The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for preaching to the choir, and then stepping down from the pulpit, picking up an axe, and going outside to deal with that wolf.

  • Even wondered what happens to Indie games that aren’t Minecraft, and don’t get on to Steam? Well, it can be something like this: “The other thing we feel is a factor in our sales, is that we inadvertently shoehorned ourselves into the “Endless Runner” genre, without realizing the damage this would do. We felt the concept of an arcade-style, highscore focused game deserved a pure, HD treatment, free of microtransactions and with a focus on depth – and our customers seem to agree. But there seems to be an immediate and general stigma around this genre (thanks to the mobile revolution no doubt) – that “runners” should be free, and they don’t belong on PC.”
  • Have a listen to Ste Curran’s experimental piece, The Queen. It’s worth a fragment of your time. You can buy it for £1 if you like it.
  • There was some muttering on the internet after the appearance of this Papo & Yo article. Like so: “We have to change our roles as a designer, if we want to achieve these emotions, he says. “Our role is to tell stories to people. To tell stories from a different point of view,” Caballero concludes. “We have to become storytellers, not designers. So I ask you: change the game industry. Please.”” Hmmmmm!
  • The New Statesman used to be a politics site! What’s all this “writing about games” doing in my politics eh? Well actually it’s examining the fascinatingly political territory that games can get into, with an article about the brilliant Papers, Please, and an article about Cliffski’s simulation efforts in Democracy 3. It’s as if videogames and politics overlap somehow. Crazy.
  • Speaking of politics, Simon “Nice hair, Writes For The New Yorker Now” Parkin asks How evil should a videogame allow you to be? Needless to say, it’s a GTAV article: “In Grand Theft Auto V, the ambition is not only to tell a story but also to create a fully functioning social universe within a faithful depiction of a contemporary city. In addition to the core story, the player has the freedom to do whatever he or she wants, from taking part in a virtual triathlon to visiting a strip club to stealing cars. In this kind of video game, often described as an “open world” game, there is a difference between action that is required by the game in the course of the narrative and the action that is merely possible within the bounds the game; this further complicates the question of whether the capacity for some types of play should be removed.”
  • On the Twenty Year crusade to “solve” Checkers: “”First off, how big a game is checkers?” asks Schaeffer. “Because, obviously, with a game like tic-tac-toe, you can play that perfectly and you can solve the game quickly. It’s not hard. Why is checkers so much harder?” It turns out that it’s so much harder because of a very large number: 5 x 10 to the 20th. That’s 500 billion billion – a five followed by 20 zeroes.”
  • is now a sort of Pinterest for browser games. That should probably a full on article, shouldn’t it?

Music this week is this track by Angular Dreams. I’m gearing up for winter listening, to expect to head into some cold noise.


  1. Tom De Roeck says:

    May I suggest going to link to, cara ellisons workblog, for an excellent piece on the entire GTA V “outrage”.

    • DrazharLn says:

      Thank you, that was an interesting read.

      • tanner03 says:

        my roomate’s half-sister makes $61 every hour on the computer. She has been out of a job for 6 months but last month her payment was $17179 just working on the computer for a few hours. Learn More
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    • SuicideKing says:

      Nice, I’m going to read more of Cara’s blog posts i think. She writes very well.

    • dmastri says:

      I mostly like her writing, but here’s what stuck out to me today:

      Cara re: hotline miami rape controversy
      “I suggested no deletion; I made no outcry.”

      Unlike Nathan Grayson, and that’s why I’ll never come back to RPS. It’s been a lovely run. See ya.

      • wu wei says:

        If I had a dollar for every time someone flounced from RPS, I could underwrite GTA6.

      • Reefpirate says:

        Considering the Hotline Miami thing happened a while ago… I’m guessing you came back just to tell us you’re leaving again? Thanks for the update, and do please remember to tell me the next time you leave.

      • airmikee99 says:

        Do you want a hug?

  2. Gap Gen says:

    So, draughts is a storage problem then?

    EDIT: But I’d be interested to see to what extent these approaches can teach us about AI rather than just brute-forcing a ruleset. For good Starcraft players, there’s always a sense of “well, I have to build this then this then this”, which can be learned, but then other stuff is presumably harder to do with brute-forcing algorithms. Or is this not about AI at all, but just a computing problem?

    • Baines says:

      “Solving” a game is a brute force approach, or finding some mathematical proof that does the brute force part for you.

      There isn’t really any AI in that part.

      The checkers article talked about finding at least one “solution” (a path of moves from game start to victory) and then having an AI continually try to force the game into one of the board states along that solution. There is some AI in that, but it isn’t the kind of AI that most people like to play against, at least not when they notice just what the AI is doing.

  3. Post-Internet Syndrome says:

    It’s Papo & Yo, isn’t it?

    Lots of articles on games I haven’t played and don’t really want to spoil this week, but I read the checkers piece. I remember being told that checkers had been “solved”, but I never knew the actual story behind it. An interesting read.

    • vivlo says:

      Yes, it’s Papo & Yo.
      I happen to have bought this game recently, due to an amazon sale ; and it’s a quite quiet wonderful piece of game. Not open-worldly in the slightest, but the level design is enough to give a feeling of freedom and open air. And the intentions stated by the creator in that article are indeed realized in that game in a most beautiful manner. Gratz be to him !

    • Contrafibularity says:

      There are no spoilers in the Papo & Yo piece; it’s just the developer expressing his wish that the game industry move on from gun-violence in video games. Best intentions don’t make it any less wrong though.

      The problem I have with it is that he falsely contrasts gun-violence with storytelling to try to make some sort of point. He basically says “I grew up with Super Mario, but then everyone grew up with Counter-Strike”. Fair enough though I grew up with both and I strongly doubt many children today grow up without Super Mario or an analogue, however Super Mario is far from a non-violent game. It doesn’t feature guns, fortunately, but otherwise it’s about as conservative as games get: you play a (pair of) guys trying to rescue a helpless princess locked in a castle, and the means by which you achieve is killing level after level of sentient beings (precisely why all these turtles are helping Bowser is never quite explained and there’s no need, but they’re clearly sentient).

