The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for recuperating after three days of seeing people and games at Rezzed (and travelling to London with a baby). Now that we’re back home, let’s do some relaxing reading. About videogames, of course.

Jalopy is an interesting, early access road trip game set in eastern europe. It is not the kind of thing which sells huge numbers of copies, but that doesn’t stop people expecting the moon. Here’s the developer explaining calmly why the moon is not possible. It is important to remember these things.

Beyond development we have steam’s cut, the publishers cut, VAT and exchange rates till finally the last penny drops to the developer, me. Taking in mind Jalopy is a cheap game – and it is a cheap game for the amount it’s cost to make, but I’m a no name developer so I don’t really have a choice in this. The amount that comes to me per purchase is tiny, so much so that when someone is trashing the game and asking for a refund I’ll just let them have it because one purchase is border insignificant.

Speaking of Jalopy, here’s Miodrag Kovachevic – who grew up in ’90s Yugoslavia, one of the settings for the game – on the nostalgic feeling the game conjures for him.

I grew up in ’90s Yugoslavia, an Eastern European country that no longer exists. The year I was born, my family bought a Yugo—a metal box with wheels that was the embodiment of cheap communist cars. Against all odds, it managed to survive for 27 years. Its tenacity and stubbornness is a testament to the sort of absurdity that Jalopy, a lo-fi Eastern Bloc road-trip sim, attempts to recapture.

I meant to link this last week, but here’s another indie developer, Nathalie Lawhead, on the frustration of having your work labelled as “weird”, among other things. RPS will remember this.

I kind of understand why some developers hate the label “weird” for their games. It’s been feeling like a cheep and easy label to slap on something because you are too lazy to “look deeper” or understand what this different experience is. Like “weird” is more dismissive than an actual description of something.

Henrique Antero at ZEAL wrote about the work of Pedro Paiva, whose games I wasn’t familiar with but am now glad to have read about.

The bottom-box reads: “IMPALED MARIO: A HATE LETTER TO THE VIDEOGAME INDUSTRY AND THE STUPID GAMER PSEUDO-CULTURE. SHOOT MARIO TO START.” There’s a bloody thick stake running through Mario’s inert body. After you shoot him for the first time, Mario slides down the stake. You can continue to shoot, which causes him to rotate around the stake. It feels pretty good.

PC Gamer’s Wes Fenlon interviewed an IP lawyer and emulator developers about the ethics of emulation. I see the value in emulation, but I am deeply uncomfortable with the games press writing regular news updates on the progress of teams trying to emulate specific modern games on the PC. It feels like those posts only serve an audience of entitled jerks – and the website’s own lust for search traffic. Unrelatedly remember to read our coverage of not at all a Zelda Breath of the Wild PC free download, Hyrule: Total War.

If you follow emulation news, here’s a story you’ve probably heard. Nintendo releases a brand new Legend of Zelda game for a young console. It is immediately heralded as one of the greatest games ever made. Reviewers give it perfect marks. It is, definitively, the best reason to own Nintendo’s new hardware. And mere weeks after its release, when buzz was at its highest, a PC emulator was able to run that massively popular game—The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time—making it playable without Nintendo’s hardware.

Darryn King at Glixel wrote about the making of Mass Effect Andromeda, which reveals nothing about why the game is flawed but is still revealing.

“You think of a rock as just a rock,” says senior environmental artist Scotty Brown. “But there might be little tiny pebbles embedded within the cracks of the rock, or different kinds of grass of different colors. A lot of artists here have learned that those subtle details you don’t think about are actually very important.” A couple of years ago, the team was alarmed to discover one of their more distinctive rocks appear in someone else’s game, Star Wars Battlefront – whose artists, it turned out, had also been sent on a scouting mission in Iceland. “It was a very good rock,” says Brown.

Podcasts have become a heavy feature in my life, so I enjoyed reading old comrade Rich McCormick on his love for The Adventure Zone, a D&D podcast.

I’ve never played Dungeons & Dragons, but I’ve spent 40 hours over the last month listening to other people play Dungeons & Dragons. I’ve become borderline obsessed with The Adventure Zone — a D&D podcast featuring (Polygon’s own) Griffin and Justin McElroy, as well as their brother Travis, and dad, Clint.

