nuances of the medium he has chosen to critique, instead contents himself with snickering at the dweebs in the corner who have the ill fortune to care about something.

      It’s a shame, because some of the broader points he makes are correct, and the criticism might have been more constructive if it weren’t dipped in a sticky coat of smug sanctimony beforehand. Skyrim’s dialogue (and that of the Elder Scrolls series, and frankly that of most RPGs, open world or not) really isn’t that great in an objective sense. It’s functional, it’s rarely bad, but it does not make me stop to admire a turn of phrase or a compelling speech, and much of it has a certain abrupt quality.

      But of course, he cocks it all up by claiming that because Bethesda’s not that great at writing dialogue, or because character interactions are dominated by two characters standing still and talking at one another, there should be no dialogue at all, none of that icky lore or context or background, so he doesn’t have to stand around rolling his eyes before he can get to the next part where he puts his dagger into someone’s eye socket. He comes off as less interested in resolving an issue, and more in flogging a pet peeve so he can claim that TES games should cater more to his interests.

      And while it’s not directly related to Skyrim, here’s a funny postscript: “I read the other day that Dungeons & Dragons has been making a comeback, and not just among ironists.” One, is it possible to be more smugly condescending? Ironists? Really? Two, he’s about a decade behind the trend, literally. Dungeons and Dragons’ comeback started in 2000, peaked in the following few years, and has now actually begun to decline in the face of competition from other systems. So in addition to being a twat, he’s also a know-nothing. Real good show, fella. Keep it up.

    • Jumwa says:

      I agree with some of my fellow reader-peers above, though not to such a degree, I’m sure.

      The authors argument that because he didn’t like the dialogue it should be got rid of entirely was… baffling. Especially when he’s saying something like “Not every Jarl needs to offer you the chance to learn about his town’s ostensibly fascinating history.” How is that option a problem?

      Especially when typically the Elder Scrolls approaches its lore in a multi-tiered approach. You can learn about places and people from multiple sources: books that are often conflicting in their views and giving different stances, environmental cues and people. It adds a richness to the history of the world that you aren’t given from a single-source.

      That aspect alone elevates the Elder Scrolls games to the height of gaming lore for me. The history isn’t spoon fed to you, ‘truth’, as it is, has to be discerned from the conflicting sources as you would in real life, never knowing for sure which is the (more) right answer.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Bissell came across as a mild form of pompous ijit. With a bit of Know Nothing thrown in. I knew he Didn’t Get It, when he dismissed the Elder Scrolls lore. And trying to reference Tolkien and characters, when that was one of Tolkien’s weakest points, just made me shake my head. Got almost 2/3rds of the way through the article before I just gave up on him.

      Not quite sure if he’s an N’wah or a Fetcher. Oh, wait, definitely a Swit.

    • gganate says:

      He lost me when he admits to having never played Daggerfall and only dabbling in Morrowind. After Oblivion, he became a game critic, which is fine, but I think if you’re going to depict yourself as a video game critic, you should have more familiarity with the past. You wouldn’t listen to a music critic who started listening to rock around Nirvana, but has never gotten around to getting into Zeppelin.

    • Soon says:

      I had my favourite experience in Skyrim yesterday. There was a man in a bar that I hadn’t seen before. Naturally, I pickpocket him to find he has a note, which I steal and read. It tells him to be on the lookout for me and inform them when he sees me. I can’t initiate dialogue with him at all to ask him about it.

      So I carry on as normal, asking questions around the bar a bit, he gets up and leaves so I follow him. And he makes his way to a group of guys to inform them I’m in the bar. All without explicit reference to who this guy is, and it never being part of the quest to follow him.

      I’m not sure how this relates to the topic. Dialogue through the medium of pickpocketing, or something. But it was brilliant.

    • Jumwa says:


      That’s an awesome story. No sarcasm, I’d be grinning for weeks if it happened to me.

    • JackShandy says:

      Yeah, ggnate, his oblivion gushing does come off a bit late. “Hey guys, you know games like this exist now? Amazing!” Yes, Tom, they have for a decade now.

      Same thing with his snide comment about DnD – “Hey, turns out people are starting to play DnD again – non-ironically!” They never stopped, Tom.

      Also, his review is written assuming that the reader knows about the game, which I hate. I can still remember back to when I was a kid, when I knew nothing about games. I’d look through the internet to see if this “World of Warcraft” business (Or Ocarina of Time, or whatever else) was worth a shot to find that every single review was written for people who knew everything they needed to.

      Also his name has too many esses and ells.

    • Jumwa says:

      JackShandy, I find that’s a majour problem with game reviewers in general.

      I think the root of the problem rests in that most online game reviewers are writing for your typical forum audience: people who have played the game (or have pre-judged the game and therefor feel confident in pretending they have) and just wish to rage/celebrate its awfulness/amazingness.

      It’s especially frustrating when you’re shopping for a certain kind of game. Something very particular. Perhaps, like me, it’s a co-op game where the campaign itself is fully integrated, not that “we have a single mini-game that’s co-op so we call the whole title a co-op game” nonsense. So you go looking around, checking review sites, but reviewers never touch on it. Reviewers rarely mention anything but single player.

