The Sunday Papers

Sundays are days for rest, which means finding joyful things with which to recharge and refresh ourselves before a new week begins. Is such a thing possible on this internet? Let’s hold hands and try together.

  • Contributor Marsh Davies sends through this interview from a (very particular) Trespasser fansite with game writer Austin Grossman. It’s so invested in its subject matter that the interview intro doesn’t even bother mentioning Grossman’s other work; you know, like Deus Ex, Thief, System Shock, Dishonored and some wonderful novels. Still, top Trespasser infos await within:
  • Was it always a sure thing that Richard Attenborough would be reprising his role for Trespasser? What were the recording sessions like?

    It wasn’t a sure thing but we heard early – I wasn’t in in the decision but I’m quite sure Steven Spielberg must have twisted his arm a little. You can imagine how nervous we were going into the recording with Richard Atrenborough. We were desperately jet-lagged, the taxi driver got lost, and to add to the insanity it was at Twickenham Studios where The Beatles and every other famous British person ever had recorded. But then we got there and he put everyone at ease. He was relaxed, incredibly kind and funny (he made us call him “Lord A” the whole day). The truly stunning thing was how attentive and respectful he was to us, a bunch of random game developers. Here was this legendary actor going carefully and thoughtfully through every line of our script, treating us like colleagues. It was an unforgettable lesson in decency and professionalism.

  • Eurogamer’s Tom “Tom Bramwell” Bramwell writes about how he wishes more games were just a vertical slice; ie, shorter and more focused towards a particular experience. I’m with him.
  • Horror is a great genre for this sort of thing because it throws up precisely the kind of settings and scenarios where familiarity breeds contempt, so the whole thing is geared towards remaining elusive. But you can also see signs of it working in other genres. Metal Gear Solid: Ground Zeroes is pretty much a vertical slice for The Phantom Pain. That game offers another hint of a path forward for vertical-slices-as-games, too: it can be over very quickly, delivering great systems and ideas in a concentrated burst of high quality, but the way it then repurposes and reimagines itself suggests that the right kind of vertical slice can also expand to fill however much time you might want to devote to it.

  • Marsh Davies also points me towards the return of Breaking Madden, Jon Bois ongoing efforts to push and pull the Madden series’ American football simulation to breaking point. The best game jornlizms inside:
  • A year ago, Breaking Madden began as an innocent, fun little series of posts. I created funny-looking players in Madden NFL 25, tweaked the game’s settings, and orchestrated some digital slapstick. I introduced a round little man, Clarence BEEFTANK, who could bowl over a half-dozen men at a time. I asked questions of my Twitter followers, and if their answers made me laugh, I’d put them in the game. For quite a while, it was a happy time. It really was!

  • The PC Gamer Top 100 is now online. Obvious oversights and mistakes aside, Top 100 lists are always a fun way to start a conversation, to focus your thoughts about what you value you in games, and to rile up some internet blood. And if you’re not an expert, a great way to find games to play:
  • 49. Outcast
    Richard For the five people who could actually play it at launch, Outcast was an eye-opening glimpse into the kind of game we now take for granted, years before anyone else could even think about pulling it off. Its sprawling organic 3D worlds made it look like a tech demo, but every bit as much care was given to the action-RPG within. Populated by AI considered revolutionary at the time, this was a real place with a real sense of life; goofy in the classic tradition of French games, but absolutely serious about giving us a Legend of Zelda game to be proud of. And it pulled it off splendidly.

  • Sticking with PC Gamer, Chris Livingston has round up some typically awful Steam user reviews. Thanks to Person for the submission.
  • Some guy called Rab Florence is in the mood for games.
  • Games are important. They are beautiful, joyful things. They’re an escape. They can deal with dark matters and still be an escape.

    Games are toys. You pick them up and play with them – lights and sounds and colours – and you go away feeling younger.

  • Three Moves Ahead, a podcast about strategy games, is still going and still wonderful. Episode 272 is about ‘flight during World War I’.
  • Oh right, Rab has been writing other good things over at Amusement Arcade too. Let’s swing back for his review of Hohokum, which I mentioned a couple weeks back. I used to love the superhero-flight ability you could trigger in Lemmings 2: The Tribes, because you could spend ages circling around levels, dodging obstacles, and the power would never run out unless arced upward too sharply or crashed. Hohokum has that same feeling of tracing and flight, only without the miserable tension of flopping back to earth. Anyway, Rab’s short thoughts:
  • If you’ve been keeping up with the Commodore, you might remember an old C64 game called Gribbly’s Day Out. You were a weird alien thing with big feet, and you had to jump around a weird alien world, collecting your babies.

    The game was very hard, but I played it every day. I played it just so that I could bounce around an alien world as a weird alien with giant feet. He made funny noises and stuff when he bounced. It went BOUNG! BOUNG! BOUNG!

  • See also.
  • At Geekwire, Mónica Guzmán talks about her vicarious experiences with Twitch game streaming, to perhaps explain the Amazon acquisition to a confused audience, and in the proess relate sweet stories of passionate gaming amidst family life.
  • Gaming doesn’t need to court a mainstream audience to boom, and digital tech is making this more true than ever.

    There are not just games anymore, but hungry game communities. Those communities are finding such rich new depths to mine, that all game companies have to give them — other than brilliant, engrossing titles — is shovels and dirt.

    I see those depths in Jason’s gaming. Twitch is now essential to his CS:GO experience, but so is Reddit, YouTube, Valve’s player-oriented Steam platform and e-sports tournament channels like ESEA and CEVO.

  • Over at Kotaku, GB Burford goes step by step through the reasons why Halo 1’s Silent Cartographer is such a great first-person shooter level.
  • Of all the levels in the game, The Silent Cartographer feels like a vertical slice of every element that makes Halo, well, Halo. How do all these elements work together to make a good shooter? After all, we live in a post-Halo world. Surely in the 13 years since its release, shooters have evolved and we’ve got better shooters to choose from, right?

    Music this week is The Blow. Start with Hey Boy, though there are more and newer singles and albums up on Spotify.

164 Comments

  1. Jim Rossignol says:

    Cup of tea.

    Banana ice cream for some reason.

    A good Sunday.

    • frymaster says:

      surely the reason is “because banana ice cream”?

    • Gap Gen says:

      Walking up a mountain valley and chocolate. I saw a marmot!

      • Emeraude says:

        Dive into cover before its sniper minions shoot you !

        (Also, coffee is love, coffee is life, you tea heathens shall know the One True Path™ in due time.)

  2. Geebs says:

    Surely the only circumstance under which a developer can afford to make a vertical slice is when they’ve already funded all of the assets and engine work for the entire game? If they’re not selling a demo for thirty quid, of course.

    • mewse says:

      Yes and no.

      If you’re doing a vertical slice, you need all the game systems in place. You need all the rendering technology, all the toolchain, etc. In effect, you need all the programming of the full game.

      You also need most of the character art. Certainly everything for the player character. And you likely have a few of everything that would appear in a “full game”.

      What you don’t need is all the levels. In a vertical slice, you typically make due with only a few levels, where a full game would potentially have dozens. So if creation of levels is the expensive part of the process for your studio, then going for a vertical slice might not be a terrible idea. But for most, it’s the programming that’s the most expensive and most time-consuming part.

