Diecast #233: Mooncrash, Wreck-it-Ralph, Paradox

By Shamus Posted Monday Nov 26, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 47 comments

This week we clean out the mailbag and answer a bunch of questions. Also note that we’re going to spoil the new Wreck-it-Ralph movie. I haven’t seen it, but Paul has and he has things to say about it.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: 

00:00 Prey Mooncrash

Spoilers for the ending of Prey 2017.


Link (YouTube)

08:37 Wreck-it-Ralph 2: Ralph Breaks the Internet

Why is this movie called “Ralph Breaks the Internet” instead of “Ralph Wrecks the Internet”? The current title is just a re-hash of an old meme, while the latter references the old meme while connecting it to our lead character.

Also, I noticed that during this section I said “sartirial” instead of “satirical”. I vocalized a typo. That’s hilarious.


Link (YouTube)

26:36 Mailbag: The New King of PC Gaming?

Hello Diecast!

Activision Blizzard has fallen out of favor. Activision are encroaching ever more on Blizzard’s territory with demands on revenue, use of their platform(s), and new, more lucrative business strategies. Eurogamer cites a concern within Blizzard about Activision relationship. We can draw only one conclusion: the king of PC-gaming has fallen.

Who will take up the mantle? Who is the new king of PC-gaming?

Best regards,

Moss

35:51 Mailbag: Avatar

Hi Shamus.

I’m a little surprised with your plans of tackling the Last Jedi movie. But in this light, I’m more interested in seeing you writing about the biggest blockbuster of them all. The Avatar. Would you be interested in doing it?

Also, considering that its still the number 1 movie in the worldwide box office, I think its kinda forgotten by now. I find it curious.

Best regards, DeadlyDark

40:50 Mailbag: Paradox Interactive games and neverending DLC.

Dear Diecast,

I have read Shamus’ columns regarding the EA, lootboxes, marketing and the state of the gaming industry in general. I found his takes to be collected and insightful in an realm that I think is often fraught with misunderstanding. What I would like to ask the diecast is whether they have paid much attention to Paradox Interactive games and their policy of neverending DLC.

As you likely know, Paradox publishes and develops Crusader Kings, Europa Universalis, Stellaris, and Hearts of Iron. As a simple example of their business policy, look at Crusader Kings II. CK2 was released in 2012 and as of this writing has just short of $300 worth of DLC and a new large expansion is planned to be release this coming week, nearly seven years since its original release. This seems like it creates a weird situation for buyers; if you’re buying the game today, you’re not going to want to buy all the DLC and you might feel like you’re being cheated having all these features locked behind paywalls (about half the characters are unplayable without two of the DLCs). That said, I bought CK2 at release and really enjoyed it and playing the game today without DLC is really a more expansive game than it was at release.

A cynic could say that Paradox should have released a “finished” game back in 2012, but I personally am always satisfied with their updates and am happy to pay for them to keep them coming (for CK2 and Stellaris, anyway). What’s your take on all this? Are there some perspectives I’m missing?

Thanks,
Mark

51:44 Mailbag: Ray Tracing

Reminder that when we recorded this, my comments on ray tracing were a couple of years out of date.

Greetings, Diecast and friends.

I recently found the Youtube channel GameHut, hosted by Traveller’s Tales/Tt Games veteran Jon Burton. He posts videos explaining the various hacks he had to implement to make games back in the 90s and early 2000s. Stuff like the fading geometry in Sonic R or the fake 3D perspective in Toy Story on SNES.

His content is pretty interesting, but this video stood out to me. In it, he showcases a demo meant to entice a publisher to fund the development of a whole game, which eventually became Haven: Call of the King.

Amazingly enough, this demo showcases elements similar to No Man’s Sky, except it’s running at 60 FPS on a PS2 and was made 2001. It’s rough, but you can take off in a space ship and traverse into space without any loading screens. The terrain is preset, but was created using procedural generation.

Now for my questions:

What do you think of the demo in comparison to No Man’s Sky knowing the hardware they’re each running on?

With this technical achievement in mind, do you think the industry has moved on from letting coding wizards optimize games to the very limit of consoles due to the increased demand of content and the reality of making games at modern graphical fidelity? And if so, what do you think could be done with modern hardware given enough time?

