Diecast #320: VR, Amnesia Rebirth, Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 26, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 77 comments

Like I said at the end of the show: Pretty soon I’m going to have Ross on the show and we’re going to talk about Watch Dogs: Legion. The game launches on the 29th of this month, and Ross worked on it. I don’t know if I’m going to have him on the show next week, or the week after. I’m eager to talk about the game, but I also want to make sure I have enough time with the game that I can ask him meaningful questions.

We’ll see how it goes.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

00:00 The State of VR

I’ve studied this stuff quite a bit since this recording, and I have some corrections:

  • Issac got the Quest 2, not the original Quest.
  • The problems with stuttering aren’t a problem with the Oculus Link. It turns out Issac’s computer just isn’t up to the job anymore. Also, if anyone has a suggestion for a sub-$300 CPU+Mobo combo that can offer a reasonable gaming experience, he’d love to hear it.  He’s not looking to go full-on PC Master Race, he just wants something that can handle modern games and lightweight VR. (We’re assuming his GPU is good enough for now.)
  • On the show I said that there weren’t any mid-market VR headsets. Like, it’s just the Quest for $299 and then the Valve Index for $1,000. But since then I’ve done some more searching and discovered that there ARE mid-market headsets. The only problem is that they’re all from Oculus, and I find their Facebook crap to be pointless and unwelcome in the same way that (say) Uplay is.
  • I hooked the Quest up to my PC and everything ran fine. There wasn’t any weird DRM locking the headset to one account or any other shenanigans.
  • On the show I said it feels like another 10° or 15° of field of view would be a massive improvement. I stand by that. It feels like we’re so close to a much better experience, but getting that bump in FOV seems to result in a massive increase in the price of the headset.

I’m sure I got a few other details wrong. I keep reading about this stuff, and after three days I STILL feel like I’m in the dark.

Another drawback of a standalone VR headset: I wanted to have a screenshot for this post, but I have no idea how to capture screenshots / footage from an all-in-one device like this. I can capture stuff played over the link cable through Steam, but I have no idea how you’d capture native Oculus stuff.

28:51 Programming

More of Paul’s Arduino adventures.

34:15 A story About My Uncle

We’re not talking about the game, we’re talking about my Uncle.

40:09 Amnesia: Rebirth

Like I said on the show, I’m not feeling this one. I’ve got long-term goals like “survive and get rescued somehow”, but I’m lacking short-term goals like, “Go to the spooky old house to use the phone to call for help” or whatever. I’m only few few hours in, and it hasn’t grabbed me yet. Right now the experience feels more like SOMA and not like Amnesia: The Dark Descent. It’s interesting, but not captivating.

50:48 Mailbag: Players Scaring Themselves

Dear Diecast.

The new Amnesia game had me thinking about this video:

TLDW: The trick of the original Amnesia is that nothing really bad happens when run low on sanity. The camera and controls might get wacky, but you won’t actually screw-up a playthrough by mismanaging your lamp oil. The dev’s found the bluff was more effective than the actual consequences of failure.

Do you guys think any other games could benefit from this sort of design? Are there any other sort of mechanics that could have benefited from being “fake” for lack of a better word?


Aside: The linked video is really good. Worth a watch.


From The Archives:

77 thoughts on “Diecast #320: VR, Amnesia Rebirth, Mailbag

  1. Asdasd says:

    > Not Ross Scott

    Aww. Still, it will be cool to get some insight from someone who worked on the game.

    (I don’t know if you’re familiar with Accursed Farms, Shamus, but the two of you doing some kind of collab would be the dream crossover for me. Throw in Clint from LGR and it’d be like the Avengers of nerdy retro PC pundits had assembled.)

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, I went through the exact same pulse of excitement and disappointment. Oh well.

    2. Naota says:

      Ironically I’m a big fan of Accursed Farms, and grew up playing all of the same old DOS games. I guess it’s just part of the Ross brand at this point.

  2. Lino says:

    At first I thought “Hey, why is this one hour early?”, then I remembered yesterday was Daylight Savings Time! So in addition to having one extra hour in the day, now I get my daily Twenty Sided one hour early! Yay!

