The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for baking something. Inspired by one of the articles below, maybe donuts? Find out which article by reading on through a roundup of some of the best articles of the week.

At Eurogamer, Chris Bratt has started a new video series called Here’s A Thing, which highlights small, interesting details and facts about games. The second episode, linked here, is about why the creation of each new Civilization game is led by a different designer.

Robert Rath writes at Waypoint about how a transit planner helped him improve at Mini Metro.

“A grid network is just a structure built out of that pattern, repeated over and over,” he says, ideally with lines that run all the way across a city and meet at 90 degree angles. Usually these lines run on north-south and east-west axes, but spider web patterns can work too. “This is why smart cities that aren’t [street] grids still try to create grid effects with their network.”

At Gamasutra, the latest Deep Dive is into the crowd simulation of Planet Coaster. This is super detailed in terms of the game’s aniamtion, pathfinding, and lots more.

We also spent some time looking at how the guests would behave in a group or family. Due to the nature of flow fields, you can’t easily ensure different particles will stay together even if they are going to the same goal, as the flow dictates where each individual particle moves. The solution was to put groups into a single particle in the simulation and move them as one unit. Each group has a radius within which members can move without affecting the flow simulation. Originally the family members were locked in formation but this looked very odd, especially when they turned corners, so we programmed in more freedom so they could rotate individually inside the particle so the relative positions of family members would move and shift over time for a more convincing look.

At Eurogamer, Rob Fearon asks that everyone stop screaming. We do our best not to contribute to any screaming, even while being critical of things, which is why eg. we don’t cover most “game controversies” eg. 15 people with a change.org petition as if it’s news. We hope you notice.

The run up to Mighty No. 9’s year-late launch felt like constant screaming. No-one even mentions it now, that all seemed hardly worth the effort. People downvoted a Call Of Duty In Space trailer whilst screaming, people screamed about translations and volleyball and then No Man’s Sky happened and hold me, I need a lie down. And don’t get me started on the ongoing circus around Star Citizen.

At The Guardian, Kat Brewster writes about what games taught her about vegan cookery. I am vegetarian and I do vegan baking but videogames didn’t teach me shit.

When it comes to games, I’m not alone in my obsessive pursuit of self-imposed restrictions. The concept of the “challenge run” – where players voluntarily add constraints to their playthroughs – is increasingly popular. A quick search on Twitch or YouTube will yield hundreds of results, whether it’s taking on the exceedingly tough Dark Souls Soul Level One challenge, racing against time finishing epics like Deus Ex in under an hour, or completing something like Fallout 3: New Vegas without killing anyone (or instead, killing everyone, if that’s your bag).

I saw Rich Stanton tweet this past week about how no one read his retrospective of Earthbound, written in the wake of Satoru Iwata’s death. It’s good, so here it is. Read it now, make Rich and yourself happy.

‘Human’ risks being a meaningless term so let’s define it in relation to a video game: a world and inhabitants that have emotionally engaging qualities. Ness is program code and a handful of sprites stitched together, but in my head I feel I know him, even like I’m friends with him. What kind of design leads to that and, for example, what kind of design leads to your average AAA Nathan Drake? The latter and his ilk go instantly into my mental box marked ‘video game character’ – I never for a second consider them anything more than a 3D model.

This was all over the place this past week. The developers of a side-scrolling platformer called Poncho wrote a post-mortem about the game, its development, and the mistakes they made along the way. It’s full of some terrible advice and some criticism of their publisher. Then the publisher responded, with another response from the developer below that. I wouldn’t normally link to ‘controversies’ in The Sunday Papers, but I feel like there are things to learn from all of this, so here you go.

  • If you ever get this feeling: “Meh, it’s good enough, let’s just release and be done with this hell”. Wait. You will regret it, even if you’re on the brink of homelessness and need money, suffer through it and wait. It will be worth it.
  • You probably won’t make much money. Don’t risk your finances for years by going into debt and putting all your chips in.
  • I enjoyed Mark Brown’s recent Game Maker’s Toolkit video on The Last Guardian and the way it communicates its central relationship through the language of games.

    Music this week is some chill jazz. Try Differently, Still by Badbadnotgood.

