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Diecast #195: Scorpio, Unravel, Remakes

By Shamus
on Monday Apr 10, 2017
Filed under:


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Hosts: Josh, Shamus, and Campster. Edited by Baychel.

Sorry this one is late. We had to record on Sunday due to the intrusion of Real Life.

Show notes:

0:00:46: Project Scorpio Specs Announced

Ars Technica has the numbers. Many of them are very large numbers!

0:24:54: Unravel

Here is the E3 demo we talked about on the show:

Link (YouTube)

0:33:18: Sims Settlements Fallout 4 Mod

Here’s the town I built:

Everyone lives at one building and works at another.

Everyone lives at one building and works at another.

Actually, that’s not true. That’s the town my settlers built for themselves. I just dictated the layout.

0:42:18: Remakes, Remasters, and re-releases.

Here’s the Bulletstorm comparison I talked about:

Old Hotness

Old Hotness

New & Busted

New & Busted

Comments (98)

  1. Echo Tango says:

    You guys bring up an interesting point – GUI scaling is still tied to screen resolution. i.e. Josh says he can’t go up in resolution, because all the fonts and buttons in Windows would be too small to be usable. Are there any operating systems that decouple these two things? Websites that are made to operate across different devices, maybe? My immediate Googling seems to indicate that this is a problem that has to be solved on a program-by-program basis.

    • Talifabian says:

      Apple does this with Retina screens for their Macs. On the 5k iMac for example, GUI’s scale as though the screen were 1440p, but are rendered at the full 5k resolution. There’s an optional mode to render apps which haven’t been properly designed to handle that at 1440p, but Apple’s windowing API’s do most of the work for you out of the box.

    • Xeorm says:

      It’s less about decoupling and more that once the simple UI slider stops working as a solution, the entire UI needs to be redesigned to function. There are tools that let you do this, and presumably Microsoft could ship one with every windows copy for ease of use, but I’m guessing they prefer that not to happen. Best to keep it away from anyone that’ll change the wrong thing, yet leave it accessible for those that want to look for it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Windows does offer different sizes for its icons and text so that you can see everything clearly even in huge resolutions.So that shouldnt present a problem,unless you are using version from the past millennium.

      • sofawall says:

        The main problem is with programs that run on Windows, not the OS itself. A huge number of them don’t scale their UIs the way they should.

        • Ranneko says:

          Yeah it is really easy to use high DPI mode in windows, that has been supported for ages, but there are a ton of windows apps that ignore the standards and it can be messed up in surprising ways.

          For example, in high DPI mode, full-screen games often screw with the touch pad and pen settings on my surface, even if I am just using the pen as a mouse.

    • Kyte says:

      Modern UI systems based on vectors (WPF, for example) do scale naturally, the problem is most programs are still made in the old WinForms/equivalent system which is raster-based and therefore sensitive to resolution changes.

      Also a lot of games and programs are not super respectful of hardware configurations their QA team doesn’t have.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        I wonder how well, since I use WPF and you still set the size and any of the padding and fixed positions in pixels , so despite the fact that the text will be larger since high DPI option is on and the rest of the interface that has no set width or height in pixel will resize.

  2. Jokerman says:

    Haven’t listened yet…. but that Bulletstorm comparison… how??? why??? “Hey Bill, lets add Duke Nukem” “Sure Jack, just got done removing all the good lighting!”

    • Echo Tango says:

      Every time graphical fidelity comes up in conversation with my friends, one of the key points I always make, is that more graphics is usually less nice-looking than more types of graphics. For example, if your game already has textures, bump-maps, and shadow shaders, but no ambient occlusion, adding in a low-res ambient occlusion thing into your game would look better than just upping the resolution on all the things you already have. Conversely (and to bring my rambling back to the example at hand), ripping out an existing graphical trick is not a good tradeoff for upping the resolution. :)

      Beyond that, graphical fidelity usually trumped by artistic fidelity. I’d rather look at Darkest Dungeon than Dark Souls, or take Loot Rascals over Diablo III. (Ignoring the large gameplay, tone, and story differences, naturally.)

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Weirdly enough,the problem is more pronounced when the game was made by good artists.Because good artists use every tool at their disposal to the fullest,thus tying the graphics to the technology.So in order to remaster such a game,you actually need to redraw everything from scratch.The did this with heroes of might and magic 3 when they remastered that one.Ironically,the problem with that remaster was that they left everything else as is,thus having the ui be as clunky as in the original.

        • Da Mage says:

          Not to mention they only did the base game and didn’t do the expansions in the remaster. Meaning you got less game for a higher price than the original which could be easily bought on GoG.

          I love the Heroes series, but the fans have driven the series into the ground. They only ever want what was in Heroes 3, while at the same time complaining about every little change the devs ever try to make. Then when the game comes out it gets panned for being boring with no innovation, and the die hard fans still hate it cause it wasn’t a perfect copy of Heroes 3. I bet if they had tried to rework the UI the fans would have attacked them for it.

          Love the series, but I really hope some dev gets it at some point and really brings in the RPG elements from Heroes 4 (and other games now) and the modern strategy elements from Total War and Civ into the series. Otherwise the series might as well be dead.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            I love the Heroes series, but the fans have driven the series into the ground.

