Diecast #289: Streaming and Game Design, Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday Feb 10, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 131 comments

As always: If you’ve got questions for the show, the email is in the header image.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Mindustry again?

I know we were kinda negative on it, but honestly it’s an interesting game for very little money. I’d still suggest giving it a try if the pitch of “Factorio + Tower Defense” sounds fun to you.

Also, if you’ve tried the multiplayer then please let me know in the comments.

09:38 Is streaming making games dumber?

Or: Is making streaming-friendly games wind up giving us games that are too shallow if you’re not streaming?

I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the presence of streaming was changing the way people design games.

16:50 Latest video: Comments vs. Likes

27:00 Shamus goes on a long digression on old comic books.

31:16 Brilliant but Obscure?

The same developer made Overgrowth and Receiver?

Here’s his 2014 GDC talk on animation:

Link (YouTube)

40:56 Mailbag: Preventing the Collapse of Civilization

Dear Twenty Sided Die That’s Been Cast,

I’ve come across a conference talk by Jon Blow where he discusses the impact of modern day programming languages and high level tools on software quality, and what it means for our society as a whole. It’s an hour long talk, so here’s the keynotes version:

Today, software is ubiquitous in everyday life. At the same time, the convenience of modern day coding tools has made the need for low level software engineers go down. According to Jon Blow, this makes for a potentially dangerous situation where the number of people who really know how software works underneath the hood is decreasing, while our dependence on software is increasing. He compares this dynamic to how ancient civilizations used to rely on inventions and technology too few people understood, eventually leading to unsustainability and collapse.

The talk is actually titled “Preventing the collapse of civilization”. Here’s the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pW-SOdj4Kkk

I know I’ve left a ton of stuff out, but I’d still love to hear your thoughts on this.

All the best and stay awesome,

Here is the video in question:

Link (YouTube)

I don’t agree with all of his conclusions / dire predictions, but it’s a fantastic talk. And even though I’m not as pessimistic as Blow, he makes a lot of good points.

57:37 Mailbag: JFO vs. Mass Effect

Dear Artists Currently Known as The Diecast,

I was very happy to hear Shamus had enjoyed Jedi: Fallen Order. I’ve watched Joseph Anderson stream the game, and I couldn’t help but notice the plot similarities it had to the original Mass Effect. Ancient ruins of a long-extinct alien civilization? Check. Chasing down a macguffin across numerous planets? Check. A cool ship with a galaxy map and crew members you can get to know? Check! An encounter with a vision/hologram of a member of the aforementioned ancient species towards the end? Check-a-roo!

And it’s not just story structure stuff like that, either. The way the Zepho are presented, what their ruins look like, I thought it all emanated very distinct ME1/Prothean vibes. I’d love to know if you had similar observations, and whether or not it could have influenced your overall impression of the game.


1:03:41 Mailbag: Script Book

Dear Diecast,

Hey, did you guys know that you can now buy a script book for Insomniac’s Sony’s Marvel’s Spider-Man? I’m not sure what it contains beyond the script for the cutscenes, but there is allegedly at least some content related to the process of writing for a AAA video game.

Interview with Vice Games (Waypoint):


Amazon listing:



I can’t believe this happened just as I completed an article speculating on changes in the script. (I finished the script yesterday, and the book officially releases tomorrow.) I suppose someone will buy it and we’ll find out if I was completely prescient / misguided.

1:08:31 Mailbag: Trying different builds.

Hey, Young Spooner,
have you ever run into that problem where you start playing a RPG, maybe get through the tutorial and a few early battles, decide your character/build isn’t interesting, go back and repeat the previous steps a few times, and when you finally have an interesting character, you’re tired and sick of the game, so you turn it off and never touch it again?

If you were a game developer, what could you add to/change about your game to avoid this sort of “reroll burnout”?


This is the first question in a long time that has me stumped.


From The Archives:

131 thoughts on “Diecast #289: Streaming and Game Design, Mailbag

  1. Grimwear says:

    Regarding the question about burnout and making new characters I have that problem with any game that gives me new game plus. I finish the game, go into new game plus and generally play for an hour or two because I want to see just what carries over, how strong I am compared to enemies, etc. But then I want to maybe replay with a brand new build and in my mind realize I would just have to replay the same content I just finished. Kills my desire to make a new character which is unfortunate because I love making alts.

    Also I consider streaming games a fad. The first ones will of course make money but once the novelty of them wears off it won’t translate into sales or long term viability though there’s always exceptions. The first one I can think of is Goat Simulator. It was all the rage with streamers and I was sent it as a gift, played a bit and…there’s nothing there. I never went back. There have been a few that made a splash though like Getting Over It, and more recently that Duck game. Either way there have been many games with integrated options for streamers (like adding obstacles in Cluster Truck) but in my opinion I feel leaning so heavily on streaming will just damage your sales long term since the average player will then spend all their time watching streamers and making the streamer interact with the game and never actually go out and buy it for themselves.

    1. Dev Null says:

      when you finally have an interesting character, you’re tired and sick of the game, so you turn it off and never touch it again?

      Uhm… allow character re-specs? Presumably at some in-game cost to prevent you doing it entirely casually, but honestly in most games it’s enough of a hassle that who would bother to re-spec for every fight? And if they wanted to, why not let them? In fact, I dabbled with Rift (the MMORPG) at one point, and I’ll probably-entirely-inaccurately describe their system as allowing you to have multiple builds at the same time, that you could switch between. There’s possibly a whole RPG to be made out of the bizzarre storyline that justifies that?

      Also, Jonathan Blow is an alias, right? What parent would be so cruel as to dub their spawn Jo Blow?

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Giving your child that name would be a be a low blow indeed. Though if Mr & Mrs Blow were religious, they could have called him Job…

        Anyway. Allowing character repecs is a great idea, that has only enhanced the games I’ve seen it in. From mixing up the combat to trying out new things to going ‘damn, I wish I’d put that skill point in X rather than Y, what was I thinking?’ it’s great.
        Abusable? Sure, if you’re really dedicated, but if it’s a single player game…

        And if there are any Grognards who complain about it because being locked into character decisions is somehow part of the game experience, you could include an Achievement for not doing it.

      2. tmtvl says:

        It’s fine, if anyone tried to bully him he’d punch them with his Stand.

      3. Echo Tango says:

        Re-speccing definitely seems like the cheapest option to implement. Randomized game-content would also help, but is a huge change compared to normal story-driven stuff. For example, in Fallout 3, I got sick of re-starting the game, to try different builds, because I’d accidentally memorized the first few towns / encounters, just by playing the game. Randomly picking a few different story-branches, side-quests etc, would be relatively cheap (just re-use the existing content, move it around the map a little bit), but still a lot more work than just allowing re-speccing a character.

        1. Syal says:

          Re-specs don’t do it for me, since at some point the game is going to expect you to be comfortable with your skills and switching over to unfamiliar skills at that point will be annoying.

          But the only alternative I can think of is “unique starting quests for each build”.

        2. jpuroila says:

          I like how New Vegas did it. You have a tutorial zone where you get to do a bit of everything(and there isn’t much of real importance, story-wise), and when you exit it, you get a chance to re-spec your character once. So if you feel like trying different builds, you can just make a save before then and if you don’t like your current build, you can start from that point without having to go through all the tutorial stuff again.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            The problem with that, is that you don’t find out that some builds are broken until later in the game. Shotguns and pistols in particular barely scale to the mid-game, and fail even with slugs / AP ammo.

            1. jpuroila says:

              Shotguns are some of the most overpowered weapons if you actually specialize in them by taking the shotgun-specific perks. Even if their damage is underwhelming against high DT enemies(which are pretty rare in New Vegas), the knockdown chance makes up for it. Pistols aren’t so great, but with weapons like That Gun, they do just fine in mid-game and only start to really fall behind in late game.

