The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for returning to a mountain of email after four days on holiday. Quick, turn away from the inbox to spend some time instead putting together a (shorter than normal) list of the week’s best games writing.

  • Over at Paste Magazine, Gita Jackson cuts the clothing of Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate into ribbons in her regular Wardrobe Theory column.
  • Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is trying very hard to tell me Jacob is cool via his character design. It wants to tell me that he’s edgy. It wants me to think he’s sexy and all I see is someone trying very, very hard. Jacob is representative of the ultimate failures of Assassin’s Creed as a franchise—inaccurate where it counts to be meticulous, over the top where it means something to be subtle. But above all else, that jacket is ugly. It’s really, really ugly. And I can’t believe he left the house wearing red and green.

  • Midnight Resistance’s Sean Bell writes about Geralt of Rivia, Useless Professional, and why The Witcher 3 is interesting for the simple fact that as its hero you’re not able to solve all the world’s problems, by stabbing or any other means.
  • While you do solve a lot of problems through the investigation and, usually, slaughter of monsters, the overarching problem in the The Witcher 3 is that of the ongoing war between Temeria and Nilfgaard. The latter has just invaded the former, causing a whole range of problems that are simply beyond the grasp of one handsome lad with a sword and some potions. Wander through any of the game’s villages and you’ll see people sobbing openly in the streets, many of them left destitute by the war. Famine is rife, and there’s a fair chance that the folk you meet have witnessed the slaughter and/or rape of their loved ones at the hands of the invading soldiers. But we’re playing as Geralt of bloody Rivia! He’s the main character, in a videogame, so he’s going to fix everything, surely?

    Well, nah. He’s good at killing monsters, which in many games would be enough. Here, it means he can marginally improve the lot of the few people whose lives are made even worse by the harassment of a restless spirit or a werewolf. But he can’t sort out the food shortage, he can’t take undo or prevent the horrific atrocities committed by the Nilfgaardians, and he can’t teach the city-dwellers that becoming a howling pack of mad racists isn’t really the way forward.

  • This article by Simon Parkin for ESPN, about free-to-play deisgn and the one-time ‘best’ Clash of Clans player in the world, is strong throughout.
  • George Yao walked into the bathroom of his unfeasibly small $1,450-a-month San Francisco apartment and slid each of his five iPads into a zip-lock freezer bag. He was preparing, with some ceremony, to defend his world title. Three months earlier, in January 2013, Yao had reached the top of the global leaderboards for Clash of Clans, a medieval warfare-themed strategy game in which a player builds defenses, trains troops and attacks other players’ fortifications. The achievement had cost him dearly. At the peak of his obsession, Yao would easily spend $400 a week in the game to help him climb the leaderboards, an unbudgeted outlay that prevented him from going out with his friends on the weekend (or renting an apartment in which he could fit much more than a couch). To maintain his position, which had made his online handle, Jorge Yao, familiar to millions of Clash players around the world, Yao was running five parallel game accounts, playing them off against each other simultaneously. His focus was so single-minded that he even took his iPads into the shower so he could monitor his games through the plastic bags.

  • Rich Stanton pops up on The Guardian website to discuss how Blizzard are moving into esports with Heroes of the Storm. Stants covered similar ground for us surrounding Heroes of the Dorm.
  • “It was all about what we had played back in the Warcraft 3 days,” says Browder. “There were a tonne of Warcraft 3 mods of that ilk, not just Dota, even though that eventually became the king of that particular pack. Where did you think it was going, where did you imagine it was going? Not where it has gone. When you think from an earlier stage you get a much wider spectrum of possibilities. The limitations of Warcraft 3 meant Dota has things like recipes [item combinations] – you couldn’t add more items, there were only six item slots, so you had to do recipes. That came out of a need and a limitation. So, when we’re doing this exercise of imagining what could’ve been different, we got some much more interesting answers, and where we thought it was going was not ‘better recipes’.”

  • Here’s this week’s article to argue over: the creator of Steam Spy dug out some of the data from Valve’s digital distribution service and tried to draw conclusions and advice from the numbers.
  • While female gamers constitute a large part of the PC gaming audience (49 to 51 percent depending on the research), they are less likely to be on Steam. According to studies by Alexa Internet around 18 percent of the users who are visiting Steam’s homepage are female and the actual number of female gamers on Steam might be even smaller.

