The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for catching up after a day of misadventure, and squeezing in a shortened Sunday Papers in between other activities. Onwards!

  • Digitiser 2000 continues to be great, as Mr. Biffo writes about the Games Of [His] Years: PC, a look at some of the PC games that mattered to him.
  • It was a revelation; we were two years away from Goldeneye on the N64 at that point, and there was nothing like it on the consoles. The buzz I got from seeing that main menu for the first time, from hearing that music, was tangible. As far as I was concerned, I was in Star Wars. It remains one of my favourite games of all time, and I don’t think there has been a Star Wars game since which has so successfully evoked the spirit of the movies.

  • At PC Gamer, Tom Senior writes about the comforting fun of brainless games.
  • …just because a game lacks a worthwhile story doesn’t mean it has nothing to give. I love the moment-to-moment monster-crushing of Diablo 3, but I’ve long since moved past the point where I have to learn new skill combinations or consider character builds too much. I like Dynasty Warriors 8 because I enjoy having amazing hair and inflicting 1000 hit combos on an army of enemy drones. Sometimes after a long day the idea of killing millions of cartoon characters seems appealing, even comforting, but I like to squeeze more into that time. I mean no disrespect to Dynasty Warrior’s squealing guitar opera soundtrack, but I could be catching up on the latest episode of Serial while I blitz up Lu Bu with a giant bladed fan.

  • At Polygon, Richard Moss spoke to developers about the feeling of imposter syndrome. The sense that at any moment you’re going to be found out.
  • Schütze’s friend had learned about it from a masterclass with John Powell, who wrote the musical scores for the “Bourne” films, “Kung Fu Panda,” “How to Train Your Dragon” (for which he was nominated for an Academy Award) and dozens of other major motion pictures. Powell is one of the top composers in the movie business. Yet he felt like an impostor. Schütze was shocked. He couldn’t believe it.

  • Mariel Cartwright did a GDC talk last year in which she talked through the animation process for the game, covering details of how to make movements read and hits have impact. Interesting!
  • This Civilization 5 ‘worst deity strategy‘ video is fun in ways I can’t wholly summarise.

Music this week is the talk-sung The Leanover by Life Without Buildings, a Scottish indie band who sadly released just one album in 2001.

From this site

42 Comments

  1. GWOP says:

    The brainless game for me currently is Dragon’s Dogma. Almost every mission is a very MMO-ish “kill X things”, but the combat is such a joy (janky and chaotic, but joyous all the same) that you forget about the non-existent story and ridiculous looping dialogue animations.

    • Emeraude says:

      I’ve elected Saint’s Row IV myself, which I hadn’t played yet.

      It’s the epitome of bad game design as far as I’m concerned, but the execution is tight, and sometimes it’s just what you need.

      After a two weeks Dark Souls/Age of Decadence marathon, it comes as a nice palate cleanser.

      • Premium User Badge

        alison says:

        Hmm, that’s interesting. Saints Row IV is definitely a popcorn game, but i certainly wouldn’t put it in the “no story” bucket. The story is insanely silly and utterly hackneyed, but there’s still a story. I’m a big fan of story in games, because i like my protagonist to have a motivation that entertains me somehow. Although Saints Row’s story is entirely ridiculous, i wouldn’t have enjoyed the exact same game if the story sucked. Oh wait, that was Grand Theft Auto, where the story did nothing for me. So somehow the framing apparatus does have some kind of impact, no matter how shallow it is. This is the why i would classify Saints Row as a story game, versus something that is completely abstract and exists as an entertainment medium without any inherent narrative (Chess, Risk etc).

    • Freud says:

      Sine Mora is the perfect relaxing game if you play it on normal difficulty. You can breeze through it in a couple of hours and it’s so relaxing to play.

    • Cederic says:

      Fishing Planet is filling that void for me.

      Fish biting? Strike and reel in.
      Fish not biting? Wait, it’ll bite in a bit.

      It’s full on ‘system 1’ thinking, and lets me enjoy a film or other stuff at the same time.

    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      I reinstalled “Peggle” today, and it felt pretty brainless to me. Then I looked at what Popcap had done since 2011 and it wasn’t a lot…. maybe their brains died from under-use.

