cjelli

GFi Comments by cjelli
  • The comment thread below the article is worth reading. There are some quite thought-out and informative notes from other developers, and an informal reply from a Zynga representative.

  • And as soon as I hit post I think of a better way of summarizing my feelings on this:

    I think his point is valid in that “games are young” is a bad defense, because the immaturity of a medium shouldn’t stop us from critically examining — and more basically, enjoying — the works of that medium. I have an immense fondness for 1920s silent movies; that was also a period when movies as a medium were in their infancy. I can still enjoy them and think about them regardless. I can also reasonably think that a specific movie made in 1920 was terrible because it was terrible, without the youth of films-as-medium being a concern. Just as I can think that a movie last week was terrible, despite the maturity of films-as-medium being a concern. “Man, they’ve been making movies for a long time! They don’t have any excuse for making bad ones now.”

  • I simultaneously think this is an interesting question, and agree with the ultimate conclusion — that the youth of the medium shouldn’t be used as an excuse for anything — but vehemently disagree with the evidence.

    For instance: comparing the time span of video games as a commercial medium (which he cites as 1971, giving us 41 years to the present) and the LP, which was issued in 1948.
    Then:

    The addition of 41 years from 1948 takes the LP album up to 1989. During this time, the album had seen works as diverse as Pet Sounds, Abbey Road, Ziggy Stardust, and Thriller. Not only does this represent a majority of the significant developments in album history, it also almost takes us through to the period where CDs and digital distribution began to reshape the album into a media form with different strategies and needs.

    Which is fine. Except that to say that the LP is a distinct medium from the CD, and then to say that “video games have been extant since 1971” is comparing apples to enraged camels. You could say as well that console games have gone through many different formats in that span, far more so than music has:

    Just looking at some of Nintendo’s consoles:

    Family Computer (Famicom) (1983)
    Nintendo Entertainment System (NES)(1985)
    Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES) (1991)
    Nintendo 64 (1996)
    Nintendo GameCube (2001)
    Wii (2006)
    Wii U (2012 expected)

    There’s some backwards compatibility in there, certainly (the Wii can play GameCube games, for example), but most of those marked significant changes in the technical capabilities of the medium. We go from 8bit to 16bit two-dimensional animation to low-poly 3D models to high-definition ones. People most definitely designed different games for different systems, just as people recorded different arrangements for the LP than they would for a single-song wax cylinder. If we conflate all of that as “video games” and say we’ve had “41 years as a medium,” can’t we also say that “recorded music” has been around since the late 19th century? That’s more than 120 years — more than three times 41 years. And that’s only home consoles! If we consider arcades in there, should we consider the player piano? It feels like the author is using a double standard as to what constitutes a ‘medium’ in order to exaggerate the age of video games.

    …and I think that’s a problem because I think he’s correct in saying that:

    Yes, perhaps there are some factors of quality that link in with questions of time and development. Artists often get better with practice, and critical-creative languages do take time to develop. Equally, the economic, social, and creative frameworks that shape the cultures surrounding media forms do shift and change over time…If other media forms have improved with age, it is because individuals, cultures and systemic frameworks have made it possible to do so. [emphasis mine]

    I personally think that we are, right now, in the middle of a gigantic shift in what games mean as a medium: widespread internet access has made downloadable games viable as a commercial prospect, which enables individuals and small teams to release games without going through ‘normal’ distribution methods (ie, printing a CD, shipping it to retailers). Look at Dear Esther, which was originally released as a free mod (in 2008) but was re-worked and released commercially (in 2012). That is a game which would never have been sold in an arcade in 1971, or sold in a store in 1981, or in 1991, or in 2001.

    See also: any recent news articles about “Indie Games,” and people who are actively trying to buck the trends of mainstream gaming.

    …that’s already far too long of a comment, so I’m going to cut myself off there.

  • These seem like the problems any niche hobby faces as it tries to translate itself to a larger market; he’s really lamenting the fact that personal trust networks don’t scale well to large communities (if one can even term ‘indie gamers’ as a community in any real sense).