            No,this is not true.Ubisoft has driven the series into the ground.HIV got panned because it was so buggy upon release that you could barely run it,and after a bunch of patching it was merely stable.But there still were a bunch of bugs and the balance was way off.And the expansions were just lazy cash grabs.Still,most of the fans stayed with this one because it has the best editor and the best stories in the whole series.So there was some hope.But then ubisoft bought the rights,and destroyed that hope utterly.

            HV was panned because it too had plethora of problems,but the improvements made in its expansions were cheered by those few fans that still were left with the series.In fact,the state of the game after the expansions is what it shouldve been to begin with.And thats not even going into how they promptly destroyed the old world and replaced it with its wank of a story about aaeglr and eternal griffin.

            And then HVI happened.The way ubisoft treated the developers for that one is as atrocious as the game itself.The best part of that game was the integration with uplay,and that should tell you something.

            HVII….That one was just lazy.From the marketing that boasted as doing innovative stuff by introducing things that already existed 3 games ago,to having the intro cimenatic being worse than the intro to HII,a game thats 20 years old now.And then there were all the shenanigans with preorders and customer non-support.

            So dont blame the fans for the shit ubisoft has been pulling with the series,screwing over both the developers and the customers.

            But all of this would merely kill the franchise if not for 1c company that released kings bounty the legend just a bit after ubisoft started dicking around with homm,and utterly buried ubisofts lousy creation with actual gameplay improvements,imaginative designs and pretty graphics.

            • Da Mage says:

              I never said Heroes 4 was good, just that it’s RPG elements was an interesting direction to take the series. I totally understand why it sunk the company, it was a buggy outdated mess.

              As you said, Heroes 5 was decent after some expansions, I think it’s a really solid traditional Heroes game, but with a cool 3D update.

              But even though Heroes 6 & 7 went through development hell, they basically did nothing with the formula except try to emulate it. And what’s the point of emulating the same formula if the fans can just play the original games, or Heroes 5. I don’t pick my strategy games for how good they look, so unless the sequels had overhauled how the games played, there was no point to them to start with. How did nobody in their dev team figure out that at some point?

              Also, the story writers at all the Ubisoft published games have been horrible, Heroes games have never been great, but geez, 5, 6 and 7 have had really bad and boring campaigns.

          • Kylroy says:

            Heroes 3? You mean Heroes of Might and Advanced Earth Magic?

            Every Heroes game has had the central tension of power vs. coverage – concentrating my forces to attack versus having enough defenses for my holdings. (And a similar tension with heroes – have one hero earn all the experience, or split it up to have multiple decent heroes?) HoM&M 3 resolved that conflict real simply – have a super hero with Town Portal and Advanced Earth Magic, and they can insta-zip to any of your towns and defend everything while still being able to attack.

            Subsequent games introduced other systems to help transport troops without mooting the entire game design (I particularly liked caravans), but folks want the “I win” button back.

          • Felblood says:


            I always hear people arguing about when Heroes of Might and Magic turned downhill, but I’ve never managed to find one that I could get into.

            I’ve played lots of other series descended from Master of Magic that I really loved; like Medieval War, Warlords, Warlock:Master of the Arcane, and even some of the Age of Wonders games, but Heroes always seemed random, punishing and obtuse.

            Is there something special this series did that neither I nor the newer developers could grasp?

            Is there just

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              4 is far less random than the rest.But sadly,it has its problems.

              Anyway,you should try kings bounty armored princess.The rest of the series are good as well,but that one is the most solid.It has everything that the heroes series has(except base building),but refined to its peak.Its single player only though,so no multiplayer like with heroes.

      • Tektotherriggen says:

        Probably true, but that may require changes deep in the rendering code, and then for an artist to personally revise the lighting of every scene. Upping the resolution might be as simple as replacing the textures with their archived versions (which the artists may have produced at high resolution, before they were downsampled to go into the game).

        If they use an engine, they may not even be able to add new rendering tricks (unless the engine itself is upgraded, which they won’t do because they want people to buy the next version).

      • Phantos says:

        You mentioned Dark Souls, so I must appear in the comments because I am one of THOSE guys.

        But also… you’re right. And I hate to say that, because DS used to look a lot more vibrant and interesting, but lately it’s just… gray. Which is ironic, since they showed off all of that gray in a trailer with the song “True Colors“. Which is like if the first Gears of War commercial used “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows”. >_>

        It’s one thing for a new franchise to be visually uninteresting, but it’s especially painful to see a once good-looking, interesting franchise become flat and uninteresting from an artistic standpoint. :(

  3. Yummychickenblue says:

    Regarding Josh’s speculation about Project Scorpio being a box that essentially runs Windows with an Xbox UI, Microsoft has kind of already done that. The way modern Microsoft operating systems are designed is that, you’ve got the base kernel called OneCore, then you have modules added onto that kernel. For example, the Windows Phone OS might have the module necessary to make calls and texts, while the Xbox OS would get a nice shiny console interface module. Even before OneCore, the original Xbox OS (as well as the 360) was a fork of Windows 2K.

  4. Echo Tango says:

    Re: OpenRA / Red Alert

    The official games* were released in a remastered (works on modern OS / hardware) version, free of monetary charge, for a limited time. OpenRA is a from-scratch open-source engine, that is compatible with those game files (videos, images, sounds, etc; although not the game scripts or maps). There’s some other open-source projects that are closer to a Wine-style wrapper over the original games (or maybe just wrap Wine for ease-of-use), and one that recreates the original gameplay, but is not a general-purpose engine. (OpenRA can be scripted / modded to make an entirely new game, if you’re willing to put in the work of making new images, sounds, etc).

