Diecast# 152 Pt 2: Overwatch, Final Fantasy X, Stellaris

By Shamus
on May 23, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

There’s no Diecast this week. Sorry. We just didn’t have time. But! What is this Diecast you see below? That’s part two of the Diecast from last week. So it’s like you get a Diecast this week, except it’s… older.

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster, Mumbles.

Episode edited by Issac.
Show notes:
0:19 Overwatch


Link (YouTube)

Remember this exact quote of what Chris said on the show, “Overwatch is for scrub casuals who need to git gud.”

11:03 Final Fantasy X

I really hope you’re not tired of talking about FFX, because there’s more of that coming.

17:46 Stellaris


Link (YouTube)

33:36 Mailbag: Fallout 4 Survival

Greetings Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster, Mumbles etc

Have any of you tried the new survival mode for Fallout 4, if so, what are your thoughts?
-A

44:44 Mailbag: The Silmarillion

Hello Diecast!

Shamus, you are the foremost expert on the Lord or The Rings, judging by how eloquently you analyze it as well as by how many copies of the book you have used up over the years.

Have you read any of the other Middle-Earth material, like the Silmarillion or the Short Stories? If so, how do they compare to the Hobbit and LOTR?

Regards,
Matthias

47:30 Mailbag: Violence

Dear Diecast,
What do you think of the fact that violence, usually killing and being killed, is the primary way the player interacts with the universe in most games, and do you think that has had any spillover effect on other media?

I kept wondering about that after finally seeing the new Star Wars and being bugged by how many people the heroes kill onscreen, as opposed to being in far-off explosions or the camera cutting away before the killing blow, like what happens with most of the villains’ kills. The amount of points where the protagonists are stuck in a place where they just have to kill everybody else in the area to proceed just felt like a videogame.

Sincerely, Michael.

My answer:


Link (YouTube)

57:22 Mailbag: First Edition D&D

Dear Diecast,

Rutskarn’s discussions of second edition AD&D and its eccentricities reveals to me one fundamental fact: he has never delved deep into first edition AD&D. Perhaps he could be challenged to write a series, or even just a post, based upon a reading of the 1st edition Dungeon Masters’ Guide? It would be highly entertaining.

Sincerely,

Dan

See you next week for the start of season 2!

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From the Archives:

  1. Andrew says:

    Season….. 20?

    Or are you going to do a rerun of Fallout 3 so that Chris and Mumbles can join in on the fun?

  2. Phill says:

    The Silmarillion wasn’t actually published by Tolkein while he was alive. It was all his history and background notes that formed the skeleton that LotR was built on. He quite wisely left the great majority of it out of the LotR, although obviously a lot of it forms his understanding of the races of middle earth and their various motivations.

    It was edited into a book after his death by his son Christopher Tolkein, as were (eventually) various other notes as the Unfinished Tales and various history of middle earth books. But it doesn’t appear that JRRT ever intended them to be read, or be anything else than his own notes about the world he created

    • Mike S. says:

      Tolkien certainly intended to publish a Silmarillion. That was his first proposal for a Hobbit followup, and later he was insistent that LotR and the Silmarillion be accepted by his publisher as a package deal. But despite working on it throughout his life, he never got most of it into anything like a publishable form.

      (Partly because he kept changing his mind about details– he became uncomfortable about the idea that Arda had been flat before the fall of Numenor, changed Orcs from the descendants of Elves to the descendants of Men, etc. Even given infinite time, it’s hard to know if Tolkien would have ever set down to finalizing things rather than continually niggling with the details.)

      Given that Christopher Tolkien and Guy Gavriel Kay had only fragmentary and often conflicting material to work with, from different periods in his life (some going back to 1917), I’d say they did a decent job of sketching it out in the Silmarillion. But given what they had to work with, it was necessarily more of a Bullfinch’s Mythology to Middle-Earth than a narrative.

      • Wait, when did the orcs change from being descendants of elves tortured by Morgoth? It’s been a long time since I reread either the Sim… or Unfinished Tales, and at the time I was (and still am) a pervy elf fancier, so I may not have noticed the second origin, but are they both in the same book? Note: I have both as separate volumes in trade paperback form bought in 2001 or so.

        And yeah, they’re not the easiest read, but there’s some great stories (or at least outlines of stories) in there. Off the top of my head….
        the genocide of an entire kind?/tribe?/sub-species? of dwarf by elves who um, didn’t realize they were sentient
        the first mass-murder in Middle Earth
        a several thousand year war against Morgoth (with loads of stories within it, like Beren and Luthien, where Elrond came from, the fall of several kingdoms, and it’s all because Morgoth killed Feanor’s dad (I’m oversimplifying that quite a bit)) It also inspired one of my favorite fanfics ever, where the Sons of Feanor end up in a middle school classroom looking for Simaryls.
        the entire saga of Numeror
        and it’s been probably 12 years since I’ve read either book, so I’m sure I’m forgetting some great stuff!
        (and chrome’s autocorrect knows how to spell Luthien but not Numeror, so I may be misspelling that)

        • krellen says:

          Numenor.

          I believe there was a Letter Tolkien wrote at some point, or a note in one of the Histories, that he didn’t like the Elf origin of Orcs because it corrupted the spirit of what the Elves were supposed to be, but also that he realised making them Men completely ruined his timeline and would require starting over from scratch, so it was never an official retcon.

          We’re all very fortunate that no one invented Dungeons and Dragons-style tabletop roleplaying games before Tolkien’s lifetime, as otherwise he would have just been a wildly inventive DM instead of one of the cornerstones of modern fantasy.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            that he didn’t like the Elf origin of Orcs because it corrupted the spirit of what the Elves were supposed to be

            But isnt that the whole point?Morgoth deliberately twisted and corrupted them because of how jealous he was.

