Shamus Plays WoW #14: Thinking Inside the Box

By Shamus
on Jan 22, 2017
Filed under:
WoW

5 comments

What a lovely day for... uh. What are we doing again?

What a lovely day for... uh. What are we doing again?

“Explain to me again what we’re doing?” I ask Norman. It’s been almost fifteen minutes since we killed somebody so I haven’t been paying attention.

Norman holds up a cardboard box and shows it to me, “New Shoe Lou – or whatever that idiot’s name is – gave us this box. He said to go into the Jangolode mine, walk to the back, and get in the box.”

“I thought we were investigating a murder? Why are we moving into a cardboard box?”

“I guess we’re supposed to spy on somebody? Look, I have no idea. I’m just happy that for once we’re going to go into a mine without needing to fight dozens of…”

A Kobold Digger, which is TOTALLY Different from a Kobold Delver, a Kobold Tunneler, a Kobold Hole-maker, and a Kobold Unearther.

A Kobold Digger, which is TOTALLY Different from a Kobold Delver, a Kobold Tunneler, a Kobold Hole-maker, and a Kobold Unearther.

“…kobolds.” Norman hangs his head in defeat, “Do we have ANY mines that AREN’T kobold cities?”

Since this is some sort of police stakeout, we inconspicuously murder our way through the tunnels, leaving a clandestine pile of mutilated kobold corpses in our wake.

Continue reading »


5Five easy comments.



Until Dawn EP18: Jimmy Flamethrowers

By Shamus
on Jan 20, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

107 comments


Link (YouTube)

The Firebat tells Chris, “The Wendigo, he keeps you alive and aware and feasts on your organs one at a time.”

Uh. Unless the Wendigo has a medical degree, he does either one or the other. There are a small number of organs you can live without, but if the Wendigo begins grabbing stuff based on convenience then you’ll bleed out, pass out, or otherwise stop being alive before he gets very far into the meal.

But I guess the Stranger got proven wrong less than a minute later.

It’s obvious he needed to die. Nothing kills the tension like having a hyper-competentWe’re grading on a curve, here. badass looking out for you, and nothing raises the stakes like the bad guys taking out your strongest ally. On the other hand, this couldn’t be more brute-force if the writer reached into the frame and yanked the Stranger off stage like an unpopular vaudeville act. He died pretty much the instant his exposition had been delivered.

If nothing else, cut to some other part of the story for a bit so the two things aren’t right next to each other in the minds of the audience.


A Hundred!7107 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!



Until Dawn EP17: Bad Cop / Dumb Cop

By Shamus
on Jan 19, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

83 comments


Link (YouTube)

The interrogation of Josh was pretty annoying because it kept asking you to choose between two things that said the same damn thing, and then Josh would reply with more crazy person nonsense instead of making his case. Josh could say something like, “Hey, remember your prank from last year that killed both of my sisters?” It doesn’t justify what he’s done, but it might give the other two something to think about.

Josh kept saying things that would enrage Mike. Mike was all bloodlust and no thought. Chris was constantly choosing between two things that don’t seem to matter. All of these things are justified, of course. Josh is crazy. Mike is a hothead. Chris is indecisive. They’re dumb teens and they’re acting according to their established character. This happens all the time in movies. Because of emotions, lack of information, immaturity, or character faults, characters often do things that are obviously counterproductive to those of us in the audience. In fact, that’s a big part of what drives this genre. “Oh no. Don’t go out in the dark alone. Just wait until morning.” Running against the wishes of the audience creates tension and suspense.

The problem is that this isn’t a movie. It’s a videogame. When you pop up a dialog choice like this, you’re getting the audience involved. The goals of the audience (stop people from being destructive) runs counter to the goals of the writer (smash characters into each other to create conflict) and it’s really hard to resolve that without situations like this, where the audience is frustrated with the offered choices.

I don’t know how I’d fix this scene. The choices are annoying. If you take them out you get a huge cutscene with no interactivity. If you make the choices better then they become false choices because the game won’t react to them. If you have the game react to them (perhaps Chris talks Mike into being gentler so they can properly interrogate Josh and discover he really wasn’t involved with Jess) then it would defuse this situation and avoid a lot of the chaos that follows.

Also, what’s the deal with The Stranger? Why is he trying to clean the monsters out of the mine? At night? Why not just seal it up? Or wait until daytime when they’re supposedly dormant?

Also also: Now that the big reveals have happened, I can say the writer has been cheating like crazy. In light of these revelations, the scene where Jess is kidnapped is total nonsense. Apparently Jess was grabbed by a monster. As we’ll see later, they can decapitate a human in one swipe. But instead the monster dragged her away while she struggled? And the Stranger was coincidentally nearby? He was close enough to the action that Mike thought he was involved, yet he didn’t hear the screaming or react? “Huh. There seems to be some sort of drama going on nearby. I guess I’ll make no effort to investigate. Instead I’ll just alternate between walking very slowly and then magically teleporting when nobody’s looking.”

I’m willing to allow for foolish characters, coincidences, movie physics, and characters that have trouble seeing things off-screen. But the writer still needs to obey the basic rules of time and space.


202020203There are now 83 comments. Almost a hundred!



The Battle for Late Night Television

By Shamus
on Jan 19, 2017
Filed under:
Television

138 comments

 

Warning: In this post I’m going to attempt to portray American television executives in a semi-favorable light. This is a difficult stunt that should only be attempted by trained professionals. Or idiots. Do not try this at home.

Johnny Carson was the man. He still is. Nobody has held the top slot on late night for as long as he did. Given the fragmented state of pop culture and the proliferation of late night shows, this is not going to change in my lifetime. We will never see another Johnny Carson.

It’s difficult to impress on young people just how powerful his reach was. 6.5 million people watched him every night. That’s about double what YouTube giant PewDiePie averages. But saying he’s “twice as popular as PewDiePie” is really underselling just how omnipresent Carson was. PewDiePie gets his 3 million viewers in a world of 3.2 billion internet users. Carson got his 6.5 million viewers from a potential audience of 220 millionThe population of the United States at the end of the 1970’s. Americans. To put that in perspective 1 in 1,000 internet users watch PewDiePie, while 1 in 34 American Television viewers watched Carson. Which means that in the U.S. everyone, everyone knew who Johnny Carson was.

Most of my extended family has never heard of PewDiePie, Philip Defranco, RayWilliamJohnson, or any of the other YouTube giants I can’t be bothered to look up right now. In fact, I’d never heard of RayWilliamJohnson either, and I’m on YouTube all the time. I didn’t know who he was until I typed “most popular youtubers” into Google three minutes ago.

This is not to belittle the accomplishments of those YouTubers. I’m just saying our culture has changed so that – outside of perhaps world leaders – nobody can ever be as universally recognized as Carson was in the United States.

Continue reading »


 
A Hundred!2018There are 138 comments here. I really hope you like reading.



Until Dawn EP16: Skeleton Time

By Shamus
on Jan 18, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

57 comments


Link (YouTube)

At the start of the episode I referred to the fact that Emily ought to be dead, but then I blanked on what specific event should have killed her. Now I remember: It was the part where she was on top of a massive metal tower that collapsed, fell into a hole, and landed on top of our quarrelsome lovebirds. I’m sure they survived because they were under the effect of movie physics, where you’re only impacted by acceleration happening within your local frame of referenceYou can ask people who have been in airplane accidents why this isn’t true. Or rather, you can’t ask them. Which is kind of the point I’m making..

One details that’s confusing me: There’s a grave marker for Beth. But Beth wasn’t buried. And she’s not terribly close to the sign. If the game is saying that Hannah made the sign for her sister, then why didn’t she put the sign near the body? And Beth’s body isn’t eaten, which is confusing considering what’s lurking down here.


20201757 comments. It's getting crowded in here.



Unfit for XCOMmand CH1: Gasping King

By Rutskarn
on Jan 17, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

81 comments

I don’t know what happens after you die, but I do know what happens when an XCOM soldier almost dies–and whatever does or doesn’t lie beyond the grave, it can’t be much worse than post-apocalyptic guerrilla military hospital food. Today it’s porridge. You can make porridge out of anything, and apparently, they have.

Fisher says he doesn’t mind it. Fisher is liar, and in direct consequence, one of the most reassuring members of the unit. He and I have some disagreements about Operation Gasping King.

“It’s a simple clean-cut operation,” he says. “The rookies are ready to go, and Donny will be there to cover their backs. I say it’ll go down with no serious problems.”

“They’re all gonna fuckin’ die,” I suggest.

“You don’t have any faith in the Commander. Operation Gatecrasher went down alright, didn’t it?”

I look over the infirmary, current site of the Operation Gatecrasher afterparty, still going strong after nearly a week. “If the plan is for us to develop a tolerance to alien grenades, then we’re off to a strong start.”

Fisher shushes me–the snow is clearing from the operations monitor set up by the surgical table. We’re not supposed to be watching this, since we’re in recovery, but the medics aren’t real doctors and they can all eat my ass.

Not that I`m knocking them. After all, we`re sure as shit not real soldiers.
Not that I'm knocking them. After all, we're sure as shit not real soldiers.

Continue reading »


202020201There are now 81 comments. Almost a hundred!



Dénouement 2016 Part 4: The Good Stuff

By Shamus
on Jan 17, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

68 comments

Okay we’re done complaining now. 2016 wasn’t all bad. In fact, it was a pretty good year in terms of released games. I guess it would have to be. In a year with this many games, some of them had to be good.

Let’s talk about some of my favorites…

Continue reading »


202020868 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



Diecast #184: Nintendo Switch

By Shamus
on Jan 16, 2017
Filed under:
Diecast

93 comments

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

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster and Baychel (editor).

No show notes this week. The whole thing is pretty much a Nintendathon. For those that didn’t see it, the full Nintendo presentation is after the jump.

Continue reading »


2020202013There are now 93 comments. Almost a hundred!



Shamus Plays WoW #13: Dial M for Meme

By Shamus
on Jan 15, 2017
Filed under:
WoW

31 comments

Our journey has carried us to the land of Westfall, where there’s more sunshine, bigger farms, stronger monsters, and basically the exact same breed of idiot that we’ve been dealing with so far. My master Norman is still set on ruining himself by helping others, and I’m trying to save him.

There’s a wrecked cart in the middle of the road, attached to a dead horse. The cart’s owners are nearby, face-down in the dirt.

Maybe they were trampled by the millions of alts that have passed through here over the years.

Maybe they were trampled by the millions of alts that have passed through here over the years.

Have you ever tried to get directions from old people in a small town? “Yeah, go down the road until you get to the flower shop that used to be a gas station, then turn right and go until you get to the empty lot that used to be a Denny’s. Turn left, and head on past the old school.” I think it’s kind of impressive how someone can have numerous overlapping versions of a city in their head, keeping track of not just what a place looks like now, but how it looked thirty years ago. Although it does make their directions incomprehensible to young people.

World of Warcraft is now suffering from this.

Pre-Cataclysm, these two idiots were standing here along with their horse and a loaded cart, giving out quests. Their story was that they had been driven from their homes by bandits and were fleeing Westfall. Their quests had you running around, gathering up stuff for them. One quest had you get feed for their horse by running around swiping sacks of oats from other farms.

So now quests and locations are often references to how things used to be. This is not a bad thing, it’s just odd to see this phenomena appearing in a virtual world.

...on top of the horse.

...on top of the horse.

We have arrived in Westfall to find a murder scene. One detective Horatio Laine is conducting an investigation. Since Norman is a rube, he stops to see if our help is needed.

Continue reading »


201131 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Until Dawn EP15: Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin’?

By Shamus
on Jan 13, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

80 comments


Link (YouTube)

This episode was really frustrating for me. We got to the part of the game where it’s begun to reveal stuff, but because I’m not playing I can’t tell what’s going on, and every time I asked the other hosts they were cryptic.

I thought we agreed that Chris wouldn’t shoot anyone and he would simply wait for the sawblade scenario to play out. But then right at the end he pointed the gun at himself and there was a gunshot sound. I couldn’t tell if the game forced that to happen, or if Josh Viel did that. Then later we get a tape recording of the killer rehearsing, but because we were talking over it I couldn’t hear the voice. (Watching the episode now, it sounds like Josh to me, which the “cut in half” gag sort of already gave away.)

So yeah. This is a really sub-optimal way to experience the game. There’s a week (or even a month!) between chapters, I can’t quite hear everything, and I can’t always tell player action from events mandated by the developer.

Despite all of this, I’m still pretty into it. I’m seriously doubting all of this will make sense in the end, but I’m genuinely invested in these characters and I want to see what happens to them. Also, I haven’t completely rejected the world. I haven’t gone through story collapse. Maybe the big reveals will work and maybe they won’t, but after such an interesting journey I’m still invested enough that I want to see them for myself.


20202020There are now 80 comments. Almost a hundred!



Until Dawn EP14: Total Buzzkill

By Shamus
on Jan 12, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

56 comments


Link (YouTube)

Chris sees some freaky stuff on a Ouija board, gets ambushed by a psycho in a clown mask, saws his friend in half, and walks through a madhouse where doors open and close on their own.

Ashley: OH NO I SAW A SPOOKY THING!

Chris: Now, let’s not be too hasty.

Apparently the killer transferred digital footage into 35mm black and white film? I get that our killer is probably insane, but nobody’s THAT insane. A hope they AT LEAST edited the footage digitally before transferring to film, because otherwise that’s going to give me nightmares.


20201656 comments. It's getting crowded in here.



Crash Dot Com Part 10: Blame Goes Uphill

By Shamus
on Jan 12, 2017
Filed under:
Personal

97 comments

So now I’ve told my story. It didn’t end with a bang, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I realize this might be a bit of a let-down for the reader. We had all of this buildup of stress and tension, only to have the story end without any fireworks. Not only did Chekhov’s gun never go off, but it turns out Chekhov pawned it halfway through the second act, and anyway it was just a replica. While this makes for a dud of an ending, for me it was a tremendous relief. I’m very glad I didn’t have to live through any fireworks.

But as a way of artificially creating a sense of having some kind of denouement, let’s try to figure out what I learned. These events left a huge impression on me, and that has shaped how I view business, leadership, and accountability. In turn, that has shaped a lot of the articles I’ve written over the years.

What Went Wrong?

It ends with you, too.

It ends with you, too.

Like most of the other dot-coms, the virtual mall guys built something nobody wanted or needed, and it went bust. I can’t say for sure what went wrong at the top, because I never had a clear picture of who owned what or which people were in charge of which others. I couldn’t see anything going on above my bosses.

But from my viewpoint in the trenches it seems pretty clear that everyone embraced a fundamentally flawed idea to put a layer of videogame on top of a regular web store, and then tried to do it in too much of a hurry. Lots of business types jumped in, thinking that their previous experience at running companies would see them through in this new frontier. Their weakness was that they were so uninformed about technology that they couldn’t see just how serious their knowledge deficit was. They didn’t know what they didn’t know.

Continue reading »


2020202017There are now 97 comments. Almost a hundred!




From the Archives: