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Diecast #115: Rocket League, Black Flag, Romance in Games

By Shamus
on Monday Aug 3, 2015
Filed under:


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Hosts: Shamus, Campster, Rutskarn.

Here is an example of the ultra-rare episode without Josh. I think Josh-less episodes are more rare than Shamus-less episodes.

Show notes:
1:00 Rocket League

5:00 Life is Strange.

No Spoilers.

8:00 Assassins Creed Black Flag

26:00 Shamus is too busy making his videogame to play a videogame.

Hopefully if I get enough stuff done I can write some blog posts, but I don’t dare pause coding while artists are waiting on me.

33:00 Handheld games.

I am enjoying “Zelda: Link Between Worlds” and am wondering if any of you have other suggestions for good handheld gaming experiences.

Paul Spooner
P.S. Pokemon aside.

37:00 Romance in videogames.

Dear Diecast:

As games keep trying to be more like movies, how do think their writers can, should, and actually will address the challenges of more often including romance as a sub-plot (or a primary plot, Catherine for example)?

The added challenge of romance specifically in video games is that every player has unique preferences, so you can’t just make a character “likeable” and call it day. Movies can create chemistry between two characters and the audience accepts that they like each other, but game protagonists are expected to be influenced by the player’s personality. If the protagonist hooks up with someone whom the player is not attracted to, it can feel like an uncomfortable forcing of the hand, even worse for the fact that it puts romance, sex, and “forcing” in the same context.

I look forwarded to hearing each host’s perspective, and perhaps what lessons we can learn from past examples.


I hope you liked this topic, because I’m going to bring it up again in my Escapist column this week.

Comments (124)

  1. MichaelGC says:

    I think Josh-less episodes are more rare than Shamus-less episodes.

    This is only the second Josh-less episode, I think?

    *struggles against compulsion to go back and check*

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Strife is lange without Mumbles?That sucks.Couldnt she have married before the new episode came out?

    Also,I thought you guys were going to cover the blip thing.Its really sad how that is not the biggest news.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,what are your thoughts on universal asking google to block localhost because it was full of dirty piracy stuff?Im sure as a staunch critic of various anti piracy schemes that hurt the paying customer,Shamus should be delighted about this thing.

    • MrGuy says:

      What I want to know is how Universal knows about all the stuff on my hard drive.
      I mean, umm…my friend’s hard drive.
      I mean, umm…not really my friend, more this guy I know who just needed someone to hang on to some files for him for a few days.

    • Didn’t we already know the RCAA is the biggest pirate ever? ;)

    • AileTheAlien says:

      “My god! This computer has every single one of our movies! They even have copies of all our rough drafts and in-progress films that we’re still shooting! We need to shut them down immediately!!!”

    • Neko says:

      I think that every time that happens and it’s a domain or page that is actually related to the material that they’re trying to take down, Google should just assume they must know what they’re doing and oblige. Obviously they should still ignore the mistaken ones (see “Pixels” debacle), but in the case of Universal Studios asking Google to take down their own movie’s IMDB page, their own offical teaser trailer on youtube, and so on – yeah, just do it, they obviously know what they’re doing.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Chris,I never knew you were so sinister.

  5. TheAngryMongoose says:

    My Black Flag experience: Sail around being a pirate for 3 hours. Get a little board. Be an assassin for 5 minutes, get bored, remember why I had so much fun being a pirate.
    I absolutely hate the Assassin’s Creed games; I don’t think I’ve ever enjoyed being an assassin in them. But being a pirate made Black Flag some of the most fun I’ve had with a game.
    It’s a shame it’s weighed down with the Assassin’s Creed baggage; a Black Flag game (and presumably at least one decent sequel) would have been great if that’s what they were aiming to make.

  6. John says:

    I’m pretty sure that the “scifi” Captain Edwards you’re thinking of was pilot Glenn Edwards, after whom Edwards AFB is named. He was involved in the early flying wing bomber tests in the Forties.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The best relationships ever are in alpha protocol.Here,whether you befriend someone,whether you make them into your nemesis,whether you bang them or dont,it will have impact both on the story and on the gameplay.Its a shame that practically everything other than the characters in that game sucks.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Bioware also sucks at doing romance.But they do great friend stuff.Shame that fans want them to make these crappy romances,so they are now practically obligated to make them for every character.

    Also,a sad,sad thing:The stuff you described,characters going around,talking to each other,multiple people conversing,thats…..thats what they did in mass effect 3:(

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Chris mentions the banter in Inquisition but Origins and DA2 did that too and it absolutely did help with getting to know the characters and winning me over on a few of them. In fact, some of your first hints in Origins that the relationship is starting to develop come from banter. Inquisition may have a greater volume of it but there was a bug in the game at launch that kept many players from hearing much banter.

      To me more games should do banter when you’re in action mode.

      Also, Chris’ idea for Bioware the Romantic Comedy sounds like probably half of all the action movies ever made.

      And Bioware already uses canned animations (in fact I think they over use them. Witcher 3 often has much more basic animations for incidental conversation). All you need is a little head bobbing (very little) and some rocking back and forth and thats as animated as people often get during conversation in real life until you get into a less inhibited setting for an extended period.

      • Joe Informatico says:

        Poor DA2 doesn’t get enough love. Because it does exactly what Shamus talked about: there are cutscenes triggered in DA2 when Hawke (the PC) enters an NPC’s usual hangout, and they’re just finishing a conversation with another party member. Or even their extended relationships have relationships: I loved the little bit that suggested Fenris–the moody, angsty JRPG transplant–had a regular poker night with Avaline’s husband. Or how Avaline and Isabella’s world-map chatter evolved from sniping and bickering to genuine respect.

        Or when my Hawke transferred her affections from Fenris to Anders, and they were both in my party at the same time once, Fenris said to Anders, “I don’t like you, mage, but I respect her decision. But if you hurt her, I’ll kill you.” Totally cliched, but at least it was evidence of the NPCs having emotional investment in the situation. Not like when I dumped Leiliana for Alistair in DA:O, and she went to bawling her eyes out in one conversation, to playing my wing-woman in the very next conversation, 5 minutes later.

        There was really good character stuff in there, suggesting the NPCs had their own lives and weren’t always hanging on everything Hawke said and did, and I loved DA2 for it. Sadly, this might have been one of the casualties of the “DA2 did everything wrong” rhetoric and a lot of their attempts to innovate–like, “maybe your PC isn’t the most important person in the world, and maybe people will do stupid things that break the world no matter how much you try to stop them” tossed aside for, “nope, you’re The Chosen One again. No matter how nonsensical it is for a rogue Qunari mage who came out of nowhere to get all these disparate people together.”

        • IFS says:

          I came to this forum to bring up DA2, and how its one of the best examples of bioware doing relationships well. Glad to see I’m not alone in the opinion! Also the relationships do impact the gameplay slightly, you get different bonuses on each companion depending on if you have them as a friend or a rival, different dialogue in combat from your romance (for example what they yell out if Hawke goes down changes), and in the case of Isabela especially it can impact the story if you’ve ignored her or not.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            Special props go to the friendship/rivalry system. It was a nice attempt to break out of the mold of the first game.