              Also… the game doesn’t really allow you to overspecialize like that. You can make a character that only uses pistols, sure, but there aren’t many perks that only apply to pistols. I can only recall one right now, and THAT only applies in VATS. So even if you specialize in pistols, you can still pick up a rifle and do just fine.

              And finally, as has been pointed out in other comments, allowing the player to respec into entirely different builds in the middle of the game has its own problems. Doing it this way avoids those problems(at least mostly) while still letting you skip the tutorial-zone. And of course, with all the different factions you can side with and all the quests with multiple ways to solve them, having to play through parts of the game again isn’t really a big deal(at least, compared to doing so in more restrictive games).

      4. Grimwear says:

        Respecs are interesting but won’t always work. You mention Rift but how would that work with something like WoW? Sure you can respec your class from say Fury Warrior to Protection Warrior but you can’t move between classes. It would break the game. People would just make the easiest class to level then once they hit max level they’d swap to whichever class they actually want to be.

        But let’s ignore multiplayer and focus on singleplayer since being stand alone without affecting others play is much easier to deal with.

        Skyrim: You can easily respec by just focusing on what skills you want to use.

        Witcher 3: You can easily respec by buying an item and no harm no foul.

        Dark Souls 2 and 3: Can easily respec though DS3 only lets you respec…3 times? I think?

        Dragon’s Dogma: Here you can also easily respect between the classes however any stat increases you got while leveling will remain meaning if you play a warrior for 100 levels then swap to mage you will have less power overall than someone who played a mage for those same 100 levels.

        Diablo 2: Essential works like WoW.

        Borderlands: Essentially works like WoW.

        At this point it becomes a situation where rather that respeccing it’s more a matter of class hopping. Any game that involves distinct classes has no easy to jump between them. How would one approach a system like that? Yes it would be convenient but it also seems so weird to me to say play an Assassin in Diablo 2, level her up to like level 60, find an amazing piece of Barbarian gear and then just full swap to Barbarian to use it. And that’s not even touching on the fact that the player would have no idea how to play the class. Which is very different from say The Witcher 3 where even if one hasn’t specced in say Magic Signs, odds are good they’ve still used them while playing and have a concept of how they work.

      5. Dues says:

        I love when games let me re spec, but another thing they can do is have a skippable tutorial that let’s you try out all the class types. After you’ve learned what each class is like Then you choose your build. I made 5 characters and played the tutorial for Shadowrun 5 times so I could try the different classes, and then never played the game again. If they had a tutorial with every class in it as a companion then let you choose your class and stats at the end I probably would have played more then just the tutorial. They even have two companions to try but they have limited abilities and only 2 of 6 classes.

        1. evilmrhenry says:

          Considering how popular “quick-start” mods are in Bethesda open-world games, allowing skipping the tutorial and opening area sounds like a useful improvement to make replaying the game and trying out new classes easier.

      6. I was about to say this. Yeah, respec is the way to go. It was one thing that made Titan Quest way better than Diablo II in my eyes. Diablo III made it a bit TOO trivial, though. Locking the player into something they no longer want to play is a great way to get them to quit your game in disgust. It’s also extremely common in RPG’s for stuff that was working great in early game to suddenly become worthless in late game (or vice versa) which can make for absolutely miserable play experiences.

        It’d be nice if the devs would actually balance their game, but I don’t think I’ve ever seen an RPG system that was complex enough to be interesting succeed in doing this out the gate . . . or even on the 70th iteration. Let the people play what they want.

  2. Lino says:

    OK, what’s the deal?! The “G” in GIF stands for “Graphic”. WHY do you guys pronounce it as “JIF”?

    1. Shamus says:

      In 1992, I wrote my own gif decoder. I wanted one that could take the 256 color gifs I’d collected and do them justice on my 16 color monitor with the help of dithering or (in extreme cases) by switching to black-and white.

      I had the specs, purportedly from gif creator Steve Wilhite. It was a big old text file, written very informally, describing the theory behind the format and also the specs so that you could implement your own reader. (Or writer, but I never took a crack at that.)

      The text file came with a single large gif file that you could use for testing. It was a picture of Steve himself in some outdoor setting. In the corner of that image, it said:

      “And by the way, it’s pronounced “jiff”.

      Like everyone else, I’d assumed it was pronounced with a hard G sound. But hey – this guy invented the thing, right? So I took the author’s advice.

      Please direct further complaints to Mr. Wilhite.

      1. Shamus says:


        What I wrote above was from memory. 28 years is a long time, and I was worried I’d forgotten the details. But then I found THIS page:


        It turns out it wasn’t a picture of Steve Wilhite, it was a picture of Bob Berry, who was one of the people at Compuserve that was in charge of implementing Wilhite’s spec. I remember the image was enormous – when displayed at full scale it filled my monitor. Here is the exact image:

        Not so big now, eh?

        I can’t tell you how many hours I spent staring at different broken versions of this image as I worked to implement a spec I barely understood with my still nacent programming skills and without the help of the internet. This is a massive blast from the past.

        Anyway, the spec claims “jif”. It’s a 28 year old habit for me now. Over time, I’m sure the other pronunciation will win out, since that’s what what most people intuit / assume on their own. But I’m going to stick with jif, because we go way back.

        1. Lino says:

          That’s so interesting! I’d heard how the creator pronounces it as “JIF”, but I didn’t know it was actually written in documentation, nor that you had such a personal connection with the format!

          Still, I’ll probably continue pronouncing it as “GIF”, since that’s the more common pronunciation I’ve heard (and because it’s easier to say in my language :D).

        2. Kathryn says:

          So…choosy programmers choose “jiff”?

          I’d normally be all over insisting we use the creator’s pronunciation, but hard G makes more sense, is easier for me to say, and just sounds better. (I don’t have strong feelings, though, and certainly don’t try to make other people change!) I wonder what the (possibly alien) anthropologists of the future will think. (I wonder about that a lot, actually. Possibly too much Planet Earth – I wonder what the alien version of David Attenborough is saying on the voiceover as alien audiences watch footage of us peering at computer screens, driving, playing sports, etc.)

          1. Higher_Peanut says:

            That sounds like the kind of mockumentary someone should go make. I’d watch it and knowing the setup it would probably get really meta about that.

            1. Lino says:

              Then you’ll probably love Zogg from Beetlegeuse – an alien who makes very interesting documentaries about Humans! Before you watch, him though, bear in mind that:

              – Closed captions are a must! It’s sometimes hard to make out what he’s saying
              – He doesn’t make videos anymore

              But what he does have is still quite enjoyable and interesting.

              A good place to start is the introduction to humans – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XFtmkILu6xg

          2. Duoae says:

            Not to mention that, in UK, Jiff is either 1) a cleaning product for bathrooms and kitchens or 2) a lemon flavoured juice used in cooking.

            Both pronunciations of jiff and giff work well in English but a soft ‘g’ is not common at the beginning of a word. The only one i can think of is giraffe. The other only ones i can think of is one derived from a french (Norman) name, Gerard/Gerald.

            1. Lino says:

              Jiff is either 1) a cleaning product for bathrooms and kitchens or 2) a lemon flavoured juice used in cooking.

              Doesn’t that cause… problems? At the very least, it must have lead to some very lengthy lawsuits over trademarks.

              1. Chad Miller says:

                Dunno how it works in the UK, but in the US trademarks are industry-specific. This has caused some conflicts as companies grow larger and expand into different lines of business.

                e.g. Apple Records is a record label with some huge bands, including The Beatles. Apple Computer was able to get away with being Apple since they weren’t involved in music at all, but we all know that didn’t stay true forever.

              2. Duoae says:

                They eventually harmonised the cleaning product to match the European product – “Cif”. As far as I know, Jif Lemon still exists. I don’t see why a trademark would be a problem though since they were non-competing products in very different markets and the branding was totally different.

            2. Kathryn says:

              Ha, that’s funny. It’s peanut butter in the US, with the marketing slogan “Choosy moms choose Jif”. (I actually meant to add a footnote explaining that since I know a lot of readers here are from outside the US but got distracted by my Alien David Attenborough thing.) (Lino, thanks for the rec – I might actually check that out, and I never watch YouTube videos.)

              How about gentle/gently/gentlemen and germ? But yeah, it’s not common.

            3. Chad Miller says:

              “gentle” (and a host of other words with a similar root like “gentry” and “gentleman”), giant, generate, gerund, genesis. That’s what I came up with in about a minute.

              1. Duoae says:

                As in, “Gentil” from old French? Meaning high-born.

                Giant was originally pronouned Geant (with a hard “G”) which was later influenced by the French pronunciation.

                I’ll give you generate. That seems to have come directly from latin to English.

                I feel that gerund is cheating since it’s (according to the dictionary definition – as this is the firs time I’m hearing of this word) a latin word to describe a quirk of the latin language.

                Genesis is a weird one, I’ll give you that too… but still, we took the pronunciation from the Greek.

                Neither Greek or Latin are actually Old English.

                Here, let me give a direct example:

                Historically, /t?, ?/ developed from /k, sk/ by palatalization, and some cases of /j/ developed from palatalization of /?/, while others developed from Proto-Germanic *j. (Although this palatalization occurred as a regular sound change, later vowel changes and borrowings meant that the occurrence of the palatal forms was no longer predictable, that is, the palatals and the velars had become separate phonemes.) Both the velars /k, ?/ (including [?]) and the palatals /t?, j/ (including [d?]) are spelled as ?c?, ?g? in Old English manuscripts.

                In modern texts, the palatalized versions may be written with a dot above the letter: ???, ???. (As just mentioned, it would otherwise not generally be possible to predict whether a palatal or velar is meant, although there are certain common patterns; for example, ?c? often has the palatalized sound before the front vowels ?i?, ?e?, ?æ?. Note that Old English had palatalized ?g? in certain words that have hard G in Modern English due to Old Norse influence, such as ?iefan “give” and ?eat “gate”.)

                In other words, it seems these pronunciations changed due partially to influence from other cultures and partly due to a natural shift in speaking. It seems weird that these shifts have happened in multiple cultures, though… I don’t have enough background in the topic to really explore that.

      2. krellen says:

        The author is dead and does not get to dictate common usage. Also, “jiff” is just grammatically incorrect.

        Please forward this complaint to Mr. Wilhite or Mr. Berry as appropriate.

      3. Decius says:

        I don’t believe that authorial intent controls the meaning of a work, even if that work is a normative specification.

        1. Shamus says:

          Right, but I learned how to pronounce it from the spec in 1992. So it was about 20 years before people noticed the pronunciation discrepancy and began arguing about it.

          I’m not loyal to the spec, I’m loyal to a 20 year habit, and I don’t think that “Well this makes more sense to me” is any stronger of an argument than “This is what I was taught and what I’ve developed as a lifelong habit.”

          I could take the time and effort to change, but then I’d just end up with the OTHER group needling me. Since neither road leads to peace, I might as well stick with what’s familiar and easy.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      If English always used J and G for the distinct sounds, this wouldn’t be a problem. But we’ve got xylophones, giraffes, etc, which gives us these annoying spelling-arguments.

      1. Duoae says:

        I mention this above but a lot of these inconsistencies are because we took words from other languages. Giraffe, for example, is from the French word – hence the weird pronunciation. The correct English name for giraffe is “camelopard” which just sounds silly!

        1. Kylroy says:

          Minor quibble for me: the correct English word for “giraffe” is…”giraffe”. If you’re looking to use Greek-derived word that has been antiquated for over a century, rather than the French-derived word that’s in common usage, you use “camelopard”.

          My eye twitches every time people talk about the “correct” word for something in English. The language is such a mutt and so mutable that pointing out that the commonly-used term for something is “incorrect” means, at best, that it’s a decade or two from being also *techincally* “correct”.

          1. Duoae says:

            You’re technically correct*. I was trying to demonstrate that we took words and their associated pronunciations from other languages. We didn’t ‘invent’ the word or pronunciation of “giraffe” like we have many other modern words. For example, you look at how the word “computer” has been absorbed from English into other languages.

            Every modern langauge is quite a mutt :)

            *The best kind of correct!

        2. Echo Tango says:

          We stole words from other languages, but didn’t bother making unique letters for all the sounds that weren’t originally in our language. This is a solvable problem.

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      The “U” in SCUBA stands for “Underwater” but we still pronounce it “Scoobah”. English is weird.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        I think that was just an attempt to avoid Skub

      2. Hector says:

        And in both cases, what had been an acronym became it’s own word with a specific, coded, meaning.

        Immaculate pronouncing g instead of j tho.

      3. Duoae says:

        Pronunciation of acronyms don’t have to reflect the constituent words, especially since vowels are often modified by the preceding or trailing letters.

        For example – (using your example) uber. Under. The consonant following the vowel changes the sound.

        Again, (and i don’t know this for sure) i think this might have origins in that many or those sounds came from other languages. In this instance, German and French. Since the specific vowel/ consonant combinations might not have existed in the lexicon before that point, the learned pronunciation of the combination took precedence in those situations.

        In this example, off the top of my head, i can’t think of any naturally occurring “ub” outside of “cub/bug” etc, which follow the normal deep ‘u’ sound instead of a typically Germanic long (read double-O) ‘u’. I can also point to the French Bublé.

      4. Kestrellius says:

        Man, now that you’ve told me that, it feels like such a missed opportunity! “Skubbuh” is so much fun to say.

    4. Jason says:

      The P in JPEG stands for Photographic, but we don’t pronounce it “jay-feg”

      1. Kylroy says:

        Right, because it’s a JPEG. not a JPHEG.

        1. Jason says:

          But your argument just shows that you can’t rely on the original pronunciation of the letter when pronouncing an initialism. See also all of the examples above. Some will argue that the G in GIF should be hard because the G in Graphic is hard. The R in Graphic helps to modify the G. There are no words that start with GR with a soft G, (just as there are no words that start with PH with a hard P), but the R isn’t in GIF. If it was a “grif”, nobody would be saying “jrif”

          And you can argue that the G in “gift” is hard, but I would argue that the G in “gin” is soft, so the I doesn’t necessarily modify the G the same every time.

          I really don’t care how people pronounce GIF either way (I go back an forth myself), but using the argument that the G in Graphic is hard is not a good enough argument.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Interestingly, despite there being no words starting with “gr” with a soft-G sound (so like “jr”), words starting with “dr” tend to be pronounced as if they began with “jr”, at least in my neck of the English-speaking woods. (Draw. Drown. Drowsy.) So English apparently has nothing against that particular word-initial combination of phonemes.

    5. Paul Spooner says:

      I usually pronounce it with a hard g, like “gift” without the trailing tee. In fact, that’s how I pronounced it at 31:30 when I was joking about web hosting. But it’s not a big deal to me, so when Shamus used jiff, I didn’t feel the need to deviate. He is the host after all!

  3. Thomas says:

    Some people think about the most best way to solve a problem, and some people think about the best way to solve a problem with the people we have. Jonathan Blow strikes me as being in the first camp. Sure we should all know how this works – but the truth is most people won’t, even if we want them to.

    I’m in that camp too. I kept making nice technical solutions and then I’d get disappointed watching them slowly degrade when I left. I’m coming to the conclusion that if my solutions don’t work when new people take over, then it wasn’t a solution at all. But I haven’t learned how to do the solutions that work for people yet.

    Either way, Photoshop strikes me as a market problem not a tech one. You can make Photoshop run faster. But Adobe aren’t getting the hard do-or-die feedback that will force them to become better.

    1. Joe says:

      “I kept making nice technical solutions and then I’d get disappointed watching them slowly degrade when I left. I’m coming to the conclusion that if my solutions don’t work when new people take over, then it wasn’t a solution at all. But I haven’t learned how to do the solutions that work for people yet.”

      I know a guy who retired, but got called back because he was the only one who knew how a specific thing worked. He put the process up on the whiteboard. Apparently when that work moved offices, they took the whiteboard with them, process intact. Though that’s more lack of institutional knowledge.

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Why wouldn’t they take photos of the whiteboard and save both paper copies and the digital photo files rather than a board that could be erased? That’s bizarre to me.

        1. Geebs says:

          Vampire ink.

      2. Decius says:

        If they kept the whiteboard, they kept the institutional knowledge.

        In a particularly fragile way.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Having watched a few of Jonathan’s talks on his new programming language (Jai), I don’t think he’s quite as focused on shiny pure-technological solutions as you think. Half of the designed features of Jai are to reduce the mental load of the programmer, so that you don’t need only rock-stars to do complex programming[1]. Inconsistent rules about different types of brackets, orderings of stuff in a statement – anything you need to remember in a specific language, library, or framework, is something that reduces your ability to write bug-free software. Bug-free meaning, it works in the real world, and can be understood by the next person reading it.

      [1] The other half, is making the language stay out of the way of rock-star programmers, so they can solve very complex problems.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Easy things should be easy, hard things should be possible? Where have I heard that before?

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I had a summer job where they primarily used Perl scripts to help biologists doing DNA sequencing stuff. Worked totally fine. :)

    3. Daimbert says:

      I’ve actually had to come in and maintain products where the original team had moved on, one of which was a product that I knew but was so large that there were parts of it — especially the newer parts — that I didn’t know, and one of which was a product done by contractors that had moved on. If this is known and people are given the time, things will work out okay. I think things degrading over time after someone leaves is less a problem with the solution — unless it’s esoteric or inflexible — and more a problem that at that point no one really CARES about that solution anymore. Given deadlines and the like people are always going to be willing to hack solutions in, and that will degrade a solution unless that solution is perfect. Once the expert who keeps saying “Don’t do it like that!” leaves, people will indeed start doing it like that.

    4. Lino says:

      I think it depends on the field. There are some fields that are so complex that you need specific experts and specific solutions. E.g. I have a friend who’s a CEO of a company with about 160 employees. However, he has a lot of experience with heavy-duty construction equipment (bulldozers, excavators, etc.) from different brands.

      So, when something breaks and the mechanics don’t know what to do, he’s the one who goes in and fixes it. He’s so good, that very often other companies call him in to fix their equipment. On some of those occasions, a fellow business owner calls him in, because the manufacturer’s authorized repair center can’t figure out what’s wrong, and they’ve been trying to solve the issue for weeks (or even months). Or sometimes it’s a machine that they don’t support anymore, and – again – he’s one of the very few people who has the inter-disciplinary skills to fix it.

      1. Thomas says:

        What I meant is your solution should work with the people who are going to be doing it. In my case I don’t work in a very technical area so my solutions should be less technical.

        Equally, I don’t think there are enough good programmers out there for most companies to code close to the metal. Although I’m sure you can find systematic ways to make that easier.

  4. Joe says:

    Yes, Paul is right. I recently listened to a podcast about the Roman empire, the one from Mike Duncan. It spent most of its time at war, and most of *that* with itself. Who knows what could have been achieved if there was more time spent inventing than fighting?

    As for black boxes, there was a recent news article about how even the US military is struggling with not having permission to repair their vehicles. Considering they take high-tech vehicles out into the field to get thrashed around, it’s becoming a real problem.

    Frankly, I dream of a space opera future*. But I fear, for many reasons, we’ll never truly reach the stars. Come on, let’s just push this streaming and meming craze to the side, focus on finding some kind of workaround to the speed of light. If I had any skill with even slightly above basic maths, it’s what I’d work on. *Trek isn’t exactly perfect, but it’s better than any others I can name.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Our society isn’t the Vulcans; We’re the B-Ark of the Golgafrinchans, or possibly the Vogons.

      1. Kylroy says:

        I always felt that people missed the end of the Golgofrinchan story, where everyone on the A and C arks dies from an improperly disenfected telephone. I don’t know what Adams intended, but I always took the message to be “Maybe you *don’t* know which work is the important work.”

        1. Echo Tango says:

          OK, maybe I mangled that metaphor a bit, but the point is that our planet is too busy with bureaucracy and trivial things, to make big improvements. We used to send people to the moon and have entertainment TV; Now it’s just the entertainment…

          1. Higher_Peanut says:

            To be fair there wasn’t much on the moon to go back for (Yet. C’mon fusion) and the next step of interplanetary travel is a bit of jump. We’re still working on it when we can distract ourselves from whatever’s going on at the moment but Earth has never really been a united front. Even the moon landing was a patriotism waving contest first and scientific advancement second.

    2. Hector says:

      So, and I apologize if this sounds insulting, but that’s basically insane. You don’t jus “find a workaround” to the speed of light. First, it’s not clear that there is or can be a way to travel faster than light. That doesn’t mean it’s impossible, but rather that we have no examples of any such phenomena in nature anywhere.

      In other words, it takes a lot more than people wanting something for it to be so.

      1. Bubble181 says:

        That’s why the poster above doesn’t suggest solving it, but finding a work-around, I think.
        Simply flying faster in a straight line is impossible according to our current understanding of physics. Using some way to fold/warp space seems to not be theoretically impossible, merely technically impossible. Big difference, and who knows what other workarounds we may find?

        1. Dewwy says:

          Doesn’t the kind of non 3D symmetric space warping you need to do “warp travel” faster than the speed of light require a blob of negative energy-mass ? “Things that have negative energy-mass” is (to my undergrad Physicist knowledge) in exactly the same kind of theoretically impossible camp as “things that go faster than the speed of light”, which as a reminder to everyone is a statement that is functionally equivalent to “things that travel faster than the speed of causality”

        2. Hector says:

          I’m not really certain how to respond to this comment, because it sounds as though you have a slightly, errrrr… different view of scientific development than I.

          The short version is “No.” It’s not as though very smart people haven’t tried to come up with something. Let me be clear, what you, and the previous poster want, may not actually be possible at all. If it is possible, it seems likely to require fundamental breakthroughs we may not even be able to conceive if today, as well as energy production in amounts utterly incomprehensible to us. And that’s just step 1.

          By way if comparison, we actually know how to start fusion reactions. We’ve also spent something like 60 years trying to make a working fusion power plant and were still at it. Practical interstellar space travel would make that look like assembling two legos.

          1. Olivier FAURE says:

            Oh come on! If 200 hundred years ago, you had asked people if there was any possibility, at all, that a human being could go to the moon by being disassembled into its component particles, scanned, hosted on a free Google Particles account, transferred to a data center on the moon, and re-assembled, they would have called you insane! And yet doing so today is not only possible, but perfectly legal, which proves that…

            Oops, wrong timeline. Just… uh, pretend that I made all this up.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        Hey come on! He very humbly admitted he’s bad at maths. He clearly doesn’t have any idea of the difficulty of what he’s suggesting.
        Like, say I said “I’m bad at making friends. But if I was any good at it, I’d be working on becoming the first Pope who is also the President of the United States, and the Queen of England! Why is no one else working on this?” Sure, what I’m suggesting is impossible (though more possible than FTL AFAIK), but I’m in no danger of harming anyone with my blindingly ignorantly optimistic dream.
        A pat on the head and a “wouldn’t that be nice?” is probably more appropriate.

