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Diecast #126: Fallout 4 Hype, Spoopy Houses, Mailbag

By Shamus
on Monday Oct 26, 2015
Filed under:


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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster. Episode edited by Rachel.

Show notes:
1:00 Fallout 4 is coming out! Are you hyped?!?!

I said this a few days ago:

The only thing worse than a game that annoys you is a game that annoys you and that everyone else is gushing about.

21:20: Spoopy houses

Chris talks about going to spooky houses.

31:00: Mailbag: Nintendrives!

Dear Diecast,
Nintendo recently filed a patent for a game console without a disk drive. While that certainly isn’t the same as officially announcing such a console it still seems like big news. Thoughts?

Here’s the link if you are more capable than I in reading hardware specs of a patent.

Best regards,


39:15 Mailbag: Fun ammo!

Dear Diecast,

Limited ammunition is one of the most common mechanics in video games, but it’s never seemed that interesting to me. It’s only ever used to gate off certain weapons from use by not providing ammo for them, or to provide tension when the player has very little ammo left, but if you ever run out of all your ammo, then you just can’t play anymore. Ammo seems to be at most just a hindrance to having fun.

My question is, are there any games that make ammo fun, if not, is there a way to make ammo a fun mechanic, or should ammo go the way of health in modern shooters, and just regenerate over time?

Comments (99)

  1. ~10 minute mark: “You’re just going to have the Nathan Drake voice or whoever”

    Yes. Even if you’re playing a female character. Especially if you’re playing a female character. And you just walk up to a romance option (do they do romance options in Bethesda games? I know Skyrim had – that marriage thing?) and they’re like “Hey there sweet lookin”, and Nathan Drake’s voice just giggles girlishly.

    Edit: That reminds me – I was watching this the other day. It’s supposed to be a ‘no fantasy’ medieval RPG. At around the 7 minute mark and then the ten minute mark there’s some voice acting. That’s all I’m going to say.

  2. squiddlefits says:

    So will the cast synchronize their playthroughs so that they each go in a different direction (in geographic direction or character design or faction choice)?

  3. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    The new nintendo console looks like it will use memory cards for games, although the external HDD looks strange to me and the controller looks like it will be like the Wii-U controller with the “display unit” on it.

    • Xedo says:

      Yeah, I’ve seen speculation that the lack of an optical drive doesn’t mean its an online-only console (which Microsoft couldn’t get away with just two years ago) but is actually card-based. I’ve actually seen people arguing about the merits of cartridges/SD cards vs. optical media in 2015 thanks to this, which is an argument so old it feels nostalgic to me. I guess you could get a 32gb sd card or similar and put a game on it, and have nearly as much storage as a blue-ray’s 50gb, but I have no idea how it would perform. And then you get into how much it costs to manufacture wholesale cards vs wholesale optical media, which I’m completely ignorant about.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        32GB SD cards in quantity cost about $2 each. That’s more than a mastered BluRay, probably, but since there’s PROBABLY plenty of room for your game-save data on that card as well. (Wouldn’t that cut down on the used market as well? Because you couldn’t just buy a used one later if you wanted to start playing again; you’d have to keep YOUR particular game.)

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        I was thinking in the back of my head that it might be just a straight return to cartridges but with little hard drives inside, but I’m cool with it being SD cards too. Either way, it’s finally the next solid media state that I’ve been waiting 15 years for, ever since cassette tapes were replaced.


        • Mike S. says:

          I tend to be trailing edge on media. I put a floppy drive into a computer I built in the middle-aughts, for example.

          But if you were using cassettes in 2000, I doff my hat to the master. :-)

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      I really hope they keep that gamepad form factor. It feels good in my hands and its nice having a screen on it.

  4. Piflik says:

    Dogmeat in F4 is optional. Companions are not killable while they are followin, can’t say f they are killable only before accepting them as a companion, or at all times when they are not currently following you, though

  5. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I wonder if there are any actual spoopy houses out there.You know,ones that are spoopy on purpose,and not failed spooky ones.

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Damn it,why did you do a mailbag episode when there are so many actually interesting news going on?You didnt even talk about Kojimas totally-has-not-left-konami vacation

  7. JakeyKakey says:

    STALKER does ammo very well, mostly because you always get the impression you’re on the verge running out, but *almost never actually do* which creates tension without actually interrupting gameplay flow.

    In fact, STALKER generally succeeds where DayZ and other derivatives fail, precisely because of its faux-survival aspects. Your hunger mechanics involve eating a single bread or sausage every two real-time hours, in a game where food is cheap, weighs almost nothing and pretty much every human enemy carries some anyway. It’s functionally impossible to starve, but the mechanics lend themselves to immersion by helping you pretend that you can. DayZ would just have you running around the countryside for an hour looking for a can of beans before you starve to death which is just tedious crap by comparison.

