Diecast #156: Steam Summer Sale, Witcher 3, Mailbag

By Shamus
on Jun 27, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

This Diecast was recorded mere hours ago. Thanks to Issac for the quick turnaround time.

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Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

1:37 The Steam Summer Sale

Reminder that Good Robot is 25% off!

14:23 The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Before you ask: No, I haven’t played either DLC yet. I’m just now hitting level 10 in my latest play-through, and the DLCs start at level 30 or so. There’s a long road between here and the DLC, this game is time-consuming, and I don’t have a lot of spare time right now. We’ll see.

38:39 Mailbag

Dear Diecast,

We often praise games for trying something new, but it doesn’t always work out. What is your favorite/most interesting failure of a game?

Anthony

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A Hundred!20202012Many comments. 172, if you're a stickler

From the Archives:

  1. Humanoid says:

    Also featuring the phantom of Chris.

    P.S. Is it just me or has there been something not quite right about his mic these past few weeks?

  2. GloatingSwine says:

    The Witcher 3’s English voice cast is a fairly standard set of US and British voice actors. They appear to be generally TV actors rather than the standard voice actor set. Plus Charles Dance as the Emperor of Nilfgaard because you have to have one name actor.

    Nilfgaard’s accent is just “vaguely germanic”, it’s not Polish at all.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      I have no idea what a Polish accent sounds like. I’m guessing they don’t either. Possibly because we’re all American.

    • JakeyKakey says:

      Slightly Germanic probably sounds right, they’re a bit of a Holy Roman Empire stand-in.

      Polish accent generally sounds like a German-Russian hybrid of sorts, generally leaning far more towards the latter, but yet lacking the stereotypical harshness of Eastern European accents.

      Witcher’s dub is pretty much pure Game Of Throne tier over-exaggerated medieval English accents though, to the point where I find the Polish VA’s far superior at this point. Nothing says ‘Slavic’ like being blasted with an earful of cockney.

      • Henson says:

        I’ve been with Polish voiceactors since the start, partly to get immersed in the eastern europe feel, partly because the voices in Witcher 1 sucked (Geralt in particular, though he’s improved a bit over time). The problem now with Witcher 3 is that I miss a good deal of the fantastic facial animation work because I’m glancing at subtitles. Still, I think it was worth it.

      • Artur CalDazar says:

        I’m given to understand they are a fantasy version of longtime Polish foes, which means they are mostly HRE, with some communist Russia thrown in.

        • djw says:

          I don’t think the Holy Roman Empire was ever cohesive enough to be a threat to anybody. The Ottoman empire and the Russian empire were always bigger threats than the HRE.

          If anything, the loose confederation of states in the North seems like a better analogy for the Holy Roman Empire than Nilfgaard does.

  3. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I thought the lack of Flash Sales was due to the EU last year imposing their refund policy on Valve. If you can return a game any time for any reason and then just pick it up again on a deeper discount, that works out badly for Valve and the devs I think.

    I miss those sales.

    But I agree with what you said about not having so many deep discounts which leads to less guilt and slower growth of my backlog and buying games I honestly think I’ll play.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Im with TotalBiscuit on the flash sales.They are anti consumer,Im glad they are gone,and Im sad that so many people actually want them back.I get why people want them back,though.

    • Karthik says:

      Flash sales were anti-consumer and a giant PITA. Whereas most things Steam are one or the other. I’m glad they’re gone. On the whole I prefer this to be just a retailer sale and not the festival with starry eyed celebrants that it was becoming.

  4. Smejki says:

    1) The main reason for no flash sales and other sales gamifying bullshit is the existence of Refunds. Which is good as that system was exploitative towards customers.

    2) The main incentive is now on Discovery as by discovering titles by going through the discovery queue(s) you are getting cards (worth about 3×0.08 euro per day). Which is good for smaller developers as this guy has shown (summary picture here). More hidden games get discovered by more customers and get more copies sold (they have to be good and catch the customers’ fancy). The old system only managed to sell game which already were bestsellers. Honestly the discovery queue is the only good thing that came out of Greenlight and this is a great usage of that system.

  5. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Divinity: Original Sin, which I’m wrapping up right now, is a pretty damn good example of an interesting failure. There’s a lot that I love about it, and in many ways it’s the most polished isometric RPG I’ve ever played. It’s also unbelievably inept at letting the player know what they’re supposed to be doing, and I’ve broken the main quest’s scripting more than once and had to read walkthroughs to figure out how to skip over and trigger a later event. There are multiple times when you need to find some tiny switch hidden in the level details to advance because the game lacks a “highlight everything that can be interacted with” button. There are times when advancing requires a spell which the player might not have access to. The game had so much potential but damn is it an unholy mess of “How the hell was I supposed to know to do that?”

    • IFS says:

      Divinity: OS has a ‘highlight everything that can be interacted with’ button, I forget what it is but I know it does exist. Other than that I’d agree that the game can be rather bad at giving the player direction, which seems especially egregious in a game where your characters start out investigating something, I’ve played something like 20 hours and done all manner of quests and still have no idea where to look for clues to the mystery you show up to investigate in the first place (having already checked the obvious of course, that is the hotel room and the widow’s house).

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        You can highlight items that can be picked up, but not switches/doors/etc.

        Also, if you don’t mind a minor bit of spoiling regarding the place you’re stuck at:

        In order to complete that quest “properly” you have to pick the lock to Esmeralda’s door and search her house for two pieces of evidence. Then you bring them to her, and she gives innocent explanations for them, before fingering someone else- Evelyn. Then when you go to talk to her, the doctor tells you that she’s gone and gives you the key to her house or something so that you can go search it.

        Of course, this is one of the things that broke in my playthrough, since I went exploring before finishing that quest and wound up triggering a later game event that removed the doctor from the town before. The right conversation with Esmeralda never triggered, and instead I had to figure out how to get my lockpicking high enough to just pick the lock to Evelyn’s door and grab the plot coupons there, which sent Evelyn where she needed to be for the next encounter.

        It’s a mess, on several levels.

        1) It expects you to perform an act of breaking and entering, which many players (for roleplaying reasons) wouldn’t consider as a requirement for the main quest unless explicitly told to do so.

        2) You might not even have lockpicking. This shows up later on as well- keep some scrolls of teleport around if none of the characters has the spell, because you’ll need it in order to progress at one point.

        3) Why do I need Esmeralda to tell me to investigate Evelyn? I’ve already got reason to suspect her. But there’s a script trigger that I have to activate, even if it should be completely necessary, that first requires me to look in the wrong place.

        4) Why can I break the game’s scripting just by going to the wrong place at the wrong time? It’s not like a fireballed an important NPC or anything. There’s even a damned side quest telling me to go there!

        My advice: make peace with using walkthroughs or put down the game entirely, because it only gets worse as you go further in.

        • IFS says:

          Wow that is way worse than I thought it was, probably the worst quest scripting failure I’ve heard since that serial killer quest in Skyrim. I put the game down months ago, was always planning to get back to it at some point but hearing that I might not pick it up unless I find someone to coop with.

          Also huh, I could have sworn that highlighted switches as well. Guess I misremembered and found those by just flailing my mouse across the screen until something lit up.

        • djw says:

          I’m pretty sure Jake’s dog will finger (or “nose”) Evelyn without requiring you to harass Esmeralda first. Of course, that does require you to have “pet pal” as a perk, and also get some item that smell’s like Evelyn for him to smell.

    • Humanoid says:

      It’s a game I initially stalled badly with on launch, not even getting past the first region in the game. But then about a year later I tried it in co-op, and it was magnificent, and one of the best things I played that year. This was with the original version even, so the Director’s Cut may have improved some of the more confusing or unintuitive things?

      • Bloodsquirrel says:

        I’ve been playing the Enhanced Edition.

        When you’re not stuck in the main quest it can be a lot of fun. Exploring is fun, the game looks great, and when the puzzles *aren’t* ridiculously obtuse they can be cool. I’ve played it a lot longer than I would have if it didn’t have anything going for it- but by the end the sheer number of things (they’ve actually added several in the Enhanced Edition, which made even walkthroughs useless sometimes) that broke my experience by making me alt-tab to figure out what the game wanted from me soured me on the whole thing.

  6. Ninety-Three says:

    It’s funny to hear Shamus talking about “Yeah, The Witcher is really as good as I remember”, because I had the opposite experience with it. I played in December for 7 hours, decided I didn’t like it, and quit. Just yesterday I booted it up, with only the vague memory that I didn’t like a lot of things, but I thought I should give it another chance. Turns out my memory was wrong.

    I hated The Witcher 3. I hate the tedious “spring attack then dodge back, repeat until victory” combat, I hate detective vision, I hate the Ubisoft open-world checklist, I hate every quest sending me halfway across the open world five times over, I hate Gwent which is a brilliant game ruined by pay-to-win bullshit, I hate that the RPG elements boil down to nothing more than “This sword does twice as much damage but you can’t use it until you gain three more levels”, and I hate the bullshit padded-out chains of dependencies. No I will not rescue the Pellar’s fucking goat! I walked away from my computer and five minutes later I was still angry at this videogame.

    Everyone else’s reaction to the game has confused me, because I feel like I’m the only person on the internet who doesn’t like the game. Usually when I’m not into a game, I can at least recognize that it has some sort of merit, but I do not understand what people like about The Witcher. I recognize that it must be good, because I’ve heard literally nothing but praise for it, but it feels like I’m in the Truman show and everyone else is being paid to lie to me.

    It’s lavish with detail, but when the detail is “Voice-acting and backstory for the peasant who’s going to send me to Point A so I can use detective vision to find Point B where I kill a monster for quest completion XP”, I don’t really care. Heck, I skip the voice-acting because reading subtitles is twice as fast. Is that the thing people like about this game, the detail? If everyone but me just really loves having voice-acting on their padded-out sidequests, then maybe that’s why I fucking hate the Pellar and no one else seems to mind.

