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Diecast #98: Bloodborne, Olli Olli 2, Axiom Verge, Fanservice

By Shamus
on Monday Apr 6, 2015
Filed under:


Enjoy this super-rare Josh-free Diecast. Get well soon, Josh.

Direct link to this episode.

Direct download (MP3)
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Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Shamus, Chris, Rutskarn.

Show notes:

2:00 While Josh is away, we all dump on Bloodborne.


We’ve sort of done this debate on punishment vs. challenge already, but you can’t very well talk about this game without touching on the subject.

We veer off and talk about (strangely enough) Dungeons and Dragons for a couple of minutes here. So that justifies the name of this blog for another year.

One thing that really bugs me about the whole game is the response that is both reflexively defensive and also casually dismissive and brimming with contempt for newcomers. The whole “git gud” thing is just insufferable.

Allan: I hate this cake.

Bob: Well get good at enjoying it! The cake doesn’t suck, YOU SUCK!


There are no words or arguments that will cause me to enjoy learning a difficult task with a 15 minute retry costIt’s not really fifteen minutes! It’s only thirteen! And twelve if you find a shortcut! And seven when you’ve memorized the foes and know which ones you can run past! And there’s a speedruner who can do it in five! So you’re wrong and therefore should like the game and stop talking shit about it!.

17:00 Shamus and Chris have been playing Ollie Ollie 2.

The triangle prompt in the upper-left means you can hit triangle at any time to instantly and painlessly reset to the start of the course, already in motion.

Like Bloodborne, this game has the progression of: This is impossible » actually, it’s just hard » actually it’s not that big a deal » actually it’s completely trivial, but this NEXT thing is impossible.

22:00 Axiom Verge

I can dig it.

Here is what Maddy Myers said about the various Metroid clones. Reminds me a lot of my frustraion with BioShock, how it copies the darkness, video cameras, audio logs, weapon progression, and hacking of System Shock, but retains none of the themes, tone, pacing, genre, or setting. Every attempt to remind me that it’s a System Shock homage just reminds me how much it really isn’t.

28:00 Patreon and the Street Buskers of the Internet.

Chris, Rutskarn, and myself all talk about how our Patreons our are going, how we feel about them, and what we worry about.

Thanks again.

So now that we’re done talking about how we’re afraid of pissing off our supporters, let’s talk about something that will probably piss off our supporters…


Dear Diecast

Shamus will usually state, right before criticizing it, that he has nothing against fanservice in general. What I’m curious about is, what fanservice in games has the Diecast cast actually enjoyed? Is there any? The sexy kind, not the “This is a popular character making a cameo appearance” kind.
– Cristopher


[1] It’s not really fifteen minutes! It’s only thirteen! And twelve if you find a shortcut! And seven when you’ve memorized the foes and know which ones you can run past! And there’s a speedruner who can do it in five! So you’re wrong and therefore should like the game and stop talking shit about it!

Comments (197)

  1. The Rocketeer says:

    During Shamus’ very first lines, when he said, “Small team this week,” I thought he said, “Small Penis Week,” as if this was a planned theme, and was supposed to explain why he, Ruts, and Chris were present but Josh and Mumbles weren’t eligible to participate.

    Speaking of fanservice, I’ve recently played through a game called Ar tonelico II: Melody of Metafalica. Even more so than a lot of games by developer Gust and publisher NIS, Ar tonelico is super fanservicey. It’s generally not very risque, though; what’s incredible about the series is how totally geared toward fanservice every aspect of the game is. It’s packed in everywhere, in every system (in a game with a multitude of different systems), and every part of the game explores new and different fanservice.

    I’m actually fairly indifferent towards the fanservice itself. It tends to be all over the place, from really cheesecakey designs to stereotypical anime personalities and moe bullshit. It tends to be cute roughly as often as it is super creepy (there’s a character in the first game whose gimmick is that they can transform at will between a busty adult and a young girl, and teases the protagonist about which he likes more). What I find fascinating about the game is the endeavor itself: the lengths that they went to to build an entire game out of nothing but fanservice, and still managed to make a pretty good game, the way some people can build an entire functional house out of recycled materials like bottles and license plates. Every time I thought I’d seen all its tricks, it would bust out some ridiculous new contrivance that I couldn’t help but laugh at.

    I don’t think it will ever be my cup of tea per se, but just watching them go is just as good in my book.

    • guy says:

      Ah yes, the Ar Tonelico games and their quest to see how much innuendo they can stuff in without getting an M rating.

      They are genuinely pretty good both as games and stories despite that.

      • Grudgeal says:

        Personally I thought the battle system of whichever one I tried (the second and a bit of the third, I think?) resembled that of a less good Tales of game and the story was painfully cliché and made some rather unfortunate implications, but to each their own.

        • guy says:

          I do believe you are thinking of the third, which I haven’t played myself and didn’t like the look of from the LP. The second one’s combat system isn’t like the Tales games beyond the basic JRPG stuff of hitpoints, MP, and items.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I don’t expect him to answer this as it could be professionally awkward but I wonder what he thinks about the Escapist’s latest recruit, Trisha.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        About fanservice and what appeals to women I could have sworn I’ve read that women like something closer to the Marcus Phoenix type when they’re “ready” and they like the Tom Hiddleston or bishonen type more when they’re at the opposite end (the former looks “viable” while the latter looks “dependable.”)

        But because of birth control, women stay on the Hiddleston side much more often these days thus over the last few decades they’ve been favoring the Hiddleston/Bishonen type more and from what I’ve read, its already speculated to be having a selective breeding type of impact.

        And I know you covered it but just saying, I know women who prefer movie Thor to movie Loki. In fact the only place I hear about women liking movie Loki more is the internet.

        • Felblood says:

          I’m not sure that’s a true dichotomy.

          Chris Hemsworth is doing a great job of selling movie Thor, not just as a big, burly badass, but also as a sensitive, (eventually) dependable guy. The fact that he needs to undergo an arc of change, with the help of a female lead show “gets” his alien ways, is just a bonus. Movie Thor is the total package, and his writers didn’t do that by accident.

          Tom Hiddleston, on the other hand, is a master at projecting “DO NOT LEAVE THIS MAN ALONE WITH YOUR DRINK” through a movie screen.

    • Tizzy says:

      I also heard the “small penis”thing, except I didn’t even realize that I heard wrong. Not sure what it says about us…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I thought he said, “Small Penis Week,” as if this was a planned theme, and was supposed to explain why he, Ruts, and Chris were present but Josh and Mumbles weren't eligible to participate.

      So you are saying that Mumbles has a big penis?

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      As much as I defend fan service, I was trying to think of what MY answer to that question would be and honestly, its not easy. Ruts is right about the kind of sexiness you see in most video games just being background noise after a while.*

      Lara Croft 2013 is the only example I can think of and I think its in part because she’s hot in a way that I might actually see in real life (unlike her previous iterations which I might only ever see on TV if they’re even physically possible). She looks like at least some women I remember from my college days.

      The other part of it is, at least for me, there’s a distinction between whats good fan service and what turns me on, because being turned on is a little distracting when you’re trying to play a game.

      *Thats not the same as saying my expectations for real women are affected by it. I have one set of expectations for CGI people, another set for Photoshopped magazine people and a third set for real life people (the last group I use “expectations” very loosely). The three groups are visually distinct enough.

    • Galad says:

      From the title alone I assumed this is a fanservice pandered for Metallica fans, something like a more specialized Brutal Legend. Took me until the end of your post to figure out it’s actually the sexy type of fanservice

      • Groboclown says:

        I was going to chime in and say my favorite fan service was the Wolfenstein 3D pac-man level and the Commander Keen in Doom secret, until I heard about the sexy fan service stuff.

        But then I went and did it anyway.

  2. thebob288 says:

    If I can i’d like to suggest something odd for chris. When it comes to bloodborne cheat use the item dupe glitch to cheat your pants off and get as much blood as you want to max out all of your characters stats and level up your gear. In my personal opinion it makes that game a legitimately better game. Your not superman or unstoppable your not even close but you have this breathing room that you don’t have as a low level character. It makes all of the fights so much more reasonable gives you time to learn so that you don’t have to do the same fight 10 times and cuts out literal hours of wasted gameplay stabbing the same 12 guys (fighting all the mooks that lead up to the boss 15 times does not make you better at fighting the actual boss). It literally transforms the game from something boring to something fun for me. I’d recommend you try it out.

    • Jacob Albano says:

      This is like saying that Spelunky would be a better game if the dungeon never changed, or that Deus Ex would be better if it had objective markers for all the hidden areas.

      Ugh, I can feel a tirade coming on. Abort, abort!

      In any case, the dupe glitch has been patched.

      • thebob288 says:

        I disagree. Having higher skill level doesn’t mean you end up with more souls (blood whatever) than other people and maxing out your souls doesn’t remove the “challenge” of the game. Being of a high level doesn’t negate the need for strategy or learning to defeat a boss and it doesn’t make you able to insta-gib everything. All it does is remove the grind. The fun part of bloodborne has nothing to do with the accumulation of currency or “xp” in whatever form it exists, the fun part is the combat system itself. I’d rather not have to fight the same foes to level up all the time. Its not for everyone but removing that bookkeeping makes the game better for me. I never suggested that the game itself be changed to this for everyone I just suggested this as a idea to someone who is clearly not enjoying the game as is. If you like bloodborne as it is well of course you disagree with my comment but the comment really wasn’t for you. I get how people see someone recommending cheating as being wrong and instinctively trying to tell them that they are wrong for saying its better but if someone already isn’t enjoying their experience…What could it hurt? Also disconnect playstation online and delete the game install if you want the glitch to work again. :)

    • Robyrt says:

      Instead of granting yourself an enormous level advantage, try running right past all the enemies after the first time you kill them. Souls games never tell you that almost every enemy can be trivially avoided this way, but this was key to making me enjoy the game instead of getting burned out.

      • Alexander The 1st says:

        Based on my experience with Dark Souls 1, that also varies up the experience – changes from a combat game to dodgeball.

        • Jacob Albano says:

          Interestingly enough, their AI is programmed to account for this. If you charge at a group of guys, they’ll take a few seconds to figure out what to do as they track your position. In most games, once an enemy catches sight of you he’ll instantly start trying to close in on you — in Souls you can seemingly catch them off guard and confuse them.

      • thebob288 says:

        Sorry I was unclear. I prefer the cheater method as an alternative to grinding. I prefer leveling up to a certain point before fighting a boss but the grind is tedious and unforgiving in this game. People always attempt to give me “correct” alternatives to cheating saying that it defeats the point. I think I’m just in the shamus corner of the argument. I’m not in bloodborne for the video game experience the developers want me to have. Unlike shamus I’ve found a way around that so that I can still enjoy the game just in a blatantly different way. I appreciate you trying to give me a suggestion on how to enjoy the game as you do (rather than the typical you just suck comments I usually get) But i’m good I enjoy my little alternate version of bloodborne even if its totally wrong in the eyes of everyone else.

  3. Jacob Albano says:

    Not listening to the episode for fear of Bloodborne spoilers (I’m not yet finished my first playthrough), but I want to say something about “git gud” culture.

    Yes, it unequivocally sucks. If your instinct is to attack a newcomer to your hobby, you’re a toxic part of the community and you need to get over yourself. I’m not planning to defend those sorts of people

    At the same time, there are a rare few times when the sentiment behind it is actually warranted. Bloodborne (and the other Souls games) provide you with the tools to avoid 100% of the damage that is thrown at you, but the onus is on you to use those tools correctly. When somebody comes in and says “these games are unfair! they’re artificially difficult!” — nothing could be further from the truth. If anything, the games they’re used to (indeed, the vast majority of games on the market) are the ones that are unfair; it’s just that they tilt the scales in favor of the player. A game like Bloodborne, where you’re expected to improve in order to progress, is a huge anomaly in an era of regenerating health and handholding. Some people just can’t handle that.

    The problem, I feel, comes from a lack of ability to articulate on both sides. On one hand you have the people who don’t grok the type of difficulty that the game is presenting, and they default to the argument that it’s unfair. On the other hand, you have the players who have a deep understanding of the game systems and know that the first group is talking nonsense…but more often than not, because people on the internet suck at communication, they’re just going to see that unfounded criticism and have a snap reaction — “get gud, scrub”.

    It’s an unpleasant situation, but frankly, in order to enjoy a Souls game you’re going to have to get good at it, no ifs, ands, or buts. The delivery of that message needs a lot of work, but it’s something that needs to be said.

    • Endominus says:

      What you said is perfectly true, but I felt it appropriate to mention the other major problem in talking about the Souls games, which is that some people believe that a game should be easy enough to beat without all that effort. Otherwise, the designer has essentially locked content behind a wall, despite the customer paying for it.

      There is no easy mode in these games, or cheats to allow unskilled players a way to access content. This irks some folk for understandable reasons – they paid for that content, they may not have the time to invest in getting good at every game, they may have a physical handicap that prevents them from playing at the requisite skill level, no other art form denies content to its audience like this (although I’m beginning to change my opinion of this argument, since games are a fundamentally different medium and playing them, understanding their mechanics, may be considered a core part of understanding the artistic message of the game, so demanding that level of dedication or effort from their players may be more defensible than I previously thought), or any other reason.

      The Souls games are masterfully crafted, but I get the impression that some fans don’t understand that they were created with a fairly niche market in mind, and some people may not like the game not because they don’t understand it, but because they legitimately don’t have an interest in type of game. Not everyone likes horror games. Not everyone likes puzzle games. And not everyone likes Souls games.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        The notion that content is “locked behind” difficulty is fundamentally wrong. The difficulty is part of the content. It’s the meat of the experience.

        It really irks me when people demand that a game ruin it’s core aesthetic in order to cater to an already heavily-catered to market. There are plenty of button-mashy games out there if you’re looking for that kind of thing. Games with solid difficulty are already too rare.

        • krellen says:

          If you want your niche market, that’s fine. But then the niche market needs to stop demanding everyone else play their niche; right now, the Souls fan community doesn’t do the latter part.

          • Hydralysk says:

            I agree with that, but I’ve found that it’s a lot harder to stop yourself from doing it in practice than I’d like. I was watching someone stream PoE the other day and tons of people in chat were complaining about all the text and how the combat was slow. I had to go fullscreen to get away from it because I was just getting frustrated reading it.

            It’s a terrible idea to try and force people to like your niche game, but when you finally get one that appeals to you, and a bunch of anonymous people on the web start complaining it isn’t enough like the rest of the stuff on the market the “This is why we can’t have nice things!” gut reaction can be pretty strong.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              That helps me understand you more, comparing how I feel about POE to how Dark Souls fans feel about their game. Everyone just wants to make sure that enough people are buying the games they like so they keep getting made. I mean I heard POE is already north of 250,000 sales but is that enough in this case? I dunno. We just got this thing back and we’re all terribly afraid of losing it again.

