The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for heading to a nearby open air market, for music and food stalls and hopefully sunshine. Or if it’s raining, they’re for staying in and reading a selection of the week’s best writing about games.

Why does everyone hate Mercy? Apple Cider writes about the Overwatch support character, speaking to some of Overwatch’s best players about why the character and support/healing classes in general are often derided and considered unskilled,.

Every Mercy main that I spoke to about this lack of skill laughed about it, since anyone who has actually played the role for a significant amount of time knows how demanding it is. Playing support requires a high amount of game sense (knowing where enemies are), a continual tally of team and enemy ult usage, risk assessment in split seconds, as well as crisis prioritization. She is the antithesis of everything we think about first-person shooters mechanically and, therefore, earns a lion’s share of derision because of it.

Patrick Dane at Eurogamer tells the story of how Ark survived early access, which is in large part a story of repeated cock-ups even amid enormous commercial success. We’ll have our review up next week, by the way.

“They would try every single day to get a judge somewhere, who was not really familiar on the details of the case yet, to just sign off. Their argument was Ark’s existence was harming Dungeon Defenders. Like… how would you even justify that? Why would Ark being online cause Dungeon Defenders to lose players? The games aren’t even remotely similar! But to a judge who doesn’t know anything about video games, they might sign off, and when they couldn’t get one judge to do it, they would go to a different judge, in a different forum to try and get a similar judgement.”

Edwin Evans-Thirlwell also at Eurogamer wrote about Call of Duty: WWII’s beta, doing preview duty while placing the game in the context of previous Call of Duty games set in the past, present and future.

So we’re fighting the Nazis again. And in the game. Call of Duty’s return to the heroism-soaked beaches and foxholes of World War 2 is either providentially or unfortunately timed. Wolfenstein and Sniper Elite’s fine efforts notwithstanding, I’d sort of forgotten that National Socialism was once the industry’s second favourite foe (its favourite being zombies, which are both dependably noxious and, as mindless cannibals, easier to design around), and it’s odd to be kicking the crap out of them, or indeed kicking crap as them, in the context of a genuine far-right resurgence.

Kirk McKeand at PCGamesN wrote a short story about how one of Dishonored: Death of the Outsider’s writers, Hazel Monforton, came to Arkane’s attention due to a really great set of tweets about the Outsider.

In the thread, Monforton likens the Outsider to pharmakos, an ancient Greek ritual where a slave, disabled person, or a criminal takes on the role of a human scapegoat and is expelled from a community during times of turmoil. The sins of the Greeks are cast onto these victims and they become literal outsiders. As we learn in Dishonored 2, the Outsider was once a human who was sacrificed for similar reasons by an unknown cult. Now, from the void between worlds, he bestows powers on the less fortunate.

Patrick Klepek at Waypoint asks: have you tried to play a game on a PC that clearly couldn’t handle it? The question is inspired by Rare and their game Sea of Thieves, which they’re aiming to have playable (at extremely low framerates and resolutions) on really crappy PCs. As a one-time owner of many crappy PCs, I think there’s huge value in this.

No one is going to argue 540p and 15 frames-per-second is the ideal way to play any game, let alone Sea of Thieves. But it’s also true that many people are stuck playing on machines they would have upgraded long ago, if they had the money. Maybe there are technical (or artistic) reasons other games wouldn’t go to the same lengths as Rare, but Rare’s decision reflects the reality of how people often play games in non-ideal conditions. It would behoove more developers to consider this.

Kotaku’s Fave This is fast becoming my favourite videogame podcast. Listen to the latest episode, in which hosts Patricia Hernandez and Gita Jackson discuss how harsh the internet can be to the naive, the creatively inexperienced, and particularly children.

Music this week is still Girl At The Height Of Rudeness, a Japanese band. I need to venture beyond YouTube’s recommended videos to find new music soon, but not yet.

