The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for listening for the distant horn blasts of the approaching army. But while you wait for death on the windswept battlements of the final wall protecting your kingdom, why not read some interesting game-related links?

  • Polygon present the story of Octodad: “During college, I discovered that I really … wanted to work on games, but became increasingly insecure about the quality of my work. … My level of anxiety reached its peak right before I started working on [the first Octodad]. It was to the point where I wasn’t able to sleep at night because I was terrified of not being successful. … I was worried that I’d be revealed as a fraud, that I never should have been picked for this [DGE] team in the first place and I didn’t have anything meaningful to contribute.”
  • Interesting article on Candy Box.
  • Some news about Valve’s ongoing consultations with devs over the evolution of Greenlight: “According to TomB [Valve] the limited amount of games going through the process now is due to “limited resources.” Chet [Valve] stated that their new strategy of greenlighting titles in smaller, yet more often batches should actually increase the amount of titles being greenlit. This appears to be one of Valve’s greatest concerns. Alden [Valve] acknowledge that it is important and stated that they have “a bunch of people working on it.” However, you have to deduce that increasing the flow within the current system is only a temporary solution.”
  • Why Naughty Dog’s Rich Lemarchand became a teacher: “We’re very lucky in academia that we have complete freedom of thought and practice in the games that we make,” Lemarchand enthuses. “We don’t think about how we’re going to monetize this game. And that means that we can really focus on the artistic aspects of game development. For example, the games that have come out of [this class] have been incredibly varied in terms of the approaches to the player, to controls, the representation, the integration of sound and music, even the question of what a game is. It’s just a big creative free-for-all and I find that tremendously exciting.”
  • Boardgames – Dudes On A Map: “Risk (and Diplomacy) set the standard. Map of the world, pieces abstractly representing units of military presence or force, production of said pieces, and an impetus to claim territory either neutral or contested in order to increase resources and the ability to field larger armies and exert more control over the map. These fundamentals are largely the same today in even the most divergent examples of the genre, with a multitude of variations and mutations employed to either reduce or increase detail. Player interaction- both on board and above aboard- tends to be high as the core actions described are those of conflict and contest.”
  • Mr Yang does a Let’s Play for the first part of Half-Life.
  • Both this piece about the problem of videogames as a medium for expression and this response to it seem deeply problematic to me. I haven’t had time to properly formulate a response to it, but it might come as a part of something I am writing in defence of a range of criticisms of games. Soon. Probably.
  • Monaco’s Andy Schatz on Kotaku talking about how best RPS readers are: ‘While we were beta testing Monaco, we asked players to take a quick survey on the game. We asked them what they liked, what they didn’t like, what confused them. We also asked them to rate the game from 1 to 10. We wanted to find out which beta key giveaways were bringing in our most passionate users. We generally found that the highest proportion of 9 and 10 ratings came from RockPaperShotgun and Reddit users. Our lowest ratings came just after we did a giveaway via Destructoid.”
  • Fascinating article on “old school” D&D: “To put it another way, Dungeons & Dragons has become a game preferring combat to role-playing. It favors prefab characters acquiring new skills and powers over a character that the player comes to identify with; a character whose development determines the course of the game. In the wake of this, a small but mighty band of mostly middle-age gamers has tapped into a larger current of nostalgia that (like vinyl records and analog synthesizers) is trying to recapture the interactions with ideas and people that digital media have all but made obsolete.”
  • Lovely write-up from our PS2 evening.
  • 2013, the year of Cyberpunk.
  • This piece about ancient words really made my week.

Music this week is the video for Bibio’s À tout à l’heure. A bit less dread-blast doomy than I usually go for, but ah well.

If you find a link during the week that you think is interesting, you can mail me (link at the top of the post) or poke me on the Twitters.


  1. ReV_VAdAUL says:

    The Monaco dev giving preferential treatment to people who liked the game seems pretty dangerous. Maybe the Destructoid users didn’t like the game because they don’t have refined enough tastes but maybe they didn’t like it for other, more important reasons. They seem to be using “passionate” as a synonym for “most sycophantic”.

    Further, specifically naming and shaming Destructoid as a community whose opinion they discarded poisons the well for any future, potentially useful, feedback from them.

    • Sander Bos says:

      RPS commenters, the Hooray for Everything crowd.
      Let’s see Andy Schatz make a woman empowerment video game and see how that tests with us, now that John Walker has conditioned us to hate anyone even bringing up the topic…

      • shitflap says:

        I’d love it, cos I hate men.

        • Sander Bos says:

          Oh sorry my mistake. I forgot to say that my previous comment should be considered ‘reference comment’, and as such there should be no replies to it (it is closed for replies).

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I was on the fence as to whether you had a worthwhile contribution to the discussion, but now I know I can happily block you and be secure in the knowledge that I’m not going to miss out on anything particularly thought provoking.

            Thanks for the clarification, I appreciate it.

          • Spakkenkhrist says:

            It’s their site, they can do what they want with it, if you don’t like it why visit and take the time to comment?

          • destroy.all.monsters says:

            I took it as a perfect critique Spakkenkhrist. And if every site should only consist of utterly adoring fanboys sans any criticism then there’s no need for a comment system.

            Frankly, I consider ever linking to a Gawker site intolerable given their company-wide behavior (with the singular possible exception of Lifehacker).

          • lunesone says:

            That’s kind of amazing. Also if that means we get less platformers for a few years, then i’m all for raging against this new machine.

      • Jim Rossignol says:

        You’re being a little too snarky this morning, Sander. Make a cup of tea and relax.

      • Niko says:

        “Us” is a dangerous word.

      • Gap Gen says:

        Yeah, we should definitely make more overtly political games. The indie scene isn’t saying “fuck you” enough. It’s not punk rockers, it’s polite boys with nice haircuts making quiet tunes.

      • Synesthesia says:

        what the fuck. Really? Comment two? I’m gonna follow sheng-ji on this one. First time doing this, but here goes nothing. Goodbye forever.

        • flipflop mcbop says:

          genuinely amazed people do this. The world is made richer by competing opinions, no matter how disagreeable, and that is all it is. Stop being so sensitive and engage rather than censor.

          Or maybe I’m wrong, this is an evolving use of the block, where previously I thought it was for spam and genuine (and deliberate) abusive behaviour, perhaps I should consider blocking those with differing views to my own.
          But that makes me very uncomfortable indeed.

          More controversially (for here at least) I do think this is a behaviour led by ‘you know who’ of this very parish, and quite aggressively at times it must be said.
          I watch quite fascinated by it I have to say.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Given that almost half the buttons under every article say Block, it would be more amazing if they were never pressed.

            EDIT: I honestly thought I had never blocked anybody but, by pure chance, I have just seen a couple of blocked comments on the competition article. I assumed it must have been a misclick but after unblocking him I saw that he was a complete dick.

          • Gap Gen says:

            It’s not censorship if you personally decide not to listen to bigots. Not all opinions are of equal value. I have the right to disdain comments that object to equality of gender, race, sexuality, etc, because they’re just dickish and I have nothing to learn from them.

            Actually, to clarify, the poster could have written the same comment in a way that was funnier, but as it is it comes across as a little bitter and implies that they’re not actually in favour of gender equality. I suppose humour is a subtle thing.