Cheers, and sorry for bringing up No Man’s Sky again. Consider it an out of season April Fools joke.

-Victor


Link (YouTube)

 


From The Archives:
 

47 thoughts on “Diecast #233: Mooncrash, Wreck-it-Ralph, Paradox

  1. Joe says:

    I have seen Avatar three times. Once on release, once at home, once on the rerelease. It didn’t improve with multiple viewings. But I found myself thinking about it the other day. How it could have been improved. Getting a more charismatic actor than Sam Worthington in the lead. He’s not terrible, but he isn’t stellar either. The other one, have him say at one point that he talked to the tribe, told them why the humans had come, tried to talk them into leaving, and failed. They didn’t want to leave for any reason. It would have been easy to do that in his video diary. But no. Hopefully the sequels thought through the story a bit more.

    1. PPX14 says:

      I agree, a more interesting/charismatic lead would have greatly changed the tone of the film I think. Tom Cruise or such would have at least added some personality and a wider range of facial expressions.

      1. Geebs says:

        Somehow I don’t think that role involves enough running for Tom Cruise*

        *at this point in his career. If Born on the Fourth of July was produced any time after the year 2000 it would have been about a guy who was in a wheelchair for 5 seconds and then became a sprinter.

      2. Dan Efran says:

        If you want a wide range of facial expressions, Tom Cruise is not your man. But yeah, Sam Worthington isn’t very interesting to watch.

    2. Joshua says:

      Maybe not have written the story so that the protagonist is the cause for so much of the conflict? The two sides were set up as being in conflict from the beginning, but the main character’s actions (often for selfish or noncommital reasons) escalated the conflict to the bloodshed that we saw at the end. Nice Job Breaking It Hero the Film.

    3. Bloodsquirrel says:

      Avatar’s main problem was that it was far too long a movie considering how simplistic its characters, themes, and plot were. Maybe a better lead actor would have helped, but not as much as a stronger character arc. If the movie had been shorter, it’s shallowness might have been more forgivable.

      As for why it was so popular, I put that down to two things-

      First, it was the last visually stunning SFX movie. It really did look amazing in theaters, and probably marked the point where CGI was as good as it could usefully get. At this point, I don’t think we’ll ever see another movie where the CGI has that “wow” factor to it again.

      Second, James Cameron is easily one of the best directors in the business. While he may have indulged himself with a somewhat underdeveloped idea with Avatar, he’s still the guy who knows how to put a story on film better than maybe anyone else. Visuals, pacing, cinematography, the little details- he’s extremely good at putting a package together with all of them. Avatar is a very well-crafted film, even it’s ultimately a vapid one.

    4. Viktor says:

      The problems with Avatar are many, and there is no simple solution. The Pocahontas plot was overdone and boring, the characters were flat, and the world was pretty but had no real depth. It even had the distinction of being a white savior narrative that makes the US military the bad guys, which takes real talent. Yes, you needed a more charismatic lead, but there were good actors in the supporting roles and none of them looked like it. Swapping Jake for someone else really wouldn’t have helped.

      But it had a GIANT advertising campaign that leaned heavily on the beautiful CGI world, the initial reviews spoke very positively on the gorgeous CGI, and 3D tickets were more expensive. That’s a perfect recipe for a few weeks of good sales before fridge logic sets in.

  2. Carlos García says:

    About the Paradox DLC. Should they have released everything with the DLC back in 2012? The answer is that if they wanted to add all the DLCs in the base game, then they would’ve needed to wait to get them done, which would’ve pushed the release date back some time, then perhaps they’d have released it in 2017 instead, but if then add the DLCs that are coming maybe we’d still be waiting for them to release the game and the fans would be up in arms because the development is taking too damn long, it’s a mockery of its fans! Paradox sucks! RELEASE IT NOW!
    I understand that for someone who comes in late, seeing the price of the whole thing becomes intimidating, but I think it’s far better to have the game in 2012 and then have the DLCs drop little by little, with proper QA and testing of each system added, paying 30$ first (or whatever the base price was, I also arrived late to the game) and then some 15$ every now and then to add the DLCs than waiting to 2018 to need to fork the 300$ in a single go. Because I think all that work put into the development of the DLC along the expenses incurred would need to be present in the final price.
    The solution for late comers is to search the forums and content about the game, or ask over there, what would be the must have DLCs, because not all DLCs have the same relevancy to gameplay. Some may add just some flavour units or stuff that doesn’t mean anything special, other may bring more important things.

