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!

In Defense of Crunch

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

How to Forum

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

 

Steam Summer Blues

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

 

Netscape 1997

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

 

Games and the Fear of Death

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

 

Patreon!

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

Trekrospective

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

 

Was it a Hack?

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

 

Megatextures

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

 

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.

 

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?

 

Do It Again, Stupid

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

 

Free Radical

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

 

Shamus Plays LOTRO

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

 

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?

 

Chainmail Bikini

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

 

Silent Hill 2 Plot Analysis

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

 

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.

 

The Mistakes DOOM Didn't Make

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

 

Are Lootboxes Gambling?

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

 

Skyrim Thieves Guild

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

 

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.

 

Philosophy of Moderation

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

 

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.

 

A Lack of Vision and Leadership

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

 

Good Robot Dev Blog

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

 

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.

 

What Does a Robot Want?

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

 

The Best of 2013

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

 

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?

 

Playstation 3

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

 

Dear Hollywood: Do a Mash Reboot

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

 

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.

 

Diablo III Retrospective

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

 

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.

 

Borderlands Series

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

 

Internet News is All Wrong

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

 

The Best of 2016

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

 

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.

 

Dead Island

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

 

Trashing the Heap

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

 

Resident Evil 4

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

 

Game at the Bottom

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

 

Project Button Masher

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

 

Hardware Review

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

 

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?

 

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.

 

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.

 

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.

 

Another PC Golden Age?

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

 

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.

 

Batman: Arkham Origins

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

 

Video Compression Gone Wrong

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

 

The Best of 2012

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

 

The Game That Ruined Me

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

 

Ludonarrative Dissonance

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

 

Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

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

 

Quakecon 2011 Keynote 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.

 

Twelve Years

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

 

Marvel's Civil War

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

 

Push the Button!

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

 

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.

 

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.

 

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 Batman Can't Kill

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

 

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?

 

Starcraft: Bot Fight

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

 

MMO Population Problems

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

 

The Disappointment Engine

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

 

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.

 

The Best of 2017

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

 

Fixing Match 3

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

 

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.

 

Silent Hill Origins

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

 

Spoiler Warning

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

 

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 2014

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

 

The Middle Ages

Would you have survived in the middle ages?

 

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.

 

Pixel City Dev Blog

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

 

Why The Christmas Shopping Season is Worse Every Year

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

 

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.

 

Trusting the System

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

 

The Biggest Game Ever

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

 

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.

 

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 Strange Evolution of OpenGL

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

 

Grand Theft Railroad

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

 

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.

 

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 Opportunity Crunch

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

 

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 2011

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

 

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 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.

 

Project Octant

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

 

Project Frontier

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

 

Quakecon 2012 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 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.

 

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?

 

Spec Ops: The Line

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

 

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.

 

PC Hardware is Toast

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

 

Crash Dot Com

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

 

Object-Disoriented Programming

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

 

Bad and Wrong Music Lessons

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

 

This Game is Too Videogame-y

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

 

The No Politics Rule

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

 

Linux vs. Windows

Finally, the age-old debate has been settled.

 

Top 64 Videogames

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

 

Zenimax vs. Facebook

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

 

Bowlercoaster

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

 

Quakecon Keynote 2013 Annotated

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

 

Self-Balancing Gameplay

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

 

Could Have Been Great

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

 

The Witch Watch

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

 

Secret of Good Secrets

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