The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for meeting long-time and long-distance freelancers for coffee and videogames, then sloping home in the rain to gather links to the week’s best writing about videogames.

  • Paul Dean nipped in at the last second by sending me through his in-depth profile of Fredrik Wester, CEO of Paradox Interactive. It’s a good piece.
  • “I’ve come to realise that working very closely with me can be challenging for people,” he says. “I’ll say, maybe, ‘[These are steps] A, B, C…’ but then people have to figure out the rest of that alphabet. I know exactly where we’re going to go with the company, but I also know that a lot of this only stays in my head and only comes out in fractions when I talk to people. I need to sit down with myself, remind myself that I’m now communicating with 180 employees. When you’re just ten, you can talk to people every day, everyone will know everything. There’s no challenge in communicating. The last two years, I’ve had a lot of work to do figuring out how I keep all our people on board, rowing in the same direction. I’d say my job is now a totally different thing to how it was even three years ago.”

  • At Offworld, Daniel Starkey writes about how piracy gave him a future. It talks about poverty and a childhood spent stealing in order to attain cultural currency as much as actual currency.
  • Before too long I had $300 as well as a spare monitor and case, enough to build a basic system. My first pirated PC game was Deus Ex. I’d heard about it a few times, and it sounded interesting. “A game about politics,” was how a friend pitched it to me, though it’s also been described as a “cyberpunk-themed action role-playing video game.” Within a few hours I had it running on my cobbled together PC, and it was a revelation.

  • At Mammon Machine: ZEAL, Robert Yang writes about bodies and videogames, the limitations of the ways we simulate them, and how we might do better. It’s a funny piece, and lightly NSFW.
  • Ragdolling into oncoming traffic in Saints Row’s “Insurance Fraud” mode inspires you to pay much more attention to the traffic simulation and civil vehicle types. Player-made glitch videos of combusting skater boys in Skate 3 transform the game’s benches, lampposts, and awkward crawlspaces into opportunities for transcendence. The mannequin sliding downward in Stair Dismount makes each step felt, unlike many 3D games where the stairs are secretly plastered over into invisible ramps. What better way to talk to the world than by planting your face into it?

    A ragdoll is an awkward body in flux that we share with the game engine, whose every movement is unknowable and unpredictable and must be negotiated. Even the most realistic motion capture cannot compete with this kind of truth. Our vulnerability and awkwardness is what makes our bodies alive.

  • Reader ‘A Person On The Internet’ wrote in with the next three links. First, Gamasutra’s recent deep dive into the design of rocket jumping in Rocket League. I haven’t played Rocket League since Gamescom, and I think its spell over me might not be broken. Till I play it again for a second and then I’ll be hooked once more.
  • We fell in love with rocket boosting because it’s an interesting mechanic: it’s not automatically going to work every time, and it does require a bit of player skill to pull off. For instance, if you’re flying over the ball and you want to stop yourself with a rocket boost, you have to overcome that momentum — you can’t just hit a button and fly off in a different direction. You have to learn how to finesse it, and that was really cool for the obstacle course game we were originally trying to create.

  • Rich Stanton follows on from calling Metal Gear Solid (maybe) the first modern videogame by calling Metal Gear Solid 2 the first postmodern videogame

    Metal Gear Solid’s enormous sales and critical acclaim are what every developer dreams of, but Kojima instinctively understood it came with a cost. His previous games had flitted between worlds and genres, but now he was duty-bound to make Metal Gear Solid 2. And this was an acute problem, because MGS was in part known for tricks and twists – Mantis, unique boss battles, breakaway sections like rappelling or imprisonment – that couldn’t be repeated. Repetition is inherent to the concept of a sequel, so is that what people want from MGS2? Another Shadow Moses?

  • Also on Eurogamer, Keith Stuart writes about why he will never call videogames a hobby. I think I disagree with some of its underlying assumptions about the limits of hobbies.
  • And this is why I cannot call games a hobby. I know, I know, a lot of people do – and that’s fine, it’s up to them. I just think they’re sort of wrong. Now please, I don’t really want to get into dictionary definitions of the word ‘hobby’. That’s because heading into an argument with a dictionary definition is a bit like complaining that a particular parody of Star Trek can’t be funny because it mentions the wrong version of the Starship Enterprise – it’s really quite boring, and it trivialises the discourse in a smug and reductive way. I suppose that, to me, a hobby is something that we enjoy, that we spend time on, but that doesn’t necessarily tie in to other areas of our lives, or how we perceive the wider world. It is a discreet enjoyment, and its meaning can be almost superfluous.

