The Sunday Papers

Sundays! Days of quiet contemplation of the victories ahead. Sundays! A time to consider the ideas offered by your fellow gamers. Sundays.

  • I could have sworn I’d already posted this article on “The Simulation Dream”, but I see I have not. It’s essential reading. “That’s the Simulation Dream – the idea of making a complex simulation of a story world, which creates fascinating emergent stories as powerful as those you might write yourself. The idea bursts with potential. And it appears everywhere. Early in the development of BioShock, that game had an ecology too. There were three parts to it. Splicers would hunt Gatherers, who were in turn guarded by Protectors. The player was supposed to interact with and manipulate this ecology to survive. But these dreams shattered.”
  • Chris Plante’s piece on Xbone’s user policies explains why the console has taken on so many of the bad policies you find on PC, without exhibiting any of the advantages. This kind of article explains precisely why you should just get a PC instead of the new Microsoft console, and also puts some perspective on the “well Steam is just as bad” argument: yes, that’s narrowly true, but on the PC there are alternatives to Steam: “PC games can be given away by developers. PC games can be sold without DRM. There are alternative retailers, allowing the consumer to choose where he or she buys from. And because there is choice, there is competition, and because there is competition, there is competitive pricing. On PC, you can “donate” to the Humble Bundle and choose precise amounts of cash to award a game’s creator. On PC, you can play alpha builds of games that are months if not years from completion, and participate in some capacity in that game’s development. On PC, publishers are free to do all of the awful things offered by the Xbox One. But they’re also free to do things that are responsible and consumer-friendly.” Plante is fast becoming one of the best writers on the web right now.
  • Videogames need to become shorter to mature.
  • The tiresome dietary politics of Don’t Starve: “But here we have a game about survival, a game called Don’t Starve, that cares about more than whether or not you are able to keep yourself from starving. It cares about whether or not you can keep yourself from starving in a way it finds morally acceptable. And if you try to take another path to survival than the one the developers want you to, it will throw huge roadblocks in your way to stop you. And we’re not even talking about extreme things like cannibalism here — we’re talking about killing a rabbit for its meat.”
  • Eurogamer has been on strong form of late, with articles such as Ellie Gibson on British TV show, GamesMaster: “GamesMaster went on to run for seven series and 126 episodes. Today it is still regarded by many as the best games TV show ever made, including that one with Gaz Top and the other thing with the three girls in vests. But it was almost never made at all, according to Hewland.”
  • Also at EG, there’s Stanton vs Curiosity: “It makes you realise all of Curiosity’s statistics are really deflections. Four million downloads sounds great, and then in the winner’s video Molyneux mentions tens of thousands of simultaneous users as a highpoint. On that note, awfully convenient it ended up with a UK winner. In this RPS interview Nathan Grayson casually destroys Molyneux on details. This is emblematic of Curiosity’s true nature: the scienciness of it, all lab coat and no trousers. Curiosity suggests something innocent – inquisitiveness for its own sake. But this could just as well have been called ‘Avarice,’ and with somewhat more accuracy. Curiosity was always promoted on the promise of its reward, and Molyneux even adapted the lottery’s catchphrase to his own patter: “it could be you.””
  • The second part of Electron Dance’s series on shooters: “Space Giraffe is a game that demands attention, patience and experimentation. It does not reward players immediately and, frankly, can feel like a mess because it throws everything at you in one go – overpowering visuals and lots of new mechanics. Jeff Minter put out a game that Jonathan Blow hoped would “raise the bar for game criticism” and pondered whether it was the Ulysses of videogames.”
  • The tale of the Ukrainian breakdancing game designer.
  • A lovely piece on Apple’s awkward relationship with gaming.
  • I kind of have a crush on Clint Hocking, even if I did slate Far Cry 2. Sorry, Clint.

Music this week is Jon Hopkins’ Immunity.


  1. Jade Raven says:

    Price gouging is nothing new on consoles though.

    • Lewie Procter says:

      And so Microsoft seeking to get tighter control of distribution should be worrisome.

      • Ninja Foodstuff says:

        I really pity the people who have no idea of the implications of all this. Who will simply buy the next shiny new console only to get screwed over, at which point it will be considered the new norm. Articles like this, although slightly baited, make me glad to be a PC gamer.

        • jaheira says:

          People that dont know about “all this” don’t care about “all this” either.

          • Ninja Foodstuff says:

            I think they’ll care when they can’t play halo because their internet’s been down for a day, or when they buy a secondhand game on eBay and have to pay again to play it

    • Lanfranc says:

      I suspect Microsoft may turn out to be shooting themselves in their collective foot here. The more they try to squeeze the consumers, the more likely they are to overreach and end up with a set of policies that aren’t actually enforceable or violate the law – regarding e.g. marketing, privacy and data collection, or sales/consumer protection legislation.

      • colossalstrikepackage says:

        And hopefully also kill demand for their console market and stop ruining our platform.

        • 2helix4u says:

          I find all this super interesting. If the console has to phone home to the xbox live servers or something then I would put the chance of a launch day crash of those servers at 100%. Its going to be bad press if people buy it day one and then find they can’t even play single player games. The servers will also go down from time to time as is their wont and again, if you haven’t phoned home soon enough or if they’re down for long then you just won’t be able to use your console as a games machine.

          My guess would be their plan is that the closed nature of their digital market will bring in such a higher profit margin that estranging our segment of the market doesn’t matter.
          It still wouldn’t surprise me if this decision basically results in them conceding the console war for this generation, gamers aren’t actually that loyal, the PS2 dominated the Xbox, the 360 dominated the PS3, something will dominate the Xbone.
          I’d actually think this generation could see an even bigger shift over to the PC space, which Steambox and such are capitalising on.

          • Baboonanza says:

            I anyone in charge at Microsoft has any sense they’ll disable the phoning home for at least a week. That would avoid launch day server issues and delay some of the bad press they are certain to get when the unwashed masses find out exactly what they’ve bought.

  2. Thirith says:

    That “Video games need to become shorter” article is a fairly typical example of making a good point but then shooting itself in the foot (somewhat) by putting it in overly absolute terms. Many games should absolutely be shorter, but it’s not about length so much as it is about focus – if a game can maintain its focus for 10, 20 hours, that’s fantastic. Would Planescape Torment be a better game if it were only 4-5 hours long?

    Just like there are epic novels and short stories, and both do different things well, there can be long games and short games with different potential. I want there to be more The Walking Deads, so to speak, but I wouldn’t want them at the expense of Dark Souls.

    • Vorphalack says:

      That article was absolutely awful. Having gone through it twice, i’m convinced it’s just a click bait piece. Logical fallacies, self contradictions, patronising statements and sweeping generalisations everywhere.

    • RedViv says:

      I do see how possibly limiting some titles to shorter hours might serve their narrative well, but I do not think that the entirety of gaming would necessarily be enriched by a general trend towards almost negligible amounts of player input or experiences footing exclusively on experimental gameplay.
      There is room for all of these, just as there is for the 45 hours of the sprawling, still among the most mature games of all time, Planescape Torment.

      I don’t see how any kind of point has been made in that article, by the way. Other than “these games fit in, more of them for my adult life schedule”. How is that connected to the maturity of games? I don’t see how anybody would lose if a level of maturity were to be expected in most games. Or how you would lose if grind and tedium and filler were to be removed, but that is about the only identifiable point in the article.

      • Shuck says:

        If adults give up games because they can’t fit them into their lives, then there’s no pressure on the industry to make grown up games – after all, adults don’t buy games. Speaking as an adult and someone in the game industry, it’s true. Most of my (non-industry) friends don’t have any time to play games (I myself frequently think, “I just don’t have time for this shit.”), and they end up playing short, casual games if any. And the industry is focused on serving more or less the same demographic it was ten or twenty years ago, despite all the talk about gamers having “grown up.”
        The industry has always been good at alienating particular demographics and then using that as an excuse why it doesn’t make games for them, though.

        • Deadly Sinner says:

          So why do adults have enough time for expansive TV series, but not enough time for games? Many of the greatest TV series of all time require much more time that the vast majority of games. In fact, shows that require the least amount of commitment – reality shows, game shows, police procedurals – are the most mind numbing and childish.

      • Werthead says:

        I don’t recall PLANESCAPE: TORMENT being 45 hours long. I think I brought it home in about 20-24 hours, doing all of the side-quests and not leaving much unearthed. Of all the Infinity Engine games, I believe it was easily the shortest (although also the best).

    • MondSemmel says:

      But he brings up Spelunky, FTL, or Binding of Isaac as good examples, too – because they can be played in short, complete sessions.

