The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for encouraging your baby to crawl while with every extra inch shuffled across also thinking, “Oh god no he’s going to be crawling soon.” Sundays might be for removing everything below knee height and working out what to do with all the wires in the front of the TV cabinet.

Robert Yang wrote about how pylons are his penis, which is a great way to get people to read an article about the phenomenology of building Offworld Trading Company.

As in many games, your play style represents some aspect of you, an identity that you perform. Is your base timid or confident? Is your pylon placement funny or jealous or sexy? Your embodiment in a strategy game is not a single organic body, but an abstraction of outputs and inputs across space and time. Every resource factory you build is another step in a dance, and every additional pylon you build is yet another crystalline penis for your monstrous base-body.

And when someone sets up siege tanks and nukes your pylons, they have basically kicked you in your dicks, and your entire body reports searing pain.

At Eurogamer, Matt Sayer writes about the Sin City game that never was. And that’s probably for the best. I hope Flint Dille was approached for comment.

The absurdity didn’t stop there. How about a kick to the crotch that somehow sparks an entire plot thread about a cult of eunuchs? Or a church getting blown up right before it’s supposed to appear intact in the comics? Or a casino built on the site of a Sikh Muslim burial ground, because apparently ‘you know he’s a bad guy because he’s wearing a turban’. Dille and Red Mile were twisting Transmission’s vision into something else entirely, something the team could no longer call their own. Tensions were rising, and the studio’s modest foundations were starting to crack. Without someone to help shape all the conflicting ideas into a single, cohesive whole, the project was on the verge of buckling under its own weight.

At Waypoint, Jenn Wright writes about how character and personalities are seeping into every game, making it harder than ever to disengage, to take a break from emotion, or to avoid feeling empathy for the NPCs we meet.

No one, to my knowledge, bought Overwatch wanting to listen to the twang of their own heartstrings. But Ana’s spray depicting a hologram of her daughter? The halting entreaty of an out-of-work relic beseeching his one-time pals, in the intro, to work together again? Pharah explaining in response to a comment that no, she didn’t know her mother well growing up, since she wasn’t really around? And that now, amidst a hail of bullets, she is finally getting to know her?

I’ve been listening to a ton of games podcasts lately and on that front I recommend the US Waypoint Radio, which is entertaining and releases episodes frequently enough that by the time I finish one there’s another ready to go.

I’m no longer involved in a podcast of my own, which means I feel no conflict of interest in letting you know that my old haunt, the Crate & Crowbar, has re-opened its Patreon. The money raised will be used to cover costs and to expand the scope of the podcast, by for example paying travel costs for guests, and paying people for their time if they create videos and extra podcast episodes.

Back at Eurogamer, Christian “The” Donlan writes about when games get collectibles right. This game doesn’t get a mention in the piece, but using that beeping tracker to find the diamonds was the best bit of Far Cry 2, wasn’t it?

And it’s made me think. Collectibles and treasure hunts so often get a bad rap in games. They seem like such empty-headed padding. We talk about all the inane things you have to track down to reach 100 percent completion in an open-world game, we talk about all the ways that cheap imitators have curdled memories of the strange, unrepeatable brilliance of those Agility Orbs in Crackdown. But then, when you see it done well – like in Grow Up, which balances the increased size of its world with a nuanced way of guiding you through it, half-directed, half-undirected – you see what it can give to a game. You see what the treasure hunt can really provide to the player.

Cool Ghosts returned this week with a video explaining why Hitman is the best game ever.

Music this week is Barenaked Ladies’ album Stunt. One of those albums I listened to so much as a teenager that it feels awkward to return to it now, like thinking too hard about an older version of myself.

25 Comments

  1. Ghostwise says:

    The part where Sin City “isn’t revelling in sexist stereotypes” made me laugh, I’ll admit. :-)

    • Eight Rooks says:

      Yes. It was an interesting article, but even as someone who kind of liked Miller’s work before he leapt over the edge, I couldn’t help thinking “Yeah, this… doesn’t really come as any surprise, and that guy sounds very much as if he was taking orders directly from Frank, not one bad apple ruining things for everyone”.

      • Fnord73 says:

        Truth be told, the first Sin City is where he has it under control. Marv is legend. “In old Rome, they would have given him an axe”. Ive known a couple of guys like that. And the story is femalepositive, Marv dies for love.

        But then it just gets clammier.

        • Turkey says:

          The first movie or the first comic? The movie was just a super faithful adaptation of the Sin City comics from the 90s. I don’t think he had that much input on it otherwise.

          I think I read somewhere that he cracked after the 9/11 attacks when he was working on Dark Knight Strikes again.

          • Fnord73 says:

            The comic. The legend of Marv the avenger who is willing to die because he got a taste of sweetness and failed to stand is fantastic.

          • J Arcane says:

            Nah, if you actually go back and read even his “founding” works, the creepy right-wing nuttery is there even in Dark Knight, he just still had editors in those days to restrain him so it’s much more subtle.

            The trouble with Miller is what happens to a lot of too-successful creators: he doesn’t know what actually made him a success. I think he honestly thinks it’s the right-wing nonsense and the sexism that made him famous, so he should just keep doubling down. Just like for most American conservatives, 9/11 wasn’t the cause, but the excuse to really let rip.

          • Turkey says:

            That’s a good point.

            I picked up on the misogyny and the right wing stuff when I first read his old comics. I just dismissed it up as genre conventions at the time.

            I only make the distinction between before and after 9/11, cause that’s when he started pushing the xenophobia and racism at the forefront of all his works.

          • iucounu says:

            I have coined the phrase ‘Millerism’ to denote something you always thought was intended as satire but, in retrospect, seems like a straightforward statement of intent or belief. I don’t know if 9/11 did actually cause FM to crack up, but it was very noticeable that what seemed to be satirical in TDKR or Sin City showed up played perfectly straight in, say, All-Star Batman and Robin, the most deranged Batman comic imaginable.

  2. gabrielonuris says:

    I must say that I hate collectibles; they are a very poor excuse to stretch a game as thinner as possible for no reason whatsoever. Everytime I play a game with no collectibles, I realize that it actually got much more effort in other things, like the map itself, or its missions.

    Games like Soul Reaver, Stalker, The Witcher, Risen, Crysis, Giants, etc, doesn’t rely in “floating coins” or whatever to encourage the player to explore. We explore their maps because they’re hand made, filled with things to see and to do, and not to accomplish an OCD feeling of ticking boxes on a list.

    If a game really needs to have those, I like when they’re few and far between, and is completely optional, like the three dragons from Tomb Raider 2. Or the 6 or 7 emeralds in Sonic games. But the 440 Riddler trophies in Batman Arkham City, that locks the Riddler side missions behind an amateur gimmick like this? Fck you Rocksteady, that was enough for me to never buy another game made by your incompetence ever again.

    • Turkey says:

      I suspect their strategy with the collectibles is to keep you playing until the first DLC is available for purchase. At least with modern open-world games, I think.

      • Underwhelmed says:

        At what point do you look at a personal hobby and go “I have gotten cynical to the point that I hate everything about this hobby and can no longer enjoy it”?

        I think you might be there friend.

        You end up in a weird place when you don’t put collectables or things to actually find in your environment. Most people expect to be rewarded for exploration, and if you do not do it, a large segment of your audience is going to feel disappointed when climbing up to that little ledge or finding a way through that locked door doesn’t reward them with something.

        • gabrielonuris says:

          Reward us then!! With weapons, armor, a unique sword, an upgraded AK-47, an easter egg, I don’t know, a freaking DeLorean!! But don’t put a worthless tiny little useless thingy, which was copy-pasted literally hundreds of times throughout the map!!

          Man, you must really love the Ubisoft collec… I mean, “side missions”.

        • Snowskeeper says:

          Nobody is saying “don’t reward exploration.” What people are saying is “don’t reward exploration with stuff that is completely worthless; that isn’t a reward, it’s just boring.”

  3. Blad the impaler says:

    You require additional penises.

    • poliovaccine says:

      I’m still reeling from the comedic pregnancy of that metaphor… and then you get to talking about a *zerg rush*…

  4. Premium User Badge

    Ben King says:

    Another good one was an editorial that just came out a day or two ago on Eurogamer called “Punching Nazis” by Alexis Kennedy. He discusses the political reactions garnered from anti fascist attacks throughout history and notes that sadly American White Supremacist Richard Spencer is not merely an enemy NPC from Wolfenstein 3D. A few of the comments expand on the historical references in interesting ways, but you have to wade through some anti-political complaints to find them. link to eurogamer.net

    • Snowskeeper says:

      The comments section is sort of alarming.

      • Ghostwise says:

        Don’t read the comments !! Why don’t people listen ? I’ve said this in every comments section ever ! Seriously, it’s like people aren’t reading my warnings.

        Mmm, wait.

      • Premium User Badge

        Ben King says:

        I deliberately didn’t read any of the hidden low scoring comments although I still ran into some disturbingly pro-neo-con notes in there. America is more than a little alarming itself right now. The detailed comments reframing some violent anti-fascist attacks as important community rallying points guaranteeing nazi suppression are neat to read but the communist firebombing of the German parliament and the meteoric rise of the nazi party after are always going to be a chicken/egg debate to me. Might be time for some Wolfenstein 3D just as a pick-me-up after this week in the news…. Is it too late to edit my WAWAPTW to include that one?

        • malkav11 says:

          The burning of the Reichstag was arguably a Nazi false flag operation (I thought it had been confirmed to be, but I guess not? I don’t know.).

          • Snowskeeper says:

            Pretty sure it was confirmed to be. The “Polish invasion,” and the famous attempt on Hitler’s life which came shortly after, were definitely confirmed Nazi ploys.

          • malkav11 says:

            Wikipedia seems to think there are competing theories. But then again, that’s Wikipedia.

  5. Premium User Badge

    Ben King says:

    My scavenged rusty machine gun blowing up in my face with no HP while stumbling backwards retreating downhill out of a jungle junkyard enemy compound with enemies on 3 sides was my favorite part of FarCry 2. It only happened because I kept forgetting the hokey for the diamond collection widget and got tired of hunting them down. Just give me the flare gun already, don’t make me pay for it.

  6. popej says:

    Hah, our son is at exactly this stage. I spent yesterday sawing up bits of wood to attach to our oddly shaped staircase so we have a flat surface for the baby gates.

    Also putting his favourite rattling ball tantalisingly out of reach and encouraging him to go for it. He can to an extent but it’s more of a commando crawl presently.

    Spent what little spare time I have playing Long War 2.

  7. Premium User Badge

    Benratha says:

    Not quite written on Sunday although I did read it then, was an article by Mr Kieron Gillen, formerly of this parish. His words regarding No Man’s Sky have been captured within the pages of PCGamer magazine (Isuue #300). It’s worth a look….