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Diecast #89: 2014 Happened

By Shamus
on Monday Jan 19, 2015
Filed under:


EDIT: Comments are open again. I have no idea how I managed to disable them by accident.

I know we’ve spent most of January talking about 2014. Well, we’re not going to stop now. At least this time you’ll get to hear what Mumbles thinks. Also, watch for spoilers. (Check the show notes to see where they are.)

Direct link to this episode.

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Hosts: Shamus, Josh, Chris, and Mumbles.

Show notes:

3:00 Everyone has a different opinion on what games were “important” last year.

14:00 A lot of people spent 2014 playing games from 2013.

18:00 Let’s talk about AI for a bit!

22:00 MMOs in 2014: Firefall, Wildstar, ESO, Destiny, The Crew

Also don’t miss where Shamus goes on old man tirade about Destiny.

38:00 Broken games and incomplete stories in 2014

We kind of spoil the end of Destiny, although since there’s no buildup, payoff, or resolution and it’s totally incoherent, so I don’t know if you can say we actually “spoil” it.

44:00 Dragon Age Inquisition.


Also spoilers for WATCH_DOGS.

Also Dark Souls 2.

Also Bioshock Infinite.

Comments (149)

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,you have no clue about ai,and you should not talk about it.

    Anyway,heres my gist about the whole ai improving thing:As ai improves,the number of clutter also improves,so the npcs have to navigate more and more complex terrain(and do other more and more complex actions).We usually dont notice these,because to us a room is a room,whether it was the simple bare room of the doom age,or a scale replica of an actual office of today.

    • Phill says:

      Very true. Compare a simple blank room from Doom, or something equally simplistic, to the last fight in the Last of Us DLC (I just happen to remember that as a decent example. TLOU DLC has Ellie fighing a bunch of mooks in a shopping mall. It is split over two levels, with three or four stairs/escalators that I can remember. Every area of the mall has multiple objects that block movement and line of sight. That’s a reasonably complex pathing environment already; it is essentially a solved problem but is a reasonably large area to do pathing around in real time for multiple units. There are also windows that allow line of sight (and fire) but not movement. And balconies where the mooks can fire from the upper levels to large areas of the downsairs. The mooks are actively searching the area, reacting to sounds and the last known position of Ellie, making decisions on whether to move in to melee range or move back to ranged attacks, reacting to what their comrades know and have been able to share.

      Each mook is making decisions about where to move based on where it thinks Ellie might be, based on what info it has observed directly or been informed of from comrades. It adjusts its paths on the fly as the player moves, and also as the other mooks move (you don’t see all the mooks stack at the same window and start shooting; they use the actions of their allies to inform their own decisions, or there is some overall manager to set goals for each guy as part of a team).

      The net result: “These guys are dumb and predictable”. Partly because of the extra complexity of the environment, but also because the realism of the game creates the uncanny valley effect where the artificial nature of their actions becomes more obvious in contrast to the greater naturalness of the visuals and play actions (e.g. the contextual head bashing and stomping).

      One of the great things about AI is that it is really, really hard to do well. You can write a simple system that does a tolerable job. You can then put a ton of work in to improving the system to be more complex, take account of many more factors, plan better etc. And what you end up with is usually something that is indistinguishable from the simple system 80% of the time, surprisingly smart (by accident) 10% of the time, and worse with an alarming degree of stupidity 10% of the time.

      And also, humans are vastly better at thinking that AIs (well, duh). And are EXTREMELY good at spotting patterns. So someone writes a really complex simulator for AI behaviour, and a human observer spots the dominant patterns almost immediately.

      (Incidentally, that one reason why I look askance at Everquest Next’s idea of a dynamically evolving world – for those who have read the hype. People will spot any patterns very quickly, and the revolutionary world system quickly becomes “do X, Y and Z to get a goblin invasion to spawn, and then farm the goblins until “. It may be intricate and complex, but in practical terms it is going to be indistinguishable from a simple repeating scripted sequence of events…)

      • Xeorm says:

        Lets also not forget that much of the time the AI is not built with the same objectives that we as players might think they have. For a lot of AI situations, killing the player is the easy job, and creating an AI that the player can beat up without letting on to the player that they’re not trying is an entirely different beast. The goal isn’t to kill the player, but to provide a good play experience for them.

        Not to say that all AI is well done or anything. There’s plenty of bad AI, but the general field of AI has certainly been improving. We don’t say that a bit of bad graphics invalidates the general trend, but instead that some programmer screwed up.

        But Shamus, you should really stop talking about AI.

        • Tizzy says:

          And also, modern games seek to accommodate a wider variety of playstyles. Ergo: much harder to code an AI that will do an adequate job for everyone, any change to help one aspect may necessitate a compromise that makes it worse for another.

          Not to mention that it’s so easy to break an AI: just do something that goes completely against your goals, the spirit of the game, and watch the program stumble. Cheap shot, yes, but you can never unsee it afterwards, and get over the “this AI is dumb” feeling.

      • Benjamin Hilton says:

        I think another reason the A.I. always becomes predictable is that no matter how complex the algorithm is, it is still a pattern, which results in the mooks following patterns, and humans are instinctively hard-wired to pick up on patterns. So often the “predictability” is just the player subconsciously learning the patterns of the A.I. to the point where without even really knowing why, you know what even the best mook will do before he does it.

      • guy says:

        You could replace The Last Of Us with Half Life 2 and the description would still apply except for the stealth.

      • ChristopherT says:

        If I may, I think Josh has a decent point though in regards to X-Com. I know nothing about AI and how things work in the background, but through a player level, watching and interacting with games, some of the stuff done with enemies in the first X-Com seems just as good, if not better than today’s average.

        Granted we’re talking about turn based compared to real time, however, you can point to the enemy behavior to use windows, and balconies effectively, but the point of the X-Com example is that back in 1999 X-Com did this too. On enemy turns the enemies are supposed to be moving around searching for the player and advantage points, to the degree where on the player’s turn sending a soldier through a field may result in them being fired upon from the second floor window of a nearby farm.

        In this regard it may not be the actual AI in question but rather the implementation of the AI. Maybe it has happened in games I don’t play, but I have not noticed in any game other than X-Com an enemy emerging from an alley way, shooting at the player, and then, for safety returning into the alley where the player can no longer see them. I’ve seen plenty of times where an enemy rushes into cover once engaged, enemies rushing the player, enemies lobbing grenades at the player, and enemies flanking the player. But retreating, moving to a safer location, and ambushing without a heavily scripted event I haven’t seen outside of X-Com, that may be because I don’t play many turn based strategy games, but in shooters, in action adventure games, I haven’t seen these things either.

        So, yeah, like I said, I know nothing of AI, and I’m sure the more complex the game world gets, the bigger the environments, simply the size of the character as well I’d imagine, all complicate the AI and code needed to get it all running and functioning correctly. But it also feels easy to point at the end result, to what’s seen by the player, and what occurs in game, and wonder if the implementation has really improved at all.

        Which is further complicated by PR spin BS. Being told by those making the games that this new game, with its new AI is amazing and darn near revolutionary, which then the gaming press can at times parrot, then we get the game and we cannot see much of a difference between this games AI and others before it. There have been games that praise for enemies throwing grenades from cover, for flanking, things that have been already happening in a number of games prior to this game, yet some how, this is one is supposed to be different, amazing. And maybe under the hood it is, but it’s hard to tell, ya know?

        Also, one last thing, as an example, something small, very small, a little irksome though, the Tomb Raider remake as an example of both programming and gaming press muddying up the mess further, among the many great things said about the game, there’s been one thing that’s made my eye twitch, Lara’s interaction with the game world itself, in particular that she can/will press her hands against a cliff wall. It’s no big deal, but game press was labeling this as a lovely little improvement, this extra little touch that really brings the game to life, my problem with this though is that in the game or three previous to the remake Lara would interact with the world to the point of sweeping harmless brush away with her hands.

        Just that, sometimes is it AI, how it’s used, and that we, as gamers, get told various things, and it can be hard to sort through all of the spin.

        • guy says:

          If you’re talking about the original Xcom the AI actually was incredibly simplistic. It pretty much just follows set paths or stands around until targets get nearby, then maybe moves a bit and shoots or throws a grenade then possibly falls back.

          • ChristopherT says:

            That in a way, I believe, is part of my point. Yes, the AI was limited, had to be, the game came out on floppy disk I think, but the end result of what was done with the AI was that the enemies would shoot from the safety of a building, that they would come out of a blind spot, shoot at the player, and go back to their blind spot, no matter how much video game AI has Improved, if it cannot be as used as effectively as an older game with much simpler AI then why not criticize it?

            Again, how many games have there been where an enemies behavior allowed for retreat, or falling back? I’m sure there’s been a few that I haven’t played or even heard of. But a lot of the bigger name games these days do not seem to involve much beyond Search > Go to Cover > Fire from Cover > Rush player > Move around Player. If the AI is not being used to greater extent then why?

            But, as I said, I do NOT know anything about AI, so maybe there’s many things about I simple cannot grasp. However why do modern games (to me, the layman) not seem to use enemy behavior more effectively and offer something as simple as a run away option for enemy AI?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Ai is used for plenty of other things.Most notably,pathfinding.So its not just what it does to a player,but how it navigates the environment.Then there are games where you have more then combat,so ai needs to do interactions with other npcs as well.Then theres the difficulty,so ai needs to know when to go all in and when to pull punches,because when you are being steamrolled by a bot,the game is not fun.

              And then,there are the rules of the game itself.Both xcoms have very similar rules,so of course they will be playing very similarly.Once you reach peak efficiency in xcom,you cant really improve your ai any more.

