The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for toast, cereal, eggs, fruit, and always tea. They are for knowing that winter is coming. And they are for taking some time to read, because what would life be without strings of characters formed into intelligible sentences?

  • Eurogamer features a mysterious and handsome writer called Alec Meer, and his words are words about UFO: Enemy Unknown. He speaks only truth: “X-COM was always a game about losing, and not too far departed from those same masochistic tendencies that inform Dark Souls today. The losses, the causalities, the skating on the brink of disaster has to happen in order that those few snatched victories feel hard-won and meaningful.”
  • Cara Ellison says Reader, I Dated a Gamer: “Sex is a hybrid rhythm action and roleplaying game from the developers behind Fighting and Talking. You take control of one of two characters (though mods have enabled support for several more) and attempt to induce a paroxysm in your opponent through a mixture of theatre, gymnastics and button-mashing. “
  • IronClad do a post-mortem on the most recent Sins game, and emphasize the importance of beta-testing with real players: “In the end, the community yelled loud enough to snap us out of our spell. It added a hiccup to the beta and an unwanted scramble towards the end of an otherwise smooth dev cycle, but disaster was averted. It forced our hand — to focus both on the desynchronization issues we had introduced and the ones that had been there all along. This was a blessing in disguise, as it resulted in a multiplayer experience that was much more stable than any other title in the series.”
  • We link to examples of videogames as therapy fairly regularly, but this one is particularly poignant.
  • Some interesting criticism of Dishonored’s approach, in contrast to Deus Ex.
  • This is worth a read, although I think there are many other games that could be even more appropriate examples: “In some sense, then, I am almost coming to think of The Binding of Isaac and FTL as examples of anti-Bioshocks, games that do not presume the player can only succeed by following a script, but that the player can develop a sensibility of his or her own about play and through which victories that can only be attributed to you, as that player, are achieved.”
  • I always enjoy a bit of Exploration For Exploration’s Sake: “Four British indie developers have taken this desire and made it the biggest part of their game. The Chinese Room has already had great success with Dear Esther but I’m going to focus on what I played at the Eurogamer Expo. Proteus, Dirac, Dream and Kairo were all at the expo this year and I must admit it wasn’t the ideal place to play them. They require a chunk of free time that you don’t mind losing and being slightly unsure where it all went.”
  • Citizen Game talk to Stainless about Carmageddon: “We certainly altered out kickstarter campaign based on feedback that we got during the campaign. For instance, what platforms people might like to see. You know we wouldn’t be doing a Linux version if it weren’t for kickstarter. Obviously you have to take a view if its just a few people shouting loudest or if there’s a real demand for these things, we could sell three copies of the Linux version for all I know, but just the mere act of doing it, which is not too much extra work for us but it helps the campaign – it caused a blip in the kickstarter campaign, an upward blip, which is good.”
  • Spacegamejunkie talks to the Blackspace team: “We are setting out to release a story driven, hand crafted single player mode, where each asteroid brings a new challenge or a chance to prove your expertise. This is not to say that the entire story mode will be linear. There will be opportunity to explore random asteroids, establish extra bases to increase your income. The story is also where the user will find out why they are being paid to mine the asteroids in the face of such resistance.”
  • Mr Cobbett suggests ten Source Filmmaker films worth watching.
  • I love that people are meticulously cataloging this sort of stuff.
  • And I could pretty much link to Bldgblog every week, so take this as a general recommendation.
  • On the armed neutrality of Switzerland.

Music this week is the seasonally appropriate October Language, from Belong’s 2006 album of the same name.


  1. drewski says:

    I enjoyed Cara’s sex article. Not sure it was actually very illuminating or profound, but I can’t fault the entertainment.

    • Muzman says:

      Like a commenter over there says, the first half was funny and disarming. Exactly the sort of thing we need more of. The second part was exactly the same sort of crap that causes all the trouble in the first place.

      Ignore circuitous behavioural ‘advice’ people, all of it. You want things to be different? No ‘game’, no psych, no self help, no bro talk, no ‘confidence’. Sympathy.
      (actually you should probably ignore my advice too)

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Yeah the article started well and then degenerated into Online Confidence Guru, fake-it-til-you-make-it NLP twaddle. If I want that kind of thing there’s the Steve Pavlina or ‘Pick Up Artist’ forums.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        I thought almost all of NLP had been more than thoroughly discredited. Are there still people out there who believe that if you pretend something hard enough, you somehow become it or that if you mirror someone’s body language, they won’t think you’re a creepy weirdo.

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          There are people unhappy enough they will put all their hope in something that sounds vaguely credible, and they will defend it angrily if someone says it won’t work. After all its like someone threatening to take away a liferaft in the middle of an ocean. Most therapy types and disciplines have their evangelical adherents, and NLP still has a large amount of people either in that first camp, or in the “this shit makes me too much money” camp (Paul McKenna etc). Bandler & Grindler remind me of Ron Hubbard.

          • Jesus H. Christ says:

            never underestimate the power of the placebo

          • Sheng-ji says:

            Unfortunately for NLP, you can’t transfer the effects of placebo onto someone else! It doesn’t matter how confident you believe you’ve made yourself using the techniques (while damagingly suppressing the real reasons for your lack of confidence) other people are not going to perceive you as more confident! Of course NLP gives you a whole raft of other pseudo-scientific techniques to try as well, and they are so numerous and so convoluted, you will never feel like you have mastered them (hence never achieve the success that a genuinely confident person would) – though you will be led to believe buying another book will help!

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            The reaction you are most likely to get to using an NLP technique nowadays is “You’ve been reading self-help books again, haven’t you” :)

          • blind_boy_grunt says:

            “It doesn’t matter how confident you believe you’ve made yourself using the techniques, other people are not going to perceive you as more confident!”
            Others perceive you as the things you do, so if you act confidently they perceive you as confident. That is not magic. (that said i really don’t know what nlp means, i come at it from this angle: “We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be,” mother night for some reason is my favourite vonnegut book)

          • SuperNashwanPower says:

            Thats not accurate. You can TRY to behave confidently, but if you do not feel confident then that creates a disconnect. You either look like you are nervous but trying to look confident, or you come across as strange. Your behaviours do not automatically match emotions, and nor does behaviour always lead to emotional change. This is the pop psychology assertion which is incorrect. Even the much lauded Cognitive Behavioural Therapy cannot produce change in 100% of people (in fact meta-analyses show that in depression for example, roughly 60% are helped, but with a 50% relapse rate, leaving only 30% who are helped). As mentioned above, human emotions are far more complicated than we often would rather believe – which is one of the reasons so many people go round in the same circles all their lives. If change was easy, everyone would do it.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @blind_boy_grunt – NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) is basically a name for a series of techniques pioneered by a couple of guys. They weren’t scientists but they took proven scientific effects and extrapolated them into their techniques basically all revolving around manipulating other people. For example, they took the very well known and scientifically sound effect that people who like each other tend to mirror each others body language, then released as one of their techniques that if you mirror someone else’s body language, they will react to you more positively.

            They huge flaw in their ideas were that humans are incredibly perceptive at reading body language whilst simultaneously being really very poor at faking it. As so many of their techniques revolved around manipulating your own body language to affect others, it really doesn’t work. For a very, very in depth discussion on the failings of NLP, look up Derren Brown. He uses it quite a lot in his shows, but in his own words, he pretends he uses it because they (the techniques) exude authenticity but in fact he is using other sophisticated techniques to make it appear as if the NLP is working.

            He later stopped using NLP entirely due to some of the authors of books using his name in sales pitches and bad mouths it in virtually all of his books – his view is that it’s a scam, and pretending it works in a magic show is OK because people go in expecting to be duped, but pretending it works to people who need help is scummy.