        1. Joe says:

          “A pat on the head and a “wouldn’t that be nice?” is probably more appropriate.”

          Damn, Paul. You really know how to kick me in the shins. Was I accidentally rude to you once? Did you hate my writing that much? Do you just have it in for Aussies?

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            I guess I miss DL. Kicking you in the shins is fun and all, but it’s just not the same.

            Seriously though, this is about you suggesting that smart people – which you confuse with being good at maths – should be working on making Star Trek a reality. It’s hard enough being smart without finding out people expect nonsense like that from you. And yes, I’ve read books on space folding and singularities, and books on “post-scarcity” economics, and my IQ is 146. What you’re suggesting is insulting because it’s implying that being “good at maths” is some sort of super-power that allows you to make nonsense fantasies a reality, and the only reason these supernatural capabilities aren’t being employed is because people are spending all their time “streaming and mem[e]ing”.

            So, I was actually trying to be nice. You said you didn’t know what you were talking about, and you’re clearly so ignorant that you don’t even know how to differentiate between wild fiction and reality, so an admission that it’s a lovely dream is just about all that can honestly be offered to your comments.

            And no, I don’t hold your bad writing against you. Or your Australian… ness. Should I? It’s pretty clear you hold my evaluation of your writing against me. I stand behind it as a fair evaluation.

            You hankering for a donnybrook of some kind? I’m not sure how that would work, maybe a video or something? Dueling banjos? A game of some sort? Choose your weapon sir! Er, except for friend-making. I was serious about being real bad at that.

            1. Joe says:

              No, it’s just that you came off as patronising. I react badly to that, as most people do. I can’t see you as the type who sets out to offend people, but when it comes to touchy subjects maybe read your posts another time through before hitting the button? That’s what I often do.

              It’s odd. You’re a good bloke, I often agree with you, laugh at your jokes, etc, a fair bit. But whenever we talk in the comments, we find ourselves at cross-purposes.

      3. Joe says:

        Yes, a workaround. Babylon 5 had hyperspace as an alternate dimension. BSG had some kind of folding space. You get the idea. A boy can dream, can’t he?

      4. Duoae says:

        Exactly, that’s why we need to find a way to move space around faster so that we can travel closer to the speed of light outside of our frame of reference!

    3. Biggus Rickus says:

      Roman society (through the late Republic) wasn’t terribly innovative outside of its military. It was well organized and adept at governance by the standards of antiquity. Basically, it was practical; the kind of society engineers would love…philosophically speaking.

      1. John says:

        I don’t know about that. As Roman society changed, Roman government changed quite a lot. Rome went from a (i) a monarchy to (ii) a consular republic to (iii) a consular republic with tribunes intended to safeguard the interests of the lower classes to (iv) a consular republic with tribunes where the wealthy were often able to buy off the tribunes or else incite mobs to murder them–those poor, poor Gracchi brothers–to (v) a basically ungovernable republic where wealthy and successful generals–I’m talking about Marius and Sulla here, since everyone always forgets about them–were able to seize dictatorial power in the name of “reform” until they died or voluntarily retired because social norms still mattered a little to (vi) a basically ungovernable republic where wealthy and successful generals were able to seize power and then not give it back until they died or a more successful wealthy general came along to (vii) an empire.

        Roman government was only practical in the sense that most of the changes to government were ad hoc and intended as practical measures to solve perceived problems–e.g., making sure that the lower classes weren’t so unhappy that they refused to serve in the army. To my knowledge, there weren’t a lot of Roman philosophers or political thinkers concerned with the ideal form of government. Nor, unless you believe Livy’s stories about the early king Numa Pompilius, did Rome have the same sort of lawgivers that you saw in the Greek world and Numa’s reforms mostly involved religious customs, which, if we believe Livy, were intended to keep the Romans too busy to get up to shenanigans.

        1. Biggus Rickus says:

          What do you think I meant when I called them “practical”? They weren’t given to high ideals beyond the very basic tenets of the tyranny of kings and Roman superiority to other societies. They governed practically, implementing solutions to problems as they arose. They did the same with military innovation. Running a stable empire on that scale out of a single city-state for a few hundred years is one of the more impressive accomplishments of the ancient world and speaks to some level of governmental talent.

          They weren’t perfect, obviously, and they failed to recognize the problems that would doom the Republic and ultimately the western empire, but we won’t recognize the problems that will doom our modern societies either. Everything is simpler in hindsight.

    4. Joe Informatico says:

      The Romans did invent. They invented better ways to wage war. And when they encountered people who were better at something than they were (the Celtiberians at swordsmithing, the Carthaginians at shipbuilding, the Gauls at armour-making), they adopted and refined those advances. They reorganized the legions multiple times after the existing system showed its limitations. They got so good at building forts and armed camps and especially roads because these allowed them to impose martial power over long distances, and ensure the flow of commerce and slaves that sustained their military power. And their periods of greatest stress tended to be those where their military might declined or was turned against themselves. And it worked–Rome persisted for almost a thousand years by enshrining the central role of the legions, and even after it “fell” its vestigial offshoot lasted another thousand years while its ecclesiastical successor is still around. Considering how most empires and dynasties in history lasted at most two or three centuries before ending that’s a pretty impressive record.

  5. tmtvl says:

    Typolice assemble:

    Is making steaming-friendly games wind up

    “Will making streaming-friendly games wind up”

  6. Thomas says:

    Your experience with YouTube comments is interesting. AngryJoe talked about how his community seemed to change when he reached a certain level of subscribers – comments were more demanding and less sympathetic.

    It’s clear the platform isn’t designed in a way that leads to good comment sections either. It’s difficult to respond to people and apparently the moderation tools are terrible.

    1. Chris says:

      I think after a certain point the perception of a channel changes. Like people expect it to be more professional, be more like a public service, and no longer think its just a guy in his basement putting together a video. That and the fact that the comment section becomes so large that people feel like they are screaming into a void hoping to get noticed.

  7. Echo Tango says:

    Our toolchain-ecosystem could be a lot less horrible (less bugs and slowness), but there’s not very much market incentive to make good tools. Just slap some lines of code together and shove it out the door. From what open-source tools I’ve read the code for, they’ve got a few more people with the desire to make something understandable, but they’re all run off of volunteering precious leisure time. :S

  8. Daimbert says:

    If you were a game developer, what could you add to/change about your game to avoid this sort of “reroll burnout”?

    It’s not a problem that I normally have. I usually have the other problem: I keep restarting and restarting games and run out of time — or get distracted by something else — before finishing it. Wizardry 8 is the best example of that sort of reroll behaviour, as it’s the only game I know that can distract me WITH ITSELF, where I decide to reroll a new party for it instead of finishing my existing game. But in that game I don’t usually burn out on the game, but instead find that the game in its later stages isn’t as much fun, and has been going on long enough that I get distracted by someone else.

    But taking lessons from games like that one and City of Heroes, the best way to avoid that sort of burn out, it seems to me, is to ensure that the change gives them something novel to play with, and that by the time that novelty wears off you’re engrossed in the game again. City of Heroes, for example, had each origin have a different starting story, and if you pick a new class but not a new story the powers and playstyle were different enough to not make the first few levels boring, and by the time you got out of the first part the stories and city areas were starting to heat up and be fun. For Wizardry 8, the different classes and characters were fun enough to cover off the first part, and by the time you hit the road you got to the town and picked up new characters and the plotlines. If you repeat things long enough you will indeed eventually get bored, but most people who will get bored with the repetition won’t have that strong an altitis anyway (some, of course, still will). So just make the different characters different enough to cover over the most repetitive stuff until the player gets into the story proper and isn’t as concerned with seeing the same things again (or is at least already past that and so is seeing new things).