    Half-Life 2 did it well, but went for a different approach. Ammo is generally plentiful (RPG aside for obvious reasons), but you can’t carry a lot of it on you. Luckily all the weapons are just about equally good, so what ammo limitations really does is adds some variety to the gameplay as opposed to having you spend twelve hours running around with the single gun you like best which ended up being a pretty big problem for Bioshock Infinite.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      Yeah I think the ammo thing also depends on the player. I am completely one of the players who loves the item management of ammo, as well as the tension of being low on it. I live for the moments where I am super low on ammo and need to get out of a situation. It turns a shooter into a puzzle game, trying to decide how to use the ammo I do have to best effect so I can reach more, often under pressure, and adds even more depth to shooter based RPG’s.

      • Trix2000 says:

        I have somewhat similar preferences, though I tend to like games that let me bullet-hose to an extent if I want. Or at least have plentiful-enough ammo drops such that I don’t feel bad about bullet-hosing from time to time.

        Say what you want about thermal clips in ME2/3 (especially considering the first game had NO ammo), but the drops were common enough so that I didn’t feel the need to conserve too much (which for me is a problem – I’m the guy who keeps every single mega-elixir to the end of the game) while still having to keep the resource in mind. Swapping weapons to manage ammo counts became a bit of a game in itself, in a way.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          Mass Effect 2 was the game I was thinking of when I said turning shooters into puzzles. There were many times when I found myself mentally mapping the enemies in the room and quickly trying plan out what weapons to use on who so I didn’t end up with nothing but a shotgun and enemies across the map.

          In all fairness, I might like this kind of management too much. I often had a self-imposed rule in ME2 that I would only pick up ammo from stockpiles and actively avoid ammo dropped by enemies. This is way more effort than most people would put in, but I absolutely love the feeling of saying “OK. I’ve got a room full of baddies at varying distances and degrees of cover, and I’m down to one sniper round three shotgun shells, half a mag of assault rifle ammo, and one pistol clip. Let’s make this work.”

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        The thing about Half Life 2 though, is that it never actually gave the player points where they might run out of ammo. It’s only really possible in the beginning in city 17 or during Ravenholm if you don’t stick with the gravity gun. For the rest of the game, you’ll either be carrying around or constantly running into infinite boxes of SMG ammo, so you’ll always have an “alright but not super great” weapon, and ammo only gates off your really powerful weapons, like the email said. And then you have the gravity gun, antlions, and car-mounted electrocannon that have infinite ammo, and large amounts of the game actually expect you to use them rather than any other weapons anyways.

        It’s really obnoxious with the rocket launcher, because you always will need exactly one more rocket than you can ever carry around to deal with striders or gunships, so it’s irrelevant if you ever can conserve your extra rocket ammo, the game will refuse to acknowledge your management skills, and you have to find the designated rocket stash to deal with bosses.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Actually that is only true for lower difficulties.On the highest difficulty,if you arent meticulous and precise,you can quickly run out of ammo.But its great for teaching you how to properly utilize all of the weapons in your arsenal,instead of relying on just the smg to carry you to the end.

  8. LadyTL says:

    Fallout 4 worries me a bit with the feel that playing as a woman was just tacked on last minute and will be bland and empty. They have shown nothing about it, not even character creation things. Even in the E3 thing they just had her step to the mirror and then immediately stepped her back. I miss the not voiced stuff already where I don’t have to worry about this junk.

    • Da Mage says:

      I mean, Skyrim was the same…..and Fallout 3. Bethesda never advertise using the female player character. I wouldn’t worry, I’m sure both genders are just as bland.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Has it been like that in previous Fallouts? I’ve not tried it. I guess we’d need someone who has played both genders to know.

      Fallout New Vegas has at least one darkly comedic possibility you can have as a woman that a man can’t do with Benny. I can’t believe Benny goes along with it.

      EDIT: Actually, the female voice actress is Courtenay Taylor who played Jack in Mass Effect, Juhani in KOTOR and Gloria Van Graff among others in New Vegas. So there’s a spark of hope for you. She’s definitely voiced a variety of not bland characters.

      • Nidokoenig says:

        In Fallout 2, there’s a dialogue bit where a character asks if you have kids. If you’re a man, you can say “Not that I know of”. If you’re a woman, it tacks on “I think I’d remember”. So there’s no huge differences, and they certainly don’t go out of their way to give a fundamentally different experience overall.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Which in that context is needlessly snarky. It would make more sense if they’d said “Are you sure you’ve never had kids?”

          That said, its theoretically possible. There has been at least one story of a woman not knowing she was pregnant till she went into labor. She could be abducted and have the child extracted.

    • Bropocalypse says:

      They hired a female voice actor at the same time as they did the male lead and under the same circumstances, so this fear feels unfounded to me. Not that the choice won’t be any less bland and empty than choosing the male character.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Yeah, and as I just mentioned, its Courtenay Taylor so they took the casting seriously.

        The supposed leaks were debunked quite effectively by Kotaku who found contradictions in them and also found that pretty much anything those fake leaks got right could be found in prior news articles. So there’s really nothing to the rumors that Bethesda was ever planning on not having a female option. Given that all their games for the last decade have the option to be female, combined with the other evidence, its kind of ridiculous that anybody still thinks they were ever planning to go male only for this game.

        Still, made for a clever reveal at E3 when the wife stepped in front of the mirror. I hope they’re sticking with that for character creation.

        The struggle for who gets time in front of the bathroom mirror has never had higher stakes.

    • Vect says:

      I’m pretty sure games like Skyrim and Mass Effect all tended to use the Generic Male in their advertising, so I never took the whole “Fallout 4 is Male-exclusive” thing seriously. Of course, I also thought that idea was too preposterous to be true.

    • Andy says:

      I’m pretty sure that point in the E3 demo was structured as a troll. In preceding weeks there’d been a number of BS speculative stories about how “it’s fully voiced so that means you won’t be able to play as female!” So the presentation was all “lookit all the manly BEARD options, man, guydude” to set the speculators on edge, and then “heh, of COURSE you can roll female (you idiots)”

      So to me it felt like a clever poke at the BS speculation rather than just being tacked on – but that could be giving them way too much credit.

    • Mheller says:

      I wouldn’t worry. Bethesda’s Elder Scrolls and Fallout games have always let you play as a man or a woman and in-story supported both options equally well (or poorly, depending on your opinion of Bethesda’s writing chops.) This goes back literally decades. The idea that they’d just laughingly toss that overboard isn’t worth serious consideration.

  9. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’ve really grown to appreciate that low thumping noise at the beginning of the podcast.

  10. Wide And Nerdy says:

    They hit the nail on the head. If you’re going to let me create my character, choosing gender and even species, then its annoying when dialog choices don’t match up. Its my character and you’re hijacking it, is what it feels like.

    They do the same thing in both Witcher 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition where you pick a line and your protagonist will end up saying something different and expounding in directions you hadn’t meant for it to go. But I only found it annoying in DAI. And its because Geralts his own guy.

    That said, I do feel like Witcher 3 was the better of the two in terms of, when I made a choice I was typically comfortable with what Geralt did even if it was a little different than I thought. Maybe its because, since I knew the character, I knew the boundaries for how he might diverge from my choice. Whereas in Bioware, they could be all over the place for how they interpreted your choice because of the lack of definition.

    • JakeyKakey says:

      I think what really sells it for Witcher is that, one quest aside (Reasons of State…and Dijkstra shoving while we’re at it), there isn’t really a good response/bad response pattern to anything you say and none of the choices ever seem particularly out of character with regards to other choices unlike, say, Paragon Shepard pulling a renegade move.

      • Trix2000 says:

        Probably helps they didn’t have to categorize things by some semi-arbitrary morality meter.

        I mean… I don’t really have anything against that sort of thing, but looking back the system seems rather simplistic in comparison to things like the Witcher games (primarily 3, in some small part 1 and 2 as well). Come to think of it, I think the Deux Ex games worked along similar lines and the original is an old game!

        Classic cases of good/evil are great an all and can really charge up emotions, but I feel like for any sort of “your choices have consequences” game they’re way too restrictive.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          If you have a morality meter in your game,and it isnt tied to your universe(for example there are actual good and evil deities,or the force in star wars),you have made a bad system,period.

          Reputations,on the other hand,are a great cumulative meter,if you really want one.

      • Artur_CalDazar says:

        That’s likely helped by the fact that the majority of what you say is both optional and irreverent. By and large what you say changes nothing but the next line of dialogue.
        There are a couple huge exceptions however, the ending of the game is decided by conversations like that.

    • Vect says:

      I’m reminded of an interview for “South Park: The Stick of Truth” where Matt and Trey mentioned that the reason the protagonist in the game is silent is because they hated how Commander Shepard’s dialog options were ones they didn’t want to say and dislike games putting unwanted words into their character’s mouths. At least in The Stick of Truth, Douchebag’s silence is acknowledged in-universe (everyone just thinks you’re an asshole because you won’t respond to even the most basic of greetings while some think you’re just trying to act tough).

  11. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I wonder if thats the problem with NPC voice actors. You have the Oscar winning actor Liam Neeson voicing a character in your game. Then he gets to the part in the script where he tells his child that he’s very disappointed in them for nuking Megaton and it undercuts any motivation to take his role seriously.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nah,its because of a shoddy story and crappy/no direction.

    • Mike S. says:

      I get the feeling that’s less of an issues for actors like Neeson (or Patrick Stewart) that come out of the British acting scene. My impression is that they tend to treat acting as a skilled craft. (By analogy: consider a plumber: if the faucets work and the pipes don’t leak, they’ve done their job. If the building’s an architectural eyesore, that’s neither their fault nor their problem.)

      Look at what, e.g., Michael Caine or Olivier were willing to appear in as long as the check cleared, and be utterly professional doing so. Sir Alec Guinness pretty clearly thought Star Wars was dumb fluff, but you can’t tell it by his delivery.