          • Felblood says:

            The original X-COM AI is really simple, but what it does is take a small selection of very effective strategies, and milk them to death.

            Because the programmer has favored clever tricks over brute force complexity, in can take players a long time to figure out all it’s tricks, and even the easiest difficulty level will be a challenge until you do.

            However, once you know all it’s tricks, it loses that ability to surprise you*, and the AI that once seemed like a genius mastermind now seems simple and stupid. Study any fixed system long enough and it will start to seem simple, out of your sheer intimacy with the material.

            *Plus, you can turn a lot of those same tricks back on it, once you figure them out. A good AI is like a Master Sith Lord; if it does it’s job well the apprentice will become too powerful to contain.

          • Sleeping Dragon says:

            This, I’m actually replaying the original game these days and the AI is not very smart. Yes, it will try to dodge back out of sight after a surpise shot but next turn it is pretty much guaranteed to blindly repeat this exact move again walking right into a barrage of overwatch fire. What little illusion of cooperation between individual aliens exists is mostly a matter of slight cheating (for example, aliens have a greater sight range and help arriving is due to them spotting the soldiers not being “called” by allies under fire). The shooting from the upper story window is also interesting in that almost always it’s a matter of the alien spawning up there in the room… and it just kinda wanders around. It will aggro if it gets close to the window and a soldier happens to be in its line of sight but often it will spend most of the time in a corner facing a wall forcing you to poke into every single building on the map (barns are a long time favourite).

            Also, reapers. Long story short the AI does not handle a 2×2 unit that needs to get into melee range well, especially on parts of terror maps that have more buildings and small alleyways.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Haven’t listened yet, but if Shamus wants to know more about AI he could do worse than to check out this fascinating 6-part series from 2009 on AI Follies

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think what Shamus said about A.I. changing without the consumer noticing also has a lot of merit.

      I don’t remember the specifics (and someone can correct me if I’m wrong) But I remember a few years ago there was a tech demo (I think for the PS3) to show off fish A.I. where a player was swimming around in the water and all of these fish were avoiding him. Naturally the internet responded by laughing and posting videos of fish doing the exact same thing in Super Mario 64.

      Now I am absolutely sure that the A.I. running the PS3 fish was much more advanced, however visually (and thus as far as the public cared) the result was the same as a game a decade older.

      So yeah, I totally believe that A.I. could be getting “better” without most of us noticing.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Aye – might have been the advanced fish AI from Call-of-Duty: Ghosts:


      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        You do notice it,however,if you implement current ai in old games.Heck,just limiting your current game to have less clutter can lead to your ai showing drastic improvement.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Which gets back to Chris’s point. AI can just be fancy scripting that convinces us. If it works it works.

        • From a player’s POV, even AI running as it should often seems to be “stupid” or “bad.” Take most RPG’s:

          I run through a room and kick a physics object. All the wandering NPCs yell and run because all they know is an object went flying which means something “negative” is happening. I can pick off an NPC with a sniper rifle, dropping them dead right next to NPC#2, yet #2 doesn’t take any notice, walking right over his formerly standing comrade’s body. Other NPCs will navigate around the body yet take no notice. They’ll jump in front of you as you fire your weapon. They’ll attack you even though you can vaporize them with your worst weapon. And so on and so forth.

          They’ve gotten better at making sure all of this behavior (some necessary for games to work as games) to go off more smoothly, without mobs getting stuck on corners, rubbing up against walls, etc. but it’s still just about the same behavior as we’ve always had, more or less. I can’t think of a game other than maybe FEAR where your opponents will attack you as a squad or try to flush you out of cover, and (as I understand it) even that requires a LOT of scripting around known environmental obstacles.

          What I think Shamus and people like me are waiting for is behavior that seems more natural and nuanced. Say, NPCs that don’t go from calm to panicked to sleeping in the span of 5 seconds. Maybe ones that notice more environmental circumstances: What if you had a mob that would “clean up” objects that had fallen, or recognize that attacking you is a death sentence?

          • Mike S. says:

            Have any games given opponents a “surrender” option for the PC to accept or reject? (As a mechanic, rather than an occasional cutscene reaction to defeat.) It doesn’t seem as if it would take heavy AI for them to be able to react to a difference in level, your reputation score, hitting a certain health loss, etc. as a point to decide that maybe throwing themselves on the hero’s mercy is the way to go. And it would make them seem a bit less like lemmings.

            (And reduce the necessity for your character to be responsible for as many deaths as a small war– unless the player prefers it that way.)

            • guy says:

              Enemy ships in FTL will frequently surrender or try to run when they’re damaged. You can accept and get some loot or reject it and keep attacking, which so far as I can tell usually gives you more scrap but fewer missiles and drone parts.

            • You know, I want to say that the Fallout and Elder Scrolls games mention putting away your weapon and maybe a hostile opponent will calm down, but I’ve never seen it happen.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                During the skyrim spoiler warning,I remember that someone said that it does happen,but only veeeeery rarely.

                • Mike S. says:

                  I never figured out how to take advantage of that in Skyrim– someone would beg for mercy, I’d sheathe my weapon, and they’d immediately attack again.

                  • Ivan says:

                    Yeah that’s the thing… It doesn’t work in skyrim because they never added in a followup for the AI. You can “spare” them but the second they get over their surrender animation they’re back to trying to murder you. I think it worked maybe one out of 100 times but that was probably due to some other bug distracting the AI and causing it to louse agro rather than the surrender system working right.

                    Besides, I think I had it work once and I wasn’t exactly offered any compensation or even thanks for sparing the dude. The system was clearly as shallow as the rest of the game.

      • Dragomok says:

        I don't remember the specifics (and someone can correct me if I'm wrong) But I remember a few years ago there was a tech demo (I think for the PS3) to show off fish A.I. where a player was swimming around in the water and all of these fish were avoiding him. Naturally the internet responded by laughing and posting videos of fish doing the exact same thing in Super Mario 64.

        I’ve found at least two:

        and I remember seeing a distinct third one.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      So, basically, games are getting more complicated, and AI is keeping pace, so it seems to not be improving, even though it is… ?

    • Kian says:

      I think someone mentioned this already, but the issue to me seems to be that AI has to be dumb for the game to be playable. It has to let you win, and to do that it has to be dumb. Its a game, after all, not a simulation. The AI opponents are challenges, they don’t have goals of their own other than providing an interesting way of being defeated. Without goals of their own, they can’t show intelligence the way we understand it.

      In other words, mooks are there to be killed by the truckload. Mook academy works hard to hammer all the intelligence out. Notice this isn’t just in games, in movies too enemies behave in dumb ways. They surround the hero and then attack one at a time, etc. That’s because they have to let the protagonist win. Are the actors playing the mooks lacking in intelligence? No, the scriptwriter is purposefully telling them to be dumb.

      • guy says:

        Yeah, but the AI doesn’t have to be stupid for the player to win, the enemies just have to be weak or few in number.

        I don’t know how sophisticated Half Life 2 AI is under the hood, but aside from weird edge cases like hiding from a turret by holding a paint can* the Combine forces manage to feel smart. They do stuff like pin you in a doorway with suppressing fire so one of them can sneak up and grenade you.

        *Which I assume was a resource limitation of the time.

    • Eric says:

      AI is one gigantic card house. Most games with “good AI” that gamers tend to praise very often don’t actually have 90% of what they think it does.

      AI using “tactics”? Nah, there are very few games where enemies even remotely work together, even ones with “good AI”. At best they might know how to prioritize certain targets over others to give the impression they are thinking as group. In other cases they’re often just pre-scripted to take specific actions at specific times in specific encounters.

      One game people love to point to is FEAR, because the AI likes to run around, jump over railings, knock over objects to use as cover, etc. But nothing about that makes it complicated or “smart”. What it *is* doing is performing a set of conceivably human-like tasks that seem plausible in a situation. Is it operating using any level of real intelligence? Nah, not *really*. But it does make the player *feel* like they’re playing against a crafty foe, and since the game is a fast-paced shooter where the enemies go down in a few seconds, you never really notice that the enemies aren’t actually working together.

      I think the systemic space the game offers also really works to mask bad AI as well. The more the player can do, the more mechanics that exist, the more the AI needs to reasonably be able to cope with, the more and more difficult it is to look “realistic” and “smart”.

      If a game offers both stealth and action that the player can transition between more or less at will, for instance, not only does the AI need to do everything right in both states, it also needs to handle that transition between states well. There are very few if any games out there that truly handle that transition well, for many different reasons (gameplay, technical limitations, etc.), and pretty soon it will reach a breaking point. But, it is much easier to buy the fact the AI isn’t sending in the air force to bomb your hiding spot into the stone age after slaughtering a thousand of their guys, if the setting or story means that’s not a plausible thing for the enemy to do in the first place (i.e. medieval town, deserted island, creepy cultists).

      Likewise, in a game like Doom that features demons and monsters, nobody complains about the AI being dumb – because they’re demons and monsters. They’re so far removed from our expectations for human behavior that we either have no preconception of how they should behave, or we simply already expect them to act dumb. The setting, themes, and scope of a game all intersect in critical ways, and good designers take advantage of this to distract you from the man behind the curtain, or even play into it.

      That’s not to say games with good AI don’t exist. But I think it leans far more towards “magic trick” than it does towards “intelligence” on the sliding scale.