              So I guess its like that. Maybe we should have some patience for you (more than I’e had for Dark Souls fans in the past).

              I think part of it is its hard to tell the difference sometimes between people who simply want their genre to survive and people who want their genre to become the dominant mode of play. I fall into the former group for my stuff (in part because I like other modes of play too, and in other part because sometimes your favorite genre gets a breath of fresh air by borrowing from other genres).

              I think most reasonable Dark Souls fans don’t think all or even most games should be like DS. And if you don’t, just take a look at what happened to RPGs. The genre got watered down to the point where games have mainly scrapped it for parts and are simply using the leveling mechanics to exploit player urges. You don’t want anything like that to happen to Dark Souls or whatever your favorite type of game is. Better then that our niches remain niche as long as they’re viable so that they remain in loving hands.

          • Felblood says:

            It’s a very basic instinct to share the things that excite and enthrall us with others.

            As annoying as it can be when someone is compelled to overshare something that doesn’t interest you (or when you have to fight down the compulsion to share something you know your circle won’t be able to accept), I don’t see any way to suppress this impulse on a large scale without causing even more damage.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Sharing is one thing.Pestering someone to “git gud” after theyve tried it and didnt like it is another.

              • Felblood says:

                I don’t think we’re still talking about the same thing.

                • Peter H. Coffin says:

                  Of course you’re not. But there’s a limitation to how much you *can* talk about the same thing when different players have different goals. You can’t “share” how wonderful this game is for exacting precision playing under all circumstances with an audience that consists of players that find that kind of gameplay interferes with their enjoyment of emergent (but hilarious) gameplay, or keep them from the joy of exploration/discovery, etc. At best, you can say “This probably isn’t a good game for you” and go find a new audience to share with.

                  • Wray92 says:

                    The thing is, internet memes (and Namco’s marketing) have gotten it into the dictionary that Dark Souls is a punishingly hard game. It’s actually not all that bad. Whenever the game comes up on Twenty Sided, I see people saying things like “You can't ‘share’ how wonderful this game is for exacting precision playing under all circumstances,” and it makes me think that you’re overestimating the difficulty.

                    In all the hue and cry over how hard Dark Souls is, people don’t seem to talk about what really makes the game great: the setting. It’s incredibly well-crafted–each area is visually interesting, richly detailed, and interconnected with the rest of the world. The environmental storytelling is great, too. We always talk about how boring the worlds of brown, desaturated AAA games are, and Dark Souls is exactly the opposite. The developers knocked the setting out of the park, and the Metroidvania gameplay highlights that. That’s why I honestly think that most people on Twenty Sided would enjoy Dark Souls (but will never give it a chance, because of the ‘difficulty’ thing).

                    Before I first picked up Dark Souls, I watched this LP, and it made the game seem a lot more approachable.

                    • PowerGrout says:

                      Either that or the playthrough by Geop & Vicas – that’s your easymode right there. Kick back and enjoy a flask in beautiful Lordran. Bask in the radiant colour palette, marvel at the scenery, rejoice at the self mitigating need for unnecessary backtracking. Scowl bitterly as some of the classic Dark Soulsâ„¢ moments are dodged by a ‘professional’ or spoiled by his ‘helpful’ aides… and smile with glee when that same good fortune crumbles away underfoot revealing the true villain HUBRIS!

                      On the strength of those LPs alone I’ve put 300hours into that game and not a scrach on any of my peripherals (this from a man whose mangled enough controllers/consoles/coffee tables to teach me that I will never master my temper when it comes to videogames)

                      Sure that’s a lot of time but all worth it.

                      In a way it almost makes me nostalgic for Knightmare…

        • SlothfulCobra says:

          This reminds me of Dara O’Briain’s bit on videogames. Sure, the challenge is supposed to be the point, but it’s really annoying to be stuck, especially when you know that there are other good bits that you can’t get to.

          Makes me really miss cheat codes.

      • Bitterpark says:

        There’s actually a ton of “crutch” tactics and cheeses you can use to lower the difficulty if you don’t want to play the “proper” way and master the combat system. There’s bombs and spells, arrow spam, companion summons that make most fights trivial, silly weapons like the Drake sword and plenty of other stuff like that, if that’s how you wish to play. In that sense, the difficulty in Souls games is actually quite adjustable: if you just want to get through the content and see the sights, you use cheesy stuff whenever you can, and if you want to be a badass master swordsman you ignore all that and face the challenges “fairly”. Or you can be a badass until you run into a wall and get frustrated, cheese that particular stumbling block and then continue being a samurai.

        Granted, the game doesn’t actually give the cheesy things any special mention or indication, you just have to find them in the huge pile of tools the game gives you, so that can be a bit of a problem.

        • Ivan says:

          I was going to mention that, a newbie is only likely to stumble across a cheese strat, they’re not very likely to find it their first time through, and on top of this you need to know when and where to use them. Sen’s Fortress was trivial when I came at it with a character with ranged options, but that’s only because I knew where all the monsters and traps were and how best to approach them with these tools.

          You need to know a lot about the game before it starts getting easier and frankly that makes it almost as if you have to beat the game on normal mode before it lets you unlock easy mode. So far as letting you choose your own difficulty the only option that newbies are really going to consider is grinding for levels, which I don’t think really does you a huge amount of good except to reach level requirements for weapons and armor.

    • IFS says:

      One thing that I’ve always thought is nice with the souls games is that while you do need to improve personally to get through the game there are always ways you can make it easier. If you’re really having trouble with an area you can try summoning (or grind for levels I suppose, but I usually find that boring). People being summoned might vary in skill quite a bit, from those trying to learn how to fight the boss without risking their souls (blood echoes, whatever) to people who long ago beat the boss and just want to help newcomers along, or are just trying to repeat a boss they greatly enjoyed, but having a buddy along can make things much easier. At the very least it will give you some breathing time to heal during boss fights, since you’ll be trading the bosses attention back and forth. There are also options in the souls games such as trying a new weapon or better armor, or just exploring in a different direction to give yourself a break from whatever is frustrating you.

      Bloodborne unfortunately seems to have fewer options along these lines than previous games did, since it has fewer equipment options, things you can upgrade, and fewer options for how to fight (previous games had a lot more ranged options than Bloodborne does). The chalice dungeons do give a nice option for somewhere to go explore when you’re running up against a wall, but can take a while to unlock. Summoning or being summoned remains extremely useful for a new player though imo, even if you lose the fight you’ll have more options to watch the boss when you aren’t the only person fighting it. Getting the bell to be summoned is a little tricky (you need 10 insight, gained from finding boss arenas, killing bosses, sometimes for killing random enemies, and always gained from using madman’s knowledge items. Once you have ten the birdbath in the Dream will become a store that sells the bell) but once you have it it costs nothing to try and help someone else (other than any bullets or vials used during the coop).

      • Darren says:

        I will say that Bloodborne is better about being able to situationally adjust armor than the Souls games. There’s no armor upgrading this time around, so there’s generally not a huge difference between the basic value of armor. But encounter an enemy that focuses on a specific element or status effect, and suddenly switching armor makes a huge difference.

        • IFS says:

          That is very true, and the game is very much like Demon’s Souls in that regard, but it does also mean that if you get into a situation where you don’t feel that the armor you’ve got is good enough (and you’re using what seems to be the best available armor for the situation) then you don’t have a way to improve it. It’s a trade off and I think for Bloodborne it works pretty well, though there have certainly been a couple times where I wished I could go dump some echoes into improving my armor a bit.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      At the same time, there are a rare few times when the sentiment behind it is actually warranted.

      I disagree.I like I wanna be the guy,but Ill never tell someone who dislikes it “You have to get good at it,and then youll like it”,because that simply is not true.You get good at a tough game because you enjoy it,you dont enjoy it because you got good at it.

      • Felblood says:

        I’m not sure I Wanna Be The Guy is a good example.

        There’s training for a game or sport that demands a lot from players, and then there’s masochism.

        IWBTG is also a slapstick comedy about memorization based gameplay, which can intrude on it’s ability to deliver fully on the Ultimate Skill Challenge experience. It’s not a bad game, but it makes some sacrifices to be the game that it is, rather than the game that Dark Souls is.

        I guess you could say that about every game that isn’t Dark Souls, but these are smart, deliberate choices, not lawl-aliens, because more talented teams made it work before.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          I am not comparing the two games.Im saying that just because you like a certain hard game it doesnt mean others will like it if they get good at it.It doesnt matter what makes the game hard.

    • Ivan says:

      That’s not entirely true. I can get to a boss without taking a scratch but then be floored in seconds (I’m looking at you capra demon!). Even if the walk is trivial it is still minutes longer than it needs to be. I really kinda get the impression that the walk up to the boss fight is supposed to be part of the fight as well (with the limited healing items that only refill at a checkpoint, but without cost). The point still stands though, mastering the walk up to a boss is not the same as mastering the boss, after all, I must have done that walk to the Capra Demon at least 20 times, only to get killed by his first attack and do the walk again, or manage a dodge, get stuck in a corner and have to do the walk again. I didn’t finally beat him until I watched a video that showed me how to cheese him (though idk, considering the size of the arena that boss might have been intended to teach you how to cheese a boss). In any case, that whole walk turns into pointless busy work if you don’t beat that boss on your first attempt.

      I’m not asking for the game to be made easier, I’m asking for it to stop wasting my time. If there were a mod that installed a bonfire outside of every boss room I would install it in an instant.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      This reminds me of something I noticed in the sports (like, real physical sports) sphere:

      I used to do several sports and was reasonably good at them, I did train quite a bit, though not too much. At some point I was asked if I wanted to compete. I did, once or twice, and then never again. Not because I lost (which I did, too) but because I did not want to endure the stress of being measured in this way, of thinking I should have prepared more strategically, trained a little more. That would have completely changed the nature of the game. Most people I know who are competing seem to be more stressed out and less relaxed because of that. In addition, not only do I not like being humiliated by loosing, I’m also not too keen on humiliating others. I rather like the self-improvement aspect of sports, but in a nice, friendly way.

      Some (ALPHA) guy I met at a party had the exact opposite view: For him, it was all about becoming the best, about asserting his dominance over his opponents. Without that, it wouldn’t be worth training at all.

      => I think there’s a similar thing with regards to demanding games. Some people want a challenge because they want to feel proud about mastering it and having figured it out themselves, and some people would also like to become better but not in this way. … and then some people just want to have a good time. And there’s nothing wrong with either.

      I’d guess it really comes down to people being bad at communication (which they probably were before the internet, only less visibly so), and not realizing that one person’s grand challenge is another one’s evening entertainment — and quite possibly vice versa.

  4. Robyrt says:

    The preening macho vibe of the Souls community is real, it’s unfortunate, and it’s totally predictable.

    Most people come to Souls games because they’re sick of modern game design, with its hand-holding and gated unlocks and grizzled dudebros. The marketing promises that this is The Most Brutally Difficult Game Ever, and the first hour of your first Souls game is the 2nd most difficult thing most gamers have ever played (#1 being the first hour of your first FPS). But it’s not actually a very hard game by NES standards, it just contradicts a lot of learned responses from other games and asks you to use different skills instead. So once you learn it, you find it quite easy and begin to look down upon those who haven’t reset their brains to Souls mode yet. Combine with the PVP system, which encouraged you to be online jackals before that was cool, and you have the makings of the next toxic Halo/COD community.

    The good news is that, like all online communities, the chest-thumpers are a small but vocal minority. From Software’s official stats indicate that co-op “sunbros” are 4 times larger than the PVP community.

    • Darren says:

      You’ve hit the nail on the head. I’ve played games that I thought were harder than Bloodborne, or at least difficult in a less reasonable way. There were moments in Bloodborne when I got angry and frustrated, but I can’t think of any moment where I thought the game was throwing completely bullshit obstacles in my path without giving me a way of overcoming them. The closest it came was those singing jellyfish eyeball women in the very late areas of the game, but that just requires quick action, high Frenzy resist, and sedatives.

      The base level of challenge is indeed high, but I think that, compared to so many other games, Bloodborne–and the Souls franchise in general–has a grasp on difficulty curves that puts most of the industry to shame.

  5. Wide And Nerdy says:

    So I just learned why everybody hates Josh and I should hate him too, for I too have never been able to manage a decent beard or a ponytail.

    The complaints about him trolling are really just sublimation about the hair.

    Rutskarn talking about rule breakers, this is why 4th edition went overboard. Some gamers like breaking the game. The groups that don’t like it can always exercise GM fiat. Rule Zero is the universal patch.

    I’ve been anti-difficulty for a long time now but recently Shovel Knight and Mario have gotten me back on board. I was out of gaming long enough that my reflexes were mostly gone and I’m in my 30’s now. But these games offer enough challenge to push my reflexes (Mario surprisingly moreso) and they do it at a gradual but continual rate (Mario surprisingly moreso) and most importantly, the iteration cycles are short. You don’t usually have the problem Shamus was talking about where you slog through 15 minutes of game to get back to where you were. Its usually no more than a minute.

    And if you accommodate a gamer like that rather than expecting them to simply crave challenge and want to be punished, you’ll find that they do eventually “git gud”.

    Shamus is now mentioning Batman, and he’s right. That was another instance where I actually bothered to learn because the game didn’t expect me to be awesome just to get by. You’re rewarded for your awesome skill by watching Batman being awesome as opposed to simply progression.

    • Jacob Albano says:

      I don’t know if you were talking about Shovel Knight/Mario in regards to “it’s usually no more than a minute”, but I think the same is true about Dark Souls etc. I have no idea where this idea of 15 minutes comes from. The longest bonfire run I can think of in DS1 is through the Crystal Cave to fight Seath the Scaleless, and that takes maaaaybe three minutes.

      Of course, if you’re fighting each enemy on the way back instead of running past them, that’s a whole different story.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I’m in no position to evaluate that as the game is just plain too dark for me to care about whether or not its too difficult.

      • Sougo says:

        Ding! There’s your answer. For many newcomers, running isn’t the solution. If you’re not confident enough to go through individual enemies, what are you going to do when you ran past them, took a wrong turn and got stuck with a dead end/ mini boss? Let’s not mention that they’re naturally have to be more cautious every time they die if they don’t want to lose all the blood/souls they accumulated so far. 7k Blood maybe not be a big deal in the long run but to someone who’s new to the games that’s 2-3 hours of their playtime (This is made worst in Bloodborne since you can’t even level up until you acquire 1 insight, which people usually get upon meeting the Cleric Beast for the first time. So they got stuck on the loop of die > get to to boss to retrieve their blood > die until they beat the boss or someone tell them about the item that let you run back to the Hunter’s Dream cause the game certainly won’t tell you).

        That’s the problem most people have. It’s not that the games are hard: They’re actually pretty easy (especially in Bloodborne’s case since Blood Vials drop like candy in the beginning, your dodge have tons of invul frames, the weapon system is streamlined and it’s ridiculously easy to overleveled) It’s the punishment system that people are calling BS. The only time that I even considered running in BB was when I lost all of my blood from the last 3 hours and said ‘fuck it’ out of frustration. For many people like Shamus, that ‘fuck it’ means that he will turn off the game and not deal with the BS. People saying ‘get gud’ miss the point of his frustration entirely.

        • Robyrt says:

          Exactly. Bloodborne is really bad at describing staple Souls series elements, even though it gives you a lot of leeway. I have no idea how anyone is supposed to figure out the Bold Hunter’s Mark lets you escape boss fights without trying it first, in the heat of battle, with a menu that doesn’t pause. Similarly, the “gun parry” mechanic is not obvious, and the guns do enough damage that you’re tempted to write them off as an alternate build path instead of a defensive move. And they still don’t explain how to jump.

          But hey, at least they don’t have Equip Burden anymore. That stat is responsible for more people having a boring Souls experience than any other.

          • GiantRaven says:

            Yup, that’s always been the worst thing about Souls games. It wasn’t until I’d watched a bunch of videos explaining the gameplay and systems in place that I could really start enjoying Dark Souls.

            But when I did, hoo boy, what a game.

            That initial slump sucks big time and could be so easily be avoided by some proper documentation.

            • Galad says:

              Psst. Mr. GiantRaven. Yes, you. Can you please point me to these videos? I’ve yet to play Dark souls 2 properly myself (meaning I’ve stumbled around for a few hours, then given up).

              The fact that I seem to be stuck on playing with KB&M doesn’t seem to be helping either.

              • GiantRaven says:


                It’s just an LP, not specifically focused on learning the game, but it’s what gave me enough knowledge to go back to DS1.

              • Ivan says:

                Haven’t played Dark Souls 2 but I can’t imagine this is much different from the first. Just don’t forget to use those shards to level up your weapons and armor, it’s something that took me a while to figure out my first time through but it is extremely helpful. If you’ve ever wondered about the people saying that you can get through the game with a level 1 character, well this is what they’re talking about. Improving your gear makes that much of a difference.

                • IFS says:

                  Dark Souls 2 isn’t quite as easy to manage a level 1 run with since they added a stat that governs how many invincibility frames you get from a roll, but equipment does still matter more than stats for the most part.

              • Muspel says:

                For what it’s worth, I would recommend playing Dark Souls 1 instead of DS2. The second game is worse than the first in a lot of ways.

                It falls into the trap of trying to “fix” problems with the first game, but doing so in a way that makes them worse and introduces new problems.

                For instance, in the first game, every time you rested at a bonfire, non-boss enemies would respawn. This meant that you could farm souls infinitely, and also meant that you had to fight your way back to wherever you died.

                In Dark Souls 2, enemies stop respawning after you kill them a certain number of times. This makes the game easier in that you can eventually clear out an area and have a clear path to the boss (although it would take a very long time to do so), but it also makes it harder because you can’t farm souls, and it punishes you more for dying because any souls you fail to recover are gone forever.

                (Unless you use a Bonfire Ascetic, but if you’re having trouble with the game, using an item that significantly increases the health and damage of all enemies in an area is not going to help.)

                And there are lots of other examples of things like that. If their goal was to make the game more approachable than Dark Souls 1, then they went about it in one of the worst ways possible.

                And that’s not even getting into the fact that unlike Dark Souls 1, DS2 has forced PvP.

                • Fizban says:

                  About a week late to this thread, but what is this that people keep going on about with Dark Souls 2 having forced PvP?
                  Huh, I had a whole rant written up about how you literally could not be invaded on a new game in DS2, but I can’t seem to find the evidence for it. I remember reading that you actually could not be invaded until NG+ but apparently I must have dreamed it? Regardless, I didn’t suffer a single invasion (outside what I immediately realized was an optional PvP area) until I was significantly overlevelled at the end of the game from sunbroing it up a bunch helping people against an optional boss. There’s also a group you can join right in the hub area (at the big monolith) that automatically summons people from the counter-ganking cult when you’re invaded, though I don’t know how reliable it is since I never even needed it. Probably has much to do with my playing late at night and long after launch. I was utterly convinced that was true though.

                  Edit: ah, may have found the reason. If it’s true that the game doesn’t pair NG with NG+ players until after they pass a certain xp tier (which I’d done after my sunbroing stint), then there’s a limit on how many invasions you can do in NG simply based on the number of invasion items easily available. Farming the souls to buy more invasion items will eventually push you into higher tiers until you can’t invade lowbies anymore, though I know I hadn’t followed through that much information to get to my conclusion. Maybe you could get unlucky during peak hours around the locations of the free invasion items?

        • Janus says:

          Bloodborne is even worse concerning this “fuck it-moment.
          Remember how players go on about Souls-games being “fair”? “Fair” as in: If you make no mistakes, you will never take damage & can beat the game bare-fisted. It’s highly unlikely, but theoretically possible.
          This depends heavily on the player being able to recognize his mistakes & avoid them in the future, learning movesets, etc.
          The Souls-games made this possible by slowing the combat down compared to other 3rd-person action games. The slow, tactical, deliberate combat enables the whole learning-curve-thingy.
          Now, in Bloodborne they decided to speed everything up & make it more frantic & intense. An it works fine.
          But the faster combat makes the learning curve a lot steeper. Compared to the older games it can be really difficult to recognize your mistakes & react to them. It feels a lot more “unfair” in the above sense.
          And I’m not complaining about difficulty. It’s fine.
          But it’s stepping away from the “strive for perfection”-gameplay and that’s kind of bad…
          The fact that healing items drop like candy, especially early game, and that you carry 20+ of them at once is telling here. It doesn’t make it “easier” – it’s necessary, because trying to run through the game without taking damage is a lot more annoying – to the extent that playing more “badly” and trading hits can actually be more efficient (& more fun).

          • GiantRaven says:

            That’s why the regain system is in place. You’re not always going to be quick enough to avoid getting hit but you can replenish your health by retaliating quickly.

            • Janus says:

              That’s exactly my point – the regain system just reinforces the effectiveness of trading over trying to never get hit at all. It works as intended, it’s fine – more aggressive, more intense. I get that and it’s fun.
              But personally I just prefer the careful, slow & deliberate approach to combat – it’s what made the Souls-style combat uniquely interesting to me. And we have more than enough games with fast & intense, action-packed gameplay…

              • GiantRaven says:

                Ok. I get what you mean. There’s definitely something incredibly satisfying about perfectly nailing that roll away from attack and rebuttal with a massive claymore slash.

                Oof. I can’t think of many things that come close to that feel.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          After the discussion I had in another part of this comment section, I just want to be clear, I don’t want Dark Souls to change. I don’t think there’s anything you could fix about that game that would make me want to play it without also destroying its appeal to its existing fanbase. I have enough games that are suited for me and I want the rest of you to have games that are suited for you.

  6. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Regarding Patreon, I think the people who like you so much that they’re just up and giving you money like that just want you to do what you want to do. I personally want my backed creators to feel liberated from anything that was holding them back though I can see how it would make you feel otherwise.

    This is not to say I feel they’re obligated to give up the ad money, I’d prefer Patreon to act as a buffer rather than as a replacement for that.

    One thing I was wondering about back when I was considering making essentially what Patreon is (I’m kind of proud of myself for coming up with basically their exact model back when other sites were going about it wrong), is will this help with the credit problem. I know many ad revenue dependent creators lament the volatility of ad revenue and how it makes getting a loan impossible. I wonder if Patreon will prove more stable and if, in time, creators will be able to use it as a basis for showing income to potential creditors.

    Chris, to respond to your point, I’m willing to bet that a lot of Patreon users are putting their money forth specifically because the market isn’t producing what they want and if you want to stick your neck out there’s a better chance of it being rewarded here than elsewhere. Its like “finally, someone is saying what I’m thinking, I’m going to make sure that guy gets funding.” And I’m willing to bet that kind of person will outweigh even loads of fair weather fans who kind of like you whom you lose because you dared speak your mind. Those fans probably weren’t giving you much to begin with. (That said, I can see the dilemma as your core appeal is the criticism and you’ve kept the commentary light.)

    Sounds like there’s a niche here for consultants to work with these Patreon creators in various capacities. I like the potential of a loosely structured network of such interactions.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Another problem with patreon is that your backers will jump at the throat of everyone who dares to criticize you,even if what they offer is constructive.Heck,that is the problem Ive seen way before when Spoony and Linkara were doing their ad supported videos,the “If you dont like it you dont have to watch it,so go away” crowd.

    People are just idiots afraid of any change,even if ultimately said change would be obviously beneficial.

  8. Bruno M. Torres says:

    I always find funny that everybody is supposed to like a game just because it’s good. They’re not. A game can be good, and yet not your thing.

    The best thing about videogames today is, ironically, that “mainstream” started meaning “lowest denominator” for lots of people, thanks to years of ruinous AAA launches and stupid decisions by the big companies. As an unforeseen consequence, “niche” just become the new normal. Nobody thinks “this game looks weird, I won’t buy it” anymore. You don’t see this pattern in many other kinds of media.

    And that’s when it hits you: If everything is niche, it means a game can be good, and yet not for you. And I think this is fine.

    Ps: As for BloodBorne, I think we should all take one second to think about this: How awesome is that the Souls Series came from nothing and just created a new genre and a new market by itself?

    • lucky7 says:

      Speaking as someone who doesn’t like playing Dark Souls/Bloodborne (But still does because I love the lore), I still love that the Souls Series managed to do that.

      • GiantRaven says:

        I wish the similar games were spreading quicker. I just can’t get enough of that style of combat.

      • James Porter says:

        Ya know? I got into the series from the lore as well. It actually makes me kind of sad Ruts has such a dislike for the game. It really reminds me of the way he described Morrowind’s story in his Altered Scrolls series. I think it would totally be his kind of story if he could get into it. Makes me feel a little better having Shamus talking about how pretty the art style in Bloodborne is.

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I think the ultimate goal to achieve regarding the difficulty problem is to have one game where the difficulty slider will get the user from “hand-hold-y” to “learning slowly but steadily” to “unforgivably hard”, and have the game still make sense at each level.

      Given the type of problems many games have regarding tone/story/mechanics, it seems it’s pretty good if a game masters one of these levels properly these days, so I don’t think we can expect any game to meet that ultimate goal anytime soon.

      … and if one day they do, there’ll be flame-wars about the “correct” difficulty setting on which to play that game.

  9. Janus says:

    To Shamus saying he doesn’t understand how people can like the high retry cost in Souls-style games (Soulslike? Can we call it a genre by now? With Lords of the Fallen and Salt & Sanctuary in the mix?):
    I get why people don’t like that, really. I don’t think it’s nearly as horrible as you put it, but that’s perfectly alright & I’m not saying you should “git gud” or anything silly like that. All is fine – different people like different things. Good? Good.

    But I personally honestly like that aspect (even independent of the “getting better”-aspect).
    Death in a Souls-type game actually means something – it’s not just a little inconvenience that puts a quickload between you and continuing. You really want to avoid dying at all cost.
    It gives these games a unique tension & creates amazing, frustrating, desperate, awesome moments of adrenaline flooded, defiant last stands. Without death being as annoying & without the player desperatedly trying to avoid it, many unique and memorable moments could not happen.
    It’s obviously a very subjective thing…
    But it works – for me & apparently for a lot of other people. So, its not to the detriment of the games – it’s part of what makes them work, even if it can be frustrating. Which, again, I get. I don’t disagree with that – I just try to explain why it doesn’t bother a lot of the more “devoted” Souls players (and why the one or other may get somewhat defensive about it).

    That whole “death means something”-thing also worked really well in Alien Isolation – I loved the fixed & scarce save system (loads of players did not, I know – again, it’s very much a matter of personal preference).
    But just as the “learn to overcome impossible odds through aquired skill – thing”, there is a rationality behind it. It’s a feature that makes the game uniquely interesting & fun…
    Though, the loading screens of Bloodborne are still too horrible… It’s almost too annoying

    • Janus says:

      PS: didn’t want to say that loading screens are part of that feature… They’re just annoying, was the point. Could be confusing maybe, would be silly .

    • ChristopherT says:

      I’ve always felt odd with the save anywhere systems, with the checkpoints every other minute or every room stuff, there are times where I’m grateful for it, but I’m used to and enjoy much more the old manual save point style, you can only save in certain areas and you have to remember to save. Resident Evil is what drilled it into me I think. I find it odd worrying about replaying the last 15 minutes when I’ve had deaths that erased more than an hour that I now have to redo, because I was trying to get a better score, and a special weapon so I was skimping on saving.

      I remember scratching my head when the first Dead Rising game came out and people were complaining that you had to manually save at a bathroom.

    • Ivan says:

      “Death in a Souls-type game actually means something ““ it's not just a little inconvenience that puts a quickload between you and continuing. You really want to avoid dying at all cost.
      It gives these games a unique tension & creates amazing, frustrating, desperate, awesome moments of adrenaline flooded, defiant last stands. Without death being as annoying & without the player desperatedly trying to avoid it, many unique and memorable moments could not happen.”

      I don’t think the cost of death is what makes these moments exciting, because I have absolutely had these moments in games that there is really no penalty to dying at all. I used to play a lot of battlefield type games and the moments I remember aren’t the times I’ve saved my team against all odds, they were the times where I realized I was screwed and somehow managed to put up a fight despite my opponents having every advantage. Every time I run out of ammo and have to pull out my pistol I know it’s going to be a good time, but every time I beat a boss in dark souls and am asked the question “do you continue exploring to find the next bonfire or do you turn around to make the long treck back to the one you know is there (and safe cause I usually kill everything)?” I always turn around.

      The game is less fun for putting more at stake and when I have the most fun is when I realize that I have made mistakes that have put me in a very bad situation and now I have to fight my way out of it despite the odds. I’ve never needed a reason to not want to louse, a simple message telling me that I’ve failed and a quick reset has always been enough.

      I just wanted to add to this, that adding more of a death penalty, like a loss of resources has always made the game less fun because it discourages experimentation. I am far more likely to stick with a tactic that I know is “safe” than to experiment when I am risking more than just a loading screen and so the game gradually becomes more of a chore than it is fun.

      • Slothfulcobra says:

        You get a homeward bone after each boss, so I think that’s what you’re intended to do.