  • Pip Turner sent in his diary of experiences with Bethesda’s Fallout Shelter. Inside: inconvenient death and creepy breeding.
  • None of seem to realise how close they and the vault were to death and how close they were to never seeing the light of the fluorescent bulbs buzzing above their heads. Never mind eh! All in a good days work. I’ve sent a couple dwellers off to explore the wasteland whilst I sleep. Nothing much to report apart from one small thing. Instead of assigning Paul Bush to sleep with every woman again, I instead paired people off into couples, letting them happily make children. What I didn’t take into account was the current children of the vault. See images a[x] and b[x]. They know. THEY KNOW.

  • Nate Robinson sent in his webcominc, MAN v. BACKLOG, in which he makes a comic for each game he plays from his backlog of unplayed games.

Music this week is Turn It Around by Lucius. I haven’t watched the video.

51 Comments

  1. liquidsoap89 says:

    Here’s a Deus Ex:HR lets play from 2 of the lead devs"

    They play through the first hourish of the game, criticizing much of their own work while doing so. Also, a brief mention of ceilings, and "some journalist" who really appreciated them!

    • Shazbut says:

      Thanks for this, I’m enjoying it. I like how open they are about criticizing their own work

      • liquidsoap89 says:

        I like the comment about Jensen’s shoulders. They have regrets about the thing you look at most in the game. It’s cool to see how an artist’s opinion can change over time.

    • MollyThomas says:

      My last pay check was $9500 working 12 hours a week online. My sisters friend has been averaging 15k for months now and she works about 20 hours a week. I can’t believe how easy it was once I tried it out. This is what I do… http://www.wallstreet34.com

    • MollyThomas says:

      my best friend’s mother makes $98 /hour on the internet . She has been unemployed for 9 months but last month her payment was $19743 just working on the internet for a few hours. hop over to here… http://www.wallstreet34.com

  2. bunionbell says:

    I admit that I am most interested in this book because the author’s previous was about heroin addiction.

    link to us.macmillan.com

  3. JFS says:

    Fallout Shelter. I installed it to try out, nearly got addicted within an hour or so, noticed that the game is basically one big Skinner box and uninstalled it as fast as I could. It’s a nice idea for a promo game, executed well, but I’d rather read a book or play a game where something happens… or at least where the combination of numbers going up and reinforcement is more cleverly disguised.

    • Awesomeclaw says:

      I think it’s fine for what it is, although it’s not very engaging. I think that a vault management game could actually be pretty good, maybe as a Dwarf Fortress style game where you’re constantly expanding your vault downwards (potentially into dangerous caves/research facilities/other bunkers) while also scavenging and fending off attacks.

      I’ve also found it to be actually somewhat more difficult than I expected it to be (although it’s still not very difficult), and find myself having to switch dwellers between rooms and gear in order to avoid running out of resources.

      That said, the game does seem to be creepily focused on sex between dwellers – I usually find that at least one (and usually two) of the objectives the game gives me must be or can be solved using sex.

      • Universal Quitter says:

        Granted, I haven’t played it, but “creepily obsessed with sex” sounds like a pretty apt description of the first fifteen to twenty years of adult life.

        • Premium User Badge

          Dukey says:

          You haven’t played the first fifteen years of human life? I must say you’re doing a remarkable job of pretending – you could’ve had us all fooled.

    • Holderist says:

      Do you mean that the vault dwellers are in the box? Or are the players being conditioned?

      • JFS says:

        The players are being conditioned. There’s not really much happening except click-reward-wait-click-reward. Maybe it gets better after a while, but I didn’t really expect it to.

  4. Core says:

    Did RPS already cover the new game crowdfunding site FIG? It has some interesting people involved with it Tim Schafer, Feargus Urquhart & Brian Fargo etc..

    link to giantbomb.com

    • Radiant says:

      I trust none of those people with money.

    • Baines says:

      So, it is like Kickstarter, but you are legitimately investing in the project rather than giving a donation for promised rewards. Well, you still won’t own anything, and you have no say in the project, but you get a percentage of the sales.

      Except the legal system restricts such private investing to “qualified” people, so you cannot invest unless you can prove to the government that you are worth a million dollars or that you’ve made at least $200,000 a year for the last two years. (To be fair, they hope to eventually be able to do away with that requirement.) And the minimum investment on Fig is $1,000.

      So… Kickstarter for millionaires. Not enough information to judge whether or not the developers will have more or less freedom to spend the money raised how they want, but I’d guess that guys like Schafer are going to try to give developers as much freedom as possible. (I mean, we already have had multiple developers complain about the “restrictions” of Kickstarter, due to devs being expected to actually do what they had promised to do in order to get donator money.)

      • AngusPrune says:

        Oh no, it’s better than that. It’s Kickstarter for millionaires where all the projects are by celebrities. They should have just called it Cliquestarter.

      • Cederic says:

        In the UK the rules are a little more relaxed (in general, not checked that site). You need to self-certify as a ‘sophisticated investor’ or meet a very high salary bar, but it’s possible to self-certify as a sophisticated investor with a pitiful level of investment.

