The Sunday Papers

Sundays for hoping the weather is good so you can get out of the house, and for looking forward to the following weekend when you might have internet at home and therefore something to do when the weather is bad. In the meantime, let’s make the most of a borrowed connection and line up some of the best recent writing about videogames.

To start, sometime RPS writer Konstantinos Dimopoulos sent in his recent article on implying size and complexity when creating cities in games without the budget to show every backalley.

Small urban scenes and carefully selected areas, you see, can work brilliantly in implying size, complexity, urban function and texture, and in letting us conjure images of everyday life. In showcasing our elaborate creation in an easy to summarize way. Provided of course, there is a sensible backstory of our city, and an imaginary or real geography to draw upon. It’s incredible how the existence of a city plan, regardless of whether it’s ever used in its entirety, can help lend even the tiniest of places character and, once again, imply size.

Robert Yang brought a selection of his recent games to Steam in a repackaged release called Radiator 2. He wrote about the process of remastering them and what being on Steam means.

I’ve said before that I don’t really care whether people play these games or not (especially when I don’t make any money from it) and what’s more important to me is simply that they exist. This is one of the primary tenets of the modern gay rights movement: that we must be visible and present, or else we will be erased. It’s important that there’s a gay sex game available on Steam, of all places, and that gesture is now part of the artistic meaning of this work.

I’m obviously late to this due to my many travels this past fortnight, but Rich Stanton is good on why Microsoft’s E3 conference offered little comfort to Xbox One owners.

During the video for Project Scorpio, two minutes of puffery dedicated to Microsoft’s bright Christmas 2017, there is a man who speaks with his mouth but betrays everything with his eyes. “This doesn’t mean we’re leaving the Xbox One behind,” he says, but the truth is there to see as his eyes flick away from the camera. Microsoft began its E3 conference by revealing the redesigned Xbox One S – and then, it still amazes me now, closed the show by telling everyone they’d be fools to buy any kind of Xbox One.

At PC Games N, Fraser Brown asks why Watch Dogs 2 needs to have guns, picking at the loose threads already trailing from its hacktivist storyline.

It just seems so unnecessary, that second option. And a bit nonsensical. I mean, Marcus is a bespectacled hacktivist who ostensibly wants to liberate San Francisco from a corrupt system. Blowing up cars and murdering goons doesn’t strike me as a very sensible approach, if that’s the case. It makes him a criminal at best, a terrorist at worst, but more importantly doesn’t really gel with what we know about the game so far.

At Zam, which continues to produce fine features every week, Eron Rauch writes about the hidden worlds of esports stages. Which seems to have as much in common with TV game show set design as with regular sports.

Trying to make live events as exciting as the in-game action is a big problem for the production companies and broadcasters trying to grow video games as sports. Watching someone huddled over a computer in a locked pod is not very interesting from the third balcony cheap seats. Even if you have platinum-tier-VIP-front-row access, no matter how many speakers pump out seat-rattling explosions and regardless of the number of swirling laser lights, staring at someone clicking quickly in a plexiglass box is not particularly compelling.

The long road Iceland had to walk in order to beat England at the Euros. Or I suppose the long road they had to walk to qualify, and they beat England mainly just by turning up.

Music this week is Wurp by Birthday Sex.

From this site

27 Comments

  1. Arglebargle says:

    After years of suffering through pad ports of Xbox focused games, along with their sadsack controller schemes, I am having trouble raising much sympathy for the poor XBone crowd.

    Things are just moving too fast for the previous slow console upgrade cycles.

    • Shuck says:

      “Things are just moving too fast for the previous slow console upgrade cycles.”
      Actually, I think the problem is more the opposite, if anything. Moore’s Law ended some years back – the increase in transistors on a chip is a rarer occurrence and more modest speed increases are coming from changes in architecture. Previous to the last console cycle, the hardware – and the kind of gaming experience it could create – changed very quickly, so console cycles were much shorter than they’re expected to be now. But the timing of this console cycle has been awkward – there was a chip shrinkage and the popular introduction of both 4K televisions and VR not long (in the modern console lifetime) after the introduction of the new consoles. So Microsoft and Sony feel like they have to respond to this – Microsoft especially because sales of the Xbone have been a disappointment.
      It’ll be interesting to see what this means. Frequent incremental upgrades that require replacing the console to get the benefit, an increasingly fractured user base and multiple hardware targets for developers, make PCs more appealing prospects for gaming (especially if the consoles fall short of the kind of power required for VR, should that ever take off).

  2. Eight Rooks says:

    Ha, it feels really weird to think “I have no real interest in actually playing any of Robert Yang’s games, but I’m honestly glad he’s making them and they’re getting attention” and to realize that’s not merely an empty platitude but the actual reaction he’s aiming for.

