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Worth Reading: 01/31/2013

Like the slow march to the end of the world in Minecraft, it's the end of the week.

I've never considered myself bad at playing games, but the opposite is hardly true, either.

What I'm starting to suspect is that I haven't given myself much of a shot. When you play a game once, especially most modern games, there isn't much time to grasp more than the basic learning curve. You might have some competency by the end, but the traditional difficulty level of most games is crafted to encourage you see the content of the worlds, not the nuance of the mechanics. More than anything, Spelunky has taught me the value in learning from repetition.

The proof is on this very website. When I started playing Spelunky, it was a joke. My first few hours on the couch with my Vita resulted in death after death after death. It wasn't pretty, and it was hardly what one would describe as fun. But a genuine landmark moment would come--say, making it to the caves--and suddenly the spark was there. Then, of course, hours of crushing disappointment. Run after run with no results. Seemingly no advancement, nothing to show for your time. These are mental calluses.

Yet our most recent adventures have resulted in back-to-back defeats of ye mighty Olmec and trips through Hell. I managed Hell and showed up at Yama's doorstep on my first encounter with Spelunky's secret world, and if it hadn't been for a lack of caution around a bunch of enemies I barely understood, I might have beaten him. But I'm within spitting distance of a monstrously challenging Spelunky achievement, and it comes from bashing my head (and fingers) against the same challenge over and over.

And you know what? I'm pretty good! Yeah! I'm comfortable admitting that. But there's no way to cheaply earn progress in a game like Spelunky. It comes through patience, practice, and a serious time investment. That's not something I'm usually dedicating to a single game, and I'm not sure how often I'll have an opportunity to do that with many others. But on some level, I better understand the joy some derive from playing games on extreme difficulty levels or mastering a fighting game character.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

What I love about Simon Parkin's work at The New Yorker is how he locates interesting stories about subjects covered a million times over. In this case, Parkin spoke with a person trying to find out the theorized end point of Minecraft, where the procedurally generated algorithm falls apart. There's a humanizing nature to this piece, which makes some of the comments below the story ("These people should try stepping outside their front door ... an entire *real* world awaits.") a tad disappointing. That's not entirely true, though. I actually find it encouraging: even The New Yorker deals with jerks in the comments section.

"By one measure, Mac’s endeavor is motivated by the same spirit that propels any explorer toward the far reaches of the unknown. Today, we live in a world meticulously mapped by satellites and Google cars, making uncharted virtual lands some of the last places that can satisfy a yearning for the beyond, as well as locations where you are simply, as Mac puts it, “first.” “My viewers and I are the only people to ever see these places exactly as they are,” he said. “Once we walk past, we will never see them again.'"

***

It's not often we compliment people on what we like. More often, we complain about what we don't. Vlambeer is only two people: Rami Ismail and Jan Willem Nijman. It's a company that punches above its weight both creatively and financially, which has lead to Vlambeer dealing with a shift in customer service. Ismail writes about how he constantly deals with players who pair their request with a threat of never buying another game or demanding a refund. He offers some advice on how to talk to a game developer when you're upset, and how to remember there are humans on both sides of this exchange.

"I’ve often said the same thing at developer conventions around the world, but there’s a difference between saying that to emphasize our thankfulness for and dependance upon people who love our games and literally implying we are not worth anything beyond the opinion of somebody on the internet who happened to play a game we made. We could literally decide to stop making games tomorrow and find a better paying and stable job—but we don’t, because we love making games and we care about the people who invested money and time in our work."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

  • Horse World Online probably won't get funded, but I'm glad it exists, you know?
  • To the Death is a multi-genre action game from lots of industry vets, including Call of Duty.
  • Patreon, a different kind of crowdfunding, has lots of different gaming-related folks to support.