      Just because the violence in Super Mario is sanitized to the point where you’re killing non-human animals and talking walking mushrooms by jumping on their heads after which they cleanly fall off the map doesn’t make it a more “ideal” game than games where violence is not sanitized so brilliantly. So long as people hold on to this confused understanding of gun violence in games, refuse to see who benefits from it (the military industrial complex and its recent offshoot the military entertainment complex, as well as lazy game developers).

      It is indeed a shame that few 12-year olds do not know what an AK47 is, but then few 12-year olds today do not know what a 9mm, glock, cruise missiles, predator drones, land mines, tanks, APCs, Apache gunships, cluster bombs, nuclear submarines, aircraft carriers, railguns etc. are either. So that battle was lost before it even (rightly) became an issue, and not even because of videogames, though it too played a part in the “patriotic” war propaganda, military promotion and recruitment campaigns post-2000.

      The problem is not fictional violence, it’s stupidity and greed. There will always be violence in almost every art or medium because these reflect the world they are a product of, it makes no difference whether it’s Shakespeare or Grand Theft Auto. Furthermore violence is the easiest game mechanic there is to design. The fact that Caballero doesn’t even recognize Super Mario as a violent game is testament to how ingrained it is in videogames. To illustrate this further, not many people even recognize fantasy RPGs as often being ultra-violent, though less with gore and bullets and more with the language of destruction (ie piercing blows and shots, aggravated damage, critical hits, debilitating blow etc. are arguably as violent as explosives and guns). But this is not a problem because in the context of play, these are healthy cultural expressions, literally as harmless as chess, if not as abstract.

      The problem arises where fantasy bleeds over into real world politics of conflict only too easily, as it does with Call of Duty and other such crap, without giving it anywhere near something that could be considered a deserving treatment beyond brainlessly insidious propaganda (given the scale of the horrors of these conflicts and the millions of deaths and destroyed lives, there are few issues less deserving of our attention, which is why CoD and America’s Army are literal affronts to humanity in every possible sense).

      This is evidenced by the fact that people are rightly sensitive to exploitative or idiotic use of rape in videogames; this is because this is a point where real world violence intersects with fictional videogame violence, in a way that is not an expression of art, thought, ideas, but shock value. To sell more units. War profiteering and propagating videogames are no less perverse than Tomb Raider’s proposed rape scene.

      I’m hoping this will become irrelevant as other and more gameplay is invented and global culture becomes less militarized and preoccupied with wielding (techno-)destructive power over others; military shooters might one day be considered as outdated as westerns (which they are). But that’s probably somewhat optimistic. Unfortunately the military industrial complex isn’t going to let itself out, it has to be kicked out. But pretending Super Mario is something it’s not won’t help. I think rather than rile up against an abstract notion, it would be more fruitful to deconstruct and criticize _conflict videogames_ not as entertainment products and sort of bizarro tech-demos, but for what they actually are – and yet they are “reviewed”, pathologically, by much of the gaming press as if all these conflict videogame conventions are an indisputable given not even worth mentioning (when the minutest detail of the process of finding a server gets entire paragraphs) like they exist in a fucking vacuum. There is no such thing as videogame journalism until this starts to happen, and continues until such time it is no longer necessary.

  4. Tyrone Slothrop. says:

    Really now Mr. Rossignol, I came here to get away from the avalanche of GTA V news and discussion… the lack of an immediate PC version causes bitter tears to stream down my face.

    • DrScuttles says:

      If it’s any consolation, Magicland Dizzy with its whopping 93% score, is objectively a better game than Grand Theft Auto V. And already available on PC.

    • I Got Pineapples says:

      If it’s any consolation, when it does show up for PC it’ll be the PS4 version and therefore, the best version. Everything will glisten with Fong and you won’t be able to drive for the thousands of pedestrians cluttering every possible flat surface.

  5. Tom De Roeck says:

    Also, RE: the pigeonholing:

    Right now, Im working on a type of adventure game that is casual but storyheavy. I like to think of it as botanicula with story instead of graphics to explore, but I dread getting stuck in a certain genre.

    Essentially because it means that people that would otherwise be interested in playing it would overlook it and get another runner game or angry birds or whatever.

    I guess it comes down to having proper reviews, but then again, who reads reviews and buys cheap PC games? do all the PC gamers read reviews? do they just instabuy based on description? is it the price?

    I guess Ill find out and let you know in a month or two.

    • InternetBatman says:

      I suspect that it’s more than just reviews to avoid pidgeonholing. Race the sun had an 81 on metacritic, and their page is plastered with good reviews.

    • AngoraFish says:

      Do not try to emulate AAA marketing.

      Do not fall into the trap of assuming that volume sales necessarily = high profits.

      Focus on marketing within your niche and flog the hell out of it, at a premium price.

    • TaylanK says:

      For what it is worth, my opinion as a marketer:
      If you are promoting your indie game only on a genre basis, or if you inadvertently let the genre take the center stage as the main highlight of your game, you’re more than likely toast. Limbo and Braid can both be described as platformers, but there is so much more to communicating why they are worth playing and how they are different than Mario Bros.

      It comes down to effective branding: promoting the right feature of your game, the thing that makes it worth playing. That’s one thing that applies to triple A too: ARMA and Battlefield can both be described as FPS on a crude genre level, but the reasons around why you might want to play either of them are quite different, and their marketing plays on that heavily.

      Bottomline: you may actually want to downplay the genre angle sometimes. In your case, why not brand with the story? An example: I have not played ‘Brothers: A Tale of Two Sons’ yet and haven’t even read the reviews; I know little about its gameplay and genre (just watched one trailer), and yet I already expect to find that it is a story focused experience. That’s good branding in terms of getting attention; I guess I’ll see if it delivers on that image once I play it.

      Anyways, if you wanna chat more about marketing stuff, you can drop me a line at – I’d be happy to help if I can.

      • Tom De Roeck says:

        Im fine thanks; we’ve decided to go for “Interactive Story”, though it might evoke “low on gameplay”, Im willing to chance it.

        • fabulousfurrygingerfreakbrothers says:

          Don’t turn down any input from someone who might know more about something than you – you don’t have to do what they say but why not have a chat?

    • Contrafibularity says:

      It’s weird, I was/am planning on buying Race The Sun, and nowhere have I seen it being described as belonging to the “endless runner genre”. Granted I was pretty much sold on this game the first time I saw it, and then an RPS article confirmed my suspicions that it was excellent fun.