            It also holds a special place in my heart for birthing the fan term “rivalmancer”*

            Yeah, I’d say the writing was overall better and the ideas more complex and better explored in DA2 than DAI. Also, better companions. The best companions in DAI are transplants from previous games.

            *Because you can romance a rival, a wonderful paradigm shift for Bioware who previously wouldn’t let you romance someone unless you were super duper nice to them. But it always made me imagine a mage of rivalries.

        • Xedo says:

          So, not a Bioware rpg, but Xenoblade Chronicles bears mentioning here. Instead of making a locked-in protagonist, you can play as any one of 7 characters, and so instead of having only relationships between the protagonist and the other 6 characters, you can invest in the friendships between any possible combination of party members. The equivalent in Mass Effect would be to bench Shepherd and play as Wrex, and then go chat up Garrus or Tali with unique dialog (hopefully about a mutiny or how obnoxious these humans are). I think there was a passive combat synergy that improved if your party members had stronger friendships in Xenoblade to support this.

          Also, part of what may be holding back Bioware’s investment in multi-character scenes is that they usually have a lot of optional characters. Take DA:O as an example. You can kill Wynne and Zevran, miss Shale, the dog, sten, leliana, and the Secret Character. The only guaranteed characters to pick up are Oghren, Morrigan, and Alistair, which is why the end-game has all the major story bits go to Morrigan and Alistair, and why Oghren of all people is the first character you meet in the expansion. Making optional multi-character scenes and content that people could easily lock themselves out of probably hit the cutting room floor first.

          • Vect says:

            I believe Oghren was in the Expansion because Orzammar is generally the last place people visit and as such he’s the last companion you get, meaning you miss out on a lot of his content.

        • DA2 had some good aspects, for sure, but yes, multi-person scenes are HARD to do. Mostly they are done in Inquisition with the advisors and Cassandra–none of which you can fail to recruit or get rid of. There is one big scene and you can just SEE how much effort it was to put it all together.

          Inquisition was also seriously harmed by a chronic problem that prevented party banters from firing consistently in many people’s playthroughs. There are over FIVE HOURS of the stuff and I think I heard less than 15 minutes (and often the same banter would fire 3-4 times!) in all my playthroughs. You learn a LOT about the companion characters via that banter that’s not available any other way, like the fact that Cassandra had a boyfriend who was a mage and died at the Conclave. I would have liked to have talked to her about THAT, particularly since my character was a mage.

          Bioware is in a trap not because people expect the romances but because people expect to be able to play the game how they want. They want to be able to refuse to recruit companions, refuse to accept missions, etc. and this results in very strict limitations on how some things can play out. If people would chill and say “you know what, I don’t care if I can’t choose to be a jerkass for no good reason, I just want things to be well-done” it’d be an entirely different story.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            They got rid of most of the jerkass options in DAI and still didn’t replace it with anything worthwhile. The plot was thinner than ever.

            As for the multi person interactions.

            https://youtu.be/AsNN1dHQM-8?t=186 (go to 3:05 if it doesn’t jump you there.)

            Its a little less awkward than I remember but they take turns laughing. There are also moments where its clear someone is jumping in with a comment that nobody responds too because they weren’t sure if that character was going to be in the scene.

            It reminded me of this scene from Birdemic the first time I saw it.


            Though unlike Bioware, Nguyen has no excuse.

            And actually, as I rewatched the card game scene for this post, Bioware does manage some kind of clever tricks in a few places, like having Blackwall urge Cullen to stay if he’s there (though it would have been less obvious if Varric, the mandatory character, didn’t also urge him to stay, but as obvious as that was, it still felt natural to have them both urging Cullen.) So there’s hope they’ll manage something even more natural in one of their DLCs or the next game now that they’ve had time to reflect on what worked and what didn’t.

            And just to be gratuitous, Josephine almost motorboats the Inquisitor.

            Even better one here but in Bioware’s defense, this scene isn’t supposed to be possible. Its a mod.

      • Vermander says:

        I also liked the hints that other members of the party in DA 2 sometimes hung out together and that their whole lives didn’t necessarily revolve around the PC. In some Bioware games there’s even hints that members of the party are dating or having secret affairs with each other.

        I also liked that there are certain characters who are NOT interested in a relationship with the PC, no matter how much you try. It’s kind of creepy when almost every supporting character is a potential romantic conquest.

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          Thats something Mass Effect 3 did well too. Later in the game, people start relocating from their usual spots on the ship to hang out with each other (Tali even drunk dials some of the others). You can eavesdrop on conversations they’re having and occasionally chime in. And Ken and Gabby pair up along with Garrus and Tali if you haven’t romanced either of them. Not to mention Joker and Edi.

          ME3 probably does this the best of any Bioware game to date.

          • Daimbert says:

            And you should mention Joker and EDI, as the protagonist certainly can play a large role in them getting together, which makes it a development that the player can get involved in without having to romance either of them themselves.

            • Wide And Nerdy says:

              Good point.

            • Mike S. says:

              Even more so with Aveline and Donnic in DA2, which was one of my favorite sequences in that game.

              • IFS says:

                Yes! I love that quest (and how it continues to be relevant in the later parts of the game, with Donnic even fighting with you for the final battle). My only issue with it is that I can’t have both Isabela and Merrill giving their comments since Isabela’s take priority, they’re both just completely hilarious in different ways.

                • Wide And Nerdy says:

                  At first I thought the Aveline Donnic plot was kind of daring. It really hinges on your caring about Aveline. But then it occurred to me that since its optional, they can safely assume you do care about Aveline or you wouldn’t be there.

                  And now I’m realizing this is actually a solid advantage for video game storytelling. A writer can organize their content in such a way that they can build story elements that are logic gated so that they know what interests and emotions they can count on the audience having coming in. There’s that much less chance that the Aveline Donnic subplot could ever fall flat on its face as it could in a traditional linear narrative where at least some of the audience won’t care enough about Aveline to enjoy the detour.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I really enjoyed the way the romance worked in Tales of Symphonia. From the beginning there was an obvious love interest, but she really wasn’t my style and to it’s credit, the game totally lets you choose who you want to be closest to. Whenever there is a quite moment and you get to talk to your friends it keeps track of who you talk to first. So in a very organic way it figures out who you like. And if the person you spend the most time with is a guy then there is no romance and you just have like a super huggy best friend.

      For reference this was also made possible because the game was one of those hybrids where main cutscenes were voiced but everything else was dialogue boxes so that there could actually be hundreds of combinations of levels of conversation friendship.

    • ehlijen says:

      KOTOR 2 wasn’t bioware, but it had cutscenes for what your party members were up to while you were gone every time you got back to your ship.

      It was basic, each combination of two characters only triggered once, and not all had a scene, but it was something.

  9. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Link Between Worlds really does do an excellent job of making Legend of Zelda into a satisfying mobile gaming experience. At least in the sense of, I can get going quickly, get a few things done in a short time, then save and exit. Navigation is usually short and quick and there’s a bunch of little things you can do, like collecting more of the maimais (for every 10 you collect you can upgrade one of your items, so its worthwhile. And each such item has only one upgrade so they make it count. Once you reach a hundred, you get an upgraded radial slash. Its the best I’ve seen collectibles ever done.) or even just finding some rupees (and you need more of them since you’re renting your items from an item shop and eventually want to buy them, so you can do the aforementioned upgrading) Your items also key off your mana bar so you don’t have to go and stock up on bombs and arrows periodically.