      I disagree with the author that the proper game length is 2-3 hours, but I definitely agree that long games are frequently long for bad reasons, i.e. filler. PoP: Sands of Time is a great, old example: Lauded by the media at the time, yet full of tedious filler, in particular consisting of endless enemy waves. Horrid, horrid game.
      Good games respect the player’s time. When I get delighted/mad at games, it’s usually because they do/do not respect my time.

      Basically, I’m saying I agree with 99% of the article, to add a counterpoint to the disagreement here :).

      • Caiman says:

        This response sums up a key problem with all this discussion: it’s all so subjective. PoP: Sands of Time is a horrid game padded out with endless enemy encounters you say? My wife and I loved this game so much we were sad when it ended, and particularly enjoyed the combat. We’ve both replayed it since. Maligned by the most vocal, loved by others, who is to say who is right about how long PoP: SoT should be? There is no solution to this problem, there will always be someone who loves your long epic or short and sweet game, and others who feel the opposite.

        • MondSemmel says:

          The point is not that Sands of Time should have been short; the point is that it only had X hours of content, and prolonged it with things like endless enemy waves.
          That aside, I should have used another game as an example, because I hate Sands of Time with a passion. I played it only a few weeks ago, and I have never had a more unpleasant experience with a game. Even leaving aside that I disliked the gameplay, I still encountered two truly game-breaking bugs, i.e. bugs that stopped me from progressing, and one of which could not even be fixed by saving and reloading. I found numerous mentions of both on the web. The only solution for the bugged-rope-room-camera-in-the-PC-port bug was downloading a save game after that point.
          EDIT: @Claidheamh: Of course I’m not generalizing; I’m stating my personal opinion. I have no idea why the game is not universally loathed, but I acknowledged as much when I mentioned that it received critical praise.

          • The Random One says:

            I’d wager you didn’t like the combat. I did, so I didn’t think of the enemy waves in PoP as “filler”, only as “something you did every once in a while to cleanse your palate between parkour sessions”. Your mileage can always vary.

          • bill says:

            The combat in Sands of Time was there to break up the pace of the platforming. It wasn’t endless waves, and it was pretty easy. It was just a nice chill out break between the more challenging (and totally not padded out platforming and puzzle solving).

            I can name a few dozen games off the top of my head that were horribly padded out with combat, but SoT wouldn’t be one of them. I’m not sure I can remember a single combat room in it that took more than about 5 minutes to complete. Except maybe that elevator near the end.

          • Phasma Felis says:

            It didn’t “prolong” the content with enemies. The enemies were an integral part of the content. Platforming is fun, killing undead is fun, both of them get tiresome if you do them for too long, and PoP did a fantastic job of pacing and switching between the two. If they took out the enemies and replaced them with an equal amount of (extra) platforming, it would’ve been less fun. I’m sorry you didn’t like it, and I’m sorry you were unlucky enough to find two major bugs when most of us found zero, but if you think the notably brief, punchy fighting sequences in PoP were long, dragging filler, it makes your judgement on anything else seem questionable.

            I don’t think this is actually what you’re saying, but it bears repeating: fighting in games is fun. Other things are fun, too, but a nice combat sequence is pretty much always a good palate cleanser at the least. Crushing my enemies, whether with intricate, gorgeously animated combos or repeated arrow-key clicks in a sterile ANSI roguelike, is pretty much always a visceral thrill. I have no problem with video games that aren’t about combat, but lately some folks seem to think that games shouldn’t be about combat, and that’s bullshit.

      • Claidheamh says:

        Are you kidding? I love Sands of Time. I hated when it ended, because I wanted more of it. Don’t generalise your personal opinions.

      • Finjy says:

        “Sands of Time = Horrid, horrid game”

        Troll bait detected

    • DrScuttles says:

      That rather sums up my opinion. Dark Souls and The Walking Dead are both fantastic and the idea of a zero-sum game between them doesn’t help anyone. I’m all for shorter, more focused games but really I think it comes down to removing the bloat and tedium. But this is obviously all subjective; when I think back to Bioshock Infinite, my first thoughts are the boredom that I felt throughout the final third of the game as opposed to the interest that held me at the very beginning. And plenty of people loved Bioshock Infinite so I dunno.
      It also mentions “Many viewers now regard the traditional 90 minutes of movies as too short a frame to tell a compelling story” which is something I could not disagree with more.

      • engion3 says:

        Same feeling I had with Metro LL. I loved the first 40% of the game and then it just felt like mundane boring story time.

    • Bhazor says:

      It’s says a lot more about the author than the subject that he thinks games need to “mature”.

    • lijenstina says:

      It’s similar to the saying I’m not rich enough to buy cheap things which is confounding causation and correlation. There is no clear rule – more expensive things can be of a higher quality but also be of the same or lower too, also the more expensive the thing is – the smaller is the price – performance ratio. So, instead of using the price/performance criteria that is much better in defining a purchase, in the example used in the saying it is told only about the price which is insufficient to be useful as an advice because the same problems do show in the case of expensive products.

      Going back to the duration of the game as a criteria which is better – shorter or longer – is pretty much not enough in the same vein. Because the game quality is a complex set of parameters – gameplay mechanics, quests (how many recurring ones, their complexity, unique events etc.) , graphics fidelity/ art style/character design, sound, music, animation, story/writing in general, game world – setting/open world/linear, genre, technology (capabilities of the engine, hardware requirements/ optimizations, possible bugs and limitations of it, AI, enabling modding, quality of the tools provided), funding of the project/number of developers involved, their experience. Concentrating on one parameter of many is just silly and smells of a hasty generalization.

      • Shuck says:

        No, he’s not arguing that games shouldn’t find their own proper length. Absolutely no one in the AAA games industry is ever saying, “This game is too long, let’s cut something to make it shorter.” He’s not arguing for that. What is going on, is that developers are routinely saying, “This game isn’t long enough, what padding can we add, what grind can we add, can we increase the difficulty so you have to repeat everything a few more times, to make it longer?” And the end result is a game that alienates a lot of potential players due to its excessive length and leads to 90% of the people who did buy it not actually finishing it. Thus making that lengthening an entirely wasted process.

        • lijenstina says:

          As long as games don’t get much shorter and learn to respect their adult audience in this regard, they’ll inevitably keep losing this audience.

          It is a correlation because the proposed solution – more focused, shorter games at lower prices doesn’t guarantee better quality nor lack of padding – all the mentioned problems can still be present in them.
          He uses the same criteria of game length as important and in his case as a resolution – he just went in the opposite direction.

          • Shuck says:

            He’s clearly not just reversing game length criteria, as he’s talking about the existing, dysfunctional dynamic by which game lengths are being determined. You can’t just ignore the context for his argument – that games are routinely padded and expanded to a pointless degree to the point where 90% of the audience doesn’t finish them. If you removed the pressure to pad, that alone would change both quality and duration.

          • Mman says:

            “If you removed the pressure to pad, that alone would change both quality and duration.”

            Which types of games are we talking about here? If we’re talking about sandbox games and RPG’s that are padded with worthless sidequests and collectable hunts (and frequently crappy and perfunctory main story quests too) that give no real reward for finishing them then I completely agree.

            Conversely, the average AAA shooter is already so stripped to the bone that there’s barely even any game left, and if people aren’t finishing THOSE then it’s pretty much a lost cause, and probably a sign to focus on making a better game instead of chasing completion stats.

          • Shuck says:

            @Mman: The question you have to ask is, “Would this game have been improved by lengthy cut-scenes, by having to repeat some of the content multiple times, by having a few more long gray corridors to tromp through, to have another few waves of each enemy?” Because I can’t conceive of the answer to that question ever being “yes.” Recognizing that 90+% of the audience isn’t finishing the game isn’t just “chasing completion stats.” If it were any other medium, that would be a recognition that the work was severely flawed and likely hated. It’s an indication that the game wasn’t compelling enough to even bother finishing – at best.

          • Mman says:

            “The question you have to ask is, “Would this game have been improved by lengthy cut-scenes…”

            That’s a thing I associate more with modern AAA shooters, especially the “follow” moments and unskippable not-cutscene stand around in a room for a few minutes stuff.

            While I admit it’s conjecture, the problem with that other stuff is that I’m starting to get the feeling that there’s a kind of chicken or the egg dilemma going on and games being designed to be short are a catalyst for many of the issues you mentioned; when developers know they’re making a four hour game it gives them an excuse to do things like include no enemy variety or have level design that’s entirely pretty corridors, because hey the game’s gonna be over in no time anyway right? While it comes down to bad/lazy design in the end, and it’s unlikely that the games would be better if they were longer, I do think more length opens up the possibility of something a bit more experimental and/or interesting sneaking in for a short while at least (in the context of big-budget games that have any sharp edge focus tested out straight away if they’re small enough).

