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Worth Reading: 03/15/2014

Might as well use this in-flight wi-fi for something useful.

I'm currently on a flight to San Francisco for this year's Game Developers Conference, and it's the first time I'm attending without living in the city it's hosted in. It certainly weirds me out to type those words, and reminds me that I've actually been gone since last June. Damn.

I still miss this view, the weather, and my friends.

The reason I'm heading to the Bay Area a day earlier is to give a talk at the Critical Proximity conference, a one-day event focused on discussions surrounding games criticism. My talk is titled "Bridging the Critical Gap," and tries to illuminate the vast difference in approaches to games writing in the biggest games publications against the many smaller blogging communities.

When BioShock Infinite was released, it was more or less universally lauded. That wasn't so in the critical circles I follow. The exact opposite reaction was playing out. Put aside whether you fall into one camp or the other: how come there's such uniformity on one side? I've said this before and I'll say it again, but when a new game comes out, I'm always interested in hearing what the person who hated it has to say about it. It's why I appreciate Tom Chick's work, even if we rarely agree.

My talk is only 10 minutes long and I already hate most of it, but like anything else, eventually you have to stop, draw a line, and move on. That happens when a game has to ship, and it happens when a talk has to be given. The presentations are supposed to be recorded, and I'll make sure to pass on a link when it's available. I gave another talk to a group of college journalists recently, too, and I've been meaning to publish it online. Maybe that'll happen after I can give some more time to making my website not terrible.

Oh, right! This is being published on a Saturday because I ran out of time this week. There will be no Worth Playing this week or next week, and it's unlikely Worth Reading will happen next week, either. Look for a jumbo-sized version of both the week after. Other programming notes: I'll be on the podcast next week, as well! If we're doing an Unprofessional Friday, I should be around for that, too.

You Should Read These

The story of Flappy Bird still remains somewhat mysterious, and it will probably always be that way. But David Kushner's article, taken at face value, is the one I want to believe. Kushner managed to do what many other journalists have been foaming at the mouth for: talking to designer Dong Nguyen. The developer comes across as earnest as his now-defunct Twitter account, and he continues to state the reason for removing Flappy Bird had to do with being distressed over how addictive people had become. I wonder if his next game will have "from the developer of Flappy Bird" on the splash screen? He strikes me as the kind of guy who is willing to roll the dice and release his game into the wild, though.

"But the hardest thing of all, he says, was something else entirely. He hands me his iPhone so that I can scroll through some messages he's saved. One is from a woman chastising him for "distracting the children of the world." Another laments that "13 kids at my school broke their phones because of your game, and they still play it cause it's addicting like crack." Nguyen tells me of e-mails from workers who had lost their jobs, a mother who had stopped talking to her kids. "At first I thought they were just joking," he says, "but I realize they really hurt themselves." Nguyen – who says he botched tests in high school because he was playing too much Counter-Strike – genuinely took them to heart."

You have every right to be upset when an excellent new local multiplayer game comes out, and you can't play it because your gaming friends don't live near you. Local multiplayer is having a bit of a renaissance right now, and it means some people are excluded from participating. Rather than chalking it all up to a "design decision," Super Pole Riders (part of the Sportsfriends package) designer Bennet Foddy has written a terrific feature explaining why online modes are so notoriously difficult to implement.

"Lag compensation is how the server tries to guess what you were seeing on your computer when you pressed a button on your controller. When your computer tells the server you fired your gun in Battlefield 4, the server rewinds time a little bit so it can guess what you were looking at when you clicked your mouse. If you were aiming at an enemy on your screen, it awards you a hit, even if you were aiming at the wrong place according to the server or your opponent's computer.

Of course, nobody notices these discrepancies, because it's really hard to see whether or not your enemy's gun barrel is pointed at you or slightly to one side of you, especially when there's simulated blood and screen shake and blurring all over the place. We just accept that we got shot, cry a little bit and move on. Lag compensation works really well in first-person shooters for this reason.

In a game like TowerFall, though, you have a pretty good idea of whether an arrow should hit you, or whether a stomp should connect. If it looks like it's going to miss on your computer, and then you die because of something that only happened on your opponent's computer, that's going to feel broken and unfair."

