Diecast #288: Mindustry, Warcraft Reforged, Journey to the Savage Planet

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 3, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 92 comments

Welcome! Please enjoy this hour and twelve minutes of two guys talking about a series of topics that are often tangentally related to video games. Thank you.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

01:15 “Bethesda NEVER Understood Fallout”

My most recent video is (or was) doing amazingly well. In the hour and a half it took us to record this podcast, the video accumulated an additional 6k views, taking it over 100k. That means in that 1.5 hours, this video got more views than any of the previous videos did in the weeks and months since they were uploaded.

Fun fact: When the views hit 125k, I turned on ads, just to see how YouTube would react. The views immediately stopped growing. Like, the counter barely moved. Let’s speculate on what that could mean:

  1. Curious: Ads are severely detrimental to views, to the point where a majority of people will hit the back button rather than sit through an ad.
  2. Weird coincidence: I just happened to activate ads at the same time the video fizzled out.
  3. Unsupported conspiracy theory: The video continued to accumulate views as before, but there’s a massive hidden conspiracy inside of YouTube and they don’t count all the views so they can keep more of the ad revenue for themselves. (Extremely unlikely, since such a system would require a lot of code, and that code would be visible to hundreds of people within the company due to the way Google shares code internally. Not only would it be impossible to keep this a secret for long, but it would be massively illegal and actionable in court.)
  4. The views continued to happen, but now that money is on the line the system is much slower about counting them, since it needs to detect and weed out bots and such. The views are still happening, but they’ll only add to the counter in batches every few hours, once the system is confident the views are legit.

I’m betting on #1, with a side of #2. Still. It’s an interesting experiment. I’ll do it again if another video takes off.

13:03 Mindustry

I bought this game during the show, and I still haven’t launched it. As soon as this post is done, I think.

20:46 Warcraft Reforged

Here is a brief run-down of the problems from Forbes. If you want to see the chaotic version, just check r/Blizzard on Reddit. It’s the equivalent of an angry mob hurling bricks through the windows at Blizzard. I’m used to seeing the occasional apologist in situations like this, but here the community seems to be united in their disapproval.

34:33 Paul wrote a novella-length book review:

Here is the video intro, and here is the full 19k word analysis.

43:12 Journey to the Savage Planet

Link (YouTube)

It looks charming and the production values are top-notch, but… I’m just not feeling it. The gameplay is serviceable and the humor isn’t doing it for me. None of it is bad, but playing a comedy game that never makes you smile is a weird and vaguely disappointing experience.

52:12 Mailbag: Raise sales by uploading to pirate bay?

Have you read this piece?

You’ve been saying for decades that people who pirate are not potential costumers who wouldn’t buy the game anyway, but it seems like they actually are. You’re still right on the front that fighting piracy is a self-defeating move, though. This indie uploaded his game on piratebay DRM-free and saw a considerable uptick on his actual sales, 400%.

Do you have any thoughts on this phenomenon? You could use it as a talking point on your next DieCast.

Cheers from your Brazilian Fan, RCN, AKA, OlamTheBard.

1:00:17 Mailbag: Why don’t you write a game [Shamus]?

So Shamus, have you considered writing an application letter to one of your favourite game studio’s? You bring unique qualities to the table.

1. You are a good writer.
2. You have created assets when you worked at activeworlds, you have released Good Robot on steam, you have created some proc-gen demos. In short, you understand how much work it is too realize a gameworld and how your choices as a writer will affect the work the modelers, the animators etc. have to do.

I think you might be one of the few people in the world with that unique combination. A must-hire for any studio!



From The Archives:

92 thoughts on “Diecast #288: Mindustry, Warcraft Reforged, Journey to the Savage Planet

  1. DeadlyDark says:

    My favorite bit about W3Reforged is that they made main menu UI as a webapp for some reason

    `I’ve been trying to figure out why the main menu performance on Warcraft 3 Reforged is so bad.

    It ends up the whole main menu is a web app running on Chrome. This thing runs worse than the actual game (likely because it’s pegging an entire core of my CPU.)`

    Well. May be favorite is a wrong word here

    1. Ashen says:

      While they’ve obviously screwed up the implementation because it shouldn’t run that badly, this isn’t uncommon at all. They’re using CEF which is relatively lightweight and even has Unity/Unreal integration. It’s typically used for launchers or in-game shops, but it’s not really a stretch to use it for something like a main menu.

      In fact until Unreal improved its UI framework, the de facto standard for like a decade was Scaleform which is basically (shudder) Flash.

      1. Olivier FAURE says:

        I didn’t know about Unreal’s UI framework. Flipping through the documentation, it looks pretty good, for something that’s not web-based.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      There are pretty good reasons to have your game UI run on a web stack.

      As someone who has some vague interest in game-making and spent a lot of time looking for video-game-compatible UI frameworks, I can confidently tell you: they’re all awful.

      Like, seriously, they’re all terrible, for different reasons.

