The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for hoping for cooler days after an often scorching week. Let’s hide from the sun for a while longer by gathering some links to the week’s best games writing.

It’s a short this one week because I didn’t read much and didn’t enjoy much of what I read.

First-person scifi adventure game Cradle seemed to pass everyone by except for Adam at the time, but now Joel Goodwin has taken up the mantle of writing about its strengths and, mainly, its weaknesses.

Cradle is much closer to an observation deck. You go through a lot of sometimes laborious motions to figure out who you are, who your companion is and what’s up with the world. Yup, not only are you suffering from amnesia but also your companion – and for entirely different reasons! Amnesia often feels like a heavy-handed way of gating story and driving progress but it doesn’t have to suck. I’m sure a good portion of the readership here has been through Planescape: Torment (Black Isle Studios, 1999) whose revelations provide plenty of shock value.

You might also enjoy Joel’s recent spoiler-y spoiler-filled video, The Unbearable Now: An Interpretation of The Witness, which has spoilers for the very end of the game. Spoilers! Massive spoilers! SPOILERS.

Kate Gray writes on Games Radar about videogame animals’ weird obsession with humans, whether it be carrying our spare swords or going out of their way to bite us.

The Witcher 3 and Far Cry 4 are prime examples of this inexplicably hostile animal behaviour. Sure, The Witcher is set in fancy magic medieval times, so it’s not completely out of the question that a world in which one man can see smells and hear time is also a world in which dogs loathe everyone except other dogs. (In fact, there’s also a great, in-game reason why The Witcher 3’s wild dogs are so grumpy.) But Far Cry? Why do all the eagles hate you so much? Will there ever be a DLC story where you discover that the main character committed some kind of nest-related faux pas, thus cementing his infamy as a Very Bad Man in eagle lore? We can only dare to dream.

PC Gamer got a long hands-on Deus Ex Mankind Divided. I’m not bitter. I just think the game sounds great.

As the game’s lead writer, Mary DeMarle, tells me six hours later. “It’s not an open world; an open world is vast. Instead of going vast, we’re going deep. Literally, from the rooftops to the sewers.” My sample of Mankind Divided’s beginning reflects that—rather than push for the core story, I spent most of my eight hours exploring futuristic Prague in depth. I climbed out of windows, explored the rooftops and billboards, and went wading through sewer gas. I followed up conversations, deliberately rode in the non-Aug underground carriages to see what happened, and drunk every last bottle of booze I could find (roleplaying a typical foreigner in Prague.)

I haven’t played Myst or its sequels and so have no opinion either way as to their quality, though others of this parish feel very strongly. I did enjoy this retrospective of sequel Riven however, once it gets going.

Riven expected a scholarly attention to detail from its players. You literally had to study the history, understand the power structures and judge character motivations in order to unlock that culture. This was a ‘game’ where to crack a code you (almost intuitively) needed go to school and learn the local numerical system; a game where understanding the spiritual importance of animals to the indigenous population would allow you to make contact with their underground movement; a game where studiously reading the journal of a complex ruler and his prodigal son ultimately informs your judgement when you are tested in a pivotal encounter; a game where within the fiction of it’s world, the lever puzzles actually made sense.

Music this week is Neil Cicierega’s PokéRAP. Which is your favourite Poké?

From this site

26 Comments

  1. Winged Nazgul says:

    You seem to be missing a hyperlink in that article. Anyways, for those interested, here is the link to Goodwin’s article on Cradle: link to electrondance.com

  2. Sarfrin says:

    No link to the Cradle article?
    link to electrondance.com

  3. zxcasdqwecat says:

    Liking this sunday’s nosology papers.

  4. ElementalAlchemist says:

    As an ecologist, the depictions of animal behaviour in games invariably annoys the hell out of me. Wolves, especially, have been given an incredibly bad rap in games over the years, typically portrayed as bloodthirsty monsters out for human flesh. In reality, you have far more to fear from a poodle (vicious bastards) than you do a wolf.