    • Obc says:

      though i don’t know how exactly the rating worked but when a certain group doesnt like your game you shoudl try to found out why, maybe by inviting them again.

      by not inviting them again such a dilema arises: do you trust the judgement of those who love it or of those who critisize it? with which of these groups are you going to reach the better results if you really only want to chose one?

      • Sheng-ji says:

        I’d also be very interested to see how much influence a writer has over their audience. I doubt there’s a massive difference between your typical destructoid reader and RPS reader (note reader, not commenter)

      • kwyjibo says:

        The goal wasn’t to listen to feedback and to improve upon the game. The game was pretty much done, it was about viral marketing, getting the most enthusiastic of your audience to spread the word for you.

        You shape the conversation. It worked.

        • Wonkyth says:

          As one of those RPS testers, am I allowed to disagree with it being practically done?

    • tobecooper says:

      It was beta-testing, not the time to change the game drastically. By then, I believe, the devs were pretty sure about what they wanted to achieve. It seems the most important aspect of the testing was building a community. The linked text explains that.

    • tigerfort says:

      The purpose was to find people who liked the basic game and use their feedback to fine tune it. If people were (for example) complaining that they didn’t like it because you couldn’t stab your team-mates in the back and steal their loot, then listening to them would have been actively detrimental.

      This is a common marketing fallacy that I call the “Chili Crisps Problem” – find people who don’t like your product and change it to suit their tastes. The result is generally that no-one buys it at all. (I first encountered it with Chili flavour crisps – some total nerk had discovered that lots of people don’t like chili crisps because they’re too spicy, so the company tried making chili crisps that didn’t taste of chili or have any chili heat. The people who actually like chili crisps stopped buying that brand because they were no longer actually chili crisps, while people who don’t like chili crisps still didn’t buy them because it still said “chili flavour” on the packet, and they knew they didn’t like hot things.)

      • derbefrier says:

        This makes sense to me and for what its worth as an RPS reader I have really enjoyed Monaco and think its a brilliant game. I mean it makes sense to me, readers at sites like RPS are generally more open to weird and different games that break the mold because well RPS generally covers more of the weird games out there than most other major sites that focus more on the AAA side of the industry so naturally it will attract those types of gamers. I mean I don’t come to RPS to see the latest COD review I come here to find out about games I would never hear of browsing PC Gamer or Gamespot, or IGN’s website.
        Andy was right, find your demographic the ones that like the game for what it is and tweak it from there. The ones that hate it well, it would be a waste of time in most cases to really listen to them since they already hate it. This is definitely something the gaming industry needs to learn instead of watering down there games to try and appeal to everyone everywhere.

    • Merus says:

      Honestly if your PR budget’s tight, it makes sense to put your promotional wood behind as few arrowheads as possible. If Destructoid readers don’t care for a game already well overdue, and RPS and Reddit (neither known for being particularly sycophantic) do, it makes more sense to focus on the audience that’s going to respond positively to it rather than try and win over people for whom it’s simply not their thing.

  2. Qwallath says:

    Regarding the Washing Post article about the 15k year old words – the original study is pretty inspiring and bold, but it has quite a few (linguistic) issues.

    TL;DR version: they play fast and loose with the language data they use and their methodology, so the arguments behind their claims are far from rock solid. See e.g. this rebuttal for more detail: link to

    That said, I think there’s certainly something to be said for the idea that some words way have gone unreplaced (note: not *unchanged*!) for a period of, say, 15.000 years.

    • basilisk says:

      To a linguist, it’s pretty obvious they’re pulling a lot out of their arses to make that claim work. As a thought experiment, why not, but it’s definitely no science what they are doing there. There just isn’t any data they could possibly build on, and never will be.

      • Qwallath says:

        Well, linguists in the year 16.000 CE or so might disagree ;-)

        But yeah, you put slightly more bluntly what I was implying. That said, I do believe you can do substantiated studies of the relation between word frequency and the rate of replacement, but on shorter timescales and based on attested words.

        Anyway, curious to hear about your own background/work as a linguist, if you don’t mind me asking.

        • basilisk says:

          Well, if you accept the possibility of time travel, anything goes, I suppose.

          I’m but a humble applied linguist, of the kind commonly known as a translator, but I have a degree in linguistics and translation theory. Still, I’d say that this study can be debunked with just a bit of common sense – they’re basically trying to reconstruct what dinosaurs could have looked like without a single fragment of a bone or a tiniest footprint; they just have a chicken, a chameleon and a vague feeling that these two belong together somehow.

          Reconstruction of historical languages is a fascinating branch of science, but everyone doing it is well aware of how very imprecise and speculative it is.

    • choconutjoe says:

      Another rebuttal: link to

  3. golem09 says:

    Monaco 1/10
    My sunny day morning papper

  4. Bradamantium says:

    You know, when Darius Kazemi sums up his point as “Don’t restrict yourself to videogames if it’s not working out for you!”, it’s not a bad point. When he spends the rest of that article (?) putting “FUCK” in big bold letters, it’s a cynical, ugly piece of writing that seems to overlook the fact that many of the problems it’s pointing out aren’t inherent to games. He overlooks a lot of problems that are more about the would-be developers than the medium they’re trying to use. (Also, I don’t think anyone says video games are a BETTER medium than books, film, etc., but they do some different things better. His insistence that video games are not unique as a medium is tiring and seems fairly wrong.)

    Glad I could get a giggle from that Cyberpunk bit to even out the cynicism.

    • WrenBoy says:

      The Fuck Videogames piece seems unnecessary to me.

      If you are a mediocre writer but are great at designing coherent and meaningful game systems then I think that is a pretty good reason to restrict yourself to what you are best at. Few would be interested in reading an author whose literary skills limited his message to

      My girlfriend at the time treated me like shit and I really fucking hated her.

      Similarly if you find writing to be a chore but are easily motivated to create in a different medium then it appears obvious that you should be investing your energy where your motivation lies as that is how you will improve enough to interest other people in what you produce.

      I dont know why Jim linked to the response. It was content free rambling.

      • Bradamantium says:

        Right, he seems to totally overlook the “game” aspect of a game. Expression is one thing, mechanics and engagement that take that expression to the level of a game is another. The line between “game” and “interactive fiction” is a whole other discussion, but I think if that line exists, he’s squarely on the interactive fiction side. He’s not talking having trouble building gameplay mechanics to delineate meaning, he’s just talking about meaning, and I think that’s a big reason his criticisms rub me wrong.

        I had to reread that “response” because I thought I skipped into a different page somewhere in the middle. It went from setting up legitimate discussion about Kazemi’s points to suddenly calling for diversity in games and hating on Ken Levine. I’m all about every kind of diversity, but I’m not sure why it would come at the expense of existing developers or what it has to do with people expending too much effort to force their expression into a framework it’s not built for…

        • WrenBoy says:

          I am reminded of a flight I took some years ago where I was stuck sitting beside two members of a writers workshop, one of whom had recently given the other a manuscript to read and spent the whole time pestering her for her opinion and trying to discuss plot points, writing style and genre decisions.

          It was obvious listening to him that he was a writing novice and that the genre choices were not the reason that everything about his novel was awful.

