The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for finalising tax details and preparing for Gamescom. Fun stuff. Best varnish the day with a spot of the week’s best games writing. And hey! Do you have a personal blog upon which you write about games? Email me. I can only highlight what I know about.

  • Where MOBA tournaments are doing more and more to make themselves accessible to new audiences – with rookie streams and careful commentary – fighting game tournament EVO remains a mystery. If you can’t decipher its matches in real-time, Patrick Miller might be able to help you after the fact by breaking down the top 8 lessons from the tournament. It’s heavy in detail both in terms of the game’s mechanics and the scene’s current state.
  • Ultra Combos are high-damaging moves that can only be used once the player has filled their Ultra Meter at least halfway — and you can only fill that meter by taking damage. This effectively functions as a comeback mechanic of sorts: once you’ve taken about 45% of your health bar in damage, you can spend that Ultra Meter to perform your Ultra Combo, and if it hits, get yourself back in the game (though, if it hits, you now have a pissed-off opponent that probably has taken enough damage to get access to her own Ultra Combo).

  • Our own Rich Stanton has written a book, A Brief History Of Videogames, which is out now. IGN published an extract this past week, and it’s focused on the Metal Gear series.
  • Hideo Kojima’s debut as a lead designer begins with special-ops soldier Solid Snake swimming to a dock entrance at a military base: over a decade later, so would Metal Gear Solid. The game looked like a top-down 2D shooter, but the way you played had been a pet idea of Kojima for several years – a military game about avoiding confrontation. Though the game can’t quite maintain this focus for its entire duration (the second half is more traditional gunplay) this mixture of systems created the stealth genre.

  • At Unwinnable, Rowan Kaiser writes about the most difficult fight in Mass Effect 3. I like articles which pick apart a particular action set piece, level or combat arena.
  • The problem with that ideal form is that it makes the player boringly comfortable. The recharging shields of most games in cover shooters mean that hiding to recharge, picking off enemies and repeating as necessary is generally the best, safest strategy, unless (or until) the player is pushed out of that comfort zone. Gears of War does this with the powerful, seductively gruesome melee attacks, which Mass Effect copies to some extent (especially in ME3). Yet at its best, Mass Effect uses level design to encourage players to “pivot,” staying in roughly the same place, but shifting focus to an entirely new space and set of enemies.

  • At Gamasutra, Rob Lockhart looks at game names from a dataset including nearly 150,000 games. What are the most common title words, subtitles, in general, per year or per platform? The most generic PC game title would be War World Online: Wars Star Dark Game – Space Battle Simulator.
  • In my humble opinion, it really sucks that ‘war’ shows up second, after ‘game.’ There’s nothing wrong with war as a theme for any particular game, but our industry’s singular focus on war and violence becomes pretty tiresome, as this chart exemplifies. Which word would I prefer in second place? ‘Magic,’ of course!

  • Jason Schreier wrote a big piece at Kotaku about what it’s like to work in QA, testing games for a living.
  • “I think working on a project like that is made a lot better by the small moments where something truly stupid happens,” the tester said. “Talking pigs randomly standing up like a person and walking away, randomly being shot out of the sky in a plane by an ambient pedestrian whose physics had fired him into space. Trevor pulling his trousers down then never animating to pull them back up and spending the rest of the entire game with his trousers around his ankles. Franklin’s dog used to instantly die if he touched water… he’d just fall into a pool and sink to the bottom like a rock as soon as his paws got wet.”

  • The Shut Up & Sit Down site went down for a day this past week, meaning they took instead to a Google Doc in order to write the news while people watched and chatted. The moment has passed, but the Google Doc remains.
  • This video on how Microsoft capture video for HoloLens is interesting.
  • Couldn’t get this song out my head all week.
  • RPS had a good week, I think, and I wanted to draw attention back to this piece for those who missed it: a policeman on what police games get wrong.
  • “I think about a year ago, I came out of a house after dealing with a particularly troublesome criminal, who we knew had done something, realistically, but we couldn’t pin it on him. And I ended up having a sort of verbal joust with him – did you ever play Monkey Island? You know where you have to use those phrases, you have to match the riposte to an insult. It sort of became a little like that.

    “So I was thinking, if I was going to make a cop game… [Tone] is a massive thing. You can be heavy-handed, you can be jocular, you can be neutral. How you are with them affects the overall result. But could you transfer that into a game, or would it end up being a sort of glorified Monkey Island rip-off? ‘I am rubber and you are glue’, and all that sort of business.”

