Diecast #203: Nier Automata, Survival Games, Creative Burnout

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 26, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 48 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 Paul’s Fabulous Recording Coffin

Link (YouTube)

07:12 Playing Nier: Automata

I talked about the game on the Shamecast last week. Every time I try to describe this game, the plot, the premise, or the characters, someone will jump in with a “Well, ACTUALLY Shamus, you haven’t seen the real ending, see it’s not really about…”

Yeah yeah yeah. I get it. But look, I can’t discuss the parts of the game I haven’t seen. I was more than fair to Nier. I put up with the crashes to get to the first ending or whatever. I got partway through another playthrough. It’s not my fault this game is unstable. Our options are to talk about the parts of the game I’ve seen or to not talk about the game at all. The hurdle of “You can’t talk about a game until you get all the endings” creates an awful selection bias where the only people supposedly “qualified” to discuss the game are people that loved it and were able to run it properly.

21:12 Survival games and the conceit of self-sufficiency

The old post I was referring to was Game Developers at the Beach, which has always been one of my favorites but never seems to get a lot of love in terms of being cited / referenced / linked / discussed. (Maybe it needs a rewrite.) Some people try to see the allegorical rivalry between Will Wright and Cliff Bleszinski as a conflict between a protagonist and a villain, or between a boring nerd and someone who knows how to have fun, but really it’s not supposed to be an attack on either personality. These conflicting goals simply exist, and always will exist, and I think we’ll understand our games better when we have a more complete picture of why those “other people” play them.

If you like the idea of Paul and I playing Left 4 Dead together, then you can watch it happen this coming Wednesday.

39:00 Work-life balance, burnout, taking a break

Here is the Andrew Huang: Why I’m taking a break from YouTube.


From The Archives:

48 thoughts on “Diecast #203: Nier Automata, Survival Games, Creative Burnout

  1. Joe says:

    I would say auTOMata. That might be the Australian pronunciation, or I got it from Dr Who’s Autons.

    1. Droid says:

      It’s the plural of “automaton”, so I’d pronounce it like “automatic”. I guess that’s how you do it as well?

      1. Joe says:

        Yes, that might be it.

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      Dictionary convention agrees with you. If the author or official translation has a different pronunciation though, I’d use that.

      1. Droid says:

        Wah! The Joes, they’re multiplying!

        1. Juliet Oscar Echo says:

          Nothing to see here; Move along.

          1. Version 2.Joe says:

            All right, going to go on doing all the Joe-y stuff that Joes do all day.

            1. Everyone Is Joe says:

              Joe stares blankly in the comments while numerous voices in his head are fighting for control to see which one will resolve this crisis of identity.

              1. Joe says:

                Yeah. Hell of a thing to see first thing in the morning. Did I write all these when I was asleep?

                1. Joe Informatico says:

                  Have a nice cup of yourself, that should help.

  2. Tizzy says:

    I would trace the lineage of these survival games all the way back to the first Civilization game, at least.

    Obviously, the conceit is entirely different and the gameplay is as well, but it feels like the pleasure we derive from progressing in either type of game stem from the same psychological mechanisms.

    And I would distinguish those games from games that involve a buildup where the player is less directly implicated, like Populous or the Sims (I think, haven’t played either).

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Wouldn’t survival games be more closely related to Rogue?

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        So what you are saying is that survival games are lite roguelikes?

        1. Version 2.Joe says:

          You really like poking that hornet’s nest, do you?

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its a nest of hornet lites,so Im not concerned.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          Only if they meet the requirements of the Berlin Interpretation. :)

    2. Joe Informatico says:

      In literature, even older still. Robinson Crusoe turns 300 next year. It’s even an escapist power fantasy like most survival-based video games: Crusoe is an upper middle-class, educated guy who takes up a life of adventure on the sea over his parents’ protests, finds himself stranded alone on a small island, eventually becomes a ninja commando from all the fighting natives he does, and manages to recreate his own tiny version of English civilization all by himself complete with Protestantism and colonialism. With no small thanks to all the gear and supplies he was able to recover from the wrecked ship. This is in contrast to most of the real-life castaway stories that inspired or happened after the book, which indicate the kind of hard, day-to-day struggle that Shamus mentioned.

  3. Redrock says:

    Right, nitpicking time: it’s actually aliens that are said to have invaded Earth in Nier:Automata, and the machines are supposed to be their tools. But that’s not so important. To be honest, I was really interested in hearing your thoughts on Nier exactly because its story is so all over the place. The rules of what androids are and how they work aren’t clearly defined, which just drives me crazy. Also, some of Automata’s twists seem to rely on the player not having played the original Nier to be effective. But then there are characters and whole arcs that clearly require prior knowledge of the previous game. It’s bizzare. I love this game to bits, but it’s such a mess at times.

    P.S. The thing about people saying “you need to see all endings” becomes a bit more clear once you realize that after the first two playthroughs there’s actually much more story to come. So, for example, the k-pop band boys aren’t all they seem to be. Then again, few things are in this game, I suppose.

    1. Cilvre says:

      The way I worked through the game was ending’s A and B, then I went and read about Nier, then I played through all of the rest trying to get every bit of dialogue and lore I could find since I was hooked. I really wish the PC port had been done better. I was willing to mail my PS4 copy of the game to Shamus so he could try it without all the crashes if he had access to one to play on.

      1. Redrock says:

        I actually watched a walkthrough of Nier quite some time before Automata was released. Would have probably played the original too, if the damn thing wasn’t so hard to track down in my region. Although I’m not sure it’s all that worth playing: the action seems very clunky from what I can tell and would probably be pretty unpleasant when compared to the Platinum smoothness of Automata.

    2. Syal says:

      And that alien invasion explanation is presented in a propaganda video that has already been contradicted by the main characters before you see it. (“The machines are the aliens’ invasion force” vs “There’s no meaning to what machines do”.) The lack of concrete answers early on in the game really helps to sell the theme of being on the back foot against an enemy you don’t understand. It’s not a theme you see a lot in games.

    3. Echo Tango says:

      The fact that you need to play through the game at least three times (four, if I’m interpreting this correctly) seems a bit much. The typical / expected completion time for the “real” ending seems to be in the ballpark of 40 hours[1], which isn’t too bad I guess. How much of the repeated playthroughs is repeated content?

      [1] As seen here, here and here.

      1. Syal says:

        How much of the repeated playthroughs is repeated content?

        B is the only route with significant overlap, and the character plays differently and has new sidequests so I still wouldn’t call it repeated content. C, D and E have no repeated content from A or B and very little from each other. I’d call it one and a half playthroughs.

        1. Redrock says:

          Pretty much that. The thing is, the “endings” aren’t really endings, not in the traditional sense, where you can get a good ending and a bad ending or a bunch of endings based on your playthoughs. Not like in, say, Silent Hill. The “endings” in Nier:Automata are actually glorified chapter epilogues, if we’re being honest. That’s the thing with Nier. It’s basically as deep or as shallow as you want it to be. It’s not nearly as clever as it thinks it is, but it is quite clever is you’re looking for cleverness. There’re a lot of references that require you to be at least a bit familiar with a number of prominent philosophers. A lot of those went over my head when I first played the game, but they are there.

      2. MechaCrash says:

        It’s more like beating the game 3.1 times. Like I said in the comment you linked to, you have to beat the first loop for ending A, and the second for ending B. To go into more detail, towards the end of the (very different and much shorter) third loop, there comes a point right at the end that leads to ending C or ending D. This unlocks the Chapter Select, which you can use to return right to the decision point to get the other ending. Once you’ve seen both, it’s possible to go on to ending E.

        I know I’m being kind of vague, but I’m erring on the side of being vague over giving spoilers.

        As for the endings being more like major chapter breaks than proper endings, that’s a thing that Yoko Taro does, and there’s a reason that after the credits roll on Ending A, there’s a very deliberate “hey there’s more,” but the fact that New Game+ starts you in the factory as 9S means that it’s incredibly murky just what that “more” really is.

        1. Redrock says:

          True. I’d also argue that as far as the power of the “reframing” of the story during a second playthrough goes, the original Nier did it much better. Being able to understand the shades was pretty heartbreaking. Like if during Shadow of the Colossus you could hear the poor beasts screaming and pleading for their lives.

  4. Paul Spooner says:

    I feel like there’s a much longer tail on these podcast comments than on the other content on this site. Taking an hour to consume, let alone digest, seems like it draws out the commentary quite a bit more. Anyone else get that feeling?

    I’m also always impressed how much smarter we both sound when Issac takes all the awkward pauses out. Good job Issac!

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its also the fact that a bunch of us are slackers,coming here from work,so its much easier to read than to listen or watch.Especially when you have to pause halfway in and then continue some time later.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      These podcasts are posted right when I get into work in the morning, so my comments have to wait until the end of the day.

  5. Paul Spooner says:

    Oh, here are those video sketch movies that I mentioned at 47:10 if anyone was interested. The concepts are all in the public domain, if anyone wants to run with them and make something out of them.

    Point being, part of not getting burnt out is being willing to call a project “done” when it is far from perfect, and sharing it with others without feeling bad that it wasn’t the best you could do. Which is just another aspect of, as Shamus said, “allow yourself to walk away without feeling guilty”.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      These are the best text-adventure music videos I’ve ever seen! I bet you could put them up on Kickstarter or something as “preview trailers”, to raise funds for building the actual games. :D

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Thanks! I’d love to make these games/videos/things… I’ve got a Patreon you can subscribe to. Seems like that’s the way game-dev is going these days.

  6. Paul Spooner says:

    Here’s an article about trust in games which my brother to pointed out to me. Talks about the idea of shared game spaces and the difficulty of being creative in large groups.

  7. Echo Tango says:

    Re: recording rooms / noise

    I’m surprised you guys need to use acoustic foam and/or tell everyone in the house to be quiet while you record. If you’re going to such lengths, couldn’t you find a headset with two microphones – one for your voice, and one to get rid of background noise? I know this is pretty common for the small bluetooth ear-pieces that people use to talk on the phone while walking or driving (before veryone got in-vehicle options), and there’s apparently some gaming headsets which have this type of functionality. Or is foam way cheaper than $150?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Foam was $80, plus the background-noise mics don’t cancel out reverb well.
      Also, this way I can sing real loud after everyone else has gone to bed without waking anyone up.

  8. John says:

    I believe that the name is actually pronounced “Near A Tomato”.

    I wish I could take credit for that one. Sigh.

  9. anon says:

    Your opinion on Nier is based on about 1/3rd of the game. It pays off almost everything. There aren’t really multiple endings, but there’s some repetition in the middle getting to that actual end.

  10. Amarsir says:

    Personally Shamus you gave Nier far more time than I did. The lack of a save was so annoying, and the shifting mode so gimmicky, that I never got out of the tutorial stage. It made the game terribly unwelcoming and I didn’t care if the game spits out solid gold ponies later because I didn’t enjoy it enough to stick around.

    1. poiumty says:

      The no saving while in the tutorial is pretty inexcusable and I was one of the victims of it (having to restart the TUTORIAL 3 times because I died to the tutorial boss) but it’s nothing like that anywhere else in the game. There’s save spots all over the place and the game automatically saves when you get near one of them. Just saying the tutorial isn’t representative of the rest of the game.

  11. BigMoss says:

    I really like how you don’t have an intro to your podcast and just get right into the content.

  12. BigMoss says:

    Instead of L4D, you should play Vermintide 2. It’s like L4D, but with a progression system and set in the Warhammer universe.

  13. poiumty says:

    I just have to jump in and say: Shamus this is actually not one of those games you have to beat multiple times – the multiple playthroughs thing is an illusion, and while the game does repeat its first 1/4th from the perspective of the other character, what comes after that is the other half of the story which is definitely not a repetition of the first. I hate that it keeps crashing on you but I hope you get to the bottom of it and stick with the game because it’s really an interesting experience.

    The game has 27 “endings” but only 2 of them are actual “final” endings with the others being either joke bad endings or chapter/playthrough endings.

  14. Taellosse says:

    Normally I’d skim through the comments first, to make sure I’m not repeating anyone, but the pronunciation confusion about “Automata” kind of fingernails-on-a-chalkboard-ed me into frustration, so I’m skipping directly to the bottom to type. Sorry.

    It’s based off of “automaton,” because robots. So it’s pronounced aw-TAW-mah-tah.

  15. burningdragoon says:

    The correct pronunciation is NieR: Auto-tomato (but is it auto-toMAYto or auto-toMAHto?)

    It’s a shame the PC version was too crashy for you to keep playing. Some of the pay offs you were hoping for do occur in the second and third rounds. That said even the director would say only playing the first part is an entirely valid experience

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Shamus,you locked the comments for wolfenstein as well.Was that intended?

    1. Shamus says:

      Whoops. No. Thanks for the heads-up. It was bedtime and I decided not to let the thing continue to run unattended, so I figured it was time to douse the fire. I closed the comments, then wondered why they weren’t closed, then closed them “again”. Silly mistake.

  17. David says:

    The podcast feed is broken; it just says “ERROR: This is not a valid feed template.”

    You should probably either fix it or remove the link to it.

Thanks for joining the discussion. Be nice, don't post angry, and enjoy yourself. This is supposed to be fun. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked*

You can enclose spoilers in <strike> tags like so:
<strike>Darth Vader is Luke's father!</strike>

You can make things italics like this:
Can you imagine having Darth Vader as your <i>father</i>?

You can make things bold like this:
I'm <b>very</b> glad Darth Vader isn't my father.

You can make links like this:
I'm reading about <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Darth_Vader">Darth Vader</a> on Wikipedia!

You can quote someone like this:
Darth Vader said <blockquote>Luke, I am your father.</blockquote>

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *