Spoiler Warning Episode 100:
Probing Questions, Part 3

By Shamus
on Feb 10, 2011
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

I don’t know what sort of temporal garbage disposal we pass through every week, but every Sunday night we misplace several hours. I sign on at 9pm, hang out with the Spoiler Waring crew for an hour and a half, and then sign off again at 2:30am.

I distinctly remember us losing at least two hours to this conversation, but here is, somehow fitting into four 15-minute episodes. I don’t have any explanation for this. Perhaps a DeLorean is involved.

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A Hundred!207There are 127 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. Will says:

    Gotta love relativity.

  2. Robyrt says:

    You realize this means you have to do Arkham Asylum now.

  3. Sydney says:

    Ooh, new look! Love the new header. Much more distinctive.

    The Shamus avatar looks misplaced because it’s underneath the giant YouTube embed. I know it isn’t misplaced, but it’s odd having the marker halfway down the post. Maybe it’s because I’m not used to it, but having this avatar there constantly is more jarring than occasionally having to glance up at the byline. Most posts are by you, after all, and you wouldn’t put “Shamus here” at the start of them all.

    …I see what you mean about nitpicking because you love.

  4. Alexander The 1st says:

    Mumbles outburst about not being a dork reminded me of this:

    http://xkcd.com/747/

    There’s a more detailed chart in the thread for the comic, which is why I associate it with the distinction.

    Also, Nixon vs. Clinton?

  5. Josh R says:

    I’m not sure that beginning to look at the plots in detail ruins games universally, at least I know I don’t get worked up about these things, and I’ve watched every episode of spoiler warning.

    Though, perhaps by only watching it I’m not getting the full shamus effect that makes you hate plot holes.

    • Will says:

      After a dry spell i’ve recently started reading books again, mostly fantasy and sci-fi, and it’s actually had a massively negative impact on my enjoyment of the stories in games. It wasn’t until after actually studying game design and now reading high quality written stories that i noticed just how bad the writing in most games is. Some rare games manage to just about qualify for ‘decent’, but i can’t think of a single game where the story was even remotely comparable to high quality books.

      Now; some of this can be put down to the interactivity. An interactive story is measures harder than a linear one, and games typically require a number of concepts that are actively antithetical to good storytelling (defeating large numbers of enemies is one of the most obvious examples), but even that doesn’t account for the generally poorly executed and cliche storylines that most games exhibit.

      Even when i look back and analyse games that had stories that really wowed me in some way, Jade Empire for example, it’s typically only one part of the story that is actually impressive, usually some plot twist or concept that is executed flawlessly (Bioshock’s reveal is another example), the rest of the story is generally fairly poor.

      Given the general opinion the Television industry seems to have towards good scriptwriters, it doesn’t actually surprise me that the video games industry has a similar opinion towards the same. Add in the inherant complications of the media and you have a good mixture for bad plot.

      However, the industry is taking steps in the right direction, so there is hope yet.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Planescape:torment can easily go one on one with most good books,and half life still is the pinnacle of story delivery.

        Some of the older adventure games also have pretty decent narative,even if they use cliched stories,like monkey island games,for example.

        Starcraft also has pretty decent narative,and warcraft 3 is up there,even if its a bit bland.

        Then theres psychonauts,which is also great in how it presents its story to the player.

        I would add sands of time on the list,but with that game Im sure its just time traveling that makes me go “Squeeeee!”,and it hasnt got much substance beneath it.

        Or how about silent hill?Though its more of a mood game,it still hase a story in it.

        • Volatar says:

          Half Life 2 is best compared to a movie rather than a book though.

        • Hush says:

          The stories in games that I think are strongest are actually in games with virtually no story at all-there are checkpoints, and ways of reaching these checkpoints, but how you reach these checkpoints are completely up to you. Even then, what happens on the way is bound to be completely different from someone else’s run. Two people will play the same game and tell completely different stories about it, based on random events, playstyles, and choices. Games that create individual experiences, not tell conventional stories.

          Take Pokemon, for example. Pokemon has practically no story to speak of-you beat the gym leaders, then take on the Elite Four, and on the way you beat both a terrorist organization(single-handedly) and a tenacious jackass who calls himself your rival(repeatedly). But everyone I’ve talked to has taken something different away from the game-which fights were toughest, what team works best, how they caught the legendaries, etc.

          I’ve actually been having similiar thoughts about X-Com, which I picked up recently. My first encounter with chryssalids, which have practically traumatized some players, was comparatively tame(and damn lucky, if the campfire tales I’ve heard are any indication)-only one guy got attacked and zombified, and both him and the chryssalid(and the chryssalid which popped out of the poor soul later) were quickly dispatched. Lesson learned, kill all praying mantises on sight. But I’ve had harrowing encounters with cyberdiscs and even sectoid leaders from one particularly aggravating terror mission, with at least two soldiers being either panicked or MC’d practically every turn. Lots of civvies died. Then one of my MC’d guys discovered the high explosive on his belt. I was lucky he only killed two people(himself included).

