Diecast #169: The Bunker, Event [0], and Halloween Horror Nights

By Shamus
on Sep 26, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Campster. Episode edited by Rachel.

Fun fact that has nothing whatsoever to do with the show: If I put a properly escaped HTML line break in the title of this post using <br/> then it will – for reasons I’ll never understand – break the embed code above that shows the audio player and download links.

Yes, I’m supposedly a programmer. No, I have no idea why it does this. Yes, I should probably be curious and worried that this is a symptom of a deeper problem with WordPress / this theme / my brain. No, I’m not going to bother looking into it.

Show notes:
0:01:12 – The Bunker


Link (YouTube)

0:14:52 – Event Left Bracket Zero Right Bracket


Link (YouTube)

0:24:06 – Halloween Horror Nights

Trivia: I’ve been to one haunted house in my life. As it turns out, a lot of hay was used to decorate the place. I am brutally allergic to hay, to the point where it has put me into the hospital with an asthma attack on more than one occasion. I am far more scared of the real threat of asphyxiation than the feigned threat of the guy with a fake chainsaw and a sack on his head.

0:51:57 – Mailbag

Dear Diecast

What’s your take on Mass Effect Andromeda having an established father and brother/sister for your character? Do you prefer when they provide some backstory and family for your character(like Dragon Age Dwarf Slum Origin or Dragon Age 2 for instance), or do you like it more when that’s as minimal as possible(like Mass Effect)? Odds on either of them dying/turning evil?

Love, Christopher

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From the Archives:

  1. Nick says:

    For some reason the file isn’t playing for me. Am I too early? Using firefox on windows 10, btw

  2. Da Mage says:

    You guys were talking about how there are all these indie games trying to be high-brow by talking about AI and what it means to be human.

    Does that mean Fallout 4 was trying to be high-brow? And did it help inspire this trend?

    • Shamus says:

      Fallout 4 trying to sound smart by talking about AI reminds me of the time Homestar tried to sound smart by putting on a labcoat and saying “Science!”.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mV9m_8Cdyjs

      • Da Mage says:

        Okay, now I want someone to dub that over a conversation with Father.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        For some reason I’d find a scene in which Bad Strong continues to punch Homestar Runner until he stops sounding smart more accurate to describe Fallout 4.

        Fallout 4 does not try to be high-brow, it tries not to be to high-brow. Because talking about AI and humanity would take away too much time from exploring and shooting.
        And the “exploring and shooting stuff” is the targeted audience prefered play style. You know, those people who found the intro to Old World Blues boring and tedious because of all the dialogue.

        Some quotes from the Bethesda Forums (and no, those people are not the minority):

        “Bethesda’s games have never been about questing. They’re about freedom, variety with your character and the different combat mechanics.
        They always offer you a huge diverse world, where you can do what you want… that was always Bethesda’s strength and questing was just a side-part of it.”

        “I would be happy if Fallout 4 had no quests. I do not play Bethesda’s games for quests or stories. Could there have been more maybe, but would they have been good, that is a different story.”

        “People who play Bethesda games for quests and story are really playing the wrong game, and should think of playing something else, maybe some crap like Witcher.

        I mean, do they think what makes Bethesda such a phenomenally successful company is because they are better than other companies at quests and story? Here’s a hint for you: No.”

        Edit: Just to glarify, I do not think “those people” are stupid. They simply have interests that don’t align with my own and Bethesda has decided to cater to other people than me. It makes me sad, but there is nothing to be done about it.

        • Blunderbuss09 says:

          … Perhaps this is petty and pathetically nerdy on my part but those comments make me really, really angry.

          Sure, Bethesda might not be about stories but Fallout is. How can you play a RPG series famous for good stories and then complain that it’s there? It’s like playing playing Dragon Age and hating its ‘Lord of the Rings fantasy bullshit with elves and stuff’.

          It’s okay to just want exploration and shooting! But implying that Fallout fans are losers for wanting their dumb stories getting in the way of shooting is pretty insulting to both those fans and the people who put such hard work into making those games.

          Sad things is, I’ve seen this stuff before too on other forums where people say ‘it’s a FPS just deal with it, go play an RPG’ only to be reminded that it is an RPG and fans have a right to be angry that it’s not being treated as such.

          • potatoejenkins says:

            Hey, me too. But what can you do?

            Did I read the analogy here or on youtube? I don’t remember. Anyway, credit goes to someone else:

            It’s like hanging out with your best friends in the neighbours old clubhouse. It’s not the best, the lighting may suck a bit, the electricity could be more reliable and you have no freezer. But you’ve put work in it, put posters on the wall, dragged the neighbours old sofa inside and are quite content just hanging out there.