    * Red Alert 1, 2, Dune 2000, and Tiberian Dawn, I believe. Maybe all of the 1st-gen / 2nd-gen games in those series?

    • Jonathan says:

      C&C The First Decade.
      I have it on my Hard Drive, but I can’t get it to run now :(

      C&C 95, RA95, RA1, Tiberian Sun, and possibly RA2, plus Renegade and C&C Generals, with expansions for each.

      • GloatingSwine says:

        There’s a community patch based on the free C&C Gold version that updates the first game and gets it working on modern systems, with selectable resolutions etc. (You can also use it to patch official versions, but the old C&C95 discs won’t work on a 64 bit system).

  5. Tizzy says:

    Angry Campster embarrassed by his own anger at a pretentious game is awesome (and unexpected)!

    Unravel does sound like it deserves it, though. Even if it eventually gets better, you don’t want your indie game to try your audience’s patience that badly.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Im sad that angry Chris is embarrassed,because there is no need to be embarrassed about saying negative things about a product that has been sold to you for money.It doesnt matter how sympathetic someone is,if they dont want other people to be negative about their work,they should not sell it.Its simple as that.If it has $$ attached to it,its fair game for every kind of criticism,positive or negative.

      • kunedog says:

        Exactly. One of the best reasons to listen to TB is that he doesn’t shy away from consumer advocacy even when the poor product/company is one he otherwise wants to support and encourage.

  6. Steve C says:

    If real life is no longer happening, any chance of looking at the site issue that started April 5? Still cannot load it up without a proxy. Also a few proxies I tried (hidester, proxfree) couldn’t load it either. So I’m going to guess I’m not the only person it’s affecting. Especially since most proxies that can load this page cannot post a comment.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I can load the site and post comments just fine, but I’m actually more bothered by the lack of HTTPS for the forums. Certs are free of charge nowadays. Free, I tell you! :)

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I support the idea of adding https to everything, always.
        I don’t think I have can do anything approaching demanding it — especially as I’m still trying to get to grips with these things for a NAS I run — but I’d definitely prefer if the site could switch to https.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ill add to this that while I can access the site without a proxy,its down rather often in the past month or so.About once every couple of days I cannot access the blog for up to a few hours.

      • Syal says:

        Same here. Often the page won’t load fully and/or will give an error message.

        • Shamus says:

          Thanks for the heads up.

          For the curious:

          As people have noticed, the site has been down a lot, and even when it’s up it’s slow. Really most sites this size use a caching plugin so the host machine doesn’t need to run thousands of lines of PHP code for every single page load.

          The go-to solution for WordPress is WP-Supercache. I enabled it last night. It did seem to speed up the site, but it also broke the RSS feed and a couple of the pages in my admin sections of the site.

          I’ve always had problems with Supercache. This is the third time in the history of the site I’ve tried to use it, and it’s always caused chaos, confusion, and broken pages. Worse, this isn’t one of those problems I can work on using my staging site. (I run a mirror of this blog on my local machine for testing.) I can only work on this stuff on the live site, which means having stuff blow up while people are trying to view the site.


          EDIT: To make it clear, I’ve disabled Supercache and I’m shopping for another solution. Fingers crossed.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Judging from the screenshot,it seems that the remaster has the same mistake as buffy hd.They simply forgot to add the filter/effect back when doing it.

    • Echo Tango says:

      It actually looks like it’s got an extra brown filter applied. You can see it if you block off the bright, sunny side of the original screenshot – there’s more color in the original, which is washed out in the newer version.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        That’s something you see in photos a lot when somebody thought it was too bright and reduced brightness until even the blown-out highlights are mapped to grey. It’s usually a sign of somebody “correcting” colours without knowing what they were doing.

  8. Izicata says:

    Re: Descent
    There’s a spiritual sequel called Overload that says it’s being made by the creators of Descent on its store page. It’s in early access, and it’s pretty fun.

  9. Fast_Fire says:

    Sorry this one is late. …


    Looking at the spec table from the Ars Technica link, the Scorpio barely beats my 5-year-old AMD desktop. I’m curious if most modern game developers can really take advantage of the 8 cores at 2.3 GHz instead of using less cores operating at a faster rate when it comes to CPU-intensive routines like Draw Distance, Shadow Quality/Quantity, some forms of Anti-Aliasing (e.g. MLAA), and AI. Last I checked, multithreading is hard.

    • Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

      From what I read, the Scorpio has a hardware level implementation of Direct X12 to help with the multithreading.

      Also, the review I saw, they were able to port games with very minimal effort and have them run 4K60fps without fully taxing the GPU.

      Supposedly, they’ve been gathering data on their Xbone in the field and have used that to tune this one up. I don’t think the specs tell the whole tale.

      I think they’re reacting to the hit they took at launch. Everyone was talking about how much more powerful the PS4 was vs the XBone so they were determined to offer an XBone that kicked the pants off anything Playstation was offering.

      • Kylroy says:

        “I don't think the specs tell the whole tale.”

