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Worth Reading: 12/13/2013

Someone needs to tell these San Francisco people that 43 degrees isn't very cold.

As I write this, it’s Wednesday, and I’m in the San Francisco office again. Most of us are trying to spend a few minutes with games we haven’t had time for, as we prepare to begin the annual Game of the Year deliberation podcasts. Right now, Vinny’s scratching his head over Device 6.

I'm sure you're rad, State of Decay. I'll just find out next year.

I’m done about all I can. There are games, such as Assassin’s Creed IV: Black Flag, that would almost assuredly be on my personal list if I could spend more time with them. But for something as personal as a top ten list, I’m not about to assume a game is going to be great from start to finish, especially since there are so many other games that have proven that already to me.

This means State of Decay, a game I would probably also like quite a bit, cannot show up on my list. It’s not that I think beating a game is a requirement for loving it, but a game like Assassin’s Creed takes place over dozens and dozens of hours. At the very least, I shall fight for the sea shantys!

Now, for a few more matches of Samurai Gunn...

Hey, You Should Play This

And You Should Read These, Too

After covering FREEQ, a game that went out of it way to make its design more inclusive for the blind, I’ve become curious about other ways games do and don’t allow those with specific disabilities to play. Patrick Lindsey has a great profile of fighting game player Mike Begum, someone we wouldn’t traditionally think of being able to participate in the competitive scene. Yet Begum, born with a congentital condition called arthrogryposis, has found a way to remain a part of the scene. Lindsey also does a good job explaining what one company, Able Gamers, is doing to change perceptions in the games industry.

“In August, AbleGamers launched the AbleGamers Lab outside of Washington, D.C. The lab works with individual gamers on a by-appointment basis, providing each player with access to ‘cutting-edge assistive technology’ in order to assess and accommodate each gamer’s needs. ‘We would like to have these laboratories and arcades available throughout the country, and eventually the world,’ explains Steve. ‘Our long-term goal is to be able to find more permanent funding…we would like to be able to give anyone who comes to our laboratories the equipment on the same day they visit, much like assistant technology centers do for wheelchair users and those with other mobility impairments.’”

Though I agree with Chris Kohler’s assessment of Nintendo’s situation with Wii U from last week, I’ve always been someone who refuses to count Nintendo out. Nintendo is not Sega, and I don’t expect Nintendo will be throwing in the hardware towel anytime soon. If anything, Nintendo will go down with the ship, and it will be a ship of its own making. Nintendo, like Apple, is a hardware and software company, and to pretend otherwise is crazy. Plus, everyone writes Nintendo off. It’s cyclical. But the company always comes up with something, and though it might not happen again, there’s also every reason to think it will. The company may be a frustrating giant, but it's a patient one, too.

“As a consequence of these things, Nintendo can continue to act and think like a toy company--a huge installed base is desirable, of course, because it makes the firm more profitable, but a smaller yet still profitable installed base is also fine. If Microsoft fails to get Xbox One into a huge number of households, it'll be a major problem, since part of the reason for the system's existence is to extend Microsoft's dominance in the living room; if Sony can't sell tens of millions of PS4 units pretty rapidly, that'll also be a problem, since Sony (like Microsoft) relies heavily on third-party publishers supporting its console, and they won't develop games for a system without a large addressable market. Yet Nintendo cares little about either of those factors, and could be reasonably satisfied with a "third-place finish" that still makes a handsome profit for the firm.”

If You Click It, It Will Play

Like it or Not, Crowdfunding Isn't Going Away

  • Lore is a game that, tragically, was unable to find the funding to bring its ideas to life.
  • Echochamber uses multiple mobile phones to generate a positional audio party game.
  • Read Only Memories looks like a bad ass tribute to old cyberpunk adventure games.

Tweets That Make You Go "Hmmmmmm"

Some Great Features Celebrating DOOM's 20th Anniversary

You know, Here's Samurai Gunn Steam Codes

  • 4ZIVC-Y79EA-?87KE
  • ZVA0I-JLWRM-?4YRV
  • T5825-WDZGL-?0NXE
  • H06KR-0MM4J-?WJEY
  • 8BV2W-T4BB3-?VLWH
  • LEGP8-VZKI9-?RLPN
  • 8G25A-KL6QV-?97RD
  • L4ZX8-7K6FM-?YDQ2

Oh, And This Other Stuff

Patrick Klepek on Google+
84 Comments
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Posted by GaspoweR

Yo it got down to like 36 here thats pretty cold. For SF.

