The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for driving along the motorway, humming the theme tune to Quantum Leap. Perhaps when you reach your destination you might end up reading some words gathered from the Internet. But perhaps not.

  • Sinister Design on RPG character creation: “To analogize: class-based character creation is the Apple of character creation systems, founded upon the use of a few pre-built constructs that share the same core components and come in a limited variety of flavors. By contrast, skills-based systems are the PCs of the character creation universe, cobbled together from a dizzying array of components that can combine in interesting (though sometimes deeply flawed and incongruous) ways.”
  • Derek “Spelunky” Yu talks to Eurogamer, and talks Dark Souls (and other stuff): “”One of the things I love about Dark Souls is that it doesn’t really tell you how to do anything,” says Yu, still groggy with jetlag from a recent holiday in Japan. “But it also lets you do and try so much that doesn’t work. At one point when I was playing, I turned a corner and there was this ghoulish-looking character behind these metal bars. As soon as I saw it, I jumped back and, really without thinking, I threw my spear and stabbed him dead. It turned out to be a shopkeeper.”
  • Speaking of which, Gamasutra have been delving into the design of same said game: “A lesser game would have had given the player a message like “Try throwing the monster lure at the fire to kill the armored boar!” when they picked up the monster lure items. By not explicitly telling the player what to do but by leading them towards the answer, Dark Souls allows the player to feel clever for figuring the solution out.”
  • Eurogamer’s “The Re-Making Of X-Com“: “It’s clear all of Jake’s design decisions were made out of a genuine love for XCOM. Take the decision to reduce the squad size cap, for example. Some fans have lamented this move, but Firaxis makes it sound like perfect sense. “It’s pretty simple,” Garth explains. “When we had more squad members in those prototypes each move was less meaningful. We found five to six to be that sweet spot. After that amount the map time also dragged on. We want the experience between strategy and the HQ to have this nice flow where you’re going back and forth between them. We don’t want you playing for an hour-and-a-half on every single map because you would lose momentum.””
  • Tom Francis’ illusionist-based Skyrim diary concept is fun: “I’m playing Skyrim with a rule: illusion magic only. No direct violence, just pure deception. I’m seriously low on health, completely out of mana, and trapped in an awkward corner with a lightning mage bearing down on me.”
  • Edge on The Making of Limbo: “At the time, the future creator of Limbo was living on a farm in Jutland. “My parents weren’t farmers,” he explains, “but they had a small farm with a lot of animals for fun.” Little Arnt, shy and quiet, used to like wandering off into the nearby woods. He’d spend hours following the stream that ran between the trees, often dropping strange insects and leaves into it and following them as the current swept them downstream. “I always had this thing for small animals and parasites – I hated them, even as a child,” he remembers.”
  • Specs ‘N’ Headphones discusses the problem of NPCs in AI and Emotional Attachment: “A problem that affects all media is dialogue diversity – it’s not uncommon to have a work where all the characters speak in a manner very similar to that of the writer. The writer knows how they sound, and so by writing in their own ‘voice’ as it were, it’s easy to write in a way that’s (superficially) convincing. But when too many characters sound similar, the suspension of disbelief falls apart, and no one sounds convincing.”
  • Venus Patrol hosts a “devlog magazine” for the TIGSource forums: “Every week on Venus Patrol, using screenshots posted to the TIGSource threads, I’ll be building a visual map of the most inspiring projects of the past several days. Soon, this series will be a nice timeline of awesome games evolving from start to finish, and hopefully sharing them here will help get these games the exposure they deserve.”
  • Hookshot on “Death of a Noby Noby Boy“: “I‘m frustrated with the industry as a whole,” he said. “I can’t seem to predict where it’s going, which makes me feel uncomfortable. Or maybe I just don’t like where I think it’s going. I’m not sure.”
  • Hmm: “How video games helped me go on “Don’t Tell The Bride”: “Having cameras follow you each and every minute of the day is enough to put even the calmest soul on edge. Every conversation I had with every shopkeeper, tailor or florist was recorded, and I was keenly aware that any slip-up in the conversation on my part would be broadcasted for the world to see. Fortunately, I had an ace up my hole: Mass Effect. The key driver of success or failure in Mass Effect is how you handle conversations with other characters. The countless hours I had spent bartering with Hanar shopkeepers, or dodging bar-fights with angry Krogans meant that negotiating a price for three ivory bouquets was mere childs-play. The florist never stood a chance.”
  • Electron Dance did a podcast with Introversion.
  • How to steal a space shuttle.
  • Digital death.
  • No, you are not entitled to your opinion.

Music this week is this.


  1. phelix says:

    That article about the creation of LIMBO is damn interesting, and a very good read.

  2. Droopy The Dog says:

    Damnit Jake Solomon, I would have really liked to see this “combat 2.0”, sounds right up my street. X-Com combat with even more options, we barely knew ye.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I agree!

      After playing Jagged Alliance 2, I have often thought what UFO:Enemy Unknown would have been like with more detailed combat, and I’m hoping Xenonauts will borrow a little bit from it.

    • Captain Joyless says:

      It’s a fascinating article because it’s rare that you find exactly when a designer ruined a game.

      Not that there aren’t a thousand other problems with the game, but the tactical combat is the most egregious.

      • ffordesoon says:

        You chose your handle well, Captain Joyless.


