The Sunday Papers

Easter weekend waylaid my ability to gather papers last Sunday, which means that my link document is overflowing. Quick! Let’s splurge everything as fast as we can.

  • Chris Livingston has been playing Pillars of Eternity as a part of bears, as his wont.
  • I’ve been playing Pillars of Eternity as a ranger, and her companion animal is a bear. It follows her everywhere and can be sent into combat. After a few hours of play, I asked myself the same question we probably all have at some point: “Can I play Pillars of Eternity as all bears?”

    Short answer: of course not. However, a long time ago a very wise in-flight magazine told me that success is a journey, not a destination. Here’s how I tried to complete a quest in Pillars of Eternity as a bunch of bears, and almost actually did it.

  • This case study on Clash of Clans – “What is the secret behind the financial success?” is hilarious, disagreeable nonsense.
  • “Melt’s concept of time is new and somewhat unknown. It has features from both the immaterial and material world and it varies according to the viewpoint. Clash of Clans uses this brilliantly!

  • Simon Parkin at the Guardian scored a coup by interviewing Hidetaka Miyazaki, the creator of Dark Souls and more recently Bloodborne.
  • Miyazaki describes himself as a difficult child. “Unlike most kids in Japan, I didn’t have a dream,” he says. “I wasn’t ambitious.” He eventually found himself aimlessly pursuing a degree in social science at the well-respected Keio University. As he approached graduation, he considered applying to a game development studio, but drifted into a job at the US IT company Oracle Corporation.

    Several years later, he started thinking about video games again. He met up with some former college friends who suggested new titles to play. One was Ico, a mystical fairytale in which players assume the role of a boy who must lead a waif-like girl by the hand along a castle’s craggy ramparts, pursued by their ghoulish captors. “That game awoke me to the possibilities of the medium,” says Miyazaki. “I wanted to make one myself.”

  • In response to a group of headteachers who treatened to report parents who let their children play 18-rated games, an anonymous teacher has written an article on Eurogamer contextualising the letter both in terms of why headteachers felt it was necessary and how games are affecting children in class. A debate worth having.
  • It’s a very real impact. I’ve personally not seen children acting more violently because of games. The impact is more them being frightened of things they’ve seen or things they’ve played. Five Nights at Freddy’s was very popular in our school for a while. Five Nights at Freddy’s doesn’t sound particularly frightening. It’s on the App Store. It’s one that could fly under the radar of a lot of parents.

    I had two children in particular who’d been nodding off at their desks. When you speak to them separately they all say, ‘oh I couldn’t sleep because I was scared of this game’ they’d either been playing, or their friends had coerced them into playing. I think that’s a problem.

  • I like reading about how all journalism is doomed, because it means I won’t be surprised when I end up homeless. Here’s The Economist’s Tom Standage on their digital strategy, which I think is meant to be in some ways hopeful. I like the implicit trickery in comments like the following, though.
  • And I know everyone says that, but in our case it really is true, because what we actually sell is what I like to call the feeling of being informed when you get to the very end. So we sell the antidote to information overload — we sell a finite, finishable, very tightly curated bundle of content. And we did that initially as a weekly print product. Then it turns out you can take that same content and deliver it through an app.

  • This is quite the headline: Fans have dropped $77M on this guy’s buggy, half-built game. Star Citizen gets the Wired treatment.
  • Knight was one of the 200 people who bought a $2,500 Javelin Destroyer. Why not? A month later, he upgraded to the special $10,000 Wing Commander package, which includes 44 ships and access to a private, in-game VIP spaceship lounge called the 1 Million Mile High Club. He’s declined some of the other perks he’s earned, such as the chance to spend a day with Chris Roberts. “He has better things to do,” Knight says. Like finish the game.

  • This Sunday Papers spreads across two weeks’ worth of links, which means that you get a second Simon Parkin article. This one is on Eurogamer and is about how eSports winners might use drugs. Which sounds absurd until you consider how many eSports are reflex and concentration based and how quickly those things fade as you age.
  • Adderall, referred to by some users as ‘Addy’, is a prescription amphetamine usually prescribed to treat narcolepsy and treat attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. In sufficient doses, Adderall (and other related drugs such as Vyvanse and Ritalin) greatly increase the user’s ability to concentrate and ward off fatigue. As such, it’s often referred to as a “smart drug”, infamously used by students who need to study for extended periods. But Adderall has other side effects. It can improve reaction times, cognitive control and even temporarily build muscle strength – properties that make it an ideal enhancement for athletes.

  • Nathan Ditum spent some time with Dying Light and found a bridge that reminded him of the possibilities of videogames. Which isn’t bad going, really.
  • I did not die. So much so that I was able to swim to the base of the next section of bridge, where I found a small platform I could climb onto. From here, a doorway into the hollow interior of the support. A way up! Also, a way of falling down. My parkour skills were put to the test inside this concrete tower, where an unconventional design had seen a ladder eschewed in favour of a series of hazardously navigable ledges and platforms.

    This was the beginning of my love affair with the geography of the bridge. I didn’t write it any letters, but we spent many sunsets together, which often led to me being brutally murdered when the sun finished setting and marauding superzombies arrived. I loved how my exploration was rewarded, how my intuitive hope had been anticipated and turned into interactive space, and that there were layers to this place worth uncovering. I loved the stark angles of the architecture, the pleasure and freedom of clambering across it. And I loved that it nothing to do with what I was supposed to be doing.

  • The Private Eye is a pay-what-you-want comic by Brian K. Vaughn and Marcos Martin about a world in which all the personal, private information of the internet has spilled out into the world.
  • It’s the fifth anniversary of Joel Goodwin’s Electron Dance, which makes it a good time to flip through this list of the site’s nine most popular articles and see if there’s anything you missed.
  • Edge Staff, that most prolific of authors, has posted an old magazine article over at its new home at Games Radar+. It’s on the collapse of Star Wars Galaxies, an MMO too interesting for this world.
  • The game’s scope could belong to an unlikely sounding Kickstarter pitch, so perhaps it’s little wonder that Sony Online Entertainment shuttered its Star Wars MMOG in December 2011. In its final form, Star Wars Galaxies was a mess of contradictory creative urges whose design and technological foundations had been stripped out from under it – but it was an ambitious mess, the type of game that players often ask for but rarely get.

  • Megagames are games that are mega, like boardgames played by three hundred people. That’s the case in Watch the Skies, in which players take control of the countries of the world in the midst of a potential alien contact situation. Shut Up & Sit Down were invited to take part in a recent session in London and recorded their experiences as it happened. Part one is here, part two is linked at the bottom of that post.
  • Last year, we were invited by the UK Society of Megagame Makers to save the world from aliens in a colossal 60 person game titled “Watch the Skies”. You can see our floundering, corruption and “charm offensives” as the nation of Japan in this video.

    This year the Society invited us back for the sequel. With over three hundred players, this would be the most mega megagame ever staged. A game so big that the Pope was not only a player, he had his own team.

  • What could be more uncouth than promoting ourselves? I know, right. But there’s been some great work on these pages of late, including a couple of wrapped series that you should read in their entirety now if you haven’t already. First up, Rab Florence’s six-part video series on his gaming past and how those memories have shaped him. Second up, videogame scientist Michael Cook’s five-part text series on gaming’s future and how you, me and academia can play a part in crafting a more exciting tomorrow. Also, if you’re not reading Alec’s Cities: Skylines succession diary, you really ought to be: part one, part two. OK, cool.

Music this week is the new Makeup and Vanity Set album. It’s all moody, throbbing, electronic, much of it instrumental, but you should start here. It’s all streamable, but you can buy it and get a short film alongside.

36 Comments

  1. welverin says:

    I’ll second the recommendation for the Private Eye, but then Vaughn is one of those authors who’s reliably good (go read Saga).

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      Graham Smith says:

      I’m only a few issues in to Saga, but Runaways is one of those comics I recommend to people who don’t read comics.

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        Thirith says:

        Runaways is one of those things that very much scratches the Whedon itch I had after finishing Buffy and Angel. Vaughn’s style is similar without being overly derivative, and he’s got many of the same strengths (great characters and snappy dialogue). I can very much recommend his Pride of Baghdad (also gorgeous to look at) and Y: The Last Man (not all of it is great, but enough is fantastic to make it worthwhile).

        • malkav11 says:

          If I recall correctly, the next person to write Runaways -was- Whedon.

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            Thirith says:

            You do recall correctly. Ironically, Whedon’s run did a much worse job (IMO) at capturing that kind of Whedonesque surrogate-family-up-against-a-larger-evil. Whedon’s done some great comics, but his Runaways was much, much weaker, even at the things he usually excells at, than Vaughan’s.

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            Graham Smith says:

            Agreed about Whedon’s run on Runaways and on Pride of Baghdad. I’ve read the first four-ish trades of Y: The Last Man, but really should go back to it.

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            Thirith says:

            Graham: As far as I’m concerned, Y suffers somewhat from starting great and never quite living up to that start (it’s largely good to very good, but it feels like a series that has gone on too long at times) – but the very end is breathtakingly done. The last four pages are among the most perfect that Vaughan has ever done IMO, and they wouldn’t work as well with everything that has gone before.

  2. frogmanalien says:

    That Clash of Titan’s “Melt” slide show is a truly horrible thing (not least for the slide show format and awful transcript (using a space between words is an innovation I thought even web slide sites had mastered). I’d love to see some actual stats on these games versus the “failures” of the free-to-play market to get a better feel of just how “long tail”-ian the market is as the size of the market suggests there must either be a lot of gamblers playing in the market or a robust long tail industry of F2P. Where Clash of Titan’s has never appealed to me, mobile games seem like a mass market product that leverages volume of customers- but I still struggle to believe there’s much good money in F2P (except for maybe the top 10 games) on PC where the market is more heavily saturated with low cost and free content, is likely much smaller, and perhaps has a more mature user base in terms of game taste (nobody, I think, is looking for a Clash of Titan’s PC edition, but many would love to see their particular PC classic on mobile).

    • TechnicalBen says:

      As satire the slideshow works perfectly. It makes a joke of the buzzwords while allowing discerning viewers to understand the real “con/mistake/exploitation” of the system being shown…

      … well, that is true until you realise it’s not satire. :(

    • Shuck says:

      I’m wondering if whoever put that slideshow together had ever seen a F2P game before – there’s no analysis there that distinguishes that particular game from any other (non-successful) F2P game at all. But given that the whole “melt” thing seems to be a silly attempt to frame discussions about the digital in a way intended to make it seem like they have some amazing new insight when they actually don’t, that’s not surprising.

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        FhnuZoag says:

        I think it’s really the other way round: someone is trying to sell their Grand New Paradigm of Business Practice (Melt), and sought out this as an example of it.

  3. kwyjibo says:

    Spend $10,000 on Clash of Clans and you’re a fucking idiot whale/victim of the in app purchasing scourge that we must legislate against.

    Spend $10,000 on Star Citizen and you’re a patron of the arts/renaissance man who’s taste in veblen goods is so much more sophisticated than those gaudy gold Apple Watch wearers.

    • TechnicalBen says:

      While very close together, at the moment Star Citizen is at least the option to pay for art. As there is no gameplay. It may be the option to pay for “advantage” later when gameplay is added. Which with both SC and CoC boils down to paying for an integer on a computer to go from 1 to 100 (xp/gold/build time etc) and is entirely exploitative and arbitrary.

      It’s the same as charging real money for monopoly money per use. (First time purchase of the board game excluded of cause)

      • drinniol says:

        No game play in SC? I must have been imagining things, then.

    • Deadly Sinner says:

      While I would never advocate spending $10,000 on either, that money is (as far as we know right now) helping make a bigger, more ambitious game if it goes to Star Citizen, while that money is pretty much for advertising and profit if it goes to Clash of Clans.

    • DrollRemark says:

      I like you, you can stay.

  4. unangbangkay says:

    As an interesting aside to the teacher’s statement on Eurogamer is the account of Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik speaking to his local PTA about games and ESRB ratings, etc.* It’s a good reminder that huge swathes of the audience, including people that are technically in the same age or demographic bracket lack the knowledge base your average gamer takes for granted. Like the other article said, many parents mistake age ratings for difficulty rather than content.

    link to penny-arcade.com

    • TechnicalBen says:

      True. I hope others get more education on the problems. It also extends to social media and the internet in general. Just try teaching someone that the “internet” is not a guarantee the webpage shown is the company/product/organisation they are looking for. Or that their facebook etc can be seen be the entire world and not just their friends (when left public).

      While it’s understandable some have no context of background to build on, and we need to start from the very beginning and work hard to help them understand, sometimes there are those who ignore the help. Game/film ratings can come up against a lot of “not bothered” parents. :(

    • Geebs says:

      When I was a kid, I would never have come up with a lame excuse as to why I was nodding off in class in order to avoid discussing the real and much-more-likely-to-get-me-in-trouble reason. It’s reassuring to see that today’s kids are no different!

    • DrollRemark says:

      I don’t think it’s difficulty that parents associate with the age rating, per se, but more the ‘maturity’ of it. As in, “Oh yes, our Timmy is very mature for his age, he’s even played GTA.” Not that they think there’s any challenge in the difficulty (because it’s not that hard a game, lets be honest), but more that their kids are somehow cleverer for grasping such a big, complex game.

      When we were younger, there was much the same discussion around films. I watched several over-18 films before I was anywhere near that age, as I imagine most other people did too. As the article states, it’s not so much a hard rule, more that parents need to be well aware of the complexities of the games their children play. But then, how do you do that without being over-controlling?

  5. ribby says:

    I can vouch that Watch the Skies will be amazing

    The first one had me laughing out loud many many times

  6. Muzman says:

    Regarding the Eurogamer article on parents and games;

    It’s something of a side matter but after hearing and reading a lot about the UK rating systems on Kermode and so forth, its notable just how concerned the whole apparatus is with scaring children. It’s hard to say which came first but I’ve noticed it reflected in the public somewhat as well, with great attention being paid to whether or not something might be scary for the kids. We’re not talking about some torture porn here. This is marginal stuff like villains in children’s animations.

    Perhaps I haven’t looked hard enough but I don’t think I’ve found another western culture so concerned about upsetting kids in this way. I mean down to the minutiae of the kid not being disturbed at all by anything ever until he or she is 15 or something. Or so it would seem sometimes. Even if it’s not that bad, this seems a very strongly held concern among the English. I don’t know if anyone else has observed this.

    I’m all for making parents pay more attention to what their kids consume, but the way that teacher brought it up reminded me of this observation. Here I guess I do think it does seem a little overwrought. And it is because I consumed scary stuff when I was nine, I have to say. I sought it out precisely because of the frisson of potentially being scared. And you know, I was. They told me not to watch Alien, or The Thing or whatever else. But there’s always that kid with the older brother who has seen it and wants you to come see it too (I always say, if a parent is serious about making sure their child is not exposed to bad stuff “too early” by any measure, don’t let them near older children, period, and don’t have more than one unless they’re twins. Older brothers and sisters are the cause of all the best/worst stuff).

    That was just life though. A month of no sleep without suffocating amounts of blankets etc would usually result. But you got over it after a while.

    Now, there’s degrees of this stuff. It’s not all equal. You don’t go from gory sci-fi films to, Saving Private Ryan to any other horrors out there as they are thematically similar yet separated by a grand canyon in terms of impact. So some care is always necessary. I’d put FNAF’s at the bottom end however.
    If they need some heavy handedness with games as a way in with kids who are so neglected they are staying up all night watching let’s plays, then fine. By all means.
    But that article was another example to me of Englanders seemingly being inordinately worried about kids being scared.

    • DrollRemark says:

      Funny, Alien was one of the films I immediately thought of as I was writing my comment above. I can’t remember how old I was when I first watched it, but I was a long way of the legal age.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      This should give you both a warm fuzzy feeling, and hope for humanity yet:

      link to rogerebert.com

  7. Zenicetus says:

    That Wired article on Star Citizen didn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. There is a rabid group of supporters with faith in Roberts, and nobody knows exactly how this will all turn out, or when. End of story. It seemed like a filler article to me, with a sensationalist headline to grab views.

    Also no mention of Elite as a contrast in development style for a Kickstarter, both pro and con (and there are both with that game), which was odd.

    • Zallgrin says:

      I have to strongly to disagree with you.

