The Gradient of Plot Holes

  By Shamus   Dec 21, 2014   100 comments

A couple of weeks ago we talked about the JJ Abrams Trek movies. Actually we talked about ALL THE TREKS. If I had it to do over again, I probably would have made that a weekly series instead of doing a new Trek every day. There just wasn’t enough time to give each show the attention it deserved.

But talking about the Star Trek reboot got us talking about plot holes and contrivances, because JJ Abrams doesn’t like to burn screen time explaining why things happen when events seem to break the established rules of the world. So, his Trek movies frequently and flagrantly break all kinds of rules and are constantly having things happen simply for the sake of drama.

Pine, Hemsworth, Pratt, and Evans. We have an overabundance of guys named Chris in our blockbusters.

I’ve talked before about Story Collapse. That’s where you keep getting yanked out of the story by things that don’t make sense. The more it happens (and the more seriously it happens) the more you stop thinking about what you’re seeing now and the more you find yourself looking back, trying to figure out how this can all possibly fit together. If the story is a huge mess, then this sort of reflection will just reveal more problems, and trying to sort out those problems will uncover even more, until you have story collapse.

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The Last of Us EP33: Joel’s Sporting Goods

  By Shamus   Dec 19, 2014   55 comments

Link (YouTube)

We spent a lot of time making fun of the stupid church bell, mostly because we were in the middle of a six-hour combat section and had nothing else to talk about. But now that’ I’m thinking about it, what the hell is that bell for? I suppose it exists to let people know of danger, but I think the CONSTANT GUNSHOTS accomplish that. And how does the guy ringing the bell know what’s going on, or if he should stop ringing or start ringing? (Other than listening for gunshots, I guess?) How does this not attract ten thousand zombies?

The scene where Ellie escapes from food prison is so painfully contrived that I can’t stand it. They already have half a dozen dudes hanging up in the meat locker. Plus a horse. Plus a deer. Plus another thirty or so bodies thanks to Ellie and Joel. These idiots have more than enough meat.

But even if they’re going to butcher her now, are they really going to hack her up alive and clothed? Is that how they normally do it? Seems like that would be the messy and extremely dangerous dangerous way of doing things. And then her escape requires David to leave his cleaver where she could reach it, for both of them to fight like dumbasses, and for her knife to be on a shelf right outside the room. What is going on in this videogame?

I’m not even angry. This is just so goofy I actually find the entire sequence disturbingly funny. Two men are trying to chop up a young girl. I should not be laughing right now. I can’t believe all of this happens in the same universe as the tear-jerking scene where Ellie and Riley agree to lose their minds together.

And then at the end they turned David into this ridiculous psycho villain. He was so interesting in that first scene, and now he’s a cross between Hannibal Lecter and Snidely Whiplash. What a big dumb silly sequence.

Thankfully, the worst is now over.

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Bang the Rocks Together

  By Shamus   Dec 19, 2014   24 comments

This was sent to the Diecast email, but it seemed better to answer it in a post. (I don’t think the other hosts are eager to hear me talk about my music.)

So now that Shamus is spending more time and energy on music, and apparently enjoying the crap out of it. Is he eventually going to replace Kevin Macleod as the go to music guy?

Thanks BeardedDork

Someone else suggested putting the music up for sale on Bandcamp. So let’s talk about what I’m doing with this music business.

Continue reading »

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The Last of Us EP32: Joel the White

  By Shamus   Dec 18, 2014   66 comments

Link (YouTube)

At around 14 minutes Ellie gets to this big house, and there’s already Raiders roaming around saying, “Find her!” We’re a mile away from where they thought she was, and they don’t have radios.

Can you imagine what this scenario must look like from their point of view? David said he wanted Ellie alive. So he sent out almost a hundred guys to track her. (It must be that many, assuming we’re not so unlucky that we just happened to run into all of them. I assume there must be still more guys searching all the other buildings in the area.) Instead of the entire group following her trail in the snow, they scattered themselves all over the entire region and began searching all the buildings.

Of course, there is a good reason for this. We needed more gameplay padding here and we already had the sound files for the raiders telling each other to look for the girl.

This is how I picture the design process at Naughty Dog:

  1. Hire supremely talented actors and have them perform a brilliant script on a high-end mo-cap stage.
  2. Have talented artists design gorgeous ruins,brimming with detail and flavor.
  3. Then some asshole comes in and mindlessly fills the space with raiders without regard to tone, pacing, or coherency.
  4. Then an even bigger asshole comes along and notices that there are still a few rooms in the game that don’t have mooks for you to gun down. He fixes this with some quick copy & paste work.
  5. Then Eugene comes along and figures, “If one bandit in every room is good, then two bandits will be twice at good!”

Dammit Eugene. You suck.

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The Last of Us EP31: This is a Lot of Zombies

  By Shamus   Dec 17, 2014   62 comments

Link (YouTube)

I need to draw a line between my various nitpicks. On one side we’ve got my usual bellyaching about logic and too much shooting. This section where we fight zombies with David is like that. It doesn’t make sense for there to be this many zombies, it doesn’t make sense that they haven’t frozen solid, they shouldn’t stage a coordinated assault like this, and the whole section drags on about twice a long as it needs to. Meh. That kinda sucks, but it doesn’t ruin the game. Even if you’re sick of the combat at this point, the damage is contained locally and when the fight is over you can go back to enjoying whatever it is you like.

In contrast, the raider fights are a disaster. This is the place where the oil-and-water approach to game design is most evident and most damaging to the whole. As I’ve said before, I watched this game as a movie on YouTube, and I thought this scene with David was fantastic. It was tense, nerve-wracking, and even a little scary.

But now I’ve watched the chapter as part of the game, and it’s a completely different experience.

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Experienced Points: DRM is Over

  By Shamus   Dec 16, 2014   148 comments

The title is hyperbole, of course. I don’t think DRM is over in the sense that the big publishers are going to abandon it. But it’s over in the sense that we’ve shouted ourselves hoarse trying to get through to the non-gamer executives running these companies, and there’s nothing left to say. My column this week details just how obviously pointless DRM is for any possible purpose.

(Disclaimer: When I say “DRM” here I’m talking about “naked DRM”. Steam is DRM, but it’s DRM PLUS convenience, a store, a community, etc. For the purposes of this article, when I say DRM I’m talking about standalone stuff like SecuROM, Starforce and such.)

In the end, I think what pisses me off the most isn’t the DRM, it’s the fact that the people running these companies have been so completely insulated from their decisions and the debate itself. This, I could live with:

Me: Please stop using DRM. It hurts my experience using your product and doesn’t do anything to stop piracy.

Publisher: Actually, our sales show a measurable benefit when a title is equipped with DRM.

That sucks and I’ll still resent the DRM, but I’ll be happy to offload the blame onto the pirates at that point. I don’t blame publishers doing what they have to do to protect their investment. But in all these years, that particular conversation has never happened. Instead, we’ve had this conversation:

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Diecast #84: Team Fortress 2, Valve, Dragon Age

  By Shamus   Dec 15, 2014   286 comments

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

Hosts: Josh,Chris, Mumbles, and Shamus.

Show notes: Continue reading »

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The Infection

  By Shamus   Dec 14, 2014   58 comments

As I mentioned last Friday, this site was compromised. A friend (thank you so much Peter!) jumped in and we tried to unravel the mess. And when I say “we” I mean, “Peter did most of the heavy lifting and my job consisted mostly of remembering things.” Since I know some of you will be curious about it, I thought I’d share the results.

In looking at the problem, we had several goals and questions:

  1. Is the machine actually infected? If so, with what?
  2. Remove the infection.
  3. Figure out how the infection occurred.
  4. Secure the machine to prevent future infections.

Let’s look at the results:

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The Last of Us EP30: The Life of Riley

  By Shamus   Dec 13, 2014   47 comments

Link (YouTube)

Okay, this is really gross, but I want to… uh… admire(?) the attention to detail on the bites on these characters. Check out the way blood flows out of the wound properly, gets wiped away, and then more flows. That kind of thing must be a monumental pain in the ass to get right. Even movies don’t usually take the time to make it look that good.