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
75 Comments
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Posted by TheHumanDove

Ha, his name is Dong

Posted by Hassun
Edited by Nhoj_Sllew

wow gdc kinda snuck up

Edited by noizy

"At 44%, Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within has the highest Rotten Tomatoes score of any video game film adaptation."

Daaaaamn. That's hilarious, and sad.

Posted by fuzzypumpkin

@patrickklepek Hey, you are in town. I just moved here and ran into Drew last Sunday and Rorie earlier today. Beers are in order, sir.

Edited by President_Barackbar

Wow that League of Legends song was amazing. I'm also glad to see something LoL related on this site period.

Edited by Campion10

I watched spirits within recently and it felt like a big budget art house movie if that makes any sense. No wonder Roger Ebert liked it a lot.

If you've watched it when it came out but have an appreciation for that kind of stuff now that you're older, and realize it has nothing to do with the games, you might find something interesting there.

Posted by AMyggen

@thehumandove: Why? Because Patrick wrote "women" instead of "woman"?

Anyways, the AV Club headline and article about the King's IPO is hilariously on point. I would never, ever invest in a company that only has one hit at that price. It seems insane.

Posted by VincentVendetta

Remember when we were like "Man, Smash Bros should have online, it would be so cool", and then Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out with online and then we played it, and we were like "Fuuuuuuck".

Be careful what you wish for.

Posted by Drekly
Posted by Pierre42

Aww...I liked Spirits Within. I wouldn't even say it's a video game adaptation, it's got the title but it's not based on any Final Fantasy game.

Edited by Fobwashed

That local multiplayer article is dead on. I tried to build my own netcode for a multiplayer combat active mode of the Megaman x Giantbomb game I made and when I simulate anything beyond 50ms ping, the game just feels off. Especially since megaman has such instantaneous controls. It did open my eyes to the types of things I really need to watch for in my main project -_-;;

Great list!

Posted by triviaman09

People lost their jobs because of Flappy Bird?!

Edited by Hailinel

I watched spirits within recently and it felt like a big budget art house movie if that makes any sense. No wonder Roger Ebert liked it a lot.

If you've watched it when it came out but have an appreciation for that kind of stuff now that you're older, and realize it has nothing to do with the games, you might find something interesting there.

Yeah, Spirits Within isn't really what I'd call a terrible movie. It just didn't feel very much like a Final Fantasy movie.

Also, as I noted in the comments on another recent Worth Reading, Jason Schreier is terrible journalist and not worth reading no matter how many times Patrick links his work here. Even if I do agree with the apparent tone of his piece on Molyneux (a serial offender of overpromising), after his attack piece on Dong Nguyen, he doesn't deserve to be taken seriously and I find his continued presence in Worth Reading absurd.

Posted by ManlyPup

I have played way, way more of One Finger Death Punch than I ever thought I would, and I keep going back for more. I do think the number of enemies you need to defeat in later levels is a bit much. I'd rather have seen more levels with the more difficult enemies, but fewer enemies per level overall.

Edited by Sydlanel

Hmm.. I can't appreciate Tom Chick's work. It's not that I am against being critical, but I feel his strategy is often just to create controversy and bait clicks.

He often makes borderline false and intentionally inflammatory observations and he doesn't really propose meaningfully different views on the subject that justify his scores, just seems to selectively pick specific critical points in games that will get him the most time in the sun.

His reviews seem a bit like reading trolling metacritic user reviews... Sure it's an opinion, and he can review games as he wants... honesty is a great thing, but sometimes, when it's weakly supported, lacking in coherence and consistency, it seems like spite and malice more than honesty, and I don't know if that should be considered when reviewing.

It's not like Jim Sterling, who can also be quite inflamatory, but tends to be capable of separating his knee jerk reactions and his observations of the product, and also tends to have a pretty consistent line.

(Its also the reason why I appreciate Yahtzee from the escapist because he may say a lot of contrarian stuff, but he also understands that it's not in any way a review, but more a personal very whimsy commentary)

But hey, even trolls can have their champion reviewer I guess.

ps.
Heading to GDC as well :D
my first! Big excitement!

Posted by Mathey

This Klepek kid is dedicated. Very dedicated.

