The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hopefully having recovered from a week-long illness and being aboard a train to Manchester Day’s Games Room. Fridays, meanwhile, are for pre-emptively staring through an atmosphere of phlegm to discern the week’s best (mostly) games (mostly) writing.

  • Rich Stanton is one of the few games writers who manages to make enthusiasm sound smart. Here is expressing love for Metal Gear Solid V after two days spent roaming through what might be Kokima’s last game for Konami.
  • To capture my caprine victim, I crept forwards on my belly, lined up the perfect headshot, and poomf! down it went. I attached a cord to the prone beast, from which a giant balloon inflated, and lifted it a few feet in the air. At this point the goat woke up, looking pretty startled, and had a few seconds to hang there eyeballing me hatefully, before the balloon shot off into the sky with its cargo. The sound effect, a strangled cross between a bleat and a scream, trailed off as it disappeared into the heavens (where a plane would pick it up).

    War has changed.

  • Emily Short is always worth reading, never more so when she’s talking about design and conversations. Which is what she’s doing here: why I am obsessed with conversation models.
  • Part of the solution, as many of us have been saying for many years, is to make the world model (and thus the verbs available to the player) be about things that typically matter narratively, rather than things that typically don’t. Shooting people, when it happens in a story, is usually important, but not very many stories primarily turn on shooting. (A few, yes. But not most of them, not even in action movies.) Opening boxes and getting into rooms appear much more frequently in stories but are often so unimportant as not to be mentioned explicitly. Hence the need for conversation models, for ways of systematizing communication between characters. Communication is at the core of most stories, one way or another.

  • Over at SUSD, Paul Dean entered a poker tournament and wrote about how it went and his thoughts towards the game and gambling. Good stuff.
  • The noise was the first thing that got me. Forty-seven people entered this tournament, spread across five tables of ten or nine players. Before the first hand came out there was nothing but the sound of chips clacking. So many chips clacking as dozens of players flipped and fingered and meshed them together like mantis mandibles. I was pretty sure the young man in a black hoodie to my right was good, but I couldn’t quite explain why. Opposite me sat someone who could have just slithered off a Harley Davidson. His face was the greying crags of a cliff. His rings would mangle anybody he swung at. His top was as ragged as his features. His clothes were worn. His cap was worn. His face was worn. His indifference was underlined by a mustache that never, ever moved. He looked like Danny Trejo.

  • At PCGamesN Geralt of Rivia took a break from monster hunting to review Gwent, the card game that’s taking taverns by storm.
  • I’ll admit: I thought I’d never get tired of Dice Poker. True, there were always snobs who felt it wasn’t much a strategy game. “Geralt, you always just re-roll to your highest matched set.” I even wrote a modest article on high-level poker strategy called “Forget the Full House” which, some have said, revolutionized standard play from a two-pair position.

    Yet I fell out-of-love with Dice Poker in the last year. Critics would say it’s the same game year after year. That was part of it, but the game’s quality was declining as well. For one thing, I started having a difficult time rolling the dice so that they all stayed inside the playing-area. I kept fumbling the dice and dropping them on the floor, which is a game-killing issue. For another, I jumped on the “Arm Wrestling” bandwagon (don’t remind me of the 90 I gave it in Viziman Gamer, please!).

  • Matt Lees has covered all of E3, saving us the bother next week.
  • Old Simon Parkin was in the New Yorker again this past week talking about how games make you work, attempting to explain our fascination with labor simulators to an audience less familiar with the many shades of videogames.
  • Video games usually offer the chance to escape the mundane texture and circumstances of everyday life, by pushing us into situations and roles that are too dangerous, expensive, or rarefied for reality. We become the marine, the race-car driver, the fighter pilot, the international soccer star. But many games mimic the rhythm and monotony of more familiar jobs, allowing us to rehearse or reënact a working day once we’ve clocked out. In most cases, the designer zeroes in on the most interesting challenge or nuance of a profession, and turns it into a game. But in some titles the re-creation is more thorough.

  • Good work continues over at Offworld. This week – or last week, kinda – Leigh Alexander writes about the home as an increasingly common videogame setting.
  • The “home”, the places we live and the objects we put there, continues to be an increasingly-popular and important setting for independent games. The Elsewhere Company just finished a successful crowdfunding round for a game called Apartment: A Separated Place, a game about navigating the wreckage of a relationship—you play as Nick, floating through the space he once shared with his girlfriend of four years, Madison. The remembered silhouettes of her things are still present (try a demo of the game here).

