The Sunday Papers

Hey gang! Graham’s been off performing meiosis or whatever it is parents do (???), so you may have noticed an absence of Sunday Papers lately. Now, I firmly believe that free Sundays are for climbing hills, exploring forests, and being in/around water, but a dicky hip after a day round Loch Lomond means I must go easy today. Being Graham can’t be too difficult. First question: how is his paper-reading chair still warm? Ick.

Emily Short writes about “waypoint narrative structures” – nonlinear conversation and narrative beyond simple branching with points and ideas connected by waypoints:

“Particular lines of dialogue are associated not with the topics themselves but with transitions between one topic and another — so an NPC might have a way of changing the subject from Royalty to God, for instance — and it’s possible to pathfind between topics depending on where viable transitions exist.”

I trust you’re reading Rob Fearon anyway, but I mention this post because it’s in response to our Adam’s bit on Dark Souls III and a hypothetical easy mode:

“We accept the need for tweaks in order for games to fit a variety of hardware. We accept often fairly major tweaks to change visuals, audio and lots of other things. Why then is it so hard to accept that we need tweaks for human ability too? And when we say folks can’t have that, what exactly are we saying about our hobby?”

A Burglar’s Guide to the City is the new book from Geoff Manaugh of the excellent BLDGBLOG, taking a burglar’s eye view of architecture and city planning. I’ve been reading it all morning, and am ever entranced by his playful fantasy riffing off fact. Also, since I guess I have to tie this to video games: Thief level designer Randy Smith and Monaco man Andy Schatz pop up. The New York Times has an excerpt:

“The built environment may inadvertently catalyze new forms of illegal activity, but this also means that the Los Angeles Police Department is constantly responding to criminal innovation with new forms of police work, often before the rest of the world even knows they might be necessary. With its campaign of ubiquitous aerial surveillance, Los Angeles is a kind of real-time R.&D. site for the world’s sprawling megacities, as they, too, try to manage the extralegal consequences of their newfound expansion.”

The ace Nathalie Lawhead, who won the IGF 2015 Nuovo Award – and therefore a Steam store slot – with her weird and wonderful Tetrageddon Games, wonders if she even wants to release it on Steam, given how some users tend to respond to the mere presence of the unconventional:

“At any rate, if alt-yer indie games are not that welcome on a platform, then why would I go there? Instead of insisting that a hostile place changes, maybe it’s better to go make new spaces to exist in… I don’t know. It’s been on my mind.”

Jimmy Maher goes into the decline of interactive fiction giants Infocom under Activision, and the grim conditions their final games were made in. With strife between Infocom and Activision – especially Activision president Bruce Davis – ever increasing, gallows humour reached the point of someone circulating this satirical memo with a form to dob in fellow employees:

“Of course, we can’t depend on the honor system alone to pry some from their negative niches. So during this week, accompanying our ‘No Negs’ week, we will also have a little self-help program for those of us who can’t stop the black humor. The program, known as ‘Bruce Youth,’ is modeled after the highly successful Hitler Youth program in Germany several years ago. Although we won’t have executions or imprisonments for offenders, you will be able to turn in fellow employees who utter negative comments. Just fill out the form below.”

The Guardian sent Parko to Chernobyl, talking about the nuclear disaster, our enduring fascination with it (thanks, S.T.A.L.K.E.R.!), the ongoing dangers, and a project to recreate it in virtual reality:

“It is a work of voyeurism, then, but also documentary. After all, this is a reality twice disappeared: the world of 1986 and the world of Soviet dominion. In the school, period books litter the floor, along with appallingly small gas masks, props of the cold war. Black-and-white photographs of Russia’s great leaders hang, staring down at rows of empty desks. A wall in one classroom displays Lenin’s slogan: ‘Study, study, study.'”

‘Crunch time’ at big studios is one of those games topics which becomes big every so often, looping on a cycle, with little seeming to change between each visit. The most recent return was sparked by Alex St. John, co-creator of Microsoft’s DirectX and founder of WildTangent, griping about, among other things, the “wage-slave attitude” of people who want to make games without working 80-hour weeks. It’s a pretty awful read. Many people including his own daughter, have picked it apart and other awful ideas. Anyway. Just catching you up on that.

It’s watching rather than reading, and I mentioned this in a post this week, but at GDC I did very much enjoy Frank Cifaldi’s talk on the foolishness of publishers’ attitudes towards emulation and their back catalogues. You can watch it free in the GDC Vault:

“This isn’t just a business concern, it’s a creative one. If we can’t keep our history alive, we risk forgetting our roots and losing a part of what made games great. But don’t despair! If music can survive MP3s, games can survive this.”

Sorry, I didn’t plan ahead so this Sunday Papers selection is a bit slim. I recommended hills and water and forests instead, tbh.

Music this week is Dead Moon. I’m a sucker for songs where someone shouts out how to spell their band’s name.


  1. GWOP says:

    I didn’t know Graham had spawned a Smith, so sorry for the constant complaining about the lack of Sunday Papers. And congrats, of course!

    The Sunday Papers is always a nice place to have a chat, so it’s nice the see the young ‘uns continue the tradition (Any RPS writer not Kieron, John, Jim or Alec will always be young ‘uns to me. And yes, I’m constantly surprised when I realize it’s not the mid-to-late 2000s, and that the ’90s are no longer the last decade).

  2. Michael Fogg says:

    Given how high the bar is set nowadays with regard to games, with both journalists and community widely criticising titles for minor bugs, reused content, perceived lack of ‘choice’, shallow mechanics etc. – all this talk of work condition in the industry really seems hollow and contradictory.

    • GWOP says:

      So, developers who find themselves in an industry with sky-high expectations asking for the minimum level of competency from their managers and directors is somehow… hollow and contradictory?

    • Grizzly says:

      How is it hollow and contradictory? Better working conditions for developers is not mutually exclusive with better games. If anything, worse working conditions lead to worse games simply because I can’t expect employees to do good work when they have been running entire nights on coffee alone. But the financiers want the game to be out by December so we must! And no we don’t have time for that level we planned as the guys working on it have become psychological casualties but we do have voice lines for it so just re use that level design from earlier! No we don’t have time for bugfixing!

    • PikaBot says:

      It only seems contradictory if you assume that crunch results in better work. It doesn’t. It’s an ineffective and damaging practice.

    • thedosbox says:

      You might want to read the articles linked that responded to the original post.

      And “working hard” is not the same as “crunch”.

  3. Pich says:

    >We accept the need for tweaks in order for games to fit a variety of hardware. We accept often fairly major tweaks to change visuals, audio and lots of other things. Why then is it so hard to accept that we need tweaks for human ability too?

    because you can keep practising playing a game and get better, meanwhile if i keep running a game that doesn’t run well on my PC it’s not going to run better with time.

    • zal says:

      And yet, people constantly upgrade their PC’s to play games better, and in my 30+ year experience, nearly every game I’ve played DOES run better over time, thanks to the slow creep of upgrades needed to keep playing in the PC market. Most of those upgrades were specifically to make game X,Y,Z run better (at all).

      And on the flip side, when a game gets a hi-res re-release and is just “the same game but better graphics” do you feel revisions like that have no place as well? Clearly people could play them and use eye-skills to accept the low resolution or blurry textures, instead of expecting the game developer to baby them with hi-res textures or voice packs.

      When it comes down to it, more people getting to play and enjoy something isn’t a bad thing. And since games these days staunchly refuse to include cheat codes to just let you glide through and appreciate the content, difficulties your next best avenue.

      Not sure if you recall the original Unreal, but I never got around to finishing that game because it was both hard AND unfun… and yet I sure did get to bounce through the content in god mode because for its time it was pretty impressive. I’d have thought far less of that game if I couldn’t have seen some of the later levels. Were those cheat codes ruining it for the true unreal players? I don’t think so, and I think most people would’ve thought far less of early shooters if there weren’t codes to be had to make up for the difficulty.