      What I really don’t understand is why they priced it so steeply at launch. Now, I know it’s _more_ than worth it, but I feel they have unfortunately suffered from a bad insight into the psychology of buying games and digital distribution, and specifically that they would’ve probably sold/earned so much more if it hadn’t been priced 10$ but say a few dollars less. It’s never too late for that of course but outside of Steam sales a game launch has traditionally meant to be the impulse buy moment, so developers should take that into account if they want their indie to make money.

      It’s not a question of “what is the game’s worth” (that’s in the playing) but rather what will gamers looking for a new game to play be willing to immediately shell out for a game that LOOKS very basic at first glance (don’t get me wrong it’s actually beautiful and probably very addictive and the daily challenges make it even more unique). Going by what little I know of Steam’s metrics, it appears game sales and indie sales especially just sky-rocket the cheaper the game is, and that’s a good thing all around: more people buy and play your game and it makes more money.

      I wouldn’t lose hope if I were them, it’s a solid game; I hope they get it on Steam and GOG and whatnot and it’ll likely become a slow burner. I’ll have definitely picked it up before the year’s end.

  6. stahlwerk says:

    500 billion billion? Humbug! We all know that the largest known number is 45,000,000,000.

  7. I Got Pineapples says:

    Putting aside the Misogyny debate, which is a whole other kettle of fish, I’m beginning to think that some of this discussion on violence in GTA V and unpleasent characters and so on is a sign of gamings vulnerability as a young medium and the inherent immaturity of gaming criticism, stuck as it is in a twilight world between Nerd Medium and SeriousThing, something we’re also seeing in the grittier end of fantasy. We’ve been poking at things as utterly horrific that, if they were in a Premium Cable TV show or Film or Book, we’d just kind of shrug off . And it’s at least partially done because unlike film or tv or literature, you won’t get laughed out of the room. An issue that’s at least in part exacerbated by the emergence of video game criticism under the internet, with the voice of the critic inherently being privileged over the voice of the author.

    There’s a kind of unspoken ‘Won’t Someone Think Of The Children’, an ugly puritanical streak dressed up in progressive clothing, that is probably one of the more problematic things to emerge on the horizon for the intellectual health of the medium because no one is really willing to kick back against it.

    • Kadayi says:

      Authorship is everything. There’s a marked differential between seeing a character behaving in an unpleasant manner, and being forced by narrative progression to enact that role that separates the mediums of TV/Film/Literature from games (or interactive media if we want to be more inclusive). Personally I like a degree of choice in these things. That’s not to say I expect complete freedom, but the ability to go ‘yeah I don’t want to be that guy’ without necessarily hitting a narrative dead end, or being penalized for it wouldn’t be a bad thing.

      • malkav11 says:

        Ultimately, if you don’t want to be that guy, you always have the choice to stop playing. I get that that’s not the same as being given an in-game out, but sometimes not having that out is part of the point, you know?

        Of course, gaming as a medium tends so far not to have the subtlety and delicacy necessary to handle problematic content in a mature and intelligent way, but I’ve never felt this was an argument for not trying.

        • Kadayi says:

          Without a précis beforehand how would I know?

          Also is it the point? I think some people read too much into Rockstars famous silence on these matters in truth. I’m not entirely convinced they’re being enigmatic or saying anything Vs simply ‘trolling for hits’ so to speak.

          • malkav11 says:

            Surely at the point where you are asked to “be that guy”, you can still put down the controller (or quit out of the game, on PC)? And presumably, if they haven’t given you an in-game alternative, the thing you find unpleasant is part of the intended narrative of the game. I’m guessing that Rockstar very likely isn’t making some sort of metapoint about complicity in narrative (the way Michael Haneke attempts to do in Funny Games, though I don’t particularly agree with it), but they still presumably intend to tell a story where the protagonists are bad people doing bad things and you don’t get to change the fundamental nature of that character simply because you, the player, don’t feel like participating in that story.

            They may well be doing so in a way that’s clumsy and ham-handed, it may not be any good as a story, etc (though I wouldn’t know because I’m not going to play GTA V until Rockstar bothers to release it for PC), but that’s not really the point.

          • Kadayi says:

            I can’t talk for V as I’ve not experienced it yet, But in IV there’s a part when you end up kidnapping a girl and slapping her around a bit before sending a ransom message with photo to her father. I never felt there was ‘a message’ or a deeper meaning to that part. It just felt needlessly gratuitous for the sake of it. Was it in there to make me feel like a bad man? I think the 800 assorted police, mobsters and petty criminals I’d already stabbed, bludgeoned, run over and gunned down by that point in time had pretty much already conveyed the message that ‘Nicco Bellic not a nice guy’ in truth.

            Was there a point to it? The character doesn’t ponder how low he’s gone afterwards, or rue his actions. There’s no sense that for him at least a line of conduct has been crossed. A return to the old ways that he so often eludes to desire escaping from. It happens, the game continues and nothing more is said.

          • malkav11 says:

            Like I say, I’m not claiming that Rockstar is presenting any sort of message or deeper meaning. I think in fact that, given the games of theirs that I’ve played in the past, that’s fairly unlikely. But what you describe doesn’t sound particularly out of context for the story they’re telling in GTA IV or the character they’ve presented, and again, I don’t see any reason that they should be obliged to let you decide to be moral on behalf of a character that’s been presented as decidedly immoral.

            And back to the original context of these posts, I don’t particularly see that example or any of this as being markedly different from encountering the same content in a movie or novel or whatever, especially if they’re presented from the first person perspective. It might be gratuitous or it might be done for some legitimate reason but I don’t feel that that changes because of the medium. Ultimately, it’s your choice whether or not to engage with that material. I know I for one have given up on certain movies or books because of what I felt to be gratuitous rape and/or torture content.

          • ScottTFrazer says:

            There’s a similar scene in GTAV that involves torture. The context is interesting, but I don’t want to get too spoilery.

            What I find interesting about these scenes is something you sort of allude to:

            “Was it in there to make me feel like a bad man? I think the 800 assorted police, mobsters and petty criminals I’d already stabbed, bludgeoned, run over and gunned down by that point in time had pretty much already conveyed the message that ‘Nicco Bellic not a nice guy’ in truth.”

