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Diecast #132: 2015 Retrospective

By Shamus
on Monday Dec 14, 2015
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Hosts: Josh and Campster. Episode edited by Rachel.

I couldn’t make it to our recording session this week, since I was hosting our family Christmas party at the time. Mumbles couldn’t make it, since she was at Disneyland. Rutskarn was busy with [age joke].

But Josh and Chris kept the dream alive. Here they looked back at 2015.

Also: My 2015 dénouement will run later this week.

Show notes:
0:01:23: Thoughts on the end of the year with Chris and josh
0:07:32: Call of Duty
0:10:20: Star Wars Battlefront
0:14:33: Obsidian
0:23:33: The Witcher
0:28:37: Metal Gear Solid Five
0:33:30: Bloodborne
0:40:13: Life is Strange
0:42:50: Mario Maker
0:48:17: Until Dawn
0:54:18: Battlefield Hardline
0:57:05: Her Story
0:57:49: Tony Hawk
0:59:56: Halo 5
1:03:31: Destiny: Taken King
1:05:53: Beginner’s Guide
1:06:16: Undertale
1:15:34: Dr. Langeskov, The Tiger, and The Terribly Cursed Emerald: A Whirlwind Heist
1:18:03: Cities: Skylines
1:19:53: Rock Band and Guitar Hero
1:24:58: The Long Dark

Comments (70)

  1. MichaelGC says:

    Thanks guys! (And thanks Rachel – this looks like an extra long one!) I’m laid-up at the moment so no DieCast would have = me downcast. :D

  2. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Just Josh diecast needs to be a thing.

  3. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Rutskarn was busy with [age joke].

    You shouldnt use jokes like that. Someone might thing you work for yahoo.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Considering that you can continue playing fallout 4 after you end the main quest,couldnt you just beeline the main quest,and only then focus on the side stuff?If you decide to faff around instead of searhing for your son,its not really the games fault.

    I mean,it is the games fault in that it doesnt convey any urgency,or any meaningful role playing.

    • Wide And Nerdy says:

      Its like what was discussed in the comments a few weeks ago (can’t remember who originally made the point, sorry). The quest could have been structured a little differently to make it possible for the player to justify faffing about.

      Like New Vegas, sure you were shot and your package was swiped but nobody would expect you to complete the job under those circumstances so its up to you to decide if you want revenge or satisfaction of your curiosity or you’re just that much of a professional that you have to get the chip back and deliver it to its original recipient but it leaves you with wiggle room to faff about if you want to. Plus, if you do want to make a beeline for Benny you can catch up with him pretty quickly which leaves the rest of the game open to be explored at your leisure. Fallout 3 likewise you’re looking for your father who left on his own so there’s less immediate urgency in finding him.

      Seeing as how I feel Bethesda seemed to be taking some nods from Obsidian (and some nods from mods as is becoming clear to me now that I’m back in New Vegas, things like sprint at the cost of AP which was originally a mod but is now a feature of FO4) they might have benefitted from this too.

      Let you find Shaun sooner and make more of the quest about what happens after that and/or structure things in such a way that the character is led to believe that Shaun is dead so it becomes about vengeance which, like in New Vegas, is something you can take your time with if you want to.

      • Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

        And they basically made my points in the cast. This is why you listen to a podcast BEFORE commenting. Sorry. It would have also averted my complaint below. I’m really sorry. And apologetic. And regretful.

        My shame is great.

  5. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Really? Only 23 seconds on Beginner’s Guide? I guess you had a lot to discuss but at least give it a couple of minutes.

    I guess I’ll see what you had to say.

    EDIT: Wow and 5 seconds of that was a segue to Undertale. I think I’d prefer if it wasn’t in the show notes.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      They should reverse that,or merge it,since they continue with the beginners guide afterwards.

      • Wide And Nerdy says:

        Ooo. Thank you.

        As for what they say in the cast about it. I think it works well beyond the game criticism angle. Yes it does have that specific angle, but probably a large part of the potential audience has in some way been in “Davey’s” or “Coda’s” position at some point. I’ve certainly been both at different times. At least in the sense of meddling in someone’s life for their own good because you think you know whats going on with them when you’re really just projecting and your action reflects your needs more than it does theirs. If you’ve ever been in a position where two friends of yours started dating, you’ve probably been at risk of being the Davey. Especially if you don’t have a love life of your own going. No I wasn’t talking about me (sheepishly tugs collar) go away.

        And if you’re a Davey and don’t know it, this game is can be quite the rude awakening.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Considering the comments about the game (“Wow,I didnt know Davey was such a creep.Youve got problems man”),many people are extremely hard to wake.

          I love the game myself,because it reminded me of a bunch of comments Ive seen people leave (usually on youtube) where they advise someone to “seek help” because “they have changed”,simply because they cannot separate character from the creator.

          • Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

            Which is sad because if it was a true story, it would be incredibly brave of him to tell it.

            • Wide and Nerdy says:

              Also Chris for what it’s worth, you’re not Davey if that eases your mind. You’re good about asking questions and not being authoritative about your conclusions. You also generally avoid trying to dissect the creator via his work and stick to dissecting the work itself. You’re certainly no worse about that than anybody else in this space. Helps that you’re not analyzin someone’s personal play projects.

