Fallout 3 EP25: The Ramblin’ Man

  By Shamus   Mar 27, 2013   92 comments


Link (YouTube)

How do you feel about meandering? Is this something you like to do? Are you down for a good meander now and again? If so, then this episode has been lovingly crafted with your particular needs in mind. Both our character and our conversation are rudderless. Adrift. Directionless.

This episode does provide a nice showcase for Bethesda’s questing system, which the design team nicknamed, “Screw You For Trying To Play Your Character, Fanboy.”

Rock climbing, Josh. Rock climbing.


2020202012There are now 92 comments. Almost a hundred!


  1. impassiveimperfect says:

    A game that was designed around meandering could certainly be an interesting proposition.

    A game that forced it however…

    • Raygereio says:

      Now that I think about it, I think I play Skyrim as a meander-simulator.

      • Eruanno says:

        “I should go do this quest no–Hey, what’s that on the tracker? A house? Huh, I haven’t explored over there yet, maybe there’s something cool there that I missed.”

        *Two hours later*

        “I should go do this ques–Hey, a castle in the distance!”

      • I kind of meander mostly to get fast-travel points after Fallout: New Vegas. I wandered into the BoS bunker in the hidden valley and wound up doing the less-than-profitable quest chain to oust the leader of the bunker, and then I met Veronica. Whoopsie.

        I don’t know if there’s a similar quest/area in Skyrim that you can blunder into “out of order,” so to speak, which sets you off on a similar path.

        • Phantom Hoover says:

          Meandering in New Vegas is comparatively boring, mostly because the geographical design isn’t that good and you’re going to be bashing your head against invisible walls and trudging through box canyons most of the time.

          • While there are far too many invisible walls, which I would either have removed since they were for railroading purposes or made “rock climbing” a perk, I disagree that meandering in NV was boring.

            There were loads of unmarked/non-quest locations (the Yangtze Memorial, the nuclear test range, the crashed vertibird, the mines/caves, etc.) that had interesting stories on their own. Perhaps the preference would also have to do with one’s preferences for man-made ruins vs. more traditional monster lairs/dungeons.

    • bmcc says:

      “Proteus,” anyone?

      • Adam says:

        I recognize that this is a game, but the fervor of some of the reviews… I don’t know how it is people get excited over something like this. I don’t know how anyone was able to determine that this game would have enough of an audience to justify making it.

      • Daemian_Lucifer says:

        Booo.I was hoping for actual simulation of rivers,not riverboats.Thats false advertising.

        • Thomas says:

          Is it a little sad that I could see how to get some entertainment out of a proper river simulator?

          • Adam says:

            No, I could see how that would be cool. Start with a custom continent, place rivers and lakes and such and see how the erosion and such change the face of the world over simulated eons. I wouldn’t pay full price for something like that, but I could see myself paying, say $5-10 for it. It’d make a pretty cool screensaver, if nothing else.

            • You could try to erode away rock covering up dinosaur fossils or lost cities. Conversely, your goal could be to wipe out human settlements along your meandering path.

              “This summer… the River… LAPS!”

              Okay, so maybe that’s not the best tagline, but we’ve got Michael Bay to direct it, so it should be awesome seeing a river explode.

              • Thomas says:

                Not really a Sim but you could start off as a little stream in some high up mountain and you’ve got to try and curve and alter your path until you join up with other rivers and become a bigger and bigger river. (Maybe you can’t control the river but you can dam and dig into the landscape)

                And as your river gets better it makes the land around it more fertile and little civilisations spring up and start worshipping you until you wash them away again in a tide of righteous flooding.

                …I want to play Black & White again…

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        Heh. I own the Ship Simulator predecessor to this. While it’s not a twitch game by any means, it’s got some pretty moments. The real draw for the people that like it a LOT, though is getting really, really, really skilled at driving the thing. Like moreso than most people that are PAID TO DO IT WITH REAL SHIPS.

  2. krellen says:

    “If this was BioWare, they would kill themselves.”

    Ah, a more innocent time, when we still loved BioWare.

    • Neon_Goggles says:

      I was just going to the comments to post this exact thought.
      Also i wonder how BioWare would do Fallout 3 and how Bethesda would do Mass Effect 3.