        Not that I ever used them. Turns out I’ m more neurotic about using up items than I am about losing boss souls. I lost a lot of good souls that way.

        • IFS says:

          I’d say that learning not to get too upset over loss of souls is part of learning to play a souls game. You can always get more, either from soul items or just from progressing, and the souls you’ll get later on will trivialize losses in the long run. That said one addition Bloodborne makes that I really like is that you get a bonfire immediately after beating each boss, making it easy to jump back and level up.

    • Trix2000 says:

      I have to agree that this is a fairly significant pro to the way they have death setup (though I’d also prefer less loading screens and more gameplay in that ‘recovery’ period). I know it got me to play very cautiously and thoughtfully, making sure to keep an eye out on the path ahead and consider how I was approaching every encounter. Without that significant potential for loss, I’d probably end up brute-forcing things a lot more.

      Of course, it’s easy to see how that could be unappealing too – not everyone enjoys having such high stakes when they’re just trying to entertain themselves.

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I hope now you see why I had the problem with this issue the last time it popped up.Someone asked you about fan service and without reading the crucial “the sexy kind” line,you all still go on talking about just one specific kind of fan service.It takes 15 minutes before Rutskarn even acknowledges that sexy is just one subset of fan service.

    I mean,Shamoose mentions mortal kombat as the worst amongst fighting games,when it has the least sexual fan service of them all,and MUUUUCH more of violence fan service.It has gained popularity primarily because of the fatalities,not because of the boobs(which were pretty conservative and low res in the beginning of the franchise,and arent even that opulent now(pun not intended).Heck,the x-ray attacks were introduced as nothing more than pure fan service.

    Oh,and since I didnt notice it then,can we also finally get a consensus about how we should write fan(/ /-)service?

    I mean, OBVIOUSLY there's more to fan service than just T&A, and lots of fanservice isn't sexual in nature at all.

    • Otters34 says:

      For me the worst kind of fanservice is the sort that kept cropping up in the latter entries of Mass Effect and other long-running series. You know, where [X] comes on-camera, says their catchy line/does their memorable thing and then departs stage center. Stuff like Harkin being the Generic Flunky#2 in Garrus’ Bondage Quest in ME2(because he was said to be a criminal in the last game), or having there be one of the Shadow Broker’s race in a cage on the salarian homeworld in ME3. Stuff’s that’s there because hey, fans will recognize it, and fans just want the same thing(in larger doses) as what they had before along with implicit outside validation of their unhealthy obsessions.

    • Phill says:

      I wonder what would consitute Spoiler Warning / Diecast fan service (the non-sexy kind – if anyone gets off on Shamus discussing plot inconsistencies or Josh repeatedly dying, I don’t personally want to know). Some suggestions:
      Chris’s catchphrase: “Ludonarrative dissonance”.
      Josh carrying an unused incinerator.
      Rutskarn making terrible puns (can something ubiquitous also be fanservice?)

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Oh,and since youve mentioned the sudden realization of “Waaait,someone is getting off on this”,I have a treat for everyone:

    Anne Hathaway: Erotic Mouthscape

    Its short if you want to experience it yourself,or you can just listen to this guy read it out for you.Trust me,you have to go check it out.It is the best thing youll find in the depths of the internet for a looong time.Its NSFW if you want to listen to it,but the images are quite safe.

    • The Rocketeer says:

      Isn’t “someone is getting off on this” the default assumption on the Internet? And if not, how has it not gotten through after all this time?

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Of course the difference is right up front you’re being told this is supposed to be erotic and the first screen pretty much tells you exactly what you’re supposed to find erotic about this.

      Unlike, say, watching the Avengers and suddenly realizing you’re looking at shots centered on Black Widow and Pepper Potts’ feet because that’s Joss Wheddon’s kink (just remember whatever he says, its ok if its his fetish.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        the first screen pretty much tells you exactly what you're supposed to find erotic about this

        Trust me,it doesnt.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Within the first few actual screens of play, I should have said. I did play the first little bit of it just to get a sense. Maybe it gets even weirder but its weird enough those first few screens that you should know if this is more than you can handle. If you can handle the initial weirdness, I don’t think there’s anything that’s going to weird you out later on.

    • Alchemist64 says:

      As someone who reads a ton of fan fiction in high school, and seen some strange fetishes, that link takes the cake on weird. Then it smashes that cake with a “oddly shaped” bat.

  12. Alex says:

    Re: Punishment vs. Challenge

    Ever since I read a book by one of the guys behind the MUD (what we had before MMOs), I’ve wondered about an MMO where some areas are more punishing of death than others. The idea I had was that undead – and only undead – can cause permadeath. Everywhere else in the game can be carebear land where you can do whatever you want without much fear of loss, but if you enter the region overrun by the undead you are taking your life into your own hands because while a bandit might just take your money and leave you in a ditch, a ghoul only wants dinner. I wonder whether that would appeal to people or whether you’d just get run out of town by a torch-and-pitchfork-wielding mob, even if you have the necessary safeguards to make a Corrupted Blood incident impossible.

    • Cybron says:

      I know of at least one permadeath MMO that exists, so presumably there’s some market for it.

      I can’t imagine any large scale project going for it though. I mean, think about how long big MMOs have been cribbing WoW’s everything. it’s a pretty risk-averse genre.

    • Syal says:

      I think to make that work, the game would have to be big on the end result of losing to the various enemies; if the undead kill you and the robbers take your gold, then the wolves need to steal your meat and the angry deer need to steal your herbs and the giant ants need to carry you off to a random location and so on.

    • Ivan says:

      Runescape used to be like this. Ha! I bet you all had thought you’d finally be allowed to forget about that one!

      Anyway, yeah, Runescape used to have an area called the”Wilderness” not permadeath but pretty close to it. This was an area of the game where players could attack each other without warning, and it was infamous for being the area where the vets would try to lure the newbies into so they could kill them and steal their stuff.

      It was very popular but ultimately removed, I believe because of some sort of exploit, or possibly just for the sake of the newbies. Personally I avoided the area but annoyingly enough, certain events and quests would force you to enter it if you wanted to complete them. There were also all sorts of extra rules to try to make the area both more fair and threatening. For instance, normally if you died you would drop all but your 3 most valuable items (including armor), but if you started a fight you’d get a “skull” signifying that you would now drop all your items on death. There were also levels to the wilderness which signified the level range that could attack you, meaning that at level 5 you could be attacked by a player 5 levels above or below your level. At level 35 (if I remember correctly) you could no longer use teleportation spells. Also because there were no loading screens there was essentially a line in the sand you would cross and enter the wilderness. Anyway these rules were bent as much as possible by players making twinks and using special prayres to preserve one of their items on death no matter what and then attacking players with a single powerful weapon and no armor so they had nothing to louse. Or high level magic spells that could prevent you from teleporting to safety.

      Basically what I’m saying is that players will exploit this area in any way they can (as they do with most aspects of an MMO) but the extra risk involved makes areas like this a lot more trouble than they’re worth.

      The wilderness was absoultely extremely popular, or at least there was a very volcal minority that loved it, but well really I don’t know the end of this story. Runescape eventually added PvP worlds, where eventually the entire world is wilderness, but does anyone know what they’re doing now?

  13. Esteban Navarrete says:

    So… about Axiom Verge…
    There’s 2 English Major analyzing it on with a “Game as Literature” kind of approach, like for example, they would google a character’s name, then make connections as to it’s relation to the mechanics, and they were kinda able to pin-point the basics of the themes of the game early on, etc. And from that point the game’s narrative and themes feel very… sharp, aimed with precision. And like half of the things Maddy Myers wanted are present on Axiom Verge, or at least at the begging.
    If anybody cares the LP kinda thing is on YT at: SolePorpoise

  14. Cybron says:

    I had to contain laughter at Rutskarn’s straining to be as un-awkward as possible during the mailbag. This probably makes me a bad person.

    I haven’t gotten to play Bloodborne, but I don’t think the loading times are an intended part of the experience any more than the crappy framerate. I harbor hopeful delusions that the game may some day come to PC so both can be corrected.

    • IFS says:

      They are currently working to fix the load times on console, which I am very hopeful for because they are the biggest gripe with the game for me. As for framerate I’ve only noticed issues with it during coop in a chalice dungeon, though I don’t tend to notice framerate issues as often as other people and I don’t doubt people are running into them (especially considering the series has a bit of a history of having areas with frame rate issues).

      As for coming to PC I think that would be great, but I don’t see it happening anytime soon just given the publisher. Still there is that petition, maybe if it gets enough signatures then Sony will pay attention.

    • GiantRaven says:

      The loading times do suck, but I do find it oddly comforting to be forced to stop and cool down after getting wrecked by a boss before continuing.

  15. M. says:

    I haven’t listened to the podcast yet so maybe there’s more that’s said about it, but… geez, that Twitter conversation gives off a really weird and hostile vibe. There’s nothing wrong with game designers taking different things away from Metroid, or any other game, and focusing on them when they make what is clearly their own personal tribute to the game or genre. Someone likes the moody, lonely atmosphere, someone else likes the stoic female protagonist, someone else likes finding keys and opening doors, someone else likes shooting aliens? What’s the problem? It’s all good.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      The problem comes from everyone focusing just on one thing,and no one cares for the full experience.

      • M. says:

        That’s giving the poster permission to define what the “full experience” is, though. A different Twitter poster might dismiss all that narrative stuff she’s keen on and say that the “full experience” of Metroid is shooting monsters and opening doors. Neither is right in any absolute sense; it’s a matter of taste.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          The full experience,by definition,is everything the game has to offer:Its mechanics,tone,story,graphics,……….For example,new vegas is a good game and a worthy sequel,capturing the tone and ambience of the original well.But it does not give you a full fallout experience because it doesnt give you turn based isometric fighting.

          • Phill says:

            I think M’s point was more that the list of “everything the game has to offer” is going to vary from person to person. Is a particular arrangement of pixels on the screen to represent a character an essential part of what the game has to offer? How far can you change it to give something that is clearly a variant of the same character (which is going to vary from person to person)? Do you need to have the same character, or can you substitute a different character that ties in to the important themes in the same way (with those themes being open for individual interpretation ;)? Do you just need a character with the same mechanics but with different implied motivations? Can you vary the mechanics somewhat whilst staying within a broadly similar set of capabilities?

            At some point, it breaks. When you are playing a “The last of us” remake” featuring 1980’s 8-bit Mario in place of Joel and Miranda from Mass Effect 2 (speaking of fanservice) as Ellie, you’ve probably broken the tone of the game. But you’re not going to get much agreement on where on the continuum of changes you draw the line.

            Plus, as M originally mentioned, you aren’t going to get agreement on what gets included in that “everything”. Appropriate music might be vitally important to one person’s sense of what makes a game, while another person might not give a monkey’s about the music.

            It’s one of those subjective things. Person A has their internal idea of what constitutes the full experience. Person B who doesn’t care about something on A’s list is overlooking something that is ‘obviously’ part of ‘the full experience’. Person C who insists that something else is important to them is clearly being nit-picky or just plain stupid (what do you mean the gun barrel is too long? That’s just dumb – it makes no difference). Much like suspension of disbelief in movies (or games), it’s amazing the things that can suddenly kick individual people out of accepting a story on its own terms and make it completely unbelievable.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Everything the game has to offer is objectively everything,by the very definition of the word everything.Whether its enough to be considered a worthy remake/sequel/spiritual successor that is the subjective thing.

              • Syal says:

                So what you’re saying is “the full experience” is a uselessly specific term that can only ever be used to refer to the original game, which makes me wonder why you even brought it up.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  It can also be used for some sequels that dont take too many chances(like fallout 2) and for some remakes(like heroes of might and magic hd).But you have to keep in mind that full experience is not the same as good experience or better experience or the opposite worse experience.It just means full,employing all the elements from the original with just slight changes.

  16. Tizzy says:

    Chris’s longing for an editor had me really puzzled. It sounded like: “What should I be doing next. I’d really like someone to look over my shoulder and tell me what to do.”

    Which, fair enough, I understand the feeling. But if he had such an editor, I can’t really imagine that this person would have a much better idea of what needs to be done to succeed in such a mutable environment.

    SO worst of both worlds: you get a boss, plus you still have the feeling that you don’t know what you’re doing, except, this time, you can’t change tack whenever you want and you’re answerable to someone who might understand even less.

    Not a good trade-off…

    • Chris says:

      I’m probably gonna do a thing on this eventually, but:

      I brought up the editor because it’s something I constantly feel like I’m missing. With no one reviewing my work I have to be my own editor and constantly try to be aware of my own flaws and shortcomings, but there’s really only so much of that a person can do to their own writing. I know my bad habits – I use fancy verbiage when simpler language is more legible, I rely too heavily on lists (like this one!), I tend to wrap everything up with grand/unearned sweeping statements in closing, I have a bad habit of lacking a central thesis, and I go off on too many tangents. And that’s what I know about my writing, and I try to keep an eye on it, but part of the problem is I’m largely blind to it when it happens. Who knows how many more bad habits I have that a proper writer with a different/complementary writing style would be able to identify for me.

      But my point isn’t so much that I want an editor (though I think my stuff would benefit from having a good one). It’s that we’ve boiled this whole “criticism” thing down to something people do on the side and almost never for a livable wage. It’s nothing unique to games, of course – the advent of the internet, the failure of the internet advertising model, and the general democratization of the written word has all but killed most longform journalism, and on the whole being a writer in 2015 sucks.

      If you were an aspiring film critic in the 80’s or 90’s you’d probably have to freelance a bunch before landing a real job as full-time critic, but the position existed. Major metropolises had multiple papers, and even smaller cities usually had one to call their own. And the benefits of that sort of institution aren’t just having an editor, and it’s not even just a source of more money than Patreon busking. It’s stable money not tied to whether you wrote an article that pissed people off, insulating you from being one inflammatory article or stupid statement away from losing income. It’s health insurance, which tends to be prohibitively expensive for freelancers without companies to front some of the cost. It’s having a legal department that can fight on your (and the publication’s) behalf. Angry Joe can only roll over to Nintendo’s takedown notice, but imagine if Universal tried to take on a film critic using stills from a film next to their review?