      Most interesting thing about Star Citizen is how its marketing works and how they manage to sell virtual ships for such insane sums by making people invested in this universe and its fictional starships. They first write a love poem for each starship, make a detailed plan with huge charts detailing every characteristic of the ship and then create a few commercial and rake in the money.

      Star Citizen is not a very interesting game, nor is its creator or fans very interesting, but the marketing angle? Damn, that needs to be studied in detail. I am highly fascinated by it. Selling people dreams is a skill not many people have.

      • Zenicetus says:

        I guess I’m not seeing any major difference here to what Detroit has been doing for ages, when they market a new car. It starts with insider previews in the car magazines (web sites, these days), then sexy displays at car shows, and then the TV commercials hit a few months before the car arrives at your local dealership. Star Citizen is just borrowing marketing concepts that have been around for years, when there is a significant delay between new model introductions.

        “Selling the dream,” yes… but that’s old hat in advertising. The only difference here is the amount of time people are willing to wait for the product.

      • Zenicetus says:

        Sorry for a second post, but I just thought of an even better example. Have you ever taken the a potential buyer’s tour through the model homes in a new real estate development? You’re shown a few sample homes built next to a huge vacant area. These sample homes are nice and pretty, but nobody actually lives there. You watch video presentations about all the lovely things that will appear like schools and community centers. People are asked to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to buy into this dream.

        One of the more extreme examples was when I once took a tour through the “Celebration” development Disney was hawking outside of Orlando, Florida. Here’s a Gizmodo article about that:
        link to gizmodo.com

        And sometimes it *really* doesn’t work, like when the housing economy goes bust, and you get something called a “zombie suburb” with vacant houses and tumbleweeds blowing through the streets. Here’s an article in the Atlantic about it:
        link to theatlantic.com

        Let’s just hope Star Citizen doesn’t turn out that way. But the point is that the basic marketing ideas — taking advantage of people’s hopes and dreams, taking pre-orders on nonexistent product — are not new.

  8. stringerdell says:

    Guardian interview with the From software guy is fantastic

  9. anthonygomez says:

    Really interesting, I saw these Sunday papers on social media while i was trending on wealth generators it was so weird lol.. I saw that they are coming out with the latest Star Wars it looks so REAL i litterly cannot wait until they get released..

  10. caff says:

    That POE Bears article had me in tears, particularly the bit on the bridge!

  11. malkav11 says:

    I know Galaxies has its (rabid, adoring) fans, but for me it really is a perfect example of what people are asking for when they focus on ambition and innovation to the exclusion of all else. I.e., a trainwreck that was one of the most miserably unfun gaming experiences I’ve ever had. I’d so much rather have a polished, successful game that has no real ambition and innovates not at all than an ambitious mess like Galaxies. Sure, best of both worlds is when you get something that really breaks the mold -and- is polished and successful at all its aims, but those games are the exception, not the rule.

  12. Kempston Wiggler says:

    Electron Dance’s article on the Mercenary series is a brilliant read. I missed the first game entirely, hankered after the second, Damocles, for years and finally got into the series with Mercenary 3. It’s just an incredible experience and a burning crime that it was never understood, copied, developed….I mean where else can you find a game that allows you to leave the world you’re on, fly around a reasonably accurately modelled solar system, then land on another, city to city, all having working public transport systems?

    Of course being the age it is the experience lacks so much fidelity that we’re used to taking for granted these days, but if even ONE developer could pick this ball up and run with it…how about you, Indie scene? Up for a challenge??

  13. DrollRemark says:

    I’ve been following ‘proper’ sports for so long now (especially cycling, natch) that I’m so cynical when it comes to top professionals saying things like “I definitely didn’t use drugs to get where I am. No sir, not one bit. I’m as clean as a whistle.”

    To me, that never feels like enough. You have to be willing to say “Yes, let’s have some testing in, I’m willing to prove that I’m clean, and I want to know I’m competing in a fair environment.” I mean, if there’s a drug that’s as perfectly tailored to eSports as the article states Adderall is, then even if no-one’s using it now, they’re going to be a lot more aware of it in future.

    Just to reinforce my previously-mentioned cynicism, I do wonder how many pros would say that testing isn’t needed because “no-one does it” or “it’s such a tiny minority it’s not worth the hassle” or “its positives are over-exaggerated.” Uh huh.