Ruts vs. Battlespire CH23: Abandon Every Hope

By Rutskarn
on Aug 25, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play



Q: Is it going to have as many bugs as Daggerfall?

A: Ha. Not this time. Battlespire is just entering preliminary beta testing and will not ship until it is bug-free.



“I looked, and there before me was a pale horse. Its rider’s name was Death, and Hell followed close behind him.”


My internet’s been out for two weeks. I’m not saying that’s Battlespire‘s fault. I may have blamed it, in a moment of weakness, but I’m also not saying that it’s intelligent enough to hear my outburst through my microphone–and I am not claiming that a videogame can recognize, contextualize, deliberately provoke and thoroughly enjoy human pain. That would be silly.

The exorcist agrees with me.

I didn’t bring any new screenshots with me today–I’m not quite ready to move on. Technically, I haven’t made any progress since the last session. Which is not the same as saying I haven’t played the game; I’ve played it for hours. I just haven’t progressed.

I haven’t saved my game in two weeks. And there’s a damn good reason for that, as I’m about to share. It just so happens I’ve entered the No Scum Zone.

Allow me to explain.

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11Just 11 comments.

Ding 45!

By Shamus
on Aug 24, 2016
Filed under:


Here we are. Halfway to fifty. That’s terrifying. Fifty is an age for old people. I can’t be old people. Can I? It’s right there in my last name: NOT OLD!

Last year I was worried I might have glaucoma. I finally got around to making that eye doctor appointment I talked about. It turns out I’m fine. I’ve just got a really goofy, non-standard optic nerve.

This wasn’t a bad year. I was nominated for a Hugo award, became a finalist, and then didn’t win. While a win would have been a nice boon, I’m thrilled any time recognition for my work reaches beyond this humble site.

I released Good Robot. It wasn’t a huge success, but it felt good to bring a project all the way to market. Also, I can now go around calling myself an indie game developer, and I’m told that’s really hip with the young people or whatever.

My oldest daughter RachelYou might recognize her as the one who edits the podcast. moved out this year. That’s a bit of an emotional gut-punch, but it’s gratifying to see someone I helped make turn into a capable, confident, motivated adult with goals and skills.

I lost my weekly column at The Escapist. I loved that gig. They were easy to work with and it paid well. A lot of you folks pitched in on Patreon to help soften the blow. Have I said thanks recently? No? Well thanks. I love being able to keep up with basic needs like food, shelter, broadband internet, and graphics hardware.

So goes another year for me. Also Happy Birthday to Stephen Fry, Hideo Kojima, and John Green.

2020201878 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

My No Man’s Sky Play-Through is Broken

By Shamus
on Aug 23, 2016
Filed under:
Video Games


This was originally going to be one of my weekly columns and was going to rebut some of the nasty things people have been saying about No Man’s Sky. If you’re clever enough to read the post title, then you’ve probably figured out why that isn’t happening.

In No Man’s Sky you hop from system to system. Along the way you visit these Atlas space stations where you get a bit of story text, an Atlas Stone, and a pointer to the next station. That pointer is important, because it’s the only way you’re going to find these rare Atlas stations in this sea of stars.

The Atlas stones are also important. You need ten of them to complete the main quest of the gameOr at least, the most central and obviously presented quest.. Of course, the game doesn’t tell you this. No, it just dumps this apparently useless object into your inventory without explanation. You don’t know you need it, but you do know it’s worth a small fortune. If you’ve been following the story of this game you’ve probably heard that the inventory system is excruciatingly limited and that you’re always starved for space to store things.

If you’ve played a videogame before, then you probably know that when you give a player a high-value object with no functional purpose as a quest reward, then the most likely thing they’ll do is sell it. Particularly if they’re starved for inventory space. And especially if you give them ten of the damn things. And especially especially if they don’t stack. That’s basically RPG shorthand for, “THESE THINGS ARE COMMON QUEST REWARDS. SELL THEM FOR MONEY!”

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A Hundred!A Hundred!11211 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

Diecast #164: Looking Ahead, Inside, Quadralateral Cowboy

By Shamus
on Aug 22, 2016
Filed under:


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

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Shamus, Campster.

Episode edited by Rachel.

Heads up: No Spoiler Warning this week. But! Josh and Chris are working on something fun that might hold us over.

Show notes: Continue reading »

A Hundred!2019There are 139 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

Shamus Plays LOTRO #25: One Time, At Bandit Camp…

By Shamus
on Aug 21, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays


And now we come down to the end of Lulzy’s tale. I’ve completed the epic quest lines for both the Hobbit and the Human stories. Both quest chains point to Strider at the end. We’re done with the Foreword and we’ve moved on to Book I. The Hobbit Foreword ended when Halros sent me to find Strider way back in part 19. The Human Foreword ended last episode, when ranger Reniolind sent me to find Strider. And then died. Because of course he did.