    Also, Shamus’ mic seems to be having issues again.

    1. Will says:

      …You’re off by a week. Daylight savings time in the US ends on November first this year.

      1. Lino says:

        Well, here in the EU it was yesterday (technically on the 24th, so two days ago).

        1. Thomas says:

          I totally failed to notice daylight savings yesterday. With phones auto-updating and no clocks, I might have never noticed if someone hadn’t brought it up

          1. DeadlyDark says:

            This daylight savings shift ruined a movie night, I host on discord weekly, for some people yesterday

            It’s inconvenient, when it comes to vastly different time zones.

            1. Syal says:

              It’s inconvenient when it comes to the same timezone.

            2. Mr. Wolf says:

              That’s why I always arrange internet events using UTC, even if nobody involved is from that longitude. It’s easier to let everybody figure out their own times based on a universal baseline than make everybody figure out where I am, which time zone that is, how it relates to their time zone, and whether daylight savings applies.

              1. DeadlyDark says:

                I use event planner on timeandclock planner (just type your timezone it’ll automatically correct the time), but the thing is – people forget that the shift happened, and join an hour later. I use the same time every week (its convenient), so most don’t rely on this tool. Its hard to blame them, though – it isn’t like I’m not relying on habits too

        2. Philadelphus says:

          In Australia it was like a fortnight ago.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      We never have to change our clocks in Giant Rectangle Province! XD

  3. Joe says:

    When you look at your VR hands, are they really a streamlined version of *your* hands, or just a generic set? You might have longer and skinnier fingers than Issac, or shorter and stumpier. What about fingernails? Did your wife try? I’m curious about what happens when a POC tries the headset.

    Have you heard about the downside of having the headset linked to a FB account? If you delete your account, or it gets blocked, you’re locked out of the VR. Pretty shit, really. Big corporations come up with some wonderful toys, but feel the urge to knobble said toys at the last minute. Drives me up the wall. I’m sure you understand.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      There’s no hardware reset, or switching to a different person’s account? :O

      1. Lanthanide says:

        Oculus are working on multiple user accounts. Kind of ridiculous they don’t already have it tbh.

    2. ColeusRattus says:

      Usually you see a representration of the controllers. Many games have generic hands that are displayed. None show your actual hands.
      Also, why would it be any different fopr a person of color?

      1. Chad Miller says:

        Also, why would it be any different fopr a person of color?

        My google-fu is failing me, but there have been somewhat recent cases of high-profile photo/video software failing to detect non-white people as people (the most likely reason being that the training data skewed white). Stuff like black people’s hands disappearing in Zoom calls or Twitter’s auto-cropping software preferentially centering on the white person in a diverse group photo.

        1. coleusrattus says:

          Oh, yeah, that might be an issue with visible light cameras tracking actual hands. Thing is, bar some experimental stuff, no consumer level headset tracks hands. All track the controllers. And at least for gaming, I think controllers are way better than “miming” actions, as buttons and sticks are more responsive and accurate.

          1. Shamus says:

            To clear up the general confusion in this thread:

            1) The Quest 2 100% tracks your physical hands in realtime. You can leave the controllers on the desk and hold up your hands, and it will seamlessly follow your movements to project your hands into the real world. Not just index fingers+thumbs, but the movements of all fingers. I don’t know how well this scales. The hands feel eerily accurate to me, but maybe a woman with small hands would find them “off”. Or maybe the virtual hands scale with your real hands. I dunno.

            2) For those arguing about skin color: The hands are drawn as a filled outline. It’s “white” in the sense that it presents a ghostly silhouette of hands, but it’s not “white” in the sense of “Caucasian”.

            3) The hands are simplified and stylized. They don’t have wrinkles or fingernails.

            4) The hands are useful for navigating the Oculus menus (“pinching” your fingers together pushes the button you’re pointing at) but can’t be used outside of the Oculus ecosystem. (Such as in Steam.)

            1. Lanthanide says:

              Games that use hand controls are coming.