  6. Gunther says:

    Speaking of well written RPGs, am I the only one who remembers Sunless Sea was released earlier this year? Because dang, that game had some great writing. Very few games can combine horror and comedy without one undermining the other, Sunless Sea did it constantly and masterfully.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I loved the hell out of Sunless Sea. It wasn’t perfect, but it was really good. It’s what happens when a game is made by writers then you add gameplay after, rather than making some gameplay and telling a writer to cover it with a coat of story-paint.

      The one thing I felt it was trying to do and failed at was to make you care about your crew. Not the named officers, the faceless people who fill up the “crew” bar. Mechanically they’re just a resource to manage (and sometimes I would even go out of my way to kill one off, so that I’d have room to pick up a Salt traveler, or so I’d need less supplies), but there were moments when the game really zoomed in on the deaths of my crew. In particular I remember a haunting description of what happened to one of them after a fall, which was beautifully written, but at odds with what the gameplay was incentivizing, and it wasn’t helped by the fact that the writing often sees lost crew as quite disposable.

    • Chris says:

      Yep. There were unfortunately a lot of cool games that didn’t make it into our little ad-hoc show, even running long. 2015 isn’t a banner year but the number of solid titles were just overwhelming. We also didn’t get to talk about Hotline Miami 2 or Tales from the Borderlands or Animal Crossing Happy Home Academy or King’s Quest or The Order: 1886 or The Sims 4 or any of the toys-to-life games or Rare Replay or Heroes of the Storm or Assassin’s Creed Syndicate or…

      I always feel bad doing these lists of games that came out in a year because inevitably cool stuff doesn’t make it.

      • Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

        Maybe someone should do a “All the games worth talking about list” instead of just a top ten. Or just bump the number up enough that you feel comfortable with the games you’ve included. Yeah, it should be the latter. Otherwise there are still going to be a ton of games you leave off. But if you make it like a Top 30, you can probably include everything you want on the list while still making the audience think their favorite game was left off because you had a cut-off point.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Or disney infinity.And it was the perfect time for you to bring it up,now that Shamoose wasnt there to shut you up.

      • MichaelGC says:

        Aye, and whilst these were certainly not all cool, they’d equally certainly could have borne discussion, had we all unlimited time: Batman: Arkham Knight, Dying Light, Soma, Evolve, Mid Mix, Tom Braider 2, Just Cause 3, Rainbox Siege 6, Football Manager 2,016 – the list just seems endless!

        PS I know nothing about Animal Crossing Happy Home Academy … but there’s something unutterably creepy about that title! :D

  7. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

    Regarding Witcher 3 vs Pillars of Eternity. I have played both, I love both. I’ve bought Pillars for two other people because I liked the game that much.

    I feel like probably Witcher 3 had the better overall storytelling experience but with a lot of qualifiers. On the one hand, I feel like there should be an asterisk because the Witcher world characters were created with the freedom afforded to a novel writer. Obsidian is good but even they normally craft scenarios and stories around the rpg tropes and mechanics they’re going to be using. They craft a story that justifies the game you’re going to be playing. And they’re giving you the freedom to create your own character which means unless you’re pretty creative, your protagonist is not going to be as well realized as Geralt.

    CD Project Red had the advantage going into this game of having a rich set of characters and lore to draw on and two prior games to try to figure out how to tell video game based stories about those characters.

    On the other hand, lots of games have been made on the basis of adapting rich lore. Just look at the numerous attempts to in some way adapt Lord of the Rings. Admittedly my gaming experience is limited but I’ve not heard of a game that brings book characters to life as well as Witcher 3 does.

    On the other other hand, CDPR had a bigger team and budget, a more modern game engine, and freedom from any mandate to make the game a specific way.

    On the other other other hand its not like Obsidian is short on experience and they’ve clearly spent a lot of time since their last IE style game thinking about what they could have done differently (which shows up in the game’s innovations).

    Also I’d say that in terms of themes and the ideas of the story, Pillars of Eternity was more interesting. I also like their Choose Your Own Adventure sequences. It gave them much more freedom to do things their game engine didn’t support.

    But what a debate to have. There’s plenty of room for both games to exist. They’re trying to do different things and anybody who really wants to play both can probably afford both at some point (Pillars has already been on sale half off multiple times which they can probably afford to do because they were Kickstarted).

    But yeah, overall I think Witcher 3 has earned the accolades its getting. Everything in that game has at least some writing thrown into it to push it beyond the bare bones radiant quest/fetch questing of other rpgs.

    The characters act in ways that serve their characterization. Triss and Yenefer really stand out in that regard as they neatly avert the Bioware romance framework for the sake of the story and keeping their characters consistent and believable. Even though Yen believes you about the amnesia and will ultimately forgive you, that doesn’t change how she feels about you having been with Triss. And the two do not appreciate being played. You won’t get that standard Bioware “ok its time to choose” option. You can screw things up badly.