            Im always weirded out when someone says “Yeah,this evil plan you put in the story is kind of evil.You should remove it”,or any variation thereof.

            • Mike S. says:

              It’s not hugely clear (it’s basically thinking out loud in notes), but it looks like his basic problem is the idea that Morgoth could not only corrupt Elves, but make their corruption heritable. While he doesn’t say so, I’m guessing the difference is that Men are, as a people, fallen.

              (The Eden story isn’t explicitly incorporated into Middle Earth, but at origin it is supposed to be our world’s prehistory. When Men first appear on the scene in the Silmarillion there’s a darkness on them that they don’t want to talk about with the Elves, which they suspect to be some sort of prior interaction with Morgoth, i.e., Satan. Tolkien largely excludes explicitly religious content, but is at pains for the world to be consistent with ours, which to his view includes Catholic doctrine on good and evil, free will, etc.)

              Elves aren’t fallen in that sense. They’re individually corruptible and subject to rebellion, but there’s no equivalent to original sin on them as a people. (Which is why they’re, e.g., permitted an earthly paradise, where the closest Men ever get is the ephemeral Numenor.) I infer Tolkien thought Morgoth could go further with fallen Man (who already had the shadow built-in, effectively) than with the unfallen Elves.

            • Felblood says:

              I don’t think that’s his objection at all. It’s pretty essential to the structure of the setting that Melkor can and does mingle his essence into all the creatures of Arda, and the Silmarillion clearly indicates that elves were abducted and reforged in the pits of Angband.

              Tolkien wrote in the letter, in response to a question about the origins of the Orcs, that he had “always assumed”* that they were descended from those Elves. Later in the note though, he wrote, “No, orcs are not elvish.”

              To me that indicates that, whatever form a corrupted elf might take, orcs are not it. This does open up some questions about how the whole elven reincarnation mechanic works with with elves who have absorbed some of Melkor’s essence into their Arda.

              I was going to look up some sources to cite, but I got distracted by this great essay on the natures of Morgoth and Sauron.

              * Tolkien made a habit of speaking as though he were a researcher, exploring the history of this world, rather than it’s actual creator.

              Whether this was his Catholic guilt preventing him from equating himself with Eru, or an expression of his intention that his mythology be expanded upon by others, whose work would be as valid as his own, or some combination of the two is a matter of considerable debate. The Tolkien Estate does recognize a few artists and writers as official contributors.

        • Mike S. says:

          Tolkien’s musings on the origin of the Orcs is treated most extensively in Morgoth’s Ring (volume 10 of the Histories of Middle Earth). He kept struggling with it, in part because of the conflict between an intrinsically evil people and his baseline Catholic view of the world. (So evil can’t be independently creative, and can only twist things created for good. And the idea of something with a soul that’s permanently turned to evil is theologically problematic.)

          He also considered the possibility that they were essentially animate earth or twisted animals without souls (Middle Earth also has talking animals, after all, e.g., the birds in The Hobbit), with their apparent wills fractions of Morgoth’s malice, that they were those crossbred with Men or Elves, that they were originally lesser Maiar (angelic spirits turned demonic, a la the balrogs).

          It looks like his final determination was that they were bred from Men (observing that “Men could under the domination of Morgoth or his agents in a few generations be reduced almost to the Orc-level of mind and habits”), with some handwaves to try to make the chronology worked. But that was only a few years before his death– if he’d lived longer, would he have changed again?

          (At around the same time, he decided it should be spelled “Ork” in all future publications, after The Fellowship of the Ring had been in print for fifteen years with the “Orc” spelling! Obviously CJRT didn’t follow that dictum when he published the Silmarillion.)

        • Bryan says:

          Forgetting great stuff… Like the entire Notion Club Papers story in one of the Histories volumes (can’t remember which one offhand…), which ends up vaguely close to Numenor, but takes a very interesting route to get there.

          Or the Debate of Finrod and Andreth, which is (I believe) in a different volume.

          Or the various bits of the Tuor story in Unfinished Tales.

          Or the story of the beginning of the alliance between Gondor and Rohan, which I think is in Unfinished Tales as well.

          Or the various versions of Mim and his curse on the treasure out of Nargothrond. (Yeah, that wasn’t always the Oath that you read about in the Silmarillion. Originally it was just a dwarvish curse on the treasure from Mim, who moved in after the dragon … left. Remember the various Norse stories that informed the Wagner cycle…)

    • John says:

      I personally love The Silmarillion and, to a slightly lesser extent, The Unfinished Tales. I got them one Christmas morning when I was about 12 and finished reading them both by the end of the day. The moral of the story is that, yes, they are good and also that, yes, I was a weird kid. The subsequent publications, The Lost Tales, mostly consist of really early drafts. Those I’m less keen on. It’s interesting to see, for example, the origins of Sauron–who in the earliest versions of the story of Beren and Luthien was an evil cat-prince with a different name–but I really don’t need a version of the story written in rhyming couplets, much less a version of the story written in Old English. My rule of thumb is that if you enjoy the appendices in The Return of the King then you will enjoy The Silmarillion. If not, you shouldn’t bother. As a note to Josh or to anyone else with an interest in history, I have long thought of The Silmarillion as a sort of The Histories of Herodotus but for a fictional world. The Silmarillion isn’t personable and chatty the way Herodotus’ work can sometimes be, but it’s an otherwise similar treatment of people, their histories, their customs, and the lands they occupy.

      On a final Tolkien-related note, my daughter has just got into The Hobbit. I read it to her last month, and now she’s reading it for herself. She’s only seven. I am so freaking proud. You have no idea. I don’t think that I encountered the The Hobbit for the first time until I was 10 or so.