              Right now the best hand tracking game is from SideQuest: https://sidequestvr.com/app/750/hand-physics-lab

              SideQuest is where you go to get all the free content and homebrew stuff you were complaining about doesn’t exist.

              Quest just runs Android, so APK apps from the google play store can be put onto it etc.

              For Quest 2, Oculus was planning to build 2 million of them in 2020 alone, so they will have thousands of them siting around in a warehouse. The Valve Index is perpetually on back order, because they have some sort of production bottle neck on them.

            2. Algeh says:

              I believe the concern was not about what color the hands were displayed as, but rather whether the tracking software was equally good at recognizing real-world hands of all skin tones in order to translate them into the VR setting. This has been an issue with a variety of products over the years due to whoever developed and tested those products not testing them on people with a wide variety of skin tones prior to release, and so settings not being tuned to pick up people with those skin tones as whatever it’s looking for. I have absolutely no idea if this is an issue with hand-tracking in Quest VR headsets, but it can be an issue with everything from touchless bathroom fixtures/dispensers to Zoom virtual backgrounds, so I would be completely unsurprised if it were.

              It doesn’t seem like something you personally are in a good position to test or include in a VR headset review, but it’s something that I’d expect someone doing a more general/less personal style of review than yours to include information about because those issues are so common.

    3. Olivier FAURE says:

      No headset that I know of actually tracks your hands visually or anything like that. Controllers like the Index can just detect whether your finger is touching the controller or not, and the detection is pretty imprecise (I tried flipping people off in HL Alyx a few times, and it was a bit of a challenge).

      1. Wolf says:

        Quest patched the feature where it actually tracks your hands and fingers and lets you use pinch motions and stuff as inputs.
        It’s nice for using menus without picking up the controllers, but not good enough for playing around with any satisfactory precision.

    4. Lanthanide says:

      > Hands
      Just a generic set.

  4. Chris says:

    I dont really like a game bluffing. Because once I see through it I feel duped.Like in a racing game where you feel like youre constantly just barely winning, only to find out the game just rubberbands your opponents. Or amnesia that teases low sanity is a problem, only for it to be a fluke.
    One thing i felt amnesia’s bluff fell through was with the monsters. Amnesia had no weapons, so you knew that they couldnt make the monsters too good at chasing. Because the player had to be able shake them in order to continue. As Shamus mentioned, you should cooperate with a game and not just bunnyhop through it. But I feel a game shouldnt betray a player’s investment by bluffing. Imagine if the monsters in amnesia didnt actually have a chase AI and it relies on you being scared of the threat of being seen. Even if it wasnt possible to be actually seen. “Ow i spend hours sneaking around these guys, but now i just found out they are blind to the player, i guess i snuck around for nothing.”
    Senua’s sacrifice had the same thing. The corruption from deaths didnt actually happen, and all the increases in corruption were programmed. I got stuck at a bit where i kept dying . And then when i realized what happened i looked it up because i felt my game was bugged out. Then i realized it was intended and I felt like i did all this effort not to die, only to find out the devs didnt have the courage to follow through on their threat.

    1. Asdasd says:

      Yeah, not a fan of that either. Sure it can make a section feel nice and exciting, but when you realise what’s going on, the experience feels hollow and pointless in retrospect.

    2. Henson says:

      The trick is not getting the player to notice. I generally don’t pick up on these things because I want to avoid any possible consequences, and so never reveal the false threat. If the monster is chasing me, I don’t look back to see if he’s close. If my sanity is getting low, I don’t want to risk making it any higher. Since the objective in these horror games is to never get ‘hit’ by the enemy, you never know how deadly the enemy attacks will be; if they can kill you really fast. Hence, I play “don’t poke the bear”. Hopefully, the developers can craft their game in a way that maximizes the player accepting the illusion. I think Amnesia TDD was pretty good in that respect.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I remember playing Eternal Darkness back in the GameCube days and trying to ride the line on sanity, between getting to see the cool mind-screw bits and actually being in danger of health loss.

        It’s not the same as Amnesia, though, since most of the reality-bending stuff in Eternal Darkness lies in metagame territory.

