The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for gathering the week’s best videogame writing into a post for you to peruse. What else?

  • Robert Yang writes about The Beginner’s Guide from the perspective of someone who, like TBG’s fictional author, was making Source engine maps circa 2008-2011. He finds many interesting things among the logic and level geometry.
  • But this is also where TBG broke for me, in a “ludonarrative dissonance” equivalent of 3D construction and production value. (Maybe call it “material-narrative dissonance”?) As someone who’s seen hundreds of community Source levels through the years, none of this looks like the work of a “lone amateur” who’s messing around. All the 3D carpentry here is very clean and trim; there are almost zero construction flaws in the entire game; the whisper of the walls here is extremely confident and experienced.

  • Douglas Wilson, Spelunky fan, writes on Polygon that Downwell is the best game he’s played in 2015. It’s not the best I’ve played but it is very good.
  • What’s so brilliant about the jump-kill combo system is that it gives the player an optional extra challenge to work towards, even in the easier levels. In Spelunky, World 1 becomes a bit of a snooze for an expert player, an obligatory warmup for the harder challenges ahead. In Downwell, by contrast, an expert player will try to maximize their combos from the very first level. The game remains engaging throughout, revealing additional complexity commensurate with the player’s developing skillset.

  • Friend-of-RPS Konstantinos sent in his recent blog post about an RPG he was working on, since cancelled, which also counted Richard Cobbett and Dan Griliopoulos among its writers. Blimey.
  • All I can do, after over a year of pre-production, countless pages worth of words, dozens of sketches and almost two prototypes, is attempt to give you an idea of what would have been and, in a way, preserve the game’s memory. It was pretty important to me, you see, and having it cancelled almost made me give up games entirely, but, well, I do at least hope you’ll find reading about the RPG-that-never-was interesting.

  • Jon Blyth’s Eurogamer column last week found the places where games align with his new career, managing a pub. Jon could write about any subject and I’d read it.
  • Then there are the people who say Her Story, Gone Home and so on aren’t “games”. We’ve got that with Craft Beer – eye-rolling at the fizzy upstart, tutting at the genre-stretching novelty of a Chocolate Aniseed IPA, and wincing as the high price of craft beer collides hard with the preconception of craft brewers as privileged hipsters. Conservatism is ugly, whatever the size of the C. Let’s just all get drunk on whatever we enjoy and make out in the toilets.

    In terms of video games, this means: stop hating games that you were never supposed to like. It’s like telling your mum you don’t fancy her.

  • Videogames are becoming more mainstream! And isn’t that dreadful?
  • Anyway, video games are becoming mainstream and obviously that’s a terrible thing. You used to turn up to a midnight launch and it would just be you, your mum (who drove you there) and a large sweaty man who you would later learn was getting the collector’s edition because he wanted the lifesize statue of the game’s protagonist’s torso. Now you turn up for the release of Shootman III: Shoot Them All and it’s all children and fans and women, and you have to leave because none of them recognise your cosplay. It’s OBVIOUSLY Wing Commander Endjapes, who was written out of the second game for not being muscley enough. Fakers.

  • Cool Ghosts have started posting their Subterfuge video diaries. Hats off to Quinns, who has played Neptune’s Pride but isn’t afraid to go back for more. None of my friends will play with me.
  • Speaking of Subterfuge, at Offworld Leigh Alexander writes about whether diverse character art can invite you into game genres you’d normally avoid.
  • Subterfuge, too, has gone to great lengths to humanize its chilly subterranean world of numbers versus numbers. It’s an aesthetically-beautiful game, with abstract representations of factories, generators and undersea mines in unique colors—the kind of coffee-table style players of tablet and touch-screen games now prefer. But it’s also full of frankly-awesome looking people—the game’s “specialists” whom you hire for additional perks and abilities feel like fully-realized humans, and they were designed with intention.

  • Chris Livingston is a good player of games, for the inventive applications he finds for their systems. This week he’s been playing Prison Architect with the aim of making a single prisoner as happy as possible:
  • The idea here isn’t simply to build a prison for one inmate and see what happens. As I explained in my review, the first time I had prisoners escape my prison it genuinely hurt my feelings. I’d been trying very hard to meet the needs of my residents, to keep them calm and satisfied, and when five of them tunneled out I felt betrayed and embarrassed that all my humane efforts had been for naught. With my new prison, I want to see if it’s possible to make an inmate so damn happy and comfortable that he never tries to escape, never hits a guard, never busts up the place, and never breaks any rules.

  • This video series on Girl Gamers starts promisingly, with presenter Latoya Peterson asking women game developers whether they identify as gamers.
  • Music this week is the latest demented remix and music video by Neil Cicierega and Says by Nils Frahm.

    95 Comments

    1. Andrew says:

      stop hating games that you were never supposed to like

      Fuck yeah!

      • Geebs says:

        Stop duplicating tautologies you were never supposed to reiterate

        • Andrew says:

          No puns? 0/10, not a comment.

          • Geebs says:

            Sigh. Never bring meta to a “peoplmaking up their own definitions for the sake of argument” fight. I have no-one to blame but myself.