    From this site

    51 Comments

    1. MiniMatt says:

      Kokatu’s “How we accidentally made a racist video game” is an interesting read too: link to kotaku.co.uk

      • ButteringSundays says:

        Oh wow, I knew quite a few people that worked at Zoe Mode from my Brighton days – so I found this extra interesting!! Thanks.

    2. Vedharta says:

      Vegan cooking in games, amusingly enough Nethack had this as a Conduct (think Achievement) very very very long ago.

      TDTTOE

    3. kwyjibo says:

      The Poncho post mortem response is summarised at kotaku, which unlike Destructoid, does not require you to log in.

      link to kotaku.co.uk

      • the_rara_avis says:

        Thanks for this. Sounds like both sides made mistakes – surprise, surprise. Here’s hoping Delve has learned how contracts work.

      • slerbal says:

        Wow I know Martin Defries from RSG and he is a really good guy – I worked with him on my last project and he was immensely helpful, enthusiastic and honest. From reading what he wrote Poncho’s developer sounds both disorganised and unprofessional and got himself in way beyond his ability and has decided to badmouth his publisher for his own mistakes. It is rather embarrassing.

        Games development is bloody hard work and is extremely high risk but you only make it more so if you sign contracts without due care and attention or act in an unprofessional manner. I of course don’t know Delve personally and have only formed this opinion based on what he wrote…

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          tigerfort says:

          The impression I get from the Delve postmortem is rather different from the one I think the developer thinks it gives. There’s an awful lot of complaining about not getting special treatment – “Valve didn’t modify their algorithm to keep us on the front page”, “big sites (like RPS) gave us the same amount of coverage as they gave basically every other indie game”, “November, which everyone says is a dreadful time to release indie games, turned out to be a bad time to release our indie game”, and on and on.

          Add to that the back and forth between them and RSG as described by Destructoid/Kotaku, and … I guess I feel abstractly sorry, the way I usually do for non-malicious people who’ve got in way over their heads as a result of not doing basic research. But I’m seriously unimpressed by the attempt to blame his failure to actually read the contract (and everything consequent to that) on the publisher, and frankly unconvinced that “a couple of thousand upfront” would actually have made any difference to the outcome.

          But I wish I thought other people might actually learn from this, and not repeat the same mistakes. Game dev is hard, and running a company is hard, and success at either depends on a fair bit of luck in addition to knowing what mistakes to avoid. Hard work is only one of three necessary legs to the stool; it (sadly) won’t get you anywhere by itself.

          • slerbal says:

            Agreed.

          • Sin Vega says:

            Also: if your business proposition depends entirely on you getting cash upfront, explicitly insist on getting the cash upfront as part of the contract. Nobody likes asking for money, especially if they need it, but the fact is if you need it you need it, and anyone looking to do business with you will likely be willing to punt a little cash upfront if it gets the work done. And if not, well, what have you lost, anyway?

            Hard not to feel sympathy for them, and I won’t pretend I haven’t got myself into some ridiculous messes. But they’re doing themselves few favours.

      • Baines says:

        I read it when Destructoid first posted it, I didn’t even realize Destructoid required a log-in. (I’ve had a Destructoid log-in for a while, long before it combined itself with Disqus.)

        Anyway, I don’t know whether or not to feel surprised that the dev also started posting on the Kotaku recap, still pretty much blaming the publisher for everything. Heck, the dev even continued to claim surprise that the publisher would take matters public and attempt to damage their reputation when it was Delve’s original postmortem that first took things public and damaged the publisher’s reputation (spurring the publisher to defend itself against Delve’s claims.)

    4. kwyjibo says:

      Simon Parkin does his thing, this time on engineered “luck” in games.

      link to nautil.us

      • BlueTemplar says:

        Thank you this was very enlightening!

        I would go as far as to say that this should be mandatory reading to anyone playing the so-called “free-to-play” games (which really are “pay-to-win” and/or “pay-to-not-grind”).

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        Captain Narol says:

        Thanks too, very interesting read.

      • MiniMatt says:

        Did find this interesting, and appreciated the nod to Skinner’s conclusion that randomising reward was more effective conditioning than a straight “peck this button, get grain” set up.

        Read the article with XCOM shot probabilties in my head.

    5. Unsheep says:

      Regarding Rob Fearon’s article on ‘everyone stop screaming’.

      A crucial part of this problem is that so many popular gaming personalities actually make a living by screaming, usually in the role of self-defined game “critics”. They are in the business of encouraging and creating controversy, transforming minor issues into major ones by being overly dramatic and extreme in their use of language. That’s how they generate views and earn money.