      I can say with certainty Doom would’ve been less popular without its codes, as I know several people that just couldn’t/wouldn’t learn the FPS gameplay but still wanted to revel in the ultra-violence.

      • aoanla says:

        Yeah, I can’t think of a 1990s or early 2000s FPS that I didn’t spend a huge amount of time messing with cheat codes in, it was practically a selling point. (To the extent that I remember avoiding a game, I forget which, which proudly announced that there were no cheat codes at all – what’s the point of that, then?)

        [Plus, as the actual article the original quote is from notes: people get very het up about allowing people to “break” a game, somehow, but only because they’re assuming that they’re going to somehow make things easier for themselves. There’s a weird work-ethic thing with some people and games, where you “shouldn’t be allowed to get this thing without working as hard as I did on it”.]

        • Pich says:

          >There’s a weird work-ethic thing with some people and games, where you “shouldn’t be allowed to get this thing without working as hard as I did on it.

          because most modern games are easier than those in the past. so when a challenging new game comes out you can’t blame people that get defensive of it. Also it’s not a work ethic, most of the fun in the Souls series is overcoming the obstacles in your path.

          • MiniMatt says:

            We both may find enjoyment in running a hurdles race, overcoming physical obstacles, but my stumpy little pins will likely require lower hurdles than you. Will you have more fun than me because your hurdles are “as the designer intended”?

            Conversely, I might smash the limbo competition where my compact & bijou frame excels – will I have more fun than you?

            If we can accept that enjoyment of a physical activity is independent of it being tailored to meet physical characteristics, I’m not averse to the option of tailoring games to meet individual dexterity, aptitude, or even interest.

          • aepervius says:

            “because most modern games are easier than those in the past. so when a challenging new game comes out you can’t blame people that get defensive of it. ”

            I can and will blame them. If a game has various difficulty level, then it is nothing for those people if I play one easy while they play on nightmare. And yet they suddenly become defensive of difficult game ? Why ? I contend that having an easy mode is no skin off their nose, yet it is just that they egoistically want to have the bragging right, and having an easier mode they feel it removes from their bragging experience. That’s about it. In the case of DS3 it may be a little harder to have an easy mode, maybe multiply all frame of animation by 1.2 (easy) or by 0.8 (hard) and/or multiply HP by a similar factors. Thus you have a slower enemy easier to dodge.

      • Pich says:

        >Not sure if you recall the original Unreal, but I never got around to finishing that game because it was both hard AND unfun… and yet I sure did get to bounce through the content in god mode because for its time it was pretty impressive. I’d have thought far less of that game if I couldn’t have seen some of the later levels. Were those cheat codes ruining it for the true unreal players? I don’t think so, and I think most people would’ve thought far less of early shooters if there weren’t codes to be had to make up for the difficulty.

        the Souls games have a pretty hefty multiplayer component. cheat codes or multiple difficulties would throw all that out of whack.

        >I can say with certainty Doom would’ve been less popular without its codes, as I know several people that just couldn’t/wouldn’t learn the FPS gameplay but still wanted to revel in the ultra-violence.

        i like going fast and feel the wind in my hair, but i don’t demand to be allowed to enter a marathon with a motorcycle.

        • ElkiLG says:

          No but you are allowed to do the marathon on a bike when nobody’s running because nobody cares how you spend your time when it affects no one else but you. Like people who would love to play dark souls 3 with an easier setting that would affect no one else but them.

        • Premium User Badge

          FhnuZoag says:

          Do you really think that literally everyone who wants to play DS3 but can’t because it’s too hard, cares *that much* about multiplayer?

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            I think a good point of comparison is Crypt of the Necrodancer, which has multiple difficulty settings (the different characters, the diamond-upgrade mode, ‘dancemat mode’…) and only one difficulty level allowed for the daily challenge. That doesn’t seem to have hurt that game at all.

          • Andrew says:

            Well, that’s exactly how DS handles difficulty.

          • Premium User Badge

            FhnuZoag says:

            Well, the point is that Necrodancer has a rather wider range. From Bard, who ignores the entire rhythm mechanic in the game, dancemat mode which doubles your HP and halves the number of enemies, through to Coda who can’t use any items and only has half a heart of HP, and plays the game at 2x normal speed.

          • Andrew says:

            Sure. I can’t argue about range here, ‘cause I don’t know enough about “Crypt of the Necrodancer”, but no matter what I’m gonna say, it would come back to “not every game is for everybody”. For a lot of reasons, difficulty is just one of them. Sometimes by design (multiplayer is an important part of DS, so making adjustable difficulty is, well, not impossible, but hard), sometimes only because developers’ decision. DS is spicy food. It’s not for everybody.

          • The Crane says:

            Easy mode in DS is all about using the multiplayer features – summoning help for every boss fight and level would make it pretty trivial.

      • wengart says:

        Well are games art? The Dark Souls designers might want players to have the experience of the difficulty, and the repetition that comes with it.

        The trek to the fight and the defeat and the repetition that ends in your victory might be integral to that game as art.

    • Premium User Badge

      FhnuZoag says:

      You can spend some money to buy a new PC to run your games better, or simply focus on games from further back on the tech curve. Meanwhile if you don’t have the time to spend practising a game, or simply lack the physical ability, then you are kinda stuffed.

    • Monggerel says:

      So I also don’t think all games should be playable by everyone. There, I said it. I think it’s just fine that a lot of people will not be able to get into Dark Souls because it is demanding – both mentally, because you need to learn, and physically, because it really does require good reflexes.

      I don’t often hear similar complaints about puzzle games, and I’m not going to be able to play them because I’m terrible at them and the rush I get for successful puzzle solution does not outweigh the misery of getting there.
      This is fine. I play other games that I can get good at. Like Dark Souls, and twitch shooters, and strategy games.

      Exclusivity, in this case, is to the game’s advantage I think.

      • Premium User Badge

        FhnuZoag says:

        I think that features that allow puzzle games easier are generally highly appreciated, though. Infinite undo, well-tuned difficulty curves, tooltip help, solutions that don’t have to be optimal to succeed, the ability to skip levels or obtain hints, all of those are invariably praised when it comes to puzzle game design. And I think people can say, ‘dang, I wish this game had a hints system’ without folks shouting them down.

        And in terms of ‘it’s fine for a game to not be playable by everyone’, I guess that depends on what ‘fine’ means. Can we really unpack that word to mean something here? If the game randomly crashes on 10% of computers so they have to get a refund, is that ‘fine’?

        Despite the necessary compromises involved, it seems like adding an option that, say, doubles the player’s health would be a simple move than makes DS3 a better game for me without really affecting anyone else.

        • Monggerel says:

          Hm. “A game that doesn’t run for 10%”.
          What’s that mean? I’ll never be able to play Witcher 3 because my computer would curl up and die trying. Same for, say Crysis 3. Or many recent games. DS III I can luckily run, MGS V too. Since I don’t buy more games in a short time period, this is fine for me. In a year or so I just won’t be able to play new “AAA” games so I’ll probably have to stick to old ones (an upgrade is not an option).

          But you know that this isn’t what I meant. I meant that DS is ball-busting hard for a lot of people in a similar way that I would never force myself to play through The Talos Principle, even though I *really* love all the story details I’ve heard about it. This is fine.

          What is fine? Well, in this case, I mean that “I find this acceptable; if problematic, it does not appear to me to be a particularly significant issue.” This is fine. It’s k. I don’t mean “it could be better but this will do”. If you toned down puzzle games they would be bland and unappealing. If STALKER was forgiving for even a moment it would be inconsequential. DS too. Etc.

          They rode on.

        • Geebs says:

          That’s already a mechanic in the game, though, isn’t it? The thing is, a) it doesn’t help much and b) you’re making yourself open to the online component. “No reward without risk” is a major tenet of the series.

          Serious question: why isn’t there a campaign to take permadearh out of, say, Rogue?

          • Andy_Panthro says:

            Re: Rogue – there are already roguelikes that have options to remove permadeath. Dungeons of Dredmor for example.

