Hi, it's me! Yeah! No, nothing's wrong, all's good. I was just calling to see if you wanted some Steam Charts? ... STEAM CHARTS ... Yeah, that's right. No, no it's not. You don't? Oh, um, I already sent them over.
Another glum week for the charts. The usual suspects occupying eight out of ten slots, another a DLC, and the only new entry a game that isn't out yet and hasn't been reviewed anywhere. So let's not let reality get in the way of our fun.
A lot of readers may not know this, but I once worked full time on Rock Paper Shotgun. It was a long, long time ago, in mostly forgotten times, but one of the irregular columns I wrote was called Do & Don't: The Rules For Games. And if now isn't the right time to revive it for one more entry, then I'm very sorry but I appear to have done it.
DO stop thinking there's anything wrong with having Unity options before a game loads up. Apparently this is a whole thing. It's believed among developers that having the Unity screen res options pop up before the game loads is in some way cheapening their product. It's not! It's making your game way better! Mostly because it's obeying a previous rule that says ALL games should have this option, rather than make us wrestle through minutes of menus and unskippable cutscenes before we can adjust the game to match the monitor we're playing it on.
Unity has the solution built right in, and you're all switching it off! Some, I'm told, are doing this because they feel it's shameful somehow to reveal theirs is a Unity game, as if it were 2008 or something. Nope. Unity's top notch, nothing to be embarrassed about there. There is, however, a better reason to have it switched off, and it should surprise no one it's bloody Steam's fault. So that brings us to...
DON'T give a flying fuck at a rolling donut (surely the best sentence Stephen King ever wrote?) about Steam Big Picture mode. Does anyone really use it? Ew, imagine if you met someone who really used it. It is this, I'm told, that causes developers to switch off those Unity boot options, because stupid flipping Valve demands that it be off to allow games to qualify as fully compliant with Big Picture mode. Leave this super-useful function on for 99.99999999999999999999% of players, and you get a sneery check against your game on the store.
And Valve, you big idiotfaces, stop forcing Big Picture mode on people using Steam Controllers. Good grief, it's like you're going out of your way to be the Nu Microsoft of the modern gaming era.
DO use FMV again. It's really time. Her Story was four years ago and officially declared it Safe for such games to return, and yet so few have followed. A couple of years back there was the flawed but interesting Infectious Madness Of Doctor Dekker, and just last month we had the really very good Russian FMV mystery She Sees Red (which sadly RPS has yet to cover - HINT HINT RPS). I'm sure everyone's waiting to see if Sam Barlow can repeat his Her Story success with Telling Lies next week, but we can't leave it all up to him!
FMV is no longer the gruesome curse it once was to gaming, and while there have been a few duffers (The Bunker, Contradiction), that's no reason not to see the potential the format now has. So come along! Professional actors, professional film crew, professional game developers - that's what it takes, and not skimping on any of the three ingredients.
DON'T buy GTA V Again and instead buy this:
5 & 9. Plunkbat
The Books are obviously one of the greatest bands to have ever existed. Seeing them live with Jim Rossignol was a very favourite gig of mine. I mean, I was with Jim Rossignol - he wasn't supporting them or anything. So thank goodness Nick Zammuto has carried on the ethos after their split. Every time Spotify throws me out a Zammuto track I think to myself, "Oh thank goodness, another band with the skill to sound like The Books! Who are they?!" and then realise it's Zammuto and he's literally the only person on planet Earth who can do it.
So this week let's have the absolutely splendid It Can Feel So Good, which sounds a bit like GLaDOS turned over a new leaf and sang us a lovely song.
DO begin your game. Gosh, twelve years ago when I started writing this list of rules, I never imagined this would be a problem. Games didn't ever bloody stop beginning. Acres of god-awful cutscenes, occasionally interspersed by pretences that they were going to let you play for a moment, before wresting controls away once again to force you to watch their shitty machinima.
And sure, AAA games are still like that. But gosh, there aren't many of those about these days, are they? What a time to be alive. Now we're drowning in AA projects from now-rich former indie teams, who appear to have embraced the idea of having a story, but forgotten the notion of telling you what it is. I'm finding myself wondering who the holy heck I am in so many games these days - the gaming equivalent of living in a nursing home with terrible staff. A little bit of introduction is just fine, folks. Ideally, and I know I'm the first person to ever suggest this idea, done WHILE YOU'RE PLAYING!
DON'T make levelling up in an RPG so damned ambiguous. I've been playing RPGs for something like 300 years, most of them to completion, the genre dominating my all-time favourite games. I really like RPGs, and I'm very capable of playing them. And yet, in every single one, at every single levelling moment, I feel like I haven't the faintest idea what I'm doing.
Obviously far too many games don't explain their terms, so assured are they that their audience is already familiar with them that why bother - a horrible, exclusive attitude. But RPGs seem to have gone off the plot with this notion, seemingly requiring someone have been raised during the 70s, preferably by Gary Gygax, to have any clue about how it all works.
What difference will it really make if I don't put more points into DEX, and too many into INT? Will I scupper my chances at succeeding at the game? Or far worse: will I be having a slightly less entertaining time than if I'd somehow known which was the correct balance of these NEVER EXPLAINED numbers and better selected them? And why do they all start at 8 or 10 or whatever? Is less than 8 STA someone who is too tired to get out of a chair? If so, what are the previous eight points for? If it's not the bottom, then what does that number actually represent, and how much better is "1" more?! Is it absolutely everything? Life-changing increases? Or is it a negligible difference?
And don't go replying to me with your AD&D expertise, because the next RPG I play likely won't be using that ruleset, and it sure as hell won't ever explain what its own rules are.
DO stop declaring that some technology, or some device, is going to change how we play games forever. Because it isn't. The way we play video games has been, since the very day they began, sitting in front of a screen with some manner of control device. This shall continue to be the way we play games for the foreseeable future. Gimmicks will come and go (tell me about how all games are gesture controlled, won't you, 2010), and the nature of the games we play will ebb and flow, but the way we play games isn't changing any time soon.
You know the way we watch TV? The sitting in front of the four-sided screen? We've been doing it that way for 90 years. Ninety. But the ridiculous predictions have surrounded it throughout. Gaming's a mere baby at 40, but you'd think after four decades people would eventually get the hint. Get the hint.
1. No Man's Sky
DON'T trust an idiot like me. Yesterday I wrote some name labels out for a thing, and then when I saw people wearing them I kept thinking, "Hey, that looks exactly like my handwriting." Every time. I'm a fool.
The Steam Charts are compiled via Steam's internal organs of the grossest highing games on Steam over the previous week.