        Being able to invest in games with the prospect of financial return is more attractive than kickstarter to me, but I’d need a strong delivery track record of well designed games before I’d even consider handing over that amount of cash.

        I’d also want them to be in the UK so that I could claim SEIS/EIS, as that seriously mitigates risk. Oh well.

      • grimbelch says:

        I’ll just leave this here: link to forbes.com

      • RobF says:

        I’m torn between wanting The Outer Wilds to get the funding it needs to get by and wanting everything about FIG to go away. From the “we must find ways to ramp up budgets in indie games” to the ‘celebrity’ curation of projects to the shitstorm in waiting that is mixing normal investment with KS-style funding and on. It’s an idea by people who never have to worry about the ripples it’ll cause.

  5. vorador says:

    I was sorely disappointed after all the buzz. The basic gameplay is composed of short burst of activity clicking on things, then wait for meters to fill up before clicking on more things. Standard Skinner box gameplay for F2P games.

  6. Frank says:

    That article on MGS being the first modern game is pretty unconvincing. It just sounds like any other action game with a lack of confidence in its core mechanics (papered over with jokes, nonsensical big-idea blathering, an inconsistent camera, boss fights and minigame set pieces).

    On the plus side, I guess it is “darker” than peers like Banjo-Kazooie. Maybe that was the key?

    • Vermintide says:

      First modern console game, perhaps. It pretty much did for console games what Half Life did for the PC market of the time. By their powers combined, we ended up with the modern AAA blockbuster.

      Do you remember when a game was a game, and unless it was the RP type of game, it didn’t need a huge Hollywood storyline attached for you to mash A/X/ESC through? When you just hit “new game” and got right to chainsawing imps? That period of history died in 1998.

      • Frank says:

        Yeah, I guess that’s true, though we also had Thief that year.

      • Sin Vega says:

        Honestly, I hate the MGS games, but comparing them to Half Life will always leave the latter in the cold. Narratively and thematically they were much more ambitious, even if the story and writing were terrible. Half Life was huge and changed a lot, but at heart it was a simple story about going from A to B while shooting everything. MGS was like a concept album by comparison.

        • Merus says:

          I don’t know if I can pay that. MGS is far more ambitious, but Half-Life had two things going for it: a rock-solid commitment to never, ever take control away from the player, while still telling a competent story; and that it was an FPS, which was famously a genre where the storyline was irrelevant. Half-Life’s story is nothing special, but tying it to what the player is seeing and doing made the world so much richer than anything Quake or its descendents ever managed to do.

          • Wulfram says:

            Surely being committed to not taking control away from the player disqualifies it from being truly a modern game?

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Yeah, Half-Life’s story was basic, but it’s storytelling was unprecedented. For what it’s worth, I think MGS attempted to say things that had never been said in a videogame before, though it did come off sounding like a pretty average anime.

    • pepperfez says:

      like any other action game with a lack of confidence in its core mechanics
      Pretty much the definition of the modern game.

  7. Melody says:

    I agree with Graham on that article on Videogames that cannot be hobbies.

    “I suppose that, to me, a hobby is something that we enjoy, that we spend time on, but that doesn’t necessarily tie in to other areas of our lives, or how we perceive the wider world. It is a discreet enjoyment, and its meaning can be almost superfluous.

    His definition of hobby is so restrictive that I don’t think anything really fits it. Something that we enjoy and spend time on but that somehow doesn’t tie in to our inner life in any significant way? It’s almost a riddle… Not even certain mental illnesses give rise to anything that fits that definition.

    If it didn’t resonate with us somehow, we wouldn’t be spending time on it in the first place. All the areas of our lives affect each other, we’re not made of airtight compartments.

    • Melody says:

      every game feeds into the wider (look, I’m going to use the word and I apologise) zeitgeist.

      What’s that? Why is he so reluctant to use a not-even-that-obscure word?
      Ugh.

      It’s an extremely simple essay that looks like it’s saying something revolutionary when it’s really not.
      Video games are a form of cultural expression, and as such they behave like other forms of cultural expression. If you had been listening to those boring literature classes in high school, you’d already know that.
      Whom is this article aimed to? Aside from his definition of hobby, the point of view he is arguing against is one of a person who hasn’t really given video games any sort of serious, or at least not-dismissive, thought for even 5 seconds.

      • Scurra says:

        Isn’t the problem that those people do actually exist though? People who haven’t given video games more than five seconds of thought except to dismiss them as meaningless time-filler.
        I mean, sure, Eurogamer isn’t exactly the most sensible place to take that position, but the argument is probably sound – video games are a form of cultural expression, and to assess them as merely a hobby does probably do them a disservice. (And I write this as someone who is a boardgame designer and doesn’t consider boardgames to be a form of cultural expression, except in the broadest terms.)

