Diecast #58: Dark Souls 2, Marvel Unlimited, Unrest, Civilization

By Shamus
on May 12, 2014
Filed under:
Diecast


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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Chris, and Shamus.

Show notes:

0:30 Josh is playing Dark Souls 2. Still!

Yes, we’re having the “Dark Souls isn’t hard it’s punishing except what does that really mean and let’s compare it to other hard games.” talk again. I feel like we gnawed that bone to the marrow last time around, so if that discussion happens again I’m probably going to sit it out.

22:00 Shamus has been been reading Marvel Comics!

Titles read: Guardians of the Galaxy. Astonishing X-Men. Ultimate Spider-Man. Little bit of Punisher. Random samplings of Deadpool and classic Spider-Man.

Here is the FILM CRIT HULK SMASH AMAZING SPIDER-MAN 2. Here is MovieBob’s review.

35:00 Rutskarn is working on Unrest and his tabletop RPGs.

Unrest is not available for pre-order on Steam, but it has a Steam page anyway. So that’s cool. Also, Chocolate Hammer might be revived soon. Cross your fingers.

55:00 Rutskarn shares some of the experimental tabletop games he’s been playing.

1:05:00 Chris has been playing Civilization. All of them.

Outro: Slamba Yetu.

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A Hundred!209There are 129 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. IFS says:

    This is the same diecast as the last one, I think you got mixed up when posting it.

  2. IFS says:

    I don’t want to get back into the discussion of if dark souls is hard or punishing or if Shamus should play it and so on, if only because all that has been talked about to death already on here, but I do think the discussion with difficulty in Dark Souls is missing a huge part of the point of it, which is that the difficulty is meant to add to the atmosphere. The game world is a harsh place and the gameplay reflects this, and without the difficulty and challenge the world is a lot less immersive and atmospheric. Really the atmosphere is where Dark Souls 2 stumbles the most to me, its still a great game but its just not as good as either of the games that came before it. There are a number of improvements, but just as many things I am iffy about and a lot of things that are just plain worse but the tone is inconsistent, the world doesn’t mesh together, and its a lot more video-gamey for lack of a better word, it doesn’t have nearly the same draw as the first two. They seem to just throw in enemies all over the place rather than arrange encounters carefully. Like Josh said they try to make the game harder rather than to make it more interesting and the whole experience is worse off for it.

    • Doomcat says:

      I would mostly agree with you, the world DOES have some of the elements were in the first Dark souls game (I never played Demon souls so I can’t say, damn PS3 exclusive!) and many of the things I loved from it but the world overall just seems…a bit off too me, it doesn’t seem as real or as immersive.

      I’d say some areas make much more sense and are WAY more interesting (lore wise/immersion wise) Then others though. Dragon Aerie and Iron keep felt very…out of place to me, like they were just kind of “There”, on the flipside, Heide’s tower, and Brightstone Cove both felt like areas I might find in the first dark souls, Majula itself has this kind of aesthetic in it for me as well.

      I half wonder if this is because some areas were meant to be one thing at the beginning, and were changed later? Dragon Aerie was shown in many trailers and sneak peeks as something else (That rope bridge?) it almost feels like they wanted to do one thing with the areas and story, but ended up changing it at some point for some reason? I don’t know.

      • IFS says:

        Dragon Aerie is a bit sad for me because I love the way the level looks, and its actually one of my favorite levels to play through as well I just wish it were bigger, but its not at all connected to the area that came before it which is really disruptive to my suspension of disbelief. Iron Keep is even worse in that regard, as for Heide I really like how that area looks too but its so small that there is barely anything to it and only connects to one other area, plus the transition to it is pretty immersion breaking as well if you look back at where you came from. Brightstone cove is ok although the homing magic bolts the priests there shoot are just annoying. Its almost like they heard Super Bunny hop say there were wormholes in the previous game (when there aren’t) and decided to use those all over, that or they planned out the levels first then strung them all together without considering whether they connected properly.

        • Doomcat says:

          Just to clarify, I say I like brightstone for its feel, not for the mages, those guys suck :P

          But yes, I agree with you on that, to clarify what I said earlier on Iron Keep and Dragon Aerie; the transition to those areas just kind of happens, if you go outside and look at the building in harvest valley/earthen peak, I’m unable to see where this elevator goes that leads to Iron Keep (Maybe its there I just haven’t looked hard enough) contrast to Sens Fortress in DS1: I’m able to SEE the area I’m about to go too once I reach the top of Sens, maybe not the city, but when you fly over, you can see the lip of this large hill that was obstructing your vision, it makes SENSE.

          I’d like to say I liked Dragon Aerie alot as well, however, I believe it would have been better to have a wormhole, or a dragon pick you up, SOMETHING, and take you to one of the similar looking hills/mountains you see in the background before the guardian dragon bossfight, an elevator going up from uh…wait, what? >.> again, nonsensical.

          *whew* okay, I’m done, sorry.

          • IFS says:

            Yeah the elevator to Iron Keep goes nowhere, if you look at Earthen Peak from the outside there is clearly a top to it, and no volcano behind/attached to it. There are some mountains in the background but nothing connected to it.

            As for the Aerie having a dragon pick you up could work, alternately just have the elevator go down and have it be visible below the keep. After all you can already look out when you reach the back of the keep and see the columns of rock below, and its clear they don’t go up as high as the Aerie is.

            Really there are a lot of areas I’d like to see cut, and a lot of areas I’d like to see expanded on. Undead purgatory in particular was a massive disappointment for me. I read the description of one of the Black Armor edition weapons and was excited for it, picturing some dark pit full of tormented hollows you would have to descend through, and instead its a bossfight and a covenant, nothing else.

            • Geebs says:

              I don’t disagree with you on the slightly nonsensical geography, but it does amuse me that whenever this discussion comes up, nobody mentions that when you move between areas in the game, you also transition to a completely different time of day :)

              • IFS says:

                Time at least has been established as being pretty weird in the Dark Souls games, and the levels in Dark Souls 1 are fixed at points in the day (undead burg always has the sun through the cloud, even though Anor Londo can be reduced to nighttime). The only transition where the sky changed that bothered me was the trip to Drangleic castle, you walk through a short tunnel and suddenly its dark and rainy. That said the weather where I live has been about as schizophrenic as that lately, so I probably shouldn’t complain :P

            • acronix says:

              It’s pretty jarring, because the transitions work mostly well for Majula-Forest-Tower-Other Forest-Drangleic Castle part. You can look at the skybox and actually see glimpses of them: there’s the tall tower of Drangleic Castle, you can see the fortress of the Forest of the Giants, you can see the Tower of Flame, and even the giant aqueduct of the Shaded Forest. But they throw all that away for the other areas. The Earthen Peak, Huntsman’s Copse, Iron Keep, Aldia’s place, the Dragon Aerie…they all come out of nowhere. The Undead Crypt and the Shrine at least have the excuse of being basically underground. And Betwyx (or whatever) can be excused for being a (no so) weird “limbo”.

              And then most area transitions are hidden with tunnels or elevators. There are so many LONG elevator rides in this game. It makes the world feel disconected and arbitrary.

  3. poiumty says:

    About Dark Souls 2 (because why else would I post, amirite):

    Having played the whole thing offline myself, I can vouch for the human effigy mechanic for regaining your humanity as being adequate and not dependant on player population. I stood at full health for most of the game. Granted, I AM experienced with the series, but there’s also a ring you can easily find that cuts the death penalty and max health loss in half retroactively (nevermind the couple of rings that cut ALL losses for the cheapo cost of 3000 souls) so it’s all good.

    I think the biggest factor in the non-respawning enemies was the new Soul Memory mechanic. Basically it’s a counter that tracks ALL of the souls you’ve gained since you started the game, regardless of whether you lost them or what you spent them on. Then it uses that to pit you against players with similar numbers. The upside is that it completely destroys twinking (a major problem with low level Dark Souls pvp), the downside is that you can’t stop at a certain level and have same-level duels because you’ll keep gaining souls as you win duels and the game will automatically pit you against higher and higher level players. So the enemies have limited respawns in order to stop people from (accidentally or willingly) farming too many souls when their equipment isn’t upgraded properly and getting wrecked by high-level people in pvp. But this is just one of the myriad of effects it had.

    Regarding Chris’s Indiana Jones tomb analogy: pretty spot-on. I’ve always said Dark Souls is more of a puzzle game than anything else.

    Regarding enemies interrupting their attack: that never happened to me and I’ve never seen anyone complain about it. Josh, you either had lag or you’re hallucinating.

    Regarding tracking: this varies on an enemy-to-enemy basis. Some of them will track consistently with only a small window to roll out of the way, some will not. A lot of them (including bosses), however, have pre-set attacks that don’t track at all – they just swing their weapon in a gigantic arc. Overall, it’s true that dodging felt better (and actually harder) in the first Dark Souls.

    I think I liked Dark Souls better myself, but this just feels like a much grander installment (think Borderlands 2) where they threw a bunch of new ideas in it and filled it with as much content as they could squeeze in. The result is that it’s no longer as tightly designed, but it’s better in some aspects.