      If they do talk about the co-op nature (in this example) it’s in fleeting terms of “it’s okay.” Thanks, but that really tells me nothing. How smooth is the experience? How easy is it to get into? Do you need a computer networking degree to get it running on a LAN? Does it even have a LAN setup?

      I remember when my partner and I were considering Fable 3. We could not find any information about the co-op at all. The Escapist posted a separate ‘review’ for the c-op. We thought: “Great!” Except the whole review was just the author bemoaning how they hate playing multiplayer, and had to drag their husband to do it with them, then whining about how the co-op experience didn’t add anything she couldn’t have gotten through single player.

      Sadly that was probably one of the most helpful pieces of information from it, because from her complaining I extrapolated that if it added nothing new, then her lack of complaining about it missing things probably meant it wasn’t missing anything from the single-player either. Though answers to most of our other questions were not forthcoming, no matter how much we tried to extrapolate.

    • Arona Daal says:

      Who the heck listens to one reviewer only ?

      And if COOP is what you seek ,try this site : link to

    • Snargelfargen says:

      Just to address this:
      “the game’s self-serious devotion to its incurably dorky lore”

      The writers of Morrowind took a terribly cliched and lazy fantasy world with elves, an overly complicated pantheon and terrible punny names like “Elswyr” and used it to create something interesting. Morrowind addressed serious topics such as colonialism, class warfare and religious skepticism. It sure wasn’t profound, but simply having these things exist in a world that had an almost literal copy of Sauron in a mountain was pretty original, and certainly more interesting than the escapist fantasy that appears in most rpgs. If that’s “dorky”, then I’ll have to take it as a compliment.

    • JackShandy says:

      Jumwa: Tell me about it!

      Arona: The problem is that almost every single reviewer writes like this, to the point where it becomes nigh impossible for someone who knows nothing about a game to find out about it. Imagine reading this Rage review without having ever heard of Doom. Here, I’ll simulate the experience.

      “In this game, I picked up a keycard and put it in a door. Rage is definitely a bippityboop software game. The plot goes like this. You will follow tight paths around shut doors. There are fast cars, and hubs with missions. I loved the racing. The guns feel good. The controls are inconvenient. The enemies dodge when you shoot at them. You can craft weapons.”

      I understand the need to make your review sound pretty, and cater to your main hardcore audience, but it’s so useless and confusing to anyone who isn’t in the club. It never straight up says “Rage is a first-person shooter for one player.” Instead, it makes references to games from a decade ago. I could have used any number of examples. The majority of reviews are extremely info-lite.

      Rage has history behind it, but so does every new game. Saints row 3, Serious Sam, Skyrim, Skyward sword, it is utterly impossible to find a review that doesn’t immediately assume knowledge of everything that’s preceded a game.

    • Apples says:

      JackShandy: I don’t think they’re doing that deliberately, though. I certainly wouldn’t even think of anyone not knowing what Doom is, or not knowing what type of game the review is for, because that’s the most basic possible information. If I go to read a film review (on a website about films, no less) and it doesn’t specifically mention that the film’s about cowboys, or it compares the film to Fight Club, I can’t get mad at the reviewer; those are not obscure bits of information, they’re huge cultural influences and info I could have got off advertising and should be able to infer from the rest of the review. E.g. in that example you wrote, it’s obvious that it’s for an FPS or TPS with racing, and likely that it’s single-player because there’s no mention of co-op on multiplayer.. It doesn’t need to be said – especially not in a place that is specifically for people who are interested in and know about games like PCGamer!

      Reviews in mainstream papers/magazines will give you the sort of information you want. Places for specific audiences like gaming websites and magazines won’t because it’s not appropriate to the audience.

    • Josh W says:

      I’d love someone to do really intro-level reviews of a game, saying what basic skill level it expects, how quickly it gets harder, how long a satisfying session takes, and giving the gist of the mechanics without using any jargon. That seems like the perfect sort of thing to put in a newspaper.

      On the guy’s actual analysis, I totally know what he means:

      Characters in demon souls are a side show, they speak in soliloquy, or something close to it. The stasis in their delivery, the sense that it doesn’t form a real piece of dialog with dynamics etc, falls fully within the world of the game. Only you struggle on, everyone else is close to giving up hope, and those that haven’t can only do what you do, fight the darkness to survive.

      In skyrim, there are conversation trees, and conversation trees by their very nature tend towards stilted self-contained statements. Many such conversations turn into a curious form of menu navigation, with a heirachy of hubs.

      Bioware and Obsidian have turned many conversation trees into something closer to quick time events, with choices layered into what are closer to cutscenes, because the emotional and non-repeatable character of many conversations has been emphasised.

      But the speed of this method defeats the classic element of the conversation tree; pondering the nuences of your projected statements to look for things that might trip you up or be misinterpreted, a staple of baldur’s gate or fallout dialog tree challenge.

      I feel like this specific writer dislikes his own enthusiasm for lore, for these vast trees of conversation that draw him in and incite his completionist impulses to track down every corner.