    • Andy says:

      We ARE getting paid to lie to you. It’s a pretty sweet gig, actually.

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      The Witcher 3 certainly isn’t very strong mechanically, but I can’t really think of any other RPG I’ve ever played that has large and richly detailed an open world as it does. It’s head and shoulders above Bethesda when it comes to NPCs that feel like real people. The world feels real, where you can see what they eat and everything, and not some weird abstraction land. And you can interact with it in meaningful ways- it’s not just set dressing locked behind invisible walls. The open-world checklist is very organically woven into the game, and when a peasant asks me to go kill a monster for him they actually bother to sell me on the idea that the monster is a real problem and that he needs help. Not like Fallout 4’s “There’s a nest of rad roaches giving us trouble. They’re on the complete opposite side of the map, try not to run into too many deathclaws on your way there”.

      I don’t want to just say that it has a great story, because it’s a lot more than that. The entire game world is narratively solid in a way that Bethesda or Bioware can’t even approach.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        The verisimilitude of Witcher 3’s world was ruined for me by one major problem. It’s pervasive on the scope of Fallout’s “200 years, really?” problem, suffusing every aspect of the world and the writer just hopes you won’t think about it. There are too many monsters.

        One particular quest establishes that a mere four ghouls are all it takes to drive the locals out of their homes. On my last quest I killed forty. It wasn’t even a quest about killing ghouls, that’s just how many of them got in my way while I was trying to do something! I’ve murdered more bandits than I’ve seen non-bandit humans, and drowned zombies outnumber civilians two to one. Apparently half the population drowned, and half the remainder took up bandtiry. How is civilization still functioning? Why is civilization still functioning? The tone of this monster-infested hellscape should be positively apocalyptic: Don’t take time to pack your things, run don’t walk to anywhere but here.

        And yet it’s not, none of the characters seem to notice that humans are badly outnumbered by aggressive monsters, and people build villages on the banks of zombie-infested rivers without so much as a pallisade. The notion of sending Geralt on a quest to kill any particular monster is ludicrous, he’ll trip over a dozen unrelated monsters in the process. It is exactly like stumbling over raiders and radscorpions on your quest to clear a dungeon in the corner of the map.

        • Humanoid says:

          To be fair, there’s basically a world war going on and the first half of the game has you right in no man’s land (literally too). There would have been more death and thus corpses in the region in a matter of months than likely there had been in the entire history of the region prior to that.

          While in terms of game design I’m kind of with you that I’d prefer significantly less monster density, the situation as-is is reasonably justified as the vast majority of the monsters in that area are zombies of some type. Or wolves. I hate wolves as generic enemies in any RPG so I don’t give this game a pass on that either, but plus ça change.

          Still, Shamus decidedly disliked the previous game (which I loved). I can understand people’s complaints about The Witcher 3 in the same way I had no reason to dispute complaints about The Witcher 2.

          • IFS says:

            IIRC the ghouls/drowners aren’t zombies, rather they’re a species of scavengers. The reason there are so many of them is because there is so much war and death, they are attracted by all the corpses to munch on. There are still probably a few too many of them, but they do have a reason to be frequent encounters in a war torn land.

            • Humanoid says:

              Yeah, one particularly jarring moment was after having a …romantic interlude over an idyllic country lake. Then I walk along the shore a bit and a pack of drowners spawn and kill a villager before I can get to them. No problem with something like that happening in Velen, but the upper half of the map really should feel a lot ‘safer’ for it to feel right.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              It’s not just that there are implausibly many monsters, it’s that there are a ton of monsters and no one seems to notice. The dead outnumber the living, there are drowners fifty feet from the defenseless village, and not a single character even acknowledges it. People are regularly killed by drowners, yet they haven’t stopped standing beside the river. If you just looked at the game’s dialog, you’d get the impression that there’s barely a non-quest monster to be found, when really the odds are stacked against humanity worse than in most zombie apocalypse stories.

              • IFS says:

                I think that’s a little unfair (though not entirely incorrect) as there are plenty of quests even outside the Witcher Contracts (which tend to be about a more specific monster related threat, or a particularly dangerous monster) that make note of the overabundance of monsters. A few come to mind where you are asked to venture onto a battlefield for some reason or another, a task which is dangerous specifically because of the ghouls. One even has you hired alongside other guards to protect people while they pick over the bodies. The cities and lands directly surrounding them tend to have lower numbers of ghouls and where they are is more out of the way, drowners in the sewers and waterways (because criminals have been dumping bodies).

                At the end of the day I think the problem comes down to something a lot of RPGs have, namely they want you to have stuff to fight so they sprinkle it all over. Even Planescape had this in a few places (why do these thugs roaming the streets just want to kill me? Surely they should try and rob me first, which some do admittedly, and even if you build him with no strength the Nameless One does not look like someone you want to mess with).

                • Bloodsquirrel says:

                  It’s more an issue of spacial compression. The world is supposed to be full of monsters in The Witcher 3, but that swamp full of evil is supposed to be half a day’s walk away, not two minutes’ walk. The monsters are where they’re supposed to be, by and large, but everything is close together.

                  The idea that nobody notices, though, is totally false. There are even settlements that have been abandoned because of monsters that you can clear out and help get re-started. Travel is treated as being dangerous. The peasants in general are worried about how they’re going to survive one threat or another, but with an active war going on around them there are a lot of problems other than the drowners.

                  • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

                    Yet another thing you can do. They’re fairly innovative with their quest types (cue someone listing a bunch of games that have done the exact same thing I’m sure). Its not just that you can clear those things out, its that people return, you get unique interactions (not deep, but unique) the map actually changes to show the buildings either repaired or under construction and you usually get a way point and a merchant out of it.

                    The Hanses in Blood and Wine are a nice iteration on that.

                    They did everything they could to make everything you did feel at least a little meaningful from reclaiming towns and forts to destroying monster nests, to the writing, etc.

                    • Ninety-Three says:

                      They did everything they could to make everything you did feel at least a little meaningful from reclaiming towns and forts to destroying monster nests, to the writing, etc.

                      I think that might be the fundamental disconnect, the reason I’m the only one who doesn’t dig Witcher 3. I have a knack for seeing through what Rutskarn called “magic tricks”, and really, that’s what your feeling of meaninfulness is. Killing four ghouls to reclaim a hamlet isn’t any different than killing forty raiders to get a settlement, it’s just that Witcher’s questgivers have custom dialogue and aren’t named “Settler”. Everyone else seems to focus on “unique”, but all I see in The Witcher is “not deep”.

                      And also, what are you talking about re: monster nests? Every single monster nest I found was in the middle of nowhere, unacknowledged by quests, and all I did was kill the local monsters before bombing the nest in order to tick a box on the collectathon and get a hit of completion XP/loot. Frankly, the monster nests worked against the game being meaningful because the system of “Every monster nest rewards you with XP and loot” completely undoes the “Witchers only work for pay” characterizations, the work pays for itself.

                    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

                      Unless you’re in some kind of open sandbox ala Minecraft or Kerbals Space Program, or playing coop with friends, someplace where you’re doing something that is in some way real, its all magic tricks. This is especially true with RPGs. Nothing is real and it all disappears when you turn off the game.

                      What you call a “knack for seeing through magic tricks” I call an “unwillingness to suspend disbelief.” This game has plenty for anyone who wants to actually experience this story. If you don’t, nothing is going to make it connect.

                    • Ninety-Three says:

                      Unless you’re in some kind of open sandbox ala Minecraft or Kerbals Space Program, or playing coop with friends, someplace where you’re doing something that is in some way real, its all magic tricks. This is especially true with RPGs. Nothing is real and it all disappears when you turn off the game.

                      What you call a “knack for seeing through magic tricks” I call an “unwillingness to suspend disbelief.” This game has plenty for anyone who wants to actually experience this story. If you don’t, nothing is going to make it connect.

                      There are games that aren’t built as heavily on magic tricks as Alpha protocol, or moments in trick-heavy games where your choices suddenly do matter (like the roof scene in Life is Strange), and the odds that I will suspend my disbelief for a scene or a game happen to be inversely proportional to the amount of magic present.

                      But sure, you know me better than I know myself and I paid $60 for a game I just didn’t want to experience. Next can you tell me why chocolate isn’t actually my favorite flavour of icecream?

                    • Daemian Lucifer says:

                      What you call a “knack for seeing through magic tricks” I call an “unwillingness to suspend disbelief.”

                      I wouldnt call it unwillingness.Rather,its the difference in taste.He doesnt have the same humor as the developers of the game,therefore for him the goat thing was just frustrating.Someone else has the same sense of humor and for them it was hilarious.For me,it was just ok,but I do find other parts of the game funny.So ultimately it just boils down to how similar your taste is to the taste of the developers.The more stuff you have in common,the more youll like their story.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      Agreed Damien. Thats kind of what I meant by “unwillingness” but I wasn’t clear. Its less stubborn refusal and more lack of desire that I saw with Ninety Three.

                      @Ninety Three
                      I’m sorry, I just can’t think of an RPG that does the sort of thing I was talking about better. They had so many systems in place to give you that basic sense of participation in the story. Geralt isn’t having to do a Trig problem but he’s also not doing quick time events (something he did, in fact, do in the last game. I think the fistfighting here is much better than that quick time system in TW2, thats what I’m comparing these things to).

                    • Humanoid says:

                      I actually didn’t mind the fist-fighting QTE in the previous game. It was the only form of QTE in the game that I didn’t mind, granted. I don’t mind the new system either, though visually it’s a bit ungainly.

                      But yeah, on the main topic of the game, I’d broadly say there are two categories where people who end up disliking the game fall into. One is solvable, being the subset of people who burn themselves out on the open-world side-content, visiting every PoI and getting bored before even biting into the meat of the game. The other set though simply dislikes the way the main story is presented and how any variation in the relevant quests is mostly just selecting Geralt’s opinion of it through dialogue and having to play along regardless. I don’t think I can change anyone’s mind from the latter path, and I don’t really attempt to as a result.

