This sabbatical is almost over and all I’ve done is work on a video. It’s probably not going to be worth it but I knew that already.

Time to distract you. Look down there, it’s an open comments thread, wow!

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41 thoughts on “Open Mike 6

  1. To say something substantial, I haven’t played… oh my. I don’t think I’ve actually played much of anything in a while. The only one I can think of is a session of Monsterhearts ( with strangers over Skype. We didn’t get too far, but it was an interesting experience and we’ll hopefully finish it up this coming weekend. None of the dark, sexy things that are supposed to happen have happened yet!

  2. OK, so the Paparazzi game could actually be kind of fun. Here’s how I see it:

    “Boom, Headshot!” The tutorial level. Taking pictures of people who are just sitting right there waiting for you to take pictures of them. You learn about camera mechanics and waiting for the right moment to take the shot (there will be a moment when your target’s face just glows) and how you have to be careful with the flash or you might turn someone’s clothes see-through or blind someone accidentally. Of course these last two are mechanics you’re going to need to exploit.

    And as you’re peacefully taking your headshots someone runs in and… ah, I don’t know. Make something up.

    The Red Carpet. Your basic level. Jostling for position. Try to take as many good shots of as many different celebs as you can. No smoke bombs allowed — well, maybe the level ends with some other asshole throwing a smoke bomb. But you ain’t unlocked smoke bombs yet. You can try to cause wardrobe malfunctions once you’ve figure out what’s what a bit. Soundtrack. (OT, but both the top comments on that video are perfectly accurate.)

    Open world. Travel around LA shooting celebs. With your camera. And selling the pictures for money. Lots of opportunity for sneaking, positioning yourself for long-distance shots, etc. You can use the money to buy upgrades. (Notice how the loot drops here actually make sense?) But if you snap the same picture over and over the price falls.

    Missions. Infiltrate the wedding. Chase someone in a car. Hire a boat to go out and get the shot you need from sea. Some of these you have to fight off rival paparazzi. Some of these you’ll have to unlock better equipment to do anything with. (No use going to sea if you don’t have the ultra-zoom lens and steadicam.) Sometimes maybe you unlock new areas by doing someone favors — the guard will let you in to the hi-rise if you have the celeb pics he wants (or the pics of him doing stuff his wife doesn’t need to see), though getting to the twelfth-floor window that has the shot you need is another question.

    Plot. You can snap a picture of a powerful politician blah blah blah who cares.

    Looking back on this I haven’t actually succeeded in concepting a game where you don’t play a sociopath but at least this is actually a sociopathy that is sort of entertaining in the real world. Doesn’t it seem maybe playable?

  3. I like Harbour Master videos! I’m excited. Will the Waldo mask make an appearance? Will it include location shots? Special effects? How will narration be handled? Will there be narration?? I don’t know!

    By the end of your description, Matt, I was ready to vote yes to Greenlight that game. Paparazzi’s tagline? “Pop Pop Pop ‘Til They All Drop!”

  4. So I guess I already grumbled about the politics of the Castle Doctrine and that’s old news to everyone anyway, but something I just thought of; so it’s a game about breaking into other people’s houses and stealing their money (if their wives don’t make it out the front door), right? Is it just assumed that everyone keeps their money in their mattress?

  5. @BMO: The best part is, I don’t think Joel’ll ever get that one.

    @matt w: Pokemon Snap/ it sounds like the perfect GTA mod or minigame.

    @HM: You might want to check out “Ascent,” a game on Newgrounds. I’d write about it myself, but… I don’t have thumbs *nom* *nom* *nom* *nom*

  6. Yeah, it does sound very GTAish partly due to my lack of imagination, but it’s kind of got to be first-person. So you can sight the camera properly, you know?

    I was thinking “Screw Greenlight, I’m going for a fully Lady-Gaga-licensed official product”–it’d probably help expand the demographics too–but if you sponsor a paparazzi game you probably lose all your celebrity friends.

  7. As a backer of Anita Sarkeesian’s videos, I came across a rebuttal that was worth watching (via Graham Strachan). It’s not perfect – is anything? – but has some arguments you won’t have heard anywhere else. He also has his own Kickstarter, but it looks unlikely to succeed. I backed it. But oh my God his Twitter channel is incomprehensible though.

    I’m in the countryside for a few more days, so this comment is brought to you by patchy farm wifi. Highlights: Driving down single-track roads with passing places that are *really* far apart. Listening to a farm cat crush a baby rabbit’s head in its jaws. Looking up at the stars in the countryside darkness, in the countryside silence.