      • I enjoy the Silmarillion myself, but I can understand people who feel it is too impersonal. I would recommend to Shamus or anyone else to read The Children of Húrin. It was published a few years ago, and is a greatly-expanded version of a story in the Silmarillion.

        EDIT: This is more connected to LotR, but if you’ve ever wanted to listen to the songs as you read along in the books, check out the Tolkien Ensemble. I absolutely love their performances of The Song of Beren and Luthien and Sam’s Song in the Orc-Tower.

  3. Joe says:

    I’ve read the Silmarillion and Unfinished Tales. They’re both one volume, and good if you like the style. And it’s not so much that Tolkien published the Silmarillion, he died before completing it. His son went through his papers and tidied up and published what was there. The response was apparently so good he did the Unfinished Tales too.

    People wanted more, so the History of Middle Earth contains pretty much all of Tolkien’s writings. Earlier versions, later retcons, assorts bits that didn’t make the cut, the lot.
    Mythgard has a bunch of podcasts with long and detailed discussions on all things Tolkien, by actual qualified experts. Tt’s worth a look around if that kind of thing interests you.

    • One volume or two depends on how you got it, really. I like having them as two volumes, easier to deal with and less overwhelming (since they aren’t the easiest read).

      I’ve tried more than once to read something from the Histories of Middle Earth, and haven’t managed it yet. I know I have the Peoples of Middle Earth kicking around here somewhere, maybe it’s time to give it another try. Probably with a wiki open so I don’t run into my problem with name remembering and “Who the frack are these people!?!” which derailed my attempts at reading Game of Thrones, and Great Expectations, and the Wheel of Time…and yet I’ve read War and Peace twice for fun. Weirdness.

      I’d suggest at least trying to read both the Sim and Unfinished Tales on their own, though I wouldn’t fault anyone for skipping most of the creation of Arda bit (I did). It does make it easier to grasp the details once you’ve gotten the overview of what’s happening, and plus, then you can say you did it and resort to google for the rest of your days without shame (or asking your friend who’s writing a dissertation on Tolkien).

      Mythgard is awesome, and I second that rec! They even have events in lotro occasionally (which is how I first found out about them).

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      Another interesting read is The Lay of Beleriand, which includes The Lay of Luthien, part of which Aragorn can be heard singing in the Fellowship extended edition. I hadn’t realized this was a thing until I found a copy in a used bookstore.

  4. Phill says:

    I always assumed things like the “bowl of watery death” ended up in the rules because they were borrowed from outside sources, so the erratic rules around it are due to the nature of the story it was taken from. There are plenty of items in the 1st edition AD&D rules like that: Ioun stones are borrowed from a Jack Vance story IIRC, the Vorpal sword comes straight from Lewis Carrol’s Jabberwocky, Baba Yaga’s Hut is obviously from Russian folklore.

    No idea where the bowl of watery death might come from, but it is one of those items that (as opposed to say a generic magic sword or armour, or wand of fireballs) that has such specific quirks associated with it that I’m reasonably sure that it is encoding something from a story within the game rules as best it can.

    And being 1st edition AD&D, there are naturally a whole world of badly thought out balance issues and loopholes associated with it, which is what gives AD&D its unique charm.

    EDIT to add apparently the Jack Vance story the Ioun stones come from is “Morreion” from 1973. Thanks Internet.

    • djw says:

      The fact that Ioun stones float around your head and provide various boni (depending upon color) was an invention of Dungeons and Dragons. The Ioun stones in Dungeons and Dragons take their name from the Jack Vance story, but very little else.

      In the story it was emphasized many times that IOUN stones (always capitalized, if I recall correctly) were immensely powerful and valuable, but it was never really explained why. They were just MacGuffins that the wizards schemed and back stabbed each other to get.

      • Mike S. says:

        Floating around your head is from the original:

        Now he stepped forward, and it could be seen that he trailed a cloud of glowing objects. Gilgad, who had returned from the plaza, set up a shout: “The IOUN stones!”

        Morreion looked at him without comprehension. At last he gave his attention to the stones, which swirled with a swifter motion. In comparison, those of the archveult Xexamedes were listless and dull. These danced and curveted, and sparkled with different colours. Closest to Morreion’s head moved the lavender and the pale green stones, as if they though themselves the most loved and most privileged. Somewhat more wayward were the stones glowing pink and green together; then came stones of a proud pure pink, then the royal carmine stones, then the red and blue; and finally, at the outer periphery, a number of stones glittering with intense blue lights.

        In practice IIRC they functioned mostly as McGuffins as you say, but they were treated as magically powerful, and in the story did at least absorb magical attacks directed at the possessor.

        • djw says:

          The story itself is an absolute riot, but its been a good ten years since I read it. At least one of the stories included a nested series of time stop spells, so that may have been the initial inspiration for that old D&D standby as well (although the idea of stopping time with magic seems pretty basic, we do at least know that Gygax and company read lots of Jack Vance)

    • JAB says:

      The Bowl of Watery Death exists because nearly every useful magic item has a cursed item that looks just like it. It has “deadly, with weird ways to save the victim” because that’s how Gary Gygax rolled in him campaigns [reportedly, anyway]. As far as I know, it’s not based on some item from fantasy literature.

      There are 4 items that summon elementals, one for each element. The cursed air one summons several hostile air elementals, the fire one pumps out sleep gas and summons a fire elemental. The non-cursed earth item is just a rock, so it could be confused with several other items, one of which, the Talisman of Zagy, has good or bad effects depending on whether or not it likes you.

  5. Grudgeal says:

    Man, Ruts and Josh’s initial description of Stellaris (the ork one, not the dating sim one) reminded me of a Shadowrun campaign I played once. Good times… Good times.

