The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for doing something nice for your mother, if you can. Let’s hope they like curated collections of the week’s best videogame writing.

Robert Yang has written before about the need to claim VR for interesting, experimental voices and to shield it from the garbage parts of mainstream gamer culture. Here’s his manifesto on how to do it, which is excellent:

To save a newly emerging VR culture from this poisoned gamer culture, I believe that we must act now, to fortify and insulate pockets of VR culture from the inferno. Ideally, we all pursue many different strategies in tandem, and here’s a tactic that I’m working on, it’s two short sweet words: Gay. VR.

Here’s Robert again writing about Metal Gear Solid 5, open world games and and the edge cases that happen between different ‘realities’ in these games. As far as I know Robert Yang isn’t paid to write interesting things about games for a living, but he writes more interesting things than those who are.

I kept failing with either strategy, so I decided to look up some tips. The online guide suggested a rather dishonorable trick… (1) destroy the nearby anti-air radar station while in “free roam” mode, outside of the mission; (2) then, finally start the mission, set your own helicopter deploy point right on top of your mission objective; (3) and basically kill everyone with the helicopter’s giant overpowered chain gun, easily earning the top S-Rank rating for your performance.

My (wrong) assumption was that changing the world in “free roam” mode would not change the world in “mission” mode. In most cases, this was still true… except in this one instance, the radar station was leaked between alternate realities.

PC Gamer continued to publish pieces from their long interview with Tarn Adams, the creator of Dwarf Fortress, including this one on why he’s really excited about boats.

I feel like the problems all have solutions. There’s a sliding scale of acceptability to your solution, and I think they’re mostly okay. There will be some weird things where certain mer-people get scrunched. The real problem with this is if you’re not controlling the boat, and you’re the player, and you get scrunched. Like if a Dwarf Fortress is on the beach, you set up this whole cove where boats can come in and dock and unload stuff, all really cool stuff, right, but then you have dwarves messing around in the water and then a boat turns the wrong way and all your dwarves are catapulted out into space… There will be little problems, and we’ll just roll with it.

And why Tarn Adams doesn’t like to play games like Dwarf Fortress.

At Paste, Cameron Kunzelman writes about the inherent silliness of Ghost Recon Wildlands and how it undermines the game world. I wish this hadn’t been a Tom Clancy game so it could have leaned in to the inevitable zaniness of a co-op murder sandbox.

When I’m driving down the road in a border province that’s heavily contested between rebels and cartels, I might feel “immersed.” If that road is occasionally dotted with the crucified bodies of rebels with warning signs hanging around their necks, I can buy that this is a bad place with two factions that will do anything and everything to destroy their enemies. In a film like Sicario, which has a very similar scene, it sells a sense of danger and depravity around cartels and how they do business. It is, in that film’s terms, a place for wolves. But in Wildlands I saw this scene and pulled over to the side of the road. I wanted to get a closer look. There, on the ground beneath the crucified men amongst the citizens looking up at them, was a fuel collectable. It flashed a shiny white. I picked it up. It added more fuel resources to my inventory. I got back in my car and drove away.

At Eurogamer, Simon Parkin writes about the joy of video game photography – specifically games that include some in-world camera or photo mode, as distinct from simple screenshots.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild is a game of kaleidoscopic delights and diversions. But none has grabbed me with quite the force as the Hyrule compendium, an encyclopaedia that Link must fill with photographs of every distinct creature, foe, flower, fruit, weapon and chest in the game. There is a sticker album-like appeal to the occupation, of course: you gotta capture ’em all. But there is also a layer of creative expression to the endeavour. The precise image that you take of the horse, mushroom or hoe is the one that’s added to the compendium. In this way, the game appeals not only to the completionist, but also to the perfectionist. Now, when facing up against a Hyrulian monstrosity, my first thought is not, ‘Which sword should I use’, but rather, ‘To which spot should I lure the beast to make the best use of the light?’ In 2017, in my game at least, more Links have died taking compendium shots than in encounters with sharks (and not only because the sharks in Hyrule are talkative, handsome and kind).

I enjoyed the first Noclip Profile, which visits John Romero in his new home in Galway, Ireland.

I like these photos.

I like this mouth simulator.

Music this week is Singularity by Kuraine, which is almost too much and yet I keep returning to it.

41 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    N'Al says:

    We’ve already had Wildlands + silly, it was called Mercenaries. Worked quite well, so yes, maybe that’s the way Ubi should’ve gone with the game.

    • Kollega says:

      Oh Mercenaries. I’ve said it before (yes, primarily in relation to Ghost Recon: Wildlands), and I’ll say it again: we need a spiritual sequel to that game. I don’t think there’s any other game that would combine Hollywood-style silly action [that knows and embraces its silliness], tons of lovingly modeled military hardware, big and interesting open world to mess around in, and capacity for co-op with your chums. The closest that we have to that right now is Just Cause 3 – and that still has no proper tanks and multiplayer mode that’s an unofficial, fan-made addition. GTA Online might also come close, but that is plagued with its own problems like griefing, and is more geared to be a crime thriller than a Michael Bay action movie.