        • Geebs says:

          I can’t really get invested in the importance of one’s hobbies being more than hobbies. Now that I’m old enough to not give a shit about what other people think of me, I’m perfectly happy with the social contract that I can enjoy things which bore other people, as long as I don’t tell them about it.

          (I imagine it’d be pretty easy to find a quote from some guy in 500 AD saying essentially the same thing).

        • cpt_freakout says:

          That something you do doesn’t take central importance in your life does not mean it doesn’t have any importance, or that it’s not inherently connected to your perspective of the world. On the contrary, a hobby is also a reflection of who you are, and an important one simply because it is a socializing process. Hobbies might be solitary at times, but they’re never isolating, serving as both identity elements and an expression of a type of creativity within that community with which you can identify or be identified.

          It’s OK if videogames – or anything – are incredibly important in your life, but that doesn’t diminish the possible enthusiasm of someone who couldn’t care less about the discussion of whether Proteus is a game or not. An article like the one posted just revels in the dead-horse division between ‘casual’ and ‘hardcore’ by taking the stance in which those terms imply a hierarchy of authenticity (“Oh so you’re a hobbyist? Heh. For me, this shit’s a way of life.”). It’s a line of thought that leads back to itself in the end, in ways that harden all those stupid forms of separation (and ultimately discrimination).

        • joa says:

          The inferiority complex of gamers is impressive indeed. Games aren’t art, they are entertainment. They are designed for profit and for broad appeal.

          Also the irony is, the type of person who clamour for the ‘games is art’, likely would not spend 5 minutes or more in a modern art gallery or reading ‘serious literature’. So what they are asking for?

    • PancakeWizard says:

      My take:

      Games are a medium. They have the capacity to be great art, or not. And everything in between. Just like film. Just like literature.

      Someone who plays games is just…a person. You wouldn’t call someone who picks up a magazine a ‘book worm’, or someone who idley flicks through the Sky guide looking for a movie a ‘movie buff’.

      A Gamer (v. gaming) is a hobbyist within that medium: they read about them, devote time and energy to them, talk about them with a degree of experience and passion. That’s where anyone reading this site would fall into. Someone who only plays Fruit Ninja on the train to work is not reading RPS or commenting on articles.

      It’s really that simple, it’s always been that simple, and it’s getting tired seeing everyone twist themselves into mental pretzels trying to be existential about it.

      • Geebs says:

        Hit the nail on the head, although I think you missed out on the point that games now getting vast quantities of pretentious arse-water written about them is a symptom of the fact that they have acquired the same cultural currency as other media, and should be celebrated. You’re allowed to grit your teeth though.

      • NathanH says:

        I think you are quite right, except that I probably wouldn’t call video games a medium. They occupy the space between medium and genre, I don’t know what the technical term is for this. It’s like, Book -> Novel -> Crime; we have for instance ??? -> Video game -> FPS. Here, ??? needs to be replaced by a catchy word to refer to the environment and interface in which we interact with video games and their like.

        This view neatly dodges the game/not-game conundrum without needing to make anyone sad.

        Anyway, the article itself? Utter wank.

        • TillEulenspiegel says:

          That’s easy; the medium is “electronic entertainment”. The only confusion comes from people who insist that every piece of computerized art is a game.

          So things like the demoscene would quite appropriately share a common medium with games and interactive art, but they’re all completely different forms.

  8. Vermintide says:

    MGS2 is pretty much the definition of post-modernism in videogames. It’s one of the few games I would call a genuine, substantial (ha) work of art, even if that comes at the expense of it’s quality as a piece of entertainment.

    If you’re the sort of person who can honestly claim to understand and appreciate the works of artists like Marcel Duchamp, and the subsequent movements he influenced, then to say MGS2 is post-modern is somewhat stating the obvious. It’s the fact it stands so far apart from almost anything before or since that’s bewildering, considering the potential of the medium.

  9. Radiant says:

    Nobody wants people to say their life encompassing hobby is /just/ a hobby.

    I mean… I hope the 30 people I have locked in my basement wont say anything about my hobby either.

  10. geldonyetich says:

    Man Vs Backlog certainly speaks to us Steam sale survivors.

  11. kwyjibo says:

    The most interesting piece of games writing I came across this week was this 7000 word history of the Virtual Boy in Fast Company magazine. You’re certain to learn something new.

    link to fastcompany.com

  12. Windows98 says:

    The final word on hobbies:

  13. cpt_freakout says:

    Always great to read a Robert Yang piece, thanks!

  14. Moth Bones says:

    I reckon that anyone interested in the nature and reach of hobbies would enjoy Robert Coover’s novel, The Universal Baseball Association, Inc., J. Henry Waugh, Prop. (link to en.wikipedia.org.,_J._Henry_Waugh,_Prop.).