  6. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Re: Fallout 4 Survival Mode

    There’s already a mod for reenabling the console. There’s another mod called “Rulebreaker” that lets you reenable fast travel and/or various forms of saving. I’ve also seen a mod for reenabling mods in survival mode but I get mixed results. A lot of mods already work in survival mode even though that mode is supposed to disable mods.

    Also, I agree, Bethesda missed the point of Survival Mode. They did back off of a couple of things, like they backed off on how much you need to eat and drink (I think you needed to eat 8 things a day and drink 6, and they backed it down to three of each.)

    But I was looking for something like Frostfall and Realistic Needs for Skyrim. I love the experience in that game of going out questing, freezing my butt off and then going back to the tavern at night to sit by the fire and warm up with a roast leg and some Nord Mead.

    Yeah this is probably for Achievements. Which is such BS because Bethesda already has a mechanism for marking your game as modded for purposes of disqualifying you from achievements. They should just do that and let us enjoy the game however we want to.

    • JackTheStripper says:

      Fast travel was the deal breaker for me. I can’t waste that much time just walking.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        I believe the Rulebreaker mod is on Bethesda.Net so when that is released on consoles, you should be able to use it to circumvent the fast travel restriction.

      • Destrustor says:

        Yeah, it’s the thing that made me stop playing my survival character. I didn’t want to even bother with the new mode, and without the specific challenge of it, there’s no reason to play that character instead of my first one.
        Even if you plot it out in advance and make a homebase near the middle of the map (which I hadn’t done), everything just becomes a huge waste of time.

        What also bugs me is that I wish they’d actually kept the old survival mode; I’d keep playing that one instead if I could. Super-hard enemies and super slow healing are just enough hassle-less challenge for me.

        Was it really so hard to just add the new mode on top of all the others instead of replacing one of them?

  7. Grudgeal says:

    Plus, one advantage to Seymor over Kai Leng is, you get the satisfaction of killing him in your first battle. You reduce him to 0 HP, he falls over and dies. Boom. I mean, he sort of comes back, but at least you get to kill him instead of him running away with a stupid Deus Ex Machina… He just comes back to life due to a stupid Deus Ex Mach-… I sort of lost my train of thought there.

    • Syal says:

      He’s also plot relevant; your conflict with him is the catalyst for a few plot developments that don’t naturally result without him. I don’t think you can say that about Kai Leng.

    • galacticplumber says:

      No no. Your point is valid. He’s DEAD when you first finish him and the only reason he doesn’t get his ass sent on the spot is because you’re now being chased by angry veiny people.

  8. Nixorbo says:

    I found that The Silmarillion is significantly easier to digest in Wiki form.

  9. Andy says:

    There are currently no Survival Mode achievements, since I have all the cheevos, including Far Harbor, and never used it.

    Also the fact that MODS disable achievements, so annoying. So I got a mod that fixed that.

    But not as bad as DOOM, where using the console in a singleplayer game flags your entire profile as cheaty, disabling achieves and poisoning your multiplayer experience until you delete the savegame where you used it and wipe your cloud saves. O.o

    • Joe says:

      Is that the latest Doom that does that?

    • Attercap says:

      Mods disabling achievements and steam card drops kind of made me facepalm. I can only imagine the uproar if Xbox achievements die once they finally get mod distribution working there.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        I dont get this and the previous sentiment.The point of achievements is that you reached them using a specific set of rules that makes it both a difficult thing and a level playing field.They are the digital equivalent of the early days “I beat contra without the konami code”.Using mods to get achievements defeats their purpose.You are no longer doing anything special,anything achievement worthy,because youve changed the rules.

        • krellen says:

          The point of achievements is to tell me I have completed XYZ thing that is a “to-do” item added to the game by the developers. Showing them off to other people is worthless horse hockey.

          • Geebs says:

            TIL: achievements are Polo.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Then they would be called trackers,not achievements.

          • Humanoid says:

            Achievements don’t count unless Lord British personally sends you a letter congratulating you for it. (Yes, he really did do this back in the day)

            Personally I hate the concept of achievements as they exist today, partly because of rational reasons (particularly in multiplayer-oriented games) but also for irrational ones. If there was a setting in Steam that allowed me to disable them completely, I’d do it without a second thought. Therefore, out of a feeling of schadenfreude, anything that messes with the integrity of ego-oriented achievement contests is fine by me.

        • Attercap says:

          But not all mods are created equally; while some may alter gameplay mechanics, others are only visual updates/alterations. Should an enhanced textures mod deny others their trophies/markers for progressing in the story–especially when those achievements are distributed regardless of difficulty? For other Bethesda games, the answer was “no.” In fact, achievements were even available with gameplay mods installed in Fallout 3 and Skyrim. So, when I installed mods using Bethesda’s own mod implementation service and it wasn’t announced that this would affect achievements, it was a surprise of the not pleasant variety (however minor).

          For some Xbox players, the points gained by achievements are a symbol of status. Allowed modding of games on this platform is a new thing and if mods affect those points, I hope they announce it and it’s not a surprise to users as it was to me.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Sure,but in order to distinguish between mods youd need to have a human go through them and see which ones change only textures,and which ones change the core mechanics.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              Or you could just not care about the possibility of people modding themselves into easy mode. But that would be crazy.

              If people really want to cheat themselves into achievements, they’ll decompile the game and edit it so that the “Complete the prologue” trigger awards them the hardest achievement in the game. That’s not a hypothetical, I’ve seen it done. In the same way people bitch about anti-piracy DRM, trying to protect achievements from cheaters harms everyone but the cheaters.