      But as more and more studios move to established engine tech which comes with pre-existing toolchains, whether Unity or Unreal or CryEngine or what have you, maybe programming’s not going to be the bottleneck for much longer.

    • thedosbox says:

      Not necessarily, the cyberpunk bartending game (the actual name is too irritating to remember) released a “prologue” but are in the process of switching engines to Game Maker.

      link to blog.waifubartending.com

      Granted, their situation is not comparable to a studio creating their own engine.

    • Shuck says:

      The article is talking about something a bit beyond a vertical slice, but the point of a vertical slice is that it doesn’t include all the assets for the entire game. It’s common practice to put together a vertical slice in order to get funding for the game, in fact. There’s a lot of costs beyond what’s in the slice, even when talking about the “expanded slice” being discussed in the article. For each level beyond what’s in the slice there are going to be extra asset requirements, scripting, writing and voice work, etc. Also, given the number of hours of play expected from games, most game concepts really can’t stretch to that many hours of play, so extra systems usually get bolted on to extend play beyond what’s in the v.s., and there are all the extra costs associated with that. Either way, things get stretched out such that the good bits all-too-often get scattered out across a lot of filler gameplay, thereby making the experience as a whole rather mediocre.

      • Geebs says:

        For a big-budget game, though, there’s still a huge amount of man-hours needed to create the materials for a ‘slice’, and these days games have enough mechanics that these demos don’t even contain all of them. At that point, your designers can plan different ways in which to take advantage of the potential offered by the mechanics, and most of the overhead has already been spent. To then condense your product down to the point that the most supremely jaded section of your audience never get bored seems self-defeating.

        Not to mention that arranging drinks, snacks, sensory overload through music and flashing lights, a bunch of cosplayers, a PR to lean over the shoulder and point out the important bits and gently massage the ego, and themed desk ornaments to take home to every single player would get expensive pretty darn quickly.

    • LionsPhil says:

      Since they mentioned that Metal Gear game, I assume they dream of a future where we pay full-game prices for underdeveloped demos.

      Some people’s utopias scare me.

      • Geebs says:

        On the other hand, Mario Galaxy – that game is one vertical slice after another, because Nintendo are clever enough and have enough manpower to make a game that’s constantly changing the way you play, basically just because they decided that would be fun.

        On the other other hand, if you tried to do a narrative-based game consisting entirely of vertical slices, the result would be a Michael Bay movie.

      • HadToLogin says:

        Overpriced demo – yes . But I wouldn’t call in underdeveloped.

        • LionsPhil says:

          We already have chain-of-setpiece games where each “mechanic” is barely developed beyond a tutorial, or Press X to Be Awesome. This seems to be advocating that, rather than taking time to build up and explore the complexities and interactions between systems.

          • KenTWOu says:

            it’s an overpriced demo and It’s slightly underdeveloped, but it’s not like those things you said, It’s the opposite.

  3. Eawyne says:

    Actually, that Trespasser site is quite amazing ! I really love to see such dedication for a game, even for a not-so-great game as this one, and for its narrative. I could really see myself doing this sort of thing, for Icewind Dale… Thanks for the link ! (although I haven’t read the interview yet XD)

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      Yeah, Trescom is brilliant. I stop by about twice a year just to see what new cool stuff they’ve posted. I’m really glad someone is keeping Trespasser alive. What a brilliant (if deeply flawed) game.

  4. Drake Sigar says:

    One issue with top 100 lists is games that came out in the last five years tend to fill the top spots. In PC Gamer’s top 10 there are 5 such games, in the top 20 there’s 15 of them! To be fair I think we’re practically living in a fairytale golden age and certainly don’t subscribe to the idea that something is better just because it’s older (plus if there’s even one game out of place, there are too many people who are like ‘forget the whole thing!’), but still, bleh.

    • YohnTheViking says:

      Have not looked at the list yet. As a general rule with these types of lists though: Never complain about the placement of a game whether it be number 1 or 100, it’s a hugely subjective thing and considering how many there are to choose from even being on the list is pretty big. However, it is possible to complain about highly obvious omissions. Skyrim might be too high, but it would be even worse if it wasn’t on there at all.

      • Consumatopia says:

        Actually, no, you shouldn’t follow this advice, because fighting over the list is the whole fun of the list ;)

    • Consumatopia says:

      I think the only thing that really surprised me is that the only Sims game is the original, and it’s all the way down at 94.

      There are also no SimCity games, though I’m not sure that’s surprising.

      Oh, and Minecraft all the way down at 18? I’m not complaining in the sense that somehow I think Minecraft or The Sims series is ‘objectively’ better than 18 or 94, but given both how popular and how much critical attention both of those games have received, I think it indicates a narrowness of focus on the part of PC Gamer. Which isn’t necessarily a bad thing.

      • PoLLeNSKi says:

        I don’t know it I’m just getting old, but that was the first PCG top 100 where I was shaking my head on almost every page…

      • welverin says:

        If you read how they made the list it’s completely understandable Minecraft ended up there.

        • malkav11 says:

          Yeah, it’s not “an objective definitive list of the best PC games ever”, it’s a subjective ranking of games based on how the staff of PC Gamer (or at least, the ones contributing to the list) feel right now. It’s generated fresh every year, and so you’ll a) see missing things because they aren’t into those things right this second, or at least not enough to put them on the list, b) see a lot of highly ranked recent games because those are things they’ve played recently and have fresh in their memory, c) still see random older stuff down the list because they’re treasured favorites that may still live on their hard drive. etc.

          • shaydeeadi says:

            It must be hard to curate a list like that, keep it relevant and include as many classics as possible.

            But they left out Battlefield 2, and included 3 & 4. I’m confused.

          • malkav11 says:

            I assume none of them are still playing BF2.

          • FriendlyFire says:

            Yeah, and it’s probably one of the only sane ways of making such a list. Attempting to really boil down the top 100 list would be an impossible undertaking since there are way more than a hundred good games that people might put on their own top 100.

            The only thing I didn’t like was how quite a few sequels were on there. I’m fine with putting two games in the same series that are dissimilar enough, but some were basically like putting Madden 07 and Madden 09 on the list.

    • derbefrier says:

      eh people always take these list ways more seriously than they should. Instead of nerd raging your favorite game isnt in the number one spot or that some game you don’t like is higher than some other game, just look at is as a “list of games you should probably play at some point”. I always look for games I haven’t played on these lists because hell if its good enough to get on a top 100 it might be worth checking out.

    • MaXimillion says:

      The list has Starbound on it but no Terraria, which calls into question whether it’s not worth paying any attention to it whatsoever.

    • LionsPhil says:

      And yet even for a recent-biased list, Kerbal Space Program isn’t up amongst the top, being the best and most important game of the decade.

  5. Acorino says:

    This week both Jenn Frank and Mattie Brice were mobbed out of the video gaming press, yay. :/
    Basically they gave up in light of the harassment they had to endure. They’re doing better for it now.

    • Niko says:

      That’s a shame:( Are there really people who feel proud about it?