          There is nothing wrong with inexperience and I am sure that he is a better writer today. Listening to someone describing at length how they plan on rearranging deck chairs makes for pretty dull conversation however.

    • Xocrates says:

      The problem I have with Kazemi’s point is that it feels too restrictive.

      Sure, if your message doesn’t fit don’t force it, but that he treats “message first, game later” as the only approach nags me, as it essentially shuns the whole idea of exploration of the medium.

      What if I wanted to see if it was even possible to pass the message through a videogame? What if I wanted to explore what messages I could use my gameplay to pass? What if I didn’t have a message at all and just wanted to make something fun?

      He’s making broad generalizations while referring to a very specific point, and even his disclaimer to ignore the presentation if you disagree does this.

      • Mman says:

        This sums up my main problem with the article; it supports taking the path of least resistance rather than trying something new. Sure, if all you want is to get a certain message out then take the known path, but what if you see exploring such a thing in a relatively new and undeveloped medium as a challenge? Even if you fail badly, maybe there will be just enough good ideas there for someone else with the creativity and imagination to be inspired and make it work.

        If you don’t even try you preclude any of this.

      • GameCat says:

        Message first and game later? That’s not gonna work.
        I wanted once to make a game. First thing I came up with was the story. But then I was struggling to get good gameplay for it. This was a situation where I would be better using other medium to share this story.
        But I wanted to make a game so I said – fuck story, let’s came up with gameplay first.
        And what happened? I came up with certain mechanics – real-time* surreal conversations (and other types of interacion) between player and NPCs. Now I have great tool to tell a story in manner that is not possible in any other mediums. Hell yeah.

        *No dialogues box or something like that – it’s more like The Sims conversation between themselves, but you have more control, lol.

    • AndrewC says:

      What I found most interesting is that this presentation demonstrates that the arty, have-a-weighty-theme, irono-platformer indie game is now the institution that young devs feel a need to rebel against. For me, the development of the World Of Goos and Bastions feels like a really recent occurance, and really underground, but for this dev they are the world he has grown up into. They’ve been around long enough to become the establishment.

      That’s kind of amazing. Also if that means we get less platformers for a few years, then i’m all for raging against this new machine.

      Apart from that though, he seems a rather obnoxious shouty young man.

      • Triplanetary says:

        Braid is an excellent game but the trend of poignant (or wannabe-poignant, in most cases) platformers about a boring dude and his ex-girlfriend that followed it was super annoying.

    • newprince says:

      In general I’m sick of wannabe indie game devs acting like if a game isn’t utterly depressing or makes you want to sell all your wordly possessions, it’s a failure. Yes, there’s room for expression, emotional release or catharsis in games, but setting out to do that in video game form may just *gasp* result in failure. That may come as a shock to my fellow Millenials out there, that many of our endeavors will result in failure. If the lesson you get from a failure or two is that the medium is the problem, well, you shouldn’t continue and don’t deserve to be in that profession any more.

      And the notion that if you instead dive into game systems, maximize fun for the player, etc., is being a massive sell out fraud is infuriating. These guys need to get over themeselves and realize, you played through Bioshock because you LOVED THE GAME(PLAY), and maybe take some lessons from that. The indie ‘community’ will never be good enough in its own eyes: it will always be classist and racist and self-hating, because they are bitterly self-concious people and ironically look down on those outside their community.

      • AndrewC says:

        That post was classist and racist against ‘those’ people in the indie game community. Negative generalisations aimed at an entire group as if they were an homogenous ‘other’ is prejudice.

        You are absolutely right that people shouldn’t do that.

  5. Colonel J says:

    That Bibio track is lovely.

    Can’t listen to it properly today though, my ears are still singing with beautiful tinnitus from Haxan Cloak’s show in Bristol on Friday night. Loud. As. Fuck.

  6. Sander Bos says:

    Man that Half Life video is fantastic (but I am an RPS commenter so scoring 10/10 is my default setting).
    And I imagine it is the first part of a 2148 part series of videos.
    I immediately launched Black Mesa, and it does have those buttons with a variety of voice responses (I did not even know those buttons were there). Of course they made a window in the initial hallway so the Black Mesa modders did miss the whole concept of the first interactive part of Half Life I now know (it’s not really the first room of course, Mr. Yang owes us some extra videos….).

    • baby snot says:

      I couldn’t comprehend why he was making a lets play of HL and then he just hit it out of the ballpark. I hope he continues to make more of these.

    • Jackablade says:

      I still don’t really understand what he was getting at with the lights and the concrete structure.

      • Sander Bos says:

        I think he was talking about subtleness.
        That the broken lights were too explicit, that it showed too much that a designer had been thinking let’s put some stuff broken here.
        Where the (non-anomalous) material binding of the ceiling structures still had a lot of thought in it, but were more like how a real designer would have set that up in real life.
        Of course, you still have to look at it explicitly, for me the video was also about wasted energy by those designers, because all those things are way to subtle to be noticed by neanderthals like myself who get the instruction to suit up and ignore everything they see running towards that goal…

    • mickey megabyte says:

      anyone have any idea why he said “the chair is actually a door” (2.54)?

      • shitflap says:

        There is no spoon.
        No, but seriously (and I’m sure someone can explain this better than I), I believe that the code that rotates the chair is the same code used in the opening of doors, but with a different graphical element on top, rather than a special set of variables that would only be coded and used in this specific instance. An anomaly that is probably only of interest to a select few.

        • Untruth says:

          Correct. In HL mapping a lot of the stuff is built on simple concepts like ‘doors’ that can be triggered.

          I haven’t mapped in years but as I remember a ‘door’ is an object with a pivot point. When you activate it, it rotates on the pivot. So, hence a chair centered on a pivot will act like a swivel chair when made into a ‘door’.

  7. ella guro says:

    Jim: would you mind explaining what you find deeply problematic about Darius’s and my articles? i respect your opinions, and i’ve spent a lot of time and effort trying to get this conversation going, so i really would’ve liked to hear more of your reasoning instead of a semi-dismissal.

    i guess what i saw in “Fuck Videogames” was a realization that there is a vast world of possibilities for expression outside videogames, that is often missed by people who construct their lives so deeply around technology – a message that i find more liberating than “nasty” or “ugly” or anything like that, despite the title.

    also one frustrating thing for me is that we both are leveling some criticisms inside the context a particular community we’re part of, but the context gets lost once it starts to proliferate into the sphere of gaming websites. and people seem to misread and make all kinds of assumptions about what kind of person i am to have wrote what i did, without making any effort to understand where i’m coming from – like, for example, reading any of the other things on that same blog. i’m trying to use my experiences to level a cogent criticism of what i’ve seen as being a peripheral part of the indie scene and thereabouts. i fully believe in the power of criticism, because i think we need to start a conversation that isn’t being had for the most part. if i wasn’t interested in improving the situation, i wouldn’t be trying at all.

    i’ve attempted to go to lot of effort to communicate what i think is special and unique about games, which i invite people to read if they want to. i even have a piece i wrote just last week, titled “it’s okay to like games” here: link to that talks about how a lot of critics pathologize hatred of videogames in a strange and unhealthy ways, that are ultimately unproductive and self-destructive. that could be construed as equally as much of a response to Darius’s piece as my other one. and also this piece, which talks about how we’ve failed to accept and embrace all the strangenesses of the medium we’re working within: link to

    this, however, doesn’t change the fact that a much greater amount of respect and understanding is warranted towards other forms of art – how they work, what they’ve done, etc if we really want to expand the expressive range of the medium. and a much greater range of understanding of human experiences is definitely vital, especially in a realm that’s been so dominated by a complete escape and lack of acknowledgement of privilege in any way, shape or form. these are serious problems, and we need to take them 100% seriously, both as critics and people who play games, if we’re that interested in improving that situation.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      I am planning to write something on various issues that have been circulated around lately, Kazemi’s piece included.