      • aepervius says:

        I don’t think is about game people are not supposed to like. Fighting game are not everybody’s sauce yet they are not being decried as “not being game”. Ditto with many game genre. But the problem of gone home, is that while you can do stuff around, there is no failure state. Absence of failure state simply make people see those as not being game. From the youngest age we are habitued as recognizing game as haviong a failure state and a win state. Marelle, jumping cord, shooting marble, catching thieves, hide and seek, I cannot think of any game we had in youth which did not have a failure and a winning state, even party game (turn the bottle) had a winning and failure state of sort, at least to trigger social bonding through laughing at the misery or triumph of others… But gone home does not have that at all. It is just a story which is told in 3D. The only failure state seem to be that you do not continue the story. In fact what we all hated, were those “everybody is a winner” activities where nobody lost and there was no failure state. Those were decried and mocked without ends.
        And that is the easiest reason why a lot of people do not accept those walking simulator as game. And frankly, in my opinion a well grounded one. Gone Home at its most basic level, is a 3D film where the frame switching is not triggered by time, but only by being present at certain point. But given time, a random walk script (random walk simulator as in every action possible is chosen at random), would always reach the end of the film due to the absence of failure state. Not so with what many view as game, let us say traditional game, where a random walk simulator would meet scenario where there would be no further progress, or even come back from.

        Now you can decide to name those game still, but I prefer the name simulator, entertainment, to game which always imply a failure state. If there are no failure state, you have no game.

        • LogicalDash says:

          Why are you giving us your definition? Is there some conversation, some argument you want to have, for which the definition is a prerequisite?

          • HuvaaKoodia says:

            Definitions are a requirement for arguments.
            Every word we use has a, more or less agreed upon, definition. Without definitions, or with very vague definitions, words have little to no meaning and as such are rather useless. Take the word XCYZILHX. It’s completely useless until people agree on what it means.

            The reason why aepervius represents his own definition (backed up by many other definitions, check Wikipedia for starters) is to separate the discussion into multiple parts: talking about what games are (there’s a current trend of calling everything a game for some reason), why it is important to have specificity in language and why imposing your opinion (of what you happen to like) as a definition for a medium is a bit daft.

        • Andrew says:

          You one of those people, who, not so long ago, was saying that metal, grunge, “The Beatles”, Elvis Presley, etc., was “not a music, just noises”, huh?

        • Okami says:

          I’m sorry to inform you that a fail state is not a requirement for something to be a game.

        • Det. Bullock says:

          When people bring the “failure state” argument my standard response is: “Monkey Island 2: Le Chuck’s Revenge” (or really any lucasarts adventure game post-MI) didn’t have a failure state either, technically speaking you can go around using everything with everything and no mistake can bar you from completing the game.

          • HuvaaKoodia says:

            Unfortunately the given example only shows a part of what you consider to be a game. I would like to hear the complete definition you use.

            According to my definitions, point and click adventure (PCA) titles fall under interactive fiction with puzzles, not games. The key difference lies in the exact facts that you outlined.

            In interactive fiction the player uncovers the story/narrative by interacting with the fictional world crafted by the author. There are many different kinds of ways to do this but in the case of PCAs the format is nearly always the same.

            There’s a world that has characters and objects. By interacting with these entities the player unlocks more areas to explore and pushes the story forward. Sometimes these interactions between the player and the entities are in the form of mandatory puzzles in which case there’s a specific solution planted by the author that the player needs to figure out. When the player has solved all the problems and explored as much of the optional interaction space as they wish, the story comes to an end.

            Interactive fiction allows the authors to have complete control over the story and characters while still giving the player choices and other interactions, like solving puzzles. This is a powerful feature that games don’t have. Authors who wish to tell stories should by and large look at IF rather than games.

            Games consist of rules which not only tell you the win and fail states, but also the actions that you can take (or not take) to reach those goals. It all comes down to the player’s knowledge of these rules and the decisions they take based on that knowledge. As such storytelling and even exploration to some degree are harder to do with games than with IF.

        • jonahcutter says:

          While I personally fall pretty far out on the “Sure, why not.” end of the “Is it a game?” spectrum, I found the Blyth article pretty whiny and obnoxious. His “Stop hating games…” line that sums up the rant is basically him demanding people stop having opinions (that he don’t happen to agree with his).

          I do think the points you raise about games like Gone Home being essentially a 3d film are smart. Gone Home is about as railed an experience you can have in a game. It really can be argued it is basically a film where the player controls the camera angles and pacing. Essentially, games like this put you into the role of a film director (somewhat), but you’re still stuck on very specific path. And there are no sort of game mechanics to speak of. You walk, you look, you read, you listen. Even the gamier elements like the secret passages are also the most awkward, forced and out-of-place element in it.

          If the craft beer/sub-genre argument is to be followed completely, than Gone Home is as much a (newer) sub-genre of film as it is of gaming.

          For comparison, we don’t call television shows films, even though they are basically the same things. Generally they are episodic and are thus classified as a different, but related, form. At least, that’s the most significant difference I can see.

          Perhaps “walking simulator” is the new form. Like films are films, tv shows are tv shows, and games are games (still the biggest tent by far), walking simulators are walking simulators (though if so, I think they could definitely do with a better name). All four forms share elements some very foundational elements, but also have distinct differences.

          Or if games like Depression Quest (to use one of the most well-known examples) is a game, then so are Choose Your Own Adventure books. Are they too? They must be, they function exactly the same. One is just digital while the other is analog. I’m personally fine with that, but it’s not as if the argument in the negative lacks merit and shouldn’t be spoken. No one ever called CYOA books games (afaik), until someone made a digital one and sold it on Steam.

          What constitutes a game? Is it even definable? It’s an interesting debate to be having. One of the more interesting questions in gaming, imo. The more it’s debated, the more it leads to thinking about games, gaming mechanics, and even perhaps the actual expansive development of those game mechanics into new forms. Inspiration often follows being challenged.