      Video game UI is a chore to work with; it stagnated in the early 2000s, whereas web UI technologies keep improving year after year, and come bundled with tons of tools to prototype fast, reload your UI without re-compiling your project, diagnose accessibility issues, and reuse code across similar interfaces.

      Basically, if you’re a game company, you need a UI for your last game, and you don’t want to cobble together your own shoddy in-house framework that UI designers will need training to use, with almost no customization or reusability, your choices boil down to Flash, or HTML+JS.

      Eg League of Legends uses Chromium too, PUBG, Control and some versions of Minecraft use Coherent Gameface.

    3. tremor3258 says:

      The follow-up is how did they manage to get a fairly common UI practice to run so badly?

  2. Scampi says:

    An alternative theory of mine about the viewcount: I think there might be separate counting methods for monetized or non-monetized videos where, if your video doesn’t have ads, all views count, but if you do have ads activated, only the views that actually get ads are counted, leaving out the views which blocked ads.
    It might make sense, I believe, but of course I have absolutely no evidence for this.
    Another thing: I’m not entirely sure views that come from outside youtube are counted. My sister runs a channel that is related to their animal shelter’s homepage, and they say their videos have been repeatedly watched by people, but on their channel I see barely double digit views to most videos. I guess many people watch their videos from the club’s page, so maybe they are just not counted? This might apply to your videos as well, since this is the first current video that had a significant time on the channel before being linked from the blog.

    1. Thomas says:

      The answer is a mixture of this and #4. It’s common to see videos with more likes than views. But if you wait a day the view count will catch up.

      This is because Google are essentially selling the view count when they sell ads. They have a very long verifying process for views, and only batch update them.

      They don’t bother applying this process to videos which won’t matter. For those videos they have a much faster method of updating views – this includes all videos with less than 301 views and I guess videos without ads.

    2. Plays The Thing says:

      Since you can use youtube’s analytics to see what percentage of your views come from external sources or are embedded in external webpages those views are definitely counted.

  3. DeadlyDark says:

    I did notice that you sped up your speech in the video.
    Kinda surprising, since I learned that Joseph Anderson, on the other hand, in his scripted videos, he speaks slowly on purpose (not artificially, he just speaks slowly himself compared to his normal speech on streams). In his view, sped-up speech sounds better, than slowed-down, so he prefers to give option to make his videos faster (if one desires), than vice versa

    1. Vertette says:

      It felt like that was the case. I think it’s a good change, the pacing felt a bit more natural than earlier videos.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      To me, Shamus sounds slow in the Bethesda / Fallout video unless I speed it up to 1.25x on YouTube; If I’m in a hurry, I can still parse what Shamus is saying if it’s up to 1.75x. Hopefully YouTube is keeping track how how often people use this feature, and puts in a wider range of speeds in the future. Then creators can do whatever feels natural to them, and viewers can watch at their own speed! :)

  4. Joe says:

    Funny thing, Paul, I read some of your review. I flicked through it and read sections. Pretty good, considering I’ve never read the book itself. Sometimes I can mostly agree with criticism and still enjoy something. You must know how that is. I was kind of hoping you’d give my own stuff a decent go over. Ah well. I can think of a couple of changes to make based on what you *did* say, I just have to be in the right mood to implement them.

    Shamus, you make videos to increase site traffic? I already come here every day, and I prefer to read the transcript than watch a video. If there was just the video, I’d watch it. But I appreciate not having to do so. If you change that, I won’t complain. You do what you want.

    On the subject of game piracy, many people want to try before they buy. Demos are less popular these days than they used to be. If I could play a demo, maybe I’d buy more games than I currently do. So to me, the Danger Gazers thing looks like someone providing that demo.

    There was one game where I tried an ‘unofficial demo’, then bought the game. But kept the old version, because the new one fixed my favourite bugs.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I did give your stories a look, but they were even lower quality than Shad’s, and you haven’t given me any indications that your standards are high enough to make the analysis itself rewarding. If I really went into it, it would feel like I was kicking a puppy for a half-hour. I’m enough of a sadist to enjoy that, but not quite enough of a sociopath to think it’s a good idea.

      1. Joe says:

        Worse? Yikes. But at the same time, I want to be better. If you ever do want to gently highlight some issues, I might even be receptive. :) But what with a new kid, I can see how your already limited free time would get even more limited.

        By the way, congratulations on that new kid! It’s hard work raising kids, but I’m sure you know how fulfilling it is in the end. And bonus, you have several other kids to make all the mistakes with. I’m sure this time it’ll go perfectly. :)

        1. Syal says:

          To focus my critique from last time: the biggest issue by far is the disjointedness of the information. It’s not quite as bad as misspelling every other word, like some others I’ve read, but it’s very much a showstopper. My mental image of the scene was constantly being contradicted by a new thing, and every one of them pulls the reader out of the story; if I hadn’t been trying to give advice I would have dropped out on page 2. Seeing the longer story was over ten times as long was a hard stop.