            Also IIRC many roguelikes don’t exactly hide their save files very well, so it’s pretty easy to make a backup whenever you like. Unofficial perhaps, cheating definitely, but an option that exists.

          • aoanla says:

            Erm, there’s a Wizard mode in Nethack (and it’s been there for a very long time), which essentially let you “decide not to die”, and gives you a bunch of other admin options.

            Interestingly, no-one complains about it.

          • Geebs says:

            No-one complains about it”

            Wasn’t it Roguelike players who coined the term “save scumming”?

          • aoanla says:

            Yes, and that’s still not something which Roguelikes try too hard to prevent?

            (And it’s not Wizard mode, which, again, people don’t complain about!)

          • Urthman says:

            Save-scumming is trivial to do in Dark Souls and is one pretty easy way to lower the difficulty.

  4. funkstar says:

    Yay Sunday Papers :D

  5. MiniMatt says:

    Yay, the paper has arrived :)

    That Chernobyl piece was excellent (and ghastly), and set off a chain of wikipedia dominoes.

  6. Andrew says:

    I refuse to read anything about DS3 (playing spoiler-free is new experience, and I like it), but I think I understand the discussion enough to participate. It’s not new one, actually, I remember harassment towards BioWare writer for suggesting skippable combat. Outspoken woman, how dare she! *sigh*

    My answer always was: instead of fixing existing games, how about making more different ones, so more people can enjoy our hobby. And there are more and more of those, and I enjoy both gone-home-likes and dark-souls-likes.

    I hate gamergate, I hate PC Master Race, I hate “git gud” attitude, I hate any form of elitism ever, but there are some thing that not for everyone. There are hard movies, books, music, etc. Making cosplay costumes is hard, for Praise the Sun sake!

    Only argument I can see is cultural significance: to get games you need to get Dark Souls. Ok, sure, that’s reasonable. But. There are other ways to consume art, any art. You can watch documentary about movie, you can read in-depth analysis of a book, and listen to people explaining music. You can watch let’s plays of DS. There a ton of lore videos. And a lot of written stuff. You can get DS without playing DS.

    And, also, DS is not hard, but that’s another topic.

    • GWOP says:

      While I agree with you generally, what I’m curious about is whether people who defend higher difficulty will continue to do so when they are older and their reflexes aren’t what they used to be. Will they change their mind out of not being able to enjoy the latest Souls game, or will they resign themselves to turned-based RPGS?

      • PikaBot says:

        There are already plenty of games where I say “sure would love to play that, but I can’t handle it.” I go play games where that’s not the case. It’s unfortunate, but not all games are for all people and I’m fine with that.

        • Distec says:

          This is particularly true for competitive FPS games for me.

          I spent many of my years playing anything in the Quake/Unreal/Tribes/Counter-Strike wheelhouse. And while I want these games to continue to exist (flourish, even) I don’t think I could bring myself to go back to those styles ever again.

      • Andrew says:

        I didn’t played a lot of hard games from the beginning (of time). Hard games for me, personally. If what is hard game would change for me for any reason (age, injury, whatever), I would not play them. Would I be sad, that I’m gonna miss next DS-like? Honestly, I’m not sure. But most likely not – personally, I feel that there are too many games already, hard or easy, so the less games I can play the better. And, again, I would watch LPs. It’s not strictly about “hard”, but, for example, I would watch LP of JRPG that I’m interested for some reason, because it would be shorter then playing, and with a lot more additional information (we talking about good letsplayers here, mind you). I watched full LP of Demon’s Souls and a little bit of Bloodborne (I own PS3, but not PS4). So, yeah, I can easily see myself shifting towards that type of consumption of hard games.

        I’m 33, white, male, (relatively) healthy etc., so I can make mistakes about other people in different positions than mine, for sure, but I’m not saying “Leave games alone.” or “stop trying to make them some kind of political agenda” *cough*see ↓*cough*, I’m just saying that we don’t need to destroy everything to build better hobby/games industry. And I don’t feel like my attitude towards “hard games are not for anyone and that’s OK” comes from any sort of elitism (ageism in your example). At least I hope so :)

      • scannerbarkly says:

        This is a rarely opportunity to respond to a decent question on the internet regarding Dark Souls and difficulty. I’m 35 so a bit past the “twitch reactions” point and I am also pretty ill so my hands are messed up and don’t quite work the way normal hands work. There are lots of games I just can’t play. Sometimes my hands just won’t perform the action sent to them or will perform it twice. Sometimes they twitch, sometimes its mild and sometimes it’s not. So…QWOP and I Am Bread and all that stuf is off limits for me, it’s just too difficult to control that little mans legs or the bread.

        I do okay in Souls games though. I actually really like the challenge of them. It can take a bit of time and I tend to pay very close attention to enemies, their behaviour, their patterns and such. I grind for a bit and I get some levels and I learn from the things that kill me. At this point I just want to say that I am highlighting all this because people think everyone who likes the difficulty of the games does so because they don’t actually have to deal with it, they are just “good” at them. I’m really not. lol

        Anyway, for me it boils down to one thing and one thing only…Dark Souls will have an easy mode when the developer decides they want to put one in. I have read enough of Miyazaki’s thoughts to understand that for him the way the games work, are designed, the lore etc is all interconnected. He likes to present a challenge to people. In Dark Souls 3 the hardest bosses are all optional…you don’t need to go near them to advance the story.

        This is a big convo in gaming right now because we had Devil Daggers and Hyper Light Drifter and Dark Souls all land in a row, some pretty difficult games that a lot of people felt were too hard for them. I like the fact that devs feel okay doing this and even before I got ill I would run into some games that were just too hard for me. Dedspite loving Platform games I always fucking sucked at Mario. Every one of them, I have never finished one that I can recall. I think that is okay.

        I think it’s good that some puzzle games are really quite tough in places, i think it is okay that other games be very challenging narratively and i think it is okay that some games just be straight up mechanically hard. All of that is fine if it is down to developer choice, the same way as making any of them easier is fine if it is down to developer choice.

        I guess the one thing I don’t get about arguments around difficulty is what people really want from a game like Dark Souls. I mean, it’s grim, their isn’t much happiness in there and the world is filled with characters who failed to do what you are trying to do. So to me the narrative and the difficulty kind of back each other up a bit on that front. Sometimes it is okay to try something, be it climb a mountain or play a game, and just fail at it.

        • Andrew says:

          people think everyone who likes the difficulty of the games does so because they don’t actually have to deal with it, they are just “good” at them. I’m really not.

          Same! And everything else you said is very, very true.

        • Eight Rooks says:

          At this point I just want to say that I am highlighting all this because people think everyone who likes the difficulty of the games does so because they don’t actually have to deal with it, they are just “good” at them. I’m really not

          I don’t know about “people”, but I’m pretty sure everyone who seriously thinks Dark Souls is not that difficult, really pretty easy actually, etc., etc. has no idea how good they really are at videogames. Yes, it’s simply a matter of paying attention and memorising a number of relatively simple patterns. I’m comfortable saying the vast, vast, vast majority of people simply do not possess the concentration and mental dexterity to be able to pay attention and memorise those things faultlessly, over and over again, that they’d struggle to acquire same, and if you don’t see what the fuss is about then regardless of how crap you think you are, you’re still way up in the top 5% of humanity at large. Dark Souls is “difficult”, for the given nebulous definition of difficult the majority of regular folks would accept.

          But maybe that’s not you, in which case carry on.

          • scannerbarkly says:

            I’m not sure if you read my comment or not but I clearly state that I find Dark Souls to be difficult, I just enjoy the difficulty and don’t get turned off by it. :)

        • Urthman says:

          If you’re able to play Dark Souls even though you think you aren’t good at it, you’re not actually one of the people who aren’t good enough to play Dark Souls. Some people just can’t do it no matter how hard they bang their head against the difficulty.

