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Worth Reading: 03/28/2014

Some musings on the responsibilities of a reporter, and your usual barrage of links, games, and more.

I take my job seriously. I don't always get it right, but do my best to acknowledge when I get it wrong.

I don't bring this up to pat myself on the back, but to make a point. You've probably heard of the game Threes, an excellent and endlessly infuriating puzzle game for iOS and Android in which players slide numbered tiles on top of each other to form bigger numbers. That's a gross oversimplication of Threes but anyway.

It's possible you don't know Threes, and are, instead, familiar with 2048 or 1024. These are derivatives of Threes, and neither could exist without Threes having been created in the first place. Threes might seem simple and clear, but such a design only comes after a lengthy development process that seems clear in hindsight. A lengthy look at how the game came to be is featured below.

But that's not what irked me this morning.

Max Temkin went on a tirade about various mainstream reporters talking about the viral popularity of 2048, while neglecting to mention Threes anywhere in those pieces. It's just fine to write about how 2048, which is free on the web, has taken off. But even 2048 mentions Threes on its website, and these reporters can't be bothered to do basic fact checking? Deadlines can be harsh, but sheesh. The public relies on you to inform them!

It bothers me because it's not that hard. These articles don't have to condemn the existence of 2048--the modern clone is a bigger, more complicated question that I'm interested in exploring--but to pretend Threes doesn't exist does a disservice to the reader. It's even worse when the reporters try to pretend it's not their fault or write follow-up stories that paint an invented, defensive narrative about what's happening.

Sigh. That's my rant for the week. See you on the other side.

(Full disclosure: On some afternoons, I work in the same office as Threes designer Greg Wohlwend.)

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

Luftrausers has been a long time coming. I've seen the game at events for years, long before I came to know Vlambeer co-founder Rami Ismail. The game should have come out ages ago, and Ismail has written about the game's long gestation period. Ismail examines the mental state Luftrausers was originally developed in, around the time the studio was dealing with the cloning of Ridiculous Fishing, and how he struggled to continue talking about the project when he'd long moved past that part of his life. It's thoughtful insight into how games reflect creators, even if it's a game about blowing shit up.

"When you’re working on a game with a few people there’s no way to keep a reflection of yourself out of the final game. If you define the core designs, rules and ideologies of a project in a certain mindset, redefining those simply requires restarting the entire project. Too many decisions branch out from those earliest decisions, and changing those often ripple through a project in unpredictable ways, creating contradictions and dissonance.

We stayed true to the original concept and ideology--Luftrausers is strict, genuine and aggressive. It is upset, just like we were. All the things that people praise the game for now are things that we took from our mental state two years ago and -often without realising it- worked into the game. When I play Lurfrausers, it reminds me exactly of how angry and upset I felt when we started on the project."

This is the deep dive into the creation of Threes I was alluding to earlier. It acts as a postmortem on the game's and vindication for the creators being miffed at how quickly misinformation about Threes clones has spread. The design of Threes was not divine. It did not come in a dream, handed to Wohlwend and Vollmer on a silver platter. In fact, their conversations allude to moments when it seemed like the design had been broken completely, and the two would be forced to move on. The greater questions about clones are for another feature on another day, but this monstrous tome is a testament to how difficult simplicity is.

"Threes was cloned and beat to a different market within 6 days of release on iOS. 2048 isn’t that clone. But it’s sort of the Commander Keen to Super Mario Bros. situation. Imagine Tetris was released and then less than a month later (instead of years) Dr. Mario was released. Dr. Mario is a pretty great game by the way, so the comparison is a bit weird here. Hopefully you get the sentiment.

This sort of fast turnaround creates a lot of confusion and while it’s exciting and somewhat inevitable, it doesn’t make the aftermath easier to deal with as original creators. Maybe not a lot of people know Alexey Pajitnov made Tetris, but of those that care about that kind of thing, it’s fairly obvious to everyone that Tetris came first. If you’re aware of Dr. Mario, you’re almost certainly aware that Tetris exists."

If You Click It, It Will Play

These Crowdfunding Projects Look Pretty Cool

  • Sup, Holmes? is a terrific interview show that's looking to continue for another season.
  • Grave seemed like a promising open world horror game the last time I checked it out.
  • Spirit is the 2D adventure game that's featured at the start of Worth Playing this week.

