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Diecast #55: Mailbag!

By Shamus
on Monday Apr 28, 2014
Filed under:


Perhaps to counter-balance the packed cast of last week, we’ve got a skeleton crew this week. As a result, no Spoiler Warning. But! Double Diecast. Here’s the first one…

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, and Shamus.

Show notes:


How do you feel about the use of radiant quests in Skyrim? Where do you see the potential of randomly generated quests for other games or in the future?

P.S.: I don’t like Skyrim’s radiant quests but I think the system has a lot of potential.



Dear Diecast,

The Unreal Engine 4 launched recently, with a very interesting pricing model. A flat monthly subscription fee and 5% off the top is an amazing direction to go in compared to their previous pricing models and removes the barrier to entry for indie developers. Do you think we’ll see a huge surge of indies using the engine? Are you tempted to try it out yourself? I know I am.


For reference, these are the Necco Wafers we were talking about when we were supposed to be answering the question. My column that will actually answer this question properly should go up on Tuesday.


Dear Diecast,

What do you think of the recent announcement that the in-development World of Darkness MMO has been canceled? Is this a tragic loss, or have they just avoided a situation like Elder Scrolls Online where an MMO launches and fails to meet expectations from the fans?

Dave B.


Dear Strongbad,

What is your least favorite game in Spoiler Warning?

With crap,

44:00 Romance characters in games.

We end with Rutskarn beginning a tale of his very first D&D game. That story will lead off our next Diecast. See you later this week.

Comments (247)

  1. Hitch says:

    I was hoping for a new Skyrim episode so I could post this sweetroll picture I found. I guess I’ll just do it here.

  2. Mintskittle says:

    Am I the only person here who doesn’t hate WoW style combat mechanics? I wasn’t bothered by it in TOR. I’ll buy Wildstar when it comes out, and I doubt it’ll bother me then.

    • Humanoid says:

      I thought WoW combat was acceptable (to a varying degree depending on class), but TOR felt a lot less responsive, like every action has a half-second delay before awkwardly executing. It’s like WoW is the actor who memorised their lines, while TOR is standing there reading from the script.

      And this was back when TOR had local Australian servers to me running at 30ms pings, and my entire time with WoW had latency an order of magnitude larger.

    • krellen says:

      “WoW-style” bugs me largely because it’s a hybrid between straight action and static hotkeys, because I’d prefer static hotkeys (like City of Heroes had). The Secret World does an okay version with movement, but I’m not a big fan of twitch on my best days and I’m really not fond of it online.

      But in the context of the statement delivered, anything even close to WoW-like mechanics would be an abysmal fit for World of Darkness. Having mechanics that centre around combat would simply be the wrong, wrong, wrong thing for World of Darkness.

      Honestly, a WoD MMO would have to be something like Second Life. Nothing else would really fit.

      • WoW mechanics would work for the Brujah (melee) and possibly the Tremere (spell effects with cooldown), but the idea of a systems-based MMO for Vampire appealed to me after looking at EVE Online. Imagine the Vampire Clans managed in a similar fashion to the corporations in EVE. The Ventrue would have a LOT to contribute in this regard, and if they replaced combat mechanics with conversation mechanics (even reduced to symbolic powers that are sub-abilities for Domination, Seduction, etc.) more political players could do some nifty things.

        Vampire as an MMO would need both this system-wide setup for the Princes and their courts, as well as the combat setup for the Anarchs. Further, they’d really need a “feeding” method that drives home how inhuman what you’re doing is, and the options available to you could be stat/clan based. We’ll never know, I suppose, and maybe now they’ll do a follow-up single-player game that’s more like Bloodlines.

        • aldowyn says:

          I assume you know this, but in case you didn’t, and for anyone else that happens to be reading the comments before actually listening, the WoD MMO was being developed by the EVE devs, CCP games, so I doubt a ‘WoW like’ MMO was ever in consideration.

          • My bit about WoW mechanics was specifically for how they could apply to some of the vampire clans. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the RPG or not, but what I thought the EVE devs could do really well is treat the clans like the megacorps. Rather than a galaxy, you’d have a New York sized city or several cities for power grabs, turf wars, etc.

            Edited for snark as I thought I was being accused of not listening to the podcast or not being aware of what EVE was like.

        • Humanoid says:

          I get the impression that a WoD game, MMO or not, would be quite a bit more reliant on the presence and reactiveness of well-characterised NPCs than most settings. Something a lot harder and more expensive to do than implementing combat mechanics and a bunch of monster models. Unless you’re forced to play as Sabbat maybe….

      • And speaking of Bloodlines, check this out:

        Vampire The Masquerade Bloodlines just got a 9.0 patch.

        By the way, I predict if Shamus ever plays this game (assuming he hasn’t), if he went crazy-go-nuts over the 70’s decor in Alan Wake, he’ll have a nostalgia-gasm over all the Apple IIe computers and answering machines everywhere. :)

        Oddly enough, I ran across the above link when I had a notion after thinking how running a major city as a Ventrue Prince might be fun. Sadly, I didn’t find the “run the World of Darkness SimCity mod” I was hoping for. Still, swings and roundabouts.

        • Also, this game gets my vote for the next Spoiler Warning, if they don’t have something with RPG elements to play. Or maybe they could do a series of specials. I think it’d be educational, if not hysterical, seeing Josh trying to Cuftbert his way through some of this stuff.

        • Tizzy says:

          I am awed to see how much love there is still for that game. Niche? Maybe… Odd in parts? Definitely. But oh so cool…

          • It’s for anyone who wants multiple solutions to challenges as well as a chance to have to actually play a bit of a role. Not to mention there’s content/areas you can’t go to (sans the appropriate mods) based on your build, which is something Skyrim could stand to do.

            Also, making people’s blood explode is great fun. Cue the obligatory “My blood! He exploded all my blood!”

            • StashAugustine says:

              I liked the Deus Ex-like mission structure of a open town as a hub with lots of little side areas. Like Hitman it’s a fantastic game idea that’s barely been implemented.

        • krellen says:

          As a huge fan of Bloodlines, let me say that I wholeheartedly do not endorse, and in fact condemn, this patch. I am really sick and tired of this asshole thinking he knows what Bloodlines should be better than the people who designed it. Every patch he releases changes basic underlying systems in the game, as well as mucking around with all the quest design.

          Sadly, the only alternative is from a person (in)famous for making nude mods. But the patch this person puts out doesn’t change anything about the game, it just fixes bugs. (And no, there’s no nudity in the patch, that’s a separate download.)

          • Humanoid says:

            When you say ‘sadly’, do you mean there are any actual problems with that patch in itself though? Or is it just a general dislike of the person?

          • To be fair, the original was a bug-fest that crashed constantly. As far as the mechanics are concerned, the last time I played it, I did like what he’d done for the Tremere, giving them some of the abilities from the game books to make them less nerfed to play. I’ve not looked at this patches changes apart from the list on RPS, but I’m usually for restoring (or having the option to restore) any in-game assets that were left out on release, especially if the game wasn’t exactly finished when it went to CD.

            Also, the biggest mechanical deviation was part of the original game itself, since your character is able to get Antediluvian powers over the course of a week or two as opposed to centuries. :)

            • krellen says:

              Actually, the vanilla game runs fine when played on machines of the era (or a modern machine expertly set up to emulate such). It’s got some problems, but it doesn’t crash-to-desktop or anything.

              • Tizzy says:

                I did play it on release. It was one of the first game I bought for a brand new computer then. It worked fine. There were various questing-related bugs as I recall, but nowhere near as many crashes as it has the reputation for. And given the complexity introduced by the various powers and non-linearity, you wouldn’t expect a perfect experience. It was as stable as you’d expect a game to be of this type to be; certainly better than I expected. And it worked even better after upgrading the graphics card.

                But it *is* a 10-year old game by now.

                Oh my…

                Time sure does fly!

          • From what I’m reading, each of the previous ones he’s done have a “patch only” mode, applying none of the other changes.

            • krellen says:

              His “patch only” patches still include system/quest changes, just not as many.

              Note that I do not think “oh, they cut this thing, I’ll just put it back in” is fine for a “patch only” patch. The other patcher did that sort of thing too, but only in a couple places, and I don’t like that either.

          • Starker says:

            Oh, wow, is the patch war still raging? I have to say, it was one of the most brainmelting things I’ve ever seen on the internet and I’ve been on the internet for a looooong time.

      • Tizzy says:

        I see what krellen means about any combat focus being wrong for a WoD MMO, but actually, I think it raises an even more powerful objection: one of the main strengths of WoD in the tabletop world is its ability to accommodate a wide variety of players and playstyles. So varied that, if you were to put all of these people together around a table, they would not even recognize that they are playing the same game. Even the (many many many) supplements that were published have this slightly schizophrenic feel to them: they may be fairly consistent individually, but not all of them are addresses to the same portion of the fanbase.

        I would expect that a sizable fraction of these people would make up the most devoted part of the MMO player base. And I wonder how they would manage to reconcile their completely disparate interests and tastes and views of what WoD should be about…

        • It’d be a challenge, for sure. I take all promo stuff with a huge grain of salt, but they were talking about having perma-death be a part of the game (I would’ve loved to see the reaction to that), so maybe they were willing to try other things. I think they’d have to somehow manage to wall off entire mechanics and content from each clan/build to make it true to the RPG. For example, only Tremere get blood magic. Only Ventrue can gain access to the levers of power (environmental factors for the various zones, most likely), etc.

          Apart from purely combat missions, you’d have to practically have separate games for each clan (or parts of the game where specific clan members are necessary for success) along with, at much higher levels, the ability to alter the balance of power in some way. It’d be a massive challenge, no doubt, which might be why they eventually dropped it.

    • Evilmrhenry says:

      Personally, it’s a matter of burning out on those mechanics. The difference in gameplay between any 2 WOW-style MMOs isn’t really all that big, and it’s not as interesting as it once was.

  3. Paul Spooner says:

    Here are some stat estimates for Skyrim:
    Of course the breakdown is all hush-hush, so we don’t know how much went to what… But, let’s try. To employ 90 devs for 3.5 years at about $100k/year (including overhead) comes to $32M, which leaves $53M for voice acting and marketing. It wouldn’t be crazy to estimate that voice acting cost a significant fraction of the development budget.