      • Kian says:

        Stealth games are especially difficult, because they’re the opposite of shooters. You can study the AI’s movements at your leisure, and the AI has to appear believable while you watch it. Now imagine in a stealth game, if after hitting a guard, the whole place went into full alert and never came back down? Or if they were smart enough to know what you’re after and they all went to protect it, and never said “I must have imagined the arrow sticking out of my chest”. Getting detected once would mean you lose the mission, and suddenly the game becomes a lot more difficult. Some games do that, but others prefer to let you recover from a mistake without making you redo the whole level.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Well,since I see no comment from certain unnamed someone,I feel obligated to point out a game that did stealth,and transition from stealth to combat and back,well:
        Mark of the ninja.

        Now,compare the 2d nature of mark of the ninja to the 3d nature of some of the stealth games that fail at this,and youll see how increased complexity makes for a dumber ai.

  2. Vermander says:

    I understand some of your frustration, but I was mostly fine with the DA:I ending.

    I’ve never been particularly interested in the elves of Dragon Age, I feel like they’re included in there because someone decided fantasy games are supposed to have elves and dwarves (the dwarves feel even more uncessary to he plot than the elves). However, I did like the idea that a lot of what we have been told about the history of the elves (and their gods) could very well be lies, myths or half truths. We hear that the dread wolf has been falsely accused of at least some of his crimes and his motivations for the rest may be completely different than what we’ve been told. I also thought that there was a pretty good explanation for why he was “such a wuss.”

    The funny thing is, I have always thought that Dragon Age does a good enough job of world building that they don’t need fantasy staples like elves and dwarves. Fereldan and Orlais feel like completely different cultures to me, and from what I’ve seen I’d be interested in hearing more about Tevinter and Navarra as well. Their “fantasy church” also seems better thought out than most games, and I was interested in hearing about the various orders, factions and heresies. I also like the idea of the Qunari as a fantasy race who represents a significant threat to humanity, not because they are “evil” but because they’re values and beliefs are so incompatable with our own.

    I agree that this game feels like a retread of Origins in many ways. DA 2 tried to move away from that by having a storyline that was not about saving the world or recruiting different factions to battle a single threat, but there was a lot of negative backlash against that game and Bioware probably felt like it was safe to retreat to what’s always worked in the past.

    To me, Bioware games are all about interactions with the NPCs. I liked most of the companions in this game and thought the writers did a good job making all of them fairly interesting.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      It’s like how fantasy literature, especially secondary-world epic fantasy, lived in Tolkien’s shadow for so long, and even when some writers moved away from elves and dwarves they still adhered to the Tolkien plot formula/dense worldbuilding. There was always a counter-stream to Tolkien (Moorcock’s Elric and other Eternal Champion stories, Glen Cook’s The Black Company, Steven Brust’s Vlad Taltos books, Guy Gavriel Kay’s pseudo-historical fantasy novels, etc.) but it wasn’t until Game of Thrones that the significant break from Tolkien really happened in more mainstream fantasy.

      It’s been a lot harder for epic fantasy games to break away from that mindset. Part of it is how much influence Dungeons & Dragons (which codified most of the tropes that came from Tolkien–in the wider lore of Middle-Earth the tropes are usually more nuanced or broader than what you see in the Hobbit and LotR) has had on video games and fantasy fiction in general. But I think a big part of it is RPG players like to make a character, and they like to have options. Race is a way to add more character options.

      Also, it’s much easier to be creative and experimental in a novel. A novel is primarily the work of one person over a period of months, maybe with a bit of support from editors, layout designers, and marketing (but less and less these days). If a midlist fantasy author makes $20,000 from a book, they’ve probably earned out their advance and can be considered to be performing well. The financial risks aren’t very big (at least to the publisher).

      A AAA video game involves hundreds of people at a cost of millions of dollars working for around 2 years or so. It’s a lot harder to be experimental with that much on the line. So we see fantasy games keep going back to the tried and true elves and dwarves stuff, because there must be a huge audience out there for whom it’s an essential part of epic fantasy gaming.

      • Vermander says:

        I know there is a significant number of people who like to play as an elf/dwarf/qunari, but I feel like Dragon Age works better with a human protagonist. I think it would have been more effective to let you choose whether your character is Fereldan, Orlesian, Tevinter or from the Free Marches, and then have the various characters and factions react to you accordingly. I have a hard time believing that people could mostly overlook the fact that you’re a Qunari, but I would believe them being willing to accept a Navarran or Antivan Herald.

        • Thomas says:

          I think having an Elf or Dwarf Herald is inherently more interesting than a human herald.

          With a human herald, at best it’s creating interesting problems because of some global political issues, and with Antivans it’s not even really doing that. The game also wasn’t built very well to make much of the Herald being Fereldan contrasting with Orlesian. You’d probably need more hub worlds or something.

          Whereas for an elf or dwarve to be Herald, you’re creating a situation where the religious leader is crossing class boundaries. They’re assimilated enough that it’s not utterly implausible for them to be Andrastrian but at the same time it creates a lot of obvious push back from everyone who is already Andrastrian.

          The reason that’s better to me that being Orlesian/Fereldan is that either of those two is essentially _only_ a question of political power. It’s not challenging the religion, or the way the religion conducts itself. It’s only challenging who wields the power of that religion to political gain.

          Whereas being an Elf or a Dwarve challenges the idea that people having being practising their religion as an exclusive deal. That they’ve not being reaching out to other people and have become set in their assumptions. There are still political questions, but now there are questions of faith too.

          The game is also well set out to explore this conflict, with Varrick and Jenny both struggling with questions of faith.
          On the other hand, a Qunari Herald _is_ ridiculous. Maybe they should have saved that for the next game?

          • guy says:

            Actually, the “Qunari” Inquisitor is a Tal-Vashoth. It is entirely plausible to be Andrastrian. In any case, they’re pretty much shoved into the religious icon seat by force. The Elven Inquisitor can actually go around telling people they worship the Elven Pantheon. Your more religious party members figure you’re sent by the Maker whether you know it or not.

            • Thomas says:

              I’m not talking about how the Inquisitor views being Herald, I mean how the world views the inquisitor.

              What I mean is, I can see people accepting their religious icon as being an elf or a dwarf, with some pushback, which there is. But I think it’s ridiculous that they would accept a Qunari as their herald Tal-Vashoth or no.

              Everything about the herald is based on hearsay and rumour and distorted perspectives. There’s only so much cultural racism before they decide that the Herald is a false idol trying to lure them from Andraste or w/e

      • Tizzy says:

        I really liked what DA:O did with elves: enslaving them. I always thought the little buggers needed to be taken down a peg or two.

        But I understand the use of elves and dwarves in general. It is very difficult to build a world from scratch and get buy in fron the audience. You need strong common referents to paint your world efficiently, there is only so much you can build from scratch, so choose your battles, and elves and dwarves all of a sudden become quite attractive to fill in the scenery…

      • Mike S. says:

        A lot of the cRPG tropes are really D&D (which was more Howard/Vance/Lieber plus a bit of Anderson, with a retrofitted Tolkienian overlay) than Tolkien proper. I’m especially struck by how persistent the fighter/thief/spellcaster triad has been in cRPGs with classes (even Mass Effect, set in the future, has Soldier/Engineer/Adept plus three combos), when it’s not even especially dominant in non-D&D tabletop games.

        But beyond that, Tolkien didn’t have the sort of high-powered magic or picaresque adventuring that drives a lot of cRPG worlds and stories. And his one epic quest to save the world ended in about as close to the opposite of a boss fight as it’s possible to get.

        (Has there ever been a cRPG in which it was literally impossible for the central character to complete the mission, and the outcome actually hinged on how they’d treated their companions in seemingly unrelated matters?)

        The other epic quest in Tolkien was achieved by means of a musical number. I dare a developer outside the rhythm game field to imitate that. :-)

        • silver Harloe says:

          Hrm. Is that true? D&D had a quartet of core archetypes:

          fighter (highest damage, highest armor)
          thief (dabbler in damage, light armor, handles traps and locks)
          mage (either a glass cannon or a buffer or a both depending on the day)
          cleric (good armor and damage usually, also healer and buffer)

          whereas the CRPGs, lacking most of the non-combat interactions, tend to boil people down to:

          damage dealer

          D&D seems unbalanced to a modern CRPG: you concentrate tank and DD into one class, give the healer both the second best DD and tanking options, leaving two classes that fit none of the three needed roles and would never be invited onto a raid.


          but maybe that’s too specific. if you in broad enough strokes (as you must to equate engineer and thief), then I’d be hard pressed to name ANY system that couldn’t be called figher/thief/spellcaster

          • Mike S. says:

            Hero System’s Champions, for one– characters were mostly defined by powers, so you’d have energy projectors, psionics. bricks, martial artists… any of which could be tanks or dps in modern terms (“healer” as a role didn’t really exist in most old school tabletop RPGs; healing was something that happened between fights, not during them) but they weren’t defined that way. (And characters often mixed and matched attributes, since the supers they were modeled on weren’t defined primarily in terms of their tactical role.)

            It really wasn’t till the MMORPG era that tabletops started explicitly looking at their characters’ roles that way, in reaction to expectations from players coming from the computer side. (D&D 4E being the clearest example.) My impression is that single-player cRPGs also adopted the healer/DPS/tank triad from MMOs, but I’m less familiar with the history and may be wrong.

            (As an old school curmudgeon, it kind of bugs me, since it feels artificial– especially the real-time healer role, which maps to nothing outside game conventions. I have no problem with any given game having it, but its ubiquity feels as if every board game had something that moved like a chess knight, just because.)

            I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to define Engineer as Mass Effect’s thief– particularly in the first game, where their major distinctive skills included the two used to get through difficult locks or into equipment caches. Less so maybe in the later games, though hacking is still a thiefy/roguey feeling skill.