      • StashAugustine says:

        Probably well- it’s not like Bioware could screw up the plot or animations any more, and Mass Effect could use some more openness.

        • Yeah, for all of its uncanny valley visits, I far prefer Fallout/Skyrim’s character animation over ME3’s botox-frozen half-lidded drunken stares that are supposed to pass for emotions like “anger,” “excitement,” or “you’re rustlin’ my jibblies.”

          Especially that last one, obviously.

        • Phantom Hoover says:

          Are you serious? Bioware would have no idea how to compellingly fill the Capital Wasteland with stuff, and Bethesda would have no idea how to write characters so lovable that you’ll bear with them even as they’re dragged down into shitty fanfic territory. Oh sure, you could radically redesign each game to play to the strengths of each company, but that just makes the comparison pointless.

          • StashAugustine says:

            I was more being flippant than serious. Honestly, I’d prefer a Bioware Fallout to a Bethesda Fallout (although Obsidian trumps both there), but I’m biased because I like the plot structure of a Bioware game a lot better.

      • ehlijen says:

        Anderson sends you on a mad quest to find all the remaining prothean artefacts so he can throw them into a blender to make the catalyst for the crucibile…but oh no! The reapers have stolen the crucible and the catalyst and are preparing to turn it on! This cannot stand! Assault the reaper base with the help of Krogon, the krogan voltron and turn it on first! Which will kill you, but it’s the end of the game, so who cares.

        Bioware pretty much already made their fallout 3. Just take any of the random planets from ME1 and remove the mako. Add 3d6 more prefab dungeons. But at least fawkes makes you believe and understand that he can’t be the one to go into the radiated water filter because his dialogue is just so good. Cue the fawkes/paladin lyons fanfiction.

    • MrGuy says:

      “Ah, a more innocent time, before EA bought BioWare!”

      Fixed that for you.

    • Deadfast says:

      I was just about to point this out as well. So hilarious in hindsight.

    • Jokerman says:

      Yea, the Bioware love here was strong. Sad really…how quickly things changed.

  3. Darren says:

    I’ve tried to be less critical about how RPGs go about the “play your character” matter since I played Dragon Age 2. Why? Because (sarcastic) Hawke was more like me than any other character I’ve ever played in a game, and my first playthrough in an RPG is inevitably me just trying to be me. And every review I read said that this was basically “asshole” mode, which…maybe I’m an asshole? How am I supposed to feel?

    The point is that it is probably unfathomably hard to make this kind of thing consistently. Bethesda could certainly do a lot better, but maybe this is one area where developers should be praised more for effort than success.

    • Adam says:

      The problem with that is no matter what they did, the reaction wheel system they’ve used in every new game since Mass Effect is that it inherently limits the number of choices they can offer. Sure they offered a snarky Hawke that aligned with you, but the old system traded a clean look for allowing a bunch of choices. I hate to keep going back to KotOR II, but Obsidian did so much clever stuff with the number of choices they could add (hinting at things the PC knows but hasn’t been told directly to the player yet, for example) and just plain letting you give different justifications for the same course of action. In Bioware games today, you have two options in any given point, and you can’t really go into much detail. The older games really let you play your character in a way new games don’t. KotOR could have accounted for you being snarky, wise, honorable, stupid, mean, insulting, or any number of other ways of going about answering a question. The dialogue wheel locks you at six, if you’re lucky.

      • StashAugustine says:

        I dunno, maybe it’s just faulty memory but a lot of old games seemed to only offer you 3 real choices, if that. My biggest gripe with dialouge wheels is how you can never predict what you’ll say.

        • Neko says:

          Yes! I was trying to play a neutral, balanced Shepard in Mass Effect, so it really frustrated me when I’d click a seemingly-innocent conversation choice and launch into an angry tirade or goody-two-shoes rhetoric.

          I haven’t played it yet, but I seem to remember Deus Ex: HR doing the right thing, displaying the entire lines you’re about to say at the bottom while using the ‘wheel’ as a summary of intent.

          • StashAugustine says:

            HR and Alpha Protocol are the only games where the dialogue wheel didn’t hurt the game, and AP only because the dialouge was less about roleplaying and more about minigame. (Also, my “favorite” dialogue option in ME is where you get pissed off at the Consort and accidentally have sex with her. That requires some hasty improvisation of my character’s mindset.)

