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Worth Reading: 11/08/2013

A storm is coming. It's full of...consoles. Do you need shelter? Come in.

Even as the audience for games expands, it continues to splinter among those who were already here. Increasingly, more and more games are directed at very specific audiences.

You should probably get that looked at.

This is new. One of the more interesting fractures is between those who view games simply as entertainment and those who desire (demand?) the medium to aim higher. For some, I’d imagine the statement itself is bothersome. What is wrong with what games already are? Not everyone wants a game to make them cry, not everyone wants them to get serious. (There are also lots OK with both!)

It’s the source of much of the divide over the increasingly fruitless argument about what “is” and “isn’t” a game. I’ve been thinking about this after a conversation with the game designer Porpentine, a conversation I hope to share with you sometime next week. Porpentine’s work is both incredibly personal and intentionally distant, allowing her to remark and leverage her experiences in a way that provides the player a chance to recognize themselves and acknowledge that what's being described is specific to what Porpentine herself has seen, felt, touched, and observed.

Her games make me uncomfortable. But I want to feel uncomfortable. That’s me, though.

My wife never wants to spend her free time watching sad or depressing movies. It’s why I had to wait until she was on a business trip to finally watch Schindler’s List, a movie I’d, somehow, never seen. I don’t doubt there are many people who feel the same way about video games, and become frustrated at the increased attention “serious” or “emotional” games are receiving, given that it’s not the games they themselves want to play.

Are you one of those people? Would be curious to hear your thoughts here or in PM.

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

Be warned, there are tons of spoilers about Beyond: Two Souls in this link, but if you never plan on playing David Cage and Quantic Dream’s latest interactive concoction, read this immediately. Most video games are very explicit about player choice--in The Walking Dead, every major decision is outlined for reflection at the end of the chapter--but not Beyond: Two Souls. No, no, no. In fact, Beyond: Two Souls goes so far out of its way to prevent the player from picking up on moments where the player is making a choice that it makes it tough to know what is and isn’t an important moment in the game. It’s a very deliberate design decision, one that’s carried forward up until the game’s final moments, at which it’s happy to ask the player to make stark choices.

“David Cage's design philosophy sticks to the notion that if players don't know when they make a choice, and the ramifications aren't obvious, their experience becomes more akin to real life. The flow of the story is more organic. You don't "choose" between option A or B with reassurance of what will happen. Your decisions speak for themselves. When you don't think of alternate paths, the story feels more like your own, it feels more real, as opposed to just ‘one of the branches.’”

There is a specific exchange at the end of this interview that had me howling, and it’s quoted below. Metro reporter David Jenkins wanted Call of Duty: Ghosts executive producer Mark Rubin to explain the technical differences between Xbox One and PlayStation 4, and he refuses to weigh in. The whole interview between Jenkins and Rubin is good, especially since it provides the context for what transpires about industry politics. The two have a playful banter throughout, and Jenkins pushes Rubin more than once to justify more than a few things about the current path for Call of Duty.

GC: So the obvious assumption from all this is that the PlayStation 4 is definitely more powerful than the Xbox One, is that true?

MR: [acting very embarrassed] I can’t answer that.

GC: You can’t answer it on a technical level or because you’re being diplomatic?

MR: Can’t answer that.

GC: You can’t say whether you’re avoiding the question for diplomatic reasons?

MR: [embarrassed] I just can’t say anything…

[Even the attending PR guy is looking embarrassed by this point]

PR guy: It’s very hard for us to be…

GC: Are the console manufacturers leaning on you to avoid these sort of questions?

MR: [unsure - speaking to PR guy] I don’t know if that…

MR: [even more embarrassed to us] Yeah, there’s things that we… We sign NDAs with the first parties [i.e. Microsoft and Sony - GC] and there are things that we’re not allowed to talk about.

GC: So when John Carmack and Shinji Mikami say the Xbox One and PlayStation 4 are almost identical, is that something you could agree with?

MR: Hmm… I would say that’s a bit inaccurate but I wouldn’t be able to tell you any detail of why that’s inaccurate.