    As for other games I’d recommend for 3DS, the obvious stuff like New Super Mario Bros 2 and Super Mario 3D Land. Both have excellent learning curves, tons to do and allow you to accomplish something meaningful in a short playtime. I just got New Yoshi’s Island and so far thats proving to be fun too. Puzzles and Dragons Mario looks good but I’ve only played the demo on that one. Its looks to be a Match-3 RPG combat game.

  10. DeadlyDark says:

    Well, as you talked about interaction in Bioware games between companions, I’m was thinking about ME3. ME3 have discussions and overall interaction between companions, I remember that lounge room is occupied from time to time with various characters playing poker or just talking different things, or jokes exchange between Javik, Garrus and Vega (AFAIR) in the kitchen. So, at least trend is good in that regard.

    As for romance in general, I honestly like romance subplot in Binary Domain and how it was injected in the main story. I mean, Witchers are good in that regard, Bioware games are servicable, but BD was the game where I was genuinely surprised to like it. And BD has branching in the plot, that comes from how do you liked by the characters and this makes sense.

    As for Last Light and Far Cry 3 situation. I prefer FC3 approach. It’s blunt, but it’s blunt not only to player, but to the character too.

    As for handheld games… I play only on phones some easy stuff like Bejeweled or Threes, but one time I installed GBA emulator and have a blast playing Castlevania Aria of Sorrow. That was great and beautiful-looking game and I loved how smooth controlling the character was. Tried some other games (GBA Splinter Cell, some Metroid game, other Castlevania games, few others) but they wasn’t that good or interesting, so I stopped.

    As for Black Flag. I don’t know, but I like AC3 more. I think it has more genuine heart about the story… Ships was more… realistic in handeling than in BC*. And I like Haytem’s character. AC4BC is servicable, just like Revelations game. Though, I myself liked this meta plot humor.

    *While still being miles away from City of Abandoned Ships. I’m not sure what was english name of the game, sadly, so I just direct translated it here. Fond memories about that one, actually. That game was fun and hard to play, but man, I love naval combat there.

  11. Dormin111 says:

    An island of pirates dedicated to pillaging, raping, and murdering is not a “libertarian utopia.” Libertarianism is not authority-less mayhem.

  12. Starker says:

    KotOR 2 had all these nice interactions between your crew members. Really helped flesh out the characters, IMO.

  13. I think an example of a good video game romance that WASN’T optional was in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time. The Prince and Farah had obvious chemistry, there was substantial lead-up and development to it, and it was part of The Prince’s character arc and personal development, so it was really well-done.

    But that was also a third-person viewpoint game with a defined protagonist.

  14. Steve C says:

    What’s the text for the mailbag questions?

  15. Also, I completely disagree about the romance in Neverwinter Nights 2 feeling “modal” like it may in Bioware games, although I haven’t played through as a male character so it’s only for the female romance options. But the Bishop/Casavir dynamic in NwN2 was PHENOMENAL in how tied-in it was to the rest of what was happening. It was never a matter of “let’s take a break from saving the world to flirt!”

    Inquisition may have depended on which character you decided to romance, as well. Romancing Cullen was similarly tied in with the overall plot arc in such a way that it really didn’t feel like a “sideline” at all–and you talk to him so many times professionally that the interaction is always there. With the other characters you don’t really have that large aspect of PROFESSIONAL interactions to provide context for the ROMANTIC interactions, so I can see it feeling like an irrelevant departure.

    • Nimas says:

      The problem with Neverwinter Nights 2 elf romance was not that it was ‘modal’. It’s that the elf was a creepy fucking stalker.

      I don’t even remember if I had a dialogue choice to point out anything when she mentioned that she used to wait outside my house, wait for me to go sleep and listen to my breathing.

      I actually much preferred Neeshka the tiefling. Kind of wanted to stop doing the stupid main quest and just go be thieves with her ><, or maybe build a farm with Shandra…..god that still pisses me off to this day.

  16. Christopher says:

    Chris has the right idea, having party members interact with each other doesn’t have to be expensive. You just have to make a different kind of game, like Persona 4 or Tales of Vesperia. It needs cutscenes of guys just talking, or a party that’s always with you. I don’t think it can be done as well in games where you’re not keeping the entire party in your pocket and that aren’t big on cutscenes. Chrono Trigger is relatively good on it, though it’s light on conversation, but that’s because it’s pretty linear and can limit what party members you’re using. I love it when your party feels like your friends, and I don’t think any Bioware game has given me that feeling yet, save maybe Jade Empire. And that’s because they’re all nice and fun, not because they talk a lot to each other. Speaking of fun, that’s how I’d like to see romances in games too. DAI’s Iron Bull romance was funny, and I liked it a lot(my favorite part: A scene where all your lieutenants enter while you’re lying naked in bed, and react appropriately). Saints Row 4s Mass Effect romance parody was wonderful. Other than being fun, just seeing your love interest a lot and being able to choose(if you make your own character) is all I need. They don’t even need to be attractive. I don’t think there’s any pretty person in all of Bioware’s games, so I just romanced the ones I thought were the funniest and had a good time. Like you guys said, make it fit the character if you can’t choose. Please make it like Snake and EVA, though. Not like Raiden and Rose. If a relationship is already in progress, that better be with some real pleasant character. Not someone who’s dead/halfway across the world/annoying.

    Enjoyed the story about that nobleman pirate. I’ve played about as far as Rutskarn has and stopped, but all this pirate talk made me real interested in seeing where things go. Even if the next thing you guys said was that they made the pirates more boring.

    Maybe it was mentioned and I missed it, in which case I feel stupid, but I’ve got some pretty good suggestions for 3DS games if you like A Link Between Worlds: The two other Zelda games on that handheld.

    • Bioware kind of shoots themselves in the foot technically because they allow you to NOT RECRUIT many of the companions AT ALL. So doing large interaction scenes becomes an enormous undertaking where they have to allow for all kinds of possible conditions. The cards scene in Dragon Age Inquisition is a huge example of this–all of your companions except Solas and Vivienne may be present. Four of them–Dorian, Bull, Blackwall, and Cole–can simply never be recruited, so all of their lines are completely independent. It sounds awful, because you can’t hear the other people making noise/laughing in the background when they are talking. The amount of resources they invested in having just that one scene had to be huge–and while it was a cute moment the execution was still blargh.

      Also, I made Chris’s suggestion about having animation-less moments during the development of DA:I on the Bioware forums. We had a lengthy discussion that David Gaider got into about how expensive the animations were and how to trim that down. And they DID it–they created an entire new secondary dialog system where you could talk to people without entering a big cut scene!

      So, yeah, they DO listen to that stuff. Heck, at this point I think they’ve implemented so many of my suggestions on the DA series that I should get some kind of consulting credit. :P Or blame, take your pick.