      • Ashabel says:

        This line of thought implies that only old people suffer from health problems that keep them from gaming more actively. I’m 30 and already find myself performing worse because my attention wanders more easily (thus lower reflexes) and my hands hurt more often (I was born with rheumatic pains).

        None of those make me want to wish for easier difficulties because I have gotten better in other aspects (better observation, recognizing hidden gameplay mechanics and strategy), and because I find the whole argument where someone just doesn’t have the ability to be incredibly depressive, cynical, self-defeating hogwash. Games aren’t some sort of impossible trials, they’re simple tests of skill that can be overcome with patience, observation and increasing one’s skill through other, easier games. Complaining that a game should be made easier to accommodate your present lack of skill makes a disservice to you before it does to anything else.

        This entire “games should be made easier” controversy is basically people complaining about how they don’t want to improve, which is just silly. All games are about improving your skill, even walking simulators.

        • malkav11 says:

          That may be what they’re about for you. It’s not what they’re about for me, and if I need to “improve my skills” to progress in a game, I’m probably going to go do something else because I have more rewarding things to do with my time.

          Honestly, if I want to learn skills I’ll learn ones with real world applications because that might actually improve my life in some way. Being better at a videogame is only going to do that if I were to get good enough to play it professionally, and there’s a whole host of reasons -that’s- never going to happen.

          • Ashabel says:

            You seem to have misunderstood my statement. I’m not saying that games for me are about improving my skills, or that I want to learn any skills while playing them. I’m saying that all games are effectively about applying effort to obtain a result, and you’re going to learn something while applying said effort regardless of whether you wanted to do so. By playing games, you will inevitably learn how to beat harder games, so I find it silly about complaining about how this game is too hard when you can just go play something else and come back when you feel more skilled.

            However, another regular pointed out on Steam that my argument is flawed because I severely underestimate both how long it actually takes to get good at video games because of how long I’ve been playing. I’m sorry I effectively told you that you’ll “git gud… eventually” without considering how long it might actually take. ):

  7. PikaBot says:

    My response to the Easy Mode article is the same as before: for many games – most games, really – an easy mode makes sense. For games where the difficulty is an important aesthetic component, like Dark Souls, it doesn’t. Because if there’s an easy mode, instead of persisting through the difficulty, people who CAN hack it will simply drop a difficulty level instead and ruin their experiences. The issue isn’t that people who are incapable of handling the game’s difficulty will ruin their experience, it’s that people who CAN will be shunted by the difficulty into the easy mode. The game would absolutely lose something as a result.

    • aepervius says:

      And my response to that is the same as always : if you feel it removes from the game, don’t play the easy mode. It should not be a barrier to your own enjoyment if others which would not otherwise enjoy or even buy the game, buy it *because* it is now within their reach.

      It goes beyond my comprehension why knowing other play the easy mode would make your own hard or normal mode less enjoyable.

      • PikaBot says:

        I’m not sure you understand. If there had been an easy mode, I would have probably have switched to it while I was beating my head against Capra Demon, and thus ruined one of the best gaming experiences of my life. Most people would. When there’s an easy option, playing on a hard difficulty becomes an exercise in masochism. The fact that I was robbing myself of something great would have been invisible to me at the time, because it’s only clear in hindsight.

        Asking From Soft to add an easy mode to Dark Souls is basically asking them to sabotage their own game.

        • Geebs says:

          Yup. As someone decent at Dark Souls, Easy Mode wouldn’t ruin Dark Souls for me, it would ruin it for the people who used it.

          • Sarfrin says:

            It’s nice that you know everything about everyone in the world.

    • Geebs says:

      It’s another nontroversy drummed up by people who are addicted to “defending” people who never asked to be patronised in the first place. If people can finish Dark Souls using a guitar controller or bongos or twitch, and if my atrophied reactions can hack it, it’s not even a case of requiring much manual dexterity.

      But: the essence of Dark Souls is in the struggle. The idea of a bunch of people each contributing towards a shared goal without really being able to communicate is the kernel at the heart of the entire series. If you change that, it’s not Dark Souls anymore. That seems too big a sacrifice for the stroking of a few fragile egos.

      • Cederic says:

        the essence of Dark Souls is in the struggle. The idea of a bunch of people each contributing towards a shared goal without really being able to communicate is the kernel at the heart of the entire series

        I deal with that at work to earn the money that funds my leisure time. I want something more relaxing in my leisure time.

    • malkav11 says:

      This argument implicitly assumes that everyone values the same things you do about games. I can tell you, they do not. I have had exactly zero games ruined by being “too easy”. I have had many games ruined by being too hard, or hard in the wrong ways. And that is because a game being difficult is almost never what I value about that game, but it can easily impede or halt my progress.

      • PikaBot says:

        Then Dark Souls is not for you. And that’s okay. No game is for all people.

        • malkav11 says:

          Well, yes and no. I adore the Souls games, not for their difficulty (which has prevented me from playing them to any significant degree – I beat roughly three bosses in Demon’s Souls with a magic build and couldn’t quite get traction in the other zones; couldn’t get anywhere at all in Dark Souls because the changes to magic made it nonviable by itself), but for their atmosphere, worldbuilding, story, and so on. So I would quite happily play the hell out of them if they were willing to accomodate me. Since they’re not, I settle for Let’s Plays. And that’s okay, but let’s not pretend offering an easy difficulty is anathema to everything that’s great about them. That’s simply not so.

          • Andrew says:

            Well… We have Tomb Raider games about struggle and survival, and Uncharted games about everyman, but the both not, not really – they both power fantasy, where you a superman capable of killing thousands of people. DS is consistent in gameplay and story.

          • malkav11 says:

            I’m honestly not sure what point you’re trying to make, but if it’s the argument that Dark Souls’ story doesn’t work without the difficulty reinforcing the experience, I’ve heard it before but I can’t agree. Everything I’ve appreciated about any of the Souls games has been because I watched someone else play them, typically someone who’s mastered the game and tends to make it look easy. And for Demon’s Souls, Dark Souls, and Bloodborne that’s been a really engrossing and enjoyable watch because of how well designed the setting and story are. Obviously there is zero difficulty (or gameplay) involved in watching a Let’s Play, so that can’t be critical to enjoying what interests me about those games.

            Now, I’m not arguing that Dark Souls or indeed any other difficult game necessarily needs to accomodate me experiencing them firsthand. A vicarious experience will often be adequate. And in some limited contexts (abstract puzzle games, say, or score chases like Devil Daggers) there really is no other point than the difficulty. But most of the time there’s other things to appreciate and those things aren’t actually compromised by offering a lower difficulty.

          • scannerbarkly says:

            Out of interest, what do you feel would make the game easier? Something like more Estus to heal with? Or enemies doing less damage and you doing more? Or less enemies?

            Whilst I am happy with the current state of Souls games regarding difficulty this convo has been doing on for a long time around the games, but nobody ever really talks about how they would like to see the games made easier, just that they would. So…what would actually help people but not completely undermine the design principles behind the game for you?

          • Andrew says:

            @malkav11 If you watch ADDQ or something similar, people there make everything looks easy, and that’s part of the appeal. Something hard looks easy. That’s cool! Same with DS. Even if you watch someone beating DS just for lore, setting and atmosphere, you still know that it’s a hard game, and that adds to lore, setting and atmosphere.

            It’s not just tough boss because game writer written so, it’s tough boss because it’s tough boss, and he’s tough.

            I totally get all the arguments, I really do, but I don’t think that we need to fix DS. We need to make more different games, some of them DS-like, and some of them we need to make easy, for sure.

          • malkav11 says:

            I’m not arguing the case that Dark Souls should be made easier or offer an easy mode, so I don’t really have an opinion on what would be good ways of doing so. What I am doing is disagreeing with the arguments that offering an easy mode would “ruin the game” for the people who used it, or that the difficulty is inherent to what makes the game worth experiencing, because these arguments are rooted in a mindset that values challenge and, in many cases, privileges it over other things that games may have to offer. But not everyone that plays games does value challenge, and even if they do they may not value it over being able to experience the entirety of the other things that game has to offer.

            That doesn’t mean that every game has to be made to appeal to every type of player. That’s obviously an extremely difficult thing to accomplish, if not impossible, and trying might well make a game that appeals to nobody. But if a game -does- appeal to multiple types of player, it doesn’t betray the game to offer optional accessibility to those who might have other priorities than what might be considered the “core” audience for that game. Doesn’t mean those concessions have to be made, but it’s kind of shitty to argue that they shouldn’t be.

          • Andrew says:

            @malkav11 Not every game needs to be hard/easy/whatever. I agree.

            About your other point. Ok, can you make point-and-click adventure in the same world, with the same plot, lore, atmosphere, etc. as DS? Sure. But it would be different game. See? It not necessary impossible, or even wrong to make easy DS4/BB2, but people, me included, find appeal in a whole package. Difficult combat, hidden lore, dark atmosphere, etc. Well, even reading wikis for some obscure mechanics is part of the experience. Remove any of those and it would be different game. Not necessary better or worse, but different, no question about it. So, yes, difficulty is integral part here.

            Is that so shitty to ask not to fix that’s not broken? Again, we not talking that every game needs to go back to “insert coin” mentality of game design. I’m all for easy games. Just not this one.

          • malkav11 says:

            A) Difficulty is an intrinsic part of the experience FOR YOU. I call bullshit on it being intrinsic for everyone. You’ve argued that I’m somehow getting the experience of the difficulty by watching someone break it over their knee, but that’s nonsense. I’ve heard it’s hard. That’s not at all the same thing as experiencing the difficulty. But the difficulty is what’s preventing me from experiencing the game myself, not what I’m interested in. And, FWIW, even when I have played the game myself and have a real idea just how big the skill gap between the LPer and myself is to be doing as well as they are, that makes the LP impressive, but it doesn’t increase my enjoyment of the game being shown off.

            B) There’s a huge difference between offering an optional way to decrease the difficulty and flat out removing the difficulty. I wouldn’t want anyone doing the latter, because that would prevent people from engaging with the games the way they currently love doing in order to possibly open them up to an audience that isn’t necessarily going to be there. And again, I’m not the one arguing for the former. I am content for Dark Souls and its ilk to be things I admire from afar if that’s how developers like From Software want to design their games. But I think it’s ridiculous to suggest that providing the former would take anything away from people who want to play it as currently established, or that it’s worse for someone who doesn’t care about challenge to be able to experience the rest of what the game has to offer (directly) than be stopped cold 30 minutes in or simply never buy it in the first place.

          • malkav11 says:

            To elaborate a bit more:
            I think there are plenty of good reasons not to offer lower difficulties and/or difficulty tuning options, the first and foremost of which being, that’s not the experience the designer wants to present. Games are, after all, a creative medium and if the intended experience is balls-in-vice, well, that’s the creative talent’s prerogative. Might not sell, but if it does (as Dark Souls certainly has), nothing wrong with that. Other reasons include that options make testing harder, are potential fault points for bugs, won’t necessarily fix the problem they were intended to address, and are tough to tune so that the tweaked experience feels roughly like the original one. (For example, the first Devil May Cry’s Easy Mode, while certainly much easier, also radically changes the enemy composition of levels and as a result doesn’t really feel like a manageable version of the harder modes so much as a remix.) There are probably others.

            What aren’t valid reasons are things like “I strongly feel that because I suffered through this difficulty everyone should have to to play this”, “the difficulty is INTRINSIC to the experience so you’d be ruining it for yourself if you had the option to turn it down”, etc. (Frankly this reads like the same argument to me, but that’s probably not fair.) Not everyone values the same things about games, and you don’t get to tell me what to enjoy and how.

          • Andrew says:

            Difficulty is an integral part of a game. Not for you or me, for a game. There is no easier version of “Mona Lisa” or “War and Peace”. They all are full packages, with “good” and “bad” parts. Can’t handle them? Go watch a documentary/let’s play (I’m not saying that in a bad way, I like documentaries and let’s plays).

            It doesn’t matter how you making it easier, you making a different game. My point-and-click example was just an example.

            “I strongly feel that because I suffered through this difficulty everyone should have to to play this”

            I never said that. My position is not “git gud”. And were do you get this “suffered”, exactly? Never mind!

            My position is: Hidetaka Miyazaki specifically created this game with that difficulty, with that lore, with that setting, etc. Every part is integral, like it or not. How else can I say that easier DS would be a different game? Different. Dif-fe-rent. Diff-er-ent. “Gray Souls”, if you will. Don’t like it? Don’t play it. Simple.

            P.S. And if you don’t care, why not play it on PC with trainers? It would be very different expirience (different game), but you don’t care, so who cares.

      • Catterbatter says:

        “Hard in the wrong ways” resonates with me. No one likes being held back by bugs or poor design. But thinking back to early consoles, I never had any expectation of being able to finish a game. I’ve never finished Super Mario Brothers, for example, and I don’t know if there’s any point going back much further, since most earlier games didn’t have an end state. That’s also perhaps a holdout from the arcade, which was more about competing for high scores. Dark Souls doesn’t ever send you back to level 1. You’re basically left right where you were before you started fucking up. You could try again, or not. I don’t especially care! I’ve never finished that game either. There are plenty of games out there that sort of gently scale to skill level. Axiom Verge sets you back to the last save point but leaves your pickups intact. That might be an idea for “easy mode” in Dark Souls. Not that I think it’s necessary.

      • Press X to Gary Busey says:

        The suggested logics behind a game being ruined by gameplay options just causes a complete syntax error for my brain.
        Like *optional* Konami codes, warp pipes, setting AI difficulty in RTS skirmishes, the existence of cheat engines etc. has ever ruined a single player experience.

        Just gate off all Dark Souls’ multiplayer features if playing below Normal. Perhaps throw in a bad Easy Mode ending and keep the True Ending for Normal like games did even back in the Playstation 1 era. Exclude some part of the game to Normal. Force New Game+ saves to Normal difficulty etc.

        • scannerbarkly says:

          People would still lose their shit. Just this week folk were talking here (I believe) about how having certain story elements of Alan Wake only show up in the harder difficulties was bullshit. lol

          You can’t please everybody, just how it is.

    • P.Funk says:

      I think what most people fail to recognize when considering an argument like yours is that human beings, by their evolutionary nature, will without much consideration follow the path of least resistance. Its in our nature to game the system and make it easier. Few people naturally thrive on being thrown into the deep end but most of us who are forced to endure that end up realizing we’re glad we did.

      Your point also reminds me of an interesting developer article from some time ago that talks about this and how players are their own enemy as they naturally try to eliminate the challenge in games they play. The challenge is the fun but our psychology often leads us to defeat the fun part of a game by finding weaknesses and holes in it and yes he ended up saying that people usually always ask it to be easier than it ought to be.

      • malkav11 says:

        The thing is, we are talking about videogames. Unless you are actively required to play the game for your job (and that’s going to be very, very few people), there is nothing requiring you to stay in the “deep end” other than your own desire to do so. There’s plenty of other games to play and plenty of other things to do with your time. If that’s truly what you enjoy in games, then that same desire should keep you there even if there’s other, easier paths. And if it doesn’t…well, I submit your ideas about what you value might need re-examining.

    • Urthman says:

      I’m in this category too. Dark Souls would have been ruined for me if it had an easy mode. So giving Dark Souls would have opened up the experience for some people who can’t hack the current difficulty, but ruined it for others who could hack it but wouldn’t know that if nothing forced them to try.

  8. Hobbes says:

    Except fixing existing games has become something of a fashionable thing, not just mechanically, but going back and -rewriting- characters because you feel you can improve on the original writers work (see the mess with Baldur’s Gate and what Beamdog has done).