Yep. Patrick was referring to the weather here in Illinois. It got to as low as 7 deg but with the wind chill on certain nights it felt like -10. While wearing gloves it felt like I was holding ice cubes and had to keep it inside the jacket even with gloves on.

Posted by megalowho

That's a great Doom painting.

Posted by Brodehouse

Simon Parkin is adamant that the Killer Instinct E3 "it'll all be over soon" is a rape joke. I assume because it was delivered by a man to a woman. Then again, I'm sure if it was delivered by a man to another man it would still be a sexist rape joke. Because reasons.

Someone in the comments over there made a point that I agree with, though I don't think for the reasons they would hope; "[It] is a line that, in a context outside of videogames, would not bring up connotations of rape." I absolutely agree with this. If anyone heard this line in any other context, they wouldn't even react. But if you hear it in the context of videogames, you're immediately scrutinizing it for the misogyny and rape that it must be full of, because we all know video games are misogynist you guys.

Posted by joshwent

@grantheaslip: Dark Matter was never actually funded through Kickstarter. The Ouya came out being pretty much what it was advertised as, people just expected it to be this messiah console because of the hype. And Shadowrun Returns got a 4/5 from Patrick himself.

I get that a lot of crowdfunded games are crappy, but I've paid $60 (more than I'd probably ever back a Kickstarter with) for publisher funded AAA games that were totally broken. There's risk in supporting something that doesn't exist, but there's also risk in supporting any bad games by buying them after the fact. And if you're uncomfortable with that, just let other people (willingly!) assume that risk, and reap the benefits when that game comes out and is hopefully great.

At this point, we've had so many actually come out and succeed with critical acclaim, that the initial risk seems more and more diminished. For me, the incredible FTL should have been the end of the trepidation, but also consider:

Knock-Knock

Volgarr the Viking

Cloudberry Kingdom

No Time to Explain

Kentucky Route Zero

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

Mercenary Kings

The Pinball Arcade

...just to name a few.

Seems like a pretty resounding net positive to me!

Posted by Panelhopper

As a disabled gamer myself, it's cool to see these projects, gamers and charities featured here. I'm super lucky in that my hands are perfectly fine and my CP isn't that bad but there are plenty of gamers who find it much hard to access games the right way.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@joshwent said:

@grantheaslip: Dark Matter was never actually funded through Kickstarter. The Ouya came out being pretty much what it was advertised as, people just expected it to be this messiah console because of the hype. And Shadowrun Returns got a 4/5 from Patrick himself.

I get that a lot of crowdfunded games are crappy, but I've paid $60 (more than I'd probably ever back a Kickstarter with) for publisher funded AAA games that were totally broken. There's risk in supporting something that doesn't exist, but there's also risk in supporting any bad games by buying them after the fact. And if you're uncomfortable with that, just let other people (willingly!) assume that risk, and reap the benefits when that game comes out and is hopefully great.

At this point, we've had so many actually come out and succeed with critical acclaim, that the initial risk seems more and more diminished. For me, the incredible FTL should have been the end of the trepidation, but also consider:

Knock-Knock

Volgarr the Viking

Cloudberry Kingdom

No Time to Explain

Kentucky Route Zero

Chivalry: Medieval Warfare

Mercenary Kings

The Pinball Arcade

...just to name a few.

Seems like a pretty resounding net positive to me!

You're right about Dark Matter -- my bad. I was referencing the Ouya Kickstarter matching business, but if you look at what the game the Ouya people were talking compared to what they actually delivered, I think it's also worth calling into question.

And yeah, of course there are a lot of crowdfunding success stories, but you've got to acknowledge that there's been some middling final releases and some outright debacles. It's been attracting some projects -- especially as of late, as it's been getting more buzz -- that feel exploitative and misleading. Norms and expectations about timeline extensions, backer input, and the scope within which a project can evolve without exploiting the backers, are still up in the air. While Broken Age will probably turn out great, how much would it change the entire Kickstarter landscape if doesn't meet its sky-high expectations?

Many of my issues with it are subjective and glass-half-empty, but there's unequivocally a dark (or at least potentially dark) side to crowdfunding, and I think it's fair for people to still show trepidation toward it. I think Patrick's approach to it is pretty fair and responsible.

Posted by 5Figh

Simon Parkin is adamant that the Killer Instinct E3 "it'll all be over soon" is a rape joke. I assume because it was delivered by a man to a woman. Then again, I'm sure if it was delivered by a man to another man it would still be a sexist rape joke. Because reasons.

Someone in the comments over there made a point that I agree with, though I don't think for the reasons they would hope; "[It] is a line that, in a context outside of videogames, would not bring up connotations of rape." I absolutely agree with this. If anyone heard this line in any other context, they wouldn't even react. But if you hear it in the context of videogames, you're immediately scrutinizing it for the misogyny and rape that it must be full of, because we all know video games are misogynist you guys.

yeah i dunno that i would rly immediately interpret it as some kinda rape joke but going back and watching it again it is well cringey at the very least

Posted by Brodehouse

@5figh said:

@brodehouse said:

Simon Parkin is adamant that the Killer Instinct E3 "it'll all be over soon" is a rape joke. I assume because it was delivered by a man to a woman. Then again, I'm sure if it was delivered by a man to another man it would still be a sexist rape joke. Because reasons.

Someone in the comments over there made a point that I agree with, though I don't think for the reasons they would hope; "[It] is a line that, in a context outside of videogames, would not bring up connotations of rape." I absolutely agree with this. If anyone heard this line in any other context, they wouldn't even react. But if you hear it in the context of videogames, you're immediately scrutinizing it for the misogyny and rape that it must be full of, because we all know video games are misogynist you guys.

yeah i dunno that i would rly immediately interpret it as some kinda rape joke but going back and watching it again it is well cringey at the very least

Well of course it's cringey, it's a Microsoft E3 presentation, how could it be anything else? But trying to establish that the girl losing at KI was being taunted with rape is like going around saying that the girl in the Kinectimals demo from 2010 was being legitimately harassed by Skittles.

Posted by bgdiner

Great recap of the week again Patrick, needed a break from this finals studying

Posted by Hashbrowns

I'm personally still really uncomfortable with the idea of people handing developers money for fairly vague descriptions of games they won't get to play for a year or two. Yes, there are games that could (presumably) only be funded that way, but in a lot of other cases, Kickstarter's being used to fund proof-of-concepts and projects with more ambition than expertise. Some of the projects seem to me like they could have been funded by a publisher or private money, but were put on Kickstarter because it's seen as a wellspring of free, no-strings-attached money. There's a lot of really cynical-feeling stuff on there.

Kickstarter's not going away, but I think the jury's still out on whether or not it's a net positive.

Let me push back on this a little.

Kickstarter is private money. Crowd funding is not public funding. There isn't an Affordable Video Game Act that forces me to pay a compulsory tax that is then used to subsidize selected video game projects. The only people funding these projects are people who DECIDED to do so.

Yes an established publisher could fund these projects, but I don't see how that is a relevant point. These project owners have decided to seek funding through different means and it is their decision to make. Each backer also decides for themselves whether or not a given project is worth backing. Quite frankly, who am I or you or anyone else to decide otherwise for them?

I'm not even sure what "a net positive" is meant to mean in this context. It doesn't matter how you or I feel about what projects are funded or how they're funded when it isn't our money. The vast majority of Kickstarter game projects hold no appeal for me whatsoever, but that's absolutely fine. I didn't have to fund them, I decided not to, and I didn't.

Is every project going to deliver on its promises? No. Somebody is bound to take the money and run, or just simply fail in an honest, hardworking attempt to deliver. But here's the thing: Deciding that a project is trustworthy is PART of deciding whether to back it or not. And even the largest publishers roll the dice every time they start paying a developer's salary, hoping that the end product recoups the investment and more. Contracts or not, there are no guarantees.

Edited by csl316

Yeah, last week GB people complained about 43 degrees and about working home. I don't understand anything.

Except that Doom fucking rules and always will.

Posted by cooljammer00

Big games site, @patrickklepek? Wasn't it Gamespot? I'm not calling for a conspiracy, but it's a bit disingenuous to not name the other big part of the story in the lede.

Posted by GrantHeaslip

@grantheaslip said:

I'm personally still really uncomfortable with the idea of people handing developers money for fairly vague descriptions of games they won't get to play for a year or two. Yes, there are games that could (presumably) only be funded that way, but in a lot of other cases, Kickstarter's being used to fund proof-of-concepts and projects with more ambition than expertise. Some of the projects seem to me like they could have been funded by a publisher or private money, but were put on Kickstarter because it's seen as a wellspring of free, no-strings-attached money. There's a lot of really cynical-feeling stuff on there.

Kickstarter's not going away, but I think the jury's still out on whether or not it's a net positive.

Let me push back on this a little.

Kickstarter is private money. Crowd funding is not public funding. There isn't an Affordable Video Game Act that forces me to pay a compulsory tax that is then used to subsidize selected video game projects. The only people funding these projects are people who DECIDED to do so.

Yes an established publisher could fund these projects, but I don't see how that is a relevant point. These project owners have decided to seek funding through different means and it is their decision to make. Each backer also decides for themselves whether or not a given project is worth backing. Quite frankly, who am I or you or anyone else to decide otherwise for them?

I'm not even sure what "a net positive" is meant to mean in this context. It doesn't matter how you or I feel about what projects are funded or how they're funded when it isn't our money. The vast majority of Kickstarter game projects hold no appeal for me whatsoever, but that's absolutely fine. I didn't have to fund them, I decided not to, and I didn't.

Is every project going to deliver on its promises? No. Somebody is bound to take the money and run, or just simply fail in an honest, hardworking attempt to deliver. But here's the thing: Deciding that a project is trustworthy is PART of deciding whether to back it or not. And even the largest publishers roll the dice every time they start paying a developer's salary, hoping that the end product recoups the investment and more. Contracts or not, there are no guarantees.

You're right that people are free to decide what is and isn't worth their money.

By "private money", I was clumsily and inaccurately referring to the separation between straightforward consumer transactions and investment transactions. Kickstarter sits in this weird grey area between the two -- it feels like a consumer product, but comes with none of the consumer protections we take for granted. Trust is much less of a factor if you go to the store and buy something, because you're making a very direct transaction, you can return it, and if it's a complete dud, there are (at least in theory) regulation in place to help you. We've been trained to expect that we'll get what we pay for.

I look at a lot of Kickstarter projects, and feel uneasy with the way they're wrapping an inherently risky proposition in feel-good marketing terms. You understand that game development is hard, a lot of games get cancelled or shoved out prematurely, and there's a difference between meaning well and delivering the goods. I worry that a lot more people don't understand that, and are getting swept up in the excitement of being part of something. When big publishers decide to invest in a project, they've got a lot of expertise guiding their hand, and have an enforceable contract protecting them if the developer isn't internal.

On the topic of whether a game could be funded traditionally, it's true that crowdfunding is open to any project, but I feel like it wasn't that long ago that the tacit goal of crowdfunding was to help people make games that wouldn't exist otherwise. At the very least, that's a really easily-understood raison d'être for a project. When I see an established developer (think Precursor Games) trying to make a pretty traditional game through crowdfunding, I can't help but think "why did the publishers pass on this?"

Yes, I can't stop people from doing what they want, but that same logic could be leveled against a lot of consumer protection laws. I don't disagree with what you're saying in raw logical terms, but I can't shake my uneasiness with so much of this stuff.

Posted by yoshisaur

Stood outside Best Buy to get my Xbox One on December 8th, in 17 - 21 degree weather. Take that, San Francisco! (It really sucked. When the guys popped out at 10A.M. to hand us our tickets, I nearly fell over walking to my car due to my feet being completely numb)

Posted by Vigil80

The essay about gaming's apparently hidden, insidious undercurrent of racism just seemed like so much intellectual masturbation. (I can't think of one that didn't, come to think of it, but I certainly haven't read them all.)

At the core, they seem to want people to pretend that everyone is the same, to sternly encourage others to do the same, and if you notice a difference then for goodness sake don't acknowledge it because it means you're racist.

In short, it just seems like another kind of wrong.

The Elder Scrolls is part of the problem? If Bethesda puts a book in the next game called "Imperial Men Can't Jump," will it make it better?

Next, they'll be writing about Pokémon and the secretly sinister... oh, some other whip-smart outlet already broke that story.

Posted by jiggajoe14

@patrickklepek You forgot to put a link to the best game of the year (The Swapper) in the article!

Posted by dudeglove

Yang tweet hype

Posted by development

That Ratchet & Clank commentary is fantastic. Those dudes are a blast to listen to.

Posted by HeyGuys

@vigil80 said:

The essay about gaming's apparently hidden, insidious undercurrent of racism just seemed like so much intellectual masturbation. (I can't think of one that didn't, come to think of it, but I certainly haven't read them all.)