      But beyond his little smidge of self-loathing, I think he makes a good point about the dramatic deficit in the dialog:

      It is underwhelming to be made archmage, or praised as a dragonborn, compared to the fun of being able to behave as an incredibly powerful magical entity. Part of the problem with this is it demands nothing from you, and provides little prompt for effective action: If someone says something about you you cannot contradict them or do any kind of interaction apart from offensive ones. There is no emphasising certain bits of praise to say what kind of reputation you want, reputation is just attached to you, and you just have to shrug and get on with it, or (if it really gets on your nerves) kill the person who said it just to shut them up, and any other number of people will take up the same refrain later.

      Most of the stuff describing grand cosmic importance rings hollow, because there isn’t the combination of voice acting and feedback to build the drama properly, it runs in fits and starts, as your parts of the conversation puncture it’s momentum. In contrast the moments where a dragon sweeps down or a mammoth stomps past are perfectly good at expressing grandness.

      Dark Soul’s dialog pretty much universally tells self-absorbed existential tales, and imputes little on the player except what the player takes on by comparing himself to these characters and the actions they have described. They thus avoid a lot of the pitfalls for dialog that skyrim wanders happily through (then climbs happily up the other side of and continues exploring).

    • scottyjx says:

      Uggghhhh. Tom Bissell is the worst. I dunno if anyone else here watches sports and reads, but that’s where he takes up residence online and keeps sports fans away from video games with his garbage columns. The ending to his opening paragraph, to his first column there, was, “But video games have begun to seem like a fly buzzing in the room, and the only reason the fly is not dead is I have become too lazy to kill it.” That’s the type of passion about games that I want to see in someone writing about video games.

      His second column, a couple months later, was about iPad games, third was about Final Destination 5, and his 4th was an excerpt from his book about Gears of War. I stopped reading him then, until I saw the Skyrim column. He’s a dolt.

      “Dense expositional lore has no place in video-game stories”, “When you combine high-fantasy characters with limited animation with affected writing and artificial performances, the quality of the material becomes irrelevant”, “But there’s a point at which this brand of enjoyableness becomes indistinguishable from compulsion, and it seems fair to ask when a game’s expansiveness becomes an affable form of indentured servitude.”

      Really? No dense expositional lore? I’ve played the Mass Effects. I’ve read every codex. Same for Dragon Age. I LOOOOOOOOOOOOVVVVVVVVVVVVEEEEEEEEEEEEE them. They envelope the gamer, if they’re willing and wanting, into the game’s world and bring about an atmosphere that’s undeniably breath-taking.

      And how can the “quality of the material” become irrelevant? I understand that sometimes, you’re just listening to a dude/chick talk to get that quest, but most of the time, I tend to want to hear everything. I like that everyone in Skyrim has their own stories and backgrounds. So there isn’t much facial expression. Oh well. Maybe next time. This time, I’ll have to use just a little bit of my imagination.

      As for that last quote, if you don’t want to play the game, don’t play the game. Just quit. Leave. That’s not a feeling you want to have while doing anything that’s supposed to be entertaining. And how about this Bissell? Get another job. You stink.

    • Yosharian says:

      Hmm, I wonder why you guys are all reacting this way. This guy (Bissell) seems spot-on to me.

    • Kaira- says:


      Agreed. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t really find reading books in a video game much fun. “Show, don’t tell” is something that should be the main guideline.

    • Nogo says:

      He definitely has a point, but it’s pretty ridiculous how opinionated he sounds, especially since he’s seemingly unaware that his argument is older than his current career: a lot of RPGs are like watching Star Wars, but all the dialogue occurs in a 40 minute scene in the Cantina.

      I don’t think he’s saying the lore should be cut, just that interacting with it feels like the game is prompting me to flip my accompanying Lore-on-Tape cassette #153 to side B in order to continue hearing about the role of Mudcrabs in Markarth’s economy.

    • DigitalSignalX says:

      I can see his point, but it’s all optional. If you don’t want to read books or hear the shopkeepers back-story, then don’t fucking click on them… derp. Every quest giver has a “cut to the chase” option that lets you skip all the exposition. Skyrim’s lore and background narrative, just like in Mass Effect or Dragon’s Age isn’t forced on you. It’s tucked away in a few OPTIONAL clicks.

      He cites in oblivion how he follows the victim of his thievery into a bar, watches him drink for hours, can’t interact with him, then follows him back home again. And that’s epic awesome for him evidently. However in Skyrim, he’d be able to interact with the guy, find out he’s a poor wood cutter or miner or something, and perhaps feel guilty about the thieving. Or maybe not when he learns the guy has put a bounty out on his head and hired thugs for revenge. All this otherwise hidden narrative is an amazing upgrade from oblivion and he’s shitting on it. W/E.

  12. Howard says:

    Sigh – more pointless, mindless, uneducated, blinkered nonsense about Bioshock. Jesus H Christ, people, it was just a shooter, no better or worse than a mass produced Call of Duty. It was not and never will be the Messiah and it did nothing that had not been done before or, more importantly, done better.
    This idiotic fetish with a such a weak and derivative game is really starting to piss me off now.

    • AndrewC says:

      You’ll never guess what this bizarre fetish for hating on a very good game does to me!

