Games Industry Roundup

You’ll hear all sorts of crazy things coming out of the games industry at the moment, largely because the ‘social games’ bubble has burst, and so everyone’s talking VR, because that bubble is still being blown. No-one, in my view, has a clue about the shape of the market in 2 years time, let alone 10 years. But that doesn’t stop speculation. Here’s the best and worst of what’s out there, along with some annotations.

  • A must-read for indie developers is Dan Cook’s Autumn of Indie Game Markets over at Lost Garden. A brilliant and cogent summary of what has happened, and what we can expect to happen next. Don’t let the length put you off from reading this essential piece.
  • Dan quotes Will Wright’s remark that 2005-2008 was a ‘Cambrian explosion’ of videogames. But seriously, the videogame Cambrian explosion ran from 1980-1987. The key years were 1984-5. The last pivotal game was Dungeon Master in ’87, which helped turn D&D into the FPS.
  • Not many articles on VR capture my concerns about this market ‘opportunity’, but over on gamesindustry.biz Rob Fahey hits his mark once again in VR: There will be blood. (Thanks to Nicholas Lovell for bringing my attention to this one.)
  • As Dan pointed out, VR is an opportunity because investors are interested in it. That doesn’t make it a viable long-term market. I remember when episodic content was what investors wanted. Only one company (Telltale) made it work – and it certainly helped that all their staff were ex-LucasArts employees. Investors know nothing about games. But they do have money to burn…
  • Speaking of money to burn, check out this interview with Andrew Wilson, the current CEO of the once market-leading Electronic Arts, also the company that gave Will Wright his big break with, ahem, Raid on Bungling Bay (1984)*. Call me uncharitable if you must, but Wilson comes off as a steely eyed nutjob to me. Fortunately, I doubt his job has anything to do with productively influencing EA’s low-innovation, ultra-conservative business model.

*Actually, I really enjoyed this game, even though it was just about bombing blocky battleships with a blocky helicopter. 

Cross-posted from ihobo.com.


No Man's Sky Roundup

Not Really NoctisYou might have noticed a little game came out recently called No Man’s Sky. If you didn’t, you must be trawling a different part of the internet from me because I have been invaded, cajoled, frustrated, and panhandled by No Man’s Sky ads so much at this point that I’m pretty committed to not buying it. Mind you, I had already swayed against since it’s not at all what I wanted – which is just a slightly more polished Noctis. For those of you looking to read something about No Man’s Sky, however, here’s the roundup:

  • Don’t know what the game is? Start with Gareth Damian Martin’s rather reasonable review, which is let down by never mentioning Noctis.
  • Heard about its technical problems? Well the developers say that “Less than one percent” of players have reported issues. They mean ‘have raised a support ticket’. Most players report issues by bitching into Twitter.
  • Lewie Procter, on the other hand, complains about the “lack of multiplayer”, which was at least (he says) implied, if not outright promised.
  • Brendan Caldwell skips straight to ballistic and wades in with accusations of “broken promises”.
  • Brendan Keogh offers a counter-Brendan, trying to drum up sanity from the internet.
  • …and the same kind of “seriously you guys?” with a lot more amusing swearing can be found in Rob’s rambling retort.
  • Lastly, if (like me) you just wish No Man’s Sky was actually a buffed-up Noctis, there’s Dylan Roberts’ piece, Before No Man’s Sky there was Noctis, which might explain why that was what I personally wanted.

Is the opening image from No Man’s Sky or Noctis? Actually, neither, it’s Frig’s mock ups of Noctis V, the sequel that doesn’t exist, as posted to Anynowhere. If you’re making a Noctis-style game, please do let me know, because No Man’s Sky just isn’t Noctis enough for my tastes.

Cross-posted from ihobo.com.


Games News from June

Some stories from my blog cluster that caught my attention:

  • Valve is being sued for not shutting down the gambling at sites such as CSGO lounge, and thus being implicitly involved in illegal gambling. Note that no-one has yet sued them for the internal economy of the drops-with-microtransactions in the game, which could equally be considered infringing on gambling laws from a certain light. (Story via Slashdot).
  • At the other end of the economic scale, Gamesbrief has a piece on Hadean Lands a low-rent contemporary text adventure selling on Steam for £8.99, to which you can add DLC to make it £26.99. What’s the DLC? A Certificate you sign to promise you won’t use hints to complete it. Clever marketing for a game that adheres to the puzzle-driven practices of a classic genre.
  • Meanwhile, the new publisher of Wikipedia Knows Nothing, ETC Press, has released Volume 1 of Analog Game Studies. While ‘analogue games’ is a foul piece of retroactive slander against boardgames, this is a magnificent collection of scholarly work on the form – and you can get it for free.
  • In sadder boardgame news, Goro Hasegawa has died at the age of 83. Hasegawa-san is famous for creating the boardgame Othello, which famously marketed with the phrase “A minute to learn… a lifetime to master”. (Story via Purple Pawn).
  • And finally, one of Purple Pawn’s writers, Yehuda, is also my favourite capsule film reviewer. Along with other reviews, check out his dismantlement of X-Men: Apocalypse, which faithfully recreates the tedium of Apocalypse in the comics.