    • Humanoid says:

      It’s crazy to think that Star Citizen might end up being a bigger-budget title than Skyrim, if you take out the big-name voices and marketing.

    • Thomas says:

      Its hard to pin down what marketing costs sadly. The Witcher 2 which was probably less heavily marketed than a Bethesda, EA or Activision title spent $5 million marketing a game that only cost $8 million*. EA talked about a $20 million budget for a $10 million game. I think Hollywood films work on similar maths. On the other hand stuff like Dead Space 2 only had a $5-10 million budget.

      Skyrim was marketed to the heavens as well. It was a Titanfall situation where it was already receiving awards based purely off the advertising campaign (which barely included any in-game footage). So $20-30 million+ would feel reasonable, that still leaves $20 million for voice acting ö

      *Which is ridiculous. There must be cost of living advantages in Poland pushing average directly converted wages down. Because that’s 3-4 times cheaper than an RPG that sized should cost _and_ it feels like the Witcher 2 had way more development hours than other games in the genre

      • Humanoid says:

        Western European developers seem to do fine with what ought to be significantly higher personnel costs than the US. That said, it’d be interesting to see a cost breakdown comparison with some of them. Crytek, Creative Assembly, some Ubisoft studios, Larian? I want to say Arkane, but apparently they have an office in the US nowadays and I don’t know where the bulk of Dishonored’s development was done.

        On a tangent, there were some allegedly leaked materials suggesting Dishonored 2 is slated for 2016 with a new protagonist and having you go up against the least interesting man in the world.

    • Muspel says:

      Well… there’s also a lot of other costs involved. For instance, if you have to license any middleware (IE Havok physics, which I believe were used in Skyrim), that can get pretty expensive.

      Especially if you’re making a special deal in order to get the middleware’s source code (to better integrate/optimize it with your game).

  4. Neko says:

    “You know, I don’t think it’s enough to answer this question in a Diecast, I’m going to write a column based on your question and post it to a very important website”

    Specially for me? Aww, that’s so sweet of you! xD

    …also your description of these Necco wafers sounds like they were indeed intended for soldiers overseas – as a cheap alternative to the cyanide capsule.

    • Hitch says:

      I was at CVS today buying some cold medicine and looked at their candy rack. They had Necco Wafers. The last time I saw any they were 25 cents… the cheapest thing on the rack and justifiably so. Today they were $1.19, more than a jumbo size chocolate bar. Needless to say, the box was full.

      • I want to say Food TV (or someone) once did a show on niche and nostalgia candies, like Necco. The only part I paid attention to were the regional ones, like Moon Pies and Cherry Mash, which seem to have these borderlines all over the country where they just don’t cross over for some reason. Nearly all of the ones they showcased were things I’d definitely pass up for “normal” candy or just plain chocolate, but then again, I never grew up on them.

        On a side note, my dad tried to get me to eat Zero (the brand, not the number) candy bars on three occasions before I was 5. Each time I threw up.

    • ET says:

      Up here, we don’t have Neccos, but we instead have Rockets at Halloween. The horrible thing is, that these look like an even cheaper version of the “flavoured sugar” candy. Like…Rockets don’t even have that expensive-looking wax-paper, just some flimsy plastic wrap holding them together. Although they do actually have distinct tastes, like vaguely-lemon, vaguely-lime, vaguely-cherry, etc. :P

      • Hitch says:

        In the U.S. Rockets are called Smarties, which creates massive confusion when Brits claim Smarties are great. For the uninformed, British Smarties are similar to, although distinctly different from, M&Ms. They’re candy coated chocolates.

  5. Dragmire says:

    I’m trying desperately to play Dragon Age 2 and enjoy it. I can’t believe how hard it is for me to succeed in that, I am very easily immersed in games but DA2 just… I don’t know. It might be the plot that I don’t care about. It’s not the repeated areas to travel back to, I’ve been used to that for so long that it doesn’t bother me.

    I find it odd because it’s not that I’m particularly annoyed by any particular part, I just don’t care.

    • Raygereio says:

      The only way to enjoy DA2 is to not play it at all. But if you must, don’t play it seriously and instead go in expecting comedy.

      If you can move past the annoyance at the crap writing and gamedesign and the disapointment at how this game turned out, you end up with a hilarious game full of hilarious stupidity.

      • Dragmire says:

        Sounds like how I got through Diablo 3 the first time. The writing was rather terrible, especially for the antagonists and it really got to me. The game got me angry until the third act where I broke down and started laughing. I was in tears by the final cutscene.

        I’ll try viewing it like that but… sigh, it’s just not DA 1, you know?

    • aldowyn says:

      how far have you gotten? In my opinion the first act is incredibly slow and boring compared to the second and third. (You literally get told to go do sidequests until you have enough money)

      • Dragmire says:

        I’m at the end of the first act with tons of money to go on the expedition due to a self imposed need to do all the side quests. By the time I did them all, my willingness to continue the game diminished significantly.

        I also heard about the ending being rather poor which doesn’t help my motivation to play it either. A bad ending can really ruin an entire game for me.

        • IFS says:

          The second act is much better, things start to really pick up at least in terms of story momentum. How much you’ll enjoy those events I can’t say, I did but a lot of others didn’t. As for the ending, it definitely has problems, I liked some of what they were going for but overall they could have done a much better job.

          • aldowyn says:

            The problem with the ending, IMO, is that the game makes you help it happen, and it’s effectively the same no matter what you do. They definitely did it on purpose, to illustrate that the end result was pretty much inevitable, but a lot of people didn’t like it anyway.

            It’s a very different issue from ME3’s ending, let’s put it that way

    • Jeff says:

      Upon reflection, I only really enjoyed two things about DA2. The cute elf, and Snarky Hawke. Merrill is adorable when Snarky Hawke teases her.

      • IFS says:

        The game also did companion conversations pretty well in my opinion, that is the conversations companions have with each other while you’re running about. It really helped flesh out the characters and their relations to each other in my opinion, plus some of them are hilarious.

        As a side note I did enjoy DA2, though I seem to be in the minority on that. Merril was also my favorite character in the game, followed by Varric and Aveline. Sebastian from the DLC was also interesting imo, and interestingly enough has the only romance in a bioware game (to my knowledge) that doesn’t end in sex as he is celibate, and also not player sexual as he can only be romanced by fem!Hawke. Pity he’s a day one dlc character :/

        • aldowyn says:

          I always liked Merrill too. Her sidequest can end so tragically, though…

          I need to get Exiled Prince before I play DA2 again. I don’t really care about the other DLCs (like the one with Felicia Day’s character), but I’d like to play that one.

          Snarky Hawke is great, I agree :D

  6. krellen says:

    Aside from spending far too much on one-character famous-actor idiocy, I actually think voice acting doesn’t pay very well. As one that watches a lot of animation and plays a lot of video games, I hear the same voices over and over and over again. Grey Delisle, Tara Strong, Steven Blum, John DiMaggio – these actors appear in virtually everything and I’ve found no evidence they are all multi-millionaires.

    The big-name character voices can make lots (like the Simpsons voices), but the staple actors that we actually hear all the time probably don’t really cost that much.

    • Trix2000 says:

      Might depend on how long it takes them to get the lines right. Also how many distinct voice actors they use.

      I suspect it’s not cheap to spend too much time on voice acting (especially if you don’t use a bunch of it), but you make a very convincing point.

      • aldowyn says:

        It’s worth noting that people like the ones Krellen mentioned have been doing this for a long time and are very, very good at it, so in addition to probably doing a better job, it won’t take as long, either.

    • Thomas says:

      I imagine a lot of the cost in voice acting goes to all the people who have to be in the studio to record it. I bet there’s a silly backstage to voice actors ratio

  7. Henson says:

    There is one place I thought the radiant quests worked rather well in Skyrim, which was in the ‘jobs’ for the Thieves’ Guild; picking pockets, raiding houses, forging ledgers. They work because a) these types of quests are very different from the typical Skyrim fare (explore a tomb, kill bandits, kill draugr, kill x), and b) the quests have a roleplaying function, as part of the Guild’s day-in, day-out activities. It helps make the Guild feel like it exists beyond its main questline, and it helps the player feel more thief-y in a game where most quests are solved with killing.

  8. krellen says:

    On Obsidian:

    Chris Avellone has said that he’s uncomfortable doing romances, but often has contracts that more-or-less require romance as part of the design. That’s pretty much what happened with NWN2. Also, what happened there was them (once again) getting rushed to ship a game – though NWN2 is at least more complete than KotOR2.

    Also, Neeshka was going to be a romance option, but was cut because it didn’t get finished.

    Oh, it should be noted that there are no romances in Mask of the Betrayer, but romance is actually one of the central plot points. If you want to figure that one out, I guess you’ll have to play it (or at least find a Let’s Play to follow.)

    • Rutskarn says:

      You know, I’m not saying it’s wrong or unfair when people bring up excuses for why things are bad or awkward or unfinished in Obsidian games. But I’d like to point out that every designer of good or bad games has similar excuses.

      “Yeah, I know that quest sucks. We didn’t get time to do it the way we wanted to because the publishers moved our deadlines and we had to transfer that writer.”

      “I know, that character arc just falls apart, right? That’s because it was initially connected to a sidequest that got axed.”

      “Believe me–we all knew the combat in the game was shit. If we’d just had another month we could have got it working.”

      It’s just part of the biz that things don’t always end up as envisioned. Every game by a halfway competent studio (and there are more than you’d think) would turn out awesome if they had generous schedules and minimal oversight…but more often than not, they get neither.

      Although I’m not saying “The romance sucked because the main dude hates romances” was meant to be an excuse. I mean, game writers don’t always get to pick their subject matter. It still behooves them to figure it out and put it forth in a way that isn’t total immersion-breaking laugh-out-loud pointlessness.

      • krellen says:

        Obsidian needs to get some people on their staff good at writing romances. And yeah, the romances in NWN2 are awful – and honestly, don’t really have a place in the story. The point I was trying to make is that they feel forced and awkward because they were forced and awkward, that’s all.