Posted by ZmillA

@sydlanel said:

Hmm.. I can't appreciate Tom Chick's work. It's not that I am against being critical, but I feel his strategy is often just to create controversy and bait clicks.

He often makes borderline false observations and he doesn't really propose meaningfully different views on the subject that justify his scores, just seems to selectively pick specific critical points in games that will get him the most time in the sun. Feels a bit like reading trolling metacritic user reviews... Sure it's an opinion, and he can review games as he wants... But to me it simply seems very weakly supported, lacking in coherence and consistency.

But hey, even trolls can have their champion reviewer I guess.

I love Tom's reviews. I've been listening to his games and movie podcasts every week for a long time. He's definitely not purposefully a click baiter

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Posted by TowerSixteen

@sydlanel: Aye. I can understand the value of hearing a liked game's harshest critics, but I deny that it has any value unless the criticism is, at it's core, intelligent, cohesive, and well-expressed. I don't think some of the more vitriolic critics Patrick likes to link to are, and I question whether one could really ever get anything from them.

Posted by AMyggen

@hailinel: I like Jason Schreier, one of the few good things about Kotaku. Haven't read his Flappy Bird article though.

As for Spirits Within, watching that movie is the only time I've ever fallen asleep in a movie theatre. Yeah...

Posted by Hailinel

@amyggen said:

@hailinel: I like Jason Schreier, one of the few good things about Kotaku. Haven't read his Flappy Bird article though.

As for Spirits Within, watching that movie is the only time I've ever fallen asleep in a movie theatre. Yeah...

Schreier is ultimately no different than the worst Kotaku has to offer. Whatever good he does is completely offset by his petulance.

Posted by fisk0

@pierre42 said:

Aww...I liked Spirits Within. I wouldn't even say it's a video game adaptation, it's got the title but it's not based on any Final Fantasy game.

Well, it was released in a time when there really wasn't any continuity between the Final Fantasy games, other than the general world design, so I thought it felt pretty consistent with that. I don't think Square had even started doing all the FFVII spinoffs at that point.

And, yeah, I rather liked Spirits Within too.

Posted by Video_Game_King

Jeffrey Matulef profiles Hideo Kojima, a man who cannot escape his past.

This article

It's amazing how Hideo Kojima sounds like a character from one of his games.

Edited by Seedofpower

OMFG! OMFG! Patrick posted Madeleine's tweet, too good!

Posted by Draxyle

Wouldn't have expected that from The Spirits Within, but it wasn't a terrible movie, just a terrible Final Fantasy. The name is the worst thing about it.

I do wonder when we'll get good adaptations, but I don't think gamers are the type to care about a movie of something we can already play. For most of us, it would be a step backwards by default. That's quite a hurdle to leap over.

Posted by ZedsDeadBaby

Patrick is a machine, he never stops working!

Posted by scottygrayskull

Mortal Kombat is 33% on RT. Highly underrated.

Edited by TDot

That Kim Correa article is fucking ridiculous. I'd be embarrassed to link that and consider it worth reading.

are you going to elaborate on that at all?

Edited by iragequit

It'll be nice to hear/see Pat on the Cast and UPF.

And sorry, Kim Correa, that you ran into role players in a role playing game.

Edited by cthomer5000

I watched spirits within recently and it felt like a big budget art house movie if that makes any sense. No wonder Roger Ebert liked it a lot.

If you've watched it when it came out but have an appreciation for that kind of stuff now that you're older, and realize it has nothing to do with the games, you might find something interesting there.

I saw it in the theater. I remember it looking great for the time, but also remember nothing at all about it except I didn't really like it.

Posted by Lurkero

I like hearing the negative criticism of a game because I always find it easier to decide what I don't think would bother me about a game rather than what I would enjoy based on what someone else enjoys. Someone could enjoy things that I wouldn't like and they may not necessarily mention them while reviewing. People tend to notice things they don't enjoy more than things they do enjoy.

Remember when we were like "Man, Smash Bros should have online, it would be so cool", and then Super Smash Bros. Brawl came out with online and then we played it, and we were like "Fuuuuuuck".

Be careful what you wish for.

Nintendo didn't exact try their hardest to have a good online infrastructure. I would much rather play Smash Bros with someone on the same console, but the online option doesn't hurt.