  2. MrFinnishDude says:

    Mariel Cartwright’s Speech about the animation in Skullgirls was really fascinating. If you have any aspirations to animate (video games or not) you should really check it out. Really enlightening stuff.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      It’s part of the GDC Animation Bootcamp, which has been running since 2013 and has seen many other great lectures many of which are free on GDC Vault (and some on YouTube): link to gdcvault.com

      This year’s lineup is looking rather excellent as well, so worth going if you care about animation and can make it to GDC: link to reanimators.net

      Personally I’ve not had the opportunity to attend – only seen the online version – but I’m really glad it exists.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        (because game animation has long been neglected in the graphics arms race and is finally getting pushed in some interesting directions)

  3. qrter says:

    Ah, Life Without Buildings.. lovely. They did only record one album, but there is also a nice live recording.

  4. leeder krenon says:

    such a good band.

  5. Mario Figueiredo says:

    Richard Moss article at Polygon about the Imposter Syndrome is maybe one of the most humanist articles I’ve ever read about the game industry. And is also an enjoyable and informative read, about a problem I didn’t even know existed until today.

  6. TillEulenspiegel says:

    The “imposter syndrome” thing is funny, because it’s basically the opposite of the truth: nobody knows what the hell they’re doing. In anything.

    Take a long hard look at the state of modern medicine, for example.

    • Emeraude says:

      Not a modern problem, really.

      I remember having a conversation with one of the first French doctors to ever do a heart transplant, and he was telling me that it is a good thing they now have ethical guidelines because the way they went at it the first time was quite simply appalling in retrospect. But they hadn’t given it enough thoughts at the time.

      Truth is “the best in [any] kind are but shadows”. We’re awful at what we do. Whatever we do. Hell, we’re awful, period. And we toil (awfully) to make things a little less so. One step at a time.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      What in particular do you find distasteful about “modern medicine”? There’s obviously plenty of advancements yet to be made (especially research into psychological disorders, and their treatments), but in general things have improved massively, even within my lifetime.

      Just because your doctor doesn’t know everything, doesn’t mean they know nothing…

      • Premium User Badge

        alms says:

        Most of modern medicine actually stands on the shoulders of other, mostly entirely unrelated, disciplines, which are closer to actual science (or technology) than medicine will ever be.

        Modern medicine is about redefining what ‘healthy’ means in increasingly reductive ways (my most recent example is that medicine holds “110-135°” flexion as range of movement for knees), for the most part so you can be given drugs you don’t need or be told to go sit in the corner and take it easy and die as slowly as possible, with as little quality of life as is possible.

        Medicine sucks. That we stick with it is just because there isn’t exactly a whole lot of better options.

        • Premium User Badge

          alms says:

          PS: remember: a lot of doctors thought smoking cigarettes was OK, or smoked them themselves, before someone else told them that was not the case. Chances are most of them probably still don’t understand enough statistics to realize what x% increase in risk actually means in terms of affected people.

          But do as you told, because they know better. And cover your colleagues.

          • Geebs says:

            Not that this is the right venue for discussion, and not to diminish your experience, but I’ll see your “modern medicine sucks” and raise you the discovery of insulin and the polio vaccine. Any era in history during which even a single disease goes from incurably fatal to curable, preventable, or even just treatable, is a pretty good era to be living in.

          • Xzi says:

            Let’s take a step back and remember that the average life expectancy was 30-40 years not all that long ago. Modern medicine has indeed been driven just as much by modern technology, but writing it off as entirely negative is silly either way. We’ve cured entire diseases, we’re beginning to cure HIV/AIDs and certain types of cancers.

            Where you should be directing your malice is toward the business/corporate entities which rule over every part of the healthcare and medical sector. They make it hard or sometimes impossible for healthcare professionals to do their jobs by prioritizing profits over people.

          • Premium User Badge

            alms says:

            @geebs for the most part, improvements in medicine are actually created by people that do NOT have a degree in medicine.

            There’s a lot of brilliant people with one, though, however the worth of medicine in itself is overrated.

            @Xzi “entirely negative”, “direct malice”? let’s keep the strawmen coming, man. While at it, do you want to put pitchfork and torch in my hands too?

            Again, most of the positives you’re listing do not come from medicine but contributions from other areas, including, if you include things like life expectancy, conditions that are almost completely unrelated like improved living/working conditions, due to widespread availability of appliances, machines, sanitation, food, heating, energy and on and on and on.