            One day an acquaintance of yours visits. They like the clubhouse but point out that the lighting sucks a little, the electricity could be more reliable and that you have no freezer.
            They are right and taking care of all of these things might make the clubhouse even better.
            The acquaintance even offers to take care of it: They have the money and in return they just want to hang out with you.

            Two weeks later you have amazing lighting, realiable electricity and a freezer. But the sofa is missing. And the posters. Someone painted the wall. Most of your friends are gone and have been replaced by friends of your aquaintance or complete strangers. You turn to your acquaintance and ask them what is going on.
            Your acquaintance replies that, to fix all the problems with the clubhouse, they had to invest a considerable amount of money and even pay the neighbour. The posters were in the way and they didn’t like them anyway. There also may have been an accident with the sofa.

            They assure you that everything is better now: Elecricity, a freezer, nice furniture, new and more popular people and better music. And when you reply that this is not what you wanted they tell you to stop complaining or go somewhere else.

            • Blunderbuss09 says:

              That’s a pretty good analogy. Videogames are getting so caught up in egocentric elitism that it seems like people forget that players love games because they care about them, just like you’d still care about that old clubhouse even if it wasn’t perfect. Characters like Mario or Snake or Samus are great characters, but they’re also the babies of creative people who poured years of love into them, and millions of people grew up with them. These games and their stories matter. And for people to treat them like they don’t because, ugh, stop getting in the way of my fancy freezer and plush couches is just a slap in the face in creativity in general.

              I just don’t get it. Why acquire a new IP if you don’t give a damn about what made it special? Why be a fan of something but want to cut out its fundamental parts? What’s the point?

              [/bitter]

              • potatoejenkins says:

                I just don’t get it. Why acquire a new IP if you don’t give a damn about what made it special? Why be a fan of something but want to cut out its fundamental parts? What’s the point?

                The title “Fallout” sells. And I don’t think they don’t give a damn. They just … want to “make it better” and “popular”. They succeeded with the latter. And the former is a matter of who you ask.

                I am not sure Fallout would’ve survived or at least reached people like me without Bethesda.

                To make myself feel better I’ll just consider Fallout 4 a spin-off until someone else makes another Fallout game. If not then the series ended with NV, I guess.

      • Hal says:

        What’s funny is that another email shows how Homestar can say something so stupid that he ends up being smart.

        I wonder if it actually works that way for video games, too.

        [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1WFgMOXl4v0?t=2m46s&w=560&h=315%5D

      • Dragmire says:

        Holy crap! I finally understand that reference you guys made to this in the Fallout New Vegas Spoiler Warning season!

        What a great excuse to rewatch it again!

  3. Tizzy says:

    Truly, there is no bottom to Campster’s barrel of nerdiness!
    He’s being a nerd about things I never suspected existed. That’s why we love him.

  4. Jonathan says:

    The Bunker looks like an interesting jump-scare movie.
    It does not look like a computer game.

  5. potatoejenkins says:

    I know, I know. No Dragon Age: Origins on Spoiler Warning. As much as I would love to hear you (actually mostly Rutskarn) talk/rant about how Bioware tackled the whole “define your character” thing with the different intros.

    Considering the Human Commoner was cut, the intros always seemed to serve more as a tool to establish the world, the society and your characters place in it than actual characterisation of the protagonist. Your status in society was defined by your race, but your personality wasn’t.

    Still my favourite approach to date. Limited freedom with a given rule set defined by solid world building.

    (Yes, the sex scenes were hilarious and awful.)

    • Ninety-Three says:

      Considering the Human Commoner was cut, the intros always seemed to serve more as a tool to establish the world, the society and your characters place in it than actual characterisation of the protagonist. Your status in society was defined by your race, but your personality wasn't.

      The problem is that the Bioware Protagonist doesn’t have a personality. They may have a moral compass, but they’re written as too much of a blank slate to ever express anything resembling a personality.

      To explain what I mean, let me compare Mass Effect to Telltale’s The Wolf Among Us. Almost every “[person] will remember that” choice is a roleplaying option that isn’t just about choosing the direction of Bigby’s moral compass, it’s written as part of a clear archetype. Bigby can be the Loose Cannon Who Doesn’t Play By The Rules, you can play him as a genuinely good guy who cares about things (although the game afflicts him with mandatory anger issues that somewhat undermine that characterization), or a complete asshole who’s only doing the sherriff job for the paycheck. Now the game’s greatest sin is that it doesn’t really do anything with that, it’ll react to your individual choices but never to what kind of Bigby you’re playing, but the point is that you can play different kinds of Bigbys.

      Pretty much the only decision you’ll ever make about Shepard’s personality is whether or not he’s the kind of guy that punches people who irritate him. He has a mostly-fixed relationship with all his crew, the only movement is that one friend can be elevated to “friend with benefits”. Except for dipping its toe into the human supremacy thing, the game lacks the kind of roleplaying options that would let you answer the question “What kind of person is Shepard?”