Beyond that technical note, I don’t have much else to say. You’ve heard me complain about the bandits already. And I really can’t add much to the emotional moments. This a powerful moment in the story, and Naughty Dog knocked it out of the park.

I suppose we can compare this with WATCH_DOGS, which also tried to use the death of young people as an emotional catalyst. Only WATCH_DOGS was shockingly stupid, clumsy, tone-deaf, inept, badly paced, not-characterized, and transparently manipulative. It’s easy to watch the scene where Bob Watchdog’s niece gets killed by evil hackers or whatever. I can make jokes about it. Heck, I could sing showtunes while while she bled out on the pavement and not feel the least bit bad. But this scene in the Last of Us is so brutal that I had trouble getting through it a second time while preparing this post.

It’s like the moment in the Walking Dead where you make those last few dialog choices with Clementine: This is the kind of moment that sticks with you long after the game is over.

EDIT: OH yes. ONCE AGAIN, some jackass company has decided to block our video because “OH NOES. MUH COPIERITES!”

If I was a AAA developer, I’d be looking for my soundtrack music in the indie scene just to avoid having license-holders block everyone trying to LP my game.

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  By Shamus   Dec 12, 2014   88 comments

EDIT: Should be fixed now. I’ll have another post following up on this once I’m sure it’s gone. Let me know if you see anything fishy that isn’t an actual fish.

So for a couple of months now I’ve been getting these really strange reports from a small group of peopleLess than five-ish? that my site had been “hacked”. Here is one:

Microsoft Security Essentials blocked content on this website
Hosted by:

Microsoft Security Essentials blocked this site because it might contain threats to your PC or your privacy.

And one more:

Got another one. “”

Also: I dropped my laptop and killed my hard drive a few days ago. I just got a new one installed and just now got the OS and everything updated and running. So it’s not a virus or malware on my end that’s doing it, this is a totally new hard drive and your website was just about one of the first ones I went to (after gmail and facebook, and I don’t thinking I’m getting malware from them.)

It’s very temping to say, “With so few reports, this can’t be a problem on my end.” But I want to be thorough. Furthermore, maybe scammers have gotten smarter and have invented malware that goes dormant in some cases instead of relentlessly attacking. “But it seems to work fine for me!” is perhaps the greatest shield a virus can have. It’s effectively a real-world implementation of the SEP invisibility field.

Some facts: Continue reading »

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The Last of Us EP29: All The Emotions

  By Shamus   Dec 11, 2014   107 comments

Link (YouTube)

I seriously need to play this game so I can enjoy this story without all these other guys talking over it. This is really an amazing scene.

Also, some of you might not be able to watch this episode. Because of this:

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The Last of Us EP28: Triangle Harder

  By Shamus   Dec 10, 2014   43 comments

Link (YouTube)

I know a running joke on the show is how we constantly make fun of Josh for playing so bad, but I think we need to drop that gag for a minute and talk about these goofy mechanics. What is going on here? In the first few minutes we can see:

  1. The game gives you a triangle prompt. Press it, zombie dies. Whee.
  2. Game doesn’t give the prompt, no matter how you position yourself, how long you wait, or how close you get. It gives no feedback as to what you’re doing wrong.
  3. The game doesn’t give the prompt, but you can kill the zombie anyway.
  4. The game gives you the prompt, but when you hit the button it insta-kills YOU instead.
  5. Sometimes you can quicktime event out of getting grabbed. Sometimes you just die.

I have no idea. On one hand, I love this game for its characters, story, and gorgeous visuals. On the other hand, it looks like a completely annoying pain in the ass to play.

See, Shamus. If you had PLAYED the game you would understand. The stupid, random, unexplained, and unfair mechanics just reinforce the stupid, random, unexplained, and unfair nature of life in the post-apocalyptic world. This isn’t broken mechanics, it’s an integral part of the storytelling and besides I didn’t have any trouble and I beat the game on hard while drunk.

Goofy gameplay aside, this entire section is completely fantastic. Best videogame photobooth since SBCGFAP.

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