    Or: he’s upset that some people are making games to make money, rather than for some nobler, higher purpose:

    Indie developers have to stop thinking with dollar signs in their eyes…and start thinking about whether their game even deserves to be promoted at all.

    Yes, you should certainly not try to make money off off your efforts! That would be terrible. There is also a false implication behind it that time spend promoting a game is time spent not developing a game — that it’s a zero-sum race to the finish. But that’s not how most work goes; most work comes at a varied pace. You might crank out twenty productive hours today and be exhausted tomorrow. Why not spend that time emailing a few bloggers?

    lholladay said : I’m sure there are valid ethical questions to be discussed in relation to marketing and promotion, but they are not being discussed in this article.  

    I don’t think it’s stated clearly (or necessarily valid), but I think his argument is essentially that some ‘indie devs’ are leveraging their social network of other developers/journalists/players to ‘undeservedly’ make money and/or get broader press attention (and thereby indirectly make money). But those networks — of bloggers, of dev forums, of public events — were never designed as money-making ventures; they were designed for artistic sharing. The clearest example of this is the offhand note about Phil Fish entering the IGF two years in a row, having already won once (and netting a $30,000 prize) — something that was technically legal, but that many people had presumed would not happen. A gentlemen’s agreement being violated, in other words.

  • This really just makes no sense to me. I can see Bethesda being worried about Obsidian releasing a buggy game (Alpha Protocol being almost surrealist in how error-prone and unpolished it remains), but why not tie that to, say, sales? Or profits? Or post-release patch support? Tying a bonus to a fairly arbitrary rating system that scores on release for a game that’s intended to be supported, patched, and expanded (New Vegas had some amazing DLC) is…odd. It feels like a one-size-fits all metric being applied “because that’s how its done,” rather than because it would be a good fit.

    Just to ruminate:
    New Vegas released at the end of October 2010, shipped a bit over 5 million units and brought in $300 million by early November. Patches and DLC were still coming out more than a year later (December 2011) and a collected GOTY edition with all DLC included came out in early 2012. I haven’t found a revenue figure for income for the span of December 2010 through today — I’d be curious how much that was.

    Fallout 3 also had launch sales of “about $300 million” and shipped about 5 million units. That’s also non-inclusive of DLC, post-patch purchases, and GOTY editions.

    There may be more $$$ information out there, and I’d love to see it, but it’s not clear that New Vegas sold badly or anything; far from it. That being said, I’d love to see a more detailed financial breakdown because its not at all clear that lack of bonus –> layoffs (as the article admits).

  • My favorite thing about the WSJ piece linked in the above article is that they included a stipple portrait of Felix the Peaceful Monk.

  • @nobody — @[username] is indeed a functional thing, although I’m not sure to what degree it is as used thing because [quoting snippet of text + including cite for quote] to indicate a reply has been inherited from other sites. An evolving culture of use, I suppose.

  • Turns out this is the game I always wanted to play but never knew existed.

  • I miss the days when editorials stated their premise openly rather than framing themselves as a question, only to bury the answer several paragraphs down.

    There is real beauty in Dark Souls. It reveals that life is more suffering than pleasure, more failure than success, and that even the momentary relief of achievement is wiped away by new levels of difficulty. It is also a testament to our persistence in the face of that suffering, and it offers the comfort of a community of other players all stuck in the same hellish quagmire. Those are good qualities. That is art.

    And you can get all of that from the first five hours of Dark Souls. The remaining 90 or so offer nothing but an increasingly nonsensical variation on that experience.

    Or: “This reviewer feels the game isn’t worth playing for a hundred hours.” And I think he does a good job stating why he feels that way — particularly in the paragraph above. It’s also clear that that experience may not hold true for other people. Some people may not like the first five hours! And some folks will find more pleasure and edification in playing Dark Souls for a hundred hours than they would working through old novels. Life is a sufficiently broad and wonderful thing that we can all spend our time doing different things and that is perfectly okay.

  • There are some interesting ideas in that article but my word are they muddled.

    nobody said : The most important takeaway here — and it’s buried a bit, maybe just implied — is that most things that are made in any field/genre are pretty mediocre and so a blanket “Your games just suck” isn’t very useful.