      It’s also the legitimization of your work. There’s a lot of Impostor Syndrome going on in this field. And why wouldn’t there be? People become impossible to categorize – anyone with a YouTube account is a journalist now. And in some sense that’s really cool – I’m all about knocking down barriers to entry. But in another sense, it really sucks. Am I a journalist? Critic? Reviewer? F-grade e-Celebrity? How do I know if my work is any good? How do I know when I’ve “made it?” Am I competing with PewDiePie? TotalBiscuit? Jim Sterling? In that case I’m doing pretty badly. Am I competing with Rage McAngryface’s Furious Video Game Reviews and people who make 40 minute unedited videos in their underwear complaining about Anita Sarkeesian? In that case I’m probably doing pretty well? Who’s to say what metric matters? Many a night is spent staring up at the ceiling wondering what “success” looks like. Is it money? Is it YouTube views per video? Is it YouTube subscribers? Twitter follower? Patreon cash? How will I know when I’m doing my job right?! But if my name were associated with a publication, and I had regular editorial feedback then I get a far clearer picture of where I am. I work for a (Crappy/Awesome/Okay) publication, and my editor/bosses feel my work is (Acceptable/Fantastic/Horrific).

      It’s also the difference between having a career vs having a thing I do in my spare time. If games writing existed in the salad days of film criticism, I would have a career path to follow – freelance work that leads to a full time position somewhere, eventually leading to similar positions at better publications, and eventually editor positions that help sculpt young talent while continuing to write. It was, in short, a career that gave you a sense of progress (or lack there of). These days it’s a thing I do in my evenings and weekends. It’s having a band that’s doing okay but not well enough to quit your day job. You don’t know how to take it to the next level and make it a full-time thing, so you just sort of continue on waiting for it to either take off and make it big or for your life to get too busy and complicated for your passion project to continue. And that sucks. You know how we don’t have a lot of game developers over 40 because of burnout? We don’t have a lot of game writers over 40 because of this issue here.

      So yeah. I’m super thankful for Patreon and all of my supporters – it’s helped more than most will ever know. But I also realize that Patreon as an entity is a bit of a band-aid. The positive metaphor is that it gives us a street to busk on and stave off extinction, and we should all be grateful for that. But it’s just as easy for me to think of it as a refugee camp – a place providing a minimum level of sustainability that a bunch of displaced writers and creative types have ended up because the places they came from fell into chaos, unable to support them. We need to be respectful of the help it provides, but not forget all that has been lost.

      Re-reading this it’s guilty of, like, every bad thing I do.

      • Tizzy says:

        First off, let me say that the “bad habits” that you list are what makes your work endearing to me. As any good thing, there is always the danger of overdoing it, but an editor cannot really know for sure what makes your public tick, so it’s a helpful mechanism but far from perfect.

        Anyway, I am glad that you wrote back: this makes a lot more sense now, the editor as part of a bigger picture. I see your point.

        For better and for worse, the internet has changed journalism, and criticism in particular. Everyone’s a critic, but until recently, only official critics had a platform to have their criticism widely heard.

        I am rather torn over this change. The critics have lost the authority they once had. On the one hand, it is sad because critics were genuinely knowledgeable in a way that Joe Schmoe on his youtube channel cannot be. [Takes a break to check if there is a joe schmoe youtube channel that happens to be a wildly successful video game criticism channel, just in case.] But unfortunately, that knowledge did not always translate into value for the public. For instance: in a good year, I will play maybe 5 new video games. So I will not base my purchasing decisions on video game critics, because they cannot possible relate to my consumption habit, and whatever comparisons they can make between games fall flat when I’ve played so few of them.

        On the plus side, I think that we get more voices than could possibly be supported by the more traditional models. And I think this will last into the foreseeable future. And, sure, the general public has lousy tastes and makes questionable role models into superstars (what else is new?), but, on the other hand, there is more room for thoughtful commentary and obscure nerdy stuff.

        There is a lot more to say. I haven’t even touched on the whole support system, in particular legal, that was totally off my radar until you mentioned it. And the whole career vs something to do in your spare time. But I’m running out of insightful things to say (about 5 paragraphs ago) so I’ll just wrap up with the Impostor Syndrome. All I can say is: being in a large organization does not insulate people from this feeling. I think in particular that any position that requires approval from a large public must lead to that syndrome in anyone but the worst narcissist. So congrats on not being a narcissist.

        And thanks for everything.

      • Henson says:

        You’re a public radio station. You’re respectable, but constantly anxious about your funding.

        Really, I don’t think your financial situation is any less stable than a lot of other game writers. Unless you’re a monolith like Kotaku, your employees only have job stability as long as you can stay afloat, and that’s a big gamble in itself (see: Joystiq).

        If the Patreon money ever runs out, well I suppose you do what every other newly-unemployed writer does. It’s an unstable field, for sure. Sort of like being an actor.

      • Jakale says:

        For the editor part, one thing that occured while listening to the podcast was that, at one point, it kind of sounded like you were talking about a type of peer review system, like proper science papers get, only with editing. I don’t know how that sort of system got in place, though. It seems like it would probably be a networking issue to sort out in order to have a list of potential peers to send something to.

        I wonder if that same sort of collective network, would be able to help with the career path issue, also. I don’t know much about guilds or unions, but it sort of feels like the network that might crop up from trying to solve the editor issue might at least be unify the various disparate content creators into a form with enough potential clout to deal with some of those problems.
        I imagine there would probably be some legal issues in there somewhere and potential to cause problems if it got influential enough, though.

      • Jason-L says:

        I love that reading your writing, I hear it spoken in your voice. The word choice and the phrasings you use are so entirely you, and it fascinates me that it comes through so clear in the written form.

        All the things you worry about are things that I enjoy about your work. They make your voice unique and interesting, and help you stand out from the McAngryFace static.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Having worked in a place that considered itself “excellent”, I think much of the “now I know whether I am good or not” is just made up. You could end up with a nice editor who likes your stuff, or you could end up with someone who is overly critical. You could end up at a magazine that has had a lot of success, became an established brand and therefore believes that all its employees must be geniuses…

        As for the busking thing, I always recommend this:
        Doesn’t cover everything, does not work for everyone but apparently busking is a much more stable source of income than most people assume, and there’s nothing awkward about it, at least there shouldn’t be.

        If you’re employed, that means your company decided to give you money for what you do. They may decide to stop giving you money at some point, and then you have a problem. If one of your Patrons decides to stop giving your money, you’ve only lost a small percentage of your income. Also, that money is coming from fans, who will usually be much less critical of your work than your line manager, who has to justify your salary to his line manager, and the whole company apparatus which will drop an employee if it makes financial sense. Opposed to that, your fans do not expect either return on investment or value for money (how I hate that term!).

        => That funding is probably a lot less volatile than it feels.

      • Dude says:

        I’ll make a sweeping generalization out of your statements and reduce it to this: “I need someone to tell me when I’m being a bad writer (by some standards) so I can stop being a bad writer.”

        I’ll also make a further sweeping generalization: I’d much rather those bad writer figure outers you want went and worked for gaming companies instead.

      • Ahiya says:

        Re: Getting an Editor

        You are looking for what fandom calls a ‘beta’, as in ‘beta-reader’, who takes something an author has written and cleans it up for publication. There are tons of places out there to look for help with beta-readers. Start checking LiveJournal, Tumblr and Dreamwidth, or just Google ‘how to get a beta’.

        It always amuses me that video game writers are still grappling with issues fandom sorted out ages ago. Seriously. How to determine legitimacy without a career, peer-editing services, support groups and balancing output with a paying job, these are all things fandom has been doing since the dawn of the internet. If what you really want is to write and have an audience, then fandom’s model is completely viable.

        It’s not so good for getting paid – which just means that creative professions are back in the same position they’ve historically been in. The era of newspapers and music groups in every town was pretty much a historical anomaly afaik. Writers/bards/musicians surviving on tip collecting and generous patrons is typically how art go created.

  17. Tizzy says:

    Being from the same generation as Shamus, I want to confirm that the 80’s were an *especially* awkward time to go to the movies as a teenager.

    The raunchy movies certainly got raunchier since then, but back then, good luck finding a movie without blatant sexuality. Which felt very much like what the end of this diecast discussed: the feeling of: “hmm… could you let me have fanservice on my own terms rather than feel the need to shove it in my face when I am not particularly looking for it?”

  18. Doomcat says:

    Hey Chris, just throwing it out there, but you should look into doing some Co-op for Bloodborne. I know the feeling your having about “I just don’t GET this boss” In a souls game, and then the 10 minute slog to get back to actually fighting the boss (I’m looking at you Gravelord Nito)

    The Co-op advantage is twofold:

    1: You have another player and their experiences backing you up, even if this is a player who hasn’t beaten the boss yet THEMSELVES they may know a few things you don’t, I’ve actually fought bosses with co-op players and died/lost, but seen how some of the other players were dealing with that bosses attacks, and how they attacked. It is actually a TREMENDOUS help.

    2: The obvious one, you have another sack of meat standing around, someone whos invested in your survival and will do their best to keep you alive.

    Just saying, this isn’t a “Get gud lolol” type thing, this is me trying to give you advice on how to reach that point where your like “Oh, I -GET IT- now” because honestly, that feeling is SO GOOD, but getting there is hair-pullingly frustrating.

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    So, the answers to the fanservice question are rather telling. Chris defines the term in such a way that he categorically excludes himself from needing to answer it directly. Rutskarn brings up the most uncomfortable example he can think of. Shamus entirely avoids the question.

    Personally, I remember being attracted to game fanservice as a teenager. It was kind of a guilty pleasure, where I could justify it to myself in the “I read it for the articles” kind of way. It feels more dishonest than anything else, both on my part, and on the part of the creators. In Anime, too, it’s usually front-loaded into the first couple episodes and then never heard of again.

    Rutskarn’s example isn’t even visual, which brings another whole dimension into it. It’s hard to judge from the outset how much (and in what form) the audience pandering is going to take, and that’s part of the fun of consuming media, the gambling aspect.

    To be fair though, most game fan-service isn’t any more titillating than anything you might see by going to a public beach. It’s all pretty tame on an absolute scale. The context (as Rutskarn says) means a lot.

    • guy says:

      I was going to link to Shamus’s old “COMPLETELY AT RANDOM” video from FFX (Rikku removing her gender-concealing outfit), but the video is gone from youtube.

      • Syal says:

        …were there people who actually considered that outfit to be concealing? The entire body of it was skin-colored. I thought she was naked when I first saw it.

        …Final Fantasy in general is pretty blatant about fanservice.

  20. MikhailBorg says:

    It didn’t especially titillate me – really, these are just drawings – but I was fascinated by the treatment of the fanservice in the anime “Kill la Kill”, where it’s not only in your face but a vital part of the story and of the philosophical points the writers hope to confront. This is one of the best attempts to have the cake and eat it too that I’ve ever seen.

    Now, real live cosplayers in the “Kill la Kill” outfits… yes, that’s titillating.

    • IFS says:

      Kill La Kill is so over the top with it’s fanservice (as well as actually using that fanservice with its themes and story) that for me at least it becomes hard to see as fanservice. It just becomes a thing that’s there, its ridiculous but you’ve accepted it and just kept going.

      Similar to that example is Bayonetta, where the fanservice might not be fitting any philosophical theme, but its so ridiculously over the top and just fits with the ridiculous high energy spectacle you’re dealing with that you just start to look past it (or at least that was my experience).

      • V8 Ninja says:

        Yeah, Kill la Kill is interesting when it comes to fanservice because the majority of what would be considered, ‘Proper’ fanservice (skimpy outfits, absurd poses, etc.) just doesn’t register as such. I think the series do a good job of getting the viewer into the mindset of not caring about the fanservice (at least the sexual parts of it) by having the main character being forced to go through the same issue herself until she realizes that nothing is going to happen until she accepts that it’s a part of the setting that nobody important cares about. Granted, that point is diminished when you start taking into account that the later half of the show pulls out the breaks and makes a few select select scenes unmistakeably sexual (and in turn unmistakeably fanservice-y), but otherwise the series doesn’t pertain to fanservice at all. It also helps that the character which gets the most, ‘Proper’ fanservice is a male where the fanservice perspective is used to set up a plethora of visual gags.

  21. guy says:

    You know, fairly hilariously, one of my favorite sources of properly-dressed female character pictures, Fate/Stay Night, originated as literally a pornographic visual novel, scoring a rating of R18+ in Japan. Yet this is the main outfit of one of the primary female characters, and with the exception of Rider their standard outfits are all rather reasonable.

  22. ChristopherT says:

    I like the (sexual)fanservice in Catherine, Lollipop Chainsaw, Final Fantasy(ies), Alan Wake’s American Nightmare (?), Unreal Tournament 2003(4) “Sexy” announcer.

    Unreal Tournament 2003 and 2004 have an option to change the announcer’s voice, there’s a male, female, one or two others, and then there’s “sexy”, which is a female voice, very heavy on the breathy “sensual” side and with bigger announcements gets more “excited”. It’s silly, it can be kind of dumb, but it just makes me smile. And there is at least a normal female announcer setting, so it’s not just a choice between normal manly man voices and “skank”

    Alan Wake’s American Nightmare, not entirely sure I want to call it fanservice but I think it really fits the bill, with the mesmerized/seduced young lady at the drive in (sorry can’t remember her name). She has some of the darkness in her and is fairly flirtatious towards Alan because of Mr. Scratch, and I rather like how she comes off that way to me. There are times where the darkness regresses and she’s confused and uncomfortable with what’s going on. She’s very “take me now” but that’s the darkness talking and I think they pulled it off.

    Final Fantasy has a few characters and moments here and there that are certainly more fanservicey than on average, but I generally appreciate when they do, not sure why. Joke if you want (I understand) but I do like Lulu =P, and I’m okay with the camera going up teenaged Rikku as she undressing. Now Rikku’s thief outfit in X-2 can go f-off, but I really like her samurai outfit and the game does have a nice variety there, other than the personalities. Also, been a while, but I think there was a massage mini game in there as well.

    I think Catherine is a really good game, and the fanservice in it is a strong part of the story. With the player being thrown into control of Vince finding himself in a situation with long time love Katherine on one side, wearing a dark colored turtleneck, and Catherine on the other side, wearing a revealing white come un-wrap your Christmas present outfit. I think the game has some great examples of what (sexual)fanservice is, and ways in which to use it to help propel the story. There are many points in the game where the camera, and Vincent find a naked Catherine, or her tits in their face, and each time I think the viewer can see Vincent gearing up to make the next mistake, because tits, and I think it makes the story that much stronger.

    I think Lollipop Chainsaw is a really interesting game, for a number of reasons. The mechanics are stiff, you jump and kick you better make sure just judge the distance right or you WILL have Juliette wind up on her ass with zombies bearing down on her. I’m sure there’s a decent amount to be said about the whole school side of it as well; a picked on outcast school boy conjures up the depths of hell to seek revenge on the school and town, complete with placing a BOMB in the school, and suicide bomber zombies killing students. The literal objectification of boyfriend Nick. But then there’s also the sexual fan service of Juliette, wearing a skimpy cheerleader outfit and jumping around, bending over to slice things in half, and the twirling that all lift up the ever so short cheer skirt to see her spankies. But, then, there’s the question of how much of it is meant to be satire? The fact that there’s actual poles around the game, in which Juliette can pole dance around to chop zombies’ heads off, kind of points me to believe there’s at least some intention of satire.