      2. Chris says:

        Well yes, but if you have some kind of running away moment but you keep getting lost because the level design isnt good, and then the monster for some reason dont come even though youve been stumbling around in a room for 15 minutes, then you realize whats going on. And then it feels bad. Why not playtest it to see how fast the monster needs to go to keep people running, but not so fast they get eaten the second they slip up?

    3. Syal says:

      Morrowind has the Corprus Resistance spells, but Corprus is only catching in a plot event so the spell is useless.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’ve always chalked those up to worldbuilding, which Morrowind does all over the place anyway. They’re pretty clearly terrible (how many early Morrowind fights are done within ten seconds?) and hammer home how badly people want to avoid contracting corprus.

        I think they’d only be a problem if an unsuspecting player broke themselves financially on making an actually serviceable version of the spell. I’ve never played a spellcaster, so I can’t say how much doing that would cost.

        1. Syal says:

          I took it that Corprus was originally going to be contractible, but they realized an incurable disease that comes from fighting the main villains was a bad idea and just never cut the spells. Kind of like Dagoth Whatsit that had a Barter option when I reached him before he went hostile; feels like joining Dagoth Ur was originally going to be an option.

  5. Dreadjaws says:

    Games that “fake” mechanics to engage the players better are much more common than you think. Like, in any Spider-Man game that features a race to catch Black Cat she will literally stop to wait for you if you lag behind and re-engage her escape once you get near enough. Sometimes this is done seamlessly, but sometimes it’s very noticeable if you just stop. Now, you could argue that’s in character for her, but that doesn’t explain all the other villains you have to follow that behave the same way.

    The heist system in GTA V has you pick between a bunch of helpers with the understanding that there’s a tradeoff between higher level helpers that get a higher success ratio in exchange for a larger paycut and lower level helpers with a lower success ratio but compensates by taking a smaller paycut. In reality, the result is more or less the same, because if you take the lower level goons they’ll inevitably fail, and any money you thought you could save by hiring lower levels will be lost with their failed task.

    I know a bunch of games that do this, but I believe it was one of the Dino Crisis games in PS1 that had a dinosaur follow you forcing you to escape, but it’d never actually reached you unless you deliberately stopped, since its speed was based on yours.

    And this isn’t even taking into account the smaller details, like the fact that almost in any game the last bit of your health bar lasts longer than any other bit of the same size. These are all very common ways to immerse the player into the gameplay without actually expecting them to be on constant alert.

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      Yeah, I noticed all of those, and was always annoyed with each of them (except Dino Crisis – never played it). Always makes me realize that devs basically saying to me “You’re playing just a game, bro, don’t take it too seriously” and that just kills any immersion.

      Especially tanky last HP (like in Doom / Doom Eternal). Just scale the damage appropriately, please. Don’t think you can fool me.

      I did notice, that I prefer my relationship with games to be more on the adversarial side, tbf. Like, instead of the game accommodating me, I’d prefer the game either disadvantage me or ignore me at all. In that case I’ll start having a (un?)healthy desire to beat it by all means necessary. Makes it more interesting experience overall

      I’ll add another example. Splinter Cell Blacklist. Enemy AI will have worse eyesight / hearing if the player doesn’t see them (they behind the camera). One of the reasons, I have little to no desire to replay it (unlike original trilogy).

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        Chalk it up to the desire of making these games available to a larger public. This is why Bioshock enemies always missed their first shot at you, or why opponents in Mortal Kombat will become less aggressive if you lose to them. Like it or not, the great majority of players don’t notice this kind of stuff; they just think they’re getting better at the game.

        But yeah, it gets annoying if you start to notice it.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      This is a pretty bad way of doing difficulty in a game. People who want a challenge can’t get it, because the game is built around people whose egos are too fragile to change the game settings. I wouldn’t have the same complaint for Kirby, or Mario, or any other game with even a remote hint of cartoonish-ness or friendliness, since the target audience isn’t necessarily expecting gritty challenge. However, it’s absolutely out of place for a game world filled with uncaring elder gods who would be as likely to devour your body whole, as to flense it or boil it in acid.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Contrast Amnesia with The Consuming Shadow, which has real consequences for the player: the player can die by any number of abominations, and the game doesn’t pull any punches. When you die and reload the game, that’s another parallel universe that’s been lost to the elder gods.