    Yes, this. Beyond not useful: meaningless as a phrase because the scope of “Modern Japanese games” is so broad as to not allow easy summary. Even the author of the linked piece in discussing this doesn’t actually talk about “modern Japanese games.” He talks about JRPGs.

    to get to the point […] Western gaming culture’s complete dismissal of another culture’s artistic structure on the grounds that JRPGs are (generally) crap fails to recognize that our culture is otherwise slipping into a loving death-embrace with the cognitively simpler mode of expression–pure, animal-like signification–over the inherent complexity of abstraction.

    We’ve somehow gone from a general attack on “all modern Japanese games” to “all JRPGS generally and not necessarily modern ones.” Wait, what?

    I believe [Fish’s] comment to be an offshoot of that basic idea, “JRPGs suck!” twisted into something else, warped nearly beyond recognition.

    Sufficiently beyond recognition, in fact, that I have no damn idea how the author got there. Fish doesn’t write RPGs! He’s not inspired by RPGs! As the author himself notes, one of Fish’s inspirations was Super Mario Brothers — a platformer. Maybe there’s something I’m missing here, but I just don’t see any proof to back up this claim. It is as if the author wanted to shoehorn in a completely separate article into a commentary on Fish’s commentary.

  • stavrosthewonderchicken said : I’m not sure if Plants Vs Zombies predated Portal 1 or not, but those principles are exactly the ones Valve followed in designing the tutorial into the actual gameplay.

    Portal 1: 2007 (has it really been five years?)
    Plants Vs Zombies: 2009

    It’s kind of shocking how badly most games handle tutorials, and I think part of that — as implied by both Portal’s and PvZ’s handling of things — is that many games treat the ‘tutorial section’ as a separate, walled entity, apart from the main game. “Play in this garden for a while and figure out stuff, then you can play the real game!” they say, while Portal/PvZ has you playing the game as a way to play the game, by making the start of the game as slow build.

  • stavrosthewonderchicken said : I’m not sure why they never clicked for me. I was a massive SF geek when I was a kid […]

    I’m not the biggest fan of the series but I did enjoy them both: ME1 for attempting a grand space-opera CRPG (and not entirely succeeding) and ME2 as a neat heist-movie-in-spaaaaaaaace cover talk-’em-up with occasional shooting. While playing ME2, I tried to divest myself of memories from ME1 because when I mapped my expectations from the first onto the second it just didn’t work.

    They were fun for the characters and the world building. As someone who read and reads far too much SF, much of the plot and setting weren’t particularly novel (pun intended) — the themes retread those of popular written works from the last 30 years. But that’s the written word: to see this stuff on the big/small screen — that was new! That was fun! Not groundbreaking, as some people seem to think, but definitely fun.

  • nobody said : I agree with almost everything you’ve said here, but want to point out that allowing everything to be unlocked in-game but giving the option to pay to shortcut that process might be one of the most consumer-friendly form of DLC, at least for non-competitive games, and at least assuming the in-game time economy isn’t structured to make acquiring the content through natural play a dull, dull grind.

    That’s an excellent point, especially given that caveat; Team Fortress 2 is an example of a mainstream game following that approach — there are weapons that can be unlocked through in-game activities; all weapons can drop through playing (via random selection, which favors people who play MORE of the game, regardless of skill level), and can also just be purchased outright.

    In the example I cited — for Duels of the Planeswalkers — the issue isn’t that unlocks can’t be purchased: it’s that people purchasing the DLC did not realize you could unlock the content in-game, and that the wording on the DLC did not make that clear to them at time of purchase. Which is to say: it’s the deception that’s the issue, not the existence of the unlock-as-DLC itself.

    (The specific issue I think is that the individual DLCs state clearly that they add no new conent, but by purchasing ALL the DLC in one go — Steam has a “buy all DLC” button — you could buy it without seeing that notice. Not the biggest of problems, admittedly, but it annoyed a few people.)