    Music this week is Stan Getz and The Oscar Peterson Trio.


    1. Raoul Duke says:

      “War World Online: Wars Star Dark Game – Space Battle Simulator”

      Someone should really make this… it sounds superb.

      • Baines says:

        It looks like someone went through effort to awkwardly put the generic words together in a way that it didn’t spell real game titles. “Wars Star”, making sure “war” wasn’t directly in front of “game”, etc.

        • Raoul Duke says:

          I don’t think you’re using your imagination.

          In order to maintain peace in the galaxy, the galactic council has decreed that all wars shall be fought in a single solar system. Although it has a proper name, that system is known throughout the galaxy as… the Wars Star. When rival civilizations clash, the must send their fleets to the Wars Star, where they are allocated a planet (or “War World”) on which to settle their differences.

          BUT WAIT… a conspiracy is afoot. A cunning alien race plans to use the cover of fighting on a War World to destroy the Wars Star itself and then unleash a campaign of terror across the galaxy. Only a lone batallion of loyal galactic council troops stand in the way of this Dark Game.

          Prepare for epic online space battle simulation in… War World Online: Wars Star Dark Game – Space Battle Simulator

          • quietone says:

            Shut up and take my money already!

            • Raoul Duke says:

              Actually, War World Online: Wars Star Dark Game – Space Battle Simulator is free to play. Unless you’d like to buy the War World Premium Galactic Starter Kit…

          • Sarfrin says:

            You, sir, are a genius.

          • zentropy says:

            I’d preorder.

      • SuicideKing says:

        I’m disappointed! I thought it would be Battleshooty Modernfield Advanced Ghost Elite 3: Cryface of War!

      • thaquoth says:

        I love the by platform thing at the end.

        I think I’m gonna make a homebrew Atari 2600 game called “Star Attack Man Space Video Patrol”

        Brilliant. Also apparently the Atari Falcon (what even is that thing) had so few games that its top ten is just singular game names. And “bugger”. Well.

    2. smokiespliff says:

      It was indeed a good week for RPS – Alec’s article on Windows 10 privacy invasion was fantastic

    3. NathanH says:

      Good, I got spanked a couple of times in that ME3 fight and thought I was just being bad.

      • banananas says:

        I am a big fan of the ME series, so much that I, ehm, 100%-ed every part… and THIS fight, on Insane difficulty… well, I just remember clenched teeth, lot’s of sweat, lot’s of swearing, twitch-spinning, space-bar-slamming and ammo switching like a maniac. Must have been an frightening sight… it was one hell of a challenge!

        • eggy toast says:

          “lot’s” ????

          • Rizlar says:

            From the biblical figure who’s wife turned into a pillar of salt.

            But yeah, interesting article, also goes far to explain why ME3 multiplayer is so satisfying while DA:I multi is rubbish.

            There’s also a conceptual joy in seeing the same game spaces repurposed so quickly; what was the threatening area is now safe while a previously irrelevant zone is now the focus of the battle. This also lets long fights be divided into easily understood phases, allowing a strong sense of progress. Good pivoting places the player in exhilaratingly uncomfortable situations – and tough pivoting forces players to have to move, not just shift and aim.

            • Awesomeclaw says:

              Yeah, I’ve played a decent amount of ME3 multiplayer and recently tried the DA:I stuff. I feel like there’s something interesting there, but the fact that the areas are randomly strung together doesn’t do it any favours. The ME3 maps being actually designed means that they work much better as actual spaces, with interesting routes and sight lines throughout. There’s also a decent variety of map types, with various indoor, outdoor, residential, industrial, military etc. settings, rather than the 4 different kinds of castle that DAI has.

          • banananas says:

            Whoops! Didn’t know what I was thinking there…*blushing*

            • banananas says:

              ffs, I think it’s now obvious that I’m not native, eh? ;)

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              Aerothorn says:

              Yes, but it’s obvious the other guy has nothing better to do than correct apostrophe usage in internet comment sections, so I think you come out ahead on that one :)

            • Bugamn says:

              I thought that natives made the worst mistakes.

      • brucethemoose says:

        You think that battle was hard? Go try modded platinum MP :)

        link to
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        link to
        link to

        Proof that we actually survive some of those rounds:
        link to
        link to

        ME3 has a ridiculously high skill cap. In fact, there are a ton of players who are MUCH better than me, and they can extract from harder games that that.