        Isn’t that almost always true with consoles, at least relative to PCs? The consoles have lower raw power, but the fixed hardware means developers can squeeze much more performance out of it than a similarly equipped PC.

        • Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

          Sure but the methodology gives me cause to hope. This is a souped up version of the existing console and is built using the data they’ve gathered from the existing console. So its not just that devs are going to get better at optimizing for the hardware, its also that the hardware has had, ostensibly, a major iteration.

      • Alex says:

        “From what I read, the Scorpio has a hardware level implementation of Direct X12 to help with the multithreading.”

        I am very unsure what this is supposed to mean. For some readings, this is what GPUs are already so whats the point? The cast discussed a different reading, that this would mean that (parts of?) he driver functionality would be implemented in hardware. I find this very hard to believe.

        Afaik graphics drivers are incredibly complex beasts with thousands of special cases to patch over things game developers messed up. [As a GPU vendor, if the other GPU vendor can run a AAA game just fine and you cant, you do not care if the developer (accidentally) relies on some quirk in the other’s driver that is not part of “the spec”. You try to patch your driver so that your hardware runs that AAA game. Or else you are in publicity hell, regardless of who actually messed up.] Case in point, graphics drivers are several 100MB in size. No way is anyone replicating that mess in hardware. Also, this reading seems to counter the current trend to move responsibility from the driver to client code (Vulkan).

        My not so well educated guess therefore is that this is marketing lingo for supporting a vulkan-like interface in hardware with only a thin driver layer. Which is what every GPU will do in the future anyway. So I’m not very impressed.

        • Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

          I can’t recall off the top of my head but there are definitely games where the extra cores and Direct X12 helps even with high end graphics cards in the mix. They seem to be games where there’s a lot of stuff going on, like large battles with dozens or hundreds of AI agents. Things like that. Likewise, faster conventional RAM helps with some games. Fallout 4 being one of them.

          So it comes in handy when the non graphics stuff gets to be demanding.

  10. ehlijen says:

    Freespace 2 (the sequel to Descent: Freespace) has had its source code released and a fan remaster done). And the game, and the remaster, are really good. (In my opinion, a close second behind Tie Fighter (CD release) for best space shooter ever.)

    I don’t know who owns Descent these days, but last I heard Volition (the Saints Row guys) still had the Freespace licence?

  11. MsIcecream says:

    If you think in terms of view angle and pixels per degree rather than screen resolution and screen size it’s much easier to understand.



    A 55″ TV at 1m away gives a 62° horizontal view angle. At that view angle there is a huge benefit to 2160p and beyond.

    A 55″ TV at 3m away gives a 23° view angle. There is little benefit to 2160p at that view angle but you’ll still see the benefits of HDR content (color + brightness).

    This is the reason why a 720p screen on the Nintendo Switch is fine. It’s a 720p 6.2″ 16:9 display at a 30cm viewing distance which gives a viewing angle of 26°. You would see benefits at 1080p but the pixels per degree is still high enough to not be bothersome.

    A decent cinema screen size will be a 60° view angle. My experience is that you don’t want to go beyond a 60° view angle with a 2160p TV. The pixels per degree of vision just gets too low.

    I think there is an audience for an expensive console. Everyone online seems to live in a PC gaming bubble but there is a portion of people who have the disposable income and no interest in PC.

    If Microsoft intend to support the Xbox One and Xbox Scorpio with games on both then I expect in the next 4 years they’ll release another console that supports the Xbox Scorpio and the newest Xbox. That way they can keep the long lifespan while also giving people an opportunity to upgrade for better quality.

    Microsoft has a dire lack of good exclusives. Their flagship franchises such as Halo and Gears of War are well past their peak now and it seems that Microsoft doesn’t have anywhere near as many exclusives coming out in the future. Compare that to the PS4 which has Bloodborne, Bloodborne 2?, Horizon Zero Dawn, Nioh, Nier Automata, Persona, Uncharted, The Last Of Us 2. Microsoft just didn’t invest much in new IP since the end of the last generation. For me there is no way I’d get a Xbox One over a PS4 as a secondary console to my gaming PC.

    • That’s the kicker isn’t it? Sony’s been leading the charge with a continuously strong showing for years with no signs of letting up. Nintendo’s in a whole new realm of uncertainty with the Switch, but we can expect generally quality releases from them alone if nothing else. Microsoft, other than multiplatform releases that might run marginally better or be modestly “prettier”, has little to offer. They’ve dropped most of the new IP they bandied about four years ago and what’s left is stuck in limbo. Halo isn’t going to save their backsides a second time. Unless they have a killer showing for Scorpio’s launch than an upgrade at all seems pointless.

      • Phantos says:

        Microsoft certainly hasn’t been around long enough to have enough IP staples the way Nintendo or even Sony do by this point. So I imagine being multiplatform, being able to say: “It’s also on the Xbox” is their only saving grace at this point.

        Maybe they saw 3rd party devs flee in terror from the very specific controller setups of the Wii and Wii U and figured it’s better to play to something more conventional. Lord knows their attempts with the Kinect didn’t make them a bazillion dollars. I can’t say I blame them if they want to play on the defensive more from here on out.

        But I do wonder how long they can last without an identity to their video games. At least one that’s their own. They’ve run Halo into the ground so badly, I don’t know if they can salvage it. The Gears of War honeymoon seems to be over too.

        Maybe they don’t need a cartoon animal mascot, but they need… SOMETHING. All of the fancy stats for Scorpio won’t amount to much if it doesn’t give Microsoft game consoles their own voice. Some brand that says: “This is why I should exist, and why you should buy me!”.

        • GloatingSwine says:

          The biggest difference between Microsoft and Sony is that Sony did more to foster in-house talent and let that talent develop the IPs. Hence they can count on the strength of studios like Naughty Dog and Guerrilla Games.

          Microsoft shackled their in house teams to particular IPs. Bungie were The Halo Guys, and when they left now 343 are The Halo Guys, and if someone there has a new idea for a different space shootmangs game they have to go somewhere else to make it because they’re The Halo Guys and Microsoft wants to sell more Halo. (Even if it’s p. clear that 343 are not as good at space shootmangs as Bungie were, the game feel is all wrong and there’s far less doing and more showing of actiony stuff).

          If Microsoft had owned those studios they wouldn’t have left room for The Last of Us or Horizon, they’d have wanted more of the thing they already knew the name of.

          The only genuinely all star in house developers for Microsoft are Turn 10 and Playground Games and they both make Forza (and driving games do kinda support that monomaniacal churn because “includes new cars and more places to race them” is a good way to keep driving game nerds sated).

          • Phantos says:

            The solution is clear:

            Microsoft must make the Scorpio the AAA console of Dating Sims.

          • Duoae says:

            Don’t forget that Sony also supports first party developers as well as those 2nd party developers like you mention – they fund actual development. Microsoft had a load of first party developers in their pocket, then they fired them all and cancelled all their projects….

            I’m sure it made sense on some accountant’s spreadsheet somewhere….

  12. John says:

    The original X-Wing and Tie Fighter were released on floppy disks. They ran at 320×240. The remasters, known as the “Collector’s CD-ROM” editions, increased the resolution to 640×480 and added voice-acting for mission briefings and certain mid-mission announcements. The mid-mission voices were a significant gameplay improvement because the player was no longer required to keep one eye on the text scroll at the bottom of the screen in order to learn about, say, the arrival of enemy reinforcements. The increased resolution mattered much less because even at 640×480 all the ships are simple and blocky and generally unadorned by textures. The re-makes, known as the “Special Editions” were recreations of the original games’ campaigns in the X-Wing vs Tie Fighter engine. The re-makes offer some changes to the flight model, more polygons, textures, and a CD soundtrack. If I recall correctly, the game would actually play whatever audio CD you happened to have in the drive–a fact that I discovered quite by accident. According to everything I’ve seen online, the Collector’s CD-ROMs are generally considered superior to the Special Editions, largely on the strength of the dynamic MIDI soundtrack. I’ve never played the Special Editions, but I can personally attest that the Collector’s CD-ROM for Tie Fighter holds up very well.

    Also, Shamus has reminded me that I still need to play Freespace. I don’t think I ever got past the tutorial in that one. I guess I better charge up the batteries for my flight stick and install it again.

    • ehlijen says:

      The switch to 640*320 helped X-wing a lot more than it did TIE Fighter, due to the HUD improvements: Being able to see which way the target was facing on your display and having the game draw a box around the selected target past a certain distance meant that enemy fighters were more easily trackable, whereas in X-wing at the lower resolution, they could too easily blend into the background stars.

  13. Phantos says:

    Those Bulletstorm screens look like someone took a finished cake, said “I’ll make it better!”, and then just scraped some of the frosting off and into the trash.

    The core is still there, and it would probably still taste good, but like… WHY???

  14. Thomas says:

    TV experts always say that 4k has very little value unless you have a _giant_ screen.

    Unfortunately TV manufacturers have just decided to stop selling HD TVs that are decent, so everyone has to go to 4k even though it makes the majority of content look marginally worse

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    It’s weird that Gearbox is messing around with like franchises that no one cares about at this point

    Yeah, how much longer are they going to keep updating Battleborn?

  16. Ninety-Three says:

    Hey Shamus, your All Comments feed appears to be suffering some kind of horrible glitch and filling up with “compilation failed” errors.

  17. Sheer_falacy says:

    I’m kind of confused by the direction your Scorpio speculation went. It started out with you thinking they’d make all games universal and offered on Xbox and PC, to the point that the Xbox would basically be a PC. That sounds great, very consumer friendly. And then you described it as a Trojan horse trying to kill Steam. I don’t know where that came from. Like, you see this nightmare world where someone is trying to make a steam competitor, how dare they?

    • Chris says:

      So in 99.9% of situations I support more competition for Steam. As we’ve talked about before, their dominance does weird things – it makes their policies basically industry-shaping and it puts entirely too much importance on their marketing algorithms to decide what games live or die. We need more people to push back against that, both from the small scale at places like itch.io and on the bigger scale (GoG, Origin, whatever). So no, I’m not (and I don’t think the rest of the cast are) against the idea of competition for game markets in general.