  • I keep waiting for someone to write a really wonderful in-depth examination of this (ie, of DLC in general), because there are so many interconnected issues here that I don’t feel up to thinking it through myself. But some brief coffee-addled thoughts:

    The author mostly engages in a debate about practicality: does DLC actually make commercial sense? Is EA sacrificing brand loyalty for a quick buck? Is this a sustainable practice across the industry, or across time?

    But there’s also also and ethical question: to what extent are companies justified in taking money from people? The author even notes that splitting up a game like this “might not be particularly ethical,” but then doesn’t engage with how or why. Partly, there’s the issue of deceptive marketing: HERE BUY OUR GAME! IT IS X DOLLARS. Except, that’s not really “the game,” nor really “the price.” The “game” is GAME+DLC and price is game price+DLC price, and that circumvents some people’s purchasing constraints. It tricks people into spending money, since people care less about multiple small purchases and more about single big-ticket purchases even if the total cost is the same.

    Together with this is the question of how much utility one gets from the DLC; I’ve seen a much of stuff that I would consider to be horribly, horribly overpriced (horse armor being the most common citation). It’s not always clear going in whether DLC is or is not priced ‘correctly’ — the contents of the DLC in relation to the game itself are opaque. For instance, some people have complained about purchasing DLC for Magic the Gathering: Duels of the Planeswalkers 2012, only to find that the DLC ‘unlocks’ were for items that could be unlocked in the game. They, naturally, felt a bit cheated. There are other examples.

    Then there’s a games-as-medium issue. Gaming — PC gaming, at least — was historically quite hobbyist. Look at all the custom levels for Doom, or for the original Half-Life. Look at all the mods that have become commercial games! This has been a distinguishing characteristic of gaming for some people. DLC, arguably provides a dis-incentive to make modding easy; if someone can go in and make new weapons, you can’t sell them new weapons as easily. If someone can go and host a map on a server and let anyone play on it — then it’s harder to sell them map packs. Some companies — again, notably Valve — have offered up DLC while still making their games customizable and moddable.

    Hand in hand with that, there’s the question of games-as-art and games-as-shared-cultural-experience. Games are social, in the same way most art is social: people like to talk about it. I never bought the Mass Effect 2 DLC; when people talk about the Lair of the Shadow Broker, I have no idea what they’re talking about. The plot, the themes, the ideas of that work convey themselves differently to me than to someone who did purchase it; I can’t think of another medium for which that’s true — that the central experience of a work is so variably based on purchasing power. I fear that with something like Mass Effect — for which a lot of people take the plot seriously — breaking out plot-elements makes it an objectively worse game. If all we care about is profitability? No problem! If we care, as a society, about having and sharing stories and experiences? Then it quickly becomes and issue.

  • See also this Gamesutra article covering the same panel.

    It includes some pretty interesting details absent from the PC Gamer article, such as:

    In order to make a successful free-to-play game, Valve needed to make sure that its players were constantly coming back to Team Fortress 2 and checking back in. Part of its strategy entailed engaging its player community in as many different ways as possible.

    Ludwig showed TF2’s Sniper-focused update as an example. Each content update started with a teaser trailer that hinted at several possible new items or features, and Valve developers would monitor the community reaction in the forums to determine which aspects caught the players’ attention. “We found people in the forums talking about how cool it would be if the Pyro could light the sniper’s arrows on fire. To be honest, we hadn’t considered it, but we were able to implement it by the time the update shipped,” Ludwig said.

    In another instance, players picked up on a blueprint displayed in passing within the teaser trailer for the Engineer-focused update of a mechanical hand item. Ludwig explained that “[The players] didn’t realize it, but they were indirectly voting on the content of the update. When the update shipped, it included that robot hand.”

  • In the (unsuccessful) process of trying to do some number-crunching about concurrent user stats for Steam/Origin, I just noticed that the July 2010 Steam hardware/software survey has an entry for EA Downloader.