            • Henson says:

              Those two are different things. Ghouls are scavengers, but drowners are zombies. And since there’s no known limit on how long people have been turned into drowners, there’s no real limit on how many of them can be in the game.

              • IFS says:

                I’m pretty sure drowners are just an aquatic species of ghouls, but I could be wrong.

                • Humanoid says:

                  Reading the wiki for both, it seems that the Witcher 3 bestiary prefers to leave things a bit more ambiguous, but the respective entries in previous games have been clearer about the origins of both.

                  “Ghouls are said to have been humans who were once forced into cannibalism and, after many years spent in dark crypts, underwent a horrifying transformation. Only human flesh can satisfy their eternal evil hunger, so they kill people and store the remains in the recesses of their lairs.”

                  Sometimes a drowned man returns as a monster, to haunt the living. Tormented with his death, he murders his victims. He prefers to draw them beneath the water’s surface, tearing the drowning victim to shreds with sharp claws, and eat them like a wet biscuit. Such creature is called a drowner. They are quite often found at the banks of the Pontar, since the huge river with regular shipping and riverside villages provides them with ample sustenance.

                  • IFS says:

                    Seems I was wrong then, I think it was (as Henson points out below) the fact that they were both categorized as Necrophages that gave me the impression they were related.

                • Henson says:

                  It’s a bit confusing because in W3, drowners are classified as Necrophages along with ghouls & alghouls, but in W1 and W2, that wasn’t the case. Drowners have been shown eating from corpses before, I think, but their nature is different from other corpse-eaters; scavenging for flesh is not their raison d’etre. Drowners are specifically the bodies of those who drowned to death, returned to unlife. The origins of ghouls and other necrophages are harder to pinpoint, and are probably creatures that came into the world with the Conjunction of Spheres.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Two things:
          1)Distances in video games are not real distances.In withcer 3,you can run from one village to the other in a minute,and the population of those villages counts dozens of people at most.This is the limitation of the medium.These things are abstractions.So its not that theres a ghoul infested cave 50 meters away from a very populated village,thats just an astraction of the game.

          2)These things havent been there forever.The monsters appeared in this world rather recently,and the war in this country is what made their populations boom.Those villages werent built next to a drowner infested lake,but rather the lake became drowner infested long after the villages were built.

    • Henson says:

      I hope I’m not making an undue assumption about your gaming habits, but it sounds like you’re looking for a dungeon-crawler rather than a story-based RPG.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        You are making an undue assumption, I love Planescape: Torment, The Longest Journey, all the classic story-heavy games. What I don’t like are stories about monster-slayers who have to tediously wander a forest looking for a lost goat so a guy will tell them where to find something so another guy will tell them where to find something else so yet another guy will tell them where to find the thing they’re really after.

        • Henson says:

          I can understand the frustration at having to do other people’s menial errands, but in this case I think it works because it acknowledges the very absurdity of a famous monster hunter being thwarted by a goat. It takes a slightly comedic tone at Geralt’s expense, and Geralt is just as annoyed at having to do other people’s chores as we would be. And as far as nested quests are concerned, this particular example is really only one tier, hardly a chain of quests at all (though there are certainly long quest chains later on).

          • Ninety-Three says:

            No wonder I hated it. I picked up on its tone of “Haha, look at you, putting up with this bullshit” and realized “You’re right, this is bullshit, why am I putting up with this?” *Alt-F4*

    • James Porter says:

      Your opinion is wrong! ;)

      Edit: Yeah… forgot i changed my name to James Porter, i am not James Porter.

    • Humanoid says:

      Personally I love the investigative type quests with Geralt narrating his way through them, and have done so in any game which features them, whether or not it requires any sort of actual deductive reasoning from the player. To be fair, I’d take just about any type of content that isn’t fighting, really – hell I’d still play it in the form of a walking simulator.

      However it’s not surprising to me that that kind of design has narrower appeal than the staples of the genre, and I don’t see any reason to attempt to sway those of differing opinion otherwise, other than to say that they’re reasonably catered for in any number of other games.

    • djw says:

      Well, there is a middle ground between hate and love. I merely found Witcher 3 to be a bit dull. I just couldn’t bring myself to finish it. I certainly did not hate it though.

    • Decus says:

      Naw, I also don’t really care for Witcher 3 beyond “I guess it’s beautiful and it can be fun to take in the sights”. Sailing around with whales and other things is an experience I don’t think I can get elsewhere.

      Its major problem for me is how quickly and violently it both taught me that exploring isn’t really worth it and that it still is basically bethesda game level of problems, world and story-wise, under its pretty veneer. You can go back to the starting area at most points in the story and that obnoxious kid is still singing his “why aren’t you dead yet” children’s song mocking their oppressors while the rest of the area has similarly been “locked in time” despite time having passed. This is the end result of most areas and quests–you get no sense of real closure or development as everything ends up locked in time. Or the closure you get is that everybody is dead. Those are essentially the two outcomes and neither is very satisfying to the point that I’d argue bethesda is better for not having the prettier veneer; bethesda is more honest because it’s garbage through and through rather than decent before devolving into garbage. You rescue those kids and get the baron killed? Baron’s hold is now locked in time and so are the kids once you find their new school. You save the baron? He leaves the game world anyway and again his hold/plot is locked in time.

      Exploration is problems because it’s the worst of both worlds between oblivion leveled loot/enemies and morrowind’s set levels. This is because the loot, your reward for exploring and killing monsters above your paygrade, has level requirements to be used. So yes, I can totally kill that wyvern early on and explore that tower…only to find that it dropped nothing on death and that all of the loot in the tower cannot be used for another 10 levels. Why would I ever repeat that experience again? Killing stuff that’s higher leveled isn’t really a reward unto itself when the combat system isn’t so hot and if I’m not getting any cool gear or crafting supplies or drops out of it then what’s the point?

      And then you start outleveling most quests anyway making content that could’ve been fun at one point super boring and easy. It’s the same issue DA:I ended up having though DA:I actually fixed it by adding an option to scale everything UP to your level. It also added an additional option to add single, more powerful enemies to most mobs to further make every encounter more interesting. And an option to halve your exp gain if that’s more your thing. I haven’t been following witcher 3 to know if they’ve also addressed these issues but if they haven’t then shame on them.

      • MichaelGC says:

        They have added level scaling as an option now, although I don’t think there’s an equivalent of the mob mini-boss thingy. (They sound a bit like Fallout 4’s ‘Legendary’ foes, those.)

        • djw says:

          I would really like to see a game that flattens out the level curve rather than use scaling. Allow characters to gain interesting abilities as they gain experience, but don’t dramatically change the damage that they dish out or receive.

          For example, consider Fallout 4. Rather than gain hit points every level, have your hit points depend ONLY on perks and endurance level. You can increase hit points by putting level up points into endurance or endurance perks, but that has the opportunity cost of not putting the perk points somewhere else. Along with this you would drop hit point scaling for enemies.

          When you return to earlier areas the enemies would still be a challenge. They would be easier than they were at the beginning of the game, because your perks and increased stats would allow you to hit harder and in more ways (for instance, you might have blitz now) but they can still kill you if you are not careful.

          This would also allow you to approach higher level areas without quite as much trepidation early in the game, because you know if you are really careful and avoid getting hit you can kill enemies with a few shots (no pea shooter crap).

          • Henson says:

            I like this idea, but it also would get rid of a lot of the experience of getting new and better equipment. Players love loot, but in order to keep the difficulty curve pretty flat, you would either need to scrap a lot of loot drops or make upgrades VERY incremental, which probably won’t feel as fun/rewarding. It’s a tough problem.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              You can make the curve flat with loot in some interesting ways.Have a difficult dungeon with a powerful rifle in the end that kills everything,but is ridiculously expensive to maintain.Have your armors with different effects(this one reflects lasers back at the enemies,but this other one regenerates your health in the sun(but glows)).Have a weird unique weapon drop(like the satellite gun in new vegas).Etc.

              • djw says:

                Yes, that is one good way to do it.

                Another way is to use the approach of Pillars of Eternity and have really good stuff drop right from the beginning of the game. Late game equipment would not be better per say, it would just be different, and would allow you to fine tune your setup to your preference.

                You can still “meat gate” the items behind difficult foes, but if players manage to get the good stuff early in spite of the tough foes guarding it they should be able to use it for the entire game.

      • Henson says:

        Level requirements for equipment are bullshit. If I can manage to survive a challenge far past my level, I don’t see why I shouldn’t be rewarded for it. That part of W3 really irked me.

        And yeah, I feel they needed to be a little smarter about the placement of higher-level monsters so that I don’t stumble into one every fifteen minutes before having to run for the hills. Or maybe make an enemy’s level indicator clearer from a further distance.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      I hate the tedious “spring attack then dodge back, repeat until victory” combat,

      Its not the only way to fight.Though Ill admit that its the easiest way to fight,and I too hate that aspect of the game.

      I hate the Ubisoft open-world checklist

      Um,there isnt a single tower you get to climb,the whole world is open and you can just go wherever,the monsters dont level scale so that you always have the same chance with everyone.Its the opposite of ubisoft open world.

      I hate every quest sending me halfway across the open world five times over

      Thats true for maybe just a few quests,most of which are the ones posted on the notice boards.The rest are fairly close to the quest giver,at most 300 clicks away.

      I hate Gwent which is a brilliant game ruined by pay-to-win bullshit

      While its not the best collectible card game out there(far from it),pay to win?Umm,how?The strongest cards are amongst the most plentiful,cheapest ones out there,and over half of the cards I bought I never even tried to use.Its a nonsensical minigame lore wise,and its broken as hell,but pay to win it most definitely is not.