            The point is, the idea that an un-confident person can pretend to be confident and come across as naturally confident is a nonsense, however, the flip side of that is, I have dated many men who did this kind of thing. It was bloody obvious but like hell was I going to hold that against them – they were trying their best and I wouldn’t have gone on a date with them (or talked to them in a club etc) if I didn’t want to give them a chance! We all have moments where our confidence is lacking so we all give each other a bit of a break when it happens to someone else and I’d rather someone comes across as a bit odd than silent!

            On the subject of CBT, I don’t doubt those figures – I know it is still prescribed in the UK for things like Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, when in fact there is substantial evidence it is very damaging to people with CFS. The difference between the two though are that CBT should never be studied without a trained practitioner and at least in the UK is freely available – no one is making fortunes off it. The other thing with CBT is it asks you to do the work yourself in adjusting your behaviour (Two good reasons it is so poor with depression are 1) It is very hard work for the person doing it and 2) Depression is not something you can “think your way out of” – It often has a biochemical cause, inbalanced hormones etc)

            But CBT shines with curing people of phobias and helping people get their lives back on track if they are in bad cycles – for example many drug users who genuinely want to quit are helped by it. As a theraputic tool it is overused and often is a lazy option for a GP but honestly it is good.

          • blind_boy_grunt says:

            yeah. I think i was having a different conversation, bascially with myself. Still, i find it strange how easy you guys jump from getting a date to psychotherapy, ie the difference between a splinter in your finger and a bullet in your chest. And perhaps some of the people who you think are confident are just better at acting confident than your fake-confidence-detector is at detecting. How’d you know, you know? I’m kidding, but i do think there are one or two people in my life who think i’m confident only because they met me in the “wrong” circumstances. I mean how often do you really need a confidence roll in your day to day life?

        • D3xter says:

          Humans are gregarious animals that will believe and follow certain things they are being told without questioning, especially when it comes from a “leader” position or position of power and there is a large amount of influence people can excert over others, even through mere suggestions.
          If this wasn’t so, we wouldn’t have the same (even recent) history we have and things like sects or certain school of thoughts wouldn’t exist.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:


    • melnificent says:

      Not found the person they feel is right for them. Nothing mysterious.

    • BobsLawnService says:

      I personally found it exploitative and annoying. “ooh, look at me. I’m a GIRL! GAMER! talking about SEX! tee hee”.

      I would rather see people of both genders just talking about games instead of women using their gender as some sort of flashcard as if it makes them special.

      I’d rather female game journalists just stick to writing about games.

      • Treebard says:

        Agreed. There are a few, though not many prominent ones. Kat Bailey (link to is one I like. I’m not personally a fan of JRPGs, but her love of Dark Souls caught my eye awhile back.

        EDIT: The more I think about it, the more likely it seems that there’s a big incentive to write an article like this is you’re a “girl gamer”. Think about how many games writers there are out there, and how much time and effort it takes to get established. An article like this probably consistently brings in the hits, so of course it’s going to get get written/published. it would be interesting to take a collection of these and see how early in each respective writers’ career the article appeared.

        Whether you think that’s a conscious decision on the writer’s part depends on the level of cynicism you have, I suppose, and I certainly don’t want to imply something about the particular writer in question, since I’m not familiar with her work. It DOES make sense from an incentive perspective, though, so I’d bet good money at least SOME similar articles are written for that reason.

      • The Tupper says:

        Or get back to the fucking kitchen, eh?

      • cafeine says:

        Wow, didn’t know it was “Talk like a Misogynist Day” today.

      • Poliphilo says:

        I have to disagree. Being an older gamer I’m not used to the idea that gaming is now something you shouldn’t have to hide from others for fear that they think you’re weird or nerdy (or indeed that nerdiness is a positive quality). I realise times have changed, but unfortunately growing up in what now feels like a different century (oh, it actually was a different century) my perceptions or preconceptions about this have not, so while I really *really* despise any self-help stuff, I appreciate the gesture the article makes.

      • Sparkasaurusmex says:

        Oh c’mon you sound like this is Alabama. Sex sex sex sex sex…
        So what? It’s an interesting topic, for most of us…

    • The Tupper says:

      Definitely gay. DEFINITELY!!!!

  2. Jams O'Donnell says:

    Ah, Belong. One of those (lovely) artists that makes you wonder if you’ve been sold glitchy broken mp3s.

  3. KDR_11k says:

    Toblerone: Shaped like anti-tank defenses and just as hard to eat.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Mmm, tank defences.

    • LionsPhil says:

      As with many things, it’s the difficulty which makes the reward all the sweeter.

    • Vorphalack says:

      They are best served by melting down in a saucepan, portioning off into ice cube trays, and left as a bite sized fridge snack. I assume this will also work for toblerones.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      It’s a snack and a weapon!

      • The Tupper says:

        Like Yorkie bars: cooking chocolate blended with broken glass and concrete.

    • The Random One says:

      I tried Toblerone because they appear proeminently in Homestuck. I didn’t even know they were chocolate (I thought from the shape of the packaging that they were a kind of torrone) and was throughly underwhelmed.

    • Oozo says:

      Yeah, Toblerone is pretty underwhelming to me, too.

      As was the article. I mean, it’s kinda off to a bad start: Cuckoo clocks do not come from Switzerland, whatever Orson Welles might have said.
      The whole article really reads a bit like a projection of the uncritical image Swiss people traditionally did have of their army and defensive prowess; as such, to somebody living here, it looks awfully dated, without being historical.

      If you want a better read on the absurdities of Swiss army life (including the architectural aspects of it), go read John McPhee’s “La Place de la Concorde Suisse”. It’s funnier, more profound, and since it was written in the 80s, at least it has an excuse for being dated. (Also, it’s a book, so of course it’s more profound, dah.) But it has soldiers stirring their Fondue with the antennas of their walkie-talkies. That has to count for something.

      • Kdansky says:

        Thank you for pointing that out. As someone who actually lives there, this article was all but unbearable.

  4. EPICTHEFAIL says:

    Some of the SFM films were fantastic, particularly the Scout/L4D one. At certain points the animation easily matched stuff like the newer seasons of Red vs Blue, which just goes to show how powerful an animation tool SFM is.

    • subedii says:

      Is Red vs. Blue any good these days?

      I remember trying to watch it back when it was new and everyone was raving about it. To be honest I just thought the dialogue was bad, the voice acting was worse, and the action… well it’s a machinima built with no additional animation tools and no access to any sort of console.

      Though recently I saw an action sequence clip from it that I thought looked decent, so have they started doing proper animation now, as in outside the confines of the game itself?

      Probably won’t help any if the script’s still dire though.

      • piratmonkey says:

        They’ve hired actual animators and such in addition to using machinima. But if you didn’t like the previous seasons of RvB then you probably won’t like the new ones. (I quite enjoy it).

    • LionsPhil says:

      Practical Problems is just outstanding.

      Some of Dr. Face’s recent stuff has been quite good too. (This is some of the most natural dancing I’ve seen done with TF2 models, even if it’s not half as intricately choreographed as Dance Fortress.)

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      SFM’s level of popularity is interesting for me. I really like viewing the great work people have done in SFM but it is never prominent enough that I ever see enough to get bored of watching them. Still though I can’t help but wish it was more popular than it is.

      Thanks of course to Mr Cobbett for a great selection.

  5. Defiant Badger says:

    Interesting criticism of Dishonoured, it seemed the sort of thing that I’d pick up on. Though would this problem be decreased at all by increasing the difficulty from the start? I’d still quite like to play it.

    • B1A4 says:

      Well, i know what autor means, but i can’t agree completely.

      After first mission full of killing the streets have changed. They weren’t ‘safe’ and empty anymore, there were rats swarms spawning in ‘choke points’ and they killed me in few seconds, so i chose to go non-leathal stealth way. And failed several times, then just fight for my life and escape. Or sometimes i couldn’t find a way and have to use some ‘power’ for the first time or start killing again.