            “Recognizing that 90+% of the audience isn’t finishing the game isn’t just “chasing completion stats.” If it were any other medium, that would be a recognition that the work was severely flawed and likely hated. It’s an indication that the game wasn’t compelling enough to even bother finishing – at best.”

            Without context “OMG 90% of people didn’t finish our game!” is pure hysteria, and doesn’t cover all the factors that can heavily cut into that. For a start, assuming we don’t have a magic way to exactly track every new player, are we just tracking whether every playthrough that started reached the end (which is heavily flawed for obvious reasons), or tracking through something like achievements (which is a bit better, but still has major issues)? Even discounting length, games pretty much inherently need much more investment than other mediums even when they’re not very challenging; that’s pretty much always going to result in a decent amount not finishing even if they enjoy the game. Many simply don’t finish games regardless of length or quality (and don’t really care about story); they play until they’ve had their fill and move on, this doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with the game, it’s just the way they approach them. Plus not every unfinished playthrough will stay that way; in many cases players leave things for months or even a year or more before going back and finishing (I’ve done this a few times as well). These are just a few things I came up with quickly for why those kind of stats actually mean very little without proper context, and I’m sure there’s plenty more reasons.

            That doesn’t mean I’m 100% against stuff like examining completion stats, but past a point you’re making your game for an audience that doesn’t exist, and putting off existing audiences in the process (which seems to be an issue that AAA publishers/developers have already crashed head-first into).

    • Gilead says:

      Always slightly confused when people say things like ‘Games should be shorter because I’ve grown up and have less free time’. It’s like going into a bookshop and saying ‘What are all these children’s books doing here, my son is 27, he has not read them in years’.

      I don’t have as much free time to spend on games as I used to, but I’m not sure why that should mean people who are younger than I am or who have more free time than I have should no longer get to enjoy longer games. Even when they insist on remaining stubbornly and obnoxiously younger than me, the bastards.

      • Lambchops says:


        My response to this article was going to be that I prefer shorter games now – but that the gaming world shouldn’t be forced to conform to my selfish preferences!

        • mandaya says:

          @Lambchop: The games industry can’t be forced to conform to anyone’s selfish preferences, but doesn’t, IMHO, think hard enough about the money to be made by appealing more to older players who’d still spend money if there were low-priced offers for shorter experiences.
          ALL the former gamers I talked with stated that game length was what made them give up gaming, and they all praised games like Journey or TWD, which they could just pick up at a low price. Spending 60 bucks on a game you never find the time for is a major obstacle for many, especially as MOST GAMES ARE NEVER FINISHED by their players, anyway.

          • Lambchops says:

            I’d counterpoint by saying there plenty of low priced shorter games out there.

            I’ve managed to keep playing games based on these titles (many of which were mentioned in the article or by others here).

            I can definitely understand the argument that these are mainly indie titles and that AAA studios aren’t really focusing on them but if we’re breaking it down to money terms for these studios I think the missing link from the article is mobile/tablet gaming. The big studios can probably make more money from a well produced mobile game (appealing to all ages of gamers with less time on their hands/short attention spans) than they can for a shorter variant of a more niche title that might be preferred by nostalgic older gamers short of time. Sure there’s are market for short games with high production values but it really is a market that from both gamer’s and business’ perspectives is probably best served by indie/smaller developers, who have been doing a fantastic job of it, the latest Humble Bundle shows that there are plenty of short form games out there.

      • Bhazor says:

        I don’t know, I actually have more free time now than when I was a teen and I had two hours home work every evening and I *had* to go out every night. Now I can just sit around in the lounge with a few friends and my laptop and call it a good night.

        But that said I’m not sure if I am a proper grown up yet, I’ve never been to a meeting or wine tasting or had an affair.

        • Sheng-ji says:

          I would make the point that a proper grown up doesn’t have affairs!

          • The Random One says:

            Or goes to wine tastings, I’d say.

          • engion3 says:

            One of my life long friends went to his first wine tasting the other week. He and another one of my friends also debated the best kind of trash can to purchase for your garage. Becoming an adult happens so fast, watch your back.

      • iridescence says:

        The obvious point that the article doesn’t bother to make is that people are upset because games have gotten shorter *while their prices have stayed the same*. Sure, make shorter games if you want. I’m sure there is a good market for them but charge the same price for games which are half or even a quarter as long.

        They are starting to come out with some good short games which are actually cheaper than normal games, like The Walking Dead. I think that’s a good development.

      • InternetBatman says:

        Absolutely. There’s this weird thread of possession that runs through the game industry, and individuals will constantly demand that games change with them rather than seeking new franchises. Nintendo is a pretty good example.

    • noclip says:

      A lot of the contrived lengthening and filler is a response to players steadfastly subscribing to the “pay $60 for a game, rush through skipping everything optional, complain about value for money” mentality. Antichamber can be completed in 4 minutes but that doesn’t make it a 4 minute game. Duration has very little to do with the actual value of a creative work.

      • iridescence says:

        “Duration has very little to do with the actual value of a creative work.”

        Value as art, not really, of course that is ridiculously subsective. The length does absolutely effect the entertainment value you get from the game though. If a game lasts 4 hours you will need to buy a new game much sooner than with a 40 hour game. The 4 hour game better be a hell of a lot better than the 40 hour game if they want the same price for it.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        I don’t think it’s too much to ask for a $60 game to have a decent decent length AND very little padding. Few people are asking for padding. People are asking for a game that will engage them for a good amount of time. It has been done many times before. It’s misguided to make this about length, when it’s really about quality.

    • ukpanik says:

      Grandad doesn’t have much time for long games, boohoo.
      Are some games too difficult also? lets make them short and easy for him.

    • JackShandy says:

      Some of the Short Game stuff seems to come from the fallacy that completing a game is important.

      If you play the first level of Dark Souls and then put the game down forever, you have:

      -Gone through a strange and forboding environment
      -Been suddenly and brutally destroyed by something hideous and unexpected just as you were about to escape
      -Gone back around, gaining better items and a deeper understanding of how to play
      -Returned and triumphantly destroyed a threat that initially seemed unbeatable
      -Unlocked a big new environment with a lot of interesting stuff to explore.

      That’s the exact same experience that you’ll have if you keep playing it for 20, 50, 100 hours. Maybe you won’t get your money’s worth, maybe you won’t understand every part of it’s intricate systems or lore, but if you want to play it as a short game I think your experience is totally valid.

      Movies like Fight Club, games like Bioshock – yeah, if you haven’t seen the Twist you haven’t really experienced the movie. But at the end of Dark Souls, all you get is a five-minute cutscene. There’s nothing wrong with that cutscene, but it’s not like the entire 100 hours suddenly becomes worthwhile because you watched it.

      Stripped of that, the argument becomes “Games shouldn’t have filler” – and of course they shouldn’t.

      • Bhazor says:

        In games more than any medium it’s the journey that matters.

      • Shuck says:

        Speaking as a game developer: if you spend significant resources making content that 90% of your players never see, that’s a grossly inefficient design flaw. And the industry is, as a whole (but especially the AAA portion), putting in filler, both in the form of content and mechanics to extend gameplay to the point where 90% of the players will not see it. That’s simply insane.

        • WrenBoy says:

          Speaking as a gamer, I dont agree with this. Even if you dont experience certain content, knowing it is there can enhance what you do experience.

          A good example would be all the content unique to low intelligence characters in the early fallout games. I never experienced them but knowing they existed gave meaning to the attributes I chose for my own character and also made the game world seem more solid and reactive.

          Conversely skyrim seems to have been designed to allow you to experiemce every single piece of content in a single playthrough and suffers from it. Npcs complaing about pencil necked magicians in one breath and addressing you as the greatest ever head of the fighters guild in the next despite the fact that you are also the head of the mages guild and have never so much as drawn a sword in their presence before.

          Of the above two examples I felt only the latter contained wasted experiences.

          • Shuck says:

            You’re completely supporting my argument, actually. The Fallout games could afford to have multiple approaches to any given situation precisely because it didn’t take significant resources to add that in, and it increased replayability. A modern, fully-voiced game has greater expenses for every bit of NPC interaction than the older, text-based-dialog games had. (Not to mention greater animation and scripting costs for character interactions.) So right there, that limits just how many bits of dialog and NPC interaction are going to be in the game. Games have limited development time and budgets, obviously, even as budgets have increased (to the point of threatening sustainable development). With the pressure to have longer games, those resources have to be allocated differently. More linear content is needed to pad out game length, which means that content is necessarily less rich and responds to fewer approaches. Ironically, this results in content that fewer people will see than if the resources had been put into the multiple-approach style play, and replayability is sacrificed for game length. (More people are likely to buy the 50 hour game than the one that’s 5 hours but has 20 different ways of playing the game, even though they’re not likely to finish the 50 hour game.)
            So increasing game length is, in fact, contributing to killing off the style of games you like.