            It may only say something about my personal makeup, but the GTAV torture scene hit home much more viscerally than the several hundred other people I’d already gunned down and mowed over by that point. It’s definitely the point in the game that I’ve felt the most revulsion to the things I was doing.

          • Kadayi says:

            ‘Like I say, I’m not claiming that Rockstar is presenting any sort of message or deeper meaning. I think in fact that, given the games of theirs that I’ve played in the past, that’s fairly unlikely. But what you describe doesn’t sound particularly out of context for the story they’re telling in GTA IV or the character they’ve presented, and again, I don’t see any reason that they should be obliged to let you decide to be moral on behalf of a character that’s been presented as decidedly immoral.’

            You might be OK with beating up defenseless women Malkav11, I’m less comfortable with it (lets put that down to life experience). However I’m curious as to how far your generosity of spirit does with regard to what criminal behaviour is acceptable in games. Where do you draw the line if any? And why do you feel that ‘hey you play as a criminal’ is some kind of ‘get out of jail’ free card that puts a games producers beyond critical censure exactly? What for you as far as criminal acts go is over the line? At what point do you say ‘I don’t want to be that guy’ precisely?

            ‘And back to the original context of these posts, I don’t particularly see that example or any of this as being markedly different from encountering the same content in a movie or novel or whatever, especially if they’re presented from the first person perspective.’

            How often do films present things from the first person perspective? The Blair Witch Project, Cloverfield. Not exactly a common approach least of all one to hitch your wagon to as some point of general defense.

          • malkav11 says:

            Where I would personally draw the line is different from expecting that same line to be drawn for everyone by the makers of the game. I also would expect that line to depend on context (and that context would be that of the narrative, not the medium). (I personally have never gotten to that point in the game, but I’m not sure that hitting someone a couple of times is that big a deal considering how many murders the game involves, but perhaps the presentation distinguishes it.) And at no point have I suggested that any of this is or should be immune to criticism. At most, I’ve suggested that videogames are not a special case and should not have restrictions artificially placed on them that other media don’t face. If a videogame misuses sensitive topics or egregious violence, I would certainly expect that to draw criticism, but I think it’s a decidedly unfair double standard to, for example, decide that it is completely unacceptable to have a sex scene in a videogame that’s been rated for adults (such as in the ridiculous “Hot Coffee” scandal), while nobody particularly bats an eye when a similarly rated movie has such content.

            And while movies may not spend a lot of time in the first person, novels certainly do. And there are plenty of games that establish the player character(s) as self-contained individuals that have little or no direct player involvement in their character or choices, such that it really isn’t the player taking the objectionable actions in any meaningful sense any more than a viewer of Funny Games is complicit in the evils the two invaders perform in that film, no matter how much Michael Haneke would like to suggest as much.

          • Kadayi says:

            I didn’t ask you to dodge the question. I asked you for examples. What part of that don’t you quite understand exactly?

            Also Hot Coffee wasn’t sex scenes (there have been plenty of games with those in) they were sex mini games (It’s not a case of games being discriminated against for adult content unfairly as you suggest) However the kickback wasn’t over the sex per se, it was over violation of ratings. The content was in breach of the official rating given to the game, and the terms under which it was sold to retailers. The mini games were accessible within the original shipped content, it simply required a patch to unlock them. If the game had been rated on the full contents then it likely wouldn’t of been granted as wider a distribution release, and the reviews that helped sell the game might of been quite different. That’s why it was a scandal, and why Rock Star got fined.

        • Kadayi says:

          I didn’t ask you to dodge the question. I asked you for examples. What part of that don’t you quite understand exactly?

          • malkav11 says:

            I think I’m done here. Not only are you interpreting my posts in ways that do not resemble what I actually said, but you’re getting mad at me for not providing responses to questions you didn’t actually ask.

          • Bent Wooden Spoon says:

            I find it terribly dis-spiriting that not only do you always tend to construct your arguments out of strawmen, for example this:

            “You might be OK with beating up defenseless women Malkav11, I’m less comfortable with it (lets put that down to life experience)”

            which wasn’t even close to being stated, insinuated or otherwise put forward (in fact, given this was your reading of his/her post I think it makes you look a bit weird), but you’re always incredibly rude with it.

            In both the comments and the forums almost every post you ever write makes you come across as smug, pompous and convinced you’re some kind of intellectual powerhouse; in reality I don’t think I’ve ever seen you put out an argument that isn’t full of logical fallacies, insults and out and out misrepresentation.

          • Kadayi says:

            @Bent Wooden Spoon

            Thank you for that valuable contribution to the topic under discussion complete stranger. Personally I’ve absolutely no idea who you are in truth. Neither from the comments, nor the forums. You are a total mystery to me, so I’m amused by the assertion that you know me so well given I rarely post here these days. However beyond admonishing me for being this ‘terrible, terrible, big meanie’ how about you perhaps present a case for? There are a whole multitude of sins that fall under the qualification of ‘criminal’ from robbing befuddled pensioners, stealing copper off of railway tracks, through to assault, rape, extortion, bank robbery etc, etc. I mere want to know what limits if any Malkav11 has towards what he considers acceptable? And how much of a free pass a games developer gets simply because ‘hey it’s about criminals’ given criminality is not a brotherhood of like minded souls, but a catch all for behaviour beyond the tolerance of society.

      • Deadly Sinner says:

        If the player is being “forced” to do something in a game, then the player has no authorship. There’s little difference between that action being in a movie and being in a game, except for the game having a sophisticated version of the play button.

        And sometimes there’s not even that. I watched the kidnapping in GTA IV that you talk about in another post on Youtube to refresh my memory. What I saw was the woman trying to run the car off of the road and Niko knocking her out to stop her. The player could only control the movement of the car.

        The player did not initiate the punch, they had no control over it, and they witnessed it from a separate “camera” a few feet away. How is that any different to watching it in a movie?

        I can only speak to my own experiences, but I see no difference between linear (as in, player choice does not affect the outcome) story based games and movies in how they affect me. I’m just an outside observer, even if I am in control during the skill tests.

        • Kadayi says:

          The entirety of the game series is done from a third person perceptive, but it’s still you as the player that drive & dictate the actions of the avatar so I find the suggestion that because it’s not first person you’re somehow not in control kind of reaching as far as a moral ‘washing hands’ defense goes in truth. The viewpoint doesn’t abdicate your participation. What if the series flash-backed to say Nicco engaging in ethnic cleansing? Would you be fine and dandy with that, and any button presses required as well simply because ‘hey third person, not responsible’.