          Maybe it’s just me, but I’ll take these stories over a good book or movie any day of the week.

        • Robyrt says:

          Even these luminaries don’t have a believable plot line, though. Over 50% of Half-Life and Sands of Time are thinly veiled excuses to introduce more environments while the handful of characters talk to each other; what they have is good characterization and milieu.

        • Will says:

          I never did manage to finish PS:T, but from what i’ve heard it is one of the rare few gems of good plot in the games industry. The Starcraft and Warcraft series both have decent plot, but most of that comes from the execution rather than the story itself; the actual stories for both are rather cliche and even bland in places.

          Psychonauts executes it’s plot extremely well, but due to the comedic nature of the game the plot itself comes off as a little disjointed, which is entirely intentional i suspect, but doesn’t elevate it into the same territory that masterpieces like The Hobbit occupy.

          Silent Hill is another good example of a game that doesn’t actually have a very good plot at all, but gets around it by executing what it does have extremely well. When playing Silent Hill i was really taken away by the immersion and plot, but when you actually sit down and really look at the story; it’s largely one-dimensional.

          As Robyrt above me said; even the best plots in games are, at best, examples of good characterisation and clever masking of some of the more obvious plot holes. From what i’ve heard, PS:T might be the only game that actually has a truly excellent plot that is interesting, innovative and well executed.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Yeah,but what is good story,and a good book?You can make a good story out of a cliche plot.There are books that deal with characters and conversation more than with any overarching story.Ive included half life and starcraft because these are games that deal more with characters than with their basic stories of aliens invade.Not to mention the rich lore that came out of these very basic plots done in exquisite ways.

      • MrWhales says:

        I think it depends on the person really. What you may see as a bad game plot may be seen as a good one to others, because you are conditioned by reading(i read alot too, just going with it) to want a bigger, grander(?) experience that the railroading in a book(let’s face it, that is the only thing happening in a book, is what is written) where as in a game, there might be more or what have you. I can’t think of a way to bring what i said together. but hopefully you understand what i mean

        • Will says:

          Actually, some of the few games with plots that don’t start falling apart when i compare them to books are linear adventure games which are about as close to being an interactive novel as possible while still remaining a game.

          And it’s not so much as the plots are bad as they are not good. By far the vast majority of plots in games, even ones that are touted as having great storylines, are quite average in that department.

          I remain convinced that the primary reason behind this problem is that many of the elements that make a good game actively inhibit a good story.

  6. Cerapa says:

    Must be hard to be at war with spoilers. I thought you would need an army not a crew for that.

  7. Jarenth says:

    I wasn’t aware that LARPing thing was supposed to be a secret, seeing as though you plastered it all over your own site.

    On the plus side, Jibar’s inevitable NERD-call (we all know it’s coming) will be a good test for Shamus’ comment system.

  8. lurkey says:

    Pft, bottle of wine (if we talkin’ the standard, 0.75l size), biiiiiig deal. All it does is make my memories about killing this Broodmother or that Mephisto kinda fuzzy. Now, brandy’s a whole ‘nother thing. I remember coming over to work the next day after a very brandy night, launching “Colonization” and finding out that my autopilot built a rum refinery in every bloody city and started the revolution. Good times. :-)

  9. Gantidae says:

    Josh is just good at editing it seems. Or he’s a dark wizard. Either explanation would work just fine.

  10. X2-Eliah says:

    LARPing.. When you go to somewhere every weekend, and spend the entire evening scheming and manoeuvring around masked strangers.

  11. Piflik says:

    Is it strange that I still watch the episodes instead of just listening?

    …I would make a joke about how good or bad Mumbles sucks, but I won’t… :p

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Doing arkham asylum would crush Mumbles’ soul?Now you simply have to do it!

    Also,larping exists so regular dorks can have someone to look down on.Seriously though,I never considered you guys to be dorks,only geeks.

  13. RTBones says:

    I’mma holla atchya.

    First…new header looks nice. I like it. But then again, I would. :)

    Second…a bottle of wine? Really? Thats sooooo easy money as to be ridiculous in its ridiculocity. Now, make that a bottle of Jameson, and you might have issues, depending on the size of the bottle. But wine? Bah. Bah, I say.

    Third…when talking about plots in video games and not being able to NOT think about it – there is a suspension of disbelief that normally happens. Once its broken, getting it back is nearly impossible. This happens to me with movies, particularly if there are airplanes, trains or feats that appear to defy the laws of physics involved. Sci-fi is one thing. Stopping a speeding Mini Cooper and opening a door to take out a speeding motorcycle which is chasing you AND expecting me to believe the door is going stay attached to the car in any meaningful way…not so much. (5 points if you get my intended reference.)

  14. rayen says:

    Header looks great.

    Question since i haven’t played mass effect 2 and probably won’t for the forseeable future, what is platinum used for, why haven’t you used it and why do you have so bloody much of it?

    • Dovius says:

      Platinum is used for certain upgrades, they havent used it since you need to gather it with this mining minigame, and they wanted to use the other episodes for FUN gameplay, and he probably has lots of it because running back and forth between the upgrade screen and the galaxy screen every other planet to check updates can get irritating

    • Sydney says:

      So in general, the resources are used to upgrade weapons, powers, and health/shields. Platinum specifically is for upgrading shotguns, sniper rifles and healing/shields. But since almost all of the shotgun/sniper/healing-and-shield upgrades are unlocked later (you have to find the schematics during missions), platinum almost never becomes useful until the late game, even if you’re a shotgun/sniping specialist.

      – you find buckets of it during missions;
      – since Josh has beaten the game before, he gets 50,000 free platinum [along with everything else] just for starting a character;
      – and you get some resources for importing an ME1 character, which Josh did

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      All of the elements mined are more or less random,so you can end up with having tons of one,and almost no of the other.Except element zero,which is the rarest.And it seems Josh had his luck with platinum.Me,I had that much of irridium early on.

  15. Dovius says:

    mmm, think i formulated the question wrong, kinda meant it to the entire team.
    anyway, thanks for answering it, and my name’s pronounced Dovius with a long O, btw :D

  16. Deadpool says:

    How did I just KNOW Mumbles would try and deny her dorkiness?

    And yeah, Shamus is a no brainer, although a bit surprised Josh watches anime too. Doesn’t sound the type…

    LARP is pretty far up on the dork list, but I have to admit, it IS kinda cool sometimes…

    • Hitch says:

      If you look at The Escapist, you’ll find Josh Viel all over the Anime reviews. This was mentioned in passing back in the early days of Spoiler Warning. Although, not knowing that, I’d have a hard time imagining the Josh I listen to plating these games watching Anime.

      LARP is only cool from the inside (presumably). To an outside observer, even the coolest LARP is one of the dorkiest activities imaginable.

      • Deadpool says:

        Well, me and my friends got arrested for underage drinking while LARPing Vampire… When you’re sixteen, that’s all kinds of badass.

        Btw, there’s a surprising number of former Vampire LARPers here…

    • krellen says:

      How did I just KNOW Mumbles would try and deny her dorkiness?

      Because I spend way too much time teasing her about how much of a nerd she is in the comments?

    • Slothful says:

      Seems particularly hypocritical that Mumbles denies dorkitude, despite constantly calling Rutskarn out on being a hipster.

      Man, those two.

  17. Matwisto says:

    I’m pretty sure Randy’s character was a reference to He’s Barack Obama
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kVFdAJRVm94

  18. LurkerAbove says:

    Lincoln is the President, just as a Fight Club shout out. I`m perfectly aware he would kick my ass though.

  19. James Schend says:

    Have you guys tried Skype? When you have less than five people in a chat, it has incredible sound quality. (Not that your audio sounds bad.)

  20. krellen says:

    One day, while hanging out in City of Heroes, I ran across the best super hero ever.

    It was Time-Travelling Teddy Roosevelt FROM SPACE!

    He hung out with and fought crime with Zombie Kennedy, Robot Lincoln and Cyborg Washington. They fought against Vampire Nixon and Lich-Taft.

  21. Neil Polenske says:

    No doubt this has already been repeated multiple times here or in the previous thread…but nut it, I like conga lines:

    ***SUGGESTIONS FOR THE NEW DESIGN***

    – Y’see how you have the Category/Author/Date text bolded, while the link text that can actually be clicked on and take you somewhere is in a MUCH smaller font…you’ll want to flip those around.

    – Too many words in your Previous/Next links. This has a multitude of options as solutions, but I think the easiest to do is the following:

    Left Side
    ————
    Prev : Title
    Let’s Play

    Right Side
    ————
    Title: Next
    Let’s Play

    This should hopefully allow you to enlarge the text to something larger and more manageable for people like me with resolutions higher than 800×600.

    SIDE NOTE:

    Rutskarn, you’re initial volley was a blight upon humanity, but ya won me back with your choice of presidential opposition. Congratulations, ya broke even.

