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Diecast #204: Left 4 Dead, Factorio Pricing, Minecraft and World Scale

By Shamus
on Monday Apr 2, 2018
Filed under:
Diecast


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

Hosts: Paul, Shamus.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (90)



Shamecast: Left 4 Dead

By Shamus
on Saturday Mar 31, 2018
Filed under:
Notices

I’m a bit torn on this stream. On one hand, it was amazing to return to this game after so many years. This game is a joy. On the other hand, I’m really frustrated with my moment-to-moment decisions while playing.


Link (YouTube)

See, even though it’s been at least seven years since I played, I still have huge parts of the game memorized. I spent a lot of the stream running on muscle memory and auto-pilot. The thing is, that’s completely inappropriate behavior when you’re playing with a newbie and a couple of bots. You can see this in the subway when I get separated from the group. I run over to the ammo pile because everyone always runs over to the ammo pile because why would you go anywhere else? But of course Paul was just moving as felt naturally and wasn’t thinking, “we need to sprint to the next subway car because this tunnel makes us really vulnerable to ambushes and we need to get away from the witch”.

So then a wave of zombies showed up, and instead of running back to the group like I should have, I backed into a corner like you would in a normal game. I sat there for a second, seriously expecting the rest of the group to pile in around me. By the time I realized that this expectation made no sense, it was too late and we were all swarmed.

Now, in this instance it worked out. I died and we got to show off that part of the game and how death worked. But I kept behaving like that the entire stream. The moment I stopped actively thinking about it, I reverted to the usual behavior and resumed sprinting through levels, only to turn around and realize I’d ditched the team. Again. The whole point of playing with Paul was to take a sightseeing tour through the levels and point out the interesting details, and my constant pushing ran directly counter to that. And I couldn’t stop doing it.

I guess it didn’t hurt the stream, but I was really frustrated with myself for not being able to break old habits.

Also, the game feels very different compared to what I remember. Tanks go down in seconds. Witches seem incredibly rare. Waves of zombies seem rare. We hardly ever faced more than one special infected at a time. Maybe I’m remembering the higher difficulty levels, but I seem to remember Tanks being an ordeal even on normal. Maybe the game has been patched? I dunno.

Anyway. It was still a good time, despite me constantly playing in a way that undermined what I was trying to do. Maybe I just need to give it another try. But Paul also suggested Factorio multiplayer, and that might be fun too. We’ll see.

In any case, I’m not sure if I’ll be able to stream this week. My sleep schedule is madness. I’m living on a 26 hour schedule and sleeping 6 hours a night. This happens to me sometimes. It seems like it would be nice having the extra hours of productivity, but I’m actually pretty confused and scatterbrained when this is going onNow that I think of it, maybe that explains why my concentration was so bad in L4D.. It’s entirely possible that I’ll be sleeping during my normal stream time, and I’d hate to make plans and then stand you up later.

Anyway, thanks for showing up and hanging out.


 
 
Comments (44)



Wolfenstein II Part 9: Mister Hitler

By Shamus
on Thursday Mar 29, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

To liberate the United States, BJ needs to hijack the Ausmerzer. To do that, he needs the control codes. To get them, he needs to go to VenusWait, so NOBODY on Earth has the control codes? Doesn’t anyone on Earth need the control codes to, you know, control it?. To get to Venus, he needs to disguise himself as an actor.

See, the Nazis are making a propaganda movie about the capture and execution of Terror Billy and the auditions for the title role are being held on Venus. So BJ poses as an actor and goes to Venus to audition to play himself. While there, he can steal the MacGuffin codes. This means we have to meet the film producer, who turns out to be Der F├╝hrer himself, Adolf Hitler.

Mr. Hitler

Die, allied schweinehund!

Die, allied schweinehund!

The Wolfenstein games have always had a weird relationship with Hitler. This is an action story, and action stories are generally a build-up to some final showdown between our hero and the ultimate embodiment of evil. This works really well in a story like Star Wars where the villain isn’t just the mastermind, but also a formidable foe for the protagonist to face off against. We can take the entire conflict of the two sides and boil it down to a fight between two people. This can take a large, abstract conflict and make it deeply personal. The problem is that this doesn’t work nearly as well when you’re making a story based on historical events, because the most powerful leader is rarely the most fearsome warrior.