      I hate that the RPG elements boil down to nothing more than “This sword does twice as much damage but you can’t use it until you gain three more levels”

      Errr,no.The ROLE part of the ROLE playing game is that you are playing the ROLE of geralt.And that based on your choices in the ROLE of geralt you get vastly different outcomes in this world.

      As for the progression of your equipment,its much more meaningful what buffs you slot into which piece of equipment than how much raw damage it does/absorbs.

      and I hate the bullshit padded-out chains of dependencies.

      You and Shamus both.But I personally didnt notice that the main quest line is that padded out.Though I did quite often take a break from it in order to go around doing some side quests.

      • Shamus says:

        Playing through a second time, I think the line between padding and non-padding gets pretty blurry.

        In Velen, the quest to get news out of the Bloody Baron was LONG. It was filled with sub-sub-sub quests. (Like help Jonny with the harpies so he’ll help you talk to gran so she’ll ask the Crones so they will send you to another town so you can solve a monster problem so so that you can learn what the Crones know so that that you can tell the Baron what happened to Anna so he’ll tell you what happened to Ciri.)

        That’s only a fraction of the Bloody Baron questline. It goes on for ages. But it didn’t feel like padding because:

        1) The Baron is an interesting guy who…
        2) clearly has information I need and who…
        3) has a full backstory and character arc that unfold as I do the questline that…
        4) builds up to a visible finale.

        In contrast:

        1) I have no idea who Dandelion is or…
        2) if he actually has any information I need and…
        3) looking for him is mostly a chain of random disconnected tasks that…
        4) don’t seem to build up to anything, raise any stakes, or tell a coherent story.

        While these two questlines are extremes, there are a lot of other quests that fall somewhere on the gradient between the two.

        • David Whittington says:

          In regards to the Dandelion quest, I also think the context for why you’re doing so gives it even more of that “meandering” feeling. Going off memory here, you are directed to the Bloody Baron by the Emperor’s spies as a potential lead to Ciri. Then you meet up with him and he’s clearly withholding information from you until he gets what he wants, so all the linked subquests (as you say) don’t feel quite as silly, you’re doing this for a clearly spelled out reason.

          By contrast you decide to find Dandelion because a magic dreamer/prophet person helps you dream up that Ciri and Dandelion met at some point, which feels out of left field right off the bat. Then you stumble into Dijkstra, (Geralt acts like he knows him from the events of Witcher 2 I think? But I’ve completed both 1/2 and had no clue who he was) who’s mad about his money being stolen. Early in the investigation you figure out Dandelion was involved and decide to try to help Dijkstra without tipping him off that all you really care about is finding Dandelion.

          This eventually leads into sneaking into the witch-hunter’s base, as you figure out that Mengele has Dijkstra’s money. You sneak in with Triss, and this quest is really good in isolation but in relation to Dandelion is just…huh? Depending on what you do there you’ll find where Dijkstra’s money is and/or that Dandelion has been locked up by Mengele.

          You might think you’ll execute a brilliant jail break but instead this leads to a silly play you act in to draw out a shapeshifter who then breaks out Dandelion by acting as Mengele. Then you might think you’ll intercept this caravan and break him out but no he’s taken away and blah blah blah you finally meet up with him.

          I got a little tired of writing it out but with Dandelion the point is you keep doing things that feel like they drift further and further away from actually getting to Dandelion. So the (poor) answers to getting Dandelion are:

          1) Dandelion is a major character in the Witcher universe. To the Witcher 3’s credit, most of the time it doesn’t matter if you have any previous knowledge of the earlier games/books/etc. In this instance they kind of drop the ball though, unless you read his in-game “wikipedia” entry there is no reason to know or care about Dandelion prior to meeting with him. And reading the in game entry for him is not a good substitute for storytelling.

          2) During the course of the investigation you do find out he and Ciri did a heist for some reason. Dandelion also pointed Ciri to one of the worst crime lords in the city for help with a curse? Why Whoreson Jr. and not literally anyone else isn’t well justified.

          3) Kind of explained above but yeah, they didn’t do a great job explaining why you’re doing all of these things for Dandelion. There’s also the issue that a lot of these tasks intersect with other major questlines, meaning you could go do something major like get Whoreson Jr. not realizing that he’s also a part of finding Dandelion.

          4) I think they meant to have it coincide with Dijkstra’s whole thing as Dandelion is the one who stole his money, essentially. The problem with Dandelion as in the above paragraph there are many quests you do that involve finding Dandelion but often have another purpose that supersedes the Dandelion aspect, making the player forget what they even did to find Dandelion in the first place.

          So the plotline in full is (TLDR version):

          1) Magic dream says to find Dandelion
          2) Stumble onto seemingly unrelated Dijkstra investigation, figure out Dandelion is involved
          3) Find out Dandelion directed Ciri to Whoreson Jr?
          4) Find out from Whoreson they escaped but Dandelion was captured by Mengele
          5) Go kill Mengele, find out Dandelion is in inescapable prison
          6) Decide to find shapeshifter to impersonate Mengele, act in silly play to do so
          7) Shapeshifter busts out Dandelion, you engage in stupid chase and finally get Dandelion
          8) Dandelion tells you he doesn’t know where Ciri is, she teleported away. So Dandelion doesn’t even have any real info for you.
          9) Tell Dijkstra you did/didn’t find his money.

          So agreed, not real well justified or satisfying. Sorry for the long post, just felt like writing about it. I see now why Shamus likes to do it so much.

          • Humanoid says:

            Don’t think Dijkstra was in any of the previous games, he’s a character from the books only.

            On the other comment that Gwent is pay-to-win, I suppose it is in a sense because if you don’t diligently buy cards from merchants throughout the game, the default deck is simply non-competitive when you get thrown into games later on. In Hearts of Stone I was thrown into two plot-related games of Gwent and was utterly destroyed in both – unsurprising because the previous time I played it was during the Gwent tutorial, which I lost.

            Will be interesting to see what the primary means of acquiring new cards in the upcoming Gwent standalone game will be.

        • GloatingSwine says:

          I think there’s a certain amount of assumption in Witcher 3 that you’ve read the books that wasn’t really present in the first two games (because they were looking at international markets and they weren’t translated yet).

          So whilst the Baron gets a lot of characterisation in the game because he’s a new character who was written completely for the game, Dandelion is a longstanding fixture of the Witcher stories and the game assumes you know about him already.

          • Wide And Nerdy says:

            I hardly ever felt like I was missing anything the game didn’t immediately clue me in on and my only knowledge of Witcher Lore prior to TW3 is TW2. So I don’t think the game assumes you’ve read the books.

            I’m sure the books must give you a deeper appreciation though.

            • Humanoid says:

              Yeah, don’t really feel I missed out by not reading the books. The game expects you to know Dandelion from the previous game, but doesn’t expect you to know the likes of Dijkstra (or Crach or Ermion, say), for whom sufficient information is given when introduced.

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                I wouldnt say the game expects you to know any of them.I have never read the books,and Ive played the previous two witchers for less than 6 hours combined,but I had no problem in learning quickly who these people were.Theres extra info you can read if you want in the lore part of the menu,but all the important stuff about their previous interactions with geralt get mentioned in the reminiscent dialogues that are quite plentiful.

        • MichaelGC says:

          Where we putting the the Frying Pan quest? :D Gotta be towards the Baron end of the spectrum, for me.

        • Henson says:

          I think the chain of subquests you denoted for the Velen crones is too long, though. You help Jonny with the harpies so he’ll talk to gran so that you can talk to the crones, and then stop. Your objective is to talk with the crones, and now you’ve achieved part of that goal. And after you’ve spoken with them, a new quest chain begins.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          But it didn’t feel like padding because:

          1) The Baron is an interesting guy who…
          2) clearly has information I need and who…
          3) has a full backstory and character arc that unfold as I do the questline that…
          4) builds up to a visible finale.

          My problem with the goat is that none of those things apply to it. I’m not spending time with the baron, the pellar is an insane babbler, and the goat is deliberately annoying. I might as well be collecting ten bear asses for all this contributes to the baron’s arc. That’s what makes it padding, you could cut it and nothing would be lost.

          • Shamus says:

            Funny that you cite that one specifically, since I played through it just a few hours ago. I get the sense that the goat itself wasn’t some game-ruining moment for you, but that it was just a particularly egregious example of an ongoing problem, which is that too many quests felt too disconnected from your central goals. (Although maybe I’m misunderstanding you, here.)

            It sounds like the rest of the game was a huge miss for you as well. The combat didn’t work, the open world didn’t interest you, and the investigations didn’t engage you. That’s pretty much a death sentence, gameplay-wise. I mean, what else is there? Brewing potions? Reading the bestiary? If the core mechanics don’t work, then you’re going to have a really low tolerance for the times when the story asks you to engage with them when not 100% necessary. That’s basically what killed my Witcher 1 playthrough. (That, and the fortnight-long loading screens.)

            I’m surprised you made it to the goat, since that’s quite a few hours in. I can only assume you were hunting for the great game everyone was promising was in there somewhere.

            • Daemian Lucifer says:

              What he actually is saying is that you quit on dark souls too soon,and you should give it another chance.At least until you get to gwyn.

            • Bespectacled Gentleman says:

              (Witcher 1 snark incoming)

              Yes, poor gameplay. And long loading screens. And a creep of a protagonist. And an aggressively uninteresting plot. And Triss being a stalker lady. And the Macguffin kid. And every woman except for the one old lady model being an unsettlingly eager uncanny valley sex doll. Witcher 1 was a mess.

              I do like Shani, though.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                The worst thing I can say about Witcher 1 is that I was pretty certain Triss was evil and going to betray me, but I sided with her anyway because at least a betrayal would have been interesting.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              Funny that you cite that one specifically, since I played through it just a few hours ago. I get the sense that the goat itself wasn’t some game-ruining moment for you, but that it was just a particularly egregious example of an ongoing problem, which is that too many quests felt too disconnected from your central goals.

              Yes and no, it was the point where I quit, but it was definitely a “straw that broke the camel’s back” situation. I was indeed looking for the game I’d heard nothing but praise for, and a few people told me I should play on to the Bloody Baron quest, so I quit pretty much the instant the “best quest in the game” featured nothing but more bits I didn’t like.

              To state the problem a bit more clearly, it’s not just that the quests felt disconnected from my ongoing goals (although if they’d felt more connected, the problems would be solved), it’s that the sub-sub-subquests didn’t have particularly interesting goals taken on their own merits. Finding the pellar’s goat is obviously dull, and the other exemplar I can recall is some sub-sub-subquest of Chapter 1’s “Find Yennefer by killing the griffin by getting the herbs by helping the ranger…” goal where it boils down to you helping some generic local hunter kill ten dogs in order to impress him into helping you. Even when the tasks weren’t demeaningly menial, I came away from a lot of the quests thinking “Why is important that I kill this monster in particular, when the countryside is overrun? Heck, this monster seems content to stay in one place and not attack any cities, that puts it lower than average on any sensible priority list.”

              • Daemian Lucifer says:

                Amongst the first things you see is that that griffin DID eat someone.Again,it staying in one place for days is just an abstraction of the game,not a thing that literally happens.

              • Ninety-Three says:

                I’m going to amend my complaints, because something said upthread struck a chord. Disclaimer: This is based on my experience with the first seven hours of the game, maybe it changes later, I wouldn’t know.

                I don’t feel like I’m participating in the story of The Witcher. Sure, I/Geralt am there, but I’m not present in the narrative any more than your average MMO character. Geralt feels like the errand boy who has to kill ten wolves, do a Fedex quest and find a goat so that the plot can advance and we can hear what the NPCs have to say. I never got to express any character/player skill, in the way of an Obsidian or Harebrained RPG, and I never got so much as the illusion of a Big Choice like a Bioware or Telltale game.

                The world hands Geralt quests, and Geralt’s function is to say “Yes and” so that the player can see more of the world. Maybe it’s that I didn’t care about the world I was seeing, or maybe I just want something different out of a protagonist, but I think the above summary is the core of the Witcher that failed for me.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The game does give you plenty of choice,but the problem is that the payoff is looooooooooooooong way away.You have a dialogue in the first chapter and based on that the whole empire changes in the third chapter,100 hours in*.That can be pretty tedious.It is satisfying once you actually reach that point,but its definitely not worth the wait if you arent invested in it early on.

                  *Thats not exaggerating.It really can take 100 hours of play.40 if you rush through it.

        • JakeyKakey says:

          Admittedly that was kind of the point of the Dandelion quest line – a largely meaningless romp meant to establish some major world-building and have us take a break from horribly bleak and depressing Velen by contrasting it with a relatively idyllic Novigrad, Oxenfurt and surrounding areas.

          Whereas Bloody Baron works as a single focused story that gets unraveled through two different seemingly separate threads, Novigrad was always meant to sprawl out – Geralt wanders in with little more to go on other than ‘find Dandelion’, struggles to find Dandelion and thus gets wrapped up in seven different plotlines in the interim while slowly getting sick and tired of Dandelion’s bullshit.

  7. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    How did we get here? (To the point where our expectations about story were so low that we accepted the generic)

    Maybe it goes back to MMOs.

    RPGs may not have descended into MMO territory right away but MMOs nonetheless did sort of create or at least highlight this idea in RPG game design that the writing could be sort of perfunctory. Possibly as a function of technology allowing room for both an actual game and an actual story so that RPGs actually had real gameplay. (And other types of games started to have stories and cinematics that were more than just basic barebones context for the gameplay)

    Of course in the MMO’s case it was about the need to keep players spending their subscription money each month combined with the realization that the player base is what added the sense of each play session feeling special. They just needed to give you something to do and that something could be really generic (and thus procedurally generated). Which was the only way an MMO team of any size could hope to keep their players playing month after month.

    This then ports over to games like the Bethesda titles where their aim is to give you a cool looking world to run around in. You’re, in theory, willing to accept the thin perfuctory content because you just like running around in this place and its soooooo big. So of course not everything in this gigantic map is going to be fleshed out in depth.

    While I think The Witcher 3 is overall vastly superior, the one thing I’ll say against it is that, for reasons I can’t completely pin down, I don’t like playing the game once I’ve exhausted the story and sidequest stuff. The Witcher 3 feels like a vibrant wonderful world, as long as you playing through the story. As soon as it ends, it starts to feel like so much pretty scenery.

    Bethesda games, though they feel thin, still feel like a place where something is happening, like a world you can always step into and get that same sense that life is going on.

    Possibly its because running around doing random stuff doesn’t feel that much different from running around doing important stuff in a Bethesda game where as theres a BIG difference with TW3 owing to the quality of its writing, animation, acting, etc.

    Its like watching a great play and then having that play conclude only for the actors to stick around in costume without striking the set and make banal small talk on stage and they don’t care if you sit and watch as long as you don’t participate.

    Whereas Bethesda Games feel more like wandering around the mall people-watching. Not as exciting but if you enjoy it, you can do it pretty much whenever you want for as long as you want and every now and then you get an interesting story when something stupid happens.

    I think we’re willing to accept that because a lot of our own lives is not that eventful day to day so if we’re going to spend the dull hours somewhere, we might as well be killing dragons atop snow capped mountains.*

    When was it ever good?

    Probably back when RPGs leaned heavily on text. There wasn’t much to do in those days apart from reading the text. You certainly weren’t suffering through the laughable gameplay and frustrating paleolithic interfaces to get 500 gold and the heartfelt generic thanks of an unnamed NPC.

    I think also we could be getting some of our memories of our tabletop experiences mixed in because even as late as the early part of last decade, it was still a common practice to convert an existing tabletop RPG into an electronic one and even the ones that didn’t explicitly do that were still heavily informed by those designs.

    Side note about Fallout (EDIT: Ok, so this side note ended up being most of the post, the short of it is that Witcher’s variety of robust gameplay helped give it an edge that even Obsidian’s writing could not in terms of making quests feel special)

    And I’d like to point out that while you were praising The Witcher 3 bringing back thoughtful writing in each quest and no generic NPCs, Fallout New Vegas does the same thing. I don’t think there’s a single quest giver in that game that doesn’t have a name, a personality, a role, and something a little unique about them.

    It doesn’t stand out as much in New Vegas for a few reasons.
    1) Apart from their main cast, they’re mostly saddled with Bethesda caliber voice acting.
    2) The quests themselves were still limited to the kinds of things you could do mechanically.
    -In New Vegas like other Bethesda Games, you had fighting, running around, crafting, hacking, and lockpicking they added casino games to that. And the hacking and lockpicking got old especially since it was the same hacking and lockpicking as the last game.
    -In Witcher 3, you had fighting*, running around, tracking, investigating, crafting*, Gwent, Horseracing, boxing. Now that I list it out, its actually not a much longer list but it was a bit more integrated into what Geralt was doing and more robust.

    The fighting is more complex and engaging. In Skyrim you’re using magic or fighting. Even if you use them together you’re most using them interchangeably. In Witcher 3, they’re designed to work together. You need to be using magic AND sword fighting and different dodging manuevers and parrying and your alchemy to get through a fight. In Skyrim most of the time you can get away with just bashing stuff till its dead.

    The crafting feels a bit more rewarding too, partly because of the way the craftables are essential to the above combat. Potions aren’t just interchangeable. You have to think about which potions you want to craft and use because Geralt can only tolerate so much toxin at a time (compared to Skyrim where you can just spam potions if you have them and they seem to be balanced more for just drink and forget). (Edit: and I forgot to even mention the crossbow and the bombs).

    Add those things together with the tracking and investigating and it gives you a real sense of when you get to a battle “I prepared for this. I crafted the right potions, the right oil, I’m using the right sword and the right gear, I learned about this monster and all of that is going to pay off in this fight.”

    Weren’t we talking about the writing?

    All of that to say, they have these robust systems they can weave into the stories and its so many layers of gameplay that they can sprinkle them into events. You’re coming back from a hunt with a rival Witcher and you suddenly decide to horse race back to camp. You’re waiting for midnight when a wraith is supposed to come out, care for a game of gwent? You’re fighting an Arachas for the first time, I happen to have the formula for that oil, we should get the ingredients. You’re in a Gwent Tourney and someone gets accused of cheating, wanna fistfight? Or use Axii?

    So its not just the writing, its the level of involvement they’re able to get out of you and the way they’re able to mix in gameplay in unexpected places to help make stories feel special. Even the more generic dialog has purpose because its going to give you an early clue about which potions, oil, bombs, gear you might want to have ready.

    That said, New Vegas does still have something of an edge in the way its stuff is interconnected and the player expression they manage with that. Witcher 3’s quests do have some branching choices and unexpected places where that comes back into play but not to the degree New Vegas does. Its kind of amazing the different ways you can work your way through the same quests in NV.

    *(I’ll say this too. Where in other games, the dragon battle atop the snow capped mountain would feel more special, at least in Skyrim, you can go do that whenever you want as much as you want without having to play to the right point eight hours into a lengthy story. You can be working on your house in Hearthfire and then say “You know what? I feel like battling a dragon atop a snowcapped mountain, I’ll ask Delphine if she knows where to find one.” So it may not be the climactic battle but its also not the climactic battle)

    • Bloodsquirrel says:

      Eh… to be fair, there have always been a lot of crappy RPGs with crappy writing and crappy NPCs around. The ones with good writing were always the exception, and that was back when it was easier to do (good voice acting can elevate material, but weaving it together into a dialog system is very difficult to do without ruining it, and bad voice acting is ruinous to even good material).