    3. Joshua says:

      Reminds of the scene in Half-Life 2 where you manage to get the gate lifted in Water Hazard and then when returning back to your boat you see a troop carrier heading towards the entrance. It was a few playthroughs before I realized that it didn’t matter how fast I rushed, the troops were being spawned directly into the various rooms, not at the entrance and then traveling through the rooms.

      1. evilmrhenry says:

        I think there’s a difference between fake mechanics, and the kind of shortcuts games take for technical reasons. It’s easier and more consistent to just have the transport zip past and spawn the enemies as a separate action than to have them unload from the transport and pathfind through the rooms.

  6. Erik says:

    So, if the Quest 2 is 299, and the Valve index is 1000, would a mid range headset be 600? Because thats the price point of the new HP Reverb G2 shipping at the end of this month. (Coincidently, i preordered one)

    1. boz says:

      Ditto on HP Reverb G2 for mid range headset.

    2. Dennis says:

      Yeah, there’s a bunch of Windows Mixed Reality devices, and they have really good compatibility with Steam VR. I got a Samsung Odyssey+ on sale for $230 a year ago. It requires a good computer (like a Rift or Valve headset), but will get you better visuals than the Quest.

      1. Lanthanide says:

        Actually the Quest 2 has the highest resolution, apart from the HP Reverb G2. FoV leaves a bit to be desired, though.

        Oculus Link got an upgrade so it automatically tunes the bandwidth used for streaming so there’s now very little in the way of artifacts when playing Steam VR games.

        At this point the only VR headsets worth buying are Quest 2, HP Reverb G2 or Index, and it’s getting hard to recommend the Index due to supply shortages too (waiting 8-10 weeks really is a long time and should be taken into account).

    3. Geebs says:

      The Quest 2 must be heavily subsidised, though, to hit its price point. Shamus talks about a cut-down version of the Quest, but the screens alone in VR headsets are pretty expensive items. It’s odd to me that people identify the cost of headsets as being such a problem, but seem to be happy to buy a “gaming” monitor for $1000.

      The Reverb G2 sounds pretty neat; I have an Index, but it’d be very interested in heading how the Reverb G2 stacks up.

  7. Crokus Younghand says:

    Shamus, be careful with experimenting with accounts on Quest 2, there have been reports of people getting their Facebook accounts blocked (resulting in more or less a bricked device).

    1. Lanthanide says:

      The device isn’t bricked, it just needs a Facebook account to work. If your facebook account gets banned/deleted, then you need another facebook account to use it. Facebook generally don’t let people create new accounts after they ban/delete the first one though.

      But the HW is still fully functional. At worst, it requires a factory reset. Then anyone with a valid facebook account can log in and use it.

    2. Simplex says:

      The word bricked is a bit miseleading in this situation – it is your Oculus/Facebook accounts that gets “bricked” (but you can contact Oculus Support and they should be able to “unbrick” it).
      The device itself is absolutely not bricked, you can log in with another account and it will work.

  8. Smosh says:

    Are you sure it’s the CPU that’s the problem? Most games are heavily GPU-bound.

    But if you need a cheap CPU: Grab a Ryzen 3600 (non-X) or 3300X with a B450 motherboard. Make sure the RAM is compatible. Intel’s offerings are just bad.

    3300X is barely any different from a 3600 in games: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C8r50uvwJ8E&t=194s but it is *very* cheap at below $150. B450 boards are also not expensive.

    Full list of CPUs: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5VnRUFz-m0M

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      For a second, I thought it’ll be a link to a Gamer Nexus video

      1. Smosh says:

        Those are also perfectly good reviews! The hard part is to find the correct video.

