About the Author
Mass Effect
Final Fantasy X
Batman:Arkham City
Borderlands Series
Weekly Column
Champions Online
World of Warcraft
DM of the Rings
Good Robot
Project Frontier

Diecast #86: Telltale Games, Christmas DDos Attack, Edutainment Games

By Shamus
on Monday Dec 29, 2014
Filed under:


And here is the last Diecast of 2014.

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

Hosts: Shamus, Josh, Jacob, and just normal Chris.

1:30 Chris is Playing Tales from The Borderlands

We also speculate about the upcoming Minecraft game from Telltale.

10:00 Josh is watching Cowboy Bebop.

14:00 Jacob has been playing Risk of Rain.

20:00 Shamus got a new mouse.

Here is the mouse in question:

Photo by JJ Abrams.

And this is the always-on-top download window.

29:00 Lizard Squad stole Christmas.

Spoiler: This is the subject of my column tomorrow, so I don’t want to add too much now.

40:00 Josh will be doing a New Year’s Eve stream.

I’ll have a post and links up when the time comes.


Dear diecast/spoiler warning crew,

Have you ever considered doing riff tracks of movies or tv shows?


And here is the full question that we trimmed down:

Hi, I'm Daniel (JackTheStripper on your website) and I wanted to ask the Diecast what they think of the current state of educational games.

I grew up playing games like Math Blaster Episode I: In Search of Spot, Math Blaster Mystery: The Great Brain Robbery, Where in The World (and Where in the USA) is Carmen San Diego, and even more classic games like Number Munchers. The fact that they were educational games never bothered me, and the challenge was there. I don't think I ever beat any of those games on the harder difficulties.

Anyway, games like those are practically non-existent today, and with lots of indie devs bringing games of their childhood back, how is nobody trying to bring back educational games?

Hopefully there'll be a Diecast in the coming days but I'll understand if there isn't with the holidays and all. Big fan of you guys though.

Always ludonarratively dissonant,

Here are the edutainment dino games Chris was talking about: Create-A-Saurus from 3-D Dinosaur Adventure and Save The Dinosaurs! From 3-D Dinosaur Adventure.

Comments (77)

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I get the vibe that Chris is into dinosaurs,but its too vague.

    If he indeed is,maybe his new name should be captain caveman.

    • 4th Dimension says:


    • Chris says:

      Trufax: In between the last JP episode of Spoiler Warning posting and yesterday I re-read The Lost World.

      • McNutcase says:

        I wanted to re-read Jurassic Park and The Lost World, but Half-Price Books didn’t have either of them.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I’m jealous of people who can read as fast as you. I don’t have time to play games and read books.

        • Soylent Dave says:

          Play games with longer loading times / have a worse computer.

          I used to get loads of reading done when I first played Empire: Total War, because the loading screens / end of turn cycle basically took half a chapter (on my ‘then not really able to run it properly’ computer).

        • Now I want an answer to these questions….
          Are fast readers fast because they love reading and do it all the time? Also, are slow readers less likely to read for pleasure?

          My guess would be that most fast readers were bookworms as kids (I know I was) and reading all the time made us fast.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I’ll grant you I didn’t have books lined up as a kid but I would read fairly lengthy books. Heck I read Fountainhead for crying out loud and that thing was a doorstopper. As a young adult I read both the original Dragonlance trilogies, the Thrawn Trilogy from Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, The Hobbit and even made it a little ways into the Silmarillon. Read most of the Hitchhikers series too.

            Now yeah a lot of this was in my teens to twenties so maybe that love of reading has to set in sooner but I had every incentive to become a faster reader. My eyes wander and so do my thoughts. Every other paragraph sparks a tangent of thought. I have the same problem gaming. Meds help keep focused but also takes some of the joy out of it.

            Wish there was a program that highlighted the line you’re currently reading. It would help a lot. Especially if it worked with the Kindle Reader.