GC: For diplomatic reasons?

MR: Yes.

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+
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Edited by irishalwaystaken

That neogaf post on halo 4 is super interesting, like phenomenally good. I haven't played Halo since 3 and was still captivated by it. Not to sound snarky but its always a pity it seems to be fans that put together articles/posts like that.

Posted by ch3burashka

I remember watching the Amped 3 VHS in 1992. Hopefully they do a Blu-ray remaster one of these days.

Posted by BeachThunder

"brutally honest feature eon"

@patrickklepek I think you need to play more Typing of the Dead...

Posted by HellknightLeon

That's not nice... I like Abbie... That and he is just trolling. He knows why it is that way... wait? Why did you even post that video anyways....

Posted by patrickklepek

That neogaf post on halo 4 is super interesting, like phenomenally good. I haven't played Halo since 3 and was still captivated by it. Not to sound snarky but its always a pity it seems to be fans that put together articles/posts like that.

It's better to think of places like NeoGAF as their own website, rather than a forum. Why aren't fans capable of producing quality content, too?

Posted by jimmyfenix

I guess Adam Orth #Dealtwithit

Posted by cikame

I am one of those people who prefers entertainment which is over the top and crazy to something which attempts to stir me emotionally.
I still have room for games and movies like that, but i'll watch Ong Bak over The Green Mile any day, i don't like it when a plot gets ahead of people being awesome.

Posted by RetroVirus

The Halo 4 post was interesting. People often talk about the dropoff of players from multiplayer titles, but this one actually had relevant data to put with it. The drop when Call of Duty came out just goes to show that Halo isn't the premiere multiplayer shooter it used to be; CoD holds that title now in terms of playerbase size.

Posted by Coldman

God, I love David Jenkins' interviews. He's only got more no-nonsense throughout the years. You should have mentioned his "man with the white stick" jab, haha.

Nice to see GAF represented, I don't give a flying fuck about Halo nowadays but hell if that ain't some damning data.

Posted by MarkWahlberg

Re: opening paragraph, the phrase 'false dichotomy' comes to mind. Any other medium it would come across as dismissively reductive, too, but video games are weird enough that its easy to see why that argument would be made.

Also, just reading that quote from the david cage thing, it sounds like he's addressing one of the biggest problems with the recent obsession over 'choice' in games, so... good on him.

Posted by Video_Game_King
Posted by irishalwaystaken

@patrickklepek: Nah I didn't kind of mean it like that, at times it will only be dedicated fans that are able to (and feasible for) produce quality content. It's just that those that work in the press would have a lot more tools available to them to supplement pieces like this.

All this information ( I assume) is available freely but I just think getting the devs perspective on why it took so long to to get out on update or why the crimson map thing went down so badly would complement the post greatly.

Posted by TurboMan

Amped 3 was so good...

Posted by JeanLuc

Amped 3 is still one of the best launch games ever.

Posted by wh1terav3n

Note that a big section of this is covered in a Mass Effect book called Mass Effect: Revelation. Not everything for sure, but how he came to be controlled by the Reapers and how he knows Anderson are all covered there. It's actually a pretty decent book, as long as you understand you're getting a game tie-in.

Posted by porjos

Thanks Scoops, and that Jeff Vogel article was excellent.

Posted by Deathpooky

As someone who just bought Halo 4 for super cheap to play through the campaign, that article on its MP population is crazy. I know people weren't wowed by the game, but I had no idea the multiplayer and game at large were doing that badly compared to previous Halo games. Destiny and Titanfall have the perfect chance to take over the console shooter population between that and CoD:Ghosts.

Posted by tread311

I enjoyed the Beyond essay. I wrote a review on the site here and the crux of it was about the same thing. Obfuscation of choice is a good thing in my book.

Edited by mrfluke

this is the patrick klepek i like, and thats just me, as the whole divide is a subject that i really care about.