      The problem is that Microsoft isn’t just another company releasing a storefront. They’re the operating system most gaming-focused PCs run these days*, and their storefront is baked right into that operating system. Worse, their storefront isn’t just an alternative place to get your favorite games – it’s a place that only sells UWP apps that operate in a fundamentally different way than traditional Windows applications. The concern isn’t that Microsoft will create their own Steam equivalent, the concern is that Microsoft is moving to slowly make the PC a more closed off ecosystem. Epic’s Tim Sweeney has expressed concern about this multiple times – that it’s a move to make Windows PCs part of a closed Microsoft ecosystem where they collect their 30% on all software sold for Windows the way Valve grabs their 30% for all games sold on Steam.

      And it’s not really a crackpot theory, a lot of that is happening now – when you buy certain XBox One games you automatically get a UWP copy (Forza Horizon 3, for example, I own on both platforms from one purchase). They’re trying to entice users over into that storefront. And it’s not like using consoles as a loss-leader to break into markets is unheard of – the entire reason both Sony and Microsoft got into the silly videogamebox business in the first place is that they wanted to be the company that sold everyone the amazing compu-boxes that would make their TVs media centers. What they didn’t foresee is that the compu-boxes would be cheap doodads and USB fobs or even built right into the TV, and it was the software services that would make tons of money (iTunes, Netflix, etc). Consequently they don’t so much want to be the media epicenter of your livingroom (that was XBox One’s whole original design and it was soundly rejected by the public). Now they want in on that media selling racket, by hook or by crook. It’s the only way to make these stupidly expensive consoles things make sense to continue investing in.

      So it’s not out of the question to suggest that turning Project Scorpio into “Basically a Windows PC” could be used to make their PC storefront more attractive when, after a few years of use, all your old games are still on it. Imagine how much you’d be tempted to use the Windows Store if every XBox 360 game you ever purchased could be downloaded and played on your modern PC right now. That’s the future we’re worried about with Scorpio – an attempt to shoe-horn their Windows Store into importance by tying it to their games system such that they can begin to gain market share not just against Steam, but against the idea of an open PC platform.

      * Yes, gaming is totally doable on an Mac or on a *nix machine, especially if your tastes lean more towards indie fare. But in the context of pushing pixels we’re mostly talking about graphical powerhouse games and hardware. Apple has long since given up that game, and *nix environments don’t tend to get the driver love Windows does. There’s more nuance that could be brought up here, but that’s a whole separate discussion.

      • Shamus says:

        To add to this, I’ll say that my concerns are a LITTLE more tinfoil-hat than what Chris has said, but I don’t think they’re outside the realm of possibility:

        If Microsoft ever got enough market share to rival Steam, they would also be in a position to strangle Steam. Maybe Direct X 13 is ONLY available to UWP, and not to general applications. (For “performance reasons”, of course!) Maybe applications outside of UWP are denied full access to the graphics hardware (for “security and stability reasons”, of course!) and will have to go through some security layer bottleneck that throttles performance. It wouldn’t necessarily hurt old games, but it would make the cutting-edge games outside of the Windows Store less attractive.

        Remember when they made IE6 a standards deviant so that it was hard to get websites to look right on all browsers? Their thinking was that web developers would target IE6, and thus all of the other browsers would look “wrong” to Joe User, thus amplifying IE market share. It didn’t work, but it was a nightmare to deal with and caused a lot of needless tears and confusion for developers everywhere.

        They are not above fighting dirty, and even if they don’t win their actions can have a huge impact on developers.

        Yes, this borders on conspiracy theory, but after GFWL I’m convinced they’re basically capable of anything.

        • sheer_falacy says:

          It just seems like a big leap from “they want these games to run on Windows” to “they want nothing but these games to run on Windows”. One of those causes a lot more antitrust lawsuits than the other.

          Also if GFWL is evidence of a conspiracy it’s the saddest conspiracy that I ever did see. That was garbage and it died for it.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            It just seems like a big leap from “they want these games to run on Windows” to “they want nothing but these games to run on Windows”.

            Not when they already had numerous attempts at monopolizing the market.

            • Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

              And how did those attempts turn out. Every time they try it, we backlash. They’re learning slowly.

              But if they do become completely closed, there will be an upsurge in Linux development as users flood the platform seeking to regain the openness. And with time it will catch up. The lingering threat of that should help to hold Microsoft in check.

              That said, they did try another trick. They made it easy to move your OS to new hardware if and only if you tie the license to your Microsoft Account. That forced me to create an account. I don’t use it but they’re slowly wearing down the resistance.

              Honestly, I’m not worried because if they achieve that kind of dominance at this point, it will only be by being less evil. Too many people are wary of them.

          • tmtvl says:

            Embrace, extend, and extinguish. (Why does no one ever use the Oxford comma? It’s great!)

            Microsoft has been involved in their fair share of anti-competitive practices, why expect them to stop?

        • Felblood says:

          Shamus, please! Distrusting someone who has abused you in the past is just basic self-defense.

          Tinfoil hats are way more ridiculous.

          Laying aside that ULF band radio, (such as that widely claimed to have been used in red-scare era, government mind-control experiments) would only be focused and amplified by a tinfoil hat, the Feds recently auctioned off the rights to a lot of those bands that they’ve been sitting on since the cold war, hoping to stave off the shortage of cell phone bandwidth.

          –and it’s not like they would give mind control rays to cell phone companies, or that we wouldn’t notice if people suddenly started acting like slaves to their phones.

      • Darren says:

        I work in a company where I work with multiple Microsoft employees from different divisions of the company, and from what they said UWP might be kind of a dead-end that doesn’t have much support within the company. As in we were advised not to put out a product related to UWP because it’s not looking like it has much of a future.