      Looking back, how may big players did we ever have? Mostly it was Bioware and Bethesda. Bioware does not exist as the same company it once did, and Bethesda has always been inept at storytelling. Obsidian was always a b-lister with usually (fuck you KOTOR II) good writing, but an inability to put out as big and polished a product as Bioware. Now they’re back to making text-heavy isometric RPGs. Which, if you’re into those, is nice. But they’re certainly never going to make a The Witcher 3.

      Who else did we have in the business? Most everyone else I can think of was either always terrible or has never been 1/10 large enough to break into the “full 3D with voice acting” space.

      • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

        The Ultima series was an early standout in good RPG writing. There were also a fair number of memorable adventure games (from what I can tell, I’ve only been a PC gamer for about 5 years, I pick this stuff up from videos, podcasts and playing some of the classics.) Interplay with the first Wasteland game. Squaresoft with the Final Fantasies and other JRPGs.

        I’m sure a true grognard could list a bunch more. This is just what I’ve picked up listening to others.

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          Ultima is from the paleolithic era of PC RPGs. From what I understand, that series was dying for several games before Fallout 1 was released, with the final game coming in 1999. Wasteland was way back in 1988. I can’t speak for their writing first-hand, but those games were very primitive and their studios never made it into the KOTOR generation of RPGs. Including them pretty much just expands the amount of time your’e look at.

          JRPGs have always been essentially a different genre, from an entirely different sphere of influence. Other than his current FF series, when do JRPGs even get talked about around here?

          Let me be clear: I know of a lot of other RPGs other than Bioware or Bethesda ones, but what I can’t name is another studio that was as big as those two that were able to make RPGs in the PS2-Xbox era and were successful enough to survive into the next generation as AAA developers. The others were either not nearly as successful (partially because some of them were just flat-out bad) or much smaller (which makes them a bad comparison for a game like Fallout 4, which is operating in a completely different space).

          • djw says:

            I don’t think “dying” is a correct explanation for what happened to the Ultima series. Ultima 7 was by most accounts at the time a fantastic game.

            Many people did not like Ultima 8, but (IMO of course) it was really pretty good. It was different from 7, and some people who really liked 7 did not like these differences, but taken on its own merits it was a fine game. I liked it better than 7 personally.

            Ultima 9 was a complete disaster. The series did not slowly die. It exploded in an incompetent orgy of retcons and crap.

            • GloatingSwine says:

              Ultima didn’t jump, it was pushed.

              By EA.

              It’s a habit they have.

              (Ultima VIII was poo, it was super obviously rushed, didn’t have any of the core concepts or mechanics of previous Ultima games, and replaced them with instadeath jumping sections.

              • djw says:

                We will have to agree to disagree on whether or not Ultima 8 was poo. I agree that it was probably rushed, and that it was different from the preceding game in the series.

                The jump problem was pretty terrible, but they did release a patch that made jumping much easier.

                Ultima 8 was also hardly the first time that the series abruptly changed its mechanics. I about had a cow when I heard that they were replacing the venerable text input system of Ultima 4 and 5 with the insane system of giving you a list of things to say to chose from (which is of course how every game works now). Switching from 2D icons to sprites with an open world was also a pretty revolutionary change that seemed to work out fairly well.

                Ultima 7 was also WAY TO LONG!!! Black Gate was okay, but Serpent Isle just dragged on and on and on. Ultima 8 was much more compact and was almost exactly the right length. The story was also interesting (although it did have a few flaws).

                In any case, I am aware that many people did not like U8. I think there is a good game in there in spite of that. U9 just sucked.

                • Daemian Lucifer says:

                  The jump problem was pretty terrible, but they did release a patch that made jumping much easier.

                  If you build a game where precise jumping is a crucial skill,then later you release a patch that completely trivializes all the jumping,thats shoddy design.Whether the story itself was good or not,the fact is that the game was rushed and mechanically horrible.

                  • Humanoid says:

                    Kinda like playing games with combat I hate in ‘story mode’ difficulty, it’s a hack, a workaround, but one that I’m happy that it exists.

                  • djw says:

                    The jumping was mechanically horrible, and they fixed it. What else was mechanically horrible?

                    The fact that the story and the atmosphere were decent was of course important, because without that I would not have bothered to play it with or without the jump patch. YMMV

                    • Humanoid says:

                      Scrambling around your bags for a spell while a monster bears down on you because the game wouldn’t pause while you looked at your inventory.

                      The way travel across the island is implemented only through the catacombs also makes no sense whatsoever. Or how Gwillim explains how the trip to the plateau is a pleasant scenic stroll while neglecting to mention the hordes of undead, treacherous jumping course, fireball traps and lever puzzle that lie in your way there.

                    • djw says:

                      It’s been a really long time, but I don’t think that Ultima 6 and 7 paused when you opened your bag either. I agree that was annoying, but it was not uniquely annoying to U8. It was, for instance, a feature in Baldur’s Gate originally too. Much more recently, Grimrock 1 and 2 included this feature intentionally (although I kind of wish they hadn’t).

                      Travel was annoying in U8 as well, but it was much more annoying in U7: Serpent’s Isle. Black Gate at least benefited from moongates, but even there you had quite a bit of running around.

                      I think that at the end of the day the biggest complaint was no party, and no avatar ethnicity and gender customization. Those were big things to lose, but I think the game stands on its own in spite of that. I particularly liked the 4 different and unique brands of magic that you could learn (although the UI made it difficult to cast them at times).

                    • Humanoid says:

                      Ultima 7 very definitely paused when you opened pretty much anything. This was wonderfully, wonderfully abusable as you crammed vials of drugs down the throat of anyone who annoyed you.

                      U8 quick travel was a little simpler than SI, yeah, but only in that you didn’t have to collect individual tokens for each fast travel destination, just visiting them was sufficient. Which sucked for me that time I fought my way to the plateau before activating the Tenebrae teleporter.

                • Humanoid says:

                  I liked U8, but it’s an opinion admittedly coloured by the fact that it was my entry point into CRPGs as a genre – indeed it was bundled with my Sound Blaster 16 which was my entry point into PC gaming in general. Up to that point in my life I was a kid who mostly gamed on consoles, with the odd PC game here and there (SimCity/SimFarm mostly). Indeed I suspect that without U8’s influence on my future gaming tastes, I probably wouldn’t be on this particular website at all.

                  Anyway, I replayed it and actually finished it for the first time a few years ago. While it doesn’t do anything for me mechanically and it’d certainly be nowhere near any of my top games lists, I do like what it does thematically. I love just tooling around Tenebrae which is an interesting city, and is pretty much the definition of gaming nostalgia for me.

        • Bloodsquirrel says:

          Comment got messed up somehow and can’t edit:

          The point is, the picking has always been pretty slim. It looks less so looking back because we’re comparing what games out over the course of a couple of decades to what came out in the last 2-3 years. We never had a huge number of really good RPGs coming out at once, and certainly never in an age where they had to be full 3D and voice acted. And even many of the ones that were 3D and voice acted were, well, let’s just say that I can name a few that made Fallout 4’s storytelling look good by comparison.

          Hell, the RPG I’m playing right now has writing that makes you appreciate how Bethesda is at least trying to tell a story about the people in the wasteland and what they do and what happens to them. Sure, they screw it up with amazing consistency, but that’s further than Divinity: Original Sin gets.

          • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

            Yeah I know the present contains a few stand out games while the past contains all the classics (especially exaggerated when you’re like me and you’re going back to play these games for the first time so you’re only playing the stuff that grognards found to be classic and memorable and skipping over the crap they played in between those games). I’m just saying that the good writing always existed.

            But, while I’ve not played them all. I’m willing to bet that those old games at least didn’t resort to completely generic canned writing the way modern RPGs often due. It may have been bad writing but at least there was the attempt and specifically writing each thing. I was more addressing the Diecast’s comment about whether it was always generic, not whether it was always bad.

            • Bloodsquirrel says:

              Not really. Walking fantasy tropes as characters was pretty standard. Fallout 4 has say more interesting NPCs than, say, Arx Fatalis had.

              • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

                I’m not talking about cliche. I’m talking about pure generic. Like the radiant questing in the settlements in FO4. “I am nameless settler. I need you to go to X location and kill Y thing.” Or in MMOs “I need you to kill beasts until you get X number of this random loot drop.”

                Even cliches like “thief with a heart of gold” are less generic than a lot of what you get in rpgs these days. Like at least the writers have the decency to rip off or recycle an actual character trope for the character you’re interacting with.

                • Bloodsquirrel says:

                  Fallout 4 has a lot of NPCs that *aren’t* that, though. A lot of Fallout 4’s generic npcs come from trying to work the settlement stuff into the main quest. That and the radiant quest system was designed to add continuing, procedural content, which those old games didn’t do.

                  But the game also has the guy who loves baseball, but doesn’t know anything about it, and the Silver Shroud quest.

                  • Daniel says:

                    The Silver Shroud quests were great. I played him wearing the Shroud coat and hat, with a skull bandana to cover my face. Picking the Shroud lines of dialogue was great. That is the type of stuff that makes the same type of quest (go here, kill people) stand out and be interesting. Wish there were more quests (really the dialogue) for the Silver Shroud.

                    One of the times that the character being voiced was a benefit, imo.

                    • Wide And Nerdy says:

                      I alternated between wearing goggles or a gas mask but the bandana is a great idea. I’ll bet a lot of people felt like the costume needed something more than just the coat and the hat. Probably a face covering as you and I both did.

        • Humanoid says:

          Ultima was exceptional in that it had a different approach – or rather, in that it adopted a different approach after the first three games. Garriott noted that all CRPGs at that point were all about killing everything, looting everything and stealing everything up to the point the game ends. So he turned Ultima 4 into a subversion of that approach.

          Players would start the game, and play it like any other CRPG they’d played to that point, the mechanics in that sense were unchanged. However what they wouldn’t realise until later is that by doing so they were actually moving away from being able to complete the game, because it silently judged the player on their actions, and that to progress they would have to not only reverse course, but essentially work off the debt their prior actions had incurred.