    EA Download Manager
    12.09%

    Which doesn’t, of course, say anything about people who used EA Downloader but not Steam, nor (I would think?) about people who used and then uninstalled EA Downloader prior to the survey. But just taking that number for a second — for every 100 Steam users, 12 also used EA downloader — it’s an interesting benchmark. That’s about half the percentage one might guess from the 40-to-9.3 million number in the article, which suggest that the EA/Origin user base just about doubled as a proportion of Steam users from 2010 to 2012.

    Of course, that assumes so much it’s pretty much useless and probably wrong. It would be interesting, though, to compare it to the next Steam survey and see what Origin’s percentage at that point has become.

  • nobody said : But I figured they’d likely pose a stated rationale

    EA has been rather quiet about the rationale for Origin-only games, and the pulling of games from existing outlets such as Steam. Or at least they were quiet about it when I was sort of following the issue, which I haven’t been for a while — maybe they’ve detailed it someplace? I’d love to see a statement like the one you outlined.

    There was a protracted scuffle over removing DA2 and Cryis 2 from Steam — see RPS’s coverage here and here, among other places — that just slowly faded away because no one would comment in detail.

  • nobody said : I hadn’t realized Origin was a requirement this time. I guess the integrated multiplayer is the rationale?

    I’m pretty sure the rationale is “getting people to install and use Origin,” much as Half-Life 2’s requirement that people install Steam was more about getting an install base on Steam than anything intrinsic about HL2 that would require it. Mass Effect 3 is almost certainly going to sell incredibly well, and EA is leveraging that to get people used to Origin.

  • katrel said : Forcing everyone to use Origin is disappointing (and really pisses me off), but when I think about it, Valve does the same thing with Steam for their games. The main difference here is that I trust Valve (as much as one trusts a business, anyway), while I think that EA executives would infect their own grandmothers’ PCs with spyware and rootkits if they thought it would make them a buck…Refusing to sell the game on Steam at all… yeah, okay, I don’t get this one at all. EA are being jackasses with the whole Steam thing. I get that they want to maximize their profit by selling all the DLC themselves, but they’re really shooting themselves in the foot here. I mean, I really wanted to buy the Mass Effect 2 DLC, but it wasn’t on Steam, so I decided it was more hassle to buy than it was worth, and they never got that money from me. But getting back to Mass Effect 3, I do realize that it wouldn’t kill me to buy the game from Amazon or another retailer.

    This is basically my sentiment: I just don’t trust EA. Getting Dragon Age to authenticate my legally purchased DLC took a few days of wrangling with their tech support and browsing forums to figure out how it was supposed to work. Mass Effect 2’s Cerberus network DLC stuff never worked correctly for me. At some point EA merged several separate accounts — I think my EA profile and Dragon Age profile? — which caused my login to not work for a week. And I’m not even going to mention the EA Downloader. It’s not that I object to EA’s approach in principal: it’s that I have had problems with it in practice.

    For ultimate irony, I’d also note that you can purchase Valve’s Orange Box on Origin.

  • katrel said : (Reminds me a lot of that portal flash game.)

    And that reminds me that I still need to go and play this — which is the Portal flash game imported into Portal proper. Circle: complete!

  • This is actually a pretty good summary of current research, albeit lacking in citations.

    For the curious, here are some links to publication lists by some of the authors named in the WSJ piece (in case anyone wants to read the actual research):
    http://www.sfu.ca/psyc/faculty/blair/Dr._Blairs_Site/Publications.html
    http://vision.psych.umn.edu/users/csgreen/Publications/publications.html
    http://www.bcs.rochester.edu/people/daphne/publications.html

  • nobody said : No animated movie before or after its release has lost more money at the box office

    I remember watching this in the theater. It was…not terrible? Not particularly good, either; half the reason to see it seemed to be for the tech, and I wonder if selling it that way cost it some viewers. “Watch this good movie!” is more compelling to me than “check out this novelty film!”

  • Interesting tidbit in there that I hadn’t seen before (perhaps from lack of paying attention):

    Steam still has over 40 million users, compared to 9.3 million on Origin.

    The article frames that as quick growth for EA while completely discounting EA’s prior downloadable services. It’s not as though Origin sprang forth from nothing, fully formed.