      I think part of the problem has to do with structure. Bioware has decided their games need to be about saving the world, so there’s no need to explore why the protagonist is doing anything, and little room for the protagonist to deviate from the steps needed to save the world. I’d express a wish for a smaller-scale Bioware game, but that seems unlikely to happen. Even though it could be done well (I’d argue that Bioware’s character focus is even suited to lower stakes), you can see the studio iterating on a formula as it converges towards the platonic ideal of a Bioware game, and the stakes are clearly part of that formula.

      • IFS says:

        I’d say this is much more true for Mass Effect than for Dragon Age though. Dragon Age Origins still had a voiceless protagonist so it offered a fair number of dialogue options making it somewhat easy for you to figure out a personality for your character yourself. In several places there are dialogue options specific to your class or Origin as well, which lets you both color how your character feels about such things and helps establish your characters place in the world. DA2 went from a paragade based dialogue wheel to an explicitly personality based one. Sure there were only three personalities but it was pretty neat how they impacted how Hawke behaved in cutscenes and opened up special options in a few conversations, plus its possible for you to play out a shift in the characters personality as the story progresses. All of the big/moral choices in the game are not mapped to one of those personalities so you can play Hawke with whatever personality you want regardless of what stance s/he takes on issues.

        Inquisition I feel is a bit of a step back since they moved more towards the Mass Effect style of dialogue mapping. Its still technically mapped to personalities rather than morals but the personalities don’t feel as pronounced to me as they did in DA.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          You’re right that I skipped over DA2, because I try to forget that game in general, but I would argue that DA1’s protagonist still didn’t have much personality. Yes it was written before dialogue wheels came to ruin everything, but my hazy memory is that the choices still didn’t really say anything about your character. My case study in this will be the moment I remember best, from the Shale DLC. There’s a demon trying to possess a little girl, you can try to save the girl diplomatically, you can fight the demon (which results in the demon possessing the girl and you having to kill her), or you can let it happen. None of the options express anything about your character except for the direction of their moral compass: the diplomatic approach is too much of a results-oriented hostage negotiation for a real personality to come through, letting it happen is the “Be a jerk for literally no reason” option that was in vogue that decade, and the combat option feels like either a failure state or a conscious opting out of the “Save the girl” sidequest. It’s not that it’s bad (pointless evil option aside), it evokes tabletop RPGs in a good way, it’s just a bit more of a power fantasy “Make choices and do cool things” experience than a “Play a role” experience.

          • potatoejenkins says:

            Shales recruitment DLC wasn’t the best DAOs writing had to offer. Neither was the Wardens Peak (??) DLC.

            Yet if you do not look at them in a vaccum but keep in mind who you chose to play during the main game the decision on how or if you save the girl or spare the Warden DLC antagonist(s) is very much a matter of your characters personality and your background – of which a moral compass is a significant part of.

            You can try to solve the hostage situation directly, trying to persuade or kill the demon. Give the child to the demon or: Lie. To both parties, either the demon to get the child or the father asking about his child. There are always three outcomes: Child alive and free, child possessed, child dead. There are more than three ways to get there.

            After that you can talk to Shale. And in the conversation you are again given different options how to approach the situation and the character. Heck, you can command Shale to hit Alistair. Just because. No quest, no reward. The option is only there for comic relief and playing your character in a certain way.

            • Ninety-Three says:

              Your description of it helped me isolate what bothers me about DA1’s approarch to roleplaying: It’s very results-oriented. In something like Wolf Among us, a big part of the roleplaying isn’t just what you tell people but how you say it. That distinction is where the personality of a character lives for me. Continuing the tabletop roleplaying analogy, DA1 feels like the kind of roleplaying group where Bob sits down and says the words “My Paladin assures her it’ll be alright”. It is roleplaying, but it’s different than Bob saying “You’ll be alright, we’ll get you out of here.”

              • potatoejenkins says:

                Ah, ok. I think I get you(?)

                Bob does not say “You’ll be alright.” to get a certain reaction from a character, but because it’s what he would do in the given situation, no matter the outcome. Is that what you mean?

                Not quest or puzzle solving but simple character expression?

                • Ninety-Three says:

                  Yes exactly. A more involved roleplaying experience is about what your character thinks, DA1 seems to stop at what the character wants. Having framed it like that, I admit that the Mass Effect comparison was unwarranted because “What does my character want?” is still far deeper than anything the Mass Effect series has done.

                  • potatoejenkins says:

                    And in a perfect world we could have both. :D

                    I was wondering which games other than the Telltale games do what you mean. I think Geralt is given the opportunity to do just that in the Witcher games (I barely remember Witcher 2 and haven’t played 3 myself yet, though.).