    • Electron Blue says:

      *Your
      /nitpick

    • Falcon_47 says:

      *start sarcasm* Try pressing “ctrl” on your keyboard , and while doin this rotate the mouse whell = OMGWTF MAGIC… *end sarcasm*

      • Lord Nyax says:

        This….this is amazing. I’ve been using the internet for years, consider myself a somewhat knowledgeble technology geek, know html, hang out with other tech savy dudes, and yet I have never known you could zoom by holding down control and using the scroll wheel. I’m blown away. All these years I’ve been going though the akward internet explorer set zoom levels whenever I’ve needed to make something bigger or smaller….for years I’ve been cropping the edges of widescreen Hulu movies because I wanted to play a flash game side by side with it…..and now you have shown me the way. I am in awe. This is not sarcasm, I really mean this. Thank you, Falcon_47. You have shown me a new, brighter way. From the bottom of my heart you have my gratitude. May your sarcasm stay ever sharp, and your acronyms never lose their potency.

  22. Kavonde says:

    I’d just like to comment that I like the new format, with one niggling exception: I think there needs to be an additional line break between the post title and the information bars. It looks kind of like the second row of text is underlined but the top isn’t, and it’s sort of making my brain twitch.

  23. psivamp says:

    Did anyone else think of Robot Nixon from Futurama the instant kickboxing presidents was mentioned?

  24. Fat Tony says:

    Wait, no one wants to kick Gee Dubyah?

    • Shamus says:

      Too recent, I think. Everyone after Carter (I suppose the cutoff varies with age) is seen more as a recent president than a historical figure, and fighting them would be viewed as a political statement.

      • Sydney says:

        At the risk of…

        …no, no. I’ll just leave it at “at the risk of”.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        But that goes only for those old enough to vote,right?

      • Atarlost says:

        GWB is probably also one of the more likely to seriously hurt you, being reasonably fit and not all that old during his presidency. There are worse targets, but there are a lot of easier Republicans to beat up.

        For the same reason I would not choose Obama as my opponent. He may currently be the most hated Democrat, but there are easier and nearly as hated Democrats to go after.

        FDR is an inspired choice, but I think Taft is the biggest target.

      • Kavonde says:

        I think Reagan would be eligible, as he’s already managed to obtain “historical figure” status. Or at least the version of him popularized over the last fifteen years by the media and Republican party has.

        Not trying to get political, I’m just saying. Ronald Reagan the President and Ronald Reagan the Patron Saint of the Modern Conservative Moment differ a bit.

        • Shamus says:

          Not trying to get political… and then you very explicitly get political in a way that is, even according to your own understanding, going to be inevitably inflammatory?

          Not cool.

          I excluded Reagan, for all the reasons you just demonstrated.

          • Kavonde says:

            I apologize, I clearly went a step too far. I was thinking of Shortpacked! and how it’s been comfortably using Reagan as a character for years. The rest just sort of followed it out. It’s a subject I feel strongly about, and I guess even when I try to be mild and non-controversial about it, it still looks like flame bait.

            Sorry, Shamus. Won’t happen again.

  25. Falcon_47 says:

    Josh, not wanting to nitpick or anything but STOP PROBING DEPLETED PLANETS, you seem like a noob playing this game and thats obviously the wrong thing to assume.

  26. Aulayan says:

    A justice league of dead presidents?

    At a local Gaming convention every year, someone runs a game (I think Savage Worlds based? Not sure) called The X-Presidents, where a bunch of time travelling ex-Presidents have adventures. Last year’s was they had to stop a time travelling robotic John Wilkes Booth from killing Lincoln.

    *Looks it up* Pity, not going on this year. Apparently Pathfinder and RPGA stuff took over the con completely.

  27. Dude says:

    All this talk of storytelling and nobody mentioned Grim Fandango.

    Tim Schafer might be a heathen for going console, but you can’t just up and forget Fandango.

    Go sit in the corner.

  28. MrWhales says:

    Can we put a camera on Ruts and let him go LARP and when he gets back you can Spoil Warning that? It would make me beyond happy

  29. PurePareidolia says:

    OK, that “can’t unsee fail plots” thing, I definitely got that – Everyone keeps going “are you SURE you like Mass Effect?” and I’m like “Yes! Just because I could spend 10 hours listing it’s every flaw doesn’t mean I hate it!” and they’re like “0_0 …whatever man”

    The worst part is if it’s movies then I can’t resist MSt3King them if they’re bad and I know that’s got to annoy whoever I’m watching it with, but come on, have you seen what movie characters do?

  30. Blanko2 says:

    why did no one say:
    MY NAMES JOSH AND I’M AN ANIME!

    what is wrong with you people?
    (also, i didnt like bioshock, halfway through i quit)

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