      Sigh. I really, really wish that someone finally went and made that spiritual sequel I’m talking about. Especially if it was set in a sci-fi setting, disposing of “present-day realism” and instead giving the player an array of fantastical future-weaponry. I would so buy that. Even if it was EA making “Titanfall: Mercenaries” and charging $120 a copy for it. Yes, I am that desperate.

      • skeletortoise says:

        Have you tried the actual sequel? I’ve not played it or really thought about it all, besides playing the demo for five minutes on my buddy’s PS3 and being underwhelmed and never thinking about it again. Be curious to see if anyone had any thoughts because I always got a game version of direct to DVD trash vibe from it.

        Mercenaries is probably competitive for game I’ve played the most of any ever, which is probably why I was ever intrigued by Wildlands in the first place.

        • Kollega says:

          Actually, I’ve only played the sequel, if you mean World in Flames, and the impression I got from it was “janky, unpolished, and not thought through perfectly, but still a great time for tacticool mercenary action”. But… let’s face it, that game came out eight and a half years ago, and as I’ve said, it was kind of janky. So now, I want someone to make a real spiritual successor to that game, with more thought and some cool innovations, but delivering on the same fantasy of being an action hero badass (preferably in the future, too) who routinely buys bombs and tanks on the Internet to fight against overwhelming odds for the sake of his/her financial future with a side order of making the world a better place. And Ghost Recon: Wildlands ain’t that at all. Like I said, Just Cause 3 is a hell of a lot closer to what Mercenaries delivered, but it doesn’t even have any real tanks.

          • skeletortoise says:

            What a twist. Well, I’ve only played the sequel briefly so I don’t know quite how they compare, but if you can get a PS2 cheap I think the original is fantastic.

            I haven’t played a lot of Just Cause, but honestly I’d say that it might suffer from being too over the top. I think Mercenaries is a good balance on the spectrum between reasonable action game and fantastically absurd power fantasy. Going too far in either direction would make it boring one way or the other.

          • funkstar says:

            Having played both, the sequel was a MASSIVE let down. Fairly sure it got savaged in reviews at the time too. Most of the problem was just how damn broken it was.

            Mercenaries the first was all kinds of awesome

          • malkav11 says:

            Mercenaries 2 had a lot of problems (especially on PC) and was not half a patch on the original, but that said, it did gift the world with this fantabulous Let’s Play, so it should get some credit for that.
            link to lparchive.org

  2. onodera says:

    Robert Yang wants to kill VR. We need ALL sorts of games for VR, the more the better, not just games with an agenda. Games where you shoot illegal immigrants climbing over the wall and games where you explore gender dysphoria of a 10 y.o. legally boy. Games that are made by Ubisoft where you collect 1000 icons and games made by a unemployed woman living in her parents’ attic and her Patreon.

    • Vedharta says:

      ….wut?

    • Philopoemen says:

      To be fair, Robert Yang’s suggestion for pretty much any gaming-related issue is to make it more gay, so he’s on message.

      • aepervius says:

        While the op (Onodera) may be more in jest than serious, I think there is a little truth in it. First you start with this : link to 1.bp.blogspot.com (slide at the top) I will take this as a hint that the article in in jest, not serious, although the joke is not very good.

        But to start a more serious conversation , what will save VR is not gay game, those are niche , they are welcome but will interest relatively few of the people which currently have VR. What would save VR is 1) have application which make a good usage of the VR such that it looks a killer compared to traditional 3D gaming and will thus attract gamer in drove 2) solve the movement problem (moving in the 3D environment) 3) lower the development cost VERY significantly to the level of traditional 3D game. Those are the 3 serious obstacles. Solve (1) or (3) and you will have a gigantic step forward. Until then , VR will stay niche.

        • Philopoemen says:

          Personally, I’m avoiding VR until it stops making me want to vomit.

          Industry, please sort that out before worrying about whom is going to play it, and their moral compass.

        • Premium User Badge

          yhancik says:

          I don’t think Robert Yang is really talking about saving VR from being a niche. He’s talking about the VR (and to a larger extend, non-VR) games culture. Content, not numbers.

          • aepervius says:

            Then he is not trying to “save” it but reform it to an outlook which is more agreeable to him. All the power to him. But from that point of view the article is not “excellent”, especially the slide. There are problems with gamer culture, but the one announced does not make it to the top. There are far more problem hitting everybody rather than a sub culture, like (IMO) the bad pre-order culture, the persons being unhappy with a review and having their blood boil as we saw on this very site for the Mass Effect Andromeda…

          • batraz says:

            I think Yang is right : everything should become more gay, because gay is good. Why don’t people get it?

    • Merus says:

      It seems, based on reading his reasoning, that he’s less worried about his own agenda and more worried about the agenda of AAA gaming, the one that figured they shouldn’t do anything about GamerGate because those are in part our customers, and more important about those AAA gamers, who are in large part The Problem with games.

      He explicitly points out that the film industry is interested in VR, so while Valve might get bored and give up on it, Facebook and Sony would love to be a platform for new kinds of movie experiences, and that’d keep VR financially viable.

    • gwop_the_derailer says:

      Wait, “Games where you shoot illegal immigrants climbing over the wall” don’t have an agenda?

      But, I like how you frame leftist agenda as one that involves understanding someone’s life experiences, whereas the conservative one is about killing desperate people.

      • skeletortoise says:

        I like how you feel validated by any thing that makes you view conservatives as murderous cretins motivated exclusively by prejudice, thus preventing you from needing to actually evaluate the potential reason or logic behind their positions.

        • gwop_the_derailer says:

          You misunderstand me. I didn’t say any of that – Onodera did. Which is quite telling.

          • skeletortoise says:

            Hmm. It’s hard to read the intent of what you’re saying. I guess it all hinges on whether you think he a has liberal or conservative POV. If it’s the latter I think I stand by my initial assessment.

      • onodera says:

        You can switch it the other way around if you want. A game about managing a Midwestern town after the only factory closes down and a game where you have to catch and beat up “cis scum” that tries to enter a women-only safe space by claiming to be trans.

        • Ada says:

          tfw when you have so little understanding of your opponents that you think leftists dont manage towns, and transphobes call people “cis scum”

          • onodera says:

            Transphobes? No, hateful transpeople or people who claim to be them online.

            And of course leftists do manage towns. Just like there are LGBTQ conservatives. However, underemployed midwesterners won this election for the Republican candidate, so their experiences are now linked to conservatism in popular culture.

          • jalf says:

            No, white midwesterners (or white people in general) did.

            “Underemployed” people did not overwhelmingly vote for Trump. White people did. Employed as well as unemployed white people.

            And that is what conservatism is now linked to in popular culture. White people trying to disguise their racism behind “economic anxiety”.

      • soijohn says:

        Not to kill the mood or anything, but not everything in gaming has to do with the US and your Left/Right POV.

        • gwop_the_derailer says:

          Not everything, but certainly the post I was replying to…

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      This thread is a mess. OP needs to RtFA.

      • Unclepauly says:

        Huh. I’m not on either side of the aisle, and I took his post as we need games from all outlooks on life, not just games from one group of people. Certainly this isn’t a bad thing?

  3. heretic says:

    Thanks for the link to the video of John Romero in Ireland, reminded me of my time in county Galway! I lived in the middle of nowhere (close to Oranmore) and it was a couple of years immersed in video games :) Dungeon Keeper, Swat 1, Half Life, Commandos 2, Hitman 1/2 – great gaming years.

    • Creeping Death says:

      I’m assuming by the games you listed this was before digital downloads became the main form of game purchases/consumption? Because my experience of living in the Middle of Nowhere, Ireland now would be a couple of years just downloading said games :P

    • Premium User Badge

      tigerfort says:

      Presumably “Hitman 1/2” has the added disguise option of turning female when he gets wet? (And using hot water to turn back, obviously.)

  4. Merus says:

    Kuraine was, until recently, one of ArenaNet’s in-house musicians, doing great world on Guild Wars 2 post-launch. Most of that game’s playerbase consider the post-launch music miles above Jeremy Soule’s original soundtrack.

    Here’s what I think is her best song, the final boss theme from Season One, Battle on the Breachmaker. This was a three-phase fight – also made by Lena – and the three movements in the song, in-game, coincided with each phase’s mechanics.

  5. MiniMatt says:

    After you’ve read the game photography article wander on over to the RPS Screenshot thread and drop your bestest Mad Max screenies in there – guaranteed to keep us all distracted for a couple of pages every few months :)

  6. Ben King says:

    Oh man I just fell down a Robert Yang rabbit hole. His article on Purina’s skill tree code in Dead island was new to me as well and is chock full of disturbing content pulling the curtain back on just how foul people are as a whole by default. On the upside got some ideas for Gender based NPC buffs that might be fun to throw into a D&D game, also a link back to an article by Claudia Lo on RPS on how misogyny is hard coded right into NPC behavior in Rimworld. Feel free to publish more of her writing any time guys, that one is great! “Cultural Criticism” AND a “Let’s Play” all wrapped in one. I don’t really get too upset about the weirdness of different game states bleeding over in MGSV mostly because I’m generally incapable of playing at a high enough level to run into those clever work arounds. Also that game is HUGE and a couple little quirky Kojima-isms aren’t too bothersome. However, zombie soldiers shambling towards the player even while they remain undetected is still unforgivable.

    • Premium User Badge

      subdog says:

      That conversation around that Claudia Lo article was a real shitstorm.

  7. Puddingbrummsel says:

    Adding to the photography (neat link btw, thanks!), Masashi Wakui does something similar:

    link to flickr.com

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    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Music of the week is Andromeda by Gorillaz.