    1. PPX14 says:

      Yeah I think in this case it would seem like buying the first film in a series you haven’t watched, after the nth sequel comes out. Unless there is an amazing box set deal, you’d buy the first one and see if you like it, and then buy the sequels if you fancy to add more.

    2. Raunomies says:

      Also to add to this, the whole “300$ worth of DLC” is only for those who decide to blindly buy absolutely everything and at full price. I don’t think any other games/DLCs go to sale as often as Paradox games do.

      For example this weekend had sales and you can get Stellaris base game + all existing gameplay DLCs (excluding unimportant cosmetic and soundtrack etc) for 53€. Upcoming Dec 6th DLC is a huge overhaul and improvement yet again and at full price it is 20€. 2.5 years old game with continuous, passionate development, for in total of ~5 months of WoW subscription.

      If you do not want to buy specific or any DLC, you get about 80% of the features for free in the update to the base game. And during development, those features are presented clearly in their weekly dev diaries and livestreams.

      Paradox model in its current form is really, really good for everyone involved.

      1. John says:

        The only people I’ve seen get upset about the cost of CK2 DLC are occasional commenters in the Steam forums or on Rock Paper Shotgun articles who think that they need all the DLC and expansions to have “the complete game” and that it is somehow necessary to have “the complete game”. They don’t understand that the base game, which often goes on sale for $10 or so, is a complete game in itself. I must have put at least a hundred hours into the base game before I bought any expansions. I’ve put in hundreds more hours since then, but I’ve only ever bought two expansions. It’s also worth noting that the expansions (and presumably the other DLC) goes on sale several times a year, with prices in the neighborhood of $5 to $10, depending on the expansion. The idea that you have to spend $300 or you’re doing it wrong is just absurd.

    3. Narkis says:

      I only wish they’d bundle all DLC older than, say, two years into the base game. I’ve been trying to get my friends to play Crusader Kings 2 for years and they balk at the price even if discounted. And it’s really difficult to convince someone who’s not already a fan that really, it’s not as bad as it looks and Paradox’s DLC are nothing like EA’s.

      1. John says:

        Is this a multiplayer thing? I’ve never actually tried it, but is it not possible to just disable your expansions before you join or host a multiplayer (or, heck, single player) game? Unless you find it impossibly unpleasant to play without certain expansions, I don’t see why you couldn’t have fun in multiplayer with just the base game. Remember also that each expansion is accompanied by a patch. Things like, say, secret societies are in the game whether or not you bought the Monks & Mystics DLC. You might not be able to to join the Hermetics without the expansion, but you and your friends can still be in a secret society dedicated to the heresy or pagan religion of your choice.

        1. Narkis says:

          It’s anything but. Any DLC the host has is active for everyone by default. But they think Paradox is exploiting the fans, and they don’t refuse to support the practice, just like with EA.

          1. Matt Downie says:

            The base game is good for a couple of hundred hours of play. The expansions add more complexity (which new players don’t really benefit from) and more options for different start points, giving you hundreds more hours. It doesn’t feel particularly exploitative to Paradox fans (as least, the ones who are patient enough to wait for a sale and who don’t feel the need to buy the purely cosmetic expansions).

            But I don’t know if you can explain that to outsiders. And some people just feel resentful if they’re denied any bit of content that already exists within the game but it locked off to them.

            1. Narkis says:

              I completely agree, and don’t regret buying the game in the slightest. I even have most cosmetics! But

              some people just feel resentful if they’re denied any bit of content that already exists within the game but it locked off to them.

              is definitely very common, and I think Paradox would be able to get their money without losing their current customers if they were more generous with their older stuff.