          • Mman says:

            “So increasing game length is, in fact, contributing to killing off the style of games you like.”

            What you’re mentioned seems to be far more of an issue with budget and presentation bloat than length; multiple approaches could be included fine if the budget wasn’t biased towards fully voiced dialogue and and super detailed environments (although these things are sadly pretty much unavoidable in big-budget games now due to the way audience expectations have been trained).

            Even past that though, I’m not sure how games in genre have gotten much longer; average RPG length is about the same if anything (although most modern RPGs do admittedly have a major sidequest bloat issue, but it’s more an issue of focus being shifted from the main quest than there generally being more “content” overall). Fallout is more an exception in terms of being a pretty compact game by RPG standards, then again, Fallout 2 was closer to a standard RPG in terms of how massive it was and still managed to fit in the low int dialogue and similar stuff…

          • WrenBoy says:

            I dont feel that I am supporting your point. Skyrim was fully voice acted and I said that they should have had the courage to hide a fair amount of their content if they wanted to give meaning to the rest.

            To take a simpler example, if someone told you that 90% of gamers will not finish your game would you then not bother creating an ending?

        • JackShandy says:

          Completely disagree that putting in content that few players will see is a Design Flaw. Very few people will beat Cave Story’s secret boss, or find Morpheus in Deus Ex – is putting those things in a flaw? Hell, 50% of people completed Mass Effect, were they wrong to put in an ending?

          The small percent of people who see the hardcore content are your biggest fans, and it’s absolutely fine to give them something that most people won’t see.

          Added to that: It’s a fallacy to think that a 60% completion rate means only 60% of people ever experienced the content. Maybe only 10% of people ever beat Cave Story’s secret boss, but 20% will have tried, 60% will have seen the clues and understood that there’s some great secret out there, a whole boatload of people will have heard about it on the internet. It adds something to the game even if you don’t suck up the content and tick it’s checklist.

        • InternetBatman says:

          I think your statement is a bit absolute, but I agree with the general sentiment. The obvious exception that you mention later on is open world games, where knowledge/ expectations of the existence of unseen content is an integral part of the gameplay experience because it either provides greater choice or greater sense of depth. Padding games out with linear content is a bit silly. However, if gameplay is good enough linear content can be extended with a minimum of objections or extra work; I’ll find 10000 enemies in Jedi Knight 2 without complaint, but easily tire of Darksiders’ trash fights.

    • dE says:

      It’s all about the lifetime of game mechanics. If they’re not near perfect, a game can have thousand hours of hidden stories, collectibles and achievements and yet feel too short and pointless after 4 hours of playing. On the flipside, if the mechanics are great, I’ll keep coming back and no amount of “been there, done that” can stop me from enjoying it one more time. Thus the argument of games need to be shorter to be mature is nonsense. They need to be just as long as their gameplay keeps them afloat.
      I feel like when people complain about “too short” they don’t want more content, they actually want better designed content. Think of it like this:

      Folks generally remember the best or the worst over the mediocre. All Games have good moments, mediocre moments and bad moments, in variation. If after playing you’ve had few bad moments but not a whole lot of good moments, it essentially boils down to not remembering a whole lot about the game. In retrospective, the game appears short. But if you had a whole set of good moments and remember them, you remember much more about the game and in retrospective, the game appears much longer.
      Case in point, Skyrim. I played it for about 50 hours. I remember absolutely bloody nothing about it, only that I thought the story felt short and incoherent. Guildwars 2, I played for about 70 hours and still felt it wasn’t worth the money, which isn’t exactly fair – it just wasn’t for me. Gunpoint on the other hand, I played 2 hours and remember all the fun I had with it. In something not at allquantifyable, I feel like Gunpoint was a much longer experience than, say Skyrim or Guildwars 2 – while the hours speak very very differently. But that’s also the crux of it, it’s so skyhigh subjective, it’s not even funny.

      • iridescence says:

        “Case in point, Skyrim. I played it for about 50 hours. I remember absolutely bloody nothing about it, only that I thought the story felt short and incoherent. Guildwars 2, I played for about 70 hours and still felt it wasn’t worth the money, which isn’t exactly fair – it just wasn’t for me.”

        Assuming you aren’t some kind of masochist who forces yourself to spend time on leisure activities you don’t really enjoy, a game which gives you 50-70 hours of playtime is still doing something right. Not every game is really out to create “memorable stories”. Many just want to keep you entertained for a good long time and I see nothing wrong with that…

        • dE says:

          Yes, it does something right. There are occasional good parts but all in all, it felt mediocre and short to me, which is entirely the point. The disconnect of “time played” versus “felt long and short”.

    • Mman says:

      The problem I’m having with the current trend of shortening games is that developers (at least in AAA terms, the short length of most Indie games is fine, and in most cases unavoidable anyway) priority of what classifies as “filler” apparently runs counter to mine; I was okay with shorter games on the assured condition that the lack of need for padding out content would lead to more interesting level design and distinctive settings, lots of enemy variety with each type being explored throughout the game, and gameplay additions like traps and puzzles (and other equivalents) that could all be properly playtested and polished to avoid being frustrating.

      Instead shorter games seems to have led to more non-descript generic corridors, “man with gun” as the only enemy type, and the removal of just about any alternative gameplay beyond aiming a crosshair at heads. While there are certainly some successful examples, when it comes to these sort of generic AAA games I actually still find the longer ones more appealing, because at least then there tends to be a chance of something mechanically subversive slipping in at some point, as opposed to it just being meaningless noise the whole way through.

      Edit: “Folks generally remember the best or the worst over the mediocre.”

      This quote above pretty much sums up my feelings; I’d rather have a twelve hour game with two hours I love over a six hour game that never catches my interest. Of course, I’d rather have a consistently great game over both of those, but the current “gameplay” trajectory of AAA games suggests to me that short games in that budget bracket are actually where I get that less.

    • Grargh says:

      This whole discussion reminds me of the suggestion to make more than the dialogue of a game skippable that was thrown around a while ago. If you could just opt out of the parts you consider ‘filler’, maybe you could trim the game’s length to your time constraints and still experience everything you enjoy.

  3. RedViv says:

    If you consider all the things that play into feeding your character in Don’t Starve, then Krampus is more of a guardian of a balanced diet. One could just as easily argue that the developers intend to push a tree-hugging agenda on the player, what with those also being guarded by their own kind of, hmm, Fair entity. It’s a game about striking a balance, and it does not judge the way you fight for your survival when you watch out carefully. So if there is any kind of agenda, it would be less “veggie evangelist” and more “careful use of resources evangelist”.

    • bluebomberman says:

      “Tiresome dietary politics” is indeed an apropos title for taking offense to Don’t Starve’s hunger systems.

      I’ve largely abandoned eating meat in real life. But I’m not going to get worked up by player-characters eating bunnies in a survival game.

    • Jade Raven says:

      The game does seem to have a central game mechanic that is based on something that goes against general observational data i.e. that people don’t go insane due to eating meat.

      I’ve eaten meat all my life and I’m not insane.

      Really, I’m not.

      • RedViv says:

        Aye, I am not even counting the suspension of disbelief here. Sanity is a factor because Don’t Starve takes place in some kind of Fair Folk world, where nigh everything is out to hurt you anyway. Reactions to most actions the player can take are taken to a rather extreme level. Consequences would never be the same!

      • cpt_freakout says:

        I think the insanity thing is tied to the ‘murder’ aspect, so it’s erroneously represented because what causes it is the eating. You could argue that a city guy like the inventor would be deeply disturbed by the killing of an animal and so on, but I still think it’s badly done… maybe lower ‘mental health’ for the first few killings and then not?

        Regardless, the article is reducing ‘survival’ to the feeling of desperation and the notion that in desperation everything goes (in an extreme way). I think it’s more apt to think, like RedViv, that there are different ways of survival, and I agree with him/her in that the basic lesson of Don’t Starve is that of resource management, both your own bodily resources and those available from the wilderness. Sure, one of those ways is ‘kill or die’, but there are others that could possibly even involve a full-on veggie diet. In this sense I think the use of the word ‘murder’ enters the picture at this point, because it kind of reminds the players that this kind of survival implies a more gruesome kind of death than that of plants, that they’re more than just a resource like stone or gold.

      • Lanfranc says:

        Eating broccoli causes insanity. You heard it here first.

        (Or, this being the Internet, possibly not.)

      • Kitsunin says:

        True that eating meat doesn’t make you insane, but if they aren’t accustomed to it, wouldn’t killing the animals, then eating them, have an adverse effect on some people’s sanity? Especially in a very lonely world, where the things you’re killing are nearly the only things alive not actively seeking to kill you.