    • Howard says:

      Bioshock was not a terrible game. It was at least as good as any other linear FPS of its time. Its graphics were sub-par thanks to the console toys, sure, but that is no reason to hate it.
      This idiotic obsession by some that it revolutionised the FPS genre is just baffling, however. How a100% linear game in which you stomp about carrying a pile of weapons that would make the Serious Sam devs blush while a pretentious and over-thought yet under-delivered plot prattles on around you (completely oblivious of you and utterly ignorant of any actions or decisions you make) can be considered anything other than run-of-the-mill is beyond me.

      When considered and debated in its own genre, Bioshock is a reasonable game but its fans insist on trying to hold it to a much higher standard. It was a shooter, nothing more, and there are better examples of that genre.

    • AndrewC says:

      ‘console-toys’, ‘pretentious’, ‘linear’. Yes, OK dear.

    • Howard says:

      You are not going to seriously argue that Bioshock was not linear are you? Really?

      No, go on. All ears…(this should be good)^^

    • AndrewC says:

      It’s that you are using it as a pejorative. All those words are huge red flags signalling that the commenter is not to be paid any attention to.

    • Howard says:

      Even though those words and phrases are stolen direct rom the lips of the RPS staff? Make sense.

      And if you had even tried to read my comments rather than hit the “HE HATES BIOSHOCK!!! RAAAAAAGE!!!” button, you would say that I am perfectly fine with linear games. I love me some linear shooter in fact; they can be thoroughly enjoyable. My point is that the Bioshock fanatics insist that Bioshock is so much more than it is. It is a linear shooter (and no worse for being so) but it does nothing that has not been done many hundreds of times before. You stroll through corridors with your insane arsenal of weapons and your one and only choice is “what do I use to cook the next fool I see? Guns, rockets or generic force powers?”.

      I am not saying it is bad for being a linear FPS, I am just saying that that is *all* it is and that there are better examples of the genre, so deifying Bioshock makes little sense.

    • AndrewC says:

      You are a masterclass in nerd hipsterism.

    • Burning Man says:

      And you sir, are a red-hot troll poker.

    • ynamite says:

      I completely agree with Howard. Bioshock was a very cool shooter, but that’s it. I don’t understand why people hold it in such high esteem never mind call it revolutionary. What exactly did it do that was revolutionary? It was repetitive, got boring towards the end and the story, while nicely introduced with the maginificent intro and the fact that it was a lot deeper than most games was badly presented overall and most importantly unsatisfying in the end (my opinion).

      Again, I don’t see what Bioshock did that others haven’t done before. System Shock, NOLF, Call of Duty, Undying and many other have been there, done that and came back with a much prettier t-shirt.

    • Thants says:

      “This idiotic fetish with a such a weak and derivative game is really starting to piss me off now.”

      It’s not because you dislike Bioshock, it’s because you expressed that option in an smug, insulting way. I’m pretty sure the RPS staff aren’t anti-social enough to suggest that people who like it are mindless, uneducated, and blinkered.

      If you honestly think that the rage is just because you dislike Bioshock, you may want to seriously reevaluate how you interact with people.

  13. Radiant says:

    In regards to Frozen Synapse; whilst it remains a FANTASTIC game they have pretty much abandoned their player base.

    There are problems that appear in high level games that really need to be sorted out as well as glaring balance errors [that have player provided solutions within their own dev unread forums] for some of the less popular [but still great] game types.

    Speaking as a global top 10 player myself [was 3rd got drunk played some shocking games etc.] it’s very disappointing.

  14. Ajh says:

    This adult woman is annoyed by the Skyrim review. Annoyed, but not remotely surprised.

    Oo a crossword puzzle… Great. Now I’m going to have that song from mass effect 2 stuck in my head all morning. Thanks.

    • Apples says:

      Oh yes, I forgot to mention that in my post. How nice to be patronised immediately upon opening a review. I guess I should retract everything I said because, after all, as an adult woman I’m not likely to actually know anything about Skyrim ): Screw you, Bissell.

    • FKD says:

      *bangs head on desk* I did not read the article incase there were spoilers, but had to go see what he said and yea. Here is another adult woman that thinks he can go piss up a tree. And unforunately like Ajh I am not surprised either :/ Infact just today I was thinking about how often people want you to “prove” yourself because women do not exist on the internet let alone computers!

    • John Brindle says:

      For whatever it’s worth, Bissell apologised on Kotaku a couple of days ago:

      link to

    • Apples says:

      Reading the ‘apology’ (i.e. even more patronising “But I was saying women are BETTER THAN MEN! THAT’S NOT OFFENSIVE! and I’m totally not a sexist!” rubbish) made me realise that he wrote Extra Lives. What a shitty, shitty book. He spent more time reminiscing about how long he spent playing GTA on coke than actually talking critically about games. I don’t usually pay much attention to who has written individual reviews/articles but from what I remember of his other ones I have never agreed with a word the man has said. I realise this is a load of ad hominem stuff but I really do think he’s an idiot, a poor writer, a poor critical thinker, and defensive to the point of ridiculousness about anything that could potentially be seen as nerdy. Listening to dialogue? No way bro, I only play it for the violence! Dialogue should be removed from the game!

    • Jumwa says:

      I had to inform my partner that she wasn’t actually aware of the Elder Scrolls, despite her countless hours in Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim. She was surprised, but accepting. Take note.

      But seriously, at least he admitted what a lame thing he did in perpetuating that annoying stereotype. The “no women in gaming” thing became teeth-gnashing worthy for me in WoW where hardly a day went by without hearing it.