Facebook Buying Oculus Sure Got People Chatting

  • Dean Putney thinks the sale to Facebook kills part of what made Oculus so exciting.
  • Max Temkin shares some of the same thoughts about Oculus being independent tech.
  • Peter Berkman has deep concerns about the data mining future this partnership could enable.
  • Raph Koster mulls what this means for the future of virtual worlds.
  • Simon Parkin writes about how Oculus once resembled a modern fairly tale.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

This morning I dreamt I was a tourist visiting Drangleic. All the sightseeing, no souls lost. It was really nice.

— Tiff Chow (@tiffchow) March 27, 2014

Imagine getting a facebook poke. Now you'll actually be able to see the poke coming towards you. Or maybe BEHIND you? Exciting times.

— petermolydeux (@PeterMolydeux) March 25, 2014

Here's the thing about the joke that Carmack now works for FB. John doesn't *have* to work. He works because he *chooses* to.

— Cliff Bleszinski (@therealcliffyb) March 25, 2014

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
71 Comments
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Edited by mlarrabee

You can't have a puppy, reporters. Not until you learn to be responsible.

Edited by BeardyDuck

Posting selfie's in VR.

Posted by WeaponBoy

Err. Are the videos all pointing to the same video or is it just me?

Posted by djm389

Man, I didn't know about all 2048 stuff and now I am super bummed out. It doesn't seem like game journalists are really to blame since many are defending Threes, but every mainstream article I read seems to be super condescending towards Threes for some bizarre reason. The attitude seems to be "how dare they complain about some one ripping them off!" I mean, seriously? Why are people critiquing these guys for not being cool about people profiting from ripping them off?

These articles are speaking in scientific times like constantly saying "Threes came out a month before," making the appearance of games like 2048 seem like a total coincidence. I know Patrick is actually friends with people involved in the game, which predicts some bias on his part for this issue, but I think is totally right to be so pissed off. It is more than that Threes happened to come out a month before. These guys worked hard to create Threes, which is much more than "a candy crush saga kind of a game" like many of the news articles claim. Who cares if the guy who made the most popular rip off got his idea from another rip off? Guess what? They are all STILL rip offs!

I guess with all of King trademark like stuff in the world it is easy to forget that this exact Threes situation is why copyright laws exist in the first place. Threes did more than come out a week before. It CREATED the concept and now some one is benefiting from some one else's hard work! Say what you will about Flappy Bird, but that weird game caught on of its own accord. It wasn't a direct clone of another established game.

What the heck, news people? What the heck?

Posted by hunterleigh

Threes breaks my brain.

Moderator
Posted by AMyggen
Posted by AnjinM

What the hell was that first video?

Edited by Vuud

2048 is not a derivative of 3.

Posted by Sergio

I find it extremely weird, and somewhat hypocritical, that game journalists get upset when other journalists omit the fact that Threes came before these clones, but don't bat an eye when some of their peers baselessly allude to developers being sexists, misogynists, or purposely try to evoke rape in their games, and a myriad of other complaints. Instead they circle the wagons and defend one another. But hey, this guy isn't one of us because he works for mainstream journalism, attack!

Posted by Hailinel

Is it just me, or has Cliff Bleszinski become a bitter old man of the internet since he left Epic? Every time I read a Twitter quote from him that someone links, the tone seems to come off as disgruntled. I don't think that anyone (well, anyone knowledgeable with how business works) actually thinks that Carmack is obligated to be a Facebook employee. But the notion of him suddenly working for Facebook makes for a silly half-day's worth of amusing jokes.

In reality, it's very possible that Carmack was involved in the Facebook negotiations, as he does hold a high rank within Oculus. He's probably happy to get that sweet Facebook funding that can provide Oculus with extended financial security. But again, the fact that he left the no-longer-independent Id after so many years to join the still young Oculus, only for Oculus to be bought by the monolithic Facebook of all corporations within a matter of months, well, there's humor there.

Sorry, Cliffy. Your sense of humor could use a tune-up.

Online
Posted by Neonie

@weaponboy: It does that sometimes. Try refreshing the page. It's a weird bug.

Posted by Lurkero

Holding members of the video game press responsible for not doing sufficient reporting on 2048 implies that they are likely to do any research or significant reporting. It's sad that some of the articles don't mention Threes, but I imagine that there were deadlines and clicks to be met so they wrote an article about something new and popular as quickly as they could.

Posted by HerbieBug

i am ready for double trouble.

Posted by Professionlol
Edited by fisk0

I'm ... not sure about this Threes thing. It's not exactly the first time a blatant copy of something gets pretty popular and where the original doesn't get the credit it may deserve, even if the most popular people copying it are trying to be open with it. Minecraft is a pretty famous example, Notch was always pretty open about it being based on InfiniMiner, yet that got lost in most of the reporting and very few articles talking about the popularity or even history of Minecraft do what it seems Patrick and Max expects out of these journalists, that the fact that it's a clone has to be mentioned. Hell, Call of Duty 4 constantly is mentioned as the game that created the multiplayer unlock system, despite that being a thing in Battlefield 2, three years prior (and even BF2 may not have been the first to do that). Should Spelunker have been mentioned in any of the Spelunky coverage we've had on Giant Bomb?.

Edited by JoshyLee

Invest in a spell checker.

Posted by OneManX

@fisk0 said:

I'm ... not sure about this Threes thing. It's not exactly the first time a blatant copy of something gets pretty popular and where the original doesn't get the credit it may deserve, even if the most popular people copying it are trying to be open with it. Minecraft is a pretty famous example, Notch was always pretty open about it being based on InfiniMiner, yet that got lost in most of the reporting and very few articles talking about the popularity or even history of Minecraft do what it seems Patrick and Max expects out of these journalists, that the fact that it's a clone has to be mentioned. Hell, Call of Duty 4 constantly is mentioned as the game that created the multiplayer unlock system, despite that being a thing in Battlefield 2, three years prior (and even BF2 may not have been the first to do that). Should Spelunker have been mentioned in any of the Spelunky coverage we've had on Giant Bomb?.

This entire Threes thing, just make me feel... uneasy about the whole thing. Like it's a mistake, but the reaction to it SOOOO overblown, I just stop reading. Like what does berating the guy do, yeah he could edit it and fix it, but the damage is done and the shaming has been done.

Is he gonna throw himself on the cross for something that EVERYONE in the know already knew about?

Posted by Brodehouse

I dunno. No interest in mobile games or what happens in the mobile games market.

Edited by ProfessorEss

This article opens with three sentences of back-patting. The third going so far as to back-pat his reluctance to back-pat.

I'm confused as to how I'm supposed to even try to take this seriously anymore.

Posted by ArbitraryWater

@hailinel: Cliffy has always said stupid stuff on the internet. The difference is that he hasn't had his job at Epic to distract him from posting it. Just... some of the stuff he said in defense of the Xbox One's DRM reminded me that "Oh right, you've been in Video Games for more than your entire adult life, no wonder you have zero understanding of how the consumer views things".

The amount of bile from this Threes thing has surprised me. But I guess going after the mainstream press for (shocker) not reporting accurately on video games is at least a mix up from whatever this week's crisis in video game political correctness happens to be.

Posted by Feller13

@hailinel said:

Is it just me, or has Cliff Bleszinski become a bitter old man of the internet since he left Epic? Every time I read a Twitter quote from him that someone links, the tone seems to come off as disgruntled. I don't think that anyone (well, anyone knowledgeable with how business works) actually thinks that Carmack is obligated to be a Facebook employee. But the notion of him suddenly working for Facebook makes for a silly half-day's worth of amusing jokes.

In reality, it's very possible that Carmack was involved in the Facebook negotiations, as he does hold a high rank within Oculus. He's probably happy to get that sweet Facebook funding that can provide Oculus with extended financial security. But again, the fact that he left the no-longer-independent Id after so many years to join the still young Oculus, only for Oculus to be bought by the monolithic Facebook of all corporations within a matter of months, well, there's humor there.

Sorry, Cliffy. Your sense of humor could use a tune-up.

Nah, it ain't just you. Cliff has seemed like a bit of a cunt lately. What is he even up to anymore?