        EDIT: another attempt to be clearer: there are romances in NWN2 largely because “that’s what you do in these games, right?”, because it’s a follow-up to a BioWare game and that’s what BioWare does (poorly). But the story Obsidian wrote for NWN2’s plot really doesn’t have a place for a romance subplot in it, which might be a failure of their planning or might be a failure of their publisher insisting there’s only one way to make a game.

        • Humanoid says:

          Well the other thing is that romances are probably amongst the least efficient type of content in terms of effort versus the likelihood of said content being seen. Developers struggle to make a branching storyline with a mere two semi-divergent paths, yet romances, due to the desire to have ‘something for everyone’ have a much greater redundancy. Last I heard, Dragon Age 3 has *twelve* options, of which the typical player will probably only experience one.

          It’s chiefly for this reason that I’m supportive of the omission of romances from Project Eternity, the effort could be put into less mutually exclusive content.

          • Deadpool says:

            Yeah, I’d rather Obsidian kept doing what they do best and just left romance out of the plot in general…

            I don’t know where this rule that every story must have a romantic sub plot came from, but I would be happy to see it gone. Game romance is generally far worse than most fictional romance anyways, and that is usually pretty groan-worthy to begin with…

            • Tizzy says:

              I second that motion. I never felt the need for it, and I sure as hell don’t want a writer’s notion of what the romance should be. If I really feel like it, I’d rather add in my own romance subplot in my head. In general, beyond romance to NPCs in general, I prefer characters that are broadly characterized (more than in Skyrim, though!) with fewer lines of dialogue. I’d rather fill in the blanks myself, take the game as a canvas, a basis for a richer story. Comes from gaming in the 80’s where every game had to be, by default, a mere suggestion of a more complex reality rather than a alistic simulation.

              Also, I find thoroughly childish the notion of turining romance into a mini-game: yet another objective that you can succeed or fail at, something that you need to nurture like you build your character. Also immature the fact that they can be so tricky and the romantic prospects so fickle. Busting the big bad’s ass is easy in comparison. Guess what? In real life, romance is not really that hard, it happens all the time…

              I was ok with the first couple of times I ran accross romantic subplot in games. Never enthusiastic, but ok. But systematically? That’s silly, *especially* when the story tasks you from saving the world. Can’t your romantic feelings just take a back seat until we make sure the world is safe?

              • aldowyn says:

                ha, most people usually complain about the romances being TOO easy, easy enough they’d find themselves romancing someone accidentally. Which can totally happen, especially on a first playthrough.

                • Jeff says:

                  Only if you’re not paying attention at all, since in DA2 all dialog choices which start a relationship are explicitly labeled with a heart. Don’t pick it, and they just become your new best friend.

                  (Which is why the homophobic furor over “accidentally” being gay is exactly that – homophobia. I didn’t choose the heart choice for any of the men, and my Hawke was straight as an arrow.)

                • Tizzy says:

                  [This is a discussion of Dragon Age romance as I remember them. Disclaimer: I may very well remember wrong…]

                  Unlike Shamus, I quite liked Morrigan, but only as a character who could be somewhat redeemed and find a slightly more humane worldview and realize that her tough talk and cynical worldview is not how she will get over the victimization she suffered from.

                  Now, *that* would be an interesting roleplaying challenge.

                  But noooooo. You can only seduce her if you servilely agree with her on everything. Which doesn’t make sense to me, since I don’t see how she could possibly respect someone who will not at least occasionally stand up to her, given the character.

                  That’s what I was thinking about when I wrote about easy to fail.

          • Eathanu says:

            PE also lets you make your entire party too, if you’d like, so romances technically aren’t out, so long as you’re okay with just assuming that these two characters you made are together and the game will make no acknowledgement of that fact.

            That’s my plan, at any rate.

          • aldowyn says:

            that doesn’t even make sense! There’s only 9 companions! Although admittedly Leliana and Morrigan are both in the game, NOT as companions.

            Curious where you heard the number, though. 4 seems to be about what there normally is. Origins, DA2, and ME2 all had 4. I think ME3 had like 6, all carried over from previous games, and ME1 only had 3.

            • Humanoid says:

              Can’t find a proper source, and retrospectively looking now it seems no final figure has been officially announced. So I was probably going off some forum post somewhere that hasn’t been verified, so I may well stand corrected. For what it’s worth though I recall some talk that some romanceable characters might end up similar to some of ME3’s non-joinable ones.

              Just checked ME3’s romance options (barely played the game myself so not actually familiar with them), and if you count the non-joinables there’s twelve, coincidentally enough, heh.

              But yeah, even at say, six options, it’s still a lot of redundancy.

          • Thomas says:

            I do like romances, but the point about them being incredibly inefficient satisfied me in terms of PE.

            Besides formulaic romances are horrible. Bioware ends up doing it for the sake of doing it, so every romance plays out in the same way. I’d prefer KotoR’s approach where it’s less clear where the relationship is going to take you and they’re built up in different ways.

      • The other problems with romances of any kind in video games are manifold:

        1. It’s still coming down to math. If you get X total of “lurve points,” you’ll have le sexytime. If you get Y, you might get that and a mention in the end credits. Still, it’s all about the totals and their hard limit cutoffs.

        2. Half the game will be taken up by relationship logistics. I’m not sure it’s feasible to get a complicated enough relationship tree/cloud/tesseract to compete with a game like Persona 4 and run a combat-oriented RPG without major memory headaches.

        3. The romance will be good, but limited by scripting. They found a writer who does lurve well? The actors (or text) can sell it? Awesome. However, because of the effort involved, it’ll be the same awesome interaction with the same few characters, because who has time to write more of the same quality and all the animations and effects on the plot that’d involve?

        And that’s just off the top of my head. I speak as someone who was just as mystified as the SW crew was when Ashley tried to jump my Shepard.*

        * I like this as a euphemism, just FYI.

      • Thomas says:

        To jump to Obsidian’s defence a little bit, they don’t make these excuses for themselves. When Chris Avellone is asked why KotoR 2 was unfinished he says ‘because I allocated too much development time to the minigames’

        It’s one of the things about the company, they’re the poster child for publisher abuse but they never ever say anything like that themselves because they’re the ones whose livelihood depends on publishers.

        …but then again. Life in general for third-party studios is so rough that pretty much every non-Obsidian studio got shut down. Reading some of the things they had cancelled on them… it’s easy to see why the lack of polish happens. There are very few third-party developers who don’t turn out half-finished games.

        They caught a break with South Park and actually released a polished game. Maybe it will continue

        • aldowyn says:

          They’re self-publishing Pillars of Eternity, so that excuse won’t work for that anyway.

        • Thomas says:

          Oh I hadn’t realised this stemmed from Rutskarn’s comment on NW2 (impatient posting).

          NW2 is weird. Obsidian make unfinished games but they don’t make unfinished games which are straight out boring. I would be really interested if there’s a reason behind why it was like it was. It wasn’t even the first game they made. How did they lose all their talent and then suddenly regain it for the expansion? There must be a story, the ‘rushed to ship’ doesn’t work because all their other games were rushed to ship but at least had something worth making

          • Humanoid says:

            It almost seems as if someone just handed them a script and said ‘hey, program this for us’. More realistically, perhaps the writing only came into it late in the piece after the majority of development time was spent on the engine? NWN1 certainly had that vibe.

            Pure conjecture of course, but it’s eerie how two games in a series made by different developers somehow reduced both previously highly respected writing teams into Bethesdadrooling baboons. Surely it’s a curse on the property itself at this point, though to verify, the IP should be licenced to another altogether different, competent developer and observe what happens.

    • Raygereio says:

      Oh, it should be noted that there are no romances in Mask of the Betrayer

      There are. Your relationship with Gannayev & Safiya can be romantic.

    • Corpital says:

      A while ago, someone here posted a link to an excellent LP of NWN2, so I’ll post a link to the Mask of the Betrayer LP written by the same guy.

  9. Chauzuvoy says:

    It’s interesting that Rutskarn brings up the NWN2 romances, because the tiefling thief (Neeshka) was supposed to be romancable, but it was cut. As was the obligatory One Evil Dude (Bishop, the asshole ranger) for female characters.

    I get the sense that NWN2 happened in the same way the end of KotOR 2 happened: they ran out of something, probably time. The only thing I can say in favor of the expansion is that it’s the Obsidian who did Act 2. Which had every worthwhile part of the original campaign in it. It really feels like they actually got to do something they wanted to on their schedule.

    • Humanoid says:

      Can’t say I know much about NWN2’s contractual issues, but KoTOR2 was a result of not getting an amendment in writing. In short, what was initially a one-year project was negotiated to be a ~1.5 project partway through development, but Obsidian made the mistake of not obtaining the guarantee in writing. LucasArts reverted to the original release date, resulting in a mad scramble late on to get a shippable product.

    • Mormegil says:

      That’s a damn shame considering Neeshka was a cool character with funny dialogue whereas Elanee (the romance option we got) I think may have been an elf of some sort and probably had a face and a voice (I can remember neither). The paladin was similarly unremarkable but I’m less convinced Bishop was a better alternative (although at least I can remember his name so I guess he must have been a little better).

      • aldowyn says:

        Elanee was indeed a very archetypical elf druid. Casavir was a.. fairly boring paladin, although he *distinctly* tended towards good rather than lawful. Bishop was a chaotic evil asshole, contrasting quite a bit with Casavir. There’s some antagonistic dialogue left over between the two over a female PC

        • Tapkoh says:

          Don’t forget Elanee had been spying on you since you were a baby, iirc. Not creepy at all.

          • Loaf says:

            I was coming here to specifically mention that, it’s so creepy. Disciple from KotOR 2 is a similar deal – he quit his Jedi training because you stopped being his mentor and has been trying to stalk you for the past ten years. I’m not sure I’d want to see a full fleshed out Obsidian romance if that’s what it’d be like.

            • Starker says:

              It’s not much better with Handmaiden who sees her father in you (which might also go a long way explaining why Kreia takes so much interest in you).

              And to top it all off, it’s also implied Atris and Darth Sion have feelings for you, if you are male or female, respectively.

  10. Steve C says:

    I have a theory regarding in games where it’s; romance –> sex –> goal reached therefore the relationship is awkwardly ignored for the rest of the game. The reason is the protagonist has 1)a really tiny penis, 2)is impotent, or 3)is really bad in bed. So the NPC just awkwardly smiles at you for the rest of the game.