          Demanding people don’t have opinions on it except “Everything!” is about as shallow, dogmatic and stultifying a reaction as you can have. Plus, it’s just fucking boring.

          • aoanla says:

            This gets an additional wrinkle when you consider what happened to the Visual Novel genre in Japan. Most Visual Novels are essentially Interactive Fiction like, and early ones are essentially branching storylines like those Choose Your Own Adventure books (which, btw, I always thought of as games, so…).
            There’s now both very involved ones, which are essentially as complex as adventure games/complex interactive fiction.
            But there’s also a new range of “Kinetic Novels”, sold as “Visual Novels”, but with no branching or choices at all. Essentially, they’re “stories with pictures and sound which you click a button to advance between scenes in”.
            Are Kinetic Novels games? It’s an interesting question (I’d lean towards “no”, by backwards reasoning from the difference between CYOA books and the rest of books, but I think there’s room for different reasoning here), and one which doesn’t admit of a “yes”/”no” answer without some thought, perhaps.

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            zapatapon says:

            No one ever called CYOA books games (afaik)

            Newsflash! MEANWHILE, IN GERMANY.

            CYOA are called “Spielbuch” there (google it!). They have been called that way
            since they first appeared. I’ll break it down for you:
            Buch = Book, Spiel = Game.

            Damn those pesky Germans for undermining your otherwise flawless argument.

            • aoanla says:

              Except that “spiel” has additional senses in German than “game” tends to have in English.

              (But I agree with you, in that I’ve always thought CYOA books were games… )

            • AriochRN says:

              I’ve just rooted out one of my old Fighting Fantasy books from the 80’s and there’s a green banner across the top saying “Adventure Gamebooks” and then “Gamebook” whatever number it was.
              “Part story, part game, this is a book in which YOU become the hero!”
              …so, yeah.

          • iainl says:

            Not only were Fighting Fantasy / Choose Your Own Adventure releases called “gamebooks” from the start, most of them have fail states, too. Far more than post-Monkey Island adventure games did.

            And let’s be clear – the reason post-Monkey Island adventure games, of which Gone Home is quite clearly one (it’s even got puzzles in it!), don’t have fail states is because they’re rubbish. Nobody wants to have to replay large sections of games, so from the moment we stopped having to write out our save files to cassette tape everyone quicksaved on a regular basis. So your “fail state” was just a message that told you it’s time to bring back that quicksave.

            Doing that is boring. So “getting stuck” became about having to go away and think about what to do next, and if you did the wrong thing the game would tell you it was wrong and let you on your merry way without resort to the save file.

            So unless you want to argue with all seriousness that what makes an adventure game a Game is the word “reload” being displayed instead of a silly joke, this is all by the by.

            • aoanla says:

              Oddly, though, in another forum, I’m having a conversation with someone who thinks that CYOA books aren’t games, but Dear Esther is. Which I find to be a fascinating perspective (no, really, it’s interesting when someone’s mental model of games is that different to yours), which I’m trying to dig into.

            • iainl says:

              That is curious, yes. Not least because a Choose Your Own Adventure is functionally identical to a Twine game; the latter just using hyperlinks instead of “turn to page X” messages. If you were a publisher releasing one on Kindle (which even supports links to other pages for footnotes etc) then the comparison would be obvious.

              Unless someone wants to argue that Fighting Fantasy’s die-roll combat (that nobody I ever knew played legitimately, rather than just cheating) is what makes it a game, rather than the page-jumping decisions, I suppose. Which would be odd, but then I suppose I find the whole thing a bit odd anyway.

        • pepperfez says:

          Not to be rude, but I’m pretty sure Ludwig Wittgenstein was smarter than you and he couldn’t construct a simple, comprehensive definition of ‘game’.

          • Monggerel says:

            You realize of course, that Wittgenstein’s objection is nullified if you state that some thing that are commonly defined as “games” are in fact fundamentally mislabeled and not games at all. Thus, back to ground zero.

            My favorite definition of a game, which is the sort with actual stakes and thus actual risk (monetary, interpersonal status, etc), already excludes the majority of videogames. So there you have it. Videogames are not games. They’re toys and lots of bumblefuckery.

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              zapatapon says:

              Well that is not how I define a game at all. In my definition, a game must always at least involve a green flag, a metaphor for redemption, and some water.

      • aoanla says:

        I don’t agree with the fail/win state definition of games, but I do agree that a huge problem with the Blyth article is that it insists that everyone who doesn’t think that Thing X is a game must also hate it.

        If you read the Steam reviews for Dear Esther, for example, there are quite a few positive reviews of it which say things like “I’m not really sure this is a game”.
        So, if we could stop assuming that people disagreeing with a category you like also means they hate your favourite thing, that would be awesome.

        (A metaphor from the beer world might be the old beer/ale distinction (traditionally, beers have hops, ales don’t). Just because your hopless beer gets some people saying “Well, this isn’t strictly a beer…”, it doesn’t mean they’re not enjoying it.)

        • Andrew says:

          Granted, I don’t know every person on Earth, but every Steam game’s forum have someone who uses dumb excuses (“it’s not a game” is one of them) to hate that game. Ale, beer, etc. are genres, in that example. Genres are inclusive. But, in my experience, “not a game” is more like “not even a drink” — shitty attitude that really hard to defend.

          • Wulfram says:

            I think there’s both people using it as a put-down and people who are just tiresomely pedantic.

            (I’m more in the latter category, though nowadays I’ll accept a broader definition of “video game” if I can keep my narrow definition of “game”)

            • Andrew says:

              Then my question, why do you even need this definition? What purpose does it serve?

              TB was mumbling something about “protecting consumer”. Total BS (he-he). Genres are there for that: I don’t like “simulators”, so if I see one, I’m already “protected”. Again, saying “something” (game) is “something” (RTS, RPG, walking simulator, whatever) is fine. Outright denying that “something” is “a game” is pointless and hateful.

            • aoanla says:

              Well, no, it isn’t. Saying something isn’t X is precisely as value-free as saying something is X.

              I think Dear Esther is interesting partly because of what it does to remove “gameplay” and prevent play in order to provide this sense of tone and presence which is quite strictly controlled.

              I think Minecraft (in Creative Mode) being a toy, rather than a game (and the distinction between toys (things you play with, roughly) and games (things you play/play at)) is a great positive thing for it. Am I being “hateful” by using that distinction?

            • Andrew says:

              Kinda. You just very polite about it :) Okay, that’s a weird statement, I apologies. Let me show you my train of thought instead.

              Is MC Creative Mode easy? Yeap. Arguably, MC itself is very easy (dig a hole, stick a torch, plant couple of seeds and you can survive forever). I want something more engaging (most MCbuts stuck in early access, or plain boring, so I keep searching — but that’s another story). Is it a toy, and not a game, then? Maybe. Lets look at this side of an argument.

              So, it’s “not a game”, what then? Is it helpful to anyone? Not really. I don’t think I can convince some not-gamer to play some not-a-game, just because it is not a game, for example.

              Is it harmful? Not in itself, no. I mean, it’s another way to harm someone’s feelings (developer or fan), and there are enough of them already, but what can you do. But a lot of dicks use it as an excuse to attack not only games, but people (!) (again, developers, journalists, other players). Do I want to be on that side? Hell no.

              So, weak argument for, and strong against. Easy decision.

            • Wulfram says:

              I think words having clear, precise meanings is better than having those meanings spread out and blur. Calling Beyond Esther a game seems to me to blur the language.

              But I’ll accept it as a “video game” because I agree there should be a term that embraces it and more gamey video games and there isn’t a better one that does that at the moment. And trying to force everyone to accept a neologism like “interactive video experience” would be taking pedantry too far even for me.

            • aoanla says:

              but again: I’m not saying that Minecraft: Creative Mode is a toy because it’s easy. I’m saying it’s a toy because it, like other toys; Lego (obviously), playing cards, dice, etc; are tools which let us play (unbounded?) games – they’re things we can play games with, rather than explicitly playing a particular game. This is a compliment to MC: Creative Mode, not an insult. I don’t think Notch would mind at all, to be honest – being compared to Lego is quite a common thing to happen to MC: Creative Mode.

              That’s not being hateful.

            • Andrew says:

              Games are not art.

          • aoanla says:

            Yes, dicks exist in all cultural circles who will decide that things not having ‘Property X’ makes them valueless. That doesn’t actually mean that all things which have value must be defended as having Property X, though.

            Also, I agree totally with what Wulfram said, as fellow “tiresomely pedantic” person who, for example, quite liked Dear Esther, but really isn’t sure it’s strictly a game. (But then, I also don’t think Minecraft, in Creative Mode, is a game – it’s a toy, which is a much more useful thing, hence its popularity – so that’s just me.)

          • Eight Rooks says:

            It doesn’t even say anything, really. I don’t dislike Dear Esther because it’s “not a game”; I have no problem with digital entertainment where I wander through a deserted Hebridean island which may or may not be a dream. I don’t like it because the writing is terrible, for all the work that went into the remaster the tech is still quite limited and people attribute all manner of complexity and narrative ambiguity to it which flatly 1) isn’t there, or 2) adds nothing to the artistic impact. If I want to criticise it I’ll say that stuff, not “How I win? Where is score counter?” or whatever. Quibbling over semantics to that extent just adds nothing to the discussion, end of story.

        • jalf says:

          I do agree that a huge problem with the Blyth article is that it insists that everyone who doesn’t think that Thing X is a game must also hate it.

          The people who hate thing X are the only ones who find it important to argue that it is not a game.

          People who enjoy thing X, but think it is not a game generally do not think it’s especially important to tell everyone else that “YOU ARE WRONG FOR CONSIDERING THIS TO BE A GAME!”

          • aoanla says:

            Sure, but my experience is that as soon as you even express the concept that thing X might not be a game, even in an explicitly positive way, there’s a bunch of people who turn up and accuse you of trying to destroy the author of thing X for daring to disagree about the boundaries of the word ‘game’.
            That kind of behaviour, where saying something might not be a game is treated as an actual taboo, is why I’m not giving Blyth any slack here – he is, deliberately or not, promoting this factionialisation.

    2. dangermouse76 says:

      Sunday’s are for making braised pork shoulder in cider over five hours whilst reading the gaming news of the day. There will also be Yorkshire pudding and a full complement of roast veg.
      What a life !

    3. flibbidy says:

      oh man, that robert yang article makes me appreciate the beginner’s guide a whole lot more, for that tiny specific target market alone.

      • willy359 says:

        The Beginner’s Guide seems to me to be part of a very particular new sub-genre. Whereas Five Nights at Freddy’s is built specifically for YouTubers to scream at in videos, The Beginner’s Guide is built specifically for chin-stroking pontificators to write think pieces about. See also: Gone Home.