Whoa, Here's Some Race the Sun Steam Codes

  • F?NGP-R25RT-78A02
  • ER?L7-6R2EQ-96RE5

And There's a Few Broken Age Codes, Too

  • WP0?M-Y52HN-ZKEZ4
  • JDJ5?-PVCVF-7AQG8
  • 4RFHJ-?I64Z-G45KV
  • MHJ7J-5?33F-MR6ZF
  • Z96ZI-BI?9K-A305Y

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
56 Comments
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Posted by Linkster7

Yay, I finally "won" something on the internet! Thanks for Broken Age !

Edited by HammondofTexas

Superbowl Weekend! #GetHype

@patrickklepek Have you seen the Outerlands Kickstarter? I was thinking it would be cool if you did a dump truck with some of the Area 5 guys!

Online
Edited by RubberFactory

@patrickklepek Just a heads up. There's a typo in the first sentence. Unless it's an intentional joke about opposites.

Posted by Lanceuppercut

Thanks for the Broken Age!!

Posted by mrfluke

Really liked that piece that Simon Parkin did.

Posted by crashcarstar

Thanks for Broken Age! Super excited to have finally gotten one of these steam codes! I got the second to the last one.

Edited by JackSukeru

Patrick is good at videogames.

Edited by rargy

Yeah Kurt! Been following his journey to the far lands for over a year now. Got me to donate to Child's Play multiple times (FLoB and other Mindcrack events).

Edited by Noogy

I appreciate when someone can not only admit that they're good, but can in turn thank the game for allowing them to become so. Spelunky and the Souls game do just that, and it's oh so satisfying!

Posted by MonkeyKing1969

I'll admit it I think Horse World Online - A horse breeding game is a cool Kickstarter. I'm going to support it just because I would like a person like Ms Rintjema to succeed. It also just seems like a cool project that has taken a long time and many iterations to get to this point. Certainly, this must be better than Barbie Horse Adventure!

If this gets funded it would be fun if got a Quicklook.

Posted by alwaysbebombing

Patrick, this was a great Worth Reading!

Edited by AMyggen

@mrfluke: Parkin is great. As a long-time New Yorker subscriber, I hope they hire him on a more regular contract to also write in the magazine. It would be great if a magazine like that got a semi-regular video games column (they already have ones about film, music, theatre and TV), and maybe even some feature writing. Wouldn't hold my breath though, I doubt there's many editors at the magazine taking video games seriously enough for that to happen anytime soon, but it would be really cool.

Online
Posted by Megasheep

Thanks for pointing me towards Far Lands or Bust.

Posted by mrfluke

@amyggen said:

@mrfluke: Parkin is great. As a long-time New Yorker subscriber, I hope they hire him on a more regular contract to also write in the magazine. It would be great if a magazine like that got a semi-regular video games column (they already have ones about film, music, theatre and TV), and maybe even some feature writing. Wouldn't hold my breath though, I doubt there's many editors at the magazine taking video games seriously enough for that to happen anytime soon, but it would be really cool.

maybe its just the optimist in me, but i think within this new generation it'ill happen.

all the internal video game politics aside, just generally with where video games are going overall though, i think itill happen eventually.

Edited by AMyggen

@mrfluke: No doubt it'll happen eventually, I just don't know how fast. But I would hope you're right, and I think you are. Video games are just such a big part of the popular culture now, and there's people who are 40+ who grew up with video games. I would love to see how a more "highbrow" publication like TNY would cover video games; are we there yet where it would be taken as seriously as movies, books and theatre? And are "gamers" ready for that? I saw some backlash against Parkin's "top ten" on TNY on various forums because it was "too hipster", too many indie games etc. What people forget is that especially movie critics have been preferring indies for years now, I think we're moving towards that in games too...and it would be interesting to see what the more traditional press thought about all of this.

Online
Edited by Rhete

Just so other people don't waste time, both Race the Sun codes have been taken (the ? are 4 and 5)

Posted by AFunGuy

@monkeyking1969 I agree on all your points. I feel like this is what KickStarter should always have been. A place to fund projects created by people who wouldn't have the chance to do this otherwise.