    Discussing reasons for this is outside of this article’s scope, but games aimed exclusively at a female audience are less likely to succeed on Steam than on other more inclusive platforms like for example Facebook or iOS.

  • Simon Parkin again, this time teaming up with Keith Stuart at the Guardian to round-up the trends of this year’s E3 2015. Given that I missed some of the conference, this was useful.
  • Humankind may destroy itself, but will we take the world down with us? Not so in Guerrilla’s Horizon, Microsoft’s ReCore and The Chinese Room’s Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture. Each of these games present a post-apocalyptic world in which nature survives the collapse of human civilisation, and has begun its slow but inexorable work of reclaiming our towns and cities. It’s a different, more pastoral approach to the catastrophe narratives with which we are so familiar, one perhaps driven by the fact that games are now able to render moss and trees just as well as bricks and rubble.

  • Emily Short is again worth reading, this week on interactive fictions Spider and Web and Anna Anthropy’s And The Robot Horse You Rode In On. Play the games before you read the piece, too – that’s your whole Sunday sorted.

Right. Sorry this is so short this week – I will be back in force next Sunday. Thanks to A Person On The Internet for sending through most of these links.

Music this week is Detektivbyrån’s Nattopet, a lovely instrumental that I have been trying to remember and re-discover for weeks now, until I finally remembered the name of the music blog I found it on in 2007.

71 Comments

  1. pepperfez says:

    Wardrobe Theory is one of the most interesting columns going and Ms. Jackson ought to be a consultant on every AAA monstrosity.

    • SMGreer says:

      Couldn’t agree more.

      As someone who is obsessed with visual design in games (good or bad) I am constantly disappointed by the garbage character design that makes its way into games all too often. Assassin’s Creed is all over the map and the newest one looks like it’s most embarrassing attempt yet. Would certainly love to hear Jackson talk about and examine other games as its an aspect seldom thought about.

      • Turkey says:

        It feels like character design gets busier and less distinct the more polygons artists have to work with. Especially in western games.

        I guess that back in 2d times, no one wanted to animate a billion pouches, and in early 3d times, they couldn’t afford the polygons.

        • SMGreer says:

          Very true.

          Some games can go complex though and still convey a lot. The Witcher 2 & 3 are pretty darn good at this generally, maintaining character/consistency as well as a high level of detail. It’s also interesting that very few of Geralt’s armour options are “cool”, with most simply being practical. Generally though, you’re right. An excess of detail seems to be the vice of many games these days.

          Even the earlier Assassin’s Creed games did this better and it’s only becoming worse as the recreations of the various cities grow more accurate and sophisticated whilst the inhabitants have become more cartoonish than ever.

        • Premium User Badge

          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          These are all being designed by people who grew up reading comics in the 90s. Blame Rob Liefeld.

    • DrollRemark says:

      It looks like the article also contains my new internet comment of the week:

      This is bullshit. The Fryes were born assassins, so it was given to them. And blending can be done while wearing surprisingly conspicuous clothing. I’ve done experiments in blending while wearing something louder than that. So his outfit seems perfectly fine.

      • pepperfez says:

        Her articles attract a very special kind of crank commenter.

      • GWOP says:

        “I’ve done experiments in blending while wearing something louder than that.”

        Where? At a cosplay convention?

        • pepperfez says:

          “My camouflage was perfect. Everywhere I went, people averted their eyes.”

    • blastaz says:

      Can not take fashion advice seriously from someone who thinks that is a frock coat.

      It’s clearly an overcoat…

      sadly AC wasted the eighteenth century messing around in the colonies, and men’s fashion just went downhill after beau Brummell…

      • Sam says:

        I was curious what the difference is and found myself reading “An over-frock coat is an overcoat designed to be worn over a frock coat as an overcoat in cold weather. A top-frock coat is also worn over a frock coat in milder weather.”
        So now I’ve given up on reading.

    • LionsPhil says:

      (If anyone else is being thwarted by missing images on that one, try disabling HTTPS Everywhere if you’re using it. Looks like there’s some unhappiness with the Akamai rules affecting that site.)