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        Ghostbird says:

        I’m gently unconvinced by this, as someone who’s been reading Internet comments for many years.

          • TillEulenspiegel says:

            Because Angry Internet Men have been prevalent since the mid 90s at least, when nobody was making money from their yelling.

            Yeah there are plenty of performative YouTubers around now, but they’re the reaction, not the cause.

            • RobF says:

              It’s fair to say it contributes to a general overly-aggressive thing though, right?

              One of the things I did before writing this piece was to dip back into letters pages and the likes going all the way back. With the exception of something like Dragon User which improbably managed to have a fairly healthy community around it, we’ve a long heritage of repeating history over and over.

              But it’s worth noting that there’s an important amplification and normalising thing here. Especially when some of the things folks are being riled up against, I’d politely call Very Low Stakes Indeed – so it contributes to a culture of disporportionate responses. More so when your audience numbers in the many hundreds or thousands.

              It’s very easy to fall into because it is so much part of our culture, I’m far from innocent on this front myself over the years, never mind. It may not be new but it’s there and it manifests itself in ways that lean towards making everything more hostile than necessary.

            • Yglorba says:

              I think the “nobody making money” bit is key. Before it was just people getting angry in their spare time, maybe spending an hour or so a day poking at manufactured controversies because it amuses them. Now there are people who literally depend on that shtick to feed their family.

      • Jerkzilla says:

        Well, game “critic” is a much more accurate label in this context than “journalist”, which is what many others doing more or less the same thing like to call themselves.

    6. Baines says:

      I think people screamed so much last year because they are becoming increasingly frustrated with situations. You scream in the hope of getting your message through, to the publisher, the dev studio, to other publishers and devs, and even to media outlets that can make that message more visible.

      Why? In part because you want change, and the publisher and devs aren’t going to change if you stay silent, and “vote with your dollar” does not work as a means of supplying useful feedback. (Another part is to warn other potential buyers.)

      And this is also why the shouting fades after a while. After a while, you accept that the publisher or devs didn’t care this time, and are already well into their next games. Either the devs tried to address issues in patches, or they’d clearly given up. People have already bought the game and its seasons passes at full price. And too often there was a new target lurking around the corner waiting to be spotted. (If there hadn’t been so many different things to scream about, there would have been less screaming.)

      As a site note, some of those 2016 topics are still getting discussion. Game Soup, for example, just finished its months long multi-(short)video breakdown of Mighty No. 9. People still mention No Man’s Sky and its issues. People still play MGS5 and get annoyed by the things Konami did to that game. There isn’t constant screaming for the same reason people don’t still scream about the big weather-related gridlock that happened five years ago, or when the local food chain was caught restamping the expiration dates on expired products two years ago, or whatever else. It isn’t that the topics were never important or never worth screaming about.

      • RobF says:

        Well, I’m not really sure I can find a point in the entire history of videogames as a popular thing where people didn’t complain in largely the same manner as they do now – I think it’s really important to separate these two phenomena. Which is why I go to great pains in my piece to point out that the aggro rides in on the back of legit complaints.

        The difference between complaints in, say, 1984 and complaints now have one, fairly major, fundamental difference. We are now affected by people who don’t want to make things better for anyone and are willing to create an environment where making things better becomes as good as impossible.

        On the lesser end of the scale you do have Opinions For Money folk who take consumer advocacy in directions that are largely unhelpful and inappropriate and well, the last two years or so has brought a lot of people into the videogame space with only a passing, if any, interest in videogames at all and instead use it as a front for a larger movement. Unfortunately, the former haven’t quite clocked they’ve been co-opted by the latter for the most part so there is that. Consumer advocacy in games is about five or ten years behind where games is at, essentially. This makes for a ripe breeding ground, along with how the modern net is structured, for extremely angry people being excessively extremely angry and disporportionate in their response.

        I think it’s really unhelpful to try and conflate these two things though, y’know? Hello, I am fed up with DLC is a world apart from death threats and making people in and around games feel threatened. Whilst there will be overlap, they are distinct phenomena and if we’re going to start cleaning this place up, I figure understanding what it is would be a helpful starting place.

        • Wulfram says:

          I think your article is conflating the two. Or at least defining your terms so loosely that it seems like anyone who is annoyed at being lied to and says so gets chucked into the same broad category as Lord Voldemort.

          • RobF says:

            Well, no. Not really.

            Which is why I say this phenomena of stoking aggression and unreasonable tactics rides in on the back of legit complaints and issues. I’m quite explicitly not conflating the two things here.

            • Wulfram says:

              You stick one mention of “reasonable complaints” in a long article about how fans are awful and developers are blameless. And only to cast the people with reasonable complaints as useful idiots for the Red Menace.

              And really, the reasonableness of complaints is a red herring. RockPaperShotgun is frequently making a big deal about what are to me the most inane of issues but that doesn’t mean I think they should be dumped with the people making death threats.

            • RobF says:

              Well, to be honest – if your takeaway from a piece that explicitly says that most fans are good people who want to be left alone and in no way points solely at people who play games is ‘you said fans are bad and developers are blameless’ – either I’ve failed to really hammer the point home or me putting words in the right order makes no odds to your reading. So yeah.

    7. malkav11 says:

      The frustrating part of the “internet screaming” phenomenon is that it so often drowns out legitimate issues in the medium by being so indiscriminately angry that a) plenty of exceedingly minor issues get lumped in with things that actually matter and dismissed wholesale, and b) the ragemob moves on to the next thing before anything is actually done about the previous one.

      There are some really rather concerning industry trends out there, but nobody is going to do anything about it at this rate because it’ll be on to the next indie dev that promised a little too much before launch or the next journalist who dared to voice a mildly progressive opinion or…

      • slerbal says:

        I completely agree with you. Screaming about every minor thing allows the major things to skate by unchallenged. Probably the main reason I read RPS is that it is a haven from Internet screaming and hostility on the most part.

      • pepperfez says:

        or the next journalist who dared to voice a mildly progressive opinion

        This is key. Goblin Grope made abusing developers and writers a project of right-wing activists, and now there’s an infrastructure in place to keep generating constant rage.

    8. Rumpelstiltskin says:

      I can’t say I share that view on vegan cooking. Making something that resembles non-vegan food with vegan ingredients instead of something that embraces and celebrates the ingredients for what they are is just completely illogical, like taking part in paralympics. Then again, the author’s obsession with Dark Souls kind of explains it.

      • Michael Anson says:

        And what, specifically, is not celebratory about wheelchair racing?

        • Rumpelstiltskin says:

          Well, they did do chariot races in Rome, so yeah, this particular one does sound pretty aristocratic.

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      FhnuZoag says:

      The AGDQ run of Undertale was pretty superb and well worth spending an hour and a half on…

    10. The Chadillac says:

      You are a spineless Quisling begging consumers to think of the emotions of the poor snake oil salesmen before they complain about being sold defective goods.

      • The Chadillac says:

        Sorry, that was supposed to be a reply to Fearon.

        • DoctorDaddy says:

          Have you considered that you might be a prime example of Fearon’s article’s topic?

          Perhaps instead of inventing straw men and hurling insults you could be persuaded to see his point of view — a thoroughly reasonable proposition.

          • pepperfez says:

            It took me a couple readings to convince myself that comment wasn’t satire, but I guess that’s the world we live in.

        • RobF says:

          Well yeah, that’s it isn’t it. Most people in games are trying to make you the best videogame they possibly can – once you succumb to the idea that this entertainment form is out to get you, people are lurking round every corner just waiting to rip you off, you’ve fundamentally misunderstood why people are here and more often than not, raging in entirely the wrong direction at stuff which won’t change (as you would like it to) by attacking developers. You’re just ruining lives, not improving things by then. It seems to be a fairly crucial thing to understand if you want to improve where videogames are, yeah?

          And yeah, I am quite literally asking everyone to remember folk’s feelings because this is a system which chews up lives over entertainment products and I can’t fathom how making videogames unsafe helps anyone. I don’t think this is quite as unreasonable a request as you seem to think it is.

          • Baines says:

            The people in charge aren’t trying to make the best video game that they can, though. They are trying to make the most profitable games that they can. Even the idealists face their own money concerns, which shapes their products beyond just being the best they can make.

