Diecast #182: Looking Back at 2016

By Josh
on Jan 2, 2017
Filed under:
Diecast

147 comments

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Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Campster, Mumbles. Edited by Josh.

The year of 2016 is officially behind us now, and for whatever else you could say about all the crazy things that happened over the year, you can definitely say that 2016 was a year in which some video games were made. In this episode, we talk about some of those games that stood out to us.

Unfortunately, partway through, Chris had to leave; apparently he has some real life friends that came over, though I remain suspicious. Just in case you were wondering why he just stops talking halfway through.

Show notes after the jump.

0:04:05 Overwatch
0:17:50 Pokemon Go
0:21:00 Tyranny
0:32:45 Romance in Games
0:38:50 Mystic Messenger
0:46:20 Mirror’s Edge Catalyst
0:49:20 Deus Ex Mankind Divided
0:55:25 Rise of the Tomb Raider
0:56:25 Dishonored 2
0:59:30 Oxenfree
1:04:50 Mysterium (Which is a board game apparently.)
1:10:30 VA-11 Hall-A
1:12:00 DOOM
1:13:30 Final Fantasy XV
1:15:40 Watch Dogs 2

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  1. MichaelGC says:

    Cool! A nice surprise.

    Hope everyone has a good trip ’round the Sun.

  2. Andy_Panthro says:

    Much like Rutskarn, I’m far more keen to see Bannerlord than I am to see HL3. Unless they change it up completely and remove all the FPS stuff and instead make the game a Firewatch/Gone Home/etc. style adventure game. Gordon back at Black Mesa, wandering through the empty base listening to audio logs and reading notes.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Overwatch: You can’t tell much about the characters because they essentially have no personality, and that’s by design. I think the Overwatch characters are so well-liked because they are nearly but not quite blank slates. They’re slates painted with a single primary colour. Tracer is spunky, Reinhardt is crotchety, Zenyatta is Buddhist, each of them gives your imagination a kernel to build with, and nothing but room to build.

    It’s a brilliant design strategy for generating engagement, but I think this is why some of the cast doesn’t care: there’s no substance there. If you’re not interested in projecting onto a blank slate, you’re left with, well, a blank slate, and that’s not terribly interesting.

    • Echo Tango says:

      I feel like if that’s what they were going for when making the game / heroes, they should have set the expectations better. Expecting to play as Mercy and getting a blank slate is disappointing; Expecting to play as Medic and getting a blank slate isn’t. I have no idea how you’d name all the different champs in one- or two-word descriptors, though. TF2 had it easy with only the 9 people to pick from; Overwatch would feel like a thesaurus if they tried using class names/descriptors instead of character names.

      • Tintenseher says:

        I’m bored and I like naming things, so let’s give it a shot.

        Ana: Sentinel or Watcher.
        Bastion: Could stay as Bastion, I think.
        D.Va: Gamer is the obvious one, but I think Mecha or Pilot (or Mecha Pilot/Mechapilot) are more indicative.
        Genji: Ninja, of course. Cyborg Ninja if multiple words are allowed.
        Hanzo: Archer, Samurai, or Ronin.
        Junkrat: Mad Bomber.
        Lúcio: DJ, I guess?
        McCree: Cowboy, Ranger.
        Mei: Snow…woman? Ice Queen? I like Ice Queen.
        Mercy: Angel, duh.
        Pharah: Rocketeer.
        Reaper: This could probably stay the same.
        Reinhardt: I like Crusader because of his armor, but Knight is the obvious one.
        Roadhog: Eh…Biker? Scrap Shooter? This one is difficult.
        Soldier: 76: Soldier! Maybe Vigilante if we want to avoid TF2 names.
        Sombra: Hacker.
        Symmetra: Tech Support. (Architech/Architect for realsies.)
        Torbjörn: Engineer, but if we want to avoid TF2 names, Inventor, or Wrench Dwarf.
        Tracer: Racer? Speedster? Blinker? Temporal Anomaly-er? Kinda tough unless you want to go right to gameplay roles, like, Harrasser, Flanker, Tickler.
        Widowmaker: Sniper. Assassin to skip TF2 names.
        Winston: Monkey. (Gorilla? Scientist? Moon Monkey? Also difficult.)
        Zarya: Gravity Girl? Weightlifter? Why are the tanks the hardest ones?
        Zenyatta: Buddhabot! Clearly.

    • Benjamin Hilton says:

      I think the main issue is that they go too far. Like Rutskarn said, TF2 characterization is subtle. Overwatch characters very much are not. TF2 has characters, Overwatch has Charicatures.

      • Thomas says:

        That’s what works though right. If you had characters who were also blank slates, no-one would care about them. Whereas caricatures are perfect for memes and viralness.

        • Benjamin Hilton says:

          It’s a half measure though. they have this whole world and histories for the characters with little vignettes and everything, then they also want blank slates. They want to have their cake and eat it too, and to me, they don’t quite succeed.

          • JakeyKakey says:

            This.

            Double-down on the back/main story or ditch it.

            Right now Overwatch is:

            a) A meaningless arena shooter in which characters team up with their ‘supposed enemies’ in order to kill their ‘supposed friends’

            b) Something they’re trying to pass off as this deep extended universe story & lore, when all they really have is a bunch of half-assed trite bullshit. There’s just about enough of it to thinly spread throughout and pretend it’s a semi-coherent setting if you squint really hard and just kind of fill in the blanks, but it’s all kinda awful.

            A doesn’t work in context of B, B doesn’t work in its own right and violently clashes with A. The characters need to be either more superficial or less, but they can’t really remain in their current state.

            I don’t care about Tracer’s sexuality in the context of A and I care even less about it in the context of B, because that comic was one of the worst attempts at lore/worldbuilding I’ve ever seen.

  4. Andy_Panthro says:

    Nice to hear that Tyranny is “less boring” than Pillars.

    I pushed through most of pillars trying to finish it (still haven’t), but while I quite liked the world and some of the plot, it really struggled to inspire me with the gameplay and I feel like a lot of the interesting ideas are really underdeveloped.

    My main worry with Tyranny is that it would have the same huge amount of dull combat encounters that Pillars has, but perhaps it won’t be so bad if they’ve learned from their mistakes.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Well, from the Rock, Paper, Shotgun review: “incessantly interrupted by dull combat.” So, not especially encouraging, although it would imply that which is being interrupted is the good stuff.

    • tmtvl says:

      I haven’t played all the way through Tyranny yet, but so far the combat/non-combat balance feels a tremendous amount better than in PoE.

      The people who installed the Tactics mod for BG(2) will probably prefer PoE, but for people with a life Tyranny is better IMHO.

    • Wide And Nerdy® says:

      I played through POE and was spellbound for most of it. I’m playing through Tyranny now and want to shoot myself. Its too real.

      Tyranny is the driest game I’ve ever played, aside from maybe Papers Please (I didn’t get far into that one). I actually sought a refund for it. First Obsidian game I’ve ever wanted a refund for. Alas, I’d accidentally left the game running for a while so Steam thought I played it more than I actually did.

      So I’m stuck with it and I’m playing. What is supposed to be fun about being a mid level bureaucrat working for tyrants? I do that in real life and its just as depressing.

      The main difference between me and my character is that I don’t like being in charge of people and decline those opportunities when presented. You can say my character is more than a mid level bureaucrat but it sure doesn’t feel like it. My job is to be the guy people resent for delivering the orders of the people who are actually in charge.

      Wow.

      What a great fantasy.

      Just kill me now and be done with it.

      What happened to the guys who made New Vegas? Or Pillars for that matter? I don’t know why the Diecast was bored by Pillars. I don’t think they gave it the chance. It has some fascinating stuff going on with its world.

      By the way, that Kyros deadline is bullshit. I’ll tell you how to break it. Sleep for 8 days, till the day after Kyros Day of Swords. THEN deliver the Edict. Congratulations, you now have 363 days to complete the assignment instead of 8 because Kyros forgot to specify a year in his/her edict. I do this guilt free because Kyros is both a dick and a moron.

      • Ringwraith says:

        By the way, congratulations on your latter bit of breaking things.
        That is entirely the point.

      • Daemian Lucifer says:

        What happened to the guys who made New Vegas? Or Pillars for that matter?

        Nothing.Obsidian always had a streak of dreariness in it.Sometimes it works for you,sometimes it doesnt.

        I don’t know why the Diecast was bored by Pillars. I don’t think they gave it the chance. It has some fascinating stuff going on with its world.

        Gameplay mostly.It wasnt that good.Not as bad as some other obsidian titles,but not impressive either.

      • Henson says:

        I don’t know why the Diecast was bored by Pillars. I don’t think they gave it the chance.

        Well, for myself, I was invested in Pillars for about the first five to ten hours. But there was something about the game that just didn’t *click* like I expected. Yes, the combat kinda got on my nerves for being so dry, but it was also in other ways. I kept envisioning how my character would relate to the world, but the dialogue would often only have options that didn’t fit my mold. I could never figure out how my character fit into the world. The story elements with ‘souls’ were awkward, as it never seemed clear whether souls’ connection to their past lives had any significance or not (does my past life as a ______ have any bearing on who I am now?). The story seemed to want be introspective, but never seemed to delve deeply or specifically enough. And in the end, there were a bunch of things to do and learn about, but not enough resonance to motivate me to explore them. I did finish the game, but I really had to force myself.

