The Sunday Papers

Sundays are for celebrating apples, if the weather is good enough, and bumming around town with the family if not. Good games writing comes rain or shine though.

Fortnite is moving into Plunkbat territory, to the consternation of Plunkers. Fortnite fan Janine Hawkins has a different issue though: that a battle royale mode misses what makes Fortnite special.

There aren’t a lot of multiplayer games that do this for me. More competitive play has come to dominate, and even games that facilitate teamwork still often do so within a larger framework of people trying to screw each other over constantly. I play these games infrequently because they tend to affect me in the exact opposite way that Fortnite does; even if I do well, I will still probably leave feeling a bit worse than when I started. It’s a case of fight-or-flight versus tend-and-befriend, and while most games are catering to the former it’s been nice to find just a bit of the latter in Fortnite.

I missed this during the week: Square Enix released their annual report, and it sounds as if they’re going to be making more multiplayer/service games in future. Matt Kim at US Gamer has a good summary.

As a result, Square Enix will apparently “endeavor to develop games designed not to be played once after launch but that customers can enjoy more and play longer.” Square Enix didn’t really detail what these plans might look like in the future, but you can already see some of these multiplayer focused philosophies in games like Final Fantasy with FFXIV one of the company’s strongest MMORPG offerings, and FFXV with its steady stream of content DLC and planned online multiplayer mode.

Keza MacDonald is back at Kotaku UK, and this past week wrote about how parenthood makes games like Destiny 2 difficult to enjoy. Yep.

After the second in-game cutscene, my partner turned to me and asked who all of the characters were. I realized that I mostly didn’t know, and then spent 20 minutes Googling all of it, which then meant we had to bail in the middle of the next mission because naptime was over. We now skip the cutscenes, because our playtime is so limited that we don’t have time to watch five minutes of earnest sci-fi proclamations that we don’t understand properly anyway. I love that the characters on the Farm have lots to say for themselves, but usually we have to cut them off and run to the next mission before the baby wakes up. I am more tired mercenary than heroic Guardian right now: where do you need me to go, what am I supposed to be doing, and how quickly can I get it done?

While at Kotaku US, Gita Jackson reviewed your Destiny 2 fashion choices.

This chest piece is my favorite item of clothing in the game because it feels so unexpected for a game about shooting things in the head. The gold filigree is delicate, feminine even, but it still evokes a character with power because it is directly referencing biblical imagery. When you wear this it buffs the Dawnblade super ability, which is a giant flaming sword. When you wear this, you are an avenging angel with the power of a god. It rules.

And back at Kotaku UK, Rich Stanton writes that Hellblade was not what he thought it was.

Psychosis is a major theme in Hellblade, to be sure, but for me, there’s a question around how interwoven the game’s narrative themes and mechanics actually are. Is Hellblade ‘about’ mental health or specifically psychosis? The sheer amount of combat involved is hard to square with that specific interpretation. (Particularly notable in this context is that several articles about the game have confused psychosis with being psychotic.) Is it a game that uses mental health as a way of framing a story? That is sturdier ground but, even then, not that solid.

Kotaku is great these days, if you haven’t noticed.

Meanwhile at Eurogamer, Donlan on Destiny 2.

I had neglected to take into account the complex relationship with nostalgia that games like Destiny have. Shared world games – I’m just going to call them MMOs for the sake of this article – mean that we spend a long time in these virtual spaces. We spend a long time just being there. We log on to see who is about, or because we have five minutes between things and logging on is a force of habit. We build up relationships with the social areas as much as with other players. We see doors every day and start to wonder what is behind them. Bungie memorialised Destiny 1’s infamous loot cave in-game as quickly as it removed the exploit. In Rise of Iron, Tom tells me, there’s a particularly hammy scene where you revisit the game’s opening location and Nolan North tells you how happy he is to have been your Ghost all this time – even though Nolan didn’t turn up until a year into Destiny, after the patching out of Peter Dinklage.

Tom Francis released Heat Signature this week, and so naturally spend the last few weeks playing lots of XCOM 2: War of the Chosen. He wrote a typicaly Tom-ish story about one of his missions.