49 Comments

  1. napoleonic says:

    I first tried to play Skyrim on a machine that was woefully inadequate to the task. I could hear the dialogue fine, but all the screen would show was a sea of black with floating eyeballs in it.

  2. Koozer says:

    Sundays are for desperately trying to repair your boot sector after accidentally resetting your BIOS to factory settings.

    • Michael Fogg says:

      This should take 15 mins max :P

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      particlese says:

      RAID?

      • Koozer says:

        It was in RAID 1 and the BIOS reset the SATA mode back to IDE. I tried booting it before finding this out, which obviously failed, and now something somewhere’s buggered up. The BIOS is back to how it should be and the RAID is fine, it just won’t bloody boot. Keeps telling me ‘inaccessible boot device’.

        Startup repair either fails or completes and has no effect, sfc, chkdsk and dism report no errors.

        Next step may be to delete the boot partition and recreate it, before I resort to a fresh install…

        You’d think I’d learn to keep up to date system images by now.

        • Koozer says:

          A mere 12 hours of troubleshooting later, restoring an old registry brought it back to life. Now to set up a backup schedule…

  3. Zorgulon says:

    One thing the Mercy article doesn’t mention is the comparison with Team Fortress 2’s Medic, who I believe first introduced the concept of a continuous healing beam to an FPS. The same perceived passivity and antithesis to traditional FPS mechanics apply with how that class is designed, yet I don’t think Medic mains in TF2 (I was one) experienced anything like the backlash Mercy mains get in Overwatch.

    I think as the article argues, that the characters explicit femininity and the unsatisfying nature of her Resurrect ability account for the difference.

    It will be interesting to see how the perception changes when the new Mercy, with more frequent solo-revives and amped up Valkyrie ultimate go live.

    • PseudoKnight says:

      The lack of a comparison to the TF2 medic really missed an opportunity, given the games’ similarities. Some of it applied to the medic: mostly the lack of skill claims. At least, this was the case when I played in 2007-2008. I distinctly remember playing for kills with the needle gun a few times just to out-stage them. My most played class was medic, simply because it was one of the most critical classes to have on a team and get right, even though my play style typically differed. I played for team wins. The later additions may have changed his arsenal a bit to counteract this. I stopped playing after hats. I haven’t played OW, so I don’t know how much worse it might be for Mercy, but I don’t doubt it’s used by misogynists. Perhaps this amplifies the effect. Also, the built-in competitive features in OW probably doesn’t help. Most people played TF2 on regular servers without any ranking. (Competitive play was through organized matches.) People usually only start pointing fingers when there’s something long-term on the line. But it was definitely there in TF2.

      • Zorgulon says:

        Interesting. As I said, I never noticed it. People could be toxic at times, especially if they perceived you weren’t healing them, or had made a mistake, but that wider unpleasantness applies to all healer classes in OW.

        The more specific antipathy towards Mercy is not something I recognised with the Medic. Most of the “no-skill” hate seemed to be directed to Pyros (“W+M1”), and turtling Engineers (which in large numbers absolutely were grindingly awful to face up against).

        It’s also worth mentioning that it’s not just Mercy- Torbjörn, Bastion, Mei and Symmetra get frequent criticism for being “cancer”, and Junkrat (somewhat justifiably) for being a spam-friendly character.

        I don’t know, and I’m sure it’s very different for female players, but my in-game experience of anti-Mercy sentiment is pretty low. I mostly see it on the Blizzard forums (predictably awful) and to a lesser extent Reddit.

      • Premium User Badge

        particlese says:

        Thanks to you both for these posts. My experience with team support and competitive multiplayer in general is pretty limited, but I’ve been enjoying it a ton recently, so it’s interesting for me to get these other perspectives. (And frustrating by proxy reading about the excessive negativity.)