        1. DeadlyDark says:

          That is true, yeah

    2. Radkatsu says:

      Ryzen 5 3600 and B450 is what I’ve got (plus 16GB of DDR4 3600 RAM), highly recommended, great combo.

    3. Dennis says:

      I’d be careful buying a B450 motherboard if you want to upgrade in the future. The upcoming 5000-series Ryzen processors will only work on some B450 motherboards that get a BIOS upgrade. Check the chart here: https://www.amd.com/en/chipsets/x570

      1. Lanthanide says:

        I’ve personally never upgraded a CPU, since I tend to keep my computers for 4-5 years, by that point I just upgrade the mobo, RAM, CPU and GPU (keeping the same case and PSU, etc) and sell the old ones.

    4. ElementalAlchemist says:

      Are you sure it’s the CPU that’s the problem? Most games are heavily GPU-bound.

      If you are gaming at 1080p, then yes, being CPU-bound is a common problem. It’s why all the tech sites do their primary testing at higher resolutions, as that takes the CPU out of the equation. I assume he is not running at 1440 or 4K.

  9. Thomas says:

    To me I assumed “So and so will remember this” was suggested some hidden relationship values were shifting around. Although they didn’t always pay that off. I like that idea as a way to build in consequence, because you don’t need to map out the consequences of every action, but instead can pay it off with general consequences for favourable / unfavourable relations.

    But perhaps they need to highlight that more to the player – have more opportunities for positive / negative consequences to pay it off, and perhaps flash up a “X doesn’t trust you” when you ask them to do something and they have a negative relationship.

    You can also record a few lines of dialogue about major negative relationship events and play those if the player had done that. The player might not realise it was your overall relationship status that triggered the consequence, but they would understand that it was as a result of some action of theirs.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m actually surprised The Walking Dead didn’t have times to ask favors of the other characters. Like, it’s a world full of death, and scarce resources, but there’s never a chance to borrow any bullets, medicine, or food from the other characters. The game always gives you choices to make here and now, but doesn’t let you succeed or fail based on your past behavior towards your companions.

    2. Olivier FAURE says:

      You can also record a few lines of dialogue about major negative relationship events and play those if the player had done that. The player might not realise it was your overall relationship status that triggered the consequence, but they would understand that it was as a result of some action of theirs.

      You nailed the reason why consequence-based games are hard: it’s really tough to make the player understand that a given story element is a consequence of their past action in an organic way. This is why Telltale-like games have these big, in-your-face choices, that later episodes point to. Like, the game asks you to pick Alice or Bob, and later if you picked Alice then Bob says “I’m so mad that you picked Alice over me” or something.

      Having Bob instead refuse to give you an extra health pack with a generic line like “You haven’t earned my trust yet” because your trust meter is 2 points below the required threshold is a little harder to integrate into a narrative. It’s especially bad in situations where, say, your “Bob meter” is at -5 because you picked Alice last time, but then you give him his daughter’s necklace and get 20 on your Bob meter, and Bob tells you “Thank you so much. I won’t forget you did this”, but he still won’t give you the health pack because you need 20 Bob points or more, so Bob will still give you the “You haven’t earned by trust yet” line.

      Boolean decisions are a lot easier to beat into a semi-coherent narrative than hidden integer values.

      (though Telltale’s Batman season 2 does something like that; at some point the Joker gets mad at you no matter what happens, and he tells you he should have known not to trust you because you did X, where X can be one of several different things depending on small choices you’ve made in previous episodes)

      1. Algeh says:

        In another genre entirely, the various Harvest Moon games are heavily based around increasing relationship values with various characters (that’s one of the main mechanics in the game, and the only way to get certain items and advance certain plot points, and triggers a lot of the cutscenes and dialogs). However, it would be harder to also do this in a game where you’re trying to accomplish something complicated and linear since you’d have less time to mess around finding other ways to raise a relationship with Bob before Big Plot Event needed to happen, or it would be tonally weird to spend a bunch of time crafting crepe paper flowers to give to Alice in order to get in her good graces when you’re supposed to be fending off the apocalypse (not that this would stop, say, an old-school JRPG from having such a sidequest in the middle of saving the world, but it would be jarring in a more “realistic” game).