I’m in Bree. I’ve just met Strider, and while I think both of us felt a strong mutual attraction I didn’t think it would be fair to expect him to court me while I was still covered in swamp scum. I’ve been to the auction house and picked up some new clothing (at the expense of just about everything I’ve earned thus far) and now I’m on my way back to him.

I stop and wash up a bit in the city fountain and then return to the Prancing Pony, where I treat myself to a quick belt.

Is that a graphical glitch on the bar? That surface makes no sense to me.

Is that a graphical glitch on the bar? That surface makes no sense to me.

That calms my nerves a bit. Taking a deep breath, I head for Strider’s room.

Continue reading »

1818 comments. (18 is the only non-zero number that equals twice the sum of its decimal digits.)

Rutskarn’s GMinars CH6: Storytelling Games, Part 1

By Rutskarn
on Aug 20, 2016
Filed under:
Tabletop Games


So much of learning to run games is about building confidence in your own abilities. My primary goal is to make you assertive, relaxed, and comfortable when sitting behind the screen and your players feel the same way sitting in front of it. Nine times out of ten, a game like Dungeons and Dragons is a good place to start building that feeling. This article is to help you figure out if you’re one of those nine or if there might be greener pastures.

There’s something unusual, risky, even a little perverse in skipping traditional games and going straight to storytelling-heavy games; almost nobody starts out that way. You’re supposed to join a D&D group, play for a year or two, then somebody doesn’t show up–the GM brings out some crusty old paperback joke game he picked up at a convention in 1998 because it had an anime babe on the cover, and with a shared look of dread and suspicion you all agree to play–a lot of six-sided dice are rolled and “wacky” charts are consulted–you have a decent time and everyone agrees, in spite of themselves, that this was a good change of pace–later you hear somebody’s running another one-shot game, and remembering the decent time you had with the last one you show up to find they’re running something Google-translated from a Norwegian subreddit whose title translates to “Hope is Not Always Lost in the Valley of the Giants” that uses “Hope” and “Hopelessness” as its only two stats and is designed to be played for exactly forty-eight minutes at a stretch, ending according to the rules with the death of every single player character–you play it, you have another surprisingly good time, and you think to yourself that if you can enjoy this you should probably be playing more of these things.

I think part of the reason people follow this trajectory is that storytelling games, which are usually abstract and experimental and meant to be self-contained sessions, are forbidding–neither intrinsically appealing nor easy to get into. Like foreign art films or hoppy beers, they’re poor ambassadors because they’re usually directed toward acquired palates and have to be experienced very actively. But for the right kind of person, they might inspire a lot more interest and eagerness as a first exposure than The Avengers or a St. Pauli Girl would.

So instead of offering a blanket recommendation or non-recommendation, let me break down what story games are and why they’re difficult.

Continue reading »

202020161 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

Fallout 4 EP33: Meanwhile, Explosions

By Shamus
on Aug 19, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I think this is a first for Spoiler Warning. Mumbles didn’t make it this week. Chris wandered off or got distracted. My computer crashed. This means we were down to a single commenter – brave Rutskarn – who could not himself see the the stream. For a brief moment, nobody was watching Josh. It’s a miracle the show survived.

When Rutskarn was talking about a game that he worked on, he was referring to Will Fight for Food, a game that seems to be constructed with the premise of “What if there was a roleplaying game where you could beat up NPCs that annoy you?”. I got some genuine laughs out of it, and the trailer is brilliant.

Also note the point at 5:50 where Rutskarn totally nails the rhythm and style of the typical Twilight Zone outro. He does this without preparing beforehand. He makes it up as he goes, and is able to get all the way through without pausing or breaking character. I occasionally imitate the writing styles of other people. Sometimes I even imagine I’m good at it. But I can’t do it live, without preparation, while also doing a vocal impression. So that was a humbling moment for me.

So that was the Silver Shroud quest. Maybe it was a great quest, maybe it was merely adequate, but most people seem to agree that it was one of the high points of Fallout 4.

202020205There are now 85 comments. Almost a hundred!

Fallout 4 EP32: BOOM You’re Dead

By Shamus
on Aug 18, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Let the record show that all three of the deaths so far this week have been from explosions. Like I’ve said before, explosive damage vs. the player is OP relative to all other damage types in the game.

You can’t bring up gender or sexuality these days without being dragged into the ongoing culture war. Even when you’re dancing on the edge of these topics, all it takes is one person with an axe to grind to send the whole thing spiraling out of control.