Having BJ kill Hitler wouldn’t be particularly cathartic because in combat he’s just an old politician with a dumb mustache. On the other hand, it feels really strange to leave him out. Everyone’s first question will be, “So what about Adolf Hitler?” He might not be a good boss fight, but this series is built around the desire for lowbrow wish fulfillment / power fantasy, and bringing justice to one of the most hated figures of the 20th century fits right in with that sort of thing. On the other, other hand, we want to kill our villain at the end of the story for maximum emotional and thematic payoff, but the audience already understands that killing Hitler doesn’t magically stop the Nazi war machine or end the slaughter. Basically, the audience will naturally desire – and perhaps even expect – something which is going to be both implausible and unfulfilling as an end to the story.

Wolfenstein 3D handled this by putting Hitler inside a Mecha-suit to make him a more interesting threat, and his fight appeared at the end of the third chapter in a six-part story. The Hitler confrontation was a climax, but not the climax.

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (97)



This Game is Bad for You

By Shamus
on Tuesday Mar 27, 2018
Filed under:
Column

I’ve wanted to write about this for a long time. In fact, I did write about this a long time ago. This essay has been sitting in the drafts folder for over a year. I keep meaning to publish it, but then I chicken out. This has been in my “rainy day content” queue for a while nowI’m not suddenly braver today, I’m just out of regular content..

See, the point I want to make has the stench of moral panic about it, and I hate, HATE moral panics. I hate when people start whining about how some awesome new thing is killing us, or corrupting our children, or problematic, or whatever. I’ve lived through periods where middle-aged dunces got themselves worked up over Dungeons and Dragons being Satanic. Rock and Roll is turning teens into hedonists. Videogames are “Murder Simulators”. Smartphones are giving us ear cancer and making us antisocial. I know how obnoxious it is when old people get worked up about New Things.

And yet here I am, 46 years old and wringing my hands over a New Thing.

I don’t want to start a moral panic over this. Instead let’s call it a Moral… “Unease”? “Mild worry”? “It might be good to keep an eye on this”? Whatever. I want to worry about a new thing but I want to do it in a chill and non-confrontational way.

The point is, there’s a game everyone is playing today and it really is bad for you. Having played this game for eight years I can tell you first-hand that it really does impact the way people behave and perceive each other. And I’m not talking about in-game behavior, here. I’m talking about real, lasting consequences in the real world. I’m talking about a game that can actually change the way you see other human beings, and how you treat them. It’s a game that’s genuinely harmful and continues to impact your thoughts and behavior, even after you stop playing it.

The game is Twitter.

“But Shamus, Twitter isn’t a game!”

Right, right. I mean obviously it’s not an actual game. But hear me out.

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (288)



Diecast #203: Nier Automata, Survival Games, Creative Burnout

By Shamus
on Monday Mar 26, 2018
Filed under:
Diecast


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

Hosts: Paul, Shamus.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (48)



Shamecast: Nier Crashed so We’re Playing GTA V Again

By Shamus
on Sunday Mar 25, 2018
Filed under:
Notices

It really is a shame things didn’t work out with Nier. And for that of you who are about to leave a comment without watching the video: Yes, I installed the FAR mod, which legend claims is a panacea for all graphical issues. This claim is false, as the stream shows. The game very regularly had the freeze-frame “crash”, and FAR didn’t help with that. I’m not the only one with the problem. It’s been reported by people for a full year now and if they haven’t fixed it by now then I doubt they will in the future.

I was willing to put up with the crashes to get through the game, but I’m not going to put up with that sort of nonsense during a stream.


Link (YouTube)

New week the plan is to play Left 4 Dead. Yes, the original. Yes, I’m aware that the game turns 10 this year. But see, I’ll be playing with my podcasting buddy Paul Spooner and this will be his first time playing the game. Here’s the event reminder. I hope you can make it. I’m not sure if I can play the game, teach Paul, and talk with chat, but it might be fun to watch me try and fail.

I’m looking forward to this one.


 
 
Comments (45)



Wolfenstein II Part 8: Horton’s Heroes

By Shamus
on Thursday Mar 22, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

BJ drops into New Orleans to recruit the next batch of rebel scum. It’s a group of colorful characters with various personality quirks that you might find endearing or obnoxious, but are definitely not boring. My problem with the section is that it’s all setup and no payoff. When Grace sends BJ in to rescue Horton, she says that he “[…] has important connections to to the remaining fragments of the resistance all over the US.” Except, once he’s on our side we never make use of those supposed connections.