        (Harvest Moon has assorted seasonal plot events that happen each in-game year, but it’s low-consequence for losing most of them and it’s generally pretty open-ended with many paths to the few “required” victory/checkpoint conditions, which vary by game but which generally offer plenty of padding to get there different ways. I remember one where you had to get married by x date (so you needed to have at least one of the several prospective spouses with high enough relationship points by then), and another where you needed half of the possible things on the in-game achievement list to “win” by unlocking a thing, after which you could still keep playing because you were probably busy with personal goals anyway.)

  10. Sleeping Dragon says:

    Can’t watch the video at work but the Amnesia “cheating” reminds me of the thing with saves in Hellblade:Senua’s Sacrifice. The game strongly implies (if not outright states, I don’t remember) it’s going to delete your savefile if you die too many times. This does not happen. The game devs got some flack for this.

  11. Stalevar says:

    The amnesia matches story made me think of a movie, science fiction. Two dudes ended up on an alien desert planet because of an accident. They are trying to find their way home. On this planet matches are the most valuable currency, having even a box of them makes you rich, but you can’t have too many on you, because smuggling them means life in prison. I wanted to make a joke about amnesia happening on Pluk, but realized that no one will get the reference. I kinda want to believe that developers are fans of the movie, but i doubt it, just a funny coincidence.

    The actual limited matches mechanic is the same as unrealistically limited batteries in a flashlight in every horror game ever. It doesn’t seem to serve any purpose, everyone seems to do it because everyone else does, and everyone can’t be wrong, right? It’s just a massive annoyance that needs to stop.

    The best implementation of a “horror flashlight” i’ve seen was in metro, where it never runs out, but it gets much weaker and you need to recharge it if you want to have a good source of light.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Metro also has the gas-powered guns! Hand-cranks everywhere! :)

    2. The Puzzler says:

      I doubt there are many Kin-dza-dza! fans out there these days…

  12. Lars says:

    I’m owner of the original oculus rift. And I can buy and play Steam games with that hardware without major problems. Some Steam games think I’m weilding the HTC Vive contollers instead of Oculus Touch.
    But the Oculus Store front fires up in the background everytime I put the device on my head. I don’t need facebook for that … till now. Ocullus announced that from 2022 Facebook will be mandatory to run Oculus exclusive games.

    HTC and Valve parted ways after they released the Vive together. Now Valve does its own thing with the Index and HTC is not sure if they want to remain in this niche market.

  13. The trick of the original Amnesia is that nothing really bad happens when run low on sanity. The camera and controls might get wacky, but you won’t actually screw-up a playthrough by mismanaging your lamp oil. The dev’s found the bluff was more effective than the actual consequences of failure.

    I’ve found this to be true A LOT in pen and paper gaming, too, in particular that people would remember situations as being really seat-of-their-pants tense and nerve-wracking in fights where they absolutely DEVASTATED the monsters and the whole combat was over in a round and a half if I made sure that the enemies showed to advantage in the first round.

    The strong come-on with no real consequences is WAY more effective at evoking tension than slow attrition.

    I have a suspicion that it’s a perception of reaction thing–if you make people feel like they’re forced to *react* instead of doing things at their own pace, even if that feeling is largely an illusion, it makes a much stronger impression.

    You know, I kinda wonder if this is why traps are such a thing in many RPG’s even though if you really think about it traps are silly–they’re a horrible “gotcha” moment that comes out of nowhere and evokes a feeling of “AIIIIEEE that could have been really bad!!!”

    1. Olivier FAURE says:

      Yeah, making tough fights in tabletop RPGs is hard. Players want to feel like their actions are driving the game, but most systems are a lot more deterministic than they might imagine, and those that aren’t make for really long and boring fights.

      I still don’t really know how to do better, except by not focusing too much on the fight parts.