          As regards the kidnapping, doesn’t sound like you watched the second part. Still given it seems you’re of the opinion that ‘she had it coming’ for having the outright temerity to resist being kidnapped in the first place, I suspect you’ll likely be OK with that as well (so he slaps her about, what’s the big deal). As far as I saw it the character hadn’t done me any wrong, she wasn’t a villain, she was just someones daughter and the entire plot line wasn’t only unpalatable for me, but seemed grossly at odds with what the character of Nicco was about. A character who despite everything on some level I’m supposed to root for. I’d be more forgiving of it if there was some sense of regret or remorse at the end, of it weighing on his mind, but there was none of that. It was simply a mission completed. Hell it was the perfect vehicle to put one of the games occasional ‘moral choices’ do you/don’t you sections in, and I was kind or surprised they didn’t capitalize on that.

    • The Random One says:

      I’d say the immaturity of game criticism is definitively a factor, and the immaturity of game narrative design is another, weightier factor. The people behind AAA games simply lack the ability to tackle any modestly serious subject with the respect and depth it deserves, and some actively expect to be praised for the mere decision to work on them when recognizing their failure to be able to deal with them sensibly would be, in my opinion, more worthy of praise.

      Like in that C. S. Lewis quote, games are immature exactly because they shun immaturity and seek to be mature. If games were already mature no one would be trying to be more so.

      • Kadayi says:

        I think it large part it’s because the weighting of narrative in games is still a small aspect of assessment vs game play, world building & appearance.

  8. InternetBatman says:

    The Race the Sun article is interesting, and certainly shows some of the problems with greenlight. However, I feel like they haven’t put in a lot of effort on the business side, and now they’re complaining that customers haven’t appeared. They don’t have a demo, like minecraft did. It’s not on desura so it can’t be in an indieroyale bundle (which is a great stepping point onto greenlight). They didn’t have it for sale on their website until a month ago (a year after it was posted).

    I voted for it months ago on greenlight, and really hope it succeeds.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      You can play a free version on Kongregate (or one of those)

      • InternetBatman says:

        They don’t have a link on their website that I could find, and the article said that they did not want to put it on Kongregate or a site like that, because they trend towards free to play.

        • Moraven says:

          Defender’s Quest is a good example of a successful game that had a demo on flash game sites. They were not on Steam right away and did all right. They made the mistake of not making it clear it was a Demo on Kongregate (which has mostly free to play games). Having articles on RPS gave them a couple good sale spikes. Jan-April they got $46k net revenue. Race to Sun ran for 1 month and got $7,400.

          I never heard of the before until it seeing it on gamasutra and them complaining not being on Steam. I’m sure Steam would give them a boost in sales, but seems their PR guy did poorly plus I think in general as they even mentioned. There is also no demo and they are asking for $10. I think $5 would be a bit more appealing price for this game.

          Maybe it is to twitchy for a endless runner? And not something simple like Canabalt, which helped launch the genre in 2009 and got rave coverage.

    • trjp says:

      I commented on the story but they decided not include my comments – basically I pointed-out that Greenlight requires a LOT of PR effort (not just one push) and that the idea of just selling from your own site is basically not viable even for “bedroom developers” anymore – just not enough likely sales.

      They poo-poo bundles – which would offer them much publicity and income – they seem to be locked-into an old-fashioned mindset of “we must preserve the price and get more people paying it” which won’t work.

      As for the ‘endless runner not belonging on PC’ I know what they’re trying to say but it’s more complex than that. A lot of the discussion on Greenlight centres on what ‘belongs’ on Steam or ‘fits’ the PC but I think if you sell your game a YOUR GAME, if you build interest in what YOU MADE you’ll do fine. The mistake is saying “our game is like XXX cross with YYY” or “we’re aiming at the XXX sort of gamer”.

      Don’t tell people if they should play your game or not – make it sound like EVERYONE should play it – make it seem special and use EVERY tool to get someone to shell out at EVERY opportunity.

      Their business model seems to be “spend a bit of money – get on Steam or bust” – and I think I know which of those 2 they’re looking at right now.

      • AeornFlippout says:

        We’re not opposed to bundles at all – but going for them 30 days after launch seems a bit early. We’ll definitely be looking into other opportunities, and will do sales – especially when we launch on new portals like

        Mostly, our blog post was meant to be informational for our fans and other developers. We definitely don’t feel like we’ve done everything right – it’s been quite a learning experience!

        • Urthman says:

          Hey, while you’re here, I couldn’t find anywhere on your website or the Steam Greenlight page anything about system requirements for this game. How much computer does it need?

      • Jack Mack says:

        “the idea of just selling from your own site is basically not viable even for “bedroom developers” anymore – just not enough likely sales.”

        Where should they be selling from? (Apart from Steam, which they’re already trying for.)

    • malkav11 says:

      For my part I simply am not interested in Race to the Sun. I’ve heard about it, first on Kickstarter (and RPS coverage), then later when Tom Chick did an episode of the Quarter to Three Games Podcast on it and interviewing its creators, and…it sounds like a very visually attractive, entirely narrative free game about mastering the gameplay and trying for better and better high scores, and that’s almost completely opposite what I come to games for. Maybe there just aren’t that many people who are interested? I dunno.

    • RobF says:

      If IR wanted a game in the bundle, they could just ask otherwise it’s probably not worth putting the effort into going on to Desura. Its another build to maintain except with the minimum payout, you’re probably not going to see your payday.

      Honourable exceptions there go to alpha funding but that seems to be on the wane now with the ability to Kickstart or go through Steam Early Access.

      Mainly though, and this comes with the disclaimer that Race The Sun is one of my top 5 games I’ve played this year and I love it to bits, it’s a case of arcade games of any form being a super hard sell anywhere. Usual “there are exceptions like Super Hexagon” disclaimers also apply but it’s harder to get coverage in the first place outside of RPS. They can’t tap into a certain PC-centric need like rogue-like-likes can or RPG’s where the dice/need crossover is strong and they don’t have the niche appeal of simulators or what have you.

      Of course these things come and go in waves, like when XBLA launched suddenly you could go off and do this again but it’s super hard right now and from watching what the RTS guys have been doing (and how quick they’ve been to change tack when one thing wasn’t working) I’m not convinced there’s much more they could have realistically done to make a difference.