    • fuggles says:

      True, but I’m not sure that it’s important to have sex games on steam, gay or otherwise. They only seem to exist for late night documentaries or Richard Cobbett to lightly mock and I don’t think I would highlight them to general public, so in terms of a visible presence it seems quite niche. I guess you have to start somewhere, but not sure sex games are where I would start if trying to get something into the mainstream as it was under represented. That said, it’s not a big issue to me if say, Adam Jenson or any triple a protagonist was gay it would not affect my motivation to play the game either way, but I am all for greater diversity in video game characters.

      • Urthman says:

        Yeah, but this is a world where GTA, the Witcher, and God of War aren’t considered hetero sex games, they’re just “games.”

        • Frosty Grin says:

          Because they are. They may have heterosexual elements, but that certainly doesn’t make them “sex games”.

      • Eight Rooks says:

        I could be wrong, but I’m fairly certain Robert Yang wouldn’t be that bothered by people mocking Cobra Club, Stick Shift et al, as long as the “mocking” was actual “ha ha ha, this is so silly, but isn’t sex like kind of weird and goofy in general when you think about it” and not “ha ha ha, look at the prancing *HOMOPHOBIC SLUR* lol”.

      • Cederic says:

        I first played a sex game on the Commodore 64 in 1988. Accidentally found myself with on one my PC in the mid 90s, haven’t bothered since.

        However, I think it’s great that they’re on Steam. Even if I have no interest in them myself, and it’s likely to be a small market, why should a major channel be closed off to an indie game developer just because they’re operating in a niche?

        Plenty of adult rated games on Steam, for various reasons. Now there are some more. Good. Variety is healthy.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      I feel that way often, really. A lot of the more daring indie stuff, games built around a real message or emotional meaning, don’t really deliver the escapism that I usually seek from video games, but their messages are so important and I’m very happy that they’ve got a chance to be heard.

  3. GWOP says:

    I’m still a bit shaken up from the ISIL attack on my city (Dhaka) two days ago. There had already been a spate of attacks on religious minorities, LGBT activists and secular writers over the past year, and I was being measured about what I posted on social media out of fear for my life. But this attack on the Gulshan restaurant… There were friends of friends who were held or killed in that attack. My friends and I were planning to go to that area on that very night before a last minute cancellation. One of them was talking about how his uncle (a Hindu professor) was getting death threats. My workplace is 5 minutes away from the place of the massacre.

    The entire cityscape around me is being recontextualized.

    I can’t stop thinking what those people were feeling as they were being executed one by one. I can’t look at their pictures on articles.

    • TheAngriestHobo says:

      Damn, that’s not easy. I can’t claim to fully understand what you’re going through – my city was hit by an attack a couple of years ago, and while I was ten minutes away at the time, it felt like an isolated event, and the casualties were minimal. Despite that, there was definitely an element of tension every time I was in a crowded public place for weeks afterwards.

      What Bangladesh is going through, however, is a whole other matter. I won’t share my thoughts on the growing intolerance in detail, as I don’t want to start a discussion that might get you in trouble, but you have my sympathies for the turmoil your country is experiencing. Please be safe, be smart, and be patient; you can be confident that an ideology based on the hatred and rejection of all that is different is unsustainable in the long term.

    • Morlock says:

      Unfortunately there is nothing I can say but that my thoughts are with you. There will always be hate but these days it all seems so widespread. I wish that in the end the response can be stronger sense of community, including all backgrounds.

  4. Wulfram says:

    If the bad guys have guns, then not allowing the player to pick one up and use it can be a bit jarring. Also, shooting provides a useful recoverable failure state for when the player makes a mess of stealthing.

  5. GWOP says:

    Konstantinos’ article on the scale of cities reminds me of the use of space in Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines. Each map was tiny compared to today’s open worlds, but each grimy street and alleyway is imbued with so much detail and character that it feels like a lived in place. Remember the view of distant city lights you got from the end of the alley beside Isaac Abram’s house?

  6. GernauMorat says:

    Eurogamer has a good write up of Bioshock Infinite, correctly {IMHO} pointing out the failings of game.

    link to eurogamer.net

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      Ben King says:

      I probably won’t ever get tired of talking about this one and it drives me nuts to wonder just how much content we never got to see. Most of the tears-as-gameplay were feeble, and Daisy Fitzroy was definitely not given the screen time she deserved given the significance of her character. I’m still going to maintain that the *SPOILERS* plot twist after stepping through the tear in Fink’s factory basement flip-flopping the Vox Populi from oppressed servants to crazed rebels in the midst of a pitched battle against all of Columbia was great. If that wasn’t using the tears as a terrific gameplay element I don’t know what is. But they also only pulled off anything that clever a couple of times, and to various effect. I enjoyed swooping around levels on the rail line in spite of them feeling like urban combat playgrounds, but never have appreciated plasmids in any bioshock game as anything other than redundant variations on creatively animated stun grenades. Warts and all I think I will always get a kick out of the story as a crazy Twilight Zone-style american fable.