              1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

                As one of these people, I am fully aware that it is an irrational feeling. It is still very real and powerful. I absolutely hate turning on the game and having the giant “buy DLC” flags everywhere. From what era you start in to what factions you can play. I’m already a collectionist (I just made up that word but it works). Some people are completionists -they want to play everything in the game. I’m a collectionist. I don’t even want to play the stupid stuff, I just don’t like having incomplete collections on my shelf. I’m currently in a hardcore argument with my bank account over whether to buy Civilization 6, not because I want to play the game (I hated Civ 5, and don’t expect Civ 6 to be much better) but because I have Civ 1-5, and the absence of Civ 6 on the shelf/Steam List bothers me. I am experiencing a similar issue with the Total War series, about which I am completely indifferent to the two Warhammer games, but I am very interested in the Three Kingdoms game, and am unsure I can stand having two gaps on the metaphorical shelf. (I actually dislike Warhammer quite a bit outside Blood Bowl, so this one I may be able to sustain and just pretend they never happened.)

                Now, for Civilization, I get through most days by not thinking about it, and since Civ 4 doesn’t advertise Civ 6, I’m not reminded of this point. Total War reminds me incessently about Warhammer, and as a result I play a lot of older games than don’t have the launcher that reminds me about it.

                But Crusader Kings is there reminding me, constantly, from the first screen through the game itself. The game is kind of fun, but not $300 worth of fun, and I resolve this mental consternation by simply not playing the game. It also makes me very wary of playing other Paradox games. Had Mount and Blade been more obvious about being a Paradox game, (rather than Taleworlds, which is the big name attached to it), I probably wouldn’t have bought it, even though I do like it quite a bit.

                I imagine this psychological pressure is similar to what coin collectors or stamp collectors feel -except for me it manifests for games and books and movies.

                1. RFS-81 says:

                  FWIW, Civ 6 has great mechanics, but the AI is horribly incompetent. It was fun to learn the game, but on high difficulty, once you know what you’re doing, it’s usually not too hard to win, unless an AI decides to rush you very early. I think I’ve got my money’s worth, but you should probably stay away due to the DLCs ;) There’s nothing ingame reminding you about them, though.

                  Here’s a review by Civ 4 tester and absolute Civ 5 hater sullla.

  3. PPX14 says:

    Avatar was such a dull standard low effort blockbuster, with some good 3D effects. And I’m pretty sure no one cared much about it a couple of years beyond release. Definitely not now. I really do not understand why or how it was so big, or rather, I just think it was the “new, actually good 3D in films” release and was the first big blockbuster with it. The marketing must have been brilliantly effective.

    Also how DARE they steal Unobtainium from The Core.

    At least The Core was terrible but fun, not just terrible and bland.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      IIRC, unobtainium originally came from engineering jargon, meaning some hypothetical material that has exactly the properties you want.

  4. Ninety-Three says:

    I’ve been replaying Bioshock 2, so I’m going to take Shamus’ comment as a cue to rant about Bioshock’s pretentiosuness.

    The worst part about Bioshock is that, inexplicably, everyone from the writers to the press think it’s about libertarianism. You could rename the villain to Marl Karx, and the only change you’d have to make is to switch a handful of lines from ranting about parasites to ranting about wreckers. If that sounds like hyperbole, they literally did it in Bioshock 2 where the city gets taken over by socialism and it’s the same, the villain’s ideology never manifests as anything except flavour text.

    This is what Ken Levine had to say about it:

    What I was trying to do with BioShock was to say, ‘Okay, well, [in Atlas Shrugged] that’s a utopia where Ayn Rand, who made the philosophy, made all the rules, and all the characters were under her control. What if things weren’t under everybody’s control?’ And I think that’s the problem with utopias — we bring ourselves to it, you know? We think we’re leaving our problems behind but – I don’t mean this in a cynical way – we are the problem. Like whatever social problems that occur come out of us. It’s not like they fall out of the sky. I think people think they’re going to go to a utopian society, and I think it’s not really possible.

    Somehow he didn’t even get that to come across in the game. The entire problem is caused by defective mad science bullshit and if it weren’t for that, the whole place seems to be getting on startlingly well, what with the inventing cool mad science shit and building an underwater city Jesus Christ do you understand what a marvel of engineering that is? The game doesn’t come across as pro or anti-libertarian, it’s just there, no more important a piece of set dressing than the fact that the art deco aesthetic.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      ???
      The political philosophy was written all through Rapture and informed everything. Unregulated research into/sales of plasmids drove the population mad. ADAM was made by experimenting on little girls, turning them into monsters. Who then needed bigger monsters to protect them.
      One or two unscrupulous businessmen undercut the competition (or worse) and built monopolies which allowed them to rampantly gouge their customers (and then boast about it).
      Andrew Ryan made the completely free utopia he wanted and it all fell apart, up to and including someone killing him using a mind-controlled slave. And it was mostly because of the way other people in Rapture acted. Had it just been him and other like-minded people…it might well have survived.

      meanwhile Bioshock: the Communism version would be a very, very different – and interesting – story.
      Going from what I’ve head about the worst examples of communist countries: nepotism, corruption, cults of personality, inefficiency, overly bureaucratic systems, rampant propoganda…Rapture would be a very different place (and probably not called Rapture).

      (Shamus/Paul/other mods: Hope this post isn’t too far over the No Politics line. Say if it is.)

      The entire problem is caused by defective mad science bullshit and if it weren’t for that, the whole place seems to be getting on startlingly well, what with the inventing cool mad science shit and building an underwater city

      Getting on startlingly well…apart from the entire population being roving madmen, the fact it’s falling apart, the war between the founder and an upstart who wants to kill him…
      Though I think the ‘mad science’ bit is there for game purposes partly. Make the enemies irredeemable/pitiable madmen and the player feels less bad about mowing them down. Also, fun abilites, and a unique setting.
      (Standard nitpick: when the player shoots up plasmids, they get awesome abilites. But somehow the other inhabitants of Rapture have been using plasmids for longer and most of them are just…crazy people with normal weapons?)

      I will agree that Bioshock 2 was lame. Just a quick cash-grab that added nothing and had none of the intelligence of the first.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        It wasn’t the unregulated plasmids that drove people mad, near the end the game reveals that Ryan spiked the supply with mind control drugs that accidentally drove people nuts as a side effect (and he was surprisingly untroubled by this because at that point in the plot he had put on his supervillain hat). There is not any commentary there more nuanced than “mind control bad, supervillains bad”. If you like reading in implications that are never stated in text, you can even see a defense of the ideology: “Rapture was going great until Ryan turned away from the light of libertarianism and became a tyrant.”

        There is exactly one problem in Rapture that is not directly downstream of “Everyone got driven nuts by the mind control bullshit” and it’s “The Little Sisters are creepy”. There’s nothing political about evil mind control serums (show me a form of government that can resist having the guy in charge of everything spike the supply chain with crazy juice), and the only thing the game has to say about the Little Sisters is that you should probably help them, it’d be a real stretch to say they’re a commentary on permissive libertarian medical ethics. If they are, the commentary immediately bogs down on the implication of “Not only does child experimentation work, the surface world’s ethics were the only thing holding us back from literal superpowers!”

        If the game’s political philosophy was written everywhere, what was it?

        1. Bloodsquirrel says:

          Not to mention that Ryan’s “great chain” philosophy is a collectivist idea, which runs against Randian and libertarian philosophy. The idea seems to be to justify individualism by asserting that it ultimately serves a collectivist end. Also, Fontaine was a big part of the problem, and Fontaine was only able to gain power because he was smuggling (which, you know, requires there to be illegal goods to be smuggled).

          Any way you cut it, Andrew Ryan was a terrible objectivist.

        2. BlueHorus says:

          …That Andrew Ryan made his version of a utopia (an Objectivist one) and it fell apart. Why? Partly because of flaws in Objectivist philosophy (according to the game), and partly because other people ruined it (Like Atlas/Fontaine, trying to take over).

          It’d be a real stretch to say the [Little Sisters are] a commentary on permissive libertarian medical ethics. If they are, the commentary immediately bogs down on the implication of “Not only does child experimentation work, the surface world’s ethics were the only thing holding us back from literal superpowers!”

          I’m genuinely confused. Do you think the game’s saying that superpowers would justify the torturing of little girls?
          While the little sisters are shallow – ‘this type of freedom will lead to TORTURED CHILDREN!!!’…
          …that just makes the game more clear to me. It’s saying that if experimentation on children did yield superpowers (and mind control), people would do it, and especially in Rapture. It’s part criticism and part ‘this is what the game thinks would happen in this society.’

          But also the superpowers are there for ‘computer games’ reasons: varied enemy types, player empowerment etc.

        3. BlueHorus says:

          Ran out of time, so second post.