          • Phill says:

            I’d say that the prevalence of the thief/rogue type in most games is directly as a result of D&D. It’s hardly the obvious choice. Warriors, sure. Wizards, yeah, pretty obvious too. Priests as healers – perhaps. There is plenty of mythology connecting healing with deities and priests as their intermediaries. But then, there are also plenty of stories connecting healing with wizards/sorcery/magic. (And of course, the more mundane real world doctor concept)

            But looking at the archetypes of fantasy and history, the next obvious choice is some kind of archer / ranger type (the importance of archers in battles, legends like Robin Hood, William Tell, fantasy characters like Legolas). Picking on the idea of a thief are a primary character type seems like an odd one to me. Yet it turns up over and over again as a consequence of D&D (which possibly drew inspiration from ‘The Hobbit’ as its motivation).

            If you were designing a class system from scratch, without the influence of D&D, I don’t think you’d end up with rogues. And you might reasonably assign healing duties in any number of places, not purely as a religion-based concept.

            • Vermander says:

              I prefer a more historical medieval vibe in my fantasy literature/games. I don’t like the idea of “adventurer” as a profession or random people walking around armed and armored everywhere they go. “Heroes” should have report to a King or lord or have some other kind of patron who sponsors them or gives them legitimacy. It’s worse when “mage” is a profession, with colleges and guilds and stuff for wizards.

              • Mike S. says:

                To be fair, the lone wandering adventurer has medieval literary roots in the knight-errant. (Who might have a nominal lord out there somewhere, but isn’t exactly checking in regularly for marching orders.)

                Being an agent or vassal of a superior authority can work well, and helps justify getting involved in regular scrapes. But a sizeable subset of gamers tend to chafe at anyone being in charge of their characters but them, and I suspect that underlies much of the tendency towards independence. (Or the next best thing– how many cRPGs give the PC some built-in excuse to be above the law, even if they technically have a boss?)

                • Vermander says:

                  I feel like the wandering adventurer of classic literature and folklore has more romantic vibe to it than most rpg campaigns though. They’re usually pursuing some higher purpose rather than looking for loot. This works well for the “journey to Mordor” type story, but not for wandering around in a civilized kingdom.

                  Actual historical “adventurers” were generally much more unsavory characters, basically unemployed knights turned mercenaries or bandits. Most of them would probably still want to find permanent or semi-permanent employment with some noble. It would take a fair number of peasants to feed and equip even one full time fighting man, and no local authority is going to tolerate armed and potentially dangerous strangers squatting on his land.

                  • Mike S. says:

                    All true. “Professional adventurer” is something of a shortcut in gaming, like allowing Sherlock Holmes or Nero Wolfe to be a consulting detective is in mysteries, or for “superhero” to be the main occupation of an increasing number of comics characters. (Used to be you had to be a millionaire or at least have a day job.)

                    Being part of a more formal structure can be more interesting and a bit more realistic (though of course the average fictional knight or homicide detective gets more adventure in a year than real ones get in their entire career). But it can also feel perfunctory and thin, if the author or GM doesn’t have an especially compelling idea, or if it becomes a gimmick. (“Okay, so you’re all… pastry chefs, and just as you’re plating the petit-fours, you hear a scream from the ballroom.” “Why are we always hired to cater the murder parties?”)

                    And the structure has to be one the players are willing to work within. (“I hand the chief my badge and my gun and tell that desk pilot I’m going to work this case my way.” “Can we at least wait until he tells you what the case is?“)

            • Mike S. says:

              The most direct inspiration for the D&D thief class was Fritz Lieber’s Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser stories, which made a big guy/little guy, fighter/thief duo one of the archetypal sword-and-sorcery pairings.

              (Though by AD&D, The Hobbit had made its influence felt to the extent that halflings were given some advantages in the class– not to mention halflings being present at all.)

              • Vermander says:

                The funny thing is that Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser are both basically thieves, just one of them is small and stealthy and the other is big and strong.

                The “thief” (or rogue) type character actually seems like the best choice for an “adventurer” in the D&D sense. He’s already someone operating on the margains of society, moves around a lot, works alone or in small groups, and is more likely to carry or seek out hard currency (loot), rather than having a patron who pays for his equipment and upkeep. In most pre-industrial societies anyone who operates independently is basically a rogue by default.

              • Phill says:

                Ah yes, you’re entirely right. I’d forgotten about those. I’ve never actually read the stories, but have come across them in discussions of the inspirations behind D&D before.

      • Mike S. says:

        Brust’s Dragaeran books are interesting because they ultimately derive from a D&D, and you can still see the bones of that. (Adron was even another PC from his gaming group, used with permission.) The Dragaerans are Elves (even called that by traditional Easterners like Noish-pa), the Serioli are Dwarfs. There’s magic, clerical magic (witchcraft), and psionics. People pick up random unique magic items in the course of their adventuring (and the most powerful magic swords– which also owe something to Moorcock given how they’re basically cut-rate Stormbringers– have a kind of intelligence).

        I’m a huge fan of the Dragaera series. But I don’t think it’s a counter-stream to the fantasy of the era in which it originated so much as a distillation and alchemical combination of a couple of contemporary streams. (Crudely, and ignoring Brust’s substantial talent and humor, it could be described as D&D by way of Zelazny.)

  3. The Mich says:

    Oh no what have you done! Now I have to go through the entirety of Dragon Age Inquisition before listening to this week’s podcast. And that means going through Dragon Age 2 first. And THAT means finishing my play through of Origins. And THAT means DEEP ROADS >.<

  4. Steve C says:

    @36:33- In regards to gold farming– Framing your thoughts on it as a job and “how little value people place on their time,” is just the absolute wrong way to think of it. (@37:45 Campster was the only one who gets it.)

    The idea that you play a game for 100hrs and earn enough to play it misses the point. It’s not about money. Nor the opportunity cost for the time. The thing is that making money in games is it’s own game. It is fun in it’s own right.

    I played WoW and went over the gold cap 2.5x times. I never did anything with that gold. Never sold it for cash. Never paid for my monthly subscription with proceeds. I did it because it was a fun aspect of the game and had just as much meaning as anything else in the game — none. You don’t win those kinds of games by getting to max level. You sink hours into because you want to sink hours into it. It’s not, “Oh I’ve finally done my 100hrs of in-game work and now that it is finally over I get to play the *real* game.” NO! It’s “I’ve been playing this game for 100hrs. Cool. I’m having fun.”

    You might play another game with an economy such as one of the Tycoon games. You grow your in-game business and see fake dollars roll in and it is it’s own reward. In those sorts of games you have no idea if the computer is cheating, or if it is all just pointless (SimCity). In an MMO you can measure yourself against other players. It’s a real economy with real actors. There is an entire sub-game in there with power-players, leaderboards, forums, etc. Earning the subscription fee is just a little mile-marker on the journey.

    BTW if you are actually good at making in game money that you are a levels of magnitudes off for how much time it takes to make X amount of money.

    • Tizzy says:

      I think the cast was specifically addressing a case where farming the gold results in you playing the less fun parts of the game. Which may or may not be true, depending on both the game and how you play it. If you are trying to amass a large amount quickly, you may need to restrict yourself to the most profitable activities.

      • Steve C says:

        Tizzy, I think you are summarizing the Diecast correctly and in doing so are making the same mistake as the Diecast.

        “farming the gold results in you playing the less fun parts of the game.”

        That’s the exact incorrect perspective I’m referring to. Consider it in terms of Railroad Tycoon and consider the same idea: Laying the most profitable track results in you playing the less fun parts of the game. Doesn’t make sense does it? The point of Railroad Tycoon is to make a profitable railroad. If you aren’t having fun laying track, balancing books, destroying your competition and doing all the financial aspects of being a Railroad Baron, then why play the game? The financial aspects ARE the game.

        My point is that for some people the financial aspects within an MMO are the game too. They also can enjoy raiding, killing 10 rats for a quest, making their character look pretty etc… but making gold is no less fun than any of those. There is no tradeoff. In fact for some, spending the time killing 10 rats for a quest is the less fun part of the game they are trying to get past so they can get back to gold farming. And what they are thinking about while killing the rats is the 1000s of gold they are losing by not doing what they rather be doing- making money.

        People are labeling one box as “fun” and a different box as “unfun” and think that everyone who chooses to play in the second box isn’t being logical about their time and money. What they aren’t considering is that “fun” is completely subjective and the labels and the boxes themselves are completely arbitrary. Not everyone finds the same things fun. The people hanging out at the AH are looking at the people questing, or fishing or mining or w/e and thinking the same thing- “Why are those people doing that? That’s boring and not fun.”

        My point is that for some people, “restricting yourself to the most profitable activities” is what you are actively trying to do. (That means you’ve found the most efficient path.) The very reason it is the most profitable is also the reason why it is the most fun. The people farming gold are having fun just by the act of identifying the most profitable activities and implementing them. That trying to amass a large amount quickly is no different than trying to get a high score in Tetris.

        Trying to make gold as efficiently as possible is a puzzle to be solved. The art of solving it, is in and of itself fun for certain people. There’s a huge gradient too of hardcore money-makers and casual money-makers. Some want to have all the money on the server. Others are happy just to make enough for their subscription fee for the month and they are done. Both types are having fun in the act of attempting to reach their goals.
        TL’DR- The assumption that by making in-game money people are giving up what they rather be doing is an *assumption* and it is not true for a huge subset of players.