      • pepperfez says:

        I think a lot of the complaints about the plot would have gone away if it had been sold as clever Twilight Zone-ish pulp rather than A Serious Story of Ideas.

        • Geebs says:

          It wasn’t really sold as a serious story, it was sold as The Third Coming of Ken Levine and everybody got massively over-hyped about his ür-writer-ness to the point of honest-to-God meltdowns in his Presence.

          I was saved from the total let-down of the ending because the game crashed before the Butterfly Effect bit, but I was already sick and tired of the whole thing and had no desire to waste any more time on it.

          I’m still kind of annoyed about B:I, not because the story collapsed like a soufflé (it did) and not because the gameplay was a solid 6/10 (it was), but because the battle of wits with the Songbird that the early trailers sold me on was a complete no-show.

          • malkav11 says:

            I don’t agree with your feelings on the game, but the Songbird thing is a good example of why I find previews and trailers and such useless at best and actively harmful at worst. The simple fact of the matter is that until a game comes out, things are in flux. Ideas may not gel, there may not be time or budget to do things that were planned, directions may shift entirely, etc. Getting pitched the game ahead of time means setting expectations that are quite probably not realistic and the clash between expectations and reality so often contributes to negative impressions that wouldn’t otherwise exist. I mean, take Fable. It’s a solid, if mediocre, ARPG with a few neat ideas. I enjoyed my time with it, but it didn’t blow my mind. But it got a ton of backlash because Peter Molyneux presented all these things that he wanted to do with and either ultimately didn’t or turned up in much watered-down form.

            I say nuts to the lot of it.

  7. freedomispopular says:

    I really appreciate that Watch Dogs 2 is opening up the options available to players — having just replayed (and actually finished) the original, I found it was more fun to go with the stealth approach, and I roleplayed as a guy who was only willing to kill when necessary (until I found the auction, then I went all Rambo on everyone involved). So I can certainly appreciate the sentiments expressed by the writer, and in a perfect world such a game would probably exist. But it’s also a mass market GTA clone where half the fun is causing carnage, so giving players a sandbox but not sufficient toys to play with in that sandbox would be a bit of a mistake I think.

    • Urthman says:

      I also really like the idea of a game that lets you play as someone who doesn’t kill but then introduces you to characters or situations where you might want to kill someone, and then gives you the tools and a genuine choice whether or not to kill.

  8. kwyjibo says:

    I’ve not read it yet, but New York magazine spent over 2000 words writing about Sonic the Hedgehog and the internet.

    link to nymag.com

    • Catterbatter says:

      It’s a superficial look at Sonic fandom with a few non sequiturs about the WWW thrown in for no discernable reason. 8.5/10

  9. Unsheep says:

    I disagree with Brown’s opinion that a “hacktivist” must be a pacifist by definition.

    That is his own imposed assumptions of what the game character should be like, and not that of the actual character creators. Shouldn’t ‘they’ be allowed to shape and form the character they envision ?!

    There are plenty of activists in the world today who are willing to use violence for their cause, destroying property and even resorting to physical assault.

    Most importantly, we are talking about a game world (!), where the people who get killed are genuinely evil people, that’s how all games justify the killing of AI.

    The majority of game protagonists only want ‘peace’ and ‘justice’, yet they still end up killing hundreds of AI enemies. Pacifist intentions in a game means very little in practicality, since we are talking about fiction, not reality.

    Could you even make a game like Watchdogs and not kill any enemies ? The vast majority of people can’t even play a Hitman game without killing anyone.

    We already have hacker sims like Hacker Evolution around, which would suit Mr.Brown better I think. That’s what a “proper” hacker game would be like. Yet to me, those kind of games are not particularly fun.

    That’s my final point, a game should be ‘fun’. The kind of action-hacking I saw in Watchdogs 2 looked fun, it looked cool.

    Reg. Rich Stanton’s article.

    Microsoft can’t afford to ignore existing Xbox One owners, there’s a fair number of them. Besides, the coming Xbox consoles are still more or less the same as the Xbox One, only bigger/smaller and with different designs. It’s still the same console.

    • Unsheep says:

      ‘ … The vast majority of people can’t even play a Hitman game without killing anyone.’

      … other than the actual targets, obviously.

    • Monggerel says:

      I mean, you play a terrorist in Just Cause and that’s plenty fun! So, I agree, I also don’t see why WatchunderscoreDogs should be held to some sort of higher standard(s).