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Diecast#155: E3 2016 Wrap-Up, Mirrors Edge, Stellaris

By Shamus
on Monday Jun 20, 2016
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Direct link to this episode.

Last week we did a Livestream of the E3 press conferences. I don’t know when those will show up on YouTube, but until then here we are talking about what we saw and what we thought about it.

Hosts: Josh, Shamus, Campster.

Episode edited by Mindie.

Show notes:

0:00:36: E3 2016

0:04:41: Dishonored 2: Even Less Honored

For context: Stephen Russel played Garret in the Thief games until Square Enix unloaded him for the awful 2014 reboot. So now he’s playing a similar kind of character in a totally different franchise.

0:11:02: Horizon: Zero Dawn

0:14:20: We Happy Few

This is what we saw at E3:

Link (YouTube)

I’ve watched some gameplay on YouTube since then, and it looks very different. It’s much more about gathering resources and weapons and less about having your head messed with. Now everyone’s comments about “Dead Island” make a lot more sense. The E3 trailer makes this look much more story-driven than it ultimately is.

0:18:27: Civilization 6

Here are the screenshots Josh was talking about.

0:23:14: Project Scorpio

This is what they’re calling the upcoming Xbox. Actually, they have a new, slimmer version of the Xbone coming out this year, and then the newer one – which will supposedly be backwards compatible – is planned for next year.

0:34:59: For Honor

Chivalry + Dynasty Warriors + MOBA? I guess? Maybe? It’s got Vikings vs. Samurai vs. Knights.

0:39:25: Death Stranding


Link (YouTube)


0:42:49: Mirrors Edge: Catalyst

Josh has played the game. Here’s what he thinks.

0:47:08: Resident Evil

If it doesn’t work, they can always claim it’s “satire”.

0:51:47: Stellaris

While I complained about the game, I’m grateful to the person who gifted it to me. It was on my wishlist and I’m glad I played it, even if the ultimate result was frustration. That’s how this goes sometimes.

I apologize for this long, incoherent rant. This was the most frustrating game I’ve played in ages because it felt like it was close to greatness. I’m not as good at deconstructing 4X mechanics as I am at deconstructing plots, so I can’t really put my finger on what part of the mechanics is broken. In the episode I said I wanted an “easy mode”, but I’ve spent another day playing around with cheat codes and I discovered that making the game easier actually made it quite a bit worse.

The really bad thing is that now I have a terrible case of wanting to play a 4X game, and I haven’t heard of anything good. Suggestions?

1:01:30: Overwatch

Comments (161)

  1. krellen says:

    Re: Stellaris –

    They have fixed the Corvette problem (by nerfing the ability to massively stack evasion), so they no longer so greatly dominate combat. They haven’t yet fixed the “there’s nothing to do” problem, however; that’s in some future patch.

    Paradox dreams big with their games, but they also continue to develop and support them for years after release (the latest patch/DLC for Crusader Kings II was released earlier this year), so they get closer to that dream over time. I think most people agree that getting into a Paradox game early isn’t really the best way to experience the game.

    Come back in a year when they’ve released a few more patches (possibly after the first DLC launches) and see if the game still frustrates you. There supposedly was supposed to be a large chain of “colony events” that would take up the midgame, but they didn’t get to it and are planning on patching it in later instead.

    (Normally “we’ll patch it in later” would be terrible, but Paradox has a track record of actually following through.)

    • Phill says:

      There was an interesting development post mortem about Stellaris on Gamasutra where Paradox basically said “it was our first 4x game and we underestimated the amount of work the gameplay mechanics would take compared to our usual grand strategy games, and basically didn’t have time to put much in the mid game before the release deadline”.

      So they planned to have more mid game stuff and are going to add it in later, but had to release the game only semi finished in essence because of publishing contracts.

      • Hector says:

        While Stellaris could indeed use “more stuff,” my big worry is that Paradox just sees this as a platform to shovel DLC endlessly, just as they transformed the brilliant EU4 into rather than actually fixing the mechanics. Paradox is a bit like Bethesda for strategy games: brilliant but lazy, and with a bad habit of adding flashy extras when they need to polishing the core experience.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          That’s also my worry: Stellaris doesn’t need a series of highly-scripted midgame colony events, which is what it sounds like they want to add. It needs to address the fundamental problem that this is a 4X with no science or culture victories, and perfunctory combat. To have an engaging midgame, the game needs to make you manage more resources than simply building a giant stack of units and throwing it at enemy stacks to capture their planets.

          • Silfir says:

            Good lord not another 4X with a “culture victory”… anything but that!

            But you’re right. The game needs more than just the one victory condition (though to its credit, it can be accomplished peacefully as well) that it currently has. Something’s missing, at any rate.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              I’d settle for keeping the combat-focused victory conditions and just adding more depth than “I have a 1500 power stack with lasers and armour, you have a 1200 power stack with missiles and shields, the weighted rock-paper scissors formula says I win, GG.”

              It’s not that it needs something specific, it just needs something, anything.

    • Humanoid says:

      “We’ll patch it later ….for a price”

      • SyrusRayne says:

        An understandable worry, but not generally how Paradox works. They offer a lot of DLC, definitely, but they offer plenty of free patches, content, etc. alongside.

      • krellen says:

        Paradox just announced the Beta-launch of “Asimov”, their second big (free) patch of the game. It doesn’t add more victory conditions, but it does fix a whole host of other issues with some massive re-balancing and other changes to game systems.

        Once again – free patch. Changes a bunch of stuff (hopefully for the better). This is Paradox’s track record.

  2. Darren says:

    Endless Legend isn’t perfect, but it’s a really good 4x and easily the most unique entry in the genre that I’ve encountered in ages. It also attempts to insert narrative into the 4x equation, which seems like a good fit for you.

    • Awetugiw says:

      I agree with Endless Legend being pretty good. Even so, I would recommend re-playing Alpha Centauri over playing Endless Legend. Even after all those years, I still consider SMAC to be the best game in the genre (closely followed by Civ IV).

      For bonus points, like Endless Legend, it has significant narrative elements. In fact, I think SMAC is one of the best written games. (The plot is okay, most of the quotes are brilliant.)

      • Ysen says:

        Alpha Centauri is fantastic. I agree that it’s still one of the best games in the genre.

      • Awetugiw says:

        Now that I think about it, there is a very nice contrast between the Civilization games and Alpha Centauri on the one hand, and Civ: Beyond Earth and Stellaris on the other.

        The leaders in Civ and Alpha Centauri all have clear personalities, which influences their behavior as well as how you, as the player, see them. You’re not at war with Random Empire #381, you’re fighting Genghis Khan of the Mongol Empire or Chairman Yang of the Human Hive. You’re not allying the Confederacy of Globork Planets, you’re banding together with Lady Deidre of the Gaians because of your shared concern for Planet’s ecosystem.

        It really surprised me, when playing Beyond Earth and Stellaris, how much I missed such context.

      • LCF says:

        I, too, would like to second the Alpha Centauri Motion.

    • Matt Downie says:

      Endless Legend’s “story” didn’t really work for me. Like, there were story quests for each faction giving them a unique way of completing the game. An example of how that worked out for me: One of the story quests required me to visit a specific named province, but didn’t tell me where it was, and most of my rivals had closed their borders, making exploration impossible. In pursuit of this goal, I conquered half the world. Finally, I found the city I needed. This unlocked the next step of the story, which required me to level up one of my heroes along one specific upgrade path, which would have been useful to know in advance. My main hero had become a level 10 warrior during these wars, and now he had to become a level 10 administrator – which takes longer than if I could start from a new hero, which I couldn’t, because there weren’t any from my faction on the marketplace.

      I ultimately lost the game because I tried to complete the storyline instead of finishing conquering the world, and the only significant surviving rival nation won an economic victory.

      I can’t really comment on if the story was any good as a story. Probably not.

      Still, it’s an interesting game, with interesting faction abilities, and it had sprawling hex cities before Civ6 was announced.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Endless Legend’s story is not good, and as you noticed, a lot of the quests only work if you know your faction’s quest in advance and can make progress before the quest actually unlocks. Quests can also be frustratingly swingy, a lot of them tell you to visit or capture Random Territory X, which might be next door, or might be on the other side of the continent.

        That said, I love love love Endless Legend. The things that make it special to me are the combat (when two armies bump into eachother on the overworld, they get thrown into a little pocket dimension where they play out six rounds of turn-based hex grid combat), and the customization. You can build custom factions using a pointbuy system, and as a min-maxer that’s incredibly interesting.

        I’ll start with the Broken Lords as a base faction, because I like their ability to buy population for gold. Then I’ll spend 24 points to give them +30% gold, 16 points to give them +2 trade routes, 5 points to give them +50% settler production, 15 points to give them -50% expansion unhappiness, and 15 points for the Landscapist trait that pays off disproportionately highly for small cities. The reuslt is a faction with an incredibly focused, customized gameplan: I want to found as many cities as possible and focus on building up their trade routes so that I can generate a giant pile of gold.

        Or I might start with the Allayi faction as a base because I know their main quest offers a powerful Skyfin unit very early on. Then I spend points to get +20% attack and defense, a trait that makes morale boost initiative, and the perk that makes me start with 15 titanium so I can quickly forge titanium weapons. The result is a faction that’s all about the zerg rush: I can capture someone’s capital by turn 10, and from there I’ll try to turn my production advantage into stomping the other empires before the expansion phase of the game gets up and running.

        The feeling of customizing your own game plan, rather than just “Well I like science so I’ll build a lot of libraries and try to win a science victory” is unique to Endless Legend, and I really enjoy it.

    • Primogenitor says:

      Endless Legend is a good one to try, especially for more free-building type play rather than highly competitive games. And the narrative/worldbuilding through flavour and art (rather than cutscenes) is the best I’ve ever seen in a strategy game (and yes, that includes SMAC :p).

  3. Ilseroth says:

    Well, Total War: Warhammer came out recently and plays pretty similarly to a 4X game, just doesn’t have the grid itself. I like what it throws down, though the tutorial is a bit annoying. The main difference is the real time combat system, but I just auto-resolve combat and that pretty much makes it a 4X game.

    The obvious recommendation for pure 4x is Civ5, but I figured you probably already played it.

  4. The Rocketeer says:

    Someday, they’ll make a game about palling around with a daughter figure that Shamus doesn’t go wobble-kneed for, but it hasn’t happened yet.

    I’m increasingly certain Shamus’ real-life dream is to travel the world with his daughters and murder people with them.

  5. pedantic idiot says:

    a manbaby (norman reedus) comes to terms with climate change, featuring floating dudes.

  6. Brandon says:

    You know, I’ve always heard fantastic things about Homeworld, and with the HD re-release not too long ago, now might be a good time to get into it. It may not be quite as 4x (is it more 3x?), but it’s a solid title, and it has a Yes song in it (*sniffle*, RIP Chris Squire)!

    • Ysen says:

      I wouldn’t call the Homeworld games 4X at all. It’s an RTS, closer to Starcraft than Civ.