        • Ivan says:

          I’m not trying to pull the rug out from under you, but the other side of the argument has merit as well. I’ll be honest, I’ve never been one of the players who thought of the economy in an MMO as a part of the game to be mastered (but I might be now), but I have definitely had an experience when I’ve looked back on my time spent on a game and realized that very little of that experience was fun because I spent most of that time trying to work up to the activities I wanted to do.

          MMOs do their very best to convince you to play as long as they possibly can, and that experience isn’t always fun. While I can understand where you’re coming from, a subscription fee alone puts a weird psychological spin on the game you’re playing to the point where you stress when you’re not playing it because of that weird human drive for efficiency. In addition to that, the ability to pay with in-game money compounds this by making the act of playing the game increase your ability to play the game later (and synergistic solutions are just the sexiest solutions there are). So suddenly you find yourself playing a game that is barely passable for 8 hours a day and you don’t even realize why.

          Sure, not all these players are zombies, some actually doing what they’re doing, but there are two sides to this coin.

    • Bryan says:

      > The thing is that making money in games is it's own game. It is fun in it's own right.

      …Well, to you, at least. Not sure if that’s part of the crew’s point (I don’t actually think so), but I’ll still say it: not everyone finds the same things fun.

      Then again, I don’t MMO either. I know I won’t find any of it fun, so I just stay away. Shrug. :-)

  5. Steve C says:

    Josh you are terrible at talking over other people. Now you are even talking over yourself! (@21:25) Shut up and let Josh talk!

    • Ithilanor says:

      I think something glitched up with the audio mixing; the same thing happened with Mumbles around ~50:00, I think I heard Shamus glitching out earlier as well.

      • Shamus says:

        My fault. There’s actually a good 30 seconds of audio cut out there. I have no idea how that happened. I remember editing it, being satisfied, and moving on. I must have done an accidental click & drag without realizing it.


        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          First this,then the comments?You need a vacation old timer.

          • Paul Spooner says:

            True story, a four-year-old boy called me “old man” the other day… while I was pruning my apple tree instead of watching the Seahawks game. I took it as a badge of honor.

            It wasn’t even sound derogatory. He just didn’t know my name, and “old man” must have seemed the most appropriate descriptor…
            I just turned 31.

          • Shamus says:

            I actually am kind of redlining a bit lately. I had a lot of free time, so I undertook a large project (a video, which I’ll post here tomorrow) and it ate all the free time. And then ate some extra time. So I kind of went from surplus to famine in the space of a week.

      • Paul Spooner says:

        Just got to that part… it actually sounded really good! It compresses the dialog, and adds a bit of comedy. As long as you’re editing, maybe make everyone speak over themselves a bit more instead of having pauses? See how it sounds? I don’t know how anyone else felt, but I liked it.

  6. Simon Proctor says:

    Have any of you taken a look at Elite : Dangerous yet? I thought Shamus might be interested as it’s supporting the Occulus Rift out of the box.

    There’s no (or little) story though so I’m guessing some of you would be less impressed. Still I’ve not heard any mention of it on the Diecast in the last few episodes.

    also there was a mention a couple of episode ago about a Wrestling RPG. You might want to checkout Piledrivers and Powerbombs by a mate of mine. ;)


  7. Hoffenbach says:

    Indies were really good in 2014, even if a lot of people didn’t notice them. Legend of Grimrock 2, Nuclear Throne, Crypt of the Necrodancer, Offspring Fling, Transistor, and several more, and that’s just for the regular PC platform.
    Nintendo had a lot of big-name stuff too. I know you guys don’t discuss Nintendo, but Link Between Worlds, Smash 4, and Mario Kart 8 were all really big deals, and generally considered to be great improvements over their predecessors.
    Also, the jumping puzzles ended up being the only part of GW2 I really miss.

    • Blake says:

      Also on Nintendo: Hyrule Warriors. While it had some detractors, it had a huge number of people unfamiliar with the Warriors games try it out and love it.
      It was Nintendo licensing their characters to another company (which is also worth talking about), it was a mashup of various Zelda games (which deserves some discussion), and a bunch of people listed it as their favourite game of the year.

      I don’t think our hosts do much Nintendo-ing though outside of maybe Chris.

  8. Joe Informatico says:

    So other issues with Dragon Age: Inquisition:

    On an earlier Diecast Rutskarn noted that DA:O lets you play “a day in the life” of your character, to get a handle on who and what they are, before everything goes to shit. I first played as the Human Noble, whose story is well-integrated into the main plot (Arl Howe killed my family, Howe is working with Loghain, the only way to counter Loghain’s forces is to use the Warden treaties to gain allies and/or leverage Alastair’s birthright to challenge for the throne). I don’t think most of the other origins are as well-motivated (e.g. why wouldn’t the Dalish Elf Warden abandon Alastair after Ostagar and go back home to their people?), but at least the player can work that out for themselves.

    DA2 doesn’t really do the “day in the life” (I guess the whole game is “decade in the life”), but at least Hawke is a defined character with responsibilities to their family, and you get to shape your relationships with your companions. The execution is frequently lacking, but at least there was an attempt to make you care about your role in things.

    They never do that with the Herald. You get 2 or 3 lines of text describing your background based on your race/class selection, and then are thrown into things in media res, not knowing who your character is or what they stand for. I’m still amazed a game in 2014 with this much voice-acted dialogue and animation has such a blank slate protagonist. And it wouldn’t have taken much. I get that game devs or marketing people today want games to start with action, not exposition or dull tutorials. But that’s fine: start the game in media res the same way, play out that first hour of closing the first rift, meeting Cassandra, Solas, Varric, and Leiliana. But, after the immediate crisis of the tutorial level is dealt with, then have Cassandra and Leiliana interrogate the Herald. Go into flashback, and have the Herald at the Mages/Templar summit just before the explosion, going around, talking to NPCs about what’s going on, what the factions are, and what the Herald stands for. That’s all.

    • Vermander says:

      I haven’t played as anything other than a human warrior, but at least with that background your family does come up once or twice. It is possible to have a brief conversatin with Cassandra about how you’re from the Free Marches and come from a religious family. You can also briefly discuss your family with Josephine and decide whether you have a good relationship with them or not and whether it’s possible to use that to your advantage. There’s one or two world map missions that involve resolving disputes among your various cousins. Finally, the fact that you come from nobility (even minor nobility) is mentioned at the Winter Palace and helps earn you slight approval from the court.

      I realize a lot of this is superficial window dressing, but I like that they at least made a token effort to address your background. My understanding is that the Inquisitor was a mostly unimportant person who was originally destined to serve some “middle management” role in the Chantry, but has now been catapulted into prominence by the events of the conclave.

      This is why I would argue that the game works better with a human protagonist. An elf, dwarf or quanri in the same role would probably have much more dramatic and potentially world altering consequences.

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        Only played the human warrior, too. I only just now finished the Grand Masque with Empress Celine (52 hours -and I’ve toasted off the Hinterlands and Crestwood, except for the dragons. Incidentally -there’s a reason to kill the dragons? I figured, big dragons in close proximity to inhabited areas was reason enough…). It feels like being a Trevalyn has come up about every 10 hours or so -maybe more frequently. It has been a non-trivial number of times.

        I like the way it handles the background. As noted below -very much like Mass Effect did it. I like stepping into a role. It gives my character place in the world, and then I can decide how I want to play that role. My inquisitor is basically a minor knight, I think he might have actually contemplated the clergy at one point, thrust into a much larger role -at minimum a lord, probably approaching arl or teyrn levels of authority and power -than he ever expected. He is trying to live up to that. But he could just as easily be trying to break away from the expectations of being a Trevalyn.

        • guy says:

          There actually isn’t a reason to kill the dragons beyond crafting materials and to put Dragonslayer on your resume.

          I first played through with a female Tal’Vashoth mage. Her backstory was that her parents fled Par’Vollan when she started displaying powers to avoid getting her tongue cut out, and she joined up with a mercenary company that got hired to provide security at the Conclave. The way I played her, she was pretty much agnostic and sidestepped any religious questions. That was nice because it let her take all the religion-related revelations in stride.

          Second playthrough is a Daelish elf, sent as an observer, and I’m running her as a follower of the Elven pantheon. It is causing a degree of friction.

          I think the options you select regarding being the Herald do impact later dialogue. On my first playthrough, in main-plot dialogue sections everyone else seemed to be entirely on board with the idea, while in the second playthrough the dialogue strongly implies that most of them don’t believe my character is the Herald but are taking advantage of that belief.

          • Mike S. says:

            “There actually isn't a reason to kill the dragons beyond crafting materials and to put Dragonslayer on your resume.”

            Well, and to make the Iron Bull very, very happy.

    • Henson says:

      Well, Mass Effect handled this in much the same way: a brief blurb on your origins in the character select screens, and occasional references in-game, but mostly absent. Of course, in Mass Effect’s case, it works just fine because the game starts with some sense of normalcy before the Big Quest rears its ugly head. I’ve not played Inquisition, but I get the impression that it dumps you into your mission without much introduction. Is this a fair assessment?

    • Thomas says:

      I like the blank slate. The faith theme in Inquisition is complex enough that you can explore it from way more perspectives then the designers would have been able to specifically right for you.

      I was actually annoyed that they gave the one paragraph + one mission of background history that they did. I want to be able to play a dwarf who wasn’t a carta smuggler.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        Pretty much this.

        For me, the whole of Haven was the Origin story, in the sense that, when I was a Dwarf, it came up a lot of the times, with Josephine and others essentially acting like the “Define your character” menu of other games. Stuff like others asking if I was much more tied to the Stone than Andrastian (I mean sure, my character’s Carta, but how long my character and their family was Casteless was something I could decide – I went long gone from Stone for my first run.), or what my role in the Carta was (I went for more lockpick-y spy rogue Carta, but the game also gave me the option to say I was more about being muscle, or if I found it dull, etc.), and I would’ve very much enjoyed being able to have even more say in my role and pull a Dagna on the game.