    • maninahat says:

      Absolutely. Take the newest incarnation of Garrett, who wears what appears to be a black BDSM harness corset over layers and layers of straps, belts. The look is finished off with a tacti-cool mechanical bow which pointlessly contracts a few inches for storage purposes. It must take hours to put it all on each morning and present countless snag risks. I can’t for the life of me see why game designers can’t go for a much cleaner, simpler look.

      Mirror’s Edge 2’s Faith, by comparison, has a highly functional outfit that is only as complicated as it needs to be, and is all the more distinctive for it.

  2. sendmark says:

    The freemium thing is very good, especially the parallel to slot machines but taking it way further with the player data. I am reminded of the recent South Park episode about it :)

  3. Eight Rooks says:

    Much as I hugely enjoyed Unity – and felt its Assassin outfits were at least much more visually interesting than Syndicate’s – the clothes and the ridiculous hiding in plain sight were pushing it, even for me, and this crap is yet another nudge making me think perhaps I should give this year’s instalment a miss.

    The trailer for this game goes out of its way to establish that the character wearing this jacket is working class. That jacket, the least conspicuous jacket a poor assassin could possibly wear, likely would have cost more than his entire family for several generations back.

    Pretty much this. Ubisoft’s B-team have given absolutely no sign as yet that they have any idea what it takes to write a story about the little man fighting for the rights of the downtrodden getting stamped on by his implacable, inhuman overlords. Christ, historical accuracy aside, at least Unity acted as if it genuinely wanted to convey something of how it actually feels to have your entire world upended, and it hinted at this in the first few trailers.

    • Premium User Badge

      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      “Ubisoft’s B-team have given absolutely no sign as yet that they have any idea what it takes to write a story about the little man fighting for the rights of the downtrodden getting stamped on by his implacable, inhuman overlords.”

      You didn’t figure that out when they had you playing a Native American fighting for the colonists?

  4. Xerophyte says:

    Huh, RPS was not a place I was expecting to see Detektivbyrån referenced but they crop up in all sorts of places. Half the band reformed as the lovely Wintergatan a couple of years back, it’s a nice band to listen to if you like your pop music to be instrumental and feature a lot of glockenspiels, accordions and home-made synthesizers.

  5. RobF says:

    Oh man, I’m consistently amazed with Steam Spy how one of the most useful tools for looking up data on videogames comes accompanied with the worst analysis possible. I’m banning graphs until people learn to use them right.

    Anyway, games for women? So there’s nowhere in Steam to identify your gender, hence using Alexa stats. Alexa stats are bullshit AND they’d only measure how many people visit the website not use the client (and even then how many people visit the website and have some Alexa crap installed) so this is off to a very, very bad start from the off.

    This is an article that insists developers spend money on localising their game for the japanese market, a market that he flags at 4.5% of sales but insists there is no point in making games for women because women only make up 18% of Steam users. Which, in case anyone is curious, that’s probably somewhere in the region of 20 million people. Were, of course, his numbers correct. It’s quite likely a much, much higher number.

    And then there’s the assumption that games just for women is a thing. Rather than making games more inclusive for everyone, the idea that no men play casual games (family fortunes buzzer) or that women wouldn’t want to play videogames that aren’t specifically aimed at women and oh man, nothing about this is good. I’m not even sure why it’s there at all never mind filed under some sort of “you should not do this” advice as it’s shaky from the foundation up. Even by his own figures, assuming his own assumptions about magical games for women and Facebook and app stores and what have you aren’t weird bullshit (they are but…) that’s still a potential audience of over twenty million people and that’s pretty good, I think. And of course, that number can go up if there’s more games that people want to buy on a service.

    So much else is along similar lines of really bad readings of numbers. Needless to say, I think there’s little in the way of good advice anyone can take from it. Even some of the graphs make so little sense with axes missing and stuff that I’m left scratching my head about what’s going on. I swear one is just charting the course of Mario’s jump or something. The genre saturation vs price stuff is especially numbing.

    • Cederic says:

      I’m also bewildered by “games aimed exclusively at a female audience are less likely to succeed on Steam than on other more inclusive platforms like for example Facebook or iOS.”

      How is Facebook more inclusive for gamers than a gaming portal?
      How is iOS more inclusive for gamers than a gaming portal?