      But I am playing at Very Hard.

      An yeah, I think most people think that Dishonored is too easy is beacuse Dishonored is not unfair. Not a tiny bit (exept of melee fighting, enemies can dodge with ease and they can kick, you can’t. Which is wierd, wasn’t last Arcane game a kicking simulator?)

      • LionsPhil says:

        It does sound like you need the difficulty cranked to generate DX/Hitman-esque seat-of-your-pants plan-F moments.

        • RobF says:

          I played through on Normal (21 hours) and spent 23 minutes of that in a shrubbery shitting myself after I’d blinked myself between a guard, a watchtower and a roaming tallboy with only one exit as the walls behind me were way too high to scale even with my shiny agility powers.

          Mostly, just turning off the quest markers and all prompts aside from contextual health display is enough to get you by. But ramping the difficulty up certainly doesn’t hurt the game either.

      • piratmonkey says:

        I definitely found “Very Hard’ to be the most rewarding for a stealth-ish playthough. That said, in the latter half of the game, Corvo became much more…liberal about parting heads from necks. Mostly because I imagine that he would be fucking enraged at that point.

      • Yosharian says:

        I’m playing on Hard and I feel like I’m playing on Easy. This game is easy enough for a trained monkey to complete.

        I think the writer of the article is spot on, although I’m not sure that even Deus Ex gets this absolutely right.

        It’s a symptom of gaming for the masses. The games have to be easy enough for a complete idiot to play.

        • Obc says:

          but isnt the “easy” option there for people who want to complete the game if they arent good enough? why should “hard” be the new “easy”?

          • LionsPhil says:

            Playing at a difficulty labelled “easy” is too emasculating for the dudebro demographic.

          • Yosharian says:

            I don’t know man, you tell me! I can’t possibly see how the game could be any easier. Enemies die in a few hits and don’t one-shot me or anything, they’re very easy to avoid and even when they spot you they often forget about it in a few moments. I’m not short on ammo, although I am playing it stealthy, and there have been very very few places where I couldn’t simply knock everyone out one by one. In fact the only time I’ve been unable to do that is one or twice where there is a doggy following a guy.

            I guess it might get harder further on, but at the moment it’s a complete cake walk.

          • Baines says:

            LionsPhil is right, but it is more than that. “Normal” became the new “Easy” long ago, and at times some games really do drift into the “Hard” is the new “Easy” territory.

            People don’t want to admit that they aren’t as good as they think. People don’t want to admit that they may be less than average in something. People don’t like to, even in the privacy of their own actions, be labeled as the guy who has to play “Easy”.

            As well, general game difficulty shifts over time. More casual gamers have come in, and they have a lower bar. People have become less patient, less willing to accept certain forms of difficulty (limited continues, limited checkpoints, limited resources, etc). People who used to play NES games on a real NES now abuse save states in an emulated NES game, remember the old days with one of those proud “Back in my day, we walked 20 miles through waist deep snow to get to school” attitudes, but wouldn’t go back to that true “old day” experience if given the choice.

            I want to recall that Torchlight’s “Normal” said the equivalent of “Choose this if you’ve played games, but have little experience with this type of game” and “Hard” was the “Choose this if you’ve experience playing this type of game.” And Normal was pretty much a cakewalk.

            Of course you can go back in time and see difficulty renaming. When Capcom added an easier difficulty for the English-language Mega Man 2, they didn’t call the original difficulty “Normal” and the new difficulty “Easy”. They called the new difficulty “Normal” and called the original difficulty “Hard”.

          • Joshua Northey says:

            The solution to this has always been to do what the civilization games do and give the players a ranked ordering of opaquely named difficulties without actually telling them what they do. If there are 8 difficulties none of which are labeled “normal”, someone will seek out the one they think works for them. The hardcore serious among us can still do research online and figure out what is what, and the casuals don’t have to suffer knowing they are playing super easy mode.

          • Sparkasaurusmex says:

            Games need more options for difficulty.
            Not more difficulty settings (easy normal hard will suffice)
            but more options, not just overall difficulty- (combat difficulty, stealth difficulty, AI difficulty, UI difficulty)

            Dishonored gets right some of this. I like how the UI is fixable.

  6. Cinnamon says:

    There is not much in roguelikes that promotes a romantic belief in “free expression.” They are often quite brutal that in they hammer in to you lessons about how if you don’t make the right choice every time you have to start again from the beginning. What they do do is use statistical and simulation tricks to give you a world you can get lost in rather than a tightly designed world. There is the feeling that things could have gone differently if you had made different choices or had been luckier but even in that the only difference to Bioshock is in scope and ambition.

    • Kaira- says:

      Roguelikes’ utiliziation of emergent gameplay does offer quite a wide way of playing the game. They have a brutal learning curve, but once mastered they can be completed with all kinds of hinderances (such as playing with your character blind and naked without any weapons) or using virtually any kind of weapons (such as using a cockatrice corpse to petrify your enemies). Many enemies obviously have certain weaknesses and preferred ways to beat them (such as karmic lizards in ADoM should never be engaged in melee combat), but this is very much given in any game ever.

    • The Random One says:

      Yeah, there is no ‘free expression’ in roguelikes. I eventually stopped playing NetHack/Slash’EM when I got tired of the little dances you had to do to identify stuff. (Try to apply a potion if it’s black, dip a dart in it, write with it on the ground, give it to your dog etc etc etc.) I understand its mechanical purpose, but I like Dungeon Crawl Stone Soup’s method much better, where a useful potion and a useful scroll are more common and you can identify them from that (but you won’t be sure until you actually use them, of course).

  7. CMaster says:

    Although I’ve not played it, I think I agree with that Dishonoured article.

    I’ve always said, I get fed up with games developers saying things like “You can go in all guns blazing, or try the sneaky route, or be non lethal” etc. If you make all routes equally valid, then one inevitably becomes dramatically the path of lowest resistance. In DX:HR and Alpha Protocol, for example, the game is dramatically easier and less reload heavy if you blast your way through everything. The whole reason people tried other approaches in Deus Ex is that it made straight up combat at the start HARD. Sure, you could gun your way through everybody, but you’d A: probably die a few times and B: you’d have to plan your engagements, set up traps with LAMs or Gas grenades, etc. So when walking in the front door with a pistol didn’t work, people tried new things.

    Of course, Deus Ex falls down a bit with reverse difficulty, with late-game it being very easy to be an unstoppable walking tank with maxed out lockpicks and multitools, able to snipe people across the map and through walls.

    • KDR_11k says:

      I guess one problem is that player effort is one factor in a balancing equation, a commonly ignored one. If three paths have the same failure rate for a player but one takes less effort (e.g. if stealth requires getting an overview and planning a route while combat just requires fast reflexes) the player will usually choose the one with the least effort required. That’s why stealth games usually make combat very hard to impossible since it’s just less effort to get into an open battle than to plan out a sneaking route. DXHR for example makes aiming near impossible (like your gun weights two tons and you need to coordinate ten men just to turn it two pixels) so stealth gets an automatic advantage. And then it hits you with a boss fight and goes “you should have specialized on combat!” (not that I’d know, I tried a combat route just to be different since it seems everybody and their dog picks the stealth route in that game, I didn’t even make it through the first mission alive)

      And by the way, is it just me or does it seem like a cop-out to talk about non-lethal routes and simply give the player tranquilizer darts? You’re still shooting people, just in a way that publishers would have used to censor games for the German market in the 90s.

      • Hidden_7 says:

        The tranq darts are the only way to knock someone out who is alerted, their ammo is rare and you can only ever hold 10 shots, and they require an upgrade to be quickly effective in combat. Overall I felt they were a balanced and necessary addition to the non-lethal playthrough. Without them you would have the option of either entirely avoiding enemies or choking them out, which only works if they aren’t alert, at close range, and it takes time to do.

        You could argue that the point of going non-lethal is that your options are limited, but they already are: counting ammo types as different tools (since the achivements do) Corvo has 9 different tools at his disposal, and you are allowed to use exactly one if you are going non-lethal. Removing the tranq darts would simply complicate the problem that non-lethal players have few resources available to them.

        Further, there is lots of side content you would be forced to miss entirely, since without the tranq darts there is no way to complete it non lethally.

        The non-lethal playthrough is supposed to be difficult, not incomplete and tedious.

        • Kdansky says:

          That’s the other issue with non-lethal. Not only is it much harder than murdering everyone, it’s also less interesting. You get ONE gun (tranq gun), and two powers (blink and possession), everything else is completely pointless.

          And yet it’s still too easy, you can just blink behind enemies and choke them out, which (with the correct bone talisman) takes less time than your mana needs to refill after the blink.

        • KenTWOu says:

          The non-lethal playthrough is supposed to be difficult, not incomplete and tedious…

          Compelling stealth game should support non-lethal playthrough in various ways! For example, classic stealth game Splinter Cell:Chaos Theory has huge range of non-lethal weapons and gadgets. And it also has awesome dialogues with enemies during interrogations. All of this makes non-lethal approach very fun and compelling.

          Dishonored’s non-lethal stealth sucks. Cause the game doesn’t have enough non-lethal tools, weapons, powers and makes violent approach very fun and easy. The game clearly forces you to use non-lethal stealth because of its statistic and chaos game mechanic, but it doesn’t fully support such play style. That’s simply not fair. Surprisingly deaf and blind AI is another reason why Dishonored isn’t good enough as a stealth game.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The fundamental design problem there—which from the RPS comments Dishonored apparently avoids—is thinking that “freeform” means “rather than carve one carefully orchestrated path a la Valve, we’ll carve three, and the player can choose to press X or Y or Z to move along them!”

      Just take DX1’s first level. What is the combat path? You can take out the security bot (even without the GEP, with care), but when you do, if you have hacking skill you can avoid the whole front door key issue. But if you’re up for slaughter without catching so many bullets with your face, you’re better off flanking right and heading up the crates, burning a warpath from the middle floor. Maybe if you’re more passive-agressive you’ll lure the NSF into the bots. Maybe you’ll use the poison barrels on the lower floor to gas the patrols rather than get into a fair gunfight. There’s quite a lot of blending of the various playstyles possible, so you can usually find a solution with what’s in front of you rather than having to find your Designated Path For Your Archtype.

      • piratmonkey says:

        This doesn’t make sense. Dishonored allows you a variety of stealth and combat approaches, allowing you to mix it up easily.

        • LionsPhil says:

          which from the RPS comments Dishonored apparently avoids


          I suppose for clarity, when I say RPS comments there, I don’t mean these comments, but comments from the RPS writers, i.e. the Wot I Think and the Verdict.

      • Justin Keverne says:

        In general Dishonored manages to avoid the “pick one of these three styles” approach to game design, as shown in this video, made by my Sneaky Bastards cohort Dan Hindes: link to

        • LionsPhil says:

          Neat. Interesting to see it alongside the Maggie Chow version. (Ah, the turn-of-the-millenium physics model.)

        • Kdansky says:

          Except there is an obvious “let’s go to your room” dialog option, which is so easy to achieve that all the other options are pure gimmicks. Especially because many of them are tricky and require a lot of quickloading to get right.

          Essentially, Corvo’s most powerful power is the F9 button.

    • Justin Keverne says:

      What Deus Ex did well, that those that followed didn’t was make almost every possible approach dependant on some form of resource. If you wanted to sneak around and not be seen you’d need a lot of lockpicks and multitools compared to the combat focused player who’d instead fill their inventory with ammunition and explosives; they’d need more of those resources but they’d expend more in each encounter. Relative resource scarcity meant you were forced to adapt your approach. DX:HR made combat easier but it also removed the requirement for stealth players to need any form of resources, it also made stealth reward more XP which further disrupted the already odd balance of those two approaches.

      As KDR_11k suggested, they effectively replaced the need for in-game resources by making player time the needed resource for non-combat options. Something that’s harder to balance, I imagine.

      Where I think that article is goes off track is in the idea that the easiest approach is the one players will universally adopt (I do wonder if there’s a large overlap between the type of people who write about games and those who try to optimise their approach). The easiest approach to BioShock is to use only the wrench and just repeatedly hit everything, respawning at Vita Chambers when you die, but that’s also probably the single most dull and repetitive way to play that game. The same is true of Alpha Protocol and DX:HR the path of least resistance is if not always, then very often, also the path of least entertainment. I took a full stealth approach through all of those games (Except BioShock where that wasn’t really an option) and I can’t imagine doing it any other way. It’s the same with Dishonored, stabbing or shooting everybody might conceivably be the easier path but I can’t imagine I’d enjoy it so I don’t attempt it.

      That’s the strength of these type of games, that somebody like me can approach them and have their given playstyle be rewarded while somebody with a different approach can do the same. If your natural tendencies is to optimise and find that path of least resistance then Dishonored will not be very long, I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. For me I’ve already spent 14 hours with it and I’m maybe half way, but that won’t be the situation for others.

      • RobF says:

        And of course, the other thing about Dishonored is that even assuming two people play on normal and just play follow the marker and both just get four hours out of it, because of how smartly Dishonored is structured, both of these runs will be unique to the player. Both players will have their own idea of optimal, their own experience with how each encounter plays out. And the game fulfills it’s goals so well that both can assume their version must be the case for everyone just because.

        It’s a remarkable piece of work.

      • JackShandy says:

        “What Deus Ex did well, that those that followed didn’t was make almost every possible approach dependant on some form of resource. ”

        Great observation.

        It’s worth noting that it’s also great to give storyline incentives for varying your play. Deus Ex had robots, so non-lethal players could completely unload on one type of enemy without feeling guilty about their death. I’ve also heard about a lot of people who switched to lethal weapons against certain enemies in DX:HR, once they started threatening innocents.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I did that in IW, even. One of the factions in it are basically reprehensible. If you side with them, it’s the closest ending you can get to “YOU REALLY SCREWED THE POOCH THIS TIME”.

          (Given there’s plenty of power armour going around, I suspect a nonlethal run of it requires a lot of flashbangs and running away, rather than shooting everyone to relaxing unconsciousness with your sleep gun like usual.)

    • Archonsod says:

      “In DX:HR and Alpha Protocol, for example, the game is dramatically easier and less reload heavy if you blast your way through everything.”

      AP is actually easier going stealth in my experience. It’s an interesting game to bring into the equation though because the way the levelling system works, whichever path you take ultimately will become the one of least resistance. Go in guns blazing and you’ll get a lot of perks related to combat and gun play which make you much better at combat and gunplay. Sneak around a lot, and you’ll get a lot of perks related to stealth. Mix it up and you’ll get a mix of both styles of perk.

      If you regularly take the stealth route it’s a high tech spy thriller; go in guns blazing and it becomes an 80s action movie. The final stage of Moscow is a great example – if you’re playing stealth you’ll be infiltrating via the roof and trying to sneak through. Guns blazing on the other hand sees you crashing through the main gates in an APC and launching a full on assault into the building.

      It’s the latter I think which is what lets down DX (particularly HR). No matter which method you opt for in DX the game plays out essentially the same, with the odd character commenting on your behaviour but that’s about it. There’s no reason not to take the path of least resistance since all paths go the same route.

    • JackShandy says:

      “In DX:HR and Alpha Protocol, for example, the game is dramatically easier and less reload heavy if you blast your way through everything.”