    • IFS says:

      In regards to enemies changing their attacks if it happens I haven’t noticed it, though there are enemies in the Dragon Shrine that will add extra attacks to their combo the moment you drop your shield to attack what should be an opening, and another enemy there that has an infinite stamina bar. They have a huge weapon but attack absurdly quickly and just don’t stop, it makes them a tremendous pain to fight as a melee character since they have extremely few and extremely small openings and it just feels like BS to me. The magnetic attacks and enemies pivoting to fight you is very noticeable though and very annoying, and also annoying for me is how spear hollows have their shield counted as blocking even when its visibly not, like when they wind back for a shield bash.

      As for dodging it didn’t feel better or worse to me, just different.

      Soul memory works fine at least for preventing twink pvp builds, it kinda screws up coop in standard game as its a little too easy to put yourself outside of cooping range but it becomes a nonfactor on NG+.

      Human effigies are plentiful enough and the ring of binding makes the lowered health fairly negligible though the rings of soul protection virtually break the game by diminishing losses to next to nothing, replacing the tenseness of potentially losing resources with the annoyance of having to take trips back to Majula to fix the ring. The big BIG problem with limited respawning enemies is that Dark Souls 2 forces you to grind if you want certain items, including a lot of cool armor sets and its a MASSIVE pain to grind for certain armor sets that say Dark Souls 1 would have hidden in a chest somewhere. The same problem is especially present if you want to use ANYTHING that upgrades with twinkling titanite as the only place where enemies drop it is probably the worst level in the game and the enemies tend to drop everything but the twinkling titanite whenever they can help it. I wouldn’t mind the change at all if it wasn’t for how stupidly limited some of your resources and equipment with the only way to acquire more being tedium with the potential to run out of enemy spawns without getting what you want. And yes you can make them come back by using a bonfire ascetic, but that also sets them to NG+ so the whole area becomes harder which when you’re just grinding makes it more tedious rather than enjoyable. Actually playing NG+ is pretty great, grinding in NG+ is worse than grinding in standard game.

      • Deadpool says:

        You can farm infinite bonfire ascetics and infinite Twinkling Titanite (together with lots of souls, Fire Seeds and Soul Vessels) by Asceticing the Memories…

        • IFS says:

          Hm, never thought of trying there, but then I generally just disliked the idea of using Ascetics on my first run. Not even sure why, they just felt out of place to me. Regardless its still stupid that you have to go out of your way to grind such items to begin with, they should just let you buy as much twinkling titanite as you want when you’ve beaten the game like they do with titanite chunks.

    • acronix says:

      Are you sure about most bosses not having tracking? I can’t remember the last one that DIDN’T follow me during their windup animation and half of their actual attack animations.

  4. Irridium says:

    So I followed the link to Slamba Yetu and then proceeded to spend 3 hours listening to Space Jam mixes.

    I’d say I lost control of my life but to be honest I’ve never felt this fulfilled before.

  5. Nordicus says:

    The ending part of the Dark Souls 2 discussion made it clear that Josh has seen Matthewmatosis’ incredibly well made Dark Souls 2 Critique video.

    A lot of people share this opinion of Dark Souls 2 that the directors didn’t perhaps entirely understand what made the first two games great. The problem isn’t as bad as with Arkham Origins because some of the staff is still the same and (IMO) the core mechanics of Souls series have more substance to them than the ones in Arkham series, so using these you can still make something very salvageable and meaty even if it isn’t a super cohesive whole

    • Cybron says:

      It’s also worth noting that the overlap in game design staff between Dark Souls 1 and 2 is much lower than that between Dark Souls 1 and Demon’s Souls. Not to mention the game design staff for Dark Souls 2 is substantially larger.

  6. Drexer says:

    Okay Shamus, what is up with your microphone? I can almost swear each time you speak there are whispers from Eldritch horrors coming through soft whispers of my headphones.

    • Shamus says:

      It gets HOT in my office. (Lots of sunlight, multiple computers, etc etc.) So we use a lot of fans to pull the heat out of the room. Last year I’d turn them off while recording and slowly roast. This time I thought, “Bah. I’ll bet I can leave the fans on and just use noise-canceling.”

      I’m not happy with the result either.

      • Can you run it through some post-processing filter after recording, or is that too much trouble for Josh to edit?

        Edit: Also, this might not be helpful, but I found a microphone that seems to do better than some of the higher-end ones that require a preamp. It’s a little stereo mic from Griffin. I think searching for “Griffin Lapel Mic” will bring it up on your favorite auction site, though they’ve been discontinued for a while. I don’t know what sorcery they used to make them, but I run two Vornado fans at my head, plus PC, plus goldfish bowl with bubbler nearby, and I get very little background noise.

        • Shamus says:

          I was the one who edited this episode. And what you hear is actually the best I could manage after using noise cancellation. Without that, it was a lot worse.

          There were three fans near me. Next week I think I’ll turn one off, move another one around the corner, and maybe turn the third one down. We’ll figure it out.

          • Paul Spooner says:

            So, I read this beforehand, and listened to the ‘cast, and I didn’t notice it at all. Not once. I just went back and listened to a few parts again, and… well, to me it sounds like a live studio audience in the background.
            But maybe that’s just me.

            • MichaelGC says:

              I wouldn’t have noticed either if I hadn’t read the comments first, but having been so alerted, it did sound a bit like Shamus was wearing the One Ring.

      • ET says:

        Headsets for cellphones have been shipping for a year or so, with both a mic beside your mouth, and a mic on the side away from your head, to detect and cancel non-speech sounds.* Are there maybe headsets for PC, which have dual microphones?

        They seem to work a lot better than the older style, although strong winds still give problems.

        • If they work via Bluetooth, I don’t see why they couldn’t function with a PC. Shamus might have to get a BT dongle of some kind, and if he’s like me (and I know I am), that might require juggling what’s in his USB ports.

          I’d try that before my other mic idea, above, since headsets are supposed to be designed with wind noise in mind.

          • ET says:

            Bluetooth stuff often doesn’t work between phones and PCs. The reason, as I understand it, is that the actual bluetooth standard doesn’t cover enough stuff for it to be useful for many devices, so companies just sort of made up their of add-on standards between themselves. I think it’s even as low-level as firmware or hardware. So, PCs* just don’t recognize things made for phones, and vise versa. Maybe the actual bluetooth standard has been expanded in the last couple years. Anyone try this out with recent hardware?

            * Even the expensive USB dongles didn’t work for talking with cellphone stuff, when I checked.

        • Trix2000 says:

          Yes, there are definitely headsets built with dual-mics to suppress noise which can be used with a PC. May or may not be a tad pricey.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Always blame those fans for everything,those noisy little buggers.

        As for the serious bit of the post,I though air conditioning units were pretty much a given in usa?How come you are using fans instead?

        • Shamus says:

          Seems wasteful to run the AC when it’s still cool out. In the evening it might be 70f (21C) outside, but 85f (30C) in the office. It’s just a matter of getting the cool air in here.

          • TMTVL says:

            Something I do when it’s hot at home is fill a bottle halfway with water, put it in the freezer for a bit, and then put it in front of a fan. That way a single fan cools a room better then three fans do normally.

            Fans move the air around without actually cooling it, you see, while the bottle of ice does cool the air, so the combination sends cool air through the room.

            • Paul Spooner says:

              Yeah, I’m hoping Shamus has the fans sitting in the open windows exchanging outside air instead of just swirling it around the room. Otherwise it’s just making the room hotter.

              On a related note, it still bugs me to no end that we keep the heat exchangers on our refrigerators both inside our houses and disconnected from any HVAC system. Does madness know no bounds?

          • Steve C says:

            Small air conditioner that might be perfect for your Diecast needs:

            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HxSLbpAwibg#t=16

        • Cuthalion says:

          “I though air conditioning units were pretty much a given in usa?”

          Oh, how I wish that were true.

          They are in some areas, but not others. Here near Cincinnati, pretty much everything seems to have air conditioning. Where I grew up in western WA, only businesses or newer or more expensive houses really seemed to have them. We never had AC in our house that I can remember until a few years ago, when we moved here. Summers were not fun.

  7. Retsam says:

    So Rutskarn’s tired this week because of a lot of Unrest?

  8. Starker says:

    “Please don’t go. The drones need you. They look up to you.”

    I don’t generally play strategy games, but there have been a select few I make an exception for — SMAC, Panzer General/Fantasy General, Master of Magic, Age of Wonders…

    There just seems to be something about them that transcends the genre — the setting, the descriptions, the music, and even the movement sounds of individual units are just right and really add a lot to the feel of these games.

    • Humanoid says:

      Rutskarn barely having played a ‘Sid’ Civ game makes it interesting that the final project on Chocolate Hammer before the ‘incident’ was Galactic Civilizations.