      My friends don’t own iDevices and several aren’t on Facebook. We can game and communicate via Steam.

      Maybe his definition of ‘inclusive’ means ‘has more people’. Sales higher where population is greater, news at eleven?

      • Stellar Duck says:

        Maybe he’s talking about messages? The women I know with Steam accounts who also has the audacity to declare their gender receive quite a lot of creepy shit on Steam, not to mention in games online.

        I didn’t think it was that bad until one of them showed me. And that’s male privilege, hey! I’ve never had to worry about anything but scammers and scammers. No creepy messages for me.

        Anyhow, that’s certainly one way I’d argue Steam is less than inclusive even if not by design.

      • daphne says:

        That is indeed his definition. Success is defined as units sold, not the greater inclusion of women or other demographics in video games. I suspect that you and the commenter above (who is worse off in that he grossly mispresents the author — “an article that insists that developer spend money localize their games for Japan”, really?) , are incredulous for an ideological reason, not because what he’s saying is wrong.

      • Babymech says:

        Farmville (and similar social games) is very inclusive, since it doesn’t expect you to know anything about gaming, games, or gamer culture. You just play. What many correctly characterize as shallow, free to play, addictive game mechanics, also tend to have very low thresholds for playing. For whatever reason, this has proven very attractive to women, who find these games much more inclusive than Steam. There are other ways that the threshold is lowered, such as the fact that you don’t need a separate client for facebook games, and you don’t need to know how to install, set up, and navigate an account system. For a casual user, every additional step makes the experience less inclusive.

        • Cederic says:

          That would make sense, if Facebook and iOS didn’t have more demanding account based requirements than Steam.

          “Inclusive” doesn’t mean “On a platform on which you already have an account” even if that’s his (and your) interpretation.

    • pepperfez says:

      He’s operating at, like, double-Slatepitch levels of intentional wrongness, where instead of rejecting the correct conventional wisdom for something counter-intuitive and wrong he aggressively reaffirms the wrong conventional wisdom as though it’s novel. With graphs!

      • daphne says:

        No, he really doesn’t. Here’s what he says:

        “…but games aimed exclusively at a female audience are less likely to succeed on Steam than on other more inclusive platforms like for example Facebook or iOS.”

        Now, you can criticise his wording — he would have been better off saying “likely to be less successful” rather than “less likely to succeed”. But he’s absolutely correct. He isn’t saying that games targeted exclusively towards females on Steam will be unsuccessful — he never says this — simply that they will be more successful on mobile platforms, where the female demographic is much more prominent. It’s a simple, purely numeric conclusion, and says nothing about his intentions towards the inclusion of women in video games.

        • pepperfez says:

          I’m not making any claims about his intentions (Well, his political intentions; I am claiming he intends to present banal findings provocatively.), just that his conclusions are conventional wisdom dressed up as shocking, subversive discoveries. Telling developers not to exclusively target women if they want to maximize sales on Steam isn’t setting anyone straight; everyone knows that. If he had made a conclusion about attempting to appeal to women as well, like he does with respect to international markets, it could be interesting, but instead he just affirmed something that was never in question.

          • RobF says:

            Yep. Exactly that.

          • RobF says:

            (also the stuff about mobile platforms/facebook etc… is largely balls but hey ho)

          • Wulfram says:

            But he’s not saying not to exclusively target women if you want to go on Steam, he’s saying if you want to exclusively target women, don’t go on Steam.

          • RobF says:

            Games aren’t a binary choice of “for men” or “for women”, in case you hadn’t noticed.

          • Wulfram says:

            No one said they were?

            But there are some games that are certainly exclusively targeted at one gender, or even more specifically than that, even if they no doubt pick up at least a few outside of the target audience.

            Barbie Dream House is targeted at girls, even if Jim Sterling also bought it. CoD and Battlefield are pretty heavily targeted at men, even if lots and lots of women do play it.

          • Baines says:

            He never described it as shocking, subversive discoveries. Heck, the bit about geography explicitly mentions that some common stereotypes appear to be true.