      Woah, wait, have you tried to blast your way through DX:HR? I have, and it’s almost impossible to go Rambo on Deus Ex difficulty. Your health disappears in a couple of shots no matter what path you take. I feel like that’s a fairly big flaw, actually: it means that some weapons like the Gatling Gun thing are useless.

  8. ffordesoon says:

    In re the Dishonored article:

    I don’t know what the problem with a ten-hour game is if every hour is enjoyable. I definitely don’t see the problem with a deeply enjoyable “ten-hour” game that has hours of content you can miss the first or even second time through.

    I can, I suppose, understand the Deus Ex argument, though. The way that game forces you to improvise is one of my favorite things about it.

    However, what people seem to be missing about Dishonored is that it’s a game meant to be replayed, in whole or in part. That’s key. It’s closer to Thief than Deus Ex, because it’s about seeing how many different ways you can complete a level, not just beating the level and moving on. You can do one stealth playthrough, one killer playthrough, one playthrough in between, one “see how creative you can get” playthrough. You can chase the perfect run, or you can improvise and see what happens. You can play one stage over and over until you get it right, whatever your definition of right happens to be. The “incentive” is to see what happens when you do X.

    Also, Hard difficulty helps with the whole improvisation thing, simply because the guards aren’t as stupid.

    The one part of the article that stuck out as weird to me is the part where he talks about an incredibly cool way to kill some guards, and then doesn’t do it because it’s “pointless.” I see what he’s saying, but I guess I don’t understand why you wouldn’t do a cool thing you thought up just because you didn’t get something for your troubles. Just doing the cool thing seems to me the reward.

    • GameCat says:

      Ten hours of gameplay is good for me.
      Since last few years I played two games where I played more than ten hours without beign bored: Binding of Isaac (15-18 hours, I think) and Dark Souls (28 hours, still not finished). Oh, and maybe The Walking Dead, 4 episodes, every one have about 2-3 hours of gameplay.
      I don’t have time for long games anymore.

      Also – no one is complaining about 2 hour movie or novel with 150 pages beign too short. Why games must have 30 hours of gameplay to be “good”?

      • piratmonkey says:

        And the thing is, all 10 hours are fantastic.

      • Hidden_7 says:

        Dishonored took me about twenty hours my first playthrough. It was a non-lethal playthrough on hard, and I tried to explore and found some side things, but there were certainly particular levels where I was pretty much in and out. One in particular can be successfully completed, with non-lethal alternate means, with you really only needing to go into the foyer.

        I’ve since started a second playthrough, this one on very hard with the idea being that I’m more lethal. No killing more-or-less innocents wantonly, but only reload if I die, and won’t back down from a fight.

        All twenty hours of that I enjoyed, but I still found it a little short. Mostly because it was all so good, I want more. I want to see more of this world, this city. Particularly there were a few level “types” that I felt were lacking. The missions tended to be very Hitmany in the sense that they were small, very detailed and complex environments. This works perfectly well, but I would have liked to see a little more variety. I would have loved one or two missions that were a bit more sprawling Thief-like. Ones that really let me get lost in the maze of city streets. Basically I’d like to see a Ambush or Life of the Party style mission thrown in there. It’d be okay if these levels were a little less detailed per square inch, if they provided a sense of the size and complexity of the city.

        So yeah, it’s not necessarily that Dishonored was too short, it’s that, unlike most games these days, it really didn’t wear out its welcome. It left me very desperately wanting more. So bring on the DLC I guess. You can keep selling me missions for this game, set in this wonderful world, for some time to come, and I’ll keep buying them at probably a higher price than I should. You hear that Arkane/Bethesda? Crack the whip on those level designers and I’ll open my wallet up and you can just take as much as you can grab. I have no problem with that deal.

      • Randomer says:

        Yes! I’ve got too many games on my backlog (and there are too many new games/bundles always coming out) to play any long, involved games anymore. Give me short and sweet!

        • MattM says:

          I love games that compact all their greatness into a small time. Limbo, Braid, Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet, Batman Arkham Asylum, and Shadow of the Colossus are all games that didn’t take many hours to beat but didn’t feel short to me since they had plenty of great moments.
          But long games offer me something that short ones can’t. Long RPGs feel more epic and have the time to indulge in tons of side stories that flesh out the world and increase your attachment to it. Some games really offer a more challenging complex experience if you play on the harder difficulties and go after additional objectives. I also really like the feeling of mastering a game and its systems. I find that even with limited time I will usually stick with a good game long enough to be beat it on the hardest difficulty.

    • LionsPhil says:

      W.r.t. pointlessness, there’s a difference in satisfaction between a neat solution borne of necessity, and a neat solution borne of going out of your way to find more interesting things to do than the workaday shoot-them-in-the-head.

      The first time I played Deus Ex, Simons wrecked me in the Ocean Lab fight. Luring him into LAM traps was that much more gleeful because “outsmarting” him was a necessary upper-hand to a desperate fight, not because I just felt like messing with him. It’s narratively/immersively “deeper”, I guess? Whereas larking about is tons of fun in “shallower” games like Just Cause 2, where Rico has decided to forgo a simple sniper rifle for a jetplane covered in C4 for an assination because WHEEEEE PLOT WHAT PLOT

      Or DX1 once you know it inside-out. Engineering the ‘Ton standoff to all be over in one brief flash of light is wonderful.

      • JackShandy says:

        See, I just killed him in one hit with the Dragon Sword, before he even talked to me. As soon as I did that, I immediately reloaded and tried to search around for a cooler way to kill him. That’s Deus Ex to me: Self-motivated challenge. Killing people by dropping nanotools on them. I feel like the writer of this piece would just take the lame nanosword death and complain about it.

      • ffordesoon says:

        I don’t think I communicated this point well, so I’m going to restate it:

        It seems to me as though the game is designed to be played relatively efficiently the first time around, so that you can get a sense of the game and see where the story goes. The game makes it very clear that that’s not all there is to see, however, which is where my “built to be replayed” comment comes in. Subsequent playthroughs are where you set challenges for yourself, try different approaches, and otherwise experiment.

        I do understand the guy’s point, and I think it’s an intriguing one. I’m just saying that it’s obviously designed in the tradition of Thief rather than Deus Ex, so to expect a Deus Ex-like experience is to miss the point somewhat.

        More people in the press have probably played Deus Ex, though, and they might be using that as their point of comparison. I wonder how that’s affecting the critical reception. There’s also been a perception among some critics that the game is an RPG, which shows 1) how uselessly vague that term has become, 2) the crappy job the industry – the PC side of it in particular – has done when it comes to preserving its own history, and 3) that Deus Ex, which is an RPG, is now synonymous with the immersive sim, which isn’t, necessarily. Dishonored isn’t, certainly, nor is Thief, though both have RPG elements.

        And no, I can’t properly articulate why I think DX is an RPG and Dishonored isn’t – not at the moment, anyway. I know it’s got something to do with the structure of the games, though.

        • Hidden_7 says:

          I think it’s probably because Deus Ex a) has a lot more character building, particularly statistical character building b) has more focus on areas that aren’t all about “action” gameplay.

          That is, with regard to point b, whatever is the meat and potatoes, actiony, gamey part of your game, whether it be stealth, shooting, or tactical turn based combat, a game generally doesn’t seem very RPG unless there is a decent focus on the “quieter” more character based, inhabiting a world bits. Whatever form your “combat” bit takes, if it’s all combat it is at most an ARPG, and those require a heavy focus on statistics.

          It’s why XCOM isn’t an RPG but Fallout is, why Gears of Wars isn’t an RPG but Mass Effect is. By the same token why Dishonored really isn’t an RPG, but Deus Ex is.

          Failing that definition, you could go hard-line and just say a RPG is one where your success or failure in any action is determined entirely by character skill. In that case none of the things I mentioned are RPGs, and I can’t even really think of an example of an RPG, since player decision making and tactical ability is going to come into play at some point.