    “When you live with another person you share that space and it transforms into something new, not quite the same — it becomes both of yours,” the team writes to me over email. “The absence of that other person is blatant. You still see the semblance of your home but mostly you see the absence of that person. It’s the absence of Madison in Nick’s day-to-day life that we focus on in Apartment. His thoughts reside in his environment just like she once did, and they all revolve around the fact that she’s absent and isn’t coming back. Everything feels wrong.”

  • Also on the internet, seven thousand articles about Steam Refunds that all say, “I like refunds but dislike or am worried by their current implementation,” with varying degrees of ferocity.

Music this week is the latest Hot Chip album, which I think I like more than most. Especially the last track, Why Make Sense?.

63 Comments

  1. moocow says:

    On the copious Steam Refund articles not heretofore linked, I think it’s interesting that many people are quick to say that Valve throws things out without thinking about them enough, yet in this case it seems like entirely the right approach. It’s very hard to predict from first principles what the return rate will be, whether it will increase sales overall and what disproportionate impact it will have on developers of say shorter games.

    Valve’s approach of throwing out a pretty permissive refund policy and waiting to see real world data of what actually happens in terms of increase or decrease of revenue to developers is probably the quickest and most accurate way of working towards a solution that is fair to consumers and developers.

    It’s much easier to say in hindsight “hah see we all knew better”, and maybe in cases like paid mods it was easy to make a prediction about the social response to imposing a new system, but in this case I think it is very much gut instinct guesses that are unreliable.

    • Baines says:

      Don’t forget that Valve’s refund policy wasn’t just Valve deciding to be consumer friendly. European law changed in a way that required they offer a 14 day return period. Valve technically didn’t have to apply that change worldwide, but must have seen the sheer bad PR it would have caused if they’d only allowed refunds in the EU. (Plus, they’d already been sued last year over violating Australian laws.)

      And Valve even previously tried to dodge that EU law with a TOS change, adding a section saying that when an EU customer pressed the Purchase button, they were agreeing to waive their right to a refund.

      But as moocow says, the big worry that people have is just that it is Valve being Valve, and Valve has a track record of botching stuff due to not bothering to think through their ideas or having any strong grasp on reality.

      Also, I can’t help noticing that RPS main page still seems to be biased against Steam refunds? Even mentioning pro-refund sentiments has to include the idea that those pro-refund are worried that refunds are bad? No mention that some developers have admitted that refund requests declined after the first day (as one would expect.) No mention that some of the anti-refund developers used suspect data to support their view? No mention that various people are rather strongly in favor of refunds? (Heck, Jim Sterling did a video on a broken game the day refunds were implemented, and has played more garbage that was only released after refunds were introduced.)

      • PerpetualPanik says:

        This is not correct. Digital content that is accessed with the users permission (clicking download, etc) is exempt from the right to cancel (unless they forget to tell you this is the case).

        “In relation to contracts for online digital content, the supply of digital content which is not supplied on a
        tangible medium if the performance has begun with the consumer’s prior express consent
        and his acknowledgment that he thereby loses his right of withdrawal”

        This is the new EU directive that came into affect 13 June ’14, and is very similar to the Consumer Contracts Regulations in the UK (same date).

        • pepperfez says:

          And Steam’s refund policy explicitly excludes movies, presumably because makers of movies are more powerful than makers of games.

          • Sarfrin says:

            Or because most movies are finished after two hours.

          • pepperfez says:

            Then make it one hour, or 45 minutes. It’s the same idea, that you can consume part of a cultural product, decide it didn’t meet your expectations, and pay nothing.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      There are a lot of better ways to do things, for example by starting with a trial on a small subset of developers, or with an opt in system, or by offering to absorb the costs of refunds for a limited period while things are worked out.

      Instead they are running an experiment on other people’s livelihoods, without consent.

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Yes, it’s dreadful that people can now get money back for faulty products!

        I’m really surprised at the reaction to this. It’s the only genuinely good thing Valve has done since… since… Maybe since releasing Half-Life 2 and the reaction is hostile? Everything else they’ve done is consumer hostile and now they actually grant their users some rights and people are mopey about it?

        • qrter says:

          It’s also surprised me. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – gaming as a whole has had a truly abysmal history of how it treats its customers. For the last 15 years especially consumers have had close to nothing to say.

          We finally get a foot in the door – we should be dancing with joy.

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          But it’s not faulty products, it’s a very simple no questions asked automated procedure for any product.

          One way or another, this changes the format of the steam ecosystem, and if it means developers who make short games on steam can no longer expect to get any money for them, then that’s not a change I support. If it means Valve is exposing smalltime developers to substantial financial risks, so as to improve consumer confidence and so increase sales on bigger games from bigger commercial partners, then it’s especially unfair.

          • RobF says:

            “One way or another, this changes the format of the steam ecosystem, and if it means developers who make short games on steam can no longer expect to get any money for them, then that’s not a change I support. If it means Valve is exposing smalltime developers to substantial financial risks, so as to improve consumer confidence and so increase sales on bigger games from bigger commercial partners, then it’s especially unfair.”

            Increasing consumer rights is the baseline for allowing more people to be able to sell on Steam. Unless this is done and done sooner, blasting the doors off in the future will be a disaster and small games will suffer because they are unknown and riskier purchases, which means the only way for them to survive is to further cut into their bottom lines with huge discounts and bundling to get their games out there.

            Right now, that’s where we are and it’s massively unhealthy in the long term and fucking us all. Bundling is on an industrial scale, wait for the sale is the only way to mitigate any purchase risk. As a result, most of our work is selling to people who don’t even want it. That’s great if you need to buy food now, it’s awful if you want to build a sustainable business.

            Far from crippling games with small playtimes, this is a system designed to enable them to sell their works at a price of their choosing. Uncomfortably, it’ll also shake out the actual worth of Steam as a sales platform for a lot of titles too and find us closer to how many people on Steam value our work. I suspect the knock on of this will be enabling stores like itch.io to get a better foothold too.

            It’ll be messy but I think this stuff is well on the right track.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            Well, considering the general state of consumer rights when it comes to games I’m happy to err on the side of the consumer. It’s not the consumers responsibility to find a business model that works for the devs.

            If they need an eco system that completely denies any right to a consumer in case of a faulty product then I say they should start making better games. Why should they get a protected market on the expense of the consumers?

            Make better games! Make games people want to buy. If games can’t be sold on their own then maybe it’d be better to just pack up gaming and move on.

            That said, sure, tweak the system if need be but this refund policy has been needed for years and years.

            I can also get a book returned on Audible or my Kindle, I think, even after reading a chunk of it. Pretty sure that’ll stop if I abuse it though. So implement a similar system. Again, if gaming can’t survive without dicking over the consumers then it can go jump in a fire.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            It might not be consumers’ responsibility to make the gaming ecosystem sustainable for devs, but as a near monopoly on PC digital distribution, maybe it should be Valve’s.

            I think there’s false dichotomy being presented between either no refunds, or this sort of crude, cack-handed implementation. In the end this policy looks unfair (on major AAA games, 2 hours is barely enough to get through the intro cutscenes, so however buggy they might be, your AssCreed Unities won’t be affected. Meanwhile on some small indie games 2 hours is your entire game) and just generally undercooked.

          • malkav11 says:

            As far as I know it’s not automated. It’s automatic in the sense that if you fit the expressed criteria you don’t have to have a reason for returning it to get a refund, but it’s still overseen by human beings to the best of my knowledge. That’s an important difference, which allows for, for example, noticing that you’ve requested an awful lot of refunds lately.

          • RobF says:

            After an initial blast, it seems the refund levels are normalising anyway. The sky doesn’t appear to be falling from a lot of the figures I’ve seen so it’s kinda working out not too bad. There’s been a lot of traps fallen into when looking at the figures (trying to draw conclusions from 3 days and 18 people in the middle of what could politely be described as a refund frenzy as people clear out lots of games at once), judging refund percent against sales when the refunds were backdated up to six months etc…

            All that stuff makes refunding look a whole lot more dramatic than it’s turning out to be.

            But the hours thing is a fun one to look at. If you take a look through Steam Spy, play time tends to drop off significantly for a lot of games after the first two hours. For a lot of titles, playtime drops off significantly after the first half hour. The awkward reality of games playing that we have to contend with is that a lot of people don’t not so much even play our games to completion, they don’t play them for more than half an hour often enough. There’s whole conversations to be had as to why that is but it’s a definite thing.

            So whilst yes, you could play through an entire small game in under an hour and get a refund, a) why would people do that? (I’m not saying they won’t, I’m saying it’s worth looking at why they might do that if it’s a thing and I doubt the answer is just “because it’s a small game” because ecosystems etc…) and b) given the drop off in players, AAA games will be just as much at the mercy of the refund system as small games. Now, obv. there’s an argument to be had that they are big enough to absorb the costs but again, some of this comes back down to “do we really want to be selling our games to people who don’t want them?” and that’s a bigger question than “should we have refunds”.

        • RobF says:

          Yeah, some of the reactions have been awful. From “they should offer us a switch to turn it on or off” to straight up running around like headless chickens screaming “we’re all going to die”, it’s been flat out embarassing to be a part of videogames watching this the past few weeks. The sheer disdain some people have for even the vaguest of consumer rights, y’know? Which in turn, the sheer disdain for the people who buy their games, -the entitlement- on display has been rotten in so many quarters.

          Every one of them muttering about having to bring back DRM, designing around the first two hours, all think they’re being somehow reasonable and acting like they’re forced to do it because people can get a refund. Every last one of them, in the bin. Just in the bin. Don’t get back out until you’ve thought about what you’ve done.

          Unfortunately, this is also mixed in with some legit fears about how the refunds will be weaponised. Something that only took a day or so for our fringe to attempt. That’s something Valve are going to have to get a grasp on because to date, they’re fundamentally shit at protecting developers on their service and there’s no signs of the corners of the internet becoming less abusive. We need to work in systems catering for a baseline of abuse as normal. But then, see every other platform provider right now too. But I also think it’s worth treating that as a separate issue and not infringing further on consumer rights to solve. For starters, taking refunds away again isn’t exactly going to stop it.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            As always you put it perfectly Rob.

            I can’t add anything to this. The idea that because some people will try to abuse this we shouldn’t have it is frankly preposterous.

            And as I said above, I also think that if game development cannot coexist with consumer rights then I’m happy to see gaming go. The state of this since Steam (and before I guess) is hugely gross and I cannot fathom that so many people think it was a good state of affairs.

          • Llewyn says:

            I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it frequently surprises me that anyone can consistently comment with such good sense on gaming as you do. Sure, I don’t always agree with you – actually I often don’t – but it’s invariably worth reading and thinking about. Thanks.

            (Not a response to the comment above specifically, just a cumulative thing.)

          • pepperfez says:

            It’s a pretty high-handed move to decide that all of your partners will accept returns on precisely your terms, and that if they don’t want to they can more or less leave the industry. So I can understand a lot of anger from developers learning, along with the general public, that Valve had just radically changed their — the developers’ — business model. Being reminded of one’s essential powerlessness tends to bring out the worst in anybody.

          • Llewyn says:

            To clarify, my previous comment was addressed to Mr Fearon, not Mr Duck.

          • RobF says:

            @Pepperfez,

            I sorta agree but I keep hitting the stumbling block that we should never have been in a situation where we didn’t have returns in the first place, y’know? That’s where I get stuck. Yes, declaring that today is the day everyone can have refunds without any consultation or discussion with developers will come as a surprise but I’m kinda left to weigh it up against the alternative and well, have you seen how people who make games behave when presented with something like this?

            Valve need to be better at communication full stop but I’m not sure this is the hill I want to have that battle on.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            @pepperfez

            So it turns out that the Steam near monopoly perhaps isn’t unicorns and rainbows after all?

            Did the consumers ever have a say when Valve unilaterally changed their ToS? All of this goes back to Valve and games as service and developers have been more than willing to follow that particular nonsense.

            Sure, it sucks that they may now need to provide a refund but I find it hard to be super sympathetic. If they’d done something sooner then perhaps the refund policies would have been different. But they were all to happy with #NOREFUNDS across the board.

            I should add that I’m probably extra salty about this because I work with it everyday and know how shitty it can be for the consumers.

        • Asurmen says:

          Like it or not, these sorts of laws/rights etc are designed to protect both the consumer and the producer of the goods from abuse from the other party. As much as people always like to think only consumer rights are important, doing a substantial change such as thing without warning to developers so they can protect their interests, change their ways of working and budget for refunds hurts them and potentially us.

          • Stellar Duck says:

            I’m not saying that only consumer rights matter for all involved parties. For the consumer though, they are the most important matter. Unless the consumer is working against his own best interest naturally.

            But so far consumer rights have been absolutely non existent on Steam. Hell, EA has better policies on this and generally has a splendid service compared to the joke Valve has so far called CS.

            So I’m just happy so see a reversal of the situation, even if there are a couple of kinks to work out.

          • Asurmen says:

            But I think that was the point of the post you responded to. They didn’t say consumers gaining the rights they should have is bad, but time to evaluate and work out those kinks before throwing out there would have been better.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            Right. Even in terms of data gathering, you’d ideally want to do A/B testing on such changes to see what the effects are. Unleashing it en masse the way they did is going to give you much less useful info.

          • moocow says:

            Except the notion of A/B testing a return policy doesn’t really make sense, nor would a trial on a small number of games, simply because behaviour of consumers en masse is not going to be the same when they have no idea which games they can get refunds on, what the terms are for those refunds are. You would not see the same shift in buying patterns such as more willingness to buy games knowing you have the safety net of returns if only a few limited games are eligible or the conditions are variable.

        • malkav11 says:

          It’s felt a touch insulting how quick some developers have been to assume that regranting consumers a basic right that they should never have lost is some sort of sky is falling doomsday scenario, especially given that some of the feared scenarios are fairly ludicrous and assume a combination of ill intent, technical competence and extreme ignorance that’s unlikely to be statistically prevalent enough to be an issue. E.g. the “figuring out which games lack DRM in a client that’s widely assumed to intrinsically -be- DRM, paying money to buy them, downloading them, copying the files, and then requesting a refund through a tracked, manual refund system instead of just snagging a torrent” scenario.

          I’m not saying there might not be problems with the system Valve launched with, or that they might not need to make tweaks. But it’s too soon to have reliable data on what the exact issues might be, and it’s tough to imagine any plausible scenario where its role in protecting consumers is outweighed by people abusing the system.

          • Geebs says:

            The Internet is the new thinking-out-loud. A lot of the noise that comes from these sort of stories is down to interviewers publishing people’s first knee jerk reactions rather than their considered opinion, people writing blogs with the aim of figuring out what they actually think about a topic and then hitting “publish” before it’s fully cooked, and a fair few idiots taking to Twitter to flap their meat so that everyone will know that they Have An Opinion.

            TL:DR – no point feeling insulted by somebody else’s unfinished thoughts.

          • malkav11 says:

            I tend to think that if people don’t want that stuff reacted to, they shouldn’t put it in literally the most public forum imaginable.

      • Baines says:

        “There are a lot of better ways to do things, for example by starting with a trial on a small subset of developers, or with an opt in system,”

        You are missing a very major point. Valve was in violation of EU law. EU law says you have a 14 day period where you can get a refund for any reason. Again, Valve didn’t suddenly decide to do some grand experiment, nor did they suddenly decide to care about consumer rights. Valve decided to meet pretty much the absolute minimum requirements of EU law, and they did this only after previously trying to dodge the law through a TOS change that presumably wouldn’t have held up in court.

        There is no option of an opt in, or a trial with a small subset of developers. Valve made a policy change that prevents them being taken to court in a case that they would lose. (Even with this change, Valve probably isn’t in full compliance with the law. I don’t believe there is a two hour use limit in the law. But Valve could potentially argue that point in court, and might get publisher backing to lobby for change. Plus, the two hour period will be enough to silence most user complaint.)

        No, Valve didn’t have to apply the refund policy world wide, but imagine what would have happened if they had made it an EU-only policy. They would have been crucified for it. People also would have started using proxies to buy games or set up accounts, and if Valve shut down those accounts (for a legit TOS violation) they would have gotten crucified again. It might have hurt Valve’s stance in lawsuits filed in other countries as well, that Valve had chosen to meet EU law while continuing to refuse to comply with the laws of other countries.

        (Side note: Why doesn’t Valve allow refunds for movies? Is it the two hour limit? But Valve doesn’t let you refund movies that are longer than two hours… No, movies are most likely exempt because EU law has a different standard for music and movies. With music and movies, you lose your right of a refund the moment that you start downloading them.)

        • RobF says:

          I think it’s likely down to the system Valve have for movies in the main. A number of them are streaming only so it’s likely as much a technical thing as anything else.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      One thing I wasn’t clear on with the refund policy is, are things bought on sale exempt? Because it seems like that should be the case.

      • malkav11 says:

        Why would they be exempt? Valve knows what price you paid for the game and refunds accordingly.

        • PancakeWizard says:

          Because in retail, sales items are usually non refundable/returnable.

          For Steam specifically, it means mass-abuse of the refund system is possible during sales far more so than any other time.

          • Distec says:

            Having worked a number of years in retail previously, we always refunded returned items at the price they were sold, regular or on sale. I can’t think of a scenario where we ever made an exception to that.

          • RobF says:

            This is a physical stock thing. It costs money in shelf space to continue to stock the items, store them or, if possible, to return them to a warehouse somewhere. The partial aim of discounting at that point is to be shot of the stock never to be seen again.

            Digital doesn’t really have that concern.

          • malkav11 says:

            Retail doesn’t have a customer account that tracks every purchase that customer has ever made and the price they paid. Steam does. And Valve has specifically said that they don’t consider asking for a refund on a game you paid full (or a higher) price for and then buying it at the sale price to be abuse. I’m not sure what else you would be referring to.

          • malkav11 says:

            Also, yeah, there are physical realities that Steam doesn’t have to deal with, like shelf space.

      • Premium User Badge

        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        IIRC, Valve has stated that refunding a game you bought on sale in order to buy it again when that game goes on sale for less is perfectly acceptable, so yes they do allow refunds on sale items.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      One thing I have not seen anyone bring up in regards to the return policy is what happens in an instance where someone is receiving income with a game they have returned? Some examples being, someone buys a game to record footage for a YouTube video and then returns the game after getting an hour and fifty minutes of footage or if they were to Twitch stream a game and then return it? Ok, I think those might be the only two examples, but anyway. That person is potentially making ad revenue themselves off of a product they did not pay for. YouTube videos already exist in a kind of hazy legal situation where the trademark holder has every right to enforce takedowns. Publishers just generally don’t because the PR works out for them and the person presumably bought the game. Does the publishers then have the legal right to demand the person pay for the game or worse? As I mentioned, they already have the legal right to a takedown so it may not go further than that. They would of course have to prove the person returned the game, but that would be pretty easy given that it is linked to their account. It is just getting to the point where you have a right to check a person’s sales history that becomes iffy.

      I am also not suggesting this will be a massive problem, just curious as to what the protocol would be and what your thoughts are.

      Tl;Dr, What legal rights does a publish have if a person is making revenue off of footage of a returned game?

    • SuicideKing says:

      Yeah, this true – if it’s really so much to be worried about then might as well give it a month long trial and see how it goes.

      As a consumer it’s a great thing to have.

      For example, a friend of mine bought vanilla Borderlands 2 yesterday, and I was like NO, get a refund, and get the GoTY! If he had asked me before buying, that’s what I would have said anyway. Currently it just saved someone money, and I’m pretty sure it’s only adding to Gearbox’s sales – they’ll make $10 instead of $5.

  2. Leucine says:

    “In America, players often speak of “beating” a game, that moment when they complete its primary demands. But in the majority of cases, Poole points out, they simply do what the game asks of them, like a diligent employee.”

    I have to wonder how much of this is the desire to work (no pun intended) within a structured environment. Some people really like open-world games where they can set their own goals and do as they please, others prefer to be given objectives to meet and to follow them rigidly. And neither one is better! They’re only better for the individual’s preferred play style.

    But I’m not really someone who knows too much about that and it’s not something I’ve given enough thought before.

    When I think of games like Euro Truck Simulator or Train Simulator, I see a pattern: I can let myself relax. Much of my day is taken up with a lot of detail and concentration because of that. I find when I’m home that it can be hard to let go and relax. But when I put on something like Euro Truck, I’m putting myself in a situation where my mind can just unwind in the face of monotony. The structure means I don’t have to constantly plan out my own goals, I can just follow what’s set before me and let myself “zone out”. But I don’t think that’s what the article was getting at.