Rosa has the plasma crossbow. We CANNOT lose the plasma crossbow.
Asher has the snake suit. We CANNOT lose the snake suit, but that’s fine, he’s already in the zone. Asher can get out, the question is, can anyone come with him?
No, right? No-one has actions to give, no-one else has grapples or extra moves. No sensible plan works here, so all that’s left are the crazy options.

Also via Tom, a documentary by Summoning Salt on the progression of Half-Life 2 speedruns. This is fascinating.

Alex Vaughan emailed me to say that the music of the week is Gimme All Your Love by Alabama Shakes. Who am I to argue? Here they are on SNL.

32 Comments

  1. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    “As a result, Square Enix will apparently “endeavor to develop games designed not to be played once after launch but that customers can enjoy more and play longer.”

    Yeah and then when a company you own makes a near perfect example of this you toss them in the trash.

  2. Chromatose says:

    I’m totally with Janine Hawkins on her wish for more games that encourage friendly co-operation. One of the main reasons I’ve passed on recent phenomena such as Overwatch, DOTA, Plunkbat, etc is that there’s just nothing there for people who don’t enjoy competitive play. I play games to relax after work, and the least relaxing thing I can think of is being dumped into a virtual toxic sweatbox with a bunch of hypercompetitive teenagers.

    I guess one of the reasons I’m glad Destiny 2 is coming to PC is that the community seems to be relatively friendly and laid-back, and hopefully that carries over. Aside from that, Warframe’s community are a pretty lovely bunch for the most part.

    • draglikepull says:

      If you haven’t played Overcooked I’d strongly recommend picking it up. One of the best couch co-op games I’ve played in a while. Frantic and silly and lots of fun.

    • Premium User Badge

      Nauallis says:

      If you like co-op games, you’re probably going to love Destiny 2. There are definitely some features that were oddly left out of Destiny 2, but overall it’s an incredibly polished game, and the majority of the game is built around encouraging and rewarding co-operative play, even in competitive multiplayer. Played the raid this weekend with my clan, and aside from some wonky mechanics, it’s been one of the best co-operative experiences that I’ve had in gaming. The Leviathan is a far better raid (mechanically) than anything of the four in Destiny 1. It’s also huge, probably as large any one of the four social-patrol zones.

    • AngoraFish says:

      I’m genuinely curious. Destiny 2 seems to have many of the same elements of any other FPS/MOBA that lead to toxic behaviour. For example, on a 4 v 4 mission wouldn’t one newbie with a bunch of veterans largely torpedo a team’s chances of winning? Do players picking odd class choices (eg another dps when everyone else is already dps) not lead to bitchiness? Is it just that Destiny 2 players have paid more up front and are therefore probably older and less likely to trash talk, or something else in the game design?

      • Nevard says:

        I imagine the people saying this are talking about the PvE content, not PvP.
        Destiny is a pseudo-MMO, not a competitive shooter.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nauallis says:

        There are no tank/healer/dps classes. It’s not that kind of game.

        It’s also not even remotely a MOBA. There are boss fights, yes, but those have existed in FPS games for longer than then MOBA genre itself.

        I’d suggest watching an intro to Destiny video.

  3. Premium User Badge

    DelrueOfDetroit says:

    Also, might I suggest Charles Bradley, aka The Screaming Eagle of Soul, as supplemental music of the week. He sadly passed away last night at age 68.

  4. Crimsoneer says:

    If everyone could stop talking about Destiny 2 while it’s console only, that would be great.

    • Chromatose says:

      Uhh, any particular reason why? It’s a game coming out for PC that’s already had a beta. I kind of feel that fits pretty well within RPS’s purview.

      • geldonyetich says:

        I don’t know the OP’s reasons, but personally I am a little annoyed to hear about people playing a game I can’t for another full month.

        That said, maybe not too annoyed, because the video footage I’ve seen of it looks so derivative it’s boring. I guess the root of my annoyance is misguided jealousy.

        • Premium User Badge

          Nauallis says:

          It’s not can’t play, it’s won’t play. At least be honest about it.

          Derivative is also a weird complaint. Every game is derivative of other games.

          • sharpmath says:

            If he plays on PC it’s can’t right now.