          • McNutcase says:

            I was definitely a book-loving child, and that got me reading fast. Fast enough that my sister thought I was just looking at the pictures, until she quizzed me onthe text and discovered I was reading it. I’m now mid-30s, and still read paperbacks at roughly 1Hz (no kidding, a typical mass-market paperback has me turning the page about once a second).

            And no, I’m not a speed-reader. I just read fast.

  2. RTBones says:

    There has been at least one report of a Lizard Squad ‘spokesman’ in the UK (add your own laugh/disgust track here), that the whole thing was done for laughs – and because they could.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Spelunky is elegant and perfect?Uuuuuummmmm,no.

    • Shamus says:

      I HATE playing Spelunky, but I really admire the mechanics. A small number of rules interact to form this endless combination of interactions. (Most of which end in your death.) Throw a rock to hit a monster to knock it off a ledge where it sets off a dart which hits you.

      Most importantly, the rules apply to everything. The traps don’t have some bullshit friendly fire logic. If you lure a monster into a trap, it kills them.

      I’d probably really enjoy the game if there was a mode where you had, like 10x the health. But the game ends as soon as I get into it. I don’t care about beating the game, I just find it so annoying to constantly break the flow of play once a minute when I die and restart. The game is just so stupid hard that I can’t play for long enough to enjoy it.

      • ET says:

        That’s one thing I like in games, is when the monsters can be killed by the same stuff that you can be killed by. For example, SLASH’EM let’s you trap monsters with beartraps, pits, etc. So you can be clever and kill monsters which would otherwise be too difficult, by getting them stuck in a trap, and plinking away at them with bows & arrows, from outside of their attack range. For a lot of games, this type of mechanic wouldn’t make sense, but I would still like to see it more often in games. :)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        The same can be said for I wanna be the guy.In fact,because of non random nature of the rooms,but rather their deliberate tweaking to be as tough and as fair as possible,I wanna be the guy is far more elegant and closer to perfection*.I still would not recommend I wanna be the guy to anyone,especially not over risk of rain,no matter how many months Ive stuck into becoming the guy.

        *The only perfect game is,of course,tetris.The rest are just close to it,but never quite there.

        • Muspel says:

          I Wanna Be The Guy is actually the epitome of unfair. It requires you to know what to do beforehand, because it frequently pulls shit out of nowhere to kill you in ways that you could never possibly foresee.

          It’s “do it again, stupid” gameplay for hours on end.

          Spelunky does have a few things that will probably kill you the first time you encounter them, but they aren’t anywhere near as bullshit as save points that try to kill you or items that pop out of the background to vaporize the player.

      • Ivan says:

        For me the issue with Spelunky is the lack of any sort of persistent character progression. I realized this after comparing it to Dark Souls. Both games have no issues killing you when you screw up, but at least in Dark Souls you can get to the next zone, or find a new weapon or spell, and that progression isn’t lost when you die.

        Well that and whenever I got to a shop in Spelunky I couldn’t figure out how to buy things properly and the shop keepers went batshit insane and killed me instantly for accidently stealing.

        I guess I should note that this is the original(?) version that I found somewhere for free and not the version on steam.

    • Cybron says:

      I wouldn’t even say that Spelunky is the same sort of game as Risk of Rain. I love Spelunky and have at best a passing interest in RoR, but I feel they’ve got completely different objectives and go about achieving them in completely different ways. I don’t think it’s fair to compare them as whole games (though some individual mechanics are similar).

  4. DanMan says:

    You said “these games are built with the assumption that the PSN will never go down”. Made me think of Hitchhiker’s Guide:

    The major difference between a thing that might go wrong and a thing that cannot possibly go wrong is that when a thing that cannot possibly go wrong goes wrong it usually turns out to be impossible to get at or repair.