            • Keeshhound says:

              That kind of conflates with the fact that the Consort is really creepy. It’s called “personal space” lady, that means not touching unless I tell you it’s O.K.

              DAMN IT, WHAT DID I JUST TELL YOU!? BAD TOUCH! BAD TOUCH!

        • Daemian_Lucifer says:

          Weeeeeeelllll….Maybe not for every conversation,but hordes of the underdark had a bunch of choices for major conversations that differed based on your alignment.Ok,they werent all that radically different,but you still said a different thing based on who you are.So if a cahotic evil person got the “spare life” the reasons for that would differ wildly from the lawful good “spare life”.

  4. Wedge says:

    “Microsoft, this is what you get for not having MS points be one-to-one with real money”
    Um, yeah? That’s a feature, not a bug. It’s been shown that people pay more money when they’re confused about how much they’re actually spending (as happens often when travelling in a foreign country, for example). Was anyone under the impression that Microsoft didn’t do this on purpose?

    • Ciennas says:

      Of course they did it on purpose. It doesn’t make it any less insidious, nor does it address the hateful problem they created of spare points left over.

      Basically, there’s no way to redeem any left over points. You don’t get change, you get to basically be passive aggressive’d into spending more money to zero out your balance.

      One of these days, we’re going to have to get a legal hooplah raised about these practices. We as customers need them to stop being so damn predatory.

  5. Peracto says:

    Watching Josh randomly stab npc’s makes me really glad that I’m not the only one that went out of my way to fruitlessly display frustration with the game. When I finally cleared out all of Evergreen Mills, I looted every single thing in the place and sold it to the trader inside the cave…and then killed him and sold it all to Rivet City. All of that just because I was annoyed at how little logistical sense a raider camp with 40 some dudes when the largest settlements in the game had at best that many and perhaps less than that.

  6. Paul Spooner says:

    “Polygons… quads” “two intersecting quads” “That’s going to be eight polygons”
    This depends on how you’re looking at it. A quad is two triangles. Two quads equals four triangles. But! Two double-sided quads is eight single-sided triangles.

    Lots of interesting discussion about graphics technology, clever traps, etc. Keep it up guys!

  7. Deadfast says:

    I’d just like to say that the first time I heard Rutskarn’s description of the events starting at 08:16 I nearly died of laughter. I don’t think you could find a better way to describe the absolute absurdity of sneaking up to people from their front while holding a massive flaming stick, shouting at the top of your lungs, setting them on fire with the said stick, all while managing to not alert their friend who is looking at you from 5 meters away.

    • Fleaman says:

      Has anyone seen that Louis C.K. bit about playing hide-and-seek with his five year-old daughter? Where she hides by standing in the corner and kind of… bending her knees a little?

      Bethesda Stealth.

  8. anaphysik says:

    Is the video currently unlisted? Can view it, but it doesn’t show up in any lists…

    • It takes a while for YT to integrate a video into its system. Right now, I’m getting horrible load times. It always seems to happen when the SW vids still have that “fresh from Josh’s beer-soaked hard drive” smell.

  9. tzeneth says:

    I recently read the design document for what was supposed to be Fallout 3 by Black Isle and then reflected on Fallout New Vegas which was made by some of the same people who were planning to make it. The interesting part was some of their design philosophy, such as making sure every skill is useful. The complaint was how doctor was pretty much useless in the first two games. It got me thinking about the number of times that medicine has come up as a skill check in conversations. So has barter and repair which I realized don’t see much use otherwise. The design philosophy was very interesting in that they wanted to make the game interesting in every town for EVERY play style (them narrowing it down to 4 at the time).

  10. Hitchmeister says:

    I love the “you’re no mercenary” moment. I get irritated every time an NPC says (paraphrasing), “I think it’s downright despicable the way you’re not willing to risk your life attempting something no one believes can be done for us total strangers out of the goodness of your heart. You’ll either have to change your mind and act in a completely irrational and out of character manner or you can’t continue the game.” Or they might possibly give in and offer a token reward as long as you admit you are a totally evil bastard for accepting it.