            • Attercap says:

              True, but Bethesda is specifically removing a perk many people like in their games while openly providing the tools that assist in creating mods for the game. Additionally, they’ve increased the mod-friendliness compared to past games by allowing a library of mods directly available from the game. And nowhere in this library does it inform the user that by utilizing one feature (mods) they will disable a different feature (achievements).

  10. I want to see a series from Rutskarn recounting his D&D adventures, either as player or DM. They don’t have to be full campaigns or anything, even just one-shots would be cool.

    Also, it’d be an excuse to keep the site name for a few more years.

  11. Darren says:

    The Silmarillion is extremely dry. If you aren’t super into Lord of the Rings and/or mythology, you aren’t likely to get much out of it.

    However, The Children of Hurin is a book-length expansion of one of the stories in The Silmarillion and is quite good.

    • Does it start really slow? Cause I’ve tried to read it, and never gotten very far, but got through both Sim and Unfinished Tales. It could also be that I read both Sim & UT in college when I was reading stuff like Aristotle (or rather spark notes of Aristotle) and music theory and physics papers, and I’ve just gotten out of the habit of forcing myself through until it gets interesting.

      Note to self: once recovered from hell state, try rereading Lotr as an experiment. I might just be completely out of the habit of reading for anything besides pleasure.

  12. Arctem says:

    The question about violence being common in games was left out of the Diecast outline, FYI.

  13. shiroax says:

    Chris is right, Rutskarn should write some Cracked articles.

    Any chance of that?

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Stellaris is not a sequel to master of orion,its a sequel to ascendancy.

    As for its accessibility,I think its due to the fact that you start from the beginning,instead of being dumped in the middle of europe,with all those enemies and allies around you and predetermined alliances,tech,etc.

  15. MichaelGC says:

    Some detailed info from the devs themselves on the future updates to Stellaris which Josh was talking about:

    https://forum.paradoxplaza.com/forum/index.php?threads%2Fstellaris-dev-diary-33-the-maiden-voyage.932668

    The three planned major patches are known as ‘Clarke’, ‘Asimov’ and ‘Heinlein’! Josh might be pleased to hear of this in particular:

    One area I was not at all surprised to get flak for is the lack of mid-game scripted content, however. We simply took too long getting all the early and late game stuff in, and neglected a whole category of events called “colony events”, which were supposed to be the bread and butter of the mid-game for the Science Ships.

    PS Top-notch trolling there, A! :D

  16. John says:

    There’s one of those evil-duplicate mirrors in the Neverwinter Nights expansion Hordes of the Underdark. It’s in Undermountain, in a room full of enchanted mirrors. It is a thoroughly telegraphed and thoroughly underwhelming encounter. When you enter the Hall of Mirrors, one of your companions will relate the story of the mirror. There’s also a dead NPC who, when revived, will relate how he was killed by his own evil duplicate. Sure enough, when you yourself look into the appropriate mirror, you get attacked by an evil duplicate . . . which is almost always really, really, easy to kill and worth very little experience. I’d have to look at the module in the editor to be certain, but my impression is that the duplicate has all the same equipment and abilities that you do but perhaps not so many hitpoints.

    The best part about the encounter is in the description of your image in the mirror. The first time you look in the mirror–that is, right before the duplicate attacks–your reflection is described in ominous, almost demonic terms. If you look in the mirror again after killing the duplicate, your reflection looks back at you in a sort of a sad and accusing way, as if to say “Hey! How come you killed me?”

    • IFS says:

      I remember that encounter, and while I can’t speak to whether or not the duplicate had less hp than you I do know that they didn’t make very good use (if any use) of your spells and abilities. This made the encounter hilariously easy for a wizard as your duplicate would appear and then try to rush you with a dagger while you proceed to vaporize them with magic.

      • John says:

        I’m pretty sure that I’ve seen the duplicate use stuff like Barbarian Rage and maybe Divine Might. But you’re right, the duplicate is definitely dumb. It spends a lot of time doing things like switching from ranged weapons to melee and then back to ranged when it should be fighting you.

  17. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding Olive Garden: They are pretending to be an Italian Restaurant, and they don’t salt their pasta water. That tells me everything I need to know about them.

  18. Falterfire says:

    Also on the violence in games things, I always point to two things as being largely responsible for it:

    First, violence is an easy thing to insert into a lot of different situations as a way to move the plot forward. It creates a barrier which is easy to understand and fit into a plot without feeling too shoehorned in. If your primary mechanic is crafting furniture, there is a very short list of plotlines where you can have the player advance the plot by crafting additional furniture. On the other hand, combat can be used to advance pretty much any plot line where you can justify having opposition. It tends to limit the types of characters you can have more than it limits the types of plots you can write.

    Second, violence is easy to systemize in an extensible manner. Games tend to be long compared to other mediums, and you’ve gotta fill that space with something. Combat encounters tend to be easy to change the numbers a bit with a minimum of additional assets. They’ve fought one shotgun mook? Try TWO shotgun mooks! Or a shotgun mook and a sniper mook. Or two shotguns and a sniper. With only a handful of enemy types, you can generate quite a few different scenarios, and because you can re-use enemies, you tend to get a bit of mileage.

    On the other hand, dialogue and puzzles have to be hand-written, and you don’t get a ton of mileage out of reusing them. You can’t just have puzzle A be followed by two copies of Puzzle A or a puzzle A and a puzzle B. You definitely can’t have dialogue A be followed by having the exact same dialogue twice in a row.

    There are a lot of reasons why combat is, as Chris says in his video, the path of least resistance in every single way.

    • Syal says:

      The only non-vioent alternative that seems to work easily would be race-against-the-clock games. But those can get pretty stressful.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        Money works well too,as offworld trading company has shown.Hostile takeover of your competition is just as(or even more) satisfying as beating them to a pulp.

