The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for clearing the decks of all the links we found over Christmas, so that finally 2016 can start fresh. Welcome back to the Sunday Papers.

  • I played few games over the Christmas break, but I did read a lot of ‘best games of the year’ lists. I prefer lists which highlight games that I haven’t played, which means console-focused sites. The best of the bunch were Giant Bomb, who asked a number of game developers to write their top tens. Among them, 80 Days writer Meg Jayanth, Her Story creator Sam Barlow, Cibele creator Nina Freeman, and the best of the bunch, Valve writer and Old Man Murray co-creator Erik Wolpaw. The latter mostly contains Japanese dungeon crawlers, such as…
  • 10. Sorcery Saga: Curse of the Great Curry God

    Holy crap, I just looked and this didn’t even come out in 2015. I played it in 2015, so… I don’t know what to tell you. Get used to it. Anyway, here’s more or less all I want from a game anymore: you go into a dungeon and collect stuff and also you have stats that go up. That is a description that describes Sorcery Saga. Plus, I sit at a desk for 10 hours a day, so in my leisure time I need to stretch my legs.

    Unfortunately, you can’t operate a PS4 while lying down with your legs stretched out, so mostly I want my dungeon adventures to take place on either a Vita or a 3DS. Sorcery Saga is on the Vita! If this sounds like the best game imaginable, it is. Feel free to end the list here.

  • Steam Spy’s creator did another graphbomb, trying to estimate the best selling games of the year, the total number of games sold, and other stats from throughout 2015.
  • Robert Yang wrote a review of his blog’s sixth year, with links and thoughts to his writing and games released throughout the period. Lots of good stuff in there.

    By far, the “most viral” post of the past year was when I called out Twitch for blanket-banning my games, when they could easily accommodate it with better moderation policies like YouTube or Vimeo. We claim games are art, but at the same time our game culture platforms insist on “protecting the children”, without even any cursory hand-wringing about free artistic expression. I can begrudgingly accept banning Cobra Club, a game about staring at penises, but then I went to the trouble of obscuring the penises in Rinse And Repeat and they still banned it! #smh

  • Yang also wrote about his 2016 new year’s resolution, “to make a double-A 7/10 open world stealth game. It is tentatively called ‘Maven.'”
  • Some technologies and workflows and assets that are now coming together:

  • Dynamic global illumination in Unity, dynamic cubemaps, dynamic skybox, pretty robust deferred renderer
  • NavMesh carving in Unity, allows for some procedural generation / mutation without trying to develop my own navigation tech
    Acquired an obscene amount of decent medieval-European-themed 3D models
  • Procedural generation for stealth games — academic research at McGill University about assessing sneaking risk and automatically generating guard patrols for good coverage — not really using their algorithms, but approximating similar logic and reasoning and metrics for my own systems
  • Hundreds of free animations at Mixamo; sword combat animations, torch holding animations, etc.
  • Speaking of procedural generation, Richard Moss at Gamasutra has a list of the 7 uses of procedural generation that every developer should study.

    Roguelikes are a dime a dozen in today’s crowded indie landscape, but few of them tie procedural generation to thematics as deeply as RymdResa. Like Elite and the upcoming No Man’s Sky, it procedurally generates a vast universe filled with more planets and space junk than anyone could ever hope to visit. But it does so with a singular purpose: to make the player feel lonely.

  • Eurogamer ran a number of trends pieces at the tail end of last year, and Simon Parkin’s contribution argues that narration is becoming the most interesting tool of game design.
  • The past five years has seen an explosion in live video game commentary. There are the usual pundits who, with the hyped up hysteria of an American sports commentator, explain what’s going on in, say, a StarCraft final. But more generally than that, there’s the army of YouTube and Twitch presenters, who spend the majority of their time talking about what they’re doing while playing video games. The appeal isn’t immediately obvious. Interaction is what makes games unique, the chance to exert our will and agency on a virtual world. And yet, the rise of game commentary shows that, for many, there’s value in merely watching other people play games while telling their own story alongside footage – be it about what they had for breakfast that day, or what a particular scene in a game means to them.

  • The last few years have seen Chris Livingston write The Text Adventures That Never Were for PCGamer.com around Christmas time. This year, he instead uncovered the old sci-fi magazines that inspired 2015’s biggest videogames.

    As I mentioned last time, I was out doing some last-minute shopping on a cold, dark, possibly magical night, when I stumbled into a strange little store called “Curios, Rarities, Bibelots & Old Sci-Fi Magazines That Inspired Games From 2015″. I chatted with the shopkeeper, who told me he used to own a store deep underground that sold bombs, parachutes, cameras, and personal teleportation devices. He also told me that several games from 2015 had been inspired by old pulp sci-fi magazines from the 1930s, and he had several for sale. He really stressed the word sale as he kept one hand on his loaded shotgun. I paid him in gold nuggets.

  • Old RPS comrade Ben Barrett explains at PCGamesN why he thinks Street Fighter IV is “the greatest spectator game of all time.”
  • Perhaps SF4’s greatest qualities come from its genre – it’s one versus one, and immediately understandable. There are no different parts of a map to observe, or action that can be missed, or the disparate pieces of teams to keep track of. A man, woman or beast stands on one side of the screen, facing off against a man, woman or skateboard on the other side. They punch and kick at each other until one is dead. The end.

  • Nathan Ditum continued his own tradition of writing a savagely partial look at the films of the past year. There are always some fine turns of phrase to be found inside.

These latecomers varied from the politely empty – The Theory Of Everything was the second film in as many months to celebrate a Cambridge man doing maths – to the actually evil, as American Sniper uncritically flag-waved remembrances of a life spent ending others, and couldn’t have celebrated America’s erection for technology and killing any more gratuitously if it had simply featured Bradley Cooper fellating a .300 Win Mag for two hours.

Music this week is Nothing From Nothing by Billy Preston. And then maybe you want to watch him outshining Nat King Cole as an eleven-year-old.

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39 Comments

  1. Fersken says:

    Banning/censorship of nudity is a bit strange when very disturbing violence is allowed. I’m not expecting say Steam to allow outright porn games, but what would happen if I tried to sell a game that had a recreation of Vigelandsparken?

    Would it be allowed? Videos from Vigelandsparken are not under any age restriction on Youtube. If it where allowed on Steam (and shown on Twitch etc.) but other games showing genitalia in a non-sexual manner where banned, then it is obvious hypocrisy.

    If only recreations of art with nudity is allowed, then it’s implicit that games are not and cannot themselves be art.

    Oh, and there are no age restrictions to visit Vigelandsparken or to see Venus de Milo.

    TL;DR: Fucking prudes!

    • LionsPhil says:

      Actually, I thought Steam did have a few dating sims with erotic scenes in these days.

      • anHorse says:

        Dunno but I remember “Seduce Me” a porn game (with no real tangible difference from a dating sim) being removed from greenlight.

        I can understand the problems created from selling/facilitating the sales of pornography but it’s always struck me as a bit weird. Especially because I was able to read Sade and Bataille in the library as a kid

        • Kitsunin says:

          Huniepop’s nude images are censored for the Steam release. I’m pretty sure they aren’t okay with nudity, I’m not aware of any games with genitalia in them being sold. Kind of nuts considering how little they care about anything else.

          • anHorse says:

            There’s loads of genitalia just in non-sexy situations
            Amnesia, Penumbra, Rust, Outlast DLC has a horrible moment involving a willy.

            So the sticking point isn’t having dicks/vaginas, it’s having said features used erotically

          • Hedgeclipper says:

            and Saints Row… seriously they’re fine if you use genitals for violence and murder.

          • Kitsunin says:

            In Saints Row isn’t it basically just a stick resembling a wang? In the other cases, I see. Still no cases of t&a though. Is that just context, or because they (including the people making the games) think a dong is inherently less sexual and more off-putting?

        • KevinLew says:

          I’m really tired of people using the game Seduce Me as an example of “Valve Censorship”. So let’s get something straight. Valve actually did everybody a favor by not selling it because the game is a piece of garbage. In other words, Valve did a great job by actually curating their storefront for once, but nobody thinks of this. The second point is that there’s more sex and nudity in The Witcher 3 than in the game Seduce Me.

          As for what games they will sell versus what they won’t, the dividing line is the question: “Is your game porn?” If yes, then your game won’t be sold–and that’s not just for Steam, but that applies to Origin, U-Play, and most retail stores. It doesn’t matter that there’s more adult content in The Witcher 3 than your trash porn game, because that’s not the rule.

          • pepperfez says:

            It’s still pretty weird that violence-porn is OK but sex-porn is absolutely banned.

          • Geebs says:

            Boring answer: it’s not even slightly wierd if you put in the social context, really.

            Potentially slightly more interesting answer: violence is inherently easier to gamify because it’s essentially all Newtonian physics. Relationships etc. are much harder to gamify without off-putting squick factor because a) give presents, get nasty is inherently gross and b) you’re basically doing it with something non-sentient.

            I’m aware that people have attempted to model the Newtonian part in “romance” games and am willing to concede that it is, at least, hilarious.

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            Angstsmurf says:

            It has been pointed out that the interesting thing about real violence has little to do with Newtonian physics. That is why AI is more important in modern shooters than physics simulation, and also why multiplayer is popular. My guess is that games are violent mostly because of tradition. Early game makers and their audience were more into action movies and strategy board games than into romance.

    • brucethemoose says:

      I bet it’s more of a legal issue than anything. I don’t know of many laws in big countries against violence in video games (as long as it’s age rated properly), but pornography is a much more… complicated area.

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        Angstsmurf says:

        That wasn’t always the case. At least where I live, movies were banned for “brutalizing violence” well inte to 1980s.

    • thelastpointer says:

      I wonder if one of the reasons for condemning Robert’s games and accepting Witcher3 (for example) is that Robert most likely doesn’t have the time and enthusiasm to write dozens of convincing emails about how nudity is an absolutely important part of his games, while CD Projekt Red has a whole PR department just for that.

      Disclaimer: I don’t think this should be neccessary, I’m just pondering if it’s a lack of… marketing power or something like that.

  2. LionsPhil says:

    But it does so with a singular purpose: to make the player feel lonely.

    but i play games for escapism :C

    …Mad Max: Fury Road, a film which somehow recaptured the peculiarly Australian grotesque of the original trilogy and packaged it in an action film that was relentlessly and repeatedly right, like having an amazing conversation with somebody awesome who keeps saying brilliant, world-altering things you agree with, and the things are on fire.

    This is a pretty great description of the film and if you haven’t seen it yet and don’t outright despise action films you should really fix that.

    • welverin says:

      I never got into it and action movies are about the only kind I care to watch.

      But then, I have similar issues with a lot of things I’ve gone out to see over the past few years. I’m starting to wonder if act of sitting in a theater for two hours no longer appeals to me.

      • GWOP says:

        What I loved most about Fury Road is its purity – it’s an action movie that is just one extended chase sequence. A very lean script, with virtually no bloat.

        • Fomorian1988 says:

          And every character development and changes in inter-character relations were very subtly entwined into the action. Cheedo the Fragile, for instance.

        • Turkey says:

          Yup. It hits the same notes as Kurosawa and Leone movies, only more modern and bombastic. But the Mad Max movies have sort of always done that.

      • LionsPhil says:

        I would certainly avoid a cinema, but that’s because in my experience they are terrible places to watch films.

        I saw it streamed on a TV set and it excelled without being rammed into all of my senses at five times their comfortable limit while sat on a sticky seat surrounded by people waving their cellphones around.

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          Thurgret says:

          That sounds like a rubbish cinema.

        • Somerled says:

          I nearly changed my mind on cinemas when only a handful of people clapped at the end of Star Wars. Unparalleled restraint, nowadays.