    • Raygereio says:

      The really “fun” thing is that Bethesda doesn’t realise just how annoying that is to the player, because they cheerfully did it again in Skyrim.
      Delphine for example is essentially the same as Tristan: An GM-NPC who demands that the player does what she wants for no reason at all. There’s no motivation for the player beyond “Well, might as well. It’s not like the quest gives me any other option”.

      • Ciennas says:

        Ooh! Like an option to speech check your way out of the final questline between the Blades and the Greybeards- say, talking to Esbern to talk her off it, or arranging a meeting between the two parties, or getting the source of her sudden and irrational anger fitted with an explosive leash that activates if he reverts to his old ways.

        Wow. Having reflected on it for just a minute, how the hell does she even care about a forty five hundred year old war crime? She’s busy hating the Thalmor, why did they shoehorn her dislike of the Greybeard Elder in there?

        It makes no sense!

        (Best alternate ending: while in the meeting, the Thalmor make an attempt on Delphine. The attacker is promptly roasted, and the greybeards finally become slightly less neutral- everyone agrees that Thalmor are bad news, and some of them taste good with ketchup. Everyone goes home with the seeds of a friendship planted.)

        • newdarkcloud says:

          Delphine pissed me off, but as badly Maven Black-Briar did.

          BTW, do Delphine and Esburn have plot armor?

          • Ciennas says:

            If you mean ‘are they flagged essential’, then yes. They weren’t as grating to me as Maven, though. I never had cause to look it up.

            This is a real problem with Bethesda. People who irk us player characters are instantly granted a program level shield.

            Is this to prevent us from breaking a later cutscene? Because it would be grating but understandable if throwing them down an elevator shaft onto bullets would cause the game irreparable harm.

            So, how bout it programmy types? Is this just a side effect of bug patching?

            • Khizan says:

              No, it’s not a bug. At least, not usually. Some characters are bugged unkillable, but most essential characters are flagged essential to prevent game content from being murdered into inaccessibility. Maven, for example, can become a Jarl under the right circumstances and is thusly protected.

              As big and sprawling as Skyrim is, it would be very easy to kill a random person early in the game, only to find out 20+ hours later that you murdered a quest.

              There’s various ways to handle this. New Vegas just gives you an option that lets you complete the game even if you just straight up murder every living thing you see. Morrowind gives you a message that basically says “Hey, you can’t really complete the main quest as intended without that dude, you should probably reload”.

              Skyrim just doesn’t let you kill a lot of the people involved with quests. Some of them become killable after the quest is over, some not.

              • Ciennas says:

                I’ve played through an Imperial quest chain. I know what she becomes.

                That actually makes it worse. This quest chain is a huge part of the game. It should not have been expensive codewise to make it so that either a generic but pleasant person fills in the vacancy, or the other one comes back.

                And as much as this game autosaves, I shouldn’t have to worry too much about seeing mission failed signs. Just like it was in NV.

                To compare to tabletoppers, NV and Morrowind were the DM saying ‘Are you sure?’

                Fallout 3, Oblivion, and Skyrim have the DM turn six and say ‘nuh-uh, you couldn’t kill the ultracool NPC because I said so!’

                I’m not sure why this shift in design philosophy happened, either. After Morrowind, they started getting all tight-fisted with it.

                Anyone got guesses? Because it shouldn’t be the 20+ hours later thing. An instant mission fail like NV did is clearly workable, so why are they so scared of players not wanting to dance exactly to their tune?

                • Raygereio says:

                  Anyone got guesses? Because it shouldn’t be the 20+ hours later thing. An instant mission fail like NV did is clearly workable, so why are they so scared of players not wanting to dance exactly to their tune?

                  From what I can tell, either Bethesda has a design philosophy where they are essentially scared that the player will miss “cool stuff”(TM), or they’re unwilling to spend the resources and make it so the game can respond to various player actions.
                  Probably a combination of both.

                  Wow. Having reflected on it for just a minute, how the hell does she even care about a forty five hundred year old war crime? She’s busy hating the Thalmor, why did they shoehorn her dislike of the Greybeard Elder in there?
                  It makes no sense!

                  Both Delphine and Esbern are Blades.
                  The Blades may have served as bodyguards to the Reman and Septim bloodlines and as spies for the Empire, but their ultimate purpose has always been the same as that of the Akaviri Dragonguard from which the Blades originated: hunt down and kill dragons.
                  And with no more Dragonborn Emporer to serve after the Oblivion Crisis and with the destruction of the Blades as an organization after the Great War, hating dragons is kinda all they have left now that there’s a new Dragonborn.

                  Really, there’s a lot of potential for Delphine to be a tragic character. She could still be frustrating, but you could feel sympathy for her as well.
                  But sadly in game she’s nothing more then an annoying twit and her demand for you to go kill Dovahbro is just one more example of her bossing you around. Thankfully Bethesda had a moment of clarity and made that quest optional. Though I’m convinced that was solely because during playtesting people refused to kill Dovahbro seeing how he’s awesome: He’s basically your super chill, slightly senile grandpa.

                  • Ciennas says:

                    Then the Blades are terrible. Forty five hundred years is enough time for the ghosts to have settled down and raised families, to quote Zaphod.

                    When you are talking to the ghosts involved, they only care about Alduin.

                    Poor Dovahbro. His sins are held against him even after a thousand lifetimes of making amends.

                    Perhaps I would be less sympathetic towards him if we actually saw what he’d done. Instead, we have to trust Delphine’s word, and she is admittedly not very trustworthy on topics that inspire her to be passionate.

                    (Seriously, what kind of indoctrination do they undergo that would make her so blind?)

  11. Spammy says:

    Add another thing to the Retroactively Funny list: Listening to the hosts talk about “a big update” to TF2… three years ago.

    I kind of wonder now when Valve decided to make TF2 into Steam’s advertisement game. Now it comes free if you have Steam. Name a major release and it has cosmetic items or even weapons represented in TF2, advertising your game even after it’s been released. And they’re still adding in maps, weapons, and even a brand new gamemode.

    I also wonder now: Does Valve really want to make games? They’ve made games, sure, but when I think of Valve games I think of Half-Life, Portal, Left 4 Dead, TF2, and I guess Dota. For what they presumably have since Steam’s dominating the digital marketplace, that’s a small-seeming list.

    Half-Life and Half-Life 2 are more or less snapshots of the FPS genre from when they were released and what you can do with the genre. TF2 is now a F2P game continually updated instead of released in regular installments. Dota is basically free because every time I see someone mention Dota they mention how they have five free keys to give away. I’ll admit I’ve never played Left 4 Dead, but the Portal franchise seems… kinda over from a story perspective, at least for Chell and GlaDOS.

    It seems like Valve is raking in the money and they could easily have put out Half-Life 3, or made the Half-Life equivalent for RTSes, or blown us all away with a 4X game, or even just cranked out more good FPSes, but they haven’t. So I’m left wondering, do they want to make games or are they content now just to keep Steam running?

    • Weimer says:

      Counter-Strike: Global Offensive is a Valve game too.

      I think they have just a bunch of unfinished (but awesome) projects gathering dust. Why? Because there is no release schedules or assigned project personnel or managers shouting at the workers. People come and go, adding different bits and pieces to them, none of the projects ever finished or polished enough for release.

      Or they’re planning to take over the world. Same difference.

      • Thomas says:

        I like to think they’re about to stealth launch a lot of titles.

        Mind you, it definitely is a bit weird what a gap they’ve run into late. They employ over 400 people and yet they’ve only released one more game in the last 6 years than they did in the years 2004 and 2005.

        And actually of all those 9 games they’ve released in the last 6 years, Portal, Alien Swarm and Left 4 Dead were all made by independent companies that Valve bought out and then let those design teams complete the game independently.

        Global Offensive was based on a port made by a non-Valve company.

        So in those 6 years the 400 Valve people have made Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, Portal 2, 2 expansion pack sequels (Episode 2, L4D2)

        … actually thats still an impressive amount of games.

        • Thomas says:

          Fun fact, the last time Valve released a game that they created themselves from scratch, without a 2 in the title was either Counterstrike: Source (2004) or if you don’t count that, Ricochet 2000.

          :P

          EDIT: In their lifetime as a company they have launched a massive total of ONE new IP.