      • TaylanK says:

        It is a tough sell indeed, and one that highlights one of the common mistakes of indie marketing: that people think marketing is a late stage activity only, where in fact it should be a consideration all along from the very beginning, right when you should be asking yourself “Why would this sell? Is there a demand for this?” If you don’t have an objectively compelling answer for that before you start the development, you risk running into this situation that they have.

    • jrodman says:

      I feel they’re right in my case. I saw it descried, thought “oh, another endless runner”, and never further considered kickstarting it or playing it. This isn’t because I think those games don’t belong on PC, but because I don’t like them.

      I enjoy games I can play for a while without there necessarily being a goal, but not ones where I just have to play for mastery and repeatedly fail. Maybe this game is truly different but I’m doubtful, haven’t been convinced otherwise by anything I’ve seen, and am not particularly interested in trying.

    • Lemming says:

      Personally, I think they should stay the hell away from making a demo. With this kind of game, I don’t really see how they can benefit from it. It’s got ‘impulse buy’ written all over it, and if you played a demo of it you might well think ‘well, that’s that itch scratched’ and not bother buying it. It’s not like it’s got a storyline or anything to follow.

      • drewski says:

        They certainly haven’t priced it at impulse buy level!

        Audiosurf is a good example of an impulse buy that seems to have done ok, but it’s always been very cheap. $10 for a largely unknown game that doesn’t have any particular hype would require quite a lot of impulsiveness for most, I think.

    • AeornFlippout says:

      Actually – the game’s been available for “early purchase” since fall ’12. We put an early demo on Kongregate which has nearly half a million views at this point, and have spent a good portion of our time on trying to get the word out. We’ll definitely be looking into further platforms – for starters, probably amazon, maybe Desura (we haven’t heard great things about their numbers so far, but we’ll see.)

      Two guys can only do so much ;)

      • trjp says:

        There’s often a feeling that you shouldn’t be doing promotion for your game full-time, over an extended period.

        Problem is – you SHOULD be doing that, in fact promoting your game can often take-up more time than WRITING it did = it’s not a short-term activity – it’s a long-term commitment.

        Some developers work hard, create ‘their game’ and then release-it and sort-of-expect that to be enough . Thing is, making your game successful takes time and effort – could take months or even years – won’t happen unless you keep pushing.

        There’s only so much 2 guys can do – per day – but over time it’s a lot and it’s twice what 1 guy can do.

        In fact I’d go further, I’d say developers who aren’t thinking about ways to promote/sell/improve/flag-wave their product constantly – from the moment they start making it – will get nowhere fast. It’s not enough just to make cool stuff anymore because there’s SO MUCH cool stuff…

        • AeornFlippout says:

          We started a development blog in the first month of development. We released an early build on Kongregate, and won their monthly contest in September of ’12 with it. We sent press releases, and were covered by sites including RPS and IndieStatik. We brought the game to PAX East, where it was played by several thousand people and seen by tens of thousands. We ran a successful Kickstarter. We’ve made several trailers during the course of development, consistently posted to Facebook, and sent hundreds of emails. Then we hired a PR firm, who planned out our 6 week launch schedule, including a public beta, previews, let’s plays, and reviews. We were covered by over 150 media outlets in our launch month.

          Please tell me more about how we failed to market the game.

          • dE says:

            I don’t want to attack your marketing, you obviously did quite a bit of it.
            Yet, it’s strange I wasn’t even aware Race the Sun had been released. I remember some previews and mentionings about it some time ago – but the release completely passed me by without even getting close to my hemisphere. The really strange thing about this is, that I generally go out of my way to look for new games that came out.
            I frequently check the usual clients, like Desura, Steam (I know, I know…), I frequent several gaming based blogs, websites, some of which focussed entirely on indie games, several forums, view some of the youtube popular crowd people (like Indiestatik or Total Biscuit). Yet I wasn’t aware the game had released.
            Maybe there was some hiccup at release? Looking further down the comment section, there’s at least one more comment wondering that it had actually released.

          • AeornFlippout says:

            Yeah we have heard this quite a bit. It happens, I guess :| Our actual release was covered a fair bit – Polygon, Indie Statik, RPS even did an “Impressions” write up just after our launch, among many others. Hopefully once we get on and (hopefully) Steam, it’ll be a little bit more visible to folks, if by no other means than through word of mouth through friends.

            Thanks for the feedback guys!

          • drewski says:

            You really need the ongoing word of mouth to be strong for an indie title, I think. That day one blip of news only lasts for, well, a day.

    • jamesgecko says:

      The problem is that the feedback they got from Indiecade? That it’s Yet Another Infinite Running Game? Is totally accurate. It’s a very polished infinite runner with a few nifty features. I don’t know that the polish or those nifty features are enough to save it.

      I mean, it’s competing with similar games on iOS which are either free or less than five bucks. That’s kind of a hard sell.

      Edit: I feel kind of bad saying that with a developer posting in the thread. To be clear, the nifty stuff is pretty nifty. I just don’t know that it’s nifty enough. :-(

      • AeornFlippout says:

        Hey, no offense taken ;) We feel there are a lot of features that set us apart from most free mobile “runners” – for one, an in-game level editor with levels that we host. We also have some pretty unique features like portals in the world that take you directly to other random worlds. The real thing that irked me a bit about the IndieCade feedback, was the idea that *any* genre is “played out.” Nobody says that about FPSs, or 2D platformers, or MOBAs. There’s always room for trying new stuff – and we feel our game does that. Ulimately, it’s our job to convince players that what we have is special, and evidently we haven’t done that for some players. But we’re not giving up :)

  9. Gap Gen says:

    And yes, I’ve stopped reading the New Statesman because it’s no longer a site about politics and is now full of Social Gaming Warriors. I just want to read about British current affairs without being bombarded by messages about how videogames are relevant to modern society. I shall now look elsewhere for my politics news, except to post angry, entitled comments under articles about women in politics. As a straight, white man my experience has been that I have observed no racism, sexism or bias against my sexuality at all in my interactions with people in the political domain and that clearly this experience must apply to all other people.

    • I Got Pineapples says:


      I know you’re not serious.

      No one reads the New Statesman.