            So is the evidence worth anything? There always seem to be stories of developers who miss “conventional wisdom” when releasing games. An article about such conventional wisdom is thus useful for them. There are also people who like to argue that the world doesn’t match “conventional wisdom”. Some people are even doing it in the replies to this RPS article. An article with some evidence to back such conventional wisdom would theoretically be useful for them, though some aren’t going to accept it regardless and/or will twist the meanings.

          • RobF says:

            It. Doesn’t. Matter.

            Even by his own wonky stats, there’s twenty million women on Steam (I have reason to believe the number skews far higher than that but let’s keep rolling with this). Twenty million is an enormous audience. That’s a little under the entire audience for the PS4.

            There is not one reason here NOT to target Steam.

          • Hobbes says:

            I can think of one exceptionally good reason to be a bit wary of prioritising Steam. That’s not to say you should ignore it, but I would say that Steam needs to become just an element of a game developers’ diet, and not the be all and end all –

            It’s become over-saturated. There’s literally a torrent of releases every day competing for the attention and wallets of potential buyers, and the number of developers who actually make good money is these days, a vanishingly small minority. Virtually all the ones I’m in contact with are struggling to put food on the table, which is telling because a lot of them make genuinely good games. We’re not talking babby’s first puzzle game or whatnot, we’re talking genuinely heartfelt and brilliant games that I’ve put solid time into. I’ve even wrote positive reviews for some of them because I enjoyed them that much.

            Yet the sales for them are marginal.

            That makes me kinda sad. There’s such a thing as “Too much choice”, and I wonder if Steam is suffering from that still, discoverability is a real problem, especially when greenlight is a complete bust, and Early Access tends to produce as much in the way of junk as it does diamonds in the rough.

            I don’t even have any good suggestions for it either, I’ve thought about this one. Really can’t see a way out yet.

          • RobF says:

            Yep, pretty much. It’s a weird situation because it’s not that games are making less, in the main there’s a lot more money and a lot more people selling games that previously they wouldn’t have been able to. Its that the expectations of what Steam can do for a game were, erm, “oversold”. There. That’s the tactful way of putting it.

            Having a back up plan and a way of selling elsewhere is already kinda important but over the next two years, if anyone doesn’t have that, they will just disappear between the cracks unless one day they pop up at random in a discovery queue or something. I think it’s going to take a while for people to come round to that though, there’s still a lot of “Steam, our saviour” attitude floating around.

          • Hobbes says:

            The ever present issue with Steam having an effective stranglehold on the PC digital market. There’s exceptions to this, and as of late, there are thankfully more exceptions that exist, but broadly speaking, Steam’s still the five hundred pound gorilla, so whatever you do, Steam has to at least be a factor in your overall plan.

            Ubisoft -tried- to break out of that and ended up failing horribly, EA’s succeeded with Origin, though only on account of the fact they have strong IP’s like Fifa and Madden from which they can essentially maintain a small core of exclusives that make Origin palatable for people (and Unravel, which will make me tolerate Origin because of the sheer love that game projected). There’s still the problem for EA that outside of their first tier exclusives they’re really having to fight from a position of weakness, not helped by Valve basically pulling the rug out with the new refund policy.

            GOG has the potentially strongest position as the Galaxy client is by all accounts very good, however they will need critical mass and to get some “killer apps” (how I hate marketspeak) in order to really start eroding Steams position and open up the market.

            Of course, that then begs the question – do we even want that. PC gamers have been for the longest of times happy with the concept of one single platform being the “go to” location for their digital game library, and having lots of balkanised locations to access various chunks of their gaming goodies is a straight regression. It’d be lovely if say, Steam’s client would talk to Origin, and Origin would talk to GOG Galaxy and you could sync your friendlists across -all- of them. But that’s living in la-la land.

          • malkav11 says:

            I might want that, but not the way EA’s doing it and not really the way Ubisoft or Rockstar are either. Genuine competition between stores on the quality of their user experience and prices, sure, awesome. Locking down the titles you happen to publish as exclusive to your shitty client isn’t that.

    • Wulfram says:

      Games exclusively targeted at women are a thing. Not the only thing, but that’s not what he said

    • Jenks says:

      “This is an article that insists developers spend money on localising their game for the japanese market, a market that he flags at 4.5% of sales but insists there is no point in making games for women because women only make up 18% of Steam users. ”

      Because creating a game is the same as localizing an existing one, uh huh.