        Well, at least forcing me to be Carta gave that quest I could send one of the leaders of the Inquisition to, which doesn’t show up if you go Human Mage (That I got old noble families doing something that gave that one other quest).

      • aldowyn says:

        my biggest problem with the blank slate is that I’m not sure the game gives you enough ability to write on it. We’ll see how my second run goes.

        Also I love the faith themes myself, I really wish the rest of the diecast could hurry up and not hate the game like sane people so we could get a decent conversation out of it…

  9. Joseph P. Tallylicker says:

    I was going to mention Paradox’ procedural/reactive Rpg called Runemaster (an rpg where the end of the world is at hand (!!!) and you can either save it or help ragnarok along, with the twist that your actions influence what the world (or the next one) will look like at the end of your journey. IE if you are greedy lots of times, the people in the next world will be more selfish, if you are brave, they will be as well, etc…

    Sadly, I just read that the project has been shelved indefinitely, so maybe the idea is more complicated than thought at first? It’s still a bummer since the game had potential.


  10. Starker says:

    The plot in Dark Souls 1 wasn’t really about the player seeking a cure. It was about the player becoming the chosen one. What exactly does it mean to be chosen (who does the choosing and for what purpose) is one of these things that an observant player will question while playing.

    When the player hears about making a pilgrimage to Lordran, it’s someone else’s quest that they are supposed to be taking over to begin with. And only after ringing the bells can the player learn what the chosen stuff is supposed to be about.

    • IFS says:

      Well it did start with the player seeking the ‘fate of the undead’ which seemed to be assumed by some undead to be a path to a cure. This of course led into all of the chosen undead stuff, though yeah the fate of the undead thing starts out as someone else’s quest that you take up for them.

      • Starker says:

        In any case, it’s not about the player specifically in the way that DS2 seemed to imply. That was one of the more impressive storytelling aspects of DS1 — it made it very clear that you were insignificant, a cockroach scuttling in the ruins of a once mighty civilisation, and that the mighty foes that you conquered were nothing but burned out husks of their former selves, way past their prime.

  11. silver Harloe says:

    So it’s not actually relevant to a show topic, but I spent the weekend playing “The Talos Principle” which came out late late last year. Highly recommend to Chris (actually, to everyone, but I think Chris would love it – the puzzley bits actually fit into the story). I also think Shamus would really, really dig reading all the readables in the game.

  12. Zukhramm says:

    I will say only this: 2014 was the best year in terms of games released because it had Lightning Returns which is the best game.

  13. Andy_Panthro says:

    Is anyone still playing The Old Republic? I haven’t heard anything about it for ages…

    • Thomas says:

      This guy monitored the popularity of MMOs amongst Xfire users for several years.

      According to that data, The Old Republic is still one of the most successful MMOs around. It’s been consistently in the top 4 played MMOs since release (assuming people who use Xfire aren’t particularly biased towards one MMO. It probably doesn’t reflect eastern MMOs well).

      Guild Wars 2 and FFXIV have been the other two MMOs that have done well since launch. FFXIV particularly noticeable because it’s still subscription.

      Compare that to The Elder Scrolls Online which dropped off the map almost immediately after launch. Runescape, Aion, Neverwinter and frigging _Vindictus_ are more played than TESO.

      Incidentally, that blogger also tracks RMT in EVE online. Despite being able to trade money for gametime, RMT still exists because they’re use cheap labour to undercut EVE’s prices. But it’s much less prevalent and gold farmers frequently go under because EVE’s legal currency cuts into their profit margins too much.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        Thanks for the info!

        I guess I’m surprised, because you don’t hear about it much any more. I guess only WOW gets much mention as far as MMOs go, but after all the huge fanfare around it’s launch, I’m surprised to not hear more about it (same goes for ESO, especially since it seems to have bombed quite spectacularly).

        Perhaps I just don’t visit places that talk much about MMOs, and I haven’t played one since Anarchy Online and Ultima Online ages ago.

    • Mike S. says:

      My wife’s still an avid player; she’s on more or less daily. (She doesn’t group with random players, and the friends we used to play with have moved on, so for her it’s basically a solo game of KOTOR 3, except for the market for her crafted items.) She’s on a brief hiatus due to Dragon Age Inquisition at the moment, but absolutely plans to go back and play the expansion.

      I still go in periodically, in part to do group content with her, and will probably at least play through the expansion with my main Republic and Empire characters at some point. But the MMOness of it gets in the way of the single-player Bioware RPG I’d realy like to be playing– I’d like to do the classes I haven’t yet, but having to grind through mooks to get to each bit of interesting content wears on me. (I did take advantage of the huge XP bonus to finish up my Jedi Knight’s class story, while ignoring the planet quests I’d already done on other characters.)

      • aldowyn says:

        Relevant: The huge XP bonus Josh mentioned was a temporary thing for the release of the new expack, but it was definitely designed to allow you to just play story missions. The difference between F2P and P2P is only like 15%, IIRC.

        More directly on-topic, I’d agree the ‘MMO-ness’ really gets in the way. I actually wrote about that on my blog – the bioware RPG and the MMO parts are really at odds. (ha. This is two plus years ago, and I say ‘The industry seems to be slowly realizing that making WoW clones isn’t the best way to make money’…)

        • Mike S. says:

          I don’t really blame them for thinking they had a gold mine on their hands: even if not everyone likes MMOs, getting some of the WoW fans and some of the Bioware fans and some of the Star Wars fans doubtless looked prospectively like a safe bet for a big audience. Instead they got something sustainable, but which is only a success after effectively writing off the massive development effort.

          You can see all sorts of markers for future expansion in the direction of being more Bioware-like that will never happen. (Because people looking for that sort of content mostly play it all much more quickly than it can be developed, and then leave.) The first flashpoint on each side has stories and moral choices, while the rest are basically combat and strategy. Likewise, there’s a companion quest for the first companion, while the others get “let me tell you about my quest hook” … “I’m back from my quest, which I completed without you!”

          (Even though it’s obvious that a bunch of them were supposed to involve the PC and some trademark Bioware choices. E.g., the cute Imperial Agent love interest who goes off and murders her father. One sort of suspects you were supposed to have a Light Side choice to prevent that.)

  14. Nicholas Hayes says:

    Hate to say it Mumbles, but 2k games might be working on another Bioshock:
    (this is 11 months old so they could have abandoned it by now but the possibility exists)

  15. SlothfulCobra says:

    Bioshock Infinite seemed like it was #1 in the hearts and minds of critics everywhere until about a month after I got it and found out it was kinda crap, especially the ending. Then it seemed like everybody flipped their opinion and had no memory of giving lots of high praise to the game.

    Every time I get a game at release, I end up getting burned. Normally I just wait until the price has gone way down.

    • CJ Kerr says:

      Urgh. I really want to play Bioshock Infinite, because it looks pretty and the story is “interesting enough”.

      But the gunplay is AWFUL. Why would I play a shooter where the shooting isn’t fun?

  16. Mormegil says:

    How much of the “this year we played games from last year” is Steam’s fault?

    I know stuff going on sale isn’t a new concept but Steam has such a large online market share and the sales are always such big events I’m just curious if that drives the PC market away from day 1 sales and encourages a “I’ll get it when it’s 50% off in a few months time” mentality.

    Plus everyone I know with Steam has a massive library of stuff that they bought last year because it was $2 – how do you justify $70 (unless you’re a video game blogger/journalist and actually need to stay current)?

  17. ChristopherT says:

    Because I haven’t noticed anyone else say it yet.

    I believe the wrestling “HO!” would be Hacksaw Jim Duggan, not to be confused with Ric Flair’s “Woooooo!” or Sting’s “WOOO!” or even Macho Man’s “OOOH, yeah”

  18. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    At 52 hours into the game, Dragon Age: Inquisition is growing on me. I already knew the spoiler about Solas, so I can definitely see the little hints the game drops.

    I am reminded that DA2 and ME3 both messed up their endings, so being promising at the 50 hour mark (and approximately act 3) is not a guarantee of a good game. However, I think it’s being sold a bit short in the comments. The Herald of Andraste thing is really only the first act. After that, it’s the Inquisitor. Likewise, the hole in the sky is only really the first act. After that, it’s the question of who or what is God in this universe, and who or what should be God in this universe. That’s an interesting question.

    Solas being an Elven deity is an interesting counterpoint to that, but the idea that the Elves had gods, and that the Dragons were gods isn’t new to the series. I, for one, never doubted their existence. But the existence of lower deities doesn’t rule out the existence of a supreme being -the Maker. In the Dragon Age universe, the Maker is an absentee God. Does that mean he doesn’t exist? One of the characters, I think it was Dorian, says “the throne exists -that implies a butt that sat in it.” That is certainly possible, but implication is not logical requirement. Corypheous thinks the Maker doesn’t exist -and plenty of other people don’t believe he exists either and simply consider the Chantry to be useful. Dorian himself notes that he’s an Andrastrian that doesn’t believe in the Maker, right up until Corypheous says the Throne exists.

    And if the Throne is empty, what does that mean for the mortals? Corypheous thinks it means the Maker has abdicated, and therefore he just needs to stroll in, sit in the throne, and become the Supreme Being himself. Leliana thinks that the Chantry should be reformed along useful lines, regardless of the truth. Josephine is in neighboring territory. Cassandra wants to get back to the truth of the Chant and the Maker.