      In short: I think it’s an interesting piece, but it didn’t really articulate the ideas I think it was reaching for. Interpollination of ideas between different media is a really important issue right now, not least because the very idea of taking inspiration from different forms gets clogged up with so much jargonistic wank. Anyway, it wasn’t really a dismissal, just that I don’t think it said what it thought it was saying, or something like that.

      • ella guro says:

        what do you think it thought it was saying? i’m genuinely curious now

        • Jim Rossignol says:

          Well the explicit message is:

          Forms of expression are many, don’t allow “games” as a form to restrict your output, especially if you are struggling with making your idea fit into “game” form.

          An entirely reasonable message. And it wants to say: “Go look for inspiration in other media”. However, I think it ultimately comes off as saying, mostly because of the way it was said:

          Wow, games are difficult to make, especially if you want to convey a specific message.

          Which doesn’t, to me, say “fuck videogames”. When struggling as a writer, I did not say “fuck literature”, precisely because of the infinite depth thing cited there. I read how others did it, experimented with how it could be done.

          The bit that says something like “start mining other media for different ways of doing things and bring them back to games” is what this should have been about. There’s a sort of assumption – at least in Kazemi’s presentation – that the “limitless possibility and newness of games” is just so much hyperbolic horseshit. But I don’t think it is.

          • ella guro says:

            ah, yeah. i agree with you there. i wanted to expand on darius’s piece because of that. i thought he had good points that were not being made explicit enough or expressed clearly enough.

            as far as the hyperbolic “limitlessness” of games go, i think it’s an important warning. there’s a degree of limitlessness to every medium, we just often don’t see that because we’re used to being confined by our historical perceptions of what they are and aren’t.

          • Silvarin says:

            The problem with the piece is you can replace the word “game” with “book” and it still makes sense most of the time. It reads like: “I can’t make the game i like, so the medium doesn’t work.” I don’t think he meant that, but it’s really poorly written. I think games are a fantastic medium to express yourself, but it can be more difficult to realize than, for example, writing a book, if only for the resources you need.

          • ella guro says:

            Silvarin: i guess what i took from his piece is it’s important to respect videogames to understand how they can be effectively used for expression. which it didn’t seem like he thought he was doing in his prior efforts to make games. so he was trying to say “i’ve found that i tried to shoehorn all these ridiculous ideas into a videogame and i realize it wasn’t a good medium for it”. and he wanted to make others aware that, hey, maybe making a videogame isn’t the best route for you. but because of games’ newness, there’s a sort of sexiness about trying to express something emotional through them.

            and the way they get talked about by critics often doesn’t help this – and it leads to people looking for some kind of validation because they made something vaguely “deep” in a game form. which often gets one away from the genuine expression of emotion in a respectful, non-manipulative, not-super-duper-on-the-surface way because they’re so focused on making something that will be read as “serious” or “emotional” right away, so someone will write a blogpost about it and they can be seen as true Videogame Artists or whatever. so yeah, it’s short and hastily written, but i still found a lot of the points really valuable.

            i definitely agree with this though – “I think games are a fantastic medium to express yourself, but it can be more difficult to realize than, for example, writing a book, if only for the resources you need.”

          • Silvarin says:

            @ella guro

            But isn’t it the normal route to try to express yourself in the forms you’re familiar with? I know a lot of people who don’t see games as sexy at all. This assumption of cool and sexy and new seems way to exaggerated and is only true in the specific sub-group of gaming lads and ladies. If most of your friends and the people you admire are readers/writers, the sex appeal of books will be a lot higher than when none of your friends know anything about literature.
            So what’s left of the message is this: “There are many forms of art, choose!” And I don’t know if this is a message at all.

          • mike says:

            It felt to me like his disclaimer was doing a lot of work. With it, he’s just saying “if videogames aren’t working for you, don’t force it just because all your friends are making them,” but without it he’s making a much larger and angrier claim about the medium as a whole.

        • cpt_freakout says:

          Please correct me if I’m wrong. If I understood your piece, what you’re saying is that, in order for a variety of expressions and ways of exploring them to take place in videogames, an explosion of the community is needed. The community is so gated (by class, race, gender) and so small that most devs can’t see beyond the discourse they, along with others such as Big Studio Devs, have built along the years, in which videogames as a medium is conceived not in differing ways but in the same old tired ones. Friendship, in this particualr community, is not about truth but about the shared experience of games, which makes a dialogue marked with criticism a very embarassing thing to establish. Therefore, the problem resides not in diminishing the place of videogames in favor of other, well, things, but in opening up the devs’ minds through the creation of a sort of professional community that isn’t reliant on ‘friendship’ or on contextual gates (class, etc).

          If that was your point, I think you could have stated it more clearly, perhaps by making the text itself shorter. Otherwise I believe it does get a bit lost by the end in the mix of description and normativity, and perhaps that’s why Jim (and some other commenters around here) thought it didn’t fully come to the point it attempted to make.

          • ella guro says:

            i’m trying to address multiple threads that came up in Darius’s piece, hence the disjointed nature of it. like, i thought it was important to address the community around Twine because he mentioned it specifically. and i thought it was relevant to talk about how games get raised above other forms of art within nerd culture because of a lack of understanding for other forms of art, because that’s an issue i see underlying his whole piece. it’s not a manifesto and i by no means think i have the answers, i’m just trying to get my thoughts out there and get a conversation going, because i’m frustrated at what i’ve observed in being a small part of that community.

          • cpt_freakout says:

            I see – sorry for the misunderstanding. I agree, though… I remember reading on some blog somewhere a crazy dude that would rather preserve Chris Avellone’s writings over Shakespeare’s, without even considering the possibility of turning the issue on its head and just saying ‘why not both?’. The way he wrote suggested that he had never really read Shakespeare, but had probably played through every Black Isle RPG 7 times each, haha. To each his or her own, of course, but many of the questions raised around games and game design are not only stale but noxious in their circularity, to the point of unnecessarily turning them into black and white scenarios, as is the case of the ‘fuck videogames’ piece.

    • walldad says:

      Did it ever occur to you that it’s more than a little patronizing to assume gamers don’t understand other mediums of expression or aren’t aware of them? And perhaps using that as a jumping off point for your “discussion” amounts to little more than an act of shadowboxing with a contrived caricature of uncultured, myopic nerds?

      You seem very eager to speak on behalf of the entirety of “video game culture” but provide very little to substantiate your claims and contentions, even ones I’m sympathetic to.