        While it’s not quite as popular a game as OW or TF2 :) , Lawbreakers too has a medic class, and it constitutes most of my current experience with the role. I can’t personally compare it to TF2’s medic, but I can say that it has some nice offensive capability to it in the form of a (“spammy”?) grenade launcher, as well as some great movement options. Both these things seem to free it from the “stay hidden” mentality generally necessary for other healers I’ve played, namely Awesomenauts’ Voltar and the healers I played in ESO. (Slightly different beasts as non-FPSes, obviously.)

        LB’s medic also throws a wrench in the gender-bashing works by having the role’s sex determined by which team you’re on. They function exactly the same, and they’re even, at least broadly speaking, the same race, so sexist comments would be even more idiotic than in OW. I suspect, then, that race would become the thing to bash, since that race is not caucasian. Or at least the offline bashing. Perhaps it would still be present in-game and only directed at the female counterpart, who knows…

      • Catterbatter says:

        I was a soldier main, but often had to take medic because no one else would. One crucial difference is that TF2 was so casual. If someone started mouthing off about my medicking, I’d just stop healing them. Let them rage on the mic until they disconnect or get votekicked. In a ranked game that’s just not going to fly.

        • Chillicothe says:

          Yup. They’re off chasing kills mano y mano calling for heals three LOSes away leaving us to run for our lives and endure trashtalk and trolling.

          Generals. The article clued us in what we are: seeing the whole battlefield at all times to play properly. To the tunnel-visioned, they don’t even know of this…it’s like they’re blind deep sea creatures being described the lighted world of the airbreathers.

    • MikoSquiz says:

      TF2 had its share of Medic-bashing – since, after all, you could make a pretty significant difference by just by holding left click and turning to face whoever was hitting the “call medic” button – but a big difference was the ultimate-of-sorts.

      While Medic’s ability to provide temporary invulnerability or 100% crit rate could be a huge pisser, it was nothing like the AOE undo button on kills. It must be one of gaming’s top ten rage quit inducers to make the big plays, finally take the objective after a raging war of attrition over the length of a round, then see that work just undone in one button press.

      Which, I would guess, is why Blizzard are taking an axe to that major core-to-gameplay mechanic in the next revision. Because it’s a good candidate for “the most infuriating thing that can happen in Overwatch”.

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      Mungrul says:

      Hell, it’s not even down to healing beam medics. I used to play Medic in RtCW (headed a top ten UK clan too). And even there, where EVERYONE had to be a damn good shot, you’d occasionally cop flak. But there, it was mostly if you were playing a pub game and some dipshit thought you were there to be their personal healer.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      It’s interesting, because I’ve had almost completely the opposite experience to the article in question. Mercy is the one character that by far receives the most upvotes post-match. Many people request Mercy, but not many people play her, and I always assumed it was because it’s difficult. That’s certainly why I don’t play as Mercy.

  4. kwyjibo says:

    This week’s music is from the Tokyo42 soundtrack, which despite being excellent, did not get a single mention in Alec’s review.

    Go Go Go, deserves to fill dancefloors – link to open.spotify.com

    Kyrie, has shades of Daft Punk’s Tron soundtrack – link to open.spotify.com

    Check out the whole thing. I only discovered it this week because it being a 7/10 indie game means no one ever played it. But it might be the best soundtrack with the Tokyo in its title (which is pretty high praise).

    • poliovaccine says:

      Hey I played it! I thought it got a bit of a cranky review on this site as well.

    • Vilos Cohaagen says:

      I am checking it out on Bandcamp now. Thanks for the tip. Sadly the game itself just didn’t appeal to me.

      • Vilos Cohaagen says:

        BTW it is $8 on Bandcamp rather than £13.50 on Steam. Not sure why Steam is 200% the price. Oh I just noticed it split across 2 albums.

        As an aside I just looked it up on Steamspy and saw this “Owners: 11,836 ± 3,708”. Ouch.

        I know Steamspy doesn’t tell the whole story but blimey business is super tough atm.