      • RedViv says:

        At least they won’t any more, now that a buttload of evidence of their organised wrongdoings is filed with the appropriate authorities. I think we can leave it at that, for now.

        • mewse says:

          The most surprising thing from my point of view was the IRC logs where the harassment campaign was planned and executed. Quick analysis shows that more than 2300 different people went through it, across those three-four weeks, and about 1700 of those actually took part in discussions there. That’s a frighteningly large number of people interested in waging a harassment campaign.

          I’d assumed that the campaign was the actions of a rather small number of bad actors, but apparently there are lots more of that sort of people on the Internet than I wanted to believe. :/

          • PikaBot says:

            It’s not that many when you consider that that’s a slice of all dickheads worldwide, which is a staggeringly large population. And that the bulk of them aren’t going to do anything but talk a big game, being too cowardly to actually put it into action.

            But yes. This should stand as a pretty object lesson that you should never assume that it’s one lone dickhead. Dickhead attracts dickhead.

          • Slaadfax says:

            I’m still a little nonplussed by the issues (allegations?) of journalistic integrity, but by gum if some of these internet-harassing (numerous mean words) finally get some consequences leveled in their direction, I personally feel like there’s a nice “for the greater good” involved there. It certainly won’t eliminate the kind of hate speech that is far too common on ye olde internete, but if it puts the tiniest dent in it…

        • MaXimillion says:

          Organized? You cannot organize a movement like this. At best, you may be able to slightly influence it, and even that would take a lot of effort.

          • Niko says:

            Well, MRAs, however ridiculous they are, are kinda organized. As in, they have their own subreddit at least.

          • Bradamantium says:

            They couldn’t properly organize it, no, but an IRC with something like 2000 people hanging around it as folks spout off strategies for controlling information on an anonymous message board could definitely make one thing look quite a bit like another. It wasn’t all planned from the top down, but there was clear influence that pushed the conversation (such as it is) in a specific direction.

        • joa says:

          Appropriate authorities? As much as I have no time for people being harassed, if you want freedom of speech, then that is going to be part of it.

          • Vinraith says:

            Death threats (and other assorted threats of violence) are not protected under freedom of speech.

          • nindustrial says:

            Neither is hacking, libel, or slander

          • PikaBot says:

            The concept of freedom of speech has been absolutely beaten into an unrecognizable pulp, hasn’t it. Your freedom to swing your fist extends only as far as the tip of my nose. Likewise, your freedom to speak only extends so far as my freedom to not be harassed, hacked, and otherwise attacked.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            PikaBot already put it better than I ever could, so I’ll just drop this link and be on my way – link to imgs.xkcd.com

            I really need to just permanently bookmark that image so I can find it more easily everytime someone makes the claim that freedom of speech entitles you to be a hateful, selfish arsehole, treat other people like objects, and expect no consequences.

            Seriously though, I implore you, if you ever see that claim presented anywhere, however innocently, challenge it.

          • Emeraude says:

            @nindustrial

            While not by free speech, some forms of hacking are protected by the law.

            Thankfully.

          • joa says:

            So people saying mean things is libel and slander now? If it were people saying mean things about people you dislike you’d be all for it.

            I get how demotivating it must be for these women to have a band of haters following them around and jumping down their throats whenever they do anything, but that’s just the world we live in. If you start trying to bring in ‘authorities’ to deal with that sort of thing – then that’s fucked up.

          • Niko says:

            I’m sorry, but death threats that make one move out of their house aren’t just “the world we live in.”

          • eggy toast says:

            Unironically linking to an XKCD comic as a shorthand for an argument is proof positive that you are the worst person.

          • joa says:

            Internet anonymity gives people the confidence to do/say things they wouldn’t in person (which can be a positive thing as well as a negative thing). Your average reddit gamer 4chan guy is a 14-18 year old virgin, so unsurprisingly when given that kind of anonymity they use it to let women know how much they hate them, especially when they see them as trying to muscle in on their space (gaming, etc).

            I mean that’s just a fact of life in the end. It sucks, but what can you do about it? Just ignore them.

          • Kaeoschassis says:

            @joa “I get how demotivating it must be for these women to have a band of haters following them around and jumping down their throats whenever they do anything”
            No, I seriously doubt you do.

            @eggy toast
            You know, I hadn’t considered it like that before. You’re right, I am absolutely the very worst person.
            In fact! I think we can just quite safely ignore death threats, semi-organized harassment and general hatemongering completely, so as to focus our criticisms more completely where they are so direly needed. That is to say, on me, the person linking to an image from a webcomic as an offhand addendum to somebody else’s well phrased argument.
            Thanks for bringing that to my attention, I honestly think you’ve made me, and the world, much better today.

            That ironic enough for you~? ;p

          • Philopoemen says:

            I’m not sure how it works in the US, but here in Oz (and I think also in the UK), to prosecute someone for “threats”, there has to be evidence that the person of interest has the ability to carry the threat out; which makes internet threats largely something that the courts ignore. There’s federal legislation regarding using a carriage service to convey threats, but again the time and effort required to successfully prosecute someone for the offence versus the actual penalty means it’s a fairly rare charge.

            That said I’ve also never seen an internet threat carried out. Anonymity gives people power to be dicks, they eem to jut be dicks, not full blown psychos.

  6. Fenix says:

    Any “top pc games” list that doesn’t have Alpha Centauri in the top 3 is fundamentally wrong.

    • welverin says:

      I would go with Ultima 6 or 7, should be both, but I’ll accept either one.

    • Gap Gen says:

      I bet they have at least fifty games I personally didn’t care for much before it. An objectively wrong list.

      EDIT: Huh, that’s a lot higher than I’ve seen it before. Fine, they get to keep their claims of journalistic integrity.

    • Xocrates says:

      26. Diablo III

      Nowhere to be seen: Diablo 1, Diablo 2, either of the Torchlight, or any other notable ARPG.

      *Table Flip*

      • P.Funk says:

        The vast majority of people reading this list probably weren’t out of diapers when either of the first two Diablos came out. Top 100 lists aren’t about cataloging greatness, its about writing a list of familiar words that mollify the reader by validating their taste thanks to approximately 1/3 of the listed items being their “favourites”.

        • Baines says:

          You forgot generating page hits, comments, and controversy from people asking how Game X didn’t make the list while Game Y did.

        • The white guar says:

          I was out of diapers when the first Diablo came out. Let me tell you, that was a messy couple of days.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      For the crime of not including Jagged Aliiance 2 the authors of the list should be mercifully dispatched with the lowest caliber bullets available (extra mercy for including X-com both old and new).

    • Gap Gen says:

      Also: 81 TOTAL WAR: ROME II

      Eyebrow rises, takes out orbiting satellite.

      • P.Funk says:

        But no Rome 1, but somehow they put Empire which was horrible! Baffling. Note also that Battlefield 4 was on the list, as was Battlefield 3, but no Battlefield 2 or 1942, nor could I detect the first Call of Duty, nor Starcraft. Max Payne 2 but not Max Payne 1! No KOTOR, no Homeworld. The new Counterstrike but not the original awesome one thats more relevant. No Warcraft, no Warcraft II, not even Warcraft III that is directly responsible for all MOBAs including LOL and DOTA. No Age of Empires 1 or 2. I don’t think there was even a single racing game. No Half Life 1 (arguably the most important FPS owing to its influence on design).

        I don’t even think there were more than a handful of games from the 90s in here.

        This list reflects the very console centric nature of the PC Gamer writer’s corps. No flight sims, no racing sims or even arcadey racing games, anemic RTS list most likely written reflexively.

        Man that was so lame, it hurts.

        • eggy toast says:

          Honesly I think you are caring a bit too hard about something as inherently asinine as a PCGamer Top 1– list.

          • P.Funk says:

            Not really. I’m just being sparked into debate. I mean really, if its beneath me to care about the content of this list what do you have to say for RPS who posted it in the first place?

    • LionsPhil says:

      Agreed.

      Other essentals in the top three are System Shock 1, Fallout 1, Deus Ex 1, Command & Conquer 1, and DOOM…2?

      • FriendlyFire says:

        So the top 3 would have 50+ games in it then?

        • P.Funk says:

          Yes actually. In my opinion cross-genre TopX lists are pointless. They are so arbitrary as to be hopelessly about nothing but controversy. Gamer’s have such varied tastes that an RTS focused gamer is not going to be satisfied with a list dominated by FPS games.

          The top 3 games of all time should include at least a few dozen accounting for all the reasonable genre distinctions we can make. I would find the debate over which RTS games should be in the top 5 RTS games of all time list more than trying to jam every game genre in there. Considering there aren’t even any racing games in PC Gamer’s list I think says it all.

        • LionsPhil says:

          I think you’ve spotted my subtle critique of Top 100 lists.

  7. Premium User Badge

    N'Al says:

    Silent Cartographer really is a great FPS level. Such a shame the game also includes one of the worst, then.

    • bill says:

      I can’t say that I actually remember the particular level “The Silent Cartographer”, but I’ve heard it mentioned a few times so I guess it must have been good.

      But TBH I’m surprised to see Halo 1’s level design being heralded as I thought it was by far the weakest part of the game. It was the FPS that cracked console controls. It had some lovely visuals. It had good combat, good AI and good vehicles. I guess the outdoor spaces and transition between indoor and outdoor was pretty new for the time. But I thought the level design itself ranged from “unmemorable” to “terrible”.

      In particular, the indoor sections were just interminable repeated identical grey rooms.

      It’s an unexpected indictment of modern FPS level design when Halo 1’s levels are lauded as something revolutionary. Even most of the positive points he lists in the article are basically true for all pre-MW2 fps games.
      Maybe Halo 1 was just the last big hurrah of that kind of fps (at least on consoles) and also the only one that’s been remade and so can be compared more directly with current games.

      • Malibu Stacey says:

        It was the FPS that cracked console controls.

        Either the Nintendo 64, Rare or Goldeneye never existed in your Universe.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          Or not. Both of those games somehow managed to be fun despite their unfathomably atrocious controls, but I wouldn’t even remotely say they cracked the code of console FPS play. Halo was definitely the first game to get it right.

          • Deadly Sinner says:

            TimeSplitters cracked console fps controls a year earlier. Unreal Tournament for the PS2 came out a couple days later and had the similar dual analog controls.

  8. Philopoemen says:

    Mass Effect 2 as #1? My main issue with this is I just started a new Mass Effect Trilogy wallow, and after loving Mass Effect’s combat and progression system, ME2’s simplified system was a bit jarring, but more than that, Pc Gamer picked it as the number one game for *PC*

    To get Mass Effect 2 to even be playable on PC these days, I’ve had to download Notepad++, so I could edit the Coalesced.ini so the mouse wasn’t zooming the reticule everywhere, and even after tweaking everything I can, the “bypass” mini-game is still unplayable because the cursor crawls so slow that time elapses before you can click anything. And I’m no orphan in that regard

    Not going to comment on whether it’s a deserving number one as a game, but as a PC game, ease of use has to factor into my choice. Or controllers are a lot more prevalent than I thought.

    • welverin says:

      It’s been a number of years (and a new PC), but I don’t recall any such problems at all and I used M&K, not a gamepad (didn’t even have one for my PC then). I know I didn’t do any tweaking outside of the options menu.

  9. SirMonkeyWrench says:

    The round up of awful steam use reviews is itself fairly awful. The author does not seem to understand the concept of joke, cannot tolerate reviews that disagree with his opinions and enjoys mocking people who do not have tha language skills of professional writers.

    • Niko says:

      Maybe, although you don’t have to be a writer to properly use uppercase letters and punctuation.

      • eggy toast says:

        Many people post comments online in English even if it is their 3rd or 6th best language, just because it will be read by vastly more people.

        • Stellar Duck says:

          English isn’t my first language either but rough punctuation is basically the same in as in my first langue, as is the use of capital letters.

          I’m sure most European language speakers could transfer their punctuation from their first language to another European language with no huge problems. At least it’d be making an effort.

          • Niko says:

            Yeah, those reviews don’t look like they are written by non-English speakers from syntaxis standpoint.

          • Gog Magog says:

            and some just plain dont give a flying godfuck either way even when they bloody well know better, simply because who cares. who cares. its a buncha fucking words on the internet.
            Also pretty sure “NANOMACHINES SON” is a far more valuable review than “In this game you play as Raiden, a character from the Metal Gear Solid series, as he goes on a quest for…”

          • Stellar Duck says:

            It’s fine if people don’t care, but as per eggy toasts post, he was saying they wrote in a non native language to maximize exposure. That would indicate they do care about being read.

            Generally, if someone takes the time to write a post I must assume they wanted it to be read. I think that’s reasonable. So, taking the effort to make it easier to read seems the least one could do. But then, I guess I’m old fashioned like that.

    • Premium User Badge

      SuddenSight says:

      If you read it as a list of “baffling” reviews (the original title) instead of strictly “bad” reviews (which is what RPS has retitled here) the article makes more sense. Because every review on that list is baffling in some sense or another. I must say that the Bioshock Infinite review Livingston included is a work of art. And the review of Munich Bus Driver is fabulous.

    • MykulJaxin says:

      In the spirit of insane reviews, here’s my favorite: link to steamcommunity.com

  10. BooleanBob says:

    There’s something about the phrase vertical slice that makes me want to vertically slice my wrists.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      Good, a common beginner mistake is to attempt to cut the wrists horizontally (i.e. across), which only causes a minor bleeding.

      • PoLLeNSKi says:

        Nothing more depressing than cocking up your suicide attempt

        • Emeraude says:

          Coking up someone else’s is definitely worse.

          • Gap Gen says:

            Giving someone stimulants during a suicide attempt is definitely a faux-pas.

    • Gog Magog says:

      Reminds me of Revengeance and now I wanna vertically slice Metal Gear Ray in half.

    • P.Funk says:

      The fact that this Sunday Paper’s contains two references to this phrase is also weird.

      I feel like a phrase like Vertical Slice ends up getting used in lieu of having an actual capacity to express the relatively straight forward idea its meant to represent.

  11. Anthile says:

    They had me real good with that Top 100 list. “Mass Effect 3 before the second one? That’s a pretty bold mo- wait, what?”.
    These lists are okay as long as you don’t take them too seriously. I mean, you can’t win. Do I choose the most significant games or do I choose the ones I consider the best at this very moment? There’s no doubt, say, Wizardry has been hugely influential but you’d have to be a particular kind of masochist to play through even the most recent ones. Also, multiplayer games. In the end it’s just a list that gives newcomers some pointers and the veterans something to bicker about even though some decisions are really to comprehend. Fallout 3 better than New Vegas? For some reason that opinion seems to be almost exclusive to journalists.

    • malkav11 says:

      It wouldn’t be a bold move. It would be correct. Catastrophically awful ending, awful book insert character, and various weird continuity issues aside, it had much more satisfying combat, more robust RPG systems, much more impressive environments, a significantly more cohesive narrative (again, up until that trainwreck of an ending) with generally excellent (and in places heartbreaking) writing, and the least awful implementation of “planet exploration” and minor side missions that has existed in the franchise so far, even if the “war assets” did turn out to be completely pointless. I for one don’t think the ending being awful negates or even significantly counterbalances all that. Of course, I also think ME2 was a huge misstep for the series in many ways despite having some great characters and, if you ignore all the ridiculous railroady nonsense about working for Cerberus and the various weird continuity issues, a bunch of individually pretty strong storylines that really have almost nothing to do with each other or the overall narrative arc of the trilogy.

      I’d still consider ME1 the best of the series, I think. It’s just such a strong self-contained narrative that’s full of stunning SF setpieces and cool ideas. The other two do some cool things with carrying forward your individual choices but don’t feel like coherent pieces of the whole because larger plot stuff gets retconned and/or fucked up between games, presumably due to the fact that the writing team changed each time and the original head writer left after the first one . And dammit, it’s the one where biotics actually work as well as they’re meant to. Hell, I still prefer 1’s more straightforward run and gun shooting (with no ammo, and no waist high cover) to ME2’s boring slog of a third-rate first-Gears-of-War setup (with none of the creativity in weapons or scenarios that later Gears bring to the table). By 3 they refined the combat enough that it’s probably the best of the series even though it’s still cover shooting (which I feel makes combat slow and whack-a-molish in a way that does no favors to the experience), but it just wasn’t there in 2.

      • welverin says:

        I swear there was cover in ME1, am I misremembering or did you just completely ignore it?

        Oh, ME3 is better than ME2. The only thing wrong with ME3 was the ending (all of ten to fifteen minutes) and that doesn’t negate the forty hours that came before it. I was even o.k. with it, until I reloaded and watch the other two.

        War assets did matter, they just patched the game to make the synthesis ending easier to get. That combined with the DLC makes it rather trivial to get there now, quite different from when the game was released.

        • malkav11 says:

          Mass Effect 1 has cover in the sense that (space) bullets don’t pass through solid objects, but it doesn’t have or necessitate the use of a cover -mechanic- ala Gears of War, and it doesn’t have weird obtrusive waist high cover in every room where you will be fighting.

          And war assets don’t matter in any significant sense. They’re a number past which you can get a slightly different colored ending. Or at least, that was true when I beat the game. It’s possible that the extended ending DLC (which came out after I’d beaten the game and I haven’t gotten around to a replay since then – still working on ME2 run 2 off and on) introduces much more meaningful differences between the endings. I certainly hope so. But even so, there’s no logical correlation between building up your warscore and access to any of the endings, no reflection of the specific assets you’re leveraging, no difference to the way any of the pre-ending storyline plays out as far as I know. It’s kind of a huge waste, and it makes it funny how up in arms people got about the idea that multiplayer would influence the system given how ultimately meaningless it was.

          • Wulfram says:

            The only reason cover wasn’t so important in ME1 was because you could easily turn yourself into an invincible juggernaut of destruction because some powers were plain broken.

            Though I agree that the level design was a touch more naturalistic without all the chest high walls

          • joa says:

            Mass Effect 1 did have cover – when you got up behind a wall, the guy would turn around and you sidle along it. It just didn’t have the kind of ‘sticky’ cover where you can lean out and back again.

          • malkav11 says:

            It’s still not a “cover shooter” like the subsequent games became. Integrating cover as a possible choice in an array of combat options is fine and well and lovely. Making cover essentially mandatory does bad things to level design and pacing, and that was really really evident in ME2.

          • Geebs says:

            Generally speaking, if you’re designing a cover based shooter and you’ve got so jaded that you start having chest high walls actually pop up out of the floor when a fight starts, you’re doing it wrong.

            Apart from actual plausible level design and biotics actually having a point, combat was superior in ME1 because a) your equipment mattered, slightly, b) sniper rifles, c) get in the mako and missile the buggers d) not thermal clips and e) grenades.

          • bleeters says:

            I think the problem with the war assets is that they mattered in a literal sense, but not in any way that’s tangible or especially logical, and as a result, not in any way that’s actually satisfying. Effective military strength is an entirely arbitrary figure that has little indication as to what your asset does and how it contributes, so you end up with weird crap like a reporter on the citadel being worth half as much as an entire fleet of warships. It’s like they just threw darts at a board in order to decide how much stuff was worth.

            There’s a pretty decent youtube video on choice and consequence that sort of relates to it. War assets seemed meaningless because there’s no particular connection between what they are and what they end up doing. How do random mercenary squads, or reporters, or basically any asset you have that doesn’t relate to the crucible mean it’s able to perform any of its functions? How does the lack of them prevent those functions? Who knows. It’s never explained, or shown, or justified in any way. And since there’s no tangible relationship between your choices and those consequences, the whole thing feels empty and meaningless. It feels like nothing you did really mattered.

        • bleeters says:

          I don’t exactly want to go through another round of ‘why I didn’t like Mass Effect 3 all that much’, but I don’t especially agree that there was nothing wrong with the game aside from the ending. And I’m not even talking about some of the writing, though, yes, that too.

          I mean, it’s a damn fine game. It had some great moments. It’s also the third part of a trilogy primarily driven – at least in part – by interaction and conversation with the various and great characters. It’s why, I believe, RPS tended to refer to Mass Effect’s genre as ‘guns and conversation’, rather than an RPG. Talking to people was a big part of it, and picking what you say was an inherent part of that.

          And what happened in the third game? They brutally gutted the conversation system. The dialogue wheel – the near solitary means of interacting with the games story and characters – was stripped down to, at best in vritually all circumstances, two options to pick from. Sometimes you had no options at all due to the games copious amount of auto dialogue. Conversation was half of the games appeal, and they damn near almost broke it.

          • malkav11 says:

            I didn’t say there was nothing wrong with it aside from the ending. But I feel like it got less wrong, on the whole, than Mass Effect 2 did, and it was very very strong in a lot of places. Tuchanka absolutely gutted me, especially as a dedicated Renegade-path player who adored Mordin. It did diminish your options in conversation, but it didn’t bother me that much. I don’t feel like the degree of decision-making dropped very much (I recall a lot of conversations only having two real sides to a decision in the previous games as well); it was more that there was less opportunity to elaborate on conversational topics other than the main focus. And to be fair, that might be reasonable in circumstances as dire as the ones in ME3. But then, even though I really enjoy the dialogue in the Mass Effect games, one thing I never liked about the series was their move to the conversation wheel. In games with proper dialogue trees (like the original Dragon Age, and of course the Infinity Engine stuff), not only did I know what I was going to say, but there was significantly more room for alternate approaches to situations and less immediately obvious morality.

