The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for being too tired to do anything. Lie down, everyone.

At Eurogamer, Jake Tucker wrote about the “fall and plummet” of APB, Dave Jones GTA-but-an-MMO that was pack of social features and cool tech and felt awful to play. Although a worrying portion of the article quotes an anonymous (and unverifiable) comment on RPS, it’s still a good read if you’re unfamiliar with the game and its brief release.

“APB was one of the most ambitious games that I’ve worked on and I’d heard of anyone working on,” Hunt recalls. The reason he joined the team was because this was a developer set on doing things the right way. APB was going to be rigorously concepted, all the design work being carried out on paper before any coding would be done. The problem was, once APB left the drawing board, many of its big ideas just didn’t work. Key concepts fell totally flat, leading to a long process of redesigning and recoding.

I don’t know what William Pugh is talking about but I think something similar happened to me on a NEO Scavenger playthrough.

Everybody starts cheering again – from the other side of the arena emerges what at this point I just assumed to be a shirtless John Romero. I didn’t look that closely. Without even waiting for Alex Bruce (Antichamber 2013) to signal the beginning – they charged at each other. Violently grappling in the mud – two industry legends fighting to the death. The crowd was in a rapture of screaming, hugging and violent masturbation. Scott Benson from earlier was frantically taking bets whilst Spider Andrew Gleeson was devouring a baby whole. It was at this point that I started to feel like something might be wrong.

At the IB Times, I enjoyed Holly Nielsen’s tour of the history of Elder Scrolls and Fallout DLC. I remember horse armour.

As an eleven-year-old obsessed with Oblivion at the time, I remember being thrilled at the prospect of armouring up my favourite pony. I didn’t quite realise how weird the horse looked in glittering gold elven armour. It is of course, a complete joke. And rightly so. The DLC included only two different sets of armour for your horse, and remains a prime example of pointless cosmetic DLC.

Games And Food is a Tumblr about food in games. Mission accomplished.

James Chen at PvP Live wrote an article, citing anonymous sources, about how management and “a deep schism within the company itself” is causing problems at Riot and in League of Legends esports. Riot are a strange company to work with and it’s rare for anything like this to slip out, because they’re very good at controlling everything, so it’s interesting even without named sources.

According to sources, “politics at Riot became increasingly insane” since the start of the LCS. Three League Ops leaders have left in three years, despite the position nominally being one of the most prestigious on the scene. A rift exists between Rozelle and esports business development director Jarred Kennedy – one implicated as a critical reason as to why there’s been no leadership or guidance in the development of a sustainable ecosystem for the teams.

How We Get To Next has a good article on the history of space concept art, which right away reveals things I did not know.

In 1966 Norman Rockwell really needed a spacesuit — and NASA didn’t want to give him one. The space agency had hired the artist to visualize the Moon landing long before it would actually happen. To do that Rockwell needed to know what the astronauts would be wearing. He needed details. For him, telling the big story meant looking at the subtle facets that compose the whole. However, with the intense secrecy surrounding the mission, the answer to his request kept coming back the same. Denied.

I enjoyed Matt Lees’ take on No Man’s Sky.

I also enjoyed these tweets from Joe Wintergreen revealing some of the methods and programmer comments behind Half-Life 2’s AI.

Music this week is Takeshi Inomata and Sound Limited’s Sounds of Sound L.T.D.

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  1. Eight Rooks says:

    The APB one was puzzling beyond that RPS “quote”, because I’m pretty sure some other site did a longer and much more detailed article that covered the exact same ground around the time the game originally tanked. (I just can’t remember which one it was.) Obviously it’s not as if just one person gets to write an article on any given subject, but… still, it felt weird reading that, as if I’d been promised a fresh take or something and yet the writer was essentially just shuffling words around.

    • Baines says:

      I don’t know about a single longer article, but the stories behind APB were pretty heavily documented over the period between its fall and further fall. The Eurogamer article repeats a lot of stuff that was already heavily reported and distributed back then.

      • wyrm4701 says:

        I’d agree that it’s a bit redundant, but the story of APB is a fascinating cautionary tale that deserves repeat. I’ve still not seen customization tools that even come close in other games. In an ideal world, they’d have been released separately so I could keep playing with them and not have to get near the bad game design they’re currently locked behind.

    • Dinger says:

      Well, yeah, but the $100-million-dollar dud is something of a trope of video games history, and it’s always fascinating to read. It usually has:
      1. The visionary/prior success out of his water
      2. An enthusiastic fan base swept up in the hype
      3. Eager investors, looking for the next billion-dollar-payday
      4. Extraordinary largesse and outright foolish spending.
      5. A game that “worked on paper”, but never digitally.
      6. Extended teething issues that could be solved “with just another month of development”

      They translate to:
      Someone got lucky being in the right place at the right time, tries something an order of magnitude more ambitious, gets two orders of magnitude more money, and needs three orders of magnitude better organizational skills to keep it all on track. Yet the simple core isn’t fun, and is never fun.

      You know, I learned a lot a few years back by watching the author of acclaimed demo-class videogame Left4kDead livestream some weekend game challenge. Instead of starting with building a giant ant farm, he would build a working prototype, and constantly iterate the core interaction: you press a button, and something happens. Does it happen too fast? too slow? too much? too little? Tweak it until it’s *right*. Then build your world around that experience.
      In the best of them, you can re-jig everything, but nobody’s gonna touch that feel. And that’s your game.
      On the other hand, Monopoly™ is a fun game when slowly played out over an hour and a half; on a computer, it quickly becomes apparent that it sucks.

  2. megazver says:

    Don’t think you actually linked to the LoL article.

  3. Freud says:

    While I would like to brag about my keep hype radar and ability to avoid being burned, it’s mostly because the only day 1 games I buy are the ones I know are good like Witcher 3.

  4. Michael Fogg says:

    I found this intersting

    link to

    • Railway Rifle says:

      I also thought that was an interesting read. I’m not sure how true it is, but neither is the author.

      • TillEulenspiegel says:

        A person with a vision would have something to say.

        Imagine, if you will, a AAA game with an anti-capitalist message. It’s a joke. There are plenty of socialist authors and artists in other media. But in big-business videogames, of course the most extreme take on politics you’ll ever get is the most tepid, vague liberalism you can possibly express.

      • Michael Fogg says:

        But I like the argument of one of the commenters over there, that DX is not really meant as an allegory of racism, but rather as a speculative piece about possible future oppresion. Most of the critiques concentrate on the former… but arguably the game does go quite in-depth with various aspects of the latter (can’t confirm myslef, as I only played DX HR, but that already was quite developed in that aspect).

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          Lacero says:

          DXHR was great in that respect, the plate in china banning normal people from the sky, the dorm cubes people had to live in to be close enough to keep working there so they could get promoted to the point where they got to live with a sky.

          DEMD is absolutely not good at this. It’s really bad.
          I’m not especially interested in going through why as it’s still in spoiler period but it felt like an Assassin’s Creed plot to me. With all the spin off dlc, endless sequels and lack of any inherent meaning that implies.

    • GWOP says:

      Yeah, I remember Bioshock Infinite using the slave revolt as a means of showing “the oppressed becoming the oppressor” when Daisy turns cartoonishly evil and starts murdering children. And I’m standing there thinking, that’s what you have to say about racism, AAA game?

      Of course, the comments section there has devolved into calling video game journalists racist(?) because the developers of Dead or Alive: Xtreme Beach Volleyball refuse to localize it in the US…

    • AlexStoic says:

      It is an interesting idea, but one that would require (from what I’ve seen in 10 years of game dev) too much coordination and foresight, just for the chance of a Twitter uproar. Believe me when I say that upper management freaks out when something like that happens, and not in a “we did it!” kind of way.

      A much more likely explanation is that as a writer, you can feel obligated to use shorthand to make your players understand something quickly. You know that not all players are in it for the story, some just want to shoot things, and they’re barely paying attention to your complicated conspiracy plot threads at all.

      You can easily help define the player’s motivation and your fiction by using popular real-world cues. If they see “Aug Lives Matter” they immediately know what augs are going through in your fictional game without paragraphs of exposition.

      Can it be tone deaf? Yeah, but that’s why publishers are surprised when there’s a backlash. And that’s exactly why I don’t think it’s intentional marketing.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      the new DOOM, like all good science fiction, dares to ask its audience uncomfortable questions, such as: what if guns were dangerous?

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    Aitrus says:

    That article about Bethesda DLC feels like a whole load of nothing. I guess if you haven’t followed Bethesda for the last 10 years, it’s a little informative, but that’s it. Thanks for saving someone a trip to a wiki?

  6. qrter says:

    I’m baffled by Matt Lees’ take on how to pronounce the word ‘inventory’.

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