        • aepervius says:

          True the first 3 or 5 rabbit you might get a bit disgusted, sick, but certainly not “insane”. And after the 5th ? Woopy doo. Disclaimer : I am a city kid which spent his summer getting money by helping at a farm , tendingvegetables, cutting wheat with machines, and yes, killing and skinning rabbits, killing hen and plucking their feather. I am not insane. Barely.

        • Arglebargle says:

          I helped raise rabbits for a while. Mean little buggers. If they aren’t hand raised as pets, they’ll bite your fingers off given half a chance. And they are quite, quite tasty. Rabbit stew definitely does not taste like chicken.

        • cptgone says:

          don’t forget the vegetables!
          (animals who cannot run!)

          soylent green is the only food that is ethical, really.

          • lowprices says:

            If you don’t eat your Soylent Green, you can’t have any pudding. How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat your Soylent Green?

      • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

        The whole article’s argument is complete bollocks though. Besides candy, jerky gives you the highest sanity boost in the game.

        You might get by on berries until winter, but after that meatballs are my staple diet, because meat is abundant and easily collected. Vegetables require building farms and waiting for them to grow. I get all my food from feeding pigs monster meat and getting them to beat on beefalo until one or the other dies, then throwing the odd berry or mushroom into the crockpot with my meat or jerky. I also rely on numerous drying racks. I hardly ever eat vegetables, I only save them for when I’m desperate. I’m almost purely carnivorous when I play

        It’s absolutely bugger all to do with dietary politics, it’s just a bloody gameplay mechanic. This guy sounds like he has far more of an axe to grind than Klei.

    • KDR_11k says:

      Some people see agendas everywhere. I’ve seen a thread on Steam complaining about Anno 2070 by claiming the devs support some sort of eugenics program and the New World Order because of course that’s the only reason one could possibly have to be against polluting the environment.

    • Pirate says:

      You’re completely right. I don’t think this guy has done his research on this article at all. He states that “killing (or murdering) animals decreases your sanity” which is completely false. There are many more holes in his reasoning.
      I dared him to go 40 days without eating any meat. I don’t think it’s even possible.

      • Pirate says:

        Also the blogs subtitle “The best blog that nobody reads” says a lot about the author imo.

        • Malawi Frontier Guard says:

          Well, it’s something to laugh about in any case.

        • Jason Lefkowitz says:

          I’m the author; I started using that tagline as a kind of throwaway joke during a recent spate of “blogs are dead” articles. But feel free to use it to psychoanalyze me if you’re into that sort of thing.

          • Schaap says:

            I’ve played the game a fair bit and unfortunately your blog is wrong. Eating raw meat decreases your sanity, which seems reasonable. Eating cooked meat doesn’t decrease your sanity. If you make jerky or cook it into a recipe, it actually increases your sanity. By far the easiest way to survive infinitely is to simply build a few drying racks and only ever eat jerky, I only plant some berry bushes to have some reserve if I for some reason didn’t have time to stock up on fresh meat.

            Edit: here is a link to the wiki: link to

            Note that if you eat 6 small jerky per day it’s all you need to survive indefinitely. Vegetables and fruits are superfluous.

      • lijenstina says:

        Reading blogs can decrease sanity. True story.
        Apart from RPS. People reading it are already insane. :D

        • Pirate says:

          A direct quote from the article comments – “@ Sigh & Pirate Eat shit and die, maybe that would fit your dietary habbits.”
          Made me laugh a lot.

      • Jason Lefkowitz says:

        Hi, author of the post here. You’re right about there being no Sanity hit for the act of killing the animal itself, so I’ve updated the post to indicate that. Thanks for calling my attention to the error!

        • Isair says:

          Still wrong, though. Eating raw meat, or meat from clearly unhealthy animals decreases your sanity, but eating normal cooked meat won’t. There is also a fruit that reduces your sanity, so I don’t really think there’s an agenda behind this.

        • IAmUnaware says:

          You may want to further amend your article to point out that almost everything in the game that is made of meat actually raises your sanity. Only raw meat (or meat from horrible monsters whose mere presence also causes sanity loss) damages your sanity, while all non-monster meat raises sanity when prepared. You can even cook a certain quantity of monster meat together with regular meat in the crockpot to render it into safe, sanity-increasing food.

          You can see the exact sanity effects here (some spoilers, of course): link to and the particular effects of cooked food on sanity here: link to Jerky made from the Drying Rack is actually one of the best ways to increase your sanity, but sadly the wiki doesn’t seem to have a convenient page of Drying Rack recipes.

    • almostDead says:

      I really agree with some of the commenters on his blog. He doesn’t seem to have done his homework about the ‘whys’ of the development of the gameplay mechanics. They are reactions to the game becoming too easy by pursuing certain things, i.e., eating berries and nothing else -> the Gobbler gets programmed in. And lightning due to moving all berry bushes to your base. I really don’t see any deep philosophy here, just gameplay mechnics evolving from very early beginnings.

      • The Random One says:

        I’ll say that it is possible for a game to accidentally end up pushing agendas by blindly following mechanics, but, as hes been pointed out above, eating cooked meat doesn’t damage your sanity, so the whole point is moot.

    • S Jay says:

      Don’t Starve article is really wrong, mainly because:

      * It is almost impossible to live of vegetables during the winter
      * Monster meat can be eaten if you cook only one of them in the crock pot
      * Meatballs dish has a super high efficiency
      * You don’t lose sanity by eating meat, you lose sanity by eating raw meat (thinking about it, might make more sense to lose health)
      * Turkey for berries and bees for honey doesn’t make a statement against eating berries and honey. It is just a way to balance difficult, putting obstacles on the way. So naughtiness is one of those systems.

  4. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    Christ. Warning gamological has an auto-play video advertisement so take care if have your volume whacked up if you don’t want a bit of a shock.

  5. MondSemmel says:

    Bah. Is it really inconceivable that Space Giraffe was a commercial flop not because it was so brilliant that nobody understood it, but rather because it wasn’t actually that enjoyable?
    I very much hope the design idea of cluttering the player’s screen with stupid distractions (call it “psychedelic” all you want) is a dead end. And yet, so many boring 2D arcade shooters do the same…

  6. Chorltonwheelie says:

    Bach’s ‘Sheep May Safely Graze’ rattles around my ears whenever I find something to read about Jeff Minter.
    Game engine? Pah! Assembler and hit the hardware….

    link to

  7. bluebomberman says:

    “Apple’s awkward relationship with gaming” is a fairly misleading description, isn’t it? I was hoping to see some thoughts on where Apple stands in the gaming market now, slowly but surely whittling away at the console makers even though they’re largely ambivalent about video games themselves.

    Instead, I see an article about a console developed during Apple’s near-implosion period, before the return of Steve Jobs. Which I suppose is interesting if you like to read about old console war stories. But let’s be clear: the Pippin was a clear sign of how terrible a company Apple was in the mid-1990s.

    • webwielder says:

      Agreed. In my mind, the Pippin barely even qualifies as a product or a strategy. It’s just a weird relic of an eccentric German with a fear of Nintendo who became CEO of Apple due to a habitually incompetent board of directors. But I guess to most people, Apple is just Apple.

    • Shuck says:

      That would have been an interesting article (and what I was expecting), though I suspect it would be quite difficult to get current Apple-ites to talk about why the company has such an ambivalent attitude about gaming even while games are the primary use for products like the iPad. So I guess we’re left to imagine that the Pippin is the reason for Apple’s current stance.

      • bluebomberman says:

        I doubt anybody in senior leadership even remembers the Pippin.

        The best answer I’ve seen regarding Apple’s ambivalence towards gaming is that they simply don’t care. Or, to be more nuanced, they don’t really have a passion for games. Probably 95% of Apple’s output comes from making stuff they think is awesome and that they want to use themselves.

        For instance, I’ve seen people wonder aloud why Apple hasn’t made a console despite already selling Apple TVs and having an app infrastructure that game makers have already flocked to. I imagine an Apple TV that lets anybody make a game and charge a 30% cut would be hugely disruptive. Yet Apple has shown zero interest in doing that. Sure, there are business considerations (they’re making a killing selling iPads, iPhones, iPods and Macs – they’re not likely to make nearly as much in the console space) and design considerations (designing a controller’s about as far away from designing a tablet as it gets) but largely I think they just don’t care enough to be bothered.

  8. Shiri says:

    Yeah, that Don’t Starve article takes a lot out of context. The reason things like the Krampus are there is that the easiest thing in the game used to just be to spam traps and slaughter rabbits by the hundreds. Veggie evangelist or not, this just wasn’t as fun as taking food from a variety of sources. They later moved some other mechanics around so that the Krampus became less necessary, and veggies became easier, but you also need meat for things like Meat Effigies that vegetables just can’t supply, so you definitely still want to do that sometimes. Fishing is also an extremely plentiful source of food during Summer, provided there aren’t too many mozzies/frogs in that area. I am a meat eater and I have no problem with the way the game simulates this stuff.

  9. Advanced Assault Hippo says:

    “Videogames need to become shorter to mature.”

    Completely and utterly disagree with pretty much every single sentence written in that article. I’m not even sure where I know where to begin…

    As is often the case, a videogame writer is overthinking things and going off on made-up tangents.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I agree with the sentiment – games do eat up a lot of time and for busy adults it’s difficult to find time to sink into games. Demanding tens of hours might be unreasonable for someone with lots of other stuff going on, so in choosing a long game you bias your audience towards younger people with fewer time constraints.

    • Vinraith says:

      It’s the usual “all games must have narratives, and everyone must be allowed to reach the end of that narrative” nonsense. I’m an adult with extremely limited game time, but I still avoid short titles like the plague. If I’m going to spend that limited time on a game, it’s going to be a game I can invest in, and a game world I can spend some time inhabiting. For me that usually means an open world or a strategy game, neither of which tends to be much saddled with the “all important narrative” that people are so desperate to get to the end of.

      • sonson says:

        Each to their own, but no need to be contemptuous of those who have a different preference..

        • Vinraith says:

          I’m contemptuous of people who begin this conversation with the assumption that all games are narrative, and that the defining and important characteristic of playing those games is being able to get to the end. Not only is it utterly exclusive of everything I love about gaming, it also leads to piss-poor game design even for those that want that particular kind of game.

          • sonson says:

            Don’t think I’ve ever come across anyone or anything that has said once that “all games must have narratives” to be honest.

          • Gap Gen says:

            There doesn’t necessarily have to be a narrative for a payoff to exist. I don’t have time to learn DOTA 2, for instance (although I never had time to learn to be any good Warcraft III as a teenager, to be honest). But then perhaps this isn’t an issue of length per se.

            I often like the feeling of having had an experience that I can sit back and reflect on before I get back to the other parts of my life. If this is defined by narrative, then so be it, but I like the short story ethos as opposed to the open-ended epic ethos.

    • Drinking with Skeletons says:

      I agree with the sentiment that the author is expressing, but I don’t see why that means a game has to be shorter. It can take a long time to read a book, but that hasn’t stopped George R.R. Martin from becoming wildly popular among adults. Serialized television takes a long time to watch, but when was the last time you heard an adult complain about the time commitment for Breaking Bad?

      What games have traditionally lacked are good stopping points. I’ve been replaying Ni No Kuni (mentioned in the article) and it’s great, but I can’t help but wish that there were more points where I said “This is a good spot to take a break” rather than feeling compelled by the game’s feedback loops to continue. Skyrim is much the same way, but even totally linear, story-driven titles frequently have this problem (I’m personally very weak to God of War’s finely polished combat; every time a new one comes out, I’m glued to the controller for one or two huge, exhausting binges).

      Interestingly, a lot of strategy games avoid this. They either have quick matches (Starcraft), distinct turns (Civilization, Master of Orion), or a sharp division between planning and deployment (XCOM, Final Fantasy Tactics) that give you clear stopping points so that you can invest enormous amounts of time without feeling you have to invest, well, enormous amounts of time.

      And let’s not forget titles like Alan Wake or LA Noire, which were single-player games released as complete products yet divided episodically. LA Noire is extraordinarily long (disclaimer: I never finished it, because the plot finally became too much for my suspension of disbelief, but I still put in a good 15 hours or more), yet I could always feel like I could set aside time to play it, be satisfied with it, and continue on with my life.

      Games don’t have to be shorter to fit into our lives, they just might need some restructuring.

      • Vinraith says:

        That was so well put, and I agree with it so strongly, that I sincerely wish I’d said that instead of what I actually did say.

      • Gap Gen says:

        TV shows are an interesting comparison; perhaps a more valid one than film, given that films are generally over within 3 hours.

  10. Vorphalack says:

    ”Microsoft will be hosting a lavish press conference to further acquaint the world with its new system. But the company’s executives won’t be meeting with much of the press. They canceled their post-press conference interviews, all of them as best I can tell, and have even canceled some interviews at the show itself.”

    That did make me laugh. They are so proud of their new console toy that they aren’t even willing to talk about it anymore, but they are so balls deep in the development cycle that they can’t make any significant changes before it ships. I really hope that the gaming press cover the ”silence” coming out of Microsoft and don’t just let the XBOX One controversy slide.

    • colossalstrikepackage says:

      It will partly be decided by how smart PS4 decide to be. If they have the brains, they can learn from xbone gate and continue to not be assholes. That would keep up the pressure on Microsoft and hit them where it hurts – the bottom line on sales projections. With the current spying stuff in the US, I’m sure Microsoft are kicking themselves for being so stupid with the Kinect too. I doubt consumers will trust MS to not screw them over.

      So come on Sony. Finish them.

  11. Tei says:

    About the morality in games and Don’t Starve. I have the same problem with Reus. On the tutorial section, you are asked to kill everybody in a civilization to protect nature. Do your civilization grown very fast? is bad, the good thing is your civilization growing slowly. Seems a videogame made by the Amish.

    On the other side of the continnum, you have most 4X games, where everything is expanding and conquering. So pretty much USA Capitalism.

    There has to be a middle term.. and often there is. There are games like Firefall where you can work with other people, or alone, have your own agenda, or fight people to dead (on pvp).

    • RedViv says:

      I would say that Reus actually has the middle ground there. Stagnating villages are well, if tiny, and you can let your cities grow fast if you remember to actually let them ponder their surrounding resources. Again, the balance thing. That the secondary resource that enables faster growth without greed is called “awe” is quite a strong decision. I mean, when it comes to something stopping your destructive behaviour that in the end would spell your own doom, what’s better than looking at bloody awesome and gorgeous and grand nature? So much bigger than you, but so easily crushed if you do not take care? Use that “reason” thingie that you have, and use it well.

    • iridescence says:

      “On the other side of the continnum, you have most 4X games, where everything is expanding and conquering. So pretty much USA Capitalism.”

      Worth noting that good 4X games do give you the option of trying to expand through peaceful means which at least limits the need for warfare. I guess they do have the “growth is good” assumption but that’s something that pretty much every modern human society believes. Even those not based on capitalism still want to grow and expand.

    • Arren says:

      Yeah….. “expanding and conquering” is exclusive to “USA capitalism”? Laughably facile, historically oblivious: bang that bogeyman drum!

      Uncle Sam or John Bull, take your pick. A civilization that doesn’t expand and conquer is left to wither and fade.

      • Grargh says:

        A civilization that never stops expanding and conquering is cancer and will eventually destroy its host. How can you look at our overpopulated, scarred and polluted planet and still think we need to expand?

  12. DrScuttles says:

    Wait… Gamesmaster fixed some results? Today, I shall shed a single tear for my innocence has been lost.

  13. Text_Fish says:

    Clint Hocking put his jacket on twice. I hate it when that happens.

  14. KDR_11k says:

    The Simulation Dream sounds like the design goal for Dwarf Fortress. By the sounds of it DF succeeds.

    • Somerled says:

      It’s been Tarn Adams’ inspiration and his end goal for DF. He and his brother have a fun way of achieving it too: Zach dreams up short stories, and Tarn extends the simulation to accommodate them.

    • Dinger says:

      As a footnote:

      It reminds me of an old war simulation MMO, where players sometimes had to drive a truck for hours just to reach the front line. Yes, we know war is 99% boredom interspersed with moments of terror, but a game about it should not be.

      The game in question was (and is, with something like 12 years of changes) World War Two Online. It should stand as a case study in exactly how not to build a simulation. They had this very complex physics elements: for example, every bullet or shell fired in the game had its trajectory calculated, and then every object had detailed modeling, with thickness and strength of armor and individual components. The engine would calculate the sophisticate physics behind shooting stuff up, even generating spalling inside armored vehicles.
      Of course, the clipping wasn’t so good, so people were taking their M98s up to the side of big thick French tanks, and firing. The bullets would ricochet through the interior of the tank, and usually kill everyone.
      Those trucks had realistic gearing, engines and suspensions, but the terrain was at 1:2 scale horizontally and 1:1 vertically. So many roads up hills in Flanders could not be driven.

      But my favorite was the way they modeled the suspension of the tanks. You’d have a nice 20-ton panzer (or however much it weighed), and the thing would heave about the road with satisfying girth and handling as you got it up to 15 mph or so. Then you’d hit a little 1-pound wooden stake marking the edge of the road. Well, you can’t use the net bandwith to change the state of that stake from “upright” to “flattened”, so they’re included among indestructible countryside objects. The realistic physics engine then accurately simulates the collision of a 20-ton panzer going 15 miles an hour with a small fixed object that can resist any force and provide 100% elasticity. So now you’re looking at the world upside down and wondering what happened.

      In short, the model Mr. Sylvester’s getting at is cognitive; Ibn Rushd would say there are two bathtubs, the one in reality and the one in the mind. A game needs to simulate the bathtub in the mind, since non-cognized elements have no value to the game.

      • iridescence says:

        I think the key to creating a genuine-feeling world is plausibility. For example EVE and Dwarf Fortress feel “realer” than most other games not because of some ridiculously accurate modeling of physics but because the games make no attempt to guide your experience or treat you as a “hero” they simply stick you in a world which really doesn’t give two shits about you or your “experience” and allow you the freedom to succeed or fail and they can often seem “unfair” because of this. The price of failure (especially in EVE) can be really devastating but that’s what makes it feel lifelike.

        Of course a good simulation will turn a lot of players off. Many people play games to escape from reality not replicate it but I do feel there is a definite niche for good simulations.

      • TynanSylvester says:

        I’m curious – which Ibn Rushd work talked about the two bathtubs?

        • Dinger says:

          Alright, now that the crowds have left, and for you, I’ll back it up. Alas, my Arabic is non-existent, so you’ll have to be content with the Latin translation.
          The reference is Ibn Rushd (Averroes), Great Commentary on the Metaphysics, book XII, text 36 (Juntina 1562 edition, f. 318vaI

          The context is the the discussion of how the celestial bodies are moved (this is Met. Lambda, after all), and Averroes wants to describe how the (supralunary) intelligences move the heavenly bodies; since, on his view, these bodies do not have matter that makes them capable of suffering generation and corruption, he makes an aside that becomes extremely important for the history of philosophy.

          Haec autem differunt in nobis, scilicet illud quod movet nos in loco secundum quod est agens et quod movet nos in loco secundum quod est finis. Et habet duplex esse, in anima et extra animam. Quod autem est in anima est agens motum; secundum vero, quod est extra animam, est movens secundum finem. Verbi gratia: quoniam balneum duplicem habet formam, in anima et extra animam, et propter illam formam, quae est in anima, desyderamus aliam formam, quae est extra animam; forma igitur animae balnei inquantum est in anima est agens desyderium et motum; secundum autem quod est extra animam est finis motus, non agens. Si igitur forma balnei non esset in materia, tunc moveret et secundum agens et secundum finem sine aliqua motione contingente. Et sic est intelligendum de moventibus corpora coelestia.

          But in us these things are different, namely what moves us locally as an agent and what moves us locally as a goal. For it has two kinds of being: in the soul and outside the soul. What is in the soul is what brings about the movement; but the second, which is outside the soul, is what moves according to the goal. For example: since a bath has two forms: in the soul and outside the soul, and because of that form that is in the soul we desire the other form, which is outside the soul. Therefore, the form of the bath insofar as it is in the soul is what brings about the desire and the movement; but the second, which is outside the soul, is the goal of the movement, and not what brings about it. Therefore, if the form of the bath were not in matter, then it would move both as agent and as goal without any other incidental motion. And so it should be understood concerning what moves celestial bodies.

          The notion is simpler than the way it’s expressed: If I desire a bath, what I desire is the notion of taking a bath, and that moves me to taking an actual bath. The heavenly intelligences are also moved by desire, but since what they desire is immaterial, the notion that they desire is also the goal that they seek.
          For the Scholastics, “Averroes’ bath” quickly became a shorthand for the difference between the thing as conceived (which is what moves the mind) and the thing as it is (which is the goal).

          So, for example, Petrus Aureoli (fl. 1316) used extensively the notion of esse apparens to describe how the world appears to us (as opposed to how it actually is); in the he also cites Averroes’ ‘bathtub’ at least nine times in the printed edition of his major philosophical work (commentary on the Sentences). Leibniz, whose use of Aureoli has been suspected, but, as far as I know, never actually documented, also uses the notion of esse apparens in exactly the same context.

          It’s one of those ideas that’s not only simple and revolutionary, but also capable of generating a huge amount of resistance from otherwise sane people.

          Anyway, thanks again for a good article.

          • TynanSylvester says:

            Well! Certainly didn’t expect a Latin-to English translation or philosophical discussion of it. Thank you. I’ll be investigating more about this fellow. I always like finding out about very dead people who had the same ideas as me centuries or millennia earlier.

  15. kael13 says:

    Love Jon Hopkins, ever since I discovered his ‘Insides’ album and its subsequent use in the game Vessel. Didn’t realise he had a new album out – thanks!

    • Lambchops says:

      It’s a great album, haven’t bought it yet due to there being too many other good albums coming out at the moment.

      Hence music this week for me is Boards of Canada and Camera Obscura and next week will be Sigur Ros and Black Sabbath.

      • kael13 says:

        Yes! New Black Sabbath album. I’d heard that was coming out. And the NIN album in September. It’s really a good year for music. And thankfully Spotify means I get to listen to it all.

  16. MarcP says:

    “In this RPS interview Nathan Grayson casually destroys Molyneux on details.”

    Hmm. Must not be the same RPS interview with Nathan and Molyneux I’ve read, in which Nathan sounded like those TV broadcasters smugly telling scientists “but if science is behind everything, how can you explain this random hobo saw angels in his meth-induced near-death experience? huh? HUH?!”. Focusing on small, irrelevant details, purposeful obtuseness to “avoid” understanding the explanation, and missing the big picture.

  17. Sir Flangehammer says:

    I’m finding it fascinating that the biggest media backlash against corporate gouging of consumers and the erosion of “buyers rights” is coming from the gaming media and from gamers themselves. And long may it continue.

  18. sonson says:

    New Vegas does a pretty good job of the simulation dream I’d say. Lots of factions and creatures which act independently of the player and with each other, spaces crafted for no other reason than to create a sense of plausibility, interactive objects which occur naturally, pretty much everything has a purpose. if something can be done by the player the rest of the game flows around that with rational consequence, theres no invisible walls or artificial systems hemming you in nor does everything carry on as ic bothing new has happened. Every action follows through across the board. Really feels like an ecosystem that you just happen to fall into, and that would continue even if you weren’t there.

    I’m increasingly of a mind that when stable its probably the most overall impressive achievement in PC gaming for a decade or so. It’s absolutely vast and when it doesn’t crash that vastness is full of choice, consequence and interactivity that combines to create emergent moments every session, without fail.

    • Strangerator says:

      I’ve seen so many comments like this, I feel like I’ve really been missing something. You’ve convinced me to pick up FNV at the next Steam sale! I have a lot of free time this summer too…

      Are there any one-off mods that I should play with that just generally improve the stability/overall experience?

      • Vorphalack says:

        FONV script extender + stutter remover are a must. There was also an unofficial balance patch released by J. Sawyer that tweaks various aspects of the game, generally makes it less of a steamroll later on.

      • WrenBoy says:

        I FNV is great and you would be doing yourself a favour by playing it but I cant see how it can be reasonably described as simulating anything.

        There is a really well thought out narrative, particularly with regards to the factions, each of which has unique and interesting personalities and who all interlock in a very satisfying way.

        That is just clever narrative though. The dialog trees and missions are all hardcoded and apart from a couple of variables like reputuation and some very rare decisions taken by the player you will see the same narrative every time you play through the game.

        I would say that Gothic 2 is probably the closest RPGs come to simulations and even then its relatively basic; watching the occasional animal eat another, watch NPCs react to your illegal activity, etc. The Elder Scrolls series learned a bit from the Gothic series I think but their implementation was even more simplistic. While I played the shit out of Gothic 2 when it originally came out it has aged really badly so Im not sure I could recommend it.

      • sonson says:

        I made this thread on the forums re the NV Mods I play with

        link to

  19. Elmarby says:

    I would have expected to see the Three Moves Ahead chat with Paradox CEO Fred Wester and another Paradox fellow to be here. The frankness is quite unusual.
    link to

  20. Strangerator says:

    “That’s the Simulation Dream – the idea of making a complex simulation of a story world, which creates fascinating emergent stories as powerful as those you might write yourself. The idea bursts with potential.”

    The funny thing is that I’ve encountered a lot of the problems described in the article while noodling out the the concept of whether it is truly achievable or not. I think the last step that needs to be taken is making the design goal of the game to be actually geared towards allowing the player to tell stories.

    Apophenia can only take an experience so far. Apophenia can and should be used to fill in gaps, but a game that contains a “narrative toolset” could actually find ways to connect different events within the simulated world. If certain interactions the player has with facets of the world have the potential to be “flagged” by the game’s narrative system as significant events, then the player will begin to realize his actions have weight in the game world. These flagged events or interactions can then influence procedurally generated content further down on the timeline.

    The examples cited by the author tend to create storylines merely because they are complex simulations that produce unique scenarios in a cooperatively procedural way. The author lists SimCity, Dwarf Fortress, Tropico, The Sims, Prison Architect, and Ultima Online as examples of simulations that are able to create stories. But if you were to describe the objective of any of these games, you’d never say “to tell really cool and unique stories.”

    If you could really build a game from the ground up with storytelling as the focal point you’d really be on to something. Somewhat complex systems are always a requirement of course, to provide that unknown to the world, and to reflect the idea that sometimes we take actions without comprehensive understanding of all of the ramifications of the action.

  21. Yosharian says:

    “Videogames need to become shorter to mature.”

    Yeah, I was always thinking about halfway through BG2, ‘Boy I wish this game was over right now’. All 4-5 times I’ve played all the way through it, I thought the same thing – why isn’t this game over already? Jeez.

    What an idiotic concept.

    Hey guys I heard The Lord of the Rings would be such a better story if it was one book long, what was that idiot Tolkien thinking?

    • PopeRatzo says:

      “Videogames need to become shorter to mature.”

      Then they’ll mature without my money. I will never spend more than $30 on a game that I can finish in under 15 hours.

      It hasn’t been all that hard to stick to that rule. $2/hr is the most I will pay for videogame entertainment.

      Arkham City = Worth it.
      Bioshock Infinite = Not worth it

      I don’t care how amazing the story and gameplay. An 8 hour game will never be worth $50.

      • Yosharian says:

        Uh. Bioshock Infinite was well worth what I paid for it (about 25 quid)

      • The Random One says:

        Then maybe don’t buy games that cost $50? Binding of Isaac and Don’t Starve come to mind.

  22. PopeRatzo says:

    I would like to read the excellent writing at, but their site is impossible to navigate. If you don’t believe me, go ahead and start looking at the photo galleries that accompany their stories and then scroll through the various independently scroll-able columns of text. Try whichever browser you’d like.

    A premium gaming journalism site really ought to try to make their code work.

  23. Drinking with Skeletons says:

    The worst thing about the Xbone isn’t the anti-consumerism or Microsoft’s utter and transparent contempt for their core audience, it’s the fact that Microsoft may be right.

    Microsoft has been pretty explicit that they think gamers will buy everything (see the recent oxm interview), and I’m concerned that those individuals may account for more people than I expect. I’d like to believe that gamers (of any and all stripes) are better than the stereotypes, but damned if that one doesn’t worry me.

    I’d be less concerned if I had any reason to think that Sony would offer a real alternative, but Microsoft assuredly didn’t make their decisions in a vacuum. The best-case scenario is that Sony allows publishers to make their own choices regarding DRM requirements, and you know damn well that they aren’t going to undermine the platform that gives them the most preferential treatment, while maintaining traditional setups for first-party titles. Presented with two major consoles with awful, anti-consumer policies, will consumers turn to PC or Nintendo (and presumably trigger an industry-wide collapse from which only indies and a few moderately-sized developers escape), or will they simply go along with their corporate overlords’ plan.

    Of course, there is a third option: it turns out that the higher ups at both companies, so out of touch with regular people, have grossly overestimated the actual number of people capable of putting up with their always-on BS and a crash occurs regardless of anyone’s desires.

    Am I being too cynical?

    • Dominic White says:

      No, I think you might be right, at least in part. Over the past few years, I’ve seen genuine Microsoft fanboys who honestly believe that taxing developers huge piles of cash to release patches will result in bug-free games, and that paying monthly for the privilege to host your own multiplayer games on your own console and line is a vital service and keeps out the riff-raff.

      It’s all absolute delusion with no basis whatsoever in reality, but these are real people that have convinced themselves that whatever Microsoft do, it’s for their own good and will lead to better games, lower prices (haha – most games on XBL Games On Demand are still close to full price 4-5 years later) and more motivated studios.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I think that’s pretty spot on. The only competitor I see is a Steam box that is subsidized with steam cash. Even that would not be great for openness, but it would be a damn sight better than what anyone else is offering. Steam needs to get a couple things in order (like family accounts) before it can work though.

  24. tciecka says:

    I loved that Pippin article. Thanks for the link!
    It was fun to learn that the apple console was launched to under the assumption that, “the high barrier price of personal computers is limiting its penetration into homes around the world.” Their price point was ~$600 US. It was too expensive, and it failed miserably.
    Nearly 20 years later, here we are with several consoles that perform the same tasks as the Pippin while costing 50% less to purchase. The console industry should be thanking Apple for demonstrating how to completely fumble a product launch through a poor pricing scheme.

  25. Emeraude says:

    the “well Steam is just as bad” argument: yes, that’s narrowly true, but on the PC there are alternatives to Steam.

    I’m probably the only one thinking that way, but I read this as the equivalent of saying “on the console market, there are alternatives to the X-box one”.

    Personally think that, yes Steam is just as bad (well technically, better on some respects and worse on others), though, I don’t see it so much as an endorsement of what Microsoft is planning to do as a condemnation of what Valve has been doing all along.

    One of my friends yes, (we’re pretty much all anti-Steam) was making me remark that, at least on the console side of things, you can just ignore the X1 and its games and be done with it, while on PC, there’s always the Damocles sword of Steam in the background. You can wait for a game for years, and learn at the last minute that it will be Steamworks (his case in point: Adrift/Remember me).

    Hell, from personal experience, can’t even back up a Kickstarter project promising to be DRM free without Steam ending up phagocyting it (see: Shadowrun Returns)

  26. Josh W says:

    I like that simulation dream article, but it occurs to me that there are some incomplete things:

    You don’t simply want to design for the player’s knowledge and capacity to model, because that is like texturing one side of everything, as we currently do, then finding out that players have the capacity to no-clip.

    It is precisely those times when we reach above the normal expectations of what we should be expected to understand, and find that the game still holds up, that we gain respect and enthusiasm for the design.

    We push outside the limits and find that things still work, or at least find easter eggs and things that reveal the designers understanding of what they work with.

    Fundamentally, the simulation dream is a dream of complexity, of capturing the realities of groups, not dominated by simple problems or objectives, but playing out their overlapping lives and desires. We want that flexibility and unpredictability.

    But to focus on how this amplifies the article’s point, the secret is to create a world that displays it’s peculiar variables, even if their interaction is complex. And in fact the more complex a world is, the less you have to fear from being honest with your players, because if the structure underlying it is inherently complex, showing how it moves will not collapse the game’s difficulty. And anyway, if we want to see a world of complexity, we need access to it’s information.

    Hidden variables can become very close to randomness, unless players have ways to mark their influence, and more broadly, if you start designing a fascinating simulation using debug tools the players don’t have access to, you have effectively been playtesting the wrong game! Closing that gap between the information you have and the information you give the players means they get to share in the same fun of watching the simulation move, even if the variables they see have to be represented in ways that suit their interface better (colours, sounds, animations etc).

    The next big thing is that simulations have to be designed as if they will have the players in them. This is the obvious flipside to showing your variables. If an ecology is going to be wrecked by being in a world of an indeterminate amount of infinitely respawning kill-hungry players, then it’s probably not a good choice for an mmo! Whereas the same kind of model could preserve it’s interesting behaviour when explored by a single player.

    In other words, the simulation dream is something that has to be shared with the players, to avoid creating some strange mathematical game of your own hidden in the background code. Use the same interface as the players to explore it, or at least one with a similar level of expressivity in both directions. This means that what you are aiming for is for a player to be in a complex environment, so that the subset of the gameworld that is relevant to their interactions is complex.

    Then after all that, there comes the usual thing of difficulty curves. These interface with a model-style view very strongly, because reducing the difficulty of a game not based on reactions is about finding ways to simplify out elements of the overall complexity, create situations that only show a small subset of it’s possible interactions, and so pose smaller problems.

    This is to apophenia as inverse kinematics is to keyframe animation; instead of trying to make your simple systems seem lifelike, it’s trying to make your complex systems behave.

    Ok, this is already getting too large, but some other ideas:

    Creating hair complexity is good because it focuses on presenting detail to the player, which you can then work backwards from to build out the systems, insuring that you build complexity around the players’ experiences. Offloading that to the graphics cards is a problem as it denies you the opportunity to make those kinds of adjustments.

    And dwarf fortress exists in the tension between the impulse towards systemisation and the desire to build interesting stories; metallurgical stats for weapons or strange flora and fauna is not strictly about any conventional story, but it interacts with it.

    The secret is in exploring the simulative complexity of a particular story domain; “story density” in the sense of considering human values must be accompanied by “interactive density” in the sense of deep and overlapping responsiveness to the actions of the player, and in that context nuanced accommodation and reconfiguration can actually be better than spiralling catastrophe, providing the interface is expressive enough to reveal it.