    Part of this would be making it clear when a class or character isn’t working for you, as the earlier you figure that out the less you will be repeating with a new character.

    1. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

      Ooh, that’s a really good idea. I’d been thinking about games like Neverwinter Nights, Pathfinder Kingmaker, and Underrail, and all of those use the same tutorial/prologue/starting area for everyone (although, IIRC, Underrail lets you off the rails pretty quickly).

      Anyway, I think the two biggest.. contributors to rerolling are 1. you can’t test things before committing and 2. it’s hard to get a feel for how a character will play, until you reach higher levels. So, one solution would be some sort of testing ground/sandbox, where you can change abilities on the fly and spawn enemies and try lockpicking on a row of doors etc. etc.

      And, at least for me, the biggest causes of burnout are the repeated content and that basic, level 1, no skills combat is so boring. So, maybe unique tutorial levels for each class, maybe some procgen, maybe improve the combat until all RPGs have been turned into Jagged Alliance 2…

      1. DR134 says:

        Just had to chime in that Jagged Alliance 2 is probably my favorite game of all time. Thanks for bringing up those great memories of save scumming to find the exact series of actions to complete a nearly impossible series of kills/enemy misses. Can’t have my favorite mercs out of commission for long.

        “If you bite it Ice, who’s gonna feed the dog?”

  9. Hal says:

    Regarding RPG builds:

    I’m remembering the old Sierra games, Quest for Glory. The game had 3 character classes: Fighter, Mage, Thief. It was very much expected that you’d play through as each class. What made it work so well was that each character went through the game just a little differently from the others; combat was different, NPC interactions were changed, and you had other solutions available for the puzzles.

    It was still the same basic game, but because you interacted with it in other ways with each character class, it always felt fresh.

  10. Joshua says:

    “I don’t know, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the presence of streaming was changing the way people design games.”

    Weirdly enough, this seems to be an issue with some tabletop game design, namely D&D’s 5th Edition and how they design many of their modules. Although I personally love the system, I detest most of the official modules, because they design them with a few random elements* in them that might change from one play-through to another, to encourage “re-playability”.

    Despite their claims, I don’t really think there is enough changing to make any particular group want to replay the whole level 1-10 adventure over again (maybe 80% of the adventure would stay the same), but there’s been speculation from a number of people that this design is catering to those who are streaming the game (apparently that’s a big thing), because they’re getting to see a somewhat different show if two different groups run the same adventure but with different PCs and slightly different plot going on.

    To me, it affects the design because the modules lack sufficient details in them such as background, foreshadowing, etc., as if the writers are saying “We didn’t want to fill any of this stuff in because we weren’t sure which version of the module you’d be running”. This all ends up being a lot more work for the DM, with a lot more risks of having to scramble to figure out what to do if the PCs do anything slightly unexpected because the modules are incomplete. Personally, I’d prefer one main write-up of the module that was given more focus and detail than one that has 4-6 different ways to run it with bare-bones details each which also have the side effect of putting a bunch of crap in there you won’t need for any particular version.

    *Examples (not all-inclusive):
    Curse of Strahd has the locations for the 3 different Artifacts along with the identify of the NPC ally you’ll want to pick up to beat him randomly change. The first part doesn’t actually affect that much since they’re possibly all locations the PCs would visit anyway, but now it’s Item A is in this room at a particular location. The second part could change the role-playing of the companion with the PCs, but that NPC doesn’t actually have that much of an impactful role anyway, beyond what they can do in a fight. This example is also particularly weird, because it’s obvious which NPC the designers intended to go with the party, but they still give a dozen or so other options instead.

    Dragon Heist has the final villain who confronts the PCs at the very end of the game change, along with a bizarre action sequence right before they get to that point.

    Storm King’s Thunder has the middle section of which type of giant’s lair you invade to find the clues for what’s going on with the main plot.

    1. Dewwy says:

      I haven’t played in or run any of these adventures myself. However thinking about it as a DM, exactly what I want out of any adventure is for it to outline enough of the fictional politics and personalities involved so that when the PCs do make contact with the plot and inevitably go quite far skewed from what the designers imagined I can just read the NPC summaries that lay out their personal motivations, deep fears, and moral attitudes, from which it’s perfectly obvious what they’d do next. Then I can run with that.

      I have admittedly only lightly read parts of Curse of Strahd and it seems to manage the above for me personally. The whole use the notTarot deck to lightly alter the module as if you’re generating a really weak rogue-like is a bit of a cute gimmick (and to be clear I don’t mean that disparagingly at all, literally having your fortune read and it be true perfect fits the theming) but I didn’t really see just how much difference it actually makes to the module other than moving the macguffins around the sandbox. Curse Of Strahd is as far as I can see a path independent story, it doesn’t matter what you do between entering and exiting because once you’re inside you’re stuck and the only way out is through Strahd and the giftshop.

      Is this a difference in taste perhaps ? I tend to heavily skew all my TTRPG playing in the sandbox direction, for me it’s a big part of the appeal of the medium.

      1. Joshua says:

        This really isn’t a Sandbox vs Linear adventure complaint. Curse of Strahd is actually decent as a sandbox, whereas Dragon Heist is an annoyingly linear railroad (it actually seems to combine the worst aspects of sandbox and railroad instead of the best, IMO). The McGuffin aspect was probably the weakest point, and you’re right in that it doesn’t really change anything at all, so there’s reason why they couldn’t have just inserted the three items in a static location and fleshed out those locations a bit better, and thus had better clues (this is a minor complaint). So, it’s weird for them to brag about the re-playability of this module specifically, as this one has the least changes.

        My complaint isn’t about whether the module includes full descriptions for any possible thing the PCs might end up wanting to do, but rather not including hardly any descriptions at all because the different random things in the module (chosen at the beginning) would require different details, so they hardly bother with any.

        1. Gautsu says:

          Not like the randomness in Curse of Strahd is a throwback all the way to I-6 Ravenloft from 1st Edition AD&D that has stuck around throughout every re-iteration of that adventure (sorry for the sarcasm, but it has)

          1. Joshua says:

            That, I wouldn’t know about. However, starting with the (late in 4th Edition) Madness in Gardmore Abbey, it seems like it’s a staple of many of their modules over the last 6 years or so to have one or more elements in the game that are changed (mostly randomly, sometimes picked) to make one particular running slightly different than a different one from the perspective of the DM, independent of player choices. This “Here’s a variety of different ways you can present this one single adventure*” doesn’t really give re-playability for a particular group of PCs, but gives it a slightly different experience for the DM to run or for streamers to watch.

            *I want to emphasize that the purpose here does not seem to be to give DMs different ways to best adapt an adventure for their particular group of players, nor to accommodate player choices.

            1. Dewwy says:

              Something that has just occurred to me on this subject. It forces basically any conversation about playing the module (between any two people who aren’t playing in the same group) to have some variant of the following conversation

              Alice “Oh when we went through CoS the X was in the Y and that meant Z did F *blah blah crazy DnD shenanigan*”

              Bob “Oh that’s interesting when we did CoS the X was actually in the B because the DM had decided G instead of F and that meant A which lead to *blah blah crazy DnD shenanigan*”

              Which is exactly the kind of word of mouth conversation you want people to be having. The outside observer sees how these people had what sound like quite divergent and unique experiences and this maybe convinces them to get the module. The fact that this means that live-streams have loosely different plots might just be a nice little bonus.

