Diecast #209: System Shock, TotalBiscuit, Minecraft, Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday May 7, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 43 comments

I’m really enjoying having these questions. As always, if you’ve got a question for the show please send it to diecast@shamusyoung.com.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 Nightdive Studios and the System Shock Remake

Yes, I wrote about this yesterday. Correction: They haven’t gone back to the original Unity demo, but they HAVE gone back to doing a more lo-fi (and thus cheaper) rendering style.

05:47 Totalbiscuit

So sorry to hear about this. 33 years old. What a horrendously rotten turn of events. Here’s hoping the family enjoys the time they have left.

Here is the episode of HuniePop I mentioned on the show. Here is what I wrote about it a year ago.

15:23 Shamus is playing Minecraft again.

26:02 Mailbag: Minecraft torches.

Dear Diecast,

In the last ‘cast you said the Factorio developers regretted a convenience upgrade they added to the game, yet would probably be unable to remove it due to momentum.

This reminds me of torches in Minecraft. I bought the game around the time Notch started saying he wanted to make torches temporary, because they were never intended to be burn forever. I ran a small server of 5-10 people, and knew several Minecraft players IRL, and I never met anyone who wanted torches to burn out. In fact, some said this was one of the few changes that would prompt them to stop playing forever. For me, “conquering” an area permanently (for building, storage, mining, transport tunnels, whatever) was a major appeal of the game. Respawning monsters had zero appeal (and it’s not like mined resources ever respawned along with them).

I stopped playing a few years ago, but I assume this change never happened.

Do you guys remember this? Did you want torches to burn out? Did you know anyone who did? Maybe someone in the blog’s comments did?

Thank you,


37:13 Mailbag: Freespace 2

So, Shamus, I’m not sure if this qualifies as a question, but I seem to recall you saying somewhere that you’d played the first FreeSpace game, but not the second. If this is still true, have you considered trying FreeSpace 2? It’s an absolutely amazing game — if you thought FreeSpace 1 was good, the sequel is an improvement in basically every area, but especially the writing. There’s also a still-active and extremely robust modding community over at hard-light.net. They have access to the source code, have heavily altered the engine, and’ve put together some really impressive visual updates, plus tons and tons of custom assets and missions.
I’d love to see you play it, and also to hear your thoughts on it, if you do — it’s a very interesting example of storytelling in a game. I’d also be curious to know if Paul is familiar with it at all.
Also it might result in some new people at Hard Light. The forums are pretty quiet these days, which is just shameful — I mean, what kind of Internet community can’t go a measly 25 years with no hope of a new release without starting to lose interest?
Anyway, this was kind of long, but hey. You guys did say you wanted content.

41:35 Mailbag: FMV games.


I haven’t listened to last two podcasts (time and all that).

But I can’t see you sad with empty mailbag. So here’s the question. What games with FMV you really like and where it works because of FMV itself? What’s the strength of using FMV in your opinion? More specific, did you play or saw Tex Murphy games (including the last one, Tesla Effect. 2015, I think?), Command and Conquer series, Late Shift.

Best regards, DeadlyDark


From The Archives:

43 thoughts on “Diecast #209: System Shock, TotalBiscuit, Minecraft, Mailbag

  1. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So is there a mod that merges minecraft with dark souls?Giving you stamina that depletes as you swing and stuff like that.

    1. Viktor Berg says:

      I think there is one, I recall something similar. However, the Dark Souls combat system is good for more reasons than just stamina. I think, to make it work in minecraft, you would have to completely rework monster mechanics and behavior, as well as player movement. Remove contact damage, add telegraphed attacks with a diverse moveset per enemy, add hitboxes for every attacking limb or weapon, add collision detection with the player model and shield (if any), add dodging and rolling, directional blocking and parrying, player-side attacks with hitboxes, a good third-person camera…

      All that in minecraft, with its clunky unoptimized Java implementation. Unfortunately, I just don’t see it happening. Would be cool, though.

      1. Decius says:

        Just keep contact damage but make the hitboxes badly shaped, and you’re most of the way to Dark Souls.

        1. Guest says:

          Obvious troll is obvious.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Good point.There also needs to be a troll monster:big,fat,green,hard hitting.

            1. Lambsteaks says:

              That sounds cool!

              What I wouldn’t like is the introduction of Goblin-type enemies. You know the type – one of the most annoying type of creatures in gaming… Small, continually popping up everywhere, making lots of noise but never saying anything intelligible. A minor annoyance at first, but getting more and more irritating every time they inevitably pop up. Man, that would suck.

              1. Viktor Berg says:

                Twilight Forest already has those. They even giggle in a very annoying fashion.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Vagante is similar, and 2D. Telegraphed attacks, hard combat, although it’s a platformer.

  2. Agrajag says:

    Apparently, there is a copy paste error in the link to the HuniePop episode.

  3. Chris says:

    For the twitch implementation of minecraft. I think they want to be some kind of PS+/game launch dual system with twitch prime giving free games which you then stream.

    “you can skip all the all the gameplay, no thanks”

    Well you just throw that out here but that is a pretty interesting point. See the DA2 interview Jennifer Hepler talking about the skip gameplay button. And to my shame i must say I would be interested in a button to skip the gameplay in alpha protocol 3 times, since it has so many triggers and flags to explore but the gameplay is just terrible.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, sorry, I didn’t say that very well.
      What I meant was that, while I appreciate the option to skip gameplay (or skip cutscenes) I wouldn’t want to engage with a “game” that forced you to skip gameplay (or skip cutscenes). At that point it seems like you’re just watching a movie, in which case I don’t want to be asked to un-pause it every thirty seconds.

    2. John says:

      The skip-gameplay button is an interesting concept. On the one hand, I can easily see how such a thing might be welcome if, say, you hate a particular level and would like to go straight to the next one. On the other hand, I can’t help but regard the skip-gameplay button as the buyer’s remorse button and maybe a sort of an admission of failure on the part of the developers. “We’re sorry that the game isn’t very good. But, hey, at least you can watch the cutscenes without having to hunt them down on Youtube!”

      In the case of a game like Mass Effect or Alpha Protocol, the situation is a little murkier. I get the impression that a lot of people regard the combat as the real gameplay and the conversations as some species of cutscene, but I think that they’re both gameplay. (I wouldn’t necessarily go so far as to say that interactivity is always gameplay, but it’s a pretty good rule of thumb.) So in this case, a skip-combat button isn’t a skip-gameplay button but a “skip the parts of gameplay that I don’t enjoy” button. It wouldn’t work for every design, but it seems reasonable enough or at least not intrinsically horrible here.

      That said, I don’t think I’d ever deliberately buy a game with the intention of skipping a large portion of the gameplay. It seems like a waste of my gaming budget.

      1. Chris says:

        I think alpha protocol its gameplay is serviceable. Just like I think ME gameplay is serviceable. It has some connections to the other mechanics and requires some character buildings and tinkering to improve. But it is obvious the big selling point of AP is that it has huge player agency. 3rd person shooting was just a convenient vessel to pour the combat in. Many people are familiar with it and it isnt too complex. You can see the same in the uncharted series. People play those for the spectacle and playing some indiana jones knockoff, not the shooting mechanics. Naturally a good game should also have good combat but since you cannot make everything perfect you have to make sacrifices somewhere.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Alpha Protocol had the special quality of the gameplay being laughably breakable most of the time.
          From the magic ‘turn invisible and punch everyone unconscious while they run around in confusion’ ability to the ‘freeze time and line up your next few shots so the enemy doesn’t have a chance’ power (and others?), you could make the gameplay trivial.

          …except for the boss fights. Man, those were terrible.

          For a game that actually has a good ‘skip gameplay’ mechanic: In Final Fantasy 8 you could very quickly (like, 1/4 of the way into the game) unlock the ability to turn off random encouters at will. Didn’t work on the bosses, of course, but since you weren’t sick of the combat due to wading through the repetitive random stuff, they could actually be quite fun.

          It wasn’t intended that way, but it worked really well.

        2. baud says:

          I think that the combat in ME 3 was above serviceable and way better than AP. Even if you only have one possible approach in combat situations (shoot everything compared to AP’s infiltration and/or shooting), having guns + “magic power” plus some enemy variety make ME 3’s combat way superior. Or I’m just biaised since I spent dozens of hours in ME 3’s multiplayer.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            You are not.Me2 and me3 had better combat.But alpha protocol blows them away with its story.

            1. SKD says:

              I finally got around to completing a playthrough of AP last year and I have to agree that the story was very well done. Its likely that a lot of that is due to the fact that there doesn’t seem to have been any plans for a sequel so they didn’t have to plan (ME writers plan. Now that’s a joke.) write the story in such a way that every choice could still be tied together coherently two games down the line.

              My one personal criticism of AP is that I wish they had either not placed the time limits on conversation choices or at least given the player more time to think about their decisions. I swear there were some decisions that didn’t even allow enough time for many players to finish reading the options, much less consider their choice in any meaningful way.

              The combat was average in my opinion, not particularly twitchy or cumbersome but not stellar in any way either.

              1. Daemian Lucifer says:

                I like the limit because it turns the conversation into a sort of verbal combat,which fits the spy very well.Though I admit that they shouldve made a “conversation difficulty” that would adjust the timer.

  4. Asdasd says:

    Freespace 2 is the game I always forget is one of my absolute favourites of all time.

  5. John says:

    I bought Freespace 1 & 2 from GOG a few years ago, but I still haven’t played either of them. (I installed Freespace 1 once and spent a little time in the tutorial but never properly engaged with the game.) Here are my excuses:

    (1) My PC is hooked up to the TV in my living room, which makes playing games with a flight stick awkward. I’d have to put the flight stick on the coffee table and then lean forward in order to use it. (I’ve got a lap tray that I use for my wireless keyboard & mouse but it isn’t big enough to hold the flight stick too.) Freespace may be a classic, but I am not willing to give myself back problems in order to play it.

    (2) For some reason, I find mission-based space-sims sort of intimidating these days. Tie Fighter isn’t so bad because I’ve beaten that game before and know what to expect. (I also already know exactly which levels I’m just never going to beat without cheating.) Freespace is a big, fat unknown, and that makes it scary. I find open-world games, like Privateer, a little more to my taste. I can drop in or out as I please and take a couple of randomly generated missions without making a big commitment of time or mental energy.

    My ideal space-sim, I suppose, would be something like Sid Meier’s Pirates! or Mount & Blade in space. The combat would be Star Wars-ish and joystick-based. It can have other control schemes for people who don’t own joysticks. That’s fine. But this is my ideal game I’m talking about, and I like joystick controls. I’ve tried the X series, but didn’t care for it. The closest I’ve come recently is Endless Sky, which has everything I want apart from the combat. (The combat is okay, but it isn’t Star Wars-ish and it’s not supposed to be.)

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Similar to freespace was Privatee 2: The Darkening. It had great FMVs with a young Clive freakin’ Owen! Children of Men eat your heart out! :P

      1. John says:

        Privateer 2 also has the amazing kamikaze space-gangster pilots of doom. Those guys will fly right into you. Every single time. Drove me nuts.

    2. Vollinger says:

      I kinda prefered mouse over joystick in Freespace, like if you can push the cursor from one edge of the screen to the other without your mouse hitting the floor, it’ll be fine.
      And I think the story aged better than the other “spacewar is hell” games, since it’s the only one I can still remember. Two decades ago, my lil tween self was so blown away by the lore that to this day I use their Greek/Hindu/Egyptian mash-up naming scheme for placeholders, projects, tools and pets.

      1. Crespyl says:

        Freespace 1/2 were among the first “serious” (i.e. not directly targeted at children) games I remember playing, and I specifically recall my dad introducing the game by having me “co-pilot” for him, using the keyboard to target/communicate/etc while he flew with the joystick.

        The expanding scope/lore over the course of two games, the way tech upgrades unlocked, and even how the main menu changes over the course of the story all really helped sell the sense of immersion.

        For people who haven’t played the game, the main menu was an animated backdrop of the “carrier” your fighter-pilot character was stationed in, and you selected menu items by clicking on various doors and computer stations spread around the scene. When you later get re-assigned to another vessel, the backdrop changes accordingly, along with all the menu locations, so you kind of have to “find your way around” the new ship. The first time this happens is right after a particularly intense, impactful mission, so right after this emotional/adrenaline rush of completing a fight, you start to wind down with the end-of-mission debriefing screen, and then get sent back out into this new, foreign seeming menu just to drive home the sense of the world having changed out from under you.

        Each new tech upgrade also felt like an integral part of the plot development, something that you had really earned. With your faction steadily gearing up over the course of the war, fighting losing battles against a seemingly invincible enemy, until you finally find the opportunity to undertake risky suicide missions to steal their technology and start clawing your way up to an even footing.

        I haven’t played it in years, but the whole experience still makes up some of the defining memories of my youth, and still influences my taste and the kind of things I look for in any game. (And I, too, still name my computers after GTVA ships; my previous laptop was Galatea and my current phone is Myrmidon).