          That sounds awful. But it’s actually really cool, because they’ve based their entire career (apart from sequels) on buying up successful mods and indie projects and bringing them to audiences they’d never have reached before

  12. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    Ugh,the “you are not a mercenary” line…Look,this concept isnt really hard to grasp:If you want to tell a linear story,then tell a linear story.No one will complain if you make your main character XYZ and then make him act like XYZ.But if you give the player an option to play ABC and then force them to act like XYZ,people are going to be pissed off.If you dont know how to cater to someone wanting to play a psychotic booze guzzling mercenary,then dont allow your player to play a psychotic booze guzzling mercenary.Its really simple.And yet they screw it up all the time.

    You know,I bitch a lot about how alignments are a bad thing,and how D&D thing is ridiculous,but predefined alignment really needs to come back to video games.At least then you will have a defined set of actions that you can do,and it will be much easier to fit them all in the game.By giving players these blank slates not defined in the beginning,you are just inciting these stupid lines to pop up everywhere.

    • Ciennas says:

      The Mass Effect system was a good one, right?

      Pick a character motivation, and then give a score based on how you solved a problem.

      In general, you’ll get bonuses based on how closely you adhere to the motivation, and after certain shocking plot points, you’ll be allowed to change that motive, based on what’s happening in game.

      The whole point of the system would be to make it semi-linear, and provide a seamless reaction system.

      • Thomas says:

        It’s not worth the cost. I’m pretty sure people would prefer to have the world not respond to them properly (which in the right frame can be funny) than be mandated to act in certain ways in certain situations with points deducted for ‘not doing it right’

        Certainly being told I wasn’t evil enough to do X in ME was a high point of irritation in the series

        • Adam says:

          Even better, in ME it was “I’m not good/evil enough to say X.”

          At least in ME1 it was only an indirect correlation. Higher levels of paragon/renegade unlocked higher ranks of persuade/intimidate, and you didn’t have to max out the meter to unlock the highest ranks of the skill. ME2 screwed the pooch especially badly by tying it directly to your paragon/renegade meters. (In a really counterintuitive way, too. Instead of being tied to the meter itself, it tied you to the total amount of points you had earned over the course of the game. So if you earned half as many paragon points as were possible to earn, your previous paragon points still wouldn’t help you.)

          • Ciennas says:

            Well. Perspective thus gained, I suppose I shouldn’t suggest something I haven’t personally seen in action. I just remember shamus saying he liked the ‘always working to protect humanity’ as the basic motive, but with pro-human exclusively vs Pro-everyone possible made it refreshing and unique.

            I was thinking something like that. I’d sketch a whole game here, but there’s only so much space.

            In short, you’d pick a motive for your character, possibly in the backstory, and then actions would be justified according to it.

            (With a Wild Card option available that would immediately turn the game into a gag dub.)

            That’s what I meant. Is that hard to accomplish?

            • Thomas says:

              By the end of the series the motivation between renegade and paragon was looking a lot more murky =D

              I think it’s possible your idea has potential but you’d need to build the whole game around it and make it a focus. It probably wouldn’t feel like anything done before.

              But in general I think it’s better to leave it up to people to decide their motivation and change it as they wish through the game. It allows people to do more interesting things, like play nice up to a certain point and then crack and go on a killing spree. If you don’t pass any judgement on what the character chooses to do it won’t cause problems when the creator and player disagree on ethics (In Mass Effect when you can destroy or mind control the Geth that was a hard question and people resented the former being depicted as renegade)

              • Not just murky. Paragon had transformed from “clever space-captain solution” into “give speech and/or do the lawful good thing for which you are rewarded,” and Renegade had gone from “action-hero badass solution usually involving force” to “space-douchebag solution that would get anyone else tossed in jail for which you’re grudgingly allowed to progress.”

                I can see the germ of the idea there, and I can see the appeal of such a system… if it had been properly carried through and not gotten muddled with some kind of “good vs. evil” setup that the narrative couldn’t really make proper use of.

  13. Daemian_Lucifer says:

    While it is nice that prices in the steam store are all well defined,I dont really like how 1$=1€.

    • Ciennas says:

      But I bet the Accounting department LOVES it.