          Creating a consistent image is priority number 1. All other issues lie behind the elephant.

          1. Joe says:

            Interesting. I wonder if less description would help. Funny thing, I’m normally a minimal description guy. Except I made myself put more in this time.

            1. Syal says:

              Don’t think so. The first major conflict was the timeframe, which had no description and affects my impression of every building and man-made structure that gets mentioned. You need to immediately describe something well enough to establish the timeframe: either the bridge, or the pastry shop, or clothes or weapons or anything period-appropriate.

              The second one was the part about her being an occupying officer, which justifies her investigation and can’t be cut without more problems. The story reveals that piece by piece over several scenes, but that should be established all at once, either at Sarah’s introduction before the river, or at the first beat of the investigation as a pivotal reveal.

              Then there’s the scope of the problem, which I never got a grasp on. They talk about crops dying, but my assumption is that’ll take months and there’s plenty of time to solve it. If it’s more immediate it needs to be clarified.

              There’s also the problem that some people need those pictures drawn for them; I loved Ender’s Game, but I had a friend who hated it because the descriptions are extremely minimalist and they couldn’t picture anything.

              1. Joe says:

                Ah, I think I see where you’re going. I’ll drop these notes in my feedback doc and bring them up when I’m in the right mood for rewriting. Thanks!

  5. Lino says:

    Congratulations on your new baby, Paul!

    I really liked the last question of this Diecast, and I just thought how weird it is that Shamus – who has such a love for writing – released a game that was so light on it. I guess his love of writing is just a manifestation of his love for systems and how they interact…

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      As for Shamus’ love for writing, I think it goes a bit deeper than that.

  6. Lino says:

    With regards to Shad, I’ve never been that big of a fan of his – I’ve watched some of his HEMA-related videos, and I’m not that impressed. In general though, I always avoid films, books, etc. made by critics. Particularly ones ones made by especially harsh critics. Subconsciously, I always hold them to a high standard. After all, if you’re that harsh in your critique, then you’re harsh because you surely know how to do it better. This is the main reason I bounced so hard off of The Nostalgia Critic and Channel Awesome – the moment they started to insert skits and make films of their own (all of which I found extremely cringy and unfunny), I just couldn’t take them seriously as critics anymore.

    The only person with whom this hasn’t happened is Shamus – for some reason I love both his critiques, and his written work.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, I don’t know if I’m a fan of Shad either, especially after reading his book. I really enjoy critique, though, and the works of critics are great for that for just the implications that you mentioned.

    2. Chris says:

      At the one hand i dont think its a high standard to demand their work was submitted to the same critical eye as the work they examine. After all, its silly that a person that critizes someone else’s work ignores the faults in his own work. At the other hand, making something is hard, so after a while he either got to a point where he just gave up and wanted to get it out, or he was blind to his own faults.

  7. Chris says:

    The change to ownership of the WC3 map editor was because of DOTA mostly. Back in the day Icefrog (that made dota past version 5.84, the first dota version that really unified the genre) went to blizzard to ask them to help him make DOTA a standalone game. Blizzard at the time had WoW going which printed money. They thought MMOs were the future and already had titan in the pipeline. Blizzard thus told him they had no interest. Icefrog then went to valve. Guinsoo (who made dota 5.84, which was a combination of a dozen different DOTAmaps put together with as big innovation being combinable items) went on to make LoL. So the biggest PC game (LoL) and one of the biggest PC games (DOTA2) slipped through blizzard’s hands while they were struggling making titan work. And they were pretty pissed about that.

    When SC2 came they changed the TOS to make all games in the SC2 editor become blizzard property. They changed the custom map browser to push popular maps to the front page, all in the hope of lightning striking again. Then the blizzard team made blizzard allstars to show off how powerful the SC2 engine was. Blizzard was so impressed they made it a standalone game known as heroes of the storm. They pumped millions in the esports scene (heroes of the dorm being a competition where you could get blizzard to pay your college fees for you, HCG being a big tournament) in the hope of getting a slice of the MOBA pie. And that failed miserably as well. So basically half of blizzard’s existence is them living in the shadow of telling icefrog to get lost, and that stings.

    Also WC3 phones home when you go online, or if you put your CD key in battlenet to download it online. Then it will look up the latest patch, which will turn your game into reforged. So you can avoid it by installing it of your discs, not going online, and manually patch it with patch files. Then you can use garena.

    1. Scampi says:

      They say anything made with the map editor is owned by them? So what? The same passage had been in their TOS for a while even in 2007, before LoL existed and before even Icefrog was done with DOTA Allstars and began working on Dota 2 at Valve. There’s nothing new there. Why make an issue about it now?

      1. Thomas says:

        I doubt Blizzard are able to do much with that clause. What all the commentary about this hasn’t picked up on is game mechanics aren’t copyrightable. And theres strong legal precedent for that.