    There’s also this greater sense of the side quests weaving together with the main story. The monster hunts are a bit discrete but stuff like the plot against Radovid feels very organic in how it flows together. Side quests that initially seem to be discrete turn out to be related in unexpected ways. And you can sometimes flow from one side quest to another without even really noticing.

  8. Henson says:

    Just a small clarification: both Neverwinter Nights 2 and The Witcher took their game engines from Neverwinter Nights 1, and both substantially modified it. It astounded me back when I first played The Witcher that they could get that result from the old Aurora engine.

    And in case anyone hasn’t seen it, CD Projekt Red originally was going to make Witcher 2 in an even more heavily modded Aurora engine as well. Really impressive stuff.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im not sure if Id call witcher 3 “the best storytelling video game”.It has a great story and amazing writing,thats for sure.But it doesnt tell it in the best way.Not even in a great way.Its passable.

    And yeah,it has its moment of brilliance(the quest where a bunch of monsters “judge” geralt is AMAZING),but overall its not that special.Too much filler in the first act,and the story practically starts proper only once you finish the most massive chunk of it.Some of the resolutions feel weak.And of course,the main character who frames the whole story for us is a colossal prick.

    Great game,great writing,but not the best told one.

    • Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      I think I see where you’re coming from but at what point do we separate from the traditional notion of a well structured plot when it comes to video game storytelling?

      I think the White Orchard works pretty well as a self paced tutorial. You can get through it pretty quickly to hook up with the main plot or you can stick around and get the lay of the land, gain some levels and really get familiar with how Geralt handles.

  10. Xedo says:

    While it certainly wasn’t the best game by a large margin, Arkham Knight might be the game that has the biggest impact on the PC development business for a long time.

    AC: Unity came out, was a technical disaster, and Ubisoft rolled out a patch or two for it before killing the DLC and dropping the whole mess, for comparison (Thank you for supporting our game. We are no longer supporting our game. Please don’t mind us walking out the door with the money). And they sold 2 million units in the first week! In a world where Steam refunds are now a thing, they couldn’t possibly do that.

    It’s going to be really interesting to see the next game to be such a technical trainwreck. Will publishers leave a broken game on Steam and suffer refunding their sales and preorders? Will they always take the game down and invest months into fixing it? Or will we someday see a AAA game pulled from Steam, with a shrug of ‘it’s not worth it to fix, just buy it on a console where it works?’

    Incidentally. Chris, I’d really enjoy seeing your opinion on Xenoblade X if you have a chance. Lord knows you don’t need yet another 100+ hour open world game, but it’s really different, and it sounds like you could use a third Wii U game this year.

  11. Merlin says:

    My favorite part of year-end gaming wrap-ups is realizing that I once again played almost no games from the current year. This year, the count was 18 games total, of which only 3 were from 2015. (Her Story, Undertale, and Massive Chalice) And I think that’s actually the highest count I’ve managed in quite a while. So I’ll be sure to chime in on whether I think 2015 was a good year for gaming some time around 2018 or so.

    • Christopher says:

      I feel you. Off the top of my head, I played through… MGS3, MGS4, MGSV, Dragon’s Crown, Undertale, Life is Strange, One Piece Pirate Warriors 3, Shovel Knight, Dragon Age Inquisition, Journey, and then some bits and pieces of other older stuff. And more games I played were actually released this year than normally.

      Not having to review games for a job is EASY.

      (Also, all the games from this year had really annoying endings. Life is Strange had that dumb storm. Undertale had Flowey’s whole part of that story. Pirate Warriors made up an original ending. MGSV didn’t feel like it even had one.)

    • Henson says:

      You’re certainly not alone in this. Though even playing 18 new games in a year seems like a lot to me.

      • Merlin says:

        Yeah, I’m happy with the count and even happier with the games I actually played. Though honestly, both columns were helped tremendously by (A) avoiding AAAs, and (B) avoiding sandboxes. Which is itself likely related to the two becoming largely synonymous.

        • Henson says:

          Whereas I spent my year in New Vegas, Witcher 3, and starting Stalker for the first time. A bunch of sandboxes. Could explain my low game count.

          Oh, and DOTA 2. That might be important.

  12. Eldiran says:

    Chris, I might have misunderstood, but it sounds like you’re slightly off about the mechanics of that first boss fight in Undertale.

    To explain without giving away anything (but still tagging as spoiler because you know how people are about Undertale): You don’t have to do anything before the fight – or any fight – to solve it. All the problem solving takes place on the battle screen.

    That said I can certainly understand critique of Undertale being purposefully obtuse sometimes.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      Oh, but you do have to do something for every boss fight if you want to do it peacefully. You have to go back and stock up on healing items, maybe even grind up some money to get even more healing items, because most of the trick boss fights are just endurance tests.

      Although there’s still the odd easter egg where if you had done something way back towards the beginning of the game, you could skip it, but of course you didn’t do that, why would you if you didn’t know about it in the first place?

      • Merlin says:

        I didn’t experience much of a need for healing items during my two playthroughs, but more constructively:
        – Two bosses actually refuse to kill you
        – Solving a puzzle in Waterfall awards you an item that can spawn a neverending stream of healing items
        – There’s a purchasable armor that makes you functionally invincible, and its cost is discounted each time you die. Caveat that it’s in a hidden area, but caveat to that that there are multiple clues along your path as to where it is, and repeat visits to the relevant screen un-hide the path even if you didn’t visit the hidden spot on your first pass.

