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Diecast #135: 2016

By Shamus
on Monday Jan 4, 2016
Filed under:


The official bylaws of All Internet Videogames Discussion dictate that December is the month of looking back and January is the month of looking forward. So we made this episode to bring our podcast into compliance. Also because we didn’t have anything else to discuss. Also because we actually wanted to talk about these games. Also because it was the only way to get Josh to shut up about Crusader Kings.

Related: Look at this post from last January where I looked ahead to 2015.

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

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster.

Episode edited by Rachel.

2:15: No Mans Sky.

We also talk about Fuel and procedurally generated games.

7:47: Dues Ex: Mankind Divided

We got pretty negative here, but for the record I don’t think this game is going to be a disaster. I just think that by continuing the timeline the game is walling itself off from greater things.

21:03: Horizon: Zero Dawn

Is it too late to change the name? Or at least pick one of the two?

27:58: Mirror’s Edge Catalyst

39:10: XCom 2

46:46: Firewatch

49:17: Hitman

Josh and I have a little debate about which is worse: Hitman Absolution or The Phantom Menace. I maintain that Phantom Menace is a bad movie, but nowhere near the horrible movie its reputation suggests.

MovieBob has a pretty good take on this:

Link (YouTube)

But it’s STAR WARS. So when you get a crappy Star Wars it hurts. Not because the movie is bad, but because it means we won’t be getting the awesome movie we’d hoped for. So I get why people feel so much hate for it.

57:47: Quantum Break
1:02:36: Doom 4

I promised I’d link The Writer Will Do Something. But I can’t remember which show segment. So I’m linking it now, and also two sentences ago because I’m WAY ahead of you.

Comments (181)

  1. People feel so much hate for EpI, I think not as much because they didn’t like it (I remember when it came out I only saw good reactions, with the obvious dislike for Jar Jar and the midichlorians), but because when EpII came out and was much worse, some who liked it couldn’t convince anybody of it being good and then they resorted to hammer on Jar Jar and midichlorians plus any extra defect they could get to spread all hate there could be against EpI. And then it became cool to hate them, and even after people loved EpIII it turns now it’s also the cool thing to lump EpIII as the same crap as the others. Yes, dialog with Amidala is still very poor, she’s still the same imbecile (“This means they’ve begun the invasion”, “i won’t do something that starts a war”, “AN INVASION IS WAR, YOU IDIOT!”); but it has much more positives than any of the other two chapters. In fact, I rate EpIII above EpVI. I hate ewoks more than Jar Jar. Ep VI could have been the best, but ewoks ruin the climax. Without them I think they would have had to think that ending harder and it’d been up to the standard of the rest.

    My Star Wars episode rating thus far is: 1st Empire Strikes Back, 2nd Star Wars, 3rd The Force Awakens, 4th Revenge of the Sith, 5th Phantom Menace, 6th Backstroke of the West, 7th Spaceballs, 8th Attack of the clones. Though Attack of the clones improves if you skip scene whenever Amidala appears.

    P.S. – Writing that, I think I already did and forgot about it and checking for any reply that might need or deserved one past week. Apologies then for saying something and disappearing.

    • Phill says:

      I made an argument once that on one hand, The Phantom Menace wasn’t that much worse than A New Hope, whilst on the other hand it was massively worse. Many of the failings of Ep 1 are also present to a degree in Ep 4, and viewed objectively, are only slightly worse in Ep 1. The flip side is that immersion in a film – and suspension of disbelief – is a fragile and temperamental beast, and Ep 4 stays on the right side of the line, while Ep 4 is only just on the wrong side, but in so many ways.

      And as noted before by the diecast, once that fundamental contract of trust between audience and filmmaker (or player and game developer) is broken, all the stuff you’d happily gloss over in a film or game that you liked becomes yet another source of annoyance in something you dislike.

      Ep 7 is a good example of this actually. There are plenty of flaws and plot holes in the movies, and I can pick them apart quite cheerfully in retrospect, but I loved the film and it absolutely worked for me. The problems didn’t interrupt my enjoyment of the film, even as I recognised them. But I’m willing the bet that those flaws that didn’t bother me would have infuriated someone whose ‘contract’ with the film was already broken. (See also the Rey arguments: some people have no problem with her winning the fight at the end, for others it is completely broken).

      So Ep 1 , viewed objectively, might not be *that* bad, but it lies along that cusp – for me – where it is just bad enough to break the contract, and as such the subjective experience becomes massively worse.

      Incidentally, if I ever happen to watch Ep 1 by accident, I’m always slightly surprised to find it is live action rather than a cartoon. The overwhelming impression left in my memory is the cartoonish nature of the whole thing.

      (Also I think some of the reaction to Ep 1 is the realisation that George Lucas made some classic movies by accident, in spite of himself. The remastered special editions of the original films revealed his penchant to make the films worse with naff effects, and the prequels revealed that when he had total control and achieved his vision, his vision was lame, and it was partly his failure to achieve it that made the originals great. As such, the negative reactions to Ep 1 in particular are like 1 star game reviews from the public – they are more an avenue of feedback to the developers to express dissatisfaction than a reasonable evaluation of the pros and cons).

      • manofsteles says:

        Your observation about “George Lucas made some classic movies by accident, in spite of himself” seems right on the money given the production histories of the films he’s been involved with. His work on Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back were largely collaborative, with the stellar work by the other members of his team, many of whom won Academy Awards for their efforts.

        Imagine the films without John Williams’ score, or the unique and instantly recognizable sound effects by Ben Burtt. Imagine Star Wars without the fast-paced, action-packed ending that made a sci-fi fantasy adventure exciting for such a large audience (and compare it to the monotonous editing and shot composition of the prequels). Imagine Empire without Irv Kirshner’s deft hand at direction.

        Imagine the films without the distinct art design that evokes a lot of older sci-fi and adventure films concept designer by Ralph McQuarrie. In response to his passing, George Lucas told CNN:

        Ralph McQuarrie was the first person I hired to help me envision Star Wars,” Lucas said. “His genial contribution, in the form of unequaled production paintings, propelled and inspired all of the cast and crew of the original Star Wars trilogy.

        “When words could not convey my ideas, I could always point to one of Ralph’s fabulous illustrations and say, ‘Do it like this.'”

        In Star Wars and Empire, Lucas was served by the fact that he either couldn’t or wouldn’t second-guess or micromanage his team [EDIT] as much as he would with the prequels. As a young director, he was willing to listen to his team such as then-wife Marcia Lucas and veteran director Irv Kirshner, who was given a much freer hand than Richard Marquand on Return of the Jedi. As pointed out by many before (especially the folks at RedLettermedia in their Mr Plinkett videos), behind-the-scenes footage of the prequels shows Lucas’ prequel teams were largely afraid to tell him when his ideas need to be tweaked or thrown out.

        • Mike S. says:

          Re that collaborative alchemy: just watching the original 1977 trailer, with an ominous pulsing music track instead of John Williams’ score, makes Star Wars feel a lot closer to earlier 70s SF like Logan’s Run and the Planet of the Apes series (and for that matter Lucas’s own student film THX-1138) than the watershed it proved to be.

          • Ravens Cry says:

            I’ve always considered this to be the case. In the original 3, Lucas was only one hand at the wheel. He had plenty of people willing and able to say ‘No, George, that’s a bad idea’. Flash forward to the rereleases and the prequels, and he’s so big that no one can really say ‘No, George, that’s a bad idea’. Naturally, the movies suffer for it.

          • Jordan says:

            “Rebellion and romance.”
            Yup, they definitely weren’t talking about Han this early on. Awkwward.

          • It’s like the reverse of modern game trailers. Footage from before some of the final post production (? not sure if that’s the right word to use).
            Yeah, I see that.

    • Blovsk says:

      For the record, I found Episode 3 basically unwatchable and by far the worst of the bunch in terms of tone and execution while I think 1 and 2 are bad films that mess up a lot of the qualities of the original. In general I think if they weren’t made by George Lucas they would be as quickly and quietly forgotten as the Magnificent Seven sequels or the like but they so completely miss the point and lack the qualities of the first three films that it’s really hard to understand how the same person made them.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        Agreed. Ep III is the worst.

        With EPI and EPII I went into the cinema expecting something grand, and came out with a “well okay, the lightsaber battles were impressive”, with realisation dawning later that actually those movies were mostly crap. That’s why I was more dissapointed.

        After that, I did not see EPIII in a proper cinema but later for 3 Euros in a student cinema where they showed movies which were out of regular cinemas but before DVD release. I just did not want to invest the price of a real cinema ticket into this. And I all I wanted from the movie was a little proper character development. I wanted to see a young impulsive Jedi slip bit for bit over to the dark side.
        What I got made no sense. Anakin randomly flip-flopped between good and evil, there was no reason to his actions, no cunning deception by Palpatine, and the whole political stuff made zero sense either … and I was unable to put any of the clone stuff into context ( “the clone wars” had apparently been reduced to one battle, in an arena?).