  6. MarcoSnow says:

    If you’re looking for a modern game that uses FMV to great effect, give Hellblade: Sennua’s Sacrifice a chance. It uses a mix between 3D character models and FMV in its in-engine and cinematic cutscenes to reinforce its main character’s struggle with schizophrenia (acting as a visual approximation of the audio-visual hallucinations those afflicted with the condition suffer from). Embracing the vaguely off-putting and unsettling effect achieved by juxtaposing ethereal FMV and 3D backdrops/characters really pays off, transforming Sennua’s conversations with them into harrowing experiences. I’m not usually a big fan of FMV in games—going into Sennua’s Sacrifice I had no idea it used them—but I’d say this game makes a pretty strong case for why this antiquated technology still has relevance today.*

    *That being said, it definitely helps that there’s a poignant story and solid hack-and-slash gameplay to back it up. I’m not sure I’m quite ready to take the plunge into actual FMV games where the player’s main contribution is sitting and watching loads of FMV scenes (e.g. Contradiction, Her Story).

    1. Droid says:

      OOohhh, I REALLY wanted to play that game, but the game ALWAYS at some point starts eating all my mouse inputs, and there’s no way I’m going through it keyboard-only.

      I wasn’t even sure whether that was a bug or intentional at first, and the game support never even bothered writing back. So … pity.

    2. Syal says:

      Was going to say, if FMV has a strength, it’s going to be games where you’re trying to read people’s state of mind. Contradiction, MODE, The Infectious Madness of Doctor Dekker, those kinds of “talk to people and see how they react” games are going to be easier to make with actual people using body language.

  7. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding Minecraft torches, I think the real problem is having monsters spawn in darkness. The reason people put torches everywhere is because they have a base, and don’t want creepers sneaking up behind them while they’re working in there. Torches are the cheapest method to stop that from occurring, so they get used. If they burnt out after a while, the result would be that the cheapest method for permanent lighting would become the new torch, and be used in the same way torches are. So the end result is simply to make “torches” more expensive. You could get the same effect simply by not getting 4 torches per coal anymore. So, let’s think about that situation. Say the recipe for torches gave 1 torch per coal instead of 4; what would change?
    1) Your base still needs to be lit up to avoid attacks. You might be more careful with regards to torch placement, but not lighting up your base is not an option.
    2) You might re-collect torches after mining out an area instead of just leaving them in place.

    Neither of those sound like interesting decisions. The general end-state would be that the size of tree farms will increase, but people wouldn’t act that differently. All it really does is annoy the player and add pointless busywork.

    Compare that to Factorio; point-to-point transport using robots invalidates previous transportation methods, which is a large component of gameplay. A more direct comparison for Minecraft would be the Equivalent Exchange Minecraft mod. I’ve played a couple modpacks that have this, and once you’ve gotten started, all resources are equivalent and measured in EMC; if you want a bunch of bookcases, you can go mining instead of needing to build a sugarcane farm, a cow ranch, and a tree farm. There are modpacks that can work with this; mostly by having a completely different gameplay loop than standard Minecraft, but moving Equivalent Exchange into core Minecraft would be a horrible mistake.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Haven’t had a chance to listen to the podcast yet since I’m at work so sorry if this overlaps.

      I remember there was talk about torches burning out waaaaay back in the day in the Minecraft community. Personally I think the essential problem with torches is that the entire light based mob spawn mechanics is actually pretty bad. Firstly, the 100% effectiveness of lightsource spam is annoying for the survivalists. Secondly, its tediousness is annoying to those who enjoy being able to completely control a patch of land. Thirdly it is limiting on your construction options if you want to do them in a survival world (because your hedge maze better have either lightsources everywhere or a floor made out of blocks that mobs can’t spawn on) and fourhtly it doesn’t even look good.

    2. default_ex says:

      There are an increasing amount of modpacks using PrimalCore now which does make torches burn out after awhile. You craft them and they are unlit torches. To light them you have to “use” them on a fire or toss them in a crafting grid with a lit torch. It was kind of cool at first, nice extra layer of realism but then I played with that for just one day and I noticed the charcoal blocks I placed under my kiln and grill never went out. Became my light source for awhile until I noticed Tiki Torches didn’t need to be re-lit.

      So apparently there are people that actually wanted it. I don’t understand it. Playing with PrimalCore for a couple days before I unlocked enough of that modpack’s content to circumvent the need for it really showed why more realism is no good for a game like Minecraft.