      (given the player powerful-but-scarce items/powers/mutations/whatever also helps; if you have an encounter balanced so that the players will slowly loose by attrition normally, but you also give then an instakilll gun with one bullet, suddenly players get really invested in when to use the gun, how to best use their advantage, etc)

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I’ve been really moving away from tactical D&D style combat towards more narrative conflict scenes. Admittedly in the campaign I’m currently running the party has yet to encounter a fight where the sides are genuinely actively trying to kill each other as it’s been mostly brawls and attempts to either subdue or escape, on the other hand I think it’s fairly realistic most of the time with a pseudo-contemporary setting.

    2. Joshua says:

      Traps somewhat* annoy me as a DM. I try to include them regardless of whether there’s a Rogue or not but make a point to only have them in areas that make sense, such as entrances, chests, or the like. A GM who inserts a trap in a random hallway or corner of an otherwise unremarkable room is going to find some annoyed players and the game slowing down to a crawl as the party stops to check for traps every 5′.

      *Two sessions ago, however, I was delighted to have the Monk almost fall into a pit trap (he made his Dex save), decide to leap over and made a 3 on his Athletics check. He was confident in his Slow Fall absorbing the damage, which it did for the 10′ of 1d6 falling damage. The poisoned spikes at the bottom, however, took him from max HP to unconscious.

      1. The Puzzler says:

        If the players say, “We’re stopping to check for traps every five feet whenever there are no enemies about,” then the characters will slow to a crawl, but the game won’t.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          IIRC that’s what happened way back during Aunty Paladin’s when Rutskarn was running some variant of the Tomb of Horrors, or Return to, or reimagining or something. The party went into this huge room filled with columns and according to the rule interpretation every surface had to be checked for traps separately, every square of the floor between the columns, every square of the walls, every column on four sides. They had an “utility sorcerer” who could create food and, following their previous harsh experiences with traps in this particular run, they’ve decided they’d search EVERYTHING. Again if memory serves it took weeks or even months of in game time. Admittedly the framing device for the adventure explicitly stated that if they managed to get through the dungeon succesfuly they’d be reverted to the time, place and state they were in before being snatched into it, including resurrections, so expending that much time seemed like a practical idea.

  14. ColeusRattus says:

    Welcome to the circle of VR gamers! Can’t wait for your opinions on Alyx (and other VR games in general)

  15. Wolf says:

    Regarding the forced walled garden stuff (not the FB login) of Quest.
    Several Games have significantly changed versions for the Quest so I assume the incompatibility with PC VR is technical in nature. In other words the Quest rendering hardware IS a console.
    I don’t know the specs of Quest 2, but for Quest 1 they had to tone down graphics of some games or optimize the shit out of it, on the other hand using the extra sensors or whatever and the free movement was used to improve some game aspects.

    Seems like a quagmire of compatibility issues and user communication hassles.

  16. Mikko Lukkarinen says:

    Paul, I don’t know if you already fixed your code, but instead of sending an update for every pixel that the progress bar needs to move, make the update interval fixed and vary the amount of pixels the bar moves with each update.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, that’s basically what I did. There’s now a “floor” for the update interval. So if the time is really long, it gets updated per pixel like before, since each pixel is over a second. If the interval drops below 50ms, it just updates every 50ms.

  17. Simplex says:

    You can totally develop your own “homebrew” software for the Oculus Quest. Proof:

    This site contains dozens of unofficial games and programs that can be run on Quest.

    Did your son buy Quest 1 (black) or Quest 2 (white)?
    Also, if his PC is low-spec, then this would explain the problems with VR quality after connecting Quest to his PC. If it was connected to your PC, it would probably work much better.

    Also, there are cheap PC VR headsets, google “VR WMR”. They don’t require external sensors.

  18. Rolf says:

    My main gripe with this Amnesia it’s the abstractness of the scenario. I often caught myself thinking ‘why am I doing this? why would I at random pick up this object without knowing the use of it’. And then, as the game progressed, the artifical limitation of the matches really distract me from the experience. I kept me reminding me that this was a game. So, when I tried to spare as many matches as I could, I found out that the darkness didn’t do anything meaningfull. It broke the system for me, so most of the time, I wouldn’t even bother to use the matches. Unless I tought I would be in the area for awhile.

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