            Look at No Man’s Sky again. Yes, there was a lot of screaming about Murray lying. But look a bit closer at the various things being said. It wasn’t jut that Murray had lied, but that he lied about game features, which encouraged people to buy the game under false pretenses. It was complaints about misrepresentative videos and screenshots being used both before and after release, which encouraged people to buy the game under false pretenses. It was complaints about the games media overhyping the game. It was complaints about the restrictions placed on the PC game (including many of those cut features) due to Sony’s involvement and the PS4 port.

            A good chunk of the shouting all turn back to money-driven decisions and matters, many involving parties outside of Hello Games.

            Mighty No 9 had a lot of complaints that tied back to money, broken promises, highly questionable (from a consumer point of view) business decisions, and warning signs. It also had the issue of being an ever increasing mess, where some new news-worthy disaster would present itself whenever the older disasters started to fade.

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              Jekadu says:

              I really don’t see how it matters that game devs have to balance finances with artistic vision. Game devs gotta eat, too.

              Honestly, the amount of shouting that went on last year was absurd. People only ever seem to get this disappointed when it comes to video games.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        Yeah, phrases like “spineless Quisling” and “snake oil salesman” are perfect examples of the issue. If you have a reasonable complaint, complain reasonably. These are real people.

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        Jekadu says:

        This is not a constructive attitude.

    11. Risingson says:

      About the vegan cooking… I feel it’s part of something I kind of feel with a lot of game journalism: they are presented a character, circumstances, motivations, narrative (at least in good story heavy games) and they try to make them about themselves. So, for example, Life Is Strange is about how much it reminds them of their teenage years. I find it non empathetic and a bit narcissistic.

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        Jekadu says:

        What a strange thing to say.

        What’s up with all this snobbery?

    12. Chasdiel says:

      @Graham Smith

      Out of curiosity, what advice given in the post-mortem did you consider “terrible?” I ask because I too thought of going into game design once, and I’m sure you’ve learned a few things about the industry in the time you’ve been writing about it.

    13. toastmodernist says:

      The comments on that accidental racism article on kotaku are terrifying. Thank you for this little corner of the internet RPS and chums.

      • toastmodernist says:

        Whilst bigging up RPS & Chums and also being slightly high on painkillers, gotta say that RobF is an absolute treasure.

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      alison says:

      I am much too drunk to read articles properly right now. But what the fucking fuck is someone talking about vegan cookery like it is some kind of esoteric goat sacrifice. It’s just like normal cooking except, you know, no meat and dairy.

      I decided to start eating vegan about a year ago. Pretty much nothing changed aside from I had way more room in my fridge for beer. If you have difficulty cooking vegan meals you never really knew how to cook in the first place. Oil. Nuts. Beans. Seeds. Veges. Fruits. Herbs. Spices. Whatever. If your diet doesn’t extend beyond a ham and cheese sandwich you’re missing out on a lot, regardless of whether you choose to eat sustainably or not.

      Imo the people who feel like they’re doing some kind of pious self-flagellation by eating vegan shouldn’t even bother in the first place. If you are an animal lover, then it’s not even a debate, vegan is the only way to go. If (like me) you don’t care so much about animals but you care about the environment, decreasing your meat and dairy intake is a very simple way to do that. Even one day a week vegan is better than none. But if you don’t give a shit about either animals or the environment then go hard on the daily bacon. People who get judgmental over other people’s choice of sustenance need to chill the fuck out.

      I gotta admit I don’t have the greatest opinion of people who write articles about how dying a billion times in Dark Souls is rewarding. I can hardly bear to read articles about that “game”, the masochistic fans are so insufferable. Kinda like woe-is-me vegans. Jesus Christ, people. If you don’t like it, quit. Stop with the attention-seeking martyrdom.

      Ali’s drunken take: play the games you like, eat the food you like, and if you care about sustainability, don’t buy a 500W power supply or eat meat and dairy every fucking meal. But if you don’t care then, eh. Maybe your kids will.

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        alison says:

        Holy crap what a load of nonsense. This, kids, is why you do not drunkpost.

        Sober(er) Ali say: I get that for some people trying to gamify their eating habits is somehow a motivator for them to eat more sustainably, but it does a disservice to the lifestyle to perpetuate the myth that cooking vegan is some kind of exercise in self-deprivation. There are plenty of people who aren’t masochists who just decided to cook and eat different stuff because they wanted to cook and eat different stuff. That’s not imposing a constraint, it’s just making a decision.