      P.S. Am with Shamus on the customisation of units in SMAC, good element borrowed from Microprose stablemate MoO2. Custom supply crawlers were slightly suspect however…

      Guessing that the thing that confused Chris about it was the ‘prototyping’ cost perhaps – because other than that, upgrading pre-existing units in the field wasn’t much different to those in the mainline Civ games (double the base price difference?). Prototyping is where the first instance of a new combination that you build costs extra.

      • guy says:

        There is a “upgrade to X at no extra cost” prompt that shows up after research and prototyping for future production, which is probably the cause of the confusion. You only get a similar prompt for field units if you can afford to upgrade all of a unit design at once. I almost never get that because I spend all my money on rushing secret projects.

  9. Garrrrrett says:

    Dark Souls 2 is not as good as DS1. I blame them having the director working on a different game. Stat based invincibility frames are really hard to get used too. Most bosses are hard not because they are tricky but because they have a few friends to hit you while you aren’t paying attention to them. My friends and I have been saying its Dark Souls 2 many enemies. The difficulty seems like they listened to their own marketing and made things extra difficult but messed up and just made things more frustrating. EDIT basically what Josh said.

    Another thing that is pretty disappointing is the level design which is sad because DS1 was very good at showing you where you have been and where you are going. In DS2 they just put tunnels between every zone. Honestly it would have been better if from your hub world you just teleported to an area like in Demon Souls.

    • IFS says:

      On the plus side Miyazaki’s new project looks to be another branch of the Souls series (judging by what few tiny details have been released), so it should be pretty awesome.

    • Deadpool says:

      I find it interesting how many DS1 players hate being outnumbered…

      I always felt that a 1 on 1 battle against a tough enemy is a test of twitch skills: reaction time, pattern recognition, aha d agility…

      Meanwhile combat against overwhelming odds always felt like a test of wits: keeping track of multiple enemies off screen, and positioning, and using the environment to your advantage, and multiple weapons with varying range and properties…

      DS2 feels more strategic to me. Fits my sensibilities better. I find it easier than DS1…

      • IFS says:

        Its not so much that I dislike being outnumbered, there were a lot of great moments in earlier games where you were outnumbered and O&S remains one of my favorite boss fights from any game, but DS2 just loves to throw packs of enemies at you as opposed to trying to arrange interesting encounters. Its especially noticeable if you’re using pulling tactics to separate them out, as some groups of enemies are just programmed to all become hostile together even if they’re spread out over a significant distance. Shrine of Amana is a huge offender of this, especially on NG+, and the Undead Crypt has a few areas that are just annoying to progress through such as the hallway to the boss which is just a long boring corridor full of groups of enemies.

        • Deadpool says:

          That’s why I listed overwhelming odds versus just plain outnumbered…

          I am a console player. I went through Shrine of Amana pre patch and it was pretty cake with the right tools…

          I think that’s where most people end up having a problem. People like to have builds, and themes and displaying and then complain about how using sub optimal tools isn’t truly viable in a harsh, unforgiving universe…

          Shrine of Amana is rough on melee only characters, but why the fuck wouldn’t you have a ranged weapon by then? Any decent bow (especially with poison and lightning arrows) or Greatbow makes this place trivial. Magic and binoculars a bit more annoying but still doable.

          Undead Crypt hall? Most people who complain about it didn’t explore and find the guy ringing the bell. Stop him and the other enemies are big, slow, easily parriable fools that Aggro one or two at a time.

          The right strategy makes the game trivial. The wrong one makes it running face first into a wall. This is what I mean about more a test of wits than agility. O&S were a test if dodging. Shrine of Amana’s long range, heat seeking projectiles, Undead Crypt’s infinitely respawning enemies, Dragon Shrine’s fast, hard hitting, infinite stamina enemies all share one thing in common: they break conventional thinking and completely crumble against the right tools…

          • IFS says:

            I found the bell but its still just pairs of enemies you’ve fought before in more interesting circumstances in the crypt, it just felt uninteresting to me. As you said its not even hard, its just tedium leading up to a bossfight with no build up, barely any real lore, who is just there as a shallow nod to Demon’s Souls without any of the things that made the boss its an homage to great. As for Shrine of Amana, a bow does make it easier but those homing magic bolts are still complete BS and bows are much less useful on NG+ where practically all the enemies in Amana aggro in giant groups when you attempt to single out one of them.

            O&S is a test of strategy as well, its difficult to keep them separated by the columns and if you’re using a shield its much more tactical than it is an agility challenge. The fast hitting enemies in Dragon Shrine that break convention with their infinite stamina feel like BS to me since consistency of how the rules apply in the world has been a hallmark of the Souls series, at least up until this game. I tend to just run past everything in Dragon shrine because its just such a pain to deal with, yes I could shoot everything to death from a distance, I could do that in Demon’s Souls too, but that’s just boring to me.

            As for the infinitely spawning enemies I’m rather curious what you define as ‘the right tools’ for that. I’ve been through that area multiple times with various builds and the only times I’ve made it through without dying is when I had a coop partner to draw some of their fire and destroy the stones faster. Unless you know the exit hallway when you drop in there you’ll just be swarmed by mages pretty quickly. And even if you can just sit in a hall and one shot the mages with lightning spear or some other spell that’s not a fun or interesting way to fight them its just killing time until you can smash their stones so you can move on.

            Also to clarify this isn’t to say there isn’t anything I like about either area, the Shrine of Amana looks pretty and has one of the most unique looking bosses in the game its just the rest of it is not any fun to play through. Undead Crypt was more disappointing than anything, I really wanted to see the game show how the adventuring parties that went against it gradually fell apart and rose again as the place’s guardians, instead its pretty much a hallway that loops around until you drop into an annoying room, then get to head down a tedious hallway to fight a fairly easy boss designed to remind players of a much better boss.

            • RandomInternetCommenter says:

              “where practically all the enemies in Amana aggro in giant groups when you attempt to single out one of them.”

              Stop running. Walk, by pushing your joystick as slightly as possible and stopping when enemies react with an “spotted the player!” animation. I guarantee you you can get single or duo pulls on every enemy in the game even in NG+ doing this, including the Shrine of Amana.

              Whether you *should* do that… Personally I agree with Deadpool, DS2 and its tracking + crowds require a lot more thought about positioning than DS1, where every encounter could be trivialized with rolling given enough twitch skill.

              Loved DS1, loved DS2. Honestly, I wonder how many of those who say DS2 sucks or lost what made the first game exceptional would sing the same tune if they didn’t know the development team was different…

              Just about the only gripe I have with DS2 is the ludicrous number of NPC human invaders the game throws at you on NG+, with a seemingly endless stamina bar.

              • IFS says:

                I did walk, I even tried luring them out with a bow, or with magic, or even circling around as far as the water allowed to try and attract the attention of only one, and probably some other tactics I’ve since forgotten. In NG+ that first clump of three Archdrakes are all programmed to aggro together even though its possible to lure them out one at a time in standard game. I grinded Shrine of Amana until those guys stopped spawning and tried just about every tactic I could think of to lure only one or two of them out, and in the end I always had to just run back to the tower to get them to split up.

                As for my tastes on the game I still love it for all my gripes and criticisms, and I didn’t really care that the dev team had changed in fact I was looking forward to what their take would be on the series. I am disappointed by Dark Souls 2 as compared to its predecessors though, and I do think that on reflection a lot of the areas where its weaker can be traced back to the change in director.

            • Robyrt says:

              Really? I thought Velstadt was way cooler than Garl Vinland, because it wasn’t completely trivial to take him out with no risk to yourself. You got to see his actual attack patterns, and the wide swings catch you off guard and make you scared to circle around behind him like the other bosses. Similarly, I found Shrine of Amana and Iron Keep to be tough but fair on my no shield no bonfire run, unlike e.g. the Demon’s Souls manta rays.

              I do agree that the mace drakekeepers break a fundamental rule of Souls design, which is “Pretend the enemies follow the same rules as the player.” It’s way too obvious they have infinite stamina. Same thing with the second ogre in Aldia’s Keep, which breaks the rule of “Environmental clues anticipate every trap.” It’s actually kind of a backhanded compliment that we are complaining about specific late-game enemies being dumb, because we expect the game to be so good that every single area is crafted better than other games.

          • Vipermagi says:

            Drakekeepers with Greathammers and Warpicks are tests of dodging all the same; all you need is a finger on B and they can’t hit you. They’re nothing mould-breaking, except that they hit obnoxiously hard. Well, no, that’s not fair to say. They don’t hit all that hard. They just staggerlock you until you’re dead or they get bored of it. They don’t get bored easily. Screw that.
            (Sword and Greatsword fellows really should pose no problems)

            I don’t see how fighting and dodging multiple enemies is suddenly not based on twitch skills/agility anyhow.

            The battle of wits in Dark 1 is picking your fight wisely. You learn enemy locations and behaviours (or even intuit them), and use that to make the fight easier. With sufficient knowledge, you can make due with next to nothing.