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          DelrueOfDetroit says:

          FNAF is genuially enjoyed by millions of people. I am not one of them, but this idea that they exist purely as YouTube bate is just incorrect.

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            DelrueOfDetroit says:

            *genuinely

          • subedii says:

            Yeah I remember reading an interview with him where he basically addressed the people constantly castigating him and his games.

            I feel like he gave a really good response that’s worth taking the time to read. He seems like a genuinely nice guy who’s kind of bowled over that his little games have been successful, and he wants to work hard to, in his words, “be responsible with that success”.

            link to kotaku.co.uk

        • Bradamantium says:

          The game aims to be thought-provoking. It has provoked thought. I don’t understand why people bring this up constantly with games like The Beginner’s Guide as if it’s such a bad thing. Having just played it yesterday, the game justifies the thought put into it. You don’t need to like it, but that doesn’t mean it’s some hollow critic-bait.

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          Lars Westergren says:

          Nah, Gone Home is a great game.

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        basilisk says:

        Anecdotally, I also thought that Coda might actually be based on Robert Yang when I was playing TBG. It indeed feels like a part of a conversation that I never followed very closely but was vaguely aware of.

        (I’d also say that it’s a shame that from the holy trinity of HL2 art mods, i.e. Esther, Stanley and Radiator, it’s the most interesting one that’s least known.)

    4. Y2Kafka says:

      Douglas Wilson, Spelunky fan, writes on Polygon that Downwell is the best game he’s played in 2015. It’s not the best I’ve played but it is very good.

      Meh, I found the game relied a bit too much on reaction times. Even Binding of Issac and Splunkey allowed you some time to analyze a room or situation before attacking it. It’s fun, but it feels like it’s a lot more random then other games.

      Now you turn up for the release of Shootman III: Shoot Them All and it’s all children and fans and women, and you have to leave because none of them recognise your cosplay. It’s OBVIOUSLY Wing Commander Endjapes, who was written out of the second game for not being muscley enough. Fakers.

      Gotta’ attack that straw man huh?

      • Da5e says:

        Nah, it seems pretty accurate, there’s a lot of resentment thrown around when something gets popular. Look at Deafheaven – they just put out an absolutely shit hot black metal album, but they wear nice shirts and people with haircuts like them! How dare anyone who doesn’t have a cassette copy of Diabolical Fullmoon Mysticism pretend to like blastbeats!

        • subedii says:

          No it still sounds like strawman.

          It reminds me of the same smug and, well, ranty angst that you used to get if you happened to say you don’t like CoD (Crikey, there was even a Jimquisition episode dedicated purely to castigating people who had that opinion). No, it’s not because it became popular, it’s because I don’t like it all on its own.

          Saying that used to get you labeled as a ‘hater’ back in the MW1 days, these days people seem to have accepted that it’s OK not to like some things.

          Saying “you don’t like it because it’s popular now” (the less said about the extreme caricatures of what the audience was like in the past, the better) has always struck me as an annoying thing to do to anyone, it’s just straight up ad-hominem. I don’t know anyone else’s intentions, and I feel like the world would be a better place if we all stopped pretending we did and engaged on a less superficial level with these things.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        Straw men are the worst Fakers. Disgusting.

      • Turkey says:

        Yup. I don’t have a problem with studio made games becoming more and more homogenized in order to appeal to the largest audience possible. I just don’t like that grandmas are playing games now or something.

      • Det. Bullock says:

        I liked the article a lot actually, I met several people whose lack of self awareness about their passion is flabbergasting, always complaining about “casuals” or how certain titles are “not games”, while I do find fun to indulge in hipster rants about games (my ramblings about Tie Fighter are an example) that’s not an excuse to hate the fact that games are becoming mainstream like movies or books.

      • RobF says:

        I’d be more inclined to think it was a strawman if the comments below the cut didn’t exist. At that point, I reckon she’s being pretty generous instead.

    5. anHorse says:

      The blyth and the techrader article aren’t that great.
      Blyth is just generally unbearable in tone but it gets really grating at times, the whole quoted “real gamers” bit goes way too far in stereotyping any critic as some extreme moron.
      I guess the revelation that two different hobbies have similar traits might be interesting if it wasn’t such a bloody obvious thing.
      Plus he writes like a tosser

      The techrader article exaggerates the supposedly non-mainstream past of gaming to the point where it isn’t recognisable. That’s the point of the article, but why?
      It isn’t funny and it isn’t effective as a satire of people who react aggressively to newcomers to the hobby. I mean is anyone actually upset that Dark Souls made loads of money and will now get sequels? No. However they were upset when a desire to cater more to mass market tastes led to Dark Souls 2, a much weaker follow up.

      Luckily this was counterbalanced by the Livingston and Konstantinos links being interesting AND ACTUALLY HAVING SOME FUCKING DEPTH BEYOND A SHIT JOKE

      • subedii says:

        I mean is anyone actually upset that Dark Souls made loads of money and will now get sequels? No. However they were upset when a desire to cater more to mass market tastes led to Dark Souls 2, a much weaker follow up.

        I’m sure someone somewhere was upset and, and this could easily be broadcast to all, but that in itself is kind of a low hanging fruit and part of the problem.

        Today it’s possible to trawl twitter, facebook, blog posts, whatever, and find singular lone views that are straight up nutball idiocy and / or hatred. And more and more, it feels like mainstream press of various industries is using this method as one more specific tool to generate the impression of mass outrage and irrationality in the people they want to then proceed to castigate for click-bait headlines.