      • ella guro says:

        i don’t see how it’s “shadowboxing” to respond to something that’s been the firsthand experience of me and most of my friends (game developers, game journalists, etc) who’ve been participants in “videogame culture” in one way or another for nearly our entire lives. i’m sorry it’s not something you want to hear, but i’ve been around the block and thought about this enough to know that these are serious issues.

        just because you don’t see it as a problem doesn’t mean it isn’t. and it doesn’t mean these issues aren’t very real, because they are. if you want evidence it’s not very hard to find it, if that’s what you’re actually looking for.

        • walldad says:

          Ah, and yet it wouldn’t occur to you that it a discussion something I’d like to hear more of, since I do not give your absurdly broad assertions or their framing full assent.

    • newprince says:

      Well, first off, you don’t capitalize the first word in your sentences! Joking aside, I also look forward to his response. What I observed is your decent response descended into a seemingly unrelated rant.

      • ella guro says:

        what was “decent” about it to you? it’s easy to make a snap judgment but i don’t see a lot of actual response or effort made beyond that. as i said before, i was looking at several different threads that came up in Darius’s talk.

  8. realitysconcierge says:

    Are y’all going to do a WIT of Remember Me? The game looks really compelling and I’d like to read what y’all think of it come the time it is released.

    • Jim Rossignol says:

      Certainly hope to. WITs are time and money limited at the moment, I am aware that we are not covering everything, or covering stuff in a super timely way.

      • realitysconcierge says:

        I will love you guys no matter what happens!

      • Michael Fogg says:

        Weird, I imagined the WITs would be the most viewed posts and the premiere money-makers for the site.

    • brulleks says:

      As interesting as Remember Me might look, I’d definitely vote for Jim using all and any time on finishing SYABH right now. Let someone else look after the WITs ; )

  9. Anthile says:

    There’s also Kickstarter’s Who is Kickstarter for.

    • cowardly says:

      The article doesn’t confront what I feel is the more legitimate concern, which is that of projects like the Penny Arcade podcast or the Energy Hook project, that have $10 and $1 goal respectively and that effectively make their campaigns flexible funding. Now, I don’t know anything about Penny Arcade, but Energy Hook looks amazing, but this doesn’t change the fact that it’s walking an odd line. To be honest, it makes me uncomfotable to some degree, and so I’ve not backed it yet and I’m not sure I will.
      I would be more interested in Kickstarter’s reaction to that, since it introduces what I think is a new element to the KS ecosystem.

      • Frank says:

        Just trying to understand…. It’s good for kickstarter and it’s good for the dev (as both get promotion and revenue), so I guess you’re uncomfortable because, by using KS when they don’t need to (insomuch as they’ll make the project anyways), the devs are borrowing its donation lingo (pledging, supporting, kickstarting) even when it clearly does not apply?

        • cowardly says:

          Maybe it’s just me being weird… I think in the case of Energy Hook, this doesn’t necessarily apply, but the idea of a kickstarter with effectively no goal does play merry hell with the concept of fixed funding, i.e. you come forth with a detailedl project and detailed funding estimates for it, and attempt to win enough money to complete that project, with extra funds being for the non-essential.
          For Energy Hook, this seems like it is the case, and we have media sources telling us the game is good and playable and that sort of thing, but as there is no demo, we cannot really, as backers, tell whether this is the case, and as such, were the project not to attain a certain amount of money, people could get ripped off in some sense. I know this sounds like an unhealthy paranoia, but effectively I find that the part of my brain that sees “flexible funding” and reads “too much risk for my poor wallet” is hesitating as to whether it should sound the alarm.

          In the end, I might still give in and send money his way (when I have money to send him), but this kind of precedent is one that’ll continue leaving that niggling feeling in the back of my mind.
          Though maybe what I’m effectively doing is projecting what I’d like Kickstarter to be, which is a place for people to find funding for their projects which otherwise would not see the light of day, onto what it actually is… Though what that is, I don’t know. (“I don’t know” seems to be a pattern here… I’ll need to thinka bout this some more, it seems.)

          Additionally, if I can play the black-hearted cynic role for a while, I might add that if I had to choose between backing this project and another which would probably die out were I not to back it, I would likely choose the latter… But that’s another discussion entirely.

      • Grygus says:

        Tycho’s stated reason for the $10 Kickstarter goal was to remove obligation; it isn’t that they didn’t need any money to do the podcast, it’s that he wanted a genuine gauge of interest; he wanted people to actually pay whatever they wanted, with no pressure at all. That seems like a fairly noble line of reasoning to me.

        I understand that seeing a stretch goal that represents one million percent of the goal (literally!) looks like a piss-take, and I’m sure the inherent humor in the situation also appealed to them, but I don’t see this as an abuse of Kickstarter as much as it is trying to address some potential flaws in the system.

        • kwyjibo says:

          Pay what you want, as long as that’s $10 or more.

          • Triplanetary says:

            You’re not actually obligated to pay to the reward tiers listed on the front page. You can contribute $1 to a Kickstarter, even if the lowest tier is $10. You just won’t qualify for the $10 reward.

        • cowardly says:

          Yes, it removes obligation, but on both sides of the equation. Were they not to get the money they need to produce something of the level of quality promised because of lack of funding, it wouldn’t be their fault.
          But I wouldn’t hasard myself into making judgements of that sort, particularly since, as I said, I don’t know much about Penny Arcade and their Kickstarter.
          (And as I mentioned above, I’m still slightly conflicted about this possible trend.)

        • WrenBoy says:

          They would have been able to gauge interest just as well had they set a goal of 100K of course. The only difference would have been a risk of missing out on money for essentially nothing.

          Im sure that is just an irrelevent detail which never occurred to them though.

  10. Azradesh says:

    For some reason this site now comes up with a box saying “A username and password are being requested by The site says: “Administrator Only Access”” just before the ads load every time.

    Not sure why, or if it’s important.

    • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

      The ads have spoken! All Hail the Glorious New Administrator of Rock Paper Shotgun. May death come swiftly to his/her/its enemies.

      • cowardly says:

        They probably feel unappreciated because Jim’s been working on Sir, and they just wanted to play, but he was too busy, and 40 “Later!”s on here we are.
        Glory to Azradesh!
        (Did I spell that right? Aw heck, I can’t be bothered to check, traitor to the great leader that I am. Edit: Hurrah! I was!)

  11. aliksy says:

    Oh, fuck, an article about D&D. Now I’ve gotten all ragey, and so early in the morning.
    Two points about D&D- 3e is pretty bad, and system does matter.

    • Grygus says:

      Any discussion about D&D is immediately made invalid when you talk about the rules as though they are immutable, since they’re explicitly not; regardless of the edition or rule you mention, there is a group out there who are not using it, and they’re still playing D&D. Same with the claims that D&D is more about combat than role-playing; that’s a nonsense statement, since in any system at all that is entirely up to the players. After all, the genre was born out of roleplaying in straight-up wargames; if you can RP there, you can RP anywhere, and if you don’t then the failing is yours, not the game’s.

      I don’t think there has been a bad edition of D&D so far, although there is almost certainly at least one edition that is suboptimal for any particular person. Any type of player can enjoy any edition, but a mismatch creates more work for the players, e.g., min/max types will inherently thrive in a vanilla 3E game, while 4E is going to need some house rules in order for those players to not feel boxed in.

