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!

Spoiler Warning:
BioShock

A confusing game that's really smart for a shooter, but kind of dumb compared to its RPG-focused forebears.

 

Resident Evil 4

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

 

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.

 

PC Hardware is Toast

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

 

Twelve Years

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

 

Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated

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

 

In Defense of Crunch

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

 

The No Politics Rule

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

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Dishonored

Part Thief, part Assassins Creed, part BioWare-style RPG. A game at once unique and yet very familiar. We're actually pretty divided on how it turned out.

 

The Best of 2017

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

 

The Biggest Game Ever

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Alan Wake

This game was a critical darling before release, so what happened that prevented it from resonating with audiences?

 

Video Compression Gone Wrong

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

 

MMO Population Problems

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

 

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.

 

The Loot Lottery

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

 

Starcraft 2: Rush Analysis

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

 

Good Robot Dev Blog

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

 

Starcraft: Bot Fight

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

 

Bowlercoaster

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

 

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.

 

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?

 

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.

 

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.

 

Steam Summer Blues

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Mass Effect 3

Everyone was so worked up about how terrible the ending was that they overlooked how terrible everything else was. We're here to fix that.

 

Object-Disoriented Programming

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
KOTOR

Knights of the Old Republic. It's charming, odd, glitchy, and captures the feel of classic Star Wars better than 90% of the Star Wars games out there.

 

Quakecon 2011 Keynote Annotated

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

 

The Disappointment Engine

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

 

Secret of Good Secrets

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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?

 

The Witch Watch

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

 

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.

 

What Does a Robot Want?

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

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Hitman:Absolution

This game needs to be on more 'worst of' lists. Watch our let's play to see how much stupid you can pack into one game.

 

Internet News is All Wrong

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Tomb Raider

We're usually pretty hard on reboots. So what did this game do that made us so happy?

 

Why The Christmas Shopping Season is Worse Every Year

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

 

Hardware Review

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

 

Game at the Bottom

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

 

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.

 

Trekrospective

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

 

Project Frontier

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Fallout 3

A long-form Let's Play of a classic that's probably overrated, and certainly dumber than it needed to be.

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Skyrim

The big-budget, meme- spawning, endlessly- moddable, beloved by millions Game of the Year... sucks. (Not really.)

 

The Best of 2016

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

 

Are Lootboxes Gambling?

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

 

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.

 

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 Island

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Mass Effect

An awkward Let's Play of the Original Mass Effect, before we knew what we were doing. Enjoy terrible audio and long awkward pauses.

 

Skyrim Thieves Guild

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

 

The Best of 2011

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

 

Netscape 1997

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

 

Trashing the Heap

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
The Last of Us

A beautiful, masterful, heart-wrenching bit of cinema mixed with a completely rote and uninspired set of mechanics.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Until Dawn

A character-driven slasher horror mystery adventure puzzle-based survival walking simulator. It's pretty cool.

 

Borderlands Series

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

 

Could Have Been Great

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

 

Do It Again, Stupid

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

 

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.

 

The Best of 2015

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

 

Zenimax vs. Facebook

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

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Fallout 4

Is Fallout 4 the greatest videogame ever made? No. No it is not.

 

How to Forum

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

 

Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3

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

 

What is Vulkan?

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

 

Crash Dot Com

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

 

Linux vs. Windows

Finally, the age-old debate has been settled.

 

Why Batman Can't Kill

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

 

Philosophy of Moderation

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

 

The Best of 2014

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

 

Games and the Fear of Death

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

 

Chainmail Bikini

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

 

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.

 

Bad and Wrong Music Lessons

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

 

A Lack of Vision and Leadership

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

 

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?

 

Pixel City Dev Blog

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

 

Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

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

 

Self-Balancing Gameplay

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Deus Ex:Human Revolution

Is this a masterful improvement on modern shooters, or a dumbed-down bastardization of its predecessor? Can it be both?

 

Grand Theft Railroad

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

 

Was it a Hack?

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

 

Quakecon 2012 Annotated

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

 

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.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

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

 

The Mistakes DOOM Didn't Make

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

 

The Game That Ruined Me

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Marlow Briggs

This game is bonkers. It's wild, it's crazy, and it makes no sense. You have to see it to understand the silly.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Mass Effect 2

What happens when you take a smart game with bland mechanics and turn it into a bland game with servicible mechanics?

 

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.

 

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.

 

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?

 

Free Radical

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

 

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.

 

Silent Hill 2 Plot Analysis

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

 

Project Button Masher

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

 

Best. Plot Twist. Ever.

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

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
SOMA

A game that dares to ask what it means to be alive, what it means to be human, and why should you bother trying to answer the first two questions?

 

Trusting the System

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

 

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.

 

This Game is Too Videogame-y

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

 

Push the Button!

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

 

Project Octant

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

 

Ludonarrative Dissonance

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Assassins Creed 2

Ubisoft tried to pass their horrendous Mary Sue / Da Vinci fanfiction off as an Assassins Creed. Sadly, they got away with it.

 

Silent Hill Origins

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

 

Spec Ops: The Line

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

 

Patreon!

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

 

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.

 

The Best of 2012

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

 

The Truth About Piracy

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

 

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.

 

Diablo III Retrospective

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

 

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.

 

Top 64 Videogames

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

 

Another PC Golden Age?

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Shamus Plays LOTRO

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

 

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?

 

The Middle Ages

Would you have survived in the middle ages?

 

Overused Words in Game Titles

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

 

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.

 

Fixing Match 3

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

 

The Best of 2013

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

 

Playstation 3

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

 

The Opportunity Crunch

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

 

Dear Hollywood: Do a Mash Reboot

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

 

Marvel's Civil War

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

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
The Walking Dead

This game had lots of false choice and barely any gameplay. So what made it resonate so powerfully with audiences?

 

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?

 

Spoiler Warning:
Fallout New Vegas

At last, a game that merges the dark humor and depth of Fallout 1 with the modern gameplay of Fallout 3! Too bad it's so buggy.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Metro 2033

A videogame adaptation of a Russian novel about living in the metro system after the world ends. Successful or not, it's completely unique among shooters.