The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for reading about videogames and NOTHING ELSE.

Time dilation (tidi) is a feature of EVE Online people don’t often mention. Those massive battles you occasionally see screenshots of? They’re running at a tiny low speed so the server can keep everything synced when so many players are in one place. That leads to action reports of the game’s battles being pretty special.

21:10

Tiberius Stargazer of NC. has been passing the time during TiDi by making a chicken pie from scratch, including pastry while using his super in M-O. PL are passing the time by watching fleet members stream Final Fantasy, while Dirk Macgirk is considering setting up his Christmas tree and making pasta and meatballs. This is from a MacGirk secret recipe that he was not able to share with Imperium News

Letter series’ make me want to claw out my eyes, but the format is worth suffering for this discussion between Austin Walker and Cameron Kunzelman about what Watch Dogs 2 gets right and wrong about race.

Over a beach party celebration, Marcus and Horatio realize that, oh shit, there’s another black hacker in the group now, and then smoothly slip into the familiar and comforting cadence of black folks talking. It’s a scene that highlights something that I think many depictions of code-switching miss: For those of us who navigate white America all day, a surprise chance to talk to other black folks is fun. They laugh and joke and talk over the heads of the rest of the crew—never derisively, but in a “this is for us” way.

Robert Yang has been busy. The developer – and occasional RPS writer – wrote this past week about how to foster a more progressive future for VR.

Imagine video games except AAA titles barely exist, and thus no one can pointlessly compare you to them… and that’s the current state of VR.

If we get in early enough, we can define the general public’s first significant impressions of VR, and influence how people value VR experiences. We need to develop the theory, the language, and the touchstones that others will have to adopt in order to seem fluent — we need to be the new normal here, and we could possibly do it, because no one else has defined the norms yet.

Most of Yang’s games have been banned from Twitch streaming, due to ambiguous and selectively-enforced rules about content. He’s decided to try to change the platform from the inside, the upshot of which is that he’s doing a regular livestreaming show about level design called “Level With Me”. If that name sounds familiar, that’s because it’s also the name of the series he wrote for us. The livestream episodes are being archived on YouTube and the first two, dealing with the opening chapters of Half-Life, are available now.

Every Wednesday at 6 PM EST (3 PM PST, 11 PM GMT) I’m going to play some kind of level design-y game (usually a first person game) and offer a bunch of commentary on the environment art, the floorplan, the lighting, etc. and hopefully it’ll be interesting to watch. Eventually, I might even host guests, or do some level design during the broadcast, etc.

At PC Gamer, Craig Lager writes about his experience battling a former F1 driver in iRacing. iRacing is a long-running subscription based racing sim, by the way.

The worst and most impossible thing has happened. My hands are actually sweating into my Halfords racing gloves. I know it’s absurd to be this worked up over an online race, and to have to wear gloves while sitting at my computer. The thing is, I’m on the grid directly behind Rubens Barrichello. The actual one. The actual F1 driver Rubens Barrichello.

The Guardian asked 50 game developers what their favourite game of the year was. I like these lists less for the impression of consensus they create than for the outliers they throw up.

Dragon Quest Builders is my favourite game this year, and I see it as one of the best of 2016. Some may see it as an IP mashup with nothing outstandingly new to offer, but it’s an incredibly polished game that moulds RPG and Builder genres into a wonderfully endearing adventure. It’s one of the very few games I can say I’ve completed, after spending every available moment building up my towns and caring for my people.

Our Alex Wiltshire escaped from the basement long enough to write about the archaeologists of Skyrim for Eurogamer, those modders who aim to revive cut content. Don’t worry, we’ve recaptured him since.

“Ah, yes. I’ve been asked about Rune a number of times,” Roger Libiez tells me. Otherwise known as Arthmoor, Libiez is one of Skyrim’s leading modders, author of Unofficial Skyrim Patch, Alternate Start – Live Another Life and Open Cities, some of the first stops for any new install of the game on PC. He’s also behind Cutting Room Floor, a mod that uncovers unused quests, NPCs and entire villages in the game’s code and adds them to the live game. “If ever you had the feeling that Skyrim was missing something, you were probably right!” says the mod’s description on Nexus.

I enjoyed this love letter to the Source engine, also at Waypoint this week. It’s in a bit of a muddle about corridors, but I just love Source.

Beyond the form-redefining indie and blockbuster titles, Source leaves behind it a modding legacy richer than any other engine. Like GoldSrc before it, Source proved to the industry once again that fans could make titles to compete with corporate developers. A fan-made reboot of the original Half-Life called Black Mesa provoked a wave of nostalgia amongst zealous fans. But Source’s crowning achievement in the modding community is Garry Newman’s Half-Life 2 mod, Garry’s Mod.