      • Humanoid says:

        It’s interesting to me how there’s a lot of discussion about the prevalence of sex and violence in media, but they’ve turned out to be diametric opposites in terms of how they’re handled in videogames. Not for lack of trying I suppose, but I can’t really think of a way to gamify sex that’d make a good videogame (and yes, I’ve played HuniePop). Sure, there was the whole Hot Coffee thing, and whatever the hell Fahrenheit was attempting, but all that does is make me wonder whether such a thing is even possible.

        ….I probably won’t be sending in that question to the Diecast though.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Fahrenheit thing actually worked.That is,it worked as long as you accepted the whole premise of the quick time events in that game as a valid gameplay mechanic.You are using the same controls as anywhere else in the game,there is an emotional component shown both earlier in the game,and in the actions of the two when they talk to each other,its not graphic,and its optional.Id call that the best sex minigame in a non sex focused video game.

          Whats funny to me is that the playable sex scene in that one was fine,but the cinematic sex scene later on was…extremely problematic.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I think you could get a lot of mileage out of (hand-made, or computer-generated) space-traversal puzzles, especially if they weren’t actually labeled as puzzles in the game, but just obstacles for you to overcome. Like, you could have a 3D Wind Waker style game, with randomly generated dungeons. Loot chests are scattered in hard-to-reach places, and you need to cleverly use your limited supply of grappling hooks, ropes, feather-fall spells, etc etc, to traverse the dungeon and get the loot. Not sure if that would be enough for a full game by itself, though. :)

      • Echo Tango says:

        I just realized by reading a comment below, that Portal was based on space-traversal puzzles. So, this probably would be enough for a whole game. :)

    • Paul Spooner says:

      To me, games are tools for low-risk learning. People want to learn about things they don’t normally experience. From there, it’s obvious why violence is so prevalent in game. Violence (especially against people) is extremely expensive and therefore rare in real life.

      It is also easier to create verisimilitude in subjects in which the audience is not familiar, which is why normal human interaction is so difficult to make convincing in games. But why would you want a game about normal life? People have that already, and it’s not particularly expensive to practice in reality.

      So, it’s probably a very good sign that violence is such a huge topic in games. It indicates that most people have never seen it before, or if they have, that they found it prohibitively costly to practice.

    • Tektotherriggen says:

      Portal proves that you can make excellent (mostly) non-violent games that still have all the fun qualities of violent first-person-shooters. But, adding to your comment that you can’t re-use puzzles within a game, you can’t reuse puzzle systems between games.

      Ever since Wolfenstein 3D, there have been Wolfenstein clones, and Doom clones, even before FPSs became a standard genre. Gamers accept that “shoot dudes just like in that game, but in this game the dudes are different” is a perfectly good basis for a game. “It’s a Portal clone, but it’s fantasy, and this time you have three different Portal colours” isn’t, and any game that attempted it would be denounced as a rip-off. So a developer who wants to make a first-person-puzzler must think of all new mechanics, which is hard to do well.

      • Echo Tango says:

        “shoot dudes just like in that game, but in this game the dudes are different” is a perfectly good basis for a game

        It’s a good basis for a game, but only if there’s substantial changes to the dudes. i.e. If all the dudes in New Fantasy Shooter Game had the same behaviours as in Last Year’s Shooter Game, and just looked and sounded different, players would denounce that game as a rip-off. So, new shooter games also have new behaviours for their new dudes. The floating aliens in Crysis act differently than the turrets in Half Life, which act differently than the zombies in Left 4 Dead, etc. All of that dude development eats up money, just like making new puzzles and puzzle systems eats up money.

  19. Ninety-Three says:

    Rutskarn’s D&D stories are always amazing. I’d listen to an all D&D podcast, is there a backlog of Rutstkarn stories we can dig into?

  20. JackTheStripper says:

    I got around 1600 hours in TF2 and I don’t care for Overwatch, I feel like I’ve played it already.

    As for the state of TF2, the community kinda left gradually as Valve kept throwing out unbalanced items and bloating the game up without really adding any meaningful content. And Valve also destroyed the mod community with their updates. Gone are the maps like Warioware where you played 10-15 second games for points, Roll The Dice mod for stupid powers, custom voting to add any map to the rotation or to summon the Horseless Headless Horsemann for no reason. Now we’re stuck with Valve-map rotations that are strictly limited to a game mode, meaning that you can’t vote to go to a Capture The Flag map if you’re in a Payload rotation.

    And the most important feature is also missing in Valve servers: Voice All Talk. We used to be able to talk to the opposing team and throw shit or just talk about whatever, and it was great. Now you can’t turn that on unless it’s a custom server, and if they allow it (cause it’s not allowed by default). We used to be able to vote for it even, not anymore. Now it’s mostly silence and kinda dead.

    • Echo Tango says:

      The thing that I felt harmed TF2 a lot, and kinda fits with the bloat you mention, is the complete abandonment of the low-fidelity requirements on custom hats and items. Like, the original non-standard things looked visually similar to the originals, because Valve had a strict limit on polygons. Last time I looked, all the hats had like, 10X or more of the visual complexity, which meant that everything seemed very visually cluttered. Also meant that the game’s system requirements would slowly creep up, too. :S

  21. bad_cluster says:

    Concerning Overwatch. I do understand that it is your first impressions, but your conclusions about it having a low skill ceiling could not be any further from the truth.
    This is a game that is all about teamwork and teams being dynamic with people switching between heroes during the match to counter the opposing team selections. If you approach it from the point of mastering only one hero or just a few of your favorites it could appear fairly simplistic, but it is an approach that is against the core of the game. It still works, the game is still fun if you play it like that, but your skill ceiling will be low.