      • Hobbes says:

        Of note is that whilst that Japan might only be 4.5% of the market globally, if you make a game that appeals to the Japanese market and localise it well, you’ll make an absolute truckload of cash. The Japanese game market is vibrant and bright and easily one of the strongest outside of the usual bastions (US, UK, Ger, SOK, China, Russia). A lot of people discount Russia and China due to lack of individual spending power but you’re dealing in really, really big markets. See World of Tanks, War Thunder, et al, as an example.

      • cbanana says:

        I think this might be another thing that’s dubiously correct. Anecdotally there are a lot of anime fans who just list themselves as Japanese to show themselves off as anime fans.

    • thegooseking says:

      Nick Yee of Daedalus Project fame just launched his new website, Quantic Foundry, and the results he got here are illuminating.

      Hot Button Issues

      Now, he admits that there is a moderate bias in his respondents towards older players and people who prefer RPGs and MMOs (about half of his respondents were people who were surveyed for Project Daedalus, which was both a long time ago and focused on MMOs), so that should be taken into account, but even so, it presents a very different picture to the received wisdom that the majority of players don’t care about inclusivity issues.

      On another note, I always find the argument that it’s ok for games to alienate women (or even, as Steam Spy seems to be implying, that games should alienate women) because women are alienated by games pretty bewildering. If there is a market disparity, that implies that the market is failing to serve certain demographics, which, even from a solely business perspective, never mind the morality of it, is a problem to be addressed, not something to double down on.

  6. DrollRemark says:

    Isn’t that Clash of Clans article a few months old? I could have sworn I read something very similar a while back, possibly even linked to from here.

  7. gabrielonuris says:

    That post about Assassin’s Creed Syndicate couldn’t have been more accurate about Ubisoft nowadays. It’s indeed trying too damn high to be cool, like a kid playing with a halloween costume. It’s getting extremely RIDICULOUS, to say the least. It’s like Ubisoft is screaming in all directions: “Hey, cosplayers around the world, we’ve got a new chalenge for you! Look at us, LOOK AT USSS!!!”

    Well, at least those jRPG cosplayers will have a strong competition now.

  8. welverin says:

    Since I’m sure Asurmen missed it, here’s my post from last week about what music I like:
    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.

    • Asurmen says:

      I had automatically assumed music linked on Sunday Papers would cover genres of those bands at some point. Obviously I was wrong!

      • welverin says:

        Maybe they do, but pretty much every time I check something out it seems to be something heavily electronic, which I can’t stand.

        I like this weeks selection though.

  9. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    “He’s good at killing monsters, which in many games would be enough. Here, it means he can marginally improve the lot of the few people whose lives are made even worse by the harassment of a restless spirit or a werewolf.”

    I would go one further and say that in many cases, Geralt’s skill at dealing with monsters only makes things worse for many, many people.

    ***VELEN/BLOODY BARON SPOILER***
    When you get what is arguably the “good” ending to the Bloody Baron quest, you’ve saved the Baron’s wife and reunited him with his broken family, and they leave together for parts unknown to heal and make genuine amends for past viciousness. Great, right? Well done, Geralt!

    Well, unfortunately, with the Baron out of the picture, his army of brigands and deserters is given free reign to rape and pillage the already devastated people of Velen. By being good at his job, Geralt has improved the lives of a couple, while dooming an entire region to a new episode of barbarism and horror.

    • Baines says:

      From what I remember of the books, that’s pretty much the story of his life. He’s not a hero. He’s a guy that fights monsters. Bad things happen.

      The early stories had a bit about a non-intervention policy, where Geralt was only supposed to deal with monster-related issues and not other situations. He’d stick to the policy, and bad things would happen to people, bad things that Geralt knew that he could have prevented. But when he violates that policy, bad things still happen to people, things that Geralt knows wouldn’t have happened if he hadn’t gotten involved.

      Geralt has a kind of “can’t win for losing” life. But he’s good at killing monsters. (Mind, it isn’t just that Geralt sometimes makes things worse for people. The whole world is getting worse. It would get worse whether or not Geralt had existed at all.)

    • Geebs says:

      I don’t think I’ve ever watched one of the end-of-act videos that explains the consequences of what I’ve done, in any of the Witcher games, without inwardly muttering “Well, shit”. This means that I’m role-playing Geralt perfectly.