    • ET says:

      Also, “It won’t need to be upgraded!” or “How often would you ever need to fix it?”. Need to change some furnace/water heater/other large appliance in your house? Too bad – you’ll need to rip apart the walls to get to it! :S

    • kunedog says:

      Incidents like this are why I’m extremely suspicious of anyone who takes streaming game services seriously. Microsoft’s plan to require 24-hour checkins didn’t fly, so why would a service like Onlive that requires “checkins” every few milliseconds? And this is indeed an inherent problem with streaming games that will be impossible to resolve; even Ubisoft’s “always-on” DRM wasn’t as draconian/fragile and could be mitigated (or removed) through patches. I have to conclude that the hype is driven by publishers who see it as the ultimate DRM system. Shamus Young said he has nothing left to say about DRM, but IMO streamed games are a potential DRM disaster that needs to be called out.

      And it’s this bad even if you ignore the (also major) issues of latency, bandwidth, service subscription fees, game ownership, and modding.

      P.S. I am talking about internet-streamed games here, not the various schemes that stream a game over a LAN (e.g. from a console to a tablet), even though those suffer a subset of the same flaws.

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What about typing of zombies and similar ones?

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I have a soft spot for Number Munchers. Even found an online Apple IIe emulator that will let you play that game. Still totally holds up.

      I think classic Sim City should also count. One of my math teachers actually assigned Sim City as a bonus/enrichment thing, and this was almost 20 years ago. Sure its not perfectly accurate but putting a child in the role of balancing the different demands of building would help them to understand some things about history and politics.

      That said, I sometimes wonder if games don’t create the false expectation that problems always have ‘best’ or ‘optimal’ solutions. Politics is a good example. Simulators don’t, in my experience, ask you to consider ideals. You’re just trying to optimize your various metrics.

      That kind of thinking can be problematic especially when you’re putting someone in the role of a head of state. It feeds into the presumption that solutions to these problems come from the state or the idea that a solution is best just because it addresses some metric or an immediate need. Heck, it even reinforces the idea that people can be generalized into aggregates with one size fits all solutions.

      So I guess educational games can have some pitfalls. Errant Signal did an episode that touched on this with Civ. Extra Credits did a related one on propaganda games but I think the inadvertent propaganda can be more dangerous.

      I’d like to see more fettered gameplay.

      • Felblood says:

        Have you ever played Children on the Nile?

        On the surface, it’s a Caesar III/Pharaoh knockoff, with a 3D camera and a quietly dark sense of humor. However, as you learn to play, you’ll find a number of subtle enhancements to the formula that I think you would find to be improvements.

        Every citizen, hobo or noble, is a distinct, persistent entity, with sims-like need meters and a personal wallet of funds. If you let a citizen become unemployed, he might decide to become a city beggar, instead of returning to being a hunter/gatherer villager.

        Then add that this is a game that creates it’s interesting decisions by forcing you to make sacrifices. Will you close the temple, or the hospital, in order to support more education? What percentage of your city will be endangered in the next big flood? (At least 50%, even if you are very conservative). Will your last overseer manage building a pyramid, mining basalt for statues, or trying to split his time between the two?

        The Gameplay is about wanting things you can’t have, and working to make them possible, at the cost of giving up some things you had, at least temporarily.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Also, I like Z-Type. On easy, its not a bad typing tutorial. The best part is it doesn’t force you into a gameplay style. It only asks you to be able to quickly type what you see, whatever way you come up with works and cross applies to real life.

  6. Alex says:

    Re: Educational games

    There are some nice games on Kongregate like Manufactoria and Codex of Alchemical Engineering that are a cool introduction to machine logic. These are puzzle games and not just shoot the answer games, where you have to build machines to process inputs either to simply sort them as pass/fail or to transform them prior to sending them to the exit.

  7. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I can’t imagine the programmer thought the command prompt site launch thing was a good idea. That had to be a management decision.

    That or maybe the developer just learned how to do that and just had to try it out on something (“Oh wow, you can launch the command prompt? I could use that to launch the default browser. How cool is that?”).

    • ET says:

      I’ve seen the same thing done, with a promotion, read-only memory stick from a company. Like, I can understand wanting customers to easily visit your website, but I’m pretty sure there’s a solution that doesn’t rely on the Windows ‘run’ command. i.e. Would be compatible with other OSs.