  5. poliovaccine says:

    That Ark article was a good read, but they missed a huge opportunity for a “life finds a way” joke..! Either that or I missed the joke.

    • Baines says:

      At least the Ark article somewhat included Trendy’s side of the lawsuit. Even if it only amounted to two paragraphs versus the seven paragraphs of Ark’s rather different accounting.

      Similar for the rest of Ark’s scandals and incidents. The article writer did acknowledge the existence of opposing accountings, which is better than some would do, particularly for what is largely a one-sided “Tell your side of the story” interview. But it still almost feels like a disservice to the truth and the public to give the Ark devs such free reign to present their side of their game’s history as the truth.

  6. Ben King says:

    I am ignorant of a lot of basic internet and computer things so I don’t know how to link to it, but I stumbled across a Twitter thread that was just a long list of common invisible game mechanics that really surprised me: forgiving jumps in an FPS by allowing players to complete a jump even if they have miss timed the button press and are in midair. Weighted health bars where the bottom few percent of the bar make up a disproportionate amount of total HP or else trigger a substantial armor bump for a few moments. Assassin’s Creed, and NuDoom apparently use this. Huge bonus damage for the last rounds in a clip, and most cleverly enemy NPC’s that move more slowly when not on camera, attributed to bioshock’s Big Daddies. anyone else see this thread?

      • Ben King says:

        yeszsssss! Thank you Something! “interesting” HL2 bullet trajectories? awesome. expanding bullet hit boxes in Titanfall 2 for hitting ranged moving enemies more easily? also really neat. And I had no idea there were different movement routines for the pacman ghosts. At first this thread made me feel real bummed about my game assumptions, but now it just feels like a list of super clever human psychology hacks.

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      That was awesome, thanks for mentioning it.

    • Railway Rifle says:

      One thing from that thread that I thought was particularly neat was FEAR’s NPCs giving dirextions to each other. But it worked backwards: one NPC decides to do something, which instructs another to tell them to do it, creating the illusion that they’re communicating and working as a team.

  7. toastmodernist says:

    New Normative have an interesting article on Mercy along similar lines too that’s worth a read:

    link to newnormative.com

  8. Jac says:

    I used to try and play quake on a Pentium 60. Kind of worked at the lowest resolution. I also had no idea you were meant to use the mouse to aim and had no idea what strafing was.

    Also final fantasy 7 on the same machine. It actually loaded but was probably less than 1fps. Played for a few hours determined to see it through but finally gave up after entering the first fight.

  9. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Our first PC was a 200mhz Pentium with only 16mb of RAM around the time when 32mb was becoming the standard. This prevented me from buying a LOT of games but I sure as hell tried to run the demos. I can also remember trying to run the bigger Total Annihilation maps and watching as with every unit built the game s..l…o….w……e……………r.

    • KenTWOu says:

      IIRC the first Half-life required at least 24MB of RAM, but my PC had 16MB as well, so every loading screen between chunks of levels took a couple of minutes instead of several seconds.

  10. Premium User Badge

    Don Reba says:

    Why does everyone hate Mercy?

    Huh. I expected the article to be about game design, turned out it’s about social justice.

    • Faxanadu says:

      Not to mention it’s utter garbage, and gets decimated in the first reply, to which the writer replies “we agree to disagree”.

      Not surprised RPS would pick up rubbish like this though. Rock Paper Socialjustice.

      Well, luckily these loonies are still a small part of everything. I guess every age has gotta have nutjobs.

      • Jac says:

        “Well, luckily these loonies are still a small part of everything. I guess every age has gotta have nutjobs.”

        Quite.

        The article wasn’t what I was hoping to read either and I don’t agree with a lot of the arguments it made about the game/mercy as the same can be said about plenty of other characters who attract far worse abuse. Somehow though, I’m not frothing with rage after reading it and my irony sensors have escaped intact.

      • GeoX says:

        You people have REALLY weird chips on your shoulders.