    • Serenegoose says:

      *sigh* yeah. the moment I got to the ‘adult woman’ jibe I just x’d the page without reading further. I now feel bad for giving the pageview stat to begin with. What is even the point about a comment like that? What does it prove?

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      @Apples: I am sure you have very good reasons to loathe what Bissell writes, but did you really read his apology to the end? It seems to me he pretty flatly recognizes he was in the wrong, and that what he wrote was, in fact, offensive. I did not see any of the usual stupid defensive excuses or “I am sorry (but actually not)” type response. If this does not suit you as an apology, I am wondering what does.

    • Apples says:

      It’s certainly nice to have the apology, but he seems mostly guilty that he caused offence, rather than about the reasons that people were offended. Apparently not being consciously sexist is good enough – nevermind that a deep-seated part of him keeps suggesting offensive sexist jokes! I also hate the idea that the “adult women” joke was about men to begin with; he couldn’t even make a joke directly about women, he just used the idea of women to address men. Actual women never entered his head. He never thought about them, not even to genuinely insult them. The idea that a woman would be reading the article was apparently not comprehendable to him before people brought it up.

      It’s nice that he’s sorry and that he’s apparently learned something, but I’m not convinced he really understands WHY what he said was wrong beyond superficial elements. He obviously didn’t the first time (about the joke in Extra Lives), so why have more faith in him this time around?

    • Premium User Badge

      zapatapon says:

      I feel that all the things you (rightly) point out about his initial attitude he clearly admitted, though you are in fact still resentful about them. The content of the apology deserves more credit than you give to it, IMHO. I felt he went way beyond the usual “I’m sorry if I offended someone” usual non-apology. It gave the impression of trying to reflect somewhat seriously on the issue and putting himself in question. In particular coming to the realization that “not being consciously sexist” is, in fact, not good enough, and that he had, in fact, written like a douche — not the kind of admission you read very often these days.

      The guy may be disingenuous, I don’t know, haven’t read “Extra Lives” (though I am now considering to).

  15. Scrooge says:

    Nice job on that crossword.

  16. Premium User Badge

    Gassalasca says:

    The crossword is the best thing ever. John Arr is my hero for today.

  17. Ed123 says:

    I see a lot of people shitting on Bioshock in the comments and just wanted to get in on that. Um, that’s all.

  18. Kieron Gillen says:

    I actually thought that changing review article was parody for most of it.


    • Rikard Peterson says:

      That would explain why it fails to make sense (and I say this as someone who agrees that it’s silly to put much weight in scores), but shouldn’t a parody still have a point or be funny?

    • Thants says:

      Did he really just try to prove that review scores are subjective and broken because Game Informer gave Zelda: Skyward Sword a 10/10 instead of the 9.9/10 it deserved?

      (On another note, holy crap is that little pop-up window when you select any text on that page annoying.)

  19. Hematite says:

    I’m also not particularly convinced by Mr Bissell’s thoughts on Skyrim’s dialogue. He doesn’t seem to have any ideas about how to improve it, and I can’t think of any other games which do better in a similar context. Also, skipped Morrowind because the console port wasn’t very good and the lore was too weird? Credibility fail.

    With that out of the way, what a great excuse for my own thoughts on Skyrim!

    First: important advice for anyone who hasn’t played yet! As a big fan of the series I took the risk of trying a non-standard approach for my first game. In the .ini file I turned off the HUD compass and all quest markers, and didn’t open the world map or use (even cart) fast travel for over 30 hours. What an experience! I walked from Whiterun to Solitude and back to Windhelm and the Throat of the World just following the roads and signposts. It was an absolutely amazing and unrepeatable experience setting off across the tundra with only a signpost to tell me that there’s a city somewhere in this direction, without even having seen the world map to give an indication of geography or relative distance. I will absolutely be doing the same thing again for TES6 one day.

    Technical points: this only works if you enjoy wandering. Following a quest line without the map or compass is incredibly hard, as the quest descriptions all assume you have a magic pointer that will tell you where to go. If you want to do quests the Clairvoyance spell (Summon SatNav) is almost good enough – it will get you from location to location on the world map but is no good indoors or, crucially for one of the main quests, if your destination is underground. It seems to direct you to a corresponding point overground, which is worse than useless.

    In general I find the world of Skyrim extremely impressive. Considerably more interesting than Oblivion and I would say as good as Morrowind, if not quite so weird. Still pretty weird though! It would have been so easy to make a boring ‘snowy mountains and norse warriors’ world but there really is an astonishing amount of variety in the landscapes and societies in Skyrim. I’m particularly fond of the mammoth-herding giants. Why are they there? I don’t think mammoths (or even giants, for that matter) have been part of TES lore previously, but they’re a fantastic and fitting addition to the frozen plains.