      Also, it’s kind of scary that Windows would let a USB device identify itself as a keyboard, and then just let it start typing characters, without the user verifying that they actually want it to do so. Like, even in a non-malicious case, I could still have a brand new keyboard from the factory, which starts malfunctioning and typing the ‘F’ character, even when no buttons are pressed. It’s unlikely, sure, but if I were building an OS, I’d want to give the user a tool, to verify that yes, they truly want to replace a fundamental input device on their system, and yes it’s working correctly, and yes they want to start using it now.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      It’s not that programmer couldn’t have launched the browser without that, but that management wanted a flashy way to launch it. If you put this fancy way with run and automatic typing and a simple browser opening in front of a bunch of managers they will like the fancy way more without considering how annoying to use it is.

  8. Humanoid says:

    Broken link to “Jacob”, as if Mumbles was trying to hack it.

    EDIT: Aaaand fixed before I fixed my own post.

  9. “Hey, let’s pay off the terrorists to not hack us!”

    This comes down to corporations not planning for the future and refusing to spend money on retaining good employees, bolstering infrastructure, etc.: It’d be far cheaper, better for the economy, better for business, and so forth, to invest in actual security instead of shaving the margins so much, resulting in stuff like this.

    Edit: Also not being married to having users constantly on-line to play even the simplest game, that too. Of course, that also feeds into this desire to apparently turn everything into a customer metric pipeline, if not a fee-based service.

    Also, I may be the only one here, but I really don’t like “Snow Crash.” I thought it was unoriginal, a mish-mash, and I don’t care for the patent troll outfit the author hangs/hung out with. I would’ve figured Shamus would invoke William Gibson or something instead of Neal Stephenson, but that’s probably just me.

    • Tizzy says:

      Part of the problem is that security is the purview of some specialists, while it should be EVERYONE’s problem. It is painfully obvious that most software designers have not the SLIGHTEST idea about security, beginning with what is at stake and why should they care.

      As a result, keeping systems secure must be very hard because the leaks can be everywhere, not just in the more obvious places.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Speaking as a noob developer who has the benefit of working in an intranet environment where a lot of the heavy lifting is done for me, I don’t envy the software developers who do have to think about security. Its hard enough to create software that works, is designed well, and has minimal buginess.

        • Tizzy says:

          What I’d like to see is more AWARENESS of security issue. We can’t expect everyone who writes code to be a security expert, that’s a full-time job and a half in itself. But have devs aware of what security means, so that they can see where the issues may be and budget some time and money to safeguard their product during the design phase.

          Right now, every article I read about security issues makes me want to pull my hair out, because it suggests that security was never part of the fundamental design (it’s very hard to add afterwards): tire pressures gauges being hacked, encryption on phones kicking in AFTER they broadcast a bunch of unsecured stuff, exercise gizmos left wide open… whenever I see those internet-of-things ads, control everything in your house from your phone, I cringe.

          • 4th Dimension says:

            An entire country’s educaton IT system storing passwords in plaintext? Said system allowing it’s admins to see all passwords of all users in their particular school by reding them from HTML? Users being unable to change the passwords on their own unless they come to the admin’s office and have him change it?

    • Mike S. says:

      I like Snow Crash better than Neuromancer because the latter is so earnest and self-serious, while the former (which is absolutely standing on the shoulders of Neuromancer and a decade-plus of its imitators) recognizes the inherent ridiculousness of a lot of the tropes, and runs with it.

      I think Gibson is a more ambitious author (or at least was at the time– Stephenson certainly hasn’t been afraid to experiment going forward), but I think Neuromancer is more important than it is flat-out enjoyable.

      • John says:

        I read Snow Crash several years before I read Neuromancer. I pegged Snow Crash for some kind of parody after a chapter, but I didn’t have the background knowledge to know what it was parodying. When I eventually got around to Neuromancer I finally got the joke. (There’s a lot more to Snow Crash than parody, but that’s certainly how the book starts out.)