      • Jonathan says:

        I quit Homeworld when the game cheated by on me by auto-levelling the enemies so that I was being punished for being successful.

        Never looked back.

        • flyguy says:

          was this in the remaster? i played homeworld 1, cataclysm, and parts of 2 when they released, and i dont recall the enemy adding additional units because i had more than the ‘norm’.

          The game does cheat some in skirmish. It doesnt need to scout, and seems to know what you’re doing and what your fleet comp is; but, unlike starcraft, the counters in HW arent so hard as to invalidate your fleet. Unless all you did was build interceptors.

          • ehlijen says:

            The original homeworld absolutely did increase the number of opponents according to your fleet size (in very blocky steps, as far as I can tell, so you could find yourself outnumbered or outnumbering slightly at any given moment).

            This was seen as necessary by capture corvettes being able to increase your fleet past the support point limit, else the later in the game players would be roflstomping everything way too easily because you get to keep your fleet from mission to mission. A better way, in my opinion, would have been to downplay the capture aspect of the game altogether and not let it increase the fleet past the cap. That would have made enemy fleet size balancing unnecessary.

            From what I hear, the remaster changed the balance of the original game, though, to be more in line with the more hardcore rock paper scissors of HW2. I couldn’t enjoy HW2 because the speed at which an incorrectly deployed ship would disintegrate under enemy fire had increased to the point where recovery from mistakes without reloading a save was nearly impossible. I don’t want to play HW1 like that.

            • flyguy says:

              ah. well it has been 15 some years, so forgive me!

              I have to completely agree with your assessment on HW2 to the remaster, as your statement mirrors my thoughts on those changes.

              I also felt that many ships lost their identity in HW2. You could flurry about with corvettes and bombers even in the later stages of HW1 and frigates/destroyers felt weighty and interesting. The tech jumps in HW2 didnt allow this, and as you said fleets simply disintegrated if they were improperly composed.

              Cataclysm was fun in a weird-different way though!

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      You do explore,you do exploit and you do exterminate,but you dont really expand.So 3x would be right.Or maybe 3x+u,because you do get to upgrade your floating base.

      • ehlijen says:

        HW has scripted missions, no combat/strategy layer distinction, no sufficiency/population mechanics, no interesting economy, barely any research compared to most 4x games, no diplomacy, very little exploration (limited size missions with no choice of order and not much in the way of terrain to make it interesting) and only barebones resource management.

        It’s a very different genre from MoO, just like Civilisation and Age of Empires are different genres. At best you could call it 2x (exploit and exterminate), but RTS is still a much more useful description.

  7. Ysen says:

    Galactic Civilizations 2 is a good 4X, and very cheap. It’s designed for single play, has unusually good AI and diplomacy, and a bunch of game settings to mess with. You can set the AI’s intelligence and resource handicap separately, so if you want an AI that plays intelligently but still want to give yourself an advantage you can do so (or you can just make it braindead and steamroll it, if that’s what you prefer). GalCiv3 also came out a bit more recently but I haven’t tried it yet.

    I’ve also heard good things about Endless Legend, though I haven’t played it myself. I did play a little bit of Endless Space after picking it up in a bundle and that seemed decent.

    If you want something a bit different, you could try Thea: The Awakening. It’s single-player only, you only have one town, and there is more of a focus on storytelling and some RPG elements. It’s far from perfect, and I’m not sure it would be your thing since it doesn’t have much in the way of tech trees or city building, but I think it’s worth playing just because it’s got some unique ideas.

    • silver Harloe says:

      I played too much Civ and Alpha Centauri and Master of Orion and I found the economics of GalCiv to be incomprehensible. I couldn’t intuit how to manage planets. It’s just a different model, and probably not even hugely complicated, but somehow felt … I dunno. backwards from what I was used to. I was used to having little worker icons I could move between specializations, and a clear income/maintenance cost, and somehow I could just never learn to read GalCiv’s system.
      Maybe I’ll try it again now that I’m less in a Civ/SMAC/MoO groove. I’m sure it’s not as weird as I remember.

    • MichaelGC says:




      Another one perhaps worth a look is Distant Worlds: Universe. It can be a bit obtuse and confusing – I think I spent an hour or so just trying to pick the right ‘start new game’ option – but I found it very enjoyable trying to get the hang of it.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Galciv 3 has some great things in it.Building placement matters,because each building provides adjacency bonuses to stuff.And the ideology thing is also awesome and powerful.

      But all the modern space games lack one thing that only orion had:Turn based tactical combat.And even then new moo has real time combat which pisses me off to no end.

    • Agamo says:

      I really wanted to like Endless Space, but the combat system is incredibly tedious, especially with how fleets are handled.

      Basically, you can group your ships into fleets to cluster your firepower, however fleets can attack only once per turn. This is true no matter their size, whether it be one ship or one hundred. There are also siege frigates, which reduce the defenses of your planet every turn they are in orbit.

      In my case, I had a fleet in orbit to protect one of my planets. The AI sent a fleet of siege frigates, and then immediately broke that fleet apart into a bunch of one-ship fleets. At that point, I would have been forced to similarly break my fleet apart and engage each siege frigate individually, or be forced to engage only one siege frigate per turn with my fleet.

      At that point, I concluded that the game was deliberately trying to waste my time and walked away. I don’t think I’ve ever been so frustrated by a game as I was at that point. Maybe they’ve patched it since then, but even if they have I have no desire to go back.

  8. arron says:

    I was a Kickstarter backer for We Happy Few so I’ve got access to the current development version[1] and there is a very complex narrative behind the game. You can also play one of three characters although Arthur is the one you start with (the person in the intro trailer). The current playable version is more testing out game mechanics with a single objective (get into the station) and they’ve just added the “Turing traps”, “Recipes” and “Novels” which are traps, crafting blueprints and skill books. But there’s a lot more to come yet. The devs aren’t going to release the full version with the story until the final release so what you’ve seen in gameplay videos is merely them sorting out the mechanics and occasionally we get some new elements to test out.

    You can get a number of hints to what might be expected in the final game from listening to the Uncle Jack broadcasts and the Kickstarter updates that are done each week from the Dev team. I’ve been poking around the Steam version content files and found some very interesting things out that aren’t in the game yet, but I won’t spoil it for those who like surprises..!


    And this Uncle Jack broadcast gives you a few hints to what happened in Wellington Wells..


    [1] Mumbles may have a copy as well.

    • Echo Tango says:

      This game looks really great! Like, both visually, and in the sense of “Cool! A fresh new game!”. One thing I noticed while watching a let’s-play* of the game, is that when you’re on Joy, all of the colors and lights get bumped up, but the rust and grime are still there too. I’m hoping that’s just temporary, since the E3 trailer’s cutscene shows that the paint gets more colorful, and all the furniture looks clean and shiny while on Joy, and then goes to shit when you stop taking it. Still, if all I can quibble about in a super-protytype-stage game is the unfinished visuals, then it must be a good game. :)

      * Dated 2015-06-25, so maybe this has changed already.

  9. Henson says:

    It’s too bad most of you didn’t catch at least part of the Nintendo ‘conference’ (they really did play a lot of Pokemon…), because the new Zelda is looking really good. It’s going more into RPG territory than any title since The Adventure of Link, and the open world, which looks gorgeous, is a nice return to the series’ roots. We’ll see how well it pans out in a full game, but it’s definitely promising.

    • Jsor says:

      Yeah, actually the Treehouse stuff is really good, it’s fun, and shows off the game. It’s amazing how well the new Zelda held up through 4+ hours of pure straight gameplay. It’s interesting, it’s non-rehearsed (though I’m sure outlined) gameplay, just showing off a game. It’s probably my favorite way they show games at E3.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      Part of the new Zelda seems to be Nintendo deciding they need their own Skyrim, with Zelda, and shirtless Link. The rune system looks more like Dragon shouts than traditional Zelda items and the heat and cold system is something that a lot of people mod in. Though I may be leaping to a conclusion because I want an excuse to say “The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Rim”.

      It certainly looks interesting as a way to spice up the series, and the focus on multiple solutions to puzzles would hopefully solve my biggest gripes with the series.

      • Kelerak says:

        If you ask me, it’s more like Nintendo decided to take more inspirations from the Xenoblade games. Appropriate, as Monolith is also working on Breath of the Wild. I’m both super excited by that fact and very cautious, as Xenoblade Chronicles X is a game I feel very conflicted about.

        On one hand, it’s got a pretty sizeable world, and each of the parts looks very pretty. The combat is also pretty intuitive and works when it actually does work. On the other, the enemy placement and scaling is off the fucking wall. You could be doing a mission where you have to kill a group of Level 20 or so creatures…only to have a Level 60 Tyrant run up and one-shot your entire party. It somehow manages to encourage and actively discourage exploration at the same time. The affinity missions are also fucked, as some of them require to grind for hours trying to get a few rare materials, and you can’t do any other quest or swap party members when doing an affinity mission.

        I’m also hoping that the world isn’t all as barren as what was shown at the Treehouse. Sure, exploration on that scale is radical as hell, and I’ll likely spend hours doing so, but there has to be a bit more density to the world. While some of the games have gotten away without them, I feel that part of the Zelda experience is the towns and the NPCs within them. Most of them are filler characters, yes, but it helps to have the game world actually be a cohesive world instead of disparate areas loosely stringed together.

        As long as it isn’t Skyward Sword, I’ll be fine.

        • Jsor says:

          They said that NPCs (except the old man) and Towns were removed from the E3 build to prevent spoilers so it’s possible there’s some more density we weren’t allowed to see.

  10. Bloodsquirrel says:

    It sounds like your next column is going to be fightn’ words.

    Seriously, real-time w/ pause solves the fundamental problems that either turn-based or real-time have.

    Turn-based is fine for small fights against important enemies, but it becomes such a miserable waste of time whenever you’ve got too many units around or it’s a minor fight where you expect to win without much trouble. It doesn’t scale well at all, in either direction. In real-time, marching a large army uncontested across the field is as fast as marching a small one. In turn-based, it takes forever. On the other end, since the turn-switching mechanics tend to eat up small amounts of time on their own, fights that in real time can be very quick because you have a 100 units that you can just clobber the enemy’s 10 units with still take as much time as if it was a real fight. Turn-based is just inherently slow, which is fine for when the fight is interesting or hotly contended, but aggravating when it’s just holding up the progress of the game.

    Real time is faster, but unless you’re one of those pro Starcraft players with their 2,000 APM ratings it can become very difficult very fast to manage a lot of units in a tactically deliberate way. I’ve never found that kind of time-pressured micromanaging very fun. In RPGs I rarely bother with trying to give teammates orders in real-time combat. It just ruins the flow. In RTS games I like going big, so being able to stop and properly manage my empire is important.

    Real time with pause solves both of those problems. During non-critical parts you can let it run smoothly along. During intense, close-call fights you can manage things very precisely.

    • 4th Dimension says:

      Yup. If I can not pause in my RTS game and I can not simply build a massive army to offset my inability to micromanage I ain’t playing that game. I’m even actually annoyed with Stellaris a bit since they left out their system where you could set which events pause the game, and I wanted to make it pause more often.

    • Henson says:

      I’m sure it depends on context. For Shamus, the gripes with real-time w/pause probably have more to do with RPGs like Dragon Age than RTS-style games. In most RPGs, you won’t have massive 6vs100 battles, and even the 6vs30 battles are probably not terribly common (not since Fallout 1&2 showed us how painful it is to attack an entire town). I don’t have a gripe myself with this approach they take to combat, but I can’t help but think that games like Pillars of Eternity and such could be implementing it much better.

      I can see the argument for real time w/pause, but there are also ways to tweak combat so that it works in any format; real-time, turn based, or the hybrid. The classic Final Fantasy games solve your APM problem (besides movement orders) in fully real-time by simply making cooldowns for each character much, much slower. Valkyria Chronicles is turn-based with large armies, but only allows each side a limited number of turns, which come (mostly) regardless of army size.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Dragon Age’s RTWP was useful for mages, whose friendly-fire AoEs were incredibly powerful, if and only if you did some pause-management to ensure your fighters were standing in the right place and your fireballs were perfectly aimed. I enjoy RTWP because I’m a fiddly min-maxer, but outside of AoE attacks, it feels like it’s generally implemented in order to cover for shoddy companion AI (Carth isn’t smart enough to use Rapid Shot? Just pause the game and order him to do it! PoE characters have such bad pathfinding that they can’t run up and engage a troll in an empty field? Just pause the game and direct their movement!).

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          Sometimes you’ve just got specific approaches to fights that you want to pursue. Do you want to go for damage, or are you focusing on stuns/disables? Do you want to make sure that your summons are summoned right there in order to shield part of your team?

          There are a lot of tactical decisions in games like PoE or Baldur’s Gate other than “fire highest DPS attack at the enemy”.

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        No, even in RPGs it can put a lot of slog in your game. When the game has to stop being real time and go into combat mode because you ran across an angry rat that you’re going to kill in one hit anyway it kicks your pacing right in the balls.

        I’m playing Divinity: Original Sin right now, and the combat is just full of dead time while it’s doing things like having a full turn where the entire group of enemies has to walk forward one by one.

        Pokemon is one of the best examples I’ve ever played through: you ran through that grass? Oops, there goes 30 seconds of time while you get into a fight that you’re going to end in one hit, but you still have to watch all of the setup/attack/end animations.

        What I’d really like to see is a game where both sides issue all of their orders at once, then get to watch the whole thing resolve in one go (how characters adjust mid-turn to what the enemy is doing would be a big part of the system). You still need a “this is a minor fight, end it without interrupting game flow” mechanic, though.

        • Aspeon says:

          A good number JRPGs of have you issue orders for your entire party and then watch the entire round play out. The one I’m playing right now, Etrian Odyssey 2 Untold, also has an “auto battle” mode where it skips the orders phase and just has your entire party do their basic attack for trash fights.

          I haven’t seen any where characters change their plans based on what happens, though, leading to things like trying to heal a party member who’s already dead or casting the attack buff spell right *after* they do their massive attack. To some extent, that’s part of the strategy of playing those, and gives value to the “speed” stat (since going earlier means the state when their turn comes up is more like the state now).

    • Syal says:

      I don’t much like real time with pause, I usually end up not using the “with pause” option because it’s not a natural break.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Id also like to point out that tellaris is not real time with pause.Its using the ascendancy system of having turns,but you dictate how fast these turns pass.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        You can still set the flow of time to zero, and you should if you plan on doing anything more involved than building a single improvement. Even at the slowest time progression, you’ll be meaningfully suboptimal by not pausing the game to juggle leaders and issue build orders ASAP. God help you if you’re trying to manage an empire without ever pausing, you’ll build up a backlog of stuff that needs your attention but you haven’t gotten to yet, which means permanently stunted development.

        Stellaris doesn’t really have turns, the smallest unit of time, 1 day, passes every two realtime seconds. If that’s turn-based, is Starcraft turn-based because it occurs in turns of “frames”, 30 per second? At best, Stellaris is “Real Time With Pause And Fast Forward”.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          It doesnt matter how long a turn is when you let it play,its still a turn.You can queue up your cards in heartstone in 2 seconds,but that doesnt make it less of a turn based game.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            So if I add a pause button to Starcraft, can I call it turn-based because each thirtieth of a second frame is a turn?

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              No,that would be real time with pause.But if it automatically paused every 30 frames then it would be turn based.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                So how is Stellaris, which has no auto-pause (except as triggered by certain specific events) turn-based? Time passes in days, which go by every couple seconds, or a couple per second depending on speed settings, and there’s a pause button. That sounds like real time with pause.

          • ehlijen says:

            Exactly. When most people say turn based they mean ‘the player controls when each turn is over’, ie there is an ‘end turn’ button, though a variety of turns with time limits exists (which to my knowledge isn’t all that widely used; I’ve only encountered it as an option in JA2 and in the Space Hulk boardgame).

            If both sides are acting on every turn, as opposed to taking alternating turns and the game continues into the next turn without player input, most people wouldn’t call that turn based. That’s realtime.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              Simultaneous turns(with timers) has been attempted by quite a lot of games that try multiplayer.The implementation was rarely any good,but its not something unheard of.

    • ehlijen says:

      First of, an admission: I love turn based games. Feel free to consider all that follows to be biased fanboyism, though I hope I can offer a little more substance than that.

      Yes, real time and turn based both have problems, if incorrectly implemented. RTWP can solve some of those problems, but it will introduce new problems and it won’t solve them any better than finetuning either RT or TB to properly fit the game.

      As examples for good turn based games I’d like to offer XCOM:Enemy Unknown and Panzer General 2.

      The first uses abstraction and ability driven turn based combat at a small scale and works great. The speed of action resolution, small squad sizes and flashy visuals make it feel faster paced than it actually is, while the turn base means managing all your soldier’s abilities becomes a breeze rather than a frantic shortcut mash.
      It won’t work very well with larger forces as the turns will slog for too long, but it’s great for its intended scope.

      Panzer General is about armies, sometimes very large ones, clashing over a large area. If XCOM tried this, it’d be too slow. If it was realtime, it wouldn’t be able to present a conflict spread over such large areas.
      But as a turn based game it gives the player the time to manage several hot zones at once with some tactical depth while ambushes and the support fire mechanisms for artillery and fighters as well as the basic attack action involving a mutual exchange of fire mean the player isn’t safe even in his own turn. Meanwhile, spread out objectives and insufficient space to stack up armies means the extra time to consider moves is actually required.
      This game scales up to very large forces quite well, but at too small forces loses its scope.

      What this should point out is that while any given turn based system won’t suit all scopes, but a well matched system and scope can create exciting games.

      For RTS, that’s true, too. Compare Starcraft and Starfleet Command. In the former you build and manage large armies, including a couple of special abilities for each unit. Scale the game down to single units per side, and without mods the mechanics loose a lot of their depth. In starfleet command you control a single ship (or up to three if you’re a micromanaging master) complete with a dozen weapon systems, six separate shields, several support systems and the energy reserves to make all of that actually work. Trying to manage more than a very small fleet at once isn’t feasible for most people without a USB plug in their brain, but for fans of that genre, it provided more exciting one on one battlers than starcraft.
      A pause button is always good for toilet breaks though, of course, but neither game allows giving commands while paused and both games benefit from the pressure that brings.

      Now for RTWP: It’s strengths have been presented: the player has control of the speed of the game and thus how much of a hassle each engagement becomes.
      But is that needed in a well crafted game?
      The examples given are:
      A game will switch to TB combat for the most pointless battles (eg army vs rat) and TB would then waste your time. This assumes the game has at least two layers to it. So if army vs rat battles are possible, why is there no autoresolve button? And why are army vs rat battles possible? Are they needed for the story? The verisimilitude? What exactly is gained by throwing trivial opponents at a powerful player?
      If you need them, add an autoresolve button and both RT and TB can still work just fine. If you don’t need them, don’t let them happen in your game.
      Temple of Elemental Evil did this poorly, allowing a high level DnD party to occasionally encounter trivial battles and forcing a manual resolution. That does not discount TB in general as a good kind of game.

      Another issue is that big battles in RT need to be of limited depth to allow sufficient time for the player to resolve them and thus pure RT doesn’t scale up well, while TB games that grow too large become tedious to play out.
      Again, if the game designer controls the possible scopes of battle in the game, this isn’t an issue that should come up. The original XCOM could run into that problem if you loaded up an Avenger with 26 troopers; that was too much and you were in fact meant to bring a few tanks (which took up 4 spaces each, bringing you down to the ~8-14 units it was built around).

      Yes, RTWP is more flexible in scope, allowing players to quickly breeze through small battles (assuming the game isn’t using a separate layer for battles requiring a loading screen, in which case an auto resolve button fulfills that task better) or take their time managing many units in larger battles.

      But for me, it also includes downsides from both TB and RT games:
      Like RT games, it lacks a direct command->action->result feedback for every action. In XCOM, if I tell a soldier to use an ability, I will immediately see its results and effectiveness. In an RT game, I need to carefully observe and then separate the actions and effects of several units to judge how effective any given action is (bonus points for fiddlyness if many obscuring particle effects are in use). It also removes the player from the action, as their command isn’t directly involved in any given action. For many games (such as starcraft) that’s fine, their design doesn’t require it, but for others such as XCOM, something would be lost in RTWP.
      Compared to RT games, the ability to pause and assess the situation at any moment can also hamper the atmosphere and suspense of a game, as reaction speed is no longer required to succeed. As the spoiler warning crew discovered time and again, if you can get a good look at the monster without being hurt, it becomes somewhat less scary.
      And of course, for some players reaction speeds and Actions per Minute are part of the appeal of RTSs.
      Again, not all games need this, but some would be diminished to some players without it.

      In short, RTWP is a neat concept that deserves many good games, but it can’t do everything TB can do nor everything RT can do.

      (I hope that was reasonably coherent.)

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        “Yes, real time and turn based both have problems, if incorrectly implemented.”

        Not just when incorrectly implemented. TB is inherently slow. Even the best TB systems are slow. Having 100 units each do their thing one after the other is always going to be slower than having them all do their things at once given equal systematic complexity. RT inherently limits how many commands you can give in a battle. It’s a simple matter of time; no matter how well-designed an RT system is, it won’t allow you to put ten minutes worth of thought into six seconds of game time.

        “But is that needed in a well crafted game?”

        Yes, when the design aesthetic you’re aiming for does not translate well into strictly TB combat. Look at the Total War games, for example: They’re highly simulationist, and as such aren’t suited to the abstractions necessary in TB systems.

        “This assumes the game has at least two layers to it.”

        No, not really. If you’re wandering around in Fallout 1 or 2 and encounter a hostile mob, you have to switch to TB mode. Throwing up an “autoresolve” button to skip minor encounters is a kludge. It still interrupts the flow of the real-time parts, and if your solution to your gameplay sucking is to skip it, then you haven’t fixed your gameplay, you’ve just added a way to avoid it.

        “And why are army vs rat battles possible? Are they needed for the story?”

        You assume a tightly controlled system that’s designed to dictate the pace of your encounters. Unless you’re very aggressively level scaling or the entire thing is highly linear, the potential for facing weak foes is inherent to the system. Hell, if you’re playing a grand strategy game, you’ll often be actively engineering situations where you’re fighting a one-sided battle.

        Basically, what you’re saying makes sense for XCOM, but XCOM is a game that is very narrow in scope. Having every encounter be of uniform difficulty in an RPG usually makes it feel very artificial and make combat more monotonous by removing one of your primary pacing mechanisms.

        • ehlijen says:

          On TB being slow: it doesn’t have to feel slow. Compare XCOM EU (which doesn’t) and XCOM2 (which does at times).
          And sometimes turns taking a while is the point. If you don’t have to think about and consider your options, there isn’t enough depth and RT or RTWP may well have been the better choice. But in games like Panzer General, where there is no non-TB part of the game, the turns are the whole show and are expected to take up all the playtime.
          If any part of the game comes across as a chore, it might need rethinking. But that doesn’t mean RTWP is automatically the better answer.

          On Total War:
          The Total War series also uses (or at least used to) turn based strategy layer gameplay. Clearly, the designers felt that part didn’t also need to be pausable realtime.
          My point was that sometimes RTWP is the proper system, and sometimes it isn’t. But RTWP is not a magical upgrade to TB in all cases (and where it is, TB wasn’t the perfect answer to begin with).

          On Fallout:
          Have you tried playing Fallout Tactics in realtime mode? It doesn’t work. It’s closer to a QTE fest than a tactics game, movement speeds are just too high. Fallout 1/2/T all had two modes: very fast paced explore and slower paced TB so the player could actually react.
          And it was that way for a reason: By slowing combat down deliberately, the exploration part could allow for faster movement speeds to be less of a slog. Since on most maps you’ll move more in exploration mode than in combat mode, that seemed an ok trade for me. If Fallout had been RTWP, exploration movement speed would have had to be dropped, or even pausing would have been a constant reaction test in the face of quickly moving NPCs. Or you would have ended up with a supersonic PC in snail-ville.

          Also, Fallout 1/2 had a ‘skip game content’ button: if your survival was high enough, you could choose to avoid many, even most encounters. BTW, aren’t you in a sense arguing for playing less of the game by pointing out that actually having to play the game is a downside of TB? How else would RTWP speed up anything but by letting the AI do it for you while you don’t pause to give orders?

          On army vs rat:
          Yes, I am assuming that game designers will think about whether they include trivial encounters in their game. I’m not saying there is never a reason for it, but I haven’t seen a game that couldn’t have (and usually did) solved the issue with either removing the existence of such encounters (where the progression is tightly controlled) or including an auto resolve button (where battle difficulty isn’t tightly controlled).

          In Fallout for example, you might encounter trivial battles while travelling on the world map. The survival skip button is available, and a good reason to up that skill. In the planned locations, you’ll usually not find trivial battles while exploring, unless they are meant to be trivial for thematic purposes.

          But if you explore and a rat attacks your high level combat monster for no real gain in gameplay experience, what is the point of that? (And I have seen games do that, usually adaptations from the tabletop where winning by GM fiat is always an available shortcut.)

          My point stands: RTWP is a different system to TB and both have their own ups and downs.

          • Bloodsquirrel says:

            “On TB being slow: it doesn't have to feel slow. Compare XCOM EU (which doesn't) and XCOM2 (which does at times).”

            EU could definitely be slow at times.

            “And sometimes turns taking a while is the point. If you don't have to think about and consider your options, there isn't enough depth and RT or RTWP may well have been the better choice. But in games like Panzer General, where there is no non-TB part of the game, the turns are the whole show and are expected to take up all the playtime.
            If any part of the game comes across as a chore, it might need rethinking. But that doesn't mean RTWP is automatically the better answer.”

            Problem is, it only needs to be slow when there’s a lot to do/think about. When there isn’t, like when you’re just moving troops or there’s a few rounds where nothing is changing and you’re just wailing on things, TB remains slow. And those aren’t always (or even often) parts of the game that need rethinking. A lot of that of stuff is an indispensable part of the game’s design goals. An open world game can not be neatly forced into always being about well-balanced, well-contained fights.

            “The Total War series also uses (or at least used to) turn based strategy layer gameplay. Clearly, the designers felt that part didn't also need to be pausable realtime.”

            The strategy layer isn’t actually pure TB. If you attack an army during your turn, the real-time battle starts. If what you do doesn’t initiate a battle (or if you use the ‘autoresolve’ button), everything resolves instantly. You can spend ten minutes to an hour managing your empire, then less than a minute after you hit the “end turn” button watching the enemy respond (aside from the battles). Both you and the enemy make decisions during the other’s “turn” when it comes to responding to battles (retreat, fight, hole up in your castle, diplomatic stuff). While turns are used to organize it on a higher level, there is a ton of real-time responsiveness within each turn.

            “If Fallout had been RTWP, exploration movement speed would have had to be dropped, or even pausing would have been a constant reaction test in the face of quickly moving NPCs. Or you would have ended up with a supersonic PC in snail-ville.”

            This doesn’t make any sense. if Fallout had been RTWP it would have worked like every other RPG with RTWP. Those games work perfectly well without making the player supersonic. Well, actually, there’s a “speed up time” option in Baldur’s Gate because being supersonic is actually kind of handy while walking all the way across an already-explored and cleared map.

            “BTW, aren't you in a sense arguing for playing less of the game by pointing out that actually having to play the game is a downside of TB? How else would RTWP speed up anything but by letting the AI do it for you while you don't pause to give orders?”

            No, I’m point out that TB makes part of playing the game a chore when it doesn’t have to be. I don’t need to let the AI do stuff for me when there’s nothing to do. If I select the entire army and tell it “move over here“, then I’ve given all of the instructions that I should have to give until it gets there. If I’m ordering each individual unit to move 1/10 of the way each turn then nothing interesting is happening while a lot of time is going by. There’s a difference between removing gameplay and just taking the busywork out of it.

            “Yes, I am assuming that game designers will think about whether they include trivial encounters in their game. I'm not saying there is never a reason for it, but I haven't seen a game that couldn't have (and usually did) solved the issue with either removing the existence of such encounters (where the progression is tightly controlled) or including an auto resolve button (where battle difficulty isn't tightly controlled).”

            The problem here is that you’re not solving the issue, you’re sacrificing your design goals in order to remove that part of the game. If I want to have a scripted event in my RPG where a beggar goes crazy and attacks you, then I don’t want a “skip combat” button to pop up and ruin whatever narrative beat was there. If I want to scatter a few low-level enemies around a part of a dungeon because it’s supposed to be a break from the previous part which was full of tough combat, but I don’t want it to feel completely empty, then I don’t want to pester the player with “skip combat” pop-ups either. If they’re just in a low-level area, or they’re in the overworld where I’ve put weaker enemies for the sake of making the world feel more realistic instead of having them run into a dragon every ten feet, then I want all of that to mesh organically with their play. I don’t want to take them out of the gameworld every other minute by saying “okay, this is going to be a waste of your time, do you want to skip it?”

            Your solutions to TB’s problems are admissions that TB is limiting your design options. Removing trivial encounters might be the way to go if you’ve already decided on TB combat, but having to do so is a sacrifice that you’re making because of the system’s weaknesses. Saying otherwise is kind of like saying that you should never make an RTS because commanding lots of troops in an FPS is awkward, and so the solution is to just never have strategic combat in your game. If what you wanted was strategic combat in the first place, then you shouldn’t have made a FPS at all.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        When saying real time with pause,people often think stuff like baldurs gate,kotor,and other bioware rpgs.But those arent the only ones.The thing about those is that you still have rounds,and even after issuing a command a new round has to start for it to actually happen.This is clunky and problematic.But the problem here isnt in the rtwp,but in the underlying rounds.

        But there is another way to implement rtwp.A real time strategy game where you can pause to give more detailed orders.Like homeworld.You can play these games like any real time strategy,but in a pinch you can pause to get a better hang of the battle.Its not a must,but if you lack the apm,its extremely helpful.To me,this system trumps regular rts like starcraft or c&c.Also,it allows you to read all the units stats and descriptions without losing valuable time you could be using for mining and infrastructure.

        • ehlijen says:

          Actually, when I say RTWP I mostly think of the UFO: After* series. They are both reasonably well implemented and directly comparable to a turnbased competitor (XCOM). And while I enjoyed Aftershock (Aftermath was too light in the strategy and Afterlight was too confusing to me, nothing to do with RTWP vs TB), I think XCOM:EU was the best entry into the genre as far as tactical battles goes so far (in the strategy layer it needed work).

          And while KOTOR etc may be calculated in rounds, they are not turn based as far as I’m concerned, nor would I believe many other people would look at it as anything other than RTWP. Turn based as a term requires a clear distinction between time phases and manual input to continue.

          I agree that most RTSs could do with a pause function, at least in single player. But that’s another issue, RTWP is awkward at best in multiplayer, usually using a limited amount of pausetime, which partially defeats the point of being able to pause.

  11. Peter H. Coffin says:

    Re: graphics card “naming”

    And worse, the reference to “VBC 123x graphics or better” for system recommendations. How do I know if the the TLA 475M is better? The number is bigger, but that doesn’t really seem to mean anything.

    • Supah Ewok says:

      Honestly? It’s a dumb system but it works pretty well PROVIDED you know what you’re doing. You need to know your own graphics card, and after that, its a simple matter of using a comparison site (of which there are a plethora of) to see how your card compares to what is recommended.

      Again, it’s dumb, but it’s probably the simplest solution available. Firstly, there’s no one graphics card spec that determines system performance, so you can’t just say “recommends 2.74k Graphix”. Second, the recommended card is probably the specific card used to test the game at a reasonable graphics/performance trade-off level, hence why it, specifically, can be recommended.

      I’m honestly not sure if you could implement a better system than what we have, without a mandatory course in graphics cards specs education, and that hardly makes things easier or more universal, does it?

      • Supah Ewok says:

        As to graphics card names, both major companies do have a system that do end up making sense once you’ve banged your head hard enough against them to learn them. The main Nvidia line is GTX, wherein a single generation of cards is designated by the hundreds place (the GTX 9xx series, for example). Within each generation are lines that correlate with previous generations, with more powerful lines having a higher number (the 980 line is an upgrade to the 880 line, and is also a high end line as denoted by the 8). There will also later on be a Ti version of most lines, which is a mid-late generation “upgraded” version of that line (980 Ti is a souped up version of the basic 980).

        You see how it makes sense, AFTER you know what it means? It’s probably a holdover from when PC’s were a lot more of an enthusiast product, when it could be assumed that those buying graphics cards would want to educate themselves on their names and specs. Today, both Nvidia and AMD are in drastic need of a rebranding to make things simple for the mainstream consumer. It shouldn’t have to be this hard and require this kind of research for folks who just want their machine to play games gud.

        • TMC_Sherpa says:

          I am actually shocked NVidia went with 1XXX because usually the letter salad changes and they roll back the three digit number. It happens (almost) all the time to everyone, CPU, GPU, doesn’t matter and it’s been going on for decades.

          • Humanoid says:

            It does seem a bit silly to use 1080 in particular because it’s easily confused with 1080p. Besides that it’s passable for now, though I sorely wish they’d get rid of the Ti suffix.

            For their part, I’m glad AMD seems to have rid itself of the useless R7/R9 prefixing system with their upcoming cards. And possibly also rid of the ‘X’ suffix, though those might come back later. The newly announced product line consists of the RX 460, RX 470 and RX 480 which is nice and clear.

        • Florian the Mediocre says:

          Personally, I actually quite like the system.

          I mean, if you are familiar with how it works, these strings give you a lot of information about the product in a small amount of space – you only need to remember how to read them and you can instantly place a card compared to others (from the same company, at least).

          The only alternative I can see happening is that they start calling their cards “F4t4l1ty Hyper S00p4 De4thmuncher”, “Krait Exterminatorinator”, “FoeKillerWeapon 40k 3”, “Fury Titan Chroma Spark” and “RaptorTurret Ultimate Deathquilter” like all the other stuff that gets sold to gamers with names that are completely meaningless. At least now their is a system, so that you don’t have to remember dozens of names to know what’s what.

          • Volfram says:

            Away with your logical, well-reasoned, and sane response.

            PC component naming schemes are something I predict Shamus will never stop complaining about.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            And how is the current system any more informative then say:ATI gen 1.1000,ATI gen 1.1500,ATI gen 2.1000,ATI gen 2.3700,…where the bigger number shows that its a later,improved model?We use it for software builds and patches,so why not hardware?Just because “you can get used to it” does not mean its good.I got used to wearing glasses,that does not mean its better to wear glasses than have healthy vision,or an eye surgery.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Just because you can get used to it and have tools to make it somewhat more understandable does not mean it works well.

        • Supah Ewok says:

          Doesn’t it? Takes all of 30 seconds to copy paste the recommended card to a comparison site, type out your own card, click the comparison button, and get both a simple score to compare strengths as well as a more detailed analysis. What would you be saying about it if Steam natively offered such a service (which they probably won’t, since they could be held liable if the weird quirks of certain graphic card lines leads to misinforming consumers)?

          As I said, it’s a dumb system, and unless you go looking for it you won’t know about it, but it DOES work and I don’t see a simpler solution available.

          • Thomas says:

            I don’t know about graphics cards, but when I was looking up CPUs it was a real mess with no clear indicator about whether any two would look better (the numbers were in different series, but also the letters radically changed the quality and sometimes not in the same way). Even with comparison websites it was wading through CPU after CPU trying to figure out which one was best for me in my price range.

            • Humanoid says:

              At least the latest gen is a relative return to sanity. In the previous generation, Intel went with numbers like 4130, 4440, 4460, 4570, 4770, 4790, etc, which defied logic. Fortunately Skylake is largely sensible, 6400, 6500, 6600, etc.

              • Volfram says:

                Well, I mean, it’s not like those numeric codes actually mean something coherent and you can tell exactly what kind of processor it is from just the 4-digit number if you’ve so much as glanced over a reference site, but the last time I tried to simplify the whole business over here I was told I was wrong and stupid and to shut up or complain along with everyone else.

                [edit]I would also like to point out, direct from the 6th-gen product lineup:6098P, 6100, 6100T, 6120, 6402P, 6585R, 6685R, 6850K, 6950X.

          • ehlijen says:

            In other words, you need to consult a third party expert to understand what your computer can and can’t do.

            While the internet makes that easy, I would not call that an ideal system. Not when the alternative of adopting a more sensible naming scheme would be so much superior.

            • Supah Ewok says:

              And what is this more sensible naming scheme? I already demonstrated above that the naming scheme for (Nvidia) cards makes sense, provided you know the rules, and that you can’t base performance on a single statistic. What’s the alternative?

              • Volfram says:

                Honestly at this point I think the people complaining about “meaningless” numbers are just used to complaining about numbers and don’t want a solution. Pointing out that knowing the encoding language already tells you everything you want to know just prompts people to complain that now you have to learn a code to decipher what the card has(scroll up and see). Nevermind that every solution they’re suggesting would require exactly the same thing.

                Shamus & all just want to complain, in this case.

                • Shamus says:

                  “No, it’s not complex. See, they even have a diagram!” You have missed the point.

                  The page you linked is almost a satire of a smug engineer trying to explain something “simple” in the most confusing way possible.


                  U means low power? K means unlocked? Why does K mean unlocked? Moreover, what does “unlocked” mean? (Yes, I’m sure it means you can overclock it. Again, this illustrates my point. Instead of just saying “Overclockable” they encoded that idea into two other concepts, because those are the terms the ENGINEERS use.)

                  Then instead of asking us to remember that HQ means high graphics, quad core, WHY DON’T THEY JUST SAY SO? When I’m shopping for toasters I don’t have to remember that “FR” means “Four receptacles”, which is the technical way of saying “four slice”.

                  Worse, as absurd as it is to need that Intel diagram, I’ve never seen an equivalent one for NVIDIA on their site. And I think they need it even more than Intel chips.

                  You keep defending this on the basis of being “not that hard”. I think you’re really underestimating the effort it takes to memorize all that info and put it into perspective enough that you can SHOP for things. In any case, even if it really was as trivial as you say, you’ll notice other products don’t have this problem. Cars. PC’s. Power tools. Marketing is always working to give things memorable names rather than numbers, because that helps the consumer understand what they’re buying, which makes them more likely to buy. “It’s not hard” isn’t really a proper defense for “Marketing isn’t doing their job”.

                  • Volfram says:

                    It’s a language. You need to learn it to use it. Any system you’re proposing is going to have one, and it’s going to have the same problems. But I do know that my i7-4790 is slightly more powerful than my one friend’s i7-4770 and slightly less powerful than my other friend’s i7-4790K.

                    And it’s not really any better with cars. In fact, my last car was an Oldsmobile Delta-88. I didn’t find out that it was actually manufactured in 1986 until I sold it off for scrap metal, after owning it for 4 years. Engine nomenclature is no less opaque than CPU nomenclature if you’re not familiar with the language (I’m not, which is why I haven’t tried to give examples: I couldn’t tell what’s an example and what’s meaningless).

                    PCs are a complication of part naming, because a given PC has all of those parts, meaning when I bought my most recent tower, I had to look up the stats on the i7-4790 and the GTX-645 it came with.

                    As for power tools, just in DeWalt’s lineup… well, my brother’s 12V cordless drill would run circles around my 16V one.

                    I’m OK with having all of the relevant information encoded in an 8-character code which can be deciphered. If you’re shopping around, you can check the product’s box for what that code actually means. Sure, learning it takes some effort, but any code would, and you can learn all of the relevant information in an afternoon or two if you actually want to.

                    I mean, I did. And based on your programming posts, you learn things way faster than I do. I get wanting to rip on things that were initially confusing. That’s why I don’t use Blender or Python, after all. But even I have to admit, Blender is way easier to use than its competitors… if you know what you’re doing.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I think this could be solved, but only if there was some way to force/motivate companies to change. Like, we already have a couple of numbers that could be used for this task:
      1. floating-point operations per second (FLOPS)
      – gives a rough estimate of power level between two cards, everything else being equal

      2. shader model 1, 2.X, 3.0, etc
      – let’s you know if your card can do certain shader things in hardware, or you’ll need to shut off some graphics options altogether
      – this one’s really easy to list in system requirements – many games already list this

      3. watts
      – tells you how hot your card will get, and how big a power supply you’ll need

      4. year of manufacture
      – generally, later stuff will be better overall
      – this gives a rough idea for stuff that’s not covered by the above numbers

      This is just using numbers that we already have. If all cards had this info clearly on the box, instead of the random serial numbers, this would be a great improvement already. You could further improve stuff, by listing other graphical features as being supported by the hardware, or not. (Kind of like the shadel model XYZ stuff, but for other features.)

      • Humanoid says:

        And then the vendors would just massage or outright manipulated those numbers to draw any picture they like. Hell, nVidia have already changed the way they measure their TDP, resulting in significantly lower numbers and making any comparisons impossible.

  12. Dragmire says:

    I’m looking forward to the new South Park game but I found out that it will require UPlay.

    Shamus, has UPlay improved at all over the years? Some people who defend it are saying it’s almost unnoticeable and a far better service than it used to be.

    • Matt Downie says:

      I bought Far Cry 4 in a Steam sale. When I eventually got around to trying it, it told me the game was registered to someone else’s uPlay account. I never found a solution.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Haha, nope. I own a Steam copy of From Dust, with Uplay enabled on top of it. Two years ago, I was able to play it. A couple months ago I tried to install it on my new machine, and after half an hour of struggling I gave up trying to play my legally-purchased videogame.

      Also, I dispute the very notion that Uplay is a service. It’s an extra layer of authentication that runs on my Steam games and accomplishes nothing except adding ping to my loading times.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        It worked as a service in one game:Heroes of might and magic 6.But it was just as buggy in that one as the rest of the game,so theres that.

      • Echo Tango says:

        I wish stuff like UPlay, Steam, etc, would all recognize each other, and not force the player to install extra crap. Like, if it’s already on Steam, I shouldn’t need to log in again. The Steam/GoG partnership is a step in the right direction, and I hope other companies start doing the same thing. I, as a paying customer, should be able to download and play my game using whoever’s servers I choose, and choose based on whoever gives me the best service, social/friends features, etc.

        • flyguy says:

          I, too, was happy with GoG connect. I have invested quite a bit in my Steam library, but over the past 2 years have almost entirely migrated to galaxy. I just cant be bothered to have a system authenticate my legitimate purchase. While steam’s pretty unobtrusive, the forced updating, as well as selling products that require additional services just to RUN (any ubi title, lots of older GFWL titles years ago) have turned me off.

          • Humanoid says:

            I like GOG as a standalone service, but I’m not so hot on Galaxy, which to a large part seems to be just repeating Steam’s mistakes. Just this week it ended up wasting a bunch of my time because it turns out Galaxy doesn’t keep the installers it downloads, so if you uninstall a game, you end up having to redownload the whole lot. Kinda defeats one of the prime purposes of DRM-free there, the ability to neatly archive the game offline.

            Then again, I don’t use any of the social features or whatever of any game client, so to me each and every one of them is simply a burden with varying levels of inconvenience.

        • Humanoid says:

          I don’t believe Steam has any real hand in the GOG Connect scheme at all – as far as I know it’s purely a deal struck between GOG and the publishers of the eligible games to grant copies of those games if it can be shown that you already own them using publicly available Steam APIs. In effect, all GOG is doing is reading your Steam profile like a phonebook, it’s just public data and nothing that requires Valve’s cooperation.

      • Humanoid says:

        To be fair, the fact that it runs on top of Steam is ultimately only down to the user’s choice to buy the game on Steam in the first place – that part is strictly option. Besides, UPlay is plenty capable of sucking on its own merits as a standalone platform.

    • Dt3r says:

      As of 3 months ago, it’s still terrible. My friend and I had frequent problems where we couldn’t see each other online, making it impossible to send game invites. They also still have the bullshit ubisoft points, which means that games like Rainbow Six end up with 3 different fake currencies.

      On the plus side, it hasn’t killed any family pets?

  13. IFS says:

    Something I like about the RE7 demo is that yeah its aping PT really hard but its doing it in a very RE way. While Silent Hill is (supposed to be) very psychological and abstract, in contrast RE has always been more physical and focused on gore, body horror, and the like. The demo is very PT-like but at the same time is distinct in having its own identity, and in many ways is a return to the roots of the series with its sorta goofy haunted house (the early RE games were about surviving in a weird Manor full of spooky things that didn’t make sense if you thought about it too long).

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I’d definitely agree that RE7 and PT were sufficiently different. Superficially it looks like RE7 is just copying PT, but they both draw from different sources for their horror tropes.

      PT was going for a more psychological angle, and there was a definite Ring/Grudge thing going on.

      RE7 felt more like it was looking to western horror for inspiration, specifically things like Texas Chainsaw Massacre, and there’s a particular Blair Witch Project reference in the demo.

      I’m just glad that it’s taking horror back towards exploration/puzzles, rather than making another shooter. (Or at least that’s my hope!)

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    – Hey guys,we have a problem.People keep moving their units in these huge stacks,and it takes forever,and they steamroll everything in their way,and its not fun at all.
    – I know!Lets make it so that only one unit can be in a tile at any point!
    – Awesome!
    – Hey guys,we have a problem.People keep covering the whole map with their units,and it takes forever to move all of them,and its not fun at all.
    – I know!Lets make it so that these units can be bunched up!
    – Awesome!

    I think I see what civ7 is going to do.As for an actual solution,you will never solve the “late game is a slog because of all the stuff you have to micromanage” by changing the mechanics.You need to improve your ai enough that people will have no problem in setting their units on autopilot.Anything else is doomed to fail.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Alternately, you could make the UI better, so people don’t have to do a million actions all the time. Stuff like:
      – let me have a “new city build-order” that l can use, so every new city I build gets the same improvements put into their queue, every time
      – in fact, let me have multiple build-orders for cities
      – let these be applied to already-existing cities, so I can easily queue up the building of a chunk of army at each big city

      Can’t think of anything else off the top of my head, but I’m sure there’s other areas that could be improved. I just haven’t played Civilization or Beyond Earth recently.

    • flyguy says:

      It’s….it’s almost like logistics in military is a pivotal, but difficult and tedious task! Who knew that a game that allows the maya to nuke ethiopia had such verisimilitude

      • ehlijen says:

        I agree that late game industrialised warfare resulting in huge mass battles is historically verisimilitud-ish(?) and that managing such battles should maybe be a valuable endgame skill, but does that really have to mean poor UI?

  15. RTBones says:

    4x? Hmmm…Galactic Civ II is generally well regarded, and has the added bonus of being relatively cheap. Galactic Civ III is also supposed to be good, but I dont have much time behind it. Sins of a Solar Empire is another generally well regarded one.

  16. acronix says:

    I’m partial to Age of Wonders 3. It has dwarves!

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      I tried that game recently, and can’t recommend it at all.

      Not only is it *painfully* slow, but I’ve found that the only real way to succeed is to find the one or two good units available to you on the map and get to those as quickly as possible. When I lost a scenario that I’d put four hours into because the enemy marched a bunch of tier 3 units into my territory and my tier 2 units can’t win against them even 3-1 I quit and never went back.

    • Friend of Dragons says:

      I’ve had a lot of fun with that as well as Fallen Enchantress: Legendary Heroes (the other fantasy 4x that comes to mind), because while both of them are rather poorly balanced and somewhat luck-dependant on what you find while exploring, I still love being a sorceror-emperor with armies full of heroes and dragons. That’s basically what I want out of a game.

  17. I don’t think the “new” consoles will be able to do 4K at 60 FPS. If using HDMI it’s most likely capped at around 4K at 30FPS.
    As to 1080 at 60 FPS yeah, but 1080 at 10 FPS though for 3D headsets? No idea. Maybe 90 FPS (what Oculous requires).

  18. My guess is tht MicroSoft will end up with three consoles. Xbox One as the low end, Scorpio as a mid end, and a yet to be named high end console (aka the next, next gen).

    Then they’lll phase out the Xbox One and introduce a current high end becomes the old mid end and the old mid end becomes the new low end.

    This would allow a rolling upgrade path. Which would mean a new Xbox console each 2-3 years.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Honestly, if they kept backwards compatibility, I would hate Microsoft a lot less. Like, I might even enjoy their products and services again. :)

      • Volfram says:

        I have actually had chance to speak with a Microsoft employee on the topic of products and services which have gone out of support cycle.

        His response was to the effect of “Supporting older products is a waste of time and it’s your own fault for not wanting to update.”

        I’m switching to Linux.

  19. Victor says:

    Among other questionable features in Windows 10, I would say one of the big issues is the data collection that’s in place there. Which, when fully enabled, has apparently been compared to a key-logger (among other things).

    And maybe Microsoft would like a lot of people to join them in their data collection ecosystem? Especially if, it appears, a majority of Microsoft OS users don’t know about said data collection?

    Just a thought.

    • tmtvl says:

      I’ll just be sitting here running Windows games on my Linux computer.
      (But seriously, don’t try this unless you’re fine only running games released before 2014, or unless you don’t mind compiling your own wine versions for specific games)

      • Echo Tango says:

        Hey, I’m playing WASTED right now, and it’s hot off the presses this month! I don’t need no stinkin’ Windows! :P

        In all seriousness though, there’s like, a handful of games I’ve had to pass up, because my computer is too old/laptop-y to run them in Wine. Fallout 4, DOOM 2016, and some others I can’t remember. There’s so many good games that will run well enough under Wine, or have native Linux builds from the devs, that I’m comfortable not ever owning Windows again. :)

        • Victor says:

          The sad truth is that I do enjoy (at least some) triple A games that don’t progress well onto Linux. The solution I’ve had so far is to isolate one Windows computer as my “game” computer and NOTHING ELSE, while running Windows 7.

          Even with this setup, I would not be happy with data collection under Windows 10. Apparently it can be disabled completely by editing the regist – I can’t believe I just wrote that.

  20. I hope everyone have seen this http://archive.is/pPM7M
    Norman Reedus posting on Instagram a image of Kojima drinking out of a cup that says “Konami Tears” on it.

    • Supah Ewok says:

      It’s a cute picture, but I honestly doubt Konami are crying over much about Kojima when there’s that sweet, sweet pachinko money to be made.

      • Syal says:

        I take it to mean Death Stranding is a metaphor for Konami’s career. They’ll see it, they’ll recognize it, and they will feel an acute, stabbing pain in a part of them they had thought long dead.

  21. TMC_Sherpa says:

    There is a no AI mod for Stellaris which isn’t really a no AI mod? You will still have the minimum number of fallen empires (which aren’t that big of a deal from what I’ve seen) and eventually a few of the non space faring AI “grow up” but it’ll give you a bunch of time to mess around. I’m not sure if I would call it better..

  22. Ninety-Three says:

    It’s hard to know what a graphics cards does, but I view that as part of the larger problem “It’s hard to build a PC”. I would never build a PC by hand because I hate dealing with fiddly hardware installation and the fear of something going wrong, I pay a guy in a computer shop to do that for me. In exactly the same way, I view “Graphics cards are hard” as a problem to solve by paying a guy in a computer shop. I know someone who works at a shop, and I ask him, “What card do I need to run Skyrim at max graphics and what does it cost? What’s one step up from that card and how much does it cost, what’s one step down?”

    I wouldn’t make decisions about how to renovate my front porch without consulting a carpenter, and I wouldn’t make decisions about how to build a gaming rig without consulting a computer expert. The system is kind of inconvenient, but I wouldn’t call it broken.

    • Except it’s not very hard in that you can’t use a graphics card that has no slot in your motherboard. Very few (if any) components can be forced into ports/slots/plugs that they don’t belong in.

      I find it fiscally sensible to buy complete systems (usually), in that after costs, it’s cheaper than paying someone to build it and you get a warranty. When upgrading, you just get something that’s better than what you have (which often is impossible to screw up unless you’re buying old, old cards on eBay) that’s designed to fit whatever slot your current card uses. Comparing it to renovating part of your house is bordering on “Apple myths about PCs,” in my opinion.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Comparing it to renovating part of your house is bordering on “Apple myths about PCs,” in my opinion.

        That’s fair, I usually get a new graphics card as part of getting an entirely new PC, and I was blending the two experiences. Straight graphics card upgrades are easier.

        As for fiscal sense, maybe that’s true for midrange computers, but I find that the prices on prebuilt gaming PCs are outright robbery (Alienware, I’m looking at you). Is there some retailer I’ve not found that sets reasonable prices for these things?

        • Alienware? Oy vey, no. They are, indeed, overpriced.

          My last several computers have been from Dell (specifically from their Outlet, which I’m not sure if it’s still in existence) and their damaged/refurb/returned new sections. They all came with warranties, and worked well for many years. The only thing that’s hard is finding the features you want, and for me that was having the desired ports/slots available for what I wanted to do with it both now and in the future.

          Another thing about graphics cards is that unless you’re modding the crap out of games, consoles keep the needs most games have for graphics fairly low, so getting the ultra high-end stuff is often a specific need (i.e. playing during and recording Spoiler Warning). Even so, if you get a computer from a retailer that has the same slot as the card you want, it can be purchased separately and swapped out.

          Oh, occasionally local computer stores can have deals on systems. I live near a Micro Center, and they have a large selection similar to Dell Outlet, but again, the challenge is getting a machine that has what you want or doesn’t limit you somehow (i.e. having no graphics card slot because the GPU is integrated on the motherboard).

      • Decus says:

        I get the feeling that the main part of his argument is actually “the fear of something going wrong” even if in terms of word count it was the smallest part of it–all of those other words were just there as part of his fears and it’s also why some of it was super off.

        That’s something that you can’ really understate/trivially solve and is probably the best reason not to do anything yourself if, even should you do it successfully, you’d be the sort to worry about it endlessly or blame any and every issue that might crop up on yourself. Those types absolutely need to pay somebody else to do it just for peace of mind. And they probably even want to remain ignorant of the entire process so as to not generate more fears.

        On the other hand, everybody else should at least try to build their own computer because it’s really satisfying and so long as you aren’t crippled by fears stemming from confidence issues you can be absolutely sure that it’s done right. If you don’t know anything about it you’re basically paying somebody on trust to construct you a black box. People who work in computer shops tend to have a self-inflated view of their own knowledge level at best–something that breeds ignorance–or are nefarious at worst and will do something like install the fans in reverse so your system will almost guaranteed fry itself within the year and you’ll come back for repairs. That’s less shops where their entire business is built around building you a computer and more stores with “oh, we’ve got a guy who can build stuff for you too I guess, he calls himself an expert, he’s our genius”. Especially if they focus on repairs and are the sort to try to sell you on virus scanners and lord knows what else you should never need but they profit greatly from.

        It’s not hard labor and the amount of reading you need to do in order to make informed purchases (become an ‘expert’) is, while somewhat dependent on how many pennies you want to pinch, a day of effort at most. Consider it a weekend project. And the true reward for it is not being ignorant of your own system because something you use and rely on daily should never, ever be a black box. Unless crippling anxiety problems say a lot of things should be black boxes but then the crippling anxiety is the larger issue that needs to be fixed.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          On the other hand, everybody else should at least try to build their own computer because it's really satisfying and so long as you aren't crippled by fears stemming from confidence issues you can be absolutely sure that it's done right.

          I work in software, and as an engineer with some electronics courses under my belt, I’m probably more qualified to handle hardware than most people. As long as I have spare money to to pay for assembly, I will never build my own PC. I hate electronics, and it’s way too easy to mess something up when building a PC, leaving you stranded own when it comes to troubleshooting. Enjoy Googling for BIOS errors.

          It probably helps that I’m not going to some random Mom & Pop shop, I have a computer shop that mostly sells to industry businesses, and I know one of their guys personally, so I’m very certain that they actually know what they’re doing.

          I think you’re projecting your worldview and assuming it’s universal, not everyone gets great satisfaction out of building something that works, and not everyone cares about the black boxes in their lives. I regularly climb into two tons of steel that hurtles along at 80 km/h, and I can’t imagine why I would care about its inner workings so long as I understand the effects of the gas and brake pedals.

          • Echo Tango says:

            Yeah, if you’ve got a job that pays well enough, I can see why you wouldn’t want to waste time doing something that’s so easy to pay somebody else to do. I enjoy learning new stuff, and improving my skills, especially with stuff that’s challenging enough to be enjoyable without being fiddly bullshit*. I can build a computer, change my truck’s oil, probably replace my brakes if I was a student/poor again. Plus I know how to weld and do basic carpentry.** :)

            * Uuugggghhh. I hate hand-soldering stuff. At some point I’m just going to buy a reflow oven. Like, I’d rather hand-paint solder paste at room temperature, where I can wipe up mistakes, than do hand-soldering.

            ** Like, mediocre skill here. I could build a dog-house, and I could build a cabin/cottage for myself, but I wouldn’t want to do a house myself. For something I’ll be using and complaining about every day, I’d get a professional. :)

  23. I think Shamus’ nightmare would be if Dishonored 2 had a mode where Emily jumps on Corvo’s shoulders and they have to combine their powers to defeat the Outsider as Voltronored, Defender of the Thi4fiverse.

    They would have a special rocket launcher weapon while in this form, of course.

  24. I can’t believe Josh failed to notice the giveaway as to what Kojima’s game is about. Notice the scar on naked Norman Reedus’ stomach.

    Obviously, this is evidence that he’s a Jaffa from Stargate SG-1, and the child is a metaphor for his quest to find his missing symbiote. The fish symbolize the snake-like symbiotes themselves, their deaths showing that his turning against the Goa’uld and helping to wipe them out is weighing heavily on his conscience.

  25. I’m still a bit pissed off at the first Dishonored which decided to give me the “You Are An Irredeemable Monster And Should Burn In Hell!” type ending because I shot some of the zombies which is technically killing.

    On the other hand maybe the game was doing some very deep gameplay-based commentary about the flawed and subjective nature of our human morality and how even though the zombies were spreading a plague and acted as violent beasts, killing them is wrong because in the grand scheme of things no life or individual existence is any more or less important than any other.

    Or maybe the devs were too lazy to differentiate which NPCs gave you the bad karma points for killing them. I don’t know both of those are equally plausible.

    Actually now that I think about it what sense does any of that make when Corvo’s literal job title is ASSASSIN. You’d think he would be past the whole “killing people is bad and makes you a bad person” phase long ago.

    I still really liked the game though and am looking forward to the new one.

    • IFS says:

      The chaos system was definitely a bit of a… messy implementation of a karma system, though it is worth noting that it and the idea of a pacifist run were fairly late additions to the game as things go. Hopefully now that it is an established part of the game they’ll have put more time into polishing it in Dishonored 2.

      As for the getting over the ‘killing people makes you bad’ thing you could excuse that with the caveat that you try to protect your conscience by only killing the people in charge (after all they are the ones who are most guilty). It may also be worth noting that Corvo’s original job wasn’t assassin but Lord-Protector, though it is hard to say what duties that job entailed beyond bodyguard so its easily possible that it involved some shady business. You could also argue that the chaos system is more the world’s reaction to lots of people dying rather than just a moral judgement of the character’s actions, but the game is a bit at odds with itself on that front so that argument falls a bit flat.

      • That’s right he was the Lord-Protector – my bad, its been a while. I always had the impression he was a kind of official government-sanctioned assassin for some reason.
        The other thing would be that killing the infected would probably result in less “chaos” overall since they won’t then spread the plague further, but yea it was mostly the rushed and not thoroughly thought out implementation that I had issues with.

        Making games change and react on a large scale or in really meaningful ways based on the player’s actions is extremely hard to pull off and a large expense to produce properly. Unless your entire game is truly focused on that concept like Undertale for example.

        I would actually be very happy if they decided to maybe have a similar system but have the effects be more subtle. Its just a personal opinion, but I don’t really need alternate endings and would rather not have the game make a big fuss about giving me choices. For me, it would be just enough to acknowledge that the player is taking extra care to do a pacifist run, or is exceptionally violent when given a choice of how to proceed with a situation. It could be as simple as some dialog snippets, minor unimportant characters becoming hostile towards you or maybe a few small alternate game sections.
        And all the resources that would otherwise go to alternate endings and the like could be used to make the rest the game better.

        But if they DO pull it off without sacrificing the core experience that would be amazing. I just don’t think that’s very likely, but would love to be proved wrong.

    • Andy_Panthro says:

      I went super-murdery in my first playthrough, and really liked the dark ending. It felt very appropriate for all the things I’d done…

      On my second playthrough I went low chaos, and found it quite forgiving. I was trying to ghost the entire game, but I accidentally left a couple of guards unconscious near some rats and… well, the rats were hungry I guess? Still got the good ending though.

  26. GloatingSwine says:

    I’ve not had the problem Shamus has being behind in tech in Stellaris.

    The keys right now are to make your people happy above all and to focus on laser tech because the other weapons are worse.

    If you can get your people to 90% happy they’ll all produce 20% more of any resource that you put them on. Every time I’ve played past the early game I’ve been horribly overwhelming compared to the AI. Making your pops happy also makes it easier to integrate conquered subjects, which means that Moral Democracy, the government type which literally uses the peace symbol as its logo, is the best at galactic conquest.

    It seems to be better to go big than to focus, you’ll grab more good planets and space resources, and you can have spaceports that mean you’ll get ten times the fleet everyone else can build.

    Some of this is going to change in the next patch because space borders will be open by default, so you won’t be able to be boxed in because you can drive through other people’s space to find open planets, and they’re changing happiness mechanics to be a progressive bonus not “get to 90% and then win the galaxy forever”. Also pacifists will be less good at conquering everyone (because it will be inconvenient because you have to do an extra step before stealing the planets that takes a decade or two of ingame time).

    I’ve never fulfilled the victory conditions, but they’re bullshit because Paradox games don’t generally have them so they just threw them in because whatever. Once I’d killed a fallen empire and declared war on an alliance containing 50% of all species in the galaxy and won it I generally considered myself to have won the game.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      You’re right that happiness is incredibly important because its bonuses are just overpowered, but I disagree on laser weapons being the clear best. Missiles have the best raw DPS, but they can be countered by anti-missile modules. Kinetic weapons have medium DPS and no particular strengths or weaknesses. Lasers have the lowest DPS but ignore shields.

      If you want to opt out of the rock-paper-scissors weapon vs defense thing, and just have a fleet that performs consistently, I recommend kinetic weapons.

      Or is this more a matter of lasers being the best because the AI overuses shields so the anti-shield lasers are always great?

      • GloatingSwine says:

        It’s not the anti shield weapons (they’re OK), it’s that lasers have higher accuracy, most have armour piercing, and the DPS of kinetic weapons isn’t higher by [i]enough[/i] to matter (the difference is frequently tiny).

        The advantages of lasers accelerate as the game goes on as well, as larger ship classes have more armour even without adding it and so the inherent armour piercing counts for more.

        And then Plasma/Tachyon Lances happen, which totally ignore armour have 95% accuracy and higher DPS than the kinetic equivalent (which also has a meagre 70% accuracy, and you can still get to about 60% evade on a Corvette). (Those are the blue pew pew beams that fallen empires use)

        Literally the only downside to laser weapons is that power generation and shields (if you need them because you didn’t find crystalline elites) are both also in Physics research.

        Point Defence is too good right now to make missiles worth using. They’re strictly hard countered by even tier 1 PD.

        (Oh, and never ever use warp drive, it is a trap, both of the other options are infinitely better but especially wormholes which also use no power on the ship and mean you can have better ships with more guns and less generators so more slots full of crystal hull plating)

        • Shamus says:

          This probably explains some of my problems:

          I found a series of posts from people complaining about how OP missiles were. So I stuck to missiles. The game itself tells you that warp drive is good for newbies, and the other stuff is for advanced players.

          So I used missiles and warp, and often find my fleets performing like shit, losing fights they should win and generally taking forever to close the deal on a supposedly weaker foe.

          Imma go play Alpha Centauri now.

          • Awetugiw says:

            As I mentioned earlier in this comment thread, I can’t disagree with people playing Alpha Centauri. Still, I would also recommend giving Stellaris another try. Perhaps not now, but after a couple of patches.

            As for missiles and warp:
            Combat in Stellaris is rather simulationist. Which of two fleets will win in a fight depends on many factors. Different ship sizes, weapons and defensive systems all have different strengths and weaknesses. Even the positioning of your fleet and the different AI behaviors of the ships in your fleet matters a lot. As a result, there is no single fleet type that will beat everything else. There is some kind of Rock-Paper-Scissors going on, although it is a many-dimensional, very complex RPS.

            The people who complained that missiles were overpowered were right, sort of. Much more so than lasers or kinetic weapons, a missile armed fleet will crush an equivalent size fleet that does not have the appropriate defenses. But when missiles are countered by point defenses, they also lose much harder than the other types of weapons lose against their counters.