    Also, because it heavily relies on teamwork the game you get when you play against a team of randoms who are fairly new to the game will feel extremely different from a game where you face experienced players. Its an eye opening experience, that low skill ceiling you thought you can see, will raise above the stratosphere. In reality though, their matchmaking system makes that a very rare occurrence, you basically had to be in the closed beta to really experience that.

    Whats great about Overwatch, its always fun, even when your team is being steamrolled.

    • JackTheStripper says:

      I see your description of the game and just think “so… it’s TF2”, and I can’t break out of that.

      • bad_cluster says:

        Yep, that was my first impression upon hearing about the game as well. I used to play TF2 a lot early on, but I just cant enjoy it anymore, it stopped being fun to me about same time the whole hat thing started to go out of control. So I really did not expect anything special from Overwatch. And it caught me off guard, I got absolutely addicted to it in a good way, same way I used to be addicted to Quake or its CTF and Team Fortress mods, or Quake 3 TDM.

        Just as background:
        I used to play Quake-Quake 3 and Unreal Tournaments 10+ years ago on a semi professional level, that died out around the same time TF2 got released. Last few years I had completely lost interest in FPS games, military pop and shoot style shooters are to blame most likely.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I haven’t played it yet, but I am preemptively wary of Overwatch for the same reason that I don’t like MOBAs. It seems everyone has a bunch of elaborate powers that do crazy things, so you will die, die, and die again to someone doing something unexpected because they had a power that you hadn’t memorized. Even when you’re not suffering “cheap” deaths, it gives the whole thing the unsatisfying feeling that anything could happen, in the bad “there are no rules and things happen at random” way.

      How much of that is my imagination and how much of the game really is 500 hours of DOTA dying until you memorize your way into getting good?

      • bad_cluster says:

        I don’t play any MOBAs, I just don’t like them, and yeah what you described is a factor in it for me as well.
        I didn’t notice anything like that when playing Overwatch, yes it takes some time to learn all heroes, but you don’t have to play them yourself to learn them, often seeing a kill cam replay from the point of view of whoever has killed you is enough to learn tricks. It took me about 20ish hours to feel confident when I am switching heroes to counter, none of that time was spent on looking up information on google. To be honest, I actually enjoyed the learning process myself just as much as utilizing that knowledge to pull off some nice wins later on.

        PS:
        MOBAs on top of different heroes also have different items you can buy in the shop during the game, Overwatch has nothing of the sort. Every hero is static, their abilities and weapons never change(unless Blizzard decides to balance them) during the match or between games, there are no loadouts and there is no leveling either. In fact, levels in Overwatch are only cosmetic. Heroes being the main focus of the game is the only thing that ties Overwatch to MOBAs.

  22. mwchase says:

    Regarding some of the points Chris makes in the video, someone should try to hook up a high-powered AI to the transcripts of stuff like Mornington Crescent and Numberwang.

    Just as a general question of, like, how sophisticated a mental model do you actually need to participate in those… experiences?

  23. GloatingSwine says:

    Stellaris’ victory conditions do count your federation for combined victory.

    If your federation has 40% of colonisable worlds then it counts for a federation victory.

    Paradox games don’t generally have defined win conditions though, you don’t “win” Crusader Kings for example in a predefined way, you just set up your ongoing story of your dynasty with whatever personal victory condition you set for yourself.

    The early game is by far the strongest part though

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The problem is that Stellaris is one part Paradox Grand Strategy to three or four parts “very bland 4X”. Crusader Kings has no win condition, but there are a million things to do. In Stellaris, once you complete the early game and gobble up all the unclaimed territory, your options are to wage a war of expansion or do nothing. Science is only useful for gathering more minerals and building stronger ships, there’s no wonders, no culture victory, just war. Zero-interactivity “throw your stack of doom at their stack of doom and cross your fingers” war.

      You can’t even accumulate resources because there’s a cap on stored minerals, if you’re not going to war or expanding your empire, you’re clicking “next turn” without doing anything.

      • Humanoid says:

        The game lacks any sort of personality at all really. Even with the many alien graphics, with all but humans they’re literally just recolours of one base graphic. MoO2 had different looks for the leader versus science guy versus the military guy, etc, and on top of that they had unique portraits and stats for the random leaders.

        And because everyone is the same, there’s no personal likes or dislikes towards any particular individual, something that CK2 managed in spades, right up to irrationally spending ten years and untold amounts of gold to murder one irrelevant guy who wronged you once.

  24. Ninety-Three says:

    On Stellaris, I found the whole events system to be very disappointing. The first discovery of alien life, which the flavour text and common sense tells you is the biggest event in history, ends with “+60 science points, end of event”.

    You find a defunct alien shipyard and reactivate it, at which point it spits out a ship and shuts down completely. You get a ship that’s just like the other ships you have except it has slightly different equipment.

    You get a quest to study alien animals, so it consists of sending your science ships to half a dozen planets marked on the map and clicking one button to fill up the “Study animal” bar which awards +200 science points, and when you study all of them you get an additional 300 science points and 50 influence. Hurray.

    The events sound interesting when you describe them, but you’re not actually doing anything interesting, you’re just clicking a button to have it spit out some flavour text (which looks like it implies greater significance, but there never is any) and +100 of some resource.

    • Humanoid says:

      Furthermore, basing the game design around events makes it very labour-intensive to develop. Not that having them is a bad thing, but the the strategy games with the best longevity probably owe it more to that indefinable ability to generate an organic, emergent narrative through its basic gameplay mechanics.

  25. Sova says:

    I listen to the Diecast for dinner ideas
    Dunno what the rest of you are doing here.