          Is it “good” writing as such? Well, not really, essentially it was “Be a Nice Person – The Game”. But it was a defining game because of that approach, and Garriott himself noted that even though those hidden mechanics were no longer present in subsequent games, he had essentially “trained” players to keep playing in that fashion and think about their actions.

          Did it really change anything though? I have to wonder, because while the Ultima series itself continued along that path, reaching it’s zenith with the seventh game (which is still acknowledged as one of the finest of all time), I don’t think it really dragged the rest of the industry with it, and its contemporaries like Might and Magic, Wizardry, the SSI Gold Box games continued to be mechanics-focused combat-oriented RPGs.

          I guess the point is that there never really has been any “golden age” of CRPGs. Ultima stood alone, then was sacrificed at the altar of EA. Black Isle emerged alongside Bioware and did its thing, but again for the most part the influence was still contained only in the output of those two studios and their immediate successors. You could argue that it’s today, riding the wave of Kickstarter crowdfunding, that there’s been the largest set of story-driven CRPG developers ever.

    • Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

      Geralt’s specific character also helps. Not just that he has a fleshed out personality, but that he’s also a well educated and experienced professional. So he has more to say than just “Yes I’ll do that” or “Tell me more about.” or ” Yes I’ll get you a cup of sacred sugar from the far off bakery in the heart of elvendom. These had better be some amazing muffins.”

      Thats probably part of what makes the Silver Shroud in Fallout 4 stand out. Between that and the comic book on the counter in pre War Sanctuary, you get an honest to goodness character trait. The Sole Survivor is a fan of pulp comic book characters and their counterparts in other media. And he/she gets to inject that enthusiasm into the quest if they want to.

      • Trix2000 says:

        Anyone who did the Silver Shroud quest line and didn’t pick the hammy dialog options is either lying or a boring stick in the mud. :P

        • Wide And Nerdy says:

          If you wear the costume, it comes up again in one of the DLCs. I figured it might so before a specific confrontation, I ran and did the Shroud quest (this was my third playthrough I think) so I could wear it at the right time. And bless them, Bethesda did take that into account.

          I’m hopeful that the feedback they seem to have gotten on that quest will inform some of their future design. As long as Bethesda is playing the 50’s elements for goofball humor as opposed to more biting satire, they need to go full tilt with the pulp aesthetic. They could easily make that work better with a series about wasteland frontier adventuring.

  8. John says:

    Every single thing on my Steam wishlist–literally every single thing–is on sale right now but I yet to buy anything at all. Steam’s catalog is indeed vast, but Steam is not the only source for games on the internet. I have accounts with GOG, HumbleBundle in addition to my Steam account, and GOG and HumbleBundle held their Summer Sales before Steam did. What’s more, I prefer GOG and HumbleBundle since I prefer to have my games DRM-free and unencumbered by superfluous clients where possible. (GOG is obviously better than HumbleBundle in this regard, as for a lot of games HumbleBundle merely sells Steam keys.) I spent something like $25 on five games during April and May and don’t particularly feel the lack of new games at the moment. I’m still only half-way through Shadowrun Dragonfall and I have yet to start Transistor. I could play Crusader Kings 2 pretty much forever. Then there’s my backlog of earlier games to consider. I still need to play Freespace and Freespace 2. If the internet finds out that I haven’t, I won’t be allowed to have opinions on the space-sim genre any more. So despite Steam’s utmost efforts to tempt me, I don’t think I am going to buy anything in the Steam Summer Sale. (Even if Expeditions: Conquistador is on sale for as cheap as I’ve ever seen it.)

    But perhaps most importantly, I think I have become accustomed to the existence of cheap games on the internet. I have watched game sales come and go for a good couple of years. I know that I don’t have to snap up all the games I might conceivably want right this second just because they’re on sale. It’s enough to just get a few of the games that most interest me. The others will be on sale again later if I’m still curious. There will be more sales next year. Heck, there’ll be more sales later this year. There’s no rush. These are not once-in-a-lifetime offers.

    • Humanoid says:

      It’s sad because CK2 used to be available DRM-free on GamersGate, which was affiliated with Paradox before being spun off into an independent company. Then Paradox withdrew the DRM-free version after a certain expansion and issued Steam keys for people who owned those copies, which were abandoned as the company as a whole went exclusively to Steam.

      Hoping like hell that Tyranny will be sold DRM-free, but very pessimistic about it. These days I never browse Steam for its own sake, sale or no sale. If there’s a game I know I want and which I can’t acquire any other way then I take my lumps and buy it, but I only ever browse GOG and Humble Store for “discovery”.

      • Philadelphus says:

        Just to point out that Paradox games on Steam are technically DRM free, in that you can, once downloaded and installed, copy the install folder anywhere and run it, Steam or no Steam.

        The reason for requiring Steam for installation, according to various developers on the forums, is that it vastly simplifies patching and updating, which it an integral part of Paradox’s modus operandi with all their new games (meaning CK II and on).

    • Matt Downie says:

      I’m in a similar situation. I just started playing Valkyria Chronicles, which I bought ages ago in a Steam Sale at 75% off. If I stop playing that, I could try The Talos Principle, or Spec Ops, or any one of a bunch of other games I never got around to playing, or one of those Paradox games I’ve already played too often. Why would I buy a game at 50% off that I might never play, and which will almost certainly be available even cheaper sooner or later?

    • Grimwear says:

      I agree with this as well as what Josh said. With the removal of daily and flash sales, the two major steam sales (summer and winter) are now just par for the course. I’m sure Valve still makes tons of money off it but I’d love to see the data for sales back when they had the daily and flash. For me personally I was hoping they’d learn from the lackluster winter sale and improve for summer but it’s almost identical. The major issue is that for everything on my wishlist that’s on sale, that sale price is the exact same as it is for just a regular weekend or midweek sale. I have no incentive to buy right this second anymore because I know that while the major sales have greater selection, the sale price is identical to what I would see any other point in the year.

  9. Dormin111 says:

    Idiotic tech question: How do I download a Diecast episode as an MP3 which I can listen to later? My phone does it automatically, my tablet only seems to be able to stream it with Internet connection.

  10. Wide And Nerdy ™ says:

    Witcher 3 didn’t always manage it with the child actors. In one of the free DLCs, there was child I swear was played by a woman in her mid thirties trying to sound like a kid. And we’re not talking about a woman who is skilled in doing different voices, we’re talking about a 35 year old actress who sounded like any ordinary woman would trying to imitate a child’s voice.

    • Humanoid says:

      I’ve always thought child-Ciri was extremely uncanny valley, which is odd because I don’t get that with any other children in the game.

      • Jokerman says:

        I felt it was the other way around, though child Ciri was fine… while the other kids were all weird. They looked really strange too, like an adult torso had been crudely shrunk down, making them look odd and stocky.

      • Henson says:

        You should watch/play through the first ten minutes in Polish language. Little Ciri is adorable.

  11. Traiden says:

    I have sold all my steam cards and have earned enough money to pay for a new game with my profits after the take.

  12. MichaelGC says:

    Cyberpunk 2077

    Not an especially ambitious release schedule, then?

  13. Hitch says:

    I think another factor in not buying just any game you see super cheap on Steam is that beyond the couple dollars (which is still pretty trivial) is the thought of, ” I have so many games in my library that I never bother to open, do I really want to add to that list and feel bad every time I look at that list?”

    • Echo Tango says:

      I don’t feel bad about it, but I definitely get the feeling of “Oh, right…I have all these other games I already own, and could still make time for. Is this going to out-compete those, or is it in a new genre, or something else novel?”

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The thing about accents is that you can accept pretty much anything as long as they are consistent.So two people from Ye Old castle speaking modern american is fine.But a brother and sister who lived in the same town since their birth,one of whom speaks old english and the other old irish is extremely jarring.

  15. Tektotherriggen says:

    The strange thing about the Steam sale being “boring” this year, is that just a few weeks ago GOG’s sale was the first to be really gameified – you earned XP from buying stuff, sharing on Facebook, and as a side effect of a couple of “Twitch plays” sessions. The XP then gave me Spelunky for free, so I’m certainly not complaining, but it’s just weird that the two companies seem to have exchanged approaches to sales.

    • John says:

      GOG has been doing that kind of thing for at least the last year or so. It’s never particularly influenced my behavior, but I acquired a free copy of Battle Realms (an RTS from 2002) just for buying a bunch of games in the 2015 Fall Sale. (I think that my free copy of Sim City 2000 came from the same sale, but GOG’s given me so many free games that I can’t remember the exact circumstances associated with each one. You get a bunch just for opening an account. Then sometimes publishers will give away free copies of older games in a particular series when a new game comes out. That’s why I have Age of Wonders and Mount & Blade.) Like you, I also got a free copy of Spelunky from the Summer Sale, but all I did was buy about $8 worth of stuff. This year, instead of the Fall Sale, GOG had a “Sleepy Sheep” series of flash sales. I didn’t buy anything then, but I checked in whenever it was convenient for me to do so, so I guess the sale worked in that sense.

  16. Classic says:

    Thanks Issac, for the quick turnaround time.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Thanks to Issac for the quick turnaround time.

    It was a good timing of Issac.

  18. WWWebb says:

    Do DoubleFine games count as “trying something new”? A decent portion of their catalogue is made up of interesting failures.

    Do they not count because they’re usually combining existing game elements in weird ways? (looking at you Massive Chalice)

    Do they not count for the question because they’re trying something new in ways that no one praised? (looking at you, Brutal Legend)

    • Ninety-Three says:

      The thing about Double Fine is that the details of their failures tend to be uninteresting, and unrelated to the interesting bits. Massive Chalice’s problems were that combat was kind of simple, and your heroes had the lifespan of mayflies. Hack ‘n Slash’s problem was that the puzzle design was too often linear and one-answery, instead of the “Build your own solution” stuff the mechanics were designed to support. Spacebase’s problem is that they pulled the plug halfway through development.