        I actually thought that amounted to a pretty healthy difficulty-balancing measure overall even without getting into the relative perks of some of the non-hidden weapons and armor. YMMV as always, of course.

      • PizzaRollExpert says:

        With Toriel specifically, she won’t kill you – once you get low enough health, her attacks will move away from the player so that you won’t get hit

    • Roland Jones says:

      Yeah, that comment by Chris bothered me; he vastly overstated the complexity of that fight and was completely mistaken about it requiring out-of-battle stuff. It was a matter of perseverance more than anything, and that boss won’t even kill you unless you literally run into her bullets, so if your health gets low the battle actually goes faster because you can just SPARE her until she gives up. I am legitimately baffled as to how he got that idea, because nothing in-game or out of it suggests the conclusion he came to. His criticism is almost entirely based on stuff that is not actually in the game, and it makes no sense. You can even run away from the fight, for another thing he complained about (though it wouldn’t have been necessary, since, again, you don’t actually need to do anything outside of the fight to win).

      The idea of permanence isn’t really an issue there either; you don’t actually get punished for anything you do that you reload to undo, some characters might just react to it. It’s “permanent” in a very soft way, with one exception that you cannot accidentally do. The only truly permanent thing is something you have to deliberately work for and are warned repeatedly that you won’t like it, and even then it doesn’t actually affect much.

      There are plenty of valid criticism of Undertale, but as someone who played the game it feels like Chris is making up his own version of it, because most of what he said is outright untrue.

      • Eldiran says:

        It doesn’t really bother me that he got it confused. It’s easy to misunderstand Undertale, in part because it doesn’t lay things out up front, but moreso because looking anything up about it would spoil & ruin the experience.

        I can only assume his info was gleaned from half-reading passing comments. Which is basically the only thing to do if you don’t want to spoil it for yourself.

        I just hope he gives it another try before the internet can sour him on it completely.

      • Cinebeast says:

        Yes, I was going to bring this up, but you’ve said it all. I really don’t know how Chris came to the conclusion he did. Not that I’m blaming him, exactly — I’ve seen enough let’s plays to know that the game can be less than transparent for some players.

      • Merlin says:

        Oh my god yes. Though I will say that it would’ve been less fantastically frustrating if he didn’t keep saying “I get what it’s going for” while totally missing the everything. :P

        Really, that’s supposed to be your intro to impermanence. One of the things that I give Undertale a lot of credit for is that it shows a tremendous understanding of how people play games, and the Toriel fight is a perfect example of that. The game does tell you how to spare her, but it also throws out enough truthful-but-possibly-misleading clues that, combined with traditional RPG mechanics, a lot of players will kill her accidentally. That leads to either remorse or frustration, which leads to re-loading, which leads to a unique scene that peels back some of the meta elements and provides new context to the story.

    • Nixitur says:

      Yeah, the solution to the first boss fight isn’t a “hidden mechanic”. In fact, if you talk to an NPC that you can’t miss, it pretty much straight-up tells you the solution.
      And if you kill the first boss, an NPC that appears before the next save point says something along the lines of “It’s not like you can go back and change things.” which is only slightly less obvious than “Hey, maybe you should load the save.” And if you do that and face the boss again, the game literally spells out the solution.
      I think Chris sees loading a previous save as a fail state which it really, really isn’t because that’s how Undertale works.

      In fact, I find that sequence of events (kill the boss, feel bad, reload, do it better next time) to be the perfect way to play the game because it perfectly showcases the clever things it does with saves.

  13. SlothfulCobra says:

    I think my favorite game that came out this year that I’ve played is agar.io. I played it all throughout listening to this podcast. I was a Ukraine cell and I gobbled up a Russia cell. Good stuff.

    Of course, it’s only going up against the Guild of Dungeoneering, Fallout Shelter, and Undertale, because I generally do not care enough about being part of “the conversation” to get games when they’re still new and expensive. I’m very much one of those people who was tricked by the hype of Undertale but was not the target audience.

    • Retsam says:

      The amazing thing about agar.io is that no matter what server you can play on, it’s always the same dank memes. (Sanik, ISIS, [American Political Figure], Feed Me, Unnamed Blob, etc). I can almost imagine that it’s just the same 20 players every time I play.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I think it has started to become a bit like a call-and-response joke. Just like how someone feels compelled to ask “song name?” when Darude – Sandstorm comes on, if someone logs on to agar.io and sees that there’s no Unnamed Blob or swastika, they feel compelled to make it happen because it always happens. Agar.io presents “Knock knock” and the person taking Unnamed Blob is just answering “Who’s there?”

  14. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

    Comparing the new Tony Hawk to Arkham Knight I think is unfair. I haven’t played Tony Hawk but at least once you get past the bugs, Arkham Knight is a good looking game with finely tuned mechanics and an interesting story. Tony Hawk looked like something from early last gen.

  15. wswordsmen says:

    Phantom Menace was not an awful movie. It wasn’t even that bad a movie. It was solidly below average. The only thing that makes people say it was one of the worst movies ever is that they were expecting it to be among the best ever and it was the first of the prequels.

    No it wasn’t good, but comparing what it is to what it supposedly is, there needs to be a lifetime of nothing but praise for it to even out the scales.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I didn’t catch it at the cinema, but saw it for the first time on DVD, so my expectations were pretty low by that stage … and I thought it was pretty awful! There again, I think 2 & 3 are very nearly as awful, whereas e.g. Campster thinks 3 is on a level with Iron Man 2 – a movie I find highly enjoyable! So, mileages vary; film at eleven…

    • ehlijen says:

      The phantom menace was a bad movie, even taken only on its own.

      Who was the protagonist?
      Qui-gon has no character, let alone development. Anakin and the queen aren’t present and/or involved for major portions of the movie. Obiwan merely tags along.
      Who was the antagonist? The viceroy disappears for most of the movie, as does his fleet. We are also told he’s just a puppet. Darth Maul gets a single line and a few pointless scenes, nothing more. Mysterious Cloak guy is never revealed in the movie, so you either know he’s palpatine from other movies or you don’t, neither is good story telling for this movie.
      What was their main conflict? Was it the invasion of Naboo (then what was the rest of the movie there for)? Was it the fact that popup sith is around? Was it getting Anakin Trained? Was it mysterious cloak guy’s plan to become chancellor (again, not even revealed in this movie)?

      It was an effects wise proficient movie that filled the screen time with nonesense, but there was nothing engaging in it. But who are you rooting for against whom to achieve what? This movie has the bare bone of three different and unrelated stories jammed together with no regards as to whether they complement each other.

      It is possible to make a movie out of separate, unrelated stories, but the stories still need to share a theme. But they don’t here:

      Naboo: the war for naboo is the bookends, basically put on hold for the other two to provide the opening and end action scenes.

      Chancellor seat: The villain is never openly revealed but simply succeeds in secret. If this was just the end of the movie, it’d be sequel bait, ie a minor sin but common practice. But it sits in the centre of the movie pretending its part of the other two main conflicts.

      Anakin’s training: Two obstacles need to be overcome. One is solved through pod racing, a long drawn out scene with little buildup in which no main character introduced so far participates but which insists we cheer for the new one that just walked into the movie (who will again shrink into the background for much of the rest, too). The second obstacle, the council’s resistance, is never explained nor is qui-gon’s rejection explored.
      What is ‘the prophecy’? And why can a jedi just thump his nose at the council’s decree? And why does this boy warrant such rebellion?

      And what unifies these into one story? Nothing. The war story is the only mostly complete one. The political story tries to happen in secret and literally consists of ‘the bad guy does a thing and no one notices’ and the kid’s story has nothing to do with either of the others and consists of nothing but unexplained contrivances but both side stories put half a movie in between the naboo story. And insist on throwing stuff into the finale for no reason.
      Mysterious Cloak guy’s plan worked. Why does he still need to send one killer after two battle ready jedi?
      Why is Anakin in the warzone? Why is qui-gon? He said he ‘can’t fight a war’, so why is he heading into one?
      The answer is: to give cool(and not so cool) fight scenes. The movie doesn’t care about making sense, or even being suspenseful. It just wants to throw CGI around now.

      And all of that is on top of it murdering the lore and themes that people liked from the original trilogy.

      It was bad. Incoherently bad. At least battlefield earth had a more or less coherent story that started, built up and ended within the movie. The Phantom menace does not.

      • Henson says:

        The main story of Phantom Menace was about Qui-Gon gambling everything to save the people he was charged to protect and the freedom of a promising young boy. The climax occurs during the race, where everything rides upon Anakin’s talent as a racer, to prove himself as a person of worth and to save the day. Once the race is won, the story ends in general jubliation and the start of a new life for a former slave.

        For some reason, though, the movie kept on going. I’m not sure why.

    • I’d argue that the expectations, even just based on budget, factor into a movie being “bad” or “good.” You could say the same about Waterworld, in that for what was produced, it probably wasn’t worth the money spent.

      However, The Phantom Menace’s awfulness goes beyond just what it did to Star Wars. It won’t hold up over time the way the other movies did because the dialog and plot are so terrible. Most older movies that are beloved or considered classics (in a non-ironic way) are well-written, well-acted, or solidly crafted so that the older filming techniques, clunky special effects, cheesy costumes, etc. don’t completely detract from the experience. Take RoboCop: The original had obvious stop-motion effects, dummies that were loaded with gore for death scenes, bad bluescreen shots for a character falling, and so on, but I don’t think many would argue that the recent remake is a better movie.

      The Phantom Menace will have its awful lines, traveling through “the planet core” in a submarine, dull trade negotiations, baby-talk droids, and Jar-Jar Binks just get worse and worse as time goes on, because those who are still dazzled by special effects will have their standards of visuals raised, leaving only what isn’t effects behind. And that’s not good. It’s awful.