        • Wide And Nerdy ♤ says:

          Thats a very good point. It makes sense to be something of a stranger at first since you’re coming here from elsewhere but it never gets around to feeling like you’re a person who lives here, who cares about the people here and who is cared about in return.

          The companions come closest and even they can tend to exhibit a strange academic detachment when interacting with you. Some of them had potential via their personal quests. The problem is that they’re either underdeveloped (Eder) or wall of text philosophical stuff (Durance).

          Aloth comes the closest to pulling it off. They finally hit the right beat in the DLC when you awaken another character on purpose and Aloth looks on you with horror. I was hoping that there’d be more fallout from that with him but sadly there isn’t.

          I know both myself and a number of other people have felt the urge to stop upon getting to Defiance Bay (the “Baldurs Gate” of Pillars). For me at least its because everything I cared about up to that point was left behind in the starting village.

          Narratively you should be feeling urgency because you’re at risk of losing your sanity and the answers lie with the man you’re supposed to be hunting but somehow that ends up being easy to lose track of, I think partly because the guy has zero personality.

          But even then they could have pulled it off. Baldur’s Gate 2 does it brilliantly with Irenicus. Even if he hadn’t been played by David Warner, Irenicus was set up very well for you to want to hunt him given the things he does to you at various points in the game. Thaos and the Watcher are perfectly compatible with those kinds of story beats but they just aren’t there.

          What we needed was Thaos kidnapping the Watcher to try to perform a ritual on him or something. Maybe even succeeding. Or the game could have played more on the revelations about the Watcher’s past life and consequent relationship with Thaos.

          Or we needed the Watcher to bond more with recurring characters in the setting to become invested in their struggles. Or both.

          Admittedly, I might be being unfair. Mass Effect 2’s companion quests set a high bar for me that even other Bioware titles routinely fail to clear. Obsidian is better at world building and central plots than they are with characters.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        What got me interested into it, and is something that the game sort of does well in the beggining but DOES NOT stick to at the end, is basically play like an Roman Empire administrator being handed control over a newly conquered province, with the orders to sort things out, crush the resistance and incorporate the province in the rest of the Empire.

        And in order to bring order and prosperity to the region by incorporating it into something bigger you WILL have to use drastic measures to crush the ressistance and make the carrot much more palatable.

        And it does that in the beggining. You can sort of navigate using that standard. Stepping on Chorus whenever they are being too bloody. Reigning in Disfavoured excesses. Basically doing thing Tunon likes.

        Unfortunatelly the game does not continue down that path, but has to do the fantasy trope and turn you into some sort of big hero powered by a mcguffin, and more annoyingly it gets depressingly railroady as i gets towards the end.

        One of the last quests before the ending on the Disfavoured path involves a really ugly and stupid event in which you are not really given any option of telling Ashe that the plan is stupid and is in direct opposition to the rules of Kyros. It’s not his decision to decide which province will get ruined by eternal drought just so he can sap Chorus’s strength.

        And also imporant for me was the fact that Tyranny is not really that long, which allowed even me to finish it.

  5. Ninety-Three says:

    Re: Oxenfree: I’m interested in it, but I’ve seen about an hour of gameplay and am very wary of the direction it seems to be going in. Can someone tell me if I’m right about this?

    I find it very hard to care about the stakes when it feels like the author could make literally anything happen at any moment and simply file it under “There’s some spooky shit going down”. There’s no sense of rules, limits, or even just consistent theming to the supernatural stuff: if there is a willful entity behind this, it is all but omnipotent. I worry that the plot will play out rather like Evil Within, where reality-warping spooky stuff keeps randomly getting in the protagonist’s way until the end when it randomly doesn’t so the protagonist finally wins. If I don’t like a plot centered on all-powerful supernatural forces messing with humans, is Oxenfree going to disappoint me?

    • Christopher says:

      I got a clear sense of the rules and what the supernatural force was, but it’s definitely a supernatural force messing with humans. It’s not all-powerful.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        Really? It can generate a magic radio frequency, give visions, teleport people, make weird stuff appear in reflective surfaces, possess bodies, telekinetically interact with the environment, cause Groundhog Day time loops (which both begin and end for no apparent reason)… that’s a more disjointed grab bag than Silver Age Superman, and it feels about as overpowered.

        • Christopher says:

          I’m not saying they’re balanced, but there’s a clear reason why the kids aren’t instantly dead and what weaknesses the supernatural force has, as well as its origin.

  6. Christopher says:

    “Junkrat! Is he a sofisticated man? Who knows!”

    That Overwatch conversation, holy crap. I’m in tears!
    Lol the backwards ol’ TF2 time of 2007, though. I figure they were all men because their aesthetic for that game was an old-timey military thing. It’s not like they themselves avoided women for Portal or Left for Dead even.

    I get it if Rutskarn doesn’t want to play Overwatch because of the aesthetic, because the aesthetic is pretty much the only reason I want to play it. It’s like I’m getting Shooter Street Fighter. I could only be more pleased if all those characters were in a fighting game instead. They managed to make a huge cast where only a couple of the characters actively annoy me and I really like the look of several of them.

    Having said that… whenever I have heard the characters speak, everything they say has been unbearable.

    • Thomas says:

      Given how goofy the Team Fortress 2 characters are, that doesn’t really match up. And even with the World War 2 aesthetic it would perhaps be more thematic for the spy and medic to be female (although I don’t know how I would have felt if they did that?)

      Perhaps it was because it originally had a gritty counterstrike look, but surely they had to remodel and voice everything, in which case they could gender swap a character.

      I think it probably just didn’t occur to them.

      • JakeyKakey says:

        I always just chalked it up to differences in political landscape at the time.

        You could feasibly justify a female Medic/Spy, but nine male classes is just something they decided to go with and no one really cared enough for there to be any backlash.

        “What do you mean women can’t be comedic psychopath idiot assassins blowing each other up to bits?’ is a much more gender-representation-conscious rhethoric that TF2 actively predated.

  7. Isaac says:

    At 46:55, making Mirror’s Edge open world was a common fan request for a Mirror’s Edge sequel back then

  8. Shamus says:

    On Overwatch vs. Team Fortress 2:

    The Team Fortress 2 designs resonated with me instantly. They drew from cultural cues that were meaningful to me. I was born in ’71, so I grew up surrounded by the 60’s spy aesthetic. I watched 80’s action movies, so these characters fit neatly into existing stereotypes for me.

    In contrast, Overwatch is very clearly aimed at millennials and millennial cues. Some of them feel like lost 90’s cartoons. Others (like the gamer) are drawing from parts of today’s culture that I’m not a part of.

    That’s not bad or anything, but it does sort of explain why the Overwatch characters don’t do anything for me.

    • MichaelGC says:

      I thought Rutskarn was talking about them having easily recognisable silhouettes in the middle of a firefight. Ended up having to rewind! – I thought they’d all lost it or shown up drunk or somesuch… XD

      • Ranneko says:

        This has definitely bugged me a couple of times with the Young skins for some of the Overwatch characters. They can really change what the characters look like, especially when you aren’t too familiar with the game.

        I remember a number of times for example thinking Young Reaper was Soldier 76, which given the very different engagement range of those two characters, is not a healthy mistake to make.

  9. MichaelGC says:

    So according to Steam Spy, Tyranny has sold about 120,000 copies, whilst Pillars of Eternity sold around 800,000.

    Obviously PoE has been out longer, and has presumably been through a few Steam sale cycles. But it’s weird – it’s almost as if the initial difficulty getting Pillars made – and all the fol-de-rol which surrounded the Kickstarter – hugely helped sales there, whilst the (apparent) relative ease and speed with which Tyranny was created has if anything been counterproductive. (Although against that, if it was easier & quicker to produce it was also no doubt cheaper, too.)

    There’ll be other factors – perhaps some folks were turned off expecting another Pillars, and perhaps others didn’t like the sound of the whole ‘evil wins’ gig. Maybe it just came too quickly and everyone is still busy playing PoE. But (whilst I don’t feel good about suggesting this) I do wonder if they’d faffed around a bit more and allowed hype & expectation to build, there might not be quite such a huge discrepancy.

    • Sleeping Dragon says:

      I think the kickstarter coverage, and the fact that more people head a stake in it due to crowdfunding and kept talking about it, might be the reason. I have no idea how representative my experience is but while I heard of Pillars relatively early on Tyranny nearly slipped past my radar.

      • Matt Downie says:

        My theory: a lot of people were thinking: “Pillars of Eternity? Finally! A classic RPG like early Bioware used to make!”

        Then they played Pillars of Eternity. “Oh, wow: this type of gameplay isn’t as much fun as I remember. And those Kickstarter-backer-rewards where members of the public got to add their own bits of writing are really intrusive. Should I force myself to keep playing?”

        Then Tyranny is announced. “Hm. Another one? Already? Meh. And you have to play as a villain’s minion choosing between different awful things happening? Not really my idea of a good time.”

      • Ringwraith says:

        It did hardly have any coverage from places, also it seems it might’ve gotten shoved out a bit earlier than anyone would’ve liked and some of the marketing just wasn’t very good. “Sometimes, evil wins” is not a great tagline.
        One of the devs had a better description for it, which you couldn’t market directly, but still: ‘Bronze Age Judge Dredd’.
        (Something along those lines anyway).

        • 4th Dimension says:

          Yeah, Bronze Age Judge Dread is a much better descriptor for like the first 66% of the game, where one of your main functions in quests is to arbitrate and then when necessary execute often times rough justice to bring order to a land in turmoil due to war.

      • xedo says:

        Used well, Kickstarter is even better as a marketing tool than it is as a fundraiser. Devs like Double Fine and Obsidian can get a round of articles for teasing that a kickstarter is coming, for launching it, for hitting the first funding goal, for hitting each major stretch goal, and for the conclusion of the campaign. Tyranny definitely flew under the radar without one.

        Which is surprising because the PoE campaign had the brilliant back count stretch goal where another floor was added to the big underground dungeon for every few thousand backers they got. It’s interesting Obsidian chose not to use kickstarter again after knocking their first one out of the park.

        • Taellosse says:

          I suspect that’s largely a function of the relative timings each game was begun. PoE was one of the first really successful Kickstarter games (in terms of fundraising – whether it is a successful game is a subjective matter), and had it’s time in the press largely before the high-profile string of failures (games that failed to fund, others that funded but failed to deliver on time, or what was promised, etc.) that followed in the subsequent couple years. The general gaming public is a LOT more skeptical about Kickstarter now than they were then, and are far less willing to throw their money at a hypothetical game, even one from developers with a proven track record of finishing games like Obsidian has. As such, a crowdsourced funding campaign for Tyranny probably would not have done nearly as well as PoE did, even before accounting for the subset of people that backed PoE and regretted it and the different climate now for indie games in general (Obsidian isn’t precisely an indie studio, but they straddle the line these days. And these isometric RPGs they’re doing are on the indie side of that line, even though they’re doing stuff with major publishers as well).

          On top of all that, they probably felt they didn’t need it. Kickstarter made PoE possible, but it sold pretty well over and above backer buy-in. Tyranny appears to use essentially the exact same engine (and I don’t just mean Unity – they built on top of Unity a fair bit for Pillars) and some of the same art assets, and I suspect it cost a great deal less to produce. It’s quite likely that the sales of PoE were largely what funded development of Tyranny.

        • Sannom says:

          Based on comments by Feargus Urquhart, Obsidian never had the intention to become fully crowd-funded, unlike inXile. Hence why Tyranny was paid for, owned and published by Paradox, not Obsidian. I would expect a crowd-funding campaign for PoE 2, even if a smaller one.

      • Thomas says:

        Since I’m a massive Obsidian fan actively anticipating Tyranny and I almost missed it’s release date (I thought it would be next year), it’s safe to say Tyranny’s marketing probably wasn’t very good.

        And the coverage they did get from sites like RPS and Kotaku was weirdly unenthusiastic. I don’t think it’s been so obvious that they were retyping press releases as it was with Tyranny.

        It had a bad tagline, it was the wrong year and wrong decade for their hook and it came out clashing with Dishonoured 2 so even the sites that did want to review it, reviewed it late. (It was so universally reviewed late that I wondered if it had a post-launch embargo)

    • Nelly says:

      Tyranny also got ‘fair to middling’ reviews – at least from those review sites I read… that certainly put me off as someone keen on the ‘evil winning’ side of things but with increasingly limited gaming time. I’ll just stick to witching and dishonouring

    • Jonathan says:

      I’m not interested in playing a dark “evil wins” game for my fantasy escapism.

      If I remember correctly, PoE does not support Windows XP, so I have nothing to play Pillars on except my work laptop (not going there).

      • tmtvl says:

        PoE works wonderfully on Linux, and Windows XP is no longer officially supported, so you shouldn’t be running it anyways. And basically all software that runs fine on Windows XP runs just as well under Wine. And if you really need something that Wine doesn’t handle well you can always install Windows XP in a VM so you can take snapshots and revert in case you break something. And Linux is free, community supported, runs fast, looks good, works fine on nearly all hardware, you really don’t have to use the terminal on most distros, it’s more secure, you have more control over your system,…

      • Christopher says:

        I’m not interested in playing a dark “evil wins” game for my fantasy escapism.

        Yep.

  10. Christopher says:

    Bioware already did the relationship stuff. Iron Bull was my lover way before that game was over. For ME3 I was still dating the same girl I was dating in 1. It didn’t turn the games into Mr & Mrs Smith or anything, and I can’t speak for the rest of the romances, but Bioware clearly has come a long way since ME1.

    Saints Row 4 has the funniest romances since you just have a button you can press for every member of your crew on your Fake Normandy that asks them to bang you. Most of them will, with a funny, short scene. One of them punches you in the face before she pounces you. But I don’t think that’s what all game romances should be like. If it wasn’t a joke, having a “You hooked up” message and then a line or two is just laaame. I don’t get anything out of that. Like, that new Fire Emblem thing where you pair up two characters and get their grown up child from the future as a soldier isn’t really something I think is cool(You could pair people up for a romance before, the kids stuff is new). It’s less a romance and more a shipping simulator.

    It hadn’t occured to me that jpop bishonen boyband FF15 was aiming for men.

    • Henson says:

      Yeah, FF15 does seem to revel in the manmeat, doesn’t it? Not that I’ve played it or anything…

      • Christopher says:

        I remember hearing at one point that the player base for FF in Japan is equally split between genders, which is easy for me to believe. No idea what it’s like in Europe or the US, but despite the characters reading to me as bishie J-drama/J-pop crap(especially this game and 8), I don’t get the idea that it’s a problem for most people. It certainly isn’t going to keep me away from a cool open world action RPG. But I’m curious what the balance is(Will the bishie looks and shipping possibilitiea appeal to women, and the themes of brotherhood and road trips to men?), and which games had more characters that appealed to either demographic. My favorite FF cast just designwise is probably 12, 6, 7 or 9.

        About the Mr and Mrs Smith thing, I remembered that Lair of the Shadow Broker actually totally turns it into a Mr and Mrs Smith thing as you and Liara quip more than ever while shooting bad guys together.

  11. CoyoteSans says:

    People were disappointed in PoE because they were expecting Baldur’s Gate 2, not 1. Which I always felt was a little unfair, since BG2 was a refinement of an established engine, setting, and story. PoE was BG1 Redux because they had to build the engine, asset pipelines, and figure out how to write a story and characters and manage all of it without a producer in the loop. I wanted the experience BG1 gave me of exploring a new and strange world through its characters and lore books (I was a child at the time, and had no knowledge of D&D or Forgotten Realms whatsoever) despite somewhat underwhelming enemies, combat, and stakes, and that’s exactly what I got. I really hope PoE2 gets made and they don’t just abandon it, because despite what was said in the show, I feel the setting still has a lot of stories and mysteries in it left to explore.

    Building off that, Tyranny is… well, not BG2, but maybe Icewind Dale (Torment feels like far too high of praise, what I’ve spoiled of Tyranny’s ending for myself really soured me on ever wanting to buy the game myself): the engine and pipelines are built and done, the dev team is In The Groove, now they can start really pumping out interesting game experiences with it, but they haven’t quite hit the “magic butter zone” yet.

    Watch_Dogs 2… I’m not convinced I can call it “good” yet. The whole point of the original game, botched though it was, was supposed to be a sobering look at what it means to have a Electronic Panopticon Society where all the information is held by corporate gatekeepers and the criminals who bust in, swipe the goods, and wreck havok with them. Having Watch_Dogs 2 switch gears to having “The Panopticon… but it’s a fun romp, yo!” feels like unintentional biting commentary about how we as society have been irrefutably shown the extent of the surveillance system… and that no, we’re actually pretty okay with it all, carry on. I find it rather depressing, in that light.

  12. Ninety-Three says:

    Mumbles: if you want to bang a character in a game, and that character like meets up with your specifications or whatever, you should be able to bang that character.

    That part of the podcast was deeply horrifying to me, and I’ve spent the last few hours trying to form my vague internal screaming into some kind of coherent expression.

    In an entire lifetime spent deeply immersed in videogames and the internet, that is the most shallow and self-indulgent sentimentI have ever seen. I was horrified by Mumbles acknowledging that it’s important for Dorian to be gay, then dismissing the people saying it by repeating their argument in a whingey disdainful tone, and proceeding to say she wants to bang him anyway. The broad sentiment of entitlement, indulgence, and knowing there are reasons not to, has some strong parallels to the idea of rape culture, then the specific example is her wanting to bang someone who is clearly not interested, and the whole thing makes me reaaaaally uncomfortable.

    In the end, the best arguments against Mumbles’ “Bang every character” stance are the ones Mumbles herself acknowledged, and the way her dismissal of them was simply “Yeah, but I really wanna!” Gay characters should be allowed to be gay, someone shouldn’t necessarily like you, in general: there are things you want that you probably shouldn’t be given. I want a sniper rifle with infinite ammo that deals 5000 damage, but it’s probably for the best that developers don’t give us that either.

    • Shamus says:

      I think you totally missed her point about Dorian. She saying it’s good that he’s actually gay and not player-oriented, but she wanted to hook up with him anyway because she liked the character. Or to put it another way: Just because there’s a good reason for you to not have something doesn’t mean you stop wanting it.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        The problem is that earlier she said that you should be able to bang any character you want. That context, combined with the unflattering tone she used for “eugh, it’s important” makes it sound like she’s dismissing the point, saying “Yeah yeah, that’s important or whatever but I want it so give it to me”. Unless I missed a part where she walks back her “Should be able to bang anyone” statement, it seems like a proposal which necessarily dismisses Dorian being gay.

    • Syal says:

      that is the most shallow and self-indulgent sentiment I have ever seen.

      I highly doubt that. But also, it’s a videogame, that people pay money for, played in the privacy of a person’s home, solely for enjoyment; it is naturally an incredibly self-indulgent activity.

      I think Mumbles was actually talking about making dating straightforward; “you should be able to bang whoever you want” was about romance options being clear and not a maze where you can lose the opportunity because your answer to an obtuse question wasn’t the one that character wanted to hear . It wasn’t actually about every character being romanceable.

      • Ninety-Three says:

        I highly doubt that.

        I sincerely tried to think of something worse. The guy who had a creepily specific request for how Widowmaker should kiss the screen? Every “This is how to fix Game X” post which is really just a description of their ideal game only loosely related to the reality of Game X and its flaws? The countless tunnel-visioned players who said they didn’t like a mechanic therefore it shouldn’t exist?

        Not even The Magic Circle’s literal caricature of a player who demands the right to kill plot critical characters at will can hold a candle to Mumbles’ insistence on the right to have sex with every character in every game.

        • Shamus says:

          Even if you’re right about Mumbles was saying (and I still think you’ve lost some nuance in the confusion) your response is incredibly confrontational, accusatory, and needlessly personal. If nothing else, make sure you’re clear on what she’s saying before you attack her character. (And even than, maybe just don’t.)

          Normally I’d nudge her and ask that she come in to clarify, but right now I’m hoping she doesn’t read this exchange because I know exactly how it will make her feel.

          It’s totally possible to say “I strongly disagree with this” and not follow it up with “You’re a lousy person for saying it”.

          • Ninety-Three says:

            I didn’t do that though? I called the sentiment shallow, not Mumbles. It’s certainly confrontational, but I feel like confrontation is not a wholly inappropriate response to what seems to be a dismissal of the very idea of gay characters in games.

            I apologize if it came off a personal attack, I tried to keep my post limited to the idea itself, and my thoughts on it. Apparently I did a worse job of it than I thought?

            Edit: Realized the implications of the phrasing in the last sentence on the above post. I see how it seems kind of personal, not my intention, my bad, sorry. Edit window closed on that post before I could properly change it.

        • MichaelGC says:

          I guess there was that guy who wanted there to be different coloured underwear in one of the Fallout games so that when he piled up dead halfnaked bodies in his hut or wherever it was there’d be a bit of variety.

          But I have always and will in the face of any evidence which may or may not be provided continue to believe that was spectacularly ill-judged parody.

        • Syal says:

          I suppose it’s possible it’s the most self-indulgent thing aimed at a videogame world. I hold it below anything aimed at actual people, which the internet is full of.

        • Frontlinecaster says:

          Sad that mumbles is leaving the show, but not that she won’t have to put up with her every thought be discussed and dissected like it’s okay to call her a sadist or to compare her to a rapist for liking to do things in video games. Notice no one ever says that about Josh or Rutskarn as a result of their jokes.

          Too much of this community is toxic in a way no one seems willing to do anything about.

          • Daemian Lucifer says:

            Oh for the love of….Yes,one person crosses the line,is immediately called out for it by everyone and their mother,apologizes for it,and that somehow means that MUCH of this community is toxic and NO ONE is doing anything about it…Your comment is so helpful,not trying to defend Mumbles,not trying to bridge over a misunderstanding,not trying to understand both sides,but rather attacking everyone else.Splendid job!

            • SyrusRayne says:

              You sure about that? Yes, one person crossed the line. This time. One person crosses a line every other time Mumbles is in something. Regardless, nobody came close to being “called out” here, and nor was anyone defending anything except maybe Ninety-Three’s feelings, so you really don’t need to pat the community on the back.

              • MichaelGC says:

                Read the responses again – they are all disagreeing, whilst trying not to make anyone feel worse, which I personally think is an admirable goal.

                Also, there’s a big difference between standing up for a community large parts of which have just been unfairly described as ‘toxic’, and patting it on the back. (I’m patting it on the back, but DL wasn’t.)

              • Syal says:

                I don’t know what calling someone out looks like to you, but I’m assuming Shamus would lock the thread if people did it. While that might give a temporary sense that you’ve “won” by getting the last word, it just makes the next round uglier.

          • Syal says:

            Well, this is close enough to a near-and-dear topic of mine to allow me to go off on a tangent.

            Hyperbole comes from every side. The first thing people do when describing something they like is reach for the extremes. That’s why all the extreme words end up meaning the same thing; awesome and awful used to mean something vast. You’ve got to apply the context. Especially when someone’s trying to explain a complicated point of view.

            Part of the reason Mumbles gets criticized so often is because she’s more carefree about what she says. It’s exaggerated, spur of the moment kind of stuff. But so is Ninety-Three’s response; it’s an attempt to express an emotion that doesn’t allow for easy expression. You’ve got to give leniency in both directions. Because the first thing offense does is mess with your thinking, which means you’re more likely to say something unintentionally offensive, which means another person will take offense and say something offensive and the whole thing snowballs.

            I think part of the issue here is that a good number of the hosts write and/or ponder for a living, so they set a high standard. But you shouldn’t need to be perfectly articulate to express an opinion, and the refreshing opinions are going to come from the people who don’t have that kind of background. As someone who gets progressively less intelligible the longer I talk, it’s very important to me to be able to be inconsistent.

            My old motto; there’s plenty of things to argue about without arguing over miscommunication.

          • MichaelGC says:

            Multiple people disagreed with Ninety-Three’s interpretation and argued with it in a manner which took into account that Ninety-Three was upset, thus attempting to make all feel better. That isn’t toxicity.

            You perceive an injustice and your suggestion is that similar injustices (as perceived) be extended to other members of the cast? That is.

    • Josh says:

      While I can understand how you could have come to this reading of what Mumbles is saying here–and agree that if it was indeed what she was saying, that’s a pretty horrible sentiment to have–I don’t believe that’s what she meant at all.

      I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but my interpretation of what she was saying by the “bang whoever you want” line was that it’d be great if games in general added more common romance options than they currently do. The culture of game writing and development tends to treat romance as this very “special” sort of situation that’s “rare” and “magical” and has some sort of unique and special significance. And while that is, I suppose, a valid way to view romance; it’s also true that romantic relationships are extremely common. Most adults have been in some sort of romantic relationship before. And there aren’t a lot of games that treat romance and dating and marriage as a common thing that happens to almost everyone.

      I very much doubt Mumbles was trying to suggest that there should be more games where every character is player-sexual or that you can bang every character regardless of whether or not they should be attracted to you–or indeed, regardless of consent. Rather, I imagine she meant that you should be able to pursue a romance with pretty much any character you want, even though some of them may eventually (or quickly) turn you down. This contrasted against the Obsidian model and policy we had just been talking about of “no romance ever.”

      Likewise I can’t imagine Mumbles was meaning to say that she should still be able to romance Dorian as a female character even though he’s explicitly gay; rather that she wanted to romance him, and that desire was still there, but also respected that the character was written as gay, and that such characters that are not omni-sexual or player-sexual, and have defined sexualities and sexual desires that are not wholly dependent on the player are important to have. I cannot imagine Mumbles making any sort of intentional argument that consent and sexual preference and agency should all be made moot, even when speaking in the context of clearly fictional characters. And I would implore you to extend at least a little benefit of the doubt to Mumbles here.

      • Wide And Nerdy® says:

        I don’t want to put words in her mouth, but my interpretation of what she was saying by the “bang whoever you want” line was that it’d be great if games in general added more common romance options than they currently do.

        This is exactly what I got from her statement as well. I think Ninety Three has a pet peeve (an understandable one) and that he’s reading that onto her statement. If its something you want to vent about, Ninety Three, fine. Don’t pin it on her.

        And I agree with her, I think. I got the feeling what she wanted was, if she had a fun interaction with some random blacksmith, she wants to say “you’re cute. Wanna bang?” and there’s a fade to black and a quick one liner or something, and the game continues. That would be great.

        • Daimbert says:

          But being willing to do that says something about who that character is. Having some options like that are one thing — and have been done a number of times before — but having every character willing to do that requires a specific sort of world and specific personalities to work.

          As an example of some cases, TOR has a number of those options. In fact, one of my characters sided with a Sith over the Jedi because he figured the Sith would and the Jedi wouldn’t (Smuggler, left the Empire after being kicked out of his job for being drunk, didn’t care about the war or about any of their philosophies, perfectly selfish, got better later [grin]).

      • Syal says:

        if it was indeed what she was saying, that’s a pretty horrible sentiment to have

        Strongly disagree. Wanting the gameplay to override the narrative is no more horrible than making a house rule for any other game. It’s not fun to have to restart a game to overcome an NPC character restriction, and if you couldn’t know about it beforehand it’s just DIAS .

        These are not real people; they’re pieces in a game.

        • Sleeping Dragon says:

          It really depends on whether the game treats this aspect as part of game mechanics, like The Sims, or as part of character narrative, like the Bioware games.

          In case of The Sims the characters are pretty much “pieces in a game” and the devs decided that there aren’t really any incompatible traits that cannot be overcome, at worst balancing the sims desires becomes more difficult and I know for a fact that many players actually created as differing couples as possible in hopes that the resulting tension creates more challenging or fun gameplay.

          In case of games like Dragon Age we have characters with a narrative, backstory and goals*. Overcoming differing ideologies or character past experiences either through or for the purpose of romance can make for an interesting story but it is perfectly reasonable for situations to exist where those are impossible to overcome for one reason or another. It’s one of the things where mileage varies greatly but many players have seen Bioware in particular as often compromising NPC integrity in favour of pleasing the players.

          *How well those are developed and/or presented varies greatly by game and character, and player opinions on the topic also differ wildly.

          • Syal says:

            That affects whether it’s sensible to put it in a game. It doesn’t affect whether a player wants it in the game. A given game can only appeal to so many people, but if you say what you want out of one game maybe the next game will appeal to you.

            As a note, the third option is to compromise the player character’s integrity; if Dorian only dates men, give the player a way to become a man. Now you’ve got your uncompromisingly gay character that the player can still always date.

            (I like the Obsidian approach; either no romance, or really creepy romances that basically mock the concept.)

            • tmtvl says:

              give the player a way to become a man.

              Simple: play the game with a male character.

              These are not real people; they’re pieces in a game.

              LOL #videogamecharactersarepeopletoo

              Anyway, they might not be real people, but if the writers designed them in a particular way, then why should they compromise their vision based on player demand? If players want something else, they’re free to make their own game or play one that does what they want. No need to change existing games just because players are entitled brats.

              • Syal says:

                why should they compromise their vision based on player demand?

                We’re on different topics at this point. As long as the tone is clear there’s no reason for any specific game to change to accomodate people (except to make it profitable), but we’ve got people saying it’s horrible to want to see a game work differently. An infinite-ammo sniper rifle that does 5000 damage is completely wrong for Dark Souls, but it’s mid–tier in Disgaea. Maybe it doesn’t fit one guy’s vision, but he’s not the only one making games and there’s other people coming up behind him that will like to hear their vision would have an audience.

                Simple: play the game with a male character.

                I don’t know how early you meet Dorian. Say it’s five hours in. That’s five hours of game you have to redo for the sake of one quest. At minimum, because until you finish the game you don’t know if there’s any female-only stuff you’ll be locking yourself out of by restarting. That’s the height of DIAS.

                I want to see more games where you play a shapeshifting amorphous blob. Male, Female, Pack Horse, all just a shift away.

                • Daimbert says:

                  I think there might be a clash between roleplaying and gameplaying here.

                  Why is it that, five hours in, you’d have to restart to finish that one “quest”? You don’t need to romance Dorian or ANYONE to complete the game. You don’t get any kind of real bonus for it (usually). You might get some cool scenes, but really no more than, say, not bringing Deadpool to meet himself in X-Men Legends 2 or not bringing a character on a specific quest to meet someone they used to know … or not saving someone and losing their small character arcs. Unfortunate, perhaps, but not really game breaking. So the only reason to feel forced to restart is that you really, really wanted to date Dorian, and feel that it is something that your character wanted. Sure. But in terms of story and roleplaying not being able to get what you want is perfectly valid and even sometimes superior to being able to get what you everything you want. Think about how your character would feel about that situation. What would they do? Would it leave them bereft, pining for someone they couldn’t have? Could they possibly find love with someone else? Would that be bittersweet, or them discovering their true love and abandoning Dorian as an infatuation?

                  For me, the idea roleplaying is to get in, play as your character would, and see what happens and react to that. I don’t like “gotchas” where romance options react badly to something you do or say that you couldn’t have predicted, but I don’t see “This character is one-sex specific” as a DIAS, since you don’t really HAVE to do it again.

                  But it is potentially a problem for some people — I’m one of them, at times — to find out that certain characters can’t work romantically with the character you’ve created. However, there are still options:

                  1) Save that option for the replay. Inquisition is probably too long for that, but the original DA, DA2 and the Mass Effect games can indeed be reasonably replayed.

                  2) If you think this will really bother you, look up the romance options before you start playing. You can usually find the lists soon after games release with minimal spoilers, and so check it out, see who can and can’t be romanced for each character, and build your character accordingly. I did it in Mass Effect 3 and all of the Dragon Age games, as well as for “The Old Republic”, although mostly it was to find out which ones I should pursue. Sure, there’s a little bit of spoilers in who can be romanced, but if it’s something that would ruin your game for you, do some research first.

                  At the end of the day, I’d like characters to BE characters, and let my character react accordingly. I see your solution as moving away from that.

                  • Sleeping Dragon says:

                    This is very much the sentiment I was aiming for. And just to clarify, I’m not saying that power fantasies and wish fulfillment are bad in games, just that if a game is story or characterization focused denying the player something because of story or characterization is not a fault.

                  • Syal says:

                    We’re back to talking about two different things. I’m getting the feeling I’m not half as coherent as I’d like to be. (Someone else can jump in at any time.) The point I was trying to make is “don’t act like it’s a sin to think Dragon Age would be improved if it played more like Mystic Messenger, and it doesn’t matter if nobody said it out loud because someone can be thinking it and the establishment of ‘safe targets’ are the death of open dialogue.”

                    That’s as coherent as I can make that. Everything that follows is pointless nitpicking because I like nitpicking stuff. You Can’t Please Everyone At Once Here I’ll Prove It.

                    Why is it that, five hours in, you’d have to restart to finish that one “quest”? You don’t need to romance Dorian or ANYONE to complete the game.

                    The arguments that follow could apply equally well to completing the game at all. There’s a lot of roleplaying potential in a game that allows you to build different characters at the start but only allows one to complete the game. You can still enjoy the experience up to that point. How would your Giant character feel to come to the dwarven tunnels and realize his quest was doomed from the start because he’s too big to use the only path through the mountains? Would he turn back to his old life, or make a new one in a place he’s visited? Would he throw himself at the sheer cliffs despite knowing it’s certain death to try?

                    If you think this will really bother you, look up the romance options before you start playing.

                    This is DIAS in meta-form, because to avoid getting locked out of something you didn’t know about you would have to absorb enough of the story in every story-heavy game you play to know what build will get the result you want. It’s a faster, less interactive restart.

                    At the end of the day, I’d like characters to BE characters, and let my character react accordingly. I see your solution as moving away from that.

                    Yes and no. It’s obviously a deliberate break from the standard setup, and my designs are generally building off the opinion that if no one’s uncomfortable then no one’s learning anything, but there’s nothing stopping a shapeshifting pile of goo from having a solid personality. Odo from Deep Space Nine pulled it off fine. And while Disgaea couldn’t care less about its story, its no-set-gender reincarnation mechanic could be applied in a more serious work without too many tweaks. There are options to explore besides boy/girl meets girl/boy.

                    EDIT: Well that was fully incoherent. I’m going to stop talking now.

                    • Daimbert says:

                      The point I was trying to make is “don’t act like it’s a sin to think Dragon Age would be improved if it played more like Mystic Messenger, and it doesn’t matter if nobody said it out loud because someone can be thinking it and the establishment of ‘safe targets’ are the death of open dialogue.”

                      Let me put aside the initial discussion here, and get it down to this point:

                      I don’t think that a game like Dragon Age — even Inquisition — would be improved by loosening the specific traits, because that makes the characters less like characters/people and more like simple objects in the world. And I’ll go a step further and say that games with dating sim elements — Personas, Conception II, and others — work better when the characters are characters and interact with something that’s a specific character. This is not to say that games that are more open can’t be good or that games can’t aim at them, but just that games that aren’t just dating sims — and, to be honest, even dating sims — work best with characters with traits and personalities that mean that they won’t be compatible with any type of specific character that a player might want to play with. I think it works better when certain characters can’t be romanced by all characters, and that in general if you want to romance all of them you at least would have to build a character that is so generic that they can be anything all the time.

                      The arguments that follow could apply equally well to completing the game at all. … How would your Giant character feel to come to the dwarven tunnels and realize his quest was doomed from the start because he’s too big to use the only path through the mountains?

                      The thing is that there’s something that the game is primarily trying to get you to do. In dating sims, it’s getting your one true love (or the harem option) and replaying is the method for getting different outcomes. In Bioware style RPGs, the story is the primary lure and romances are secondary things that make the story — and your character interaction with said story — better. It’d be perfectly reasonable to create a game like you suggest here and turn it into a complete character game as long as you didn’t make the main selling point of the game that main quest (because then they’d feel cheated out of the thing that the game claimed they were supposed to care the most about). And maybe the Elder Scrolls games can work kinda like that. And some games are just about the ideal resource management, and so you romance — or, in the Persona games, choose who to spend Christmas with — just to get the better item/persona available.

                      But in a Bioware style RPG, starting with a Giant that couldn’t complete the main story would essentially be locking you out from doing the thing that the game most aims at. Romances are not that sort of thing, and I feel it enhances the story to allow for those sort of locked in moments, and can make the characters feel shallow if all of the romances can be done by all characters all the time. In short, it makes Dorian feel more like a character if he is gay, especially if you contrast it with characters that are explicitly bisexual and characters that are explicitly straight. They feel like different characters. DA2 did this reasonably well with their characters, making them unique while still having them be available to the player … but that Isabella was different from Merril made her more appealing — in a strange way — to my Champion than Merrill was. A different character would have preferred Merrill to Isabella.

                      And that’s what I want. But you need to make characters differentiated to do that, and that means that when I create a character — say, based on Helena Cain from the new BSG series or Jag Fell from the Star Wars EU — that there will be characters that, based on who they are will not be compatible romantically with my character (for the former, it was anyone male; for the latter, it was all of the TOR Bounty Hunter options although that one nasty Sith woman would’ve worked). And in fact, with Jag it created a great story, as Mako kinda had a crush on him and as he got over his bitterness he started thinking that something like that might be a good idea, but because at that point her and Torian were getting together and they made SUCH a cute couple he couldn’t bear trying to split them up, and so ended up alone. This doesn’t happen if they aren’t unique characters in their own right.

                      Heck, in DA Leliana’s niceness turned my City Elf from someone bitter and selfish into someone more hopeful and not-so-selfish! But another character would have found that off-putting.

                      A game designed from the start with certain quests but that aimed at ending them in different ways — like, for example, with the Giant who simply can’t complete the quest — can work, as long as that is established as being that character’s ending. Heck, make it randomly generated — although ideally with an option to turn that off — so that you can’t know if this character will make it through or not. Aimed explicitly that way, it’s an interesting idea.

                      But it’s not a Bioware-style RPG, and putting those elements there would kill one of those … just like I feel making it open-world killed Inquisition (YMMV).

                      This is DIAS in meta-form, because to avoid getting locked out of something you didn’t know about you would have to absorb enough of the story in every story-heavy game you play to know what build will get the result you want. It’s a faster, less interactive restart.

                      Sure, but if you want to play a Bioware-style RPG and the romance options matter that much to you, doing the research — now that we can do that — isn’t really a problem, is it?

                      It’s obviously a deliberate break from the standard setup, and my designs are generally building off the opinion that if no one’s uncomfortable then no one’s learning anything …

                      Well, I’m not sure why I’d need to be learning something while playing a game, especially if it makes me uncomfortable. Sure, games CAN do stuff like that, but I don’t think it’s a bad game if it doesn’t, and don’t think Bioware-style RPGs aim at that.

                      … but there’s nothing stopping a shapeshifting pile of goo from having a solid personality. Odo from Deep Space Nine pulled it off fine. And while Disgaea couldn’t care less about its story, its no-set-gender reincarnation mechanic could be applied in a more serious work without too many tweaks. There are options to explore besides boy/girl meets girl/boy.

                      Sure. And exploring them isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But you need specific characters and worlds to do that. Odo is indeed a character, and his character is very much driven by his shapeshifting. But having a character driven by that ought to imply certain things. Like, for example, how does it feel to him to be able to be everything to everyone in terms of romance? Does he exploit that? Does it make him wonder if his partners really love him or just the image he presents? Is he looking to imprint on someone and someone’s specific desires? All of these are potentially good things to explore, but this all means that you likely ought not do that as mostly a mechanism to let the player romance whomever they want. You need to build that into the character, world and story. Otherwise, it’s just a shallow, meaningless mechanic put in there to ensure that all players get whatever they want, and while that’s not necessarily a bad thing in some games, it’s not what I’d want in, say, a Bioware-style RPG.

      • silver Harloe says:

        “Rather, I imagine she meant that you should be able to pursue a romance with pretty much any character you want, even though some of them may eventually (or quickly) turn you down.”

        So much this. Just like how, in reality I can flirt with whomever I want, but most people will be unresponsive (and a few will punch me in the face, and a few will playfully flirt back without wanting to pursue a romance, and a few will make rude comments to me for being too forward, a few will nod but then never talk to me again, etc).

      • Falterfire says:

        I find it funny that you repeatedly mention consent in the context of fictional characters, because they’re completely controlled by the writer.

        You could implement a system where any character the player likes becomes interested in the PC while having it always be consensual (even if you have to bend characterization to do it) because of course the writer can just modify the character’s interactions to add some reason they reciprocate the feeling. I don’t see that as any more icky than the baseline level of creepiness inherent in having fictional constructs which conditionally display (romantic) affection for the player based on arbitrary gameplay decisions. The only reason the character is able to be romanced at all is because the writer already did exactly the same thing for players of the other gender.

        (I also think people tend to overestimate the degree to which a character’s personality is shaped by their sexuality. For most characters in most games, they are only romantic towards the player character, and changing them to be player-sexual effectively only changes whether the player can romance them and nothing else. How many lines of dialog in Mass Effect would change if Tali or Garrus were gay/bi instead of straight?)

        Unrelated: There’s an interesting discussion here about whether it matter if an ‘out-of-character’ action is possible if it happens by player choice and can be easily avoided. If a romance would be out-of-character, but you have to seek it out, is it really valid to complain about if you never see it in your playthrough? To me that’s similar to complaining easy mode exists because you would rather play on hard.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      A person dares to say that they want a video game that caters to their every whim and that the most horrifying thing youve ever heard?Isnt the whole point of escapist fantasy that it caters to your every whim?

      I disagree with her because,obviously,my whims are different from hers.But thats why we have all these different games,so that all of us can find one that caters to us specifically.

    • Joe Informatico says:

      “Most self-indulgent sentiment have ever seen”–really? A bit of wishful thinking is more self-indulgent than the person who wrote a mod to actually do it? Or all the other romance mods on Nexus? Let’s not even get into all the mods to make NPCs more “beautiful” or nude out there.

    • Taellosse says:

      There’s a lot to unpack in here, and I’ll try not to repeat what some others have said about you appearing to personally attack Mumbles for what you think she said. I do think you misinterpreted her a bit, though. I think you’re conflating two separate statements as being contradictory by assuming she meant them to be equally universal. When she advocated for more casual sex in games, I don’t think she was saying that all games forever should adopt this mode exclusively – she was simply saying that sex shouldn’t be treated, almost exclusively, as the endpoint of a grand romance subplot – sometimes sex is just sex, and games should more often allow for this. By the same token, she was also not saying that her desire to romance Dorian with a female Inquisitor gave her the right to demand his written sexual preference be overridden – she was just saying she was sorry it wasn’t possible because she really liked that character.

      All that being said, I think you might also want to draw a stronger distinction between imaginary video game characters and actual people in your mind. Conflating a desire to engage two fictional characters in romance with rape culture is…a bit over the top. Video games are, before anything else, entertainment, and it’s not out of line to expect some self-indulgence in that context (and the amount of it any given person enjoys is going to vary). Nobody is being hurt if a fictional character is made “player-sexual” instead of having a pre-determined sexual preference that excludes some PCs. Yes, it is a good thing – a great thing! – that gay, trans, female, and non-white characters are finally starting to get more real representation as characters in video games. And a desire for those characters to be written with verisimilitude and personality is laudable – a desire I think Mumbles shares. But admitting to a desire to override aspects of that writing for a self-indulgent reason is not even in the same galaxy as advocating sexual assault or excusing its existence.

    • Ninety-Three says:

      So I just learned this post of mine was apparently responsible for Mumbles quitting the Diecast.

      I misunderstood Mumble’s point and got needlessly aggressive about it. Twenty-nine days is a little late for an apology, but I’m sorry for my behaviour and for souring Mumbles on the community.

  13. Ilseroth says:

    Just a point regarding OW vs TF2 and character design and personality. Keep in mind that TF2 launched in 07, and the Meet the Heavy video came out in 09. that’s two years before they really did any serious work on personality, no sandvich, no sasha. He was pretty much just a kinda thick russian. And I’m pretty sure that’s the same year they started the comics.

    Meanwhile Overwatch has indeed started to incorporate community decisions on the personality of characters, from Ana being grandma (and handing out candy) to D’va’s addiction to junkfood. In addition they launched a comic series with the release of the game, and had fully animated shorts as well. Now, some of the interactions are straight bad (like the one Josh references between D’va and Lucio) but plenty of them make sense… Though I will say they should make more of them, since hearing say, Tracer proclaim it is an honor to meet Zenyatta for the 20th time is not particularly thrilling.

    I love TF2, but I don’t think that the argument Ruts puts forward carries weight. The actual characterization of the TF2 characters came from years of shorts, comics, dialogue and so on. It’s easy to just say their designs show more of their character when you have played the game and know their characters. You know the intricacies because you have experienced them and performing an unbiased analyses is practically impossible when you have significant experience with one environment and practically none of the other.