        I’d say this was the worst of them. I went in with low expectations, and none of them were met.

        Still, if they had not been made in the context of Star Wars, yeah, they’d probably come away better than Transformers or Twilight. But as someone who sees between 0 and 3 movies in cinema per year, that is still way below what I am willing to leave the house for.

      • Will says:

        I think 3 is probably the worst, but I cannot for the life of me ever remember what happened in 2. There was a diner, I guess? And uh… an arena? Or something? Yeah, I got nothing.

        2 was the point where it became really obvious to me that Lucas had no idea what he was doing and that Star Wars wasn’t going to be good again on his watch. (I was only ten when Phantom Menace came out, and I enjoyed watching it quite a bit; it wasn’t until I looked back much later that it became obvious it doesn’t really live up to the original trilogy, though I don’t think it’s bad as such.)

        • Henson says:

          Episode II was more Star Wars-y than I, which was good, but the Bad was also so much worse, and there was so much of it. At least in Episode I you could often say “okay, this is dumb, but it’s not plot integral”. All of Episode II’s problems were inseparable.

    • Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      It wasn’t just Jar Jar though. Kid Vader was almost as annoying. Nothing against Jake Lloyd even if he turned in a bad performance, the mistake was more the idea of giving us a whole movie of 10 year old Darth Vader with the casting of Lloyd being a secondary mistake, that still isn’t his fault.

      Then they gave us the other annoying aliens. Remember Gnute Gunray?

      Then they gave us pod racing. A painfully long sequence of pod racing.

      I’m one of those people who came out of the theater happy the first time even though I found the kid and Jar Jar and the racing annoying all because they ended on that Darth Maul fight and because I’d only ever seen the other Star Wars once and remembered it as that series with spaceships and lightsabers, so I was only expecting more spaceships and lightsabers and this movie did have both of those things.

      And more importantly I was happy because I figured the next movies would be better because they’d be jumping forward to an older and hopefully less annoying Anakin (as it turns out Anakin is annoying at any age), and no pod racing and they’d already be in space. I was happy because by the end of the movie we’d gotten around to some flashy Star Wars stuff and I hoped it would stay there.

      If you want to make the argument “well if people came out happy because of the Darth Maul fight how can you argue with that” keep in mind, my audience at least cheered in the theater for the entire duration of the Yoda fight in the next movie, the one you put at the bottom of the list.

      • Phill says:

        The episode 1 DVD has the original full length pod race introduction. The actual cinema version seemed interminable as they did nothing whilst waiting for the race to start, but the lovingly crafted tour of every single competitor in tedious detail in the original (thankfully trimmed) scene was just so very, very dull. So worse was in the offing. Evidently the film-makers just so loved that pod race that it came to dominate so much of the film, when it barely deserved 2-3 minutes of screen time. Maybe they’d just watched Ben Hur and thought they could do it better.

        As I said above, you don’t actually change a lot of stuff in Ep 1 to make a decent film. And the Darth Maul fight was IMHO the best of the fights in the prequels (I absolutely loathed the Yoda lightsaber fights, incidentally).

        I wonder what it says that a brief 30 second mention of the Phantom Menace in the show is what is dominating the comments so far. I guess everyone just wants to talk Star Wars. And Mass Effect.

        So, back on topic: most anticipated game of 2016 which I won’t buy until 2018 in all likelihood:

        Civilization VI

      • Will says:

        I liked the podracing. It was idiotic and did nothing whatsoever to advance the plot, but (a) if you ignore the movie surrounding it, it’s fun to watch, (b) it was way more quintessentially Star-Warsey than anything else in the prequals, and (c) there’s no meaningful dialog for Lucas to screw up.

      • Zak McKracken says:

        I didn’t even find the kid very annoying, I was much more taken aback by
        a) Knowing that Yoda was Obiwan’s teacher, except suddenly he’s not.
        b) Anakin built C3PO? Wut? The earlier movies make a big point that he’s entirely useless for almost anything that’s going on in the real world because he was constructed to wait on diplomats. So why would a slave kid working on a scrap yard construct a protocol druid? In case someone wants to have diplomatic relationships with the scrapyard? That was so obviously fanservice gone wrong it bugged me more than Jar Jar Binks.

        I left the cinema superficially liking the movie but always getting stuck on those two things. Which then led to

        c, which I only realized later) I never understood what’s actually going on with the trade federation and the senate and whatnot. Only later I found that paying more attention would have made it worse, not better…

        • boz says:

          protocol druid

          That’s a lovely typo/autocorrect. We are talking about this guy right?

          • Zak McKracken says:

            Whoops! Yeah I guess it would have made the movie a lot more interesting and not much more confusing if C3PO had been a druid, not a droid.

            …incidentally, I see something in your comment that looks like a link but isn’t one (missing the href part in the HTML source).

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          d)Why are the jedi wearing those silly robes?In the original trilogy,obi wan and yoda were in hiding,so they were using hermit garb,they werent idiots who hide wearing their official jedi robes.

          • Zak McKracken says:

            To me, they’ve always been kind of monks, so I didn’t really notice until you just brought it up. I guess in a movie as thick with holes and contradictions, most people will bump their head on something, but everyone one on a different subset, and noone will find them all.

        • Ditto about the kid. Though the angels line did bother me. I usually hate movie kids, with exceptions. I hate them so much, when Vader is sent to the Jedi temple and he takes out his lightsaber I was this close from jumping from my seat, arms in the air, shouting “YES, YES YES KILL THEM ALL!”.

          Another incongruence the prequels cause with the originals is that in the sequels Obi Wan is the one who’s at Amidala’s delivery but in EpV it’s Yoda who tells Obi Wan there’s another Skywalker.

          It gives us another thing that makes people more likely to suffer from Alzheimer’s disease: jedis.

      • ehlijen says:

        They didn’t give us a whole movie of 10yo Vader. If they’d had, one of the film’s most crippling problems might even have been avoided: no investment in any characters by the audience.

        Anakin doesn’t come into it until about the 1/3 way point, and ceases to be important after the podrace, save for some contrived shoehorning into a mediocre at best space battle.

        Queen Amidala isn’t present for most of the movie until suddenly we’re told ‘no, she totally was, and still didn’t contribute much’.

        Obi-wan was the designated off screen sitter.

        Qui-Gon was…who was he? He was a generic jedi. Nothing more, nothing less. He has no stakes once the trade federation stopped trying to gas and shoot him in the opening scene. All he does is to further the goals of other characters so when the generic jedi is killed by the generic sith in the emotionless, long winded fight scene (which was still among the best in the prequels, empty as it is) we get some generic Targedy. sob and stuff. But not for too long, the gungans have this screen booked for happy shenanigans in 30 seconds…

        In episode IV, R2 does things because they’re important to him. Luke does things because they’re important to him. Han and Leia do thing because they’re important to them (though less so than the others). Yes, we still don’t meet Luke until a bit too long in, but when we do, the story does embrace him and his journey and the audience has reason to get swept up.
        When Anakin finally enters episode I, there is a bit of pod racing (which isn’t bad, just poorly setup and supported by the movie not being about it), and then he goes back to not mattering.
        Had episode I truly been about anakin, I daresay it would have worked a lot better.

        Ep I is a collection of scenes, but IV formed an actual story.

    • Gunther says:

      I went through a phase of thinking “it’s just trendy to hate on the prequels; they weren’t anywhere near as bad as everyone says” a couple of years ago. It lasted until I sat down and re-watched all three of them…

      Turns out they really are as bad as everyone says.

      Every performance (other than Ian McDiarmid’s) is wooden, every line of dialogue (not delivered by Ian McDiarmid) is either bland or cringeworthy. The direction and cinematography is reminiscent of a cheap TV show from the 90s, the pacing is dreadful, there’s frequent jarring tonal shifts as slapstick comedy, political intrigue, romance and action all rub up against each other, the constant fanservice-y nods to the OT drag you out of the film and plot-wise; nothing makes sense and every character is an idiot.

      There were some positives (the music is excellent, Ian McDiarmid singlehandedly saves entire scenes by sheer force of will, some of the fight scenes are nicely choreographed) but overall: people complain about how bad they are because they really are that bad.

      • John says:

        I will admit that the prequels are not very good and that reasonable people could very well dislike them. I dislike them myself. But no movie on Earth–except maybe some sort of snuff film–could deserve the intensity and volume of hatred that alleged Star Wars fans have been flinging around all these years.

        • Mike S. says:

          With great disappointment comes great vitriol. (See also Mass Effect.) It’s the contrast between hope/expectations and outcome that really drives that kind of anger.

          (TFA has benefited from the opposite: the prequels dashed the impossible expectations of a successor to the original classics, and made the bar something that could plausibly be met by a solid adventure movie.)

          I don’t disagree that the result often goes beyond what’s reasonable, but that’s partly a selection effect. People whose reaction was either “that was okay” or “that wasn’t really all that good” pretty much say that and move on to other things. If anyone’s talking about something years later, it’s going to disproportionately be people who have strong feelings about it. So a movie or game or other work that isn’t forgotten will, over time, tend to become by consensus either an unassailable classic or a crime against humanity.