  10. I think Chris is advocating an Errant Signal Spoiler Chorus Improv LIVE! kind of thing.

    I believe he’s doing it partially because he thinks it’d be entertaining and partially as a bid to take power from Shamus. :)

  11. Tizzy says:

    Educational: The Incredible Machine

    Rube Goldberg contraptions involving popping balloons, hamster-wheel powered motors, cats chasing mice. Customizable Physics (gravity and more), and both problem-solving levels and sandbox mode.

    Still my favorite to this day.

  12. Tizzy says:

    Educational again: I’ve just discovered Math Rescue, and I am wondering who ever thought it could be a good idea. One minute of gameplay video was enough to send me running for the sake of my sanity.

  13. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Another thing to consider is games as a springboard for education. You could use any number of games to, for example, discuss ethics. Anything from Mass Effect to Spec Ops the Line, to any number of games that have you do things without ever considering the ethical ramifications.

    Also a lot of gamers like to know the “lore” once they’re invested in a game. So while a historical war sim might not directly teach history, students might want to learn more about the context of the wars they’re having fun simulating.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      True fact: In middle school I kicked ass in world history when we got to early European wars. My teachers thought I really loved history. Really I just love Medieval Total War.

  14. Escape-the-room games (from Japan) often emphasize mathematics in puzzle-solving. I didn’t need to recall the old Order of Operations until I started giving them a spin. Even then, a lot of the math requires deciphering before you get an equation to come up with the four-digit code to unlock a safe (i.e. you have to find that the blue triangle represents a 5, the green circle a 9, and so on).

    They’re the kind of puzzles I wouldn’t mind seeing in actual games, especially when puzzles should be somewhat challenging. I’m looking at YOUR TOMB PUZZLES, Skyrim!

  15. Ithilanor says:

    I played that 3D dinosaur game Chris brought up! It was so long ago that I don’t remember anything about it, but I definitely remember the red and blue paper glasses. I also remember the existence of Droid Works; I was at a summer computer “camp” one year when I was a kid where the two choices of games were that and Gizmos & Gadgets. Most of the kids played Droid Works, I went with Gizmos & Gadgets, managing to beat it. I was pretty proud at the time. The Super Solvers games were all pretty neat as a kid, though I don’t know how well they still hold up.

    Also: I’d definitely watch short-form Spoiler Warning episodes, those sound great.

  16. Matthew Melange says:

    Can you please write a post about why you think Cowboy Bebop is so great? Because although I enjoy the show and thought it was the coolest thing in the world 14 years ago, I just really don’t care for it. It’s just 3 bounty hunters who are bumbling around and looking for cash. It’s a great vehicle for telling the little stories that it does, but the stories it tells just aren’t that great in my opinion. They feel tired and used, like the cynical cop or the mistreated damsel who becomes a villain and then of course cool guy spike.

    • Matthew Melange says:

      P.S. I’m a huge anime lover and I even like Cowboy Bebop, it’s just I like it in the same way I like Will Smith movies. I used to want to be him but now I just see how shallow it really is.

    • Grudgeal says:

      I would argue it’s the entire point. Cowboy Bebop is a love-letter to the classics — on one hand, its animation and drawing style and several of its characters’ designs invoke Lupin the 3rd and other classic anime of the 80ies, but its stories is firmly wedded to western classic cinema. Being ‘used’ is the entire point and the show not only knows it but revels in it.

      If you look at Cowboy Bebop‘s episodes from a film perspective, every episode is a lovingly crafted homage to a genre or a specific film and their conventions, from the Hong Kong bloodshed of “Ballad of Fallen Angels” to the Detective Conan references of “Sympathy to the Devil” to parodying the Alien films of “Toys in the Attic” to the blacksploitation and stoner film send-up of “Mushroom Samba” (complete with the coffin from the original Django film). Moreover, almost every episode, no matter how silly and stand-alone on the surface, is used to explore one of the main characters in one manner or another. Usually, the episode ‘belongs’ to either Spike, Jet or Faye (most commonly it’s Spike) and the event of the story resonates with that character and often ends up revealing some part of their past in the process, which ties into the overall narrative arc and theme that your past inevitably hunts you down if you run away from it.