    I mean, to be fair, if you don’t *want* to experience the difference between the two, if the characterization is not great enough to make you want to try the game at all then clearly one did their job better. But I suppose I have to ask, was that before or after years of additions, iterations and community assistance in design before you came to actually love the characters?

    • Ninety-Three says:

      I love TF2, but I don’t think that the argument Ruts puts forward carries weight. The actual characterization of the TF2 characters came from years of shorts, comics, dialogue and so on. It’s easy to just say their designs show more of their character when you have played the game and know their characters. You know the intricacies because you have experienced them and performing an unbiased analyses is practically impossible when you have significant experience with one environment and practically none of the other.

      I have not played a single round of TF2, nor read any of the comics, my only exposure is to some of the shorts. In contrast, I have played Overwatch, I have consumed all of its shorts, and some of its comics. I still feel like I know more about the personalities of the TF2 characters, because Overwatch’s roster are such blank slates. Here is everything I know about the personalities of the Overwatch crew:

      Junkrat: Recklessly crazy
      Tracer: Spunky
      D.Va: Gamer
      Reaper: Dark. The author takes this tryhard character woefully seriously.
      Zenyatta: Zen
      Reinhardt: Crotchety
      Winston: Smart
      Everyone else: Nothing, they’re such blank slates that I don’t have even one word to describe their personalities

      There’s more personality on display in the three minutes of Meet the Spy than in the entirety of Overwatch.

      • Ilseroth says:

        I don’t think you are being fair, I mean; you can do the same thing to TF2 characters:

        Medic: Mad Scientist
        Demoman: Scottish
        Heavy: Russian
        Soldier: Generic Drill Seargent
        Scout: From Boston

        ect ect ect (actually kinda odd that they really do rely more on the ethnic background for the personalities pretty heavily)

        And while some characters really can be reduced pretty easily (Junkrat really is just off his rocker and likes to blow things up) other characters have a lot of interactions and backstory to flesh them out… Though that doesn’t reflect *in game* all the time.

        Generally the characterization seems to be mostly about the different personalities interacting and their backstories. For instance, 76 and Reaper are rivals and Reaper pretty much blames him for everything and has gotten all grouchy and resentful… mostly because he’s pretty much kinda sorta dead but mercy turned him into… something?

        Also the Edgelord incarnate thing is intentionally cringey. You can tell when blizzard does things like having Sombra fuck around with him in cutscenes and when other characters (like tracer) mock his quotes. (“DEATH COMES” *giggle* – Tracer when she kills Reaper)
        … Also they don’t take it that seriously, I mean c’mon, one of his lines when teleporting is “Reaper-sitioning”

        • Ninety-Three says:

          I’m not trying to make a point by being reductionist, the point was that I don’t know anything beyond those one word descriptors. The soldier is much more than a generic drill sergeant, he’s a cartoonish bumbling doofus who both enjoys and admires violence, whereas Reinhardt is just a crotchety old man. I mained Zenyatta, I have memorized every zen one-liner he throws out, and the only thing I’ve learned about his personality is that he likes throwing out zen one-liners.

          • Corsair says:

            Reinhardt…is not crotchety. Like, at all. I’m honestly baffled how anyone could take Reinhardt to be crotchety, he’s one of the friendliest and kindest characters in the entire game.

        • Ninety-Three says:

          As a counterpoint about taking Reaper seriously, look at the Ana comic, where he’s played entirely straight. I think the bits where the game pokes fun at him are the result of an unsolved tonal problem the game has: Characters like Reaper and 76 are way darker and more violent than most of the bright and shiny superhero world they’ve made, and the designer in charge of worldbuilding admits that their solution to this problem is to treat it like Nathan Drake’s mass murder sprees and try not to think about it.

        • JakeyKakey says:

          Medic: Mad Nazi Scientist
          Demoman: Scottish Black Cyclops
          Heavy: Basically Russian Yeah But Turned Up To 11
          Soldier: Legitimately Insane Drill Seargent
          Scout: Punk From Boston

          It’s way more interesting than that. It may lean on nationalities and stereotypes, but it works in a less-is-more kind of way.

          The key difference between TF2 and OW is that TF2 characters are supposed to be funny, while OW characters are supposed to be taken seriously to some extent. TF2 has always been a satirical deconstruction of why the stuff OW is trying to do is dumb.

    • Ranneko says:

      Meet the Heavy released in 2007, most of the Meet the Team shorts were out before the game actually.

      https://wiki.teamfortress.com/wiki/Movies

  14. Christopher says:

    I’m happy about the Watch_Dogs comparisons to Saints Row. Saints Row 3 and 4 basically did the thing I normally have to come to JRPGs for, hanging out with a team of friends for tens of hours of action. Having said that, I think they’re a step shy of achieving what I liked. I haven’t played it, so I guess I’m just speaking out of my ass, but I heard you and your team are portrayed as joyful, wholly nice kids who want to take it to The Man, man.

    But then you can 3D print a gun and murder pedestrians. And I either want them to go Saints Row 3 with that and make the main characters crazy and amoral in a bizarre world with supervillains, or Saints Row 4 and make you only fight alien monsters and computer programs. Either is fine. But I can’t have fun with a bunch of regular pals if they’ve just wiped the blood of the people off their hoodie. I think Persona 4 was right to let the kids in that game pretty much only fight monsters rather than cleaning up the streets.

  15. Turtlebear says:

    Getting strange David Mitchell vibes from Rutskarn in the Overwatch vs. TF2 character design section.

  16. JAB says:

    With regard to Pokemon Go, I’ll agree that it doesn’t have amazing plot, or strategic or tactical puzzles. But with one of the recent updates, finding a specific pokemon is much easier. And it’s been better as an exercise motivator than anything else I’ve tried in the last 20 years.

    • Christopher says:

      I think it’s worth acknowledging when talking about the games of the year. It’s a shallow fad, just like all those Wiis. But even though I played very little of it, it was fun to have the world talk about a franchise I love for a couple of months.

  17. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You say that hl3 is never coming out,BUT:

    Spellforce had its last expansion in 2007.It was the expansion to its second game in the franchise.And in 2017,there will be a spellforce 3.So half life 3 is definitely confirmed!

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The thing about team fortress 2 not having girls and that being just the time,I disagree.Unreal tournament 2 let you choose gender 10 years before that.

    The reason valve made only men is not that it was just a time like that,its that they decided to go with that aesthetic.Theres no hidden agenda behind it,theres no cultural pressure behind it,they simply thought that it would be better like that.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Why would you want to bang barrick?!He literally tells you that theres blood,shit and piss oozing and congealing down there.No matter how much of a soul mate he would become for me,I would never ever not in a million years touch his junk even with a ten foot pole.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Josh,your excuse of “having no real friends” does not work when there is tabletop simulator.So stop whining and play some board games.

  21. Halceon says:

    I played Lionheart: Legacy of the Crusader!
    It was so utterly meh. SO. Utterly. Meh.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      It wasnt really that bad.I mean it wasnt good,but compared to other dreck that exists(especially these days),it was at least functional.

      • tmtvl says:

        It wasn’t bad, it was middle of the road, which isn’t good enough for some.

        Personally I like the setting and even to some extent the system, although the game becomes pretty bad about halfway through. I might try running a tabletop game in the setting some day.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Rutskarn,you say that there werent any middle of the road crpgs back in the day.But icewind dale series was precisely that.It was mechanically competent,yet rather light on its story.Heck,can anyone even remember anything about the story or the npcs in those games?I only remember the mad elf and the giants stuck in time*,even though Ive enjoyed those games a lot.

    *Though I cant say whether either of those was in the first or second game.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Also, what about the Ultimas? Where would they fit in on a scale from Baldur’s Gate to … no, I’ve forgotten it already. Something about King Richard?

      • tmtvl says:

        Ultima 8 & IX were bad. Depending on who you ask either Ultima 6 or 7 was the best in the series (personally I love Ultima 6), 4 & 5 were decent, if not very special. 1 – 3 were their own things, products of the time.

        • MichaelGC says:

          I see, thanks! – so they essentially fill out the entire scale just by themselves. (And perhaps represent an even broader spectrum than that of Baldur’s-Gate-to-balderdash.)

        • Andy_Panthro says:

          I’d consider U4+U5 special, personally. They haven’t aged as well though, that’s for sure. The Ultima series defined RPGs for me until Baldur’s Gate and Fallout.

          U4+U5 both did some pretty cool things for the time, and the Ultima series in general was always trying to push towards a bigger world with more interesting people and stories in it. Shame that things went so downhill at the end. Even Ultima 8 has a place in my heart, even though only the first area was properly fleshed out and the combat system was awful (not to mention the jumping puzzles… D:)

    • Henson says:

      Divine Divinity. Arcanum.

      • tmtvl says:

        You’re calling Arcanum “middle of the road”? Them there’s fighting words, mister.

        Arx Fatalis: Could’ve been interesting with the gesture-based magic, but it just doesn’t do much of anything interesting.

        Beyond Divinity: same deal as DD.

        Dawn of Magic: A Diablo clone that plays like a bad MMO.

        Revenant is middle of the road because it was rush-released after the Daikatana incident, could’ve been pretty decent if it had an actual ending, some bug fixes, a working party system, and well… if it was basically properly finished.

