The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for recovering from the previous day’s excursions. Can peanut M&Ms alone rejuvenate a frail human body?

  • The ever more wonderful Electron Dance turns its attention to the first open world, Mercenary: Escape from Targ. I did not know or had forgotten this game existed, which makes reading about it like stumbling into a parallel dimension.
  • Which brings me, finally, to this: with Mercenary, developer Paul Woakes asked what happens if we took the “simulator” out of FSII, showered the world with stuff to see and gave the player a goal. It is an ancient precursor to the authored open worlds we have seen over the years in the AAA space, with GTA V (Rockstar North, 2013) and Skyrim (Bethesda Game Studios, 2011) being well-known recent examples. However, modern open worlds are heavily dependent on violence as the method of progress whereas Mercenary – like other avant-garde games of the era – does not consider shooting things to be all that important. Mercenary is a secret box game for the self-directed player.

  • Alice sent me this piece of New Train Game Journalism, about a free Steam Workshop scenario for Train Simulator, and it is soothing and lovely.
  • The rain had calmed down considerably by now, there was just a very small drizzle. I was soon at a rough 40mph where I received a single yellow signal. My three early minutes would be out the window by now with this slow train in front of me! I passed the 30mph board and another pair of Class 158s and a pair of Class 101s. A Parcels train was also recessed on one of the slow roads out of Edge Hill southbound, ready for tomorrow’s mail across the country no doubt.

  • Before Human Revolution, before collapse of Ion Storm, the original creators of Deus Ex began work on Deus Ex 3. Joe Martin dug up notes of the original ideas – along with deleted scenes from other games – for a recent talk at Videobrains, the transcript of which is online here.
  • This is not an early version of Human Revolution, which was made by a different studio. This is the original team’s original plans for a third game in the series. Both would have been set before Deus Ex: Invisible War.

    The first is about an augmented Black Ops soldier who goes AWOL upon discovering he’s been used for dodgy dealings. His handlers find him and threaten him with either court martial or his wife’s execution if he doesn’t do one final job.

  • This is an excellent, in-depth and accessible video analysis of a competitive Quake 3 match.
  • You might have heard a lot about the original Elite this past week, due to it being the series’ 30th anniversary. Over at PC Games N, Tom Mayo writes about why Elite matters, contextualizing the game’s ambition and accomplishment all this time later.
  • I remember discovering a Python (all of Elite’s ships were named after species of snake), a huge, sleek trading vessel – lumbering through space, ignoring me. I flew as close as I dared, matched speed, and just… watched it fly. Why was I so fascinated? Because it didn’t care about me. Every other game I played had a world created specifically for me. Everything in it wanted to kill me, sell things to me, or be rescued by me. I was used to being the absolute centre of these fictional worlds – but not here.

  • This look at an awful, budget, knock-off console bought at a flea market is fun. Especially for the bowling game with Dr. Breen in it. Yep.
  • Hey, this John Walker fella is a good writer. I found an old interview by him for our own ‘from the archive’ piece this week, and Eurogamer did the same by pulling out his 2009 diary series Bastard of the Old Republic.
  • Of course, RPGs are always going to have you do things most would consider wrong. Finding a dead body on the ground, who thinks twice before rifling through their pockets to see if they had anything useful? Or an open cupboard in a public area, that no one complains when you open it? That’s free stuff, right? But here the opportunities for wrongdoing made these acts feel perfectly mundane.

  • Stick with Eurogamer to read Martin Robinson’s tale of arcade hunting in Akiba. One of my favourite videogame experiences was walking into the loft of Super Potato in Tokyo and playing The Outfoxies, a game I’d never heard of, for the first time. It is amazing. Robinson captures the thrill of hunting for the obscure.
  • The number of games on display is staggering, the sensory smack of seeing so many of them lined up and switched on in unison overwhelming. Both wind up through floor after floor of cabinets: shooters sit on one, fighting games on another and mixed in are all sorts of esoterica. Taito has a stake in HEY, which makes for some neat curation: at the centre of the shooter floor G Darius, Darius EX and Metal Black all sit together, while on the fringes there’s the three-monitor original sitting alongside the more recent widescreen presentation of Dariusburst.

  • Film director Steven Soderbergh has spoken frequently about watching Indiana Jones in black and white, as it’s a valuable lesson in the framing of shots. He recently backed that up by posting the whole film in black and white with the original sound removed.
  • A list of riots caused by classical music.

Music this week is Pyramid, because I like to be dancing at my desk as I write. I started with Wolf.

51 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Anyone who is interested in composition and cinematography with or without references to Indiana Jones, especially as related to animation, needs to read Temple of the Seven Golden Camels, a blog by one of the story artists on Tangled: link to sevencamels.blogspot.com

  2. Drake Sigar says:

    I remember seeing ‘-Ed’ on the end of bracketed sentences when I was a kid, and always thought it was shorthand for some guy called Edward. Edward got around a lot, popping up in every gaming magazine, but I liked his style.

    • Gog Magog says:

      So one day at like the age of 13 I found out by mere coincidence that Ed was actually a girl. And I was like – yeah, fair enough.

    • Ayslia says:

      That’s adorable.

      Kind of reminds me of how I used to think (as a little kid) Saddam Hussein was Saddam Who’s Sayin’. Saddam had an awful lot to say.

  3. corinoco says:

    Mercenary is sheer brilliance. It is also one of the first games I modded, the other of the era being Ultima 4 which I almost completely rebuilt.

  4. Geebs says:

    Sundays are for concocting nefarious plans.

    The early hours of sunday morning, however, are for playing Defence Grid 2 and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter. The latter of which is a spectacularly good looking game but I’m still unsure if I’m going to end up liking the plot.

    • Tinotoin says:

      Agreed. The Vanishing of Ethan Carter had me totally rapt by it’s lovely-lookishness – but I’m not sure the gameplay wholly gripped me.

    • LionsPhil says:

      My nefarious planning this weekend has been in The Last Federation.

      The Federation now contains all of the “soft” and “strong” races. The remaining outliers are those that destroyed my homeworld.

      Owlballs! Prepare your finest bombs.

      • Kaeoschassis says:

        I’ve been swaying on this one for awhile. Sounds to me like it’s got its claws into you at least. Getting your money’s worth?

        • LionsPhil says:

          It was a gift, so hard to evaluate in that regard. But it’s an interesting spin on 4X, and the varied races and general mild-humoured fluff of it reminds me of MoO1.

          • Geebs says:

            I don’t really do strategy games any more. It’s not like I get turned off by the pace or anything, I just can’t handle all of that responsibility.

    • Gap Gen says:

      Sundays are for inputting temperature in log scaling by accident, getting the table indices wrong, forgetting that not all languages have -=, and multiplying not dividing by density so the universe turns into a uniform plasma and breaks.

      • Geebs says:

        It’s kind of scary to realise that it’s very likely that, in some alternative universes, that actually happened.

        (I still haven’t forgiven myself for the time when I got elasticity wrong and accidentally sent a toddler into orbit)

    • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

      Sundays are for adding even more articles to Pocket until it explodes. At least the articles I tend to get around to reading; the videos, not so much :-(

  5. Jason Moyer says:

    I would definitely like to see a cut of Raiders in high-contrast B&W with just the effects/dialog now. Aside from the titles looking terrible, it’s pretty amazing how good that looks.

    • welverin says:

      See, I think it would be interesting that with just effects and score, no dialogue.

  6. HadToLogin says:

    Love that John Carmack’s quote in Deus Ex article. Shows what’s really wrong with todays gaming.

    • Niko says:

      I’d say it shows what Carmack thinks. Besides, today’s gaming is quite diverse.

      • HadToLogin says:

        Just look at CoD – how single-player gameplay is restricted to show story. Look how missions in GTA were constructed – go EXACTLY this way to see script or see “mission failed”. Look at Gone Home – without story it’s nothing more than google maps’ street view, just with camera in house.

        • Niko says:

          I’d argue about Gone Home, because the story is where the whole game stems from, but story restrictions in some FPS, especially sandbox ones, are often quite dumb indeed.

          • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

            Yeah – Gone Home works because it cuts the gameplay to show its story. GTA and CoD don’t, because they want to have their gameplay cake and eat it too.. with story? Sorry I broked the metaphor

            YMMV. CoD SP can be quite entertaining as a series of set pieces, and there was genuinely gripping stuff in the first MW they achieved by taking away interactivity. But GTA sells itself precisely on the amount of stuff you can do, and then steals them away when it matters.

        • Baines says:

          COD and GTA’s issues with gameplay restriction are half from the story, and half over-restriction.

          The former is when you can’t turn your back on a mission without getting a “Mission Failed”.

          The latter is when you are only allowed to do the mission in a particular way, because the devs have restricted success to one particular method. When your map progress is a linear path not for a logical reason, but because the devs don’t want you to get lost or because they have scripted events and moments that they cannot imagine you not wanting to see. Or when running a target car off the road causes a mission to fail because the devs decided the mission should end when you reach the next intersection, where a cutscene then plays showing your car run the other car off the road. That isn’t gameplay getting in the way of telling a story, that is just an overly restrictive way of telling a story, one that could have been told as effectively without the arbitrary mission cut-off and cutscene.

  7. frymaster says:

    Ah, Mercenary. Who else hated the Palyar Commander’s Brother-In-Law?

    • Caiman says:

      Ah yes, PC BIL. There’s a name I haven’t heard in a long time.

      The best part about Mercenary was flying to the floating platform and throwing yourself off the side.

  8. Shazbut says:

    Regarding the plans for a Deus Ex 3 by the original team, not that I’ve read it yet, but why is this only appearing now, after many thousands of people would have wanted any scraps of any information or trivia for years? I guess a creator of a big hit might have a pretty blaze attitude to their own work and not feel like releasing ideas, even abandoned ones, to the fanbase, but this speaks to a disconnect I feel in this industry. Its like a sequel to system shock could appear on kickstarter tomorrow, get funded in seconds, and I can just hear industry types being surprised at the level of interest

    • HadToLogin says:

      Could be because talking about games-that-never-be takes hype away from game you develop right now.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      Companies usually see no point in releasing that kind of information and devs are all under NDA, so it just disappears in an archive or on some random hard drive, never to be seen.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The two the article focuses on honestly seem a bit weak, although the actual sequel one there’s a snippet of on page 2 (hiding out from the JCHelios god) is a more compelling hook.