          I don’t remember (which, yeah, it’s been a few years, so no surprises there) Ryan putting mind-control drugs in the plasmids.
          I would ask, though, why there were used – was Ryan the first one to do it? Had Fontaine already started to move against him at this point? Was he worried about why/how plasmids were beings used?
          Andrew Ryan did seem like a megalomaniac who would hate anyone else becoming too powerful (he really did think he was right and knew everything, after all).

          …but that also fits the idea that his ideal utopia couldn’t survive contact with the real world. It couldn’t even survive his paranoia.

        4. eldomtom2 says:

          It wasn’t the unregulated plasmids that drove people mad, near the end the game reveals that Ryan spiked the supply with mind control drugs that accidentally drove people nuts as a side effect

          It reveals no such thing. It reveals very early on that Ryan spiked the supply with mind control drugs, but the game makes no suggestion that that had anything to do with the residents going mad. In fact there are several audio logs about people going mad, and there’s no mention of Ryan’s pheremones in them – the problem is entirely blamed on the plasmids themselves.

          Also he only started spiking the supply until after Rapture had descended into civil war.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        None but Shamus mods the comments.

        This thread is too political for me to comfortably join the discussion, but as it’s staying civil I’d say you’re doing a good job.

    2. Viktor says:

      Yeah, Bioshock is much better as commentary about video game* writing than it is about libertarianism. Because there are definitely issues with libertarianism, ones that would be pushed to the forefront in a high-tech underwater city with limited resources, and NONE OF THOSE ARE WHAT ACTUALLY GOES WRONG. It was like someone writing a game about the failures of Wall Street and a big chunk of the market collapse is caused by traders forcing each other to sell shares at gunpoint. The process there is so removed from reality that it breaks any commentary on the subject that might have been intended.

      *specifically linear FPS games

    3. Michael says:

      Somehow he didn’t even get that to come across in the game. The entire problem is caused by defective mad science bullshit

      But the whole thing ISN’T caused by mad science bullshit, its caused by the fact that Andrew Ryan is a control freak whose attempts to solve the growing problems of his ideological “utopia” slowly transformed him into the very tyrant he built Rapture to get away from. If Rapture were only made up of clones of Ryan, it may have worked, but instead there were all sorts of people with all sorts of differences. Ryan was an atheist who banned religion because he considered it another tool of control, but there was a black market for Bibles. Instead of recognizing the limits of both his ideology and his span of control, he doubled down and cracked down on smuggling. He sacrificed freedom of expression when an artist started making works that criticized him (and by extension, his beliefs). He used his control of Rapture’s infrastructure to levy what were effectively taxes. He kept responding to the growing unrest in the city by tightening his control over it instead of honestly confronting the problems (after all, it’s not a problem with ME, it’s a problem with THEM). His descent into tyranny culminated in raising a private army, stuffing them full of drugs, and literally mind-controlling them (so much for free will!), all to protect HIS city and HIS people. The story of Bioshock is a classic tragedy, where the hero is undone by his own pride and stubbornness.

      You could rename the villain to Marl Karx, and the only change you’d have to make is to switch a handful of lines from ranting about parasites to ranting about wreckers.

      Well, yeah. That’s kind of the point. While the game criticizes Objectivism (and libertarianism, but only to the degree that the two ideologies are similar), it is also a critique of ALL attempts to create utopia. One of the problems with implementing the perfect society, as Levine pointed out in that comment you posted, is that all societies are, in the end, made up of imperfect individuals, and the flaws of individual men will inherently ruin any collective effort towards perfection. This is a point emphasized in Bioshock Infinite, where the two factions are on opposite ends of the political spectrum, but end up acting the same way. The mooks of both the fascist, right-wing Founders and the anarchist, left-wing Vox Populi use the same guns and the same AI, and are used interchangeably in the gameplay. While Bioshock is a specific repudiation of Objectivism, it is also a general commentary on all forms of political extremism.

      Note: I know this is dangerously close to the “No politics” rule, and I want to make it clear that I’m not attacking or criticizing any specific ideology.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        This post rocks, and says what I’ve been thinking – and a lot more – far better than I did.

        Though I’d say Bioshock isn’t necessarily saying that people are flawed; it’s just that they are different.
        Any system, principle, rule, utopia (or whatever else) would work perfectly if only everyone played along and thought the same way…but, of course, they don’t.