        The worst case scenario is you can’t call it ‘DOTA’ because thats too obviously a reference to the mod and have to call it something like League of Legends. And that’s already standard practice. The mod makers of Dota auto-chess didn’t call their new game DOTA auto-chess because Valve owns the name.

        1. ivan says:

          The point is they want those brands to belong to them. They don’t really give a shit about mechanics or the ‘original’ per se, they just wanna own “DOTA” <- that name/acronym/brand is the thing that has value, and that's what they didn't grab onto with both hands within the original WC3's time.

          It wasn't then, and isn't now, about game mechanics. Nothing is stopping them making another MOBA right now, and mechanically copying DOTA fairly closely – though not too closely cos the implementation of gameplay mechanics is copyright. Why are they doing this, 'we own your stuff you get nothing not even credit rarrr' thing, instead? Cos it's more the userbase, and the brand, that made DOTA/2 become popular to begin with. Buying the brand (or not buying but just taking, whatever) doesn’t automatically guarantee you the userbase, but it’s a good start, and it prevents anyone else having that good start instead of you.

          Also, unrelated, but Shamus, could we get the formatting guide neatly above or below ‘reply’ comments as well, please? Scrolling down to the bottom to remind myself how to do italics, then laboriously scrolling back up and finding my place in the long list of comments, was a real pain.

          1. Thomas says:

            Okay well, that was already pretty much the case. As I said it’s not like the makers of DOTA auto-chess were going to be able to call their new game that.

            And even DOTA isn’t called Defence of the Ancients. Officially it’s not an acronym, it’s a concept of 4 random letters.

            Anyone making a mod for any game anywhere should assume they’re going to have to change the names up if they want to sell it.

      2. Chris says:

        I dont know the details but I believe WC3 classic did not have the TOS that they owned what you made to the degree of the SC2 TOS. And the fact they changed the TOS for reforged to more closely resemble WC3 to me seems pretty obvious they wanted to make sure they wouldnt lose another DOTA.

      3. Chad Miller says:

        Even if we take it as read that it was okay in SC2 and ignore that there are probably WC3 fans that never got into SC2, there’s the fact that it’s retroactively applied in this case, to the extent that they shut down WC3’s servers so that maps created on WC3 under the original WC3 ToS can no longer be played in the original WC3 client.

        Between this clause, the “you can’t make custom maps based on other people’s IP” clause and the existence of DMCA, it may actually be illegal to play the original Defense of the Ancients at this point.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Dang, I didn’t know that about SC2. Good thing I never made any games with it. Yeesh!

    3. RFS-81 says:

      I still have it on CD! Just to be clear, WC3 only phones home when I click on multiplayer in-game, right? I don’t have to disconnect from the internet before starting it?

      1. Chris says:

        I havent tried it myself yet, i just report from what ive heard in this case. But from what i gathered the game will patch itself if you click multiplayer. Or if you download the game from blizzard’s servers (by binding your CD key to your battlenet account and then downloading WC3 through your account). If you just install the game from your CDs, dont go to multiplayer, you should have an untainted game.

    4. tmtvl says:

      Hang on, you’re saying that the guy who made DOTA went on to make Lands of Lore? But LoL came out years before Warcraft 3.

      1. Chris says:

        The WC3 engine is known to be really flexible and powerful. It is the basis for warcraft 3, dota, and even world of warcraft. Using it to power a timemachine was peanuts really.

      2. Hector says:

        I can’t tell how serious you are. LoL == League of Legends if you aren’t kidding around.

        Though I vaguely recall Lands of Lore for the box art. I think I was too young to play.

  8. Thomas says:

    I don’t think there’s much in the pirating story. The article says after the sales boost, their peak concurrent users was 7 people.

    So a small game did a publicity stunt (intentionally or unintentionally) and got a small boost in sales.

    I’m not convinced this would happen to the 7th game to do this, or to a game that wants to sell thousands of copies.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I also got suspicious of the story when it cited a percentage increase rather than a raw number.

      If 1 person bought the game before the upload, then another four did afterward

      …My God! A 400% increase*!

      Well sure, but that game still only sold 5 copies…

      (still, credit to the guy who did it, and he still netted more sales. Good on him.)

      *I may have got the maths on that increase wrong. Ah well, it’s 20Sided, someone’ll point it out if I did.

      1. The Puzzler says:

        Well, are we describing an increase in total sales from 1 to 5 or an increase in monthly sales from 1 to 4? The latter is an increase to 400% of the previous figure, which means it increase by 300% of the previous figure…

        Basically, this is something pretty much everyone gets wrong, and that probably includes me.

    2. Gethsemani says:

      This isn’t a new thing either. Quite a few indie developers have put their games on various torrent sites to raise awareness of their game and have seen an increase in sales after. I believe this is partially because the game gets a much needed awareness boost (putting something on PB is free, getting an ad onto google’s algorithm is expensive) and partially because it really gels with the narrative of “pirates” as actually decent folk who aren’t “stealing” but just looking for a good game to put money towards (it probably helps that indie games are relatively cheap).

      Would you get the same effect with the latest Call of Duty? With the Outer Worlds? Much more doubtful, because once you get a certain level of awareness the word of mouth (“this unknown game is really good and only costs 2.99!”) effect drops off significantly. With that said, I’d like to re-iterate that I think it is a fairly established and effective way for unknown indie games who can’t get media reporting or afford advertising to get some buzz going. At least if the game is good.

  9. Re: YouTube: I can also tell you from a not-Shamus-YouTube-account perspective that after your Fallout video, I’m starting to see the algorithm suggest your other videos to me, which is new.

    I hypothesize that if you make a few more videos on relatively hot, semi-click-bait topics, you may be able to build up enough of a base to care less about that in the future. But I don’t know more than anybody else.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      All aboard the click-bait train!

      1. kincajou says:

        Choo! Choo!

        10 lifehacks that everyone on 20sided is getting wrong, you’ll never guess what happens when Shamus (re)plays Mass Effect!

        Choo! Choo!

        1. Lino says:

          Choo Choo!

          WORST LANGUAGE EVER! Word ‘s Best Programmer DESTROYS C++! The Case for JAI!!!

        2. RFS-81 says:

          Top 10 funerals for Mass Effect! Number 7 will blow your mind!

        3. BlueHorus says:

          Are You Smart Enough To Figure Out The 5 Top Reasons You’re Wrong About DRM?

          Doctors Hate Shamus For This One Weird Trick*!

          *He’s managed to stay Young…for his entire life!!!!!

  10. BlueHorus says:

    Holy shit! I’d heard nothing about Warcraft 3 Reforged. Overwriting the original game with a worse, DRM-enforcing version? That’s crazy.
    Short-sighted greed is something, but this is something special. Screwing the pooch AND killing the golden goose.

    Screwing the golden goose? Killing the pooch? Screwing the golden pooch?

    1. Syal says:

      “Mortal sins ‘gainst dog and bird.”

    2. Kyle Haight says:

      I’m not quite sure what the golden goose is supposed to be here. I doubt Blizzard is making much money selling copies of the original Warcraft 3 at this point. Doesn’t make this any less of an own-goal, though.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Arguably an actually decent remake/remaster of WC3. I’m not entirely into that scene but when I heard about the Reforged I kinda thought “huh, might grab it some day, I remember there being some cool tower defense maps made for the original”, so even not being their first target customer I feel a touch miffed about 1) the old game being overwritten and 2) the new game being player content unfriendly.

  11. tmtvl says:

    Obligatory link to Minindustry for those people who want to give it a look: here.

    I like that the source code is on GitHub, that should make it interesting for modders.

  12. Geebs says:

    Activision are like the climate change of game publishers. They’ve turned a Blizzard into a complete Shower inside a decade.

    1. Mephane says:

      What the hell are you trying to say with those metaphors? Isn’t a blizzard worse than a mere shower, and wouldn’t the latter constitute an improvement if you’re caught in it? Yet both the context of this comment and the first sentence of yours suggest you mean it became worse.

  13. Hector says:

    Shamus, put the blog on Youtube.

    You really need to do this. Feed the content beast.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      How do you put text onto a video-hosting platform…?

      1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

        Well, first you get unregistered HyperCam 2. Then you open Notepad…

      2. Hector says:

        I mis-spoke. ‘Twas the podcast specifically that I mean.

        1. RFS-81 says:

          Seconded! The Internet doesn’t have an attention span of three weeks! It’s going to have forgotten you completely again by then.

          I don’t think it would be terribly weird to put a podcast on YouTube. I’ve been listening to “Dies to Removal” (about M:TG) lately and that’s just video of two guys sitting in a room talking. Well, they do opening skits, but after that, and after looking at what weird socks “the professor” has paired with his suit this time, I just let the audio run in the background. Anyway, what I’m getting at, put it up even if you just have a static image for video!

          EDIT: And if you do an episode with SoldierHawke again, link each others channels!

          1. Hector says:

            To clarify why I commented that here, and have previously, I want to agree with RFS-81 and also point out that I don’t actually watch Youtube very often. Instead, I listen to it while doing something else. There are quite a few successful podcasts on Youtube.

  14. Jamey says:

    I wanted to make a disgusting joke about this being Diecast #288, but it was two gross.

    1. Ancillary says:

      Hey, I appreciated this comment, even if no one else did.

    2. baud says:

      I found the joke funny, but I’m kinda jealous because that’s the type of joke I usually do

    1. The Puzzler says:

      I saw that as a recommended link previously, and I didn’t click on it because “Myst almost couldn’t run on CD” is the same as saying “Myst could run on CD”, which doesn’t sound very interesting.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        That’s a bizarre take. “Myst almost couldn’t run on CD” clearly means “some kind of technical issues were worked around to get the game to release state.” So if you’re curious what those issues might have been, you’d look at the content. Whereas “Myst could run on CD” is basically a line from the Wikipedia article about what formats the game runs on (PC CD).