      • Not Marvelous says:

        I don’t agree with that at all… why do you buy / follow any rules then? Is any game good or bad then, since you can probably somehow mod every aspect of it?

        D&D is a fairly unique RPG system in that *so many* of the players felt the need to tweak the rules every now and then. Not a good sign.

        • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          Roleplaying and RPG rules are, in some sense, diametrically opposed. One is pretending to be something you’re not without limitations. The other is simulation, which is all about limitations. A good GM picks the right ruleset and dynamically balances the amount of roleplaying and simulation to the needs of the game, the players, and the scene you’re playing.

          To put it another way, the lightsabre fight at the end of Phantom Menace was a dice-heavy rules based fight. The duel between Darth Vader and Obi Wan Kenobi was a roleplaying moment.*

          *Actually I had a moment like that in a game. PC and antagonist NPC squared off to give the rest of the party time to escape. The PC was vastly outmatched and inevitably going to die, so I suspended all the usual fight rules and allowed him to role-play for a bonus to a single “d6 6+ not dying” roll and kept going for round after round of dialogue and not-dying rolls until he finally died. The player pulled out all the stops for some fantastic roleplaying and held off the bad guy long enough for everyone to get away. That was the only time I’ve seen my players, including the player whose character just died cheer the heroic death of one of their own.

          • Not Marvelous says:

            I believe RPG rules are there to *enable* role-playing. I don’t want to just tell stories and have numbers to tell me if my protagonist happened to succeed at doing stuff. I want the rules to frame the story a group of people is trying to tell.

            If you invent some new rule because your story needed it, like the way you described it, then on one hand, good for you. It seems like it worked. On the other hand, it seems that the system you were using was not the perfect fit for the type of story you were trying to tell. There are systems that can easily and with great style frame a situation like the one you describe, you should check them out!

          • RedViv says:

            Hah, I do tend to similarly simplify dice rolls when the stakes are so extremely high and the RP situation is so very intense.
            Last time that happened my dear darling toys players were trying to escape from the bowels of a rapidly decaying bio-magick-engineered war titan. Fun!

          • blackmyron says:

            The problem is that rules exist for reason. It was tiresome, for instance, that every single player in the 80s declared that their fighters were ambidextrous – there was no RULE that said otherwise, right? And yet, I would see frustrated players sit and spend hours trying to roll characters that met the requirements to gain psionics in the 1E Player’s Handbook… because the methodology was spelled out.
            That’s great if you have a group that allows you to roleplay with a minimum, or even no, rules. In practice, however, I haven’t really seen that work. The best systems allow for “I wanna do THIS incredible thing” – Firefly, for instance, with its Fate Chips. You want to pull off this incredible, impossible move that breaks the rules? That’ll cost you “XX” number of chips. TORG also had that mechanism with “Possibility Points”. Other games have also incorporated that.
            Rules allow for
            (A) a consistent world where the GM doesn’t have to worry about “Last time you said we could do X and now you say we can’t?
            (B) Quick resolution to arguments
            (C) Allow the GM to be more neutral and less seen as an antagonist or tyrant
            That is not to say that more rules are better – some games (Rifts come to mind) are absolutely choked by rules. But as pen-and-paper games continue to evolve, I think that a happy medium is reached. D&D is a poor indicator, however, as the D20 system was terrible for anything other than a fantasy setting (the D20 Call of Cthulhu was awful), and 4E was very obviously influenced by video game RPGs. I thought that 3E was a significant step forward for D&D (although still a ways to go), but 4E was a regression – our group has agreed that we would not move onwards to it, and at this time, have abandoned D&D completely for the time being, preferring to play a rotation of the numerous other RPGs in existence.

          • Triplanetary says:

            as the D20 system was terrible for anything other than a fantasy setting (the D20 Call of Cthulhu was awful)

            D20 Modern is hilarious because a direct nuclear strike won’t kill most reasonably-leveled players. The system really does not fit many contexts.

            But that’s why if I want to play in a modern setting I use GURPS.

          • strangeloup says:

            This reminded me of one of my favourite rules in a tabletop RPG: In Exalted, you could get a 1-3 dice bonus (iirc) to an action if you described it in a detailed and/or cool way. It fit perfectly with the setting and it was a mechanic that encouraged roleplaying.

            There’s a Kickstarter for the 3rd edition, which got funded in 18 minutes somehow.

      • aliksy says:

        No one is saying the rules are immutable. But let me say this again:

        The rules of the game shape how it is played. If you pick up a game that spends hundreds of pages on combat, and has only one paragraph on social conflict, that’s going to influence how most people will play the game. When chargen is a series of questions centered around “How do you kill things?”, you’re typically going to get characters who can kill things. So, yes, you could use D&D 3e to play a game of social intrigue. You could also piss in the kitchen sink.

        3e is also a pretty bad game math-wise, and as you add more optional books it just gets worse. This is the system that brought us Pun-Pun.

        To be fair, I’m sure there are people that like the things I hate about it. I dislike how the probability of 1d20+stuff works out. I dislike low levels where it tends to be whiff-or-die. I dislike linear-warriors-geometric-wizards. I dislike spells per day. Some of that’s pretty subjective.

        I also tend to favor lightweight, flexible systems. The best game I’ve ever run used a slightly stripped down version of the nWoD rules, ported to a fantasy setting. No charts. No tables. No weird stacks of bonuses and penalties. Just “here’s a list of things I can do exceptionally well, here’s my motivations.” Worked out beautifully, and I didn’t need to suspend any rules to make it work.

    • blackmyron says:

      As someone who’s played D&D since Ye Ancient Times, I’m utterly puzzled by the statement that 3E is all about combat and 1E was not. 1E was, essentially, just dungeon crawls. Which can’t be that surprising, since it emerged as “individual combat rules” from a wargame. Certainly you could play non-combat situations, but the game had no real skills sets or rules for interactions for anything except combat, spell casting and thievery – unlike, well, every other roleplaying game that was ever made. The original game, being the first, certainly had an excuse – but the hamfisted “Proficiencies” added in at the very end of 1E and continued into 2E was not even close to having a real skill set.
      It’s the strong pull of nostalgia, I understand that. I still have a great love for Greyhawk and Planescape, the two old game settings from D&D that have long been abandoned. But trying to claim that a system that really was more of a proto-RPG is superior to the evolution of the game requires a powerful set of rose-tinted glasses looking at the past.

  12. Triplanetary says:

    It’s no surprise that a game that people actually want to talk about socially is more social than “actual” “social” games. Social games aren’t designed to be social; that’s simply a lie. They’re designed to cajole you into using your friends as resources (in turn essentially giving the developer free advertising, which would be fine if you actually did it because you liked it and wanted to share the joy, rather than because you need a particular item to progress) and making you think that that somehow counts as being social.

  13. Arvind says:

    In relation to Valve meeting greenlight devs, my suggestions were quite liked by a lot of developers in the chat (if I only say so myself). Here’s the article

    I would like to just be able to sell my game on Steam without engaging in a popularity contest, thanks very much. In order to keep the curated storefront free from clutter, just making the games not appear on the storefront unless popular would be enough.