Music this week is the new Los Campesinos’ album, which has yet to grow on me as its predecessors have but which I am sticking with for now.

40 Comments

  1. kwyjibo says:

    Best games thing I read this week was the Vanity Fair profile on Uwe Boll.

    link to vanityfair.com

    He was aware he was churning out, in his own words, “commercial crap” for “horny teenage boys”: “You feel the failure already in front of you.”

    • LearningToSmile says:

      He didn’t in any way admit that the shortcomings were HIS fault, however. It seems he felt that way about the games he was adapting, and not particularly his own work.

      There’s a quote there: “If you make a movie like House of the Dead, a zombie movie, what are they expecting? Schindler’s List?”. It shows a baseline lack of respect for the source material and ambition to produce anything worthwhile. Not to mention his thoughts on the fans of the games.

      • Fomorian1988 says:

        Yeah, there’s a whole spectrum of film quality between Schindler’s List and the drek he churned out. There are so many ways he could’ve gone with – for instance, you can make House of the Living Dead a competent zombie flick, or go horror comedy like Evil Dead. Instead, he did what he and complained about the reaction the crap he made got.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        You say “respect for the source material” as if House of the Dead or Bloodrayne or Postal had some literary or artistic merit that was unfairly ignored.

        • Sly-Lupin says:

          That was my immediate thought as well. Dismissing Uwe Boll’s films’ poor quality by pointing to a lack of respect for the source material is kind of missing the point, just as much as Uwe Boll’s own claim that his film’s could never reach greater heights due to the pulpy nature of the material he was adapting.

          As any writer can attest, the imposition of limitations on a premise frequently produces better, more imaginative material than total freedom. If you’re making a film within certain parameters… that’s just the starting point. It’s not some all-powerful declaration of quality. A good writer can do wonderful things with a bad premise… Uwe Boll’s great sin is not making bad movies; Uwe Boll’s great sin is not failing to respect the source material; Uwe Boll’s great sin is not choosing to adapt poorly-written games in the first place.

          No, his sin is never even *trying* to make anything good.

          And you can’t blame a man for failing if he never tries to succeed.

    • Shinard says:

      Yeah, but even by commercial crap standards, his movies are rubbish. Besides, when Pacific Rim exists, making a film for teenage boys isn’t an excuse for making a crap film.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        To be fair, Pacific Rim had roughly ten times the budget of an average mid-2000’s Boll movie.

        To be even more fair, the budget of an average mid-2000’s Boll movie was about ten times what the end product was actually worth.

    • Furiant says:

      I’m in this weird situation with Boll. I’ve seen only one of his films (that I’m aware of) and I rather enjoyed it. I don’t remember the name, but it was about a group of charity workers who got caught up in a massacre perpetrated by some awful tribal warlord. I found it emotionally engaging and thought-provoking. Only at the end did I see his name, and I immediately reacted with this sort of vague horror — I’m supposed to dislike him, right? Everyone says what a hack he is, but I liked this film. Does that make me dumb? I know I’m not dumb. Why am I conflicted about this?

      I have intentionally avoided seeing anything else by him, not in deference to that peer pressure, but because I don’t want to find out that he really is terrible. I’ve had one glimpse at his work and it was positive. I’d rather keep it that way.

      • the_rara_avis says:

        I’m guessing “Darfur” (2009)? I never watched, but according to Wikipedia it won the New York International Independent Film and Video Festival prize for the best international film. Random internet person here says it’s alright you liked it, don’t feel bad, and you are under no legal obligation to watch another Boll film in your lifetime. :D

      • Fomorian1988 says:

        I actually heard his non-game adaptation work is actually at worst decent, so that doesn’t really surprise. With his adaptation, he basically went “lowest common denominator”, with barely any creative thought.

  2. Morph says:

    That piece on The Adventure Zone really sold it to me. I do find myself increasingly drawn towards media where characters actually like each other over more cynical stuff.

    • timmyvos says:

      If you’re looking for good uncynical or even anti-cynical works, the McElroy brothers are right up your alley! Everything they do, from their original ‘advice’ podcast My Brother, My Brother and Me (which was recently turned into an amazingly funny and positive TV-show!), Monster Factory and McElroy-light Cool Games inc. and Car Boys is infused with this amazing sense of positivity and inclusivity. It’s insane how incredibly funny they can be while still being the exact opposite of mean-spirited, just the weird love they have for their Monster Factory creation just manages to brighten my day every time I watch an episode (which I do too often!).