More nonsense soon!


Defrosted Snippets

It’s been a while since I posted some snippets, and I thought it was time to get back to them:

  • The Republic of Bloggers did not stand idly by while I was on my annual Autumn break from social media. Firstly, there was this piece, Modern Philosophy and its Loss of Wisdom, from Chris Billows, my reply for which is running tomorrow.
  • …secondly, Jeroen D. Stout pens Discourses: Reflecting on the A-word with Chris Bateman, Part Two, over at his Tumblr. I don’t have a reply for this yet, but I am broadly in alignment with much of what Jeroen says here despite our general disagreement. That said, I do believe 'art' is an important word; there is a cost to giving it up that Jeroen doesn't consider.
  • In other news, I thoroughly enjoyed the current series of Doctor Who, which concluded on Saturday night. Despite niggles (see my piece from last week on Moffat’s schizophrenic continuity), this has been my favourite of all the Nu Who series so far. Of particularly interest was the way that cliffhangers were used, which breathes new life into something that hasn’t worked as well as it did in the classic show.
  • …that said, it has been very disappointing that there wasn’t a single episode I thought my son would enjoy. I would welcome a return to the family-friendly format Moffat insists is still the show’s mission statement. In the meantime, there’s always Carnival of Monsters on the Horror channel we can enjoy.
  • One other complaint: Moffat twice draws attention to the military use of drones, once by UNIT, once by the Time Lords’ army. But by not taking any kind of moral stand on this vital contemporary issue, he effectively endorses their usage. I have severe issues with this ambivalence, and the ethical problems of drone usage is one of the topics in Chaos Ethics.

That’s all for now! A new blog letter runs tomorrow.


Hermit Stage Complete!

Back to social media this June… it is not a transition I am looking forward to, but I’m sure it won’t be so bad once I get over the initial terror at reconnecting to the hive mind.

  • If you commented on either of my blogs, replying to you is my highest priority. Blogs before slogs.
  • If you messaged me on Twitter, I will get back to you, but please allow a few days as I haven’t even installed the app on my pocket robot yet.
  • If you commented on Google+, Chrome would have harassed me about it while I was using Gmail, which is another reminder that I should try and leave Gmail this Summer.
  • Shout out to everyone I met at DiGRA, which I really enjoyed in the end. My ten minute presentation ended up having half an hour, which was just long enough to have fun with it.
  • Apologies, but I doubt I will put my DiGRA presentation online, as it is incomplete without me talking over it. I continue to mull, though, and could be swayed…

What’s in store this June? Find out tomorrow…


Blog Republic Round-up

Thrilled to report that the blog is not dead, it is just under pressure from conventional social media. I have recently been enjoying my greatest extent of cross-blog conversations since the previous decade – and I’m loving it! Here’s what’s been happening…

More nonsense next week.


Return of the Snippets

Once upon a time, I did a snippets every week. I'd like at least to get back to doing them every month if I can. So without further ado, here are my idle thoughts:

  • Reading my second Whitehead book, his 1925 lecture series Science and the Modern World - and it's phenomenal. Ideas in this book do not re-emerge until the 1970s or later, and his critique of scientific materialism is essential reading for anyone with an interest in philosophy of science. Forget Popper; Whitehead is the twentieth century master of scientific philosophy.
  • While away in the States, I read two more books by Alain Badiou, who I continue to enjoy - while disagreeing with him on many points. I am particularly stirred by his explanation that what he called 'true' is what Plato calls 'good', what Deleuze calls 'sense' etc. This point makes me utterly re-evaluate Plato. Still reeling from the implications of this.
  • The fallout from the terrible events in Paris recently have shown the shallow appreciation we have for our now-fragile, collective rights. It is perfectly reasonable to defend freedom of speech and yet suggest that we should not use it to defame (as Pope Francis recently did) - don't confuse legal protections with moral duties. Those who think you 'protect' freedom of speech by intentionally speaking offensively have failed to understand the moral project of the Enlightenment or the responsibilties entailed in freedom of speech.
  • It is also worth stressing that the motive for the Paris attacks was not the defamation of the prophet Muhammad, per se, although this was the reason for the choice of target: terrorist groups are responding to the atrocities conducted - primarily via robotic bombings - in and around countries such as Pakistan etc. We all should be horrified by what is being done in our name: why aren't we even talking about this?
  • On a lighter note, I am very excited by the new Tale of Tales project, Sunset, and am indeed in the process of conceptualising Michael and Auriea's work in terms of Badiou's truth procedure for art. I hope to write to them about this later this year, if only I can find a gap in their busy schedule!