      • Chris D says:

        Sometimes it’s best to wait and see before jumping to hasty and ill-thought out conclusions. For example I thought the site redesign had made it impossible to reach the block button but it turns out that if you try hard enough it is still possible after all.

  3. Prime says:

    Found this linked after the Xcom article:

    link to

    Actually playing through this again right now. Have reached ‘Party’, the amazing level where you get to stalk the Thieves’ Highway towards the Mechanist fortress, Angelwatch. It’s a masterpiece of game design and I love it to bits!

    • Sigh says:

      Fun Fact:

      That Thief 2 Retrospective (which is excellent) was written by Paul Dean whom is Quinn’s companion on the Shut Up & Sit Down show. He often has very interesting takes on the topic of gaming and always delivers his opinions in compelling ways.

  4. tomeoftom says:

    The Conversation’s a great site.

    • AngoraFish says:

      “No, you’re not entitled to your opinion” is a great article, thanks Jim for linking it.

      • brulleks says:

        Yes, this article is an extremely astute and useful argument in itself. More like this please.

        And if other people don’t like the fact it has nothing to do with games then tough. We’re entitled to our opinion ; )

      • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

        Yeah, I loved it. Usually really enjoy the non-gaming stuff at the end of these.

        • Bob says:

          While the piece wasn’t gaming related it’s something most of us could relate to as forumites, commentors, and the like.

          I suppose it could be argued that it’s others’ opinions of our opinions that give them weight or not.

        • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

          I’ve by and large stopped posting anything on the internet, and I’ve abandoned forums entirely, because of this issue. I’m sick of opinions on the internet, they’re generally fluff spouted by forthright, ill-mannered boors. So while I’m sure some people appreciate it, I’m also worried that some other commenters might start moaning about these snippets on the end for not being specifically about games, or being too preachy or too political or some such shit. It happens occasionally whenever one of the Hivemind expresses too much of their personality beyond jokes, and John in particular gets it a lot.

          But, that’s just like, my opinion, man.

          • Universal Quitter says:

            But if all of the rational, well-adjusted people on the internet go away, all that’s left is the people like m- wait, I mean, all that’s left is the bad people.

      • sinister agent says:

        I read an article he wrote with the same title a few years ago, but lost the bookmark somehow. Good to know he’s refining and promoting the idea still.

      • MiniMatt says:

        Yep, loved that piece. Should be required reading before being allowed anywhere near a “post” button.

        • Servizio says:

          Yeah, well, y’know, that’s just like, uh…your opinion, man.

  5. Mollusc Infestation says:

    So, anybody else have the theme to Quantum Leap firmly lodged in their head now?

  6. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    That sound installation is incredible.

  7. bakaohki says:

    I pretty much played through Skyrim with an illusionist and it wasn’t that great: somewhere halfway I maxed out the illusion skill tree and I could effectively walk through full dungeons undetected. Great. Boss fights? Oh let’s get started with summoning.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Ah, the timeless disconnection between the mere player’s job – to play the game and see if it’s interesting – with the game diary writer ‘s job – to make it sound interesting at all costs.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        Or as I call it, the Paradox Games effect.

        I do enjoy CKII and some of their others, but my imagination never quite runs as wild as the stories I see posted on RPS. I suppose that’s why they make the big bucks.

  8. Sulph says:

    ‘Fortunately, I had an ace up my hole:’


    • Skabooga says:

      In a translation mishap, my friend told his business partners “I have an ass up my sleeve” in Spanish.

      • The Random One says:

        Mix them both and you get: “I have an ass up in my hole.”

    • Savagetech says:

      Maybe the article was about gay marriage?

  9. SpaceJesus says:

    That Specs ‘N’ Headphones piece about NPC dialog starts promising, but fails to really make any interesting points. Yes, repetitive NPC dialog is dull and breaks the suspension of belief, but that’s obvious. The ‘concusion’ of “we should use AI to generate dialog” is very easy to say but doesn’t go any further than that. If it was as easy as saying we should do that we’d be flooded in games using that now.

    • Supahewok says:

      Chris Crawford has been trying to do that for almost 20 years now, and look where it’s left him.

  10. jackieo says:

    Yay! Thanks for the link to the Conversation!

  11. Synesthesia says:

    Wow, the guitar installation is beautiful. Reminds me a lot of Animal Collective’s Campfire Songs.

  12. Skabooga says:

    Fantastic, now I have a great yearning to take part in a space shuttle heist.

  13. mckertis says:

    “Firaxis makes it sound like perfect sense.”

    Yep, they are doing good job as spindoctors. It doesnt hold up under close scrutiny, but at least you can comfort yourself that it _sounded_ so sensible and amazing.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      It doesn’t hold up under the close scrutiny of random dudes reading and posting blog comments, only under the distant unfocused gaze of reviewers who actually played the game.

      • MaXimillion says:

        If they’re the same reviewers of whom the majority praised Firaxis’ last game despite all it’s flaws, I wouldn’t trust their word too much.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      Comments that make assertions without backing them up… don’t hold up under close scrutiny.

      Edit: that sounds suspiciously like a ‘your mom’ joke :(

  14. Pod says:

    I can’t understand what anybody quoted in that XCOM article is saying. They’re all like, it was this, and then. Different sentence.