        • Faxanadu says:

          If someone goes around carelessly tossing ‘misogynist’ and ‘racist’ and whatever’s popular into people’s faces, I couldn’t think of anything more natural than a whole bunch of people with chips on their shoulders.

          But perhaps we agree to disagree? Is this old already?

          • GeoX says:

            I guess you’re right; it was presumptuous of me to think better of a guy who uses “social justice” as a pejorative.

          • Faxanadu says:

            Shall we compare our chips, now?

            Ooh, yours has a nice dull glow of lack of cause.

          • GeoX says:

            …actually, petty sniping with people like you makes me want to throw up, so forget I said that.

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            Don Reba says:

            I guess you’re right; it was presumptuous of me to think better of a guy who uses “social justice” as a pejorative.

            It’s one of those Orwellian phrases, like “department of defense”.

          • latedave says:

            There are less women in gaming, rather than frothing at the mouth you might want to consider if you’re contributing to that…

    • jonahcutter says:

      Yeah it really seemed like the issue with the class is the design and mechanics, and the supposed misogynistic hate as a major factor was pretty awkwardly shoehorned in.

      The author even has to acknowledge the mechanics as prime driver, those mechanics being such the core issue that to ignore them would likely be laughable. Yet somehow she still handwaves back to claims of misogyny and the opinions of a 16-year-old on voice chat as a “proof”.

      Agree to disagree? Indeed.

      • cpt_freakout says:

        You’re just being narrow-sighted on purpose here. There’s more than one way to approach any topic, and the author is focusing on how Mercy is perceived by the community, not why she is a bad character or whatever you think “the issue” is. The ‘mysoginistic factor’ goes beyond the gender of the person who is playing the character; the first response does not ‘decimate’ the post as much as the crazy guy above would like, if only because the hardcore git gud gamer bias tends to feminize its opposite, the casual. And as we all know, casual as a concept always involves low skill in one way or another. Put two and two together, and it’s not as far-fetched as it would seem to think that the way in which all Mercy mains and one-tricks are treated, regardless of their gender, is possibly rooted in a strand of misogyny.

        • Cederic says:

          Wait? You’re saying that people perceive poor opponents to be female, irrespective of their actual gender (or that of their character) and that they are thus being misogynistic when they critique the gameplay?

          Sorry to educate you but the only person with that perception is you. Reflect on the implications of that a while.

  11. Railway Rifle says:

    I played Fallout 4 on a laptop that’s several years old. A benchmarking site told me that my RAM was noticeably below spec, my CPU was definitely underpowered and my GPU was laughable. Still, with mods for ultra-low textures, pixelated shadows and better fps, it changed from a slideshow to being actually alright, though occasionally the PC needed to stop and think for a while (and some long loading screens). Luckily, though, this usually wasn’t during conversations or battle. Eventually the slowdowns were too much to tolerate, though.

  12. Caiman says:

    Everyone who complains when their game drops a frame below 60 fps these days needs to have their childhood retroactively instilled with an appreciation for playing 3d first person games on a ZX Spectrum. I can’t remember if it was Driller or Total Eclipse, but playing through those at 3 fps really gives one an appreciation for 15 fps! Of course, at the time these were the greatest technological advance you’d ever seen and 3 fps was just astounding.

  13. Rainshine says:

    As a support/healer main in pretty much any team game that has that role, I find the juxtaposition between the gratitude of some team members and the vocalizations expressing self-murder as the only way to ameliorate the lack of skill I’m demonstrating quite peculiar. While I enjoy the aforementioned roles, I also frequently play them because no one else seems to want to most of the time. There was a link off from the Mercy article to data about one-trick pony players, and how most frequent ones were healers (Mercy, Lucio, Ana to a lesser extent). I think there’s something to be said simply for filling a gap; if a player exhibits both a willingness to support and a modicum of ability, they are rapidly going to be shoehorned into that spot as often as possible by their team.