          (Or maybe an ongoing war over the question– back before the movie came out and drowned out discussion of it, Heinlein’s Starship Troopers was a perennial and vociferous argument on Usenet.)

          That doesn’t preclude more nuanced takes, but those will never be the bulk of net commentary.

  2. Da Mage says:

    I can’t wait for No Man’s Sky to come out and flop hard. When the whole point of your game is to ‘explore’ and everything is procedurally generated….well the appeal is going to wear off really fast. It’s like playing minecraft only to explore caves, fun for a while, but gets boring very quickly.

    It always raises red flags for me when ‘procedural generation’ is the biggest selling point and despite years of hype, there has been very little of the game shown.

    On a brigther note though, who would have thought XCOM was going to get a sequel, and that it would be PC only. Just goes to show if a AAA dev targets a niche nobody else is they can find an audience.

    • Duoae says:

      Exploring in cave’s is pretty much all I did in minecraft – except make powered rails to get me to ever more distant caves! :)

      I’m really looking forward to the game as a relaxing space exploration. Just hoping they keep to their offline promises…

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I’m sort of hoping that the delay is because they realized the same thing and are hard at work to generate some long-term interesting gameplay in that universe.

      The major thing with the procedural content is that you can make extremely large universes, so the thing they’re presumably working on is to make gameplay which takes advantage of that. Last video I saw there was some interaction with “shepherd drones” which would punish people if they touched the wildlife on one planet. I suppose they’re adding some larger civilisatory framework and such.

      … I’ve no idea how it’s going to turn out but I’d love for it to work because I want a huge giant space sim in my life, and I don’t think Elite:Dangerous is going to be that any more. The original Elite procedurally generated a gazillion of very entertaining hours for me, so I think there is a chance. But you’re right in that just having procedural stuff makes for nice demos but can only be a background for the game itself.

  3. Smejki says:

    Uhm, many people enjoy relax driving in Eurotruck Simulator. So this might scratch some itch of some FUEL fanatics. Also FUEL tech was used in The Crew. It’s also a massive freeroam map if I am not mistaken. And also a shitty game.

  4. Nick says:

    That dues ex, always messing up the middle of the story.

  5. Joe says:

    I laughed pretty hard at Crusader Kings meets Aliens, good stuff! And maybe once you release Good Robot, if you’re still into that idea…

  6. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Also because it was the only way to get Josh to shut up about Crusader Kings.

    Come now,thats not the only way.You can ask him about his sink.Or if someone with two daikatanas would be called duodaikatanist.

  7. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I maintain that Phantom Menace is a bad movie, but nowhere near the horrible movie its reputation suggests.

    Actually its just as horrible as its reputation suggest.Even if you dont care about star wars.

    As for which is worse,hitman absolution at most just screwed one franchise.Phantom menace,on the other hand,opened the floodgates to all the cgi crapfests that plagued the 00s.Only recently were the movies able to (somewhat) recover from this.And while its true that shitty cgi wouldve plagued the movies even if phantom menace never got made,it wouldnt have been nearly as prevalent and abundant.So yes,phantom menace is the worst,not just as a bad movie,but as an awful trendsetter.

  8. krellen says:

    I am leaving this comment so that people have a collected place to get together and tell me why Ewoks are awful and why their inclusion ruined Return of the Jedi for them.

    Or for other reasons why they don’t like Return of the Jedi. Make a case for why I should no longer think it a good movie.

    • Shamus says:

      I was never crazy about Ewoks. They were just a little TOO cutesy, and asked a little too much of willing suspension of disbelief. Also – looking back as an adult years later – they were a little too obviously designed to facilitate merchandising. The story was winding up for the Big Serious Ending About Salvation, and it felt a little dissonant against the quasi-comedy of the Ewok fights.

      Having said that, I don’t think they RUINED the movie. They were an element that didn’t quite work in a movie full of great action and wonderful moments. In their defense, they gave a chance to show how a light-side user would handle conflict. Luke was emphatic that the party should surrender rather than harm the natives that had no part in their war. This set up his arc for the finale, and that was WAY more important to the core of the movie than arguments about whether logs should pose a viable threat to walkers.

      • MichaelGC says:

        The buttlescutt is that they were originally planned to be wookiees – which would have perhaps worked better from a battling-the-mighty-empire point of view – but that original plan was quite literally scaled down because of the potential cost of lots of full-size wookiee costumes.

        That said, I can’t help krellen with his enquiry as I’ve never had a problem with them, and I do think it’s a great film! It may have a few structural issues – the whole first section has nothing to do with the rest of it, e.g. – and a touch of give-this-character-something-to-do-itis, but none of that has ever really bothered me nor diminished my enjoyment of it. It’s like Phill was saying above – for me the contractual obligations have been met, so I’m willing to let any imperfections slide. (Although don’t talk to me about the Special Edition version with sodding young Anakin popping up at the end …)

        • I thought the cost wasn’t the issue, but rather it was Lucas wanting something cuter to drive sales of toys to younger filmgoers.* Ergo, Ewoks instead of Wookies.

          Given that a similar “logic” is what made him think Jar-Jar Binks was a good idea, it sounds believable.

          * This is a pet peeve of mine in so many forms of entertainment. Kiddie-fying something that kids (as well as adults) already like usually makes things awful. Everyone already loved ‘Star Wars’ and would buy every single piece of merch, but some people think baby-talk creatures that make “adorable” plushies will somehow not only drive more sales but not detract from the core I.P. in any way.

    • djw says:

      The ewoks were hairy little Mary Sues. There was no realistic reason for them to have any success whatsoever against the empire military. In fact, there were not even any unrealistic reasons for them to be successful. It was Home Alone, in space, with midgets in hairy suits.

      Jedi still had the truly awesome opening sequence on Tatooine, with Luke showcasing his skills, and Leia in a brass bikini (this is tacky in retrospect, but it was awesome when I was 13).

    • Zak McKracken says:

      I would never have thought twice about the Ewoks if it hadn’t been for people pointing things out, thus suspending my disbelief, aka spoiling the movie.

      Yeah, they bring this whole not-quite fitting comedic tone to the trilogy, they don’t really fit the rest of the story, sort of like the Gungans but slightly less annoying. So much less that I wouldn’t have noticed if it hadn’t been for the constant Ewok-bashing.

      … but really what we’re seeing here, in my personal universe, is the effect of the bad prequels spoiling the original movies. A while after the prequels suspended my disbelief (or rather broke my immersion in the SW universe), I started to look for the same kind of flaws in the old movies, and the Ewoks are one of them. I loved them for over 10 years but after the aura of perfection had been removed from the Star Wars franchise, they were one of the more visible problems in the original movies. There are probably others but I’m still maintaining the force-field that protects those.
      That’s probably going to fall either once I see the new movie, or watch the old trilogy again, with all of the movie criticism stuff in my head I did not have when I last saw them.

      …this, by the way, is one extra reason for me to hate the prequels even more.

    • John says:

      Eh, Ewoks are fine. I mean, I saw Return of the Jedi when I was 5 and the Ewoks made almost no impression on me. I didn’t see the movie again until I was a teenager . . . but the Ewoks were still okay. (Honestly, I like the way that Luke convinces them that C3-PO is a god.) It eventually occurred to me that the only reason the Ewoks were able to defeat the Imperial troops on Endor is that the Imperial commander was a dope who ordered his troops to leave their impenetrable bunker–but that’s a problem with the Imperials being stupid and not a problem with Ewoks.

      The internet just likes to prove how sophisticated it is by ripping on things that could be construed as cute.

      • djw says:

        The scene where Luke convinces them that C3P0 was a god was fine. Interesting even. Where the ewoks went off the rails was when they defeated an imperial army with stone age technology. I immediately called bullshit on that when I saw it for the first time in ’83, at the age of 13.

        My first (and lasting) impression of Jedi was that it was two movies, the first half and the second half. The first half was “The Rescue of Han Solo”, and it was awesome. It ended when they left Tatooine. The second half was too long, dull in many places, and had Ewoks defeating imperial troops with sticks and stones. I hated it.

        As an adult I’ve come to appreciate the scenes with Luke and Palpatine in the second half of the movie, but that is the only redeeming quality, and it was too slow for me as an early teen.

        • John says:

          Yeah, on paper, Ewoks vs Stormtroopers ought to be a blow-out for the Stormtroopers. But in the specific circumstances of the film, where the Stormtroopers are suprised, outnumbered, and fighting on unfavorable terrain it’s not too ridiculous that the Ewoks win. The problem is, as I said, that the Stormtroopers fought stupidly, and not that Ewoks are inherently silly.

    • Cinebeast says:

      I don’t mind the Ewoks. I thought I did, but I rewatched the movie a few weeks ago in anticipation of Episode VII and, you know what, they’re cute. And they eat people! They’re cute lil’ teddy bear aliens and they eat people. I can get behind that.

      What doesn’t hold up for me is the opening in Jabba’s Palace. Most of it is great, very moody, with all those wonderful puppets and sets and Harrison Ford acting stoned out of his mind, but it really drags on too long. And the whole slave Leia thing really does leave a bad taste in my mouth, especially after hearing how much Carrie Fisher was against it. Not a fan of any of that.

      The Ewoks are cool by me, though.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        especially after hearing how much Carrie Fisher was against it.

        She was against it because it was a fucking ridiculous costume to wear on stage.But she did enjoy when leia got to strangle jabba,which wouldnt have been nearly as satisfying without her being humiliated first.And to me,that is the essence of slave leia.Not this,but rather this.

      • Someone pointed out some of the more disturbing aspects of the whole Slave Leia thing:

        1. Why would a slug-like alien want to sex up something that wasn’t of its own species? Apart from the meta-reason of “villains do bad things to good people,” it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, unless…

        2. Is there a possibility that Jabba did really awful things to Leia off-camera? Is that supposed to be the implication? Being put in a silly outfit is one thing, but Jabba apparently did something to warrant Leia not wanting to just get away, but to personally kill him.

        3. Leia doesn’t have a single line when in the slave outfit. That could be just lazy scriptwriting, but it also adds the implication of something really bad happening between Leia’s capture and the eventual escape if she doesn’t utter one word at all.

        Yes, this is all contextual and speculative, but once it was pointed out, it really does have a lot of (possibly unintentional) connotations.

      • Torsten says:

        One good thing about ewoks is that they kept wookies away from the original trilogy, and large part of the other Star Wars entertainment.

        Wookies are supposed to be some sort of mighty warrior tribe, because every sci-fi serie needs one for some reason, but whenever they are in Star Wars they come off as useless hairy lumps that just groan annoyingly. Chewbacca is ok to have in the films, otherwise the less there are wookies around the better.

    • ehlijen says:

      I attribute everything bad about the ewoks to prop limitations. Turns out that if you stick a short person in a furry bear suit, you are almost required to end up with something cutesy. And that cutesy thing is very unlikely to be able to perform credible combat stunts.

      Since wookie costumes were apparently out due to cost and the decision on ewoks had been made, I believe a comedy angle was the only path left.

      Sure, a tiny man in a fur suit shooting a prop bow at an armoured bigger man looks silly. But that’s because it’s a tiny man in a fur suit. Had they had smeagol level CGI available, I have no doubt they could have made the hunting tribe forest dwellers properly ferocious.

      But to all ewok haters, I offer one final insight: they didn’t save the day. They tried, but were actually rather unsuccessful, getting killed in droves by the empire. It was Chewbacca’s taking over of a walker that saved the day for everyone! That’s when the battle turns, and anything the ewoks do afterwards with their log traps is essentially unimportant. Chewie had things under control already.

      • djw says:

        The battle on the surface of Endor could very easily have been written as a stealth operation instead. That would have played to the capabilities of the Ewoks without requiring imperial troops to fall for stupid log traps.

        IMO the real problem with the Ewoks defeating the storm troopers so readily is that it calls into question how the empire actually manages to be so fearsome in the first place! We see several places in the films where Darth Vader is individually awesome, but the storm troopers pretty much suck in all engagements, even against furry little hunter gatherers with stone age tech.

        • ehlijen says:

          But they didn’t defeat the empire readily. It took superior numbers and ambushes for the ewoks to succeed in any scene where they actually do, and then against infantry only. All the while many ewoks get killed to bring us these scenes.
          Despite all their efforts, they’re getting massacred until chewie takes over that ATST and takes out some more.

          Would it have been more believable to leave out the log traps? Possibly. But I maintain it didn’t ruin anything because by that point the tide had turned and the good guys were already winning again.

          • Ivellius says:

            Mythbusters actually tested the log smash scene, for what it’s worth. I dunno if that matters in terms of its cinematic appeal.

            • djw says:

              That clip doesn’t actually get to the testing part.

              In any case, I’m more concerned about the timing and the positioning. Even if the logs can smash the walker, it pretty much has to be a perfectly timed setup, with the walker standing in exactly the right spot, and both logs released at the same time.

              Also, how long did that take them to set up? Those logs are pretty damn heavy, and they would have needed the strength of many ewoks to hoist them. That could hardly have been done in secret. I refuse to believe that they used contraptions like that for hunting. The whole thing is just stupid.

              • krellen says:

                You also apparently refuse to believe that Ewoks could know anything about physics.

                Ancient Egyptians built the pyramids. It’s amazing what you can do if you throw enough manpower at it. There was an indeterminant amount of time between getting the Ewoks on their side and attacking the bunker – enough time for Luke to turn himself over to the Empire, get processed, delivered to Vader, and then escorted to the Emperor, at least.

                The Ewoks might not have used log traps for hunting, but they did use physics traps for hunting, as evidenced by the net that caught the protagonists in the first place. Those little teddy bears might actually be intelligent beings.

                • djw says:

                  Lets put it this way. I do believe that the Ewoks could build that trap. I do NOT believe that they could build it quickly and secretly. (Quickly or secretly, maybe). I also have some reservations about how easy it would be to lure the walker into the trap, given how precise the timing and positioning would need to be, but that’s easier for me to hand wave than actually building the trap is.

        • Mike S. says:

          Stormtroopers are unquestionably effective against a Jawa crawler and a pair of unarmed farmers!

          It would also help if the Emperor hadn’t specified that the unit on Endor was a legion of his best troops. Third-raters on a till-now vanishingly unimportant backwater base whose only job was to not open the blastproof door protecting the shield generator, unexpectedly being caught out by a native uprising led by crack Rebel guerillas wouldn’t have been a terrible story. Especially if the Rebels actually knew about and armed the Ewoks with something other than sticks.

          (After all, it was supposed to be a hamhanded Vietnam analogy, and the North Vietnamese didn’t hammer AK-47s out of the local flora– they got them from military powers with an interest in using their local fight as part of a larger conflict.)

          • krellen says:

            Wait, you actually believed the Emperor’s speech about his “best troops” waiting for Luke’s friends? He was a Sith trying to turn a Jedi to the Dark Side; lies are the least of his weapons.

            • Mike S. says:

              If he’s lying, it reflects slightly better on the overall quality of the troopers by making the Emperor look much worse: he set up a massive, elaborate trap for the Rebellion, and knowingly left the single point of vulnerability of the Death Star inadequately protected. Again.

            • Humanoid says:

              Amongst our weaponry are such diverse elements as lies, marksmanship, gaping exhaust ports, an almost fanatical devotion to the Emperor and nice grey uniforms.

            • djw says:

              Even his worst troops should be able to defeat stone age primitives.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                You know,there were some people who thought exactly that in the past.Theyve paid costly for such arrogance .And that wasnt the only time such a thing has happened.

                • djw says:

                  Take a look at the causalities and losses field in the link that you posted. The British did NOT lose that war.

                  Also, the Zulu’s were not stone age primitives. Those Iklwa were iron age weapons. The British tech advantage at Isandlwana should still have been large enough to carry the day, if it had not been for gross incompetence, but the tech gap was much smaller than the gap between the Ewoks and the Imperials. (The Brits did not have armored vehicles of any sort, for instance). The Zulu’s also had a fairly advanced military structure, and they had been at war with all of their neighbors off and on for a hundred years. They were a very experienced and highly disciplined army. They were not hunter-gatherers (they were just as far removed from that life style as their British enemies in that war were).

                  In any case, your argument is really “the Ewoks are okay because the British Empire lost a battle against one of the most highly militarized societies since the Spartans with 10-1 numeric odds against, ONCE.”

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Take a look at the causalities and losses field in the link that you posted. The British did NOT lose that war.

                    Only because they sent another invasion that was almost twice the size of the first,failed one.

                    if it had not been for gross incompetence

                    Competence is not a word I would describe stormtroopers with.

                    In any case, your argument is really “the Ewoks are okay because the British Empire lost a battle against one of the most highly militarized societies since the Spartans with 10-1 numeric odds against, ONCE.”

                    No,my argument is that tech advantage does not mean automatic win.Especially in a skirmish where the defenders are native to a forest the invaders arent.

    • Squirly says:

      My sister loves the ewoks. In fact, just last night she asked me which Star Wars was “the one with all the little teddies”.

      I have obviously failed miserably at some point or another.

  9. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Vista:null morning

  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Say what you want about tacked on multiplayer,at least its using already made assets and tweaking them somewhat.Whats worse than that is tacked on single player,where you spend huge amounts of cash to get voice actors to record lines that no one cares about.And like Chris said,quake solved this problem over a decade ago.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Im actually more afraid of the new mirrors edge doing well,because you know that the next one will then definitely be:
    Mirrors edge:Razor blade part 1
    Because thats the cool thing now.

    Also,you know that if they include a romance in the game,its actually going to be lesbian.Because lesbians are in right now.Also,teenage boys love to watch lesbians making out,so theyll cover that demographic as well.

    • Falterfire says:

      Yeah, the instant they started talking about the potential of romancing a guy from the point of view of a girl, I realized that they were missing the obvious and most likely solution. It’s a win/win for EA – They get to talk about how they’re furthering the diversity of the media because lesbians while also avoiding alienating the dudebro audience they have that’s way more likely to be put off by the thought of romancing a man than by two girls kissing.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Xcom 2 is basically a reboot of xcom:after- series.In that one,aliens one,and took over the earth(turning it into a giant brain),and you have the story of trying to reclaim earth,and then the story of trying to terraform mars.

    • Cedric says:

      The unnecessary retcon of the ending is what annoys me. They already had a setup available with the mysterious threat that the aliens were running from. They could have had that arrive and defeat earth offscreen instead of declaring that winning was all a dream.

      • Merlin says:

        Bleh, I’d much rather have a what-if built on a scenario that most players actually experienced than the “You won! And then a cutscene happened and everyone died” maneuver. The mysterious threat bit was a huge stretch in XCOM that only really works if you don’t think about it too much, and trying to build on that would only ever put us in the worst kind of Mass Effect territory. And that doesn’t get into the Megaman/Metroid element where players are forced to wonder where all of their ghost armor and plasma weaponry disappeared to between games.

      • John says:

        There is no retcon. XCOM is not a film or a book or any kind of linear narrative. XCOM is every game played by every player. Some of those games were victories and some were defeats. XCOM 2 is set after one of the defeats.

        I really don’t see why this bothers people.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:


        • Ninety-Three says:

          I could just as easily argue that Mass Effect 2 is every game played by every player, and so it doesn’t constitute a retcon for a hypothetical ME3 to be set after one of the “Shepard dies” endings, having the player take over some different character.

          But that would be silly, so why isn’t it silly to say that of XCOM? It’s a linear narrative insofar as there are a series of plot missions, some of which end the game if you fail, and after beating all the plot missions you get a “you win”.

          EDIT EDIT: Turns out there are multiple missions that give a game over on failure.

          • GloatingSwine says:

            If you fail the last mission of XCOM it’s an instant game over, IIRC.

            I really like this way out of the question of how do you do an XCOM sequel, which is basically “at the end of XCOM humans have acquired all the alien tech and the old aliens aren’t a problem any more”, so you either just have to say “yeah, but [i]these[/i] aliens are bigger and badder!” which is just narratively dull or go leftfield and paint it blue like they did with TFTD and Apoc.

            Following from a game where XCOM lost and you have a completely different context within which to do the classic “tech up and beat the aliens with their own stuff” because of the role reversal of you being the small insurgent force.

            • Humanoid says:

              I believe it gives you the option to restart the mission every time. Even on Ironman. It’s weird.

              I’m happy with the route they’re taking with XCOM 2 for mechanical reasons. The levels built primarily of alien architecture are horrible. Boring geometry that never changed and which was effectively static because it was often nigh-indestructible and with predictable pod spawns. Most of my XCOM games peter out once abductions and other missions that happen in the “human” levels start being supplanted by endless UFO raids, alien base assaults, that kind of thing.

              Plain ol’ abduction missions are the best thing in XCOM and I wish there was a pseudo-skirmish mode that only had a string of abductions and nothing else. With Advent, my hope is that even missions where you raid the aliens will mainly involve more familiar architecture.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Because shepard is just one gal,and she stars in all of the mass effects.Your team in xcom is a multitude of people,who are expandable.

            • Gruhunchously says:

              For me, XCOM is a very explicit case of ’emergent story/gameplay’ first, ‘scripted storty’ second. As long a it sets up a good campaign, I don’t really care if the story follows the previous game, retcons everything and starts anew, or any combination of the above. I’m sure that, for most people, their emotional investment in the game was getting their favorite soldiers through each battle, not whatever was happening in the intermittent cutscenes.

              With Mass Effect, the story and characters clearly come first; they’re what people remember about the game, and they represent what people like about the game. Screwing around with them with no regard for continuity is much less excusable, given those circumstances.

              • Humanoid says:

                Even the cult following that XCOM’s personnel have developed is emergent. The mass adoration for the legend that is General Peter Van Doorn for instance, arose from Beagle’s popular XCOM videos, ended up being implemented in Long War, and now he’s a making a canonical reappearance as a fully-fledged character in the sequel.

                First time through the game I didn’t think anything of the base personnel. Bradford was boring, Vahlen was irritating, Shen was …who? But now I love them and every time I start a new campaign, I watch their cutscenes in full, listen to every bit of their dialogue, etc. “CLOSE RANGE?! And what if it doesn’t work?”

          • John says:

            It’s true that Mass Effect is every game played by every player. That’s true of all games. The distinction between XCOM and Mass Effect is that–unlike XCOMMass Effect very much is a linear narrative. All those games by all those players somehow manage to hit all the same essential plot points.

            In XCOM, sufficient amounts of bad luck or bad planning can render the game effectively unwinnable. (This is particularly true in the case of Iron Man mode where the player cannot save-scum.) I have no statistics to support this assertion, but I suspect that most players, especially those new to the series or the genre, have either lost or abandoned a game that was going poorly and started over. I also suspect that that a large proportion of XCOM players have beaten the game more than once and should therefore know that there are multiple paths to victory. The point is that XCOM fans ought to be comfortable with a multiplicity of histories and consequently with a multiplicity of futures. XCOM 2 is merely one future following one history.

            In Mass Effect, on the other hand, there is only one history and–unless the developers decide to do something uncharacteristically bold in Andromeda–one future. People more eloquent than I have devoted already devoted tens of thousands of words to the way the game’s narrative deals in the illusion of choice, so I will say no more about it. Instead, consider the game’s treatment of failure. What do you do when Shephard dies in a mission? What does the game expect you to do? What does it want you to do? You reload from last checkpoint and try again. Failure didn’t happen. It doesn’t count. It’s not real. It is at most a temporary setback to the player and is never reflected in the gameplay or the narrative.

            • Mike S. says:

              This is true overall. But there are at least three points at which the game will give you a different ending state: the Reject ending of ME3 (“the Cycle continues, someone else was the hero a few myriad years later”), the Shepard dies ending of ME2 (“you defeated the Collectors, but ME3 has no protagonist and presumably the Catalyst plans get captured with Sol”), and letting the timer run out in Arrival (which quickly shows a very different Reaper war, with Cerberus and the Alliance standing together, albeit unsuccessfully).

              (Maybe also the “Shepard tries to bang Morinth, gets the obvious result” outcome.)

              Of course there’s nowhere to go from there but reload again. But it’s arguable that the overall “wave function” of Mass Effect includes those outcomes as well as the tricolor endings of the main trilogy plotline.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Well in mass effect if you lose,the reapers come to eradicate everyone.In xcom,the aliens come to conquer the earth,nor wipe it out.When you lose a country,its because they surrender to the aliens,not because they were all slaughtered.

        • ehlijen says:

          XCOM isn’t even a series of sequels. Sure, it’s nice if they try to them together, but let’s face it: was anyone really annoyed by UFO and Terror From the Deep feeling only tangentially connected? Or Apocalypse basically being something else entirely straight after?

          The niche they’re going for really only wants the story to hold together for each game, I dare say, and that’s good enough.

          Heck, XCOM-Enemy Unknown didn’t even have a very satisfying conclusion, story wise, and what fans it has still ate the game up even while they grumbled.

        • djw says:

          Yes. I failed on all of my many iron man runs. It is easy to believe that Earth was conquered. Many uses of the reload super power are required to actually win.

  13. Daemian Lucifer says:


    Sadly,that bullshit excuse DOES actually work.

  14. Joe Informatico says:

    Romantic subplots in YA dystopian fiction typically aren’t “flirty”–they’re angsty and broody as hell! And while all teenage romance tends to look either ridiculous or doomed after you’re several years removed from it and filter it through your own life experiences, I was once reminded that from an adolescent perspective, it often is dramatic and all-consuming.

    Although, considering the Uncharted games were full of flirtiness and yet were still wildly popular, I don’t think AAA audiences are necessarily turned off by that. Coming from a female perspective, however, might turn off male audiences who are just turned off by women’s fiction in general, more’s the pity.

    • Shamus says:



      You can hear me pause several times at that point. I knew “flirty” was wrong, but I was trying to think of the right word for “are these two people about to kiss or not?” tension. You can almost hear the hard drives in my head grinding while I look for the word. 36 hours later, it finally came to me.

      This getting old shit? Is shit.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Though if youve ever read/watched romeo and juliet,youll hate how young adult novels today do it.Shakespeare gives you all the teenage bullshit,tightly packed,and portrayed as “the best love story ever”,because thats exactly how it feels when you are that age.

      • djw says:

        Well, if you are setting your bar to “must be as good as Shakespeare” then you are not going to find many novels that satisfy you in any genre.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Not expecting as good as Shakespeare,but if you arent as skillful(which is almost always true),at least try to imitate it.I mean lion king 2 was definitely not as good as Shakespeare,but it at least gets points for drawing ispiration from a good work,and is definitely one of the bet…one of the not as bad disney sequels.

  15. TMC_Sherpa says:

    I’m not done listening but I want to jump in on the DeusEx thang.

    Judging by the DLC (and that’s all I got) I think they’ll do alright as far as the combat vs. other ways around the problem. Will the combat be the most polished part? Probably but that’s what the largest potential audience wants so I can’t blame them for that.

    Speaking of the DLC, they reset your augmentations and it worked out fine so they could do it again if they wanted.

    Back to listening…

  16. RedSun says:

    I find arguing between Phantom Menace and Hitman: Absolution to mostly just revive the-in my mind-age old debate of “what’s worse: terrible or boring?”.

    Absolution is actively painful and stupid. Watching it is an act of excessive cringeworthy masochism. But cringeworthy masochism is still a reaction. Everything about the way TPM doesn’t work, doesn’t work on a very banal level. It’s an empty movie-characters you don’t care about, a plot that just kinda drifts along with no audience engagements, fight scenes with no stakes, dialogue with no humanity. Which makes it worse than Absolution. Absolution is greasy gas station food that instantly makes you sick. TPM is starvation. It is unending dullness. It is wishing you had paint so you could put it on a wall and watch it dry.

    In fact, y’know why people specifically hate Jar-Jar and Kid Vader so much? Because as much as they are terrible, they are also the most memorable characters in the movie. They are the only thing in that movie that have enough of a pulse to hate. When we hear people hate Absolution, there are so many scenes that they just immediately default on. The hotel room scene. The shooting range. The stuff with woman. The pigeon guy. The fat texan asshole. The use of Ave Maria in the church. With TPM, you have Jar Jar and Kid Vader. Everything else is void of trade federations and pod racing.

    • Cinebeast says:

      This sounds about right to me. Attack of the Clones is where they start to get that “this is bad enough to physically hurt me” reaction from an audience.

      I skipped the Hitman Absolution Spoiler Warning because I kind of wanted to play the game first, but if it’s as fantastically bad as it sounds, I think I’ll just go and watch the playthrough instead.

    • Henson says:

      I found Qui-Gon to be very memorable, actually, because of just how unjedi-like he acts. He plays fast and loose, makes bets, cheats, and acts on his own without consulting the Jedi Council. He’s the one character besides Luke who embodies the idea that the Jedi aren’t all dull passive bureaucrats, that the Jedi can embrace life instead of hiding from it. I like him.

      It’s really a shame we couldn’t get ghost Qui-Gon in Episode III.

      • ehlijen says:

        Except in that, he’s the only one who acts like a jedi as we’ve seen them in the original trilogy.

        Obi-wan tricks and lies and silently nods to Han’s BS about parsecs as long as it gets him where he needs to go. And Yoda? Our first sight of him is pretending to be a mad frog to secretly test luke.

        The idea that the jedi are stuffy bureaucrats is entirely a creation of the prequels.

    • Humanoid says:

      Is Ep1 boring though? When joking around I reference it more than any other Star Wars movie, I find, because things like Jar Jar Binks, Pod racing, some kid, angry red Sith, etc are unmistakably from that movie. The rest of Star Wars kind of just melds into one generic “old Star Wars movie” entity and when I make a reference to it, I rarely know which specific movie I’m talking about. (I’ve watched bits and pieces of the old ones but never in full, whereas I’ve seen anything more than 15 second snippets of the prequels)

      I can’t make any pop-culture references from Ep2/3 other than “Do Not Want” so I can safely call those boring. Don’t even know what’s meant to happen in them other than some kid putting on a dark helmet.

  17. Abnaxis says:

    I am so. Damn. Sick. of everyone saying it is impossible to have a good story-focused experience with multiplayer.

    It’s been so long since I’ve played a decent cooperative game that actually has a decent, in-depth experience. Multiplayer doesn’t have to mean “nothing but deathmatches.”

    Who knows, maybe someday someone will make another Mask of the Betrayer…

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Lovers in a dangerous spacetime is a great co-op game(though sadly,its just hotseat,no proper multiplayer support),that really has you both cooperate to achieve the goal.Everyone should at least play a bit of it with their significant other.Though I guess you can play with a friend,but its called lovers,so playing it with a special friend is better for the mood.

    • Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      The new DnD game is sort of like what you’re talking about trying to recreate the NWN magic though I’ve heard the reviews are mixed.

    • Humanoid says:

      Monaco had a great story.

    • Abnaxis says:

      While I kinda appreciate the suggestions (I’ve already played everything mentioned) I was more commenting on the attitude of “don’t do multiplayer unless you’re going to focus on it.”

      I feel like this attitude is prevalent, and it’s making it so that I never get the games I want to play. I want a Fallout 4 where player 2 can pick up the controller and drive for Preston if they want to. I want a Pillars of Eternity where another computer can LAN in and help control the party so I never have to pause.

      Basically, I want a game with a single player focus; branching dialog trees, open world exploration, deep RPG elements, a cinematic story–essentially, all that stuff that developers include when they “leave out multiplayer so they can focus on the single player experience,” and what they drop because everyone insists those elements are like “pizza and soda” vis-à-vis multiplayer–and then spend the bare minimum effort required to let a second player drive for the these-days-mandatory AI companion.

      This used to be a thing, back in the day, and it’s really not that hard to code if you have access to the engine. Again, no matchmaking bullshit, no extra deathmatch levels, no complex puzzles that require two players to solve, just one player (metaphorically) presses ‘Start’ and drives for the companion that is always there for exposition purposes.

      That is my goal, but first I need to make it my personal internet mission to convince internet personalities to stop saying broad statements like “multiplayer in Spec Ops is like pizza and soda.” I would have loved playing as one of the squad mates in Spec Ops. As it was, my brother and I just wound up passing the controller back and forth as we played through the story.

      Where they went wrong is not in wanting to include multiplayer, but in wanting to include multiplayer that doesn’t actually enhance the core experience of Spec Ops.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        So you want saints row.Or far cry.

        But the thing is,it wasnt an easy thing before like you say.The games where you could seamlessly pick up the controller and go were already designed to be coop games,but lowered the difficulty(slightly) when one of the players wasnt present.So yes,if you want a good coop game,you almost always have to focus on that aspect,and only afterwards tweak it to accommodate the lack of the second player.

        Plus your expectations for branching dialogue trees,open world exploration,etc are kind of unrealistic.The old games where multiple players could go through practically had no story(a 5 second cutscene here and there was the maximum),were usually pretty linear(the most you would get is pick path A or path B in a few of the levels),had no rpg elements at all,and you werent conversing with anyone.

        • Abnaxis says:

          I would offer NWN (the original, NWN2 was a bit different in how the game played) as a counter to “branching dialog tress, etc are hard” argument.

          Basically, in NWN1, you didn’t have a party in the single player campaign–you had one companion, whose slot was taken up by a second player if they joined you. The dialog trees were still there–your human companion couldn’t initiate dialogs, but they could still see them and suggest what you should respond with. There was still exploration, but if you every transferred between zones your companion had to go with you. The game most certainly had RPG elements to it.

          Now, NWN1 had a lot of other multiplayer elements to allow modders to create and share their own adventures in a multiplayer environment, but for the actual single player campaign none of that extra stuff was necessary. It takes very little work to take AI out of slot a and stick a human player instead, because by definition that companion can’t do much, and if you’re being as lazy as possible (as I keep saying I want), you don’t need to add that capability to that companion, just let a human control the companion for the action bits.

          The key to easy co-op is this: if at any point, you are asking “but what if the second player does X,” the answer is always “they can’t.”

          Q: “But what if the second player wants to talk to an NPC?”
          A: “They can’t. AI companions don’t initiate dialog in the single player experience do they?”

          Q: “But what if the second player walks too far away from the main player, and we have to load a new fragment?”
          A: “They can’t. If the AI companion gets too far away because of pathfinding bullshit, we teleport them next to the main character. We’ll use the same code with for humans, fade out to black and fade in standing next to the main character. Maybe we’ll add a little courtesy warning that player 2 is too far away beforehand if we’re feeling ambitious.”

          Q: “But what if the second player wants to pick up new equipment that we didn’t set up for that companion’s model…”

          I think you see where this is going by now. Basically, take everything you think is hard about adding multiplayer, and stop trying to say “But…” because the answer is “if it’s hard, then it’s impossible for the second player to do it.” The only feature–the only one–that is necessary, is for the player 2 to join the game, and control the expository companion. Anything else that’s hard to do doesn’t get done.

          This is many, many orders of magnitude less man-hours than even the most cursory outsourced deathmatch multiplayer would require to set up. It is not hard

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Nwn1 also sucked.Hard.So technically you can have it,in a game with stupid/boring story(like the star trek game),or in a game that has a silly story(like the two Ive mentioned).But in a game where the hook is a good story,it is hard.

            • Abnaxis says:

              Why would you say that? How does anything I’ve laid out conflict with having a good story? Would letting a second player control “token black squad-mate” for the appropriate action sequences in Spec Ops somehow ruin the narrative experience?

              Mask of the Betrayer, from NWN2, had a fine story. I didn’t bring it up because the gameplay in NWN2, you control a full party instead of a main player and a single companion like in NWN1 (which fits better with the concept I’m talking about) but there’s no reason you couldn’t have MotB story in NWN1 engine.

              Not only that, but I would also point out that there’s a difference between “good story” and “enjoyable single player experience.” Skyrim has a terrible story, but it’s a hell of a lot of fun as a single player experience. I would trade a kidney to the developer who gives me “Skyrim, but a second player can control Lydia.”

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Would letting a second player control “token black squad-mate” for the appropriate action sequences in Spec Ops somehow ruin the narrative experience?

                Yes.First,because walker is alone quite often,second because one needs to pay attention to how his demeanor changes in combat in order for it to work.In fact,playing spec ops on higher difficulties without going through the normal(or easy)one first also ruins the narrative experience precisely because it moves your attention.

                • Abnaxis says:


                  First, when Walker is alone…he is alone. Remember what I said–as lazy as possible. If that means player number 2 has to sit and watch until the squad-mates return, so be it. It won’t be the first time lazy multiplayer has worked that way. Hell, that’s how I played 100% of Spec Ops (switching off playing with my brother), and it didn’t mess up anything story-wise for me or for him (I was spoilered; he was not), it just would have been more fun with more controller time.

                  Second, what is it about a second player that would make it impossible for Walker to emote? Does activating a second controller somehow suppress the console’s ability to produce expressive voice-acting sounds? Will Walker suddenly start behaving differently because another person is watching him so he feels self-conscious?

                  Heck, if anything else it could help sell the idea because you have a squad-mate to compare Walker to, so the writer’s can build a contrast if Walker is getting increasingly sadistic while his buddy keeps relatively straight, or be more sneaky and have them both growing excessively violent.

                  • Daemian Lucifer says:

                    Ok,they couldve done it lazily like that.But wasnt the point in making a good co-op experience along with a good single player experience?I mean,compare the two player game in mario vs a two player game in contra.Would you be satisfied with either of those in a modern story driven game?

                    • Abnaxis says:

                      Yes, I would. That’s the thesis of my entire post.

                      And I don’t think I’m alone, either. All the people who wanted multiplayer in Skyrim probably would have also been happy with what I’m talking about, but instead we got a bland MMO. Because the dominant understanding of multiplayer is “you can’t do MP unless you build the entire game around it.” It’s just not true.

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      You would?Well then,you have it.Create two saves,and when one of you dies,or finishes a level,load another state and let the other player have a go.There,mario style two player game.

                  • Sleepy the Bear says:

                    This may get lost in the shuffle, but one game that did co-op multiplayer and narrative trickery was Kane and Lynch. During one mission Lynch starts hallucinating that hostages are SWAT cops. I could envision making something like that work in Spec Ops.

  18. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

    So Josh was disgusted by Shamus’s optimism. When was the last time that happened?

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    TWWDS (The Writer Will Do Something) reference is at 37:54, in the context of Mirror’s Edge storyline.

  20. Matthew Melange says:

    So what’s the difference between No Man’s Sky, Space Engineers and Star Citizen?

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Space Engineers is Minecraft In Space, Star Citizen might at some point be every space game ever but is probably just going to be a new Wing Commander, and nobody actually knows what No Man’s Sky will be.

      • James says:

        SC is going to, if it ever comes out, be the bigger louder version of Elite Dangerous that people kinda stopped playing when there was nothing to do.

        If it can get Eve-Online levels of player control and politics it might become the next big thing in space sims. but i worry for the game post launch if it just becomes another space sim with 100 hours between interactions with someone else.

    • Shamus says:

      I don’t know anything about SC, but Space Engineers is a game where you stay in one place and build, mostly in the vacuum of space, on an asteroid. You don’t land anywhere, you don’t travel to new systems, you don’t see anything new. It’s just you, empty space, the stuff you build, and rocks. NMS seems to be about hopping from one strange world to the next. You take in the sights, see the wildlife, and… do stuff. The gameplay hasn’t really been explained yet.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I think the biggest thing we know about the gameplay is derived from the UI: there’s an ammo counter, so there must be some kind of meaningful shooting?

        • Paul Spooner says:

          Meaningful shooting… meaningful gun… meaningful canon.

        • Squirly says:

          Eh gads. There might even be lasers.

          Honestly, in regards to No Man’s Sky, I would be happy with a somewhat meaty base-game that then gets some meaningful additions over time. Don’t dole it out in dozens of DLCs, but maybe add to it via patches post-release and a meaningful expansion. Like how Civ 5 vanilla is sorta good, but with both expansions it’s damn great.

          The problem with the procedural generation that I’ve always had is that, at one point or another, you usually start seeing the patterns. This varies from game to game (Hellgate London for predictable and Dwarf Fortress for … the other side of the scale). As much as NMS looks the business, I can’t help but feel that we’ll start seeing the patterns sooner rather than later. And if they can fix that over time with meaningful additions and extra content and maybe even systems, then I’ll gladly accept a fully working, somewhat sparse main game.

          I think.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      You should toss Elite into that group also since it also has a gigantic galaxy and features exploration and combat. In fact Exploration, charting new systems is one of possible careers you can pursue. And you can land on so far airless moons and satellites.

      But the main difference is that No Man’s Sky allows you to explore not just form the comfort of your spacecraft, but to get out of it and explore on foot and interact with the local flora and fauna and seamlessly go from the surface of a new strange world to space to another new strange world.

  21. ehlijen says:

    Am I the only one who thinks XCOM2 looks more like a Syndicate remake than a sequel to an XCOM one?

    You fly around the globe in an airship, picking missions from nearby regions (as far as I can tell from the gameplay footage out so far), your missions are centered around infiltration of urban centres, engaging hostile human ‘police’ and enemy/alien agents with special abilities. It’s also all quite cyberpunk with your flying hacker drone mucking with cameras and turrets.

    Not that I’m complaining! It also sounds a bit like UFO:Aftershock, my favourite of that series.

  22. Merzendi says:

    Re Hitman:
    They have now released more details about their release plan than you last saw, Shamus. There’s also an option for just buying the intro stuff, at a little over half price.
    This is the thing
    Don’t know if this raises your hopes for it, but it has raised mine!

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    About mirrors edge 2 being open world,wasnt there a zombie parkour game recently that was also first person and open world?I remember it was an ok game,once you got over the “Fuck,more zombies”.

    EDIT:Yup,dying light was that game:


    • Disc says:

      I’d say that’s pretty accurate review. The story isn’t the best and the game starts slow, but damn does it get fun when you unlock enough skills. The parkour especially only gets better over time.

  24. Pinkhair says:

    I am shocked that using regular game mechanics for a date didn’t prompt a mention of Undertale.

  25. SlothfulCobra says:

    I can’t for the life of me keep Star Citizen and No Man Sky separated in my mind. So far as I know, they’re both space games about exploring a big procedurally generated world. I think one of them is making obscene amounts of money on kickstarter?

    • Humanoid says:

      The chief selling point of No Man’s Sky seems to be the procedural world generation and exploration thereof, whereas for Star Citizen it seems more an afterthought: indeed I think it was a stretch goal. Exploration may well turn out to be largely a niche activity.

      For Star Citizen I think the procedural aspect of it will be largely immaterial: maybe in the persistent world there will be enclaves of people wanting to carve out a corner of the galaxy to call their own, but that should have no bearing on the Wing Commander style single-player campaign, or even the more freeform Privateer style open world (which is the part that I really look forward to).

      I mean, even with the original Privateer’s relatively small world, I had no reason outside of a few questlines to venture into the Fariss quadrant, the rest of the map as presented was more than big enough. I’d much prefer a smaller world with more distinct locales like New Detroit, Oxford, Perry Naval Base, etc, the game needed more of those.

      • John says:

        Way back when, my favorite part of Privateer was flying to a new planet, always in the hope that it would have a unique set of images for the landing pad, hub, bar, and so forth. Alas, it so rarely turned out that way.

        I used to love Privateer deeply and truly, but when I returned to it last year after two decades’ absence I found that I couldn’t get past the blotchy ship sprites and woefully imprecise flight model. The game really suffers from not being true 3D in a way that Tie Fighter, for example, doesn’t.

        • Humanoid says:

          I actually still replay Privateer and/or Righteous Fire pretty frequently, even now. The lack of precision and the splotchy sprites are a bit bothersome, sure, but I think it’s aged better than that generation of 3D games. Granted 3D space games age more gracefully than most though due to the simple geometry and skyboxes (Strike Commander which followed Privateer looks very aged now), but I have to admit I’ve never played the Star Wars space sims due to my lack of interest in Star Wars more generally.