        • Henson says:

          Don’t get me wrong, Arcanum was a fascinating game in many ways. But it was also a terrible game in many ways. And unlike KOTOR 2, where the good greatly outweighs the bad, Arcanum’s awful gameplay brings the ambitious game down far too much. It’s not bland, but it’s certainly not top-tier.

          But perhaps you’re right, “middle of the road” may not be the best descriptor for a game with such high highs and low lows. So I’ll retract Arcanum and substitute Neverwinter Nights.

  23. Tektotherriggen says:

    If you like Mysterium, also try Codenames. Same idea (one player trying to give clues to their team so that they can pick the right cards), except that there are two teams competing. You have to give clues that match only your team’s (randomly chosen) words.

    • Philadelphus says:

      I can second that, as I’ve played both of those several times this year with my gaming group. Mysterium is a lot of fun, and also works well as a social experience where people have plenty of time to sit back and talk about non-game related things, in a way that a lot of games don’t really support.

      Codenames is also a great game for figuring out how close you think to other people. I have two friends I play with (among others). One I can play with on the same team just fine; I actually managed to get him to correctly guess three rather tenuously-related words once (in a game where just getting two words correctly guessed is often an accomplishment). Harsh experience has taught us, however, that I and my other friend simply don’t work on the same team (in either role)—it’s like we’re communicating on two completely different wavelengths when it comes to word associations.

  24. Taellosse says:

    Unfortunately, partway through, Chris had to leave; apparently he has some real life friends that came over, though I remain suspicious. Just in case you were wondering why he just stops talking halfway through.

    I was actually wondering exactly this while listening to the podcast. At first I was thinking, “well, Chris has a tendency to mentally check out if the conversation gets onto a topic he doesn’t care about much – they all do, so maybe he just stopped paying attention.” But then he didn’t even say goodbye at the end! And I was troubled: “doesn’t Chris love me anymore? How can he not even say goodbye?!” So knowing that he just had to leave in the middle was a relief. You should’ve left some part of his departure in the recording, so those of us that tend to read the shownotes afterwards wouldn’t be alarmed. Bad Josh, no cookie.

  25. Fast_Fire says:

    Just started playing Salt & Sanctuary.

    So far, there’s the obvious inspiration from the Souls series, but I’m finding some parallels with Castlevania (chiefly SotN’s level design) and a skill tree progression that could take more cues from Path of Exile.

    Monster design is interesting and most bosses encountered have been engaging, but not too punishing (Although Tree of Men gave me a Bed of Chaos-like experience).

    Equipment variety is still being explored, but so far it looks like there’s plenty to experiment with if you can deal with getting the required skill levels for each desired equipment type.

  26. Fade2Gray says:

    This podcast needed more Stardew Valley.

    Mumbles gets a stardrop fruit for saying the name once in association with the words “best game of the year”, but the game was otherwise criminally overlooked in both conversations about GoTY and relationship simulations in games.

  27. SlothfulCobra says:

    TF2’s characterizations were sort of just a fun little bonus flair that nobody expected, but when Valve put forth some fun personalities to go on their remake of something that started out as a quake mod, everybody loved it and it picked up momentum organically, as opposed to Overwatch, which led out pretty strong to create that artificially. There’s a real difference in expectations there, so whereas Valve just had to do something cool and fun by itself, Blizzard had to fully manufacture an entire dynamic and style to immediately produce a fandom, and it really shows in points.

    One of the impressive things about TF2’s aesthetic is just how simplistic the stylization made everything immediately recognizable immediately, so it’s easier to keep track of things. A lot of the differences between characters is just their build, because they mostly all wear similar uniforms. Overwatch on the other hand, is filled with visually busy designs, filled with extra meaningless lines and bits and bobs and meaningless tech-y bits going every which way. Theoretically you might be able to identify each character by their silhouette, but the game doesn’t really intend for that. There are an order of magnitude more characters to keep track of, you can’t turn that into a cutesy 2D 8-Bit tribute game, that’s for sure. I couldn’t even imagine how you could keep track of teams until I saw in gameplay clips that the game cheats to help you keep track, it overlays outlines onto all the characters. The aesthetics aren’t working towards the game, and the mechanics are even working against some of the aesthetic.

    But the main problem with Overwatch’s aesthetic I feel is that none of it really serves the game it exists in. The whole deal with TF2’s lore and backstory is that they’re fighting a meaningless war between two different colors, that’s the whole bit, that’s the whole point, it’s a joke as to what the game is, and it gives everything context. Most of the characters are some kind of murderous jerk, because that’s what the game is about, murdering the other team for fun. There are a number of other online multiplayer games that do a similar thing, they make context for the game. One of my favorites is Awesomenauts, but nobody ever talks about it.

    Overwatch doesn’t do that. Their aesthetics and lore don’t create context for the gameplay, in fact they actively work against each other. The most they say about what the gameplay is supposed to be is something vague about mercenary work. That doesn’t really fit with how so many of the characters are supposed to be somehow heroic. Why would this robot who learned to love, a climatologist who’s trying to save the environment, a pop star who put things aside to be a hero, or this academic gorilla be killing people for no reason in particular? Tracer doesn’t much seem like the type to enjoy gunning people down over and over again. There’s this whole divide between supposedly heroic and villainous characters, why are they working together? Most of them are clearly defined individuals, which works against the fact that there are an indefinite amount of them bumping around. Nothing fits together, it’s like if the item descriptions in Dark Souls kept talking about the dangers of nuclear proliferation, or if Banjo and Kazooie were actually wealthy industrialists in their normal lives when not trying to thwart Gruntilda, or if Superman and Batman were doing a crowdfunding campaign to open up a food truck. There’s nothing wrong with the individual bits, but they work against each other in dischord rather than harmony.

    • Philadelphus says:

      There’s this whole divide between supposedly heroic and villainous characters, why are they working together?

      This is one of my problems with most MOBA-type games where there are hordes and hordes of characters, some of whom are thematically “good” and “evil”, but which mix indiscriminately in gameplay. Story-wise it’s black-vs.-white, but gameplay-wise it’s a mix of black and white fighting each other. TF2 on the other hand is all just a bunch of killers-for-hire killing each other; it’s strictly grey-vs.-grey (or maybe black-vs.-black). Ludonarrative consonance, if you will.

    • MichaelGC says:

      Just spotted that AwesomeNauts is currently on sale on Steam until 6th January. 80% off – not sure what the price would be in dollarbucks, but it’s cheaper than a small British coffee would be these days.

  28. Jeff R says:

    It’s time to transition all of the optimism and pessimism about whether Half-Life 3 will ever happen into optimism and pessimism about whether Portal 3 will ever happen. Get with the program.

    • Philadelphus says:

      Interesting idea! Personally, I dunno. While I’m much more invested in Portal than Half-Life, I’m a lot more at peace with the idea of there never being a Portal 3. I mean, I’d absolutely love it if there was, but I feel that Portal 2 ended with a sense of resolution (even as it raised more questions) and I’m happy to leave “what happened next” up to the imagination. Half-Life: Episode 2, on the other hand, ends on a cliff-hanger; it resolves one on-going set of concerns, but then immediately opens up a whole bunch more in the last minute of gameplay.

      I could live with never getting another installment of either, but I find myself interested in the next chapter of Gordon’s story and yet am content to leave Chell where she is.

  29. NC_Schrijver says:

    My previous comment got deleted? *Whining boooooo*

    • MichaelGC says:

      Aye, there’s a ‘no politics’ rule, with politics being pretty broadly defined to include, say, social politics and the like. More here, including plenty on why that is:

      http://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=31891

      • NC_Schrijver says:

        Possibly, even though I wasn’t talking about politics at all. Apperently giving Mumbles critiscm is grounds for your comment to be deleted cause it might hurt her feelings. So everthing that might hurt her feelings is put in politics now?

        • MichaelGC says:

          There’s obvious evidence right on this page that that’s not the case. I believe you know precisely what I mean, and so I shan’t attempt to explain further.

        • Shamus says:

          You accused Mumbles of “pushing her feminist agenda”. That’s a firebomb of an opening, and you know it. I would have let it go if you had, but now you’re playing the martyr. You’re not here for a discussion about videogames. You’re looking for a fight. Go away.

  30. Joshua Klaus says:

    Hey Rutskarn!
    List me 10 boardgames that are great to play with 2 people.

  31. byter says:

    Here I am, in front of a wonderful buffet, many great flavours and textures to be had but over my shoulder I hear a constant muttering.
    “Oh wow look at how well presented the food is”
    “There’s a piece from every continent”
    “This selection truly represents how far we’ve come in [current year]”
    And I start to feel my appetite start to wane. This is kind of how I feel with Overwatch.

    I get that for those who aren’t into this particular game or culinary experience, there’s not much else to do other than talk about the more superficial details or to speak to their own (or the games’ own) affectations. But.. having heard so much of it, it does colour how I feel about the game. It would be a bit like how TF2 would feel different if all people would talk about how pyro should be trans and that the engineer should be a chick. It is the same gaming experience and people are welcome to have their own views but it does change the ambiance.

    Welp.. at least there’s still Paladins. The ambiance hasn’t been tainted this way… yet…

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