    Personally, I’m fine with a subset of games being too difficult for me to conquer, that’s acceptable. If I don’t get to the end, that’s fine by me, you don’t -need- to win every game to get a meaningful experience out of them. That seems to be a very millenial thing, the fact that no matter what, you must allow everyone to “win” because otherwise you risk hurting someones’ feelings somewhere. The problem is that by removing the concept of challenge and removing the difficulty from games, or by placing the opportunity to strip out the difficulty, you’re essentially doing a lot of games and their players a disservice by shorting their design.

    Stop it. Leave games alone. They were fun in the 80’s, they can still be fun now, just stop trying to make them some kind of political agenda, and that goes for both sides of the fence, they’re both as bad as each other. Just let them be fun. Good grief.

    Now with that, I’m going to lose horribly at Enter the Gungeon again, because that’s *fun*

    • Grizzly says:

      I have played BGEE: Beamdog has not changed any of the original writing. No characters have been rewritten.

      What people do levy against Beamdog is that characters from BG1 are now different in BG:SoD. Bioware themselves have changed the mood of their entire cast sans minsc (and even Minsc is changed) during the transistion from BG1 to BG2, so I don’t really see the issue, especially as the characters from BG1 were a bit one dimensional.

    • Grizzly says:

      Also, I keep reposting this buuut:

      • Troika says:

        Thank you for directing me to this channel. Great vid and
        his Beginner’s guide analysis is superb.

        • GWOP says:

          That analysis was harrowing and uncomfortable if you had already seen his video on Brendon Chung.

          • Troika says:

            I didn’t initially, but now I see the point. Thank you for highlighting this!

    • Hobbes says:

      I don’t state “your”, I state keep politics and personal ideologies out of games in general. They -really- don’t belong, they age horribly (seriously, who’s going to care about the stuff that’s happened in a few years time? I know I won’t), and all they tend to do is rake up old wounds.

      On the beamdog topic, you’re making a straw man argument, BG1 > BG2 was an organic change in character development over the passage of time. BG1’s expansion was an inorganic change forced by a specific writers’ decision to ignore the personalities and writing of the games prior, and openly stating that they felt that the writing was substandard.

      More “Enter the gungeon” and “Seraph” and “Stories : Path of Destinies”, and let’s move on from the lunacy please.

      • GWOP says:

        Well, when you tell someone to keep their politics out, you are essentially saying that the status quo suits you fine and you would rather it not change, thus inherently making a political statement yourself.

      • Grizzly says:

        I don’t state “your”, I state keep politics and personal ideologies out of games in general.

        Worth watching that video, as it adresses exactly that comment. Heck, it’s not like the original Baldur’s Gate had it’s own share of political commentary with some of the dialogue.

      • Grizzly says:

        Also, right! I have not reached Siege of Dragonspear yet (I am currently replaying the BG content), but well, BG1’s writing is not all that cracked up to be, esp. when it comes to it’s party NPCs whom are mainly there for one-liners the non-joinable NPCs have far more interesting dialogue, but that does vary. I do consider it fully within somene’s options when writing a sequel to a game that was released 18 years ago that they feel the need to change things around.

        You don’t have to agree with it, obviously, but I do feel that blaming this on “Politics!” is simply scapegoating: Every writer is shaped by their world and their views and this shows trough the things they write. This is as much true for Siege of Dragonspear as it was for the original Baldur’s Gate games as it was for the Forgotten Realms authors that created the setting in the first place. To suggest that games would improve by not making them about a political agenda would be to discount all the games that are improved by having political considerations in them, which is almost every game, with the exception of pure physics simulators.

      • Ashabel says:

        Stories: Path of Destinies has 24 endings all of which poke fun at common narrative tropes in AAA video games. That kind of comedy is in itself a statement because it involves exposing a system of trope that is used by other people in your field, then making fun of it because it prioritizes convenience at the cost of inventiveness.

        It’s also a rare game that passes a trial by Women vs Tropes in Video Games with flying colors – the female lead is competent, sensibly dressed, has opinions and motivations that are completely separate from the protagonist, doesn’t compromise herself in the name of romance and isn’t turned into a prize or a damsel in distress by the story at any point. Whether this one is intended to be a statement or not doesn’t matter – Stories is a creative work that is freely available to anyone and is thus capable of influencing whoever plays it.

        I’m also not sure how you can claim that Seraph’s narrative is completely devoid of any statements or ideologies when the game isn’t even out yet.

        • Andrew says:

          I need to play that, aren’t I? Sigh, too many games, not enough time.

          • Ashabel says:

            If it helps, a single ending in Stories takes only 2 hours to reach and you need only four of them to unlock the true 25th ending. Its gameplay is also repetitive enough that I don’t recommend using the game as your primary focus; you’ll end up hating the whole thing.

            It’s a good game and a great story, but you’ll likely enjoy it more if you use it as a side dish for other things.

          • Andrew says:

            A little. Thanks anyway :)

      • Hobbes says:

        Let’s see if cloudflare eats this post too or if I have to go hunting.

      • Hobbes says:

        Okay! Things appear to be working, so I can’t post from my other place for now until I get my IP resolved with whoever handles things here because cloudflare security has kicked in. Anyhow

        GWOP : False assertion, I don’t think the status quo is acceptable, I feel change is needed, but my case for change is around improving the tools and depth of narrative, not around inserting polemic and personal agendas. It’s possible to tell -better- stories without deliberately ramming your own opinions down other peoples’ throats. By all means place political debate into a story, but give the person at the other end the freedom to question and consider it for themselves, as opposed to “I am right and you are wrong”

        Grizzly – The problem with the video is the assumption that I consider games to be art or the argument that I feel games should be in any way treated as a grown up form of art. I do not, they are not. They are entertainment, games are games, and no matter how srsbsns the narrative might be, they are there to entertain and challenge the player, they are not going to be Citizen Kane, not whilst the people developing them have such a limited vocabulary to communicate narrative to the player, and vice versa. Ultimately Games are not something you can tell a truly masterful story with because the player automatically inhibits the level of storytelling the author can weave in. A movie or book reduces the person on the other end to an observer, which is an important distinction.

        • GWOP says:

          “It’s possible to tell -better- stories without deliberately ramming your own opinions down other peoples’ throats.”

          Do you honestly believe that an author’s opinions and values aren’t intrinsically weaved within their work?

          I don’t even know why I am bothering arguing with you – you don’t even consider games to be art.

          “they are not going to be Citizen Kane”

          Citizen Kane isn’t revered for its narrative, but for its technical aspects of its cinematography and structure that became ubiquitous later. So we already have multiple Citizen Kanes in gaming – Dune is the Citizen Kane of RTS, Half Life is the Citizen Kane of narrative FPS, etc.

          Also, funnily enough, Citizen Kane was panned on release by the likes of Sartre, let alone being considered a work of art.

        • Hobbes says:

          Grats, you’ve missed the entire point of my argument. As I said, it’s entirely possible for a game to make political discourse without ramming it down the throat of the player with a “I am right, you are wrong, this is how it should be” approach. You are correct, I do not view games as art, I view games as -games-, because attempting to re-categorize them is to do them a disservice. A game can make political discourse and encourage a player to think without browbeating them with a particular set of moralities, a game can pose a set of moral questions without immediately saying “This choice is the right one”, that’s my advocate standpoint.

          They should be held to their own standards, and judged against their own peers, not viewed by some lens that qualifies them as some kind of cultural object that makes them mystically required to confirm to a completely different set of standards, ones that up until recently weren’t even required.

          You’re the one suggesting that they should be treated otherwise, not me. I view them entirely as something they are, Games, nothing more, nothing less. Viewing them as art is like trying to sample them as fine wine, it’s a lot of words that get us nowhere. There’s more meaningful debates on how to push games forward tbh.

          • Ashabel says:

            GWOP didn’t miss the point, he said that your argument has no point and therefore you have no argument whatsoever. He is 100% correct – you are trying to argue that narrative in video games shouldn’t be dissected, analyzed and improved upon by applying the standards used by writing everywhere else, it should simply go ahead and be good. That’s a completely brainless statement – you cannot create something good without first testing a number of prototypes that confirm it actually works, otherwise you get incidents like Daikatana, Titanic and Heidenberg.