  10. malkav11 says:

    Apparently Clash of Clans videos are a Thing. I’m not sure I get it.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    The photo used in the Clash of Cards piece comes from the New York Times who profiled Yao in 2013, it’s still a good read – link to nytimes.com

  12. kwyjibo says:

    Tale of Tale’s Sunset lost money and it looks like they’re giving up on commercial game projects.

    link to gist.github.com

    (cached from link to tale-of-tales.com)

    • Lacero says:

      If you’re very popular with a smll group of fans I guess the lesson is charge more don’t try and be more popular.

      • Baines says:

        It sounds more like Tale of Tales never had a model that could survive entirely through commercial funding in the first place. “In its 12 year existence Tale of Tales has always teetered on the edge of sustainability, combining art grants and commercial revenue“.

        Their own farewell article said that they were on the edge of sustainability even when they were receiving art grants. They lost those art grants. Who knows, at that point they might already have been doomed. Charging more with their niche audience might not have made up the difference. (We don’t know how much more they needed, nor do we know how many customers might have been lost with price increases.)

        They decided to try to market their games to a wider audience, though there was little evidence that their games would naturally appeal to a wider audience. They hired a PR firm that sounds like it acted like a normal PR firm, and missed out on the ways that other art games made their appeals. They paid for ads on RPS, a site where the ad situation has gotten bad enough that it has driven at least some users to using blocking software.

        They end by pointing out that everyone that they consulted was wrong. Doesn’t mean that the lesson is to not try and be more popular, it just means that they failed to be more popular.

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      What a very Tale of Tales post that is. I’ve always been glad that these guys exist and keep doing their stuff, but honestly, they’ve never really been very good at it, and the elitism and a weird sense of entitlement (because we’re the only capital-A Artists around here!) that’s always been hanging around them is making that even worse. It’s like they’re convinced that exploring interesting subjects automatically makes them great artists and great videogame developers. But it doesn’t. That’s not how this works.

      That being said, 4,000 copies really is a painfully low number. Haven’t played Sunset yet, but damn, I don’t think it deserved that.

      • malkav11 says:

        Likewise, changing gears somewhat for one game and then concluding that that was a complete failure and you should never have done it rather fails to take into account the baggage brought by their previous decade of development. I for one found the ideas behind Sunset quite intriguing, but I haven’t gotten on particularly well with their previous work so I wasn’t sufficiently sold on it to rush right out and pick it up. Something like Gone Home, on the other hand, was coming from people who worked on games I absolutely love and focusing on the parts I liked best about those games (i.e. the exploration and piecing together the plot and characters, not the combat). And it doesn’t hurt that Steve Gaynor’s been very personable in interviews and has done some fantastic podcasts with the Idle Thumbs crew, not to mention his developer interview podcast Tone Control. The Tale of Tales folks, on the other hand, kind of rub me the wrong way.

        • Hobbes says:

          Therein lies the real issue, even if the game is decent, when it comes to these really close margin Artistic games, a lot hinges on the perception of the Artists making them. Tale of Tales have had perception issues, even they admit it, and that’s played perhaps into the problems they’ve faced. I doubt it’s been responsible for -all- of the problems, they’ve definitely had positive press, but still…

    • cpt_freakout says:

      For all the calmness in its tone, that’s quite the dramatic reaction. Making a ‘commercial game’ does not mean the game will be a commercial success – Sunset is still a very small indie game, regardless of press exposure, so it’s kind of strange that they believed it would be a sort of breakthrough money-wise. The context to which it belongs is that of small indie projects and not that of Assassin’s Creed, or whatever their model for a ‘commercial game’ was. I think their attempt at doing ‘commercial’ (I’m using scare quotes because it’s not altogether clear what they mean by it, but it seems it would be related to mechanical and graphical conventions) is very valuable in and of itself, and if stuff like Gone Home and Proteus are any indication, then these attempts, however failed they might be, are of utmost importance if we want to keep re-defining and re-evaluating these things as artistic products. It’s sad to see them say they’re never gonna try something like Sunset again, if only because I do think they have the capacity to make something at the edge of the ‘commercial’ that could possibly be a hit.