  15. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Re : The video
    I really like the rythm of your delivery, but as I said in the youtube comments the removal of the pauses between sentences felt slightly stressful. Maybe it was just me, but I’d recommend seeing if it’s possible to keep 0.5 seconds between sentences.
    Also another advice : you should plug related blog content during your videos whenever possible, and provide links in the description, for people who want to see more.
    Re : You in the industry
    Maybe you can sell yourself as a script doctor instead? They are the difference between classic and dud in movies, and they could improve a lot in games. You’ve shown with Andromeda and Rage 2 that you can turn crap into something intriguing to little to no more cost. You could intervene on the first draft before actors start recording.

    1. Naota says:

      “Script surgeon” is already an accurate descriptor for an ordinary video game writer.

      I’ve come away from mission pitches thinking “Wow, it’s a good thing I ask myself ‘What would a Shamus player say?’ before I draft these…”

      Because if I wasn’t also a story snob, the poor writer would legitimately need to concoct a small novella of exposition just to explain where the food and bullets come from, since he often doesn’t control the setting or the premise.

  16. pseudonym says:

    Congrulations on your baby, Paul!

    About the question I posted: my question was posted at the last rage 2 post, where Shamus showed said qualities. I did not expect it to be answered in so much detail! Thanks!

    I do not necessarily agree with the assessment that you would need to grow for 12 years inside the company, and do stuff that is not your core competency (dialog) first. That would be a terribly run company. Also you could be employed as not the lead writer, but as someone for the lead writer to discuss ideas with. As those people are also important.

    But anyway, I am afraid that Shamus is right when he says that most game companies don’t value a good story. How many good games come out for story lovers nowadays? And then, the companies that do make these games, already have a decent writing team. Oh well. I hope it was an enjoyable question to think about.

    1. Naota says:

      I of course can’t speak for other triple A studios, but where I work we see writers at various levels for different tiers of content. What’s interesting is that these writers are not designers. In fact, as a designer myself, what often happens is I’m tasked with coming up with the themes and gameplay beats of the missions – effectively the plot! Only once this has been signed off on by a lead will a writer step in to work with me on explaining how it all makes sense and where it fits in the story and world tone.

      There are actually two breeds of writer-type person: the narrative designer who sits in on pitch meetings and makes suggestions and requests, trying to make sure the story’s themes are present, and the writer who actually produces dialogue, objectives, audiolog transcripts, and written text (though the process is half editing a designer’s ideas – see above).

      To be fair, I’m not a designer for the large, main-thread, ultrabudget missions, so things may change at the top of the pyramid, but this is how it looks from where I sit.

      What I’m trying to say is that in fact, most writers I’ve worked came into the job from outside. The humblest are English majors that made a good impression; above that are content producers – writers for local TV or indie games. Only the highest positions come from inside the company (or more likely, other studios) where I work.

  17. Christopher says:

    I’m happy to see the video is doing so well! Part of it is Bethesda nerd rage, I think( Not to downplay Isaac’s improved editing and the difference in video length and voice speed, I think all those changes were good). It’s been like two years, but maybe that Fallout 76 anger hasn’t abated yet, or at least, the people who watched Fallout 76 videos are all getting recommended your video because it was such a big blowup. In any case, I hope a good portion stick around for what’s next.

    1. John says:

      Fallout, with or without Bethesda, has a considerable appeal to the internet-inclined. I’ve been messing around with the Metacritic data that Shamus released yesterday. So far, I’ve really only looked at data from 2010. Most games released that year (about two-thirds of them) have less than 200 user reviews. Only 13 have 1,000 or more. Fallout: New Vegas has 3,860, making it the second-most user-reviewed game of 2010. (The game with the most user reviews is Mass Effect 2, with 4,572.)

    2. Chad Miller says:

      Just about every worst-of-list I saw this year (including the “disappointments” on this very site!) included remarks that Fallout 76 was actually released in 2018 but it felt like it was in the news all of 2019. Fallout 1st coming so late in 2019 didn’t help matters. It’s still fresh.

  18. Dreadjaws says:

    I think the Danger Gazers thing is being given too much credit. First of all, it’s not the first time a developer does such a thing. Despite his words, this guy clearly knew what he was doing. Second, his claim that the game saw a 400% increase in sales over launch day doesn’t really mean much unless we get some actual numbers. For all we know, one guy bought it at launch day and then four more did it after it was released in TPB.

    But the real meat of the subject is that the claim stated by the guy who wrote that e-mail (“You’ve been saying for decades that people who pirate are not potential costumers who wouldn’t buy the game anyway, but it seems like they actually are.”) isn’t in any way proven true. The reality is that many people, while not dedicated pirates, they use pirated copies of games as unofficial demos. Those people have always been potential customers.

    Furthermore, again, until we see some actual numbers, we can’t be sure how many of those people bought the game. Even if we were going to believe that people who hadn’t any intention of ever paying for the game did it just because they saw the developer’s message, they might just be the very few normal exceptions that exist in every case. It certainly doesn’t put the whole pirate community in a new light.

    1. Fizban says:

      he reality is that many people, while not dedicated pirates, they use pirated copies of games as unofficial demos. Those people have always been potential customers.

      But the important bit for the anti-DRM argument is that those potential customers are *lost* if the DRM actually prevents them from pirating the game to try it first. If the majority of pirates are using it for demos and then converting into sales, suppressing piracy means actively *losing sales*, rather than magically generating them.

      All it really does is make two types of pirate: the kind that wasn’t going to buy anyway, and the kind that wasn’t going to buy until after they pirated it. The third and final type, the kind that sees the game unavailable for pirating and thus buys it instead, I’m pretty damn sure is a tiny, tiny percentage. Even if it was an even split that would be only 1/3, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it was less than 10%. And we’ve seen games that manage to avoid cracks for significant periods of time did not have significant increases in sales, which only supports that idea.

      None of which is new of course.

      1. baud says:

        I also think that pirates aren’t always “never buy” or “pirated the game to try before buying”, it might depends on the game, for example people would be more reluctant to not buy a game from a small indie than a AAA developer or in a genre they like (I read that article a few months ago, I think there’s a good idea on pirate behavior: Piracy and the four currencies). I’ve been mostly in the never buy camp when pirating games, but a few times (maybe 3 out of 20-30 pirated games (does it count if I’m not the one who downloaded the game?)) the game has been good enough that I bought it; even then I didn’t say to myself “I’ll try this before buying”, it was “I’m not buying it, but I still want to play it”, before deciding the game was worth a purchase.

  19. baud says:

    I’ve used thepiratebay and other torrents trackers before, without any care, as in running repackaged/unsigned installers with admin rights on my personal computer while having no antivirus. I don’t think I ever had a issue, or any trojan/virus I’ve gotten has stayed discreet enough that I’ve not spotted them.

    Regarding the top seeded games right now on TPB, I’m not sure it’s the best games or even all recent AAA, with games like Fallout 4, Far Cry 5, Minecraft, Age of Empire 3, GTA SA, Skyrim, Sims 4. The only 2019 games in the first 30 are Jedi Fallen Order and Football Manager 2019. So I don’t think it’s the good games that stay seeded, but rather games that people want to play/try, but not buy.

    Also TPB is not the only tracker in town, so maybe the dynamics on other are totally different, with only recent AAA instead of a wide variety of games.

    As for myself, there’s a few pirated games that I ended buying because they were good games and I wanted them in my library.

  20. MarsLineman says:

    Congrats on the Fallout video! Fwiw, I think it’s by far your best video to date, both in terms of your delivery, as well as the fact that the video footage is very relevant to the spoken material (and contains jokes/ references of its own). Based on the numbers you posted previously, it looks like your older videos are also getting more views as this video brings attention to your channel.

    Just one suggestion- on your Patreon page, your description only mentions this blog and that you’re a writer, with no mention of your new commitment to producing video content. Maybe you should also mention your YT channel, and how Patreon support will help you continue to produce video content as well? Otherwise, people who find you through YouTube (and want to support future video content) might be confused and less willing to give you support- they want to support new videos being produced, but all they see mentioned is a blog

    Anyway, congrats again on the Fallout video getting some very well-deserved attention. Here’s hoping it’s just the beginning of a long-term trend

  21. Wilhelm says:

    Any chance that there are higher resolution? images of DM of the Ring ?

  22. Grimwear says:

    All I know about Savage Lands is the Kotaku review in which they pulled a Campster and had the wrath of the internet befall them. In regards to universally loved games that never appealed to me I’ve fallen for a few of them. I remember buying Brothers- A Tale of Two Sons and found it tedious and boring. The same thing with Undertale. I wanted to go through and play Undertale but as soon as I booted it up and found out there were no sound options I was just baffled. I like playing games while listening to podcasts and youtube videos. If I can’t remove your game music then I’ll go play something else and I did.

  23. noga says:

    Mmm I guess it’s a good place to ask. The RSS goes only so-many (few) episodes back. Is there any way to get a complete RSS to feed to my app?

    1. Shamus says:

      It’s currently set to 32 entries. Is that what you’re seeing?

      I could probably up it to 100 if I wanted, but 100 full-text entries might be a bit much for people.

      1. noga says:

        yeah I get that. I also know it’s kind of current podcast and not necessarily one to binge, but I kind of got obsessed over it. never mind.

  24. Liessa says:

    The Warcraft 3: Reforged situation is the perfect example of why I disagree that review-bombing makes review scores ‘useless’. Of course it’s true that a game isn’t ‘objectively’ worth 0.5/10 just because loads of people are rating it 0, but it’s impossible to ‘objectively’ determine that anyway. What a review-bomb does show beyond doubt is that the devs have done something to really, REALLY piss off their fans – and personally, as a potential customer, I absolutely want to know how and why. Even if I end up disagreeing with the reasons behind it, it’s still valuable information. And from what I’ve observed, the really stupid types of review-bomb – e.g. “the devs said something that offended me on Twitter” – are actually fairly rare; usually I can at least see the reviewers’ point, even if it’s something that wouldn’t matter that much to me personally.

    Anyway: Congrats on the success of your latest video Shamus! I did watch it and drop you a ‘like’, which hopefully contributed a tiny bit to the benevolence of The Algorithm. Here’s to many more!

    And on a completely-unrelated-to-the-podcast note, I wondered if this had come to your attention: New sci-fi RPG from BioWare veterans announced – and it sounds like Mass Effect. Something to keep an eye on perhaps?

    1. Shamus says:

      “Something to keep an eye on perhaps?”

      Both eyes, as often as I can.</GandalfVoice>

    2. tmtvl says:

      Yeah, review bombing often is players’ only recourse for getting their voice heard. When a game gets review bombed people wonder why it’s happening and that can get word out of things that a publisher/developer is doing that the playerbase objects to (lootboxes, paid mods,…).

      I feel like there’s a hole in the market for an intermediary organ that mediates between players and creators, but that’s a large gap to bridge.

      1. Liessa says:

        And the problem is exacerbated by the prevalence of microtransactions and lootboxes, especially in AAA games. I’m convinced that’s one of the main reasons why review-bombing has become so common in recent years – what’s the point of ‘voting with your wallet’ if the devs can make more money from 1% of the player base than from all the rest put together? As you say, disgruntled players feel they have no other way to make their voices heard.

        One thing that might help a little is if online stores had some sort of ‘purchasing experience’ rating for customers, separate from their rating of the game itself. I’m actually quite surprised that places like Steam don’t already do this. Of course, plenty of people would still downvote the game itself out of spite, but even during review bombs you’ll often see comments like “the game itself is fine, the problem is the microtransactions/DRM/whatever”.

      2. default_ex says:

        That intermediary is suppose to be publishers but for some bizarre reasons in gaming the publishers buy creators instead of their creations. I don’t mean that as they don’t buy the creations but that’s only the short term, the long term is having the developer of a hit to create another hit or to grab up talent that is needed for some project in the company.

    3. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Sort of missing the point there Liessa. Review bombing ABSOLUTELY makes the review score worthless because the idea of a review score is meant to be comparative. The function of review bombing (RB from here on) is to intentionally remove the comparative information from the score in order to punish the developer/publisher/franchise/brand/whatever. As a tool to bring across that punishment message, it is somewhat effective. However, by doing that, the RB is intentionally making the reviews worthless. You can no longer see if people think that Warcraft 3 Reforged is one of the best strategy games released this year or more average or whatever because that information was deliberately removed and replaced with a different message no longer aimed at people reading the reviews for information. That score is now a dagger aimed at a target instead.

      tl;dr the entire POINT of review bombing is to artificially remove context from the aggregating of scores. All a score tells you, post bombing, is that people are VERY angry about something, and nothing else.

  25. Duoae says:

    I am really liking the knock-on effect of the discovery of Shamus’ videos on his youtube channel:

    Image link

    It’s really satisfying to see his previous videos increasing in count. That also includes his Bethesda/Fallout video which, I suppose is still monetised (though I don’t get any ads on it) – that would be cool to speak about next Diecast!

  26. Moss says:

    It’s been ten days since this podcast was put up, but I have to get something about the Reforged fiasco off my chest:

    Why do all the articles and videos mention altered cut-scenes as their first complaint?

    It’s bizarre to me, because the altered cut-scene in the finished product is clearly superior to what Blizzard showed at Blizzcon.

    Look, WarCraft III and vanilla World of WarCraft were not dramatic experiences. They were fantasies, yes, but the world they built was grounded and real. But modern WoW and especially the cut-scene they showed at Blizzcon are akin to soap operas. There’s nothing wrong with soap operas, but WarCraft III wasn’t one. The overly dramatic cut-scene with music and Arthas’ new voice doesn’t mesh with the rest of the game. I don’t know why they reverted it, if it was because of time constraint or an artistic choice, but the cut-scene we got is more in the character of WarCraft III than what was promised, and I’m super happy about that.

    Reforged clearly has a lot of problems (I even refunded my purchase a few days ago) but that cut-scene that’s always brought up as the first (and implicitly best) example of a downgrade is not one of them.

    1. stylesrj says:

      I think people bring up the cutscene because essentially they were promised a delicious strawberry ripple ice cream with white chocolate chips.
      But what they got instead was vanilla ice cream from one of those more expensive brands.

      So technically it’s a downgrade because while they promised you ice cream, it wasn’t the flavour they originally set out to give you. Nothing wrong with vanilla and it’s nice that it’s a good quality vanilla but people expected something different, especially when all the marketing still tells you you’re getting the strawberry ripple.

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 *