            He was also right by calling you out on bringing Citizen Kane into a discussion about writing. Citizen Kane’s importance had nothing to do with writing, it introduced new methods of using recording equipment (it was the movie that invented dramatic camera angles) and was the first movie ever to include a soundtrack.

            If we’re going to work on strictly writing terms, what you basically said was “They are entertainment, games are games, and no matter how srsbsns the narrative might be, they are there to entertain and challenge the player, they are not going to be Quake…” You tried to make a smart-sounding comparison and pooped yourself because you don’t actually know the thing you tried to compare narrative in video games to.

          • Hobbes says:

            Ashabel, if you’re going to post twaddle, make it funny at least. This is getting tiresome. You’re not even bothering to address my post at this point. Might be easier just to toss you on block.

          • Ashabel says:

            I addressed your post in the context of it being a pseudo-intellectual self-absorbed wank about things he knows absolutely nothing about, which is what it is.

        • Grizzly says:

          I disagree on a level that is more fundemental then I first assumed, but hey: I disagree. A lot of games are improved by their authors considering them art. Dark Souls, for example, tries to hone enviromental storytelling in a way that would make Hieronomyous Bosch proud. Deus Ex takes a very literary approach to it’s world, embodying it with a lot of philosophy, and in doing so they became better games. Should I mention Planescape Torment? Full Throttle? You may not consider games to be an art, and that’s fine, but many people that create and critique games do, and to me it’s clear that such an approach has led to better games.

          I am not sure why you are saying “Shoving opinions down one’s throat” – it’s not like a game can coerce you to adopt a certain stance! Baldur’s Gate draws upon it’s own concepts, and fundementally draws upon the world of the Forgotten Realms, which has it’s own assumptions about, say, sex and gender baked deep into it’s backstory. To blast Siege of Dragonspear specifically for something it’s predeccesors have done just as well is at worst hypocritical, but most likely simply the result of you not noticing the personal opinions informing a lot of the Baldur’s Gate and Forgotten Realms writing (ever saw that bit on the whitewashing of colonial history in the original BG?) and the era of (anti-)social media highlighting such things where they were a bit more hidden back in the 90s and 80s, for better and worse.

      • Hobbes says:

        Ashabel – Why on earth would you trial any game by TvW? That’s possibly the most horrific benchmark I could imagine. That’s as far to one extreme as the nutjobs at the other end of the scale. No, just no. Divorce your feelings about gender bias or so called “progressive” requirements about a given game, what matters is if the story makes coherent sense, if the world that’s been built is whole and interesting, if the game works to engage the player and suspend their disbelief, and if the mechanics weave together to make the player feel that they have control in such a way that they can communicate their intentions to the avatar in a reliable manner.

        I could care less whether it has a man, woman, or blob as the lead character, I play a woman in DS3 because I want a strong woman knight as my avatar for roleplay, but frankly what matters most of all is whether the game works in and of itself. That’s why the DLC for Baldur’s Gate was such a big misstep, diversity for diversity’s sake is not always the way to go.

        • Ashabel says:

          What a dready response – half assumptions, half ranting, none of the point. You make embarrassingly loud and sweeping statements, but you have none of the actual understanding behind the mechanics of what you’re discussing and no actual examples to show for anything you say.

          The reason why Stories functions effectively as a narrative is precisely because its writer(s) is/are aware of the system of tropes commonly employed in modern video game writing. The problem with tropes is that they are shortcuts designed to shape the story faster at the expense of making it predictable. By dodging practically all the tropes on the checklist, the game ended up flowing better and feeling more convincing because it rarely feels cobbled together out of jigsaw pieces.

          Your argument that a world simply needs to be whole and interesting is an intellectual dead end. One does not simply go and build an interesting story – it needs to be tested in order to prove cohesive, and running it through various trope checklists is one very good method of doing so. You’re essentially trying to say that a story doesn’t need an editor, which indicates you know nothing about creative writing or effective world building.

          Calling Tropes vs. Women “extreme” is an outright baffling statement. It’s true that Anita herself is a radical feminist but aside of her occasional chauvinistic slut-shaming, the actual series is at its worst lukewarm and completely inoffensive unless you have some sort of personal traumatic response to people who claim to be scholars and then present essays that were visibly copy/pasted off the internet the way Anita tends to do. Divorced from Anita, it’s as effective checklist of tropes as any and running female characters through it can result in purging your writing of predictable and boring elements.

          Do you actually have anything to show in order to prove that Baldur’s Gate is a misstep? Not only does the game not fall under your complaints about games browbeating the player with opinions (a single trans character existing as a minor NPC in a setting in which trans characters have existed from the very inception isn’t a statement or an opinion, it’s just one trans character who exists), but it’s actually a triumph of developer/community discussions. People called out that NPC’s dialogue as being poor, the developers admitted that it could be much better and promised to improve her dialogue in a future patch. That is exactly how creative processes should work.

        • Hobbes says:

          Okay. Logic you want, logic you shall have. I was posting for brevity but apparently I need to go in depth on this.

          I’ll ignore the first paragraph because, well, it’s cute but it adds nothing to the discourse, aside from allowing you to vent steam. We’ll move straight to the meat of this. First and foremost, you do correctly identify that Tropes are used to shape a story quicker, however you’re guilty of correlation causes causation, simply because a Trope is employed doesn’t necessarily make a story predictable, that much hinges on the creative scope of the writer. You presume that the writer dodged all the tropes yet the “hero path” actually played several tropes -straight- at the end of the day (the most egregious of which was “love conquers all”). So, there’s that.

          You state that a world needs to be whole and interesting is an intellectual dead end but you’re divorcing that from the whole of my argument, I’m arguing that’s one of the components that may be needed for an entertaining game experience. Now the level of world building needed for various genres may vary, but creating a consistent and whole world is something that is absolutely required. Yes, it does need to be tested, though I would argue using trope checklists is only testing against the obvious recipes, I would be looking more for internal coherency and consistency first and foremost. Interestingly enough games writing currently generally -lacks- editing in a meaningful manner, which is one of its’ biggest stumbling blocks, and is something it desperately needs, mostly because narrative tends to take a back seat to gameplay, the narrative has to be bent around the mechanics and the like. You’re creating a false line of argument because it’s easier to attack one singular element rather than the whole, that’s fine, if it’s easier for you to go after bits, do so.

          TvW is surface analysis disguised as academia. It’s a poor substitute for genuine study and it reduces the space for reasoned discourse by encouraging idiot tribalism. That’s my problem with it in a nutshell. You don’t need TvW to make good narratives with strong female components, you just need common sense and the ability to write a strong story. Moving on.

          The DLC for Baldur’s gate? Read the Scott Interview. That’s the key element, combined with the significant changes to Jaheira and Safana, rather than use the oft over-used point which is misleading that you’ve used as a straw man, do a bit of actual investigation hmmm?

          Now as much as I’m willing to entertain this, that’s your post. Go do your research, and stop using fallacies for arguments.

          • Ashabel says:

            Four paragraphs! Four. I am fascinated that you just spent four paragraphs trying to argue something without actually providing a single counter-argument. You keep going “Yes yes we absolutely do need to test stories to make them better, it’s just that your method of doing so is wrong and mine is right,” and then you provide absolutely no method of your own whatsoever.

            You do try to deflect my statement about Baldur’s Gate toward the new characterization of Jaheira because… why? I’m not sure. Nobody has any complaints about Jaheira because her new personality is a political statement, the complaints are that she’s out of character. You’re still contradicting your own complaints about the game.

            You are more than free to toss me on block. I will not do the same, simply because I find your pseudo-intellectual rants in which you use numerous long words to pretend that you know everything about things that you know absolutely nothing about to be entertaining.