          By way of comparison, I never have the itch to play Wing Commander 3 again, and that was very much a contemporary of TIE Fighter. Wing Commander 4 largely the same, though I like to revisit the FMV which was fantastic. :P

          • John says:

            Don’t get me wrong, I still love taking missions and upgrading my ship. (I’ve been playing a ton of Endless Sky lately for that very reason.) But the combat in Privateer is intensely frustrating until you can afford a targeting computer that shows you where you should be shooting. Without one, it’s really, really hard to judge exactly where an enemy ship is going because of the sprite-based graphics. You have to rely on missiles to get kills and in my experience it takes two tandem-fired missiles to kill even the weakest enemy ships. Then there’s the fact that missiles are an extremely limited resource . . . Let’s just say that I am very glad that Privateer lets you flee from random combat encounters–pity that the starter ship is so slow.

            • Duoae says:

              I loved privateer and played it again last year. I had no problems with the controls or fighting without a targeting computer.. or missiles. Maybe it was because I was using the mouse to play instead of the joystick?

  26. Nyctef says:

    For Mirror’s Edge, we already know it looks fantastic, and we now know that Solar Fields is doing the soundtrack again, so I don’t see any way it can be bad :D

    Also I’m totally down with the post-cyberpunk setting. I’d love more cyberpunk games. I thought the first game had a pretty okay story (it was minimalistic, but that’s all it really had to be) although that classically cheesy line (“It’s not news. It’s advertising”) always made me sigh and want to patpat Faith on the head (although it did tell us a lot about her character in one line, which was great)

    In terms of gameplay, the first game was a big hit for speedrunning (literally) so I think they’d be making a really big mistake if they tried to dumb it down. Mirror’s Edge with AC-style parkour would just be .. ugh

  27. tengokujin says:

    I clicked on your link for last year’s look-forward and realised that I hadn’t heard much about Yäger lately.

    Turns out, it was because of two things: they were no longer working on Dead Island 2 because of “creative differences” and because they had filed for insolvency.

    Welp, inspirational news to start off the new year with.

  28. No One says:

    As someone who worked on SpecOps: The Line’s multiplayter, the dismissal in the cast wounds me a bit :(. It’s ok. Somehow, I’ll manage ;). I will say, though, that the idea that SpecOps single player mode development suffered because of the inclusion of the multiplayer doesn’t hold much water. They two modes were developed in parallel by separate studios. Asset and tech sharing was largely one directional (i.e. multiplayer made use of single player stuff when needed, but single player pulled nothing from mulitplayer) We went to great pains to avoid stepping on the single player guys feet. I’d also not put much into the idea that the money spent on the multiplayer mode would have otherwise gone to make the single player mode better. The single player mode was the thing that drove the schedule and it got all the time it needed (the dev time on The Line was something like 5 years, as I recall). Not having multiplayer would have made The Line cheaper to make, but probably not any better.

    • Retsam says:

      Did you intend for your first set of emoticons to bracket a parenthetical thought, or did it just work out that way?

      Also, this comment just proves that No One likes Spec Ops multiplayer.

    • Decius says:

      Imagine if, instead of working on the Multiplayer, your team was working on the Armored Vehicle sequence, in which the player got control of a Bradley with a sandblasted windshield and had to drive and fight through a large crowd of enemies, followed by a bull rush through a glass building flanked by antitank mines.

      • No One says:

        While that sounds cool and would have been a hoot to do, Yager didn’t need or want help with the single player. They were more than capable. They didn’t have the bandwith to do the mulitplayer mode that 2K wanted so it was contracted out. There were plans for a whole bunch of DLC for the game. Yager was going to add some 2 player Co-Op missions, we had additional multiplayer modes in the pipe, and and I seem to remember ideas being kicked around for vehicles (but it’s been so long, I might be mixing projects in my head). Sadly, within days of the game’s release, the sales were so poor 2K canceled all of the DLC not already completed. Financially, it was a complete disaster for them. Nothing against Yager, they were top flight guys. And, thankfully, they at least had glowing reviews to salve the disappointment. We had the fun of having the multiplayer mode described as “cancer” in the press. :) Not because it was bad, but because it existed at all. But we were a work for hire studio, so we rolled on to the next project that came along.

        • Shamus says:

          Thanks for sharing. Seriously. I really appreciate this perspective. This stuff doesn’t get talked about nearly enough.

          And I suppose it’s good to remind me that the games I sometimes dump on are still the result of hard work by talented people.

          I really hope that next project had a better outcome. :)

          • No One says:

            You’re very welcome.

            But, don’t go soft just because I popped in to add some details not commonly known. :)

            And yes. There were many more successful projects after that… and a couple of not so successful ones, but that’s a story for another time.

  29. Retsam says:

    I think Rutskarn was sad that nobody reacted to his “DICE has many faces you never quite know which one will come up” pun, so he followed it up with a craps joke that was also ignored.

  30. stratigo says:

    D: No talking about total war warhammer? D: D:

  31. stratigo says:

    Jokes about CK2 in space, no talking about the paradox game in space. Stellaris.

  32. SlothfulCobra says:

    Huh, after a brief mention of the prequels, discussion over their quality is the one topic that dominates the discussion in the comments. I’m not surprised, especially since the topic got a little extra coverage in the show notes, but I am disappointed. I guess endlessly putting down the prequels is one of those topics that nerds will never let go.

    It’s a shame, since there are some other really neat things that were discussed. I don’t have anything to say personally about making Mirror’s Edge appealing to teenage girls since I never understood teenage girls, but I was hoping someone would.

    I think normally people refuse to cross-contaminate sci-fi and fantasy because they’re afraid that they serve different audiences, or that they’d end up showing the weaker sides of either genre. There are every so often alien-like things dropped into fantasy, like Discworld’s version of elves, or occasional magitechnology, but it’s very seldom that sci-fi borrows from fantasy, and the closest they normally get are things like psychic powers, ghosts, and “god-like” entities (that are definitely not gods no seriously). Sci-Fi also generally pretends to be following rules, whereas some fantasy prefers to be all loosey goosey about things.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Given that there’s no limit on the number of comments per post, I’m not sure it’s especially cool to complain about what others find interesting or comment-worthy! There are some topics I feel similarly about, but best to just roll your eyes and scroll your mouse, I reckon.

      Interesting point on the ‘weaker side of each,’ though – I’d not thought of it like that, but I think you might be onto something there…

    • mhoff12358 says:

      The Dying Earth series by Jack Vance does a really good job of mixing Sci-Fi and Fantasy. Its set in a future Earth where advanced sci-fi technology has been invented and magic has been discovered, but the great big discoveries have all happened in the past. The inventors of technology and the discoverers of magic are long dead, and now some technologies are treated as incomprehensible artifacts and some magic spells are studied and cataloged. So the books don’t so much pit fantasy versus sci-fi as merge them and make them one and the same.

      The books are very good, if a bit iffy due to age. They started being written in the 50s, so what might have at the time been standard gender dynamics (even perhaps a bit critiquing?) come across as really outdated and ugly.

      • djw says:

        I’d argue that those books are awesome and not iffy at all due to age, but I’m a big Jack Vance fan.

        Dungeons and Dragons magic system of spell slots is derived directly from Dying Earth (I’d argue that the system works better in the stories than in the game).

        The books also inspired the “Book of the New Sun” tetralogy by Gene Wolfe, which is an extremely good Science Fantasy (much heavier reading than Jack Vance though, but well worth it).

    • Christopher says:

      I always got the impression that cthulhu mythos stuff were fantasy aliens. Maybe that’s Bloodborne getting to me, but those things do not seem like they originated on Earth.

      That’s not really what the Diecast was talking about, mind. I think Independence Day aliens invading the Lord of the Rings movies would be pretty terrible. It might be funny. But it also just reminds me of Epic Movie, when all the X-men were messing up Narnia. I kinda like sci-fi-based fantasy, though. I have read some comics where the reasons for all of the fantasy stuff is aliens or advanced technology. Thor is technically sci-fi, I guess? And similarly, I recall Thorgal having a medieval warlord-like villain who hid a laser gun in his glove, pretending to have a supernatural death spell.

    • djw says:

      The Might and Magic games always had a science fiction element, at least up through M&M 7 (I did not play 8 or 9, but I assume they had it too). The science fiction component was usually some sort of weird twist at the end, for instance in MM7:

      Your final set of missions is given to you by space men who crash landed their spaceship in the ocean. They eventually want you to return to their space ship and retrieve a Macguffin that allows them to complete some objective (which depends upon whether you pick the good or the evil ending).

  33. The Seed Bismuth says:

    while everyone else seems to be taking about star wars ,little surprise there, I played “The Writer Will Do Something” and it made me really wish “The Magic Circle”, which I really like actually, had been this bitter. How better or at least more memorable it would have been.

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