    • Humanoid says:

      To be fair though, I believe the EU prices are VAT(that’s sales tax for you Americans)-inclusive? It doesn’t quite cover the difference, but it’s not far away. My sleepy brain calculates an approximate premium of 28% based on current exchange rates, of which typically 20-25% depending on country can be explained by the imposition of VAT.

      Now, at the risk of making this a “my problems are bigger than yours” one, the situation is a fair bit different in Australia. Steam, to my knowledge, does not charge VAT(known here as GST) on their sales here – yet they usually charge the same final price as retailers who do have to charge tax. So straight away, they’re taking that 10% extra cut as pure profit, as opposed to the retailers who merely pass that amount to the taxman. That’s really just the added insult to the injury of considering the arbitrary markup starting around 50% and occasionally hitting even 100% on the price of new releases, which is in US dollars – no fancy conversion needed.

      A check of steamprices.com can be illuminating. Converting all prices to USD, let’s check the price on the game de jour, Bioshock Infinite:

      US: $59.99
      EU: $63.83 – tax inclusive
      UK: $45.31 – tax inclusive
      AU: $79.99

      Actually these numbers are a bit surprising to me – 25% is one of the milder rip-offs Australia suffers, the EU price is on par, and indeed a reasonable amount cheaper than the US price if you consider tax, and the UK has it significantly cheaper than anywhere else in the developed world (although for whatever reason there’s a 5 quid off discount reflected in that price).

      • Thomas says:

        US game prices don’t include VAT?

        I’ve never understood how a country that’s so young has managed to sustain such a consumer unfriendly habit as not actually listing how much something in a shop costs. You guys must be great at adding percentages

        • No, we’re not. Each state has its own sales tax, and (at the moment) a lot of the internet avoids such taxes by having weird constructs that let the merchant not be taxably located in any state… I think. Amazon did something similar in the UK, and while I remember them being called out on it, I dunno if anything changed.

          But out in stores, you have a price on something that’s $4.99 (because it’s NOT $5!) and the tax is just automatically tacked on when you buy it, and that depends on where you are.

          • Thomas says:

            On the one hand adding a price on at the till is still weird. Shops should calculate that into their costs and price accordingly like they do here.

            On the other hand, 6% is pretty incredible. I guess in the Bioshock example it hasn’t actually affected our purchasing power but still…

        • Shamus says:

          The US doesn’t HAVE a VAT. Individual states have sales tax, which is a percentage of the given price. Some states (New Hampshire) have no tax while other states (Pennsylvania) have as much as %6. States are indeed miffed that by shopping online people are “routing around” these taxes. The taxes were designed by be levied against sales that take place in the state and collected by people in the state. But online sales are a little strange and there’s a low-level debate over how these taxes should be collected in the future.

          So the short answer is that the price on Steam is the price we pay, with no additional tax… UNLESS you live in Washington (where Valve is physically based) where they add the state-mandated sales tax. Of course, they can’t make the after-tax the listed price because they don’t know if you live in Washington or not until you get to checkout.

          EDIT: Ninja’d!

          EDIT II: Why did I UPPERCASE the word HAVE above? It makes it sound like someone stole ours.

          “Hey US, tell me about your VAT.”

          “I don’t HAVE a VAT, you insensitive clod!”

          • James says:

            up to 6%?????? wow thats, thatssss, i pay 20% VAT (basically sales tax) 20% i got a PC recently and paid £150 in tax alone, ill never get why Americans complain about high tax, come to the UK we tax all the things alot, o well i get free health care win some lost some

            ( DO NOT START A DEBATE ABOUT FREE HEALTH CARE YES I LIKE IT THAT’LL DO
            POLITICS IS BAD DON’T START )

          • krellen says:

            Some states (like New Mexico) don’t even have a sales tax; we have a gross receipts tax, which differs from a sales tax in that it is a tax on the business’s sales, NOT on the purchaser’s purchase.

            In practice, it is treated the same, tacked on to the consumer’s price at the register, but in theory it SHOULDN’T be.

  14. Alex the Too Old says:

    Is the episode title a Steve Martin reference, or is my screen name extra accurate today? :-P

  15. wulfgar says:

    “Yep, not much going on here. You probably just want to visit the blog.”

    i get this message when i enter shamusyoung.com
    working as intended?

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