Phil Savage: Crime and punishment
Rockstar released a cheeky little patch for Grand Theft Auto V this week, supposedly fixing the performance problems introduced by a previous update. It's ostensibly good news, although some claim the patch hasn't reduced the recent onset of in-game stuttering.
Alongside the patch, Rockstar also clarified their position on modding. "Our primary focus is on protecting GTA Online against modifications that could give players an unfair advantage, disrupt gameplay, or cause griefing," they said. "However, as a reminder, mods are still unauthorized and as such, Title Updates may cause Story Mode mods to behave in unexpected ways because they are not supported or tested, and players run them at their own risk."
It brings into focus the problem Rockstar has. On the one hand, GTA mods are great. On the other, GTA Online is a mess. I started playing it again this week, and—while I've not had too much trouble with hackers—I have found more than a few players walking around as cats, or avoiding bounty hunters by teleporting across the map. I imagine clearing out GTA Online cheats without accidentally punishing singleplayer modders is a tough problem to solve. Nonetheless, if Rockstar really wants GTA Online to thrive on PC, it's in their interest to do it.
Andy Kelly: The great outdoors
From tomorrow I'll be in the Scottish Highlands for 8 days. I'll be hiking, getting bitten by midges, probably getting rained on, and recreating that bit in Skyfall where M and Bond stand looking at some mountains. Seriously, I found the filming location on Google Maps. But even though I'll be out there, having fun, living my life, exploring the great outdoors, I just know I'm going to miss my PC. Pathetic, eh? Whenever I'm away for a week or more, I always get withdrawal.
Gaming has, over time, become an intrinsic part of my everyday life. It's my primary means of relaxing, and the thing I turn to whenever I'm bored or have a moment to myself. When I'm in the wilds of Scotland I won't be able to play any games, except on my phone, but who the hell wants to play mobile games? So I'm just going to have to tough it out. It worries me that I've become so dependent on technology, though. The human race is doomed.
Evan Lahti: I read the comments
My story about the number of games hitting Steam in 2015 drew more than 1,000 comments, if we’re tallying Facebook too. A lot of folks have a lot to say about the state of Steam, as it turns out! The article was meant to be persuasive—putting forth the idea that, yes, there are a ton of games on Steam right now, but no, that isn’t something that should create concern of any kind.
I didn’t get any backlash for that, or anything, but I was let down a little that the comments indicated that a lot of folks have the perception that cheap, bad, or Early Access games are “clogging up” Steam. Are we really counting on Steam as our primary or even secondary way of finding new games? I feel like that stopped being a good strategy a long time ago, and along with it died the notion that dozens of new games each week would “clog” anything.
Here’s another way I can put it: for me, finding the right book through Amazon itself is an unparalleled nightmare. The interface does absolutely nothing to convey the substance of a book, doesn’t do a good job of curating specific genres I like, and whatever algorithmic “recommendation” or “curation” Amazon shoves in front of me to compensate just gets in the way. But this is an incredibly solvable problem. There are hundreds of blogs, podcasts, and reviews of books, and dozens of those are sources that I get a lot out of. Once I stopped relying on Amazon for discovery and started relying on experts and writers I loved, my reading experience got a whole lot better.
Tom Senior: Roping the dopers in
The practice of player doping in esports has reached public attention recently, and the ESL will introduce randomised drug testing at the upcoming Cologne meet as a result. It’s a sensible move, but goes to show that it doesn’t matter which side of the tedious “can games be sport” argument you adhere to: esports will face many of the same challenges as traditional sports. Wherever you have vast sums of money and limited independent oversight, there’s a risk of corruption, match-fixing, doping and more. Not to suggest that these elements are rife in esports yet, but boxing, soccer and even cricket and snooker have endured many such scandals; it would be foolish to assume that esports won’t.
James Davenport: Got TF2 many FTProblems
I spent a good amount of time over the last week teaching myself how to configure a TF2 server remotely through FTP. With a fellow admin, we tinkered and touched up the place. It’s been a while since the PC Gamer TF2 server has been attended to, so we figured a proper comeback was in order. Everything was hunky-dory, ready to go, but while editing some config files on our server via an FTP client, I held down the mouse button for too long and dragged and moved a bunch of map files into another folder. In my panic, I clicked again, faster, and dragged more data elsewhere. My panic reached such a climax, that I’d lost track of what went where. Now maps wouldn’t load properly and the client would crash without warning. I was not doing a good job. In fact, you might say I did a bad job—we could debate semantics endlessly. But with a quick server reinstall and the help of a person much smarter than me, everything slotted back into place without much of a hassle. Just be careful in that FTP client, folks. Don’t be: Me.
Tim Clark: Beauty not just in the eye of the beholder
Obviously, I get why Randy Pitchford feels the need to uphold the honour of Aliens: Colonial Marines and Duke Nukem Forever. In the case of the former, a lawsuit based on supposedly broken promises is bound to make anyone a little defensive. And ultimately, those games are his babies, even if they came out looking a little wonky. Okay, quite a lot wonky. But he and his colleagues sweated over those games, so of course he’s going to see the best in them. But, where I lose sympathy for his argument is with the suggestion that all opinions are equally valid, therefore any criticism is kinda irrelevant.
Back when the dinosaurs roamed the Earth, I took a course in aesthetics at university (yes, yes, I know, but I found work eventually) and used to run into this argument regularly. Essentially it boils down to: “Well, it’s art... It’s all subjective innit?” The professor would eviscerate anyone attempting this line with ease. His counterpoint was that for any artform, there may not be definitive definitions of what’s good, but there are generally loosely agreed indications of quality. And using these it’s easy to build a strong empirical case for why X exhibits greater artistry than Y. It’s not just an opinion that Breaking Bad is better than Beverly Hills 90210. You can make a watertight case for why it’s a strictly better example of televised drama. I hope that’s cleared that up, and we can all stop talking about Colonial Marines now. Which, in case there is still some confusion, was not good.