Games appeal to so. many. different. people . that it would be crazy to slant the industry in one direction of a style of game. this is supposed to be an inclusive form of entertainment not an exclusive form, and i argue that the industry has been able to support all needs in some shape or form already. (yes, there are even strong female leads)

People seem to forget that arguably, videogames are big now, thanks to the "mindless" "fun" games (mario, angry birds, call of duty, world of warcraft), the games where the storyline is not the focus, some people come to video games just for "fun", to play levels to beat a boss, to collect stuff, to shoot dudes, fight dudes, race dudes, bascially to be entertained., lets call this group the gamers.

then there are the games that have a narrative focus, and said narrative is so good that some argue its better or right up there with movies, so comes a growing group that just wants to only see more of this type of game, wants to see the form that they enjoyed mindlessly be looked at seriously and hold it right next to movies, lets call this group the mature gamers

my view, is that both the gamers group and the mature gamers group need to find a compromise and both forms of videogames need to exist and strike a better balance, slanting the type of games in one direction and demeaning one group of gamers is just narrow minded and selfish.

(its part of why i dont like some of the indie devs, as some of what they have said to press on occasion, has it coming across as them demeaning another companies game while promoting their game, i dont care how good your game is, demeaning another team's effort by demeaning their game is just elitist and just turns me away from your game.)

would i like to see more games like last of us and walking dead? sure!, would i like to see more games like last of us and walking dead BUT at the expense of not getting say a saints row 5? nope!,

would i like to see like say a game in the vein of a last of us or gone home, but still have the comfort that a saints row 5 is say the year or months after? ideally id like this scenario to be where things stay.

Edited by seveword

I really don't care about story or narrative in video games. It's hard to capture my exact rationale behind this in words, but the best example I can think of now is that: if I'm playing Fallout 3, for example, and I reach a decision point in a quest, I always pick the choice that gets me the better gun, or perk, or whatever. Unless there are specific in-game or out-of-game achievements for picking another option, I'll go with the one that gets me the largest or best physical (video-game wise) reward, not what could conceivably give me the largest emotional or psychological reward.

I also skip cutscenes whenever possible. This means that I will never go out of my way to play games like Beyond or Gone Home or anything similar, because I simply don't care about the story enough to justify sitting through the rest of the experience.

Posted by csl316

When you're married, you can't do things you wanna do until your partner is away? That sounds unappealing.

Edited by Marokai

I sincerely hope whatever Bioware does with Mass Effect going forward is actually going forward with Mass Effect. Prequels are such an easy way out and can be underwhelming. Just bite the bullet and iterate on what already exists in that canon.

And that Wired feature on Cerny and the development of the Ps4 just reaffirms my notion that half of the reason people are so behind Sony right now is just the story of how they came to be where they are. Everyone loves a good story; it's the foundation of all those shitty singing contest reality shows. You can be as good as you want to be, but you have to tell a good story.

With the Wii, it was "Nintendo's on the ropes, and this is their last, crazy bet!" With the Xbox, Microsoft was the plucky know-nothing upstart in video games, doing weird "hip and trendy" features and conferences to seem bro-friendly, being scrappy and fighting for all the attention they got. The reason people adore the Dreamcast is half-because it was the story of Sega stolen from us at arguably the height of their creative output. And now with Sony, it's a "the King is back" sort of story, of a games giant that rocked, lost it's way, and is bringing it back oldschool. People love that narrative. It's almost as important as the game machines themselves.

Posted by jiggajoe14

I want a new amped game god damn it.

Posted by Sessh

That Mark Rubin interview is really painful to read.

Posted by dudeglove

Posted by Tomba_be

@csl316 said:

When you're married, you can't do things you wanna do until your partner is away? That sounds unappealing.

Or you do things you both enjoy while you are together, and the others while you are apart. Makes no sense to make someone do something they don't enjoy just because they happen to be married to you. With gaming one person can just go sit behind a PC and play. But if you want to watch a movie in the evening you are kind of blocking the other persons entertainment.