            So while missiles are overpowered, they are not something that you can always rely on. Especially because your enemy can adapt to your fleet composition, putting more point defenses on their ships once they notice you are missile-based.

            Perhaps the starting screen should have given a recommendation to use lasers or kinetic weapons, like it recommends warp. That might have prevented new players from falling into the trap of using an extremely powerful but relatively easy to counter (and therefore hard to use) weapon type.

            Regarding warp: I disagree with warp being strictly worse than the other FTL options. All three have their strengths and weaknesses. Wormholes are nice and fast, but if you ever end up losing in a war there is almost no way to come back, since the enemy can destroy your wormhole stations. It is also a lot harder to project your force far away from your home systems. Hyperdrive (or whatever it is called) is nice because you can jump away from any point in a system, instead of only at the edges. But it is often much slower, and it is much easier to get locked into a part of the galaxy without any way to expand.

            In every game I have played so far, I have had situations where I envied the FTL method of another empire that I was at war with, and other moments that I Was very glad I had the FTL method I did. All in all I actually agree with Paradox that warp is the best choice for new players.

            • GloatingSwine says:

              The problems with warp are that it’s much slower, shorter range (the maximum Warp range is about as good as the first tier Wormhole range), and is the only FTL type with a cooldown which completely disables the ships. If you can intercept an attacking or fleeing Warp fleet you can decimate it whilst it is completely helpless.

              Additionally, wormholes get to ignore enemy territory as long as they can reach clear space on the other side of it (which will be less relevant in the next patch) and lead to one of the endgame drive types, Jump Drive, which has longer range and no station limitation (but uses ship energy again).

              Warp has all of the downsides for only a tiny bit of flexibility, and wormhole stations have all of the upsides for a slight cost in having to build wormhole stations, which are so cheap in cost and upkeep you can trivially spam them everywhere.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          Ah, I was basing my assessments on the early tiers of weapons, I burned out on the midgame before I got to Lances or anything really stupid.

    • I like the idea that a positive outlook causes your people to actualize more resources out of the collapsing quantum waveforms that comprise the future.

  27. Ilseroth says:

    I mean there is a pyro style class in Overwatch that focuses on ambushing with a short range spray weapon (Mei) but rather then feeling preparatory in nature, it’s aggressive. In fact I’d say that is true of a vast majority of character classes that got pulled over.

    For instance, Torbjorn, the stand in for the engineer, has an extremely effective gun and his ultimate improves not just his turret but his offensive powers as well. While you can baby the turret the way an engineer could; it isn’t nearly as effective and it can easily be taken out by a single long range character even under direct repairs from Torb.

    Another defensive character (Bastion) despite his primary tools being a self heal and a stationary turret mode, has an ultimate that turns him into an aggressive tank.

    Which actually plays into part of why there isn’t a spy class. Even the most defensive and support characters, who would be the primary targets of the spy, have advanced mobility options and/or powerful offensive weapons. I wouldn’t be surprised if there is a character in the future with stealth capabilities, but I would be surprised if there is a character with disguises.

  28. Ninety-Three says:

    I realize now that this was also true of last week, but I just noticed that you’ve switched back to the original intro music. Yay! The intro music is really good.

  29. Ninety-Three says:

    “I don’t think there would be a developer out there that would not see [Bioshock Infinite-style mass-murder] as ‘we have failed at our goals in this videogame'”

    You say that Ruts, but someone made Bioshock Infinite, and there are people dumber than them in the room.

  30. mpjama2 says:

    So I’ve sunk a hundred hours into Stellaris and “won” a few games. Emphasis on few, I only really had the patience to actually finish a few games, most I quit early. I still really like the game (although I can’t tell you why to be honest), even though it really frustrates me.

    [Warning: Rant]

    The game’s economy is horrifically imbalanced. Basically if you are going for one of the only two victory conditions (Domination or Conquest) ASAP, the best economy is slavery hands-down. Whereas if you want to experience the late-game crises its probably better to stack happiness in the way that Gloating Swine described. Currently it is impossible for slaves to mount any sort of revolt or dissent, and they produce extra minerals and food at the expense of energy and research. Because you are always building new ships, extra minerals are always welcome. All rebellious aliens you conquer are immediately put to work. The only drawback is reduced research, which isn’t nearly as big of a problem as you’d think it’d be.

    Because all spaceship techs can be researched from debris (from blowing up other spaceships), even if you only have the starting 5 research in every category you can still stay a few tiers behind your opponents in components. Which is more than you need to defeat them, because you likely have far more ships due to the increased minerals from slavery! If you are going for a domination victory, you will probably want to research the colonization for other planet types, but the rest are not strictly necessary.

    The only major problem you will run into using this strategy is occasional energy deficits, which can be worked around by ethnically cleansing alien worlds that your species (or a loyal client species) can inhabit, replacing the natives with loyalists, and converting the planet into a power plant.

    While the vast majority of the midgame consists of war, almost all wars are slogs in Stellaris. In Stellaris bigger fleets wreck smaller ones 95% of the time. In the early game, the difference one ship extra ship makes is obscene, where 6 ships will retain 70% of their forces against 5 ships. As you move later on into the game, the difference in numbers remains significant, but not as important as in the early game. However this means that you can’t split up your fleet as you would in Hearts of Iron or Civilization V, the biggest doomfleet always wins. Therefore any time you split your fleet it is a major risk, because even if you outnumber their fleets 2 to 1, they could always hit your detachment and do serious damage before backup can arrive. Therefore you almost always fight with a few doomstacks. Which means that you can’t effectively chase down any lone corvettes that stray into your territory without sacrificing valuable fleet power that could be used against *their* doomstack. This leads to warfare being incredibly frustrating in Stellaris without severely outclassing your enemy where you don’t have to worry about the “big” engagement where your doomstack faces off against yours.

    Stellaris is close to being an amazing game, but the flaws can’t be ignored. Thanks for reading through my rant of doom. Despite all of that, I really do like this game, it just frustrates me to no end at times.

    • GloatingSwine says:

      Whilst doomstacks will beat smaller fleets, it’s better to split your fleet to win wars, because the warscore from beating enemy fleets is trivial compared to what you get from blockading planets, so you can win a war without even seeing the enemy fleet if you just jump your fleets into multiple systems, flatten all their spaceports and start blockading their planets.

      Ideally you have one fleet just big enough to pin the enemy fleet and as many more as you can that are just big enough to beat a spaceport, then attack on as many fronts as possible, if you’re blockading 8-10 different planets the AI will probably surrender before it gets its fleet into position to fight back.

      • mpjama2 says:

        I do agree that this is the best way to win wars quickly, although you can only do it whenever you are much stronger than the enemy. Because with this strategy you are throwing at least a few 500-1k Power Stacks into the grinder, and this can really hurt your big doomstack engagement. And since if you lose the doomstack engagement, you lost the war.

        • GloatingSwine says:

          No, because the doomstack engagement either

          a: Never happened because every time the enemy doomstack appeared in a system your fleet just ran away and blockaded something else.

          or b: Took so long too resolve and caused so much attrition that the enemy has already surrendered because you have 70 warscore from blockading other planets and it can’t stop you doing it.

          or c: Never happened because you’ve blown up all the enemy’s spaceports, tanked its fleet cap, and it can’t pay the upkeep on its doomstack and scrapped half of it.

          (or d: never happened because you attacked simultaneously in so many places that the AI surrenders before it even gets its fleet into position. Particularly against slow ass warp empires)

          People think that fleet engagement wins wars in Stellaris, but they don’t. Even a massive clash of 17-20k fleetpower fleets will produce maybe 10 warscore even if it’s horribly one sided, blockading a planet is 7 as long as you keep it up, occupying one is 6. Blowing up a spaceport is 1. You can blow up more than 10 spaceports in the time you can resolve a doomfleet battle.

          This is not CK2 where a decent engagement can be 30-50 warscore, infrastructure and planets are where the warscore lives.

          All a fleet engagement does is give you free run to do the things that actually do win the war without having to intermittently stop doing them to run away and do them somewhere else.

          And as long as you’re blowing up spaceports and blockading planets in its space, the AI will chase you around to stop you doing it rather than attacking your space (which is the exact mistake a lot of players make and then complain about the AI blowing up all their stuff because they tried to fight defensively and you can’t do that in Stellaris)

  31. Nidokoenig says:

    The stuff about For Honor reminded me of musou games, more specifically Hyrule Warriors, hundreds of mooks you blast through dozens at a time or just run past, interspersed with captains, generals and bosses that require a decent level of finesse, so there’s a significant gear change for big fights. Other musou games don’t force it quite so much, often you can just build special gauge and blast anything big, but Hyrule Warriors goes big on exposing weakpoints by baiting certain attacks and/or using certain items with anything else doing reduced damage, building on the Zelda aspect.

    The Nintendo Treehouse was definitely a bit limited, but for an industry event it’s kind of expected that Zelda and Pokemon would be the focus. That Oasis game looked good, building up a settlement by dungeon crawling, though I’d worry about it turning out like FFEx and not having any real depth or longevity, but I’m probably not the target demo.

  32. Phill says:

    I like the way Rachel kept the bit about Shamus telling her she is awesome in the post-credits bit. And I swear that when this article first appeared it had “edited by Rachel”, but now it has “edited by Mindie” with a link to the “FourNerdFamily” (spoof?) youtube channel. I suspect some obscure in-joke is ongoing…

  33. SlothfulCobra says:

    Overwatch seems really overdesigned to me. Whenever I see videos of the gameplay, it’s so visually busy that I can barely tell what’s going on. I’m not sure that you could even tell which team people are on if it weren’t for the outline that the game draws around them. It’s really weird for a game that people are calling the successor to TF2, a game famous for its very distinctive designs.

    Also, people keep on talking about the game, but they aren’t really talking about the game parts of the game too much. It may just be that the lore and the videos that Blizzard is putting out is what’s generating most of the buzz.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      I get the same impression, but I think I’ll have to actually play the game for a bit in order to properly judge. I remember watching TF2 videos and thinking that the whole thing was a mess of exploding giblets and particle effects, before I could recognize which class was which and why they were doing what they were doing.

  34. Smejki says:

    The Civ6 growing cities were also in Endless Legend

  35. Gruhunchously says:

    I think John Gonzalez was the lead writer of Fallout: New Vegas, and as such was responsible for the writing of all the key players in the story; Caesar, Mr. House, Benny, Vulpes Inculta, and others. He also wrote the story of The Survivalist in Honest Hearts, as well as the incidental characters from the Happy Trails caravan (the ones who die at the very beginning of the DLC).

  36. Smurfism is the one true political ideology says:

    Concerning For Honor:

    Swap the Viking faction for Byzantines (hell, you can even have Vikings as a class in that faction!); swap the Samurai for Mujaheddin and voila. The setting becomes totally plausible and even possible; the Joshesque history buffs among us are appeased and the contextualization of play actually makes sense.

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