      • Christopher says:

        You have my thanks, at least. I think they have only improved since ME1. That card game scene is exactly what I want more of, so it’s a shame that it’s so hard for them to do with the system they are comfortable with(I never noticed about the background chatter, I was just so happy to see everyone in one room). Wise of them to include two out of three of the War Table lieutenants in romances and have them stick around for story scenes. They are more prominent than some party members, really.

        • If you can keep their technical issues and production tradeoffs in mind they’re actually pretty amenable to suggestions, but being a Forum Dweller can be painful as, like the rest of the internet, it’s often full of “this sucks and you suck” type posts.

      • Vermander says:

        I think they also made a mistake with the whole “anyone can potentially die” thing in Mass Effect 2, because it meant that most of the characters introduced in that game had to have minimal roles in the next one. I know she’s not exactly the most popular character around these parts, but I think this was especially true for Miranda, who was virtually absent in the third game. I thought it was particularly weird how she wasn’t in any of the old logs about how Cerberus brought you back to life, and SPOILERS…how she didn’t play any part in the main storyline of the Citadel DLC even though you were fighting a woman who was essentially her replacement…SPOILERS.

        I can’t imagine what the third game was like for people who had managed to kill Wrex, Moridin,Tali and Garrus in the previous games and had to make due with their generic stand-ins.

        • Jokerman says:

          Weird thing is… Miranda actually has the highest chance of survival in ME2, So if they were going to bring someone back for a big role it should’ve been her.

          My main cannon playthrough of Mass effect has no Wrex, Ashley shot him (which instantly really lowered her chances of survival.) His replacement, Wreav was decent… it really changed how i looked at the ‘cure the genophage’ section, mostly people could never understand why i would shoot Mordin to stop him curing them, but leaving Wreav in charge seemed like a disaster waiting to happen.

          So i think it improves the quest i think, it makes an easy choice with wresx on whether to take the salarian councilors offer much much harder.

          • Mike S. says:

            If you have Wreav rather than Wrex, it is possible to talk Mordin into going along with the fake cure given the right (or rather, wrong) set of circumstances.

            But yeah– even best case, you’re putting a whole lot of weight on Wrex and Bakara’s success in keeping the krogan from reverting to type.

      • Jokerman says:

        Best (I mean worst) part of that card scene is when someone says something funny and everyone takes turns to laugh, it was one of the most cringeworthy scenes in the game for me.

  17. Steve C says:

    There can be a logical reason why a character the player has ignored all game comes in for a booty call romance in the final act; They are anxious about the dangerous final mission. It could be they are worried about the ‘suicide’ part of the ‘suicide mission’ and are trying to settle their nerves and/or trying to influence what role they play in it.

    • Alexander The 1st says:

      That, and at least for Ashley, the whole mutiny thing will be yet a black mark on her record as a soldier, and she’s still repenting for Shanxi and all.

  18. IFS says:

    So I know Shamus wasn’t very interested in it, but I would love to see some Rocket League played by members of the spoiler warning crew (or at least those of them who have PS4’s, though I think its on steam as well). It might sound like a driving/sports game but it feels completely different from those (I am not really a fan of either genre but I consider Rocket League a ton of fun).

  19. mhoff12358 says:

    I started playing Assassins Creed Black Flag for the first time literally 2 days ago. Clearly I’m being stalked for Diecast ideas, and thus hold a hidden invaluable power.

  20. Merlin says:

    Movies can create chemistry between two characters and the audience accepts that they like each other, but game protagonists are expected to be influenced by the player's personality.

    I think that the treatment of the protagonist as a malleable player insert is actually one of the key issues that causes romance writing (and writing in general) in games to fall on its face. It’s actually one of the most striking things I noticed playing through Hatoful Boyfriend a few weeks ago; despite being in a Choose Your Own Adventure game, the protagonist has clear, immutable character traits. Yes, you can choose who to romance and a bit of how to do it, but choices are framed in the context of “What are ways that Tosaka would act” rather than “What are ways that the player might want to act.”

    In contrast, characters like Sheperd and The Warden are specifically built to be blank slates, and the social & dialogue systems they work in are specifically built around not impeding… much of anything, really. That’s a big part of what leads to romance consisting of finding your teammate in camp and repeatedly nodding your head as they recite their tragic backstory. The bulk of the PC’s “character” exists only in the player’s headcanon, and there’s no way to attach emotional stakes to that.

    • Christopher says:

      This is part of why I appreciated The Boss in Saints Row 3 and 4. It’s not a choice-or dialog-heavy game, so of course it’s easier for them to do this, but they have several voices and each voice has a distinct personality. That means that whatever you choose, The Boss isn’t just some indistinct, headcanon thing. Similarly, among the few dating sims I’ve played, the ones that stuck out to me were the ones with a good protagonist and not just a stand-in. It’s not really necessary to have it, I enjoyed Persona 4’s romances just fine with what limited character Narukami Yu has. But in that case, the party members bounce off each other all the time. And he’s got a good portrayal in the anime adaptation.

    • Mephane says:

      Well, for me it depends on the type of the game, but I don’t automatically treat the game protagonist as a stand-in for myself. More often than not, I imagine a particular personality for them which can be quite distinct from my own; same goes for looks, I don’t think I have ever used a character creator to make something that looks like me, to the contrary, I tend to go different; in games where you can choose between various species, I rarely even consider making a human character.

      I therefore rarely have a problem with playing protagonists that have a pre-defined personality, unless that personality is too repulsive; there are limits to how far I am willing to go and what types of personalities I would explore in this way. For example, I could play character with the personality of a Hannibal Lecter, but I couldn’t ever play a character who is a nazi.

  21. Cybron says:

    I’ve been playing a ton of rocket league (steam version though, didn’t get it for free sadly). It’s a blast. There’s something deeply satisfying about rocketing halfway across the stage, doing a flying front flip and sniping the ball away from the other team.

  22. kunedog says:

    Since your OGG vs. MP3 post, I deliberately started downloading the OGG again for #112, #113, and #114. A “resume bug” (which I now remember) affected all of them.

    I listen to podcasts in my truck over bluetooth from my android phone. When I turn off the ignition the audio ends, and when I restart the truck the audio resumes (almost exactly) where it left off, without any other input from me. MP3s pretty much work flawlessly, but often with those OGG files the resume functionality would fail. After I start the truck and the BT radio “boots,” I would hear a second or two of Diecast audio where it left off last time (from a buffer I guess?), then a sudden cutoff and switch to the (beginning of) the next track in the playlist. This happened around a quarter of the time. Once, I had it suddenly stop and skip forward after a few minutes of normal playback.

    This is on a Galaxy Nexus with Cyanogenmod 10.1.3 (Android 4.2.2). The same bug was present in earlier versions because I remember it.

    It’s fair to say that technical problems are another reason people might be preferring MP3 to OGG (I’m sure it’s some obscure incompatibility that slipped through because non-ubiquitous OGG wasn’t tested as thoroughly).

  23. Steve C says:

    Chris did you say, “intense”? Or “In tents”?

  24. Steve C says:

    Got a link to Rutskarn’s Paranoia game?

  25. Rick says:

    I mean, if we’re talking about good games on handhelds, then 999: Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and it’s sequel Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward are some of, if not the best games ever written.

