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!

What is Vulkan?

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

 

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.

 

Internet News is All Wrong

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

 

Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3

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

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

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

 

Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated

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

 

Video Compression Gone Wrong

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

 

Chainmail Bikini

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

 

PC Hardware is Toast

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

 

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.

 

MMO Population Problems

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

 

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.

 

Borderlands Series

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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?

 

Trashing the Heap

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

 

The Best of 2012

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

 

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:
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.

 

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:
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.

 

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?

 

Could Have Been Great

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

 

Linux vs. Windows

Finally, the age-old debate has been settled.

 

Megatextures

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

 

Top 64 Videogames

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

 

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 Mistakes DOOM Didn't Make

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

 

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.

 

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?

 

Are Lootboxes Gambling?

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

In Defense of Crunch

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

 

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.

 

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?

 

The No Politics Rule

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

 

Dear Hollywood: Do a Mash Reboot

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

 

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.

 

The Game That Ruined Me

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

 

Self-Balancing Gameplay

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

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
BioShock

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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?

 

Crash Dot Com

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

 

Starcraft 2: Rush Analysis

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

 

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.

 

The Opportunity Crunch

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

 

Project Frontier

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

 

Bowlercoaster

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

 

Grand Theft Railroad

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

 

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?

 

Philosophy of Moderation

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Spoiler Warning:
Until Dawn

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

 

Ludonarrative Dissonance

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

 

A Lack of Vision and Leadership

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

 

Do It Again, Stupid

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Free Radical

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

 

Game at the Bottom

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Trusting the System

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

 

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.

 

Dead Island

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

 

The Witch Watch

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Quakecon 2012 Annotated

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

 

Quakecon 2011 Keynote Annotated

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

 

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?

 

Object-Disoriented Programming

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

 

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.

 

Twelve Years

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

 

Secret of Good Secrets

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

 

Starcraft: Bot Fight

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

 

The Loot Lottery

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

 

Pixel City Dev Blog

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

 

Diablo III Retrospective

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

 

This Game is Too Videogame-y

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 Middle Ages

Would you have survived in the middle ages?

 

Games and the Fear of Death

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

 

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.

 

How to Forum

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

 

Resident Evil 4

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

 

Silent Hill Origins

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

 

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.

 

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?

 

Netscape 1997

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

 

The Best of 2014

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

 

Silent Hill 2 Plot Analysis

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

 

The Biggest Game Ever

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

 

Steam Summer Blues

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

 

Good Robot Dev Blog

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

 

The Best of 2015

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

 

Skyrim Thieves Guild

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

 

Shamus Plays LOTRO

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

 

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.

 

Hardware Review

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

 

The Disappointment Engine

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

 

Bad and Wrong Music Lessons

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

 

Was it a Hack?

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

 

Playstation 3

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

 

Trekrospective

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Skyrim

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

 

The Best of 2011

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Tomb Raider

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

 

Zenimax vs. Facebook

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

 

Patreon!

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

 

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?

 

Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

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

 

Push the Button!

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Fallout 4

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

 

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.

 

The Best of 2017

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

 

The Best of 2016

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

 

Project Octant

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

 

Overused Words in Game Titles

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

 

The Best of 2013

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

 

Marvel's Civil War

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

 

Spec Ops: The Line

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

 

Spoiler Warning:
Alan Wake

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

 

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?

 

Project Button Masher

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Why Batman Can't Kill

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

 

Best. Plot Twist. Ever.

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

 

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 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.

 

What Does a Robot Want?

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

 

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.

 

Why The Christmas Shopping Season is Worse Every Year

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

 

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.

 

Another PC Golden Age?

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

 

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.

 

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 Truth About Piracy

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