By Shamus
on Feb 19, 2017
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A big part of what I do around here is make lemons into lemonade. If I have a programming problem, I write about programming. If I have a problem with a videogame, I write an article about the videogame. If I have a problem with Uplay, then it’s Tuesday.

So maybe it would be more accurate to say that I take lemons and make them into long complaints about lemons. Whatever. It seems to be working out well enough for us so far.

The point is that I’m not sure my usual technique can work here. I’m just finishing up my worst week in years and I’m way behind on my writing. I haven’t been on this site in days, even to read the comments. I don’t know if I’ll have any content for you this coming week and so I’m trying to do the lemons-to-lemonade thing to fill the gap. Also, having a really good bitch-and-moan can be kind of therapeutic.

On the other hand, I’m not sure if I have anything insightful to say about the mundane experience of getting sick. It happens. To all of us. It’s stupid and miserable and we’ve sort of come to accept it as part of being alive on this planet. It’s like if we just accepted that once every six to eighteen months, you have to take a totally random baseball bat to the face for no reason. Ken comes into work on Tuesday with the left side of his face swollen shut and everyone is like, “Dude! Looks like the baseball bat really got you this year.” And Ken just nods his head like, “Mffgh gh mxxxlt.”

The baseball bat this year was a vicious, hateful, pernicious son of a bitch. I really hate this thing, and it’s frustrating that there’s no way to get revenge on something with no sense of identity, memory, or intelligence. I’d love to go all Liam Neeson on this bastard for what it just did to my family.

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Game of Thrones Griping 4: The Gospel of Jon

By Bob Case
on Feb 17, 2017
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This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

Season six is a mess. I can’t think of any other way to describe it. It starts with nonsense, ends with nonsense, and the middle part is crammed with whatever leftover nonsense they could scrounge up from the bottom of the pan.

One of reasons I’ve had trouble explaining my problems with Game of Thrones to people is that when they ask me “what don’t you like about the writing?” the nearest thing I can give to an accurate answer is “almost everything.” But that sounds churlish and isn’t particularly useful as criticism. I have to organize my griping somehow, and splitting the show up into smaller chunks and them dealing with them in mostly-chronological order is the best solution I’ve come up with. So it makes sense to begin the proceedings by recounting the story of the almost completely meaningless death and resurrection of Jon Snow.

The whole sequence can help illustrate why opinions on the show can differ so much. For those who still trust the writers, and who are still emotionally invested in the show, I suppose I can see how Jon Snow’s death and resurrection was a source of drama and excitement. But for those of us on the wrong side of story collapse, it almost seems like the writers are deliberately yanking our chains for their own amusement. I’m writing this whole thing at least in part as an attempt to form a sort of venn diagram between the two groups. Where is the overlap? Where are the parts of the story that bother all of us? Maybe I can at least describe what this whole mess looks like to me.

The Gospel of Jon

Those of you who watch the show already know that season five ended with Alliser Thorne, Olly, and a dozen of their stooges going all Julius Caesar on Jon Snow for supposedly betraying the Night’s Watch. The opening shot of “The Red Woman” (season six’s first episode) picks up where we left off. Thorne and his co-conspirators apparently just left the body lying in the castle courtyard. Maybe they expected the janitorial staff to take care of it.

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Arkham City Part 4: Dark Souls vs. The Dark Knight

By Shamus
on Feb 16, 2017
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Sometimes Dark Souls players will tell you they like the game because it’s “fair”. This has probably caused more misunderstandings and arguments than anything else about the game, because “fair” is a horribly loaded word with contradictory meanings in different contexts and for different players.

Relative Fairness

Technically this is Lady Justice, not Lady Fairness. Neither of which should be confused with My Fair Lady.

Technically this is Lady Justice, not Lady Fairness. Neither of which should be confused with My Fair Lady.

When someone says fair, which one of these ideas are they talking about?

  1. Everyone competes according to the exact same rules and starting conditions.
  2. Everyone is forced to compete in such a way that victory is equally likely for all participants.

Those aren’t just different definitions, they’re opposing definitions. And yet people will often talk about “fairness” in terms of gambling, sports, board games, and videogames without ever clarifying which concept of fairness they’re talking about. Is roulette “fair” because every space has equal chances of winning, the wheel is unbiased, and the rules are clear? Or is it “unfair” because the odds clearly favor the house? If I play golf against Tiger Woods, is the game “fair” before or after we institute a stroke handicap that allows for our vastly different skill levels?

In Dark Souls, there’s a bit where you can get hit with a boulder. Some dudes roll it down the stairs at you, and if you’re not ready for it then it will pulverize you. It’s a small moment near the start of the game but it’s sort of infamous as a moment of confusion, indignation, or dismay for new players that blunder into it unaware. Let’s compare this to some other games.

In Tomb Raider 2014, there’s a cutscene where Lara stupidly blunders into the villain’s lair, loudly announces herself, and then initiates a confrontation using the worst weapon. Naturally she ends up captured for her trouble. This moment sometimes strikes players as unfair, because they feel they could have avoided this setback if they’d been allowed to retain control of their character.

So the Dark Souls boulder is “fair” because the game doesn’t force you to get run over by it in a cutscene. It’s up to you, your memory, and your reflexes. Tomb Raider is “unfair” because no matter how good you get at the game, you still have to accept this setback of being captured by guys you could easily defeat outside of a cutscene.

On the other hand…

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Hangout: For Honor

By Shamus
on Feb 15, 2017
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Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

As Josh announces on the stream, the next season of Spoiler Warning will be the Dishonored 1 DLC. We’re doing this in preparation for the eventual Dishonored 2 season. We’ll cover another game between these two so 2017 doesn’t end up being non-stop Dishonored coverage.

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Ruts Plays: Reader Survey

By Rutskarn
on Feb 15, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play


I took the night off for Valentine’s DayActually, I’ve worked on something for Patreon backers, but the point is I took it more off than usual., but since by its nature my little tango through XCOM could snag a rug and eat floorboard any second, I figure it’s prudent to start priming the next project. I’m not going to ask for game suggestions exactly–I think I’ve got a pretty tight list–but I do have a more abstract question I’d like you all to weigh in on.

You may have noticed that I’ve got two speeds:

  • LP where I’m writing from the perspective of the central characters and create a narrative one-to-one inspired by my playthrough, such as Half Time, and
  • LP where I’m writing from my own perspective, playing tour guide to a game that’s in some way fundamentally twisted, such as Battlespire.

I’ve had little success merging the two, and think at this point I’m most comfortable with one or the other. But I don’t know which you prefer.

Does one of my house styles work better for you? Do you like or dislike both? Chime in below and I’ll bear that in mind picking the next game.

A Hundred!202There are 122 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

Pseudoku: Understanding the Game

By Shamus
on Feb 14, 2017
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There’s an old saying that programmers use to explain why you can’t use programming to solve particular problems: “You can’t write a program to do anything you don’t know how to do yourself.” The saying is used less these days now that most adults get what sorts of things computers can and can’t do, but back in the day you needed this for the not-yet-middle-aged baby boomers who thought of these new computer gadgets as magical thinking boxesTo be fair to the boomers: People in popular culture were REALLY bad at explaining them, and the movies of the day were full of nonsense dressed up to sound like computer science.. You needed a way to explain why you couldn’t just write a program to solve a crime, cure cancer, predict the stock market, or whatever it is they wanted a computer to figure out for them.

Writing a program to do something you don’t know how to do is impossible for the same reason that it’s impossible to give someone driving directions to a location you can’t personally find.

But the really goofy problems to solve are the ones where you only think you know how to do something, but really don’t. Or you do know how to do it, but not how to explain it.

Playing Sudoku turned out to be one of the latter types of problems.

Let’s jump back in time to January of 2016 when I was working on Pseudoku… Continue reading »

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Diecast #188: Happy Anniversary

By Shamus
on Feb 13, 2017
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Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Josh, Glitch, Campster, and Baychel.

The Diecast is now four years old. In celebration of this, Josh takes us back to our roots and makes the conversation a freeform ramble. Thanks to Glitch for joining in while we were short-handed.

13:45: For Honor DLC

Josh streamed the game last week. The archive will go up on YouTube later this week.

28:00: Bay’s Book, and everyone’s creative projects.

Bay’s Deviant Art page is here, although she’s barely uploaded any content. I know she’s done hundreds of drawings over the years, and she hasn’t uploaded any of my favorites.

43:00: Steam Greenlight

It’s a shame I couldn’t make it this week. I’m putting the finishing touches on a game right now. I don’t have a lot of money to risk on putting it up on the store. I have no idea how many sales I might get, so I can’t count on making my money back. The new system supposedly rolls out in April, but they have no indication on what the new pricing structure will be. Should I rush to get my game out under the old system, or take time and wait for the new? I don’t know what I’m going to do.

Maybe we’ll talk more about this next week.

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Messages From Spammers Pt 3

By Shamus
on Feb 12, 2017
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I’ve tried embarrassing the spammers by criticizing their work. I’ve tried offering constructive criticism. And yet they just keep sending the same broken pointless messages. It’s so strange. It’s almost as if they don’t actually read my site.

Well, let’s try again:

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Impromptu Hangout: For Honor — It’s Over!

By Josh
on Feb 10, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


So we decided to do a stream! And it’s Ubisoft’s man-slashing For Honor beta! Complete with peer-to-peer server problems! Check it out!

Thanks for everyone who tuned in, it was lots of fun. Especially after the game crashed.

20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

Game of Thrones Griping 3: The Gitchy Feeling

By Bob Case
on Feb 10, 2017
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This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

Last week we attempted to locate the “original sin” of the season five Winterfell storyline – the place where it all started to go wrong. My conclusion is that the whole thing never should’ve happened to begin with. From a character motivation standpoint, it was hopelessly broken from the word go. And yet as you’ll recall, the critical backlash centered not on the fact that none of it made any sense but that Sansa’s rape was some mixture of excessive and exploitative. My personal explanation for this centers around something I call the “gitchy feeling.”

The Gitchy Feeling

Check out Bone if you get the chance. It`s a fun (though tragically short) comic.

Check out Bone if you get the chance. It`s a fun (though tragically short) comic.

The phrase itself comes from an oldBy “old,” I mean nineties-era. You know, old. comic book called Bone. I briefly attempted to be a comic book nerd in the fifth grade – it never really took, but I did enjoy Bone, which had an art style and sensibility something like Walt Kelly’s Pogo, another favorite of mine. One of the characters in it is Gran’ma Ben, a salt-of-the-earth homesteader type who sometimes gets the “gitchy feeling,” an omen of bad things to come.

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Arkham City Part 3: A Difficult Discussion on Difficulty

By Shamus
on Feb 9, 2017
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For a long time I’ve been wanting to contrast Batman with Dark Souls. But every time I get into it I realize we’re just going to end up having the same frustrating arguments that always arise whenever someone mentions Dark Souls.

Dark Souls is famous for being “hard”. But then some people will insist, with a straight face, that Dark Souls is “Not that hard” and someone else says the game is “Tough but fair” and someone else says it’s not hard because videogame torture devices like I Wanna Be The Guy exist. Still other people use Dark Souls as a universal metaphor of arduous challenge. As in: “Ghost Peppers are the Dark Souls of spicy food.”

On top of this is the judgemental attitudes people throw at each other over what difficulty level they play on. George Carlin once said:

Have you ever noticed when you’re driving that anyone who’s driving slower than you is an idiot, and anyone driving faster than you is a maniac?

Anyone playing easier than you is a filthy casual noob and anyone playing the game harder than you is a masochistic tryhard.

The point is that some people are really particular about what difficulty levels other people should play on, and so every discussion on what difficulty is ends up getting sidetracked into this side-argument on the “intended experience” and “the right way to play”.

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Unfit for XCOMmand CH4: Driving Prince

By Rutskarn
on Feb 8, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play


Today Fisher was handed his release papers from Avenger County Hospital–along with a puppy sticker, a shotgun, and orders to jump over East Asia into an active massacre. Turns out Rebel City’s being hit by Advent stormtroopers, and if we burn every cloud between here and there we might just save a few of the poor bastards camped out there.

I’ve managed to pick the distress frequencies up on my hospital monitor since we crossed the NFZ. I’m not supposed to, but I am the last great hope of humanity, so the medics don’t actually slap the thing out of my hand. After a few minutes of screaming and booming I kinda wish someone would.

I’d been wondering why those two new rookies decided to sign up with XCOM, even though we’ve lost so many folks, but I guess the wailing speaker gives me a hint. There’s just nowhere safe to stand in this resistance. You sit up straight, you’re gonna be in the aliens’ sights sooner or later–and at least if you join the rank and file you get a gun to shoot back.

I really don’t have it in me to regret signing up for this shindig. I mean, I’m an American; I used to have some ordinance that makes XCOM munitions look like a polite suggestion. I would’ve locked and loaded and got on the bus if the aliens had taken over a Burger King in Tallahassee, let alone the whole world, let alone the whole free world. Honestly, I mean hand to God, I sort of figured all this was gonna happen. I mean, I didn’t know it was gonna be aliens–but I didn’t know it was gonna be not aliens, know what I mean?

But the thing is–that’s just me. Now I’ve seen two ops go south, and I’ve listened to a lot of folks die on radios, and not for myself, but for all those people in Rebel City, I find myself hoping we find some down-and-dirty on these aliens real soon. Find out they were gonna kill us all or fry our atmosphere or turn us all into toilet paper. We better find out they’re up to something real bad, or I’m gonna have trouble looking in the mirror for the rest of my very short life.

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