              1. Joshua says:

                That could be a factor as well. I think the “Random NPC” who helps you and “Random location” for Final Showdown with Strahd might change things more than the random location of where the three magic items are, with the exception that some of the possible locations are in Castle Ravenloft itself, which changes whether you’re going into Castle Ravenloft early on and then leaving, or whether it’s the endgame.

                The biggest issue I have with the design of these elements is how it negatively impacts clarity in the module for the DM, and creates a little more work for them. In this case, these negatives are being done for the benefit of providing advertising for WotC, whether it be streamers or word of mouth as you suggest.

    2. BlueHorus says:

      In terms of false replayability, I’m reminded of Skyrim’s radial quest system: technically each quest is unique, and it’ll generate an infinite number of them…

      …it’s just that each one is very, very similar to the others. Far too similar to be in any way interesting…

  11. hector says:

    Shamys. Diecast. Youtube.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      *shrug* AFAIK Shamus is reading all comments for moderation purposes, so I’m pretty sure he’s seen the suggestion by now and decided against it. I’m curious as to why, though.

      1. Shamus says:

        I haven’t decided.

        It’s often bad to upload divergent content you YouTube. Like, say I upload a podcast. People who like my video essays click though, see it’s an all-audio podcast, and suddenly I get a deluge of comments:

        “Are these videos just audio now? I liked the old format better.”

        “Who is this other guy?”

        “These are really boring low-effort trash without the gameplay footage.”

        “Are you switching to podcasts? I hate podcasts.”

        And suddenly it gets downvoted to oblivion. Then THE ALGORITHM sees the low retention and high dislikes and decides, “Whoops. Apparently this channel sucks now. I’ll suggest it to fewer people.”

        The other solution is to make a new channel, but then that’s another channel to take care of, verify, and promote. The two won’t have any synergy.

        I notice that CGP Grey has a different channel for Hello Internet. That’s probably the safer way to go. I’m not against doing it, but I am against doing things that will cause confusion or hurt the channel.

        So I dunno. It might be good, but it’s not something to be undertaken lightly.

        1. Thomas says:

          I personally dislike content creators having a lot of different types of content – it makes it harder to use the subscription feed.

          The Algorithm might be learning how to get round it in recommended though (with enough time and data). I liked BasedTradeTVs Alphastar videos and I got lots of them in recommended, but it rarely showed me their non-alphastar videos.

          Not an experiment to try when you’re just taking off though!

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          Could I upload it? Maybe do a cut-down version of the show with some illustrations or something?

        3. Hector says:

          I would still suggest it. I see a *lot* of successful Youtube channel has multiple series and it works just fine. They usually do have a major line, but it’s fine to feed content with other options. Besides, you never know: the podcast might actually end up being even more popular!

          1. pseudonym says:

            I agree with Shamus. It is better to keep the channel consistent. Last video was pretty popular, now is the time to keep the momentum going and capitalize on things that work. Not try to upload divergent stuff and see what catches on.

        4. Duoae says:

          I don’t know *how* they do it but I’ve seen “big” channels (e.g. LinusTechTips) with multiple sub-channels. Is this something only the big channels are allowed to do?

          Otherwise, diversify and put the podcast on floatplane – a LinusTechTips spinoff…

  12. Lino says:

    Shamus, shouldn’t this be Diecast #289, rather than #277? Last week we had #288.

  13. John says:

    As it happens, John is my real name, Paul.

    Boy, try to tell somebody about something you think would be relevant to their interests and you get . . . um, I’m struggling to find an appropriate metaphor here. Sorry? I guess? I was only trying to help?

    In any case, I certainly will not be spending $45 on the script book for Spider-Man. For one thing, it strikes me as a glorified coffee table book. I doubt it gets too “inside baseball”–ha, a metaphor!–about the writing process. I’m not at all confident that the book would tell Shamus what he wants to know. For another, I don’t personally care about Insomniac’s Sony’s Marvel’s Spider-Man.

    1. Thomas says:

      Best way to find the information is for Shamus to post his video. Even if only one person in the world has read it, they’ll find their way to the YouTube comments section, like always.

    2. Shamus says:

      Oh, no harm done. You certainly don’t need to be sorry. It was just a silly situation to find myself in. :)

      I plan to follow Thomas’ advice and just post the dang thing and see what happens.

      Fingers crossed.

    3. Paul Spooner says:

      No offense intended. We got a nice five minute discussion out of it. Seems a shame that the only version available is a $45 hardcover. Glad you brought it up though. The accusation at 1:07:13 was just some good light-hearted comedy outrage. As if you, personally, had made the book, set the price, and were trying to lever money out of us. Which is as ridiculous as explaining the joke. So now I’ve been ridiculous twice on this topic. I hope you’re happy! Or, you know, at least mildly entertained.

      1. John says:

        It’s fine. I’m not offended. I could tell that you were joking from your tone of voice. Tone, alas, does not carry nearly so well in text, so I may not have communicated that effectively.

        1. tmtvl says:

          Pensive. Perhaps we should write our thoughts like the Glitch speak. Wistful. Or the Elcor, for those who haven’t played Starbound.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Statement: HK-47 was my favorite version of that trope, personally.

            1. Hector says:

              Deception: Master, HK-51 was clearly the superior option and not at all a cheap copy.

  14. John says:

    I have never experienced re-roll burnout in RPGs, but I am a weirdo. If Shamus is right, then, unlike most players, I don’t play RPGs for lore, worldbuilding, and characters. I like those things, and I’m always glad to see them, especially when they’re done well, but that’s not why I play RPGs. I really only realized this about myself in the last five years or so, but I play RPGs for the mechanics. For me, the most interesting thing about RPGs is replaying them with different builds, trying to tackle known problems with different skill sets and seeing what happens. It inevitably turns out that there are some builds I simply don’t like but I’m usually fairly committed to seeing a given build through to the end.

    That said, I think that Divinity: Original Sin has a reasonably good approach to this sort of thing. First, it doesn’t have character classes. It has skills. If you start out as a melee fighter and find that you didn’t like it, you can stop putting points into melee skills and start putting them into magic or ranged combat skills. Second, as long as you’re reasonably clear about your character concept, you’ll probably be fine. In my first playthrough, I wanted a character who could do both melee and certain types of magic. She wasn’t particularly great at any of it because I didn’t fully understand the game’s mechanics at that point, but she was at least a respectable tank for the better-designed characters and I still managed to beat the game. Third, and relatedly, Original Sin is a party-based game. There are two characters who are the player’s (or the players’, in the case of a co-op game) avatars and two who are only “companions”, but the player has full control over the builds for all four, meaning that you can try a whole lot of builds at once. Finally, in the late game, if you really hate your build, you get the opportunity to respec. It doesn’t break the story because the story doesn’t depend on your characters’ skill sets, it depends on their membership in the organization to which they belong–and, frankly, even that stopped mattering to the plot about a third of the way in.

    1. RFS-81 says:

      My problem with replaying RPGs with different builds is that they’re so damn long. Also, I find the concept of builds in itself kinda dull, because you basically make your choice at the start and then just execute the plan as you level up. I like games where you have a lot of options to customize things, but they’re not always available, and their usefulness varies depending on other factors. For example, deckbuilding games in the style of Star Realms. (Note to self: Finally check out Slay the Spire!)

      What I would find cool would be some short rogue-like RPG where a random item drop might make you decide to move your build into a different direction than you originally planned.