            Also he said “so derivative” not just derivative, so maybe it’s TOO derivative for him, your cleverly pointing out that everything is derivative aside.

            Why in the world are you trying to be a dick to him?

          • geldonyetich says:

            Right, “can’t play” because I am on the PC, don’t even own either of the consoles it’s been released on.

            For that matter, a month is an a long time in terms of computers, by the time Destiny 2 does show up on the PC it’ll be old news. But here we are on a PC gaming blog and talking about it. Fie, I say! It might be a Bungie magnum opus, but it’s no business of mine until a month hence! There’s lead annoyance of seeing it on a PC blog right there.

            But lets theorize that the source of annoyance is that I wanted to play it myself. Maybe it is irrelevant, because “won’t play” is a good estimate. I look at steams of people playing Destiny 2. Most of them are playing deathmatch, but if I wanted deathmatch I might as well just play Overwatch, which is such a polished experience that they might as well not bother competing with it. As is Blizzard’s business model.

            So I’m primarily interested in the PvE end. But when I see the PvE being played, I have a really hard time seeing anything that the Borderlands series didn’t do better. It’s not like Destiny 2 is a straight up MMORPG, it’s more of an invisible lobby kind of game, and along that lines the difference between it and Borderlands matchmaking is the difference between visible and invisible lobbies.

            There might be about 5% unique mechanics somewhere in there. Is that really worth a AAA box price? Probably not. That’s where “derivative” is a very real and poignant concern for a seasoned gamer.

            But the future is uncertain, perhaps I’ll see something about Destiny 2 that floors me enough that I absolutely have to play it on release.

    • Unclepauly says:

      I’m someone who doesn’t talk about destiny2. Why would I ever talk about destiny2? I never even played the 1st destiny. Gosh, a lot of people are talking about destiny2. Hhhmph, strange.

    • Premium User Badge

      Graham Smith says:

      I link literally every single week to articles about console games, including many articles about Nintendo games that will never ever come to PC. The Sunday Papers has never been limited to writing about PC games – or even writing about games, for that matter.

      And that aside, we cover games that aren’t out on PC yet /all the time/. News, previews, interviews, whatever. I don’t see why Destiny 2 should be any different when, unlike in so many other instances, we can play it right now and be much more details in what we write about it. (Or link to about it).

  5. Buggery says:

    I nodded wholeheartedly while reading Keza’s piece about gaming when you’re time constrained. I tried to play God of War 3 over the weekend because I had a spare half hour (yes I’m down with the latest titles) and there is an unskippable cutscene when you first load the game that feels like it will never end. A cutscene I could not have cared any less for. While I can understand people getting into the rich lore of their favourite title (I certainly can’t agree with them but I tolerate their bad opinions) the fact that the game disrespected my time such that I had to put up with all the self-indulgent twaddle when what I wanted to do was smash some bad guys really annoyed me.

    And then I have the Switch. The lovely, lovely Switch. A console I can pick up and play 5 minutes of a game almost immediately, any time, anywhere. They should have marketed it towards adults instead of young, groovy people with the tagline: You Have Time To Play Games Now

    • fuggles says:

      I hear that! Still playing dawn of war soulstorm on an old laptop as I cannot find enough time to make inroads into Witcher 3. I find it amusing that in articles like that there’s normally a parent asking for skippable cutscenes or an option to save any time being met by a youngster saying you’ve had your time and your options ruin my gaming experience.

    • BooleanBob says:

      Funnily enough Mr. Biffo was making the same point quite recently.

      I’m not even married or bechilded and I no longer have time for these 300 hour lifesink games any more. I wonder if there were 30-somethings in the late nineties who had to pass on all-time PC greats like Baldur’s Gate 2 for the same reasons :(

      • Buggery says:

        Mr Biffo has been speaking a lot of sense recently, though I do wish he would post a few more nonsense articles from time to time…

        I know that feel. I don’t even have kids – I just have a job and a house that I need to maintain. I persevere at longer games because I enjoy them but time is short and sometimes I just want to get to the fun bits for some titles, particularly when I think the game looks fun to play but can’t be bothered paying attention to the story.