  26. Ninety-Three says:

    So does anyone have a link to the full version of the music from that Errant Signal video? It helpfully names the track and artists in the video, but Google finds me nothing but remixes (or maybe the track in the video is a particular remix I can’t find).

  27. Mistwraithe says:

    Those look like some really good questions… I miss the days when Shamus would have written answers to those questions, rather than voice recording them. I can’t get into listening to podcasts (so I haven’t listened to this either).

    But I guess I am just old fashioned…

    • Echo Tango says:

      Podcasts are the new old-fashioned! They’re like radio, so I just listen to them while I die fifty times in Enter The Gungeon! :D

    • I found the best way to start listening is to have them in the car. Long drives are way more entertaining with the Diecast/SP crew talking. I still prefer the written word or videos at home, as I can’t listen to a podcast and read at the same time (but can do that with videos and do).
      They’re also nice for any sort of repetitive task where you need to be looking at what you’re doing but don’t need to use your ears, like grinding in a game or working a complicated bit of knitting or household chores (haven’t tried that last one but I should).

      • RTBones says:

        Yes, this. Whether its on a drive or on a train, I tend to d/l the current (and sometimes previous if I am behind) Diecast to listen to on the drive/ride. They are also not bad to listen to when you are doing chores like ironing. I cant, however, watch SW and iron (or drive), because I will watch, and not watch what I am doing. Bad with an iron, worse in a car.

      • Phill says:

        Haven’t tried household chores or haven’t tried listening to a podcast whilst doing them? ;)

        I wouldn’t recommend the former, but if it is unavoidable, go with the latter. Except when vacuuming the carpet, because that doesn’t work so well.

        I usually end up listening to the diecast while doing the cooking, unless it comes early enough to listen to whilst at work and I happen to be doing something that a podcast won’t interfere with (I can’t read and listen to a podcast at the same time)

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Except when vacuuming the carpet, because that doesn’t work so well.

          It works if you have good headphones that can cancel out outside noise.

          • Phill says:

            What witchcraft is this? Burn the witch!

            I wasn’t thinking in terms of using headphones, ‘cos I never do at home. Turns out you can’t really hear when the kids trying to stuff each other into the toaster when you’ve got headphones on, and apparently that is ‘neglect’. Pffft.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Haven’t tried household chores or haven’t tried listening to a podcast whilst doing them? ;)

          I did once move house because it was either that or clean it.

      • Destrustor says:

        I usually listen to a bunch of podcasts and let’s plays while playing games (unless story bits are happening, it never really interferes) or doing art on my tablet.
        Most of my hobbies involve listening to things in the background while watching other things.

    • Humanoid says:

      One of the advantages of having a desk-bound job I guess, I have no shortage of time to listen while (pretending to be) working.

      That said, I’m a bit more selective about which ones I listen to these days, because sometimes the discussions for a particular episode aren’t of any interest to me (e.g. superheroes, wrestling, Star Wars). I really appreciate the detailed show notes because of that. And also that the boring stuff was front-loaded into last week’s episode so the relevant stuff is all this week. :P

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        because sometimes the discussions for a particular episode aren’t of any interest to me (e.g. superheroes, wrestling, Star Wars)

        What kind of a nerd are you?

        because sometimes the discussions for a particular episode aren’t of any interest to me (e.g. superheroes, wrestling, Star Wars)

        Soon,you will be visited by raging Galaxy Gun,and she will suplex you so hard that next year will be a day longer.

        • Humanoid says:

          I accidentally left out fantasy literature. That’s boring too. Hopefully the various groups of nerds hounding me about the various subjects cancel each other out.

  28. NotSteve says:

    The mirror of opposition sounds like the perfect hing for vampire interior decorating. Have a few set up in your inner sanctum, so any adventurers who show up while you’re sleeping end up fighting themselves instead.

  29. Retsam says:

    I’d writeup why Blitzball is awesome and not bullshit… but I suspect that will be one of Shamus’s upcoming columns. If not, I guess just imagine that I wrote a really eloquent and moving defense of Blitzball here.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Thanks for that! *sniff* No, it’s all good – just something in my eye.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Based on his Twitter, Shamus hates Blitzball.

    • James Bennett says:

      This isn’t a moving defense of the Blitzball, but I wanted to offer some advice for newbies to make Blitzball a bit easier.

      Early on in the game there’s a little mini-game type event. I think it’s basically just a quick time event. If you succeed at this event you unlock the Jecht Shot ability for Tidus. This ability lets Tidus take out two defenders and then take a shot at the goal. This ability is blatantly overpowered and makes the Blitzball games relatively easy.

      The other thing that makes Blitzball easy is that once you have the ball the other team doesn’t really have a way to make you give it up. Basically, once you’re ahead you just need to regain possession and then swim around till time runs out. There’s nothing that the other team can do.

  30. grampy_bone says:

    Off-topic– I’m wondering what you guys have to say about Denuvo.

    Denuvo is supposedly uncrackable. I know Shamus wrote it off when he heard DA: Inquisition was cracked despite using Denuvo. There have been a few denuvo games that were cracked but it took months, well after the usual zero-day piracy problems. Now more and more games are using it. Doom 4, Tomb Raider, all big new releases. No cracks. Even experienced crackers are saying Denuvo could be the end of game piracy.

    https://www.reddit.com/r/CrackStatus/comments/4805du/crack_status_denuvo_games/

  31. Paul Spooner says:

    Malicious copy emerges from mirror of opposition, turns around, makes another copy…

  32. Alex says:

    Re: Deploy Filibuster
    One of the better Magic: the Gathering settings was a world-city called Ravnica, and one of the playable factions were the Azorius – the Guild of Bureaucrats, giving us cards like Azor’s Elocutors, which gains a Filibuster token each turn you stop your opponent from doing any damage to you.

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