The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for eating cheese and re-watching The X-Files and maybe making some games and doing all the relaxing things you had less time for during the week, including reading some fine writing about videogames.

  • I liked this article about the Euro Truck Simulator 2’s angry response to a mod that makes your truck drive very fast.
  • when are you gona learn that this is NOT A RACING GAME!!!you are making this game look stupid,keep it for yourself only.thats why you get comments like these because it is idiotic.Go Play Mine Craft.since you think like boy.LOL

  • Adam linked me to this article, in which a Football Manager expert defends their own appearance on the BBC each year during the January transfer period. Interesting insight about the way the game predicts and simulates player potential.
  • These players, while often loved by the Football Manager community, are ready fodder to the argument that Football Manager often gets it wrong. Jacobson defends the database’s predictive qualities against that charge, saying: “Even the best managers get it wrong sometimes – and our strike rate is way higher than most. Players like Cherno and Freddy Adu actually made us look at the entire way we judge potential, though.”

  • Steam user Cheeseness wrote this lovely guide to the fauna of Firewatch.
  • Near Two Forks fixed to a dead tree is a small birdhouse. I’ve kept an eye to it for the duration of my stay, but haven’t seen it used at all. I had planned to crush a granola bar and leave it in there, but I was unable to reach the opening.

    I have also heard woodpeckers, crows and other forest birds – even owls at night, but was never able to actually spot any.

  • Here’s a heck of a thing. At the BBC, author Naomi Alderman has created an interactive and audio history of interactive fiction. You’ve three months before to try it.
  • Speaking of interactive fiction, here’s Laura Hudson talking to Campo Santo’s Sean Vanaman about Firewatch’s roots in the text adventures of old.
  • “We needed to inject all this knowledge about Henry into every player in the first five to 10 minutes, so I made a [text] game where you played as him,” said Sean Vanaman, the writer of Firewatch. “Then I never had to tell you who he was, you could just feel who you wanted him to be. Making that discovery of how it worked, how it made me feel, how it made other people feel—it felt like I’d won the lottery. I felt really lucky that we had stumbled across it.”

  • I’m currently reading William Gibson’s Virtual Light, his 1993 novel set during 2005 and inspired by the particulars of the bike courier community of San Francisco. This story of a Deliveroo courier’s experience then seemed to take on extra relevance, even aside from the fact it’s the only way to get burritos for lunch when you work from home.
  • Often customers will beg you to go and pick up non-Deliveroo extras for them, offering to pay massive sums. I’ve had requests for everything from Greggs sausage rolls to weed. There are so many stoned customers with the munchies, you could earn a fortune running a sideline in delivering drugs and booze.

  • Zam continues to produce good work. For starters, Boen Wang argues that Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days’ intentional grubbiness is more relevant today than when the game was released. I like articles celebrating Kane & Lynch, even if I’ve never managed to get into the game. See also: Michael Gapper’s old related feature.
  • And most of all, the game itself looks and sounds ugly. The central conceit of the game’s aesthetic is that an invisible third party is filming Kane and Lynch on a crappy lo-res camera. Neon signs bleed colored streaks across the screen. Headlights create those horrible vertical lens flares you only see on cheap video. Pressing the sprint button causes the camera to lurch violently, as if the operator is struggling to keep up. When the player character is shot, the screen glitches out and becomes corrupted with pixelated artifacts. Large explosions will blow out the footage entirely, resulting in a wash of digital and aural noise.

  • I also enjoyed this article in which Jessica Stein, a teacher, uses an RPG “designed to reward discipline and participation in the classroom” in her class and reports back with the results.
  • On the flip side, I found that taking health points hindered classroom management, especially in kids with low self-esteem or anxiety issues. I asked Shawn whether he thought giving XP or taking HP motivated his students more and he agreed. “Definitely giving Experience Points (XP) and Gold Pieces (GP). For kids, that’s a very visible measure of their progress, both in the game and in class.” Losing health is arguably one of the defining characteristics of an RPG, and the ability to die gives the game greater stakes. However, I used it very rarely, and only with thick-skinned kids. While students taking dying on their X-Box or PC for granted, apparently dying in real life, in front of your peers, isn’t fair.

  • videoGaiden has returned. I guess BBC Scotland are uploading the episodes straight to YouTube? Wave hello to our Rab when he appears on your monitor during the boardgame section and he’ll wave back.

Music this week is Health’s Men Today, from their 2015 album and from that recent quite-guff Hitman trailer. Good noise.

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  1. Premium User Badge

    caff says:

    Having played a fair chunk of American Truck Simulator this weekend, that racing video is hilarious. I particularly like the way the horn pitch increases with speed too.