                    I remember being so angry at a situation in Witcher 1 because characters acted in opposite to what I had said. Yet I was not angry at the game or felt cheated, it was simply a situation in which my Geralt had said his piece and everyone around him acted without regard to what he wanted them to do.

              • NotSteve says:

                This is one of the things that most impressed me about Planescape: Torment, the chance to really choose your character’s motivations as well as your actions. The example that sticks in my mind is something that shows up pretty often in this sort of game, you trying to get something from someone who doesn’t want to give it. Two of the dialogue options were “(Lie) Give it to me or die” and “(Truth) Give it to me or die”. I haven’t checked, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there’s no difference in outcome between the two. But having that choice was amazing for roleplaying.

          • Thomas says:

            I found DA1 to be the new Bioware game most open to roleplaying. It’s not very reactive in that people don’t respond to your personality, but it felt the most like a doll’s house of all Bioware’s games. If I’d decided the Warden had a certain personality and I wanted him to say something, more often than not the option was there.

            Dragon Age: Origins is like a sheet of paper with different sentences scribbled all over it and you can choose to pick sentences from the sheet and arrange them in a way that pleases you. It doesn’t reward you, it doesn’t do anything if you don’t do anything, it’s not a blank piece of paper to write on, but it can roughly reflect what you wish and if you get satisfaction from accomplishing your wishes, then you can get satisfaction.

            In comparison, KOTOR 1, Jade Empire is a sheet of paper a separate scripts on either side, and at any point whilst reading down the page you can choose to flip over and read the other side instead.

            Mass Effect 1, 2, 3 and Dragon Age Inquisition (the Bioware house style) is a single script which you can read with different tones of voice if you choose.

            Fallout: New Vegas is a sheet of paper that you can make into a paper hat and then you can wear a paper hat.

        • SlothfulCobra says:

          When I first played Dragon Age: Origins, I was planning on being a grizzled veteran human, since that’s where the background seemed to be going. Then it turned out that you were a young kid who had never done anything before and got swept up into the Grey Wardens based on happenstance. I really hate investing time into character creation only to find that what I designed doesn’t fit at all, I prefer what Fallout did where it gave you a chance to redo it all after the tutorial/intro finished.

          I ended up restarting as a dwarf, and I really got invested into the lowborn gutter trash dwarf intro, and it made the deeproads that much more bearable because I was invested in the dwarven politics.

      • potatoejenkins says:

        I don’t disagree with you. But there are two problems with this comparison (at least for me):

        One: I never played nor watched someone play “The Wolf Among Us”. And while the “Person X remembers that” is a not a WAU (heh.) but a Telltale mechanic every comparison still falls flat since I will never know exactly what you mean. Sorry. :(

        Two: Dragon Age Origins is not Mass Effect. Not by a long shot. Shepard is not only a brick with a simple “good or bad” moral compass, their background is practically nonexistent.
        You get a few lines and a quest in ME1 that act out those few lines, but you never see the world Shepard grew up in, the environment that could have defined their personality.
        You are a Paragon or a Renegade in a set situation. If you choose to mix it up sooner or later you are locked out of both approaches to solve a quest.

        Dragon Age Origins intro shows you your origin. You are given the opportunity to actively shape your background (within the given rules of the world). It shows you how you grew up and you are free to decide how that defined your character and how you treat the people around you. Are you polite or a dick? Do you embrace your status in your society? Is your friend more than a “friend” to you? Or do you wonder why the loser you couldn’t care less about is constantly talking to you?
        Those people are not companions or questgivers. They are only there for your character to interact with, to give the player an opportunity to shape their characters personality.
        How you treat people around you will influence what happens later in the game. The degrees vary of course, but I can’t think of an Origin whose actions in the intro are not accounted for. Especially since every character revisits their home later in the game.

        You are also always given the option to change. Being a “good guy” in the first half of the game does not lock you out from being a callous asshat* in the second half. Or vice versa. While still making sense.

        *By god you can be evil in this game. So viciously evil. You can kill the dog for gods sake. The dog.

        • Blunderbuss09 says:

          This is pretty much my take on it. The key to writing any good character is to create a background story and then show how that background shaped your character as a person. The game gives you a basic origin; from there the player has their own choice of how their character reacts to it.

          Therefore I got really attached to my Tabris city elf, because instead of a blank slate she had an origin that I could build off of, and every player can make very different people from that single origin. Maybe your elf is a bitter human hater who spits in the king’s face. Maybe your elf just hates the nobility. And from that point there’s enough story beats and options for your character to have a story arc if you want to.

          So when Inquisition just plunked your character into the story with only a paragraph of backstory it felt really hollow. You couldn’t interact with your background culture or your people, you couldn’t play through your origin and make your own choices about it, you didn’t have any lead up to the super Spoilery answer of why only your character survived the magical nuking of the Enclave. (No not that Enclave.)