    I have been playing Miasmata – which I intended to write about in the next few weeks but got hooked on video production instead of finishing it. And then I went on holiday and we’re watching I, Claudius on DVD. (Second time around for me, first for Mrs. HM)

    Finished Metro 2033 although not entirely sure what I’m going to write about that. Something, I’m sure. Not sure what. I was supposed to be spending time on Occult Chronicles after I spent some quality time with the instructions – but instead dabbled with the preview version of a tunnel racer called Boson-X.

    And no, mwm is right. I have no idea what “America Runs on Goodwin” comes from.


    See I have a conflict-of-interest with your Paparazzi game, which is why I am urged to close comments every time you mention it. I have my own camera FPS concept, which I’ve decided I’d probably better do in 2D, just to ensure I can finish the damn thing. I feel that 3D hasn’t been explored enough in terms of mechanics – too much point, click, kill. I have a small bunch of ideas that I might actually develop if I gave up Electron Dance. So I think your concept is sound, although the danger is if it feels like a shooter – reskinned mechanics. I think your idea is unique (photgrapher FPS is not new, but this particular angle I don’t recall) but as you keep adding items like “infiltrate the wedding” “chase someone in a car” then you probably need venture capital =) I wonder if you could get a tabloid to sponsor your game.

    On The Castle Doctrine: from what I heard about the game, it just doesn’t sound like a game I want to play. What I find particularly interesting (that ill-conceived boycott seemed… ill-conceived from where I was sitting) is that Rohrer’s intentions have not been reflected in the resulting mechanics. Rohrer was trying to get at this helplessness at the core of the modern Western man in the face of this still-pervasive idea that men have to protect their families. There’s this engrossing post where Rohrer lays it all out. But where is this in the game? I think it’s the same kind of problem that affects Passage and Gravitation: Rohrer’s intention is easily obscured in the abstractions, and those abstractions give rise to a different interpretation, a different game altogether.


    Mask? Maybe. Location shots? Yes. Special effects? Probably not. Narration? Not in the classical sense, no. Will it be ever finished? ONE DAY.

    Look forward to meeting you in a month’s time!


    I intend to get round to it soon (already purchased). I think it will be useful for a particular piece I have in mind.


    Take a sabbatical. FROM LIFE.


    I can’t get Ascent to download here, the wifi is just too iffy. Maybe when I return to less greener pastures.

  8. I’ve had my head in Development Land; I am programming an elaborate videogame in Twine! That is probably why I have not commented. I didn’t even realize this was here. I’m like the worst person. I am the Stalin of videogames.

    I’m excited for the video!!!

  9. Dear Eric and Shaun,

    Here is a list of games I intend to play: Papers Please, Gone Home, 868-Hack, Mirrormoon EP, The Yawhg. Well, intended. After getting stuck into Miasmata and then going on a video rampage and then on a week in cottage, it’s been difficult to do much of anything. And Little HM starts school next week.

    I used to like Mister Donut in Japan.

    As expected, the traffic for this month have been miserably low except, erm, actually higher than last August’s stats.

  10. It’s ’cause everyone wants to read about the Paparazzi game!

    Which should not really be a conflict of interest with your project, if your project is only conflicting with projects that have a hope in hell of actually being completed, since my interest in seeing this game to fruition is very much less than zero. To do it the way it ought to be done it needs that venture capital — it needs to look good — and a whole bunch of other skills, none of which I have in any amount.

    And it kind of is supposed to be just a reskinned shooter/stealth game with the same mechanics, except that a lot of mechanics would need to be changed to make sense with the story (you can’t clear out mooks by photographing them). I’m just trying to reimagine how the mechanics of game genres can be repurposed for more lifelike stories. And also set up that pun about headshots. I kind of would like to see the electioneering roguelike happen, partly because it doesn’t require venture capital and seems like the sort of project I might be able to get people to help me with (who know stuff about coding and game design ‘n’at), and also partly because it might be fun for me to play. But this is just straight-up conceptual art. Anyone who wants to use it can, but if you have another idea — or heck, if you want to take any bits of this you like for your other idea — you shouldn’t feel threatened.

