Knights of the Old Republic EP51: Towers of Hanoied

By Shamus
on Feb 12, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

16 comments


Link (YouTube)

In this episode we argued about the last time we did the Towers of Hanoi on Spoiler Waring. I am 99% sure it was Mass Effect EP8: Oh Crap, a Popup, which originally aired on March 2nd, 2010. For my part, I don’t blame Chris for confusing it with episodes he’s been in. I’ve done the same thing. Wait, I’m not in this one? I could swear I remember being there for the recording?!?

Here is the RocketJump Ft. Key & Peele Sketch sketch I mentioned in the episode.


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Knights of the Old Republic EP50: Zombie Sith Vampire Nazi

By Shamus
on Feb 11, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

37 comments


Link (YouTube)

I suspect that Jorak Uln here must be voiced by someone who did a lot of voice work in the 70’s. When I hear this voice, I get this strange flash of memory for Saturday morning cartoons, back when Hanna-Barbera was one of the giants of the medium, before they become a light snack for Turner Broadcasting. The voice is strikingly familiar, yet I can’t picture a single specific character associated with it.

So mid-way through the previous paragraph it really started bugging me. So I looked him up. This character is voiced by Frank Welker, a man I’ve been listening to my entire life without ever noticing his name. Check out just a partial list of his voices: Scooby-Doo, Fred (From Scooby-Doo), Megatron, Soundwave, Dr. ClawHey! I can do this voice!, Curious George, some Smurfs, some G. I. Joes, a bunch of mid-period Marvel superheroes, Schlepcar and Wonderbug, and – as I suspected – a healthy dose of Hanna-Barbera stuff. He has literally been voicing characters since before I was born.

Which makes me wonder: Welker is the man of a thousand voices. And yet, the creative director chose THIS as the voice of their ancient Sith Lord? Not the Megatron voice? Not something the the Dr. Claw range? None of the other villain voices Welker has done? No? They went with “goofy, overly nasal voice?” That’s an… interesting creative decision.

I can only assume this was deliberate. This “captured in a cutscene” stuff can really irritate players, and maybe making it slightly comic took the edge off. Maybe making him too menacing would run the risk of making this one-off troublemaker into too big a threat. We need Darth Malak to loom large over this story, and we can’t do that if you run into too many other Very Bad Dudes in your journeys. I mean, they already made this guy a Zombie Sith Vampire Nazi. If he also had a cool voice then they might as well dump this Revan clown and make Jorak Uln the main character.


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Mass Effect Retrospective 34: We Fight Then We Die

By Shamus
on Feb 11, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

274 comments

The Alliance calls Shepard to some sort of hearing. This hearing (or whatever this is, they don’t follow any sort of protocol) would have been a great chance to pave over the plot holes of Mass Effect 2 and give us some context for what happened between “I’m going to find some way to beat the Reapers” and “I’m going to sit in this room doing nothing until I’m sent for”.

Maybe show that the Alliance was really, really wrapped up in some secondary problems or conflict that seemed really important to them at the time, which is why they seemed so inert in the last game. Maybe show a political struggle that explains or partly justifies their seemingly odd behavior. Maybe show that they were indeed working on the Reaper threat, but were afraid to tell you because of the whole Cerberus thing. Maybe this is all just an inquiry, so Shepard can explain (to both the Alliance and the players who missed Mass Effect 2) what happened at the Collector base.

As it stands, we know more about what happened in the Rachni wars two thousand years ago than we know what our protagonist has been up to since the end of the last game. This writer must hate worldbuilding.

Ideas? Anyone?

At least there aren`t any Selkath here.

The writer put the Alliance behind a stage curtain last game. At the start of this game they were free to claim whatever they liked about what the Alliance was doing. And they chose to reveal that the Alliance was doing… nothing.

Continue reading »


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Knights of the Old Republic EP49: Ajunta Appalling

By Shamus
on Feb 10, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

34 comments


Link (YouTube)

I know we’re making fun of this poor game, but the truth is I really miss this stuff. Korriban is loaded with worldbuilding. It’s full of history, intrigue, puzzles, characters, and stories. Sure, the puzzles are a little clunky, the characters are arch, and the stories are all trope-y as hell, but it gave the game another dimension. A lot of this kind of content has been sanded off in modern games. You’re either doing combat or someone is explaining where we need to go to get the next batch of combat.