    I like fanservice, not always, sometimes it’s done wrong, or icky, but mostly, yah. This last Christmas I got a body pillow, I’m okay with laughing at myself/with myself a bit. Of course it does feel weird when watching a live stream, they decide to play cards against humanity, throw in some extra decks, and a white card is thrown in that says “30 year old man obsessed with K-On” like wtf, I just turned 30 in March, and on my pillow is Yui from K-On…damn it cards against humanity you win.

    • Otters34 says:

      Woman at the drive-in theatre is Serena Valdeva/something similarly Spanish-derived. I liked the idea, of meeting somebody not far gone enough in possession by Darkness that their real self could resurface and react to the crude distortion they were going through, but the voice-acting really didn’t work. And it was the third time in a row the had game dropped a damsel-in-distress front of Alan. The prior two at least were kind of interesting? Especially in the questions and conversations you could have where their disparate personalities showed through and made them more than just plot devices, with Dr. Meadows having a frankly engaging little chat about the metanarrative problems with self-inserts and the like. But still. Three times. That’s a little much. Even if it does make in-universe sense for why they can’t affect things the same way as Alan can.

      • ChristopherT says:

        I thought the voice acting kind of fitted with her being out of it. Though I find I have a certain tolerance for bad-ish voice acting that differs from others.

        The three ladies didn’t really bother me. I feel it’s more that the first and third’s were victims of Mr. Scratch and the Darkness, he messed with them, toyed with them, and now Alan’s left to pick up the pieces as she passes through to stop Mr. Scratch. I guess they do fall into the damsel category, but in a way we had plenty of those in male form in Alan Wake, and blasted them to bits. Could actually be an odd/interesting look into the devs’ minds, the dudes-in-distress are made into enemies to fight, kill or be killed, and the damsels-in-distress are made into cureable/fixable people to be sympathized with.

        • Otters34 says:

          I agree on the voice-acting thing, to a point. For some weird reason there’s this narrow band of acting that’s good enough to be believable and bad enough in a way that makes it feel natural and spontaneous. Serena’s actress felt a tad too “I am acting.” to me.

          Considering how American Nightmare technically takes place in the border between our world and Alan Wake’s Darkplace, there’s an interesting angle regarding how much of what Alan experiences and who he meets is “really” real and how much is just stuff he made up. Like when at the observatory for the first time, he encounters the spiders mentioned in the page found earlier. And his talk with Dr. Meadows to me sounds almost like he’s justifying himself to one of his characters. So not only is it a possible look at unexamined assumptions on the part of the actual authors, but at Wake’s too. The only entirely positive thing in his life has been his relationship with Alice, after all, could be all of them from Sloane to Valdeva are just reflections of Alice that’s he’s written into the world to keep himself going.

          REMEDY, please, I beg you, make the next in-universe TV show a riff on Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace. Please. Double-please. Triple.

        • Starker says:

          Alan Wake spoilers ahead!

          The way Alan Wake’s set up, it could be simply that all the characters were written deliberately that way by Alan.

          The game’s story gets so much flak, but I really liked this premise of a terrible writer going through his own story. The game really feels like a pastiche written by someone like Alan.

    • Syal says:

      Final Fantasy fanservice often has some pretty ridiculous fashion choices going on as well, like Lulu’s fur cleavage robe or Quistis’ broken zipper belly shirt. The “clearly not functioning properly” aspect of the clothing might be part of it.

      Also Lollipop Chainsaw was made by Suda 51, who also made No More Heroes with the lightsaber that recharges by quickly stroking the handle, and Shadow of the Damned where the hero’s gun is just flat-out called the Boner. Overt sexualization played for laughs is just a thing he does.

      • ChristopherT says:

        And Vanille’s butt with the mark, and Vaan(he’s someone’s fetish right? Please say yes, it’s the only thing that makes sense.). I like my Final Fantasy though, doubly so the quirks. The only excessive use of belts I like in video games is Lulu’s. I look at Scorpion in Mortal Kombat X and shake my head.

        And the writer for Lollipop Chainsaw was James Gunn, who wrote Guardians of the Galaxy, Slither, and Super. Which I just looked up, I knew he did Lollipop and Guardians, your comment and the combo of Slither and Super confirm for me that Lollipop Chainsaw is lovely satire.

        I only played the demo of one of the No More Heroes games, seemed fun. Nor have I played Shadows of the Damned sadly, I want to. Though the gun he sticks between his legs is called Boner? That might be a mistake.

        HA!, Pun.

  23. Starker says:

    Chris has one fundamental misconception about the Dark Souls storytelling — its story is actually fairly straightforward and transparent and told to the player pretty directly through cutscenes and dialogue, not put together from pieces.

    Here’s the basic plot of Dark Souls, for example: you are a cursed undead locked away in the undead asylum and you take on a pilgrimage to Lordran where you will become the chosen undead and accomplish several tasks laid out for you in order to fulfill your fate and succeed Lord Gwyn, the god figure of the world. The end. Sure, there are some questions about what exactly it means to be chosen and what you accomplish with your actions, but as far as the story goes, it’s pretty standard stuff.

    The parts that players piece together from scraps and pieces are not actually the story of the game, but the backstory — the lore and history of the place. It’s stuff like the circumstances of Gwyn’s family, the fate of the four knights of Gwyn, Artorias’s struggle against the Abyss, Sif’s lament… Questions like what happened to the progenitors after the creation of the world, who’s the furtive pygmy, what’s the deal with Manus… none of these are important story details — they just form a rich backdrop of the mythology and history and culture of the place.

    • Slothfulcobra says:

      I kinda thought his misconception was in thinking that there was any real storytelling in Dark Souls. The most story that’s ever really told is that there’s some dudes you need to kill to take their stuff, along with a handy little background to the world you’re in. The rest is just aesthetics and various background details that you can try to extrapolate from.

      There were more story elements that From planned to have in earlier iterations of the game, with things like Oscar going on his own parallel chosen undead journey and a sidequest for a cursed sword, but they were dropped.

      • IFS says:

        The cursed sword sidequest they planned was basically a throwback to Demon’s Souls which had exactly that sidequest. A lot of the sidequests in Dark Souls are actually sort of throwbacks, Patches whole thing is basically a repeat, rescuing Rhea and her story arc is very reminiscent of the witch you rescued in Demon’s Souls, etc. That’s not to say this repetition is bad, and each iteration does twist it slightly, so its more of a series trademark and is even used to play with your expectations to some extent.

        As for the story of Dark Souls the basic ‘go place kill thing’ is very simple, but that’s more of the outline than anything. The backstory and lore you get to piece together is what contextualizes that story, it’s characters, events, and world into something greater. Personally I love how it’s implemented, it not only draws you more into the story and setting but makes the story more personal because its something you have some involvement in creating/interpreting. Plus the lore for Dark Souls is some of the most interesting lore (imo, I’m sure some disagree) I’ve seen in a game, so piecing it together really feels like you’re uncovering some great mystery and I found it quite engaging.

        • SlothfulCobra says:

          The lore is great, but it’s not the same as having an active story that the player takes part in.

          Honestly, the arc of Dark Souls (shit’s fucked because the dude in charge went nuts/abandoned his people) is something that From has been doing since King’s Field. I felt actively insulted by DS2 when it decided to not say anything about the world it took place in at the beginning, and just told you to go meet the king, because I already knew that. Without the lore, From’s games are nothing.

      • Starker says:

        Sure, the story is pretty simple and barebones, but it’s more than Shadow of the Colossus players got, at least. The details about the world and the characters are not just pure aesthetics on the level of SotC, however — you can make some pretty solid inferences about stuff like what happened to Sif and Artorias, who locked Havel into the tower, Gwyndolin and Frampt being in league, Seath’s descent into insanity in pursuit of immortality, etc.

  24. Slothfulcobra says:

    The way you wish you could acclimate yourself to Bloodborne reminds me of how I got into Dark Souls. I watched an LP of it, where I didn’t have to deal with the frustration of failure and all those traps that blindside you, and then I played through the game, with an idea of what I was in for already in my head. The game seems much less unfair that way.

    Of course, I’m not sure that would make Campster’s issues with having to spend so much time any better.

    • IFS says:

      I did something similar, back before I got Dark Souls I watched an LP of Demon’s Souls so that I could both have some idea of what I was in for and at the same time not spoil myself on the actual game. It’s hard to say how much it helped, but I feel like it did give me at least a bit of an edge, since it gave me some idea of what to expect.

    • 4th DImension says:

      I played the DS1 the same way, and found it enjoyable and I’m somebody with horible reflexes and bad at such games. But watching an LP really smoothed out the rough edges.

  25. The problem with Chris’ comment regarding the loss of a formal institution w/ Patreon as a foundation for personal advancement/improvement is that that formal institution of game journalism could barely be called a foundation to begin with.

    Let’s not kid ourselves, the internet as a place for monetizing professional content simply doesn’t exist. With this last year seeing a massive drop in video production personalities all across the board – Chris himself has pretty much abandoned his Blip account – it’s clear that there has been a substation bubble that popped about what can and cannot be monetarily sustained in a cyber environment…with the key factor being time.

    Professional quality requires not only the skill, the effort and the platform, it requires above all else time and the internet simply will not wait. It does not foster that level of attention, it honestly never has. That’s why games journalism in particular is ‘journalism’ in name only.

    And yer goddamn right I’m talking about Gamergate…and Doritogate…and Gerstmanngate and the piles upon piles of ‘controversies’ where gamers couldn’t maturely face the harsh reality that integrity was never a legitimately relevant force in the gaming industry. Attempts have been made certainly…which promptly crash and burn because the nature of the internet makes that business model suicide.

    • Gabriel Mobius says:

      My comment kind of spins off of points you’re making so I’ll start here!

      I’m still of two minds on all of these gaming ‘journalism’ controversies because you’re absolutely right. And this point is directed at Chris as well: even back in Ye Olden Days of gaming magazines, while you were not beholden to what you perceive as a fickle income source, you were still beholden to advertisers. Magazines simply could not subsist on subscriptions and off-the-rack sales, which is why they were — and still are — littered with advertisements. So your ideal of criticism without loss of funding never existed, you were just beholden to singular giant sources of funding for you and everyone else you worked with instead of many little sources of funding for you personally. And they present different problems and challenges.

      And back to the original point about the nature of the business model, I absolutely agree that integrity was never a relevant force and this is where my two minds come in. The idealist in me has always held to the thought that it should be. We should be able to have properly funded sources of criticism and actual journalism without fear of publisher or advertiser backlash. But the realist in me accepts that, short of exactly what’s happening with Patreon, that won’t happen. Even if you go the YouTube or AdSense way of doing things, you’ll still run into a myriad of problems. Shamus had to deal with the almost puritanical hypocrisy of AdSense which is why he went to Patreon in the first place, and mature flags can shut down YouTube ad revenue wholesale. So can bogus copyright claims (for an example, see Jim Sterling’s latest run-in with someone abusing the system). Short of Patreon funding, you will absolutely lose that revenue.

      But Patreon has exactly the problems Chris was discussing, so it winds up being this horrible no-winner standoff of two funding models that still have glaring problems in them, and I’m just not sure what the best way forward for gaming criticism is. Maybe the idea Ruts proposed of a bunch of Patreon-funded people pooling resources might not be a bad idea, if it’s sustainable.

  26. Supahewok says:

    I don’t want to get into most of the conversation here (I have nothing to say about any Souls game and I’m not about to talk about fanservice) but I did want to bring up a point about Patreon backer tiers.

    I back exactly 2 people on Patreon, because I’m a poor college student and can only afford to support the 2 creators I consider inspiring for me personally: Rutskarn, and a webcomic artist & writer, H0lyhandgrenade.

    Now, what H0ly does is that the first few tiers give things like access to her gallery of past drawings and access to her live stream when she draws her comics. Starting at the $25 mark, she draws a headshot sketch of any character anywhere, backer’s choice. $50 is a full character sketch, and at the $100 mark she mails to the backer a randomly chosen original comic page.

    Rutskarn’s work doesn’t leave a by-product like the original page sketches of a webcomic, but he does run a Sweepstakes to include a one or two page story at the end of his short stories that’s about a backer’s original character. Seems to me that a tier reward that settles his concerns would be a weekly or monthly small (>5 pages) story made with a backer’s character that he releases publicly, either alongside his usual short story or separately. He could do 1 or 2 or however many he’s comfortable with per month, cycling through his backers at that tier. That gives something to his backers that are paying more without locking away content and hopefully not taking up too much extra of his time.

    Also he could revive the backer forums. I know why he quit dealing with them, but that problem seems to have gone away. I can dream, dammit!

  27. Henson says:

    I find that fanservice in games is hard to do. For me, it works well for a medium that controls the camera, like manga or movies, but as soon as I have camera control, it stops working so well. Is it because I start feeling like a peeping tom? Is it because fanservice works by teasing and emphasizing carefully chosen views, and camera control negates that? Is it because there’s something inhuman about in-game character models, and a free camera exposes those inhuman qualities?

    In any case, for me, fanservice seems best relegated to cutscenes. The sideboob in Mass Effect’s sex scene was nice. Triss’ butt in the start of Witcher 2 worked well. Checking out prostitutes in-game? Not so much.

  28. OboboboTheNerd says:

    “If only there was some way to go through the game while taking no damage.”

    Assuming you have dark souls on PC, this is trivially easy to setup. Cheats are common enough that invading a random player and having them turn on infinite HP is fairly frequent. (Even on consoles, there are a variety of ways to set yourself up with a infinite HP save file)

    You could either obtain a pre-made table or find the pointers for HP and various other values yourself using a program like cheat engine.


    This is a fairly comprehensive cheat table for the game. Simply run it (Say yes to running the LUA script), tick the box next to [Enable Main Table], then do the same with [Scripts] and then [Infinite Health].

    I can’t remember if this requires you to have the main CE program installed or not, which you can find at: http://www.cheatengine.org/

    While I’m not sure this will make you enjoy the game, I hope it does get you over the initial hump and you enjoy it past that.


    This probably looks rather suspicious, so I’d appreciate it if someone could verify that I haven’t accidentally linked malware.