    (I know that sounds hyperbolic, but I honestly can’t think of another game that comes close story. That fact that they almost didn’t get a sequel, due to poor sales, saddens me.)

    • flyguy says:

      I loved both those games, however the end reveal in the 2nd game made me pretty angry, especially given what you said regarding sequels for the first game. Also, the old man’s secret was shocking, angering, and neither here nor there.

      You’ve probably heard of it, but Torment for the PC has incredible story, characters, and world building. Its pretty dated though, and the combat is slow.

  26. Rayen says:

    I would like to chime in on Pirate Games. Why isn’t there a really good one? There is nothing that is just you being a pirate captain/lord. There is nothing that sticks the landing, and I’ve been searching. the best I’ve found are AC4 black flag (the best AC game so far), Tropico 2, and Sid Meier’s Pirates!(2004). Between these three there is a perfect pirate game but they’re all missing something. Each of these games I’ve played and felt if there was just a little more we have something truly amazing.
    AC4 has sailing and a more simple city builder thing but it’s at it’s core an Assassin’s Creed game more about taking the thing everyone liked about the last AC game and putting it in a setting that makes it everything. It’s a franchise game that is about franchise story and making money than about Pirates. There is no diplomacy and the map is criminally tiny for something that feels like is should be the whole Caribbean Sea. Also i like the fleet mechanic thing but it’s just the Assassin’s guild thing with a shipping twist.
    Tropico 2 lets you build this great pirate town, has the entire Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico as a Map and has a nice diplomacy system. but you can’t leave the island. The Pirate fleet thing is much better in that instead of running a shipping company your running an actual pirate fleet, but your constantly short on supplies thanks to the RNG and it’s a lot more about making every single pirate happy, and making every single Captive afraid for their life. Plus the mission based style and lack of sandbox means you’re constantly resetting back to zero and there isn’t any feeling of building this great pirate kingdom.
    Sis Meier’s Pirates(2004) came really freaking close and considering it was made a decade ago says that my perfect pirate game is possible. I really wish i could make a sequel, because if the diplomacy system a little more robust and the player could have a Pirate town or little settlement to call your own that you could add to i would call it perfect. Each nation has it’s own personality, there are something like 20 different types of ships, the map is Gigantic and the combat (while i enjoy AC4’s a little more) is more like what actual ship to ship combat was like, with regards to wind and such. The boarding and actual hand-to-hand combat in AC4 is more engaging and fun. The cinematic-ness and badassery of commanding combat from the helm and then swinging over to the opponent’s ship, slashing your way across the deck hunting down the captain, going sword to sword with him before pulling out your pistol and shooting the bastard is hard to beat with isometric back and forth and then a sword duel minigame.
    Like i said between the three there’s a perfect pirate game. I’d take the setting and make it borderlands except pirates instead of desert marauders make a couple of big companies/nations for the factions and have an Water world planet map thing. I take the combat perspective of AC4 with the mechanics of SMP. A cherry picking of parts from Tropico’s and AC4’s town building, and Tropico’s pirate fleet management and a map the size of SMP. If someone want to take this idea and advice and go make this game that’d be great. You don’t even have to pay me, just a my name in the credits under “special thanks to ” and a free copy.

    • ehlijen says:

      I believe Sid Meier’s Pirates was a remake of an old DOS game? (I stumbled over a guide for something like that looking for one for this game).

      As a collection of mini games it wasn’t bad, the ship one was great fun even. But I don’t think you could sell a game with this kind of gender attitude anymore…

      • Daimbert says:

        Pirates!, actually, by Sid Meier, which was a phenomenal game. I haven’t tried the remake and so can’t say whether or not the original was better, but from what I’ve heard it probably was.

        • flyguy says:

          They’re both great! The remake is, unsurprisingly, not nearly as dated. Its art-style and environment are done really well. The battles are quite simple and the only truly hard parts of the game are the QTEs, especially on the more difficult settings.

  27. Nidokoenig says:

    For 3DS, I strongly recommend Kid Icarus: Uprising. It’s a great little third person shooter/brawler with an absurdly long single player campaign. The controls take a little getting used to, but they are good, they’re just not the mouse and keyboard or dual analogue controls you may have muscle memory invested in.

    For RPGs, Etrian Odyssey, Izuna: Legend of the Unemployed Ninja and Inazuma Eleven are all great. Etrian Odyssey can be a little hardcore, but later entries are much more accessible, Izuna isn’t so much difficult as it is punishing(lose items on death and so on), and Inazuma Eleven is fairly easy until you get into post game tournaments, though it’s basically a footy game with stat-based duels for tackles and shots on goal.

    Senran Kagura is a fun beat-em up, not very technically challenging but quite cathartic. Levels are interspersed with visual novel-style story segments that give a lot of character development for the entire cast, though it does tend towards making the characters waifu bait. Later instalments are apparently more challenging.

    Monster Hunter is not Zelda, it’s boss fights all the way, kill things to make armour and weapons out of them to kill more things, with a little resource gathering in the form of fishing, mining and harvesting. Combat is based around timing and exploiting weak points, attacks can take an eternity to wind up.

    3DS plays DS games, so finding those in bargain bins and the like is very lucrative. The Ys games are serviceable, done better elsewhere, but use the stylus controls with auto attack, the d-pad and attack button ones are obviously wrong and make timing attacks against later bosses almost impossible. Monster Tale and Aliens: Infestation are pretty cool Metroidvania games, and Monster Tale is a sequel to Henry Hatsworth, a Megaman-style game that’s fun and hilarious.

    For downloadable games, Zombie Incident is a fun platformer that’s worth the couple of quid it costs. It’s literally just wall jumping, collecting stars and jumping on enemies’ heads but it does it well. Liberation Maiden is an arcade-style 3rd person shooter, similar to the flight sections of Kid Icarus: Uprising but with free movement and less weapon variety. The Shantae games are cool Metroidvanias with fun story, though they don’t have a great amount of replayability.

    I’ve played almost a hundred hours of Pokemon Shuffle. Do not play Pokemon Shuffle, it is the devil’s work.

    • IFS says:

      For RPGs you forgot Bravely Default, which is an excellent and very charming JRPG in the vein of the older Final Fantasy games with one of the best turn based battle systems in that vein that I’ve ever seen. I’m not a fan of a certain plot twist and the gameplay recycling it causes, but seeing as that comes at around the 60 hour mark (or did for me anyways) there is plenty of good stuff before it.

      • Syal says:

        Is that the one where you defeat the final boss only to realize the last five dungeons were a dream and you still have to go fight him?

        • IFS says:

          No, it involves time travel and sends you back to repeat boss fights and such after you’ve reached what for me at least felt like a natural end point. I have heard that after a loop or two it starts to mix things up a bunch with the bosses, but I just felt like putting the game down after I got sent back.

    • Deadyawn says:

      Probably worth noting that Kid Icarus Uprising has been known to cause serious physical damage to people’s wrists from extended play sessions. So that’s a thing.

  28. GloatingSwine says:

    The big reason CDPR can develop a game like Witcher 3 for a lot less money than other triple A titles seem to need it, well, they’re in Poland.

    Cost of living there is a hell of a lot lower than in the US (or Canada, the UK, or Japan, etc). So a good programmer’s wage there can be quite a bit lower and still leave them well paid.