Posted by Sergio

I agree with Jenn Frank's article solely in the context she gives of a personal rolodex, even though my own consists mostly of women than men, and is mostly non-white too. However, she completely misses the point of hiring based on merit, and not gender, when it comes to basing hires on resumes. We see a lot tweets whenever a game developer has layoffs from people saying their own company is hiring. They are soliciting resumes nor referrals. In these cases, as well as hiring recent graduates, merit instead of gender is important. Pointing to other problems women face in the hiring process, such as starting wages, while valid on their own right, really aren't arguments against hiring based on merit.

Posted by Cogzwell

Me and Max Tempkin share a rage for cheap Threes rip-offs.

Posted by MrMazz

Thanks for linking to the Sup Holmes Kickstarter I didn't know of it prior and watched an older episode and I want more of that so I kicked in 3 bucks.

Edited by LazyEkans

Sup, Holmes? met it's goal, but it's still really awesome of Patrick to link to it. Patrick and Holmes are two of my favorite people in video games.

Regarding the opening paragraphs, what can be done? Sites will drive up traffic any way they can, so I guess we just wait for people to wise up.

Posted by dr_mantas

Pretty accurate rant, Patrick.

Although I did play Threes and the derivatives, and all of them I found boring after the first few tries.

Edited by President_Barackbar
@sergio said:

I find it extremely weird, and somewhat hypocritical, that game journalists get upset when other journalists omit the fact that Threes came before these clones, but don't bat an eye when some of their peers baselessly allude to developers being sexists, misogynists, or purposely try to evoke rape in their games, and a myriad of other complaints. Instead they circle the wagons and defend one another. But hey, this guy isn't one of us because he works for mainstream journalism, attack!

Because its a way to create controversy. Media is a business. Everyone wants to attract people to their page. Calling out mainstream media on their "shoddy" reporting and muckraking about sexism are really good ways to get interest in your story.

Edited by Nation764

Full disclosure: I just happen to work in the same office as this guy who is all pissed off about an issue that almost no one knew about or cared about until I dramatized it on a website. Things are not as bad out there in video game land as you think they are Pat. Jeez.

Posted by Viking_Funeral

Video game journalism seems to have a problem of A) not fully doing the research, B) using controversy to get hits, and C) believing the microcosm of the internet translates into real world attitudes and controversy. It's not to say that all or even most articles fall into those traps, but they are prevalent and part of the reason why people don't take video game journalism seriously.

I think another problem is the 24h cable news problem of there not being enough news, but honestly I could pick it apart all day and would probably feel better about myself if I started to think about the strengths of video game journalism.

Edited by BaconGames

I thought the blog written by the Threes team pretty much summed it all up, although not specifically targeted at the specific reporting issue. Personally I wish they went a bit more in-depth into the design process to exemplify what it is that makes Threes a game where so few have mastered it compared to the relatively simple strategies that lead to success in 2048.

I understand the reaction to news sites, which could mean another avenue of exposure and good discussion, lazily picking up a story about 2048 without giving credit where it's due but it kind of bummed me out how confrontational Max was on twitter. It would be one thing if it was effective but generally speaking that level of confrontation most often produces digging in of heels because when people are called out with no recourse, then it often means you just stick by your guns even when you know you're wrong. Because fuck that guy on twitter for being like that and all that. Emotions are hard and so is communication so I'm not going to throw Max under the bus for doing what he felt was right, and by all means for supporting his friends' work he should have, but it was kind of a shame how he went about it. To that end though Max is definitely a different person than I, even though I appreciate the man's presence whenever he's around.

Also it's a bit absurd at this point to see how many potshots are still taken at Patrick's expense when this feature is entirely voluntary on the part of readers. If it's a big, morally oriented, news story that blows up. Sure, we all fall into the temptation of leaving a comment but here? Bizarre.

Online
Posted by Glottery

I hope Insomniac Games admits Overstrike Fuse being one of those few mistakes they made. I didn't spend money on it, so no lost there, but if only that original concept would've come to fruitation...still, a fun video for recruiting.

Posted by AMyggen

@sergio: How is that hypocritical when it has literally nothing to do with each other? The Threes thing is basic fact checking, the other is you just pushing your agenda. Jesus, some of you feel the need to mention this bullshit everywhere.

Posted by fartlord

This is horrible lmao

Edited by Daneian

Maybe I'm mistaken, but isn't Cards Against Humanity just a derivative clone of Apples to Apples?