        1. Michael says:

          Yeah, that’s what I meant. Although you could say that people are “flawed” from the point of view of the ideologue. “Things would totally work out if people just behaved like I told them to!”

  5. Lino says:

    I don’t know why, but I never managed to get into Prey. I loved the aesthetic and the premise, but it was just too… janky, I guess. It just seemed to me that it was deliberately undermining itself. Maybe what broke it for me was when I found a neuromod in the early game that let me see which objects in the environment were actually mimics. I also managed to stealth my way through a lot of the encounters, so that kind of killed the challenge for me (I don’t know why, but I remember stealth being very overpowered). Also, its non-linear progression made everything feel very unfocused and scattershot.

  6. Narkis says:

    I played Crusader Kings 2 on release, and spend dozens of hours starting as various people in western Europe and seeing how high I could climb the ladder with their dynasty. Then I did the same as a Muslim with the first dlc, as a Byzantine noble in the second, as a Viking in the third, and so on, and so on. And at the same time they kept adding and tweaking mechanics so that even returning to something you’ve already played would give you new stuff to do and manage. The game has kept my interest for many hundreds of hours now, though the latest expansions have been leaning into fantasy stuff a bit too much for my liking.

    Europa Universalis 4 started out the same, but I feel like the DLCs have been expanding in the wrong direction. It’s become too “gamey” if that makes sense, full of unconnected systems and different kinds of resources that fill up largely on their own until you press a button to empty the pool and get a specific bonus. I stopped playing it some time ago, though I did get a couple hundred hours out of it even so.

    I haven’t player the Hearts of Iron series since #2. I prefer building up my nation mostly in peace, and a WW2 simulator doesn’t offer much of that.

    Stellaris is shaping up to be my favorite of them all. When it released it was a decent game, but somewhat disappointing overall. But each DLC has been better than the last, they weren’t afraid to tear out core gameplay mechanics that didn’t work and build them again from the ground up. I foresee playing it until they stop making stuff for it.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    I was pretty down on Mooncrash for balance reasons: the metagame currency lets you buy your way into easy mode for pocket change and encourages things like spawning with extra power cells or nav chips that just negate the randomized hazards. Even if you ignore the metagame currency, it’s too easy to keep corruption at 1 by just crafting a ton of bonus time items, and even if you don’t do that the optimal strategy is still to gather up a ton of loot on one character then drop it back at the starting area so you can run the other four characters straight to their exits fully equipped, which is boringly easy.

    The narrative was confusingly contradictory in depicting a bunch of mutually exclusive viewpoints on the story, but there are two small things it really nailed that I want to praise. The first is that there’s a quest where you get poisoned and with minutes to live, you have to decide between completing the mission and dying, or going for the cure and letting your timed objective escape. The third option is that if you’re fast, you can do both. What I found clever about it was that in any other videogame, you would have to do that “cure and complete it in time” thing, but within the framework of the roguelike where death and failure are expected, “complete the mission then die” is actually a valid outcome.

    Although the narrative was very thin overall, there was one tiny brilliant thing. You get the research director’s password to unlock his terminal because that’s the videogame mechanic, and it’s “DefectBotGetsTheJackpot”. The game just told me that the director is a computer-savvy nerd with an overly cynical, backstabbing view of the world, and it managed to cram that characterization into twenty-four letters. Genius.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Regardless of randomized content, I wish more games allowed failure to be a valid outcome from the player. Until Dawn did a pretty good job at this, although was helped along by having a large cast, where no one person was central to the plot. There’s several things that a game needs to do, to ensure the player has a valid experience:
      1. the story continues
      2. no single story branch is considered “correct”
      i. this includes smaller things, like the interface labelling all but one outcome as “failed”, or not at least giving some experience points / loot / etc to the player, for all (or at least most) outcomes

      As good a game as the original Fallout(s) were[1], they failed on 2.i. because a lot of your side-quests could just be “failed” without your character at least learning from their mistakes. It’s such a central part of the human experience, that there’s self-improvement books about learning from failure.

      [1] Drink responsibly!

  8. GM says:

    When did Shamus talk about Last Jedi?

    1. John says:

      He didn’t, but a week or two ago he said he might. He seems to have reconsidered, however, and I don’t blame him.