  16. Gruhunchously says:

    I’d say Until Dawn is less of a parody of slasher horror and more like an affectionate tribute, and a really good one at that. All of the characters are tropey as hell ,which clearly deliberate, but they all go through just enough development that you can potentially go from hating them all to actually caring about them by the end. And the game uses it’s interactive nature to great effect to get players more invested than they might normally, just like The Walking Dead and other such games. I think it even works better than the Walking Dead as an experience in tension, because there is a real possibility of every character making it out alive (mostly).

    Super Bunnyhop puts it best when he says that the game casts you in the role of an editor for a traditional horror script, with your unstated goal being to minimize the suicidally dumb decisions and contrived interpersonal conflicts the characters in those movies usually engage in. Much like Night Trap, it’s your job to save all these kids, regardless of whether you like them or not. To get the best ending, the game demands that you be familiar enough with horror tropes that you can detect and subvert them.

    And it works! I’ve played the game, and watched a bunch of Lets Plays of it, and very rarely have I seen people deliberately try to get the characters killed when things get serious, even they explicitly started playing with that exact goal in mind.

    And the actors manage to hit that balance between sincerity and slasher goofiness, right down to them clearly being adults pretending to be teenagers.

  17. Mersadeon says:

    You know what? Konami could do something so incredibly evil, I actually find it kinda funny. What if… they DID do another MGS game? See, Konami doesn’t care, but now they don’t even have to pretend to care – and they have a brandname they could burn for money before they leave.

    They could just make a game, slap the MGS brand on it, go hush-hush on it and just not give any previews. It’s easy to make it look like an actual game that had some care put into it if you only release a trailer and build up a bit of mystery, and when it opens a lot of people will buy it just because it’s Metal Gear.

    And then, when the world realizes what happened, when they come to Konami HQ with pitchforks and torches, they find it empty. So yeah, why not just release some horrible shit, NDA it till release, build up the safest bit of hype and cash in one last time? Sure, they could never make a videogame again, but they don’t care – a bad reputation in the videogame industry means nothing to a pachinko-machine company.

  18. Mersadeon says:

    I'll actually make an almost complete non-gamer play Beginner's Guide soon and I'm really interested in what she will say. She barely ever plays videogames (and even then mostly stuff like the Sim City Mobile game), but I got her to play Stanley Parable and she loved it. She studies Germanistik, which means a lot of literature, and that means a lot of stuff about narrative structure. Stanley Parable was right up her alley in that way ““ tongue in cheek, fourth wall breaking. It also first got her to really think about videogames ““ and the fact that “choice” in the way videogames give them isn't really possible in any other medium (well, debatable, I guess, but you know what I mean).

    I am curious to see what Beginner's Guide does for her, since it actually references game development and that kinda stuff a lot more than Stanley ““ and there's only one ending and one “twist”, so I wonder when she figures it out and sees it coming.

  19. Eric says:

    I’m gonna jump in and defend Dark Souls II. It does a lot of the game play fundamentals much better than Dark Souls 1. The character system is way better balanced without any trap stats, PvP has more depth and build variety, most of the combat mechanics changes are for the better and increase the game’s skill ceiling a bit, and there are some great individual areas – especially if you include the DLC areas, which are all fantastic and arguably better than much of Dark Souls 1’s. And on a technical level the game is about a hundred times more polished.

    Yeah, the level and encounter design is overall weaker, there’s too many easy/boring boss fights, and the story is obviously a bit less cohesive or well thought out, all things which speak to a more rushed and fractured development (which, based on what I have read, is basically true). And many of its design elements hearken back more to Demon’s Souls than Dark Souls 1, so I get why some people might not love that, especially if they never played Demon’s Souls and so don’t have that reference point. But acting like it was a *fundamentally bad* game is… I don’t know, I can’t understand that.

    (Scholar of the First Sin is also generally much better than the base Dark Souls 2 in terms of encounter design, loot balance and so on, though it doesn’t fully fix all the issues.)

    ((Also, I really need to get Bloodborne… but man, I really don’t want to buy a PS4 for just one game…))

    • IFS says:

      I will also jump to Dark Souls 2’s defense. Its not my favorite of the series but it experiments with its mechanics in a lot of interesting ways, has the best multiplayer of the series by far, and the dlcs have some of my favorite moments and bosses of the entire series. It’s also the only souls game that I’ve had the patience to platinum (and between that and the pvp I’ve put more hours into it than any other souls game) and I still go back to it every now and then even after 200+ hours.

      I also am somewhat in the minority in that I enjoyed the surplus of humanoid bosses, I’ve always found them more interesting and fun than the more monstrous bosses in the Souls series (with a few exceptions here and there) due to their moves being much more immediately understandable and them not being so large as to make me fight the camera. The boss fights themselves could stand to improve in the base game, movesets are often too limited among other issues, but at their core I enjoy them.

      As for Bloodborne I would highly recommend it, probably my second favorite of the souls games (only below Dark Souls 1 for me). Its dripping with atmosphere throughout, the combat feels slick and fast, and the level design is easily some of the best in the series. My only gripes are grinding for blood vials is annoying, I don’t enjoy some of the bosses, and the last two areas are awful (their design basically encourages you to sprint past everything, which might be how I eventually go through an area I’ve seen numerous times but something I hate feeling forced to do). I would previously have complained about a low variety of weapons (cool as they are) but the fantastic dlc addressed that while also adding fantastic endgame bosses and areas to go through. Still I can understand not wanting to buy a console just for BB, 400 dollars is a lot for one game.