    Having recently finished the main quest line, I was disappointed for about 30 seconds that it didn’t really resolve the pressing issues affecting Skyrim. But then I was delighted that the main quest line hadn’t resolved the pressing issues affecting Skyrim! The main quest is the usual “Go here or THE WORLD WILL END” fare, only you can save mankind etc. but it’s largely irrelevant to the wider Skyrim setting as the general populace don’t actually know that the world is about to end, and they’re more engaged in the civil war tearing their country apart (and also threatening to cripple the empire as a result). If you just follow the main quests nothing gets resolved about the civil war, and it’s still going strong after you’ve been hailed as the saviour of the universe by gods and mortals alike (blah blah blah). You could even play the main quest as a kind of extended tutorial which will eventually dump you in the ‘real’ Skyrim with a pile of levels and special abilities as a bonus.

    I think it is a really great acknowledgement that very few players come to TES just so that they can be the Chosen Hero, and that it shouldn’t get in the way of the fantastic world they’ve built to house the quests.

    • scottyjx says:

      Oh my! I never thought of playing that way! That’s a brilliant idea. I’m doing that. Thanks. Also, Bissell’s a dope. Go read his archives (like 10 columns); he’s terrible.

    • Mist says:

      Disabling the compass/quest markers was also the first thing I did (at least, once some friendly people here told me how; before that I covered it with some pieces of paper -___-).

      Unfortunately I don’t yet know of a mod that disables the “you are here!” marker on the map (maybe it’s some setting), but looking at your map occasionally is a necessity if some guy gives you a quest of “yeah on the other side of the country is a cave – kill all the bandits in there”. (I don’t have the spell you mention..). So I made a rule for myself: I can only look at a map when I’m in some city/town/tavern, where some friendly person could tell me exactly where I am at the moment.

      In the beginning, I often got horribly lost. My first trip to Whiterun took something like 5 hours (when finally arriving and looking at my map I went “what the.. how did I manage this?!”). But it’s incredibly satisfying to climb hills/mountains to get a good view of the surroundings, look at the landmarks like rivers/buildings, decide “ok, so according to memory that cave should be in that bend of the river over there”, and then go and find it. Instead of just following the magic compass.

      (of course, when you get close but haven’t actually found it yet, you still often get the magical, immersion shattering “YOU HAVE FOUND THE SECRET HIDDEN CAVE!1!1!”. Luckily now in a less immersion breaking font (yay pc gaming!), but still…)

  20. SLeigher says:

    AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!! The crossword is cryptic, I was hoping to reaffirm my belief that I am smart. Now how will I prop up my self esteem?

    • Apples says:

      Most of them are actually aren’t. There are weirder ones like 16 and 26 but the ones I could get were almost all literal if you knew the answers.

  21. sasquatch788 says:

    I think John Bissell should stick to what he knows,and that’s apparently books. I and my wife are both gamers,and I get a pretty good butt chewing when i don’t hand over the controller to her when she say’s “I want to play Skyrim now”. So after what I and my wife just read she only had this to say and I agree with her 100%…”He can go chew on an mammoths neither regions for I all care and take his apology,if he has one,and shove it up his nose!”

  22. Soon says:

    Thief ruined FPS games for me.

  23. McCool says:

    That Bissell Skyrim article was kind of disappointing. He didn’t seem to have anything really to say about the game, other than the writing was amateurish, and that anyone that enjoys this kind of thing is weird.

    While I would agree most of the writing in Skyrim is awful, I don’t think the problem is the format. Anyone that has played Vampire The Masquerade: Bloodlines (which I am possibly unfairly assuming Bissell hasn’t) knows that a lore-heavy world full of NPCs who stand there looking at you while cycling through dialogue animations not only can work, but can offer a more immersive and compelling experience than you’ll find anywhere else. The problem is not the format, but the approach to the writing.

    His part about the “lore lovers” was especially unpleasant. I’m a self-confessed lore fanatic, a huge, huge fan of Morrowind, but I find the lore in most other games tearfully boring. The worst approach to lore is without a doubt Bioware’s, with their in-built wikipedia system that bares no connection to the game. It’s like wilfully admiring you are not going to try and make these stories matter to the player.

    Bethesda’s approach (when it works) to this problem is worth taking seriously. In Morrowind, and the best parts of Fallout 3 and Skyrim lore is something woven into the world. You can join a religious cult, read it’s holy texts and go on pilgrimages in reverence to the stories told in them. You enter a town made of bug-shells, if you want to know why, there is an answer there somewhere for you. An abandoned series of vaults dotted throughout a wasteland, each with their own chilling story that is there, if you want to find it, hidden in their ruins.

    Some of the writing in Skyrim is clunky, but that’s not a formal problem, it’s a qualitative one. They need to hire people who can write people. Otherwise, as Bissell says, a huge amount of the game will be substandard. However, this isn’t the way lore is primarily conveyed in Skyrim. Lore in Skyrim is the fact that the College of Winterhold stands menacingly over the tiny village of Winterhold, somehow surviving the collapse of the cliff beneath it. Lore in Skyrim is the lone shack in the woods, with a book inside it that contains a ghost story about a shack in a woods. Lore in Skyrim is the plight of the Dunmer, their Shrine to Azura, the wreck of the Pride of Tel Vos. It’s qualitative things like the way the different cities look and operate. If liking things like this was “weird”, then games like Morrowind wouldn’t still be being as loved as it is today, nine years later, still being discovered by new players every day.

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      Bravo. You can make a lot of arguments about the value of Elder Scrolls lore, some of them delightfully esoteric — my favorite involves Morrowind as Borges’s Labyrinth — but when you get down to it, yours hits the nail right on the head.