      • Gap Gen says:

        I do concede that given how there are no party leaders who aren’t stoked about charging into the valley of recession with the sword of austerity, there’s not much for them to write about right now.

    • Sheng-ji says:

      Even though I know you’re joking, by block trigger finger is itchy….

    • GernauMorat says:


      I too count my subjective experience as indicative of universal conditions

  10. Premium User Badge

    Gassalasca says:

    John tweeted this morning an excellent article on GTA V:

    link to

    • RedViv says:

      AND there’s also this, fitting right in with the latest coverage on games ruining all the kids: link to

    • Kadayi says:

      Nice read, but those comments…….Jez regressive or what

      • bleeters says:

        Lewis’s Law. The comments to an article discussing feminist issues will justify feminism.

        • Kadayi says:

          I think the thing for me is the criticism just doesn’t justify the kick back. Why the degree of vitriol exactly? It’s not really a big ask when you get down to it. So why exactly this degree of hostile resistance. It’s kind of perplexing really.

    • thedosbox says:

      This is my favourite “review” of GTA V: link to

      • Sheng-ji says:

        Leigh is just a sublime writer – she says in this simple statement:

        “The medium has grown up, and now the GTA franchise is a giant juggernaut that appears to be punching down instead of up,” says female games journalist Leigh Alexander. “I think that’s why its problematic elements rankle – not because I’m ‘offended’, but because it seems lazy, repetitious. I’m not ‘offended’ that I can’t play as a woman; I’m disappointed at the missed opportunity.”

        What I struggled to say in 10-20 posts in the skull girls review!

        RPS, any chance of luring her to do some articles here?

        • Jenks says:

          Oh god, the amount of catty, passive aggressive articles on RPS is already staggering. One blog should only contain so much snark.

          • I Got Pineapples says:

            Yeah, I’ve never actually been much of a fan of Leigh Alexander’s work, mostly for stylistic reasons and I’m not entirely sure I want to see more of her writing.

        • El Stevo says:

          She has done a few things for RPS. link to

        • The Random One says:

          I like Leigh, I’d like more games to have female protagonists, and I do agree GTAV lost an opportunity to have a female protagonist, but I’m willing to give them a pass. GTA games, especially the last one, have always been about a man’s experience (as opposed to most games, which are about a boy’s idea of a manly macho man’s experience). While there is a problem with how many modern games are focused on a male viewpoint, that doesn’t mean a male viewpoint is an inherently bad thing, and GTA games are especially good at showing that.

          • NotQuiteDeadYet says:

            So here’s something I’ve been considering. Why is GTA just a “man’s experience”? Franklin and Trevor aren’t just generic ass buzzcut military dudes, one of them is a meth-dealing white trash hillbilly who actually looks like a meth-dealing white trash hillbilly, and the other is an impoverished black youth. Neither of those is exactly overrepresented in media, and one of those arguably faces active discrimination (at least in the U.S) by law enforcement. The lack of female characters might be a missed opportunity, but how are these characters vanilla, or uninteresting?

          • Sheng-ji says:

            I don’t think anyone here are saying that the characters are uninteresting – Even the guy you don’t mention – the middle aged guy is interesting in that he’s been taking his life for granted and it’s started to slip away from him and he doesn’t know how to turn things around – not exactly a staple video game back story either – but I do think the women in the game by contrast are 1 dimensional and boring – the stepford wife, the meth addict girlfriend who is interesting only because she gives you tow truck missions.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m not crying sexism here, npc men are equally 1 dimensional but I am saying that it is a shame that yet another great game comes out and I have to roleplay three men when I’d like just a few more opportunities to play women. I don’t quite get the “mens experience” angle – sure in real life, not as many women jack cars, shoot gangsters in drug wars and all the other stuff in the games but the game would be pretty dull if they tried to make everything as realistic as possible. If he’s inferring that only men tend to like playing the GTA games then I will cry sexism – your gender has nothing to do with your ability to enjoy any game and I have enjoyed every GTA game as much as any man.

            I predict an expansion with a female protagonist next year anyway.

  11. bill says:

    Race the Sun is out? Did we know that?

    Looks like fun, but seems to me to be the kind of game that most potential customers would have already kickstarted… so I wasn’t expecting it to do a lot of extra sales after that. Were they?

    • vivlo says:

      i don’t know the figures, but there might be a point here where, nowadays ; Kickstarted indie game + Expectations of said game inclusion in an indie bundle/promotional sale = Very poor sales at full price at time of launch.

      • RobF says:

        There’ll be plenty more customers waiting in the wings, not being on Steam in 2013 makes it a whole, whole lot harder to reach them. Not insurmountable hard but invariably climbing Mt Everest hard because we are so far down the “Steam or no sale” hole that it takes exceptional games to clamber over that.

        A lot of devs also fall into the “well, maybe that’s it” for customers and maybe, in rare cases, it is. Getting on Steam tends to (currently, at the time of writing, may change in the future etc…) dispel that idea within about 24 hours where they discover that’s where all the people were hiding.

    • Deano2099 says:

      They would get more on Steam, but yeah they made 21K on Kickstarter which they’re ignoring entirely. Those people went to the lengths of Kickstarting, so they’re all likely lost first month sales.

  12. PopeRatzo says: is now a sort of Pinterest for browser games. That should probably a full on article, shouldn’t it?

    If that isn’t a rhetorical question, I vote “No”.

  13. dangermouse76 says:

    “In Grand Theft Auto V, the ambition is not only to tell a story but also to create a fully functioning social universe within a faithful depiction of a contemporary city. In addition to the core story, the player has the freedom to do whatever he or she wants ” New Yorker article.

    GTA is not a faithful depiction of contemporary society within a city. It is a subjective, and selective parody of their view of American society and, a warping of some of the values contained within it. The social aspects of the game are very limited, and you cant do what ever you want within the game. Although it is interesting to mull over what they felt was a good idea to include.

    The game is a lot more constrained than this article wants me to believe. A solution for me would be wider worlds with more choice to drown out the focus on – shag prostitute then kill her for the money.

    I would be interested in seeing some longer term studies though into – if any – the effects of experiencing violence from a first person perspective in games to a bystander perspective from film. Personally even though I am not guiding the action in films I to extent have sympathy with even the most horrific characters. Although film and TV at times take great pains to endear me to them, Dexter, Hannibal being some prime examples. They were “made” the way they were, moulded to an extent and are seen as victims themselves.