  29. Alexander The 1st says:

    From what I understand, we see a bit of this in Mass Effect 3 with Tali and Garrus, but one of the things I like about the Fire Emblem support systems is that those games let relationships build between party members either on a friendly or romantic level, and with a secondary relationship allowed to be built – both chosen by the player, but specific combinations taken by the writers to have a “paired ending” if they reach max support ranking with them. If it’s not those specific ones, the game is totally okay just ignoring it for brevity’s sake.

    Granted, free-basing that leads to the Radiant Dawn’s support system where everyone has some generic personality trait that they use in their conversations, but it allows for some level of fleshing out characters beyond their reason for joining up with the main character. It also allows you to pair off the spares of your party members, thus making it less of a dating simulator.

    Though now I’m reminded of the original Star Ocean that had a different take on the mechanical benefits of supporting units together – the relationship values were two-way in that case, and could end up with characters crushing on others that are crushing on others, but with the side effect that this meant that when a character fell in battle, the crushing person had a chance to go into berserk mode, with increased stats. Sadly, Star Ocean 4 doesn’t seem to have *quite* that effect in gameplay, and instead boils the relationship values down to “Can you pair these two people of opposing genders into the same ship room or do they object?”, leading to whether or not certain endings kick in, similar to Fire Emblem games’ paired endings.

    Either way, I feel both of those games have allowances for building adjustable relationships and having them be both meaningful to main gameplay elements, on top of it not being forced to revolve around the main character, are ways to make the relationships work better in games.

  30. James says:

    Assassins Creed’s meta game/plot always felt to me like a half assed poorly written copy of Metal Gear 2’s.

    Infact in my mind the only person like it or lump it who actually did meta plot/game is Hideo Kojima, the guy is insane but beautifully so. his games leave you just staring at the screen saying wat and honestly i love it. which makes me sad again, firstly cus MGSV will be his last Metal Gear and Silent Hills with his meta nonsense and Guillermo Del Toro would have been great. im glad that they are still working together on “something”

  31. Vermander says:

    One of the worst romance systems I’ve ever seen is in Dragon’s Dogma. Unless you did specific sub quests with particular NPCs the game simply picked the character you had the most positive interactions with and decided that they were your love interest in the third act. For some people this ended up being random merchants who they did favors for to earn discounts at their shops. So you might end up unexpectedly having to rescue a burly middle aged shopkeeper from a dragon and then waking up in bed with them.

  32. “Captain Edwards…why does that sound familiar?”

    “There was a pirate named Edwards later…a welsh dude…”

    I can’t. Stop. Laughing.

  33. The Rocketeer says:

    I think this podcast finally helped me pinpoint what it is I don’t like about BioWare’s “romance” writing: their games aren’t just about fanservice of every kind, but based upon self-gratification, and it necessarily limits the depth that relationships of any kind can approach with the kind of worlds and characters that they build.

    The cast mentions Gordon and Alyx from Half-Life 2, and how the groundwork is laid for a relationship there. But a relationship involves two people; Alyx and Gordon is just one person, fawning over the other. Whether it bugs you or whether you like that, trying to cross the line from affection and camaraderie into romance and a relationship between Gordon and Alyx can’t ever feel genuine to me, because Gordon can never reciprocate. A relationship between Alyx and a mute blank slate isn’t and can’t be a relationship; it’s just a bad visual novel with none of the player agency that those are based on.

    But really, BioWare romances are only one step removed from that. BioWare protagonists aren’t- or are rarely- totally blank slates, but to interact meaningfully and romantically with another character requires some depth of chemistry and an interplay of personalities and interests. But all a BioWare protagonist generally has is the choices that they’ve made, which in this respect and all others, is regarded by developer and player alike as something to be gamed according to their outcome- including the outcome of how others in the setting regard them.

    It’s hardly a novel criticism of BioWare’s titles that they offer the appearance of playing a mutable character, but actually require constant metagaming to avoid being locked out of reasonable outcomes or being locked into unreasonable outcomes, a la not having enough Paragon/Renegade points to make a certain decision because you didn’t pet/kick enough puppies. BioWare’s romances aren’t any different. Devoid of a solid character to base any relationship on, BioWare romances are a rote matter of picking who you want to end up with and failing to offend them. Aside from just appearing silly (as has been pointed out innumerable times), in a real sense, the player doesn’t pick how they treat their romance options; they choose how the other character feels or should feel at the outset, and simply reverse-engineers their interactions and choices regarding that character to facilitate that choice. That’s not a relationship. Actually, that’s a very creepy, shallow model of a relationship, and one that regards the other person as an object or a packet of stimuli to be sufficiently manipulated.

    If it were a movie or book, the protagonist would have things to say to their love interest rooted in a defined personality or history, and their relationship would develop or struggle in regard to those things. But in a BioWare game, the things that a player would want to say to their love interest are without number and beyond prediction, and the compromise has always been to disallow saying anything meaningful at all. Rather, the protagonist is limited to asking leading questions in a particular tone, being generally affable or flirty, and affirming rather than condemning the other person. With nothing to play against, it falls on the love interest to provide all the actual love: telling the protagonist how impressive they are, how much they’ve done for them, how they’d totally won them over against all odds, etc., with the player’s contribution to the relationship being to agree and assent in an earnest tone of voice or a roguish tone of voice, or disagree if you changed your mind about them.

    I think Persona 3 actually managed to practice successfully a model of interaction not totally unlike this, simply by stripping away everything from the player character. The protagonist of Persona 3 is a total blank slate and an archetypal Messianic figure, with ALL that that entails. Persona 3 was totally about being an entity that existed solely for the sake of other people and had no actual character or personality or needs of their own. There is no incentive to play a role or a consistent character; doing so will never benefit you and will materially disadvantage you. Every interaction you have with another person, romantic or otherwise, is about their needs and desires and about what you can do for them; you don’t have a character of your own to serve beyond your role as an instrument of the story, and your role in that story is one of assisting, consoling, saving, and redeeming others. Doing whatever is needed to protect them. Saying whatever is needed to heal them, or improve them, or strengthen them. If the protagonist had any personality, any ego, any character, it would come off as sociopathically manipulative. But you can’t be self-serving where there is no self to serve; the protagonist’s existence solely comprises the effects of their actions, and those actions exist only for the benefit of the people around them, in giving them joy, or strength, or consolation. Growing stronger in turn, yes, but having no use for that strength but to continue the same work in the same way.

    This is in total contrast to BioWare protagonists and stories, in which the entire world is built around the protagonist’s ego. Where the Messiah’s personality is mutable and without definite form for the end of serving others, the BioWare protagonist’s personality and choices are mutable for the purpose of turning all people and situations to their liking. It’s the age old power fantasy, which isn’t a bad thing per se. But I think there’s something very strange about relationship-as-power-fantasy. To take something that, by definition, is fundamentally collaborative, give-and-take, and beyond the control of either party alone, and to reshape it- by necessity of how these games are made and played- into something subject solely to the player’s desires, where the relationship is not even so much as a reward to be earned but a choice to be taken utterly for granted, and with the end of claiming the relationship totally subordinating the means or process of attaining it… That’s not a systemization of a relationship. That’s the systemization of something absolutely unlike a relationship. For me, there’s no gratification in that.

    PS: How weird is it that in Metro: Last Light, the way that Anna treats you with nothing but contempt and belittlement at the outset is how you know for certain that she’ll end up as your love interest?

  34. SlothfulCobra says:

    Back in ME1, Garrus and Wrex were my go-to teammates, I’d bring them everywhere. I was so disappointed when I brought Garrus to Tuchanka in ME2 and he had absolutely nothing to say to Wrex. I wanted to get the band back together.

    Nope. For all intents and purposes, the two of them exist in different universes, aside from a couple elevator conversations. In fact, when you’re not directly talking to characters to hear their life stories, they’re nothing but a couple short interjections into conversations. Even when they interact, they’re just reciting their own scripts that will get cut up and put together the same regardless of who they’re with.

    • Daimbert says:

      ME3 is a lot better at this, with a lot more context-sensitive conversations, both in-party and out. I even think Wrex and Garrus DO get a conversation with each other, if both are still alive at that point.

  35. Grimwear says:

    I’m personally one of those people who never connect as being the playable character. I can enjoy the story, and characters, and relationships between the characters but I’m incapable of role playing or considering myself to be the playable character. I won’t lie, I get jealous when I hear Rutskarn and Shamus talking about it.

    As for Last Light I’ll admit that I have no clue why you were forced to pair with Anna but what I assume happened was that the writers had a plan for a third metro game and that they wanted to maintain their good and bad endings. Spoilers for last light though it’s a pretty old game. The way both endings work at the end is that Artyom lives or dies based on how many points you accumulate throughout a run and the Dark Ones, regardless of ending, walk of saying they’ll return later. You find out in the bad ending that when Artyom had sex with Anna she got pregnant and had a son and it’s assumed that the son exists in the good ending as well since there are no deviations between the paths at that point.

    Here it’s all an assumption but I gathered they wanted the third game to take place in the future with Artyom’s son as the protagonist which would explain why his son would be able to communicate with the Dark Ones (even though Artyom only could because he essentially got implanted by the Dark Ones as a child). If this is true then the writers had a situation where they needed Artyom to have a son but they also wanted to keep their live/die endings which left them simply with a situation where at some point in the story Artyom has to have sex with someone. Does it suck that in hoping for a third game and maintaining their original endings they were forced to make a non optional sex scene? Of course. But if I had the choice between having experienced the original endings and a mandatory sex scene or a changed ending with an optional sex scene I’m glad they stuck with the former.

    Ps. All of this is based on the idea that they wanted to do a third game (which I feel they did since they left the Dark Ones path open) and that Artyom’s son would be essential to the plot.

  36. Deven says:

    okay i want to address the romance part in terms of bioware. i don’t remember which of you said you played it when the game was addressed but: Dragon Age II.

    dragon age two was great in handling characters and pretty good in terms of romance. pretty much all my love of that game is based on how much i love my party members. several times i would enter wherever they’re staying and see them having just finished a conversation with another party member. i would often just walk around the city with my party just to listen to what they had to say to eachother, often on topics totally unrelated to the game’s plot or protagonist and having more to due with the connections they have to eachother

    likewise their romances were great. for starters it had an ‘everyone is bi’ approach to make it easy to choose who you wanted to pair with, if anyone. they would have a number of scenes to address the romance that are notably different from they’re normal attitude, and when you do commit to the romance (usually in act 3/4) they gain A. a new outfit but more importantly B. a whole bunch of new dialogue in the party chat that reflects their commitment to the arrangement. they also move in with you.

    with this in mind do you think it’s entirely fair to say that bioware is consistent in this or would you say they are more than capable of doing better and have gotten better as time has gone on

  37. Mikey says:

    Shamus’ romantic woes with the Metro game is pretty similar to my own experience with the Zelda series.

    Link began as a run of the mill silent protagonist for the player to project on, but as the series went on it took on this overarching narrative about Link and Zelda being these legendary figures reincarnating across the eras, and Nintendo wants to eat their cake and still have it with him kind of being a defined character but still not letting him have dialog.

    For me, this has only meant bad things for Nintendo’s attempts to push Link and Zelda as a romantic couple; Zelda is contractually obligated to spend most if not all of the game somewhere inaccessible to the player, and most of the big story scenes she does get to spend with Link are dedicated to exposition. So when I get to the end and they make doe eyes at each other like they’re standing at the altar, it just feels forced to me, like the only reason it’s happening is because we’ve been trained to expect the hero to “get” the girl he saves.

  38. I think the biggest problems I’ve encountered with romance have been when I blundered into it while just trying to flesh out the story and make sure I haven’t missed any quest hooks.

    I don’t mind if they make romance a requirement for a quest (if it makes sense), but if I’m playing a game like Mass Effect 2, I want to exhaust everyone’s dialog. I found both of my Shepards (male and female) flirting with Jacob, even down to using the same lines and poses when I was just trying to activate his loyalty mission.

    Separating them clearly could work, but again, that could eliminate some role-playing opportunity. Maybe if your character decides to romance NPC-1, you’ll get to fight for their family’s homeland which you can then inherit. Alternately, having the ability to double-cross someone you’ve strung along could be interesting as well (perhaps having a scenario where you want to get a mission from an evil NPC, but you need to avoid consummating or spurning your relationship until you get the outcome you want).

    No matter what, it’s going to require far better writing than is the norm.

    • Merlin says:

      Yeah, I hit this same thing in Mass Effect 1. Playing as FemShep, I romanced Liara because when your choice is between a blue alien lady and a regular dude, you pick the blue alien lady. But I still chatted with Kaidan, because why not be a good co-worker/boss and learn what his deal is? And then before the final mission, he storms into my office and demands to know whether I really love him, basically calling me a bitch for stringing him along.

      That particular one was annoying from a game perspective, but it was at least another point of sympathy for experiencing what a lot of ladies go through during their everyday lives.

  39. Phill says:

    I had a really inappropriate ‘romance’ forced upon me in SW:TOR. I was a sith warrior, and the first companion you get is a slave girl called Vetta. All well and good (and she is meant to be a later romance option for the characters I believe). On the second planet I was on a mission to kill Darth for (i.e. to get the quest reward). I break in to his compound to find the guy, and track him down. But it turns out that he is already dead, and the person I’ve found is his son wearing his mask and pretending to be him, at the bidding of his mother, who then turns up.

    Ah, I think, she is the person who is actually causing the problem. She seems quite obviously villainous to me. I have the option to request to talk in private, which I go for, thinking I’ll just kill her instead and problem solved. She sends her son away and asks me to send Vetta out of the room. I refuse, since Vetta is a decent source of DPS for the upcoming fight.

    And suddenly, sexy time cut scene occurs. I don’t even get the chance to kill the source of the problem I’d been send to solve, I get to sleep with a Sith Lady who is old enough to be my mother, and Vetta gets pissed off at me for forcing her to stay and watch.

    All I wanted to do was kill someone with a lightsaber to finish a quest dammit, and I end up accidentally having public cougar sex.

    Not my favourite SW:TOR moment ever.

