The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for part two of learning how to dad. Isn’t it weird that it only takes two classes before you can be fully licensed to dad? There ought to be a longer montage where our dad-in-training buys sweaters and builds furniture and starts wearing a watch.

  • At Alphr, Thomas McMullan writes about how violence might be perceived differently in virtual reality.
  • “I’m expecting to see Fox News go a little wild with this at some point,” Dan Page, organiser of VR World Congress and VR consultant for Opposable Games, tells me. “Considering virtual reality has been used to treat PTSD sufferers by bringing them back to difficult and violent situations from their past, and to help people out with drug problems via repeated exposure to drug-filled virtual parties, there’s no denying that the sense of presence is convincing enough to have some effect on a user.”

  • Zam have updated their design! This is good news for browsing, and possibly bad news for old links. Still, it means you have a nicer way to read Robert Rath’s article on the birth of the flight simulator. And you can read Tim Stone’s article about the same here.
  • And all of it worked. The little wooden plane sat on a universal joint, with a set of electrically-powered pneumatic bellows able to tilt it this way and that. Pull the stick back and the nose would rise into a climb. Push the foot pedals and it would tilt as if banking. Link’s device could simulate pitch, yaw, and limited roll, responding much the way a real aircraft would. Soon, Link was using the apparatus to fill in the gaps of his training. By the early 1930s, Link and his brother were operating an after-hours flight school at the factory, charging students $85 for flying lessons in the Trainer.

  • I enjoyed this article about the man who made ET for Atari, often considered the worst game ever made.
  • “The CEO goes, ‘We need it for 1 September.’ That left five weeks to do it! Normally it’d be six to eight months to do a game, not five weeks.

    “Then he said, ‘Design the game and on Thursday morning, be at the airport and there will be a Learjet waiting to take you to see Spielberg.’

  • On the Failbetter blog, Olivia Wood writes up five things she’s learned as editor on interactive fiction.
  • I’m at a company where the producer can and does write. Where the tech team leave me fumbling for a dictionary pretending I can keep up. HR does art. Art does writing. Writers edit. Coders do UI and art and animation. The analyst designs. I’m not sure there’s anything the Creative Director can’t do (except art), and what he can do he does in several languages. And so on and so on. And that’s just the work skills – these people have extraordinarily diverse hobbies and talents.

  • Which you should chase down with this post by Emily Short on being edited.
  • Writing for interactivity, one often finds oneself building an interactive structure first — where do the branches go? How does the world state change? What happens to the stats? And it’s easy to write text that does the functional job of explaining those mechanics, but doesn’t accomplish much else. It helps having an editor who will go through and find those and send you back to rewrite them into something more interesting.

  • Brutal Doom inspires strong feelings, one way or another. Brendan Keogh argues that it is true to the spirit of the original Doom, revealing something more of its essence through what it adds.
  • A mod for the original Doom that adds kicking, mouse movement, iron sights, new lighting effects, and a whole range of other features, somehow Brutal Doom doesn’t feel like an attempt to make a ‘newer’ Doom. Instead, despite the addition of all this extra stuff, it feels like an amplification of a core Doom-ness. This is Doom made Doomier.

  • This is great: The Top Ten Saddest Statues In The Witness. A little spoilery, but not so that I minded. You can also read it via words here.
  • …he’s holding a book! Given the rest of the shit in this game, it’s highly likely that the book represents his Bad Qualities, or his False Beliefs, or his Many Burdens which he should be surrendering so he can be peaceful instead. The yelling lady is probably all like, “SURRENDER YOUR MANY BURDENS!!” and he’s probably like “NO, I NEED THESE IN MY LIFE TO DISTRACT ME FROM THE GREAT TURMOIL IN MY TROUBLED SOUL!!!” And he won’t take her hand! What a fool!

    Anyway, they’re pretty anguished!

  • Matt Lees’ Devil Daggers bit is good, as is Quinns Lees’ Disgaea 5 bit. Good bits.

Music this week is Jib Kidder’s Windowdipper, because it turned up on a playlist and because this music video made for a high school video production class is impressive.


  1. Sarfrin says:

    Don’t forget the part where he gets woken up at 3am and vomited on.

  2. JimmyG says:

    Last time RPS posted about Brutal Doom, one commenter briefly shared their irritation that it was, rather, quite un-Doomy. I’d like to read some more of that counterargument, if anyone has opinions or links to share. Thanks.

    • aoanla says:

      I am pretty sure the core arguments against Brutal Doom are partly accepted in Brendan’s article, when he notes that, for him, one weakness it does have, compared to the original, is that the level design is quite “conventional” – boring military bases, as opposed to the (partly tech limitation invoked) abstracted architecture of the original.
      Taking this further, the general dispute between the various camps concerning “what Doom really is” tends to split between:
      Camp Ultraviolence, who think that the Essence of Doom was running around with a berserk pack, splattering unending hordes of demons messily against walls
      Camp Arcade Shooter, who think that, at core, Doom is really an extremely well judged arcade shooter, with excellent level design based on enemy placement, and where dodging and anticipating fire is as important as offence
      Camp Moody Pacing, who think that Doom is all about the pacing, with the quiet forboding moments when nothing is happening (but you can hear noises in the distance) just as important as the punctuated violence which they enhance (and where the lighting design, where rooms can be plunged into darkness, or light, is a significant aspect of the game’s innovation).

      Arguably, each school is somewhat correct, but members of Camp Ultraviolence are the guys who think that Brutal Doom is Doom in Apotheosis, as it’s clearly designed to emphasise those aspects of the game over the aspects prized by the other perspectives.

      • DelrueOfDetroit says:

        I’ve never seen Brutal Doom as an expansion on the violence itself but an expansion on the tech to create a much more dynamic gameplay experience. That is to say, it is no more violent than it was before but pushes it towards an “every bullet tells a story” type of gameplay.

        • thaquoth says:

          Eh. I get your point, but I would disagree. It’s definitely about violence.

          Brutal Doom gives you a “cruelty bonus +5hp” for graphically kicking enemies’ heads into mush when they are already badly injured and incapacitated. Can’t remember Doom having that. Similarly the hyper brutal fatality money shots that are more like a hindrance to “fluid gameplay” than anything.

          (Not to even talk about shenanigans like the developer putting in images of real corpses before removing it again after being called out by the community. There’s a reason he’s banned in most major Doom forums.)

          There are a bunch of other gameplay mods for ZDoom that are fine without anything like the above.

          • thaquoth says:

            To clarify: that’s not inherently a problem for me. Everyone should draw their own lines. I think it’s just slightly difficult to say that Brutal Doom is not about the violence.

            (I’m not a fan of Brutal Doom myself, precisely because it just turns one (in my eyes not all that important) aspect of Doom up to 11 at the expense of everything else like the poster above has so brilliantly laid out. So in my eyes, it actually detracts from what I come to Doom for.)

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        alison says:

        Yes! Camp Moody Pacing, reporting in. I have been rather baffled by the now-accepted gospel that Doom was all about sprinting around slaughtering monsters willy-nilly. I remember Doom being a ridiculously tense game where i would inch forward step by step, terrified of where the sound of those grunting imps was coming from. Every time there was a weapon on a dais i would be paranoid of the inevitable plunge into darkness and secret monster door that would spell my almost-certain death. The ominous music, the horrific imagery, the sense of desperation, it was something i had never seen before in gaming, and it was fantastic.

        Doom was the first game i spent a lot of time hiding in corners steeling my nerves; it was never about bloody murder or high-speed hijinks for me. By the time its alleged spiritual successor Serious Sam came out, i had moved on to Deus Ex and Counter-Strike to find that tense first-person experience, and of course both of those were more deliberate stealth/strategy games than Doom anyway. Since then the only “pure” FPS i’ve played that carried a similar sense of hopelessness and dread was Metro 2033, which i never completed because it was too harrowing and i no longer have the patience to die over and over like i did when i was a kid. Still, that to me felt more like a true Doom successor than any of these ultra-violent arena shooter games.

  3. Blackcompany says:

    The folks at Failbetter are undeniably talented. Writing, art, world building. Sunless Sea convinced me that they are without parallel in this regard.

    Unfortunately, they have yet to make a game I find fun to play. Fallen London is a Choice Your Own grind. And Sunless Sea features a level of grind that MMO’s from the Far East would be hard pressed to compete with. And its hampered further by the frequent dying leading you to run the same deliveries time and again, with a margin of error Dark Souls would consider unfair.

    All of which is a colossal shame. Because my god the world building of Sunless Sea and the atmosphere are wonderful.

    • draglikepull says:

      I feel the same way about Sunless Sea. The first time I played it I thought the writing was great. By the third or fourth time I had to read the same text from the same few characters over again on subsequent playthroughs after dying, I lost interest. Grind-y gameplay is bad enough; grind-y *reading* is unbearable.

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      Aerothorn says:

      While the uncomfortable relationship between permadeath and a story-centric game is definitely Sunless Sea’s biggest weakness, given that you can turn permadeath off in minute one, some responsibility is shared by the player. If you don’t want to be in a position of constantly restarting/rereading stuff…don’t do it.

      • caff says:

        Hmm I never realised this setting would make much difference. Maybe I should try again with permadeath off.

    • Loimographia says:

      Agreed – I loved Sunless Sea (and the music is fantastic), but I’ve never really ‘finished’ it in any real sense, or even come close to doing so. Eventually I tried a playthrough using a guide to efficient money-making that made it a lot more enjoyable for me personally. It basically saved on the first 4-5 hours of dying and restarting and figuring out the right shipping routes and scrimping your way to a decent boat. It lets you minimize the grind while maximizing the stories and enjoying the atmosphere. That said, it still didn’t minimize the grind enough — I still quit before completing my ambition storyline.

      That said, I think in some ways it’s a game with a fair bit of longevity in that I’ll set it down and then come back months later, purely because it satisfies a very particular mood of looking for a contemplative, relaxing game that you can lose yourself in on a rainy day. And because I never finish, there’s usually something new to explore until the grind tedium sets in.

  4. Merus says:

    Come on, ZAM, the sad statue looking up at the windmill is a juggler. His shadow’s juggling rocks. Jesus christ.

  5. nootrac4571 says:

    I listened to a show on Radio 4 last night about the history of interactive fiction, from early interactive books through Fighting Fantasy, then Infocom to modern IF. It was surprisingly great, I wasn’t really expecting Radio 4 to treat geek culture seriously:

    link to

    • Frosty says:

      Naomi alderman, the presenter of that piece, is the writer of Zombies, Run! Possibly has done some other game stuff? She’s done a couple of geek culture pieces for Radio 4 before, the one she did about fan fiction was really good.

  6. Vandelay says:

    “Matt Lees’ Devil Daggers bit is good, as is Quinns Lees’ Disgaea 5 bit. Good bits”

    Ah, glad to hear those guys finally made it work. I knew they had something between them.

    • GWOP says:

      The superimposition of Devil Daggers over Hotline Miami was quite something.

    • Jackablade says:

      I’m trying to decide whether “Quinns Lees” is a typo or a joke that I’m not smart enough to understand.

      Regardless, Quinns’ (Lees or not) Euro Truck Simulator ghost story is something quite special too.
      link to

    • caff says:

      CoolGhosts is something I patreon-ed without expecting loads of videos, but they certainly deliver some good stuff. I love their passion for gaming, even though sometimes they get over-excited. I’d rather over-excited than the other.

  7. Philopoemen says:

    The VR article is interesting, because I know we’ve had, and I’m sure multiple law-enforcement and military agencies over the world have had, CAVE-style interactive trainers for at least 5 years.

    You have Time Crisis-style gas-powered Glocks to replicate real recoil, and OC and taser equivalents. The trainer drives the the scene playing out based on what you say and do, and they have remote-controlled paintball guns to remind you cover isn’t option.

    But it’s a massive waste of time. The guys and gals know its fake, and that there are no consequences. So a hostage situation isn’t handled as would be with communication and positioning – its becomes a scene from Speed where people shoot the hostage. An active shooter scene in a carpark becomes Duck Hunt with everyone blasting at anything that moves.

    Until they remove the disconnect VR is a hobby not a tool. And the issue is if they *do* remove the disconnect; you’re going to have people traumatised from training, because the old adage is, train hard – fight easy.

  8. Syrion says:

    Wow, the Devils Dagger piece is even more hypnotic than watching a gameplay video of the game itself, although I haven’t played it. Really cool!

    • caff says:

      If you buy it, you can watch the replays of the best players in the world. I’ve spent more time doing that than I have playing the game itself – which is brutally hard.

  9. Shuck says:

    The article about the E.T. game is interesting in multiple ways, but what struck me was how it encapsulates just how much the economics of game development have radically changed since then. Here was a game made by one person in five weeks (which, granted, was unreasonable, but six months was standard), with a five million dollar marketing budget, and they expected to sell at least four million copies. A game that could expect to sell at least four million copies now would require at least 50 people working for several years and a marketing budget in excess of 50 million dollars, and even then, if it’s not part of one of a few existing franchises, it would be more of a wild hope than reasonable expectation.

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  11. Unsheep says:

    ‘violence in VR’

    Yes, but people who have some sort of trauma in their background are more sensitive to these things than gamers, well your average gamer at least. In fact you could argue that people with these kind of psychological problems should avoid violent games altogether, and that’s not the responsibility of game developers, its the responsibility of the individual in question (and whoever is supporting them). Besides, there are many more genres around than gory and violent FPS games.

    Maybe its time games come with added warnings, in addition to the ESRB rating, for example a ‘don’t play this game if you have experienced gun trauma’ warning.

    ‘Brutal Doom’

    I’m happy with Doom as it is and don’t think adding more mechanics to it makes it ‘more Doom’. My argument parallels the one often made in relation to Dark Souls; that its the relative simplicity of the combat, combined with intelligent level design and challenging enemies, that makes Doom so much fun.

    I actually enjoy playing FPS and third-person games using only the keyboard, it takes some getting used to with each game but its really fun if you have a great keyboard (I use a Microsoft Wired Keyboard 600).