          I don’t know anything about Mass Effect but in Dragon Age your background matters. It would tremendously shape you as a person because of how they fit in a very lore-heavy world and the central conflict, especially when they start delving into the backstory of the elves. So not having the chance to flesh out that background really sucked out a lot of the character creation for me.

          • potatoejenkins says:

            It’s pretty much a matter of the medium I imagine. Being able to talk to the GM is probably the only way to get a really satisfying RP experience.

            I remember someone, maybe even Gaider himself, saying that Dragon Age Origins was named for and included those different origins to establish the world and races. The following games did not need that.

            Not to mention that DA2 was originally an expansion and Hawke was meant to be the Inquisitor. I still think of DA2 as an expansion and not a full game.
            I for one am glad they brought back the option to choose your race in Inquisition. Even if dwarf, Qunari and even elf feel tacked on.

            Inquisition is a strange beast anyway. Too much background info was sold separately via books (again), the PC is not the main character, the ending was sold separately as DLC and then the PC vows to return only to be crippled so they can’t. It was a very weird game.
            Not the worst I’ve ever played though.

            • Blunderbuss09 says:

              Well, good point about how Origins uses the prologues as world-building – honestly it’s ingenious – but I still think just a little prologue to get your feet can still go a long way. DA2 worked for me because we saw most of the origin in, well, Origins because you already saw what happened to Lothering and it didn’t need a lot of set-up regardless. But DA:I is very politics-heavy with many factions involved and I think you need to lay out as much groundwork as possible for a game like that.

              Not to mention that it would give your character’s timely intervention with Corypheus’s ritual hoopla some more weight if your character actually had a reason to be there and was taking initiative, rather than just having a later cutscene of them randomly kicking the door open.

              For example I was playing a Dalish elf who, according to her origin paragraph, was there to spy on the peace talks. Having her overhear some sinister plotting and sneaking down to the ritual chamber to investigate would give a cool prologue and give the player the chance to have some agency, rather than your character just being a lucky shmuck and assumed divine just for being said lucky shmuck.

              And I’m there with you about DA:I being really odd; I and other fans thought getting Celene and Briala together was a good choice only to be horrified of how utterly abusive and terrible their relationship was in the books, plus learning about the horrible things Celene did. Instead of making an in-game choice I felt like I’d been played for a fool.

              Then you have the huge Mage/Templar war, a devastating conflict that had been brewing for centuries and could take up its own game, being swept under the rug with one quest. Same with the Orlesian civil war. But you can run around miles of pointless empty desert for fancy cloth and ores! *throws up hands*

              (I’ve also never heard of DA2 being an expansion. I’ve heard that EA rushed it so much that it barely made it as a game though. Also what do you mean about the PC not being the main character?)

              • potatoejenkins says:

                Tried to find the source for my claim that DA2 was planned as an expansion and can’t find it anymore. The bioware forums have changed so much over the years. Anyway, can’t back that claim up so let’s just say I was wrong.

                I had much more problems with the timetravel arc than the intro. Sure, it would’ve been far better to get to know your character and their motivation by actually playing, but it gave the “fate” angle a tad more weight. You can neither say it was coincidence nor fate because you honestly don’t remember. Not saying a bit more roleplay oportunities wouldn’t have been nice though.

                The whole Corypheus drama was sad. They barely spend time on his motivations and the time spend was only available for people who chose to side with the Templars and fought Calpurnia – Samson while coming out of nowhere was a far better and understandable villain than both, imo. We still don’t know jack about Tevinter so relating to Calpurnia was a matter of real life morality: Slavery is wrong. Duh. Something like that does not work for me and I expect better from Dragon Age.

                The Orlesian peace talks were neat – fighting mooks aside. Too bad they hid all the background information away again. While they at least tried to give Loghain a decent characterisation in-game they completely stopped trying with Celene and Briala (or a certain dalish 2nd you meet in the Hinterlands).
                I will not start collecting/watching/reading different media to understand the game thank you very much. Don’t sell me a car without seats. Sure, I can still drive the thing, but it’s damn uncomfortable.

                Sidenote: Didn’t and still don’t care about the so-called abusive relationship. Neither Briala nor Celene are good people. I just thought as long as those two kept each other in check, more people would live.

                Yeah, the mage-templar-conflict somehow resolved itself after the first act. Must’ve been all the singing around the campfire. Or severe collective brain damage from the landslide.

                Main character and in the end antagonist was Solas. Imo, subjective of course.

                …. and I feel like this comment chain is as off topic as it can be by now. I always enjoy running my mouth about Dragon Age a bit too much.

              • potatoejenkins says:

                Addendum: All major conflicts since Dragon Age 2 seem to have been dealt with via books by now.

