The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for recovering from a train journey to nowhere. Best make a tea, put on some new music, and settle down with words about games.

  • Holly Gramazio makes games for places, among other things. She writes in the Guardian about her work.
  • Last month, I worked mostly on Games for Places, a set of games for outdoor spaces, produced by Forma Arts, across East Durham. We designed five games for each of six different sites, and then stencilled them on the ground, along with all the other elements the games needed to work: Get from HERE to THERE, but only step on the paving stones with arrows painted on them, and always face the same way as the arrows. Walk your dog along this path we’ve painted with leaves, and get a point every time it steps on one – unless the leaf is yellow, in which case you lose.

  • Steve Hogarty has not interviewed Peter Molyneux, and has written an article and transcript of that not an interview for PCGamesN.
  • “It’s just down here on the left,” Molyneux barked, his voice now quivering with excitement as he barreled around yet another corner. I was having to jog to keep up. “It’s probably the biggest room I’ve ever seen. Wait, yes, it definitely is. And it definitely exists. And it’s filled with… ehh,” the creator of Populous stopped in his tracks and looked thoughtful for a second, panning his eyes around the corridor until they fell on an oil-painting of a proud shire horse.

  • Sometimes making you appreciate something unnoticed is as simple as pointing at it and going, “Look at this.” Mapcore does just that with examples from The Last Of Us’ level design.
  • A sign of truly great narrative games is the justification of every single camera takeover by placing the played character in a situation that allows for a smooth transition. Here, that’s the only reason this half open door is placed here. Since it’s already half open, like Joel’s bedroom door, there is no “triangle” interaction required. The goal of this door is to justify the exact position of Sarah in her animated entrance into the room, therefore the position of the camera, to allow for a smooth take over for the rest of the cinematic and the entrance and reveal of Joel, the very first in the game.

  • This is short, but that’s all the more reason to read it. A Ukranian game developer writes about their experiences working and forming a company in a country being torn up by war.
  • It’s tough to fall asleep in one country and wake up in another.

    It seems like most people accepted this; however, if you’ve ever owned a business you’ll understand what that change meant. Connections, partnerships, money operations; everything broke.

    Of course, we could’ve adapted with the necessary time, money and effort, but it’s still incredibly difficult when someone makes that decision for you. They’ve decided where you live and you can’t do anything about it.

  • I missed this last month: Paul Dean looks back on Warcraft 2, an entry in the series I never played.
  • We thought it was great because Warcraft 2 was the ideal game for us, for teenagers who needed that perfect mix of the stimulating and the silly. Real-time strategy games were still in their infancy and the mixture of resource-gathering and army management was a new, exciting and constantly stimulating way to play and to fight a war. It felt like you were perpetually spinning plates as you panned your camera across the battlefield, switching between combat and non-combat units, issuing new build orders, making sure your base was protected and sending armies out to further push back the fog of war, that thick black veil, that was draped across all the RTS games of the era. You were both an economist and a strategist. Fail in one role and you could not succeed in the other.

  • Stories of our terrifying virtual reality future are going to be big for the next five years. Here’s Keith Stuart at The Guardian on an artist who wants to live inside a VR headset for 28 days. I’ve used every version of the Rift and I still wouldn’t want to keep it on for 28 minutes, but it’s a shame it looks like the funding for this won’t happen.
  • This feed will be provided by “the other”, a volunteer who will wear a pair of spectacles equipped with cameras that record everything they do from the first-person perspective and send this live to Farid’s headset. The artist will have no other contact with humans. He will live in the experience of this other person.

    The point is discover how adaptable the brain is to another physical body – and whether our sense of self comes from inherent personality or cultural identity. It is, of course, a question philosophy has toyed with for hundreds of years: is the body a mere sensory vessel for the brain, or is identity inextricably linked to its physical manifestation?

  • Kill Screen seem to be cornering the market for specious connections between reality and videogames, but this look at the gameyness of IKEA is still good.
  • For example, the main aisle of IKEA is supposed to curve every fifty feet or so, to keep the customer interested. A path that is straight for any longer than that is called an Autobahn: big and boring. And if you look at the level design of a contemporary first-person shooter, you’ll find the same thing. The path is constantly curving to keep you enticed by what lies around the bend. This path through IKEA creates what’s called “organized walking.” And, like any good tutorial, there are no attendants in the showroom, so you have to figure it out yourself.

    In my day first-person shooter corridors bent to block the player’s view and mask a limited draw distance.

  • I linked the Goldsource Gold tumblr a few weeks ago. Here’s a new one inspired by the same idea, this time for Quake 1 maps.
  • This Chris Rock interview is as good as everyone already said it was.
  • Comedy Cellar all week. If I messed up a word here and there, which I did, it could really be get-him-out-of-here offensive. But you just watch to make sure nobody tapes it. You watch and you watch hard. And you make sure the doorman’s watching. What Patton’s trying to say is, like, comedians need a place where we can work on that stuff. And by the way: An audience that’s not laughing is the biggest indictment that something’s too far. No comedian’s ever done a joke that bombs all the time and kept doing it. Nobody in the history of stand-up. Not one guy.

    More chiptunes this week, though more ambient and relaxed than last time: minusbaby’s Strong Arctic Winds Take Terns.

    40 Comments

    1. RARARA says:

      Molyneux’s actual interviews can be stranger than fiction.

      Those last eighteen words unintentionally shed light on his plight with much more depth and clarity than an entire satirical article.

      • jezcentral says:

        Still, it’s nice to know the spirit of PC Zone is alive and well on PCGN.

        • RARARA says:

          Oh, certainly. I wasn’t berating the article.

          (And I would say quite a bit of PCZ’s spirit still lives on through RPS.)

    2. Yargh says:

      It’s nice to see that Holly is still making fun games for people to play in public. We went to quite a few Hide & Seek events in and around London and had loads of fun with Holly and her friends.

    3. DanMan says:

      Another Molyneux “interview”: link to p4rgaming.com

      Do we not love our chronic under-achiever?

      • AXAXAXAS MLO II: MLO HARDER says:

        That’s satire, right? You can never tell with Peter.

        If this is true I’d imagine him becoming the Pathologic Liar from that SNL sketch. “These health professionals will prevent me from overpromising… in fact, they’ll prevent me from lying at all! Everything I say will be true! Each of these health professionals has spent one hundred years stopping people from lying, and they have all been granted eternal life and flawlsess health professionalism as a reward! One of them is the ghost of Sigmund Freud! And they are fifteen feet tall and made of stone!”

    4. Blackcompany says:

      First I want to qualify the following statement: I am not saying narrative based games should not exist. Or that cut scenes are – by definition – bad. I think gaming has ample space for narrative based games. Perhaps even for cut scenes, when done sparingly and handled well.

      That said…when you’re writing articles that include extensive justification for camera takeover – you aren’t even willing to call it a cut scene – its time to stop and think. Is it really okay to take control away from a player during a game? I am certain that it is ok. As certain as I am that it needs to happen a whole lot less, in a lot fewer games.

      Some sub-genres of video game are perfectly justified in their extensive use of exposition and minimal player control. The Tale Tale games come quickly to mind here. Story is their focus and their purpose and they make no bones about the fact. When you buy a game from Tale Tale, you know you are buying what is in reality a visual version of a choose your own adventure novel – and that is fine. When I buy a novel – even a visual, choose your own adventure version – I expect to have very little control over the goings-on. Comes with the territory.

      When I buy a game, however, I expect to be able to play it. Because…games. Its a ‘by definition’ thing. And yet…I all too often am forced to stop and watch what happens to my character in a game, just as I would have to do with a movie or visual novel. Worse still, the things I am forced to watch usually are either things my character can do but that I cannot do while controlling it, or things which directly impact my game play after the cut scene but over which I have no control. This – pretty much by definition – isn’t actually a game at all. This is more of the visual novel, just with more interaction.

      What I struggle to say in all of this is simply that video game developers – and especially publishers – need to step back and take a hard look at what it is they are really making. For more than a decade they have tried to ape Hollywood. Badly. Often embarrassingly so. Their stories are uniformly awful, with some rare exceptions that rise all the way to ‘pretty good, even great by video game standards.’ Moreover, their presentation is flawed. These stories often try to utilize danger to the protagonist – whom we occasionally control – as a method to build tension. This despite infinite numbers of reloads on death.

      Thus the flow and the believability of narratives in most AAA titles are constantly destroyed by the game mechanics, with which said stories are constantly at odds. Ludonarrative Dissonance and all that. So rather than continue to try and justify what we are now euphemistically calling ‘camera takeover’ how about we look for ways to avoid the perceived necessity of it. How about we try something novel, like allowing players to simply play the game they purchased.

      Edit: tl;dr: I disagree with the article’s author. I think the sign of truly great design in a narrative driven visual novel is writing so good that the player is willing to forego control and enjoy the story with its occasional interactive bits.

      But for a game that features a narrative? Justifying camera takeovers isn’t a sign of good design. Its a sign of design failure. Good design is the ability to deliver your narrative without needing to take the camera or control away from the player in the first place.

      • malkav11 says:

        I feel Half-Life 2 demonstrated quite well why keeping the player in complete control and trying to have any sort of authored, linear narrative don’t mix well. I mean, it’s a lovely game that I enjoyed very much, but what happened when they didn’t use cutscenes is that a) it was both possible and likely that I’d simply be looking the wrong way and miss narrative beats altogether, and b) anytime they had any exposition to deliver it was basically a cutscene except I couldn’t skip it and they had no camera control, for the worst of both worlds. I’d rather just have a traditional cutscene.

        The only way I see it working without anything resembling a cutscene and still having an authored narrative is to deliver all your narrative through player-controlled dialogue sequences and audio/text logs. And that’s fine, to a point, but I think that severely limits your options as to the sort of narratives you can construct. I’d rather just leave the possibility space open. This isn’t to say cutscenes aren’t sometimes abused, but I don’t think they are inherently problematic.

        • Blackcompany says:

          Agreed. Cut scenes themselves are not inherently problematic in my opinion either. I dont think they are themselves the problem. Cut scenes are a tool for storytelling.

          The problem with this particular tool, is its overuse. There are too many of them in too many games. For too long, the emphasis has been placed on the video, as opposed to the game. This makes perfect sense as it allows developers to sell new stories using old mechanics as opposed to actually needing to innovate in terms of game play. More fiscally sound practice.

          Unfortunately, the video game industry has reached a state where it is perilously close to complete stagnation. At least in the AAA sector. And given the yearly decline in sales of AAA titles over the past several years, I wonder how much longer their current model will remain sustainable. Not that the loss of AAA gaming would matter much to me at this point; there are a couple of titles I might miss, and I would feel badly for those employed in the industry if – or more likely, when – it collapses but on the whole I think that collapse would improve gaming as a medium.

          • ivanfyodor says:

            “This makes perfect sense as it allows developers to sell new stories using old mechanics as opposed to actually needing to innovate in terms of game play.”

            The thing is there is only so much innovation you can do. I don’t think its reasonable to expect developers to find new mechanics and gameplay multiple times a year. I mean, there is only so many variations of a FPS or an RPG you can do. But stories are infinite. I want to see developers focus on good storytelling, which quite honestly they suck at now, rather than trying to constantly re-invent the wheel.

            • Hedgeclipper says:

              There’s only seven stories, but;

              FPS
              RTS
              RPG
              Platformer
              grand stragety
              TPS
              puzzle
              choose your own/visual novel
              probably a bunch more I forgot

              therefore, there are more gameplay mechanics than stories!

        • KenTWOu says:

          a) it was both possible and likely that I’d simply be looking the wrong way and miss narrative beats altogether…

          But what if I close my eyes during a cut-scene? What if I blink? Cut-scenes suck, give me a wall of text instead, I could read it myself with my own speed or skip it entirely.

      • ivanfyodor says:

        Idk, but for me cut scenes can be and are a part of game play. After a hard fought sequence of play, I like the slow down of a cut scene; time to take a deep breath and contemplate what I’ve just accomplished. It enhances game play for me.

        But yeah, I think cut scenes are often used to cover up poor narrative. I just don’t think they should go away entirely. I loved Half-life. But I loved Mass Effect as well.

      • Hedgeclipper says:

        yep, cut scenes mostly suck

    5. Randomer says:

      That music is beautiful, Graham! And thanks for linking to a Bandcamp page for those of us that don’t use Spotify.

    6. c-Row says:

      Michel Mony released the second episode of his Retro Mortis series over at GameDev where he looks back at the history of the RTS. The first one covered Dune II and its gameplay mechanics while this one is all about WarCraft and what it did differently.

    7. JimmyG says:

      I got Warcraft 2 in fourth grade because one of my friends had it. I remember him trying to tell me about it, saying it was, like, humans and these green guys called orcs fighting a war. And I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I kept asking, “Like with what? Helicopters and stuff?” It was way offbase, except not really, because there were gnomish gyrocopters and goblin zeppelins. I couldn’t get past the fourth or fifth mission without cheats, though. I think “tigerlily” made you invincible, or you just one-shotted everything. I can’t recall. And I was pretty surprised by some of the cutscenes, like when the orcs storm the keep and put a mace in the human king’s face. I was used to playing good guys, but because humans are so boring I liked playing orcs and building useless turtle submarines.

      • Distec says:

        Hi, I think you’re me.

      • malkav11 says:

        I don’t remember the actual codes, but one of the things that bugged me about cheating in the early Warcraft games (and back then, I was an inveterate cheater), is that the same code gave both god mode for all your units and buildings -and- made your units kill everything in one hit. I wanted regular battles but without the possibility of my side losing, so I really wanted those to be separate cheats.

        I ended up using a weird feature of the level editor to make maps where all the other factions were AI controlled friendly rescuables (who will fight each other until you do rescue them) and turned all the build times and costs down to virtually nothing, with the result that all the AIs would balloon out huge bases and armies and have savage fights all over the map without ever attacking me. (The buildings would all appear to be on fire because apparently that was linked somehow to build time.) Loved that. I’ve tried to replicate it in Starcraft and Warcraft III but it never worked. There didn’t seem to be any way to make them fight each other without involving me, IIRC.

      • sabrage says:

        I remember my friend ecstatically talking about Red Alert 2 when I was 8 or 9 years old and getting so excited that he slurred the two words together. The next time I went to his house, I was disappointed to discover that it wasn’t a new Batman game at all.

        On the other hand, playing Starcraft with my cousin was a revelatory experience.

      • Gap Gen says:

        We had fun with Warcraft 2 in school. A friend and I played co-op against the AI, and weathered a huge number of attacks, then just as we were about to break, the attacks stopped. Turned out the AI had run out of resources faster than we had. Also I had a fun versus game where my friend won the race for the sea so I had to cut through a forest to build a path to another gold mine, and used houses as walls (this was the demo, so I guess walls weren’t in it?)

    8. blastaz says:

      Untill I listened to Chris Rock I never realised that not making fun of Muslims in case you hurt their feelings and political correctness were both features of conservatism…

    9. Jody Macgregor says:

      The IKEA article reminded me of the excellent IKEA WALKTHROUGH v2.3.1. “You start this world armed only with a U.N.IVERSAL FURNITURE-ASSEMBLY ALLEN WRENCH. This is the weakest weapon in IKEA: You will have to hit a person 16 times with it to kill them.” The whole thing is here: link to themorningnews.org

    10. brgillespie says:

      The subject of the guy wanting to “live” in virtual reality for 28 days made me think of a novel called “The Unincorporated Man”. Civilization essentially collapses due to cheap, vivid, true-to-life virtual reality. People begin to live out their lives virtually since it brings an experience that the real world can’t match. Society suffers. To quote a comment from an article online that reviewed the novel, “When a false reality is far more enjoyable than a real one why should we care about the real one?”

      • Gap Gen says:

        One of the Culture books points out that you’re always held back by the need to keep the lights on in the real world; VR isn’t much good if the internet or electricity goes down, and your body still needs nutrients piped into it somehow. There are various people who posit a world where people live in virtual space and their bodies are crammed into pods (or their minds virtualised) to save on space and resources, or just as an extrapolation of capitalism pricing 99% of the world out of basic necessities.

      • TWChristine says:

        It’s not exactly VR, and it’s been a while since I read it, so I could be completely wrong..but I often recall a bit in Fahrenheit 451 where the protagonist’s wife spends all her time in front of the tv wrapped up in the world of her “tv family.” I sometimes think of that in regards to the prevalence of “reality tv” or whatever all those stupid shows (like Honey Boo-Boo) fall under. It seems people are more interested and know more about the life of some random person than they do anything else.

        • Gap Gen says:

          I’ve often wondered if all narrative art falls into this somehow. Like, you’re vicariously experiencing the life of someone else. There are different levels of it, for sure, like how some games can be enriching experiences that teach you something about the world and yourself, and some exist purely to trick your brain into buying in-game currency. But even then, we presumably all play games like Counterstrike or whatever that don’t really have any feedback into our lives, and there’s value in relaxing and not burning out on stuff if it doesn’t elbow out other experiences that would be more fulfilling and make us happier. I often fall into the trap of playing games compulsively because they’re designed to have flow and my brain finds it soothing, rather than doing something more creative or social.

    11. LuNatic says:

      What’s with the art community? If I do something stupid, I’m an idiot. But if I do something stupid and call it art, I suddenly become an amazing visionary, exploring the cutting edge of the human psyche. What the hell, man?