  7. Emeraude says:

    He had a classic case of impostor syndrome, which is a psychological phenomenon that stops people from internalizing their accomplishments — often to such an extent that they will attribute their success entirely to luck, circumstance or simple “hard work” rather than to genuine ability.

    So basically, lucid humility presented as a pathological symptom to help mitigate its psychological impact?

    • LionsPhil says:

      This is what happens when you tell every kid that they’re special.

    • Kitsunin says:

      I don’t really get that “genuine ability” part. What is ability but hard work over time multiplied by aptitude? But then, I suppose even if everyone understands that, a lot of people don’t “get” it.

      I understand impostor syndrome though. As a teacher I feel it. It’s like all I’m doing is guiding the kids down a list of things they/we need to do, and throwing a game in now and then. It feels like anyone could do it. And well, most anyone could, but they would have to approach it with enough preparation and the right mindset.

      • Premium User Badge

        Herring says:

        That’s a pet peeve of mine; “genuine ability”. The attitude that attainment through hard-work is somehow faking it. There’s no such thing as innate talent; you work at something until you’re good at it, end of discussion (slightly exaggerated but basically what I think). People see the top 5%(attainment) and ignore the other 95% of the iceberg (discipline and work).

        I never understood why the idea has such appeal either. Why rate being handed an advantage instead of having earned it?

        Though it’s often used as a cop-out for not trying something. I get “well, I could never do what you do” from people a lot. Which is rubbish. You _could_ do it. _Anyone_ could do it. The only reason you can’t is that you’ve spent your time learning something else.

        Sorry; a little ranty but the attitude irritates me :)

        • Arglebargle says:

          I’d beg to differ. There are folks with actual talents. You see it in savant children who are incredibly good at things with very little background.

          As a counterpoint, there’s a line from a savvy basketball coach that goes like this: ‘Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard.’

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          I think it’s way more complex than “innate talent vs hard work”. There are all sorts of environmental factors that influence aptitude, with genuine disability at the top end of the scale, economic disadvantage somewhere a bit further down, and watching the wrong movies somewhere near the bottom. Genetics must play a part, too, from being too short for the NBA, to being born tone deaf.

          Of course disadvantages of any kind can be mitigated through the right kind of hard work and encouragement, and each “skill” is trained differently, and is affected differently by different factors etc.

          The notion that anyone could be a gold-medal-standard swimmer is a great one, but tremendously naive.

        • Lachlan1 says:

          I agree. There are limiting factors in, for instance, sport, or if someone really isn’t very bright. However, most of it is work, having the right information etc. Savant kids often have the prerequisites fulfilled through other means (eg good body use, which can affect performance, can happen naturally through confidence).

          • Lachlan1 says:

            Also ‘very little background’ is usually not the case with prodigy children. I’ve met quite a few parents of such kids ;)

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            I have a feeling that by “savant”, Arglebargle is referring to the phenomenon by which people with a profound mental disability demonstrate abnormal abilities. Most often associated with autism, as in Rain Man, or, if you want an actual example, Stephen Wiltshire (link to stephenwiltshire.co.uk). The point here is (I think) that the “savant’s” talent appears to be a direct result of their disability, rather than within the realms of a neurotypical person’s ability with the same amount of practice and/or socioeconomic advantage.

            The phenomenon is poorly understood (especially by me), but I’ve seen it first hand more than once, and it flies in the face of any kind of “just try harder” attitude.

      • Emeraude says:

        That’s something I’ve had on the back of my mind for a long while now.
        Going to take a detour, and I apologize in advance.

        It used to be that one wasn’t a genius. One had genius. And genius would be characterized. One was “a very fine example of the English genius”. We collectively understood that individuals were uplifted by the communities that had formed them, and only really successful as a part of them.

        I think around the romantic era came that switch in focus on the individual as opposed to the masses. And suddenly people had genius – ie their own individuality as opposed to the group from which they were coming from.

        Of course it goes both ways in a holonic way: on a spectrum, people are more on the side of “have” genius when seen from outside their own community, and more on the side of “are” genius when seen from inside.

        But still, in practice, in modern discourse we’ve kept that over focus on individuality and exceptionalism.