  3. GWOP says:

    Huh, the Giantbomb comment section seems to be pretty decent. No accusations of being a ‘hipster’ over esoter game choices in the guest columns.

    • Fomorian1988 says:

      So refreshening. Especially after that certain fellow that’s popped up in a few articles over the last few days to complain about the state of games journalism for the fact that other people seem to have different tastes from him.

    • Turkey says:

      That’s true, but I think they moderate the comments sections pretty heavily.

    • GWOP says:

      *esoteric

      Edit button, please come back. I’ll never take you for granted again.

  4. Themadcow says:

    Hmm, I appear to have mostly the same taste in games as Erik Wolpaw. Disgaea 5 is just tons of awesome despite being 90% the same game as the previous 4 in the series, and yeah, it’s the game Vita remote play was made for. I’ve just bought Sorcery Saga on that recommendation…

  5. Ayslia says:

    Earlier today Jon Blow posted a link to this article (link to npr.org) with the comment, “Even after the Indiepocalypse, arty indie game developers are way better off than Pulitzer-prize-winning authors”.

    I personally found the sales numbers extremely surprising when compared to ‘artsy’ games. Gone Home and The Vanishing of Ethan Carter both sold 50,000 copies in the first /month/. A ‘sensational’ novel selling 25,000 just seems extremely low. I guess you could attribute it to the fact that fewer people read books than play games, maybe (?). Still, literally everyone, at least in the US (UK), has heard of the Pulitzer Prize (Man Booker Prize), all the major US/UK publications prominently feature book reviews, whereas ‘art’ games are talked about nowhere but within the games sphere (and The Guardian I guess) even if they are extremely popular like Gone Home was.

    I can’t help but contrast the relative sales figures with the fact that when the NYTimes released its ‘2015 Best Of’ culture lists at the end of the year, it included ‘Best Of Dance’ and ‘Best of Performance’ but not videogames.

    • Ayslia says:

      (My kingdom for an edit button.)

      I do want to make clear that I don’t really think games need to have the trappings of mainstream acceptance*; I just find contrasting games with other art forms to be an interesting exercise.

      *Although… there are a lot of people who I think would really enjoy certain games but just aren’t aware that those games exist. (I have met a lot of people who honestly think there are just four games: Angry Birds, Super Mario, Call of Duty, and Minecraft.) Maybe more mainstream recognition would help reach those people.

    • iucounu says:

      Welcome to the world of book publishing! Sales figures are lower than you might think. Literary fiction isn’t really a big seller (occasionally, you get something like Wolf Hall, but not too often.)

      It can be a little hard to parse, though, because the centrally-reported sales figures (Nielsen) only cover about half of all new book sales, and only in physical formats. Trying to work out how many ebook sales there are for a given book is impossible unless you’re the publisher. There’s a blog that indirectly infers ebook sales from Amazon chart rankings – which is similar to the Steam Spy stuff, I guess – but I don’t really think the methodology is reliable, so I don’t put a lot of credence in those numbers.

    • brucethemoose says:

      “I can’t help but contrast the relative sales figures with the fact that when the NYTimes released its ‘2015 Best Of’ culture lists at the end of the year, it included ‘Best Of Dance’ and ‘Best of Performance’ but not videogames.”

      Maybe that says more about the relevance of the NYTimes article than it does about the relevance of videogames.

  6. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Wow, some decent Steam sales stats on PC. No wonder publishers are flocking back – it’s considered a serious platform once again, after some years of neglect.

  7. Hypocee says:

    …Fighting games have all of the ‘action that can be missed’. All of it.

  8. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    I enjoyed that Gamasutra article. Now I feel I should have another go at playing Crusader Kings 2.

  9. Geebs says:

    to make a double-A 7/10 open world stealth game. It is tentatively called ‘Maven.’

    That’s great! I…

    part of it comes from wondering what if I made some gamer-pandering stuff

    ….eww

  10. pertusaria says:

    Thanks Graham – enjoyed the Giant Bomb and Chris Livingston pieces.