      Also, Bissell is a pedantic ass.

  24. Tams80 says:

    I don’t know what the current situation with the market in RuneScape is (I think free trade is back), but the Grand Exchange (GE) was one of things that led me to quit. It was a nice interface and if you couldn’t find someone with what you wanted or wanted something quickly, it was easier than standing shouting or posting on the forums. It was helped prevent real world trading.

    On the other hand, as the PC Gamer article points out, it removed free trade. Before the GE you could operate a business freely. It replicated the real world to some degree; lies and deceit included. That’s what had kept me playing (along with the great quests, the general theme and baking pies).

  25. alundra says:

    I’m surprised of how low arkham city is flying on the radars. It was not mentioned that much in the entry: RPS Asks: Games For The Weekend?

    And now none is commenting about the half arsed installation woes PC gamers have to endure when developers and publishers decided to cram their games with enough DRM as to have spare to shove it up their customers arses.

    Guess the game was not that AAAish after all.

    • Lambchops says:

      Will it make you feel better if I comment?

      Installation = annoying but I expected that, Arkham Asylum was the same.

      Game = Excellent. Fun combat, glorious sneakiness, oodles of gadgets, tons of villains, bombastic silly plot, tons to do (as many reviews have pointed out, perhaps too much, in that it dtracts from the tighter plotting of the first game).

    • Zenicetus says:

      It’s probably just the flood of high-quality games that we’ve had for the PC this year. I suspect many folks are just clearing their backlog before getting around to it.

      That would be me…. I got it with a video card upgrade, installed it when it unlocked and played through just the first intro bits. Looks like fun, but it’s on the shelf until I spend more time in Skyrim, finish that last New Vegas DLC, try to survive my latest Albatros D.III pilot career in Rise of Flight, check out the DLC for Shogun 2….. sigh. An embarrassment of riches is sitting on my computer right now. Arkham City is just one of them. Oh, and I just got an iPad and found out that you can run Sid Meir’s Pirates! on it as a $4.99 app! So, there goes another time-sink, before I get around to ‘ol Bats.

  26. NathanH says:

    It’s a shame that metal song is rubbish. If it had been genuinely good then it would have made the silliness of the video so much better.

  27. Lyndon says:

    Doom ruined FPSs for me.

  28. fauxC says:

    I’m guessing most of the people slagging off Bissell haven’t read his book (the one on games, I haven’t read any of his novels).

    I’d heartily recommend it. At the heart of it is a kind of internally contradictory self-loathing that he experiences through a (pretty pathological) love of games (well, certain kinds of games). You can see the same in the article linked; the cognitive dissonance that comes from holding mutually paradoxical opinions simultaneously.

    Given that I have the same kind of psychological relationship with games, I really enjoy his writing, even if I don’t always agree with him.

    Personally I reckon voice acting is the flaw in a lot of modern games. Just give me the option to play without voice (i.e. just TEXT), and I’d cringe a lot less.

    • Mattrex says:

      If you’re suggesting that he’s saying these things because deep down he’s uncomfortable about the fact that he enjoys playing video games (and I think you’re probably correct, the way that he swings around those antiquated ideas about “dorks”), then he really needs to get over himself. This is 2011, not 1990. Any kind of residual shame that he might feel from deriving pleasure by one of the most widespread and popular forms of media in the developed world is frankly, as of this late date, his problem. And it’s not a problem that he will be able to resolve so long as he’s wagging his brows and making wink-wink-nudge-nudge sucker punches to the audience for whom and upon whose hobbies he ostensibly writes.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      A few people have draw a parallel between that tension in Bissell’s book and the one found in my own book, but actually they are quite different. The thing I struggle with in TGL is in wanting to say “look, games have all these positive side-effects”, while at the same time wanting to shrug and say “actually, they’re really about not being bored, and that should be enough.” Bissell’s book is far more about the vague guilt of actually being a gamer.

  29. Frank says:

    Re: Batman installation.

    It looks just like what I had to do for Arkham Asylum, and I think it’s worth it if it gives Rocksteady a bigger budget for the game. And it’s really not so bad…it’s not like they forgot to test the game on AMD cards or something.

    • jalf says:

      How exactly would it give them a bigger budget that they build a product that pisses off customers?

      In a sane world, I’d hope budgets are determined at least partly by sales. Wasting the time of those who give you money means that fewer people are likely to give you money ,which is unlikely to allow for bigger budgets.

  30. ShineyBlueShoes says:

    Vaguely confused about the Batman picture thing, was the message that the install’s so borked that everyone who bought it is resorting to cracks/pirating the game to make it work?

    • Hoaxfish says:

      yea, that the process requires multiple logins, registration keys, sign-ups, re-logins, to just play a single-player game (this is before bugs or stuff like authentication servers going down)… where as the pirated version simply goes straight in.

  31. Josh W says:

    Can review scores be fixed? Andrew Meade thinks maybe we can.

    So that’s where the review scores are on RPS, they are writing the articles.