But we’re going to try anyway, because I have faith that you folks are reasonable and level-headed, even though you come from a lot of different points on the political spectrum. Just be cool and remember that the people who disagree with you aren’t villains. Also remember that a lot of us are coming from part of the internet where people are not so nice, and that tends to make people defensive.

Anyway, preamble over. The question Rutskarn presents is this: What do we think of games where your companions have player-oriented sexuality? People aren’t “gay” or “straight” but instead “attracted to whatever the player is”.


Continue reading »

A Hundred!A Hundred!17217 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

Final Fantasy X Part 10: Guadosalam

By Shamus
on Aug 18, 2016
Filed under:


As I mentioned earlier in the series, creepy Seymour is a Guado, one of the other races / factions of Spira. It’s yet another way that the Final Fantasy distinguishes itself. If this had been written by a western developer, they would have just made them Elves. (And the Ronso would probably be Orcs.)

Seymour invites the party to his home in Guadosalam for a very creepy dinner of villainous exposition. His servants all praise him, he says vague grandiose things that nobody questions, and it basically feels like you’ve walked into a cultist’s compound. He asks Yuna to marry him. He offers her one justification for the decision, but he also tips his hand as to the real reason he wants to do this.

His stated reason is to make the people happy. He claims to be a big fan of his father’s efforts to have warmer relations with the rest of Spira. Yuna is the closest thing Spira has to royalty, since a great deal of respect is given to summoners who bring the Calm. Seymour is the leader of the Guado and Yuna is the daughter of the last High Summoner. This would make a pretty good political marriage.

It’s also a good marriage from the standpoint of public theater. Yuna is the young and beautiful champion of the people, fighting to bring the calm. Seymour is the young new Maester and he’s pretty popular, particularly after the spectacular display of power that saved the Blitzball arena from fiends at the end of the tournament. Seeing them marry each other would make for a pretty good celebrity marriage.

But his real reasons are (surprise!) sinister and insane.

Continue reading »

2020201979 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

Fallout 4 EP31: Neoclassical Post-Apocalypse Fantasy Cyberpunk Noir

By Shamus
on Aug 17, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I love Rutskarn’s idea of someone trying to coach the Supermutants to say cool one-liners, but they come out horribly mangled because they supermutants are too dumb to grasp the idioms at work. So I thought I’d try to take some famous bad-ass phrases and imagine them shouted by a moron who didn’t understand their own words:





This is fun. Try it.

A Hundred!2020206Many comments. 166, if you're a stickler

Ruts vs. Battlespire CH22: Touching the Hand is Optional

By Rutskarn
on Aug 17, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play


It’s safe to say that playing Battlespire demands my full attention. When my deadlines and lukewarm professional reputation depend on figuring out why my god damn longsword won’t equip, and the documentation to assist me is a nakedly speculatory shrug of a wiki article written by third parties–who are the only other people to have played the game, very possibly the only people to have enjoyed it–I end up needing the kind of laser-focused attention that in a less wasted life might build navies or cure eczema. Battlespire, in short, is not a game to play with a movie on in the background.

Which makes it an interesting, probably even unique experience among dungeon crawlers. There’s not much going on at the surface level–watch me go through this level and you’ll see me swimming around, killing any daedra obstinate enough to block my way, chugging potions, and searching for little levers, just like in a hundred other little RPGs nobody remembers. I’d say it even aspires to be the average door-to-door fightfest. But when any number of factors from jumping to walking to standing overly still could mean getting stuck or taking inexplicable damage, every section is pregnant with the worst kind of tension. So it’s nice to have the occasional riddle or challenge break things up–it’s nice to know that broadly speaking, being baffled or fascinated is the intended effect.

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20424 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.

This Dumb Industry: The Biggest Game Ever

By Shamus
on Aug 16, 2016
Filed under:


So No Man’s Sky is out, and everyone is talking about how “big” it is in terms of playable gamespace. Way back in 2010 I did a video talking about how FUEL was the “Biggest Game Ever” according to the Guinness Book of World Records. (With a qualifying asterisk that it was merely the biggest on any console.) so I guess now is a good time to revisit the topic.

Link (YouTube)

Having said that, talking about the “biggest” or “best” or “smartest” game ever is a ridiculously troublesome and unrewarding task, because you’re just opening yourself up to death by a thousand quibbles.

I made that video because I love talking about procedural worlds. I love talking about how they’re built, how we explore them, how to fill them with interesting content, and the unique rendering challenges they introduce. Which means that for me, that video has officially the Most Annoying Comment Thread on YouTube. Because none of those people want to talk about any of that.

Continue reading »

A Hundred!20209We've got 149 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.

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