        • Awesomeclaw says:

          The last time I played ME3 MP, it was with the two other guys I usually play with, and a friend of one of them who we’d heard was quite good at it, so we tried one of the harder difficulties. The friend proceeded to completely dominate while everyone else was dying every 30 seconds. I think we’ve all kind of silently agreed that we’re too embarrassed to go back.

          • brucethemoose says:

            Most games at higher difficulties were like that, so there’s nothing to be ashamed of. Half the players learn to survive on that difficulty, and the other half drag them through the match.

            You walk on a VERY fine line in gold/platinum games. If you’re too aggressive, you’ll go down every 30 seconds. If you’re too conservative, you’ll get swarmed. That’s one reason why MECoop is so thrilling, and why it’s so difficult.

    4. Minglefingler says:

      That coffee video has created a whole new genre of nightmare for me.

      • subedii says:

        Throw in “Hey! Listen!”. You now know what it was like to play Zelda back in the 90’s.

        • Minglefingler says:

          You know I was pootling around in some game that allowed players to create their own levels when I found that some sadist had made a level using that sample of Navi as the main motif of the background sound. It was horrifying.

          • subedii says:

            Was that also a horror game?

            • Minglefingler says:

              Not intentionally. I got the strong impression that whoever had designed the place I was in (a forest) wanted it to be beautiful. And then chose the nagging fairy as their background noise.

      • Sarfrin says:

        It wasn’t cyriak weird but it was much weirder than I was expecting from a kitchen vlog.

    5. bleeters says:

      It probably says something either about myself or how much I took away from the game that the level described in the Mass Effect 3 article – apparently both the best fight in the game and also the emotional highpoint – is one I just don’t remember in any meaningful capacity. I mean sure, I remember being there, but when I try to recall any of the adrenaline fueled mastery described, mostly I just come up with vague recollections of hiding behind a bench and shooting storm troopers in the head with a sniper rifle until the game decided I was done and I got the next cutscene.

      Then again, I am a grumpy old man with a heart as black as coal, so that probably isn’t helping.

      • Wulfram says:

        It’s not really a particularly important or memorable missions as a whole, I wouldn’t say. It just happens to contain one of the more interesting fights.

      • Robert Post's Child says:

        Yeah, I have a vague recollection of the fight but nothing that makes it stand out more than the others – might just be from doing that level at a later point, perhaps.

        Also, there are some weird typos in that article.

      • Geebs says:

        The most difficult fight in Mass Effect 3 is the struggle to not quit out of disgust at the existence of Kai Leng.

    6. Buggery says:

      Working as a test analyst, I find it very interesting how halfheartedly the position is implemented in the video games industry. Practices and procedures that are de rigeur in in the rest of the software development world seem to be entirely ignored – particularly if the likes of the Arkham Knight PC release are anything to go by.

      • Hobbes says:

        Yeah but then my understanding is that games development and games coding principles tend to be treated with the same kind of care and respect that comes with the terms “Hammer and nails” and “Duct tape”. I remain eternally thankful I never had to deal with any such practices where I worked (for one thing, we’d have caught any such nasties on the test servers before any patch was deployed out to the live nodes), and the kind of fly by night coders who think it’s a great idea to leave database corrupting table overflows in various places because “We’ll fix it up with a post release patch” would have either been fired by my CIO or would have probably found out what happens when I wire an etherkiller into their work PC with them -sat at the desk at the time-.

        No, I would not be above electrocuting someone in the name of “educating” them. People don’t learn without a bit of positive reinforcement!

    7. Phasma Felis says:

      Re: Rob Lockhart’s thing about game names: I guffawed when I saw that there are roughly 20 different games subtitled “The Revenge,” but then I noticed that there’s also 20 games subtitled “The Great Underground Empire,” and I know for a fact that that’s high by 19. Maybe the database counts every platform port of Zork I as a different game?

      But there’s quite a few more of those, subtitles that supposedly occur well over a dozen times that I’m highly suspicious of–Superbike World Championship, Quest of the Avatar, The Force Unleashed. Wonder what’s happening there.

      • pepperfez says:

        How much better would the world be if there were 20 different “The Great Underground Empires,” though?

    8. Tsarcastic says:

      Upon hearing that Rich Stanton wrote a book, I rushed off to the Amazon store to buy myself a copy for my Kindle. Unfortunately it seems the Kindle version is not currently available in North America. Tragedy!

      Please send the electronic packet information nodes across the Atlantic to make this available so I can purchase such wordbooks.