        Take that with a grain of salt, of course.

  18. Hal says:

    I’m glad Josh (I think) mentioned the remakes of the Final Fantasy games, because those are pretty much the only remakes I own. But they’re interesting in their own right.

    For example, the FF4 remake is basically identical to the original game; same graphics, same music, same story (albeit retranslated.) A few mechanics got updates under the hood, but the major change was to add a new dungeon that only opens up after you beat the game. (Most of the modern remakes of those games added such a feature, for better or worse.)

    The FF1 remake I have is slightly older, so it didn’t add any new content. The graphics and music were all remade, and the text on everything was updated to go beyond the NES’s limitations. More interesting was the revamp of the inventory system, which was a huge limitation in the original game and was now more standardized to the later games.

    Also, I had no idea anyone had put out a remaster of Deus Ex. Looks like I get to jump into that game again.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Depends which FF4 remake you’re talking about. They both have considerable differences from the base game.

      The GBA version is basically the same until you finish it the first time, at which point you can swap in any party member from the whole game and discover that if you level Edward up to level 99 he is in fact an unstoppable god beast.

      The DS version has lots more character customisation that lets you build characters in different ways and had all sorts of different broken cheese in but you had to find it.

      (The DS version also has probably the most accurate translation of any of the about five different ones there are).

      • Hal says:

        I never played the DS/3D version. The changes they made sound interesting, I’ll have to learn more.

        And yeah, the returned characters were a part of the GBA version, I just didn’t feel the need to go into that much detail. But I have to ask, what, exactly, makes Edward such a god at level 99?

  19. Benjamin Hilton says:

    I actually disagree about an emulated Star Wars Galaxies cutting into Old Republic revenue. Everyone in my household and a fair number of people I know of in my guild play SWTOR just to get our Star Wars MMO fix. If Galaxies was available we’d all jump ship. Sure most of us are Free to play, but with the numbers of people that I believe would change over, even if only F2P, it would put a noticeable dent in server populations which would in turn devalue the game experience and cost them money.

    • ehlijen says:

      On top of the difficulty of selling the release of source code for a product that would at least appear to directly compete with one of your current services (they’re both Star Wars MMOs), there is also whatever Disney now has to say on the matter.

      If the code wasn’t released before, it’s chances only dropped now that Disney is consolidating the Star Wars IP into a money mill.

      • Shoeboxjeddy says:

        When has the Star Wars IP NOT been a money mill? That’s such a shitty dig at Disney considering the VERY FIRST THING the creator did was secure toy and merchandise rights for himself.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          George Lucas was smart about marketing, but he also loved the world he had created. I can’t speak for everyone involved, but I think it’s not unfair to assume that Disney as a conglomerate sees the franchise as a money maker much more than a single man who created it and loved it ever could.

  20. Collin says:

    I’m really surprised you found it pretentious. My sister and I thought it was sad and sweet, the kind Yarnie helping her recollect her memories at the end of her life. I had none of the negative experiences you did.

    • Phantos says:

      I feel like we’re in danger of “Pretentious” becoming this generation’s “Clunky”.

      As in: a crutch Game Reviewers use when they No Like Bad Game. A word that sounds like it says more than it actually does.

      • Chris says:

        Like I said in the show, I’m particularly fond of the dictionary definition of “pretentious”: A thing that claims to have a profundity or importance that it does not actually possess.

        And by that measure, yeah, I find Unravel pretentious*. It acts like it’s this deep, emotional journey of sadness – that you are walking back in time to important memories and that the lady’s photographs are somehow Important. But none of it means anything! Yarny is doing simple puzzle platforming in various beach/farm/ice levels while occasionally in the background particle effects form what would be a picturesque family. So what?

        The game doesn’t do anything with the family or with the platforming mechanics. It doesn’t mean anything, it just motions at stuff that seems deep. There are family photos as a framing device. A particle effect family that phases in and out of existence as you reach pretty vistas. Somber violin and other orchestral music. The magical realism of a self-animated yarn doll against a backdrop of photoreal environments. Meanwhile Yarney continues his journey of puzzle-platforming to the next yarn chunk, oblivious to the particle family and having no real metaphorical weight of his own. It doesn’t add up to anything. It’s a bunch of things taken from other games that seem deep – it’s Braid by way of Tales of Tales in the worst possible way.

        *All of this is, of course, based on the ~2.5 levels I’ve completed, there may be more to the game but I haven’t had the opportunity to see that yet

        • Alex says:

          The dictionary definition, while I will admit that it sounded clever when I heard it on the show, is meaningless in itself. Profundity and importance are not qualities that things “actually possess”. They are qualities that are always attributed to things externally. In the case of games this attribution can only come from the player.

          So I guess what you are saying is that the game clearly _wants_ that you attribute profundity and importance towards the things it depicts but _failed_ to convince you towards that end. Which is perfectly valid criticism and a recurring theme on this site: Shaun (?) from Fallout 4 and the Star Child (?) from Mass Effect 3 come to mind.

          I think the counterpoint has to be read in that light. “The game is pretentious” basically means that it did not “click” for the critic. What else could it mean? Who else but the critic is to judge if things “actually possess” profundity and importance? And I do not think this is a problem. It is your job as a critic to make such statements.