          • bleeters says:

            I know you didn’t say that, which is why I wasn’t responding to you :3

            Still, I will say that I don’t necessarily agree that removing the middle option makes sense given the dire situation of Mass Effect 3. Other than the entire game not revolving around that – I mean, you have a lot of downtime on the Normandy and Citadel to get drunk, shoot beer cans and awkwardly explain what sexual attraction is to EDI – an example I like to use is the end of Mass Effect 1. Suppose they removed the option to tell the fleet to ‘concentrate on sovereign’, and the only options left were to tell them to rescue the council or leave them to die. Sure, it has the same end result as leaving them to die, but that one has such an underlying maliciousness to it by comparison. It just makes you come across as a dick.

            The middle road is important. Especially given the lengths they went to with making renegade Shepard an anti hero at times.

          • malkav11 says:

            I wasn’t talking about the removal of a middle option (did anybody really pick those anyway?), but the “let’s talk more about this subject” stuff that was typically over on the left and was what I’d identify as having been stripped back, but then, it’s war. Who’s got time to drill deeper into culture and history when you need to make a call right now, soldier?

  12. Viroso says:

    Best thing about short, focused games would be the lack of messy inventories, build planning, bunch of secrets.

    When building my Dark Souls 2 character, I was comparing def/weight ratios of armor, getting just enough agility to boost my iFrames by a % I deemed worth the cost. I was writing stuff down on paper.

    Playing Skyrim, it took me 90 hours to get “Dah” from “Fus Ro Dah” just because I complete every little quest I come across. I was (am, actually), collecting any sort of crap and tossing in my chest, in case it’s useful.

    I HATE all that. Playing Walking Dead was just so nice because whenever I picked up the game I didn’t have to care about what was in my inventory, what secrets I had left behind. It was just me and the game. The game just kept rolling and what was left behind was left behind.

    • frymaster says:

      Your skyrim comment is interesting. Don’t you know you can skip all that meaningless cave-quest stuff and only do the good bits?

      Well, so did I, and it didn’t stop me feeling compelled to do every. single. little. sidequest imaginable. It’s just not something I can avoid.

      • RedViv says:

        The prolonged player’s plight. There is a list, an open entry, an unchecked box. We. Must. Solve. This.

      • sinister agent says:

        Heh. I’ve done pretty much the complete opposite, and ignored almost every ‘quest’ that’s been thrown at me or tactlessly hinted at. I’ve only been inside two caves, one of which I left within about 90 seconds, and the closest I’ve come to a dungeon is the tiny catacombs under Whiterun.

        It’s a bit ridiculous really.

        • Bull0 says:

          Yeah, I had far more fun exploring the rabbit warrens and finding all the goodies in Skyrim than I did defeating all the dragons, or helping the dragons, or whatever the fuck it was the main quest was about.

      • Freud says:

        Many gamers are compulsive. They can’t just skip things. If it’s there, you have to do it.

      • Viroso says:

        I know right. It’s horrible. What’s worse is when some seemingly crappy random sidequest turns out to be somewhat cool, sending you to some alternate dimension and you think “Oooh, now THIS is a quest”.

        This makes things worse because now if I reject quests I feel like I might miss out on some cool stuff. I can’t tell which quests are garbage and which aren’t, I just follow markers on the map.

      • PopeRatzo says:

        Maybe being able to do every little thing and actually get something that’s worth the price is what made Skyrim so popular?

        As far as I can tell, there are still people playing (and buying) Skyrim. Those “tight, focused” games with the 4.5 hour campaigns – not so much.

        $60 is a lot to pay for something that’s over and done faster than a double feature at the movie theater. And despite the best efforts of game journalists and developers, the “tight, focused” games aren’t getting any more popular.

        • Viroso says:

          TWD sold very well, the first Portal too. Ever thought that maybe it’s because developers more often make huge games and promote them harder than whatever attempts at making shorter games, which they actually never do. Bunch of indie games did very well too, games that were short and focused, like Limbo.

        • malkav11 says:

          There’s no need to charge $60 for 4-6 hour experiences, though. (Even though Activision continues to insist on doing so for the Call of Duty games. Yesyes, multiplayer, but I will never play that so it might as well not exist except for its effect on the pricetag.) $15-20 seems pretty fair as an opener for a game of that length assuming it sustains the experience for the full runtime.

    • Anthile says:

      Armor is almost completely useless in Dark Souls 2. Fashion aspects aside, you are almost always better off just fighting naked with the exception of the odd special effect armor. The increase in stamina regeneration and roll distance is dramatic and will contribute infinitely more to your survivability than any plate mail.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        A like the subtle air of superiority emanating from this post.

      • Viroso says:

        Nah uh. I was a frail little caster with no shield. Entire game, shieldless. You learn to dodge real well but it’s not everytime you can do it. I had to put as much armor as I could while still being under 50% weight… or was it 25%? I dunno, but that armor was important.

    • Emeraude says:

      I HATE all that.

      And some of us love all that – when done well. To each their own. I know I love both tight games and unashamedly, ridiculously complex and minute ones.

      I’ve been replaying loads of old games recently – among which the Ys series this week – and comparing the Various Ys games, I saw a pattern emerge that is interesting in light of that vertical slice conversation.

      The original Ys is a very tight game. There’s very little game-play in it, but what it has is used to the fullest without undue repetition. It’s as close to perfect as I can imagine it to be: it does what limited things it intends doing exhausting the game space opened in the process, and then it’s done. No fat whatsoever.

      Ys 2 is lacking compared to it. It has too much content for too little game-play. It forces too many fetch-quests and small narrative/symbol-based puzzles down you throat to artificially lengthen the game. It has too much unneeded leveling. . It feels thin, sort of stretched, like butter spread over too much bread. It introduces options that are barely used, and others that are redundant.

      And the more we progress down the series, the worst it becomes. Ys seven had me passing text or a good half hour (and I’m being generous) before I could even start. And none of that text was needed. It was not part of the game-play, nor shaping/informing it – it was no silver sword trick. And all the sequels were more or less poorer for that evolution.

      The issue I think we’ve been inflating games way beyond what they had to offer and conflated volume of content with value, thinking bigger necessarily meant better, and we’ve made design messy and all too often purposeless in the process of continuously adding more.

      And the streamlining that was partly borne in reaction to that has in reverse been cutting off perfectly valid levels of complexity and content from games, assuming that it was all bad. It has limited the involvement of the player in the process by limiting the margin of agency left to him/her.

      There’s a lot we need to re-learn about game-making, because we accidentally got it right the first time and didn’t understand.

      • Viroso says:

        Oh now you’ve really put me off of getting the Ys games on Steam. Specially right now while I’m playing Ni no Kuni and it is so much like what you described there. I just spent ONE HOUR on horrible filler content that involved nothing but walking from one character to the other, and they weren’t that close by. Worse, this is like… the second or third time the game recklessly wastes my time like that.