Posted by Rmack

@daneian said:

Maybe I'm mistaken, but isn't Cards Against Humanity just a derivative clone of Apples to Apples?

I was just going to say that. It's Apples To Apples for people who like EDGY HUMOR BRO. The best thing I've done in the past week is unfollow Temkin on all social media. Dude's a self-important tool.

Posted by nickhead
@daneian said:

Isn't Cards Against Humanity just a derivative clone of Apples to Apples?

I'd say so. I still like CAH but that's how I always describe it to people who have never heard of it.

Edited by Hassun

Hot tech!

Edited by Hailinel

@daneian said:

Isn't Cards Against Humanity just a derivative clone of Apples to Apples?

I'd say so. I still like CAH but that's how I always describe it to people who have never heard of it.

Yeah, that's pretty much how I've described it as well. The premise behind CAH isn't new or innovative in any way. It has the reputation and fanbase that it does because it's loaded with crass absurdity. I mean, I enjoy the game as well, but mechanically, it's not an original concept.

Online
Posted by MonkeyKing1969

For Oculus to get anywhere they need to have someone with deep pockets. Sorry, but Sony is just the first major company to get into VR, and sorry again to burst your 'techno snob' bubbles, but VR was/is/will-be just 3D HDTV repackaged.

So class who were the people pushing into 3D HDTV and therefor teh next to jump into VR? Well, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, and VIZIO (AmTran), and when we think about it really a lot of very big Chinese/Taiwanese companies who were going to fight this battle using razor thin margins of profit. VR headsets are 3D HDTVs repackaged in a way that nerds were not going to fight, and all the major playesr were/will jump in evenatully.

If you wanted Oculus, but you only wanted it if they did some sort of Willy Wonka 'we're free spirits" business model than you are saying, "We really just wanted Oculus to fail..." The truth is Facebook and Mark Zuckerberg are the best sort of hope for Oculus because it means those engineers and the people who started it won't be out of this race in the first round.

And if you think, "Well Oculus was going to trounce everyone on tech, so they should have stayed in this independence and reaped the reward". Well sorry, you are probably wrong. Phase one is where Sony, Samsung, Panasonic, LG, Sharp, Vizio, Micosoft, Google, and Oculus (Zuckerberg) fight. Phase two is when, if there is money in this, companies start talking to the consumer side of our miltray contactors. A lot of companies use headset VR now, they have skinned that cat for real with reall billion dollar constarcxts on teh line. If there is money in this there is 30 years of engineering to be mined form avaiation contarctors. Hell, if there is money in headset 3D than last 20 years of MIT Media Lab graduate students have a shoe-in job.

Oculus needed big guns, and it has them now. As my sister used to say to her kids, "A little more gratitude, and a lot less attitude" would be nice.

Posted by Generic_username

Did not expect to see as much horrible bile in this comments section as I did. Sometimes I have enough positive interactions in one week that I forget that Giantbomb is still the internet.

Posted by Hour_Glass

@hailinel said:

@nickreed24 said:
@daneian said:

Isn't Cards Against Humanity just a derivative clone of Apples to Apples?

I'd say so. I still like CAH but that's how I always describe it to people who have never heard of it.

Yeah, that's pretty much how I've described it as well. The premise behind CAH isn't new or innovative in any way. It has the reputation and fanbase that it does because it's loaded with crass absurdity. I mean, I enjoy the game as well, but mechanically, it's not an original concept.

Did any of you actually read the articles? The problem they had was not that 1024 and 2048 were derivative (most creative work builds on the work of others), but that they were released within a month of Three's being released. People were not aware that Three's was the original and journalists were not doing the basic research to inform them. There is no marketplace confusion between Apples to Apples and CAH. Temkin had every right to call out that journalist for being terrible at his job. The dude's excuse was that he just put up what a guy said to him in which case he should call himself a blogger and not a journalist.

Posted by mlarrabee

@djm389: Flappy Bird is a clone of Helicopter Game. I was playing it on my SanDisk Sansa E280 in 2007.

Edited by TowerSixteen

You know Cliff, don't think there was a single person who thought otherwise, but any excuse to bitch smugly, I guess. Yes, I am aware of the hypocrisy.

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