Edited by Max_Cherry

Seriously, Patrick, take a break. Your productivity is starting to make everyone else look bad.

Edited by Max_Cherry

Seriously, Patrick, take a break. Your Productivity is starting to make everyone else look bad.

Edited by Jollywoggle

I bought the first installment of Dysfunctional Systems on Steam this week for 99 cents (it's still on sale). I mostly bought it because it's made by local people but I'm game to give it a go. :)

Edited by Tomzombie

SHARK PUNCH,,, FUCK YA!!!

Posted by L1GHTN1N

I played Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1 back in November, and even though there were a few rough edges I ended up really enjoying it. I had no idea they were doing a Kickstarter for the rest of the series, and though I back very few (so far only Broken Age and Godus) I went ahead and jumped on this one. Episode 1 is on sale for $1 right now on the Steam store, if you like Visual Novels I think it's absolutely worth a look.

Posted by Crysack

The issues with 'smart' game AI really seem to be solve-able with well thought-out level design. Case in point, the original FEAR.

Posted by Travan

@patrickklepek Tom Chick lost any and all credibility he ever had with me the moment he penned this garbage.

Just so nobody is fooled by the bullshit he's spun here one second longer than necessary, he's "hilariously" spoofing a heartfelt Rock Paper Shotgun editorial on female representation in games, swapping out the examples to make it about male representation. Yeah.

Posted by Hunter5024

I totally don't count The Spirits Within as a video game adaptation. It's just a movie made by those same dudes who made those games.

Online
Posted by paulunga

Dysfunctional Systems? Woah, I JUST discovered the creator of this through their other VN, Juniper's Knot.

Edited by FMinus

When can we expect an article about Julie Ann Horvath and Github?

Posted by Fiyenyaa

@iragequit:

Who wants to role-play that? That is screwed up beyond belief. Seriously, what? Why are we defending this? Why is someone's twisted role-play more important than everyone feeling like they aren't going to have to face some sort of over-the-top, awful interaction?

Edited by Viking_Funeral

Thoughts:

  • When people say they want 'smart AI,' they really mean dynamic AI that doesn't feel artificially difficult. A good example is Civilization. A more intelligent AI would be fun at higher difficulty levels, rather than a artificial advantage.
  • The Spirits Within wasn't a film adaptation. It was a CGI movie with the name Final Fantasy slapped on it. That's why it didn't do better, because the fans wanted fighting & magic, not Matrix: Revolutions' level of philosophic wankery.
  • BioShock Infinite is still my game of 2013.
  • Candy Crush declaring their price is hilarious. Good luck with that.
  • Patrick, you may be a workaholic. The first step is admitting that you have a problem.
Posted by Tha36thchamber

I appreciate that Nguyen feels responsible for people losing their jobs or ignoring their kids because of his game, but Dude, it's not your fault! The people who sent you those emails are trying to push the blame off on you instead of owning up to their mistakes. Ultimately, they chose to play your game over taking care of the other aspects of their lives.

Posted by sprinks

Everybody buy and play Dysfunctional Systems Episode 1. It's like 1$ on Steam right now.

I really hope the Kickstarter for the next will be successful.

Posted by jackburtonme

In my opinion, Tom Chick is an excellent critic. I discovered his website before I had ever heard of Giant Bomb and I remember it being the highest level of discourse I had ever heard applied to video games.

Posted by bugbarbecue

@fiyenyaa: agreed, the problem is, even the decent people on the internet have become inured to the behaviour of the horrendous ones, so people who would usually abhor this kind of crap have build up a tough skin, and the feeling that everyone else should have a tough skin too, as a defence mechanism.

There are too many P.O.S on the internet full stop.

Dont let yourself fall into the trap of accepting that as the norm.

Edited by ottoman673

Another week, another couple of garbage articles from Patricia Hernandez (who doesn't seem to understand anything about anything, based on when I read her work) and Jason Schreier, who's just terrible in the first place (the article attacking Dong Nguyen, his bullshit FF article last week, and many others)

I guess it's worth reading for the reminder how terrible kotaku is?

Edited by Tortoise

I maintain that the Street Fighter 2 Animated Movie from 1995 is pretty good. It hasn't had enough reviews to get a RT rating, though.

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