At the core, they seem to want people to pretend that everyone is the same, to sternly encourage others to do the same, and if you notice a difference then for goodness sake don't acknowledge it because it means you're racist.

In short, it just seems like another kind of wrong.

The Elder Scrolls is part of the problem? If Bethesda puts a book in the next game called "Imperial Men Can't Jump," will it make it better?

Next, they'll be writing about Pokémon and the secretly sinister... oh, some other whip-smart outlet already broke that story.

I have a feeling you didn't read the whole article because it seems like you missed the point by a mile.

Posted by courage_wolf

I disagree with the premise that Noble Team in Reach are more interesting than Master Chief, but I am coming from the perspective of being heavily invested in the non video game Halo fiction. If Reach had focused on MC it would have depicted him with his fellow Spartan 2 soldiers doing very Noble team like missions with lots of personal sacrifice and heroism involved. MC looses all of his team on Reach, the people he had grown up and fought with since he was a child, but unlike Noble 6 he does not get to go down in a heroic final stand, he is told to carry on. Chief is a child soldier, purposefully broken so he can barely feel anything, living a life defined by constant violence, tragedy and personal loss, but when the world is ending he walks into hell alone to rescue his AI friend and partner because the only thing he cares about anymore is getting his friends home. I fully expect Halo 5 to feature a moment where Chief cannot take it and breaks down, unable to go on any longer. Life has taken everyone and everything he ever cared about, all his friends are dead and decades of warfare have left him a broken husk. Loosing Cortana will be the last straw and I expect him to simply give up and welcome the embrace of death.

Edited by SatelliteOfLove

I deeply appreciate the first article, not only because they used the correct and noble use of "accesibility" but also hooking an "order whatcha need" device that hooks into a USB port for PC use could be very lucrative and brilliant.

That and it reminded me of this one handed guy who was damn legit back in the day of my local arcades.

Those Nintendo articles are spot on, as is your take. Those borderline-fanboy wanks passing themselves off as advice "make iOS games bur bur bur" "Mario on PS4 bur bur bur" are neither helpful nor would help. It also comes from investors who shoulda pulled a Mark Cuban and GTFOed with their cashed in stock back in 2010 when the current leadership of N were sleeping, but that's another tale.

Now THIS is the real jewel of this article:

why I like heavy procedurality in games: kills gamers' obsession w/ lore and realism, ludonarrative dissonance is expected and celebrated

It's a problem with quantity over quality. Lore is...tricky. Many like the trappings of HUGE TRACTS OF LORE, but they skim a few visual and emotional touchstones off the top and leave the rest to the dead weight bloat that it often is. Most writers can't seem to or won't bother to care for better either, and we get Toriyamas hwarfing up self-serious Anime Logic bullshit, Metzen summoning the long-dead sophomoric bullshit of mid-90s superhero comics, or the Assassin Creed's unholy mixture of the two with way too much fan support than it deserves.

It's not that lore is bad, it's that bad lore is bad, and far too many in the writing driver's seat don't give a fuck about lore they should give a fuck about instead of giving a fuck about not giving a fuck about lore if they're not going to take that lore seriously.

Long story short: play Avellone games for lore, play Matsuno games for lore, don't play for lore in most else. Or just play Avellone and Matsuno games cuz they're good for you and good for the industry. :D

Edited by KaneRobot

Excusing Nintendo's lack of sales as the business being "cyclical" seems pretty weak to me. Nintendo is a company that sometimes comes up with something fresh early on, but inevitably rests on the same stuff every single time, and has to be dragged kicking and screaming into any modern changes the industry makes. Not having success now can't just be excused away as a down-cycle for their business. Nintendo got lucky with a short-lived gimmick with the Wii, and other than that hasn't been on top of the world since the early 90's.

The industry does not have to be cyclical. I do agree the business CAN be cyclical in that success can make a company lazy and stupid (witness the role reversal Sony and Microsoft have experienced since the 360 and PS3 came out), but if Nintendo has the mindset of "oh, we're a cyclical industry, we'll be back on top soon," they are fucked. I don't really see how they are going to get out from under the other two at this point anyway, as I don't have nearly the confidence that Patrick seems to have in them, based on Nintendo's attitiude since...well, ever. They'll probably do fine in handhelds, but I don't see them being long for the console world at this point.