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Ruts Plays CRAWL: Part 1 of Dead

By Rutskarn
on Feb 10, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

24 comments

I’ve been playing a classic dungeon-crawling game to loosen up for my upcoming Patreon series, and since I’m still building up a buffer for my next Tuesday LP, I’m doing a little one-off. Probably a little two-off, actually. Let’s see what happens when failure’s even more guaranteed than usual.

Everybody wants the Orb of Zot, and if you don’t, you’re a degenerate and you need to get the hell out of my office.

What does it do? What does it do? What kind of slackjaw rube question is that?

Nobody knows what it does, you knucklehead. Nobody’s seen it. It’s at the bottom of a rotten daemonic middenshaft bursting with the worst things ever. To get the orb you’re going to need to fight more living things than you have seen in your entire life so far and personally kill all of them. Beast by beast. Room by room. Stratum by stratum. The least messed-up things you’ll see will be snakes the size of horses and rats bred exclusively on living flesh, and within ten minutes, you are going to be powerfully nostalgic for such simple pleasures. Then you are going to get lost. Then you are going to get cursed. Soon you are going to starve–and if you’re lucky you’ll starve to death. You’re going to need to do the unheard of, win impossible victories, and get enough hidden evil magic runes to unlock a unholy antechamber with an unsurvivable anteconfrontation followed by a general-purpose brouhaha–and if you’re legendary enough to survive that, congratulations! The Orb is yours. At least for a few seconds, because now you’re going to have to fight back up except this time evil gods are showing up to kill you personally.

So are you gonna sign the contract or are you gonna wuss out on me?

What’s in it for you? You’re asking about the Dungeon of Zot. You’re asking me why you ought to go down into a hole and die. I do not have the answer to that question. That’s why the lease on this office is “annual”, not “until I’m eaten by orcs doing something an idiot would do.If you had an ounce of sanity and any good reason to live, you wouldn’t go–wouldn’t think about going. You wouldn’t even be asking these questions. You’d be meeting somebody nice at a tavern and splitting a roast chicken or you’d be out on your porch whittling a duck. Look, I can promise you what’s in the contract, which is–in the downright apocalyptic eventuality that get the Orb–a percentage of whatever money turns out to be involved in that. In exchange I give you a weapon, some cheap clothes, a breadstick, and a toothbrush. Is it a good weapon? Well, let me point out to you that I’ve never ever gotten one of these back, so you tell me: am I going to give you a good weapon?

There’s my door. If you don’t have some kind of awful, horrible reason why you need to throw your life away trying to get that Orb–you walk right out there and never come back.

No?

That’s what I thought. Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Continue reading »

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Good Robot #42: The Framerate Unleashed

By Shamus
on Feb 9, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

87 comments

Good Robot has a problem. It’s a strange, goofy, inexplicable problem and I’m pretty sure (60%-ish) that it’s not my fault. Here is what’s up:

Our game is capped at 60fps. That’s fine, except the cap isn’t self-imposed. Oh, I have a frame-limiter in the game, but it doesn’t do anything. If I disable it, the game is still limited to 60fps. Even if I render nothing more than a blank screen, I can’t get the framerate to go above 60. Under those conditions, the framerate should be in the thousands.

Please enjoy this animated gif, which is NOT REMOTELY running at 60fps!

That’s not the problem. It’s certainly a curiosity, and it’s been on my long list of “mysterious stuff that bugs me” for a couple of years now, but it’s not really a threat to the project as a commercial product that will hopefully feed us someday. The more serious problem is that if you try to capture the game footage at all through Fraps, Bandicam, or streaming software, the framerate drops to 30fps.

Continue reading »

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Experienced Points: Rise of the Tomb Writer

By Shamus
on Feb 8, 2016
Filed under:
Escapist

26 comments

Last week on the Diecast I kind of sneered at the story in Rise of the Tomb Raider. In my column this week I kind of back off from that by suggesting that the story is fine in broad strokes, and it’s the over-abundance of needless cutscenes that kills it. And now that the column is up I realized this problem is more widespread than I thought: The cutscenes were the worst part of Hitman Absolution. And like I said in the article, they didn’t do the Thief reboot any favors either.

Square Enix has a bunch of talented game developers working for them, but someone at the top has decided to turn them all into shitty filmmakers. I suspect it will take a few more crappy games and millions of dollars in needless expenses before someone comes to their senses and dials back on this nonsense. The first step is admitting you have a problem, and right now I bet the wannabe movie-mogul behind this is still thinking this is the developer’s fault.

If you were curious about the “laser sauna” rant in the Diecast, below is what I was talking about. Warning! Shamus gets angry and swear-y:

Continue reading »


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Diecast #140: Rise of the Tomb Raider, Massive Chalice, The Witness

By Shamus
on Feb 8, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

54 comments

Yes, the topics for this week look a lot like the topics for last week, but I promise this is a new episode.

We haven’t kept careful track of episode lengths, but I’m pretty sure that sometime in the last few weeks we reached the point where there is now a full week of Diecast. That is, it would take a full week of continuous listening to play through the whole show.


Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster.

Episode edited by Rachel.

Show notes: Continue reading »

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Knights of the Old Republic EP48: Welcome to Sith High

By Shamus
on Feb 7, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

64 comments


Link (YouTube)

Here’s the Mexican Standoff skit I mention in this episode. It’s really good. I also mention the same exact skit in the next batch of episodes, because my memory is terrible.

Chris pointed out how Sith High looks like a Quake level. I think this is due to several factors:

First, this is kind of what you get when you’re under a tight polygon budget but you’re trying to make something “strange” or “alien”. You don’t have the polygons to make (say) rounded arches, round rooms, or other kinds of curved surfaces. The problem is that box rooms and box hallways are the most polygon efficient, but they’re also the most familiar and unimpressive, because we inhabit box rooms here on plain old Planet Earth every single day.

Also, the player needs lots of room. In Quake you need room for the circle-strafing, rocket-jumping tomfoolery that game is built around. Here in KOTOR, you need room because the player has a camera floating about three meters behind them and you don’t want that thing to be constantly bumping into walls. It’s actually really annoying (and for some people, nauseating) if the camera has to keep moving in and then pulling back over and over again as they traverse the space.

So you’re trying to escape the boxy nature of your graphics engine, you need lots of space, you can’t spend too many polygons, and the lighting system won’t cooperate if you try to make anything too smooth. So what can you do? You obviously can’t mess with the flat floor too much, since that will probably be more annoying than interesting, and might confuse the AI or the collision system. So you try making the walls sloped. But that cuts down on the volume of the space and crowds the camera. So instead of having the walls slope at eye level, you have regular vertical walls in the player space, which slope inward (or outward) about two meters overhead.

That’s fine, but now you’ve got this vast empty space above the player, which feels really boring and probably gives them an eye-full of a badly repeating ceiling texture. So you add some crap hanging from the ceiling to break up the emptiness. To justify it being there, you make it a container for a light source. So you end up with something just overhead, made from combining simple polyhedrons. (Mostly cubes.)

That’s really starting to look like Quake now, whether you intended it or not. The fact that this is an ancient ruin on a desert planet pretty much seals the deal, since it traps you into using earth tones for color.

I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that this game looks like Quake. I should be surprised that more games didn’t look like Quake during this time period.

Here’s the Mexican Standoff skit I talked about in this episode. I really like it. It comes up again in the episodes for next week because my memory is terrible.


202020426 comments.



The Altered Scrolls, Part 18: A Time to Kill

By Rutskarn
on Feb 6, 2016
Filed under:
Elder Scrolls

60 comments

I’ve talked about how Skyrim‘s context is frequently inappropriate or poorly constructed, but it must be said that much of the gameplay was built not to rely on it. One of Skyrim‘s most marketed features during previews and early coverage was its “radiant quests,” alternatives to necessarily finite handmade quests.

The idea was that in addition to questlines with unique storylines, voice acting, items, and triggers–quests that required direct and deliberate placement by a developer–it’d be nice to have some NPCs and factions that could generate new ones forever. Obviously these “new” quests follow specific formulae–go somewhere and kill bandits, steal something and bring it back, punch somebody until he surrenders–but the player would never end up exactly repeating themselves, always killing a different bandit in a different fort or punching a different townsperson for a different duration. It was a pretty appealing idea–and the marketing materials knew it. Radiant quests were featured in dozens of early previews as the next grand experiment, the newest and boldest innovation of the franchise.

If you’ve been reading this series, you might recognize radiant quests as “every quest in Daggerfall.” 