Ignoring the bit where we got side-tracked with BJ’s capture, execution, and resurrection, the structure of this game is as follows: Caroline’s notes send us to recruit Grace. Grace sends us to recruit Horton. Horton says we should deal with the Ausmerzer. But the Ausmerzer was right there in the opening of the game. We didn’t need to go on the three-levels-deep fetch quest to come up with the idea of stopping it.

Sure, this sort of plot is good enough for a dumb shooter. But it’s not good enough for a movie, which is what the writer seems to be making.

Horton’s Heroes

Left to right: The Professor, the legendary BJ Blazkowicz, Paris Jack, and Horton. Only one of these people will be useful to the rebellion after this cutscene. I'll let you guess which one.

Left to right: The Professor, the legendary BJ Blazkowicz, Paris Jack, and Horton. Only one of these people will be useful to the rebellion after this cutscene. I'll let you guess which one.


We meet these goofballs in the middle of the bombed-out ruins of New OrleansObligatory: But what do they eat?. Once again, BJ is obliged to have a long argument to get them to join the cause. It’s the same thing he had to do with the New York group: We find a group of hopeless holdouts fighting for survival who paradoxically don’t want to join BJ’s band of secure, technologically advanced, well-informed, famously accomplished, and well-supplied badasses. Instead they try to convince him it’s a lost cause. (Which makes you wonder why they’re still rebels. And if it’s because they’re cornered and have no choice, then why don’t they join to escape their current predicament?) Then he makes an emotional appeal by way of vague platitudes and they change their mind.

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (111)



The Witcher 3: Vizima

By Bob Case
on Thursday Mar 22, 2018
Filed under:
Random, Video Games

Enough futzing around trying to find Yennewhatshername. It’s time to start the main quest.

The Witcher’s 3’s main quest is called “Collect ’em all” (to complete it, you must collect one of every Gwent card in the game) and your first opportunity to start it is by talking to traveling Oxenfurt Professor Aldert Geert at the tavern in White Orchard. He’ll give you your first Gwent deck (of the Northern Realms faction) and play you in a pretty easy match.

This probably won’t surprise you much given the playthrough’s ground rules, but I’m a Gwent man. I got less satisfaction defeating the game’s various villains than I do when I scorch the everloving bejeezus out of an overpowered monster deck. It’s the only card game to successfully make me cackle.

Now I understand that not all of you reading this are into Gwent as much as I am, so I will also spend considerable time covering the game’s various side quests, like the one where you help Ciri save the world from a magical-entropic apocalypse. And from here on in I’ll warn you when there’s a “Gwent part” coming up, so you can skip it if you’re so inclined.

Now that's a round of Gwent.

Now that's a round of Gwent.

Today’s Gwent part is gonna be pretty short, because there’s not much to say yet. Gwent is a game where you deploy cards in three rows (melee, ranged, and siege) with the aim of outscoring your opponent in two out of three rounds. The twist is that you keep the same set of cards for all three rounds, so it can be advantageous to strategically throw a round if it leaves you better cards to win the following ones. The professor gives you a barebones deck and plays you in a match that mostly serves as a tutorial.

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (59)



The Shamecast: Are We STILL Stuck in GTA V?!

By Shamus
on Wednesday Mar 21, 2018
Filed under:
Notices

I know I’ve been posting a lot of video lately. I didn’t get a column up yesterday and I haven’t had much to say in the comments. I’ll spare you the usual two paragraphs complaining about my health and just cut to the chase: I’m off my game this week. Hopefully I’ll bounce back soon. In the meantime, here’s three hours of my playing Grand Theft Auto V:


Link (YouTube)

As a reminder: Tonight I’ll be streaming some Nier: Automata. Here’s the event reminder for the time. I should be there as planned, although I might not be my usual chatty self. We’ll see if I can get some sleep.