Edited by JYoung

@amyggen said:

@mrfluke: Parkin is great. As a long-time New Yorker subscriber, I hope they hire him on a more regular contract to also write in the magazine. It would be great if a magazine like that got a semi-regular video games column (they already have ones about film, music, theatre and TV), and maybe even some feature writing. Wouldn't hold my breath though, I doubt there's many editors at the magazine taking video games seriously enough for that to happen anytime soon, but it would be really cool.

If you've ever heard of KurtJMac or "Far Lands or Bust" before, you know that story's not about the game. That could be any human interest story, really.

Posted by believer258

I gotta wonder where people criticized Uncharted for putting visuals over mechanics, or The Last of Us for putting visuals and story over more interesting level design and play.

Posted by AMyggen

@jyoung: Oh I know, I've read the story (watched the video linked in the story, but that's it, I think I get the point of the whole thing; it seemed more like a sort-of podcast with the Minecraft journey in the background). I'm just saying that, in general, I'd like more of that kind of writing about video game-related subjects, and I would especially like to see what a publication like TNY would do with a regular video games column. I would recommend Parkin's other articles for TNY btw, if you haven't read them already.

Online
Posted by Video_Game_King

  • Cara Ellison has started writing about her time embedded with games developers.

You say that like the London developer scene is a war zone........Please tell me it's a literal war zone.

Edited by ArjanN

That's a good lesson to take away from Spelunky, Patrick. (and also, Dark Souls) It seems pretty common for game press people to get stuck in the content tourist mentality just because they're always working under deadlines.

You compared it getting good at a fighting game and I feel that's something you should also try doing at least once. Trying to learn something every time, even if you lose, is exactly how you get good at a fighting game as well. You could do it in a similar way to the Spelunky daily where you just play a handful of matches every day for like a month. You'd probably be surprised how quickly you improve, and reaching that level of experience really opens up the whole genre for you.

Edited by DevourerOfTime

But there's no way to cheaply earn progress in a game like Spelunky.

Posted by mrfluke

@amyggen said:

@mrfluke: No doubt it'll happen eventually, I just don't know how fast. But I would hope you're right, and I think you are. Video games are just such a big part of the popular culture now, and there's people who are 40+ who grew up with video games. I would love to see how a more "highbrow" publication like TNY would cover video games; are we there yet where it would be taken as seriously as movies, books and theatre? And are "gamers" ready for that? I saw some backlash against Parkin's "top ten" on TNY on various forums because it was "too hipster", too many indie games etc. What people forget is that especially movie critics have been preferring indies for years now, I think we're moving towards that in games too...and it would be interesting to see what the more traditional press thought about all of this.

Id argue that we are there right now in the sense that we have copied the movies model.

you have your deeper meaning experimental games that cater to the older folks that want that deeper meaning type of interactive entertainment. and we still have our big wild ride games that cater to the general masses. (and that in itself is a generalization id say, ive personally got some deeper themes in games like gears of war and gta and halo)

nothings wrong with either and both should definitely exist as they both compliment each other nicely.

and to your other point, i think gamers generally are ready for that,

i think we all tend to forget as we get older that we were all young and immature at one point (in my opinion, you really cant fight that type of moody-ness at that age ), and with the power of not having to say something to someones face directly, the rebellious immaturity is amplified because there is no consequence, i think you'll always have one group that will look at something like say Gone Home and be like "WTF IS THIS SHIT WHERES MY GUNZ" and you'ill always have the other group that sees a deeper meaning in Gone Home.

but back to the original point thoug, Generally i think with the rise of more immersion devices in the vein of VR, and the advancements in presentation that these new machines will give us, im willing to wager by the end of this generation at the very latest, Gaming will fully be a part of culture.

Edited by patrickklepek

But there's no way to cheaply earn progress in a game like Spelunky.