      The constant impression I get is that they don’t fail because of the interesting, ambitious problems they tackle. They fail because they do things like making a game with RTS mechanics where the developer has to tell you not to play it as an RTS.

      Their games are interesting, and they’re failures, but I’m not sure they’re interesting failures.

  19. Anyone recall what Todd from Bethesda Game Studios said? He hinted at they obviously where working on another Elder Scrolls game but that it was quite some ways away, and they also had 2-3 other projects they where working on.

    Here’s what I think they are working on:
    *Elder Scrolls VI (6) is in active development, at least halfway maybe further, announcement at next E3?

    *Fallout 5 is in early planning stages.

    *unnamed open world (Space) Sci-Fi RPG, when was the last time you played a open world space Sci-Fi RPG? (Mass Effect was more of a action/adventure with a
    few RPG elements).

    *unnamed open world RPG, no clue what this can be.

    *Skyrim Remastered Edition (announced)

    *Oblivion Remastered Edition (speculation)

    All games will have mod support.

  20. Now here’s a thought, imagine playing a Sci-Fi RPG where you create a character that is well an “alien”, maybe you start on a homeworld or a nexus world (would allow multiple races for the starting character) and here’s the hook for the plot:

    You climb the ranks and become captain of a ship and then you encounter a new alien species that call themselves… Humans.

    (hands the pen to Rutskarn and Shamus… j/k)

    But in all seriousness it would be cool to see a first encounter from the “other side” for once. With all the diplomatic issues, species/racial issues, societal issues, economic/resource and unrest/war issues this can possibly bring.
    And it could work very well as a RPG (almost like a Star Trek Next Generation RPG but in inverted).

    • Humanoid says:

      Don’t know how a typical player would react to that situation though – and likely neither would the writer, particularly if the humans were portrayed as being unsympathetic. They might get inundated with requests to make humans playable, and we might end up back at square one.

      On a similar note, I wonder how a game which omitted humans altogether would go down. Doesn’t even have to be sci-fi, the same could be done in high fantasy or whatnot.

      • Echo Tango says:

        I think you could have humans as interesting antagonists, if you made them act like a normal strategy-game player would play them. i.e. A giant Xenocidal death-fleet, which is conquering space, and wiping everyone out. I can imagine a single-player game, where your choices in the game come with several major outcomes:
        – You fight the humans, and they wipe your species out.
        – You fight, and your species has to flee to distant lands/star systems/whatever.
        – You appease the humans just enough for your species to be slaves to the humans.
        – You appease the humans enough, that they treat you as begrudging allies / trading partners for exotic goods.
        – You appease the humans enough that they are actual friendly allies with your species.

        As for the “game without humans” – that’s a game I would really like to play. It’s a concept I really like, as far as stories go (e.g. The Dark Crystal is a great film with no humans.). Can’t even think of any videogames like this, off the top of my head. :)

        • Humanoid says:

          I imagine fighting humans would introduce some dissonance perhaps similar to playing a game where your country is depicted as the enemy. I wonder how the Chinese feel about playing games where they’re presented as the big bad, hmm. I get the feeling game devs have probably been shying away from using major markets recently for this reason, and use commercially “harmless” countries like Best Korea instead.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            AVP games had you being an extra terrestrial fighting humans in 66% of the game.It was fine.In fact,those parts were better than the human parts.

        • Vermander says:

          I guess I’m part of the problem, but I always find the ordinary humans in fantasy/sci-fi stories more interesting than the aliens/elves/dragons/whatever. I always play as a human or near human whenever I have a choice.

          To me, experiencing fantastic events from the perspective of someone I can relate to makes them seem more interesting. The more insight I have into how the “magic” works, or the more I know about the mysterious otherworldly beings, the less interesting they become.

          Even if you have a non-human protagonist I would think you’d have to anthropomorphize them as much as possible. A lot of players would have a hard time accepting a lead character who has no recognizable emotions, no understandable goals, or doesn’t experience the world in same way we do. For example, playing as a floating jellyfish who communicates through flashes of color would require a pretty steep learning curve.

          • Echo Tango says:

            You don’t need to go straight back to humans, or to anthropomorphizing the aliens. Just have non-humans that have visible emotions, and similar needs to humans. Orcs, trolls, the things in Dark Crystal – these are all things less alien than floating jellyfish. Even the jellyfish could be playable. Just have speech bubbles show up, in addition to the light flashes it uses for communications.

    • Syal says:

      I’m picturing a situation where the aliens have various cultural taboos, like raising your arms above your chest is highly insulting and a loud cry with sudden jerking movements is a challenge to a blood duel. Then you start dealing with humans and try to figure out how many of their insults are reflexive and how many are calculated.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        This would almost certainly end up an “Interesting failure” but I would love to see that sort of system married to L.A. Noire interrogation gameplay.

    • Bubble181 says:

      I’ve actually played an old one. You were a blue android like thing, in a world full of aliens – you were unique and special and whatnot. Never finished it nor do I remember the name – I got stuck somewhere halfway….but it was an interesting premise, at least.

  21. Dragmire says:

    Some of the games on my wishlist are ones that I’m mildly interested in but not enough to pay full price. $10 is the max that I’m willing to pay for games like Stardew Valley since I’m not sure if I would still enjoy the farming genre as much as I used to.

    I want to buy Fallout 4 but Skyrim and especially Fallout New Vegas blue screened way too much to feel safe with that purchase.

    Skyrim weirdly had a conflict with Visual Studio where VS updated some libraries that broke Skyrim in some way where I would randomly get a “press ok to close the program” error window that cited a c++ error/exception in Skyrim.

    The price I pay for a Gamebryo engine game has to be worth the value of the game minus my time trying to fix it….

  22. CD Projekt Red saying they aren’t working on any more Witcher 3 stuff means that all Witcher 3 devs are now set to work on Cyberpunk 2077 or whatever else they are working on.

    My guess is that Cyberpunk 2077 has had more and more people and funds routed to it over the last few years.

  23. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Spore and creativity, I bet I know what drove a lot of the divide. In the very first E3 demo of Spore, Wright said creatures had procedural run-speeds determined by their procedural walking animations, driven by how you designed the creature. In the final game, a creature’s speed was determined by what tier of feet you had equipped (god that was a dumb system).

    As much as I hate the equipment-based system, and love fiddly procedural bullshit, I must admit that procedural run-speeds are probably getting overly simulationist. That’s a system which says “Your creativity is wrong the optimal leg length for this creature is 0.7, and I’m going to punish you with slow movement for not choosing that.” Learning the quirks of an arbitrary procedural run-animator is not my idea of a good time.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I think if the game was done well enough, the cases where you design a sub-optimal creature, would be cases where you can easily intuit that the creature will be sub-optimal. The trick is, you need to make sure your game works really well, and you guard against a lot of edge-cases (limits on attributes I guess), and also somehow make it intuitive. It would probably be a very difficult task. :)

  24. @Shamus um…. “Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus.” where’s Chris? I swear I heard him talk during the Diecast or am I going crazy.

  25. Paul Spooner says:

    It would be nice if there wasn’t any cussing on this show. It doesn’t contribute to the dialog or the atmosphere, and it certainly doesn’t make anyone sound any smarter. Mostly, though, I want to be able to listen with my kids.

  26. Syal says:

    Well I’ll throw in my obligatory “Final Fantasy 8 is a glorious trainwreck” with regard to interesting failure games.

  27. Zak McKracken says:

    On the topic of Good Robot, just a small reminder that I’d really like to buy it as soon as it’s available on GOG, the Humble Store or any other place which is not Steam or requires DRM
    (I know Steam != DRM but it still requires the client, and online stuff and logs my played hours and stupid achievements … I just don’t want it on my computer, okay?)

  28. Vermander says:

    Does the entire Fable series count in the “glorious failure” category? I really liked the look and feel of those games and they attempted to implement a lot of new or interesting mechanics, but famously failed to deliver on their promises.

    I feel like Fable 3 in particular was a huge missed opportunity. The idea of leading a revolution and then being forced to actually run the kingdom once you succeeded was pretty intriguing, but the second half of the game was a disaster.

    • JakeyKakey says:

      Never played 3, which I heard was pretty ehh, but I wouldn’t call 1 & 2 glorious failures in the same sense as Alpha Protocol or Spore.

      Ignoring Molyneux’s insane ramblings about it being the second coming of Christ, the games themselves were extremely well received, won multiple awards and are fondly remembered as classics. Hard as it is to believe nowadays, Fable 1 & 2 used to be killer exclusives on par with Halo.

  29. Rodyle says:

    Marrakesh isn’t Madagascar, it’s Morocco.

    You can just play both of the DLCs as a preleveled character in a special world state, though in Blood and Wine’s case that does change the very, VERY last quest I think.

  30. The Mich says:

    I was wondering… I remember you folks said that given the length of the Witcher 3, it would be too prohibitive to do an entire season about it. How about a season on one of the two expansions? I can’t say anything about Blood and Wine yet, but I think that Hearts of Stone could be a good fit.

    Its main questline is shorter than the one of the main game, of course, (and for some even more interesting – check out Super Bunnyhop for example – but careful about spoilers!) but it’s still sizable enough to fill out several episodes on its own. You could also add a side quest or a monster contract or two to showcase the core qualities of the game.

  31. Fuzzygundam says:

    I….liked Alpha Protocol. It was really rough mechanically, and there were a few ‘Huh?’ moments, but I got to roleplay my Suave Ponce and it all ended on a really cool note which made me go ‘…Wow, that was a good ending, I don’t want to play again because I want to preserve this ending.’

    Maybe I was just lucky though. Or am more accepting of the parts were the game messed up.

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