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The Witcher 3: Dad Games

By Bob Case
on Wednesday Apr 4, 2018
Filed under:
Random, Video Games

Before we continue with the main quest, I’d like to take some steps to advance the game’s biggest and most elaborate side questI’ve decided to run this whole ‘Gwent is the main quest’ gag deep into the ground, and there’s nothing you can do to stop me.: the search for Geralt’s adoptive daughter Ciri.

I'm normally not a fan of Improbable Fantasy Eye Colors(TM), but I have to admit Ciri's eyes look pretty cool.

I'm normally not a fan of Improbable Fantasy Eye Colors(TM), but I have to admit Ciri's eyes look pretty cool.

Now for an aside that concerns games and their presumed audience.

Without going into exhaustive detail, at some point in the eighties the game industry collectively decided that they were going to consider young boys to be their core audience. I’m quite familiar with this, since I was on the receiving end of it, and am pretty close to the bulls-eye consumer for this model. I played Super Mario Bros. and Zelda when I was in elementary school, Wolfenstein and Doom when I was in middle school, and Final Fantasy when I was in high school. At some point I played Fallout, which detoured me slightly (though permanently) off the beaten path, but broadly speaking their whole “market to young boys” thing definitely worked in my case.

This strategy was the product of an industry trying to find its legs again after a painful crash. But what started as a temporary tactical move calcified into habit, and the (AAA at least) games industry has kept making and marketing games mostly towards me and people like me ever since. Of course, now my generation is well into its thirties, so I guess it shouldn’t come as a surprise that starting around five years ago a new kind-of-genre has emerged that I’ve come to call the “Dad Game.”

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (90)



This Dumb Industry: This is Why We Can’t Have Short Criticism

By Shamus
on Tuesday Apr 3, 2018
Filed under:
Column

This is a strange gig. I spend more time thinking about, writing about, and reading comments on videogames than I spend playing videogames. A lot of this job involves arguing. Not the nasty stressful kind of arguing. I mean just general disagreement and confusion. “Oh I can’t believe you like this / how can you not love this” kind of disagreement.

As you work to be understood, you’ll naturally be drawn towards writing longer and longer criticism. I think of it as the Joseph Anderson effect. You might only have 800 words of criticism on a subject, but if you’re trying to avoid arguments then it’ll take you another 12,000 words to support your thesis and harden it against predictable dismissals.

When you’re a new critic, it begins with a simple naive statement of opinion:

“I didn’t like Shoot Guy III.”

But that’s not very interesting. Your review is short and there’s very little for anyone to think about. The whole thing reads like a list of likes and dislikes: I like the shooting, I didn’t like the wacky fast-talking animal sidekick, I thought the zeppelin chase was cool, I thought the ending was dumb.

So then a reader will ask why you didn’t like those things. And yeah, that’s a fair question. So in the future when you write your reviews you spend a little more time describing where the game fell short.

Continue reading »


 
 
Comments (208)



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)



The Biggest Game Ever

How did this niche racing game make a gameworld so massive, and why is that a big deal?

 

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.

 

Self-Balancing Gameplay

There's a wonderful way to balance difficulty in RPGs, and designers try to prevent it. For some reason.

 

Why Batman Can't Kill

His problem isn't that he's dumb, the problem is that he bends the world he inhabits.

 

Juvenile and Proud

Yes, this game is loud, crude, childish, and stupid. But it it knows what it wants to be and nails it. And that's admirable.

 

Starcraft: Bot Fight

Let's do some scripting to make the Starcraft AI fight itself, and see how smart it is. Or isn't.

 

What is Piracy?

It seems like a simple question, but it turns out everyone has a different idea of right and wrong in the digital world.

 

This Game is Too Videogame-y

What's wrong with a game being "too videogameish"?

 

Spoiler Warning:
Hitman:Absolution

This game needs to be on more 'worst of' lists. Watch our let's play to see how much stupid you can pack into one game.

 

Are Lootboxes Gambling?

Obviously they are. Right? Actually, is this another one of those sneaky hard-to-define things?

 

Hardware Review

So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.

 

The Opportunity Crunch

No, brutal, soul-sucking, marriage-destroying crunch mode in game development isn't a privilege or an opportunity. It's idiocy.