                Mage-Templar-War: Dragon Age Asunder
                The Orlesian Civil War: The Masked Empire

                This trend is alarming. I am not looking forward to the next installment of the series.

  6. Baron Tanks says:

    Spoiler Warning, with the risk of seeming ignorant. Stay until after the credits, I really love the easter egg that was put in. I think there’s quite often (maybe always?) a bit after the music, but I usually turn it off when the music rolls. Today I stayed and it was worth it for the giggle.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Campster’s apology for talking haunted houses which most people probably aren’t interested in: I like it when you do that sort of thing, and I don’t care about haunted houses. I (and I suspect, many people) don’t show up to the Diecast because I really want to hear about videogames, podcasts by and for general videogame enthusiasts are a dime a dozen. Even though I like videogames, I’m drawn to the Diecast more by my interest in the hosts than the topics.

    There’s a reason you’re the “Say something interesting about this” guy Campster, I was interested in you talking about a topic I have no interest in.

  8. tmtvl says:

    It’s odd that one of the best computer RPG’s in term of character definition I’ve ever played is a mod.
    The Caldecott Caper module for Shadowrun: Hong Kong. It’s not perfect by a long stretch, but it does the thing that Ruts and Josh say Sunless Sea does: shaping your character’s backstory based on your choices.

    I guess AAA games are too expensive to take any chances like that.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      It’s fun and generally accurate to characterize the AAA industry as overly cautious, but I would bet that’s not the case here. The CRPG genre has always been light on innovation (or to put it more flatteringly, slow to evolve). Rather than corporate risk-aversion, I would say that CRPG characters are currently being written the way they are because CRPGs crib heavily from the past 5-10 years, above and beyond gaming industry averages.

      It’s easy to characterize that sort of copying as coming from risk aversion, but I don’t think it’s that much of a conscious effort. You know how basically every sci-fi novel has artificial gravity? There’s no need for that, it’s not like this is a movie where shooting fake zero-G is expensive, but authors continue to invent plot-irrelevant gravity generators because that’s just what you do when you’re writing scifi. I think the same sort of thing goes on in CRPGs.

      • Those lines about CRPGs would cause a lot of the worst design choices for the BioShock games to make more sense, since if Levine went into the first one thinking “System Shock 2 but more of an FPS” it’d make sense why the shooty bits seem like they’re from around 2003…which oddly enough, a familiar game released in that exact year was Invisible War.

  9. John says:

    So, Event[0]. On the one hand, it sounds like an old text adventure. On the other hand, it apparently features Natural Language Processing. Intriguing. So off I go to Wikipedia and what do I find? Natural Language Processing is a broad term that appears to include any attempt to get computers to understand what humans are saying (or, more typically, what humans have written). More importantly, I learned that “up to the 1980s, most NLP systems were based on complex sets of hand-written rules.” Which is of course exactly how text adventures handled input way back when and I’m pretty sure how “interactive fiction” handles input today. How disappointing. The big innovation in Event[0] would thus seem to be that the text-parser is a character in addition to being a game mechanic.

    Also, at some point I had it drilled into my brain that only class names should start with upper-case letters, so I can’t look at “Event[0]” without cringing a little.

  10. Doomcat says:

    This is probably not completely accurate, as it’s still in my backlog to complete, BUT:

    I did appreciate how Pillars of Eternity let me pick a broad character background (For instance, an artist from the merchant-lead area of the game) which can then be broadened as your support characters ask you about it.

    It made the general Bioware “Here’s the NPC, ask about their life history” thing alot nicer when the NPC’s will also ask you prodding questions about your past. I also liked how the journal would update with the details of what you’ve told people your past is.

    Whether this comes to anything in the game itself, I’m unsure. As I said, I’ve never quite finished it.

    • Fade2Gray says:

      I was thinking the same thing but, like you, I have no idea if any of it ever resulted anything because I was never able to finish that game for a variety of reasons.

      • Andy_Panthro says:

        From my experience, the choices I made as my character felt like they lacked any real definition. The reputation system only had quite a limited impact too, and I wish they’d done more with it.

        There were a couple of times that my reputation for honesty was useful, or my reputation for being unstoppable in a fight or whatever, but those moments frustrated me by being few in number.

        I also found it hard to define my character when I was dealing with a vast amount of unknown lore. At the start of the game you have no real knowledge about the different races, the different lands, the different classes and so on, and I found it very hard to care about any of them, and yet you have to make (what seem like) important choices.

        Shadowrun does this a bit better, because for the most part it’s just: “like our world, only XYZ has happened and it’s the future”. It works with people’s pre-conceived ideas, and then expands or subverts them.

        [I seem to have rambled away from the point so I’ll stop here!]

