The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for making Christmas-themed baked goods, but I haven’t decided what yet. Some sort of spiced cookie? That’s what I’m thinking, if I can get the ingredients I need from the local shop. Quick, here’s some not-Christmas themed articles about videogames to read while I think about what shapes to cut the cookies into.

Steven Messner at PC Gamer wrote about what it’s like to become a YouTube gaming celebrity at 80 years old. It’s not all good.

One morning in September of last year, Shirley Curry woke up to a terrible surprise. Her email inbox had been flooded with 11,000 emails from strangers commenting on the first episode of her Skyrim let’s play. While millions might dream of one day becoming an overnight celebrity on YouTube, Shirley found it terrifying. “I just sat there and cried,” she tells me. “It scared the puddin’ out of me. I didn’t know what to do.”

I am always ready to read about someone’s love for Burnout Paradise, the best racing game ever made. This time it was Christian Donlan’s turn to sing the praises of its long arcing corners and smashable scenery and, well, everything.

Rather than zero in on the car, forever hurtling around a corner, forever poised between control and chaos, forever edging into the wrong lane where beautiful catastrophe awaits, Paradise pulled back to examine the world outside the car, the world rushing by regardless. What if that world was all connected? What if all the roads had permanent locations within the same space, and could be navigated as you saw fit? What – and this is blasphemy – what if you got rid of those glowing chevrons which fenced the courses off so that you didn’t really have to worry too much about where you were going in the first place? These chevrons, I always think of them as the gutter guards they put up at bowling alleys when little kids are learning to play. They seemed like an essential part of what Burnout was: streamlined, pared down, relentless. Then, Paradise took them away. Suddenly, all of the races you were entered into were taking place in a wider somewhere. Suddenly, you couldn’t just focus on the rival you were planning on barging into the spars of a concrete underpass, but you also had to leave a little bit of attention free for where the finish line was and which cross streets you were going to need to use to get there.

I’m always fascinated by people who hunt for easter eggs, shortcuts or urban legends in videogames, so I enjoyed this Ars Technica article by Richard Moss about the people doing just that in Grand Theft Auto V. I did not notice any of the environment details they have but I open they find an answer one day – just to know that there is an answer. Already some of the things they’ve found are incredible. This is just the start:

Just below the peak of Mount Chiliad, a huge mountain in the far north of San Andreas, a mysterious mural sits high atop a cliff face. It looks like a map of the mountain’s interior—a network of tunnels that connect five small chambers and three large ones with what appear to be a UFO, an egg, and a jetpack within them. Whether it’s actually a map isn’t clear. Nearby, painted on the bottom edge of a lookout platform, are the words “come back when your journey is complete.” And beneath that, painted on the ground, there’s a red eye.

I’m not going to read this because I’ve yet to play the game and I don’t want the spoilers, be they for plot or mechanics, but I bet this Waypoint article by Patrick Klepek about the making of one of Titanfall 2’s missions is good.

Maybe there will be another Titanfall game, maybe not, but it’s abundantly clear that Titanfall 2 is worth a closer examination. No level underscores the game’s narrative and mechanical surprises better than the “Effect And Cause” mission halfway through the game. To learn more about how it came together, and how its origin stretches back years, I spoke with the chief architect behind this time-bending mission, senior designer Jake Keating.

At PC Gamer, Chris Livingston ranked Planet Coaster’s mascots from worst to best.

While I know our boy James would rate Chief Beef #1, I’m not entirely sold on the concept of a high-ranking police hamburger. Yes, Chief Beef is an incredible name, and it’s most of the reason why he’s one of the better mascots. Thing is, while he has risen through the ranks of law enforcement to become chief, an impressive feat, I feel he lacks any real authority, possibly due to his rather uninspired hat and the fact that he carries a gold spatula that may as well be a magic wand. Come on, Beef, are you a cop or Harry Potter? He’s also a walking advertisement for hamburgers, and I don’t think that’s befitting for an officer of the law.

I’m not saying I don’t like Chief Beef: I do. I just don’t respect him.

I have been looking at Steam stats this week. I like David Klemke’s breakdown of trending games gleaned from a large sampling of Steam’s user base.

This is old but new to me and very funny.

Music this week is the new Childish Gambino album, which I have not listened to yet.

From this site

31 Comments

  1. GameCat says:

    Sometimes I want to make a game where significant part of content could be unlocked only by a very cryptic way (but easy to replicate when you know what to do). I love all these mysteries, hidden little things, following the clues hoping to unlock something cool etc.

    • Grizzly says:

      Isn’t that what The Witness does?

      • GameCat says:

        I don’t know, I can’t play it at this moment.

        But I assume that in The Witness all/most of these are part of regular gameplay mechanics that you learn through the game. You know that there’s a puzzle there that will unlock something but you don’t know its rules yet. That’s hardly a mystery. I want “what if there’s something out there, becasue there’s a cryptic proof X, Y and Z that say so, but it all might be a bullshit, who knows” type of things.

        Is there anything like that in The Witness?

        • DelrueOfDetroit says:

          Not entirely like that, but at least half way there.

        • grimdanfango says:

          Well, the core of it is like that, but there are also other layers to it where you weren’t even aware you were looking at a puzzle.

          Actually, have you played Antichamber?
          If you haven’t… well, DO! If you want your head messed with in clever ways, it’s absolutely sublime.

        • emertonom says:

          Perhaps Fez is more the kind of thing. There was a devoted and concerted effort by fans of that game to find certain secrets in it. There was a good article about it a few years back, I think on Eurogamer.

          I didn’t really click with the particular style of obscurity in that one, but it does sound a bit like what you’re describing.

        • GameCat says:

          Nah, that’s not what I’m looking for. In Fez it was obvious that there’s some larger puzzle and if in The Witness even you aren’t aware that you’re looking at the puzzle, it’s still something within regular gameplay and rules of game.
          I’m talking about something like searching for 17th colossus in Shadow of Clossus, but with the big great secret beign real (and maybe then I would add some more of them, unreachable, to keep players poking around and wondering): link to eurogamer.net

  2. kwyjibo says:

    Burnout Paradise is more Icy Hot Stuntaz than it is Burnout.

    • gwop_the_derailer says:

      If by that you mean Burnout Paradise has a childlike enthusiasm and fascination for cars – then yeah, sure. And I love it for it.

      While it might fall short of Takedown’s greatness, Paradise has a lot to teach to open world games in general.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      What BP needed for the main events (point to point sprints) were big holographic signs at intersections showing the shortest conventional route to target. It’s so frustrating to lose by taking a wrong turn at the last fork.

  3. Tetrode says:

    Burnout 3 Takedown is the best Burnout game and I’ll fight anyone who says otherwise.

    • Wowbagger says:

      Yeah burnout paradise wasn’t in the same league as Burnout 3, it was bitchin’ and that’s a rock fact.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Opening Burnout up into an open world from tightly circumscribed and designed levels was like opening Horline Miami up into an open world would be. It depressurized it and made it go all soft and floppy, like a leaking balloon.

  4. gwop_the_derailer says:

    While a lot of people have been comparing Titanfall’s single player to Half Life 2’s, Shamus Young talks about the very basic missteps the campaign makes.

    BT is probably the most thoroughly characterized person in the whole game. Which is a problem, since he’s deadpan, stoic, and overly literal. That kind of character works best when attached to someone loud, vibrant, or manic. He needs someone to play the clown to his straight man shtick, and Cooper is too empty to make that work. Yes, BT is occasionally fun. But compare him to other robo-buddies and robo-foils like GLADos, Wheatley, G0-T0, Shodan, Legion, Claptrap, and HK-47. Love them or hate them, you at least feel something towards these robots. BT is supposedly the high point of this game, but I’m betting he’s not going to turn into a meme like those others. He’s not a great character. He just seems that way compared to everyone else in Titanfall 2.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      Um, surely the gameplay is the manic clown to BT’s straight man. The character works because it’s something to come home to after a bout of crazy wall running hijinks.

      • gwop_the_derailer says:

        Then why not reflect the craziness in the protagonist?

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          FhnuZoag says:

          Because while having the player act in crazy and silly ways is fun, having the protagonist embody that often fails terribly. For example, a protagonist that is enjoying himself too much often seems unsympathetic and douchey. It can also clash with what the player is feeling if the peaks of the protagonist’s excitement doesn’t mesh with the player’s. And often it can undermine a sense of the emergent narrative if the script overly makes it feel like “oh we know you are supposed to be having fun here, so let’s make the player character whoop”.

          I think the comparison to GladOS in Portal is quite apt, really. BT is very much the sort of deadpan, slightly absurd character GladOS was, which contrasted well with the silliness of the moment to moment storytelling. In comparison, the more consciously zany and funny Wheatley in Portal 2 is a much weaker companion character, blending too well into the background. Chell of course is a total blank in that game. What Young is asking for would look a lot like Far Cry 3, whose flamboyant characters make others look boring instead of understated, and whose protagonist – simply by having too much fun in a videogame – comes across to many as deeply annoying.

          • gwop_the_derailer says:

            What Shamus is talking about isn’t the sudonarrative – but just the plain old regular narrative.

            And, I think you are underselling GLaDOS. While her misinterpretations of human nature is delivered in a deadpan manner, she is (or at least tries to be) incredibly manipulative as a character, encouraging and demeaning in equal measures to get you to do what she wants. Hardly a robotic straight-(wo)man. In fact, Portal is filled with craziness (even the humble turret has so much character) that counteracts nicely with the blank slate of a protagonist.

            As for a likeable main protagonist who seems to be enjoying whatever zany things s/he does without seeming insufferable – Watch Dogs 2’s Marcus seems to have been received quite well.

  5. gwop_the_derailer says:

    The second-to-last Guardian article was as terrifying as it was funny. Probably should come with a trigger warning for people with claustrophobia.

    I never really despaired, but I did have moments when I thought, “Leo, what are you doing with your life? Is this where you want to be?”

    Beautiful

  6. TillEulenspiegel says:

    Yes, Chief Beef is an incredible name

    Nice to see even British nerds get the reference to Chicago’s good boy, Chief Keef.

  7. Lacero says:

    I’m playing the career mode, and I’ve not unlocked the cosmic cow yet, but now I’ve seen it I will hire no one else and name all of them buster gonad.

  8. Premium User Badge

    subdog says:

    Good album choice.

  9. Person of Interest says:

    That grandma gamer might be the first streamer I can tolerate watching for extended periods. No floating head, no “What’s up guys”, no over-compressed shouting. Just a polite stream of consciousness flowing from a sharp-witted old lady.

    She’s also wonderfully quotable. Click through to the Reddit thread linked from the article: folks have posted least a dozen zingers gleaned from her 15 minute clip. I checked a couple other of her videos–they’re all just as clever.

  10. floogles says:

    What happened to “what are we all playing this weekend?” this weekend?

  11. frobishlumpkin says:

    I won’t argue that Paradise did the open world racer well, but I’ll be a lot more excited if they ever announce a return to older Burnout (highly unlikely, I imagine). Revenge and Paradise both softened the formula in different ways that I think lost something. Revenge made it too easy to go toofasttothink (traffic checking) and Paradise made it too difficult (pausing to check the map).

  12. draglikepull says:

    This is probably considered heresy, but Need For Speed: Most Wanted is better than Burnout Paradise. Made by the same developers, but the handling is better, the courses are better, and the city’s more interesting.