Hypothetical ME4: Five-act Structure and Character Creation

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Apr 4, 2020

Filed under: Mass Effect 75 comments

The last entry covered the overall shape of a hypothetical Mass Effect 4, and how to use stalling and retconning to mitigate some of the difficulties of the ending. Now it’s time to consider what the new game will actually look like.

In the past I’ve warned against the dangers of sticking to a formula too closely. That doesn’t mean that formulas are useless, just that sequel developers should aim for a balance between the familiar and the new. One particular part of the Bioware formula still works relatively well: their typical five-act structure. In it, RPGs are divided roughly into the following parts:

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Hypothetical ME4: Five-act Structure and Character Creation”



What Will Normal Look Like?

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Apr 1, 2020

Filed under: Random 205 comments

I am so far untouched by the Coronavirus. To my knowledge, I haven’t been exposed. Nobody in my friends and family has it, or is worried they might have it. I’m not impacted by any shortages. My job of making content for the internet is as secure as ever. The only direct impact this has on my life is that my wife’s main job is on hiatus. That sucks, but I gather we’re doing okay by the standards of a state-wide shutdown. My only real concern right now is with what’s happening to other people.

It’s April first, but I’m not in the mood for making joke posts. Instead, I just want to blather about what’s going on. It’s fine if you skip this. Unlike most of my content, this isn’t designed to entertain. I’m making this post because the writing process is therapeutic, and this is what my brain wants to think about right now.

Living in Interesting Times

This is a depressing topic, so I'm going to lighten the mood with some fun pixel art screenshots.
This is a depressing topic, so I'm going to lighten the mood with some fun pixel art screenshots.

I’m 48 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Over my lifetime I’ve gotten used to the rhythmic nature of disasters. Oh look: It’s another hurricane, another war, another terrorist attack, another economic downturn, another plane crash, another wave of drug abuse. Horrible things happen and people die, but deep down there’s still a sense of order. “This too shall pass.” We have a sense of how to respond to these sorts of things and we can usually make a pretty good guess about how long it’ll take for the world to get back to normal.

But this time? I have no idea. This is all new to me.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “What Will Normal Look Like?”



 Silver Sable Sucks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

Filed under: Column 107 comments

Like I said the last time I talked about this game, I love Marvel’s Spider-Man Colon This Game Needed a Subtitle. It was my favorite game of 2018. But no game is perfect, and for me the most not-perfect part of Spider-Man was the character Silver Sable. And I want to make it clear this is the version of the character I’m going to be criticizing. She’s been around for decades in various comic books, and I’m sure writers have told many good stories with her. But not this time.

In the comics, Silver Sable is a semi-obscure sometime ally of Spider-Man. She’s not as obscure as D-lister Boomerang, but she’s not as popular as people like Black Cat, either. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #265 back in 1985. While this game isn’t directly connected to any extant Spider-Man continuity, its characters generally don’t stray very far from the design of their comic-book counterparts. Silver Sable is usually a mercenary, often the leader of some sort of military force, and has been known to team up with both heroes and villains. She’s a normal human that relies on fitness and martial arts training to get by in the superhero world.

Not that the game ever tells you any of this. Within the story, you never learn about her character or her powers. She just strolls into the story and casually kicks Spider-Man’s ass in three different cutscenes. In return, she never ends up knocked down, webbed up, or knocked out. Spider-Man never lays a hand on her in these three altercations and you never get to settle up with her in the end.

Attention: I’m going to be spoiling most of the game here, so if you don’t want spoilers than you need to bail now.

Link (YouTube)

Now, the knee-jerk reaction is that it doesn’t make sense that this normal human being should be able to casually brush aside someone as powerful as Spider-Man. While his power level varies from one adaptation to the next, he’s always depicted as having superhuman reflexes, superhuman agility, and the strength to lift several tons. So when Silver Sable shows up and steamrolls him without breaking a sweat, it immediately makes the audience wonder how someone so powerful could lose so badly to a mundane person.

That was my reaction when I played through the game the first time, and I gather a lot of other people felt the same way. Except, I don’t think this is the real problem with Silver Sable. After all, Black Cat is just a regular person with good training, and nobody has a problem with Spider-Man losing to her. Same goes for the Punisher, who has basically the same resume as Silver Sable: Guns, fitness, and training. While I don’t think Spidey ever faced off against Black Widow, I have no problem believing she could outwit and overpower him. Heck, one of Spider-Man’s original foes is Kingpin, despite the fact that Kingpin is just a burly human and Spider-Man ought to be able to toss him into the air with one hand.

My point is that superhero power levels are incredibly flexible and arguments over which characters can or can’t prevail over which other characters are mostly pointless fan wank. So why are we okay with Spider-Man losing to Black Cat, but then we object when he gets beat up by Silver Sable? What’s the deal here? Continue reading ⟩⟩ ” Silver Sable Sucks”



Diecast #295: Haunted Router, Doom Eternal, Graveyard Keeper

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 30, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 95 comments

These are strange times indeed. The news changes by the hour, it rarely agrees with itself, and everyone has a different story. We’re either getting to the end, or it’s only just begun.

I have no idea what’s going on, but I’m just keeping my head down and writing. Hope you’re all safe out there.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes: Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #295: Haunted Router, Doom Eternal, Graveyard Keeper”



Achilles and The Grognard: Acting!

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Mar 28, 2020

Filed under: Video Games 60 comments

The Grognard: The time has come to talk about tone.

Achilles: Is this going to be one of those discussions that ends up being about what words mean?

The Grognard: Yes. Tone is the way a game makes you feel. It comes from everything: visuals, gameplay, sound design, writing, and voice acting. It’s crucially important, yet also completely subjective. In short, the perfect topic for an argument.

It also comes from the ability to push goblins off of high ledges.
It also comes from the ability to push goblins off of high ledges.

Achilles: I don’t know about that. I only have one fairly short argument: the tone seems fine, and I don’t see anything obviously wrong with it. How can you tell, anyway, when we’ve still seen so little?

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Achilles and The Grognard: Acting!”