  2. Simes says:

    I waved to Rab and he pointed directly at me and breathed in a most disconcerting fashion.

  3. RaunakS says:

    So Sethian, a sci-fi language puzzle game, just had its beta come out. I had backed it on KS quite a while ago and had forgotten about it, but I recently saw that the creator Grant Kuning has extensively journaled his gamemaking process over on his website – link to . Very interesting to see the creative process working itself out.

    It’s a curious little thing, the game. I don’t think I’ve ever seen anything quite like it. I think computer scientists and linguists are really going to dig the concept.

  4. Erfeo says:

    I liked that BBC thing on interactive fiction. Though, while making it a Twine is a fun idea, I wish there was a way to more easily browse the text and audio.

    • Premium User Badge

      caff says:

      Yes this is the BBC covering games properly.

      I’m not sure if this is linked from the twine game, but this is the accompanying radio programme (that was also linked here in the comments last week): link to

  5. The Velour Fog says:

    The problem I have with Football Managers PA system is that every club “knows” who the worldbeaters are from an early age, and it costs you a fortune to prise them away. It never feels like you are unearthing a hidden gem through scouting, usually their asking price is the best indicator.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      It was common during the CM3/4 eras that you could easily learn who would become the superstars after a few years. This meant you could “cheat” by buying these players for your club right at the start of the game for peanuts.

      I guess they’re trying to avoid that happening again (although I always enjoyed being able to exploit it), because they’re trying to make things more “realistic”.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        You could still basically do that right up until FM2015 (or maybe 2014?), when the asking price for talented youngsters was drastically increased.

        It sort of makes sense, though. There’s not much a scout can see in a few days that won’t have been noticed by a club’s coaches over the course of months/years of training.

    • anHorse says:

      Problem I have is that the AI at a lower league club will still know they have a world class player

      However when the player manages at a lower league club it’ll seem that anyone remotely decent is a 5 star player to them because of the way the reputation system affects player feedback.

      For example if I got a youth player at Wigan who would develop into a great league one player the game would tell me they have 5* potential, if I got a world beater the game would say the same.
      But the AI will always know exactly how good a player is, even in these lower leagues.
      Inevitably this means that your only chance of cheap prospects is finding them somewhere like dukla prague

  6. Premium User Badge

    heretic says:

    Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days is so good, it wasn’t a good game mind you but the art and audio direction was really in the right place.

    I extracted all the audio from the game files and still listen to the ambient city noises to this day, sweet, sweet city noises :D

    Also the main menus were great, shame there aren’t more like this or Half Life 2’s.

    • Unsheep says:

      You either like it or you don’t. Its very simple.

      If you like a game its a good game, if you don’t like a game its a bad game. Enjoying games that others don’t is a positive thing.

      Mainstream gamers are boring people. Is it not better to be an interesting person with an interesting collection of games, than a sheep who follows everybody else ?

      • JimmyG says:

        Do I think you’re a better person because you play different videogames? I actually think that’s a bit petty. And surely you know that calling other people “sheep” doesn’t have much rhetorical bite outside of one’s teenage years. You’re coming off as the worst kind of jerk — an unoriginal one — which is a shame because you’re probably a nice person, really. Don’t get me wrong: you’re perfectly welcome to go through life thinking you’re better than others. I just think you (and the people around you) might be happier if you try otherwise.

        • Person of Interest says:

          I’m fairly sure Unsheep’s comments were tongue in cheek.

          After all, if one defines themselves as the “Un” of whatever everyone else is doing, are they not just as beholden to popular whim?

  7. funkstar says:

    Hi Graham, looks like you forgot to link to the new Kane + Lynch article (only linking the ‘see also’)

  8. Person of Interest says:

    Thanks for reminding me to re-play the Kane and Lynch games. I first played them back-to-back after reading Alice’s recommendation and they left quite a mark on me.

    Also Graham, back around the time of Alice’s HYP, you did a nice narration for your Wurm Online retrospective. Have you done any more recordings since then? Are they sequestered for supporters? Or will you force me to listen to all your dumb co-hosts on the Crate and Crowbar? :)

  9. Chillicothe says:

    You’d think two people whose careers are that intertwined with PC culture would get it more. I mean, they don’t work for MS or nuffin! :P

  10. GWOP says:

    I recently went through the earlier X-Files to see if they still hold up after the disappointment of the new season (except for the weremonster episode)… and found out they do. Sure, half the episodes in a season aren’t worth a rewatch, but the sheer volume allowed it to produce such oddities as Post Modern Prometheus and Humbug, something I don’t think is possible with today’s shows.

    What’s your favorite episode? Beyond the Sea, Clive Bruckman’s Last Response and Drive still sticks with me. It’s also amazing just how cinematic the old seasons were; it’s like watching a 45 minute movie, compared to the flat digital veneer of season 10.

    • Premium User Badge

      Andy_Panthro says:

      For me, it was all of the ones that had something a bit weird, a bit odd, and usually went unexplained by the end of the episode.

      The Tooms ones are always the ones I tend to remember, but I’ve not seen them in years so I don’t really know how well they seem now.

      The whole “alien invasion” or whatever grander long-running scheme they dreamt up provided a nice thread of conspiracy and unease throughout the series, but every time something was revealed or expanded upon it lost some of the mystery and I lost interest.

      I’ve watched the first four of this new series, and Ep.3 was very funny but a little silly (making fun of the whole premise behind the “monster of the week” episodes), and yet by Ep.4 they had another monster but played it straight. The four episodes have had a really odd tone, the first was just terrible, and then it’s been up-and-down since. It probably also doesn’t help that I gave up on the original series a few years before it ended, and can’t remember much of it anyway (especially all the long-running conspiracy stuff).

      • Premium User Badge

        Vandelay says:

        To be fair, the original series had shifting tones between episodes too. It is probably why it was so good for so long. Episode 3 of the revival is very much in keeping with the tone of the writer’s other episodes, whilst the fourth episode shared much in common with numerous other serial killing monster episodes.

        One of the faults that could be leveled at the new run is the fact they are trying to cram in as many recognisable X-files styles, with only 6 episodes. I think that is more just our expectations of TV now compared to back when it was originally airing. As most shows now have strong continuous narratives, style and tone is normally more consistent. In the 90s, when even shows that had ongoing stories were able to structure episodes with a beginning, middle and end, the fact that shows like the X-files shifted tone felt less jarring.

        I found it quite refreshing that they structured it that way, although wish they had stronger episodes.

      • bamjo says:

        I was 9 when X-Files first aired, and Tooms scared the shit out of me. I remember watching that episode with my brother in our dark basement. Halfway through, there is a scene where he stretches out and comes down the chimney to murder someone. My brother looks at our fireplace and wonders if Tooms could fit down our chimney. We shared a wide eyed look, and proceed to barricade the fireplace with every pillow and cushion from our couch. Only then did we feel safe enough to finish watching. To this day, that theme song makes my hair stand up. The monster episodes, and the ones where they got silly, were classic and still great watching even now.

        When it was on TV I found the conspiracy theory/smoking man/aliens episodes needlessly cryptic, contradictory, boring, and stupid. After re-watching the series, that opinion holds. What were the writers thinking?

    • Premium User Badge

      Vandelay says:

      I watched through the series last year, bar quite a bit of season 2 as I had seen the episodes umpteen times before. Yeah, it is still great. Film like direction, along with things like lighting and photography techniques, is one of the massive contributions that The X-Files brought to the television table. It still shows today and why the high def widescreen versions look fantastic, whereas many 90s shows that have been up converted look awful.

      As for season 10, I think it is a little unfair to say it was awful besides the Wereman episode. That was fantastic and up there with some of the best episodes, but I found episode 2 and 4 to also be really solid episodes. Throughout all of those episodes (and even in the pretty terrible episode 5,) the dynamic between Mulder and Scully was still there though and I enjoyed all of them at least for that. There was even some really great visuals in those episodes too, such as the use of birds in episode 2 and the killings by Trash Man in episode 4 (although I agree that the direction overall was less then stellar and mostly mediocre.)

      Then you come to all three episodes written and directed by Chris Carter, the creator of the show. I would say he was determined to absolutely kill the show, but he also ended it on a cliffhanger, so surely he wants to do more. Not only does he go and outright say that the previous 9 seasons of story was all a lie, but than proceeds with one of the most idiotic and small scale apocalypse scenario I have ever seen on screen, all crammed into 40 minutes of television. The first of his episodes at least was just dull, able to barely coast along on the thrill of seeing the team back together. His second was an incoherent mess that would of been saved by the humour, if it also wasn’t accompanied by some retched racial stereotyping. The final episode was so bad that it became a parody. I openly exclaimed “You can not be serious?” to my TV and empty room during the final 10 seconds of the episode, completely aghast at what I was seeing and bemused at how this could ever have gotten onto the TV without someone, anyone saying “Really?”

      But what makes it so frustrating is that the 3 good episodes (alright, 2 okay episodes and 1 great episode,) showed that this show could be brought back and could still have some energy, life and interesting stories to tell. I really do hope that they get to continue with it beyond this season. They clearly want to, if they are going to leave it on a cliffhanger, and the ratings have apparently been very good. But, please, get rid of Chris Carter! Let him be a producer on it. He can even sit in the writers room. Just don’t let him write any more episodes or give the story any direction.

      Also, see if you can get Vince Gilligan back. His episodes were fantastic in the original series.

    • Graham Smith says:

      Clyde Bruckman is probably my favourite episode, but I like so many others. Tooms. Home. Beyond the Sea. Jose Chung’s From Outerspace, of course. Humbug. Confessions Of A Cigarette Smoking Man. We’re halfway through season four at this stage of the re-watch.

      • bamjo says:

        Those are all great. I also liked Small Potatoes, although I know a lot of fans don’t. And Pusher. Even though we haven’t watched that one in years, my wife and I will start repeating “cerulean blue” when the other is driving.

        • Graham Smith says:

          My partner and I will occasionally start surreptitiously massaging the spot between thumb and forefinger that’s used to control people in Gender Bender, to see how long it is before the other person notices.

  11. daphne says:

    I found the Stern article somewhat depressing. What will happen once those kids advance further in education, only to find that the institutions they find themselves in do not provide such gamified frameworks for them to enjoy the process of obtaining higher education and worldview?

    Gamification, whether used as a replacement for the sense of civic duty, squeezing percentage points of productivity from hapless employees, or as a stand-in for pedagogical prowess, represents an admission of failure, a crutch that in another time that would not have been relied on.

    “I wish this was a direct result of my charismatic teaching style.”

    There is a kernel of truth here. But what’s truly off-putting is that, with the gamification in place, the author will never need to consider the significance of teaching style, She has achieved the results she wanted. And apparently, that’s all that matters. Never mind the harder question of just what it was that lead her to the system in the first place.

    • klops says:

      I disagree.

      Not using studying/teaching method that works and is fun (by the article – I’ve never used Classcraft) because in the future they might not have as much fun is a strange reason. Also I prefer better learning results to maintaining a specific teaching style. In my mind the pupils/students and their learning should be the most important thing in classrooms, not how the teacher teaches or what drove her/him there in the first place.

      Of course, Classcraft might not be the supertool it is said to be in the article and will not work with everyone, but the reasons why you oppose it are something I strongly disagree.

  12. Monggerel says:

    Decadent trash is still trash. JUst cause Kane&Lynch knows it’s no damn good doesn’t make it good. Or in this specific case, even tolerable.

    Then again, some people actually enjoy grindhouse. It’s shit and they’re wrong, but I have no reason to prove them wrong.

  13. Unsheep says:

    Some people take mods far too seriously, they are made for fun by amateurs. The sense of ownership or identity some people have with their games is weird at times. Although all of us are probably guilty of that at some point.

    I have always liked the Kane & Lynch games. I’m drawn towards action games that remind me of my favourite action films, especially the classic Hong Kong and Yakuza type. Like these movies the Kane & Lynch games were very raw and quite brutal.

    The Kane & Lynch games were definitely ahead of their time, which is what I said to people when they were launched yet nobody wanted to listen. People only cared what mainstream media had to say about these games, without thinking for themselves. Nothing has changed.

    I’m glad others seem to have predicted this as well. The Kane & Lynch character types, that people were so disturbed by at the time, were more or less replicated in games like Saint’s Row 3-5, GTA 5, Payday 1-2, Sleeping Dogs and so on.

    Because of these games, and TV-shows like Breaking Bad, mainstream gamers and media are now OK with playing these kind of rough characters.

  14. Undermind_Mike says:

    Did you miss an important word “community” or something in the ATS paragraph? Apologies if I’m mistaken, but that quote doesn’t look like an official comment :)

  15. Heliocentric says:

    videoGaiden is as majestic as ever, appreciated SWAT 4 getting a shout out.

  16. Mario Figueiredo says:

    “I like articles celebrating Kane & Lynch, even if I’ve never managed to get into the game.”

    Yeah, I remember Kane & Lynch well, Graham. Both games sucked beyond belief. It is also the game that resulted in the firing of one of your peers at GameSpot, after he dared to publish a negative review and Eidos threatened to pull out all of their advertisement at the website.

    So, no. I don’t feel like celebrating what was essentially a piece of crap game, much less in the “it was so bad it was good” apologist style of that article.

    • Smion says:

      What does the Jeff Gerstmann thing have to do with the game itself? It was about a now-defunct publisher being a dick. The Tomb Raider games or Hitman or even Deus Ex are about as much to blame for that bit of nastiness as K&L was. Namely, not at all.