Edited by Tomba_be

I don't think many people are really frustrated because of the attention for more emotional games. There are still much more typical games being made that don't incorporate strong emotions. If someone is angry *other* games are *also*¨being made instead of the type of game they like, that's their problem.

But that works the other way around as well. People who like emotional games should not start complaining that many games are being made that do not provoke strong emotional reactions. That goes for all the things some people want to see in games nowadays. (like not every game that doesn't have strong female characters is promoting hatred against women).

Posted by cooljammer00

Man, everyone's still throwing Ken Kutaragi under the bus in that article about Mark Cerny. I mean, if the dude was as bad as I hear (and apparently he was), that's fine, but uh...yeah.

Edited by AURON570

I watched an LP of Beyond Two Souls, I loved it for like the first half, but those numerous typical plot twists and stereotypes near the end were too much. The examples that the article uses seem very small scale, and wouldn't really do much to change my opinion of how the story takes a nose-dives in the last third or so of the game. I still want to buy the game and try playing it for myself, but it's really not worth full price imo. Maybe $40.

Posted by Blackout62

Ever, Jane looks awesome! I'm gonna Isabella Thorpe the hell out of some proper Victorian people.

Posted by PerfidiousSinn
Edited by mbdoeden

Jesus Christ that machinima video. If someone asked me a "question" like that I'd have to burst out into a "FPHHHHH-WHAT?" about halfway through.

I guess that's why Abbie has that job.

Posted by noizy

Abbie's face. Lol.

Posted by Hailinel

Vogel's write-up on the indie bubble is a great read. I can't say that I really disagree with him. There's only so long that the indie market can continue at this pace before reaching some sort of critical mass, with or without the giant glut of retro-art platformers. A shift of some sort will have to come eventually. I wonder how Rami Ismail would feel about it, given the philosophy behind his tweets. Does he believe the market will change, or is he under the impression that there is no bubble and Steam will remain a magical Candy Land for devs of all sizes?

Edited by TheMasterDS

What I read of that Indie Bubble seemed super pretentious. It was like he was saying "ooh, no ones cares about my shitty overwritten RPG no one's ever heard of, therefore the days of indie games are coming to an end." Its never been easier to get onto a console. It's never been easier to develop games. It's never been easier to fund a game. It's never been easier to get your game to frugal folk. And, frankly, indie games have never been better. He can fuck right off with his self centered pessimism.

Posted by Foil1212

Man, I know Jeff and Ryan used to talk about Amped 3 all the time, but NOW I KNOW WHY!

Posted by garbagewrappedinskin

@themasterds: That's not what he's saying at all. He's actually saying quite the opposite and your reasons for why it's good to be an indie now are the very reasons that back up his point.

In its simplest form, an industry bubble grows through an increase in participants. The ease of creation and proliferation of success in the indie game space has increased the number of participants (and therefore competitors). The traditional way to increase a participant's chance of success was to market, mainly through media outlets. The author posits that with the substantial increase of participants, the availability of marketing space is shrinking.

Classically, being of "good" quality in a given industry allowed a participant to leverage its marketing awareness into sales. With a massive increase in participants, "good" participants will be lost in the shuffle and marketing (through media outlets) becomes non-viable.

The author is speaking specifically to indie game developers that are designing business plans based on the volume and magnitude of successful indies and marketing plans that have traditionally worked in the space. He is saying that the space is changing; being "good" and targeting classical marketing won't necessarily work; it's a risk, it takes luck (more so than before due to the increased competition).

He is not sour that his games are not well known, quite the opposite. He has been successful through the four things he recommends for other indies:

1) Keep budgets low enough that the sales of your game, based purely on word-of-mouth, can sustain you

2) Cultivate an audience that goes directly to you for information, not necessarily (or primarily) through a third party (such as an adver/editorial gaming news site)

3) Cultivate an audience that goes directly to you for sales, not necessarily (or primarily) a distributor or third party (as you may be shut out in the future ie- Greenlight)

4) Understand that success requires luck, and the more competitive the industry, the more luck required

I hope that clarifies it for you a bit.