  9. mckertis says:

    (XCOM) “it might not manage to wholly supplant its predecessor”

    Predecessor ? Let’s leave that aside, and we’ll see that XCOM can barely be considered a tactical game at all. So many things are nonexistant in XCOM, basic things like pathfinding, elevation play, lighting/visibility play, cover system, AI…Even japanese SRPGs have unit facing that matters and at least two slots for “miscellaneous items”. XCOM is so primitive and casual it hurts.

    • Tom OBedlam says:

      But, crucially, everyone else is having fun, while you’re being miserable.

      • subedii says:

        Well not EVERYONE. I think I saw maybe 2 or 3 people on my friends list who haven’t been playing it compulsively so far. Although in at least one of those cases I think it’s because they opted for Dishonored instead.

    • aurens says:

      aw come on man, at least be honest about it. you’d get people to bite anyway and at least you’d be pantomiming a genuine criticism.

    • KDR_11k says:

      SRPGs have mostly one thing and that’s grind. Sometimes they have more grind and let you grind while you grind, perhaps they’ll even cube it so you grind while you grind while you grind.

      In short, f### Disgaea.

      • Dominic White says:

        If you’re grinding to get past anything in the main campaign of any of the Disgaea games, you’re doing it wrong. The whole thing is balanced so that clever play will trump stat-inflation.

      • stillunverified says:

        I cant think of an SRPG where I’ve had to grind to beat main story stuff.
        That said, I still dislike Disgaea, I never finished it so I don’t know if it gets better near the end, but I didnt really like the actual combat, the character-building stuff is cool and all but I felt like once I got into the battle I didn’t even have to think, just shove all my dudes in a direction and spam attacks, compared to something like Fire Emblem where a couple mistakes with unit placement can fuck you over.

    • Meat Circus says:

      Setting aside the obvious trolling here, (the XCOM I’ve been playing certainly has basic things like pathfinding, elevation play, lighting/visibility play, cover system, AI) Alec’s article touches on one of things that I always disliked about X-COM that this new and rather wonderful incarnation fixes.

      Not wishing to be needlessly iconoclastic, X-COM’s pacing sucked. Spending 45 minutes painstakingly playing hide and seek in an empty field with a large crew of spaced-out soldiers most of whom will do nothing to help in the fight until one of them randomly cops a instakill from a lurking alien, is not, as far as I’m concerned, good game design.

      X-COM’s pacing frequently managed to outstrip my patience. New XCOM, on the other hand has dispensed with this dullness (yes, I said it! Bits of XCOM were quite dull!) and throws you straight where you want to be! FIGHTING ALIENS.

      With reference to John’s article on nostalgia, it’s great that Jake Solomon wasn’t bound by nostalgia, and felt free to throw away what honestly would’t work in a modern game, and streamlined expectations for what was mostly slow and unnecessary busywork.

      It’s a wonderfully-paced game, and feels very much a product of the current era, rather than a 20-year-old game with shinier graphics.

      • Vorphalack says:

        Slower pacing could work in a modern game. You might not personally like it, but that does not mean that it cannot be done well, with turn based games being the perfect vehicle for games that want to take their time.

        • JackShandy says:

          I don’t think Meat Circus is saying the pacing was too slow, just that it was too erratic. There are long moments when nothing happens, then very shot moments where you’re suddenly destroyed.

          • subedii says:

            Indeed, I pretty much agree with Meat Circus there. Waiting forever to find the last enemy on the map was never fun, it was just tedious. Yes there’s some tension to be had, but inching forward a few blocks at a time and investigating structures move-stop-turn-stop-move-stop…

            It wasn’t tactical decision making, it was just rote behaviour, and it was terrible for the pacing (the few times you didn’t get bored and just blow out the whole freaking building).

          • NathanH says:

            Well, you could just hit end turn 20 times or so until the last alien flipped out and came running at you as they reliably do after a certain number of turns. Getting the last alien wasn’t too much of a chore if you knew about that.

      • Eskatos says:

        Finding the last aliens was a bitch in XCOM, but it had an easy fix. Just research motion detectors and keep one or three on your soldiers, then you’ll never have to search around.

        • Josh W says:

          Exactly, motion detectors. I played apocalypse rather than the original, but those things were vital. If you set up with some motion detectors and stun prods, you could actually ambush the aliens, with excellent results. (This often goes wrong)

  10. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    The Dishonored article was excellent. It’s clear people have been going overboard and spaffing themselves over their perceived perfect way of playing the game. It isn’t a black&white case of playing the game right or playing the game wrong.

    • Lambchops says:

      The article summed up better than I attempted to on why I wasn’t quite on board with “spirit of the game” type comments.

      Still to play it yet, don’t know if it will hit the sweet spot for me or not.

  11. Brian Rubin says:

    Wow, thank you for mentioning my little space game blog! :)

  12. Ergates_Antius says:

    IronClad do a post-mortem on the most recent Sins game,

    The latest Sins games? Those sound interesting, tell me more….

    • The Random One says:

      You know, skimming the article I actually thought it was about 7sins, a game I saw once for sale at a newsstand. I didn’t actually play it, but from the back of the box I’d say it can be concisely described as The Sims’s porn parody.

  13. Sleepymatt says:

    That Tourette’s piece was very interesting, and has a fabulous comments column that restored my faith in the Internet. Thanks for the link Jim!

    • field_studies says:

      I enjoyed it too. And I think that probably many (most?) of us can relate in some low-grade way to his daughter’s attraction to games… the pleasure or relief of being so completely occupied by an activity.

      I came to Polygon’s site through The Besties podcast, and find myself returning often. Curious to see what kind of community builds there, considering how all-over-the-place their content is so far (weird to be reading this highly personal article with the flashing banner “Hot article: iPad 2 Rumor Roundup” hovering at the top of the screen).

  14. FreudianTrip says:

    Go Switzerland! We’re so badass! Not really, all my friends that went to the military said it was just 6 weeks of getting pished. As an Englishman abroad I do find it a bit disconcerting when there’s a bunch of people in McDonalds with M4s strapped to their backs.

    • Tiax says:

      I did my military service in Switzerland a few years ago. Considering it’s mandatory (even though you can easily be rejected by acting completely antisocial) mostly everyone was kinda pissed off to be here.

      Still, it was fun. Fun because I met some really cool guys and fun because we knew that it was virtually impossible for our country to ask us to do something we would be opposed to (attacking another country, for example).

      Basically, it’s a mandatory sports camp where you get to do push-ups in the snow at 5 AM, you’ve got to adapt during the first few weeks but besides that I really enjoyed my time here (while still thinking that a standing army for Switzerland is a huge waste of money).

      And those are not M4, those are SIG-550 (and they’re, obviously, the best assault rifle in the world :p). A few weeks ago we got drunk and teared down to the last small pieces the SIG-550 (we call them FAS90) of the friend who was hosting us and hid all of them everywhere in his house, took him a few days to find everything and put it back together. Good times.

  15. kuddles says:

    I understand where the Dishonored article is coming from. I remember a lot of people complaining that Crysis was boring because they just stood back and sniped everyone compared to the excitement of COD4, and we all know the stories of people who played most of BioShock just using the wrench and the electricity plasmid. People prefer the path of least resistance.

    I guess my question is: What is the alternative? My problem with games like Deus Ex is the opposite. You get informed that you have all these tools at your disposal to experiment with, and then are constantly pushed into situations where you’re not allowed to use most of those tools and are stuck using the ones you don’t like and/or have not upgraded your skill tree with. I think that is why the developers don’t make things “unfair”, because then it starts dictating what you can or cannot do in certain situations, which removes the whole point of having things open-ended to begin with.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      “People prefer the path of least resistance”

      I couldn’t disagree with this statement more! What difficulty level do you play games on? Easiest, or do you increase the resistance to make the experience more fun for yourself.

      I think people take the path of least resistance because they are conditioned to the idea that deviating from their perception of the path of least resistance is not going to be fun due in part to the increasing linearity of games and the increasing handholding games do.

      • kuddles says:

        Fair enough, and that might be the case. I remember reading a preview of Dishonored where they stated they had to go in and add more suggestions because playtesters were used to being told what to do in every situation. An NPC would keep them out of entering a building, and instead of using their powers to find a way around that, they just assumed based on other games that it was a sign they couldn’t go that way, and would hang around waiting for a cutscene or something to guide them.

        But then it begs the question as to whether forcing people into using the “right” option is the way to go to break people out of that expectation of linearity, or if it would just re-inforce it.

        • Hahaha says:

          What is going on with Q&A testers these days? they just seem to be getting worse.

          • Baines says:

            From my brief experience with Q&A testing several years back, the problem isn’t necessarily with the Q&A testers themselves.

            We were given a checklist of things to check, were somewhat discouraged from testing anything else, had no established way to report any such extra testing, and had to go out of our way to even report “We couldn’t test anything the first day because we spent the first day trying to get the blasted set-up working at all, because you gave us broken installers on a possibly broken OS compiled with a compiler version that the compiler maker said not to use for any serious projects because the compiler itself was just a test version.” And, of course, we never really saw much in the way of acknowledgement of sometimes serious issues.

          • Josh W says:

            You’d think Harvey’d have more respect for Q&A testers than that though, as that’s how he got into the business in the first place.

      • Archonsod says:

        It’s rare the difficulty level actually affects the difficulty of the game though. It might make enemies smarter and change some numbers on weapons and health totals, but that simply makes mistakes more punishing. It doesn’t make the goal of the game any harder.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          I don’t really see your point, but I’m not going to argue with it because I’m sure it makes some sort of sense to someone, however, you can’t deny that in the vast majority of games, playing on the easiest difficulty level is the path of least resistance.

          • Archonsod says:

            Point is the difficulty level in most games does little more than determine how many bullets you need to expend per opponent, and how many you can take. It doesn’t do anything with regards to altering the path of least resistance, it only modifies the challenge of a specific path (and even then, it doesn’t alter the challenge of the actual path as such, combat works the same as it does on any level, it just shuffles the numbers).

            Compare it to say Thief, where harder difficulties actually changed objectives (more loot needed and no killing for example). There the challenge does change, since you can’t simply beeline for the objective any more nor can you rely on your sword skills to get you out of a rough patch. It’s one of the few games that manages to make difficulty meaningful.

          • NathanH says:

            This is correct to a certain extent, although it is certainly possible for something as simple as increasing enemy health to change the path of least resistance. Suppose you have more health than your opponent and do the same damage. The path of least resistance mentally is just to attack them and let them attack you until they die. The path of least resistance in terms of time is to work to increase dps even if it increases enemy dps (at a similar rate). Determining how to kill your enemy while losing as few health points as possible is fun for an optimizer, but not necessary. But if you boost the health of the enemies through a difficulty level increase, the first path of least resistance now leads to death, and the second now leads to quicker death.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @Archonsod – I get what you are saying now, and you nailed one of the reasons I love Thief series so much – The first mission on thief 2, where you have to clear the path for the kidnapped guy – on the easier levels you never even have to go upstairs!!!

            What I was saying though, if we all take only the path of least resistance in a game – say halflife; given the choice of halflife on easy or hard, easy is the path of least resistance. Sure the physical path hasn’t changed one bit, but the resistance which stops you from getting from A to B is dramatically different. On easy, you can mash your way through with the crowbar, take hits thoughtlessly etc etc. On hard, you have to plan each encounter as much as you can. The path is the same, the tasks are the same but the resistance is more – you will be lower on ammo, armour and health. Every enemy needs more ammo to deal with, or more skill. If players truely gravitated to the path of least resistance, no-one would choose to play on anything but easy.

            My point is, players often increase the challenge for themselves quite willingly to increase the fun they have with a game.

  16. Bob says:

    What a lovely article on video games as therapy. Those that suggest games are responsible for all manner of unsociable acts should read it to gain some balance. Interestingly I was only reading the other day that elderly should play video games as another way to exercise those grey cells and keep the mind active.

  17. phenom_x8 says:

    link to

    I know, I know, it’s a console toy blog, but for you who had a memory with Soul Reaver, it’s totally worth it to read. And, kick starter, why there is nobody try to ressurect this kind of game ?? You know, third person action adventure/ platformer (something like messiah or MDK maybe?)

    • InternetBatman says:

      Well for one thing, they’re still being made. Assassin’s Creed and Prince of Persia for example.

      • phenom_x8 says:

        Yeah, but there is something different about these games I mentioned with recent 3rd person adventure game (I hope it is not caused by soemthing called childhood memories). Repetitive(safe?) design and handholding experience is what set them apart. In AC, you always knew where your objective is and how to to do it clearly without any risk to lose (often with ‘press X to do it all’) , meanwhile when I played Soul reaver, they let me figured every possible way on my own to reach the objective with the bunch of skills provided in the game (realm shift,bar walk, etc), they even let me die if I fail so it rather thrilled me a little. The 1st PoP trilogy are great, but the 2008 PoP, that minimalising any risk (or even throwed it away), are not.

    • JackShandy says:

      Ratchet and clank, too.

  18. JackShandy says:

    Dishonoured really runs off self-motivated challenges. It is actually massively, massively easy to complete the objective in a very short amount of time. The game doesn’t put gates in front of you; the targets die in one hit like everyone else, there’s no “Get the red key” level design, every cutscene has a big “SKIP” button in the lower left. Dishonoured doesn’t want to restrict you; it wants you to do that voluntarily.

    The rewards for completing missions non-lethally, the little “Ghost” and “Killed No-one” checkboxes at the end of the levels, achievements like “Don’t buy any powers”… The game assumes you are self motivated, and provides a toybox for you to play with. That’s why it lets you complete the objectives so easily. It won’t force you to play a certain way; it assumes you’ll be doing that yourself.

    • subedii says:

      Definitely agree.

      Kuddles further above mentioned Crysis, and when he did the reasonings behind all of this suddenly hit home. I freaking loved playing Crysis, it was an awesome game that truly allowed you to approach the gameplay how YOU wanted to. No arbitrary levelling up, no future gameplay benefits for doing so, I didn’t need any achievements to TELL me how to play, I just played it how I wanted. And I ended up repeating missions so many times, not because I was failing, but because I was trying something different each time, and each time it was viable and it was fun.

      At the same time, all I’d hear was endless comments about how Crysis was “dull” and a “tech demo”. No it’s not dull, you’re playing it dull. You’ve been given access to an array of weapons, vehicles and powers, but the game isn’t going to force you to make your fun with them. That’s up to you to decide. Go in Solid Snake or both barrels blazing, or any number of variants in-between (personally I recommend trying a stealthy run but with a “no cloak” rule. It’s awesome).

      The key thing is that the games in question give you the tools to be able to carry out your plans and execute them, they don’t FORCE you to use them or to play a specific way. It’s up to the player to use them in non-linear and inventive ways, and watch the results. I like those games because they allow me an outlet to experiment with cool sometimes bizarre plans, and there’s no penalty for doing so (most games feel they have to “reward” for playing specific ways in order to promote gameplay styles, the upshot being that typically if you don’t play in those exact ways or don’t follow that style through, you effectively end up losing out).