    Thus far, Solas’ motivations are not as clear to me.

    As for the Maker himself, the Inquisitor is a bit like a Joan of Arc character -he is a miracle. Literally: An event that brings about faith. Is he an act of the Maker or a coincidence? Thus far it hasn’t been answered definitively, and I imagine it won’t be. Oh, Alexius says it’s an accident, and I think it’s clear that the woman in the fade was Justinia, not Andraste. But the Inquisitor -a random person from a random place, who didn’t necessarily have any reason to be there in the first place, throws a massive spanner in the works of a plan to usurp God.

    The Maker works in mysterious ways.

    (My only major complaints are the length of the game, and at least on the Xbox 360 it looks bloody ugly -from shiny hair to clipping issues, and the long coat on the Vanguard armor not rendering so it looks like the legs and torso aren’t connected. On the other hand -except for the whole transparent belly problem -the armor with vest instead of long coat looks awesome, and they should make it permanent if they can…)

    • Mike S. says:

      the existence of lower deities doesn't rule out the existence of a supreme being

      Sera disagrees, and will get very agitated if you in particular (you know, the Herald of Andraste) don’t agree with her that everything claiming divinity that isn’t the Maker is magic and/or demons.

      Which is interesting: for all her hostility to anything that smacks of authority, she may well be the most orthodox Andrastian in Skyhold on that subject. Though it’s also partly her allergy to ambiguity– she likes things very black and white, thank you, and if you think there are shades of gray, well, you’re stupid.

      (Which just might be a reaction to the neither-fish-nor-fowl circumstances of her own upbringing.)

      • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        I haven’t gotten to that part, yet. I, er, actually might have poisoned my relationship with Sera. After the first Red Jenny quest -marching the troops through Orlais -I chewed her out for not thinking through her plans and getting her people killed.

        It was immensely satisfying. She hasn’t said word one to me since, though…

        Though the two perspectives are not incompatible -hence the distinction in English between god and God. The existence of a very powerful Fade Creature like Solas -worshiped by the elves as a god, and who has acted as the Patron of the elves -does not imply parity with the Maker. Any more than a tribe of people somewhere that worships an ancient tree would imply parity with God.

        Of course, as you note, such fine distinctions are not really Sera’s strong point.

        • Mike S. says:

          Sorry for spoiling a conversation you haven’t had yet. Since I’ve only played once, I don’t know if it’s something that always comes up, or depends at all on how you’ve been playing your Inquisitor’s own relation to faith. My Inquisitor was generally pretty tense with Sera, for much the same reasons as yours is. (There’s a friendship sequence late in the game that my wife got, and I didn’t.)

          Historically, monotheists have had varying ideas about lesser gods, even within the same religion at different times and places. Some of which are about their nature (are they a separate order of created beings? powerful men who got supernatural abilities? demons? misinterpreted angels or saints?), and some of which are just about the use of the word “god”. (If a god by definition is worshipful, then anything not God isn’t a god to a monotheist– at most, they’re something else that’s wrongly venerated.)

          I’d guess that in DA it would be possible for two sincere Andrastians to have the same sorts of arguments. Were the Old Gods “really” gods, or “just” really tough dragons? (As Archdemons, they seem to lean more towards the latter, and we’ve seen people worshipping high dragons in Origins.) What exactly makes the elven gods divine, as such? (Even the Elves seem to have mixed stories about that, and the details revealed in DAI don’t really clear anything up.)

    • guy says:

      Honestly, I don’t think the Golden City really proves much of anything. The Fade is well-known to respond to the thoughts of living creatures, and the Golden City could very well be the manifestation of the concept of paradise. And the Red Lyrium at the base of the Breach implies that the Taint is just what happens when you tear a hole in the veil. Granted, it being wildly more effective on Old Gods than anything else does support it being divine retribution directed at them for their part in the Golden City Expedition.

      • Mike S. says:

        The Golden City doesn’t prove anything. On the other hand, all the imagining of and desire for paradise hasn’t recreated it in the Fade. And something powerful– by implication, something more powerful than the Old Gods were– maintains the Black City as a constant there when nothing else is.

        But there’ll never be a definitive answer one way or the other. Even the Sacred Ashes, which are the Holy Grail of Thedas and which the Warden actually saw and used in DAO, can be explained away by Oghren as having been imbued with power by the unusually pure lyrium nearby.

        • aldowyn says:

          I’ve always wondered about the transition between it being the Golden City and becoming the Black City. Presumably mages in the Fade saw the Golden City hanging in the sky, just like the Black City now? So wouldn’t they have *known* when it changed and shouldn’t there be some official record of that, not the myths and legends of tevinter magisters? I suppose the first blight would have wrecked a lot of that, but *all* of it?

          Also the ‘Golden City’ is an Andrastian concept, so what did they think it was *before* Andraste? I hadn’t heard the idea of it being the manifestation of the idea of Paradise before – and if that’s true, doesn’t that mean that it’s possible there is a ‘Maker’ that’s the manifestation of the belief in him?

          • guy says:

            It actually got blackened two centuries before Andraste, and apparently was called the Golden City prior to that point. As far as I can tell, there was no particular reason to question that the Golden City Expedition occurred and blackened the city. I don’t know if you ever see a specific non-Chantry record that definitively confirms it until Adamant, but it seems generally accepted. People mostly seem to question the Darkspawn connection.

    • Vermander says:

      I pretty much ignored everything Corypheus said about the maker. Why am I going to trust the word of my worst enemy?

      I liked the ending of this game. A party where I talk to each of my friends one last time followed by a wall of text that tells me how everything turned out is exactly what I want from a Bioware game (or games in general for that matter). I can sometimes tolerate a lack of closure in movies or books, but not in a video game, where I have been an active participant in the story.

      • guy says:

        The ending annoyed me with the Grey Wardens stuff, where it removed closure which had existed. I had them stay in Orlais, and the ending talked about how they wanted to step out of the shadows and fight humanity’s true enemy and were in a covert war with the rest of the order. I don’t know what they’re even talking about; they aren’t secret and they already fight Darkspawn. And then the next portion told me that all contact with Wiesshaupt had been lost and rumor was that the Wardens were fighting a civil war within its walls. That just came out of nowhere. What’s the civil war even about? Sure, there had been all that corruption in the ranks you dealt with, but that was because of mind control by Corypheus, who is extra dead. It should be over.

        That reminds me, I need to complain about Adamant. The entire plot there hinges on Grey Wardens needing outside help to summon and bind demons.Except they’re the only organization in the south that is actually totally permitted to do that and their mages should already know how. The plan simply shouldn’t have worked; convincing Clarel that she should lead a demon army to kill the remaining Archdemons should just have resulted in her doing that. I also had canon Hawke and he was really annoying, ranting about how nothing good ever came of Blood Magic like he’d entirely forgotten about Merrill. Then he started yelling at Stroud after seeing Corypheus surrounded by Wardens. Because apparently it totally slipped his mind that mind control exists.

        • IFS says:

          It has been a running thing through the games that the Gray Wardens at Weisshaupt are not quite the same as those in other areas, since they have a degree of political power and are even said to rule the Anderfels. I took the Gray Warden schism thing to mean that after Corypheus nearly used them to make him a demon army they decided that they needed to be more transparent with people (they do have a lot of secrets after all) to avoid a similar situation in the future (since they were led into it in part due to desperation and isolation from anyone who could help). That said the whole needing help to summon and bind demons thing is a bit weird, the Gray Wardens are claimed to be a haven for blood mages and apostates by at least one Templar so you’d think someone there could have puzzled out that the whole demon binding thing was fishy.

          As for Hawke there were a few spots in particular that annoyed me with how they wrote him, the first being his tirade against blood magic. Its especially off putting it you romanced Merrill, or if you played Hawke as a blood mage, and the only explanation I can come up with if those are the case is that he’s trying to avoid suspicion by seeming to be very opposed but he’s not under suspicion for anything so yeah. The other spot is where he just picks a fight about the Gray Wardens, this one is a bit better justified since the wardens did threaten his mother while she was pregnant with him in order to get his father to use blood magic to seal away Corypheus so he could have a grudge over that, but it still felt very much opposed to how I would have played Hawke in that situation. Ideally I think it would be very interesting to let the player choose Hawke’s dialogue as well as the Inquisitors, it would make conversations between the two weird but it’d be interesting nonetheless.

        • Vermander says:

          Yeah, that was the one storylne/mission that didn’t sit well for me in the game. It bothered me that Hawke didn’t seem all that concerned about his sister (who was Grey Warden in my version) and was suddenly best friends with Stroud, who I barely even remembered from the previous game.

          I also kept wanting the Hero of Fereldan to get involved (who was alive and well in my version). He’s basically he greatest living Warden so I kept expecting him to show up and smack some sense into the rest of them. (“I’m gone a few weeks and you people have already resorted to sacrificing each other and allying with demons!”). I realize that a lot of this was due to technical limitations though.

          • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

            I’ve decided that having Hawke appear in the game was a bad idea, and having the Warden appear would be worse. Going straight from DAII to DA:I, the shifts in personality, body-language, and perspectives (especially since this Hawke didn’t do Legacy -as I only just bought it) were just glaring. It would have been far better to just have Varric fulfill Hawke’s part until meeting the Wardens, and then let the Warden do it.

            • Otters34 says:

              Better: Varric did literally everything he said Hawke and the team did on his own. Nobody else was there, he took care of everything in various disguises, and his interrogation is part of the framework as Dragon Age II is just him dulling down the facts to make it palatable for less world-wise folks like Cassandra. Hawke only shows up because Varric managed to wrangle up an illusionist and book them for a few months selling the idea o people of this particular random schmoe who did stuff in Kirkwall.