        I feel it’s for the exact same reason, they’re valuing length over quality. No wonder people barely beat games, when the player’s time is treated like nothing at all.

        • PopeRatzo says:

          They’re not valuing length over quality. They’ve valuing profit over giving value to the customer. Do you think any less than 70% of the games on Steam or Green Man are all about seeing how little actual game content you can et people to pay for before the word gets out?

          I’ve seen some pretty cynical efforts by game devs lately. And the general refusal to provide demos is pretty good proof that that’s the way game devs like it.

          And sadly, a lot of the gaming press supports it.

          • Viroso says:

            One thing is when it is optional, like Skyrim, the other thing is when it is made an integral part of the game.

            Read my post there, I said I spent one hour just walking and talking to characters, and I had to do it, how is that providing value? That’s absolutely an example of making the game last longer at the expense of quality. I don’t want to play a game longer, I want to play a good game. Plus, if it is short, maybe they can sell it for less.

            Look at how they do it with indie games, or episodic games. Telltale’s TWD games, each episode lasts 2-4 hours, don’t go for a full price.

            Use the same engine, reuse some of the same graphic assets, make shorter games that do really well what they’re supposed to do.

            Like I said earlier, I kinda end up doing everything in a game, I play a game for hundreds of hours. Being honest, I like that, if I didn’t I wouldn’t do it. However, to me it’s obvious that the more stuff a game has, the worse everything else. It’s a matter of effort and selection.

            The less the game has, the more selective they have to be about what goes in the game. In Skyrim they obviously don’t think twice before adding BS pointless quests.

        • commentingaccount says:

          Ys: Oath in Felghana and Ys Origins are far different compared to Ys 1 and 2. Don’t discount those because of 1+2. Give them a look to see if you’d like ’em.

  13. frightlever says:

    Austin Grossman wrote “Soon I Will Be Invincible” which is a pretty good modern superhero novel, if you’re into that sort of thing.

    • malkav11 says:

      Whoa. I hadn’t made that connection at all. I enjoyed that book quite a bit.

    • Person of Con says:

      I appreciate Grossman’s versatility; being able to make compelling stuff in multiple media is no mean feat. (Although literature-chops-wise, he lags behind his brother Lev Grossman. And according to Wikipedia, his sister is a sculptor, his father’s a poet, and his mother’s a novelist. Must have been an interesting household to grow up in).
      I’ve really become a fan of the blossoming subgenre “novels about original superheroes.” It’s still niche enough though that it’s rare to find anyone else who’s read more than maybe two. It even has its own sub-subgenre, like the superhero post-apocalypse, as represented by Peter Clines’ Ex-Heroes series and Brandon Sanderson’s Steelheart.

      • malkav11 says:

        On the subject of superhuman-oriented novels, let me just say that the webserial Worm (which is currently complete and freely readable here: link to parahumans.wordpress.com but not available in a commercial format) is probably the single best work in the subgenre. And long enough to constitute probably the best 10-12 novels in the subgenre, if not more.

  14. RARARA says:

    I know it’s a bit of a touchy topic right now, but here’s Jim Sterling’s take (among other things) on the whole idea of the relationship between game devs and journos – the challenge of keeping a balance between being in friendly terms with devs (inevitable while you are working in the industry) but keeping enough distance to give their games a low score. And how *SHOCK* *HORROR* sex (unlike hard cash) isn’t necessarily a currency. It shouldn’t automatically lead to accusations of corruption.

    link to twitlonger.com

    • Bull0 says:

      Oh, wow. I didn’t even really think of it like that, but just that people are inclined to do favours for people they feel romantically about (or even friendly with, to be honest). Taking it to “sex as currency” to debunk it is so dark!

    • Tei says:

      link to whetstonevfx.com

      – Maya sucks.
      – Computer monitors suck.
      – The human eye sucks.
      – The real world sucks.

    • Tei says:

      I think comunism failed. But we have to try again. Possibly learn what failed, and have another communism state, but one that will not fail into a dictatorship. We will have to rebuild most of the comunist theory, I know. But is worth it. Capitalism just don’t work. Its in free fall now.

      • joa says:

        What the literal fuck are you on about. Capitalism works pretty well — in fact all successful first world countries where the citizens have freedom are capitalist countries.

        Communism on the other hand has been responsible for the death of millions. I know which one I’d rather have

        • Gap Gen says:

          Right, it’s not like settlers in the Americas didn’t kill millions and deliberately ethnically cleanse two continents, and the British Empire never allowed famines in Bengal or Ireland to kill millions of people, and we never firebombed entire cities out of existence without a second thought.

          (Not to excuse the Soviet Union’s or Maoist China’s actions, but we can’t really imply that capitalist countries haven’t done some shitty things)

        • cptgone says:

          Both capitalism and communism laid waste to the most valuable thing in the universe: Earth and the life it spawned.

      • WhatAShamefulDisplay says:

        We need to do something, this is something, therefore we must do it!

  15. faelnor says:

    Speaking of Trespasser, there’s apparently a new patch that gets it working (with some bonus features) under modern systems.

    Did anyone try that?

  16. WHS says:

    The reason it’s so frustrating to see Mass Effect 2 ranked as the top PC game of all time* is not that it’s a bad game — it’s an excellent game — but that it’s a game that makes no attempt to make use of the staggering potential of the PC as a platform. I mean, this is a machine that gives us the incredible procedural generation and creative possibilities of a Minecraft, the interlocking dynamic systems of a Crusader Kings 2, the freedom of authorship to pursue completely unique visions like Papers, Please, the emergent social and political systems of Eve Online, the endless modding possibilities of Half-Life 2… and they pick as the best game ever one where the player is led by the nose on a fun jaunt through a pretty standard science-fiction setting. It was a good experience! But it was also a qualitatively different sort of experience than what you can find at the most ambitious frontiers of PC gaming. The growth of consoles has increasingly led to the association of “video games” with this kind of well-constructed thrill ride, and it always bugs me because I know, at least on PCs, there’s the potential for them to be so much more. I’m sort of surprised that more of the PCG writers haven’t intuitively made this distinction as well.

    *Yes, I am aware that these rankings are meaningless and will undoubtedly look completely different next year; I am making a larger point.

    • Emeraude says:

      Another way to put it: from a design standpoint, it has little to nothing of the ethos that had historically informed the designing of PC games. At its core it’s a console game, regardless of its intrinsic quality. Consoles were its main targeted market – hell, that’s one of the things the game was so vehemently accused of. And the list is full of those games – console ports to the PC.

      Personally, I don’t mind – those list are meaningless from a critical standpoint. But it does go to show a switch, a change in the gaming demographic and the perception of the PC platform as far as I can tell.

    • joa says:

      I think once you are into like top-30 territory you’ve got a bunch of games that all do what they do really well — so to rank them beyond that point I think is more about personal preferences for different types of games and what aspects of a game the reviewers value more than others and so on.

  17. DanMan says:

    It feels kind of weird that I haven’t played about half of the top 20 games yet. But they’re so old and shoddy looking! :d

    It’d also feel a bit like work to play them now, with the only reason being “but they’re awesome!”.

