Letters to the Editor

Better Than Before


In response to “Glitching the Tank” from The Escapist forums:
It all comes back to what, if anything, the Gamerscore measures… and what the point of this whole “gaming” endeavor really is.

For you, it seems Gamerscore is simply a metric for how much fun you’ve had. Did you wring every last bit of fun out of this game you’ve purchased, or did you miss some? That is the accomplishment you’re looking to measure, and it’s a worthy accomplishment at that.

To others, Gamerscore is a symbol of the catalog of skills they’ve acquired and demonstrated. To them, this is the worthy accomplishment–not demonstrating dominance of the game itself, but of the skills the game entails (and other gamers).

The only problem, as I see it, is when one side insists that the other adopts the same meaning. Usually, it’s the “skill metric” crowd that’s insisting, because it’s only that particular camp that frequently compares scores with others.


I’ve always thought the word “Glitch” has such a negitive feel to it.
I prefer to think of them as “Non-standard Easter Eggs”.



In response to “What Purpose, Minecraft Zombies?” from The Escapist forums:
I really like in Minecraft how your really not ever invincible, and there is always the danger of dieing. (I play purely on hard though, put it on normal or easy kinda negates my argument) In some other games you can get to a point when almost nothing can kill you, but in Minecraft, the best thing you can do is get a full set of iron armor and a diamond sword. Which DOES make you rather powerful, but nowhere near invincible.



In response to “The Ballet of Death” from The Escapist forums:
I hope I’m wrong, but I think they did their jobs a little TOO well. Once the game actually comes out, it’s probably going to be another run-of-the-mill zombie shooter.

Which would normally be acceptable, but this trailer set expectations. We want to play the game in reverse with piano music while we cry, hacking the zombies and wiping our tears in tandem.

And I don’t think that’s anything even remotely close to the game we’re getting.


… Unless a game can deliver on it’s marketing we will quickly become immune.

I would point to the success of movie tie-in games as a direct opposition to this statement.

It makes me sad that a backlash has developed against Dead Island (which feels like an indie effort), yet nobody complains about the unfair way in which Star Wars (or Rio) will cause a huge number of instant sales by leveraging their tie-in movies.
(the multiple horrible Matrix tie-in games also come to mind, as the most painful examples of this phenomenon).

The point is not whether Dead Island’s trailer will ultimately honestly reflect gameplay. the point is you will now actually look at this game because it probably ties into this great movie somehow.

Without this trailer I’d wager Dead Island would have gone straight to the bargain bin. But thanks to a strong short tie-in movie, Dead Island now has a chance at becoming a brand.
They could even totally fuck up the upcoming game, and then announce “Uh, k, we’re making a new dead island game that will tie more into the feeling of our famous trailer” and people will come back for a look.

Gameplay can’t be conveyed effectively through video, audio, or text (where we humans currently expect our advertising). You can try to shove gameplay into these mediums, but will have a hard time competing with the other polished products we already enjoy. Nowadays it’s better to release a short movie/trailer, great soundtrack album, and a short novel, than to struggle to spread gameplay-movies, gameplay-audio and gameplay-review texts.

the recent portal trailers were pre-rendered, and conveyed a mood. (the final one, “boots”, even showed you the main character in action: which served to inform my gameplay in ways the game never came close to – I’d never thought about Chell spark-skidding across plates and landing in a badass crouching pose. Don’t confuse those Portal trailers with gameplay. They were short movies.).

* The original article author was correct that nobody currently remembers trailer in the long run… I guess. Maybe that’s my key problem with this whole backlash to the DeadIsland trailer.

I think this mindset will change. With youtube, you can go back and enjoy good trailers. I already keep track of trailers that were far better than the movie (terminator4, 300, star wars prequels, come to mind). Hopefully, the real lesson of the Dead Island trailer is : we’re entering an era where the advertisement houses will be more recognized and remembered for their art.



In response to “How Games Get Zombies Wrong” from The Escapist forums:
A note on “negative reinforcement”:

You don’t want to reinforce them. And you’re certainly not doing it negatively. “Reinforce” means you are attempting to get them to continue that behavior. And what you’re doing isn’t “negative”, it is “positive”: you are applying something (instead of taking something away), in this case electricity to the brain.

What you’re really doing is positive punishment. Punishment because you are trying to decrease the unwanted behavior. Positive because you are adding something to their experience (electricity to the brain). Let’s whip out the grid so you get a full understanding of the ideas:

. decreases likelihood of behavior increases likelihood of behavior
presented positive punishment positive reinforcement
taken away negative punishment negative reinforcement

Any time you are attempting to decrease the likelihood of a behavior (such as make bad zombie games), what you’re doing is punishment. Punishment takes two forms: positive (the addition of something undesirable; electroshock) and negative (removal of something desirable; money, i.e., a fine).

If you are trying to increase the likelihood of behavior, what you’re doing is reinforcing a behavior. Reinforcement also takes two forms: positive (the addition of something desirable; have a candy bar) and negative (the removal of something undesirable; let’s turn off that high-pitched whine).

/psychologist rant


This is just a long-winded way of saying that a zombie movie is not the same as a zombie game. In zombie fiction, the danger does indeed come from the threat of infection, or competition with other humans over scarce resources in a devestated world.

In zombie games, the threat comes from the zombies themselves, for which the counter is guns, guns, and more guns.

The two share some elements; namely zombies, although the zombies themselves are not the same across all media.

Zombie games won’t become better games by becoming more like zombie movies, or making the zombies in zombie games more like the zombies in zombie movies. Making other humans the real threat in zombie games just makes zombie games more like non-zombie games.

The way out of this conundrum has already been shown by one game: Stubbs the Zombie. In a proper zombie game, you play as the zombie– which makes it only natural that the real threat comes from humans.

I’m sort of at a loss for what the author expects developers do to differently as a result of these revelations, if anything.


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