      • skeletortoise says:

        Seconded. Although I would specifically recommend My Brother, My Brother and Me as the cream of the proverbial crop. I only recently started trying podcasts and I tried taking in most everything they had done. Now I’ve decided that I don’t have to fill every waking moment with media and I’m working on coming to terms with the fact that I won’t play, watch, read, or listen to the majority of the great stuff that’s available to me in my life.

    • malkav11 says:

      I keep hearing about people who are obsessed with it, but I gotta say, I am so over D&D and especially how drawn out and repetitive D&D combat tends to be to listen to in an actual play podcast. I’ve dropped multiple otherwise well-roleplayed podcasts because the system just drags for me as a listener. So I have a hard time believing TAZ will overcome that for me.

      • Premium User Badge

        subdog says:

        There is almost zero “combat” in TAZ. There are maybe one or two attack rolls in any given episode.

      • Canadave says:

        I did appreciate the approach of Harmontown, and how they streamlined everything down to the important rolls that decided the combat. It allowed it to keep that ridiculous random factor that should be in D&D without dragging on too much.

  3. shocked says:

    Not an article, but whatever: here is a great talk called “The Last Game I Make Before I Die“. It’s a post-mortem of the game Crashlands, that was developed while one of the devs battled with cancer. Recommended.

    • Premium User Badge

      MajorLag says:

      I watched this the other day and it actually is pretty good, but I guess I’m too much of a cynic because I couldn’t shake the feeling that he’d turned “dying of cancer” into part of a sales pitch. It didn’t help that the game largely seemed to be a “me too!” craft-to-survive-em-up which I couldn’t quite believe was really somebody’s idea of what they’d want to make if they knew it’d be the last thing they ever made.

      I think I might just be a horrible person.

      • shocked says:

        I think I might just be a horrible person.

        Nah, you probably just have seen too much cynical marketing by really horrible persons.

        But I believe it’s not the case here. The fact that the guy had cancer is mentioned on their website, but it’s really not presented prominently (only at the bottom of the page), and it isn’t mentioned on their steam page at all. And a talk at GDC is hardly a marketing event, so I believe this is a genuine story of someone who nearly died and used game development to get through it.

        • Premium User Badge

          MajorLag says:

          Well it would be subtle wouldn’t it? You can’t be all “I made this while dying of cancer, so buy it because you feel bad!” now can you?

          For what it’s worth, I very much doubt that it’s like that at all. It was a big part of his life and making of the game so it would be difficult not to talk about it, really.

          At the same time, we live in a society where we quite literally need to sell things to survive. If not the product of our labor, then the labor itself, or a feeling like confidence, righteous indignation, hope, or pity. This fact makes manipulation a fundamental component of our interaction with each other, even if only subconsciously. How could he not use his battle with cancer as a selling point? How could I not be defensively cynical about it?

          Thoughts like this are why I don’t have friends.

          • kament says:

            I think it’s not so much thoughts like those as that you don’t seem to follow them where they lead, not all the way. If selling things is essential to our survival then there’s really not much point to even notice that unless it’s really noisy. Like, I don’t know, someone’s wheezing (I hate that).

            Sky is high, water is wet, we all of us are made of flesh and don’t do anything but sell things to each other. That’s a given and that goes without saying. The question is: is it worth it?

            By the way, you can find more profound thoughts on life like that at… nah, just kidding.

  4. Pich says:

    I’ll be honest, those Pedro Silva games look like po-mo versions of thoe edgy flash games you’d find on Newgrounds.

  5. Turkey says:

    I think the ME:Andromeda article encapsulates what went wrong just by implication. You have all these talented artists who are super passionate about their one respective chunk of the game, but there doesn’t seem to be anyone who’s looking at the project as a whole like back when they had the doctors.

    • Ghostwise says:

      That nobody is looking at the project as a whole is amazingly unlikely.

      It is much more likely that the game is indeed what they want to sell, as they think it’ll sell more. Or some approximation of it given the vagaries of large project management.