  32. Laurentius says:

    The problem is the player in Skyrim is some kind of mix of BBC reporter and anthropologist, going around asking millions questions, only making statements themselves when game specifically allow you to do it. Mainly you just listen and ask question, it’s pretty artificial and boring. I would prefer less exposition but more actual interaction. It makes striking difference with Fallout2 I replayed not long ago. When you barge into many locations you are asked upfront with ”Who are you? ” and in Skyrim ? You barge into jarls’ houses and start asking bazillions question and no one ever is going to ask about you. Maybe I am a guy who happen to kill a number of dragons outside your town, want to hear about it? Nope, never…

  33. InternetBatman says:

    The Frozen Synapse read was good. They did exactly what (I think) indie developers entering a tough market should do, identify an underserved niche, set out to make a game that fills that niche, and use goals to shape development along the way. I think they were very right about Frozen Synapse just not being a good fit for f2p, in many ways.

    I did not agree with the article about Bioshock. I have never really liked competing with other players, but I still enjoy the gameplay highly competitive shooters engender. The problem I have is that there hasn’t really been one that has interested me in years. It seems like we’ve had relatively disappointing entries in the field for a long time. The last one I really looked forward to was UT3, and I was disappointed. I don’t know why, since it was prettier and followed the same formula, but the core elements of the game felt less engaging. I have heard similar things from Quake friends about Quake live, and Tribes has had a massive gap between entries. I think the genre might have declined in recent years, and a fantastic game like Bioshock stands out more in comparison.

    I think the gamasutra piece raises interesting points, but I feel too ignorant of the law to even offer an opinion.

    I thought the batman thing was funny, and pretty representative of the games I have with windows live. I don’t know what benefit publishers think it adds, unless MS is cutting some deals with them.

  34. DigitalSignalX says:

    Glad to see coverage of Fleet and Flotilla. I heard it got rave reviews for showcasing a positive portrayal of a Turian-Quarian relationship. We could head back to my place and watch it.

  35. DigitalSignalX says:

    Glad to see coverage of Fleet and Flotilla. I heard it got rave reviews for showcasing a positive portrayal of a Turian-Quarian relationship. We could head back to my place and watch it together.

  36. Nate says:

    Did you really find the violence essay that baffling?

    I read it as, “Yes, Taxi Driver bears some responsibility for the attempted assassination of Reagan; but lots of other things do too, and the small responsibility Taxi Driver bears is not enough reason to stop making movies like Taxi Driver.” Which I find refreshingly honest in a world where people mostly pretend that bad acts have single causes, that good acts don’t result in bad outcomes, that there’s even some way to add up good outcomes and bad outcomes and figure out, in hindsight, whether something was good.

    • bill says:

      It took me a wile to work out what he was saying, as he seemed to have written it in a highly confusing way. But basically he’s just saying that games have an influence on us, like everything else has an influence on us. Right?

    • D says:

      Quote “See, video games do cause violence. [snip] This doesn’t mean they’re the reason that unstable sociopaths go on a shooting spree when something goes haywire in their head.”
      CHILDHOOD ABUSE is a CAUSE of VIOLENT BEHAVIOR, the most statistically significant factor afaik. Whether someone plays games has no statistical impact on whether that person will commit a violent crime, afaik. Evidently the author doesn’t care to distinguish, as he starts by redefining “CAUSE AND EFFECT” to mean “serve as a trigger for a schizophrenic person, who was probably going to end up doing something like that anyways”. A minor blunder, could be forgiven.
      But then, in the spirit of NOT CARING, he continues with slamming John Walker, for defending his and ours favorite pastime, with scientifically rigorous and balanced journalism, that is so obviously missing in mainsteam media and politics. How dare you John Walker, for not wanting to just slay dragons and forget about the bigger issues at stake in this debate. (Thank you John Walker.)

  37. Lars Westergren says:

    Re: Bioshock. Lovely game from a design, characters and plot perspective (though derivative of SS2). I’ve replayed it several times, and my fondness for it has steadily increased over the years.

    The Batman: AC picture is spot on, though a little short on unskippable intro-screens. There are more of them in reality. The game is borderline unplayable for me because of GFWL. I thought I had accepted GFWL (“Just create an offline profile and you are ok”), but I think from now I will boycott all games with it.

    This weekend I had the following DRM experiences:

    – Completely unobtrusive: Everything Steam

    – Almost unobtrusive: RockStar Social Club in LA Noire (decline RSC account creation, get an offline “default” account and that seemed to be it. Fullscreen patching had no cancel button and required tabbing out of so I could use my computer for other stuff in meantime, minus points for that)

    – Annoying: Ubisoft Play in Might and Magic Heroes 6. (throws up patching window every time. Annoying twitter feed etc. Keeps trying to sync save games and fail every damn time, inconsistent UI, takes away in-game items from me when I have network problems)

    – Actively keeps me from playing the game I paid for: GFWL in Batman:AC.

  38. bill says:

    I loved system shock 2, and I liked System Shock 1 back when i played it – but it was a long time ago and I don’t remember it that well.

    So, I’m left confused about why everyone thinks Bioshock was so much more of a linear shooter than those games… I don’t remember SS2 being very different from Bioshock at all, and even SS1 (with it’s complex mechanics/controls and cyberspace) wasn’t that different from what I dimly recall.

    WHat exactly was cut from Bioshock that made it so inferior to those games?