More nonsense just around the corner!


The Calm Before the Storm

With a new baby approaching at the end of this month, I am about to go on Paternity leave. I will tie up the blogs when my leave begins, for now I am working hard on finishing up the script to Shadows: Heretic Kingdoms, and arranging the first voice recordings (more on this soon!). Here’s a few snippets to keep you going:

  • I am giving a talk on games as art at a gallery in Edinburgh on Thursday 1st May. The details are not confirmed yet, I will promote it here once the ink has dried.
  • Chaos Ethics is in production, and I expect to have galley proofs within a month – the PDF will then be available to reviewers, academics and bloggers.
  • From May, I will be running the largest Game Design internship programme in the world (40 interns!) – sorry, there is no availability remaining for new applicants.
  • My defection from Google Drive to Copy.com has been a success (see Defecting from Google Drive for the background and a referral link). I had to use their customer support the other day – they replied within 12 hours, two humans assisted me, the problem was solved within two days. Compare this to Google’s policy of ‘you can complain, but we won’t listen to you because we always know best’.
  • My backlog of games now includes Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs and Dominique Pamplemousse in It's All Over Once The Fat Lady Sings!, both of which I’m looking forward to playing when I have time. If anyone has any time to give me, do let me know!

Something to say to me? Comments and blog-letters are always welcome!


On the Verge of Beginning to Finish

Beginning of the End Still more swamped than a drunken Cajun fisherman who mistakes a log for his boat. But I can see the light switch at the junction nearest the end of the tunnel, even if no actual light is reaching my retinas at this precise moment in time...

  • I was on national radio yesterday, on BBC Radio 4's consumer affairs show, You and Yours, commenting on (of all things) the portrayal of disfigurement in videogames. It’s a step up from local radio, to be sure! Slightly too many 'ums' coming out of my mouth for my taste, but I guess I did fine. If you’re in the UK you can listen for the next week on BBC iPlayer. My slot is 20 minutes in, after gold traders and smart meters.
  • Now less than one day’s writing (about 3,000 words) short of a first draft manuscript for Chaos Ethics! So far inside its world now that I no longer know how people usually use the word 'ethic'.
  • Have a final version of my PhD materials approved by my supervisor squad now. Soon, I shall be a real fake doctor!
  • After a year, the journal Games and Culture found one reviewer to provide feedback for "Implicit Game Aesthetics". Alas, I don't think they understood my paper but on the plus side I can now edit it to reduce the chance that others will also misunderstand it. In journal terms, let’s call it a win.
  • Three games of Arkham Horror this weekend, all against Zhar. Result: 14 Investigators devoured. We had good fun, but it’s galling to lose so badly so many times in a row. Great to get a friend along for the last game, though – even if he was as doomed as we were!

So close to wriggling free of my obligations – expect far more frequent and regular bloggery from me this Summer!


Endless Winter

Here in Manchester, we are beginning to lose hope that the cold weather will ever end as we face down a ‘White Easter’. Some brief thoughts…

  • Still an excellent chance to win a book in the Spring Review Drive! There are currently only two people in the competition and there are still two books to be won, so if you think you could write a short review of one of my books there’s an exceptionally high chance of winning.
  • I have resumed working on Chaos Ethics more or less full time during the University’s Easter Break. I’m turning down consultancy work until I get this one completed. Progress has been slow since the restructure derailed my momentum, but I hope to get back on track soon.
  • My PhD is getting close now… I have all the materials compiled, and if all goes well I’ll be a Doctor by the middle of Summer. Not entirely sure how I feel about this, though: reading Ivan Illich leaves me very cynical when it comes to these self-certified professions.
  • I’m about to apply for funding for my testosterone research… if I get it, I’ll finally be able to do some of my own research instead of waiting for other people to do it for me.
  • Working on my first home-made boardgame in several years, a never-for-publication homage to the classic race game The London Game but transferred to a megatextual fantasy setting – visiting places like Tanelorn, Ulthar, Minas Tirith or The Emerald City. Incredibly good fun, it’s taken over my gaming time with my wife at the moment.

Have a great week everyone!