    • PananaBeel says:

      I think it’s interesting that you feel the game disrespected your time, and not the other way around. I understand where you’re coming from, yet I have conflicting feelings.

      On one hand, if you don’t have time for an opening cinematic, perhaps play something else that takes you straight into “smash some bad guys.” On the other, the fact that it’s not skippable is irritating and makes me question why it was implemented. Therefore, it makes me consider that it was an intentional design decision. Now I’m left wondering if gamers are meant to respect these decisions or to approach games with a sense of entitlement. Meaning, you should never be forced into any experience and always with the option to skip parts of a game which was designed to evoke certain emotions.

      Of course, this might all be subjective and we will never have a definitive answer, just individuals like yourself who share their experiences and inspire new thoughts in others, so thanks for that!

      • Buggery says:

        If the game were a visual novel, or something plot heavy, sure. The expectation there is that you will paying attention to the story beats and engaging with the narrative to get the most enjoyment. But that’s only because following the narrative is a key element of the gameplay experience.

        But it wasn’t. God of War is about chaining big beautiful combos while climbing up the back of a giant and slamming hammers into its face. Anybody who is playing those games for the story is assumed to be doing so for that experience – and if they aren’t, the options of watching the cutscenes uninterrupted are still there.

        There’s an argument to be made here for the expectations of the artist/development team on the audience, but video games take a liberty by forcing you to experience something outside of the scope of the game – i.e. unskippable cutscenes. If one is not enjoying a film or a song or a book then you are disagreeing with the medium’s intent and therefore the content of the product. A cutscene is a film inserted into a game – and if it takes ten minutes from running the title to being able to press a button, that’s not good game design, that’s a liberty at the expense of the audience. If there is a section of the game you don’t like (for argument’s sake, the forced stealth section in Zelda Breath of the Wild) then that’s another argument entirely.

    • Someoldguy says:

      This is why the one MMO that I stuck with for far more years than any other was Runescape. Not because it was the best, or the slickest, but because when you had 15 minutes to kill you could get into the game and achieve something useful and the game wasn’t going to kill you if you had to exit in a hurry. With lots of different content it could also cater for your different moods rather than everything revolving around kill – loot –
      repeat.

    • Koozer says:

      The Switch is for people who grew up with the Gameboy Advance and now don’t have time to sit down in a quiet room watching cutscenes. Playing Breath of the Wild and Horizon: Zero Dawn in close proximity shows how deft Nintendo are at creating an interesting world and a plot that holds your interest without twelve hour long, fully voiced cutscenes you can’t fast forward or pause.

      Side rant: developers need to stop spending so much money on voice acting. It’s too hard to get right, makes rewrites a million times harder, saps budget you could spend on better writing, makes life difficult for a player that wants to speed-read through dialogue, and can potentially make your characters a hell of a lot less believable than not bothering at all. I care a lot more for the characters in Animal Crossing than I do the wittering idiots in Skyrim.

      • Buggery says:

        I admire Nintendo for having the confidence to allow the player to almost completely ignore the plot of Breath of the Wild. Hell, you can ignore about 90% of the content of that game if you so wish, by just running directly for the final boss the moment the game allows. It takes a lot of confidence on behalf of the developer to not force you to experience the game content, and I think a certain amount of respect towards the audience to let them find the content themselves.

        I still enjoy a decent, weighty game from time to time – I’m currently working my way through the Yakuza series on Playstation and am about halfway through Yakuza 3 – but paring everything back and just polishing it all to a brilliant shine really makes a lot of filler content in other titles stand out. The fact that you can spend 5 minutes playing Zelda, or get lost in it for hours at a time really highlights just how well everything in that game fits together.

        As for dialogue – yeah, I can still remember playing Curse of Monkey Island and skipping half the spoken dialogue because of reading the subtitles ahead of where the actor was up to. And that game has excellent writing and delivery. Even playing Morrowind and being able to skim whole paragraphs of text was much nicer than dealing with 3 or 4 lines of slowly read, often repeated, voiced NPC chatter in Skyrim – and allowed for considerably more depth.

        • Premium User Badge

          Phasma Felis says:

          I was horrified to realize that some people read slower than they listen. There are people who can’t watch subtitled movies because they switch out before they’re done reading.

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