  9. Don Reba says:

    The most recent return was sparked by Alex St. John, co-creator of Microsoft’s DirectX and founder of WildTangent, griping about, among other things, the “wage-slave attitude” of people who want to make games without working 80-hour weeks.

    Also, he’s cruel to his cat.

    • PikaBot says:

      God, he thinks he’s being cutesy and funny but all he’s doing is revealing once again what a shriveled black mass his soul is.

      • Don Reba says:

        To be honest, I think he has a point: if you want normal work conditions, get a normal job doing something useful. Games are an artistic pursuit.

        • Premium User Badge

          Ninja Dodo says:

          No, fuck that. You don’t get to wave your hands around and say “art” and that somehow makes it acceptable to exploit people. Not only does he not remotely “have a point” the things he advocates would be illegal in most places that have half-decent labour laws.

        • Sin Vega says:

          If everyone quit and got a “useful job”, the unemployment rate would be in the high 70s.

        • PikaBot says:

          No. Games are a job. They are also an artistic pursuit. But they are also a form of labour, and the people who make them deserve fair compensation and working conditions. Frankly, your attitude is horrifying.

          • Don Reba says:

            You tell what compensation you deserve while negotiating for the job, it’s useless to complain afterwards. The problem isn’t my attitude or Alex St. John’s, it’s that a lot of people in this industry are willing to work hard for little money. If you don’t unionize indie devs, you get to compete on their terms.

          • PikaBot says:

            It’s amazing to me how you seem to grasp all the parts of the problem without actually understanding it at all.

          • Don Reba says:

            It’s amazing to me how you seem to grasp all the parts of the problem without actually understanding it at all.

            That’s a bad way to argue.

          • GWOP says:

            Bad way to argue? You are fighting for a man who calls for the naked exploitation of people with Aspergers – there isn’t really much to argue with you.

          • Don Reba says:

            I’m not fighting, I’m explaining.

          • Distec says:

            No, Don Reba.

            Because you have decided to not call Alex St. John a shit-eating motherfucker, you are clearly fighting for him. His face is emblazoned on your shield. Your smokescreen tactics will not fool me!

    • gunny1993 says:

      The man would be an amazing satire of poor management and hideous capitalism, if wasn’t so lacking in introspection and irony.

      It takes a perverse mind to turn “Give a man a job he loves and he’ll never work a day in his life” to “Give a man a job he loves and he better work every day of his life …. for no extra pay”

      Also, I just realized you’re username is from “To be a God” which I just started reading and thought it was an odd coincidence XD

      • Shuck says:

        Yeah, he’s so out of touch on multiple levels, his bullshit really pisses me off. It especially pisses me off because “passion” for the job has been the tool that the industry has used to exploit people and create poor working conditions and, frankly, a lot of bad games. Leaving aside that working 80 hours a week results in people not doing their best work because they’re tired and worn out (and it provides a perverse starting point for “crunch”), leaving aside that destroying any chance of having a personal life shouldn’t have to be a trade-off for doing what you love, it ignores the fact that these days most game developers aren’t even in positions where they have any degree of creative control, so doing it “for the love of art” doesn’t even make sense. Most people on AAA games are corporate employees doing fairly specialized work as dictated by someone higher up in hierarchy (who themselves may have little creative input). It’s like telling people in the film industry – all the riggers and key grips – that they should regularly work massive overtime simply for the love of art. They’ll tell you to piss off and take it up with their union, and rightly so. His attitude has always been one of the big problems with the game industry, and it’s pure poison for attempts to create professional working environments.

        • Don Reba says:

          I respect the man’s experience. He makes the point that you can’t ask for a work-life balance in a fiercely competitive field where your competitors will happily for long hours for a pittance. If you want a comfortable 9-5 job or you don’t feel you have a creative input, then you will find better pay outside the industry.

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            Ninja Dodo says:

            His experience falling asleep on his keyboard, losing his job and his marriage and making offensive “you should exploit and physically and mentally destroy your employees” presentations?

          • GWOP says:

            Considering his philosophy gave such artistic gems as Polar Bowler and Polar Golf, who are we to argue with him?

          • Don Reba says:

            It is not without precedent that one can be right and offend a lot of people.

          • Premium User Badge

            Ninja Dodo says:

            @Don Reba: And sometimes things are considered offensive because they are objectively terrible.

            The man is a sociopath who advocates and practices gross mistreatment and exploitation of employees. If defending that shit is the hill you choose to die on, good luck with that.

      • El Mariachi says:

        See the film, in a theatre if at all possible. It is an intense and suffocating and draining experience like nothing else I’ve ever seen.

        (Definitely not a first date movie.)

        • Don Reba says:

          I didn’t watch German’s film; I read a lot about it, though, and it looks revolting. It’s not an experience I’d want to have.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Yeah…I really, really wanted to believe that that article was a super earnest, sharp, deadpan satire made knowingly at risk to his own employment with a goal of disgusting enough of the industry and its surroundings to a large enough extent for it to effect significant, fairly quick change in its related practices, but his daughter’s response makes me believe that he simply is that backward. :( (I’d love to use another word there whose literal meaning is perfect for the situation, but it’s also fitting as a thoughtless derogatory word and unfortunately apt to start fires.) I haven’t had the time to read further into this hullabaloo.

    • zsd says:

      Before I just thought “eh, he seems unpleasant,” but after reading that I hate everything about this guy.

      • pepperfez says:

        When I got to his slide about how to exploit men with Aspergers I was ready for the tumbrels to roll through.

    • P.Funk says:

      After reading that article my anarchism started acting up again.

  10. GernauMorat says:

    The triumphant return! My Sunday is know complete

  11. Premium User Badge

    gritz says:

    Thanks for bringing back the Sundays, Alice! And with STALKER, Infocom and Thief references, no less. RPS feels like home again.

  12. Person of Interest says:

    Still Sunday in the States…

    My favorite talk from GDC was a short but lovely 5-minute presentation/poem by Raph Koster celebrating (and lamenting) the history and legacy of MUDs and MMOs. If you’ve enjoyed anything from either genre in your life, I think you’ll enjoy the talk too.

  13. Unsheep says:

    What St. John is saying is pretty much how most corporations and larger companies think, the only difference is that he says it in a politically incorrect manner.

    • pepperfez says:

      Where as usual ‘political correctness’ means ‘not being an insufferable prick’.

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      Ninja Dodo says:

      No, it’s how incompetent managers think. There are a lot of those admittedly, but it’s not something you want to aim for, really.

  14. Jackablade says:

    The previous Daft Souls podcast (one themed entirely to Souls and Bloodborne) covered An interesting angle on the whole difficulty debate – that the difficulty, or more specifically the repetition that comes with dying and traipsing through the environment over and over are fundamental not only to the gameplay, but the narrative. With each failure, the player becomes more intimately aware of the world and its denizens, which allows for a much more subtle, semi-passive narrative to be used.

    As someone who’s previously been turned off by the difficulty, I can’t say how accurate this is one way or the other, but I feel more compelled to at least give one of the more recent games a go with this in mind.

    The podcast is here if you’re want a slightly more coherent version of the point.
    link to
    There’s also a good companion piece video comparing the narrative design in Bloodborne and Souls which covers some of the same points.
    link to

  15. Premium User Badge

    Ninja Dodo says:

    Topical, regarding crunch in gamedev: link to

    • Don Reba says:

      Solutions of the sort: “there is hunger in the world — make it so that people produce enough food for themselves.”

      • Premium User Badge

        Ninja Dodo says:

        If you knew anything about game development and were not just being a troll you would know that while there is no magical “fix everything” button there are good points in that article, both in highlighting common problems and potential ways to tackle them.

        • Don Reba says:

          It lists some common problems, alright, then wishes they would just go away. Seriously: “technical debt is a problem; solution: address debt as soon as possible.” And it recommends trying test-driven development, as if addressing high-schoolers.

          The key part missing is any reflection on why those problems exist in the first place.