  14. JackShandy says:

    That article on Old School D&D has been largely dismissed by the old school D&D crowd I know. PART of the OSR is people who are grumpy about the current state of D&D and are trying to replicate the old stuff, in the same way that SOME X-COM fans want a clone of the original instead of the different version we got. That is the least interesting part of the OSR.

    The most interesting part is this crazy font of magic that’s spouting out using the old stuff as a base. Magic like, as a very small example, this list of tables. It’s fucking beautiful, is what it is. The boing boing article does not do it justice.

    (Posted this comment with more links, but it says it’s “Awaiting moderation” – last time that happened it was stuck in limbo forever, so I’m trying it with one link.)

    • JFS says:

      Exactly. Also, I’d be interested in the other links, if providing them is possible. Unfortunately, the one you put in doesn’t even work (at least not for me).

      • JackShandy says:

        Well, I can’t link them, but I can allude to them.

        One was a link to the blog “Monster Manual Sewn from Pants” – the section “Character Creation in the redlands”. The one I linked above was “Playing D&D with Porn Stars” – the section “All the Random Tables”. Last Gasp Grimoire dot com has a pretty comprehensive list of other blogs, if you’re looking for more.

  15. Frank says:

    Yeah, Darius’ opening message was way over the top. In the end, he’s just using his own experience to give some advice to others in his (small, small) community.

    I’m not a dev myself, but I think there are other reasons to make a game than as a means of expression. There’s nothing wrong with exploring the mechanics of games. You know that board-game designers often just paste a theme on top of an interesting abstract game, right? And there’s nothing more noble about exploring the social meta-mechanics of games. That works for you — okay, cool. I think there’s room for folks who are more inclined towards, for example, engineering than capital-A Art. I sort of hope that those folks don’t feel the need to join your community as it exists now.

    Regarding the reply: ouch, please no more black on dark orange. :) Also, if you’re going to go with monospacing and only capitalizing “Twine”, it’d be nice if you cut the essay down to size. The whole site screams “scenester”. It sounds like Liz is saying that the community needs to broaden itself or become more open-minded. As an outsider, I don’t know what’s best for y’all, but I guess it’s good you’re having that conversation.

  16. guygodbois00 says:

    My hard drive is itching for StarDrive so if the real Mr Stone (or somebody) will please get up and do the WIT. You know you want it. Also, interesting article on D&D, thanks for linking it and making my Sunday a bit interesting. Sunday Papers – making Sundays more interesting since 1873.

  17. Michael Fogg says:

    Kazemi writes that games are just a tool used for expression. Apparently he considers himself a demiurge-like pan-artists, who chooses freely whatever means he finds fit to bless the world with the fruit of his creative genius. To bestow on us such valuable message as “I fucking hate my girlfriend”.

    Look, it doesn’t work that. A would-be artist needs to spend lots of time honing their craft. A lifetime sometimes. This point is illustrated beautifully by Kazemi himself, when he describes how he tried to express the aforementioned thoughts about his relationship in the shape of a platform game. This pretty much bares his own ineptitude with the tools he claims are at his disposal. He’s indeed a guy who throws cat poo at a canvas and calls it painting. A common attitude of his generation I’d say, used to insta-gratification.

    • cowardly says:

      I agree with everything except the last sentence. Unsupported generalisations about entire generations are rarely correct.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        It’s especially common in his little indie milieu. Who needs programming/scripting skill? Who needs to devise and test game mechanics? Use Twine. Maek gaems NAU!!

        • drvoke says:

          I don’t get it (or you don’t get it); to me that’s a lot like telling someone not to bother drawing even the simplest doodle unless they understand all the finer mechanics like color theory, perspective, and how to make pigments. Twine is like a pencil and piece of paper. It’s easy to pick up and use and gives you some idea if it’s worth your while to develop a desire to create games into a more refined art, as well as being a very flexible tool (you can script it with JS) when or if you decide to explore the format further. Yes, if games interest you, make one NOW, same as if drawing interests you, start doodling NOW. Have I misunderstood you in some way?

    • RobF says:

      I don’t recognise a word of what your saying as relating to the Darius that I know, man.

      • The Random One says:

        Then perhaps he should add “get ting the point of an essay across” to the list of things he is not very good at.

        • RobF says:

          What’s that got to do with what I was responding to?

          Because obviously ” He’s indeed a guy who throws cat poo at a canvas and calls it painting. A common attitude of his generation I’d say, used to insta-gratification.” is a perfectly reasonable critique of the article and not a load of hateful drivel regardless of who it’s referring to?

          That pesky generation of ours with our instant gratifications. Always doing it wrong and not working hard enough to do things right like proper artists used to do. In my day they used to get up at 6 o’clock in the morning and lick the pixels off the road etc…

          Although that said, whether you agree or disagree with them, I think Darius’ points -are- pretty clear in there and whether you find the points vague or not, making stuff up about someone as Mr Fogg does is hardly solid grounds for a return salvo.

    • Triplanetary says:

      Well said. Reminds me of something Josh Olson, a screenwriter, said a few years ago: “The main point I made was that he’d fallen prey to a fallacy that nails a lot of first timers. He was way more interested in telling his one story than in being a writer.”

      Source: link to

  18. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    That D&D article is a prime example of why it’s so hard for the table top hobby in particular, and D&D in specific, to move forward from the 1990’s. Any time any kind of progression is made, you have people like this screaming about how this isn’t real D&D and making inane assertions about how they can’t roleplay anymore, as though it were a limitation of the game system and not their own imaginations.

    The grognard contingent in table top RPG’s are sort of like the RPG Codex types in the video game hobby, but are so much more toxic and and take up a much greater space in the hobby’s niche. Very disappointed that both Boing Boing and now RPS have posted this screed. There’s so much cool stuff going on in table top RPG’s right now (mostly thanks to Kickstarter) , so why focus on the black hole that is the never-ending D&D edition wars?

    • Not Marvelous says:

      RPGs benefited from Kickstarter, but there was so much cool going on before that. Somewhere in the 00’s is when I think an explosion of quality happened, but I am not completely sure.

      You still had very interesting stuff happening decades ago, like Over the Edge in the late 80’s, but good games from back then are few and far between.

      Anyway, I agree with you on all other points (:

    • JFS says:

      In my opinion, the article isn’t very good. It’s just too flat. If you’re a little invested in P&P RPGs, you most likely know about the situation and might very well be able to write a better article about the subject yourself. If you aren’t, on the other hand, you’ll get a skewed view on the field’s current status. There’s more going on in that niche than just D&D edition wars.

    • Strangerator says:

      There are times when roleplaying systems become closer to pure game systems, and they become intrusive upon the roleplaying space. An example off the top of my head would be D&D 4th edition’s “healing surges.” Within the context of the game’s world, what in the hell IS a healing surge? It exists as an expedient way to regaining hit points and various abilities tie into it, but there’s no game-world justification for how they work.

      Now I’ll concede that suspension of disbelief is a sliding scale. The healing potion was the old preferred method of boosting hit points. It was full of magical win and you just drank one when you needed to recover from an injury. Of course, could you really chug a whole bottle of (probably) foul tasting alchemical ingredients in the midst of a pitched battle? And how exactly does it work that fast, given the need of any ingested substance to travel down to the intestine for absorption, cross into the bloodstream, and finally make its way to the damaged tissues?