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        Yeah, to me that’s one of the two failure modes of bad Minecraft mods. Either they make existing gameplay really annoying or difficult (for “realism”), or they lock all their cool functionality behind twelve different machines and a stack of diamond blocks (for “balance”).

  8. evilmrhenry says:

    With regard to Tinkers Construct, you can change the tool’s materials if you have Iguanas Tinker Tweaks and the tool is fully-repaired. (It comes with most modpacks that have Tinkers Construct.)

  9. Gordon D Wrigley says:

    Could you please link the Minecraft mod pack you were talking about, I had a look around but I couldn’t find it for 1.12.

    1. Shamus says:

      The mod I’m using came from this site:


      Here is the specific mod in question:


      Looks like I’m using version 1.10, not 1.12.

      1. Gordon D Wrigley says:

        Thanks :)

      2. Viktor Berg says:

        Last I played, I was stuck on 1.7.10, because some of my favorite mods never got updated past that. Checking them now, they are still on 1.7.10. Ah well.

        For reference, the mods are RotaryCraft and ReactorCraft, the latter one being the most accurate reactor building mod out there by several orders of magnitude.

      3. Gordon Wrigley says:

        Looping back round on this. We tried ftb infinity lite for a while and it was entertaining, but Minecraft fatigue set in quickly, as it has the last couple of times we’ve started a new game.

        So to try and shake things up we’ve started over with Sevtech Ages. And I would definitely recommend it.

        We’re not very far at all into it, but it has definitely shaken up the formula. It feels quite different, partly cause they changed the core crafting interface. But also partly cause you start super low tech and the early game loops are all different. No mining at all in the early game instead foraging for salt and cotton and tanning hides to make stuff. Primary weapon is a spear and you get harassed by wild wolves.

        But more importantly it has a structured progression system which means at any time there are a half dozen achievements waiting for you, so if you are ever at a loss for something to do goals are provided.

  10. Echo Tango says:

    Umm, Shamus, you put that email in plain text in the post. Not worried about spam harvesters? The in-the-logo-image was easy enough for us humans. :)

  11. Jason says:

    I played Freespace 1 when it originally came out, and I loved it. I really loved space sims back then (X-Wing, Tie Fighter, Wing Commander, etc), and even had a pretty expensive flight stick.
    I can’t remember if I played Freespace 2 at all, even after reading the description.

    Speaking of FMV games, I really liked The Journeyman Project 3, but it was exactly as Shamus described FMV games – solve a puzzle to watch another FMV. I had the DVD version (I believe it was my first game on DVD). According to Wikipedia, it came out in 1998, so that’s when I would have played it. I don’t know if it would hold up at all at this point though.

  12. Jennifer Snow says:

    I didn’t really watch Totalbiscuit’s reviews, but still . . .

    Fuck cancer.

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Fucking fuck cancer.

  13. DeadleDark says:

    From what I played, the best FMV games is Tex Murphy games. But mostly because it’s first person 3d-world, where FMV pops up whenever player chooses to talk to someone (people green screened on game background). Shamus, if you have time, you should try Tesla Effect some time, just try for an hour and decide if you like that approach.

    Also, thank you for the answer!

  14. default_ex says:

    I hate that stupid Twitch launcher thing. It’s big, slow, clunky and horrendously broken. Want to specify your own minimum memory amount to allocate in order to allocate it all up front? Get ready to go into the launch arguments every single time you launch ModPackX because they inject that setting to an absurdly low amount regardless of if you specify arguments through their launcher. Look at those launch args it injects, now look at Java 1.8 documentation, notice a useless argument? Perm space was replaced by Meta space and require changing arguments to the new system or they are ignored, launcher logs even tell you as much. Would you like to disable a mod that is providing nothing but cosmetic features and trashing memory and processing time as a result of it’s clunky bloatedness? Might want to double check the entire mod list for the pack after you do, Twitch likes to randomly disable other unrelated mods when you do that through their GUI made to disable specific mods. An extra caveat to the last one, if you do find other mods it disabled at random, redownload the pack because it’s also deleted the config files for those mods too.

    I was so happy when I found I can plug Twitch’s zip files from their Minecraft mod portal into MultiMC. Much better launcher that doesn’t try to be anything other than a nice tidy launcher that helps you manage multiple versions of Minecraft. It respects the arguments you tell it to use. It only disables the mods you choose and keeps their configs around in case you re-enable them later. It even has a really nice log console to make it easier to debug any potential problems you might run into.

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