 
 
Comments (17)



Diecast #202: Kerbal Space Program, Human Revolution, Hosting Problems

By Shamus
on Monday Mar 19, 2018
Filed under:
Diecast

Heads up: An enterprising reader has created their own RSS feed for the show. I don’t use RSS often enough to appraise it, so let me know how it works for you. If it’s good and does what we need, I’d be happy to make this the official feed.

Good news for those of you who enjoyed SolderHawk’s visit in the previous episode: She’s going to come back and visit again in a few weeks.


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

Hosts: Paul, Shamus.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (85)



Shamecast #3: Still More Grand Theft Auto V

By Shamus
on Sunday Mar 18, 2018
Filed under:
Notices

In this episode we surf on cars, ride trains, break the AI, and shoot down dozens and dozens of helicopters. If you haven’t been watching my streams and you don’t have an hour to spend on video, then this is the kind of highbrow gameplay / narrative analysis you’ve been missing out on.


Link (YouTube)

The total helicopter kill count is 32. 8 of those were during the train ride, and the other 24 were part of the rooftop rampage. In the chat it was suggested that a helicopter costs about $120k. Going by that figure, the Los Santos police had to cough up 3.8 million to replace their inexplicably massive fleet of helicopters.

Then on Friday I did another, unannounced Stream of Batman: Arkham City. And then on Saturday night I did the final (for the time being) Stream of Grand Theft Auto V. I haven’t uploaded that to Youtube yet. It’s been fun and we may come back to it later, but it’s time to move on to the next game. I just picked up Nier: Automata. That’s a great game to stream and I’d love to talk about it with you. On the other hand, the damn thing keeps crashing and that’s the last thing I want to deal with while streaming. We’ll see if I can make it work.

I’m not sure how to handle this reposting of streams. In the future. I don’t think we need one of these “Here is the VOD I uploaded to Youtube.” posts every single time I do another stream, and I don’t want to clutter up the blog archives with that. If you’re into streams then you probably know how to subscribe to YouTube / Twitch, and if you’re not then all of this is just clutter. We’ll see.

This coming week the Stream will be a bit later. Here is the event on Twitch, which should give you the proper time in your timezone.


 
 
Comments (38)



Wolfenstein II Part 7: Dream Sequence

By Shamus
on Thursday Mar 15, 2018
Filed under:
Retrospectives

As promised, BJ is dragged around the country and put on television like a trophy. The Nazis call him “Terror Billy”. He’s given a show trial and sentenced to death.

Worst. Daydream. Ever.

This is complete overkill on the Nazi iconography. You have to play the game to feel how one-note the environments are. It's numbing.

This is complete overkill on the Nazi iconography. You have to play the game to feel how one-note the environments are. It's numbing.

As he’s sentenced, one of the guards turns his back on BJ and you’re able to do a melee attack. No wait, you’re obliged to do a melee attack. The story will literally not proceed until you press this one button. When you do, BJ suddenly breaks his shackles, kills the guards, and steps out of his restraints.Thus begins what is probably the hardest fight in the game.

If you’re taking this escape at face value then it feels completely unearned. BJ snapping those shackles is completely implausible and there’s no reason for him to be suddenly able to walk. Nothing has changed in the story to make this moment possible. On the other hand if you correctly realize that this is a dream sequence, then you also know that the whole thing is just a giant waste of time.

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (118)



Overthinking Zombies

Let's ruin everyone's fun by listing all the ways in which zombies can't work, couldn't happen, and don't make sense.

 

Batman v. Superman Wasn't All Bad

It's not a good movie, but it was made with good intentions and if you look closely you can find a few interesting ideas.

 

Seven Springs

The true story of three strange days in 1989, when the last months of my adolescence ran out and the first few sparks of adulthood appeared.

 

Starcraft 2: Rush Analysis

I write a program to simulate different strategies in Starcraft 2, to see how they compare.

 

Games and the Fear of Death

Why killing you might be the least scary thing a game can do.

 

Linux vs. Windows

Finally, the age-old debate has been settled.

 

Zenimax vs. Facebook

This series explores the troubled history of VR and the strange lawsuit between Zenimax publishing and Facebook.

 

Quakecon 2011 Keynote Annotated

An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.

 

Final Fantasy X

A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Tomb Raider

We're usually pretty hard on reboots. So what did this game do that made us so happy?

 

Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

Ever wonder how seemingly sane people can hate popular games? It can happen!

 

D&D Campaign

WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.