I don't agree the jetpack is cheating, especially since there is no guarantee it will show up, unlike the shotgun. Plus, the daily flattens everything. If the jetpack is there, everyone has the jetpack, so it comes down to who can use the items/world effectively?

Staff
Edited by development

That Loading Human trailer made me laugh pretty hard because of their choice of music.

Posted by EuanDewar

Good feature overall but week after week the tweets you include are kinda lame tbh. They're about on par with stuff i see everyday on this forum in terms of stirring up any interesting or unique thoughts in my head.

Posted by Deathpooky

Sean Sands considers the idea of players being "irresponsible" when buying games on sale.

Interesting article and counterpoint to the other discussion of gaming sales, especially when viewing it from the perspective of a consumer versus a company trying to make money instead of an indie guy trying to connect with people upset that people will buy his game and not get into it.

I've continually been baffled that studios and publishers are locking themselves into these terrible situations where they spend crazy amounts of money such that only a smash hit (and preferably several sequels built on that smash hit) will recoup their costs. It's insane to expect every single game to sell millions at release to the point where you can justify that kind of budget, or that one bomb will destroy a company. How has the game industry never learned smart budgeting, realistic sales expectations, and properly scoping out a game such that you can be reasonably certain to recoup costs.

Maybe I'm trying to have it both ways, because modern games sure are great to look at, and you can often tell when a game hasn't been given top-of-the-line monetary treatment. But among major developers I don't know what there aren't middle-tier, limited ambition games, or at least games that know what they are and how much they'll sell.

Posted by Gold_Skulltulla
Posted by BigD145

The Earth is meticulously mapped? Sure. But have you actually been there? Have you met the people? The people shape the place in a fairly short period of time. You can go through any place and it'll likely be different in 10 years. A large enough weather event can change a place drastically in a single day. Many GIS systems update maps once a year or every other year.

So. STEP OUTSIDE YOUR DOOR

Posted by Kjebka

Lately I've been really excited about your Dark Souls and Spelunky streams, and not just because I like those games. I've been really excited to see someone in your position in gaming press really dig in and explore mastery of a game on a mechanical level. It's one of my favorite aspects of gaming and it's fairly rare to see coming from a major outlet.

I understand why its not the kind of thing that can be done all the time or even very frequently in your line of work, but I can tell you that any time you set out to cover it I'll definitely be right there with you.

Edited by AV_Gamer

That's not just for video games, that's for many things in life. As the saying goes: Practice makes perfect.

I myself don't have the patience to really master a game like I used to. I basically play for fun, the presentation, and the story, if there's one worth paying attention to.

That's why I respect pro-gamers, because of the time and dedication it takes truly master a game enough to compete for prizes and money. It's very time consuming.

Edited by EternalHaV0C

That whole description of spelunkey could be said about Dota. They are both different animals but I doubt anyone has had as much fun playing either game in the beginning as they did after sinking some time into it.

Posted by Kjebka

On another note as someone with some friends who rides horses and has attended some shows that kickstarter actually looks pretty cool. I might know a few people willing to throw a couple of bucks at that.

Posted by Hippie_Genocide

You may want to rethink that Cara Ellison tagline.

Posted by GorillaMoPena
Posted by DevourerOfTime

@devoureroftime said:

But there's no way to cheaply earn progress in a game like Spelunky.

I don't agree the jetpack is cheating, especially since there is no guarantee it will show up, unlike the shotgun. Plus, the daily flattens everything. If the jetpack is there, everyone has the jetpack, so it comes down to who can use the items/world effectively?

I never said it was cheating, but I do think it's a super huge shortcut to progress through the game.

The jetpack is a low investment, easy to use, (sometimes) randomly obtained, high gains item that outclasses every other item in Spelunky in terms of progression, even the items that you have to go through incredibly difficult stages to obtain. It removes the necessity of ropes and provides an alternative to (most) situations where a bomb would be typically used to progress (fly over a Tiki Trap instead of bombing it, for example). It allows you breeze through the opening of the game and handle obstacles and enemies throughout the latter sections of the game without knowing fully how to deal with them or even how they work. It's an incredible aid to the progression of newer players, but it builds a pretty heavy reliance on it, as they will likely struggle to get out of the Jungle without it.

A shotgun, on the other hand, can you get you past some nasty enemies, but it doesn't help you to navigate and circumvent a lot of the traps, tricks, and obstacles. Sure, it's available on every run through the game if you want to risk angering the shopkeepers, but it will only aid you through the usual progression of a level, not completely disrupt it.

Anyway, my issue with the jetpack is how it's designed, not how it's used. Especially during the daily. If everyone in a daily had access to an item that instantly killed all enemies once they appeared on screen, could be used forever, and had no side effects, then everyone should use it. You would be putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage by not using it. Sure, the game and the daily challenge would be worse off for the item being there, but don't let the mistakes of the developers hold you back.

Posted by sissylion

I didn’t like Skyrim, but regardless that game is a monumental achievement to game design and an incredible game in every facet, a true 10 out of 10 game.

Man, this kid in that Beyond: Two Souls article is bumming me out something intense.

Posted by Generic_username

I actually think the comments on that New Yorker story were relatively tame, and the negative ones got quite a bit of backlash.

Posted by BonzoPongo

It's unavoidable for you but your progression was hastened a little from the tips and tricks from viewers and friends. I learnt stuff watching those videos and Ive played at least a hundred hours of spelunky.

I realise you can't play games in a vacuum and I don't mean to piss in your cornflakes but I think other players with the same skill level would still be bashing their head against a wall.

Edited by Trilogy

@devoureroftime said:
@patrickklepek said:

@devoureroftime said:

But there's no way to cheaply earn progress in a game like Spelunky.

I don't agree the jetpack is cheating, especially since there is no guarantee it will show up, unlike the shotgun. Plus, the daily flattens everything. If the jetpack is there, everyone has the jetpack, so it comes down to who can use the items/world effectively?

I never said it was cheating, but I do think it's a super huge shortcut to progress through the game.

The jetpack is a low investment, easy to use, (sometimes) randomly obtained, high gains item that outclasses every other item in Spelunky in terms of progression, even the items that you have to go through incredibly difficult stages to obtain. It removes the necessity of ropes and provides an alternative to (most) situations where a bomb would be typically used to progress (fly over a Tiki Trap instead of bombing it, for example). It allows you breeze through the opening of the game and handle obstacles and enemies throughout the latter sections of the game without knowing fully how to deal with them or even how they work. It's an incredible aid to the progression of newer players, but it builds a pretty heavy reliance on it, as they will likely struggle to get out of the Jungle without it.

A shotgun, on the other hand, can you get you past some nasty enemies, but it doesn't help you to navigate and circumvent a lot of the traps, tricks, and obstacles. Sure, it's available on every run through the game if you want to risk angering the shopkeepers, but it will only aid you through the usual progression of a level, not completely disrupt it.

Anyway, my issue with the jetpack is how it's designed, not how it's used. Especially during the daily. If everyone in a daily had access to an item that instantly killed all enemies once they appeared on screen, could be used forever, and had no side effects, then everyone

should use it. You would be putting yourself at an unnecessary disadvantage by not using it. Sure, the game and the daily challenge would be worse off for the item being there, but don't let the mistakes of the developers hold you back.

I agree with you, but for slightly different reasons. In my experience, obtaining the jetpack has sometimes led to me being a bit more careless then I would be without it. I used to believe that making your way through world 3 without the jetpack would be an exercise in futility...until I did it myself. What I realized is that when there wasn't a single jetpack in any of the shops (including the black market), I was forced to play a lot more carefully than I would normally. I couldn't explore world 3 nearly as effectively, so I ended up mainlining it, only stopping to clear shops for more bombs. I made it to world 4 for the first time ever on that jetpackless run. Previous attempts through world 3 featured me pushing my luck, because of how mobile I was with the jetpack. It made me greedy.

So what's my point? Well, I think the jetpack isn't at all needed to clear Olmec. However, getting a good score is pretty dependent on it. I guess it depends on what you play spelunky for, but I tend to go after score. I don't agree that the jetpack causes players to develop permanent bad habits, the same way I don't think that getting the drake sword in Dark souls is necessarily going to ruin your ability to learn the mechanics of the game. I would be underestimating the ability of myself and others to adapt to new challenges. It turns out humans are pretty good at that sort of thing. When I got shafted from my jetpackless run, I made it farther than I ever had before. My score was lower than similar runs, but it didn't impede my ability to progress through the levels. It just made me more cautious.

Where I agree with you is that I think Spelunky would be a lot different if it didn't have the jetpack at all. I'm not completely sure about it yet, but it might even be a better game if the jetpack wasn't available. It's certainly one of the very few (if not the only) issues with game that gives me pause when I reflect on how much I love playing it.

Posted by Atomic_Olive

It's cool to see Kurt J. Mac get some recognition in the Simon Parkin article. He's a really cool guy and was the first person to introduce me to Kerbal Space Program and plays a lot of science/astronomy based games/simulators. In addition to Far Lands or Bust! and what he has done for Child's Play, he's a member of the Mindcrack group of LPers. The common thread between them is Minecraft and I think they're well known to the Minecraft fanbase but they do other cool collaborations too. Might be worth checking out if you like Minecraft or LPs in general.

Edited by Novis

I really liked Evan's article. Thanks Patrick.

Edited by AimlessAJ

I usually don't bother with super long articles, But Evan Togotti's article was extremely compelling. His last tid bit about anonymity really seem to ring true. For example, I could say that I think Skyrim is utter garbage compared to Fallout 3 and could sit and have an argument on a discussion board or Reddit while I try to validate my own opinion to others who disagree. The problem there is that people don't know me, what I look like, or the other games I like. Without this context, my opinion is just seen as an inhuman voice looking negatively onto other peoples opinions. In general, I think that's what's both good and horrible bad with comment sections on the internet. We're having these faceless conversations where the only thing that is shown is words and words, above all else, can be very poisonous.

Posted by Gruebacca

That Tongotti piece was super interesting. Just goes to show that objectivity can only get you so far before it bites you in the butt.

Posted by seveword

Evan's piece on anonymity and objectivity sums up my thoughts on commenting and the Internet in general. I am not a fan of leaving text-based messages in any format, from commenting on sites like this one to writing emails to composing text messages. The odds of the recipient of that message knowing me, or my personality, or my passions, or my beliefs, are on the far end of nonexistent. Without context, it really is just letters and symbols. You don't know who seveword is, and odds are, you never will. Nothing I say here will ever be received in any of the ways I want it to, and if it is, I'll never know. Even if someone leaves a reply or something similar, they aren't really a person. They're an icon, a username, a vague collection of thoughts and ideas that might form a complete sentence (maybe even a coherent one) from time to time, and that's it.

Words -simple, basic combinations of letters that have definitions and rules governing their usage- are such a small portion of language that depending exclusively on them for communication sucks all the humanity out of interacting with other people. You -need- other ingredients like body language, or tone of voice, or eye contact, or any other number of things to truly communicate with another person, and the Internet, for the most part, is incapable of providing that. It's why I can never fully engage with anyone online, because without that face-to-face contact, it all seems to be just ones and zeros.

Posted by Redhotchilimist

Evan Tongotti's article was amazing. Haven't sat down to read any of the others, but really happy about deciding to check that one out at least. Went surprising places. I probably agree with CrimsonWing69 about Giant Bomb, though I wouldn't say I "hate" the reviews. It's in all of the other features where personalities shine, not in the context of a review.
Apart from the context, it was just nice to see an article where two people present their opposite views, still disagree with each other at the end and yet get along better than they did at the outset.

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