        It’s like back when the 360 first released, PC gaming was supposed to be “dying”. Today it’s hard to say something other than it’s looking pretty freaking healthy. Is anyone really “upset” about that because PC gaming isn’t as small as it used to be? And how much of that original impression was driven purely by press bandwagon jumping?

        So PC gaming is more popular now than it used to be, and that’s lead to more mainstream titles. Even on the assumption that I don’t like most major mainstream titles, what do I care if there are more? It hasn’t decreased the number of interesting indie devs making the games I enjoyed before.

        • pepperfez says:

          I don’t know about Dark Souls, but if you look at the comments to any article about Street Fighter V you’ll find plenty of complaints about the controls being simplified for ‘casuals.’ Many of those complaints are coming from people who were themselves derisively labeled ’09ers’ for only getting into fighting games after SF4, a more mainstream release than previous major fightmans.
          Obviously just one (or two closely related) example(s), but ‘filthy casual’ didn’t start as a joke.

          • subedii says:

            That’s kind of my point though.

            If I look hard enough I can very easily find viewpoints to support any supposition. That’s easy on the internet. On even the most benign topic you can find someone who is belligerent, in a rage, smug, or any number of negative characteristics, usually for the most ludicrously petty of reasons. So if you want to slam a broad bunch of people from there, it’s easy, but also fairly (and I realise these terms get thrown around a lot) deliberately disingenuous and lazy.

            I mean to use your Street Fighter example, what proportion of your example makes up the overall Street Fighter audience? To what degree is it a self-selected group (and going to the Steam forums is already pretty heavily self-selecting) with one heck of a lot of posts?

            How do you even begin to quantify that, and start to say “this is what the audience is like”? At what point do you say “this represents the audience” as opposed to “this represents a subsection of the audience”, or even “this represents one / a few angry twerps”?

            The reason I raise this is because tarring a specific audience / group with one magnificently large brush gleaned from the worst examples you can find seems to be to a large extent what editorialising of any type or medium consists of. There’s basically no room for or even acknowledgement of nuance. Calling out a groups dolts, castigating them all as dolts, and then smugly asserting the authority of your position against those idiots seems to be the long at the short of it. It certainly makes you feel good and intelligent, but it’s generally not a nice thing.

            I mean getting back to the original article that sparked this discussion, how many people do you know, genuinely know, amongst all the people who cosplay, or play games, or similar, that match those description?

            I mean maybe it’s just the circles I move in, but I don’t actually know any as far as I can tell. And even on the presumption I did, I have a suspicion the proportion would be ridiculously small.

            I suppose my gripe is that the group in question doesn’t really matter, just that you’ve decided to have a go at or castigate them. As long as you can find the very worst amongst them and then rant against the whole using them as justification, that’s enough.

            It’s never been something I’ve ever really liked, whatever the medium. I don’t have an issue with calling people out for your views. But broad brush strokes against a group takes a lot more before I’d be convinced.

          • subedii says:

            I just realised, I could probably have just as easily summed it up without the verbiage by simply saying:

            Whatever view you have, however plain, somewhere there are complete, abject, belligerent idiots who also espouse that same view. And on its own, I feel like nobody deserves to have that held against them.

            • Geebs says:

              Spot on. I’d add the corollary that it’s doubly ridiculous when the attack is directed against a presumed physical characteristic or unrelated belief of “that sort of person”.

      • BatmanBaggins says:

        I feel like I’ve been reading the same article about games going mainstream in various iterations for the past 15, maybe even 20 years or so. It’s not exactly an interesting or insightful point to make anymore, particularly if all it amounts to is essentially a smug lecture…

        • subedii says:

          Maybe it’s just me (or the games I’m into), but I’m not really sure how “mainstream” you could really call gaming even now.

          I mean Mario’s probably the most well known gaming franchise, most people have probably at least heard of it. But I could go into work and make a bad “princess is in another castle” joke, or make a reference to Goombas, or basically anything IN Mario, and pretty much nobody would get what I’m talking about.

          Meanwhile if I said “I’ll be back” in a faux Austrian accent, I’m not sure who wouldn’t know that was an Arnie reference. I can’t really think of anything in gaming that’s reached that kind of level of, I don’t know, ‘cultural awareness’ maybe?

          • RobF says:

            They don’t really need a catchphrase to be ubiquitous, I guess. And ubiquitous they are now.

            I’m not going to argue that *everyone* plays games but games in various forms are now such a part of folks day to day lives, from playing Candy Crush to whatever else you might want to punt your time into that it isn’t really worth dwelling on for long.

            If you watch enough kids TV from recent years, the influence of videogames, the videogame talk that resides within them is hard to get away from. From Adventure Time and on. Which sort of brings me round to if you don’t play games, your kids probably do and small sample size and not a rule obviously, but the amount of young girls who stood up at the “what do you want to be now you’re going to big school” talk at my own kid’s school last year who stood up and said “game designer” or “professional gamer” took up more than one hand.

            So maybe we don’t need a catchphrase when our culture touches folks in other ways, y’know.

    6. Pantsman says:

      Robert Yang’s article was great. I played Radiator back in the day and learning about its hidden meanings added a profound dimension to my memories of it.

      The article on Subterfuge was nice. One thing bothered me though. Leigh refers Crusader Kings 2’s succession rules as being “historically accurate”, in quotes to imply they aren’t, and makes the phrase a link to an article about how historical accuracy is an invalid defence of prejudice in fantasy works. That’s true enough, but Crusader Kings 2 isn’t fantasy, it’s historical fiction, so that’s an irrelevant point. Was she trying to suggest that there wasn’t a lot of sexism in middle-ages Europe?