  20. AileTheAlien says:

    I recommend Mini Metro, which came out 2015-11. Small little game where you basically make tubes/trains/bus lines/whatever, in about the level of abstraction of a very-simplified metro map. It’s a little overpriced for the simple type of mechanics it has, but I think it makes up for it with its zen / meditation / relaxation usefulness. Fun times! :)

  21. Mike S. says:

    The discussion of lack of closure “as if” a Tolkien big screen movie series had ended unceremoniously without it made me feel very old. Ralph Bakshi’s 1978 “The Lord of the Rings” doesn’t give the slightest hint that it’s only part 1 until it abruptly stops, just after Helm’s Deep. And Part 2 never came.

    (Some years later, Rankin-Bass did do a made-for-TV “The Return of the King” in the style of its animated Hobbit. But the two don’t quite link up plotwise, the style and continuity are completely different.)

  22. WWWebb says:

    You make Undertale sound like playing a LucasArts adventure game on ironman mode, and most of the jokes are about how poorly you did on your last try.

    • CunningChaff says:

      The battles ate bullet hell fights, where you focus on dodging bullets on their turns and then either fighting or talking them down on yours. As for the jokes on how you did, two characters bring it up:

      First, Flowey is the only one to mock you, but he actually had the same ability and did the same thing for years, so he’s being hypocritical and butter over losing the abolity.

      Second, <Sans is only somewhat aware of the save/loads, and while he references them, he doesn't taunt you about it.

  23. Gabriel says:

    The Long Dark actually has a disclaimer up now that they’re not attempting to replicate normal animal behavior – apparently the weird behavior is a plot point in the not-yet-released story.

  24. Nixitur says:

    I found Chris’ comment on Until Dawn to be rather befuddling. I mean, I don’t really like slasher movies, but the jump from “I don’t like this character.” to “I want them to die.” is one that I simply do not get. In fact, I find it to be rather horrifying.

    Anyway, when you talked about music games, I could only think about Crypt of the Necrodancer (released in February) which is so good!

  25. Daniel says:

    Well, if we’re retrospectively looking back on 2015…

    Most of my early games this year was me going through the Annual I Bought It At Christmas So Let’s Give It A Whirl mode- DA Inquisition, Infamous Second Son, Shadow of Mordor, AC Unity (That took a long damn while- the first Assassin’s Creed that I only finished because “I need to clear hard drive space, and I have only two sequences left.”).

    Early year to summer was more catch up (Far Cry 4, Wolfenstein, Last of Us Remastered and GTA V), and my first 2015 purchase was Hotline Miami 2.

    Summer itself was where I dropped a lot of cash on Arkham Knight (Look, I bought into the hype), Witcher 3, Dying Light… and Watch Dogs (Look, it was 20 bucks and the season pass was on sale).

    And Autumn to now has been mostly saving up for getting stuff in the next few weeks in sales, though I did get Fallout 4. Currently hoping to grab Phantom Pain, AC Syndicate, Mad Max and Wasteland 2.

  26. CunningChaff says:

    Just finished Undertale a few days ago; Shamus, did you ever get through it? I know you mentioned you’d talk about it in the wrap-up, but… Yeah. So, what’d you think of it? I thought the music was phenomenal, and the bullet-hell fights surprisingly fun. A mich better mechanic then sitting there and seeing a calculator dole out damage, like in other turn-based RPGs. Getting to actually input on fights is awesome.

  27. CunningChaff says:

    Aaand I just saw your posts. Nevermind, then!

  28. TheZoobler says:

    Hey, I don’t know how often the Spoiler Warning crew checks back on old posts, but I would love to chat with you a bit about Undertale, Chris :). Or anyone else of course. Open analytical discussion makes me smile :).

    As far as “hidden” or “secret” difficulty within the game, I believe that to say the game has a ton of hidden “gotcha!” moments you can’t progress past without doing something random hours beforehand is false. However, the game does have two “gotcha” moments which ARE unfair, BUT justified at the same time. Full spoilers ahead, but I’ll tag them too.

    First off, hidden gotchas. As far as I am aware, every single boss fight and encounter in the game can be won, FIGHT or MERCY, without a single interaction or action outside of the battle screen. There are some things which make the fights EASIER beforehand. Specifically, Unequipping your stick to throw for Dogs, buying something from the spider bake sale, stocking up on Metaton’s glamburgers, saving your butterscotch pie, maybe one more? All of these actions reduce their encounters to as little as a single turn, as compared to an encounter which takes dozens of turns of extremely high-reflex survival. So while you can argue that not knowing what hidden secret thing to do beforehand makes the Pacifist route HARDER, it never makes it impossible. Every fight CAN be won without preparation, outside of standard healing item/armor stockpiling. Honestly, I think this serves the themes of the game in a resonant way, but let me address the actual “gotcha!”s first.

    Sparing Toriel and Asgore, are the true unfair “gotcha!”s in my mind. Before Toriel’s encounter, one character mentions that you “may” need to lower an enemy’s health before you can Spare them, whereas another character implies sometimes you just need to spam Spare. Given the fact that the first few times you Spare at Toriel, she reacts with near identical elipses, it’s natural to think you need to lower her health instead. When you try that, her healthbar suddenly LEAPS down with no warning, ruining the slow gradual weakening you thought you were working towards. While I belive this is justified in-universe (the spirit of the First Child attempting to possess you, sensing blood, and momentarily taking over to strike more viciously) it is near completely unfair to the player’s expectations. Meanwhile, at the end, you DO need to deplete Asgore’s health to Spare him, despite NO OTHER ENEMY functioning that way. That one is just plain unjustified and rude, haha, but I forgive it for the rest of the game.

    But this is something integral to Undertale’s themes, and I will hold up Undertale as the greatest example of mechanics as a message in any game to date. The opposite of Ludonarrative Dissonance… Ludonarrative Resonance, perhaps? Here’s my argument. The game is EXTREMELY challenging as a pacifist, if you do not get lucky with the pre-fight win conditions, whereas a fully sadistic player will only encounter two challenges in the entire game (Undyne and Sans). The logic puzzle of figuring out what to say to a character, and the mechanics of surviving combat, are extremely rough on a little LV 1 20/20 HP pacifist. This is KEY to the themes of the game. Pacifism is HARD. Especially when confronted with a world full of people who don’t understand you, who YOU don’t understand, and who want you dead. It’s harder to reason with someone than to overpower them (given enough personal strength), and the game reflects that emotionally and physically with the ACT and dodge mechanics. You really have to struggle to survive with no combat prowess, and even more, you have to struggle to talk people down. So I’m fine with the fights being difficult. Reloading is fast and smooth, never setting you very far back, and the thematic message is strong.

    Of course, the Pacifist route difficulty also explores yet another theme. The temptation to do violence. If you just start killing wantonly, you can breeze through the game (mostly). If you compromise and kill just a few creatures, here and there, you can even avoid the two most difficult boss fights (you don’t piss off Sans or Undyne enough unless you go full genocide) while also racking up some combat stats to make the rest of the game easier. Are you willing to kill someone you DON’T HAVE to kill, just because you want things to be a little easier? Or because a game is kind of IMPLYING maybe you should, in a meta sense? Or do you value life so much that you will refuse to take one no matter what? The boss fights being extremely difficult to Spare, without their hidden triggers, serve the story and its themes directly through mechanics. It’s masterful, I think.

    Meanwhile, the pre-fight triggers can be interpreted in two ways (three if you count “unfair gotchas” as a valid interpretation, and if so, fine haha). They can be a representation of LUCK. Not as a stat that increases your crit chance, but purely a video game representing luck as it is in the real world. Sometimes, when you’re trying to connect with someone, you just happen to say or do the right thing, or something about you resonates with them. Maybe, it’s less about forcing you to spoil-walkthrough your way through the game, and moreso about simple serendipity… or, perhaps, playing a riff on empathy similar to Metro 2033’s ending system. I just did a marathon watch of the Metro 2033 Spoiler Warning series, loved it, and the cast seemed to come to a consensus that the “morality points” in that game are very simply about taking the time to slow down, listen, and understand the world and the people in it. Perhaps these hidden boss fight simplifiers serve a similar purpose in Undertale. Rewarding the player for careful, thorough exploration of the world and its characters, in a way that fits the theme.

    Lastly, the game makes a big deal about DETERMINATION. While it appears at first just to be a “quirky” buzzword for giggles, it is revealed that DETERMINATION is in fact your character’s ability to SAVE and reload the game. Now, this can be taken a lot of different ways. Your character is so determined, they keep on trying until they get things right. You keep on reloading a boss fight when you die, again and again, until you perfect and defeat it. What is this if not determination, while also being time manipulation? The hidden boss fight simplifier mechanics can be seen as just another facet of the way the game treats save states. You can reload your save and try the boss fight over again… or maybe you reload your save, wander back a few dozen screens, and do something that makes the boss easier on you. They both involve saying “nope, my character didn’t die, going back in time now” and trying something different to succeed.

    On the topic of DETERMINATION, it is also brought up as a metaphor for fate. Specifically brought up in the Genocide boss fight with Sans. Sans talk about how he has been grappling with depression, because he knows that if he kills you, you’ll just reload again and again until you kill him. The world has become nearly meaningless to him, because it is pre-determined. Not by a higher power, or random chaos, but by YOU, the player. And in that timeline, you’re evil. None of the other timelines are canonical or have any permanence, none of the thousands of times he kills you and stops you, while you learn the fight mechanics. You keep going until you win, and thus the fate of the world was determined without him ever doing a thing or having any say in it. This uses the word Determination as regards to tenacity and fate in one fell swoop, and it is absolutely fascinating.

    Anyway, that’s my argument for Undertale’s narrative integrity. More than that, its MECHANICAL integrity. I hope you liked the read, everyone :).

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