      I guess the difference comes when a particular rule or facet of the game portion of your system cannot be rationalized within the fictional world you have created. To use the above example, you could imagine characters in the game world having a discussion about drinking healing potions but not about “spending healing surges.” Newer roleplaying systems ask players to totally compartmentalize large swathes of gameplay rules into the category of “totally unjustified within the game world” while keeping the roleplaying components in their own separate category. Some people prefer the more integrated approach of older systems, despite the fact that this inherently limits players in what they are able to do.

      And the people who scream that they CAN’T roleplay in newer editions are exaggerating quite a bit, however certain game systems can be more conducive to roleplaying than others. Namely, if the system is able to rationalize its mechanics within its game world.

      • Premium User Badge

        gritz says:

        Congratulations, you’ve entered the twilight-zone black hole of uninteresting grognardism, where “healing surges” as a mechanic are fictionally unjustifiable but hit points are a completely real thing that exist, and D&D only ever had mechanics that were based in real world simulation.

      • Lanfranc says:

        What is a healing surge?

        A healing surge is Fate decreeing this is neither your time nor your place to die.

        A healing surge is Crom restoring your strength after you have offered the still-beating heart of your latest enemy to him.

        A healing surge is a hidden source of vitality that you built up during your years of training with the Kong-Dao Monks in the monastery at the top of Mount Golden Cloud.

        A healing surge is you getting so good, old-fashioned pissed off that you shrug aside all the pain and blood and fight on for as long as it takes.

        Et cetera.

    • Arglebargle says:

      Games all have various levels of abstractions in them. Some folks will rail at some of those abstractions while swallowing other, quite larger ones, hook, line and sinker.

      Me, I quit playing our particular versions of D&D (lovingly entitled VD&D(for varient)) about the time TSR moved to AD&D. There were loads of other systems out there that weren’t nearly as haphazard and murky.

  19. Premium User Badge

    Aerothorn says:

    I stayed in a hostel with Lemarchand at GDC, he was a really swell guy.

  20. Strangerator says:

    I think anyone who says “games as a medium of art” is misunderstanding what games are. I’d prefer to use the expression “games as media of art.” What do I mean by this? I’ll give a few boiled-down examples and end up in games.

    Example 1
    Medium – canvas
    Artist – painter
    When we speak of this particular medium, we instantly know certain things about the tools and mechanics of the medium. The toolset is fairly fixed, and in fact that’s kind of the whole point. We marvel at what the artist can do within the medium, given the fixed toolset. The artist brings his own skill, feelings, and worldview onto the canvas as expressively as he possibly can.

    Example 2
    Medium – print novel
    Artist – author
    So again, you know the tools of the trade and the mechanics of the medium. Fixed toolset. Author skill and perspective convey a bounded set of ideas in a certain way.

    Example 3
    Medium – games
    Artist – narrative designers
    Artist – graphical designers
    Artist – musical designers
    Artist – gameplay designers
    Artist – player
    So here’s my problem with talking about all games as a sort of single medium of art. Every game made has its own toolsets, its own rules, its own balance between narrative, visuals, music. Its own degree of player expression. But at the end of the day, games as a whole are not a single medium, but rather each game is its own medium.

    Example 4
    Medium – Minecraft
    Artist – player
    This one pretty much explains itself. Pretty obvious that the game was just a toolset, and that players are creating the art. Sure, a sizable chunk of efforts spent on Minecraft appears to be an arms-race of who can build the largest phallic symbol, but there’s some good stuff being made as well.

    Medium – Journey
    Artist – player
    So this one is a lot more of a focused medium. That is, the designers have a much clearer picture of the types of experiences they want you to have. But again, they are still the player’s experiences. This game is heralded as an artistic masterpiece, but I see it as just the apex of what modern game designers are TRYING to do rather than the apex of what CAN BE done.

    So to spell it out more plainly, it is my belief that each game is in fact a new medium of art. Some of them are extremely narrowly focused, but we need to think a little more about designing games as media of art rather than as singular works of art. Like it or not, players are the final artists to touch individual games, and so their artistic vision is (perhaps frighteningly) THE ONLY ONE THAT TRULY MATTERS. It is this misunderstanding of games that has produced the designer/player conflict of interest.

    The Conflict
    Let’s say you’re a game designer, and you have something you feel is really important to share with the world, so you start designing your game. However, you start to be afraid that players will piss all over your idea that means so much to you, so you begin to limit player agency. Unfortunately this only makes players uncomfortable and, in protest, players perform all sorts of actions using what limited freedoms they are given to create as much ludonarrative dissonance as possible. Being in a game that removes too much player agency creates a feeling of being “trapped” that is extremely unpleasant.

    When given a friendly NPC and told to “protect this person,” virtually all players will attempt to then attack that person. There’s always a strange disappointment when the player finds his bullets/sword swipes pass harmlessly through the person to be protected. And I don’t think these people are being sociopaths, they are just testing the game to see how much freedom they have, and whether this “object” to be protected has any substance. Placing someone in such a game is akin to replacing all the “do not touch” signs in museums with “do your worst!” So after some early protests in such a game, the player will eventually resolve into the state of compliance, after enough frustrated attempts to break free of the rails the game has provided. Some people will of course play games exactly as intended, coloring obediently within the numbered areas to paint the exact picture intended. I don’t suppose there’s anything wrong with this, but why make it a game? If the purpose of a game is to offer agency, and the means of conveying a narrative is to remove agency, then why even make games? I think this is the conclusion reached by someone who says “FUCK VIDEOGAMES.” Art should never be an excercise in deception, in fact we tend to praise artists for their honesty more than anything. But creating games as singular pieces of art tend to be works of deception. The challenge is always to create the illusion of agency whilst still guaranteeing the player reaches the intended conclusion. This frankly annoys me about games.

    How does the conflict resolve itself? Is it possible to communicate ideas by making games, or are they doomed to be cold, impassive toolsets like Minecraft?

    The answer lies in procedural generation. So far, great strides have been made in this realm in terms of creating varied experiences for each player. But if someone where able to design a procedural storyline generator that actually produced compelling output, the implications would be staggering. If you think about it, people you meet all have been procedurally generated from a combination of their genetics, experiences, circumstances, hardships and triumphs, disabilities, superpowers etc. etc. A complex enough algorithm with enough inputs to produce unique people every time, in a new world that was unique every time, and so on, would produce a game that gave every individual a very different experience. This would make it easier for players to feel that sense of creation and expression that they are craving (perhaps without knowing it).

    I’ve rambled enough though, hopefully this will provide some food for thought.

  21. edwardoka says:

    “Chet [Valve] stated that their new strategy of greenlighting titles in smaller, yet more often batches should actually increase the amount of titles being greenlit.”

    Hmm, anyone remember the last time Valve said that their new strategy of bringing things out in smaller but more frequent chunks would increase the amount of things being brought out?

    Anyone know how that worked out? Anyone? Anyone?

  22. Don Reba says:

    Man, that year 2013 sounds really depressing. Wouldn’t want to live then.

  23. finalfanatik says:

    Thanks for the mention, Jim!
    And thanks to everyone who took part in the Call to Arms, it was great fun!