      Cowboy Bebop is one of the least Japanese animes out there, being rooted in western cinema as much as if not more than the Japanese cultural zeitgeist. The overall intention of the show cleaves as close to Quentin Tarantino as you can get without being Quentin Tarantino, filled to the brim with references, nods and allusions to classic cinema, presenting microcosms of western films as self-containing morality plays in a new ‘old’ style of the week, and is tied together with the greatest soundtrack to an anime I know. And the dub is probably only beaten by Black Lagoon (and possibly Baccano!) in ‘English dubs that can honestly compete with the original language’.

  17. Merlin says:

    Carmen Sandiego came up in a discussion over on the AV Club a little ways back, and this blurb seems like the sort of thing the crowd here would enjoy. (Original link)

    I played a later version of this called Carmen Sandiego’s Great Chase Through Time that was structured more like an adventure game. Carmen sends her crooks out through history to steal stuff and generally make a mess, and the player has to set things right by, say, acquiring supplies for William the Conqueror by following the feudal system, or putting together a proper Egyptian funeral for Hatshepsut’s husband. Every level took place in a single time and place and focused on learning about it in depth. The last mission to catch Carmen herself was the only one that employed the classic hop-through-time structure.

    The most interesting thing about it was that it actually gave Carmen a motivation. See, the thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that Carmen actually has a backstory. She was a star detective for the ACME agency who was so good at her job that she got bored and decided to switch sides, forming V.I.L.E. and challenging her own coworkers to catch her, with such success that ACME now devotes most of its resources just to investigate her and her gang. She’s more or less the Riddler.

    At the very end of Great Chase, you find out that the entire time-travel plot was a massive diversion. Carmen’s ultimate goal is to break into ACME headquarters itself and steal her personnel file, effectively erasing her life before her turn to crime. She only wanted to change her own history. I dare you to name another children’s game that put that much thought into its characters and theme. There aren’t many.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I really like the ‘got bored’ motivation. Its working for me with the BBC Sherlock series where Sherlock seems almost entirely driven by his need to keep his mind engaged and Moriarty is coming at the same problem from a different angle.

      Its a nice change of pace from the “they wronged me and I’ll show them” bit or “they wronged me and I’m going to make this world a better place.” I’d love to see a conversation between this version of Sherlock and Batman. Come to think of it, I guess Sherlock, the Riddler, Moriarty and Carmen Sandiago are four characters trying to solve the same problem (with the Riddler being the most different with his “I need to prove my genius” MO).

  18. Jeff R. says:

    Also, Kim’s payoff didn’t actually work. The attacks kept going at least a day after ‘they’ ‘promised’ to stop them; they didn’t actually quit until much later, probably after the they started attacking tor as well and anonymous got serious about forcing them to stop.

    Why is it that Steam doesn’t get these kinds of prolonged, mass DDOS attacks? Of Sony, Microsoft, and Valve one would expect the third to be the most vulnerable just based on budget sizes…

    My own favorite education game has to be Rocky’s Boots.

    • Joe says:

      “Why is it that Steam doesn't get these kinds of prolonged, mass DDOS attacks? Of Sony, Microsoft, and Valve one would expect the third to be the most vulnerable just based on budget sizes…”

      Maybe they thought ahead and devised some kind of precautions against this kind of thing. Or maybe these bozos all play Steam games and don’t want to mess with something they actually use.

    • Mark says:

      Rocky’s Boots was the best thing. So much exploration, and so many crazy things to build! And all on an Apple II.

      Rocky’s Boots was written by Warren Robinett, the same guy who did Atari 2600 Adventure. As I recall he’s now some sort of nanotechnology engineer.

  19. Tse says:

    That mouse looks ridiculous, but after configuring those buttons to useful functions it will be good for games with a large number of commands.
    The back and forward buttons are actually really helpful for browsing and should be recognized by a lot of games as the 4th and 5th button, so no problem there.
    The DPI depends on preference. My DPI is 3200/5000(laptop/desktop) and it’s good for me, no need to lift the mouse off the desk. The 5000 dpi is too fast for a laptop because the mouse has to be used on a variety of surfaces.
    I was surprised about the weight. Isn’t it configurable? I have two gaming mice and they both have weights you can add or take out.
    Conversely, my mice look much better and they are made by an actual Eastern European company- TurboX.

  20. 4th Dimension says:

    Shamus why does your mouse have an Arc Reactor (triangle light)? Are you keeping Tony Stark in your basement? You might need to keep an eye on him less he escape in a suit made of old motherboards or something.

    As to the education software, I guess the problem is what do you consider under education. Edu games certanly can either teach you a load of trivia (various quizes and such) or provide you with an intro on what are tradeoffs involved in designing something (KSP) and/or make you take an interest in the subject being simulated (Paradox games), but they are unlikely to tech you things your teacher might ask you about in class. As teachers we unfortunatelly prefer the questions which have singular correct answers because such qiestions can be than easily graded. In our KSP program example, your aerospace teacher will likely ask you to write down or use the formula for orbital speed or say who was the first woman in space, but KSP is unlikely to teach you that.

    Also you are unlikely to learn the actuall laws and formulae that govern the processes simulated in game.

  21. SteamDad says:

    I got my son an xbox for Christmas. I had to create a Microsoft account, which worked. But you have to be signed into a profile to get a game to work, and that part was down. And the games needed updates, of course, and that part was down. You are supposed to be able to play many of these games offline, but to set them up the first time you need to be online, and the network needs to be up. All in all, very frustrating experience.

  22. Ilseroth says:

    Speaking of educational games: A more recent addition to that would be Rocksmith 2014. Granted there was the original rocksmith in like, 2012, but as an actual teaching tool Rocksmith 2014 actually is pretty damn good at what it is supposed to do.

    I picked it up on a whim because I had a interest in learning guitar for no particular reason, and ti did q great job at teaching straight from the basics all the way up to some more complicated stuff.

    That being said… as “entertainment” people may have some… issues with rocksmith. Yeah it has it’s arcade thingy which can be varying degrees of fun, and you can have some fun just straight playing the game… But the problem is if you start playing it like a “game” and trying to say, go for as many points as possible, it is actually frequently better to disregard techniques you are supposed to be learning and trick the system to think you are doing better then you are.

    A secondary issue with the game is it’s focus on playing songs over technical practice… But that is actually why a lot of people like Rocksmith comparative to traditional learning so it is give and take there. I like to focus on getting better technically as opposed to learning specific songs and while they have some tools for that the focus is pretty much learning songs… Specifically Rock songs… which I mean, I guess is fitting considering it is called “Rocksmith.”

    But yeah, with regards to “educational” games, Rocksmith 2014 is literally designed as a learning game and I think it does pretty well for what it is… Though it does kinda approach it a bit like the old educational games like number muncher or what have you.

  23. John says:

    Like a lot of people my age, my experience with educational games more or less begins and ends with an installment of the Carmen Sandiego franchise. In my particular case, it was Where in Europe…. I played that game so much and saw so many of the clues so many times that by the end I could often beat the game without cracking the enclosed reference book.

    I’m not sure how much the game really taught me. If I still know the names of many European capitals that’s probably from my high school history classes. If I still know the names of many European currencies, that’s probably because I read international and financial news. The two things I know are from the game are (i) a bizarre fondness for the enclaves of Andorra and San Marino and (ii) the idea that northern European countries tend to the Lutheran.

  24. JackTheStripper says:

    By my standards, for a game to truly be an educational game, it has to go out of its way to teach something or at least provide a platform for you to seek out more information.

    Minecraft for example, has a lot to teach in terms of spatial reasoning, design, and creativeness; but no new information is given to you and no real world/practical skill is being developed (besides the aforementioned ones, which are present in most games already). In contrast, games like Carmen Sandiego constantly bombard you with facts and trivia, and then encourage you to seek further information on your own using the game’s encyclopedia. 3-D Dinosaur Adventure (thanks for reminding me of that gem, Chris) also narrated facts and general knowledge about dinosaurs while you played some simple games.

    I remember another one called Kids Encyclopedia or something like that. I couldn’t find any pictures online but the game was essentially a theme park with mini-games just like 3-D Dinosaur Adventure. You clicked on one thing and you either got a video or a game, but either way you’d get a graphic or narration about something like Acid Rain or Momentum.

    Anyway, I understand Josh’s point that games like these rarely hit that middle point where they’re great games and still greatly educational (the Carmen Sandiego games are probably the most successful at that), but the point is, they’re no longer here, and nobody is even attempting to revive the genre.

    I remember that the PC was where you’d find educational games and now there really aren’t any, at least not ones where education was the primary goal in their development.

    Chris’ point (I think it was Chris) about any simple game being enough to keep a child interested is very true. As shit as some of the mini-games in these educational games were, they kept my interest as a kid; and quite frankly, they have as much gameplay value as the average smartphone game anyway, but with the added benefit of being educational, and not attacking you with advertisements or micro-transactions.

    The genre is essentially dead, and it really shouldn’t be.

    Thanks for covering my question though.

  25. SyrusRayne says:

    This episode is going to be weird, given that my name is Jacob.

  26. Felblood says:

    Gentlemen of the Die Cast,

    For our mutual sanity, please stop trying to play Risk of Rain as a solo game.

    None of these classes are intended to function properly, or feel “right”, without at least one other player. Even the most versatile characters, such as Commando, Engineer and Acrid are at their best when they are dashing to the rescue of the more powerful, but more specialized classes. Commando is the only class new players are allowed to play, because it’s strong focus on defensive mobility and supporting fire is the least likely to be a liability to a team of more experienced players.

    To unlock a more specialized class, you’ll need to kill each of the 3 weakest bosses, or beat the 3rd level.

    • Ivan says:

      Huh, I never really thought about it being designed as a multiplayer game. Doesn’t the difficulty scale with the number of players? Though if it doesn’t then the game makes a lot more sense.

      When I was thinking about it the other day I came to the conclusion that the game wasn’t meant to be played without the Glass Artifact. For those who don’t know this increases the damage you do by 500% but decreases your starting health to 10%.

      I just kinda figured that this was their way of setting up a sort of tutorial. I mean obviously the glass artifact makes it very easy to be 1 shot early on, which isn’t great fun for newbies, although after you start increasing your health the penalty to using the glass artifact is virtually nullified. After all, it is only a penalty to your starting health and nothing really references that directly, so once you get items to start increasing your hp, the only consistent penalty is about -100 hp when you have 1000.

      After this the 5x damage bonus turns the game from painfully grindy to reasonable, this allows you to get through a level much more quickly and while also collecting items from bosses an shops because now you have more money from killing more things more quickly. After this the balance of going fast but not too fast is much easier to manage and you really only fall behind when you spend a bunch of time trying to find the artifact on a given stage.

  27. Greg says:

    I loved the Lost Mind of Dr. Brain! That and the Logical Journey of the Zoombinis were my favorite games as a kid. Just solving puzzles and making you think while still having an interesting presentation. It is a shame that it is so hard to experience them these days.

  28. Duneyrr says:

    My R.A.T. 7 is pretty gnarly looking. I’ve had it for years now and it’s been fantastic!

  29. Taellosse says:

    Is it just me, or is the RSS not updating? It’s still showing the December 22nd episode as the most recent.

  30. NoNameDropIn says:

    How did you guys manage to get through two episodes about FMV games and ’90s educational games without mentioning Bill Nye’s magnum opus: Stop The Rock?

  31. Groboclown says:

    In my sparse spare time, I’ve been putting together a website to allow riff tracks like commentary via text and playing them back against different web video sites. Maybe not the best format for a snappy quip creation, but it’s a start.

Leave a Reply

Comments are moderated and may not be posted immediately. Required fields are marked *


Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun.

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>