      • Wulfram says:

        Medieval Europe was very sexist, but I’d say the succession laws in CK2 aren’t really historical because they’re clear and logical, whereas historical succession laws tended to fall apart as soon as you got something more complicated than eldest son. At least for the Crown, lower down you were at least more likely to have some proper precedent to go on.

        • Baines says:

          That may be true, but that wasn’t the argument that Leigh Alexander used in her article. Instead, she chose to use an old standby that doesn’t hold.

          • Wulfram says:

            Well, you could also argue that defending historical accuracy when you’ve got an Aztec invasion DLC is getting a bit silly.

            I do think CK2 could make it a bit easier for the player to get an equal succession law without having to find a way to turn your dynasty Basque. Though Elective does seem to give my princesses a pretty decent shout at the crown – perhaps even ahistorically so.

        • Laurentius says:

          Actually succesion laws were clear and logical at least as far as it is possible to say anything like that about these times. This was the first thing to put thought and work when trying to at least codify the law, they had incredibly strong lasting values and so on. Still they do fall apart, but not because they weren’t clear or logical but because stakes were super high and ambitions and so on…

      • iainl says:

        Well in practice, no matter how many statutes a ruler made their Barons / Parliament / Lords / Whatever sign in life, in death succession amounted to most of them probably going with a default of Eldest Son (even when explicitly told to accept Eldest Daughter), unless they see political advantage in another option, any even vaguely justifiable, that instead makes it “this guy we like, and we’ve got a bigger army than you so shut up if you don’t want to get killed”.

        But then, when it comes to medieval politics, “we’ve got a bigger army than you so shut up if you don’t want to get killed” is a fair standby in most things.

    7. Pharos says:

      Wow, is it possible for the author of that Techradar article to sound more smug and self-impressed than she currently does?

      That effortpost in the comments section (the one about closets) contains far more humanity than “Ooooh, look at me, I figured out the Deep Secret Hidden Motives of a bunch of hypothetical people, I’m so smart!”

    8. draglikepull says:

      re: the City RPG:

      As someone who has worked on failed projects and knows how much it hurts, I have some sympathy for Konstantinos Dimopoulos. And yet at the same time it seems as though the problem that sunk the game was completely predictable.

      *Of course* a game with no programmer was never going to get done. “Design” is the easy part of game development and everyone thinks they can do it. The hard part is the technical side: art and programming. That is to say, the hard part isn’t thinking up a game, it’s *making* a game.

      On top of that, RPGs are among the most time-consuming and complex kinds of games to make, especially for a novice. If you told me that someone was trying to make a new RPG/engine from scratch and was bringing in an increasingly large team of writers but had just one unreliable programmer, I wouldn’t need to know any other details about the project to guess that it was pretty likely to fall apart.

      This is why the most common advice for people who want to get into game design is “learn to program.” Is it absolutely necessary? No, not if you’re really good at managing and motivating people or you don’t mind using something like RPG Maker. But programming isn’t an afterthought to game development, it *is* game development.

      • Philopoemen says:

        The City RPG sounded like a labour of love, crafted by someone whose vision was only match by his complete lack of project management experience.

        • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

          Though I don’t claim to be particularly experienced, I did manage to get two games and one bundle launched with the same core team. Sometimes though you simply need the money and sometimes people simply get cold feet :(

          • Jac says:

            Just read your blog entry on the game and it’s a huge shame it’s on hold.

            Have you considered a kickstarter?

            • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

              Thanks :) And, yes, we did initially consider it, but decided against it. Too many reasons to list actually, but it wasn’t considered a sensible option.

      • Richard Cobbett says:

        I think Gnome’s kinda doing himself down in his post. He had an indie team on board when he spoke to me, which was well over a year ago now, and they’d already done at least one project together prior to that. Even at that point, the focus was on making a systems prototype rather than a full thing, with plans for increasing the size on that side of things later on.

        The interactions and basic design were also set to be pretty reasonable in scope (moreso than the quick descriptions might make it sound), with the majority of the core game running in Twine style instances that he’d specifically asked people to participate because they could both write and script everything independently.

        Sure, might still never have worked, and the design definitely had flaws and serious scope issues that needed Addressing, but it’s not the case that he didn’t realise the importance of programmers or anything like that. He had them, they just got cold feet. After that, he knew it was time to pull the plug and move on.

        • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

          Richard did more or less cover this, but let me just add that when writing the piece I tried to focus more on giving an idea of what the game would have been like than on what exactly went wrong.

          So, yes, the core team had already launched 2 games, a few applications and one bundle. Also, we had the tech side of things covered and both the first and the second (lead) programmer had assured me that from their point of view this was a relatively simple project. Theoretically.

          Main problem was that despite having solved all major tech issues in the first prototype (and having from the beginning another programmer –with over 25 years of experience– available who would be helping out with specific problems) both programmers lacked time. And we simply couldn’t hire someone to do the job.

          • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

            That should have been someone *else*.

          • AriochRN says:

            I thought it was a very interesting read and made me imagine something a bit Inkle with a dash of NEO Scavenger text combat. I hope one day you succeed in bringing it to fruition, it sounds like something I’d enjoy prodding at.

            • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

              Thanks! And, yes, that does sound more or less correct :)

      • JonasKyratzes says:

        When we started discussing the City RPG, my first comment was “I’ve seen a million projects like this fail due to not having a dedicated programmer, or due to not understanding just how much work this is.” Even before indie games were a concept, when we called our games shareware and freeware and so on. So many failed games, especially RPGs.