        And that’s when we need to present “impostor syndrome” ie the genuine lucid realization that hundred thousands of people would do your job better than you do, would be more deserving of your privileges in a perfectly fair competitive society – and even more people could do it just as well, all turned into a pathological symptom to lessen its psychological impact.

        Because the exceptionalism model cannot be attacked.
        Because saying that our individuality doesn’t matter as much we’d like, that every last one of us that succeeded could have, could still be replaced at any moment without things changing significantly is unacceptable to the current zeitgeist, which works as a way to give people value both regardless of their accomplishment *and* a way to tie people’s accomplishments to their identity (I succeeded because of me more than I succeeded because I was lucky and part of of a given social body. Does wonder for stress relief.

        And so obviously, hard work is worth less than “genuine” talent. Hard work can be replicated. Supposedly individuality can’t.

  8. Monggerel says:

    Oh, that Polygon article. That’s a fun one.

    Stefan Schütze doesn’t have imposter syndrome.
    He has a mid-life crisis.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      Explain?

      • Monggerel says:

        I mean, the article is otherwise on point. People feeling that their success is distinctly undeserved and based on the fact that they were the wrong man in the right place. A fake, in other words.
        Which, well, I don’t actually care much about. Pewdiepie is a terribly uncharismatic Youtube personality but he’s still the most successful because he was in the right place and had an eye for making money.

        Stefan Schütze however didn’t dismiss the quality of his own work. He just gave voice to the visceral, heartbreaking realization that he will never, ever, ever be anything like a Hans Zimmer or an Ennio Morricone. That in the long run, he’s a footnote in the history of orchestral music.
        He’s right, of course. Which is what makes this tragic, unlike imposter syndrome, which is just painful for everyone involved.

        • LennyLeonardo says:

          No idea what Pewdiepie has to do with it, but in any case Schütze is said to feel like an impostor throughout the article, and this is backed up a few times with direct quotes. There is nothing in the article to suggest that he feels like he’ll be a “footnote in the history of orchestral music”, and even if this were a concern it would not necessarily mean that he was having a midlife crisis.

          Essentially, you have said that you neither know anything about Imposter Syndrome, nor care about it, whilst simultaneously suggesting that someone who claims to suffer from it is wrong. There is a bleak kind of irony in there somewhere.

          • Monggerel says:

            I was responding to the introductory remarks from the composer. I should have clarified that.

            Didn’t mean to dismiss imposter syndrome or the people suffering from it.
            I just found the beginning line from the guy – “I don’t have anything with street cred, and I never worked on a Halo… I never worked on a Battlefield. I never worked on anything that was a big-name game that had people go, ‘Wow.’ I hadn’t succeeded enough to be anybody of any value.” – more interesting than the actual focus of the article.

          • LennyLeonardo says:

            Yeah, that is interesting. I guess comparing yourself with the people you see as “the greats” is a core component of Imposter Syndrome, and feeling like you don’t measure up is part and parcel. I think what must accompany this, in order for it to be full-blown Imposter Syndrome, is the overwhelming, “I shouldn’t be here” sensation; the feeling that others deserve it more, even if they themselves aren’t Ennio Morricone, or similar. This is destructive of art, whilst the desperate, futile attempt to clamber onto the shoulders of giants can actually be a positive thing.

            Personally, I feel this very strongly, not just in the workplace, but just as a living human. I don’t care if I’m the best ever, I just want to stop feeling like I shouldn’t be trying at all.

          • Geebs says:

            It’s a terrible curse to have enough talent to be able to appreciate one’s own mediocrity

          • BooleanBob says:

            It’s a worse one to only be able to suspect it.

  9. RedViv says:

    I only have to read the title of the Civ5 video and I am laughing out loud again.
    The rest of Kilian’s videos are worth checking out to, if you are into absurd humour.

  10. tciecka says:

    RE: Mariel Cartwright article…you should probably call out that her speech is specific to Skullgirls. Thanks for the pointer to the speech video!

    • tciecka says:

      Re: Mariel Cartwright vid – This is one of the only times I’ve heard someone in the gamedev industry talk toward minimizing the use of storage, on stage. It seems like the trend in games has been to bloat the size of on-disk resources and it’s surprising to hear that at least one animator has made it procedure to optimize visual appeal of animated sprites while reducing their disk footprint.