    (When I say reimagining game genres, I’ve only done two and I don’t know of any others. Platformers? What would I do with platformers? RTS? I’ve played Eufloria, and, er, could you turn that into a hydrology sim? Tower defense — oooh, I’ve got it. Tower defense is going to turn into an advertising sim, where the bugs are people going through a mall or a cityscape or a highway system and the towers are ads of various sorts and the ads can break down their resistance gradually until they become customers and once again the mechanic where defeating an enemy gets you some money ACTUALLY MAKES A BIT OF SENSE. Kind of weird how that keeps happening when you stop making murder simulators.)

    Anyway the ideas I’ll regret not turning into reality involve philosophy and fiction and maybe text games, but not this stuff. I’ve already done what I want to do with it.

    I’ve pretty much played nothing for the past couple of weeks, with the term starting — and with it a cough that can easily start a vicious cycle, because I have to lecture, and that destroys my voice, and makes it hard for me to recover from my cough, but I still have to lecture… last term this ended with my learning what “haemoptysis” means. Anyway I’m spending a lot of time without even enough energy to play anything for long at all, or sitting around reading instead of playing.

    I have some grumpy thoughts about Rohrer’s post but they get into US politics pretty heavily so maybe I ought to keep them to myself. He does seem to be kind of un-aware though, I don’t even mean entirely about how he comes off but also about things like where Mez is. I did think that Gravitation’s message came through even with the abstractions, partly because the gameplay (unlike Passage) was engaging in itself. I felt the dadfeels (though not a dad when I played it), though subsequent developments may show how those can be problematic.

  11. That article Rohrer wrote was terrifying and the pitbull image was… wow. That thing looked unreal so god knows what he saw on those streets. I’m not familiar with his new game but his thoughts on the threshold of hitting out at potential danger before it hurts you reminded me of my limited time with DayZ. That game/mod handles that sort of friction very very well, Steerpike will vouch for this as I’m sure he remembers the two of us stumbling across another survivor hiding in a bush metres away from us, guns nervously trained on each other. None of us fired a shot, but it could have gone so very badly if any one of us had hit out prematurely. In fact, the survivor, Jan, was as scared as us and joined us on journey to meet up with Armand and co.

    Game-wise I’ve been playing Guns of Icarus a lot, still. Damn, it’s good. I installed Saints Row: The Third again to see if I can stick with it this time but I feel myself flagging again. I’m back into Age of Mythology after Sacrifice got me reminiscing about it. A friend has lent me The Last of Us which I started last night and with Natural Selection 2 having another big update I’m sure I’ll be slipping back into that again.

    I recently read I Am Legend and enjoyed it. Watched The Returned, The Conjuring, Midnight in Paris, The World’s End, Warm Bodies, World War Pitt, Zulu, Moonrise Kingdom and… we’ve got Wreck-It Ralph this week. Also, Horrible Histories is too funny for kids.

  12. You know how I just said I hadn’t been playing any games? Well I finished my book (The Interestings, recommended) and got healthy enough to be able to concentrate but not enough to work and Whammo! So I played my usual no-progress round of Starseed Pilgrim and downloaded English Country Tune (WTF, my brain is broken, and there are some UI choices in there that are so weird that I’d think they were bugs except this is a guy who wrote a game with an entire world devoted to tutorial and it was the third world) and played the online demo of Intrusion 2 and was inspired to download that too though not actually to open it and then I played all the way through A Dark Room which is like post-apocalyptic Candy Box except it requires a bit more attention which can be annoying. But it’s good. It kind of inspires me that if I’m going to make that game inspired by Children of Lir it should go on that model. (The only other Children of Lir game I know of uses time as a pacing device in a very different way.) And I was inspired to read some more about Amnesia again! Not to download it, though.

    But speaking of Bundle Fatigue, the Humble Weekly Sale has taken a break from glorified Steam promos for something kind of interesting! What do you guys think about Skyward Collapse and Shattered Haven? Worth beating a minimum for? Should I just toss in a buck or two for A Valley Without Wind, which always sounded kinda interesting, and AI War too?

  13. I love Arcen. They’ve never made a completely successful game and yet every single game they’ve made has ten more interesting ideas than ones that work more smoothly. Shattered Haven is probably their most straightforward and successful and it too is not like any zombie game I’ve ever played. A Valley Without Wind is the jewel of the collection. You can get lost for weeks in there. I need to pick that up again.

  14. Bloody bundles! I mean, they’re great and all. But still. I’d steered clear of the lot of them since the Russian Indie Game bundle, and then over the past couple of weeks I’ve bitten down on the EA bundle – for Battlefield 3 of all sodding things – and the Paradox bundle for Crusader Kings 2 and Warlock. And now Arcen are in on the game! I’ve barely played AI War and I didn’t get into AVWW at all when it was in beta, but they’re a great indie studio and… argh.

  15. OK, boughted. Though AVWW seems to be under the impression that I’m playing the demo. Still, I get the same impression as Richard — they have more interesting ideas than they know what to do with.

  16. AVWW1 and 2 are very interesting cases because they’re kind of examples of using the same exact pieces to play two different games–or, rather, 1 is a playset and 2 is a game using that playset. 2 is a much, much more focused game with a much clearer goal, but it loses a lot of the manic energy that’s just exploding everywhere in the first.

    Thinking about Skyward Collapse, I feel almost as if they went too far in the other direction–it’s a fairly tight game, and as such it feels a lot more repetitive. I got the sense I discovered most of it and didn’t feel like I was going to get any more out of the game, although to be fair I only played a few games of it. I now own the DLC–I bought the pack again because, hey, Arcen should get another couple bucks of mine based on how much I like their stuff–and I would like to try that because more factions are an obvious way to twist the formula.

    Definitely poke through the documentation and check out the development blogs because they write some of the most consistently fascinating nuts-and-bolts manuals I’ve ever read. The map in AVWW1, for example, makes no fucking sense when you first see it, but if you drill deep into the helptext there’s a long justification for it, and it turns out to be one of the most well-thought-out maps I’ve ever seen. The dungeons in the game are almost fractally infinite, as you’ll see, and the map does an amazing job of representing it.

    So yeah–they’re super talented (I should learn the designers’ names, shouldn’t I?), and all of their mechanics are extremely well-thought-out. Their games often feel like they wrote a letter using every single font their computer had. After a while, it’s exhausting–but I love them because no other games are like them.

    It turns out my mouse is bullshit; It’s almost impossible for me to play games that involve precision pointing a anything resembling a proper speed now. I feel like it’s a wireless problem. I know nothing about computers.

  17. I can’t help but feel the same way about Valley Without Wind. I have it, played it, like it, but when I remember playing it the first time I recall saying aloud to the devs that the appeal was sadly limited because it was so dense and there was so much unusual going on and so much to remember that it’s easy to lose people. It has this kind of wild level design that reminds me of the old days before level design was “all figured out.” The game has a genuine sense of mystery to it that feels like a throwback in some ways.

  18. I figured out how to de-demo AVWW! There’s a link on the purchase page and an explanation in the system requirements. Not that I’m going to need anything I unlocked anytime soon, likely. But of course my time to play is dubious; I feel like whenever I clear out a block of time I ought to be writing papers, though of course what I actually am doing is following the Pittsburgh Pirates game. (Go Pirates, right Amanda?)

    It’s intriguing how there are a couple places in the basically-tutorial part that take a little effort to get to, and when you get there the game says “Why are you even here, numbskull? Use your map to figure out that you don’t have to go this kind of place.” Signalling that yer typical explore-the-crannies style isn’t what’s called for here. Which goes along with what you’ve said.

    I got back into Probability 0 because it’s great for short bursts. Even managed to get past the “Take out the enemies you start with and run away from everything else” stage. Though I read somewhere that there are bosses eventually… who knew? I wonder if it actually has an ending like some roguelikes and it’s just that no one’s reached it.

  19. I never thought about that but the game does give a sense of conquering a vastness by giving you not more rooms to explore but fewer. In the beginning stages you probably will waste some time on unnecessary rooms and items, and a lot of the meaning in the game comes from interpreting what’s around and how to most efficiently gain resources. You go from floundering around an infinite world to surgically hitting only the areas you need to.

    One of the things I like most about the game is how enemies, achievements, difficulty, and exploration are all linked. You fight a certain enemy type; when you kill a determined number you get an achievement, which unlocks a more difficult version of that type, leading you to seek them out and repeat the process. It’s an excellent way of pacing the difficulty to the player and making them responsible for their experience. In a way, while AVWW might just be a gigantic, unfocused sink, it genuinely does give the player the controls and says, okay, here’s some stuff you can do, go and have fun and be back in time for supper.

    Now how’s that for a player-authored experience! I love Arcen because it doesn’t condescend. Bio shock Infinite and Skyward Sword are two of the worst games ever made because they do not trust the players to be able to wipe their own asses and so grab their heads and scream a shitty story at them. I love AVWW like I love Dark Souls, because it shuts up and lets me putter around and it makes me work for what I find.

  20. @matt w 😀

    How you know I’m not really a local originally is the first time I went to the game it kinda threw me off that they call them ‘The Bucs.’

  21. Okay, we’re talking about Arcen now.

    Arcen sent me a key for AVWW1 and 2 and I did have a quick play of AVWW2 and just – it didn’t click for me. Massive complexity and I just didn’t find what I was doing interesting enough. That’s not to say the game was bad, but it wasn’t triggering interest for me at all. I haven’t looked at Skyward Collapse, although I do have a key for that too.

    That reminds me, I should change one of the Electron Dance “rules” I have about not accepting free copies of games from developers. I am currently the recipient of many free copies of games (although I am not playing them all, no time as the rule states) but it was Graham Strachan that convinced me to change the rule. He made a Twitter comment that if games journalists didn’t receive free copies then it was naive to think magazines and sites that barely have enough to pay anyone would actually buy games for the purpose of review. I mean, that’s the relationship film and theatre have had with critics and reviewers, right? They send the press free tickets or screeners.

    What was on my mind when I wrote that rule regarding conflict of interest is that (a) there was a lot of shit flying around regarding advertising influencing content (e.g. Gerstmann-gate) and also (b) I don’t like to be mean to people so if they I received a copy of a game, I’d feel bad if I didn’t say something nice about it.

    However it turns out that if I don’t like the game I don’t write about it. Problem solved! Let’s go update that rule now…

    (And, as a general review of Electron Dance ethics, I’ve also been wondering whether I should get something like sponsorship here. Really cheap sponsorship. Bargain bucket sponsorship. IT IS THE END TIMES.)

  22. I forgot to add that Hyper Light Drifter looks interesting, but as I’ve said on Twitter, it looks just like the kind of project that would do well on Kickstarter: tried and trusted RPG format, cool sci-fi/fantasy fusion, sassy video, strong developer team.

  23. Huh. I discovered that it is possible to start Probability 0 standing on a horizontal wall of unbreakable blocks across the screen.

  24. Yeah, occasionally Probability 0 generates something that’s nigh-on impossible. I’ve never had something THAT impossible though. Then again, why don’t you try playing Expert because that doesn’t have many blocks at all!

  25. That’s the first I’ve heard of Hyper Light Drifter. I’m seeing elements of S:S&S EP, Journey and the Shadow of the Colossus in it, and some weird futuristic neon glitch aesthetic going on that reminds me of that Stealer game/concept animated gif thing.

  26. Always on my mind certain topics about our “video game world”; like the journalism. There is a place where we have pleasure to criticize and see others critics. A pleasure to imagine and get inspiration to make that new game of the year or that genius book, etc. Principally in new games that has not been released. But this not concern me too much than all the hype most major sites do. The key word to my observations is: PSEUDO.

    Most of them are noisy about the triple A industry, the always-the-same product every year, the lack of humanism in games, the shooters, the gta s, the next assassin’s creed s, etc. But every day we have a new image exclusive of some triple A with a suspicious commentary about his quality. Then a article about a game that its anti-streaming and promising be a new citizen kane. After this we see an article criticizing the subject of previous articles. And more after, we see a full cover of that GTA V or Battlefield 3. When the review come they come with one “amazing”. Articles saying that Ilizabeth are more human than I. If that isn’t enough we see kickstarter’s projects popping up with promises and dreams, they want more and more. But we see them not only on kickstarter, we see them on these sites, making promises for these projects only by the sake of the fresh new. And again after that, other article saying that was bullshit. These days the game per si its not very important than the imagination of the game. It’s another category of game: pseudo game genre. Journalism i’ts a serious thing, it’s not only because it’s about games that we have to ignore the dangerous. So I think we have to ask ourselves what’s the point of gaming journalism and separate journalism, critic, personal thought, publicity and masturbation.

    *sorry my english

  27. Hey Pedro, thanks for dropping a comment in the Open Mike thread! I have to admit I’m quite jaded these days with the hype – mostly based on trailers or PR gibber – even from more some of our more progressive sites. I tune out of it mostly, and latch more onto sites that are a little more laid back, that show some restraint. (I’m not sure if Electron Dance is even in this category because I can get quite excited at times.)

    But let’s be frank: game journalism doesn’t pay well and no one wants to pay for it. You get what you pay for.

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