Continue reading »

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Knights of the Old Republic EP47: Hardcore Rodian Nudity

By Shamus
on Feb 4, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

77 comments

Before we get started, I’d like to ask everyone to be sure and remind Jacob to hold the push-to-talk button down until after he’s done talking. He’ll appreciate it!


Link (YouTube)

The Sith teachers here apparently didn’t get Revan’s memo advocating pragmatism and strength and just assumed that Sith = LOL MURDUR.

Never spare an enemy! They’re weak and deserve to die.

Right. Unless you think they might be useful later. Or it would be troublesome to kill and dispose of them. Or killing them might provoke someone else to come looking for revenge later. Even if you’re a bad enough dude to handle them, do you really want stuff like that popping up at an inopportune moment when you might have more important stuff to do?

Heck, if a foe is truly so weak they can’t be a threat to you, then it’s in your own best interests to spare them. If word gets around that you can be merciful, then your foes will be more likely to surrender when you’ve got them on the ropes. If everyone knows that surrendering just means you’ll torture them to death, then they will fight to the death and you’ll face greater losses. The most dangerous foe is one with a deep grudge and nothing to lose.

If your goal is to be the strongest, then why bother training anyone at all? Because you need an army, right? But then why do you let the upperclassmen openly murder the freshmen? Slaughtering easy prey won’t make the upperclassmen stronger, and it will probably kill lots of people who have more talent but less overall training than the bullies. Even if you’re totally amoral and care nothing for the life of anyone else, letting murder bullies run rampant in your school is no different than letting vandals run rampant in your palace. This shit belongs to you, and you shouldn’t put up with people destroying your stuff for their own amusement.

Also, is murder the only thing you need to accomplish? Someone needs to sweep the floors, change the light bulbs, and polish the overly ornate techno-throne on your personal star destroyer. Heck, if you kill all the wussy nerds, then who will build you a star destroyer?

And finally, all that internal murder and backstabbing will be a drain on your numbers. Sure, “only the strong survive”, but if you follow this particular Sith code to its logical conclusion, eventually you’ll end up with a solitary, battle-weary Sith remaining. Or maybe you end up with an army of people who are geniuses at poisoning their superiors but are actually rubbish in a stand-up fight. If nothing else, take the losers from your ranks and fling them into battle ahead of you. Rather than killing them yourself, why not make your enemy exert the effort to kill them?

Revan was supposed to be an answer to the short-sighted Jedi. But here we are with an army of treacherous, backstabbing, short-sighted, plotting dipshits. These people threw off the stupidity of the Jedi order. But instead of embracing a kind of hedonistic attitude of reveling in your power, they’ve simply replaced one idiotic dogma with another.

It’s been years, so maybe I’m romanticizing the portrayal of Revan, but in my mind the brilliant strategist does not mesh well with the murderclown circus we see here on Korriban.

2020201777 comments. (Seventy-seven is the smallest positive integer requiring five syllables in English!)



Mass Effect Retrospective 33: Sentenced to Plot-Jail

By Shamus
on Feb 4, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

224 comments

I know I said earlier in this series that I wouldn’t be covering DLC. And it certainly wouldn’t be fair (or wise) of me to attempt to dissect content I haven’t played. But I think we need to stop and at least mention the events and ideas of The Arrival anyway, because of the problems it creates for the main story.

The Arrival


Link (YouTube)

The Arrival was DLC for Mass Effect 2. You can watch the whole thing above. In it, Shepard abandons the team he established in the main game and finds a cult of indoctrinated people who are predicting that the Reapers Are Coming. They even have a countdown timer on the outside of their base, showing how long until the Reapers arrive. Shepard ends up fighting them and then crashes an asteroid into the local Mass Relay to blow it up just as the Reapers arrive, thus slamming the door in their face.

This seems to make a mess of the previous games: How did the Reapers get here? Did they just fly in from dark space? Remember that we saw them all “wake up” at the very end of Mass Effect 2. So how long was it from the end of the second game to The Arrival? A few weeks? Months? If that’s all it takes, then Sovereign and Harbinger are idiots for enacting their plans instead of… whatever caused this to happen. The Arrival retroactively makes Mass Effect 1 dumb and pointless.

But that’s not the worst problem. The worst problem is that we are now dealing with an immensely important plotline that may or may not exist in the main story, depending on whether or not you bought enough DLC from BioWare. This is exactly the dystopian world people predicted when DLC became a thing.

Continue reading »


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