      1. John says:

        Length can definitely be an issue, as can repetition. As I replay RPGs I tend to lose patience with the story, even when the story is good. I start to resent having to click through the same old conversations again and again just so I can get to the parts of the game I care about. Some people want a “skip combat” button for their RPGs. I want a “skip story” button.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Some visual novels have a feature where on subsequent playthroughs they let you fast forward through the scenes/dialogues you’ve seen already and only play the new stuff (resulting from different choices) at a “normal” pace. I 100% remember this being a case in the first of the Nonary games but I think I’ve seen it in some others as well. Also, didn’t ME3 have that option to autopick dialogue choices in dialogues? Though I guess you still have to click through the dialogues so that’s probably no that much of a help in itself but if you could effectively pick a “fast forward through dialogue always pick renegade” that could work.

          1. Daimbert says:

            The remake of the Nonary Games, at least the first one, let you jump right to the decision that you’d need to change to carry on, but that wasn’t in the original game. The others weren’t QUITE as friendly, if I recall correctly, but yes you could still at least skip the escape rooms that you’d already done.

    2. Syal says:

      That’s the main reason Final Fantasy 5 is my favorite: once the classes are unlocked, you can switch between them at will, and the game expects you to use all of them. But you don’t have to, as the Four Job Fiesta highlights.

  15. Chad Miller says:

    Re: comics – I haven’t done the legwork on this myself, but in the past I’ve seen the assertion that those types of comics were killed off by the now-defunct Comics Code Authority. Some of the rules included:

    Profanity, obscenity, smut, vulgarity, or words or symbols which have acquired undesirable meanings are forbidden.
    Nudity in any form is prohibited, as is indecent or undue exposure.
    Suggestive and salacious illustration or suggestive posture is unacceptable.
    Females shall be drawn realistically without exaggeration of any physical qualities.
    Illicit sex relations are neither to be hinted at nor portrayed. Rape scenes, as well as sexual abnormalities, are unacceptable.
    Seduction and rape shall never be shown or suggested.
    Sex perversion or any inference to same is strictly forbidden.
    Nudity with meretricious purpose and salacious postures shall not be permitted in the advertising of any product; clothed figures shall never be presented in such a way as to be offensive or contrary to good taste or morals.

    The more wholesome superhero comics are exceptionally well-suited to following these rules because the material doesn’t even have to care about rules like that, and even the rules they did need to care about were easier to write around like “Crimes shall never be presented in such a way as to create sympathy for the criminal” and “Policemen, judges, government officials, and respected institutions shall never be presented in such a way as to create disrespect for established authority.”

  16. Thomas says:

    Related in re-rolling, games need to place all the character creation options close to each other and give you an opportunity to run around as soon as you’ve decided appearance (preferably with some ‘change my face’ magic mirror in the room).

    Dragon Age Inquisition’s lighting system makes characters look very different than in the game creator but there’s a big cutscene you have to rewatch if you restart to change appearance.

    I also might make my character look different if they’re a rogue or a mage. Don’t make me pick my appearance in a different gameplay segment to my class!

    1. Bo says:

      Mass Effect had this problem too. The opening cutscene after character creation has such weird lighting and puts your character in such stupid poses that it’s easy to think you screwed up and restart – only to have the same experience all over again.

  17. Nick-B says:

    @ Receiver talk: The original Battlefield 1942 (and I think a few of the same-engine sequels like BFV and 2142?) had a similar effect. If you reloaded your clip, you put in an entire new clip and the old one was just GONE. They didn’t maintain an overall ammo count, but simply the amount in clip and how many extra clips you had. This meant that for solo players (without access to an ammo pack or a support class) you had to weigh going into a fight with a partial clip, or lose a significant part of your overall ammo by reloading ahead of time.

    Very interesting, but it wasn’t really a game mechanics choice, but a game engine limitation. I like the idea of this mechanic appearing in more modern games though. Like, you would put your partial clip into a pocket. Have a separate button that has your character empty out old clips and combine them into a fresh one. Close-to-realistic-realism like in Receiver is ok, but not that level for more mainstream games. I’m in favor of encouraging people how things REALLY work, without the boring realism that comes from implementing it for real.

    1. Exasperation says:

      Occasionally while watching people play a shooter I’ve thought “this would be more entertaining to watch if it used the gun mechanics from Receiver.” Generally it’s a game where part of the draw of it is managing situations gone wrong (i.e. like the Payday games). A hypothetical “Receiver mode” would add to the entertainment value of it by amplifying that everything-hits-the-fan feeling.

  18. RFS-81 says:

    Re YouTube comments: I didn’t read them, but are you sure the people who pointed out the thing about the currency in Fallout 2 were doing it as a gotcha? I mean, the whole thing is actually a point in favor for you! Black Isle was doing more world building and changing things up, but Bethesda rolled it back.

  19. Steve C says:

    I loved those two talks. I’m not a programmer either. The Wolfire approach pretty much proves Jon Blow’s point about simplifying complexity. That’s all Wolfire did after all.

    I agree with Jon Blow too about the decline of civilization too. There’s plenty of things I’ve seen like that. For example you made fun of the old style website during the podcast. I personally really dislike modern websites. The over complexity of a modern website is comparable to the ridiculousness of the aesthetics of the geocities of the 90s. And I don’t think modern aesthetics are particularly good either. I find modern websites insanely slow and cumbersome for what they are.

    For example I have to press the 3 lines in the top right corner of this page. Then I have to go to the far left corner to do anything useful with that click. Which in years past I could have made a single click. The only reason why that seems to exist is fashion. It’s unfashionable to have a website layout that could accomplish the same thing in a single click.

    I see the decline in so many things like that. I’ve been called a Luddite by my friends due to how much I resist these new improved interfaces that I can only see as inferior. For Gmail I use the old html style too. It rubs me the wrong way much more than others. It has to. I don’t understand how or why others aren’t as bothered by it as me.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I prefer more minimalist webdesign as well, as evidenced by my website: http://peripheralarbor.com/

  20. DeadlyDark says:

    Overgrowth is the sequel to Lugaru. I love both games, one of the best hand-to-hand and melee combat action games, that puts many others to shame. Plus the seamless acrobatics and huge levels

  21. DeadlyDark says:

    People compare things to first Mass Effect, but I remember comparing first ME to the Unreal 2. A ship of misfits whom you can talk to, ancient ruins with sometimes similar visuals and such

  22. Philadelphus says:

    There’s a science fiction novel from 1909 called “The Machine Stops” which talks about this kind of “fall of civilization” idea; in it, most of humanity lives underground in this giant machine which cares for all their needs, including what’s basically a version of the Internet with instant telecommunication. However, no one knows any more how to actually keep the thing working, so when it predictably breaks down only the people who are still living on the surface (barbarians in the eyes of the undergrounders) survive.

    I’m of two minds about it, because while sure, there will be people who, if they had every need catered to, would spend all their time in luxury and idle pleasure, there are (and I think always will be) people who would simply use that free time to engage their interests, where those interests include things like mechanics, computer programming, etc., etc.. So I’m not particularly worried about someday running out of people who know how things work, because someone will always be interested in those kinds of things.

  23. jpuroila says:

    re: streaming viewpoint
    That’s kind of how casting RTS games works, isn’t it? Of course, if the game is LIVE you typically only have one caster who controls the camera, but if you open a replay on your end, you can control the camera yourself, or switch to a player’s point of view, or switch between the two players.

    Of course, I would assume that compared to something like FPS doing that in a game like Age of Empires 2 is simple.

    1. pseudonym says:

      Well it actually is possible in Age of Empires II. There is a spectator mode where you can not chat with other players.

      Unfortunately with all these third party voice chat programs this allows for people having spies, where they have a friend spectate and watch the enemy. So I don’t know if this is possible in Age of Empires II HD, Definitive, whatever new edition.

      1. pseudonym says:

        So it is possible: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcV2uNQ8vZM

        Here it is used by the narrator.

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