    This is the only experiences the game designers can draw upon. The game designers themselves have a 1)really tiny penis, 2)are impotent, or 3)are really bad in bed. I’m not saying this to insult their manhood and therefore goad them into making better games, I say this because it is obviously true. So remember that if a game has a weird end to a romance, that lead game designer physically disappointment in bed. When you see him at a gaming convention try not to comment on his micropenis.

  11. silver Harloe says:

    Ruts has finally beaten the age joke,. When he said, “it was when I was 12 years old,” the sound was fading, but I’m sure he just kept talking without being interrupted by Shamus or Josh saying “so, yesterday.”

  12. Chamomile says:

    World of Darkness is dead. Now it’s only mostly dead because you do have ascended fans churning out shovelware pdf-only stuff every now and again, but ever since they cancelled the Old World of Darkness in 2004 they’ve been going downhill (financially; I think they started going downhill in actual game quality a few years before that). The New World of Darkness had slightly better mechanics (but not much) and no atmosphere, texture, metaplot, and a paperthin setting. So White Wolf was trying to do exactly the opposite of what they were good at and it killed them. That MMO was White Wolf’s only real hope for a revival.

    Also: While WoW clones are certainly not doing as well as they were supposed to, almost none of them are dead. Lord of the Rings Online? D&D Online? DCUO? They’re all still there. It was weird when City of Heroes shut down, because even moderately successful MMOs are basically immortal. Ultima Online and Everquest are still running.

    • Mathias says:

      Well, White Wolf’s still around, they’re just doing non-World of Darkness stuff these days.

      Scion did fairly well for them (and won them a ton of awards even though the gameplay is a REALLY mixed bag,) and their Kickstarter for a third edition of Exalted raised 600.000 bucks.

      • Zeta Kai says:

        Whoa! Six hundred dollars! Holey moley!

        (I kid, I kid. I know that you meant $600k, & as a native German, I understand your notation; it’s just funny to see that unconventional convention here in this space.)

    • krellen says:

      The worst part is, to this day, no one (outside the company, anyway) can really figure out why City of Heroes was shut down. It was, by all reports, still profitable, so the immediately obvious answer is out.

      • Zukhramm says:

        The guy in charge wanted to backup his music collection on those servers.

      • Muspel says:

        One theory I’ve read was that it might have had to do with liquidity. While CoH made money, I suspect that it didn’t have particularly large profit margins and NCSoft wanted to reinvest the resources elsewhere where they thought they might earn more.

        Which absolutely sucks, especially since they did it on such short notice.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        It was shut down because it was a damn publicly traded company. When you’re a publicly traded company, the people that own the company don’t like it when their shares stay the same when they could be increasing in value. So if an MMO is profitable enough to continue running, but it’s not making proportionally big bucks, it has to be killed.

        And that is just one reason why I refuse to support any game that requires a proprietary server. Doesn’t matter if it’s ad-supported, sub, F2P or what, if private servers are not an option, to me it doesn’t exist.

        So, for example, TESO doesn’t exist. Because not long from now it won’t exist, and then I’ll be right.

        (Except for offline/LAN games, obviously, but “AAA” publishers don’t even know those still exist.)

        • JackTheStripper says:

          I will sometimes play games that are completely located on servers (provided they don’t use monthly subscriptions), but it does bother me that once the server closes the games are essentially deleted. Even other types of games that have a multiplayer component that’s only managed by the official servers suffer from problems like this one. Once the company closes the servers, the multiplayer component of that game is gone forever (Metal Gear Online for example). That’s why I think that companies should always make some effort to release the server tools (or a version of them) so that people are able to make their own servers and play the game. Being able to re-play Phantasy Star Online or Metal Gear Online would be great.

        • Zukhramm says:

          So that pretty much excludes all games these days for you?

    • At the very least, one can always adapt the setting to their favorite ruleset (or find someone else’s suggested house rules) and play whatever they like. If that’s too much work, there’s always GURPS.

      I mean, I still love an RPG called “Brave New World” for its setting, but I ditch the mechanics if I ever dig it out.

  13. False Prophet says:

    I was a member of the Camarilla LARP society when CCP bought White Wolf (publisher of the World of Darkness line) and then announced the World of Darkness MMO. And I was pretty ambivalent. I’m personally not an MMO player, and I didn’t think much would come of it, because half the Camarilla membership seemed to be the kind of min-maxers who suck all the mood and atmosphere from an RPG, and the other half were theatre-types who took it way too seriously. These are two very different styles of play that White Wolf has never historically tried to reconcile, but instead encouraged both. And that’s fine for a small tabletop group–to each their own. But in a global LARP society it was a recipe for endless strife, and as a microcosm of a potential MMO community, it didn’t fill me with confidence.

    As for the World of Darkness itself, CCP has made it clear they no longer want to be in the pen & paper RPG or LARP business, but are perfectly willing to license the WoD brands to people who do. In the case of tabletop, the Onyx Path imprint, spearheaded by former White Wolf staffers, has been supporting the pen & paper line, mostly through several highly successful Kickstarters. Kickstarter’s been pretty positive to P&P roleplaying in general, because most projects have been launched by industry veterans with proven track records as designers and publishers, and the model lends itself to a hobby that’s become a small but devoted niche.

    • Zeta Kai says:

      I loved WoD, but the mechanics for that game SUCKED. I know some people bitch about shoddy mechanics in games, & sometimes they can be so hyperbolic that you just tune them out, but listen to me, & listen closely: the core game mechanic for the WoD was BROKEN. It didn’t work.

      What Rutskarn said about it in the show was absolutely correct. The chance for failure on a skill check INCREAED as you progressed through the game. You were supposedly getting better, & the numbers certainly looked bigger. But I once tried to convert Vampire: the Masquerade to D20 rules, & in so doing, I discovered that the probability of success went down for advanced characters. Looking online, I found that I was far from the first person to notice this.

      I think, in fact, that this inherent problem with their “system” (which was really a hodgepodge of similar, equally-borked systems, one for each game in the Old WoD line) was a major factor in the decline of verse’s popularity.

      • krellen says:

        Incorrect. Extra dice never increase your chances for failure. Whomever you got your confirmation from was wrong.

        What extra dice can do is increase your chances for a botch – a dramatic failure, a setback. Your chance of success is still higher over all, but if you do fail, you might – in a few fringe cases – have a better chance of failing spectacularly. This is not necessarily a flaw, as the game is designed for dramatic storytelling, so having a system to increase drama would accomplish that goal.

        Note that at the standard difficulty of 6, this is never true: more dice is always better at a difficulty of 6. And if you assume a two-die base instead of a one-die base (as you should, because there are virtually no cases when anyone would be rolling a single die on a check), then the discrepancy only occurs at difficulties 9 and 10, which are tasks of Herculean proportions already. (New World of Darkness made 8 the standard difficulty, but also removed all difficulty modifiers; every roll was made at difficulty 8, always, no exceptions.)

        Before they revised the rules in 1999/2000, they had a “ones take away” rule, which did exacerbate the problem a bit, but not so much as to make the case.

        It’s true that the various supernaturals didn’t play well together, but the die-pool system is not inherently flawed as you and Rutskarn claim.

        • From what I’m reading, it’s the original (unrevised) rules where it was the case that you risked rolling more 1s than successes, but it’s since been fixed, yes?

          • krellen says:

            There has never been a case, regardless of edition, in which adding dice made you more likely to fail. Ever. Your chances of success always increased – or at worst, stayed flat – with an extra die in the pool. However, the larger your pool, the less an additional die added (so adding a tenth die is a lot less useful than adding a third, for instance.)

            Before they took out the “ones take away” rule, more dice might have a higher chance of a botch (a critical failure) than a smaller die pool – but it also had a smaller chance of regular failure as well. So a larger pool didn’t increase your chance to fail, but it might make more of those failures critical failures.

            After they took out the “ones take away” rule, and assuming a base-line at two dice (being the two points in an attribute an average person has), this problem was removed for all standard difficulties – difficulty 9 and 10 checks are extreme edge cases and rarely happen except when a GM is trying to tell players “you can’t do that”.

            (See chart about halfway down this page.)

            • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

              Maybe it was a house rule, but we always said that if you had dice equal to the difficulty, and it wasn’t something unusual, you could automatically do it. Six dice in shooting and a basic DC6 shot -you can just say you hit him.

              Now you might roll anyway for the chance at some extra damage dice, or for some 10s.

              Anyway, the best thing about the dice pool is that rolling 6 dice is just fun. Who cares about the odds?

  14. The Rocketeer says:

    ~42 Min: “It’s kind of like Final Fantasy fans, you keep going back to get that high again, and you don’t get it… but for some reason you keep going back to the well anyway…”

    These words… They… They huuuuurt…..

    • Thanatos Crows says:

      Bu-but but maybe Vers- XV will be good!


      • Zeta Kai says:

        If you liked the previous games in the XIII / NFC trilogy, then yeah, I bet that you’ll like XV when it comes out. But if you’re still hoping for another IV / VI / VII / X experience, then good luck. That ship has sailed.

        • The Rocketeer says:

          Odd you leave FFV out of that list. FFV was awesome!

          But of course, it didn’t release in America until its inclusion in Anthology, so maybe its ship had sailed to an extent once it was over here.

      • Zukhramm says:

        Well I thought Lightning Returns was the best thing since the last good thing and I have to say that XV looks like the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen and I even played the previous two XIII-games.

    • Sougo says:

      We just have to believeeee… BELIEVEEEE that XV is going to be good. Though to be fair XIII and it’s trilogy are terrible due one man: Toriyama. As long as he don’t touch anything, I have high hope that Final Fantasy will be ok.

  15. The hardest season of Spoiler Warning for me to sit through, even as a podcast while I do other things, is Assassin’s Creed 2. It’s just… blah. I’ve got no investment in the game, and it doesn’t inspire the same amount of humorous bugs or incidents. Not that the cast wasn’t up to their usual standards, but there’s no equivalent of the Boomers quest(s) or Josh casting “Rage” during the execution scene, etc.