Posted by clarkj1981

I find it a bit ironic that Patrick has spent the past few days lamenting how he has "wrongfully" been injected into the console flame wars, and yet now has posted one excerpt of an interview with COD's Mark Rubin that serves no other purpose than to fan those same flames.

And yes I'm getting both consoles. And PS3's ram is better. And XBOne's UI and online is better. And both systems will have phenomenal looking games. IN. MY. OPINION.

Posted by oueddy

IN. MY. OPINION.

Thanks for clarifying. Also irony, hypocrisy etc. tbh

Anyway, most shocking thing from this worth reading is a free rag like the metro having quality editorial. I thought it's main use was for starting fires or as backup loo roll.

Edited by BillyMaysRIP

Ryan and Jeff going through all of the Amped 3 cutscenes in that quick look is one of the greatest, and most underrated videos on this site. Goddamn, I wish more games had Amped 3's balls.

Edited by SatelliteOfLove

Increasingly, more and more games are directed at very specific audiences.

Increasingly after a nasty flirtation with "one-size-fits-all" mentality towards genre and experience during generation 7 once again, actually. Without the fear that a genre or experience one loathes catching fire to become the defacto form that many of your favorite series or genres begins parroting, there's alot less of an impetus to rail against them. It goes back to a more personal or person-to-person situation reguarding this once again and not astroturfing a type of game or rallying against the status quo.

Honestly, I see generation 8 being much broader top to bottom again, along with tastes as availability favors it once again.

@themasterds said:

What I read of that Indie Bubble seemed super pretentious. It was like he was saying "ooh, no ones cares about my shitty overwritten RPG no one's ever heard of, therefore the days of indie games are coming to an end." Its never been easier to get onto a console. It's never been easier to develop games. It's never been easier to fund a game. It's never been easier to get your game to frugal folk. And, frankly, indie games have never been better. He can fuck right off with his self centered pessimism.

Read article but did not understand it, decided to throw shit at the writer instead.

Posted by ch3burashka

@wh1terav3n: Alright, video game novelizations. That's totally a replacement for actual quality entertainment.

PS Saw that there's a Bioshock Rapture book. Terrified of considering reading it.

Edited by MonkeyKing1969

“David Cage's design philosophy ... You don't "choose" between option A or B with reassurance of what will happen. Your decisions speak for themselves. When you don't think of alternate paths, the story feels more like your own, it feels more real, as opposed to just ‘one of the branches.’”

Which woudl be fine if the stories WENT anywhere or were constructed well enough to be satisfying.

With that said, I think Heavy Rain was a superior game. The story of HR had something to say, said it, and had an ending that felt like the players 'choices' & 'ability to play' lead someplace. On my first playthrough at lauch my ending DID NOT reveal the killer. Ol' Scott walks away and I was no one is the wiser. Really that IS an outcome if certain peopel die in certain spots...you can have an outcome where only Scott lives and there are no clues or people linking him to the case. The whole story is Scoot collecting clues, Ethan going mad wondering if he did it while complying with each request of the supposed kidnapper, Norman collecting some small facts that mostly point to Ethan and other killers, and Madison finding that the whole town is full of other killers and other abusers.

Heavy Rain is not perfect and teh dialogue and delivery of the voice actors borders between distracting and abysmal...but the plot is better, the pacing of story elements is better, the connection to real even is real people lives is stronger, and in the end the story links outcomes to choices and player input.

Posted by CustomOtto

it'd be great if the internet could stop making fun of people with autism

Posted by WeaponBoy

I increasingly have no clue what the fuck Shroud of the Avatar is about. I backed it thinking, hey, cool, Garriot's gonna try and go back to his roots, but it's been months of nothing but talking about fucking player housing. I know they did a tiny story teaser a little while back, but it just keeps going back to all these fucking houses.

Don't get me wrong, I loved cramming my houses in Skyrim full of junk, but what the fuck, show me something that doesn't make me think I'm getting Second Life: Ultima Edition.

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