      I’ve always respected that sort of actor’s commitment to doing the job well, rather than letting a sense of being above it all leak into their performance.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        I can definitely appreciate that. But I can also appreciate when Jeremy Irons decides to gives us Profion. And either one is better than what we get in many games. You know what Bethesda really needs is the people who did the facial animations in Witcher 3. Best I’ve seen outside of motion capture games like LA Noir.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But acting is different than voice acting.Not only because the actor gets to use their whole body instead of just the voice,but also because they get the whole context just by glancing at the scene,so rigid direction is not always necessary.I mean,put Neeson in front of a young person who tells them that theyve just detonated a nuke in some city,and see how different he would act that scene.

        Also,I doubt big names are asked to read a line for a game more than a couple of times.And there is also the fact that their voice files need to be well placed next to each other(video games still often have the awkward pause at the end of a line before going into their next line,especially when its more than one person doing the talking),which is completely out of the hands of the actor.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Bioware’s failure to write around those pauses hurts their comedy so often. You learn to listen for those mechanical pauses and the scene starts to feel mechanical. The higher the fidelity of everything else gets, the more this problem stands out.

      • SlothfulCobra says:

        You can tell if you pay attention, but it somehow still works. That’s the magic of Star Wars.

  12. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I’ll tell you whats scary for me. You’re in the middle of the ocean where its miles deep below you (or however deep it gets, I have no idea). And you get the sense that there’s something huge down there beyond your ability to see, like you can’t make it out but you can see something staggeringly huge moving down there. Something that dwarfs a blue whale and has an alien look to it.

    But its hard to charge admission for that and craft an experience around it.

    • SyrusRayne says:

      As a Newfoundlander, my sea-based terror shames my ancestors. I have difficulty going into the water in vidgemgames. Even ones where I know there’s nothing there, like Half-Life 2 or Fallout 3! And god help me if there’s something half-submerged in the muck, like a statue’s head or something. Ugh.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Um,there is something in the water in half life 2.You just have to wade deep to reach it.

      • Mike S. says:

        Deep sea fishing is hellishly dangerous even with modern tech (annual death rate of 81 per 100,000 in the US, compared with 12/100,000 for construction, 11/100,000 for police, 0.6/100,000 for office work). One suspects that in places like Newfoundland there’s strong reproductive selection pressure in favor of the folks who manage to stay on land despite the historic economic push to do otherwise. So your fear of the sea is a natural and expected product of your evolution. :-)

  13. Nimas says:

    Damn, no stinger at the end of the music this week :(

    Honestly, that tends to be my favourite part ><

  14. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I did 3DS to New 3DS wireless transfer. It takes a little longer but its smooth and pretty painless. Now I’ll still give them flack for not including AC adapters with the New 3DS.

    Regarding ammo, I liked Witcher 3’s approach. A lot of games have gotten away from limited ammo. In Witcher 3, you have unlimited regular crossbow bolts but you can buy limited quantities of special ammo. Of course, you’re not doing a ton of shooting in that game so I don’t know how well that translates.

    Other than that, I thought the point of limited ammo was to get you to use all your weapons and to be a little careful with your shots.

    • Maryam says:

      Yeah, I’m not sure what they were talking about with the 3DS to N3DS transfer. You can use a PC, but you don’t have to (unless say you want to trade in your old system before buying the new one). Mine did a wireless transfer pretty painlessly as well, although it did take SEVEN hours. This is undoubtedly because I have a lot of stuff on my SD card though.

      I was pretty confused when he was talking about needing a cable to link the two systems. I don’t think such a thing exists for 3DS. I don’t think it even existed for the DS.

  15. Robyrt says:

    Destiny has a good approach to ammo limitations that adds some tension to the game at high levels, while not troubling new players. Here’s how it works:

    Enemies drop ammo packs semi-randomly, and your primary gun never really runs out during normal game play. Ammo drops more for less powerful guns, more for weapons you haven’t been using lately, and more for killing stronger enemies, so basically just play the game as normal and you won’t have to worry about it.

    In higher-level content like raids, you’ll quickly run out of ammo for your better guns. You can purchase an ammo refill consumable from the shop and use it during game play, but there is a 5-minute cooldown, the game doesn’t pause while you’re hunting through your inventory screen for the right consumable, and ammo packs are expensive enough that you can’t afford to use them every 5 minutes forever. This means that when your sniper runs dry, you need to tell your teammates to cover your target, find the right time to hide, and race through the menu as quickly as possible.

    This neatly avoids the Half-Life 2 problem where you have 100 rounds for the guns you don’t like and 0 for the ones you do, and the Skyrim problem where your health is limited only by how much roast chicken you can carry.

  16. Syal says:

    I think Nuclear Throne benefits from ammo constraints. The game basically runs on tension.

  17. Jimmy McAwesome says:

    Talking about Bethesda’s story in games, I’ve had numerous arguments with classmates who honestly believe that the Fallout 3 story and dialogue was much better than in NV. I think this is largely agreed on by your average gamer who doesn’t think about what they’re playing. The same goes with Mass Effect, I have many friends who thinks the story in 2 is the best story in games ever. These dialogue wheels are what most people want because it means they don’t have to think about their character.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      No need to be so dismissive; different people have different priorities that determine what make game stories work for them. I myself used to firmly be in the ‘Mass Effect 2 has the best story ever’ camp, and that was because certain aspects of the characterization had grabbed me so thoroughly that I was willing to fill in the numerous holes in the plot (and the rest of the characterization) myself. It was only after a particularly ho-hum play-through, not coincidentally running at the same time as the Spoiler Warning season, that I realized that a lot of the epic storytelling and character interactions I was feeling was me head-cannoning around and over the bare-bones that was already there.

      I think it’s the same for a lot of people. They imagine Shepard’s existential angst over being dead and resurrected, even if none of it manifests in the game itself. They imagine Garrus and Grunt chatting it up over shooting stuff and Thane and Samara bonding over their shared grief, even if none of those characters ever interact onscreen. They like the ideas the story is putting out, so they’re perfectly willing to paper over any inconsistencies themselves.

      If there’s some aspect of a story that you really like, you’re more likely to excuse many deficiencies it has in other areas, even really big ones. For some people, the search for a father who left the vault is straight up more compelling than a revenge story seguing into a political muddle over a dam. The relative competency of either story’s execution doesn’t really factor in to it.

      • Trix2000 says:

        Tone, I think, has a lot to do with all of that as well. And I think if nothing else, the ME games were pretty good at setting tone (though there may have been a tone shift or two between games).

        • Darren says:

          Shamus’ criticism of Fallout 3’s “Find Dad” setup has always struck me as strange, crossing over from “reasoned, logical criticism” to “cold, inhuman thought process.” For most people, tracking down a previously devoted parent and unraveling their mysterious past is more than enough motivation for an adventure. Everything else that happens, I mean, whatever, but Fallout 3 always had an excellent hook for a narrative.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Not really when said parent is a douche that up and left you in the care of someone he knew was insane and vengeful.And you only find out more and more examples of him being not only a bad parent,but a bad scientist as well.

            • Trix2000 says:

              That’s more of a problem in execution, I think. Like, I don’t think it would be a stretch to say finding your dad could be a good plot hook… IF it was done right (which it really wasn’t in FO3). Mostly that would require getting the player to like and care for him, which could be difficult but certainly not impossible (though for some videogame writers I have to wonder).

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Sure,but if done right even “You dropped your candy bar” can be turned into a great motivation to start you on a quest to travel the whole world.What I am saying is that its not enough to just have “Your father beckons”* in order to have a good narrative hook,you still have to execute it properly.

                *Or “Earth is being invaded”

          • Blovsk says:

            Fallout 1 hook – if you don’t find the water purifier chip everyone you have ever known will die.

            Fallout 3 hook – find your dad, he’s a scientist. And stuff with water because that was in the first one and a GECK because that was in the second one and we haven’t really thought about how this works and oh god…

            Fallout 1’s hook is direct, absolutely unarguable and is fantastic worldbuilding. Fallout 3’s hook/story is an odd mix of insulting fanservice based off a complete misunderstanding of the first two game and cheap, generic emotional hooks that really have nothing to do with the world of Fallout.

            I’ve no idea how people who’ve never played Fallout feel about Fallout 3’s story but it spends too much time grabbing things from the old games for me to judge it as if it was a new IP in which that sort of generic hook that’s not related to the world would be OK. And then New Vegas came out and it *got* Fallout.

        • Gruhunchously says:

          I’m hugely in love with the tone of Mass Effect. I still listen to the soundtrack and get tingly feelings. I just wish they could take that tone and transplant it into a more coherent series.

      • INH5 says:

        One could argue that pretty much all stories work like this. You’re never going to remember every minute of a movie unless you watch it again a bunch of times. It’s the same for most books, plays, and in fact pretty much everything except very short stories. So everyone’s experience, or at least their first time experience, is naturally going to be a little distorted and shaped by their own preconceptions.

        This is especially true for games, where even games derided as “too short” are typically at least 5-6 hours long, and the gameplay space means that every player’s experience is going to be a little different. With Fallout 3, depending on how much time you spend wandering the wasteland, it could be hours between main story plot points, so I imagine that for a lot of people all they could remember about the game’s plot was, “Liam Neeson dad…something something…water purifier..something something…enclave.”

        I never finished Fallout 3, so I can’t say that about myself. But I can say that when I played Mass Effect 2 for the first time, the fact that Wilson’s betrayal is never explained didn’t bother me because I assumed that it was setting up for some kind of reveal later. Then by the time I had gotten to the end of the game I had forgotten all about it.

        • Mike S. says:

          But I can say that when I played Mass Effect 2 for the first time, the fact that Wilson's betrayal is never explained didn't bother me because I assumed that it was setting up for some kind of reveal later. Then by the time I had gotten to the end of the game I had forgotten all about it.

          Compare the famous story about “The Big Sleep”, an unquestioned noir classic that had no less than Raymond Chandler writing the book, William Faulkner and SF luminary Leigh Brackett collaborating on the script (sort of– Brackett said Faulkner ripped the book in two, handed her half, and that was the last they communicated), Howard Hawks directing, Bogart and Bacall as the leads. So we’re not looking at a shortage of talent or craft.

          Early in the movie, a chauffeur is found dead. When trying to unravel the plot for adaptation, it became clear that no one could figure out who might have killed him and why. So they decided to go to the horse’s mouth.

          Chandler later wrote a friend, “[Hawks] and Bogart got into an argument as to whether one of the characters was murdered or committed suicide. They sent me a wire (there's a joke about this too) asking me, and dammit I didn't know either. Of course I got hooted at.”

          Is it a flaw in the story? No doubt. Does that stop it from being compelling to watch decades later, not so much.

          Wilson’s betrayal is basically a plot device to get the action started. Not unlike the incriminating exchange Tali found on a random geth in ME1, which replaces the poorly explained with the astronomically unlikely. It would be nice if it was better explained (and if the explanation, when we finally get it, mattered more), but I don’t really think that’s what makes or breaks ME2 as a story.

      • Nimas says:

        Honestly one of the best articles I’ve read on this is Film Critic Hulk’s article on Man of Steel.

        Basically its looking at how some people fill in things if you just give them the outside parts of the story.

    • p_Johhnston says:

      I’ll actually put in that I never really had a problem with the story in fallout 3. I found it as a fun diversion to take me from one place to another. The only point that made me stop and question it was autumn’s odd revival (which I chalked up to me missing something in some skipped dialog.) That probably has to do with the fact that in games like that I care much less about the story then playing in and exploring the world.

      Mass Effect two though was a bit odd. I played through the game enjoying the entire thing, was on board with the story having a great time, until the final choice to blow up the collector base. The choices given were so monumentally stupid that I was blown away and it just ruined the story for me. After that I watched the spoiler warning season and now I can’t take the game seriously.

  18. Darren says:

    I still think Bulletstorm had a great approach to ammo. Ammo is limited. Ammo for your basic gun drops relatively frequently, but other types of ammo is scarce. Ammo can be purchased at frequent resupply nodes by using points, which can also be used to upgrade weapons. The nodes are also the only points where you can change weapon loadouts. Points can only be obtained by killing enemies. Killing enemies in a basic way, like shooting them a few times in the torso, only nets a few points. Killing enemies in creative ways, and in larger numbers, generates significantly more points.

    The end result is that the game has a great feedback loop that encourages you to use whatever guns you like best, but also to experiment to discover new, more lucrative ways of earning points.

    The failure of Bulletstorm is a detriment to games as a whole, because once you got into the rhythm of the game it was an absolute blast.

  19. Grimwear says:

    In regards to Metro:Last Light, I’m not sure about the original version but in the Redux if you look at your notepad in Ranger Mode while holding it up it shows your ammo count.

  20. SlothfulCobra says:

    Wow, I had mostly forgotten that I sent in that question. Nice to see you guys finally address it.

    I really like the idea of having to actively manage resources, but very few games actually have the guts to force you to keep track of that sort of thing. Even after Last of Us bragged that it would do that in its trailers, they wound up trying to pull the same magic trick every game plays where it tries to make you feel like you’re running out of bullets but never hitting the bottom of your supply. It’s like whenever there’s a setting where bullets are a solution to a problem, they’re the only solution.

    Ammo just seems more and more like one of those mostly pointless legacy mechanics that only ever gets in the way. It’s pretty telling how you mostly bypassed ammo to talk about reloading, which has more of a potential to be interesting.

  21. ehlijen says:

    I actually enjoyed the ME2 gunplay more than the ME1 stuff. Not because of the ammo, really, but because for some reason the designers finally decided made the different guns in each class feel different.

    ME1 had no burst fire assault rifle, no semi-rapid fire sniper rifle. It could have had, but it didn’t. You pretty much only got the choice between weapon A and weapon A +1.

    ME3 I think went a bit too far, some of the guns just clearly didn’t differ much.

    I rather like ammo based game play, as long as an inexhaustible viable backup is available.

    In XCOM, you have limited grenades and rockets, but you can always reload your main gun with magic Elsewhere bullets.
    In MechCommander missiles could fire over terrain and autocannon delivered faster DPS, but infinite ammo energy weapons were available to fall back on.
    In Xwing/TIE fighter, you had limited missiles and torpedoes, but your main guns could recharge, if you diverted speed or shield energy to them.
    In Panzer General, ammo and fuel added the option of running an enemy dry with tough units and then savaging them with a powerful but soft units. And you had to watch out to not see that get done to you. (Of course you could reload by taking a unit out of the fight for a turn or two.)

    All of these examples also offered complete restocks between missions.

    As long as running out makes the game harder, not impossible, I like the tactical challenges that limited ammo provides.

    • Dragmire says:

      Rapid fire sniper rifles in ME1 were attained by adding 2 top level frictionless materials mods to the weapon.