    Also, just by mentioning Fallout 4, you’ve probably doubled the amount of news about Fallout 4. Fans have even made a petition to get Bethesda to announce a tentative release date or show some concept art or SOMETHING. I mean, someone selling a bunch of the Fallout 3 hand puppets at PaxEast was the last “big Fallout 4 sign” news item, if that gives you any indication.

    Yeah, totally a sign, guys. The Vault Boy hand puppet, which featured in a Fallout 3 comic by the Penny Arcade guys, is sold at a convention run by the Penny Arcade guys. We don’t even know if this was just from a bunch of boxes they found in a freaking warehouse somewhere.

    • Humanoid says:

      I find it hard to split Bioshock, ME3, and the as-yet mentioned Metro 2033 (which was essentially indistinguishable from Bioshock for me in that I couldn’t really see anything, but didn’t particularly care to). That said, technically the correct answer is Half Life 2, which is literally unwatchable for me as it fairly quickly induces nausea.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Aye, and whilst it’s different looking in from outside, the AssCreed 2 season certainly seemed to get more bilious & trainwrecky than the Bioshock one. (I enjoyed both, but then I do like me some bilious vituperation now & again.)

    • Thomas says:

      Unfortunately a petition for Fallout 4 news is totally self-defeating. It puts Bethesda in a position where they can either accede and blow all their pre-release hype before their actual marketing campaign hits in, or they can say nothing and watch Fallout fans hype themselves up more and more and generate news stories amongst themselves _for free_ about how much people obviously want Fallout 4. And that even makes the eventual inevitable announcement much much more powerful.

      If no-one cared about Fo4, that’s the time when Bethesda might start thinking that they need to stir something up.

    • Twisted_Ellipses says:

      Are we allowed to factor in special episodes? Because they feature some truly strange & appalling games. I think it says a lot that I had forgotten they covered Assassin’s Creed 2. It’s testament to how good the Spoiler Warning team are that they’ve made episodes of zero progression/boring storylines into great entertainment.

  16. Tea says:

    I just had to pop in and say that the best sex scenes in games are South Park: The Stick of Truth and Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon and if you disagree you are objectively wrong.

  17. 1:06:50 Having sex in a video game with the result of an STD was a shout-out to a comic?

    I’m sorry, original Wasteland video game, you and your three-legged prostitute and the effects of interaction with her have been snubbed yet again.

  18. Phantos says:

    I’ve been through all of the main Spoiler Warning seasons over the last few weeks.

    I love Spoiler Warning. I think it’s fantastic to hear you guys talk about these games. I can listen to SW while I’m doing other stuff, or watch the games being played. And I even like some of the games you’ve played on the show.

    And yet, when I try to think of my least favourite season, they almost all come up. The games are either boring AAA gruel, or a hell from which there is no escape.

    And even weirder, I don’t regret it! And I always look forward to what you guys are going to talk about next. No matter how bad it gets, we all get through it together!

    …I believe the proper metaphor here is “Stockholm Syndrome”…

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    I like the idea about the robot game, where they all have Microsoft Sam voices. Robots would be relatively easy to procedurally generate and animate as well, and stilted procedural conversations wouldn’t sound so strange coming from robots as they do coming from people.

    • Phantos says:

      Also: An in-world excuse for stiff facial animations(if they have faces at all). So it’d also be good for the visual end of things too.

      I’m really surprised more games don’t do this. I guess it’s that rush to be “realistic, you know, like those movies with the romance and the epic buzzword buzzword I don’t deserve this job”.

      I mean, compare the characterization and animation of Wheatley from Portal 2, a ball with an eye light, to any of the crazy ape monster people from Alan Wake. Much less (unintentional) immersion-shattering uncanney valley stuff when the character isn’t supposed to look like a human.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      I had an idea once for a setting where there was no faster than light travel, so various species did the majority of their out of home system business using FTL communications and robots that were controlled by quantum entangled remote control, since you can give a factory ship a robot pilot who won’t get bored travelling for a couple of centuries. Stiltedness in communication came from universal translators that aren’t perfect(because perfect ones are flat out magic) and voices would be autogenerated because having a machine accurately simulate how a slug monster would sound if it had the equipment to produce English words is bananas.

      That way you get all the benefits of robots and can still have petty and emotional meatbag interactions without being too silly. Even if that’s half the fun of meatbag interactions.

    • Adrian says:

      Robot voiced NPCs are not such a bad idea. Hatsune Miku is a robot and she sings in huge open 3D concerts filled with thousands of fans. They should just make a game with vocaloids

  20. Tizzy says:


    Do you remember the 70s and 80s, where it feels like *every* Holywood movie had to have a sex scene, shown or strongly implied? And most of them were really, really bad? (Top Gun anyone?) And irrelevant? (Quest for fire had several, now that I think about it.)

    When you get to the point that even teenage boys are embarrassed for you, you know it’s bad. And now, it’s all gone, isn’t it? Is our modern culture excessively prudish? Or was the culture back then trying too hard to prove that it wasn’t? Probably a bit of both. (On a personal note, I don’t think it’s healthy to go around pretending that sex doesn’t exist, but that doesn’t mean that every form of entertainment I consume must remind me that sex exists.)

    Anyway… Could video games (and, more specifically, Bioware) be going through that same awkward phase only now?

    • aldowyn says:

      Problem is, the fans would crucify Bioware if they even mentioned the POSSIBILITY of dropping romances. (Not me, but others.)

      Bioware fans are weird sometimes. (I say this fully acknowledging that I am, in fact, a Bioware fan)

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      “Is our modern culture excessively prudish?”

      Hot coffee incident says yes.

      • Phantos says:

        Shamus and the gang already brought up the Mass Effect “controversy”, so I’ll remind people of Janet Jackson’s super bowl nipple.

        It’s amazing how in movies and games we can show a dude being sliced in half, blown up, shot, stabbed, burned, crushed, etc., but a nipple is what offends people.

        A circle.

        • Adrian says:

          I assure you, this is purely an American thing. You guys are just so prudish.

        • Shamus says:

          You could also say that a sphincter is “just a circle”. Cunt is just a word. Defecating is something everyone does every day. That the pubic area is “just a bit of hair”.

          The line between the common and profane seems so clear to everyone, but the truth is it’s mostly to do with what’s familiar. If you don’t see bare shoulders, then bare shoulders will be a big deal. If people walk around in thongs, then you won’t be scandalized until the thong comes off.

          So be careful before you sneer at the “prudes”, because unless you walk around naked then there is likely someone out there who is amused by your quaint and backwards attitude towards the human body. You prude.

          George Carlin paraphrase: On the highway, everyone driving slower than you is an idiot, and everyone going faster than you is a maniac.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            But people dont see someone being eviscerated all the time,and yet violence of incredible types is considered to be less of a taboo than nudity.

            Also,one other hilarious thing is that stuff like electrocution and burning someone alive are considered to be less of a taboo than showing blood in a fight scene(x men movies are pretty notorious for this).

            • Shamus says:

              Yeah. It’s obvious the two things are very different to people. It’s not just about “offensive”, there’s something else going on. My guess is that while you can externalize the violence – “That’s not real, and it’s not happening to me” – the nudity is a little more “real”. That’s really a naked person, and the viewer is really feeling arousal or discomfort at what they’re seeing. Also, arousal is a lot more personal and we’re more particular about when and where we want to feel it. I don’t mind being grossed out in front of my mom, but I don’t want to be aroused in front of my mom. Making something sexually titillating immediately makes it something that you don’t want to see in certain situations.

              Of course, it also depends on how often you’re exposed to it. If you’re a fashion photographer, or a lifeguard, or you just watch a lot of porn, then seeing people nearly naked isn’t particularly shocking and it’s unlikely to affect you. If you never see that sort of thing, then maybe you’re going to go red in the face. Or maybe you’ll end up worried you’re going red in the face. Or maybe you’re wondering how the other people in the room are feeling about this.

              Most of us have the same reaction when we see a guy’s arm blown off. A combination of sympathetic worry and body horror. But we don’t all have the same reaction to sexually provocative imagery. Maybe one person feels aroused, another feels shamed and inadequate, another feels self-conscious, and another is grossed out. How we respond is deeply personal and might not be things we want to feel when we’re being entertained in mixed company.

              Add to this the fact that standards have been getting more permissive for almost half a century. People don’t want them to keep changing, so they over-react whenever a new line is crossed. It’s not so much that they were traumatized by seeing a nipple, it’s that they don’t want “naked tits at the Superbowl” to be the new normal. They feel like if they don’t make a fuss, then in 2020 we’ll have topless dancers at the Superbowl halftime show. (And maybe there’s a bit of truth to that. I mean, what keeps us from having softcore porn on broadcast TV if not the ever-present worry over how Certain Parties will [over]react?)

              Then add in the news channels that LOVE controversy to come in and fan the flames by talking about the story for weeks on end, and you have the simple act of seeing a nipple (and not even a nipple, wasn’t it covered with a pasty?) explode into NATIONAL OUTRAGE.

              So that’s my take. It wasn’t REALLY a freak-out over a nipple. It was really people trying to stop movement on the slippery slope we’ve been riding for decades.

              • Wide And Nerdy says:

                You’re like an oasis in a wasteland. I feel so alone normally taking this side of the issue on geek forums. Its nice to see that some people actually try to understand more traditional mindsets rather than being snarky and dismissive towards it. And you do a better job defending it. Whats your rate? I need you on other forums ;)

              • arron says:

                The problem then comes when we get so far down that slippery slope that either no-one does anything and society decays in its own moral putrescence or you get the extremists promoting their “moral crusade” like the Religious Right did in the US in the 1990s, or Tanzim al-Jihad in Egypt in the 1980s.

                Permissiveness is OK if you can demonstrate a lack of harm and give consent, but eventually the moral slide will hit a line where the backlash will occur – A crackdown on drugs, nudity and ‘sinful’ behaviour through new laws or possibly through the undiscriminating violence that seems more morally acceptable.

                Especially if God has told you you’re doing his work dealing with the hell bound with a sword..

          • Steve C says:

            I get what you are saying regarding baselines and the pushback to moving the bar. I agree with your take. The part I can’t get behind is the sex in videogames mattering. Reason being graphics. The graphics can’t get to sexy. The best they can get to is “hur-hur boobies” even when they have the budget for it like in GTA and God of War.