        • Christopher says:

          I haven’t played Pillars, but I have played other games with that type of questions from NPCs. I always feel like I’m just making it up on the spot, because I am, rather than establishing my backstory. Obviously nothing in the game is real, but still.

        • Hermocrates says:

          I feel like Pillars of Eternity could provide a very good framework for implementing what Josh described, but as it was implemented it was rather more superficial unfortunately.

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So Josh is basically belkar bitterleaf?

  12. SlothfulCobra says:

    I really liked that one origin in Mass Effect where Shepard has a mother who just calls every so often to catch up. It was a nice little humanizing thing.

  13. Christopher says:

    Thanks for taking my question! I’m pretty much with Josh on this, and prefer established characters in AAA videogames to blank slates for the reasons he provided. When the story is at the forefront, I mean. I don’t mind that you have little personality as such in Dark Souls or Dragon’s Dogma. I really wish they did a big prologue chapter for Andromeda like in DAO, even if it’s only one. I don’t really roleplay, but the game that got me closest is DAO. Got me to put an ugly caste mark over my painstakingly created face for one thing.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Ditto on the established characters. I’ll happily inhabit the mind of a well thought-out character with a good backstory, or fill the shoes of a blank-slate, but this in-betweeny stuff like in the Mass Effect games is kinda weak. To put it another way, playing Batman is fun, and playing JC Denton is fun, but Shepard was pretty lame. :)

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The approaches to characters in rpgs:
    Neither of those is superior.You basically have to pick the approach that fits your setting the best.And most importantly,you have to go all the way with it.The reason shepard doesnt work is that they try to give you a defined character,but then that character is blank.

    So either go all in and make a defined character that you can direct,like geralt,or give us an empty vessel to fill in,like the nameless one.

  15. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Now Im sad that there is no debunker video game.

  16. Matthew Melange says:

    Dear Diecast

    Can you guys please state the email for Diecast questions at some point during every episode? (Maybe the beginning, middle, end, or questions?)

    Much appreciated, Matt!

  17. Andy_Panthro says:

    I may have missed that bit, but can I ask why there is halloween stuff already? I mean, it’s over a month away!

    Is it just because it’s a bigger deal in the US? My experience of it is mainly as an excuse for a bit of a party, but it’s not a big deal in the UK outside of the night itself and perhaps the closest weekend.

    • Majikkani_Hand says:

      I’ve only ever been in the US, but I have gotten the impression that we care more about Halloween than other countries do. We’ve had Halloween stores open for a good several weeks already.

    • galacticplumber says:

      Straight up cultural phenomenon of mass candy crusading children in costumes, decorations, and all manner of upsurge in scary movies and games. Second biggest holiday of the entire year in terms of sheer ability to move goods and change the scenery.

    • Chris says:

      A) Yes, it’s a way bigger deal in the US. I was hearing recently how Guy Fawkes’ Day kind of takes away from Halloween in the UK, but that was changing with the youth over time given that Halloween is more of an adult “dress up, get drunk, let’s party” holiday and Guy Fawkes’ Day was a more somber political affair. Still, the consensus was that Halloween is bigger in the states because it’s pretty much the only big holiday between Labor Day and Thanksgiving, which is not the case in the UK.

      B) Haunts take a lot of money to set up and are more loosely associated with “the fall season” than Halloween in particular (though Halloween is obviously the height of the season). Think of it like the Christmas toy selling season – it runs from just-before-Thanksgiving through to a few days after Christmas in the states, even though Christmas is just one day. With haunts it’s the same general principle – setting up a house or two full of corpses and pneumatic scares and triggered lights and actors trained to jump is expensive, so they drag the event from late-September through to early November rather than relying on a single weekend.

      • Thomas Lines says:

        Guy Fawkes isn’t political or sombre (nobody ‘remembers’), but its more fixed in what you do. You go to a display and watch fireworks, maybe with a bonfire. But there’s less chance to dress up, party and get drunk in that so it is slowly losing popularity

        • Chris says:

          Yeah, that’s a good way of putting it. Basically I’ve just heard that conflicts with Halloween a bit.

          Like, you kind of have to choose: Spend an evening with fireworks and patriotism, or spend time coming up with a costume and spending time out with friends celebrating Halloween.

          Now granted, I say all of this as someone who has never been to the UK, just as someone who has heard NPR reports about how Halloween has been making inroads as a “party” holiday against a more formal/traditional patriotic holiday, so I am open to being corrected.

    • potatoejenkins says:

      Is Halloween even a thing in Europe as a whole? Aside from the “because the U.S. do it”.

      We have similar traditions here, but not on the same day and all of them are much more … uhm … orderly? Glowesowend is the only one that comes close.

      The other ones usually include setting something on fire. Mostly pyres. With a straw doll bound to a pillar. Sometimes we mix it up and push burning wheels of hay downhill. It looks nice.