    • Daimbert says:

      It’s “Vette”.

      This isn’t really a case of forced romance, though, but an issue that a lot of Bioware games have where it isn’t clear what the choice you’re making means when you make it. You had multiple opportunities to choose another option, and given that you’re Empire-side you probably could have killed her outright instead of doing it in private. But the game doesn’t make it clear that “speak in private” means “happy fun time”, and since it doesn’t make that clear keeping Vette around ends up with her watching and getting angry.

      HAVING this sort of situation is good. Not making it CLEAR that that’s what’s going on so you can choose it with eyes wide open is bad. But it’s a problem with the context choice wheel, not the “romance” option.

      • Phill says:

        Ah yes, “Vette”. It’s a few years ago now.

        Yes, there were other options to kill her, and I have no problem with the happy fun time option being available – it’s an alternative way of completing the quest, and alternative methods are generally a good thing in an RPG so you can play according to how you want your character to be.

        And I agree it is entirely a problem with the dialog wheel. I had formed a plan of how I wanted to approach the problem – separate the mother and son and kill them individually rather than in a combined fight. The dialog options I chose were entirely consistent with that, with no indication of where this was actually heading.

        It’s not only a romance problem with Bioware games though; it’s all their conversations. Any number of times I (and no doubt many other people) have chosen an option that matches what I want to say, and what my character then says is almost the exact opposite of what I intended. I remember there being a few similar incidents from the Spoiler Warning Mass Effect episodes. In retrospect, you can kind of see how it links back to the option you chose. It just happened that in this case the consequences were so drastically different to where I thought it was going, and with no clear indications that I noticed of what I was apparently chosing to do.

        It was fun explaining to my wife how I ended up accidentally sleeping with this character with my slave girl / companion being forced to watch though.

        • By the way, I’m not up on what passes for Star Wars lore these days, but aren’t all Sith basically always at each other’s throats? It seems that the Sith have always had this self-defeating “kill to advance” model of deciding who is in charge, to the point that if two or more of them cooperate, you’d think they’d be put in the Sith version of Arkham Asylum.

          Taking on apprentices seems an awfully stupid thing to do for a Sith as well. They’re just going to try and kill you someday, so what’s the point? Either way, someone’s training and experience gets wasted because they’re EVIL…

          • Daimbert says:

            TOR is set before the Rule of Two came into existence, and so while the Sith are indeed always at each other’s throats in some sense — as the easiest way to advance is through others — at that time the focus was more on being strong than on just being sneaky and opportunistic. Thus, if you could prove yourself stronger than your apprentice you could always remain ahead of them and only have to, essentially, watch your back for them getting stronger, and if they did prove stronger there was a chance that you could then live by accepting that. In practice, it didn’t work so well because, I think, of the emotions of the Sith and how they rely on them — you’d feel anger and get killed, or feel shame and refuse to submit, etc — but they did have some ways of enforcing that it’s more than just being able to kill someone stronger than you. I think Chuck at SFDebris made a really good point when he noted that Malak in KotOR didn’t really have the full respect of the Sith because he was seen as having gotten his position opportunistically rather than through his actual strength and abilities.

        • Daimbert says:

          And it isn’t just Bioware; I ran into a similar issue in my very short play of “The Witcher 2”, where what they said would be the response was massively better than what he said when you selected it. It’s nice to be somewhat generic, but when the selected general statement is better than what’s actually said you have an issue, since the immediate response is “Why didn’t you just have the character say THAT instead of what they did?”

        • Vect says:

          Well, if it’s any consolation, if you choose the “Private Meeting” option, Vette gets creeped out at you for being a manwhore. Like “Ugh, is that the kind of guy you are?!”.

          Then again, I played a chick so I didn’t get any special option.

    • Shamus says:

      Wow. That’s… gosh. I dunno. What the hell is going on at BioWare?

    • Vect says:

      Actually the quest is this: You go to some Sith Lord’s house. You meet his wife and son, who make a deal where you kill the Sith so the son can secretly replace him (the guy always wears a scary mask so all the son has to do is wear the mask).

  40. Cordance says:

    Ive looked into upgrading a spare computer to window 10. So I figured Id drop my 2 cents in about it.
    You can download the program that “updates” your windows copy to windows 10 from the windows website but the link is hidden you need to type in the URL for access to the microsoft download page. The link is https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/software-download/windows10. The download file lets you make an iso/flash fresh install as well as the update existing OS to windows 10. I should mention that I found it impossible to “trick” the OS to do it for me following the steps I found online. The trick gave me the feeling that someone wanted to stress the windows 10 launch and published it because step one us download every update you can get your hands on.
    The reasons Josh mentioned about them trying to save bandwidth, also there is a bittorrent built into windows 10 for windows 10 you can turn off but defaults to on. Also the windows 10 roll out is being scheduled for expected successful install so the more upto date your machine is the quicker the downloader should kick in. This also means if you download it via your task bar you are more likely to have a successful install because they have attempted to run the numbers for you.
    There are a number of settings that any person who wants to run a “secure” computer there are a lot of options you need to turn off. Some of the security issues are catch all clauses like cortana means microsoft is able to record everything you ever say with it functioning. A lot more of the security questionable issues are able to be turned off in the business copy than the home user copy. Something I havent seen easy to access is the fact that microsoft plans to support windows 10 via in OS adds as well as their app store. In OS adds can appear in your task bar, which there is an option to have them stalk you like google to make them targeted or just go default he who payed more style.

    The general advise I have seen online is if you run windows 8 its an upgrade, if you run windows 7 its good unless the thing you want doesnt have a driver for it but should get more compatibility to make it an upgrade soon ™. So windows 7 users should hold off.

  41. Joey Palzewicz says:

    It’s probably been brought up before, but Kid Icarus: Uprising has a surprisingly robust array of options for controls. It basically lets you set up so that you can use the touchscreen, analog stick, or face buttons to aim, then it lets you set the movement controls, and then it basically gives you the option to reassign the remaining buttons to the remaining functions. For example, the default control scheme requires pressing UP on the D-Pad to use a power; I was able to reassign that to the L button, so I don’t have to actually take my hand off the stick whenever I need to use a healing power or boost or whatever. I also changed it so that the analog stick controlled the aiming reticule, and the face buttons controlled movement; not only did this let me keep both hands on the 3DS, it made moving a lot easier (it’s basically like using WASD with one thumb). I was actually surprised at how much they let you customize the controls; it’s pretty comparable to PC game-level customization.

    It’s not perfect, and it takes a little bit of fiddling to find a combination that works for you. But it sure beats trying to cradle an incredibly valuable (and surprisingly heavy) 3DS in one hand and point to shoot in the other. It’s even playable in public!

  42. Joey Palzewicz says:

    Also, the whole “crew members moving around to talk to each other” was one of the few things that Mass Effect 3 got right. Sometimes I’d walk into a room where James, Garrus, and some random ensign would be talking about their personal stories, or I’d see Dr. Chakwas and Adams talking about their past. Hell, walking in on James trying to interact with Javik (a living Prothean) was the funniest part of that whole game. And they’d even have radio conversations you could listen in on.

    Okay, okay, time to put the fanboy side of me back in the cage.

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