Shamus Young Dot Com
I'm Shamus Young, a programmer, an author, and nearly a composer. I have produced an unbelievable volume of content over the years. If you're looking for the newest stuff, then read the blog, which has updated an average of once a day since 2005. But if you're looking for just the good stuff, then you can cherry-pick from the articles below. Enjoy!

Starcraft 2: Rush Analysis

I write a program to simulate different strategies in Starcraft 2, to see how they compare.

 

Bethesda’s Launcher is Everything You Expect

From the company that brought us Fallout 76 comes a storefront / Steam competitor. It's a work of perfect awfulness. This is a monument to un-usability and anti-features.

 

Gamers Aren’t Toxic

This is a horrible narrative that undermines the hobby through crass stereotypes. The hobby is vast, gamers come from all walks of life, and you shouldn't judge ANY group by its worst members.

 

The Best of 2019

I called 2019 "The Year of corporate Dystopia". Here is a list of the games I thought were interesting or worth talking about that year.

 

Lost Laughs in Leisure Suit Larry

Why was this classic adventure game so funny in the 80's, and why did it stop being funny?

 

The Plot-Driven Door

You know how videogames sometimes do that thing where it's preposterously hard to go through a simple door? This one is really bad.

 

A Telltale Autopsy

What lessons can we learn from the abrupt demise of this once-impressive games studio?

 

The Truth About Piracy

What are publishers doing to fight piracy and why is it all wrong?

 

The Witch Watch

My first REAL published book, about a guy who comes back from the dead due to a misunderstanding.

 

Denuvo and the "Death" of Piracy

Denuvo videogame DRM didn't actually kill piracy, but it did stop it for several months. Here's what we learned from that.

 

Games and the Fear of Death

Why killing you might be the least scary thing a game can do.

 

Charging More for a Worse Product

No, game prices don't "need" to go up. That's not how supply and demand works. Instead, the publishers need to be smarter about where they spend their money.

 

Twelve Years

Even allegedly smart people can make life-changing blunders that seem very, very obvious in retrospect.

 

Silver Sable Sucks

This version of Silver Sable is poorly designed, horribly written, and placed in the game for all the wrong reasons.

 

The Strange Evolution of OpenGL

Sometimes software is engineered. Sometimes it grows organically. And sometimes it's thrown together seemingly at random over two decades.

 

The Best of 2015

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2015.

 

The Gradient of Plot Holes

Most stories have plot holes. The failure isn't that they exist, it's when you notice them while immersed in the story.

 

Playstation 3

What was the problem with the Playstation 3 hardware and why did Sony build it that way?

 

Good Robot Dev Blog

An ongoing series where I work on making a 2D action game from scratch.

 

Could Have Been Great

Here are four games that could have been much better with just a little more work.

 

Starcraft: Bot Fight

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

 

Best. Plot Twist. Ever.

Few people remember BioWare's Jade Empire, but it had a unique setting and a really well-executed plot twist.

 

Secret of Good Secrets

Sometimes in-game secrets are fun and sometimes they're lame. Here's why.

 

Programming Vexations

Here is a 13 part series where I talk about programming games, programming languages, and programming problems.

 

Megatextures

A video discussing Megatexture technology. Why we needed it, what it was supposed to do, and why it maybe didn't totally work.

 

Dead or Alive 5 Last Round

I'm not surprised a fighting game has an absurd story. I just can't figure out why they bothered with the story at all.

 

Fable II

The plot of this game isn't just dumb, it's actively hostile to the player. This game hates you and thinks you are stupid.

 

Chainmail Bikini

A horrible, railroading, stupid, contrived, and painfully ill-conceived roleplaying campaign. All in good fun.

 

Grand Theft Auto Retrospective

This series began as a cheap little 2D overhead game and grew into the most profitable entertainment product ever made. I have a love / hate relationship with the series.

 

id Software Coding Style

When the source code for Doom 3 was released, we got a look at some of the style conventions used by the developers. Here I analyze this style and explain what it all means.

 

Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

Ever wonder how seemingly sane people can hate popular games? It can happen!

 

TitleWhat’s Inside Skinner’s Box?

What is a skinner box, how does it interact with neurotransmitters, and what does it have to do with shooting people in the face for rare loot?

 

The Best of 2016

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2016.

 

The Brilliance of Mass Effect

What is "Domino Worldbuilding" and how did it help to make Mass Effect one of the most interesting settings in modern RPGs?

 

Grand Theft Railroad

Grand Theft Auto is a lousy, cheating jerk of a game.

 

The Terrible New Thing

Fidget spinners are ruining education! We need to... oh, never mind the fad is over. This is not the first time we've had a dumb moral panic.

 

How to Forum

Dear people of the internet: Please stop doing these horrible idiotic things when you talk to each other.

 

Object-Oriented Debate

There are two major schools of thought about how you should write software. Here's what they are and why people argue about it.

 

Civilization VI

I'm a very casual fan of the series, but I gave Civilization VI a look to see what was up with this nuclear war simulator.

 

Overthinking Zombies

Let's ruin everyone's fun by listing all the ways in which zombies can't work, couldn't happen, and don't make sense.

 

Crash Dot Com

Back in 1999, I rode the dot-com bubble. Got rich. Worked hard. Went crazy. Turned poor. It was fun.

 

Seven Springs

The true story of three strange days in 1989, when the last months of my adolescence ran out and the first few sparks of adulthood appeared.

 

The Best of 2017

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2017.

 

Deus Ex and The Treachery of Labels

Deus Ex Mankind Divided was a clumsy, tone-deaf allegory that thought it was clever, and it managed to annoy people of all political stripes.

 

Self-Balancing Gameplay

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

 

Bad and Wrong Music Lessons

A music lesson for people who know nothing about music, from someone who barely knows anything about music.

 

Tenpenny Tower

Bethesda felt the need to jam a morality system into Fallout 3, and they blew it. Good and evil make no sense and the moral compass points sideways.

 

Dear Hollywood: Do a Mash Reboot

Since we're rebooting everything, MASH will probably come up eventually. Here are some casting suggestions.

 

What is Piracy?

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

 

Fixing Match 3

For one of the most popular casual games in existence, Match 3 is actually really broken. Until one developer fixed it.

 

I Was Wrong About Borderlands 3

I really thought one thing, but then something else. There's a bunch more to it, but you'll have to read the article.

 

Object-Disoriented Programming

C++ is a wonderful language for making horrible code.

 

Why The Christmas Shopping Season is Worse Every Year

Everyone hates Black Friday sales. Even retailers! So why does it exist?

 

Steam Summer Blues

This mess of dross, confusion, and terrible UI design is the storefront the big publishers couldn't beat? Amazing.

 

Pixel City Dev Blog

An attempt to make a good looking cityscape with nothing but simple tricks and a few rectangles of light.

 

DM of the Rings

Both a celebration and an evisceration of tabletop roleplaying games, by twisting the Lord of the Rings films into a D&D game.

 

Spec Ops: The Line

A videogame that judges its audience, criticizes its genre, and hates its premise. How did this thing get made?

 

Project Frontier

A programming project where I set out to make a gigantic and complex world from simple data.

 

Internet News is All Wrong

Why is internet news so bad, why do people prefer celebrity fluff, and how could it be made better?

 

What Does a Robot Want?

No, self-aware robots aren't going to turn on us, Skynet-style. Not unless we designed them to.

 

Skyrim Thieves Guild

The Thieves Guild quest in Skyrim is a vortex of disjointed plot-holes, contrivances, and nonsense.

 

Silent Hill 2 Plot Analysis

A long-form analysis on one of the greatest horror games ever made.

 

Artless in Alderaan

People were so worried about the boring gameplay of The Old Republic they overlooked just how boring and amateur the art is.

 

Raytracing

Raytracing is coming. Slowly. Eventually. What is it and what will it mean for game development?

 

Final Fantasy X

A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.

 

Video Compression Gone Wrong

How does image compression work, and why does it create those ugly spots all over some videos and not others?

 

Juvenile and Proud

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

 

Are Lootboxes Gambling?

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

 

Dead Island

A stream-of-gameplay review of Dead Island. This game is a cavalcade of bugs and bad design choices.

 

This Scene Breaks a Character

Small changes to the animations can have a huge impact on how the audience interprets a scene.

 

Was it a Hack?

A big chunk of the internet went down in October of 2016. What happened? Was it a hack?

 

Ludonarrative Dissonance

What is this silly word, why did some people get so irritated by it, and why did it fall out of use?

 

Resident Evil 4

Who is this imbecile and why is he wandering around Europe unsupervised?

 

Revisiting a Dead Engine

I wanted to take the file format of a late 90s shooter and read it in modern-day Unity. This is the result.

 

The Middle Ages

Would you have survived in the middle ages?

 

Trashing the Heap

What does it mean when a program crashes, and why does it happen?

 

Trekrospective

A look back at Star Trek, from the Original Series to the Abrams Reboot.

 

The Disappointment Engine

No Man's Sky is a game seemingly engineered to create a cycle of anticipation and disappointment.

 

Bowlercoaster

Two minutes of fun at the expense of a badly-run theme park.

 

Push the Button!

Scenes from Half-Life 2:Episode 2, showing Gordon Freeman being a jerk.

 

Shamus Plays WOW

Ever wondered what's in all those quest boxes you've never bothered to read? Get ready: They're more insane than you might expect.

 

Stop Asking Me to Play Dark Souls!

An unhinged rant where I maybe slightly over-reacted to the water torture of Souls evangelism.

 

The Dumbest Cutscene

This is it. This is the dumbest cutscene ever created for a AAA game. It's so bad it's simultaneously hilarious and painful. This is "The Room" of video game cutscenes.

 

Crysis 2

Crysis 2 has basically the same plot as Half-Life 2. So why is one a classic and the other simply obnoxious and tiresome?

 

Overused Words in Game Titles

I scoured the Steam database to figure out what words were the most commonly used in game titles.

 

Who Broke the In-Game Economy?

Why are RPG economies so bad? Why are shopkeepers so mercenary, why are the prices so crazy, and why do you always end up a gazillionaire by the end of the game? Can't we just have a sensible balanced economy?

 

Marvel's Civil War

Team Cap or Team Iron Man? More importantly, what basis would you use for making that decision?

 

Shamus Plays LOTRO

As someone who loves Tolkein lore and despises silly MMO quests, this game left me deeply conflicted.

 

D&D Campaign

WAY back in 2005, I wrote about a D&D campaign I was running. The campaign is still there, in the bottom-most strata of the archives.

 

Quakecon 2011 Keynote Annotated

An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.

 

If Star Wars Was Made in 2006?

Imagine if the original Star Wars hadn't appeared in the 1970's, but instead was pitched to studios in 2006. How would that turn out?

 

What is Vulkan?

What is this Vulkan stuff? A graphics engine? A game engine? A new flavor of breakfast cereal? And how is it supposed to make PC games better?

 

The No Politics Rule

Here are 6 reasons why I forbid political discussions on this site. #4 will amaze you. Or not.

 

Control

A wild game filled with wild ideas that features fun puzzles and mind-blowing environments. It has a great atmosphere, and one REALLY annoying flaw with its gameplay.

 

Why Batman Can't Kill

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

 

Diablo III Retrospective

We were so upset by the server problems and real money auction that we overlooked just how terrible everything else is.

 

PC Hardware is Toast

This is why shopping for graphics cards is so stupid and miserable.

 

Wolfenstein II

This is a massive step down in story, gameplay, and art design when compared to the 2014 soft reboot. Yet critics rated this one much higher. What's going on here?

 

Mass Effect Retrospective

A novel-sized analysis of the Mass Effect series that explains where it all went wrong. Spoiler: It was long before the ending.

 

Borderlands Series

A look at the main Borderlands games. What works, what doesn't, and where the series can go from here.

 

Skylines of the Future

Cities: Skylines is bound to have a sequel sooner or later. Where can this series go next, and what changes would I like to see?

 

How I Plan To Rule This Dumb Industry

Here is how I'd conquer the game-publishing business. (Hint: NOT by copying EA, 2K, Activision, Take-Two, or Ubisoft.)

 

Punishing The Internet for Sharing

Why make millions on your video game when you could be making HUNDREDS on frivolous copyright claims?

 

The Best of 2018

I called 2018 "The Year of Good News". Here is a list of the games I thought were interesting or worth talking about that year.

 

Rage 2

The game was a dud, and I'm convinced a big part of that is due to the way the game leaned into its story. Its terrible, cringe-inducing story.

 

Good to be the King?

Which would you rather be: A king in the middle ages, or a lower-income laborer in the 21st century?

 

Patreon!

Why Google sucks, and what made me switch to crowdfunding for this site.

 

In Defense of Crunch

Crunch-mode game development isn't good, but sometimes it happens for good reasons.

 

Please Help I Can’t Stop Playing Cities: Skylines

What makes this borderline indie title so much better than the AAA juggernauts that came before?

 

Spider-Man

A game I love. It has a solid main story and a couple of really obnoxious, cringy, incoherent side-plots in it. What happened here?

 

Linux vs. Windows

Finally, the age-old debate has been settled.

 

Programming Language for Games

Game developer Jon Blow is making a programming language just for games. Why is he doing this, and what will it mean for game development?

 

A Star is Born

Remember the superhero MMO from 2009? Neither does anyone else. It was dumb. So dumb I was compelled to write this.

 

Black Desert Online

This Korean title would be the greatest MMO ever made if not for the horrendous monetization system. And the embarrassing translation. And the terrible progression. And the developer's general apathy towards its western audience.

 

Netscape 1997

What did web browsers look like 20 years ago, and what kind of crazy features did they have?

 

Quakecon 2012 Annotated

An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.

 

Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3

Yeah, this game is a classic. But the story is idiotic, incoherent, thematically confused, and patronizing.

 

Stolen Pixels

A screencap comic that poked fun at videogames and the industry. The comic has ended, but there's plenty of archives for you to binge on.

 

Project Octant

A programming project where I set out to make a Minecraft-style world so I can experiment with Octree data.

 

The Biggest Game Ever

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

 

Joker's Last Laugh

Did you anticipate the big plot twist of Batman: Arkham City? Here's all the ways the game hid that secret from you while also rubbing your nose in it.

 

The Best of 2012

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2012.

 

Project Button Masher

I teach myself music composition by imitating the style of various videogame soundtracks. How did it turn out? Listen for yourself.

 

MMO Population Problems

Computers keep getting more powerful. So why do the population caps for massively multiplayer games stay about the same?

 

Silent Hill Origins

Here is a long look at a game that tries to live up to a big legacy and fails hilariously.

 

Philosophy of Moderation

The comments on most sites are a sewer of hate, because we're moderating with the wrong goals in mind.

 

The Death of Half-Life

Valve still hasn't admitted it, but the Half-Life franchise is dead. So what made these games so popular anyway?

 

Batman v. Superman Wasn't All Bad

It's not a good movie, but it was made with good intentions and if you look closely you can find a few interesting ideas.

 

Silent Hill Turbo HD II

I was trying to make fun of how Silent Hill had lost its way but I ended up making fun of fighting games. Whatever.

 

The Opportunity Crunch

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

 

Another PC Golden Age?

Is it real? Is PC gaming returning to its former glory? Sort of. It's complicated.

 

Top 64 Videogames

Lists of 'best games ever' are dumb and annoying. But like a self-loathing hipster I made one anyway.

 

The Mistakes DOOM Didn't Make

How did this game avoid all the usual stupidity that ruins remakes of classic titles?

 

Game at the Bottom

Why spend millions on visuals that are just a distraction from the REAL game of hotbar-watching?

 

Batman: Arkham City

A look back at one of my favorite games. The gameplay was stellar, but the underlying story was clumsy and oddly constructed.

 

PC Gaming Golden Age

It's not a legend. It was real. There was a time before DLC. Before DRM. Before crappy ports. It was glorious.

 

The Best of 2013

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2013.

 

Hardware Review

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

 

Do It Again, Stupid

One of the highest-rated games of all time has some of the least interesting gameplay.

 

Autoblography

The story of me. If you're looking for a picture of what it was like growing up in the seventies, then this is for you.

 

Spoiler Warning

A video Let's Play series I collaborated on from 2009 to 2017.

 

Bethesda NEVER Understood Fallout

Let's count up the ways in which Bethesda has misunderstood and misused the Fallout property.

 

The Biggest Game Ever

Just how big IS No Man's Sky? What if you made a map of all of its landmass? How big would it be?

 

My Music

Do you like electronic music? Do you like free stuff? Are you okay with amateur music from someone who's learning? Yes? Because that's what this is.

 

Mass Effect 3 Ending Deconstruction

Did you dislike the ending to the Mass Effect trilogy? Here's my list of where it failed logically, thematically, and tonally.

 

Zenimax vs. Facebook

This series explores the troubled history of VR and the strange lawsuit between Zenimax publishing and Facebook.

 

The Gameplay is the Story

Some advice to game developers on how to stop ruining good stories with bad cutscenes.

 

This is Why We Can’t Have Short Criticism

Here's how this site grew from short essays to novel-length quasi-analytical retrospectives.

 

Free Radical

The product of fandom run unchecked, this novel began as a short story and grew into something of a cult hit.

 

Trusting the System

How do you know the rules of the game are what the game claims? More importantly, how do the DEVELOPERS know?

 

This Game is Too Videogame-y

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

 

The Best of 2014

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2014.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

A breakdown of how this game faltered when the franchise was given to a different studio.

 

A Lack of Vision and Leadership

People fault EA for being greedy, but their real sin is just how terrible they are at it.

 

Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated

An interesting but technically dense talk about gaming technology. I translate it for the non-coders.

 

What is Vulkan?

There's a new graphics API in town. What does that mean, and why do we need it?

 

The Loot Lottery

What makes the gameplay of Borderlands so addictive for some, and what does that have to do with slot machines?

 

The Game That Ruined Me

Be careful what you learn with your muscle-memory, because it will be very hard to un-learn it.

 

The Best of 2011

My picks for what was important, awesome, or worth talking about in 2011.