        But in the beginning, it seemed like there was someone who would be capable of taking care of the programming part – and at that point, the plan was only to create a demo to seek financing with. Still, even the demo required quite a bit of work.

        The mechanics themselves, despite sounding complicated, are actually really easy to implement. Even I, as a somewhat shitty programmer, know how to do that. Hell, I could do most of that in Twine. But the goal was to make something a lot prettier and flashier than I’m really capable of, a properly *sexy* textgame so to speak, and stuff like that is a lot more work than most people realize.

        Anyway, when you’re in this kind of situation where you’re not really paying people (yet), it can all get kind of weird. You keep waiting and waiting for someone else to do something, and they say they will, but then they don’t, and it’s not really their fault because in the real world people need to survive, but then the whole project is depending on them… until at some point you realize it’s better to just leave it for now. I think Konstantinos was hit harder by this because, while he does have some very real experience making and shipping a game, he doesn’t have quite as large a folder of “stuff I once worked on” as I do. I try not to get invested in that way, because I’ve just seen too many projects fail. (Remember when I was making a game with Terry Cavanagh? When I wrote a short story for [redacted]? When I made a movie that I never finished editing because [horrible stuff] and [unreliable people]? The list goes on. Sigh.)

        To conclude: making games is messy and hard and a lot easier when you have startup capital. Trying to make something out of nothing is almost impossible. Sure, every now and then someone manages, but a whole lot of great projects end up going nowhere.

        • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

          What Jonas said. He speaks wisely. Also, the truth.

    9. BooleanBob says:

      Some pretty ugly nerd-shaming in that techland article. What exactly is wrong with cosplay?

      • blackmyron says:

        I thought it was more a statement on cosplayers that pick deliberately obscure characters and then get upset that no one recognizes them.
        Personally, I like when cosplayers pick unique and unusual costumes, although I do know people that are actually like the example given.

      • iainl says:

        It’s not the cosplaying, it’s the throwing a strop that someone could have enough interest in the corporate brand you’re performing an homage to that they would purchase the product, but not enough to recognise your devotion to marketing output.

    10. jezcentral says:

      Having read Konstantinos’ piece, I’m starting to think that companies are using crunch to stop their devs having time to build their own stuff, and go indie. Together with the whole exploiting thing, obviously.

      • Pockets says:

        Nah, the hours are just because they don’t care about people. They stop the indie stuff by including clauses in the contract that claim ownership of any IP you create.

        Then the next lot refuse to hire you because you haven’t been working on any open source stuff as a result.

        • draglikepull says:

          When I briefly worked for a major publisher a few years ago, the employment contract tried to *retroactively* claim ownership of IP you had created.

          Specifically, you had to list *everything you had ever created* that you claimed to own IP on, and anything that was left off the list immediately become property of the publisher if they decided it was within their current *or future* areas of business.

          I have no idea if they’ve ever attempted to enforce that provision (and IANAL but I’m not sure it would stand up in court anyway), but the fact that they’d even include it was galling.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            Some companies seem to think they can treat their employees like they own them, especially in countries where worker rights are not a priority. At least in Europe these kinds of “we own all your stuff” clauses tend to be limited or at the very least negotiable. Personally only run into this in the UK once and that time I was able to get a waiver for specific projects provided they were non-commercial (for the duration of the contract).

    11. Pockets says:

      Nah, the hours are just because they don’t care about people. They stop the indie stuff by including clauses in the contract that claim ownership of any IP you create.

      Then the next lot refuse to hire you because you haven’t been working on any open source stuff as a result.

    12. Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      That situation with the cancelled City RPG is rough, though no less common in mainstream gamedev than indie games to be honest. It’s frankly a miracle anything ships ever. I worked on six different projects in the industry that all got cancelled for various reasons before I shipped my first game, and it sucks every time a project gets killed. At least with indie games you have some control over whether a project lives or dies. It’s part of the reason I started making my own games on the side.

      Though obviously it’s more complicated when critical areas of development require other team members who may not be available such as in your case. Have you considered teaching yourself some basic programming? It sounds like it would be feasible to build with Unity and a less programming heavy add-on like Playmaker, or perhaps use Game Maker since it’s all in 2D.

      The game sounds intriguing and I hope you get a chance to resurrect it in some form in the future.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        [edit: I know the article says you were already using Unity but maybe this (Playmaker) or another plug in would’ve made it possible with less programming is what I meant]

      • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

        Aye, that’s true. At least you do get to decide when something’s dead on your own when being an indie. What’s also true is just how incredibly difficult releasing anything is.

        Also, I do believe that teaching myself programming is a pretty good idea and something I’ve been thinking about. Only problem is the lack of time, though on the other I do have a math, engineering and actually visual basic (heh) background which might help.

        Thinking of Ren’Py too…

        Oh, and thanks :)

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          Can’t speak to Unity but with Game Maker I found the best way to learn was to just start making a small game and looking up new stuff as and when I needed it, gradually adding more complicated features, rather than seeing it as some monolithic “I have to learn programming before I can make something” kind of thing, if that makes sense.

          I really hate just doing tutorials, but when I have a working game and it’s a question of “how do I implement this new feature?” it becomes a lot more motivating.

          • Konstantinos Dimopoulos says:

            I believe I should give this method a try then. It’s bound to be more interesting, I’ve got GM Studio installed already and I might even build a prototype for something else I’ve been meaning too for quite a while.