            I played Custer’s Revenge in the 80s. Then later I saw the nude mods for Tomb Raider and Warcraft. In all cases I viewed it as a “hur-hur” joke rather than titillating because the graphics for nudity are so far behind the modern curve for baseline fidelity that it’s funny. This includes the Last of Us shower scene and the 2013 Tomb Raider nude mods. (both NSFW) It all looks unreal to me and more like a mannequin in a store. I get why parents don’t want little Billy playing games like that and why they don’t want him pulling the clothes off the mannequin in the store.

            But the games with hyper violence are not made for little Billy. And the average age for video game player is 30-something. I would like to see a hard-R or X-rated videogame for sex in just a fraction of the percent of Hollywood movie ratios. There’s a whole genre of “Watch it for the Plot” Hollywood movies (nude shtick) and terrible attempts such as Showgirls and even a few excellent movies like Basic Instinct.

            There’s _nothing_ like that spectrum for videogames and I’m not sure there can be. Even with the best graphics it still always looks like dolls not wearing clothes. I believe the other reason is that sex is off the table in games is because “games are for kids.” (Which is fairly close to what you are saying about baselines.) That mindset is too hard to shake for the 40+ crowd. Little Billy plays games. Bill- the guy with two kids and a mortgage doesn’t.

            I mean, what keeps us from having softcore porn on broadcast TV if not the ever-present worry over how Certain Parties will [over]react?)

            Glib answer- being too far from the US-Canada border to pick it up on US TV. It’s been within broadcast range accessible by millions of Americans (not just cable) since the 70s.

            I would love for there to be some low brow porn games that have progressed past the modern equivalent of Custer’s Revenge or strip-poker-to-reveal-an-image. There just isn’t. That stuff hasn’t really changed in 20 years. Kind of pathetic really when compared to violence in games.

            • Shamus says:

              I really don’t get the freak-out about sex in videogames. Unlike broadcast TV, you don’t randomly jump from one game to the next without knowing what you’re about to see. You don’t drop into the middle of an experience. Games are $60 a pop, and they’re very clearly labeled. (Games labeling is SO much better than the way we label TV or movies. Instead of random ages, the label tells you exactly what sorts of content you’ll see and how extreme it is.)

              • Ben Hilton says:

                I believe it has something to do with the fact that there is a large portion of people who simply cannot wrap their heads around the idea of video games being for people other than children.

                They see it the same as playing with toys, or playing tag or some such. Despite the fact that there is a rating system that explicitly says “Not for Children”, the notion that certain games are meant purely for adults is simply anathema to them.

                Imagine if suddenly there was a line of fully anatomically correct Barbie dolls made for adults. It would take a lot of work to convince people that they were not marketed towards children.

                Blame it on generation, blame it on upbringing, but for now enough people see games as “something for kids” that hell is raised anytime sex in games is brought up.

                Edit: That’s odd. I put this as a reply to Shamus but it keeps appearing as a new thread

              • aldowyn says:

                TV totally also has content labels. Like, you’ll see LSV for language, sexual content, and violence. (In addition to the age categories, of course) Movies do the same thing, but they aren’t as obvious. Like, here’s a copy of Cloud Atlas that I happened to have nearby – R for ‘Violence, Language, Sexuality/Nudity and some Drug use’. I suppose it might not be AS specific, but it’s not like they don’t say anything.

                *edit* This was supposed to be a response to Shamus’ above comment talking about the ESRB’s content ratings

                • syal says:

                  The point being, if I flip a channel because the one I’m watching is showing toaster commercials and I own a competing toaster corporation, I can end up in any point of any show on the next channel. TV tells you what you’re getting into if you start there, but there’s no warning if you’re jumping in halfway. It’s not like there’s a delay after a channel flip where they tell you the show’s rating.

              • Muspel says:

                Well, movie ratings do that too, you just have to look closely and it’ll say why it received that rating.

              • Steve C says:

                Two things I completely forgot to mention were the Japanese dating sim genre and the old Leisure Suit Larry games. The dating sim games have good market representation in Japan. I like that they do even though I think they are horrible and unfun as a genre. I think they don’t get market traction in the West for the same reasons I don’t like them. The Leisure Suit Larry games were good in that they were given the same polish everything else had. It was still just dolls in various states with adult humor. If that’s the best that can be done then so be it, but the industry hasn’t tried anything like that in years.

                Sex in games can exist. It just doesn’t. It’s kind of sad that it’s conspiciously missing from an entire catagory of media.

    • Warrax says:

      I’ve been bingeing on MST3K lately and have noticed the same thing in movies from those eras. I think you’re probably right about it just being a phase for video games.

      They’re trying to be taken seriously as a “mature” art form, and haven’t quite realized yet that sex scenes don’t automatically equal maturity. I do hope they figure it out soon.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      An alternative theory for why sex scenes in films have mostly dried up is that people have the internet and thus access to proper porn on tap, so there’s less demand for it in places where it isn’t necessary or useful to the plot. Where it is useful, though, is in media where interactions over the medium to long term are shown. So they seem crass or pandering in a two hour film, but having a relationship that includes sex is expected to happen somewhere in a season of television or a twenty hour RPG.

      • Tizzy says:

        I don’t think that’s it. Porn was alive and well in the 80’s, print, video, specialized cinemas, certain tv channels… It certainly had a better business model pre-internet, too.

        So availability is unlikely to have been the matter. It seems much more likely that the phenomenon was a natural byproduct of the sexual liberation of the 1970’s.

        • Alexander The 1st says:

          I think Nidokoening was pointing out that there’s a difference between a beer at the pub, and a beer at home in your fridge.

          Or with porn specifically, the internet allows for consumption of the scenes they want without alerting anyone but their ISP (Or more specifically the computers that route them to or through their ISP) that yes, they’re watching porn.

          As for RPGs and sex, part of it could be that it’s expected to happen at one point in the game, but also that it’s also something someone can choose not to engage in specifically – allowing someone the public defense that no, it’s not the reason that they play that game.

          I mean, in a Bioware, Obsidian, or Bethesda RPG, you can totally get away with a “kid friendly” run of the game. You know, putting aside the death and destruction.

      • Twisted_Ellipses says:

        Unfortunately HBO’s TV shows rather defy that theory…

        • Tizzy says:

          Good point! But…

          “It’s not TV, it’s HBO”, right? They have pretty much laid down all their cards right there: they condemened themselves to spending most of their airtime proving that they are different. Sex and nudity is one way to do it.

  21. Thomas says:

    I still reckon that we aren’t even close to procedurally generated narrative hooks in games with or without voice acting. Designers struggle to write interesting quests as it is, never mind teaching a computer to do it. And players are smart, if you do any kind of Person X asks you to get Y substitution they’re going to recognise and it becomes the same as having ‘Mac’ to get you his ‘Muffin’ for every single quest. Nothing a player wants narratively is present in a formula like that.

    The two places it could work is trying to get the gameplay of the questline to revolve around some interesting random system, maybe create a murder mystery engine or something. Or tie the outcome to some interesting system. Solving a quest flips the ownership of a town, flipping ownership causes X,Y,Z which hopefully leads to emergence… Shamus’ idea of making quests direct you to unexplored places was neat, there’s probably room to expand on that idea. Maybe it can try to get you to use skills or strategies you haven’t been using in the game or generate enemies you haven’t fought for a while.

    A compromise is to handcraft a bunch of mini quests and then make their starting triggers random so the game feels more dynamic. That at least achieves one of the goals of the radiant system without bombarding you with ‘junk’ quests

    • Tizzy says:

      I never got what they had to feel so good about with radiant quests in Skyrim: the non-radiant quests are boring and same-y already, and there is hundreds of hours’ worth of the stuff (I should know!).

      So, the radiant quests bring… what… to the table? What do they achieve that couldn’t have been done while de-radiant-ing them? Except, maybe, more of the same? (I guess, because retrieving random objects and exterminating various kinds of pests never gets old…)

  22. aldowyn says:

    Worst SW season? For me, personally? No doubt about it, mass effect 3. I haven’t actually seen it, because I quit around Mars, but from what I’ve heard it just went /incredibly/ downhill from there, and as someone who actually LIKES the game, I just wouldn’t be able to handle it at all. The comments were bad enough. (at least there I could argue back)

    There are others that I haven’t seen all of, but aside from the ones I just don’t care to (Alan Wake), I’d at least like to go back and try to watch them all again at some point. Not ME3, though.

  23. Dovius says:

    Actually, there was a gay romance option in KotOR as well. Specifically, Juhani was a lesbian. Which actually makes her the first openly gay character in the Star Wars franchise.

    • aldowyn says:

      I thought she wasn’t openly gay or a romance option? I think they were going to but Lucasarts shut it down?

      • Dovius says:

        She was open about it, but the majority of the content related to her romance subplot was cut due to LucasArts going batshit over the existence of a gay Jedi. There are also strong implications that there was at least strong attraction between her and her childhood friend (Belaya, another padawan on Dantooine) who goes so far as to abandon the Order and join the Sith on Korriban to gain vengeance on Revan if you kill Juhani on Dantooine. This could of course be interpreted as friendship, except for the following quote from Belaya:

        “Juhani was a… a dear companion to me for many years. We spent many nights together alone under the stars.”

        There’s also the part where exploring her dialogue options and subplot will eventually lead to a confession of love towards Revan… the female Revan, that is. Male Revan gets appreciation for the support and friendship.

  24. Blov says:

    Re: Romance

    Again, Baldur’s Gate 2 and I think also Planescape Torment both succeeded at doing romance *way better* than the ME/DA/whatever games. The whole Anomen romance + evil/fallen path is quite an interesting combination to go for. @Josh, BG 2 is way better than BG 1. No need to go through the whole first one tbh. I mean, fundamentally you just need to know who the villain was.

    • Humanoid says:

      Trouble is Anomen seemed the type of character so slimy that on first encounter I immediately left and never interacted with him again. Unfortunate if there’s actually some decent writing after that, but first impressions and all that.

