Achilles and the Grognard: Barrels and Other Sundries

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Sep 21, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 18 comments

Achilles: This game. Is taking. Forever.

The Grognard: That bad, huh?

Achilles: There’s just so much of it! It’s like they finished a full game, and then said “you know what, let’s throw in another sixty hours of side content.”

Firewine Ruins. Yet another mazelike, single-file dungeon.
Firewine Ruins. Yet another mazelike, single-file dungeon.

The Grognard: 1998 was the debut year of the Great Big Honking PC Role-Playing Game, or GBHPCRPG. Baldur’s Gate came out that year, and the series taken as a whole is probably the apotheosis of the form. But Fallout 2 came out just a month earlier, and that was great, big, and honking too. At least when compared to the first in the series. All of the sudden, RPG developers realized it was feasible to make their games almost twice as long as they had been previously.

Achilles: But why? Who asked them to do that? Top Hat Guy’s soul is weary from killing his 43rd spider pull in the Cloakwood. Why couldn’t there just have been 42?

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Game Programming Vexations Part 4: High Level vs. Low Level

By Shamus Posted Thursday Sep 19, 2019

Filed under: Programming 57 comments

Languages are usually described in terms of being “high level” or “low level”. This is usually presented as a tradeoff, and as a programmer you’re obliged to pick your poison.

High vs. Low Level Programming

Wow. This game must have been written in a very high level language. I'm getting vertigo.
Wow. This game must have been written in a very high level language. I'm getting vertigo.

If you’re not a programmer, then I need to make it clear that these two concepts are probably the opposite of what you’d expect. A high-level language sounds like something for advanced programmers, and a low-level language sounds like something for beginners. But in classic engineer thinking, these paradigms are named from the perspective of the machinery, not the people using them.

A low-level language is said to be “close to the metal”. Your code is involved with manipulating individual blocks of memory and worrying about processor cycles. It’s very fussy work and it takes a lot of code to get anything done, but when you’ve got it written you can be confident that it will be incredibly efficientAssuming you’re knowledgeable and experienced, you didn’t create any major bugs, and the limitations of the target platform were made clear to you and were accurate. You know, the usual.. 

A high-level language allows you to express complex actions using very simple bits of easily-written code. It’s easy to write, but often wastes processor cycles and memory. How much? There are arguments all the time over whether the overhead for language X is significant or trivialAnd I’ll bet your viewpoint depends on your domain..

If you want to output the phrase “Hello World!” to the console, then here is how you do that using assembler, the lowest of the low-level languages:

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This Dumb Industry: Raytracing

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Sep 17, 2019

Filed under: Column 115 comments

This article has a companion video. I try to make the article and the video roughly equal in usefulness, but like the old saying: One second of footage is worth 60,000 words. This video shows off some footage from Minecraft with a raytracing mod, and footage from Control with raytracing enabled. There’s something amazing about seeing shadows and reflections update in realtime, and static screenshots can’t really do it justice. As always, you can watch the video or read on for the article…

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Borderlands 3: Second Impressions

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 16, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 115 comments

There’s no Diecast todaySorry., so instead I’m going to do a follow-up to yesterday’s post where I complained that the guns in Borderlands 3 felt weak and ineffectual and the foes were all super-absorbent damage sponges. I had a lot of other gripes with the game, but that was the main one. The responses were very mixed. Some people agreed, some people reported the opposite. Both groups seem to be people who are familiar with the series and I’m sure everyone is giving an honest report of their own experience.

This means we’re probably missing some context. Something about this game is causing different people to report different experiences, and I’m curious to see if we can drill down and figure this out. Please do read the original post if you haven’t already.

So now let’s ask the question…

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Borderlands 3 First Impressions

By Shamus Posted Sunday Sep 15, 2019

Filed under: Video Games 110 comments

I’ve only spent a few hours with the game so far. I just dinged level 18, and the game ends around 30-ish. My lack of progress since Friday’s release is mostly due to my switching between a few different characters. I started out as Moze, who can summon a battle mech. After a few levels of that I tried Zane, a hitman with a bunch of different abilities. I played him until level 18, and then started again as FL4K, a robot with a pet skag.

The game seems to be doing okay with critics. A score of 85 isn’t “OMG Game of the Year”, but it’s still a respectable score. Everyone has a few gripes with it, but the criticism is pretty scattershot. It’s not like everyone is rallying around one or two obvious flaws.

This is baffling to me, since I think there’s a really obvious problem with the game and nobody is talking about it.

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