          The next step is to analyse why the game failed to click, i. e. were the art and craft went wrong. This is something that this site does especially well and other critics do ähem not so well. So maybe Phantos’ comment was aimed at those other critics :)

        • Paul Spooner says:

          I’m assuming you’re drawing a parallel with Braid as a well-known pretentious game. Were you similarly disappointed with The Witness?

          The ludo-narrative interaction seems to be at the root of the objections. Not a dissonance really, but perhaps a disconnect?

          What would help me is a few examples of games with great ludo-narrative symphonance. Any that spring to mind? Maybe you treat this somewhere, but I’m having trouble finding it, so I figured I’d ask.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            I will take this as an excuse to share my favorite-ever example of ludonarrative goodness. It’s isolated to a particular level, rather than the game as a whole, but it’s really special.

            Spacechem is a puzzle game about building industrial machines that assemble molecules out of other molecules.

            At one point you’re on a space station struck by a sudden asteroid storm. Your character needs to improvise a defense, and they decide to re-purpose an old mining laser. To charge it, you need to assemble a bunch of fuel molecules and send them to it, to fire it you need another type of molecule, and to rotate the turret you need to send a third type of molecule to the turning controls.

            I had a blueprint in my head for what my laser turret was going to look like, and I had room in the game to implement about half of it. I couldn’t figure out a good fire control mechanism, so I basically weighed down the trigger of the laser turret and fed it enough fuel to fire constantly. My rotation mechanism kept backing up its fuel lines, so I set the turret to spin constantly and I just controlled the direction in which it spun.

            The build was an inelegant mess full of appallingly ugly solutions and held together by chewing gum. And it completely sold me on the MacGuyver experience of my character desperately trying to kludge together an asteroid defense.

            • Paul Spooner says:

              Man, I love SpaceChem so much. It’s my go-to example of story and gameplay working together as well.
              Though, I still liked how The Witness mechanics and… it’s not really a narrative… theme? Worked together? Anyway, I’m curious what perspective separates the two so drastically, and how this perspective can be used to develop gaming sensibilities and sense gaming development.

  21. Duoae says:

    I’m really on the bandwagon of “enough pixels is enough”. So fed up with the “more, more, more!” mentality of certain technology pushers. Worse still, I’ve just gotten off a discussion with some game developers who are convinced that HDR is not worth it (4K is, mostly) but “improved lighting techniques” are what will actually improve graphics in games.

    What they’re actually talking about is photorealistic details instead of better colour/image reproduction. The problem with this is that, towards the end of the discussion, it became apparent that they use calibrated displays. They get the best out of their high-end displays because they’re calibrated. They get pretty good reproducibility from their displays because they’re high-end. They have high-end displays because they’re graphics professionals….

    Unfortunately, it apparently never occurred to them that the people who will consume the content they output are average persons who do not have calibrated displays, who have TVs/monitors that are basic 720p and 1080p resolutions without HDR and are not worth over $1000-2000+.

    Sure, supporting HDR for non-HDR displays doesn’t mean anything but at least it will offer those who have something better than the dire pit gaming is currently in with regards to picture quality. It will also push manufacturers to implement the technology more often and with better quality (I’ve read some HDR implementations aren’t so great!).

    Let me put it this way: Many times I’ve had to readjust my sitting position in order to more easily/accurately see what’s happening in a game on screen. Sometimes I’m seeing the image and it’s washed out. You know what I’ve never done? I’ve never had to do that for any Disney/Pixar/Dreamworks et al. animated production. Yet somehow, for the most part, developers aren’t considering the displays that consumers are using to consume the content they produce.

    One caveat I will make is that I’ve never had this issue on Nintendo platforms or in Bungie/Rare games.

  22. Zak McKracken says:

    The thing with desktop screen resolution:

    Take a piece of paper with some text printed on it, in a relatively small but comfortably legible size, and hold that next to some text on your screen. With most Computer monitors, the printed text is way smaller. Now, scale down the on-screen font until it has the same size as the printed text — veeery hard to read on most monitors, and that’s despite anti-aliasing and subpixel-hinting. Whether you can see the pixels or not, the screen resolution still limits how small a detail you can discern. Laser printers relatively quickly went to 300 dpi, and from there to 600dpi. It’s quite hard to spot any improvements between those resolutions in printed text. Any more resolution only helps with half-tone printing.
    Old CRTs used to have 72ppi (that’s pixels, not dots), then went to 96, and these days many monitors are a bit above 100 ppi. I’ve got a 1365×768 monitor standing next to a 2560×1440 one, which is a little but not too much larger. Although text on the bigger monitor looks smaller when using the same number of pixels, everything is also sharper. So although I do need more pixels per letter on the big screen, I still get more letters per area, and that’s quite nice. I’m finally able to read an entire A4 page, including footnotes and exponents in equations, without zooming.

    I’d say that for a desktop screen, about 200-300ppi should be the limit beyond which more resolution does not mean more discernable information, since unlike a laser printer, the screen does not need to show halftones by alternating bright and dark pixels. Phone screens are already well beyond that limit, but you typically have them a bit closer to the eye, and screen area is much more expensive on phones, so more pixels help to use it better. That said, I can’t appreciate anything beyond 250ppi, though that may have to do with my eyesight…

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