    • Zenicetus says:

      That entire article reads like a puff piece promoting the game. I want to play the game they were talking about, not the one they actually delivered.

      • Ghostwise says:

        Well, this is true of all Mass Effect, and I speak as somebody with an extremely high opinion of the first trilogy. :-)

        In all three cases (and Dragon Age too) they had to leave heaps of really, really cool stuff on the cutting room floor due to lack of time and mounting costs.

        My dream job is to remake the original trilogy with an absurd level of polish, hindsight and lessons learned, plus additional content, as a sweeping AAA nonalogy.

        Hey, I said “dream”.

        • Zenicetus says:

          I would buy a theoretical combined Enhanced Edition of the original trilogy. But it doesn’t really need that much help. If it were me, I’d port the combat mechanics of ME3 to the previous games, re-do the silly final boss design in ME2, and cut short the ending of ME3. End it with Shepard and Anderson bleeding out on the Citadel after the Crucible arrives to kill off the Reaper and save the Earth. Nix the Star Child sequence, cue the ending music and credits, done.

          ME Andromeda can’t be fixed like that. They might fix some of the minor technical issues, but they’re not going to re-write and re-record all that juvenile dialog. They’re not going to provide something more interesting than endless rinse-and-repeat combat with the Kett to pad out the game.

          It is what it is, and I only hope Bioware learns something from it (although it’s disappointing they didn’t learn more from the reception of DA:I).

          • Jason Lefkowitz says:

            I would buy a theoretical combined Enhanced Edition of the original trilogy. But it doesn’t really need that much help.

            Oh God it really does. I just finished re-playing the original trilogy and was struck by how many deep flaws the games all had, particularly 2 and 3. ME1’s combat mechanics are really bad, even when grading on the “it came out ten years ago” curve. ME2 crams 90% of the game into the second act, which makes it feel flabby and narratively unfocused. ME3 has several story elements that make no sense whatsoever, particularly the entire character of the Illusive Man. And if you play all three in a row, you get whiplash as the developers drag Cerberus from “evil science cabal” to “misunderstood champions of humanity” and then all the way back again.

            Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot to like in all three games too (particularly 1, IMO), but they all have deep problems that couldn’t be fixed with a fresh coat of paint and some new combat mechanics.

          • Sly-Lupin says:

            I’ve never quite understood how anyone is ever able to think that “just wing it” is a good idea for storytelling.

            If Mass Effect was originally planned as a trilogy (it was), then they should have had a clear plan of exactly how the second and third act would play out before ME1 dropped (they didn’t).

            When you make shit up as you go long… the result is seldom very coherent, rarely very interesting, and never very good.

          • malkav11 says:

            My understanding was that Drew Karpyshyn, who was lead writer on 1, had at least the broad strokes of a plan for where to go in 2. Don’t know about 3. But he left the company sometime during 2’s development. And while it’s not clear how much influence he had over 2’s story they did not end up going in that direction. So I’m guessing probably not a lot, especially considering just how different the tone and sensibilities of 2 were.

    • malkav11 says:

      To ask “what went wrong” would imply that there’s anything particularly wrong with the game and that it’s some sort of trainwreck, but it just isn’t. It may, in fact, be the best game in the series. (I reserve judgment until I’ve actually finished it, of course, especially given how bad 3’s ending was.) It’s not perfect, but both ME2 and DA2 are far better candidates for a soul-searching “what went wrong” retrospective.

  6. gabrielonuris says:

    “It feels like those posts only serve an audience of entitled jerks – and the website’s own lust for search traffic.”

    That’s exactly why I’m going less and less to PCGamer, and more here, to RPS.

    • Premium User Badge

      kfix says:

      They still have some great writing, but I tend to only go there when Graham links it. Like the lovely little Jalopy piece. And then I read the comments. Ugh.

  7. Mo says:

    Music this week is the new Los Campesinos’ album, which has yet to grow on me as its predecessors have but which I am sticking with for now.

    Yeah, stick with it! Initially I felt the album sounded a bit same-y across the board, but a few listens in and each song really came into its own for me. I don’t know if it’s their Greatest, but it’s Really Good. And honestly, it’s lovely enough to just hear them making new music a decade on.

  8. cpt_freakout says:

    That take on the Pedro Paiva games was very interesting, thanks for sharing it!