      • DrollRemark says:

        Yeah, if you’re intent on trying to bring your work to a larger number of people (become ‘commercial’, as they call it), then you have to accept that most distastefully commercial aspect of self-analysis, and actually work out if there are things you could do better to sell the game. Could you make gameplay improvements that don’t compromise your artistic vision? Despite all that marketing budget, could you have used that money better?

        Seems odd to just give up entirely, rather than try to learn from the failure.

  13. Premium User Badge

    Thulsa Hex says:

    Wardrobe Theory is a fantastic find! Thanks!

  14. PancakeWizard says:

    Th e Wardrobe thing reminded me of the excellent, Fashion It So.

    Stanton seems to have forgotten Blizzard made Starcraft.

    The Guardian E3 article is (like so many that bought into that narrative this year) wrong about it being this being the year of women in games. thankfully, Adrian Chmielarz has us covered.

    On Steam Spy, it bothers me he’s said “[..]more inclusive platforms like Facebook and iOS”, when what he should’ve said is “more social platforms”. That’s clearly a big draw for women who wouldn’t consider themselves gamers (ie playing games as a pass-time, not as enthusiasts/hobbyists), as they are coming across the games as a secondary motivation for being on those platforms. Steam is not exclusive – there’s no barrier for entry other than interest. It’s just that there aren’t as many gamer women as gamer men. You can’t force an interest, just like you can’t assume there aren’t as many women gamers because there aren’t as many games with a female avatar choice. If that was the case, then just about every western RPG (which has that choice) would be a 50/50 demographic split.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      Oops forgot the link for Adrian Chmielarz: link to medium.com

      • Jenks says:

        It’s nice to read people who acknowledge The Narrative exists.

      • KenTWOu says:

        I like this part: No one likes admitting they were wrong. The remainings of the narrative, then, had to be reskinned. And so now we have it that the industry “finally listened and grew up”. Even if the change never really comes just because cultural critics crack the whip.

    • Reefpirate says:

      Yup, I thought the same thing when it said, “Blizzard are moving into esports…” Blizzard basically launched the new golden era of e-sports with SC2, even if all the MOBA-frenzied masses want to pretend it’s now a dead game.

    • DrollRemark says:

      I don’t think anyone’s ever claimed that allowing female avatars is the final key to achieving perfectly diverse gaming demographics.

  15. Baffle Mint says:

    One thing I constantly notice is how much Rock Paper Shotgun writers, and I would say games critics in general, just love love love games with helpless protagonists.

    Games where you can’t do things, and especially games where you can’t fix things get absolute rave reviews for their artistry; Papers, Please is a perfectly fine game, but its writing is incredibly sparse and it’s generally too abstract to be very moving. Oh no, my uncle died, if he ever had done anything except be a name on one screen this would upset me.

    But it must be moving and brilliant because you’re a cog in the machine and you can’t be anything more.

    To be fair maybe the really great writing or amazing moments were in the endings I haven’t unlocked.

    But yeah, art comes from making the player helpless.

    I really would dearly like to see somebody besides me challenge this preference and kind of dig into the philosophy behind it. Now, I’m sure the Witcher 3 does a great job with it, but I kind of question the excitement about not letting the player solve problems.

    Why prefer a game about a “useless professional” monster hunter to, say, a game about an extremely useful diplomat? Is it a pro-social thing? Is it important for games to tell us that no single man can solve a problem? But again this just raises the question of why not make a game about cooperative problem solving?

    Critics, I ask you, why is it important that gamers be given fantasies of impotence?

    • BooleanBob says:

      I think that the impression is so strongly made on games critics is partly down to the fact that, in the course of their professional duties, they will play hundreds of games and almost all of them will be power fantasy fulfilment simulators of some kind or another. Disempowering games become remarkable almost by definition. Not trying to make a value judgement here, just.. that’s where I think the fascination comes from.

    • FunkyB says:

      It is important for variety. Nobody is suggesting the Watch Dogs / Batman / Gears of War / Far Cry etc. model of power fantasy should go away, but that there should be other things as well.

      Not every book or film has a happy ending in which the lead character solves everything by punching. Those films exist and are fun. But for every Kingsman there is a Million Dollar Baby, and we are richer for them both existing.