  • Whereas I am extremely enthused for live-action trailers. Considering how non-representative some “in-engine” trailers are, this is almost more honest.

  • I think this might be the only time I’ve seen non-store news listed in the Steam Store.

  • The question I keep coming back to is: how much of our objections come from the medium and how much from the message? How should society present war and its consequences?

    From the article:

    I find it hard to believe I’m the only wargamer that has ever slipped a bookmark into a moving combat memoir or watched the credits roll on a harrowing war documentary, and pondered whether an hour or two of Combat Mission or Close Combat is really an appropriate response to what they’ve just read or viewed.

    This isn’t, I think, an issue specific to video games, or even to games in general. Could the same not be said of watching a fictional movie set in wartime or reading a novel that depicts a war? Media of all sorts have portrayed war and violence. Many of those depictions have been objectionable. I find it hard to flip between pro-war youth literature from the 1910s, knowing that it probably convinced at least one person to enlist and eventually to die, not knowing what they were committing to. I do do not exempt video games: I find, for instance, the most recent Call of Duty(s) objectionable on a visceral level. But I think it is unfair to single out video games, simply because they’re the new kid on the block.

  • @everyone who finds the keyboard insufficient — If you have a wired controller hooked up to your PC, you can use that to play Spelunky. Or so I hear; never done it myself.

    Spelunky is one of my favorite games. It hits a near-perfect balance of platformer and roguelike: knowledge of the game and its structure is as important as jumping correctly. When I started playing the PC version was still in development and every month brought new changes — additions and alterations. So in addition to the difficulty now present, you would occasionally run into things that you had never seen before. Potentially things that no one had. There was a sense of meta-discovery on top of the ordinary in-game exploration: what wonders now exist that did not before? I’ve made it to the final level exactly once and died almost immediately. Someday I’ll get back there. Someday, just to see what’s there.

  • stavrosthewonderchicken said : But the last time I talked about my discomfort with games like Call of Duty, over at Metafilter, a fairly vocal contingent of folks refused to listen to what I was saying and did their damnedest, it seemed to me, to shout me down and refute arguments I wasn’t actually trying to make.

    I haven’t read that particular thread (or if I have, I’ve forgotten), but in general I feel like every time a debate along these lines come up (on Metafilter and elsewhere) there’s a disconnect in which people presume “I think maybe this game should not be made” is the same as “I think we should not allow this game to be made.” It’s not an unreasonable leap: many people decrying the existence of a thing also do advocate for its non-existence. But it is also an unnecessary leap that conflates two separable points.

    And it’s a touchy subject (games and the military), because it speaks to the broader issue of how society (American society, in this case) sees video games. Are they/can they be art? Are they for children or adults? And so forth. After all, we have books, movies, paintings, statues, theater and songs that extol the military as entertainment, and we have had those for centuries in some cases, if not longer. Conflict as entertainment is ancient; it is only the medium that is new.

    Getting to the post — which is about as-simulation-as-training, which is distinct from albeit related to simulation-as-entertainment — I’m reminded of America’s Army, which the last time I tried it had a set of missions set in a training center. People playing at home romped through a simulation of a simulation: playing as people training to be soliders, against people playing as other trainees playing the role of opponents of those soldiers. And now we have actual soldiers in training simulation exercises — is the loop about to come full circle? Will the next version of America’s Army see gamers sitting down to play at being soldiers who sit down to simulate actually fighting?

  • I hope this ends up as more than just marketing: more games need ridiculous stuff hidden in them.

  • Truly, we are living in the future.

  • I read that as meaning a double of his earlier MeFi post, not of this GFi post. Not sure whether that would qualify or not.

  • This is why I love the internet. Who would win in a race of panda vs. elephant-disguised-as-a-horse? NOW WE KNOW! The internet: solving the unsolvable.

  • The amount of work this must have taken…I don’t even. Wandering around the map made me want to play GTAIV for the first time — none of the trailers, ads, etc ever appealed to me much. But a city! A grand city!

  • All the monsters (and all the humans) are from the original game; or, judging from the physics modeling, they’re from the Source port of Half-Life (which was just an engine update, retaining all the art assets of the original). I’m not sure if he hand-tweaked the animations for the scenes or if he updated the models while retaining the art assets, but either way that’s not quite how things moved in the original game — even if it is how they looked. The “new models” he references at the beginning may just be Freeman’s arms.

  • On the one hand, it’s a bit unfair to cherry-pick two very good games and then contrast them to “what’s on at your local multiplex.” On the other hand, it’s nice to see two good games being cherry-picked as indicative of the field, rather than the typical “[Generic Example of Violent Video Game]” coupled with “[WILL SOMEONE PLEASE THINK OF THE HYPOTHETICAL CHILDREN?]”

  • “There’s no reason consumers couldn’t recognize $40 of value in a $40 game, or $20 of value in a $20 game. Game length is an outcome of what we’re charging gamers; consider the Half Life episodes. Thirty dollars for four to seven hours of that quality? That felt pretty good to me,” he added.

    Thirty dollars for ‘four to seven hours’ of a not-nearly-as-good game is a worse proposition value-wise — few games rise to be “of that quality.” I think it is especially telling that Valve, who take the time to make a good game rather than trying to make a profitable game on time, end up being the benchmark of episodic quality used in the example.

  • Despite having not-exceptional AI, the original Operation Flashpoint (the one by the same people that went on to make ArmA) absolutely captured that sense of having to stay on your toes — and in a wide-open world, no less. The early missions in the campaign see American troops (including you, Mr. Protagonist!) moving to free an island from Soviet occupation. Which starts off well, but soon turns sour. Midway through a mission, having just captured a town, you hear over the radio that the Soviets are counterattacking and all troops are ordered to retreat — starting right now, unless you’d like to be crushed by a tank. The next few missions are just running the hell away. At one point, a viable strategy is to belly-crawl through a kilometer of forest to avoid patrols. Oh, and through all this? You get one save per mission. Period. It was a game that wasn’t afraid to let you fail, and fail realistically. That’s what good AI — or good scripting — should get you: a satisfying way to lose. Dying to an endless horde of enemies, or to a bot that headshot you from allllll the way across the map tends to feel a bit cheap. You end up contending with the meta-structure of the game rather than immersing yourself in its setting.

  • VanarSena said : Has anyone replayed DX through with recent texture packs and mods? Is it a different enough experience that it won’t get boring (considering that my last play-through was ten years ago)? 

    I’m of the opinion that it’s different enough from playthrough to playthrough that it’s worth replaying even without mods. If you went through stealthy the first time, do it guns-blazing this time. If you killed rather a few time on play one, swear an oath of pacifism on play two (there are almost no enemies you have to kill to proceed).

    That said, if you do want tweaks — this seems to be a decent guide to tweaking DX1’s graphics/GUI for modern systems, including a DX10 renderer (that’s directx 10, not Deus Ex 10). And this hi-definition graphics mod has a promised release of June 2011 — we’ll see if that actually happens, but it looks promising.

    In terms of gameplay changes, there’s the Shifter Mod. Haven’t tried it myself, but it purports to do some nice things — add alt-fire modes to most weapons, randomize NPC loot in some cases, enhance the enemy AI so the game stays challenging on your umpteenth playthrough.

  • This is the sole game in which I don’t mind the “one wrong move makes the game unwinnnable” approach, mostly for the reasons Stav outlined above. It fits with the overall theme of the piece, rather than coming off as a ‘fuck you’ from the developers done simply for the sake of difficulty.

  • I have been looking forward to trying this; still on the fence about signing up for the beta before hearing more, but I’m cautiously optimistic.

    Everything I’ve heard about the game suggests that it distills the tension from committing to a move in Chess or Diplomacy and then adds a splash of Hitman-flavor for spice (if I was a better writer, this is where I would attempt to work in some kind of James Bond/martini allusion).

  • Wait, wait — a minor point in the article, but that video game scene in Hackers was of Wipeout? Huh. I never made that connection.