            Dark 2 sets you up against a specific fight. The Crypt hall is one such example: even if you are silent, the guy that cannot see you goes to slap the bell. The Old Knight before the Dragonslayer is looking away from you, but his spidey senses will alert him to your feet touching his platform without fail. The Manikin that plunge attack the stairs before the windmill will always know you’re there.
            They’re not even trying to hide the fact these encounters are entirely scripted, and there’s nothing you can do about it (well, you can beat the hollow to the bell easy). You will aggro those guys. No amount of wits, preparation or gear will change that.

            I’ll be playing Dark Souls 2 to death, because I am loving it, but currently there are too many niggles for me to consider Dark 2 a truly great game.

            • kdansky says:

              Dark Souls 2 uses scripted enemy behaviour much more than DkS1 ever did. For example, the big rhinos that crash through the wall in the Mansion before the dragon area can be whittled down from behind with a bow if you avoid their trigger area, and they won’t even react. Many enemies are linked to their friends, and there is no way you can pull only one of them. It often feels very unnatural, and very CoD-esque, which is of course a huge insult. Much like Skyrim, you can’t avoid triggering enemies by being silent or invisible if the devs don’t want you to.

              And then there are the enemies that are just tough because they have insane stats, especially speed. The abyss phantoms, the dragon knights, the Shrine of Amana melee warriors, the Alonne Knights/Captains, they all feel unfair.

              And yet still, the game isn’t that hard. It’s just annoying at times.

              • IFS says:

                Oh god that second Ogre in the keep is really just awful. I’ve beaten the game about four times now and I’m still not sure how you’re supposed to avoid getting hit by him that first time he crashes through, and there really isn’t any warning that I’ve seen for him doing so either (excepting player messages of course).

      • acronix says:

        Biggest problem is that Dark Soul’s combat system is not designed for fights against large ammounts of very healthy enemies. There’s also the problem that the game throws many, many of these encounters like common currency, cheapening the effect. In Dark Souls 1 (take a drink for referencing the first game!) battles against various enemies at the same time felt either somewhat special or were just made up of two or three unhealthy mooks. In DK2? They are just there to artificially add more difficulty. Like those 5-or so swordmen that rush you in the Lost Bastille. Or Straid’s room filled with explosive mummies.

        Dark Souls 2 also hates short range characters, forcing you to take a bow to take care of all the annoying ranged enemies to whom you can’t lock to shoot with magic/pyromancy/hexes/miracles.

  10. TheLurkerAbove says:

    Shamus, my subscription has lapsed so I can’t confirm, but it looks to me like Giant Sized Astonishing X-Men #1 is available on Marvel Unlimited. That’s the conclusion to Whedon’s run.

    • MichaelGC says:

      It is indeed available. (And given the constant login issues I’m having, it only took me 15 minutes to confirm that! Anyone else having baffling and seemingly unlimited password problems with Marvel?)

      • I was on my way here to pass on the same intel. The missing end to Whedon’s arc on Astonishing X-Men is in Giant-Size Astonishing X-Men #1, which is on Marvel Unlimited. Also very worth reading.

        I’m really enjoying my Marvel Unlimited subscription (thank you, Mumbles, for bringing it up on the podcast!). But jesus Christ does this thing need a road map. It’s like, I read Guardians, it’s the continuation of some number of previous heroes, from some number of previous publications. I read X-Men, I need to know to stop reading in the middle and skip to Giant-Size X-men. I want to read Spiderman or Doctor Strange, I’m faced with a half-dozen (at least) competing titles, some of which ran concurrently, and no idea where to start.

  11. Deadpool says:

    Had I not been sent to work in Brazil I probably would still be playing Dark Souls 2…

  12. Deadpool says:

    On comics:

    Guardians of the Galaxy: bad starting point. It follows from Annihilation and Nova AND Annihilation: Conquest. Also it always felt like Nova’s red headed step child. Start from Annihilation. If you don’t like that, none of Marcel cosmic will work for you.

    Ultimate Spider Man: Everyone loves it but I dislike it too. Found it boring. Know what a lot of people disliked and I enjoyed a lot? John Michael Straczynscky’s run on it. Try it out. It is spread across a few comics so some wiki might be in order there. But it was good, even if it ended poorly.

    Astonishing Xmen: speaking of… It ended poorly. Seriously. It may be better than you don’t have access to it.

    Deadpool: If it isn’t written by Joe Kelly it probably lacks depth…

  13. Chris says:

    I think my favorite thing about the Film Crit Hulk Spiderman review is that it reads like Shamus responding to Mass Effect 3. (“WHY DID THIS CHARACTER DO THIS?!?! WHERE IS THE FUNDING FOR IT?!! AND BY WHAT LOGIC WOULD THEY DO THAT GIVEN THEIR HISTORY WITH THIS OTHER THING!?!??!!”)

    (Insert rant here about how Campster is sick of film critics talking about videogames with a far more lenient/lax standard of artistry when discussing a medium they don’t fully understand)

  14. Doomcat says:

    Am I the only one who kind of wants Rutskarn to have a section on the Diecast now where he just tells us about some weird story from an indie tabletop that he’s played? I’d listen to it.

  15. Humanoid says:

    Josh hosting multiplayer streams every week, time for a Spoiler Warning spinoff where this is a thing.

  16. Sigilis says:

    Hearing Chris and the ‘casters opinions as far as the relative merits of the different games was kind of refreshing. Glad to hear that Alpha Centauri is getting some mind share in this modern era. As far as the rest of the Civs, I generally agree with your statements especially where the emergent history of Civ II is concerned. However, I’m here to stand for the more directed narrative of SMAC. Of all the virtues of the game, perhaps the most important is the character development. For one thing, there was some. In every other Civ you notice Ghandi’s incongruous personality because he doesn’t have a distinct one. He’s just another AI empire. In SMAC, leaders are more than their bonuses, they have opinions about other leaders, formative experiences, personalities. Like real world leaders, they’re all very distinct kinds of asshats.

    You guys call every leader terrible as if it was a strike against the game, but it seemed like that was the point of the exercisw. People gravitate towards one or another, based on their personal ideologies and the game was balanced enough so that you could make things work out. Nerds go for the hopelessly ethically challenged mad scientists, bleeding heart enviro-types become nudist tree huggers, my brother went for the “Human Hive” which tells its citizens to jump into the recycling tanks when they’re done. Thing is, because everyone is terrible, you realize that this faction you’ve aligned yourself with is also terrible. As you get on in techs and build a bunch of Secret Projects you start to realize who you are playing as. It’s really something to discover that your faction is led by a very bad person who is also you. Retroviral Engineering has a spokesperson for the University making a really unconvincing denial of their research in the field. Putting a hospital down treats you to Morgan Industries’ CEO casually nerve stapling new hires that were driven insane by what goes on in them. Yang claims that he can’t really tyrannize his specially designed workers, since their brains have been purposefully atrophied. Yeah. You’re a real prince.

    Alright, that sounds bleak. But it is balanced by the insight into the forces that have shaped and molded these leaders. Philosophy, poetry, even research notes are used to give context to their actions. Sometimes bits of the Earth start poking through. You hear Kant and Nietzsche putting in their two cents. You also hear about what the leaders themselves are thinking, Diedre talking about the stand of pine trees at the heart of her capital that represent to her all that was lost, Morgan fretting over how his people will survive on a planet where the economic infrastructure he used to get ahead on Earth just doesn’t exist. They seem to grow as characters in a narrative do, and you start to see that maybe they aren’t really so awful. Or at least that they’re not pointlessly bad people, they’re trying to do what’s best for their citizens the best way they know how.

    Sometimes I even like that crazy religious fundie, Miriam. That sanctimonious hypocrite Lal even explains why he wants to bomb you so much. Sort of. Even the Planet itself that constantly attacks everyone gets to grow as an entity.

    The gameplay was enjoyable too, particularly the sometimes maligned unit workshop. You could make trade offs of your choosing, sacrificing defensive power for bigger guns and nerve gas, or speed for more armor and resistance to telepathic attack or anything you value. Shamus’ preference for a few elite hover tanks or grav ships could be countered quickly with specially designed lightly armored fast attack needlejets for instance. The added complexity served the premise though, there is no history to fall back on, no template for what wars and cities on another world will look like. Like a colonist in an unknown land, you sometimes need to improvise. Plus I like the sounds the menus make, which almost makes up for the fact that there are a few too many of them. Not that I mind having a view of on orbit satellite constellations or the fractal, shifting terraforming options.

    Alpha Centauri is the first game that got me thinking about the power of ideas in shaping the world (I was 8). Today, when I replay it, the philosophy feels as relevant and important as ever. Sometimes more so. Technologies that seemed so like massive undertakings are coming into common use by individuals and the implications of this rapid technological progress and the interactions of increasingly radical groups is exactly what this game is about. It’s one of those games that have informed my world view, one that I consider important.

    I’m trying not to think about the sequel or successor thing they’re making, but I can’t help but wonder if there’s going to be any haiku in it. Is there going to be anything of our world to reflect upon in that unfamiliar environment, or is it going to be just a mechanically perfect thing that lacks any context for your actions?

    • ET says:

      Sequel? The last game I heard about, they went out of their way to say it’s not a sequel. I get that they don’t wan’t to be tied down to existing canon, but authors are allowed to rewrite their own fiction aren’t they? :P

      Shamus: minor point about your site – the spoiler tags don’t cover stuff which is a link. i.e. The thing that was linked above, got blue text, instead of the gold which normal spoilers get.

  17. guy says:

    Funnily enough, I always thought Deidre was one of the more reasonable leaders. Granted, I usually am buddies with her because Green economics allow Mindworm capture and bolster psionic attacks, but her environmental stance seems pretty reasonable on Planet. She does use Mindworm Boils in war, which is probably the most horrific thing that doesn’t constitue an atrocity in the game, but she’s also not particularly aggressive.

    As for Lal, he’ll mostly go to war with people who pick government types besides democracy. He’s with the UN Peacekeepers, which is not actually a name that implies pacifism; they’re the blue helmed soldiers who get deployed to intervene in civil wars under Security Council resolutions.

    Yang, Morgan, and Miriam are pretty cartoonish, although in Miriam’s case it’s amplified by game mechanics. See, she’s got a research penalty and tends to get a lot of cheap but skilled units. AI leaders get angry at people for not sharing tech, and the calculation of relative power overrates numerical superiority compared to better equipment and doesn’t consider future production.

    • Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

      I have never judged the characters in Alpha Centauri by their AI. No one should have mid-90s AI held against them. I figure the proper way to judge them is by their comments in the DataLinks -and they are surprisingly well rounded characters.

      The game does have a different feel when you play it at 30 than when you play it at 15 -I couldn’t figure out what Yang was talking about when I set up recycling centers. Seriously? Is the Hive so starved for workers he’s taken to making aluminum cans citizens? And for that matter, even today I’m not sure what was going on in the research hospital, assuming that they were doing actual research on actual sick people (of course, maybe with Morgan that’s assuming too much).

      But I never got the vibe that these people were hypocritical, rather they were trying to keep consistent with their ideologies under more stress than any ideology has any right to survive. And the fact that it is largely technology and information that burdened those ideologies is an interesting idea -as is the occasional lament that the inevitable victory of science over ideology (as exemplified by the Ascendance Ending) in many ways also represents the victory of science over humanity.

      In such circumstances it is entirely understandable that Corazon Santiago would have gone down fighting, Prokhav Zakharov would go mad, and so forth. Frankly, it speaks well of Morgan and Yang that they are able to adapt to it, and of Miriam that she recognizes what is happening long before anyone else does.

      (Perhaps, though, demonstrating my not getting of the point is that I always played as the Free Drones, who are apparently some type of socialist -but I never got that vibe. They always struck me as, well, very British Colonial -especially Australian.)

  18. Andy says:

    Every time Rutskarn said it, I heard “Mount and Blade” as “Mountain Blade” and thought Wesley Snipes vs a hillbilly vampire clan.

    Also, I remember SMAC turning me into a world-destroying monster because causing sea-level rise via pollution allowed me to build giant floating megacities while simultaneously drowning my puny adversaries.

    • Henson says:

      When I mentioned this game to my brother, he thought I was talking about Gregor Clegane’s sword.

    • Nidokoenig says:

      I once had a game where I spent the first century or so being really careful about pollution, building parks to raise the cap and not building factories, then I decided to get nasty. I built cheap choppers with empath song in every fourth city, pressure domes everywhere, and then every kind of factory and switched city plans around to maximise production. This was on a large map with every new colony’s build queue starting with a colony pod, I had at about a hundred colonies by this point.

      Over the course of two or three turns I pumped out enough pollution to cause almost two kilometres of sea level rise, the face of the planet erupted into fungus that I was set up to exploit to its fullest, and I spent the next decade or two massacring mindworms to the tune of Ride of the Valkyries. Then I realised that I couldn’t gather resources from tiles that were more than a kilometre below sea level and had to pump out so many ocean formers to raise the ocean floor that I hit the unit cap(1024?) and had to start disbanding garrisons in the safer cities to have enough formers to stave off mass famine.

      The AI seriously had no clue what the fuck was going on and I had a handful of battleships capture everything but one besieged colony so I could spam population up until I did the Transendence ending just before retirement. Ten billion people get you a shitload of points. Cloning Vats, Cloudbase Academy for free airports and thus free satellite food and energy, all the +fungus wonders, it was crazy.

      I also once ran up 12000 years worth of UN sanctions by putting nerve gas pods on my hovertanks and rampaging through Morganite territory to get revenge for nuking a couple of my cities. Only other faction to trade with at that point was Lal and his half a dozen colonies so it was no big loss.

      Half the fun of Alpha Centauri was turning the dials up to eleven and watching it go batshit. You could take it seriously, or it could be the Saints Row of strategy games.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Chris,have you also played the spinoffs like colonization and call to power?If not,you have to try at least call to power,because you get to hire slavers to enslave conquered units and cities and have those rabble work for your aristocratic citizens.

    Also,the free mason matrix pyramid.There is literally no cooler building in any game,ever.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The new spiderman movie wasnt that bad(except for the ending,that was pure concentrated shit).It was formulaic and messy as hell.But it has some cool things in it.I think Shamoose would definitely like the dubstep villain,if he would skip the introduction of this character.So when it comes to dvd,my recommendation is to rent it,then watch it from about 30 minutes in to the funeral scene,and skip the rest.You literally wont miss a thing.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Is it just me,or does it seem like an unwritten rule of everyone is john is “At some point,john needs to get naked”?

    Also,how about a stream of the group playing everyone i Josnh?

    • Akri says:

      John Cuftbert. His obsessions are:

      1. Drink alcohol
      2. Steal useless shit and carry it around everywhere
      3. Murder a high-ranking official by sticking a grenade in his pocket.

      ____

      My favorite EiJ character so far was John of Arc, who hijacked a train and demanded that it take him to England, where he intended to wage a righteous holy war for the glory of God and France. He also made a point of checking the religious affiliation of everyone he met, and either preaching to or punching anyone who didn’t identify as Catholic.

  22. evileeyore says:

    If someone can pass this along to Rutskarn:

    Alpha Centauri is only 6 bucks on GOG and it runs perfectly fine on modern systems.

    http://www.gog.com/game/sid_meiers_alpha_centauri

  23. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I thought Ultimate Spiderman was really, really good when it first came out. Then… ugh.

    Too much stuff that relied on comics that I wasn’t reading. Too much of Peter Parker becoming a minor supporting character in his own book. Too little organically developed drama and too many obvious writing stunts.

    I’m just glad I had long since dropped the book and stopping caring when they killed him off because someone at Marvel got a wild hair up their ass to make Spiderman more “diverse”.

    • Alex says:

      “I’m just glad I had long since dropped the book and stopping caring when they killed him off because someone at Marvel got a wild hair up their ass to make Spiderman more “diverse”.”

      I think you’ll find that they killed off Ultimate Peter Parker because Loeb was coping poorly with the death of his son, not because someone wanted Spider-man to be black.

  24. Cybron says:

    You should really finish Dark Souls 1, Josh. The ending is really something.

    Rutskarn: Please give me Drunken and Flagons. Please. I NEED this in my life.

    I totally agree with you about Shadowrun. I tried to enjoy it, I love cyberpunk, but I couldn’t deal with the system for a prolonged period of time.

    I will never get tired of Space Jam remixes.

    • evileeyore says:

      “Rutskarn: Please give me Drunken and Flagons. Please. I NEED this in my life.”

      Just grab FATE Core and run it with the few changes Ruts mentioned. It aught to be perfectly doable.

      If you’re not up to creating your own magic system, grab The Dresden Files RPG (which is FATE System) and manke those few changes (and drop most of what makes it Dresden Files, like vamps and such).

      Side Note: I’ve thought FATE would be perfect for Shadowrun.

  25. Alex says:

    Im sorry but I don’t think that Civ 3 is the worst Civ. Nothing compares to the simplistic and dumbed down nature of Civ Revolution. That is by far the most forgetable game in the series.
    You guys like to hate on Civ 5 but it “fixed” combat. For the first time I felt like combat was actually strategic. Without stacks you needed to think about troop positioning. Without transport ships Archipelago maps feel like sooo much less of a chore.
    The Call to Power series wasn’t bad either(only played the first one). I can’t comment about balance but the late game tech was pretty odd and cool. They also got around the “stacking” issue of the civ games by making your stacks into armies that had to synergize, move together, and act as a whole.

    • Jokerman says:

      Revolution was the console one right? That one does not count :D, it had to be dumbed down for the controller…. maybe the lack of power too, but im not sure.

      • Alex says:

        Lack of power for a turn based strategy game? Also the controls were… meh. They seem to have tried too hard to “consolise” the game. UX/UI could have been better. Even for a more complex game a proper UI can be made, look at XCom for an example of this. As it stands they made a watered down experience with a rather clunky control scheme. Thankfully Sid Meier remembered how to make great games with Ace Patrol. It is also smaller and put on a more restrictive platform(I played it on iOS), but it feels good.

  26. Domochevsky says:

    …huh. Ruts, you talking about your anxiety and bad habits when (not) making content struck an odd but very familiar chord with me.

    It helped put something I was (and still am) struggling with into words, making it easier to grasp and tackle.

    Thanks, man. There is quite a bit of value to this. :)

    • Rutskarn says:

      For what it’s worth, here’s what helped me:

      1.) Counseling. It was 25 bucks a week at the community counseling center, and it helped to identify my specific problems.

      2.) Identifying behaviors that were exacerbating my own stress levels. For example, when I set hard deadlines for myself that I’m in danger of missing, I end up setting myself up for missing them, which deepens the spiral of anxiety and depression. No bueno.

      3.) Segregating work and play. Unplugging or otherwise disabling the internet when I sit down to work helps.

      4.) Spending free time productively. If I feel ready to take a break, or notice my attention drifting too much, I step aside and do something I really like, like drawing or reading a book. Or, hell, even playing games. Even if I don’t get everything done, I don’t end the day feeling as wasted and hopeless as I do when I lose all those hours on something completely immaterial.

      5.) Being less hard on myself. When you miss a deadline, you really have to learn not to think “Of course I did. I’m worthless and lazy.” Self-judgment does not help you succeed tomorrow when you’ve got anxiety problems, it sets you up to fail again.

      Think of confidence as a resource. You need confidence to work effectively and productively. You lose it when you beat yourself up and you gain it when you focus on the positive–so the more you do that, the more you have to be confident about.

      Anxiety and success are both cycles. It’s slow to move from the former to the latter and not too hard to slip from the latter to the former, but with the right attitude, it’s possible.

      • Akri says:

        Thanks for sharing this stuff.

        I’ve struggled with anxiety for a long time, and one thing that’s helped me is accepting that my emotions are often lying bastards. I can’t trust my emotions to guide me in how I should behave, because they’re /broken/. I shouldn’t base decisions off of them, just like I wouldn’t use a broken thermometer to determine when a turkey is fully cooked. It’s not always easy to separate myself from my emotions like that, but there have been occasions where just reminding myself that me feelings are untrustworthy as been enough to break a negative pattern of behavior and start a more positive one.

        • Paul Spooner says:

          While it is certainly important to be able to push through difficulty and ignore your feelings from time to time, I would caution you to exercise extreme caution when condemning your emotions as “lying bastards”.

          There is a cost to your sanity in excoriating any part of yourself. Much better to (if possible) train, and encourage your emotions to conform to reality than it is to condemn them to death. They are not the ultimate authority, as you have so rightly said. Thus, they may be made to serve you, and taught to tell you truth instead of lies (or, perhaps, merely more often). I don’t know you. Retreat from emotional sensation may be the correct answer for you, and for now.

          But know for certain that you may return, when you are ready, and reclaim your heart.

          • Disc says:

            You definitely should not rely on distancing alone to deal with the problem in the long term, lest it become a habit. Which I can say from personal experience is definitely not always healthy nor easy to unlearn. However, combining it with seeking out the source and figuring out the reasons for my own anxiety/negative emotions and working to make peace with them, is something that’s helped me a lot and I’d heartily recommend anyone to seek a place where you can get the help you may need or a person you can talk about it. It can be tricky to find something that suits you or someone that you can trust and get along with and/or to find the strength to deal with the issues or get over whatever fear or pride that might prevent you from seeking help, but it can definitely be worth it.

            If you’re lucky and find what you need, you’ll be better off than you were before.

            • Akri says:

              I think I may need to explain myself a bit more. What I’m talking about isn’t strictly distancing myself from or trying to turn off emotions (I have a friend who once tried to do that, and he has made it exceedingly clear to me that it is a Bad Thing). It’s more about not trusting my emotions to give me accurate information about the world around me and how I should behave. So if I feel anxious about something I try not to just avoid that activity unless I can find some evidence to support the anxiety. For instance, a bit of anxiety when cooking can make sense–there are lots of opportunities to get hurt, so it’s a good idea to listen to the voice telling me to be careful and make sure the fire extinguisher is within easy reach. But feeling anxious about writing a short story because the first draft won’t be perfect isn’t really useful, and is actually completely illogical (I know I need to practice things to become good at them, but the anxiety tells me that I shouldn’t practice writing because I’m not already perfect at it).

              It’s a bit like using a GPS. You can’t just blindly follow it’s directions, because it may screw up and tell you to drive into someone’s pool. When it tells you “turn left” you don’t just grab the wheel and go, you look around to see if what the GPS is telling you matches what you see. And in this case the GPS is known to occasionally give directions that are completely wrong and counter-productive. It doesn’t always give bad info, but it happens often enough that it’s worth verifying any directions it offers. And when you realize that the thing is screaming at you to drive into a wall, you definitely should not act on those directions.

              ETA: Also, once I’ve determined that an emotion doesn’t make sense for the situation, I can try to determine if there’s another cause. If I’m feeling really anxious about something, but the anxiety simply does not make any kind of logical sense, then it may be that the emotion is being fueled by hunger/lack of sleep/too much caffeine. If I don’t stop to examine the emotions then I’ll never realize this. I have to deliberately step back and ask myself “is this feeling a result of what I’m doing/thinking about, or is my brain chemistry messed up because I forgot to eat lunch?” Often it’s a combination of factors, but taking care of the brain chemistry part can make a huge difference.

  27. Zukhramm says:

    So you’re allowed to skip Greenlight if you have a publisher now? Because I remember Valve saying that if you’re “indie” (whatever that means) you have to do Greenlight no matter what.

  28. TMTVL says:

    Talking about “old” games makes me want to dust off my SNES and play some Super Metroid and Chrono Trigger.

    Those games were much better then anything released in the past few years that isn’t either Indie, or called “Dark Souls”.

  29. Mike S. says:

    Re street level vs. cosmic, there was an 80s issue of Spider-Man where he fought Firelord (a herald of Galactus)– and won!

    (Something that I don’t think was ever explained by power-ups or Firelord being weakened or anything– pretty much just a pure application of the “any given Sunday” rule.)

    [Googles] Amazing Spider-Man #270… which looks *not* to be in Marvel Unlimited, frustratingly. (It skips from 268 to 271 for some reason.) Highlights at: http://scans-daily.dreamwidth.org/3742358.html

  30. Phantos says:

    I am only just barely coming to terms with and trying to repair myself from the same anxiety spiral Rutskarn talked about. Which is also why I barely update my blog. It just gets harder and harder to convince myself to do anything about it, which just makes me feel more like a failure, and on and on it goes.

    The new meds are helping a surprising amount. But I know it’s also going to take a bigger push than that. Therapy at the very least, maybe some sort of program to meet likeminded people or whatever. 27 years is too long to feel like dog shit every day, and I’m glad that Ruts seems to be making gains toward getting out of that.

  31. Rick says:

    Wait, you’re telling me Mary Sue: Overlords is a TTRPG that finally plays like Unforgotten Realms? WHERE IS THE MONEY SLOT ON MY COMPUTER!?

  32. Nalyd says:

    The leaders in Alpha Centauri aren’t terrible people, they’re believers. They all have a basic understanding, appreciation, and empathy for humanity in one way or another, and a coherent ideology that they see as the best way of realizing the full potential of what they see as humanity’s real value. Pravin Lal is the centrist democracy trying to preserve the values of old Earth, Morgan sees Planet as the place for humanity to finally realize their full capacity as hedonistic producers (that’s hedonistic in the sense of “everyone is comfortable and has what they want”, an admirable goal), Santiago will fight forever, tooth and nail, to ensure that humanity in some way survives, Zakharov is the disciple of humanity’s collective progress and sees value in its learning, Deirdre Skye sees Planet as the opportunity for humanity to finally live in full cooperation with their environment to the betterment of both, and Miriam and Yang are both deeply rooted in different traditions of humanity’s spiritualism, Miriam in a fundamentalist Christianity that wants to make Planet a new home for God’s children (and her anti-technology stance is not unreasonable in a world where planet-busting bombs are a real threat) and Yang in a melding of Buddhist and Confucianist philosophy. Every one of them has no motive beyond the welfare of humanity and its survival on this extremely hostile world, and their commitments to their ideologies are how they realize that goal and realize what it is they value in humanity.

    Pravin Lal treats you like any other game AI because you are an ideologically incompatible faction, however nice you’re playing now, and if he doesn’t demand equal footing from you now, you may be knocking at his door with nuclear death robots in fifty turns. He doesn’t act like the play-nice UN Friend because the tepid, noninterventionist policies associated with the UN will destroy him and the way of life he champions if applied on Planet.

    Morgan exploits the planet and the other factions because, as he says, greed is good – because he sees the best course for humanity as what will make them happy, what will give people the goods they wish to consume. This Planet kills them – why should they care for it?

    Santiago creates a militaristic state because this planet is at war with them, and as far as she can tell it will always be at war with them, and that war is getting more dangerous and Planet is getting more powerful every day. She is committed to humanity’s survival above everything else, and in a place as hostile as Planet, that’s not something you can uphold without sacrifices.

    Zakharov delves into dangerous, prohibited research and uses human lives to achieve it because that’s the whole point of humanity to him. The thirst for knowledge, the discovery of more about the universe, the continued advancement of humanity’s tools and understanding, that rationalist ideal overrides the value of any one human for him.

    Skye conspires with Planet itself and uses the horrors of mind worms against other factions because those factions are destroying Planet, and if they continue, Planet will destroy them. Planet is humanity’s chance to cooperate with and contribute to something greater than just themselves, and hostility towards it will destroy that forever.

    Miriam is not a mad Luddite – she lives in a pressure-sealed habitation dome like everyone else. She doesn’t shy away from using technology in general – she is very suspicious of new technologies. And when those new technologies are things like retroviral engineering, digital sentience, nanominiaturization, and neural grafting, can you not see her point? Technology provides the tools to potentially create hellish dystopias – technology holds the keys to nerve stapling, to mind worm control, to self-aware police states, to the aforementioned planet-busters. To use those tools for good or ill is a choice for their wielders to make, but can you not see the point of her mistrust? Not to mention that her ideology is rooted in a very old concept of religious conservatism and a philosophical tradition that created the western world. She competes with other factions because they are simply sinful and threaten her kingdom of heaven.

    And, finally, just look at Shen-Ji Yang’s faction quote: “Learn to overcome the crass demands of flesh and bone, for they warp the matrix through which we perceive the world. Extend your awareness outwards, beyond the self of body, to embrace the self of group and the self of humanity. The goals of the group and the greater race are transcendent, and to embrace them is to achieve enlightenment.” The key points there are crass demands of flesh and bone and enlightenment. Yang says that your wants and your life and your value as an individual is an inherently limited, selfish, and short-sighted perspective, and that the attachment to your earthly desires must be discarded. It’s a philosophy rooted in Buddhism and Confucianism and the rhetoric of the People’s Republic – it is not the individuals in humanity that matter to Yang – in fact, this very individuality is what holds humanity back from enlightenment! It is the collective that matters.

    These are all coherent, rational ideologies – however extreme you want to think of them as, they are realistic and actionable driving forces for a society or a person, and on Planet they are subjected to a crucible of hellfire that demands the worst from every one. You can argue over the merits or reasoning of any one in particular – and I would say that that is the point of the game – but to dismiss them all as “terrible people” or “incomplete” is a miserable misunderstanding of everything the game puts before you. The leaders and factions are characterized brilliantly from the bare few quotes and storylines presented. They are people driven by and devoted to powerful (and directly competing, often absolutely incompatible) ideologies and that have a long view of humanity – as you would expect from someone that lives through hundreds of years of ruling over a society in a perpetually bad situation. They are not “terrible” – they are believers, and just because their ideologies do not ring true for you doesn’t mean they are valueless.

    EDIT: Sabrdance and Sigilis, above, made excellent posts as well, and I would encourage you to take what they say into consideration as well.

  33. Mersadeon says:

    Oh my god, Rutskarn, please get those systems ready. I’m getting my wallet to throw money at you RIGHT NOW.

    Those are the best “one-shot” systems I have heard of in my entire life. Please. Make them happen.

    (Also, really excited for Mary Sue – I have a small horde of former fanfiction writing, now roleplaying girls that are salivating at the idea of that game.)

  34. Paul Spooner says:

    First off… Yay! Chris is hosting!

    That goes into the main thing I wanted to talk about, which is content anxiety/guilt. I’ve been there several times myself, both in hobbies and in professional life. You look at what you’re doing and think “I could make this better… if I had the time” and you feel like everyone deserves better, so you make the time… until you run out of time. At that point you have three options:
    1. Lower your standards and publish what you’ve got.
    2. Take as long as you need.
    3. Sacrifice something else to make this work.
    I generally prefer #2, and it seems like Ruts does the same. Of course, this process is usually repeated over and over again, so as things keep getting later and later (as your standards get higher and higher) the guilt piles up and eventually (for the sake of your sanity) you decide to do something else.

    People who do #1 all the time end up with a slew of schlock (no offense to the excellent webcomic of the same name), which I’m sure you’re all familiar with. We’ve all been there. No harm in that. But this is discouraging because you feel like you’re never making something you can be proud of.

    People who do #3 all the time end up burning out. That’s what happened to Tarrol Hunt. I visited him a few months before his breakdown (He’s a really nice guy by the way, I’m glad you read his stuff Ruts’). It was so sad, and so obvious, and so inevitable. None of us are immune to this kind of thinking, and Thunt refused both to lower his standards or to adjust his publishing schedule, so he broke himself.

    My personal stance is that we, as content creators, should STOP ALWAYS CHOOSING ONLY ONE OF THESE OPTIONS OVER AND OVER. It sounds obvious, but when you’re in the heat of creativity, or facing a deadline, it doesn’t seem like there’s an option. But there is. There absolutely always is an option.

    You won’t be a bad person if you cut some corners and get the stuff out the door on time. You won’t be a bad person if you delay a bit to make the best thing you can. And you won’t be a bad person if you sacrifice sleep, friends, family, or anything else for your craft.

    Oh, and there’s another choice that’s very hard to see. It is choosing to not begin creating something in the first place, because you know the cost to do it justice is too high. This is a very difficult choice to make, but sometimes it’s the right one. It feels (and looks) exactly like laziness, but I count it instead as prudence.

    But you don’t have to choose just one and stick with for the rest of your life. I think it’s healthy to use all these options in moderation.

  35. RCN says:

    About Amazing Spider-Man, ignore MovieBob. MovieBob has been in a long downwards spiral where his objectivity as a critic is ever more and more warped. One of the modern critics that I think does a fair job reviewing is the Blockbuster Buster from Channel Awesome (house of the Nostalgia Critic). When he busts a blockbuster he always brings up the good with the bad and that makes him leagues more professional than MovieBob has been lately.

    MovieBob has some select movies that he decides to hate long, long before he ever watches them. The Spider-Man reboot? He was set to hate it just because Sony’s only reason to make it was so it could keep the rights to the license. Everything else be damned. Man of Steel? He can’t shut up about it. At first he wanted to give it a pass because it was Zack Snyder and Bob likes his aesthetics, but he just can’t accept for even a second the possibility of a flawed Superman. He has to be perfect. Even if you need editing trickery and stupid science to pull it off (he came back in time to save Lois! Oh yeah! What about the train? Nope, supes is perfect, sure the train is alright). Meanwhile he actually has the balls to defend the acting and story of Pacific Rim… a movie that only has giant robots and giant monsters going for it.

    Here’s a boiled down take on Amazing Spider Man: Garfield is a much more enjoyable Peter Parker AND Spider Man than Toby Maguire ever was; Gwen is a much better and proactive love interest than Mary Jane the-plot-device from Reimi’s trilogy; the action scenes from ASM2 are superb; Sally Field is also a much better Aunt May than Rosemary Harris’s generic-old-woman role. On the bad, the movies have a some structure and script problems, ASM2 Harry Osborn’s introduction is rushed and leaves to a rushed finale, some effects on ASM1 are iffy as if taken from game cutscene and the story does use some of the Hero’s Journey as a clutch (I’ll give you this much, MovieBob). Both are otherwise a fine watch. Much more than Spider-Man 3 (and in my opinion, Spider-Man 1 too).

    • Phantos says:

      I’ve written several articles wondering what snapped in Bob Chipman.

      Looking back now, I think his sense of self-importance exploded the moment he called anyone who didn’t like Metroid: Other M racists.

      In regards to the new Spiderman, I know my friends liked it, and they are hardly mindless sheep who just like anything with a superhero in it. For whatever that is worth.

      • RCN says:

        Interesting articles… though I feel the writing is rough. But you really lost me when you said his best was when he did the Game Overthinker.

        I only heard of MovieBob when he started doing Escape to the Movies. I liked him at first. I found his sincerity something endearing I couldn’t find elsewhere at the time (now I’ve found alternatives). And I learned about the Game Overthinker, but literally every single word I’ve ever heard out of his mouth about video-games have ever only earned from me a roll of eyes. So I never really trusted him to have anything meaningful to say about it.

        Maybe a link to one of his earlier Game Overthinker that made any sense would help me here. On the other hand I’m frankly afraid of learning he ever did say something worth a damn about games.

  36. Tam O'Connor says:

    Rutskarn, like the RPG ideas, sound like fun party games. For a long-term campaign, I don’t know. I wonder about the clash between your game design philosophy and the more conservative/simulationist designers. This is going to take a bit for me to meander through my thoughts, so bear with me.

    Broadly, it seems like there are two kinds of gamers: those who want the system to get out of the way, and those who want to engage with the system. Call them Invisibles and Tinkers. The Invisibles want to have nice, elegant rules that they can learn once and not worry about, either so they can get in character, or so they don’t have to think about it. The Tinkers want something they can play with on a metagame level, whether that’s assembling a character out of twenty sourcebooks, or mechanics that require more active engagement.

    The problem is, that in order to get the nice elegant system that the Invisibles want, you have to understand the system like a Tinker. This, I would think, leads to Invisible designers who become Tinkers, only they’re playing with the whole system by changing the rules, rather than playing within the established framework of the rules. This, as one might suppose, can get out of hand quickly.

    Personally, I’m an Invisible, but my first real RPG was D&D 3.0, which was as Tinker-ish as all heck. So I want to tweak a system until it’s perfect, and then leave it alone. The problem is, the sourcebook bloat with 3.0/3.5/Pathfinder made that basically impossible, since there’s always new stuff. So, I made my own system, and it bloated right up. So I scrapped it and made another, and that one fell down because I couldn’t manage to get the combat to a nice elegant place. But the third one, the third one stayed up… for the moment.

    I imagine most of the ‘setting RPGs’ you mentioned have a story similar to mine: Invisibles in theory, but Tinkers with the system as a whole. They are only interested in cool mechanical widgets in so much as they support the setting, rather than starting from the widget and building a system around that. I wonder about the crossover between the indie RPGs and boardgames, and how it relates to ‘traditional RPGs’ verses indie RPGs.

    Anyway, thanks for reading my idle musings. Always enjoyable to listen to you folks.

    Also, an aside for Shamus: may I recommend Runaways? I’m not sure if it’s in the digital archives or not, but if it is, it’s a fairly good ground-eye view of the various flavors of Marvel comics. Also, if you’re reading electronic comics, I highly recommend ElfQuest. All of them (and there are a ton) are available for free here. It does get NSFW, with violence and non-explicit sex, but it’s a darn sight better than what DC’s been putting out lately.

  37. Phrozenflame500 says:

    I find your discussion of SMAC very interesting.

    For starters, maybe it’s just been a while since I last played but Deirdre never came off as overly evil like Chris said. I’d also say I don’t think the writers were particularly biased against her ideology considering it’s heavily implied via quotes she’s the canonical victor, as well as the whole “be one with the planet” thing meshing the most with her ideology.

    In general I think the whole dynamic of everybody being an extremist is interesting as it forces players to overlook real flaws when choosing the ideology they most identify with. Lal’s whole promoting world peace thing sounds great until you realize you can’t force peace unless you’re the dominant power yourself. Sheng-Ji’s dream of a utopian collectivist paradise works well at first, but it ultimately struggles to avoid falling into a dictatorship where the human life is considered meaningless. Zakharov’s idealistic belief in technology always makes him the most advanced civ, but also leads him to devalue pretty much everything else in pursuit of it including other people.

    And the kicker is, I think you could make fairly legitimate arguments for most of them. Maybe Lal’s factional hegemony is a necessary evil to maintain some semblance of stability. Maybe Zakharov’s race for the utopian technological finish really is that important to justify his more questionable acts. Even Sister Miriam who falls a bit to much into being a straw fundamentalist ends up being kinda right about the whole “uncontrolled technological growth will lead to our moral decay” part. SMAC did a fantastic job of creating a faction system that reveals just as much about your values as a person as they do the values of the characters themselves, and it did it by forcing you to amend your beliefs to fix the problems straight extremism leads to.

    I do agree some factions could have been better written though. As I mentioned earlier Miriam’s a bit to much of a religious strawman and CEO Morgan is portrayed as far to personally greedy. But overall SMAC’s strong writing it what drew me in to begin with, I’ve never been able to be drawn in the same way by another Civ game since.

    • RCN says:

      But… but… CEO Morgan has the best quotes in the game!

      Yeah, I also always thought Deirdre Skye to be one of the most positively portrayed faction leaders. Though there’s also that squicky feeling that she values the mind-worms more than human beings.

      And even Mirian have some valid quotes. Especially the one about matter transportation. Not necessarily if a “soul” could be transported, but more the intricate question if “life” can be actually transported. Or rather, consciousness.

      Any thoughts about the expansion, though?

    • Psuedocrat says:

      I feel like a lot of Chris’ interpretations of the faction leaders’ morals came from their behavior in the game, not from their quotes. I was confused with his interpretation as well, considering none of Deidre’s quotes, strategy, and faction description mention anything morally ambiguous that would suggest that Meier and Reynolds were biased against her ideals like Chris suggested.

      I realized Chris’ thought process when he explained that Lal, a proponent for peace, would declare war over someone else’s possessions or technology. I don’t know how long Chris played Alpha Centauri, but apparently factions like the Gaians and Peacekeepers bullied and attacked him for stupid reasons, making him think that they were more morally corrupt than the others. In truth, I don’t know if the AI controlling any factions is any less nasty than any of the others.

      I can see how this interpretation has merit. After all, one usually judges characters in games, movies, and television based on their actions, not on what they say. However, coming from games like Civ 4 and 5, I always held a disconnect between your rival faction leaders and the AI controlling them. After all, Gandhi may nuke you over a land dispute in Civ 4, but that doesn’t mean that Gandhi was an evil man. Likewise, when Deidre stomps into my territory because “Planet isn’t big enough for the two of us”, and Zak tries to intimidate me with his AAA String Rover out of pettiness, I never considered them corrupt characters. I simply understood it as the AI trying to achieve victory by any means (as is standard Civ AI behavior), regardless of the morals that the characters they represent are supposed to hold. Because of this, most SMAC AI leaders come off as impulsive, warlike, petty, and destructive, which is very depressing if you consider these the true personalities of humanity’s leaders on Chiron.

      I think I like your interpretation of ‘Extremism vs. Moderation’, though. Many of the diplomatic decisions made by the AIs are based on Social Engineering, meaning Miriam will very rarely attack other fundamentalists unless provoked. No AIs will veer from their canonical social engineering models, meaning that every AI will have several unavoidable wars to fight over these ideologies, and that no AI leader is wise enough to compromise for the sake of peace. The support for moderation comes from the fact that that to ensure any lasting peace, one must make compromises in terms of Social Engineering. Under this interpretation, a single player SMAC game only has one leader with the potential to be truly noble: the player, since only the player can be in any way moderate. This is disconcerting if you happen to be playing as Santiago or Yang.

  38. Mormegil says:

    Just listened to the podcast and I almost didn’t bother trying to post since it’s been a couple of days. I can’t believe nobody has picked up on this yet – it’s like nobody saw that Michael Caine movie!

    Zulus were a plains/savannah culture, like the Maasai. They had cattle and were nomadic warriors, again, like the Maasai. I suspect Jared Diamond would have something to say about the presence of cattle and the reputation of both groups as skilled warriors.

  39. bigben1985 says:

    Seriously? ALL pesterlogs? I’m slowly getting annoyed by them by now Chapter 5 seems to be just those, all the time

  40. Michael R. says:

    Man, you guys really hate Civ V. Personally, it’s my favorite, at least after Brave New World. I tried playing Civ IV, but the game was just… ugh. The combat sucked, exploration was dissatisfying(watching my scout move one tile per turn is so exciting!), and religion was just a social policy. Although I do agree that V feels more like a board game. Hopefully, they bring the RPG stuff back in the next game.

    • RCN says:

      Talking about scouts, I feel that they really drop the ball on the matters of recon and scouting in the game.

      In 4 scouts are very risky, since they are pretty much dead meat to enemy barbarians that aren’t animals. And they do give you a better scout in the exploration age, but his supposed purposeful task of finding the ruins that no-one else did in the exploration age is rendered moot when nearly all ruins are being guarded by barbarians and Explorers CAN’T attack them (that was about the one thing real-life professional explorers were good at… committing massacres against the less technologically advanced). Then they’re kind of exchanged with the spy (and before the Beyond the Sword spies were only available in the modern era).

      Then in 5 we don’t even get an explorer, we only have the initial scout. Who becomes pretty much obsolete as soon as the classical era starts rolling… It is an entire unit class completely squandered and its role completely forgotten until you get to Flight and have planes doing recon missions.

      It’d be so nice to actually have a scout class of unit, capable of gathering intel, securing positions and keeping vision outside your culture…

  41. Felblood says:

    On custom units in Alpha Centauri:

    Yes, the interface is mega-crappy, but if you take the time to Git Gud, there’s a lot of fun to be had in there.

    I try to field 3 basic types of units:

    1. Fast scouts that are cheap an expendable.

    2. guard units that aren’t very mobile but are very powerful.

    3. small numbers of “Gundams” who exist maily to kill mindworms and sea monsters.

    Then again, I almost exclusively played as the Natalus Pirates from the expansion pack, who could build cities on water and not have to compete for space.

  42. Tektotherriggen says:

    Rutskarn, that cycle of “not updating your blog because you haven’t updated your blog recently” sounds exactly like an issue that affects Rich Burlew. That’s “fans love Order of the Stick so much they gave his Kickstarter a million dollars” Burlew, and yet he still feels the need to justify his Kickstarter updates with an amount of progress proportional to the time since the last update. E.g.

    It’s clearly a common thing that happens to people.

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