      I played BG2 before BG1, very much enjoyed the former but as a result of that, I found BG1 to be unbearable drudgery in the hour or so that I played it, and never touched it again, with no regrets whatsoever. I find it interesting that Fallout 1, essentially its equal, its contemporary and its stablemate in terms of the publicised “rebirth of RPGs” in that era, has aged so much better.

      • Blov says:

        Oh I really like BG 1 for various reasons but BG 2 they did improve on basically *every* aspect of it while laying down the groundwork for the entire future of the RPG (relationships, fewer but deeper NPCs, a cutaway bit in the middle where you’re kept from the main map, fewer but fully utilised environments, explicit through-arc for why YOU have to do something, etc etc etc). In many ways I think BG 2 is the best game of like ever.

        That said, I don’t feel like FO 1 has aged *that* much better than BG 1. More I think it’s actually way better than FO 2 and that its strengths are things that other games haven’t really copied and improved on while BG 1’s strengths were subsumed by the next generation of RPGs and then the generations after that, meaning that the weaknesses stand out a bit more.

        • Tizzy says:

          BG1’s contribution, as I remember them selling it at the time, was to attempt to bring the real DnD tabletop experience to the computer, complete with turn-based combat, bloated ruleset and obscure subclasses… And, to be clear, that must have been a daunting undertaking.

          Once the groundwork was laid out, it freed them to get more interesting in BG2, improving the UI, the stories, the environments… Not to mention that BG2 hit what I would consider to be the sweet spot, level-wise, between weaklings and ludicrously overpowered characters (with ToB definitely hitting the latter). Allowing for interesting challenges, etc.

  25. Thomas says:

    ME2 does have a character who breaks up with you if you pressure them into sleeping with you (Jack).

    Jade Empire was pretty bad with relationships. I think the expectation of romances that was created by the completion of KotoR 1 has spoiled Bioware romance. It stopped being a thing they threw in because it was awesome character wise and started becoming something that needed to be required for fans. I suspect that’s where the sex thing goes wrong because it feels like a demand that sex happens.

    The games before that are all pretty cool

    to be my usual fanboy KotoR 2 does avoid some of the romance problems. People open up to you based on how much they’ve liked the way you’ve been acting around them which makes it a little less ‘say these 4 romance option lines’, and the romance doesn’t necessarily culminate in sex and instead can be some nice little personal moments.

    Baldur’s Gate 2 apparently actually lets you have a child with a romance too =D

    At least Bioware have become awesome at gender inclusiveness. Having gay characters in a AAA game needs praise

    • Humanoid says:

      Yeah, BG2’s expansion had Aerie have a baby during the game, potentially during the most awkward and inconvenient moment possible (I’m sure you’re familiar with randomly initiated Bioware dialogue), then proceeded to treat the baby as an inventory item. Good grief that was a weird one.

      • IFS says:

        Oh yes that happened to me while I was resting up to go deal with the Demogorgon, resting right on top of the entrance to his prison even. Yeah… somehow I don’t think that kid is going to turn out quite normal…

  26. krellen says:

    I may be remembering incorrectly, but I’m relatively certain Silk Fox in Jade Empire would go for a female PC, so there was a lesbian option there.

    • Ben Hilton says:

      You are remembering correctly. In fact if you were very careful about your dialogue choices it was possible to be with both Silk Fox and Dawn Star at the same time as a guy.

      This may seem a little like pandering, but in all fairness a male player could also get with sky. All in all Jade Empire was a pretty sexually open game.

    • evileeyore says:

      I can confirm, I played a fem on my play through and romanced the pants off of Silk Fox.

  27. Daemian Lucifer says:

    “Ok,you know what,guys?Im fucking.”

    Well thats a bit blunt Rutskarn.But kudos for multitasking while recording the die cast.

  28. aldowyn says:

    Inquisition isn’t ACTUALLY open world it just has much, much larger zones. They’re definitely chasing the Skyrim audience a little bit, though. I’m sure Witcher 3 is, too.

    Also I’ll point out Mask of the Betrayer has literally next to nothing to do with the original campaign.

  29. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Rutskarn,did you play neverwinter nights 1 and/or its sequels?Because nwn1 was just so incredibly mind numbingly dull,yet the expansions were great(one of the reason for that is that they had almost nothing to do with the vanilla game).

    What Im saying is,just because nwn2 is bad,the expansions still deserve a try.

    • Lupis42 says:

      Also, IIRC one of the expansions (Hordes of the Underdark) allowed you to get two female companions to romance you at once with a really difficult CA check – and IIRC, both of the ladyfriend romance options were relatively interesting, and did not include sex scenes.

  30. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The worst game in spoiler warning for me was mass effect 3.While other bad games make me just shrug,be somewhat disgusted,or leave the franchise entirely,mass effect 3 actually makes me angry,which is quite a feat.

    Alan wake,while it was a boring season,still got me to go through the game(mistake) and the expansion(a good thing,since that was very enjoyable).Josh.I agree one hundred percent with Shamoose.Bring back Randy.

  31. Cybron says:

    You played Maid RPG, Rutskarn?

    I demand storytime. DEMAND IT.

  32. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Upon relistening,I have the need to correct Josh,just to be fair:

    Even though I loathe the game,mass effect 3 DID have a few good ideas:The merging of paragon and renegade into single influence bar for dialogues was a good idea,your companions wandering around the ship was also nice,and your chats with liara seem ok.

  33. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Rutskarn,how far are you in alpha protocol?Because that is an obsidian game that deals ok with romances,sex and friendship.

  34. Cybron says:

    As someone who’s never really been into Bioware RPGs and is thus talking from an outside perspective – I find it really funny that from these descriptions Harvest Moon 64 had more complicated romances than modern Bioware RPGs.

  35. Muspel says:

    Josh: My personal recommendation is to skip Baldur’s Gate and go straight to Baldur’s Gate 2. BG1 is a LOT rougher around the edges and is missing a lot of the elements that make BG2 great– for instance, your party members barely ever participate in dialogues after you recruit them in BG1, but frequently commentate in BG2. BG1’s combat is also a lot more tedious due to how everyone has super-low hit points.

    Overall, BG1 is a decent game, but not a truly great one. BG2 is where the developers really figured out what they were doing.

    The plots of the two games are largely disconnected, as well, so you don’t really miss much of anything if you jump to BG2 (and it does a decent job of getting you up to speed when you encounter people/plot points from the first game).

  36. Eldiran says:

    Josh, just a heads up: don’t bother with Baldur’s Gate 1. It’s just a combat-fest, like Icewind Dale. While it sets up a nice backstory for BG2, there’s absolutely no necessary info in there.

    Unlike BG2, BG1 has almost no character interaction or freedom to explore. Skip straight to BG2 and then come back to BG1 only if you feel the need.

    EDIT: I should’ve refreshed to see that my point had already been made :P Well, consider this comment as seconding the motion to skip BG1.

    Regarding NWN2 — I could absolutely not stand the original campaign to the point that I only played about 1.5 hours of it. Buuut, Storm of Zehir is fantastic.

  37. Adrian says:

    When I was playing DA2 for the first time, I was playing as a male and I accidentally ended up in a gay relationship. I was playing a nice guy and I wanted to hook up with the cute elf girl, but then came the mage possessed by the spirit of justice.
    I had no idea he was suppose to be a love interest for males too, so I acted nice towards him in every discussion because I took pity on him. On one occasion he said something strange to me about friendship that I didn’t fully understand, but thinking nothing of it I accidentally picked a romance option because the other options were mean and I didn’t think it was possible to romance him. I thought it was just a friendship option.
    Even though no sex stuff happened, the rest of the party started to make innuendos about our relationship and only then did I realize what just happened. Needless to say, I wasn’t able to romance the elf after that, so basically he cock-blocked me and I hated him so much for that. I couldn’t kill him fast enough in the end.
    I don’t know if that makes me homophobic, but that character really rubbed me the wrong way.

    • Mormegil says:

      Argh. I hated that. I liked Anders from the previous game so I was inclined to be nice to him. But in DA2 being nice to people means you want to have sex with them. So if you don’t want to sleep with them you have to be rude. Even when the previous game has already hinted strongly that the character is heterosexual. It’s hard to say what bugged me more – Anders becoming player-sexual or the elves turning into na’avi.

      • IFS says:

        The elf thing I didn’t mind so much, in part because its Varric telling the story so things are getting exaggerated, in part because I personally didn’t mind the way they looked. Ander’s sexuality change did bug me though, I think it was supposed to be handwaved as a result of fusing with Justice but that doesn’t make any sense since Justice was never sexual in any way being a spirit possessing a corpse. Its even more annoying that he comes onto you and hitting on him is the only option that doesn’t gain rivalry.

        • Mormegil says:

          My objection to the elves is the same as my objection to Anders sexuality – it would be fine except the previous game set the canon and now they’ve discarded it. This is actually relevant for the elves appearance since you had to be able to pass for human when sneaking out of the prison towards the end of the first game. No way one of the new na’avi elves could do that.

          You want a bisexual returning character? Pick a character from the first game who was bisexual – it’s not like there weren’t any to choose from. They did use one of them (Isabela, who isn’t a redhead anymore apparently) but there were several other valid choices (Zevran and Leliana as obvious picks).

          I think if the rest of the game was better I’d probably be more inclined to forgive it messing with canon stuff from the first game – unfortunately it really wasn’t.

          • aldowyn says:

            They’re redoing the elves again for Inquisition. I think they said somewhere in between the two? And I think a DA2 elf could pass for human – as long as the ears are covered. Not like they didn’t do waaay more to the Qunari.

            • IFS says:

              To be fair the Qunari were always supposed to have horns and be giants, they just had a lot of trouble getting that to work with helmets for Sten so they wound up not giving them horns in DA:O. I think they’ve sinced retconned Sten into being a special Qunari born without horns and considered awesome by other Qunari for it.

  38. Tapkoh says:

    The only BioWare “romance” I found remotely interesting was Morrigan’s in Dragon Age Origins. (Haven’t played BG yet.) I don’t really have a defense of it, so much as I have a couple points that I thought were good. I’d have to revisit it and really think some more before I could say whether it, as a whole, was well-executed though.

    First, it continues after sexytime. There are specific things that occur only after sexytime, such as giving you the ring and her getting upset and trying to break up with you (if you pursue the love angle). Secondly, it does play into the end of the game and her offer. This casts a different light on her previous interactions.