  • Also worth a read (and linked to in the PC Gamer article) is this playthrough as a psychopath, which has the lovely line that:

    I have no idea why Eidos Montreal thought I might go through a whole 90-minute mission backwards after I’d already completed it, but they accounted for the possibility.

    Now that’s polish.

  • And, upon further consideration, I also think Cook gives very short shrift to non-games criticism. It feels like he’s never read serious art criticism. Take this quote:

    Purely evocative media as music, video, writing or painting can often be reasonable well described using tools from the humanities and the personal reaction of an individual. If I want to understand a novel, a single sample has limitations, but it can convey the essence of the experience surprisingly well.

    Where to begin with this? Firstly, there are many examples of music, videos, writing, painting, etc that are not “purely evocative” and it’s either ignorant or insulting to claim otherwise. Secondly, to state that these media “can…be reasonably well described using tools from the humanities and the personal reaction of an individual” is likewise limiting, and — for a certain scope — false. It might be true for Cook that these things are sufficient, but for many people they aren’t. It’s strange and myopic to state them as absolute fact in an article that itself calls for greater examination of games.

  • I have to say, that’s not a very well-worded or well-thought-out essay. I’ve read the piece twice and I’m still not really sure what his central thesis is. He spends a lot of time explaining how current essays about gaming are bad, and then proposes what he wants to see in good game writing, but he doesn’t make a convincing case that those two issues are linked. Dismissing a majority of writing as a “waste of time” is simply unnecessary to make the argument that more writing should be about “mastering new perspectives that are fundamental to the art and science of games” and improving the craft of game-making. You can argue a lack of something without criticizing what’s present; the internet is not a zero-sum game. The “deluge of essays” Cook mentions is not preventing anyone from writing a different set of essays.

    If he had framed the piece as “there is an insufficiency of games crticism that does [X],” I think a lot of people would agree; but he’s not doing that — he’s saying “all this work that people have done is bad and a waste of time because they should be doing [x],” which, of course that’s not going to go over well.

  • GOG is actually a pretty great service, bone-headed marketing gimmicks aside. For instance, they do a better job than Steam at integrating ephemera into purchases — pre-cropped user avatars, manuals, maps, soundtracks are all listed alongside the main game files to download, rather than being (as with Steam) shunted aside to some odd folder inside the SteamApps directory.

  • A step in the right direction. Given the frequent criticisms the NEA already gets for funding ‘controversial’ art, I look forward to the future discussions of “the NEA funded what?”

  • GTAIV had a 16 GB requirement (18 GB recommended) and that came out on the PC in 2008; 25 GB, while large, isn’t really that much larger considering the time between releases. I’d much rather have 25 GB sitting on my hard drive than have to keep swapping discs.

  • I am enthused for this. There are so many awesome-sounding small details from the full feature list, including…

    -Soldiers can surrender and possibly “rescued” by friendly units
    -A wide range of bridge types classified to include/exclude certain types of units by weight
    -Wide range of weather types and environmental effects, including rain, fog, heavy winds (with ballistic effects), different types of ground conditions, animated water effects, and more.

    I mean: heavy winds throwing off people’s aim? Wonderful.

    See also this Q&A and AAR at RPS (is that enough acronyms yet?)

  • It’s inertia, which I would classify as a subset of stupidity. The best explanation I’ve heard is that brick-and-mortar stores have regular delivery and release schedules for games, the same as for everything, to maximize overall shipping efficiency. Those schedules do not currently line up across countries; making them line up would involve real costs to some stores. Digital delivery doesn’t have that issue, but doing a digital release early could (and probably would) cut into physical sales — so brick-and-mortar retailers object. Publishers are wary of dropping physical sales entirely: it’s what they (both organizationally and personally) based their business on.

    Changing release dates to match is possible, and might even be better for stores sales-wise (since a decent fraction of people are pirating games since they can’t legally purchase them yet), but changing the system would take a lot of work. Far easier to just let things stay as their are, even if the status-quo is non-optimal.

  • I can’t find the original source for this (perhaps it’s just based on the reported PS3 install base) but the scale of this is tremendous — at least 70 million potentially compromised accounts.

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