The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for getting organised, but that’s not what we’ll do. We’ll instead put our feet up, play games, eat pizza, and let the work come at its own pace.

  • Electron Dance write about Vault The Grave, a Watch_Dogs meme I missed. After visiting your niece’s grave and grieving, the game offers the same floating button prompt above the tombstone as it offers for all low-walls.
  • I don’t want to shake the Gamer Republic out of its “dumb stupor” and realise how awful this moment is. Your average gamer is not even going to clock it aside from a chuckle. The success of the AAA videogame industry proves that players are pretty good at maintaining a Chinese wall between agency and narrative. Every open world-cum-story has the same problem, the promotion of the world as a system. This is business as usual.

  • As people playthrough the first part of Dreamfall Chapters, a few are looking back at The Longest Journey and Dreamfall to remember what worked and what didn’t. This piece is on Dreamfall.
  • There are obligatory action sections with truly sluggish combat just this side of unplayable, and stealth sections that don’t seem to understand what makes stealth gameplay work – and remember, by spring of 2006, Metal Gear Solid 3 was a year and a half old. Stealth had been nailed on consoles. It’s a game that tries to do many things to update itself, and excels at none of the mechanical ones.

  • It was a Metal Gear Solidy week, for some reason. This following piece uses the game as a brief example, but you should read it for the title if nothing else: Why Killing Orcs In Mordor Is More Intimate Than Sex In Mass Effect:
  • But over a decade later, this segment of gameplay still lingers in my mind, inciting my curiosity. I recently bought MGS2 for the Vita; and as an adult I still find the ways you can interact with the guards to be the most compelling part of the game. Yes, almost all of the possible interactions are somehow violent, and the resulting interplay often becomes sadistic. But there’s something else. Something not many games ever achieve:

    Intimacy.

  • Using Metal Gear Solid as something more than a passing reference, Leigh Alexander takes to Vice to celebrate the third entry in the series. This was interesting because I’ve never played it:
  • Metal Gear Solid 3 is about hunting. And eating. It’s a game where you lie in the grass with your knife out and watch the pale green blades flatten in the distance, a rustling of something moving ever closer. You must not be found. You have to hold still for long stretches, the enemy’s footfall incidentally retreating while you think about dinner. While the snake comes within your arm’s reach.

    It’s also about the low ache of human bones and how a big man’s body can break and bruise inside, with deceptive ease. How I have to fix it, with splint and styptic. This big, big man, this military machine – and it’s me who has to dig out the slugs and sew up the holes.

    It’s about how he wants his mama.

  • I’ve been thinking a lot this past week about DmC, the Ninja Theory-made Devil May Cry reboot that wound up fans of the series but which, I think, still deserved more plaudits and commercial success than it received. To learn a little of what it lacked though, it’s worth reading Rich Stanton’s retrospective of Devil May Cry 3:
  • It doesn’t sound like the biggest deal in the world, but it changed the way I thought about fighting games forever; if nothing else, it made me realise how terribly I’d been playing them. The whole point of cancelling is to step outside a combat system’s confines. When Dante swings the frames at the end of the animation are dead time – he’s recovering before the next move. Cancelling lets you circumvent this, and attack again immediately. Using Rebellion and the Royal Guard style I understood exactly that much. Then a friend introduced me to the work of Saurian.

  • Another week, another Shut Up & Sit Down piece worth your time. This is Brendan and Pip on Dog Eat Dog. Bring tissues:
  • Brendan: Dog Eat Dog is one of those rare games we come across that do not necessarily have ‘fun’ as the end goal but, like Freedom: The Underground Railroad, try to impart some wisdom on their way through your life. It is thoughtful and intelligent and just a little uncomfortable. It’s a game with a point to make and it makes it worryingly well. If I were to describe it using SUSD’s internal style guide, “Rulez, Regulationz and Ztuff” I would call it an indie RPG about the colonisation of an island and the resultant back ‘n’ forth between ‘native’ and ‘occupier’. But since I already burned my style guide when it suggested I use ‘paragraphz’, I will have to settle for this description:

    Dog Eat Dog should be taught in schools.

  • The co-founder of Dames Making Games was interviewed by the Financial Post about what the organisation has done, is doing:
  • After our first 6-week workshop in July 2012, we decided to incorporate as a not-for-profit so we could fundraise and better plan our programs and activities without relying on volunteer labor. And here we are, 100 events, 20 workshops, 4 intensive incubators, 120 women speakers, 250 incubator and jam participants later! Our members have made more than 400 games, many of which have been honored at industry festivals such as Indiecade, Boston Festival of Games, Gamercamp and the Game Developers Conference and exhibited internationally.

  • This piece on Ludum Dare entry Terminal will make you want to play what it describes as a horribly broken game:
  • In Terminal we play as a space station operator tasked with organizing traffic around our port. Although this is our job description, throughout the game we’ll only actually deal with one ship, so in the game’s present scenario this means waking the crew of the damaged Cygnus from cryostasis and ordering them via command line to prepare their vessel for docking.

    Fantastic premise. So far so good.

  • We’ll do a proper, round-up Complete Survival Week post tomorrow, but if you missed any of the features that went up over the past week, it’s worth visiting the Survival Week tag page. I’m especially fond of the game diaries, like Adam’s three-parts on NEO Scavenger. What genre or topic should we celebrate next?
  • This is neat.

Music this week is the gloomy dance beats of Carpenter Brut.

45 Comments

  1. Melody says:

    I enjoyed this week’s Papers a lot more than usual! (Just because the list reflects my interests more than other weeks)

    I’d like to add:
    this long and compelling piece on games culture, ideology, games’ broader cultural value, and enjoyment vs inflicting pain to the player. It’s hard to sum it up, honestly, just read it.
    link to ellaguro.blogspot.it

    Mattie Brice’s piece on her (and other people’s) decision to leave the game industry proper and focus on “the edges of play”, minoritized voices and being a person, not just a victim. (Squinky’s last game was much to the same effect)
    link to mattiebrice.com

    • pepperfez says:

      I really love reading Ella Guro and for some reason I keep forgetting to. Thanks for linking that!

    • psepho says:

      Mattie Brice is such an insightful critic. It is a real shame that she decided to pull out of the industry.

      It is so disheartening the way that disgusting co-ordinated harrassment has sent so many of the most interesting critics, writers and makers in the games field running for the hills. I look back at the people I really enjoyed reading 12-18 months ago and a huge swathe of them have basically been bullied off the page.

      It is profoundly frustrating to know that while it would be very easy for me as a random internet person to contribute to the harassment (like any other anonymous sump-dwelling troll) there is bugger-all that I can usefully do to help challenge/resist it. If anyone, RPS bosses included, has useful suggestion for things that random internet people can do proactively in response to the abusers and gamergate people, then do share them.

      • SuicideKing says:

        Yeah, even if we try and confront the harassers while they’re at it, it often just highlights them or draws more to their cause…this is something I’ve been pondering for a while too. How do normal, sane, people like us counter the harassers? They’ll be a vocal minority after all…

        • pepperfez says:

          I increasingly think the best that individuals can do is lobby the platforms — Twitter, Facebook, smaller fora — to improve their moderation policies. This article in The Atlantic talks about the systemic problems that empower trolls and abusers rather than their victims. Twitter just recently began accepting reports of abuse against third parties, which is a (stupidly long overdue) step in the right direction, and hopefully the scale of fuckery taking place currently will convince the people in power that indifference isn’t on the side of free speech.

  2. PopeRatzo says:

    Leigh Alexander takes to Vice

    Thanks for that one. I’m all about giving Leigh as many clicks as possible right now.

  3. David Bliff says:

    That Thrusting Pens article is really, really good. I’m sort of taken aback by it, wow.

    • wraithgr says:

      Really? It felt very much “duh” to me.. Comparing the main gameplay mechanic of one game with a tertiary one of another is not really valid in my opinion… And although I agree with the closing comment that there should be more games where your method of interaction with the world isn’t a bazooka, that is so much less valid now than it was 5 or 10 years ago that this also feels a bit “duh”…

  4. Synesthesia says:

    Rythm games! There arent many on pc, though. Horror? Walking simulators? Flight! Flight could work. I would love to see more of these sort of weeks. This was fun.

  5. kwyjibo says:

    Playboy did a feature on League of Legends. Not as good as the NYTimes feature a few weeks back, but still worth a read.

    link to playboy.com

  6. Luringen says:

    Just finished MGS3 on an emulator. The camera controls on the PS2 version was so bad, but apart from that it might be one my favorite games ever.

    • Wedge says:

      Were you running the original instead of the Subsistence re-release? They added a more standard controllable third person camera to that. Was still a bit wonky, but not as bad as the awful camera in the default game.

      • Luringen says:

        Original version, didn’t know of a re-release beyond the HD Collection. Oh well, I still enjoyed it.

  7. Tiax says:

    Fuck yes, Carpenter Brut is awesome. He’s on the next Hotline Miami OST and the guy behind Perturbator once said that Carpenter Brut was 10’000 times better than him, literally.

    • Eight Rooks says:

      That wouldn’t be too hard, ohohohohoho yeah, I went there. Sorry, not a fan of Pertubator.

      Couple of synthwave things that caught my eye recently, though, FWIW – a nifty-looking iOS endless runner called Vector: The Courier, out this week – take a look at the trailer – and I discovered Moderns, who’ve made one of the best blippy self-consciously retro releases I’ve heard all year. Love this track so much.

    • liquidsoap89 says:

      Big fan as well. It’s an oddly choice of music for lots of games I play, such as The Binding of Isaac.

    • Monggerel says:

      That guy is correct.
      But whoever MOON is would probably never feel compelled to say the same about themself, justifiedly.

    • Dapper Dan says:

      I never usually bother with “This weeks music”, but clicked it this week for some reason and yeah, that tune is sick.

      • smokiespliff says:

        It’s always usually good! I used to prefer Jim’s music but Graham’s is good too :)

  8. malkav11 says:

    If you’re to play any MGS, so far 3 would be the one to play. It’s a prequel, so it requires less encyclopedic knowledge of the bizarre backstory. It’s the funniest, most monomaniacally detailed, has the best boss fights (at least of the main series – not familiar enough with all the handheld games to judge; but probably)…it’s a heck of a thing.

    That said, I’ve never felt that the MGS franchise handles stealth particularly well. They’re stealth -action- games, not stealth games, and they balance uneasily between those two poles. There’s a lot more mechanical weight behind the action but it’s disincentivized everywhere except boss fights. I dunno, it bugs me.

    • Bull0 says:

      I dunno, the combat was generally pretty fiddly until the more recent iterations of the series whereas the stealth is heavily designed (lots of stealth-assisting gadgets, enemies and cameras with understandable, repetitive search patterns, etc). I’m finding Alien:Isolation, another “stealth” game, hugely frustrating at the moment because I’m more used to the Metal Gear way of doing things, and there aren’t the same cues and level of predictability to A:I’s antagonists (and the setting makes that a good choice, it’s just not what I’m used to).

      • Geebs says:

        If I remember correctly, Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory came out about the same time as MGS3 and crapped on it from a height as far as stealth gameplay went, even if the story basically didn’t exist.

        • Bull0 says:

          Each to their own, I’d only really recommend the classic Splinter Cells to insomniacs.

          I remember, as a 10 year old, having a Playstation t-shirt I was given as a gift. I wore it to the supermarket once, and another child felt the need to yell at me, “N64’s much better mate”. That’s a lot like what you just did! Sorry, you just brought that memory back, clear as a bell, and I had to share.

          • Geebs says:

            Well, that kid was…at a confusing stage in their life, obviously. It’s not really a platform wars thing, it’s that Splinter Cell had a camera setup (and a crawling mechanic) that actually made sense and let you see things; and the light-shadow thing in SC was a lot less menu-heavy and a lot more intuitive than all that dicking about with camo in MGS3. Subsistence obviously helped a lot there.

            But yeah, if you like Metal Gear, then Chaos Theory is a pretty terrible Metal Gear game :-p

      • malkav11 says:

        There are mandatory boss fights, only some of which have any stealth component to them, and mandatory combat sequences. There are a ton of weapons and gadgets that are clearly not useful in stealth and not actually that many that help with it (and beyond that, you’re encouraged to use nonlethal approaches and most of the gear is lethal). And, at least until MGS3, stealth seemed to largely boil down to memorizing patrol patterns, staying out of line of sight, and not making noise (i.e., moving slowly, for the most part). 3 introduces a camouflage system where you might be able to get away with entering an enemy’s line of sight as long as you blend in well enough and they’re not too close.

        Don’t get me wrong, they’re both clearly core components of gameplay and you’re correct that the combat isn’t nearly as robust as it would be in a dedicated shooter (one of the ways the game disincentivizes using it to solve problems, as I mentioned), but I would argue neither is the stealth as robust as it is in dedicated stealth titles like the Thief games, early Splinter Cell games, etc.

  9. Fenix says:

    Really enjoyed the Dreamfall piece, probably because the writer’s opinions were mirroring mine :)

    Oh and in case there’s still people that haven’s seen this incredible TLJ screenshot: link to i.imgur.com

  10. ZPG Lazarus says:

    The Vault the Grave article made me think about the new Civilization game. But there’s a difference between minor QA issues and major gameplay issues not noticed by QA.

    I bought it and the multiplayer’s terribly broken. Almost all matches freeze and revert to the loading screen after turn one. Basically games with more than 4 players are currently unplayable.

    One one hand, I understand AAA game development isn’t black and white. I’d like to give Firaxis the benefit of the doubt.

    On another hand, you can’t help comparing Beyond Earth now with Civilization 5 with all the DLC/patches. Civ5 multiplayer isn’t great but it’s miles ahead of this game. I can’t help think, hasn’t Firaxis figured this out by now? They really didn’t see this coming?

    • David Bliff says:

      Not that it excuses apparently terrible QA (haven’t tried multiplayer yet) but I think it’s pretty misguided to think of Civ games as AAA. It’s a flagship series for PC gamers for sure, but I don’t think they have terribly big teams or big budgets.

      • Wulfram says:

        This article from Ars Technica

        link to arstechnica.com

        estimates that Civ V is owned by more than 5 million people. If it’s generating those sorts of sales, it really should have an AAA budget.

      • Archonsod says:

        Given the multiplayer runs across Steam I doubt Firaxis’ Q&A department had anything to do with it.

  11. JayG says:

    As a old time adventure player I’ve recently been playing the Longest Journey, and it reminds me why I gave up on the genre in the first place. I can really see the quality in it, way the characters interact and the world they created, but some of the puzzles are so obscure that they make the Ripper seem reasonable. And April does some really crappy things for no real good reason. Still enjoying it but it will never replace the classic Lucasarts games for me.

    • Arglebargle says:

      I tried Dreamfall, but the control scheme and UI was so terrible that I just deleted it all. I could tell there was a cool game there, but when you can’t even walk down the street without careening into walls and such, it just wasn’t worth it. Design things so folks can set up the interface they are comfortable with.

    • joa says:

      I also tried playing The Longest Journey and I like everything about it except for the gameplay. Figuring out which item to use on what and which items to combine with others to make some mad contraption is often beyond me. The writing is quite charming though.

    • Lagran says:

      I admit, I’ve taken to keeping a walkthrough on hand to guide me through some of the more difficult puzzles. Of course, I came across a section that’s made me shelve the game in annoyance for the time being (some spoilers, naturally):

      So, I picked up the chattering monkey toy at the beginning of the game. Used it to get the person working at the old cinema out of the screen. Went through to Arcadia. Came back and am in the police station. Only find out that I need to replace the detective’s eye with one from the monkey toy I picked up earlier. Oh, you didn’t look at the toy and prize out an eye? Guess you’ll have to see if you can backtrack to find it. And also hope that the sequence of events you set up to get into the back area of the police station stays in place and you don’t have to do it again.

    • drygear says:

      My biggest problem with the TLJ is that some of the conversations go on way too long with a lot of boring exposition. And the characters with the voices you least want to hear are the ones with the longest monologues during their conversations. The nadir is a character whose name kind of sounds like the word “obnoxious” which is fitting because he talks obnoxiously slowly and drones on for ages.
      Last time I played it got to the point where I’d get out my DS during the more drawn out conversations and play on that while half listening to what they were saying in TLJ.

      Still worth it though. Thinking and talking about it is making me want to play it again.

  12. Gap Gen says:

    Re: Terminal, it’s good that people aim to fail heroically rather than succeed within their comfort zone in jams. I’ve learned a lot from making broken jam entries trying out new ideas in a forced setting. If the game doesn’t work, then it’s still a good way for the designers to learn what does and get feedback from the idea. I’d much rather spend two minutes poking around with an interesting idea than play another side-scrolling shooter whipped up in 48 hours.

  13. kalirion says:

    Every open world-cum-story has the same problem

    I’ll take your word for it, since I don’t play those types of games… honest! >_>