    Still, you have to play the choose her favorite reply minigame and/or play as a sort of practical psychopath to win her approval. Most I imagine don’t bother because she’s so abrasive and disapproves of so much. You do get a similar character turn if you “just” become her friend, too. Not sure how it balances out.

    Edit: I would like to point out that I’m trying to think of this only from within the space of these “romance” minigames. I think that romance in BW games as a whole is just pandering and don’t really care for it.

    • aldowyn says:

      Romancing Alistair significantly impacts the endgame, as well, considering two possibilities include the two of you marrying and becoming king and queen and him marrying the previous king’s widow. (Possibly with the PC staying on as a consort or whatever)

      • Tapkoh says:

        I knew it did from reading wikis but I never followed through on a romance with him so I am ignorant of the details. I don’t know if it’s a parallel of Morrigan’s or if it’s sex -> nothing -> matters at landsmeet, for example.

        Given my impatience / hostility for these minigames in general and the fact that I’m not fond of Alistair as a character, I think I’ll not pursue this particular knowledge on my own. I would be somewhat impressed however if 50% of the “romances” actually had interesting arcs (Leliana and Zevran definitely didn’t).

      • Tizzy says:

        Ah, Alistair… Unfortunately, I could never stand the whiny little brat. I was so glad to see him go.

    • The Morrigan romance only truly works with the DLCs so you can see it come to a conclusion and a potential happy adventure ending, sort of.

  39. Mormegil says:

    The witcher would have been better if it had limited the casual sex stuff and had more about Choosing between Triss and Shani who were both strong and interesting characters. Of course they would have then been stuck with doing a better job of transitioning that into the sequel as opposed to what we got (where you got Triss no matter who you picked in the previous game).

    As far as seeing Geralt’s wedding tackle? Between the albinism and the incredibly likely vd infections I think I’m happy enough to skip it.

    • Humanoid says:

      Apparently there was the need to specify in the backstory that all witchers are immune to that kind of inconvenience. Probably not the most obvious superhero power to come to mind, but handy I guess.

    • Starker says:

      Yep, witchers are supposed to be immune to all disease as well as sterile (the “can’t have children” kind, not the “free from bacteria” kind).

  40. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I played Mask of the Betrayer recently and I was burned. I played the original campaign and yes its nothing special but at the end I had my friends, I had a keep I was in charge of. I went from farm boy to big deal. It was comfort food. So I load up Mask of the Betrayer which is supposed to be “even better.”

    And I wake up without most of my stuff away from my friends (who I will later learn mostly died) and I’ve got this crazy monster inside of me that eats souls and I can’t really control it. I’m in a distant land and everybody hates me and calls me a blight. My canonical ending would have been to kill myself early in act 1 having realized the world is literally better off with me dead.

    But I continue and, nope, the game does it for you. You go to the land of the dead and if you’re doing the right thing, you stay there forever. Your reward is that you get to be dead and live in Purgatory forever. FU gamers who told me how cool this was. This is the most juvenile grimdark bs I’ve ever seen. I’ll grant you its different but different is not always good. Nobody in MOTB is likeable least of all the character you’re playing. I wouldn’t have bothered to continue if I wasn’t already somewhat attached to my character from the regular campaign.

    (I don’t care if I spoil this because I wish someone had spoiled it for me so that I would know to skip it. I am not better for having experienced it.)

    I’m tired of dark. I’m so tired of it. I wanted fun colorful superheroes as a kid but instead I got Rob Liefeld and guns and blood and babes and pouches and “heroes” laying in garbage in dirty alleys smoking cigarettes while narrating on their skin with razors (at least thats how it felt at the time). And there was Vampire the Masquerade where you “get” to play an evil blood sucking monster (I’ll never understand the appeal) and there were goths and grunge and everything was either dirty or dark or gritty. I’ve had my fill of that for a lifetime.

    And the worst part is, its all superficial in terms of explorations of real darkness and how to deal with it.

    • Humanoid says:

      My MoTB playthrough crashed and burned for purely mechanical reasons. I played a thief, as I almost always do, then find literally everything in the starting area is immune to sneak attacks and I have to rest after every encounter just to have enough hp to slowly grind down every group of enemies. Yeah, screw epic level D&D.

      Storm of Zehir is the only meaningful gameplay I got out of NWN2. I estimate I got around 25% through the original campaign, 5-10% through MoTB, and 90% through SoZ.

      • krellen says:

        I’m not sure if it’s implemented in MoB, but there should be a feat that allows sneak attacks on things that would be immune if you advance enough.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          There are a few of these feats applying to specific types of creatures. Pathfinder solves the problem by making most creatures vulnerable to sneak attacks (I think only the completely undifferentiated monsters, like gelatinous cubes, are truly immune in Pathfinder).

  41. Phantos says:

    RE: “BioWare and Final Fantasy fans who keep buying the games hoping they won’t suck.”

    I think the fear is that we’ll give up at exactly the moment either of these companies finally turn around, and make great games again.

  42. I agree with Josh on the romance stuff and BioWare.

    In the old Baldurs Gate I do not recall if it’s 1 or 2 but one NPC can even end up pregnant.

    In KoTOR the Bastilla romance worked, especially if you go Darkside the relationship works better IMO.

    Mass Effect is a tad odd, the Tali romance feels pretty ok, but that is probably due to Tali becoming just a close friend in ME1 and from friend to something else in ME2 and re-affirming the relationship in ME3.
    The other romances may have been better if they two could span 2-3 games, but they probably did not know if they woud be able to do more than the one game back then. (they may have planned more games, but they had no idea how well ME1 would do).

    Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines is interesting in that you can end up with a romantic interest and the consequences of that relationship eventually.

    I’m trying to think of other games but it’s not that easy to recall.
    Games where romances feel right is very rare, heck, games where just a friendship works is also far apart.

    Deus Ex Human Revolution is a example on how to not do it, (the relationship there was near non-existent).

    Dragon Age: Origins relationship with Morrigan is half OK, but the spendinng the night would have worked better in the DLCs (which truly furthers the relationship with Morrigan).

    Hmm, I think Freelancer has one that wasn’t half bad (no romance subplot to explore but the relationship is there though as part of the story).

    I can’t recall any more examples right now.

    Maybe these romances would work better if you only could romance one male or female, having multiple NPCs mean the writing/romance sub-stories are spread a bit too thin. Just one makle or female would allow much more writing and dialog and a slower build of the relationship and possibly continued dynamics later on.

    As Josh said, if you max out the relationship midgame, then the rest of the game should evolve the relationship further (or potentially devolve it if your an ass to them).
    Other potential conflicts that would be amusing
    Shepard: Your pregant?
    Liara: Yes Shepard.
    (several months later)
    Shepard: That’s not a human child that’s a Hanarr (yeah I know ME lore conflict but I’m making a point here).
    It would have been amusing if Shepard ended up as a dad/mom in space and how to deal with that (as part of the relationship subplot for example), do you put the kid up for adoption, leave the kid with grandparents or do you bust reaper ass while changing diapers?
    If you go the romance/life partner relationship route then go all out, be realistic, proper action and consequences.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Morrigan does at least have some relationship stuff after the sex. In fact, at least at first, she portrays the sex as just you two using each other to take care of needs. Its only later that it may turn out that she’s jealous if you pursue someone else or that she might become afraid of the real feelings she’s developing for you and there’s that wonderful little complication at the end. I think Morrigan is probably the most inspired romance Bioware has done especially once you factor in the DLC (ignoring the padding).

      With Lelianna, there can be post sex relationship issues depending on what you choose to do at the landsmeet. Its not great stuff (in fact I’m pretty sure Team Spoiler Warning would be offended by the “male cousland marries Anora but still has Lelianna on the side” situation (though at least she won’t go for it if she wasn’t hardened by an earlier encounter with her mentor). And you can choose to run off with her (vs staying and helping Anora or Alistair rule).

      Really its Mass Effect that is the worst with the “sex is the end goal” stuff. Both the Dragon Ages have post sex relationship stuff and KOTOR never gets around to sex. And to their credit, they keep tinkering with their friendship and romance systems so I think they recognize that it could be better (plus their promotional stuff mentioned possible faction values for DA3)

    • krellen says:

      It’s not really fair to call Heather (in VTMB) a “romantic interest”. The Blood Bond is far darker and more sinister. The game never describes what exactly is going on between the player and Heather, but if you know the VTM game, it’s a pretty accurate portrayal of how powerful – and destructive – the Blood Bond can be.

      Keep in mind that Vampire is meant to be a horror game; you are a monster, and the game is about dealing with what being a monster means, including the fact that you can’t really love, nor can you really understand love anymore. A Blood Bond isn’t love, but it’s the closest thing a vampire can still feel.

  43. Pat says:

    Since you were asking, Josh, you didn’t post the TF2 episode of Spoiler Warning yet. I’d been looking for that one.

  44. RCN says:

    You really should play Mask of the Betrayer.

    It has very little to do with the original campaign besides the main character.

    I’d very much compare it to Planescape: Torment. The story is much more a spiritual journey. The NPC companions are much more developed and there are many real consequences to your choices. Early on one of your choices even decides which companion you’re gonna get, an ancient Bear Spirit God or an evil amalgamation of souls in his husk, and each is very, very different. The second one, One of Many, is genuinely creepy.

    What I like most about it is how it dwells in a grayer shade of morality throughout the game. The companions are very colorful. And the writing is very interesting.

    To be fair, Neverwinter Nights 2 ended abruptly because the budget had already ran out (and they spent about half of it on how to get past a door…). There was a lot cut from it. It was a really shitty way to end it, but I think Mask of the Betrayer does a good job at least patching some of that up. If I’m not mistaken, only Sand (the elf mage… who I really liked, but alas) is really canonically dead. Some of your companions managed to get away, somehow. Your character, the protagonist, is taken away to a far away land (the homeland of Minsc from Baldur’s Gate, by the way) and becomes like some sort of savior for the atheists, agnostics and non-religious of the Forgotten Realm setting (who have a really shitty afterlife because the Gods are dicks, evil people being actively punished for their deeds get off easier).

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