Shut Up & Sit Down are running a new donation drive, for which they have made a Christmas advert.

This is made in/for VR and I like it.

Music this week is Christopher Tin’s theme to Offworld Trading Company.

29 Comments

  1. KDR_11k says:

    The big thing that Dragon Quest Builders has on most of the genre competition is coherence. There’s a guided story in the game that integrates fully with all the mechanics, not like the experience of playing modded Minecraft where many mods simply do not know about the existence of other mods or how to smoothly interact with them.

    • malkav11 says:

      That guided story integrated with the crafting etc mechanics is something I originally wanted from Minecraft and which I -thought- was coming. And then it turned out that the “story” mode turned off all the Minecrafty bits. So I’ve been waiting for something else to do it and it seems like no one on PC has bothered (but there are 18,000,000,000,000 of them, mostly in early access, so I could be wrong). And then Dragon Quest Builders comes along and…it’s not on any system I own except Vita (which does not seem like the ideal platform for that game). Sigh.

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        DelrueOfDetroit says:

        Wait… it’s on PS3? Could this be the last (new) game I ever buy for that system?

        • malkav11 says:

          It does appear to have released on PS3 but I think that must be only in Japan because it’s not being listed or sold for PS3 here in the US and Wikipedia had a note by the European region that said “excluding PS3”. I do have a PS3, so if it were available in English on that system I could possibly play it that way. Really I’d rather it just come to PC, though.

  2. gabrielonuris says:

    Also a good read I’ve had this week was this Extra Punctuation from Yahtzee about Dishonored 2. I always like his thoughts about that franchise.

    • Kingseeker Camargo says:

      He was the only person I’ve seen who voiced some of my own concerns about the first Dishonored back then. The crazy praise that the rest of the gaming press constantly threw its way was the straw that broke the back of my trust in reviews. Hell, this very website even came up with a dedicated, elaborated article to justify its length!

      The fact that Dishonored 2 receives EVEN MORE PRAISE from everyone and their dog, and, again, Yahtzee seems to be the only one to notice that apparently it’s shorter than the first one (which, again, was already way too small for my taste) makes me even more wary, and had me throw it in the “let’s wait for a generous discount” bin.

  3. Bostec says:

    I was playing EVE and was in a system once when everything started to slow down. I didn’t realise what it was and started to panic big time due to previous kicking my drug habit a few months ago. I was having flash backs and almost had a panic attack before I checked the system and noticed there was a shit ton of people and then I cottoned on why everything was in slow motion. I couldn’t play EVE for a few months after that.

  4. Shazbut says:

    That piece of VR art is absolutely glorious.

  5. Arcturan Megadonkey says:

    Letter series’ make me want to claw out my eyes, but the format is worth suffering for…
    Is it really that different than when the RPS staff does their back and forth between editors in an article? Like here: link to rockpapershotgun.com ? Now you know how we feel! :)

    • Ghostwise says:

      Yes. The format feels considerably more artificial and gimmicky than a simple conversation.

      And indeed, the excellent points made in the linked article could have been presented in a much tighter, more efficient way. My inner J.J. Jameson wanted to edit the crap out of this article to make it reach and touch more readers.

      • BooleanBob says:

        It’s a bit like those radio 4 documentaries that have two presenters discussing the subject, ostensibly spontaneously, but in so obviously scripted a way that the very artificiality of the conversation distracts from what’s being talked about, however interesting or important it may be.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      At least it is not written in present-tense.

  6. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    PBS Idea Channel: The difference between review and criticism.”

    An extra mans if you can spot the hidden Graham.

  7. Dinger says:

    Okay, so, out of curiosity, where’s the discussion about the Grauniad’s selection criteria for their fifty developers? I mean, cool and all, especially for the apparent nonchalance, but somewhere, there’s gonna be some unhappy and loud victims of testosterone poisoning. Some of us sick souls like to read their whining. It’s the birth of chivalry: the most vocal elites are those that fear being replaced.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      The inclusion of Robert Yang is obviously pure tokenism to fill out their diversity quota.

      • pepperfez says:

        Robert Yang’s presence uses up almost the entire allotment of testosterone for the piece, so they’re just working around that.

    • Monggerel says:

      If you miss the Electronic Old Men, I feel bad for you son;
      I got 99 problems but Murray ain’t one.

  8. Chillicothe says:

    The Vice article isn’t about getting anything wrong with race, it was that that factor was one of many victims of that game’s last 1/3-1/2 dropping everything nuanced and great for a power fantasy revenge tale.

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      I think they were making an analogy between the way the game just forgets Ratio, and his death, and moves on and the way that white America tends to do the same with black youth.

      Unintended consequences of narrative choices are equally fair game as intended ones, when it comes to criticism.

      • wengart says:

        Eh, they become less useful once a game becomes actively bad. Sure you could write up an article about some narrative failing of Colonial Marines, but the game is obviously just tripping over itself to even exist.

        Watchdogs 2 final portion isn’t nearly as egregious, but it is clear that they ran out of either time or money to do the story any justice at all, and took the fastest route to “out the door” they could find. I would even say that commenting on narrative issues is marginally disingenuous because it is clear from a player perspective that Ubi gave up while a reader might infer that they intentionally threw away the life of their black character.

        At minimum they should comment on the overall quality dip of the game at the time of the narrative failing. Because, at least in my mind, the quality of the gameplay and the quality of the narrative are inherently linked.

        • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

          Someone’s experience of being pleasantly surprised and engaged by the game’s treatment of race and then being doubly let down when the Traditional Video Game Narrative surfaces and scuppers all that still feels relevant. It highlights some of the things at stake when developers choose to follow the standard road maps, and is another argument for approaching stories as if they matter. There’s value to criticism that looks at how, when, and why something turns bad.

          (And I haven’t played Watch Dogs 2, but from everything I’ve read, the comparison to Colonial Marines seems a bit far-fetched.)

  9. Baines says:

    Time dilation (tidi) is a feature of EVE Online people don’t often mention.

    Really? I’ve never actually played EVE Online, and have repeatedly heard about it. From my experience, it seems to get mentioned in any big news battle events (when it becomes particularly relevant).

  10. Mags says:

    I’ll admit that iRacing has never appealed to me (that entry barrier is ridiculous), but the thought of getting all twitchy because I’m suddenly racing Rubinho? That sounds awesome.

  11. wengart says:

    This is tangentially related to the Watch Dogs article.

    It leads off with this paragraph “I think we both have similar opinions of the original Watch Dogs: It has a lack of personable characters, and it has one of the most nihilistic and bleak views of the world that games have produced. It was a game about hitting people in the face with a metal rod as a “nonlethal” method of taking them out of commission—it was brutal. Aiden Pearce gunned down dozens of people across dozens of different locations in cloudy fake Chicago. It’s hard to square that design decision with the amount of real-world staggering and tragic gun death that occurs there. The tone and content of the game was, to put it lightly, ill-advised.”

    And it stuck out to me as someone being too emotional about game violence and the real world.

    However, I realized that it might be a result of the games I play compared to the games they play. I play a lot of “simulation” style games. I spent a good chunk of last night fighting in Eastern Ukraine as the Russians and a bit later I ambushed some Americans in an Afghan mountain village. I’ve fully divorced myself from the real world significance of the settings I fight in and the actions I take.

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      alison says:

      War is different. In war, combatants on both sides have signed up to die. In most computer games where you have the opportunity to kill your enemies there is no war going on. The actions may occur in the context of organized crime, or police activity, or espionage, or something else, but often it is not on a battlefield between nations that have formally declared hostilities.

      In real life you can’t compare soldiers killing soldiers to the slaughter of civilians. The former is a last resort to be avoided at all costs, but covered under the Geneva Convention. The latter is murder, period. Obviously a computer game isn’t real life, but the difference still matters to some people. Especially when in-game murder echoes real-life injustice.

  12. falchieyan says:

    I feel that, for the EVE article mention, you should have also included the very next line:

    21:54

    Tiberius’ pies are now out of the oven

  13. Michael Fogg says:

    old, but i found this critique of Pillars of Eternity to be very relevant

    link to lewtonbus.net

  14. sosolidshoe says:

    Hah, that Skyrim dev sure does get a bit touchy at the end there. Truth hurts, I guess – Bethesda have relied on modders to fix the value proposition of their unfinished and often buggy games on PC for what, 15 years? You’d think the devs would have managed to get over their resentment at people pointing out the obvious by now.

    Playing the wounded artiste doesn’t really work when you’re referring to features that were obviously very close to finished(to the point of having VO work and scripting completed) but were cut to make a launch deadline, that’s clearly a case of something that had been intended to be included being lost due to commercial motivations rather than some high-minded choice to preserve the devs’ artistic vision.

  15. Premium User Badge

    particlese says:

    Oh, good, glad Robert Yang’s VR call-to-arms made it in here. I’m all for what he says there (less some minor point, technicality, or subtlety I’ve forgotten over the past few days), and I really, really hope enough folks take up his challenge that VR doesn’t get creatively screwed over by its own participants and spectators. Thanks for sharing the word (multiple times, I think).

    It’s also the first thing in ages to get me fiddling with making interactive computer stuff, now with that all-important external motivation, but I’ll stop right there so I don’t jinx myself further.