              Also I love the irony of Hawke showing up in Dragon Age: Inquisition and being this simportant person when the point of Dragon Age II was to tell a story about someone who wasn’t important and caught up in stuff beyond their power.

      • aldowyn says:

        I was absolutely fine with the party and all that, but as far as I’m concerned the ending confrontation with the Elder One was a lame, boring, anti-climactic over-reaction to the mass effect 3 controversy.

  19. Samuel says:

    I’ll be frank: I don’t enjoy Mumbles on the show. She really needs to take half a second before she opens her mouth and construct a sentence, or else she goes “So, it’s, like, a thing, where, like, you, like, eeehm, like, make, like, like, a like.” And that gets like old, like, fast.

    I like what she says, but I really can’t stand how she says it. Just slow down! The other hosts don’t have that problem either.

  20. Frans says:

    I don’t say this lightly, but I really think you missed the point and most of the content of the Dark Souls 2 story.

    Sure, the events strongly resemble those in Dark Souls, but the circumstances in which these happen are completely different. This story doesn’t mimic Dark Souls’ story, it contrasts it.

    But this is just a framework for the meat of the storytelling. Dark Souls 2 is a story like for example The Archer’s Tales, where your quest for curing the curse (becoming the king is just the means for accessing the potential cure) is just a framing device. Finding out what happened in the areas you cross on your way to the throne is where the main story lies.

    • Robyrt says:

      Yes, the DS2 story is trying to provide an alternative, depressing perspective on DS1’s story. However, it leans way too heavily on its predecessor to provide context and weight to the story. The intro cutscene is all about the curse of the undead, and then the game itself immediately declares the curse cannot be lifted and starts talking about finding the monarch / becoming the new monarch. Nobody talks about the four Great Souls, which is your actual quest for the first act of the game. It’s very unclear what Nashandra’s plan is, or what the Emerald Herald’s plan is, and they’re the only two quest-givers in the game.

      Yes, each area has its own little self-contained story, but it’s not woven into a harmonious whole like DS1 was. Why do you need to kill all these bosses? To end the curse and determine the Fate of the Undead. (I’m discounting Kaathe’s alternate ending here, since most players will not experience it.) Why do you need to kill all these bosses in DS2? Because a random door in the woods won’t open until you do.

  21. Dragomok says:

    Mumbles, regarding what you want in MMO: Firefall does this. Or, rather, it used to. Or, rather, it will do that again with 1.3. Or, rather, it does that, but you only get to experience that in mid- and high-level areas, because of several extrinsic factors(*).

    What I’m trying to say here is: big part of Firefall was designed around spontaneous cooperation, and that wasn’t removed, and there’s still content directly encouraging that being designed and implented. But because of its troubled development and its consequences I feel it doesn’t work as well as it should. Which is a shame, because that’s was the biggest draw for me.

    So I’m a bit hesitant to recommend it in its current state.

    (*) If anyone’s interested, I can elaborate.

    • Ivan says:

      I really feel like the original Guild Wars set a pretty good model for an MMO’s lvling system. You level up to 20 fairly early in the game and then you’re at the cap where about 80% of the content is at and balanced to. I say this because I really find it quite stupid that it’s such a grind to get up to the level cap and then there is never any reason to return to lower level areas(all the fun stuff is at the cap too). You might say that it’s all an extended tutorial but let’s be serious. If you gave me your decked out toon in Firefall, gave me a tutorial, then I would be doing the same content you’re doing in about 10 min.

      Firefall has some mitigating factors with low level resources being necessary to craft high level resources, but that’s still no excuse for leveling to be such a grind, and for lower level zones to be less well designed and less fun compared to the end game zones.

  22. Mike S. says:

    Re the existence of many games for different audiences, but fewer broad games that “everyone” has played, it reminds me a lot of the difference between TV in the network era and later. With the possible exception of major news events, there’ll never be another phenomenon like the MASH finale or “Roots”, or Uncle Miltie or Lucy being a cultural universal, because there are too many different delivery channels offering too much variety.

    (An unabashed good thing in terms of people being able to get what they want, but it means that you can’t assume everyone in the break room saw what you did last night.)

    I wonder if the move from disc to online delivery is having the same effect on gaming. The rise of the indie scene and the revival of dormant genres points in that direction, as does the emergence of mobile platforms as a mass gaming medium.

    On the other hand, AAA has if anything narrowed, I think– it seems as if there are fewer releases, and they’re frequently across the major consoles and PC, with less siloing by platform. It would seem as if that should give those more of a chance to be games everybody plays, if anything.

  23. JackTheStripper says:

    Speaking of incomplete games, I’d really like to have a talk with the people at Eidos Montreal over what’s been happening with their games.

    Although I loved Deus Ex: Human Revolution (DE:HR), it is very clear that there is a lot of unfinished content and cut areas that weren’t mended correctly, as well as rushed moments in the story that weren’t properly fleshed out (e.g. the last conversation between Adam and Megan). Probably the best example of Eidos Montreal’s capability to produce good content comes from The Missing Link DLC for DE:HR where the theme in the story is consistent and clear throughout the campaign, albeit somewhat short in comparison to the main campaing of DE:HR.

    I know the development of DE:HR was marred with clashes with corporate (as noted by the General Manager Stephane D'Astous resigning from his position citing irreconcilable differences with Square Enix), rushed deadlines (as noted by the developer commentary in DE:HR Director’s Cut), and script re-writes to fit the narrative in the content they were able to finish. But you’d think the company as a whole would be more careful next time around to not commit the same mistakes they did last time, yet Thief (their next game) ended up much more unfinished and incoherent than their last. Are the corporate heads this incapable of managing the company are there more serious internal problems that make them unable to meet deadlines? More importantly, who makes the decision to ship Thief in the state that it was on release?

    If you listen to the DE:HR Director’s Cut developer commentary you’ll realize that they planned for and attempted to have a very rich world setting and a much more coherent narrative in that game. But they simply weren’t able to (the developers only cite deadlines as the cause, but I think that’s because mentioning anything from their workplace might put their jobs in jeopardy). Funnily enough though, because they weren’t able to do all the things they talked about, a good portion of the commentary is spent apologizing to the player over the cut content and plot points not being clear or making sense at all.

    Anyway, the point is, Eidos Montreal, to me, seems very capable of doing better than they’ve done so far. But there’s something clearly holding them back (and from Thief’s release, holding them back more than before) and I’d like to know what that’s about and what’s going on over there at the studio.

  24. Dt3r says:

    Funny enough, I was actually playing Guild Wars 2 while listening to this podcast. :P

  25. aldowyn says:

    so, Josh… over a thousand hours of Paradox games and no Victoria 2? Also, have you actually managed to get into Hearts of Iron III? I haven’t, and I’m not sure how much of it is the game itself, how much is the setting not being as interesting to me, and how much is the fact that the new one is coming out this year…

  26. BeamSplashX says:

    so dragon age inquisition is just “herald & qunari go to many castles”

    also, is the serial killer collectible in watch dogs a mirror

  27. Robyrt says:

    If you guys need a raid partner for Destiny, hit me up on PSN. I think I’ve successfully broken my addiction, but I have all this endgame gear to show for it and nothing to do with it anymore ;)

  28. Gnashmer says:

    After listening to this show I had a thought and went to check my Steam library, and my suspicions were correct. I don’t own a single game released in 2014.

    It’s not even like I don’t play many video games – I’m a student and have a fair bit of free time, most of which i spend playing games. I’d describe myself as a gamer. But not one game released in 2014 made me excited enough to buy it.

    I don’t even know how I feel about that. Am I getting out of touch with modern games? Or are the people making the games getting out of touch with their consumers?

    I’d suggest the latter – I’ve lost count of how many times companies claim to be ‘listening to what the community wants’ then just making a hash of everything.

    Whose to blame? The game makers or the publishers who dictate what kinds of games they release?

  29. Neko says:

    Late to the comments, but I’m totally with Chris on the AI thing; we’re at the point where if we want to make AI “better”, we need to make it more “believable”, which happens to not involve any AI programming.

    Consider town guard AI. You steal something, someone sees you, and the guards use their telepathy to alert the entire town to your identity and location. We can already make the AI “smarter” (dumber) about this relatively easily, but then the problem lies in selling it – we could have guards only communicate to each other verbally, but that requires more voice acting.

    In the Dark Engine games, NPCs have about seven different states of “alertness”, and various dialogue lines to communicate going up or down these alertness states – “What was that?” “Guess it was rats”, and so on. It was simple but very effective. If you want some believable Skyrim town guard AI, you kinda want them to be able to talk to each other “There’s an intruder on the lower level! To me!”, “I lost sight of (him|her), where is (he|she)?”, “We’re looking for a khajiit wearing daedric armour and wielding a flaming longsword, be on the lookout.”. And that gets expensive fast. So we take shortcuts and everyone’s telepathic and we lose out on versimilitude.


    I just remembered something else. I used to tinker with Morrowind modding. One of my favourite things was adding massive amounts of scripting to support Companion characters. I could do all sorts of extra stuff that the base follower AI was stupid about; retreat at suitable moments, take potions, heal the player if they seem to be taking lots of damage… but I found that a lot of the time, I had to resort to using the text message box at the bottom of the screen to communicate things to the player – I’d have loved it if “oh, excuse me, I’ll get out of your way” was a voiced dialogue line I could use, but I was limited to the snippets the base game had. So in a lot of cases the companions might behave strangely and you wouldn’t know what was going through their head.

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