    I would say, knowing only what I know now and not having given it too much thought, it is probably a variety of factors. I’m hesitant to say more as I’d be making a lot of assumptions that’re probably wrong but this is a really interesting subject. Such simulation games are receiving (I think) a lot more publicity and attention these days, which I believe would point to more consumer awareness and maybe even demand.

    Steven Poole, though; why does that name sound so familiar? Not recently, though, I know I heard a lot about him years ago but I can’t remember what it was in relation to.

    • ironman Tetsuo says:

      I remember him from his regular articles in the back pages of Edge mag but I’m sure he probably did more than that…

    • PancakeWizard says:

      To my mind there’s open world, and then there’s open wooooooorld. I’m talking about the difference between Baldur’s Gate and Skyrim here. The former I find a joy to explore and adventure in, the latter I love for a while and then I get exhausted just looking at the amount of content left to do and go and play something else.

      I’ve started every RPG you can think of, but when it comes to finishing them? I could probably count those on one hand with fingers to spare and they wouldn’t even include some of my favourites. How mad is that?

    • Farsi Murdle says:

      Poole wrote Trigger Happy many years ago, one of the better known books about videogames.

  3. welverin says:

    Sundays are for being reminded how radically different your taste in music is from the writers of RPS.

    • BannerThief says:

      Not liking Hot Chip? That’s a paddlin’.

      • welverin says:

        Nope, I don’t think there has been a single thing linked to in the Sunday Papers that even reached the level of tolerable.

        • Asurmen says:

          What is your taste in music then? I got the impression all sorts of stuff has been posted on Sunday Papers.

          • Fenix says:

            I’m in the same boat as welverin here, my music taste is pretty varied but I find Sunday Papers recommended music always disappointing. At the risk of sounding like a music taste elitist, I’ve always thought that the writers here like very mainstream and boring music.

            One exception though, was when they linked to a couple of Indie Japanese all-girl bands, those were great.

          • welverin says:

            To be clear when I said tolerable, that was for me personally and not a comment on the actual quality.

            favorite bands/artists:
            They Might Be Giants
            Rancid
            Ash (the Irish ones, not the American imposters)
            Collective Soul
            The Arrogant Worms
            Tom Petty (and the Heartbreakers)

            So, in general, Rock of the classic and alternative varieties.

          • welverin says:

            In reply to Fenix, if that stuff is popular I’m even more out of touch with modern music than I realized.

  4. welverin says:

    Oh, right. I forgot to mention: Graham, you hit ‘K’ instead of ‘J’ in Kojima when commenting on the first article.

  5. Ejia says:

    Making Konami’s gears
    There’s a man called Kokima
    He swears he wants to go, to get away from it all

  6. onodera says:

    That article by Emily Short was great. This is what I find lacking in RPGs: how removed and separated are their character manipulation systems from the rest of the game.

    Sometimes they manage to show a glint of brilliance: I avoided a fight in Pillars of Eternity because I was known as both cruel AND honest and promised a painful death if they tried to fight me and a safe passage if they left. But every such glint is just another special case, hardcoded into the tree by the writer.

    Generic systems are comically trivial at the moment, ranging from Elvis impersonators giving me an ear of maize because I’ve helped the slums they consider their turf to the madlibbed antics of Dwarf Fortress.

    I wonder when someone will take a step back and replace hand-crafted dialogue trees with an engine like Versu. Perhaps this will not happen in an AAA game, since they are hobbled by the need to voice every line, or even not in a traditional RPG, since that would require gutting the whole idea of a narrative-driven plot.

    • TillEulenspiegel says:

      The Dwarf Fortress model is sound, just limited by the fact that it’s one average programmer doing slightly goofy things. Put a small experienced team on the same type of project, and you could do truly amazing things with world simulation.

      Word-for-word dialogue generation is not really within our current abilities, but just look at something like Crusader Kings 2. Not a terribly detailed simulation, but it still produces exciting tales of intrigue.

    • malkav11 says:

      Hopefully not for a long time. Versu’s gears show badly, and the bits that are interesting are nearly all handwritten and might as well be hardcoded.

  7. smokiespliff says:

    really enjoyed the SUSD article. now i hate and admire poker in equal measure

  8. pepperfez says:

    If they need an eco system that completely denies any right
    Oh, come on.