      Then again there are other classic games that seem really, really weak in their early drafts.

  9. piratmonkey says:

    The Jedi council can suck it. Revan 4 lyfe.

  10. zapatapon says:

    Mercenary is a major milestone in video game history, it invented many things at once and it is a little sad that it does not receive a recognition as large as it should in this regard. I’ll paraphrase a comment that I made long ago (for an article in RPS where Jim was asking about the best in-game maps) to outline that it also had this incredible map system where you could see the whole city layout from far above when you flew your ship high enough, then you could zoom in seamlessly to any location, like Google earth in a 1985 game.

    • aoanla says:

      More so with the sequel, Damocles, which has a wider scope (although also a time-limit to save the world – not that failing to save the world actually ends the game, you just get to continue playing in a world where everyone else is dead, as far as I remember).

  11. Werthead says:

    MERCENARY was impressive. I remember its sequel, DAMOCLES, was one of the more mind-blowing experiences of playing on the Amiga. A whole star system with multiple cities on multiple planets and moons was laid out, and you were dumped in the middle of it all with just a few hours before a comet crashed into one of the planets and destroyed it. It was very hard, but there was a tremendous sense of atmosphere to being alone in this star system (a few killer automated robot things aside).

    In a similar vein was CHOLO, which came out a few months after MERCENARY and featured a wireframe 3D city on the even more limited BBC Micro, which was arguably even more of a technical achievement.

  12. BooleanBob says:

    Arcade snobbery, or Videogames Are For Everybody (Who Can Afford To Travel The Planet In Search Of Screen-Blur Authenticity).

  13. scottyjx says:

    One of my favorite things about the Mass Effects is being able to justify making an occasional renegade decision, even when playing an otherwise angelic character. KOTOR’s evil choices seemed sooooooooooo cartoonishly villainous!! (That part in KOTOR 2 where you push someone into a pit for almost no reason comes to mind.) Plus, like John, I like being good so much that I’ve still never done a dark side playthrough. Anyway, reading that has me installing KOTOR, so damn you John, etc.

    • scottyjx says:

      Oh, and the strangest thing about reading that KOTOR essay was there was a very very mild criticism of Jennifer Hale! That may have been the first criticism of her I’ve ever read. And I immediately wondered why John didn’t mention Mass Effect before calling myself an idiot.

  14. TonyB says:

    Always good to find someone else who’s even heard of The Outfoxies (let alone played it). Few games manage such an bizarrely twisted set of characters, and the maps themselves are chaotically brilliant. In some ways I’d say it’s the precursor to Super Smash Bros, and more recently The Showdown Effect owes it a lot, but it’s still its own beast and worth experiencing in its own right.

  15. Jac says:

    The bastard of the old republic is fantastic. One of my favourite bits of games writing and inspired me to finally get round to playing kotor after I first read it. Give that guy a job RPS.

  16. RARARA says:

    I’d would appreciate some RPS articles covering documents of games-that-could-have-been. Get down to the archives, chop chop!

    • Bart Stewart says:

      As a first installment, may I suggest the Star Trek: Voyager game that Looking Glass spent 18 months working on after making System Shock and Terra Nova: Strike Force Centauri?

      That’s #1 on my “ones that got away” list. It would be fascinating to paw through some of the project assets for that one, and lament what might have been.

      • RARARA says:

        We could have had a Star Trek game made by Looking Glass Studio?

        I change my mind – the series of articles might turn out to be too painful!

  17. MD says:

    For anyone who enjoyed the the Quake Live duel analysis, here is another, done by arguably the best QL dueler ever: link to youtube.com

  18. MD says:

    I seem to be getting spam-filtered when I try to post the link, so instead I’ll suggest that anyone who enjoyed that Quake Live duel analysis should search for “ESL Classics: Rapha vs. Cooller”. Rapha is arguably the best QL dueler ever, and a really good communicator, so listening to his detailed analysis of one of his own matches is quite enlightening.

  19. Premium User Badge

    FatOak says:

    Peanut M&Ms were often my sustenance of choice on days when I was too lazy to leave the flat. Brings back joyful memories of studying (and gaming) in Glasgow.

  20. ericabrown339 says:

    The sunday paper is like a boring ….. I would like to play video Games……..
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  21. lilianwhite44 says:

    Sundays newspaper are good for relaxing human body with a cup of tea…where he or she can enjoy sunday after full days of work with reading newspaper…sunday newspaper is also special because it contain magezine for children,adults and advertisement as well.

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  22. suzyjazmin says:

    Every thing goes great on working days but i love Sunday. I usually spend Sunday playing video games with my siblings.
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  23. pearlgoldy says:

    I really try too much to make my Sunday working but i only do spend it playing games..

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