  18. Michael Fogg says:

    That Midnight Resistance stance (damn that name! the nostalgia!) also has a nice essay on politics and game design.

  19. mandaya says:

    Re: that Bramwell piece, here’s more thinking along these lines
    link to videogametourism.at

  20. Niko says:

    Some good points here. I’m up for shorter, but more intense games that have more Different Stuff per Second (DSpS) than your average game. One of the reasons I feel bad about playing Diablo, for example, is because there’s just too much time spent wandering the same levels.

    • LionsPhil says:

      What you seem to really want is to remove padding from the game.

      Step one is to find everyone who evaluates games in order of hours-per-dollar, and confiscate their purchasing power.

      (Step two involves persistent levelling systems, free-to-play mechanics, those that decide to implement such, and an angle grinder.)

      • Vinraith says:

        Hours of fun per dollar has never failed to correlate with my overall enjoyment of a game. To each their own.

        • LionsPhil says:

          But I’m going to take a guess that not a single one of them was a game boasting hundreds of hours of “gameplay”, or other similar large numbers, and instead was something like UT that you played to death because you loved it.

          • Vinraith says:

            I’m unsure what you mean. Most of them are either hugely replayable long form strategy games (Civ, Pdox games, AI War, Sword of the Stars) or long form highly replayable RPG’s (Morrowind, Baldur’s Gate 1 & 2, etc). A few sim games get sprinkled in too (Euro Truck Sim 2 is getting there, Rise of Flight as well), and some big co-op games (Borderlands 1 & 2, for example).

          • LionsPhil says:

            replayable

            That word, basically.

            My sights are instead set on the crowd who complained that Max Payne, Portal, etc. were too short for the money, and the reviewers who fuel their reprehensible padding fetish.

          • Emeraude says:

            I do think Portal was too short.

            If anything, Portal is the worst of both worlds: it feels lie the overextended, over-stretched tutorial level to a game that was never made. Just when you’ve bored yourself through it and think the game is finally going to start and explore all the crazy possibilities opened by its verbs with some crazy level/encounter design… the game is over.

          • Vinraith says:

            Thanks for the clarification. Yeah, things like Max Payne and Portal strike me as disposable trifles, making them longer would just made them tedious. I barely play games of the sort you seem to be describing, though, which probably explains our different reactions to the entertainment hours per time metric.

          • Xocrates says:

            @Emeraude: Honestly, I think that’s why Portal succeeds where many of its imitators fail. It is exactly long enough for you to gain mastery of the main mechanics without getting bored with it. Compare with Portal 2 which had to add loads of new mechanics to justify it’s length (and was still accused of being too short), or games like Magrunner, which ran out of interesting ideas way before running out of game.

          • Emeraude says:

            @Xocrates

            That’s the thing though, you haven’t mastered the skill, you’re barely out of the tutorial phase. There’s nothing done with it. You’re being painstakingly told what you can do, and then it’s over.

          • Xocrates says:

            @Emeraude: I would say that around the time you learn about momentum, you are aware of all the main mechanics regarding portals. Everything from that point forward is about improving your mastery of them, and by the time the game ends you more or less have mastered them.

            This means that from the point you finish the game onwards it would be a retread of stuff you’ve done before and know you can do (which is 90% true for the post breakout section).

            There is nothing to “be done with it” other than more/harder puzzles. All of which would be about applying knowledge you already mastered – which the game happily provides with the optional challenge chambers.

          • LionsPhil says:

            I would say that Portal 2 is guilty of being slice-y, since it never really demands too much of the mechanics—it does feel like a very extended tutorial. Compare to 1, which as you say got you to momentum about a third of the way in, and the rest of the game is basically giving you a series of puzzles and saying “go on then, work out how to use the pieces you have to solve it”. It explores the gameplay of portals a lot more thoroughly than 2 does with its gels.

            Some of the fan content for 2 has provided the latter half of the gameplay that was missing. In particular that one multi-map campaign with the turretcube as the antagonist which sadly I have forgotten.

      • Niko says:

        Yeah, I guess. I can’t remember having a problem with game being too short, though. At least, not in the sense of hours of fun per dollar.

  21. Dave Tosser says:

    I don’t believe turning games into vignettes is a good thing, even if I rarely have the time to enjoy games fully. Let’s not cannibalise them because I’ve got obligations.

    Still, I’m reminded of the intensity of SWAT 3 and 4’s level design, how character and danger were packed into small spaces just by making them feel lived-in. The Fairfax Residence will always stand out as the best thing Irrational ever designed, and that’s counting System Shock and 2 and the undersung wonder of Tribes: Vengeance.

    What’s also notable is that SWAT 3 and 4 have a wonderful sense of openness and cleverness to their levels, which just goes to show that small spaces can do freedom really well. It’s why I’ll always take a hub level over an open world, and why games in the Ultima Underworld/Deus Ex bloodline have so much to teach us.

    Another thing that we rarely talk about is downtime in games, and how having a few moments to poke about without threat really draws you in. The best RPGs know the worth of downtime. Small games, too, tend to keep their pacing.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      Let’s not cannibalise them because I’ve got obligations.

      They’re not cannibalizing the games because we have obligations. They’re doing it because it makes games cheaper to make and if they can spend enough to marketing and tickling the gaming press into giving them positive reviews for “tight, focused games” then they can make out like bandits. Even many of the “good” devs and publishers are really pretty cynical people with a lot of hostility toward their customers. They’re looking for the sweet spot of how little value they can actually get away with before people decide not to pay.

      A sweet spot by the way that was found and passed over some time ago, but the game industry hasn’t seemed to notice, which is why you see entire platforms being built around DRM, such as consoles.

    • Philopoemen says:

      The Fairfax Residence will always stand out as the best thing Irrational ever designed

      Much prefer the Carlyle myself, but I understand what you mean.

    • KenTWOu says:

      The Fairfax Residence will always stand out as the best thing Irrational ever designed, and that’s counting System Shock and 2…

      System Shock 1 wasn’t designed by Irrational.

  22. PopeRatzo says:

    wishes more games were just a vertical slice; ie, shorter and more focused towards a particular experience. I’m with him.

    Everybody who works in the gaming industry wants this. Consumers, not so much. It means a lot less work and greater return on investment for the publishers. If they could only figure out a way to make game buyers pay $59 for a five minute game, it would be the Holy Grail for game devs the world over.

    On the other hand, games that give you lots of content and things to do and can be played for 100 hours are much more popular with consumers, because games are very expensive for what you get. Even the best games.

    Games that have gone the “less is more” route – even well-done games – always get great press because reviewers don’t have to sink a lot of time into playing the game they’re reviewing. But they always get slagged by the people who buy the games. “Game is way too short” they say, and the game cognoscenti sniff and tell them to shut up.

    I wonder, do you think reviewers and game journalists ever read player reviews of games, like on Steam for example? Do they care at all what kind of games people want to buy or are they just trying to make life better for themselves (since so many are indie devs themselves) or the people who send them stuff and pinch their cheeks and treat them like they’re not awful at the big game expos?

    • Xocrates says:

      Of course, you could shorten the game length AND price and solve both problems.

      • KenTWOu says:

        DLC price policy of most of the major publishers tells me that’s not gonna happen.