      Another comparison would be Thief. Thief is a ridiculously easy game to cheese when you understand the binary nature of its mechanics. You can literally go around, thumping every guard on the head and tossing them all into the same darkened room. But it’s so much more interesting and fun to actually try and be a Thief, in and out with narry a sight nor sound, and the only real evidence of your passing being a lot less silverware in the kitchen. Not always possible (or very hard), but I’m not above breaking my own rules on occassion if it stops being fun. That’s the point.

      • Sheng-ji says:

        You sir, get it!

      • LionsPhil says:

        But do you feel immersed as the character when doing that? It’s hard to relate to someone who is acting irrationally in a serious world.

        It’s the difference between the adrenaline of a close improvisational escape as that character and just sitting at your computer grinning from ear to ear as you play with a box of explosive toys. For an immersive sim with characters and plot, at least for the first playthrough, I tend to be after the former kind of fun. Which means balancing the difficulty/resources/etc. just right that the direct route isn’t always the best or most sustainable. (In SysShock 1 or DX1, health, for example, can be a limiter here…although both suffer from it becoming very easy to end up swimming in medkits anyway.)

        • subedii says:

          Extremely few First Person, heck even 3rd person games have any real sense of character, the main avatar is just a cipher for the player. So usually I don’t have a problem with that.

          On the rare occasions that the game does have a strong and well defined central character, yeah, I do enjoy “playing the part”. Arkham Asylum comes to mind, it’s so much more satisfying taking out mooks one by one and gradually intimidating them, than trying to brute force anything. Or heck, trying to chain together one or two takedowns in sequence if you can pull it off.

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        Dull is dull, and placing personal blame for why some would feel that way about a game is pointless. I found Crysis to be dull, and I certainly wasn’t playing it wrong.

        • subedii says:

          A box of vegetables on their own is dull, especially if you just stick to eating one or two repeatedly because you feel that ‘get’s the job done’. Or you can mix them up, cook them, experiment, and see what comes out.

          A lot of people don’t really enjoy a less structured experience, they want something more guided and directed, and I can appreciate that. I enjoy those games, at least when they’re well implemented.

          But Crysis gave the tools to make things special of your experiences, and it was up to the player to do that. Note here that I didn’t say that you could play Crysis “wrong” (nor was I placing “personal blame” if you don’t like it, see the paragraph above). You can basically play it how you want, but the flipside of that is that you can most certainly play it dull. If you approach it as just a generic shooter and just do generic shooter things and, for example, stand back and snipe and snipe and snipe, one-by-one, yes it’ll be dull. Of course it’ll be dull.

          Some games aren’t going to direct the fun for you, instead they’ll allow you to create your own personally directed action sequences, your own plans of action, and it often feels that much more involving because you’re the one that came up with them. They largely just give you the tools. What emerges from that depends on them being made use of.

          To put it another way, off the top of my head I can think of maybe a half dozen anecdotes that were awesome to me, personally, whilst playing Crysis. I can think of precisely zero in Call of Duty. However I play it it’s always going to be the same, it’s a game built entirely of scripting. I feel that’s the key point. Whether you love or hate a game like CoD, it has nothing to do with how you play it. Whereas in a game like Crysis it’s all about how you play it.

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I understand what you’re saying, but none of that changes the fact that I personally found Crysis a dull game no matter what playstyle I took. It’s as simple as that.

            Crysis is certainly not the first video game to offer the variety of playstyles you described, so I’m not quite sure where your adulation is coming from exactly.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          No-one can tell you your personal opinion is wrong, if you found it dull – you found it dull. I kind of agree and disagree with you in that games can’t be played wrongly. I think we need to move away from the “You’re playing it wrong” attitude and move towards an attitude of “Have you tried playing like this?”

          Let me explain:

          For some people, roleplaying is where the fun is. I am one of these people, I love it. Not too hardcore, just enough that I can immerse myself in a character and act as I believe the character would in game. I understand that for other people, this is dull as ditchwater. They want nothing to do with roleplaying and that’s fine! Now take a game like skyrim; for me I found hundreds of hours of entertainment, really good fun and I barely scratched the surface of the game. Had someone who didn’t enjoy roleplaying followed my steps in the game, my god would they have been bored!

          So it’s clear that how we enjoy playing games is very personal and can’t be called wrong or right. Fortunately there are more games released than we could possibly play, there really is a game for nearly everyone. Of course games like Dishonored, which claim to support a variety of play styles take some exceptional balancing and I think it’s fair to say Dishonored didn’t do this as well as Deus Ex. There are many different playstyles which will have fun with the game, but there are many which won’t. Same with Crysis 2; clearly some people found it dull and others didn’t. Here’s the thing though, not talking about you at all, I believe you tried to have fun with the game – some people are completely closed to certain playstyles that the game may be designed for.

          That’s not a criticism of them necessarily, though some people are deliberately obtuse believing every game should be just for them and how they wish to play it and refuse to be flexible. This is why reviewing games is such a difficult task, you have to communicate effectively to your audience what the game is and how it is fun to play. It’s no good to you if a review harps on lyrically about how great Crysis 2 without being objective, especially if that review boils everything down to a score because you could get the incorrect impression that it will be an amazing game for you.

          Of course, the internet has facilitated this extraordinary fanboism, which see’s, from a long time before the game is released, arguments over a game which basically revolve around lots of people telling each other with various degrees of aggresion that their opinion is the only one that matters. This kind of behaviour is nectar to the publishers, they get an army of unpaid salesman pushing the game for all they are worth whist an equal but opposite army stir up controversy, bringing the game to more and more peoples attention

          • subedii says:

            I feel like we’re talking towards this subject from slightly different angles, but arriving at largely the same place.

            And funnily enough, also posted extremely large posts within 15 minutes of each other. :P

          • Archonsod says:

            ” I think we need to move away from the “You’re playing it wrong” attitude and move towards an attitude of “Have you tried playing like this?”

            I don’t think we need either. It’s the fault of the fanboyism you spoke about I think. Some people don’t like some things, and that’s perfectly ok. Someone who hates sand will never be happy playing in a sandbox, and that’s perfectly fine.
            Seems strange that only in gaming do we have this weird almost religious fervour of having to stomp out the heretics that dislike sand, while in real life we’d be unlikely to do much more than raise an eyebrow at such a confession.

          • NathanH says:

            I imagine you’ll see a similar effect in any area where the “old guard” start to realize they’re in the minority and powerless. It is perhaps amplified in video gaming because it’s also moving from a minority interest to a mainstream one, and the “old guard” are also frequently excluded and disaffected by the mainstream, making it more annoying when their last bastion is invaded.

          • Sheng-ji says:

            @subedii Hehe, yup!


            Oh, yes you’re correct! I was just thinking back to my time with Morrowind, I hated it! I found the open world was boring and I was begging to be told where to go next, but no-one would. I put the game down and told my friend how boring I found it. He said “Have you tried roleplaying it” and I have never looked back! I still play it annually, it easily numbers amongst my favourite games – which would not have happened if my friend hadn’t tried to help me!

            @NathanH I think you’re probably hitting nails on their heads there!

      • Josh W says:

        I’m obviously a very inexperienced thief player; putting everyone in a pile in the same room after blackjacking them is one of my favourite challenges. Maybe I’ll get to ghosting eventually.

  19. LionsPhil says:

    Aw, man, the delete-o-tron has scattered our Queen lyrics all the way back here on page 3.

  20. pertusaria says:

    Thanks for pointing me toward Moving Pixels – I’m sure I’ve read some of their articles before, but I’ve got into it now and am really enjoying the backlog.

  21. newprince says:

    Okay, so roguelikes are the anti-Bioshock. So what? I don’t find the successes in roguelikes any more rewarding that say, beating Half Life 2. A million other people beating it does nothing to my pride, since the game up to that point was, for me, brilliant.

    And no matter how we talk of the love of randomness, there will be an end to any game, or else it will leave the player disappointed or they will just die eventually. How that is superior will take more academic blather, I suppose.