      Man, I always loved breaking that game’s weapon system to become extremely overpowered by the end of the time I finish the first planet after leaving the Citadel.

      • Dragmire says:

        Damn, missed the window of opportunity to edit. I should really proofread my posts better.

        “Man, I always loved breaking that game's weapon system to become extremely overpowered by the time I finished the first planet after leaving the Citadel.”

        There, fixed… sort of.

  22. Bitterpark says:

    I will absolutely never agree with the idea that Fallout 3 had better gameplay than New Vegas. It had the same systems, only more basic, less evolved, less functional and with less interesting choices . Hmm, should I pick the perk that gives me +10 to Small guns and Big guns, the perk that gives me +10 to melee and explosives, or the perk that gives me +10 to science and repair? What builds, what possibilities!
    Nor do I agree with the implication that the game designers actually doing their jobs and not letting you break their goddamn game and become unstoppable by level 5 (that’s, what, 3 hours in?) is somehow a bad thing. The game they *actually* make you play is pretty clunky, sure, but I’ll still take playing it and making interesting gameplay choices over Fallout 3’s infinite money and stimpacks snore-fest, where the only challenge is hitting the stimpack hotkey quickly enough. But I guess that’s a matter of taste.
    Now, the only thing FO3 has over New Vegas gameplay-wise, and it’s a pretty major thing, is the level design and overworld. Bethesda has been doing this for decades, they make the best sandbox environments in the business, and great interiors too. Whereas Obsidian was never great at level design to begin with, and having to make a Bethesda-style sandbox environment only highlighted that more. I’d argue that the overworlds of the two respective games served different purposes (Ubisoft-style go-wherever-you-want sandbox for 3, and classic Fallout/CRPG style go-from-questhub-to-questhub nodegraph for NV), but even with that in mind, New Vegas makes a few big missteps.

    • IFS says:

      Man I wish there was an upvote button, I cannot agree with this comment enough. New Vegas not only made it so the gameplay didn’t break right out of the gate, but also made it so that if you wanted to play without using VATS it was a satisfying option. Gunfights in FO3 outside of VATS consisted of walking forwards or backwards because if you walked to the side at all aiming became really awkward, clunky and hard to do. NV at least the gunplay was good enough that I could play the whole game without using VATS and still have fun in the combat.

      I guess which sandbox you like better is a personal opinion, but FO3’s sandbox has so few quests in it especially in comparison to NV that it just feels empty to me. Atmospheric sure, especially in the tunnels, but its not an atmosphere that really holds up for the entire game.

      • Bitterpark says:

        The objective issue with New Vegas’ sandbox is that it doesn’t open up for a while. Before you get to Novac, there’s a very linear path of Goodsprings->Primm->Mojave Outpost->Nipton->Long walk to Novac. So you kind of end up doing the same quests and “dungeons” for the first 2-5 hours of every playthrough.

        There are a few ways to shorten or circumvent that (quickload battle with the cazadores north of Goodsprings, spamming stealthboys through the Quarry Junction pass, cutting through scorpion gulch), but they’re not immediately obvious and tough at early levels, it almost feels like sequence-breaking, in a way. So the start of every new playthrough is a bit of a slog, as you rush to get out of the newbie pen and start doing the sandbox and carving your own path. And that’s in stark contrast with Fallout 3, where you could go virtually anywhere as soon as you left the vault.

        I suspect that’s actually the main reason people prefer 3 over New Vegas, and claim 3 has “better gameplay”. 3 supports just going off in any direction you want and finding your own adventure infinitely better. Now, being able to go anywhere doesn’t hold much appeal to me personally, if there’s no good reason to do so and every dungeon is pretty much interchangeable with every other dungeon.

        BUT, there is something oddly attractive about the idea of carving your own path, and picking your own set of dungeons to explore, similar though they may be. It’s the thing Rutskarn mentioned in his Daggerfall retrospective (or was it Arena?): the vast number of drab and identical locations gives you a sense of scale and trailblazing, so when you go to dungeon #347, it seems possible that you’re the first player to set foot in that particular dungeon, because that’s the dungeon YOU chose. And, every playthrough you do will have you going through a different subset of 500 locations, so it feels more fresh, almost like a procedural content game.

        I think Fallout 3 fans appreciate that more than worldbuilding, story, cool characters and other strengths NV has over it, because they want a freeform dungeoncrawling Bethesda game. And Fallout 3 is a better Bethesda game, whereas New Vegas is a better CRPG, a game about going to quest hubs, doing quests and talking to people.

        Incidentally, I will never understand the reviewers who claim New Vegas is the same game as Fallout 3, despite this extreme, fundamental scheme in goals and design. You’d think the people who do this stuff for a living would pick up on something like that, but they see the same engine and visual assets and jump to conclusions.

  23. Retsam says:

    Aww man, I forgot how much fun the shooting/reloading of Receiver is… I just wish it came with a better game.

    I’d love to have some goal more achievable than “wander around a massive, not too interesting, randomly generated map and try to find 11 thingamabobs in one life”.