    • Ruethus says:

      The cheat engines on the PC version were largely broken by the latest update (which freed us from Games on Windows Live, so no complaints there!), and the only ones I could find were on sites that required paid access.
      I was looking around because I was pissed at everyone’s favorite boss fight: Ornstein and Smough, and wanted to just cheese my way past that one fight, then delete the cheat engine completely off of my computer.
      Before you give me helpful suggestions, worry not. I beat the boss after backtracking and taking down Sif, Lautrec (I forgot to kill him before he killed Anastacia), and Pinwheel to get some better gear and upgrade my Flask, and I am now five bosses shy of completing the game (gonna finish the Artorias of the Abyss before taking down the Four Kings and Gwyn).

  29. Darren says:

    Here is the answer to the Cleric Beast: summon Father Gasciogne at a message reading “summon help with the Awakening Bell.” You can find one near the shortcut into the dark house or in the fountain plaza. Or skip the boss, because it’s entirely optional.

    Generally, bosses are not susceptible to the counter-shot stun.

    Finally, most important: dodge dodge dodge! You just have to play very defensively.

    • IFS says:

      While most bosses aren’t vulnerable to parrying, in general if an enemy is somewhere around your size or up to about twice as big as you it should be parryable. Stuff larger than that isn’t quite as likely to be so. For the Cleric Beast in particular shooting it in the head (locking onto its head helps) enough times will stagger it and set you up for a visceral attack. Also for the Cleric Beast you should be circling it a lot, try to stay on the side with the smaller arm, and go for charged attacks when it gives you an opening. A lot of larger enemies in Souls games punish you for trying to keep your distance, and the Cleric beast isn’t an exception, though if its last stage (when it gets more aggressive at around 1/4 hp) is giving you trouble backing up and lobbing molotovs is a good finisher for the fight (and many other fights).

  30. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Hangouts are always tricky, because hangouts happen when hangouts happen, and we’ve already seen how complicated it is to get as few as five people’s schedules to mesh. I know I’ve got a lot more money than time (well, sort of — you know what I mean), and I’d be not terribly surprised that a lot of the people that can afford to pay more than minimal donations are similarly situated. That doesn’t mean that the hangouts are seen as valueless, even to people paying but not attending.

  31. Pearly says:

    I’m was glad to have you guys bring up Citadel DLC when it came to talking about fanservice– because it really is just that. A lot of people were actually mad about that aspect, there was some outcry (I’m not sure how big) of “Don’t let them trick you into being pleased with them! They’re just giving you what you want!”

    But no, the Citadel DLC is just wall to wall exactly what we asked for. A lot of the scenes in Citadel DLC seem almost to directly address fan complaints about various parts of the game, for example Jacob’s romance outcome, or Thane’s weird nonentity in the game, or a desire for less War Is Hell and more Fun Space Adventure. It’s a bit silly, and it’s not really in line with the grim, heroic tone of the rest, but the question to ask is; do you even care all that much? And if you do, when did you stop loving yourself?

    • Otters34 says:

      Sure they address fan complaints…the ones that don’t require them to actually change anything. BioWare’s decision-making-writer-people-things know their characters are more interesting than the world they’ve inhabited, so those become the keys they can jangle to distract from how this lovely little capper on the story about those characters still doesn’t make anything else around it less of an annoying, confusing and poorly-conceived exercise in explosions and technobabble.

      I never wanted a happy ending. I wanted a real ending. The kind of ending you just don’t get with video games since almost all of them are written atrociously and the ending gets shoved to the last minute. Something that built on all that had come before and would fittingly close the story in a satisfying, thoughtful conclusion to the events. But that would have required history to change, so that’s a bust.

  32. Annikai says:

    Rutskarn, I think the game your looking for is Final Fantasy VIII. To give you an idea, this game is kind of a black sheep in the series because the normal strategy that every other game uses in the series (go to dungeon, find yourself inadequate, grind a few levels or make sure you have the newest weapons) is actually detrimental in this game. Many of the bad reviews are about how tough the game gets if you play it that way, granted there are other objections too. The way to beat the game with any sort of semblance of sanity involves mastering a few of its bizarre systems and basically making the world your bitch.

    Not to spoil too much, if you do decide to play it, but at one point I saw that the system that causes overdrives wasn’t based around damage taken. Instead it was based around current hp vs max hp (there are other things but this was the easiest to control). I did stuff to basically make sure my hp was always in the red which allowed me to cycle characters until I got an overdrive. I could tear through bosses like they weren’t even there. There are so many things like this in the game that feel like you are just breaking the game but seem to be the correct way to play. Hell you can even manage to get the strongest weapon in the game before the end of the first disk.

    That all being said the story will probably annoy the hell out of you. It’s the kind of stuff that seems profound as a teenager but the older I get the more it leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I remember when I finally played through the whole thing one summer during college that there was a decent number of cutscenes that I just couldn’t wait to end. Also you’ll probably end up hating the main character if you play it, most of us do. But if it sounds interesting at all it is 11.99 on steam. It might be cheaper on PSN but I don’t know if you have access to that.

    • Syal says:

      The first time I played FF8, I made it to the final boss doing nothing but spamming summons. It turns out the final boss is the only enemy in the game that instantly kills summons. I had to restart.

      But I liked Squall. His personality fits perfectly with being surrounded by the people he’s surrounded by, in the story he’s in.

      • Annikai says:

        That was almost the same for me the first time. I got to around disk 3 and every single fight took 5 to 10 minutes and up. I moved to a different town after that and didn’t touch it again until a semester break during college. I didn’t even realize the final boss could kill GFs though, because the only time I fought her was when I broke the game and basically had Squall set up with insane junctions, a thing to make him overdrive more often (on top of my hp constantly being in the red), and a couple of those items that make a character invincible for a period of time. Yeah he was the only one who survived the fight but that was kind of the point. There was literally nothing the last boss could do to win.

    • ChristopherT says:

      The world of Final Fantasy 8 fills me with joy, I want a journal from a student living there during the events of the game, it’d be amazing. spoilers for FF8 only $10 USD on PSN for your PSP, PS Vita, and Playstation 3 system

      Well, it’s a lovely day at the Garden, as usual, played some cards with some friends, and am preparing for the SeeD exam. I’m such a clutz though, so trying to test my balance so I don’t fall into lava during next weeks test. Okay, so, the guys who own the Garden are now looking for the Headmaster, they don’t look happy, they also unleashed monsters on the students…is this part of the test? HOLY SHIT! Missiles?! Somebody launches missiles at the Garden! Okay, so the school can fly, which is f***** awesome, so field trip? We’re on our field trip, we’re taking to the high seas it’s really lovely, well, really we kind of crashed into the ocean and the school is sort of just floating aimlessly, but classes have been suspended, so there’s that. So we crashed into a town, yup…Yah! The Garden has been all fixed up and we’re flying again, holy crap this is awesome, flying school, flying school.

      In a sense of anime, and videogames the story isn’t really all that unique or out there, but still, there’s something just so innocent and silly about events in the game. And Squall reminds me of me at his age, so, I feel the need to give him a hug.

  33. Dragomok says:

    That comic Rutskarn talks about near the end of the video? Three Panel Soul, “On Video Browsing”.

    • V8 Ninja says:

      As a side note, Three Panel Soul is easily one of the best web comics out there. It’s the perfect compliment to this blog, as it deals with programming, jobs, video games, human interactions, and generally geeky things. The series doesn’t update as often as I would like it to, but I’m glad that it exists and would rather wait for a quality comic than get a flood of sub-par stuff.

  34. RCN says:

    I ask a simple question about hair sliders in characters creators and the Diecast crew merrily go into a tangent about sex in video-games. Someone else explicitly asks about sexy fan service in video-games and the crew goes at it as sheepishly as humanly possible doing complete rounds around the subject while barely touching it. It really must be a Brazilian super power. I should apply to be Benzaie’s (of That Guy With Glasses fame) sidekick.

    Speaking of which, being Brazilian makes me more of an appreciator of what’s in the lower back than what’s in the bust, so 90% of video-game fan-service (coming from the breast-obsessed US) just shoots right past me. And somehow Japan is all about the fake butt on the chest as well, despite being allegedly an ass country (according to surveys…), what with their somewhat admirable insistence of blowing half their development budgets on jiggly physics. You could make a Kerbal Space Program mission around visiting and orbiting the bust of some Japanese fighting game characters. And non-fighting game characters.

    Like Rutskarn, my favorite kind of fan service is the kind that also serves the character and tells something about them, if there’s more to their character than fan service, of course. Personally, I have absolutely no problem at watching fan-service aimed at other people, though. Heck, I laughed all the way through the parody song “Ultimate Orgy of Homosexuality” without even diverting my eyes once, and I’m still pretty sure I’m straight. (PS: It is from Newgrounds and very, very NSFW, if the title wasn’t a hint… so you’ve been warned).

  35. mwchase says:

    Since Shamus mentioned the sequel, I decided to try out OlliOlli on Steam.

    I… I… does anyone know how to stop the tutorial from being some kind of… of… frustration engine, meticulously tuned by a sadist?

    Sample of my inner monologue: “And I’m about to land, so I slam down on A, and… nope, that’s sloppy, presumably because it was too late (not explicitly stated by the game), because the icon appears well before I’m about to land. Why does the game say it like I need to hit this precise window, when really it’s a completely different, non-overlapping window? Anyway, I’d better fire off an advanced trick. Thumbstick down, rotate 90 degrees CCW, and… kickflip. I don’t even feel anything when it does that any more. … ANOTHER SLOPPY?!



    I’m not sure this game is for me.

    I mean, geez. This is what every game must feel like for Strongbad. But I’m playing this with my own two hands and a controller. How are the controls so bad for me?

    EDIT: to check that this isn’t either me or my computer, I just breezed through the first level of 140. Yep, pretty sure OlliOlli has a misguided idea of either precision or accuracy.

    • V8 Ninja says:

      You must be having some weird issues. I just got done playing through the tutorial, and speaking as someone has a Top 50 score in almost all of the, “Spots” (the levels focused on nonstop combo-ing), I can vouch for the accuracy of that tutorial. The game shows the landing prompt right as you need to hit it and performing quarter-circles gives you advanced tricks. Granted, the game acts a bit funny with really fast thumbstick flicks (rotations in the sub-150 milliseconds category), but otherwise the tutorial and the game act as intended.

      • mwchase says:

        Hm. I just can’t not see the time the game tells me to hit A as “about to land”. That’s very definitely “in mid-air”.

        • mwchase says:

          Whoops, wrote that in a hurry. Just posting this to say, yes, I see the double negative now, but I didn’t at the time.


          Meh, that whole experience with timing windows is making me think of Crypt of the NecroDancer, with its calibration step. I ought to try picking that game back up.

          • mwchase says:

            With some attempted humility, I cleared the tutorial and unlocked career level 2. The challenge of mastery isn’t really doing it for me, though. What I did connect with was, well…

            *bring up Google search history*

            “game about falling down stairs”

            Apparently, I was in more of a “Simulator” mood in the first place.

            • mwchase says:

              Crossposting from the forums…

              Dagnabbit. I was leaving in that whole “this is what I perceive” thing as a hedge, and it turns out I need it. The timing windows in the tutorial are unassailable. The problem, then, is that the game does not, the first time it happens, properly convey “You never actually hit A in mid-air”. So, when my “totally on-point” A-hit got a Sloppy, my intuition was “Oh, I still hit it too soon. I should push it out.” Which makes it worse. And it would be easier to practice this, I think, in more of a free-skate setup rather than a tutorial that constantly boots you back to the beginning for no dang reason.

              I still think the tutorial is user-unfriendly, but it’s more subtle about it than I initially thought.

  36. Phantos says:

    I’m in a weird position with Bloodborne. Every time someone praises it, I feel this knee-jerk reaction to point out its’ flaws. But when someone criticizes it, I feel a knee-jerk reaction to stick up for it.

    I have no idea if it’s a good or bad game. It’s both I guess?

    And because it cost me 600 dollars to play it, since I had to buy a PS4 to go with it, that might also be painting my… my uh… interpretation?

    Like, I got the first Dark Souls for free, because it was on Xbox Live’s “Games for Gold” thing where they give a free game bi-monthly. Playstation Plus has something like this too. Would I have liked that game less if I had to pay full price for it? Am I expecting too much from Bloodborne because it cost me ten times what games normally cost?

    I miss when I could review games in a matter of minutes. I used to be good at that. I used to instantly know what I felt about it. Now I feel like I have no authority to say whether a game has worth or not, because now there are so many variables and ways I could be biased. Now I never truly know how I feel about this stuff anymore, or what’s just ingrained or what.

  37. Chris says:

    This podcast really hit the nail on the head regarding fan-service, in that its really only bad when it is unexpected or tacked on. If you know what to expect, even if it doesn’t interest you, it doesn’t impact the game.

    Leisure Suit Larry is the perfect example (and kudos for mentioning it). That game has fan service that is entirely blatant, and the whole point of the game is hooking up with sexy women. (As a straight chick who played through 3 of the games in that series, I can honestly admit I loved playing them.) The humor was always at the forefront. The boobs were part of the story, laughter was the point, and the protagonist always failed in amusing ways.
    Contrasted against the gold-bikini wearing corpse a few episodes back in the Hitman stream. Having 47 find the corpse of a prostitute was jarring, as it seemed like it could *maybe* be fan service, and the result of that realization is a desperate need for brain-bleach.

    Sudden, unappealing fan-service, isn’t there a term for that? If not, can we come up with one? How about Insta-Squick? ..Squick-Bomb?

  38. Octapode says:

    Maybe I just play way too much WoW, but what Chris was saying about having to learn each individual room and then what you learnt is not transferrable to anything else seems to be pretty similar to how WoW raiding works. Beyond certain basic concepts (mostly don’t stand in the fire and how to play your class) every boss fight and even a lot of trash packs are their own thing and will kill you if you don’t do it right. Knowing how to dodge spears on Beastlord Darmac tells you nothing about handling puddles on Oregorger and knowing how to avoid Oregorger’s rolls tells you very little about how to deal with the charge on Twin Ogron, and this is why you go raiding. I don’t know if it’s just a wiring thing that makes some people enjoy spending 4 hours dying to a single boss with all you have to show being you got its health bar to 6% on your best pull instead of 16%, but I know that is exactly what I enjoy doing (and when raiding you have the added wrinkle that you can play perfectly and it can not even matter if someone else screwed up).

    I do wonder if you could get the same level of enjoyment that I find from successful kills (and that I assume other people get from games like Souls or Bloodborne) without hard failure states. It feels like part of the thrill comes from knowing that you have demonstrated you were good enough for the challenge set by the game designers, and without the game going “not good enough, go back and try again” I don’t see how you’d get that.

    On a slight tangent, I wonder if there is a difference in feeling between having to slaughter your way through a dozen room’s worth of trash to get back to boss progress every time versus having to spend 10 minutes DPSing away with about one mechanic per minute to actually pay attention to (Iron Maidens progress, for example) before you reach the point of actually dealing with and learning whatever mechanic is killing you (whether that is the actual boss in Souls or Bloodborne or something like the frenzy phase at 20% on maidens). I would think that if you have spent that time getting to the point of learning the next thing that is killing you in a way that is directly contributing to killing the boss instead of it just being killing the same three guys in a room over and over again, even though they are basically the same thing in terms of working towards completing that area.

    I wonder if there’s a significant difference in people’s source of enjoyment that goes some way to determining if people will prefer something like Souls or raiding vs what Shamus describes from the Arkham games. To me, the sheer rush of joy from beating a challenge the first time is a lot better than the feeling of getting something from good enough to perfect. Maybe it’s just that I haven’t played games like the Arkham series that cater to that sort of enjoyment, but I don’t think that would match the rush of all the time, thought and effort you put into a particularly tough boss finally paying off in a kill.

    I wonder if what this really comes down to is how long you are willing to work at something for no reward. I’m guessing that people like me who enjoy games with largely binary success are willing to grind away because the payoff at the end is worth it, whereas Shamus prefers games that feed you a more consistent stream of success as you carry on through the game and improve and doesn’t want to spend time with a game that is mostly unenjoyable for the sake of a distant payoff.

    • Starker says:

      With Dark Souls you also have to consider that you are getting item drops from the enemies in the path to the boss, including the occasional incredibly useful upgrade material, and if you bother to pick up your bloodstain, you also get to keep all the souls. Not to mention that you are constantly improving your own skill — getting better at stamina management, getting more comfortable with your weapon’s moveset and timing, etc. So it’s not like you’re not making any progress.

      Also, you can play Dark Souls quite defensively — with a good enough shield and high enough endurance, you can completely negate all physical and most of the elemental damage from an enemy, so there is actually an option of turtling down and simply observing the enemy for quite a long time. This doesn’t work only for a few bosses — the Capra Demon in particular almost requires new players to go elsewhere and level up their gear and skills to the point where they can reliably evade and kill the dogs.

      Now, I haven’t played Bloodborne yet, and it does sound like it provides less opportunities for learning, but then again, it’s kind of geared towards people who are already familiar with the Souls series. These games in general require that the players already have a basic game literacy, as can be seen from the tutorials — they completely forgo the common tutorial design (introduce, reinforce, complicate) and simply tell the player what the commands are. That doesn’t mean the developers don’t give the players a hand every once in a while, in ways that most people don’t even realise (with a cleverly placed developer phantom, for example), but mostly these games are learned by observation and practice.

      • Octapode says:

        My point was games like Souls or WoW won’t let you see more of the game until you reach the level of competancy needed to complete a segment, whereas going from what Shamus has said in the Arkham games you can keep going through the game without needing to be very good, and the game recognises your skill in the game by giving you bigger combos and whatnot.

        While I would agree that dying on 6% instead of 16% after putting in 4 hours of work is a result, I can see the alternative perspective that you’ve spent 4 hours and you’re still on the same boss. I think whether or not you enjoy progressing in the absence of external recognition (until you get a kill of course) is a big factor in if you will want to keep playing a game like Dark Souls.

        It’s interesting that in Dark Souls you can experience a boss without needing to properly react to its abilities and not die (and I assume not damage it all), I’d guess that’s partially because the expectation for Dark Souls is that you’ll be learning boss fights on your own, whereas the WoW expectation is you’ll have a strategy, know what’s coming and have on-screen timers for everything you need to care about so you will get killed by most things if you fail to deal with them.

        On that note, are there games that supply the level of information that is given by raiding addons as baseline? It’d be interesting to see a game that is fully designed wtih the idea you know exactly when the next threatening ability is coming, but have to react appropriately.

        • Starker says:

          I wouldn’t say that you’re meant to solo Dark Souls bosses. Solo play requires almost exponentially more skill from players. I think you are fully expected to summon help for them. But it’s not like people who can’t beat the bosses solo are out of options completely. There are NPC summons available for quite a few of the bosses, upgrading your gear gives you a significant boost, magic can take down bosses from a safe distance or at least soften them up considerably, and lastly, you can actually explore a significant part of the world without engaging with most of the bosses.

          So, in a way, Dark Souls bosses are (for the most part) not really showstoppers in the sense of “must be this skilled to ride”, they are more like obstacles with workarounds. The one exception to this is the aforementioned Capra Demon who might as well be called the bane of newbies — while he strictly speaking isn’t a required boss to beat, newbies are unlikely to know that, there are no NPC summons available for him, new players are not very likely to have fully grasped the advantages of upgrading gear at this point, and the boss fight takes place in such a closed environment that you don’t have time to properly observe the situation or the space to use magic from distance.

          To a certain extent this could also apply to Sen’s Fortress, which could be considered to be a boss in its own right.

  39. Zak McKracken says:

    On stealing Patreon backers:
    For me, it works the other way round. When there were just one or two people whom I’d like to back, I didn’t really consider joining Patreon because the transaction fees would have eaten most of the contribution I would have been willing an able to make. Now that the number has come up quite a bit, things look quite different.

    The more people are on Patreon whom I would be willing to fund the better.

  40. Zak McKracken says:

    On shaping your contents to the (assumed) preferences of your audience: Please don’t!

    If you stop producing what you want to produce, it will impair quality. Also: That means following the (assumed!) preferences of the most verbal few but ignoring the many who either contribute little, or maybe haven’t even started contributing.
    I’ve never been in this sort of situation, so I can’t speak too much about the creator’s perspective. But as a consumer of other creator’s output, I quickly get annoyed when somebody’s work starts looking like not their own any more. I don’t mind bands making it big, but for me the “selling out” bit is not when they make loads of money, it’s when they start to bend and twist in order to have more mass appeal instead of doing what they love.

    I think not being influenced by what you think your backers would like you to do is probably hard. I wish I had good advice on how to do this.

    • Phill says:

      Plus I find it hard to imagine that someone who has been reading your work for years (and decided that they’ve got so much out of it that they want to back you financially) is doing so thinking “I really hope this gets him to stop producing the stuff I liked and do something different”.

      I’d imagine that for the most part, Patreon backers are either a) hoping you will produce more of the same kind of content b) thanking you for the content you have already produced and/or c) trusting your judgement in deciding what to do (that what you are interested in doing will also interest them).

      In either case, I think trying to second guess what people are hoping to find on this blog is not going to help any. Stick to doing what interests you personally, because that is what is most likely to be interesting to the sort of people who have stuck around here for years.

  41. Christopher says:

    Thanks for answering my question, I’m happy to have made everyone giggly and uncomfortable. I was kind of expecting this answer and knew what Shamus meant with his disclaimer, but I was a little curious anyway. It’s not something you usually talk about, for the obvious reasons. Appreciate Rutskarn’s example! Totally forgot about it, but that’s a really good subtle one that I liked much more than the sex scenes or tighter uniforms in those games.

    To Rutskarn’s point about whether it’s pandering or something the creators like in the first place, I can think of a couple of examples among the more indie games. Dragon’s Crown comes to mind. There have always been some sexy ladies in Vanillaware games, but in Dragon’s Crown they’re more in the forefront and exaggerated, while the Odin Sphere leads aren’t nearly as crazy. It’s always been there, no matter how small or big the studio was. It’s the same with Skullgirls, where you can go on every artist’s individual blog and find tons of porny stuff going years back because that’s what they’re into, along with the gross Akira-style monster guts. They’re a circle of artists who like that kind of thing, and Skullgirls represents that to a fault. It would probably be better if they didn’t, really. As it stands Skullgirls has this largely serious and bloody story combined with all the trashy fanservice in the world, and I think it’s to their detriment because that’s a pretty small niche. It doesn’t reflect in most of the characters personalities or the story, but it’s what they like and what they draw, so that’s how it is. I’m sure that’s how it is with most indie people who don’t have any editors. Braid would have looked pretty different if Jonathan Blow was really into pantyshots.

    I think the mentality is different between games where there is sex and games where there isn’t any. guy mentioned Fate/Stay-Night, and Type-Moon generally does have reasonably dressed people in their games. Melty Blood, the fighting game based on an earlier visual novel they made, has the most conservatively dressed women in fighting games. When you get to sleep with people, the kind of bikini chainmail fanservice is sort of pointless, and Tali’s mail order list is better because it’s also about her character. There’s something to be said for both the kind of character-building Persona 4/Kinzie Kensington/Tali fanservice and something really artistic and stylized but bananas and fun like Dragon’s Crown or Street Fighter, I feel. But everyone has different tastes. For me, I think it should be bombastic and big if the game is light on the story and subtle and relatable if it’s big on story. It’s also nice to get pandered to if it doesn’t happen that often. I really liked Iron Bull in Inquisition even though I’m not gay, and his fetish helped quite a bit.

    Didn’t expect to discuss this stuff at twentysided tale, but the Hitman disclaimers put me on this train of thought.

  42. Christopher says:

    Once, during a Westend Star Wars campaign, the DM had a boss encounter that was an imperial AT-ST, one of the chicken walkers. He had even given us a missile launcher at an earlier occasion to use in the fight.

    However, we had a ship we came in and the pilot was inside, an NPC, and I asked the DM if the ship was equipped with missile launchers. He said yes.

    So rather then doing the encounter, which was trying to get past the AT-ST into a temple entrance it was guarding, I ordered the NPC in the ship to take off and fire on the AT-ST, killing it in a single round due to how damage works in the west end campaign.

    The DM was not very happy.

  43. JakeyKakey says:

    I feel as though none of the cast really played Dark Souls 1.

    It’s true that DS2, and Bloodborne apparently, really doubled down on the whole boss-run concept as well as slapped in a fair amount of artificial difficulty, but I can’t think of any absolutely obnoxious boss-runs in the original providing you unlocked all of the shortcuts first.

    O&S is like two silver knights and two big guardians you can just run past. Capra is like eight of those thief dudes and four dogs. Quelaag is two spider things and two mosquitoes. Gaping Dragon is three or four rats. Iron Golem is a longish run, but you’re up against three basic hollows. Gargoyles is a bunch of super-weak torch hollows. Nito is arguably pretty bad, but you can run past it by knowing the level and enemy placements. Same with Seath. Priscilla is a straight run with a single tower knight and some hollows. Pin Wheel is a horrible run, but the Catacombs as a whole are quite easy relative to the point in the game at which you do them.

    None of the boss-runs in the original really compare to the excruciating treks that the vast majority of DS2 bosses have.

    • Starker says:

      Actually, I always found it easier to get to the Capra Demon from Firelink via the aqueduct.

      Also, the path to Taurus Demon is actually pretty long and filled with enemies (11 hollows). Granted, it’s not the most difficult boss either, but it is the first proper boss after the Asylum Demon and new players are likely to have trouble getting to it.

  44. Behatted_Wanderer says:

    On the fanservice in games that was actually well done–I kind liked the scene in The Wolf Among Us where you go into the strip club to interrogate Georgie Peorgie. You walk in, and he’s going over the technique and appeal of one of his dancers. It felt interesting, because it was absolutely fanservice (she’s topless and wearing half of a stripper’s outfit), but it also felt like something that could actually happen. He’s giving her grief that her dancing isn’t as great as he’d like, and he’s grilling her as an employer. And it feels like you walked in on an employee review that just happens to be in a strip club. Bigby demands Georgie’s attention, and Georgie sends her away saying they’ll finish it up later. It doesn’t feel exactly titillating, but it’s still in line with the sexualized fanservice.

  45. Eric Jensen says:

    Chris, against the first boss, Cleric beast:

    1) When close to it don’t lock on. Generally for massive beasts this is a pretty helpful tip. You can control your camera better to see it’s windup animations.
    2) This is a general tip, but don’t dodge away / run away against larger enemies when they are attacking, especially when they are closing to you (unless you have alot of distance between you and them). If you dodge away from these larger enemies, you tend to end up right in their attack.
    3) If its head down, try to get a charge attack in. This will stun the boss so that you can follow up with a critical strike.
    4) It is weak to fire.
    5) Hug the knees, focus on one limb at a time. If it is backed into a wall, back off far, then shoot its head or throw fire at it.

    Part of the challenge in these games arises from the fact that combat is paced much differently than in other action games. Even though Bloodborne is faster, it is still much slower and much more cautious than most games on the market.

    Don’t give up. Keep trying. In Dark Souls, Smaugh and Ornstien took me many tries before I finally defeated them. I went into NG+, fearing these guys, but managed to kill them with only one death. Since then, I’ve one shot them each time.

    The fact is, many of the skills are very transferable, and this is true across multiple souls game. These might feel room by room, but part of what you are learning is how to properly navigate a level in a souls game. Yes, you have now memorized enemy locations, but you’ve also probably grown to be much more cautious in approaching new areas. This, more than anything, was what really sucked me into Dark Souls world, and made me care enough to not only finish the game, but log an obscene amount of time into this game for both PvE and PvP.

    Understanding when to lock and not lock (especially in pvp) and gaining that level Bloodborne has been a relative breeze for me, but I also played DeS, DaS, and DaSII with characters that didn’t use a shield and had low vitality.

    As for story telling on DaS, I really feel that people need to play the game before really commenting on how good or bad or even how the story is told. Frankly, the difficulty is critical for the story, and not because it is gothic horror or dark fantasy. It is critical because it lets a player make his own story with rising action and climaxes at different points, do to the difficulty. It’s not the same emergent story telling as in Skyrim, but it is a type of emergent story telling.

    Additionally, there is a huge confusion between the lore of one of these games and the stories. The plot of these games, with the exception of DSII, has always been very simple and straight forward. They’ve always presented a clear since of direction. DeS: Slay the arch demons, lift the fog, but the old one to sleep. DaS: take a pilgrimage to ring two bells, then you are to travel to Anor Londo, recover the lord vessel, fill it with souls, and succeed Gwyn. There is more to it than that, but discovering that mostly comes from an NPC dialogue immediately after a boss. Item descriptions exist to explain the history and subplots of the game, as well as explain what it does and its strengths.

    I certainly agree that this game should not have been released with the load times it has. I love From, and I don’t want to be insulting, but I don’t think their technical team is the most talented in the industry.

  46. Talby says:

    Did Chris ever try summoning for co-op in Bloodborne? That’s your easy mode right there. There are options to make the game easier for you, you just have to use them.

    You should also be unlocking shortcuts before making repeated attempts to take down a boss. Both the Cleric Beast and Father Gascoigne can be reached in about a minute if you have the correct shortcuts unlocked. If you’re taking 15 minutes to get to the boss then you’ve failed to explore the area thoroughly enough. There are VERY few bosses that take more than a couple of minutes to reach from the closest lantern.

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