    • batraz says:

      It’s only symbolism, you know… Besides, sheeps deserve your pity too, don’t they ?

    • Koozer says:

      I think anyone with any in depth knowledge of literally anything is appalled by their field’s representation in games. My personal bugbear is nonsensical and dull terrain.

      • asthasr says:

        Game terrain usually feels like it was created by people who have never been outside. Comparing Arma to… almost everything else is kind of a revelation. Cities, too. Hong Kong in Sleeping Dogs is just about the only city I’ve been happy with, and even it has its problems.

        • SlimShanks says:

          Arma does have lovely terrain. I think The Witcher 3 and GTA 5 also have very believable wilderness, and this is a large part of why they look so good overall.

          • asthasr says:

            I haven’t played GTA 5 yet. How does its city stack up against Sleeping Dogs?

        • Nasarius says:

          Game terrain usually feels like it was created by people who have never been outside.

          I was just walking in a new (to me) park last month and thinking exactly this. One small slice of the natural world is more visually and geographically interesting than the sum total of 3D games which have tried to replicate it.

          • asthasr says:

            People underestimate how quickly terrain changes. Frequently video game terrain is too “gentle” and samey. If it’s a “plain,” then by God it’s going to be flat and grassy, even though gullies, hills, pot-holes, lakes, ponds, different types of plants (gorse, grass, …), trees, rocks, and so on characterize the terrain in the real world.

            It’s also usually too easy to traverse. Even Arma is guilty of this one: if it’s not a sheer cliff, you can probably just walk up it. That’s simply not realistic: even an unassuming little copse of woods in the foothills of Appalachia usually contains some terrain you’d probably want ropes to cross.

        • Holderist says:

          I can forgive and forget when cities aren’t very immersive, because often there are technical limitations involved.

      • Blackcompany says:

        As an IT Guy…hacking in games.

        As a hiker, beach goer and kayaker…wolves, bears, sharks (and wildlife in general). And I can relate to terrain and its sameness here, too.

        I sympathize with these views completely. But especially the Eagles in Far Cry. That was just…intelligence insultingly bad. I mean, how did that get past QA to begin with sort of bad, you know…

        • Hobbes says:

          So far the only two games that have been fun as “hacking” from an IT standpoint are HackNET and Uplink. The Hacker Evolution games were too “puzzle” focused for me.

          Mainlining however looks like it’ll be the next one, purely from a surveillance standpoint.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        What I really don’t get is games with Hollywood-level nonsense in the depiction of modern computers. I can kinda sorta understand game devs who never go outside or read anything about anything except video games, but all of you guys are programmers. You know that penis-enlargement spam cannot spontaneously gain sentience and cause your computer to explode. What is wrong with you?

    • GWOP says:

      I know, right?

    • GWOP says:

      I still love The Grey (and its fantasy wolves), though.

      • Turkey says:

        “It doesn’t matter if you love the wolves in The Grey.”

        • GWOP says:

          “Their noses are sharper than their teeth.”

          Thanks for that!

  5. Shazbut says:

    “It’s not an open world; an open world is vast. Instead of going vast, we’re going deep.”

    Exactly

    The game is gonna be wonderful, I can feel it

  6. zsd says:

    The animal article reminds me of my WoW days, where it was almost heartwarming how a bear, a wolf and a Defias bandit could put aside their differences in order to kick my ass.

  7. malkav11 says:

    God, those frigging Far Cry eagles. Mind you, they don’t just hate the player character. You’ll notice the friendly NPCs freak out and start firing wildly into the sky when one’s around too.

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      phuzz says:

      The eagles in Far Cry 4 were presumably added by someone who looked at the *Surprise Cougar!* from Red Dead Redemption and thought, “hey, we should have more of these, but coming from above where you have zero warning!”.
      Far Cry 3 already had the *Surprise Tiger!*, but there was at least some chance you’d see that stripy bastard sneaking up on you, as it was on the same horizontal plane as other enemies.

      Feathered bastards.

  8. Scandalon says:

    My favorite Pokemon was probably Starscream.