      1. Distec says:

        It’s a fair call. And there may only be so much more that could be said after the Plinkett review capped it all off. Although I would have really loved to have seen Shamus’ take on it.

        1. Narkis says:

          Just mentioning the possibility created a minor shitshow in the comments. I also would have loved to see his thoughts on it, but it’s simply impossible to discuss this movie and maintain a civil comment section. It’s the right call for the atmosphere he wants to keep here.

          1. Thomas says:

            I’m curious about Shamus’ thoughts but I was not looking forward to the discussion it generated at all.

            Even aside from the internet-scale flamewar (but let’s not forget that), it’s hard to talk about productively. There are so many different issues and they’re so complex you end up going down nitpick deadends or talking past each other.

  9. RFS-81 says:

    As an example for how not to do Paradox-style DLCs: Distant Worlds was a simulationy sandbox strategy game in space. The base game was panned for having an abysmal UI. This got fixed later, but you needed to buy the first two expansions if you wanted a usable UI. That was maybe 80$ in total. And to top it off, the fourth or fifth expansion, titled Distant Worlds: Universe was never sold separately, but came with the base game and all previous add-ons, for over 50$ at release. But you could get a discount if you had previously bought DW … for a limited time, and if you missed it, screw you!

  10. krellen says:

    Since the question was asked and I haven’t seen it answered here, the answer to how Paradox DLCs fit together is simply that any system requirement that is required is a free patch that goes alongside the DLC, and parts that can be lifted out without conflicts are part of the DLC. So if you don’t have the Sword of Islam DLC, you cannot play as a Muslim ruler, but the Muslim rulers are still there as AI and have all the system improvements that Sword of Islam introduced to Muslim play. So even if you don’t buy in to the new DLC, there are still changes and expansions to the existing systems you get just for owning the core game.

    I own all the DLC and have put nearly 1800 hours into Crusader Kings 2. Even at $300, 6 hours for $1 is a pretty darn good entertainment deal, and I didn’t pay $300 for the DLC, thanks to sales and bundle deals. The fact that so many improvements come as free patches is, I think, the big reason why you rarely hear people (who play the games) actually complain about Paradox’s DLC policies. The complaints in my experience come exclusively from the outside.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      They keep this free-upgrade philosophy in Stellaris, and I like it a lot. Except for the removal of the different types of travel. Too bad they couldn’t have balanced the chokepoint-bypassing ones with another mechanic or two. Maybe nebulae and black holes slow them down, or the distance to warp slows them down, or something like that. Sword Of The Stars had similar types of travel, although I don’t know if that game was ever popular enough to need balance patches. :)

      1. Boobah says:

        Sword of the Stars was popular enough that it spawned a sequel. Though in that game the differing FTL drives were kind of the defining characteristic of the different races.

    2. Fnord says:

      Some DLC is more separable than others. Something like Sword of Islam is indeed pretty straightforward: you need it if you want to play as a Muslim, otherwise not (though there are still some corner-case complications: what if your heir somehow converts?). Others are like Way of Life, which introduced “Character Focuses” that are available to everyone; you can still play with or without the DLC, but it’s certainly a different experience.

      And in terms of barrier to entry, a new player is not in a good position to tell which is which (or even which DLC is purely cosmetic).

      On net, I like that Paradox continues active development of their games, and I’m willing to pay for it. But I do think the barrier to entry posed by the giant list of DLC is a real problem.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I contend that it’s not that difficult to figure out which DLCs are cosmetic and which aren’t; they’re all sensibly labeled with descriptions of what exactly they bring and there’s a wiki if you want in-depth explanations. I came to CK II when it already had ~25 DLCs, so I sat down for maybe half an hour and read up on them on the wiki to decide what I wanted. It’s not difficult to figure out what they bring, it just requires an attention span longer than a 3-year-old’s…which, I must concede, may indeed make it difficult for a lot of new gamers to figure them out.

        I don’t mind their DLC policy myself, but I do think it’d be interesting if they rolled DLC older than, say, 5 years into the base game (though that would require a new game at this point with this policy spelled out VERY CLEARLY in advance that you’re buying early access to the content). Then they could feel free to expand upon those older mechanics without worrying about changing content people paid for.

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 *