    Can I say that of Franklin, Trevor, and Michael ?

    GTA has chosen to focus on violence,crime and the people that commit those crimes, you can see the effect on them and those around them from their actions. It ain’t subtle but it entertains.

    This game -to me- is what Die Hard, or Lethal weapon was to the action film age. The COD’s and GTA’s are the new action film, and as ever they will have their time then either become irrelevant or grow and develop into something else. Maybe something more nuanced but if they don’t……..

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      “but if they don’t……..”

      …then a few decades later we’ll get an Expendables style game where all the old protagonists come together for one last hurrah?

      • nrvsNRG says:

        Thats a fantastic idea; the banter between guys like Trevor Philips and Vaas would be hilarious!

        The characters interaction in GTA5 is actually the main reason I’m enjoying it so much.
        E.g.(not a spoiler) – Trevor is a hipster!.

      • dangermouse76 says:

        Totally, I am more thinking a final fight 128 player each side multi-player. All the action hero guys ( the good ones ) lined up on a hill top Lead by Bruce Willis from the first Die Hard, Master chief stood next to him, the good Terminator, John Marsden, about 15 Battlefield servers, COD servers, GTA crews. The lot

        Other side, Hans Gruber, the Gef, the horde, the reapers, King Pin, and a host of the undead from Left 4 dead etc.

        Fight to the death, then we may have some closure, maybe. Fun to watch I feel.

    • dE says:

      I can’t speak about GTA5, don’t have it yet and I’m not sure I will have it in the foreseeable future. But there’s something quite interesting to me about the way GTA Games construct their cities. In a way, you’re essentially a virtual tourist, walking through an unknown place using a cynical tourist guidebook to show you around.

      Like a tourist you’ll only ever see the extremes they want you to see, the acts put up to make a place seem like something it is not. If you’re looking for a real-world example, take Chinatown. Any will do. There’s the facade for the tourists, glorious temples straight out of Martial Arts Movies with lion and dragon statues and chinese symbols everywhere and then there’s the real chinatown. A peculiarly normal place with average shops, bus stops and people argueing over a Lakers Match (as an european, no bloody idea what sport that even is). If this were GTA, you’d only ever be shown the Facade. If you try looking behind the curtains, like so many people now do, this whole illusion comes tumbling down.

      To stick with the tourist methaphor, GTAs problem are tourists that want to see more than just the carefully presented pieces. Oh we tourists can walk around and explore, but never leave shiny town. This isn’t working as good as it used to be years ago, when gaming tourism was still a new thing. We now ask questions. Why are we here, wasn’t there any other way? Why are there no women in normal roles? Why are all men hyperviolent creatures of bloodlust and sex addiction? Why are there no men in normal roles? We’re not satisfied with the cynical tourist temples, we wanna see the backstreets. What’s normal anyway?

      Still, It’s interesting to me, to see how they constructed this virtual city with the purpose of a specific image. It’s a tourist guidebook. Everything is there to sell you the identity of this place.

  14. Don Reba says:

    I find it a little incredible, how anyone can earn a living making small games, given the tremendous surplus of them that exists today. Sure, Race for the Sun might be very well-made, but so are hundreds of other games of similar calibre.

    I can’t help but think of the parallel to music. Most pop stars are really not incredibly talented, definitely not so much as their status might suggest. You would not learn to dance and sing like Britney Biebers, or whoever, and expect to be just as successful. It is more of a social phenomenon, a confluence of different factors.

  15. smokiespliff says:

    thanks for the music Jim. looked up some more, perfect for Secret World :)

  16. Frank says:

    How did that checkers guy come up with that ridiculous number? Imma just assume he was wrong for decades and can’t do math/maths.

    • Don Reba says:

      Jonathan Schaeffer knows how many possible moves there are, because he computed them all. All of them. And his results were verified by many researchers.

  17. MarkN says:

    The Queen is fantastic. I listened to it when Eurogamer posted about it, and immediately after bought it to show my support.

  18. TimorousBeastie says:

    I can definitely see why there was grumbling at a story with the following words:

    “We have to change our roles as a designer, if we want to achieve these emotions, he says. “Our role is to tell stories to people. To tell stories from a different point of view,” Caballero concludes. “We have to become storytellers, not designers”

    While part of a designer’s job is storytelling, our best work is often when we don’t create stories, but instead create experiences that allow players to generate their own stories. Games can tell stories, but they’re often at their best when they’re not forcing a narrative onto the player. The clue is in the name, they’re Players, not Watchers or Readers. They’re engaged in the creation of an experience.

  19. SuicideKing says:

    “It’s as if videogames and politics overlap somehow.”

    Hahaha. I know where this is coming from.

  20. pupsikaso says:

    Why are so many indie devs delusional? I’m talking about the Race the Sun article. It’s yet another indie dev lamenting how poorly their game has done and take a wild guess, they go and start blaming it on things like not appearing on Steam, or mobile “stigmas” and yada yada.

    Why can’t these people come to the realisation that maybe… JUST MAYBE… their game isn’t all that great?
    It’s not as if creating video games is like creating some kind of consumable product that ends up on supermarket shelves to be eventually and invetably consumed, so you can simply follow some kind of well-established formula and always break-even at least. We’re talking about creative products here. If it’s not good, if not enough people like it, you will not succeed. It’s that simple.

    The video game market does not have an infinite volume, despite what so many indie devs seem to believe.
    If you build it, there is absolutely no gurantee that they will come.

    • drewski says:

      Nobody knowing about it does kind of make it hard for them to come.

      I have more sympathy for indie developers who can’t get publicity than the bigger name studios who poured all their resources into some niche genre, then were baffled that it didn’t do big numbers.

      But yeah, ultimately they’ve obviously not hit the popularity they wanted and while sure, publicity and Steam access may have helped, ultimately if the game is good enough and you get the evangelists out there, you’ll get an audience. That there’s no even minor zeitgeist about Race the Sun tells it’s own story.

  21. drewski says:

    I think the only runner I ever paid a dime for was the Android version of Robot Unicorn Attack. I’m not really convinced it’s a viable genre beyond timekilling, unfortunately, and I don’t know if standalone PC gaming is quite the right marketplace for that.