      • Galad says:

        My personal observation inEastern Europe is that it’s a thing mostly for a limited number of young people, for whom it’s a pretext to have a thematic party, maybe get/make a costume (anything remotely related goes, even a medieval knight costume), drink alcohol, make out with someone ifyou can find one, have fun in general, that sort of thing

    • Blunderbuss09 says:

      I’m an Australian but I went to school in the US for a short time, and lemme tell you, I was equally shocked how big a thing Halloween is. Our school even had a whole class of how to trick-or-treat safely by going through a large neighborhood diorama in the gym. It’s madness. Even little eight-year-old me was going ‘okay seriously this is way too much candy, come on’ and ‘why do you need Halloween versions of normal candy, that’s weird’ and ‘why do you guys put pumpkin in everything, my god’.

      Here in Australia it’s like the UK, where usually people just have a party on a weekend. Which is something that makes me very bitter, because as much as crusty old farts complain about ‘Americanization’ we refuse to import the greatest holiday ever.

  18. bhleb says:

    as long as it’s well written both option are viable but defined characters tend to be better because they are easier to write and construct a world around, it’s easier to design a videogame when you know the player is only going to approach the conflict through sword slashes like in the witcher games or GTA, it’s harder when they could just murder everybody or go for no-kill runs like in fallout new vegas which along with fallout 1 are the best examples of blank characters

  19. Dragmire says:

    Hey Shamus, out of curiosity, do you know what’s running on this page that would trigger adblock?

    It currently says 17 ads are being blocked and just 5 if I reload the page.

    It’s not a big deal or anything, I’m just curious.

    Edit: Posting this dropped the count to 4 but the count goes up slowly over time.

    • Echo Tango says:

      Adblock Plus is showing me “https://googleads.g.doubleclick.net/pagead/id” and “https://static.doubleclick.net/instream/ad_status.js”. Seems like it’s ads from Google? Those are the only two I get.

      • Shamus says:

        I’ve looked at the source of this page, and I did not see ANY doubleclick stuff. That should NOT be there. I looked at this post. I looked at the pront page. I looked at both while using incognito mode. Nothing.

        Can anyone else see this doubleclick stuff?

        • Ninety-Three says:

          I see them in adblock. They’re not showing up in main page source which means they must be hidden in an iframe. Adblock inspection shows they’re coming from Youtube.com. Solution: Embedded Youtube videos have their own iframes, and the only other iframe on the page is your “From the archives” tab. I’m betting one of the videos embedded here has ads on it, and they’re loading with the page.

          Clarification edit: Also, it’s only happening on this page. If I refresh on a previous Diecast, no additional ads blocked, so it’s almost certainly not the Twitter embeds or the like.

    • Shamus says:

      I get the same thing, and I’m not sure what causes it. My theory is the Facebook / twitter / G+ share buttons, and the Twitter feed in the sidebar. They incorporate off-site stuff, so they probably look like ads to adblock. Also, the Wordress.com integration might create some connections or bits of tracking / embed code.

      In any case, the site SHOULD work just fine, even if that stuff is blocked.

  20. Philadelphus says:

    I liked Campster’s idea of “the Scoville scale, but for scariness;” that’s a funny idea (even if my tolerance for both hovers around zero the majority of the time).

    • Chris says:

      It’s useful, if only because there are a lot of horror junkies that look at HHN as child’s play and a lot of non-horror folks that look at HHN as beyond terrifying. “The jalapeno of scariness” is a good way to get across exactly where it falls.

  21. jdgalt says:

    “Properly escaped” my foot. The character sequence /> is not valid in HTML, only in XML.

  22. Chris says:

    For the record here is the Queen Mary haunted walkthrough.

    I could critique this in a lot of ways, but specifically: It does not really set up the scares appropriately, and having the scare actors talk to you is kinda…. not scary? That said, it commits to the creepy little girl thing (to the detriment of pretty much everything else).

    Compare that to, say, Shallow Grave, which has some ingenious level scare design (seriously, the clever distractions and gotchas just keep coming in that video) but has very little in the way of a cohesive theme or environmental storytelling. It’s pretty much a series of “BOOS!” that are super effective but mean nothing.

    This is why I dig HHN – it combines the environmental storytelling of what the Queen Mary attempts with the actual spookiness of the more out-there haunts. It doesn’t always succeed, but when it does, I totally dig it. It’s not the scariest haunt out there, but in terms of production values meeting IPs you know meeting scares, it’s the biggest bang for my buck.

  23. Droid says:

    Egosoft’s X series (Beyond the Frontier, The Threat, Reunion, Terran Conflict, Albion Prelude, #*&%?$) has a ship computer named ‘Betty’. Even though I think the name only ever crops up ingame in the last entry of the series, and we don’t talk about that one.

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