    Or some sort of time pressure or more interesting enemy that would make reloading on the fly more useful.

    Or, heck, PvP. I’d just love the see the concept expanded. It currently feels more like a concept demo (a fun one, though) than a full fledged game.

    • IFS says:

      I too would love to see the concept expanded on. PVP in particular I think has potential to create tense/hilarious moments of two people screwing up reloading in front of each other, resorting to accidentally throwing magazines at each other before a third player who just spawned in shoots one of them, drops his gun on accident, and the cycle begins anew.

  24. Bitterpark says:

    On the subject of ammo mechanics, I can immediately think of 2 games that used them well: Duck Game and Planetside 2.

    One of the core gameplay elements of Duck Game is managing guns with weird quirks to them, and every gun has a limited number of shots, you can’t reload and you can’t tell how many you have left, so you have to either know if by heart or guess, which creates really fun, tense gameplay situations: players fire at eachother but both guns just go *click*; players are racing to sift through a pile of 4 shotguns on the ground, only one of which has a shot left; you count out the shots of the other guy’s sniper rifle, and then surprise him when you know he’s out of ammo and he doesn’t, and so on.

    Planetside 2 has ammo mechanics designed to facilitate teamplay: your team can wipe out the defenders, capture the point, dig in and start holding, but no matter how good your hold is, if you don’t have engineers to drop ammo packs, your team will run out and end up facing assault rifles and machine guns with pistols. It also limits the range and staying power of tanks, aircraft, snipers and missile troopers.
    It creates an interesting dynamic of loadout popularity relative to skill: new and unskilled players die before they can run out of ammo, so they mostly ignore ammo reserve size when picking their weapons, and get upgrades for health and shield. Veterans, on the other hand, run out of ammo all the time, so they are often fine with foregoing health upgrades in favor of ammo reserve extenders, even though they don’t give them an advantage in any individual fight.

    Also, while I’m on the subject, I’d just like to rant about unecessary reloading mechanics in shooters that are supposed to be all about doom-style arcadey, strafing fun. Reloading mechanics are fine in games focused on the fine aspects of gunplay, games like Planetside 2, Battlefield, Counter-Strike, Payday and tactical shooters, even games like Half-Life which sort of stand in the middle. But why, oh why do developers these days insist on cramming reload mechanics into every shooter, even oldschool doom-style arcade shooters focused on fast movement, rather than managing and controlling your gun?!

    Serious Sam 3 infected most of the arsenal with reload mechanics for no good reason, Shadow Warrior ruined virtually every weapon other than the sword with this, hell, even Brutal Doom stuck a stupid magazine mechanic on a game that was never intended to have one!

    Remember Doom? Remember how it just had ammo pools, and it gave you something to manage and rewarded exploration. Without ruining the flow of the movement and dodging projectiles by having to look at the magazine size in the corner, and do a bunch of mental math, finding your active time based on killing potential of remaining bullets versus remaining enemies? Remember how you could just charge in and mow down crowds of enemies, without having to stop dead in your tracks because your mag ran empty before you could even finish your one-liner? And you didn’t have to cycle through every one of your goddamn guns and reload them after each fight? What is even the point of adding reload mechanics to these games, other than “it’s a shooter, so it must have them”? I honestly can’t think of any.

  25. Steve C says:

    This Diecast inadvertently hit on an issue I have with KOTOR; The player character doesn’t fit in the universe.

    The environment in KOTOR nails the “feel” of Star Wars. The “voice” of the player character is totally at odds with that “feel”. The dialogue lines you have the option of saying are either bland or are jarringly inappropriate for the setting. When given the option between bland or something else, most players are going to choose the non-bland option. (Who wants to be the bland guy?)

    Rutskarn doing the creepy Sith voice is strangely more appropriate than many of the other options. Presumably the PC does not deliver those lines like Rutskarn though. The PC just does not work in the Star Wars universe. The PC is from some other game world.

  26. James says:

    So Fallout-esk game in the post-apocalypse scouring metro tunnels, kinda like metro then.

    so in the never ending example of “game dev does what Beth does only better” we can add the Metro Devs, to Obsidian, InExile, CDPR.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Not quite.Metro is similar to fallout,yes,but it lacks the cheezy humor and openness.So these devs didnt really do a bethesda style game better than bethesda.Not to mention that fallout isnt really a bethesda game,since theyve swiped someone elses game and attempted to cram it in their mold.

  27. Vorpal Kitten says:

    Old Man Shamus, there’s actually a perk that gives you bonuses when you don’t have a companion! So no need to take the dog. Also seems like the beginning of the game gives you the dog and a robot butler to choose from, so even if you want a companion you could take the fire immune one.

    Also, I’ve been starved for story details about Fallout 4 and thus have listened to multiple hours of the two protagonist voice actors, and at the -very- least they seem to have really put a lot of themselves into the performance, so there’s no chance of the Destiny/Peter Dinklage thing happening.

    There are reasons to be cautiously optimistic, is what I want to get at.

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