Diecast #358: The Good, The Bad, The Writing

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 11, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 100 comments

I find it interesting that we got two different mailbag questions, both asking roughly the same thing. Both people asked for examples of “best” writing. Nobody asked for examples of “worst”. It’s always nice to have a chance to work against the idea that I’m a negative guy who complains about everything.We can do that tomorrow, when I do the “This Week I Played” post.

I thought of more examples of good writing after the show, but I don’t want to keep amending the list forever. I’m sure if I missed anything crucial you’ll tell me about it in the comments.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
Diecast358


Link (YouTube)


00:00 I am Iron Man

As this post goes live I’ll be at the hospital again, getting another dose of iron delivered directly to my bloodstream. It’s going to be totally metal.

07:42 Dyson Sphere Program

I wish I’d spent time with this game instead of trying in vain to squeeze some fun out of (un)Satisfactory.

09:26 New World

You can tell this is a secret fishing spot by the massive crowd. (It only renders the closest N people, so there's a lot more than you can see in this screenshot.)
You can tell this is a secret fishing spot by the massive crowd. (It only renders the closest N people, so there's a lot more than you can see in this screenshot.)

I’m playing on the Trapalanda server. (East coast.) How are things elsewhere? Is Fisherman’s Bend the Goldshire of New World?

I’ll bet it isn’t. These folks take the game pretty seriously right now. Maybe once a bunch of people hit the level cap they’ll get bored and come to Fisherman’s Bend to dick around, but for now everyone is all business. Chat is currently filled with discussions of:

  1. Leveling
  2. Gear
  3. Combat
  4. PvP
  5. Endless recriminations regarding the faction wars and why we (purple) aren’t winning.

37:59 Signed copy of Mess Effect?

It helps if I do these in batches. Drop a comment if you think you’ll want a signed copy of my book. Once I figure out how much interest there is, I’ll order a few and we can get the process rolling.

39:05 Mailbag: Shang-Chi?

Dear Diecast

Have you guys seen Shang-Chi? Or more specifically, did you guys go outside to the cinema to watch Shang-Chi? I admit that I’m miffed that Hollywood is rushing to pretend everything is back to the old normal while a new delta variant of the plague rages across the country, just to keep theaters open for their “prestige value” compared to home streaming.

Love,
Mule

45:54 Mailbag: Foreshadowing and Payoff

Dear Diecast,

in Final Fantasy VIII (that’s 8 for readers unfamiliar with Roman numerals), there are several ways to access the game’s lore. Aside from the obvious (NPC dialogues) there is also Squall’s PC in the Balamb Garden classroom. A number of lore entries can also be accessed through the in-game menu.

Now one of those lore entries talks about how Guardian Forces (what summons are called in the game) have a detrimental effect on their users’ memories. Later in the game this detail pays off in the plot by the main characters finding out that they have forgotten some important stuff.

That plot point has been criticised for coming out of nowhere, which made me wonder: do you think that all foreshadowing of important plot points needs to be done in mandatory dialogue and/or cutscenes, so players don’t get blind-sided?

Vale,
-Tim

55:01 Mailbag: Good Writing?

Hi guys,

Shamus’s most recent article on writing in video game writing sparks an obvious question: What are a few of the games you both regard as the most well written titles out there? Furthermore, how many of those are relatively new, versus being ‘old classics’?

I’m not trying to spark an old grognard argument there, mind you. :) All of my favorite game stories were classics for almost the entirety of the last decade, but these last few years smaller studios and indies have produced many tales that I’ve found to be truly exceptional.

-JMobius

And another one:

Dear Diecast,

Last week you covered bad writing. What about good writing? What are your top 3 best written games? Not simply good, but the best by your own standards?

– Steve C

1:03:01 Mailbag: Annoying Messages

Ok, so I was playing Elder Scrolls Online, ran into a quest where I get “You must gather your party before venturing forth,” and it was all I could do to not throw my mouse into the wall. Apparently, I have some unresolved issues with Baldur’s Gate and Icewind Dale. So, is there a type of game message (or a particular one) that just drives you guys up the wall?
Thanks,
Melfina (Mel-feen-ah) the Blue

On the show I said “Spawn more overlords” was the message I hated to see. But I think I should have picked “Whole article on the front page, boss.”

1:10:53 James Webb Telescope


Link (YouTube)

The James Webb telescope! Just two more months, and our astrophysicists will FINALLY have the tools they need to search for James Webb.

Does he exist? What does he look like? Does he mind us looking at him? We’re finally going to have the answers to some really big questions.

 

Footnotes:

[1] We can do that tomorrow, when I do the “This Week I Played” post.



From The Archives:
 

100 thoughts on “Diecast #358: The Good, The Bad, The Writing

  1. tmtvl says:

    Best wishes on your transformation into Robocritic, Shamus.

    1. ContribuTor says:

      You are more machine now than man.

  2. MerryWeathers says:

    39:05 Mailbag: Shang-Chi?

    Shang-Chi was fine but it is absolutely overrated as this really solid blockbuster movie but I thought was just above average, even on the same level as Black Widow (though Shang had the better fight scenes and music). I also agree that it’s pretty irresponsible to incentivize theater exclusivity during the day and age of the pandemic. Everytime people rush out to go back to the good old days, we go right back to square one in quarantine.

    45:54 Mailbag: Foreshadowing and Payoff

    Subtle foreshadowing at the start is fine but you’ll obviously need to start setting up and telegraphing the plot point or twist later down the line.

    55:01 Mailbag: Good Writing?

    A lot of classic CRPGs, particularly the ones by Interplay/Black Isle.
    Tim Schafer’s works like Grim Fandango and Psychonauts.
    The Mother trilogy have a lot more focus and effort put into the writing compared to other Nintendo games. Its spiritual succesors like LISA and Undertale have great writing too.
    Portal 1 and 2 were already mentioned by Alex.
    The Red Dead Redemption games standout and are distinct from the usual Rockstar Games fare by being poignant.
    New Vegas and The Witcher 3 are the best open-world RPGs so far albeit in different ways but both have really great writing.

    1. ElementalAlchemist says:

      I also agree that it’s pretty irresponsible to incentivize theater exclusivity during the day and age of the pandemic.

      It’s not exactly surprising that giant multinational corporations prioritise short-term profit over people’s health, This is why you aren’t a billionaire.

      1. MerryWeathers says:

        Very true (incredibly ironic and hypocritical that Disney used the “think of the pandemic!” excuse in the Scarlet Johansson lawsuit), I forgot to mention that.

        What is surprising (or not really, just discouraging) is that a lot of people are supporting the decision to stick to theater exclusivity.

      2. ContribuTor says:

        I don’t even know if this is “big corporation prioritizing their own short term profit.” I think there’s an argument to be made that they’re trying to give life support to the golden goose.

        Movie studios make money by licensing films to theaters. Theaters make money by selling tickets and popcorn to filmgoers. This is profitable for both parties. Or was, pre-pandemic.

        The theater operators are hit a lot harder than the movie studios. The studios have other ways to distribute films. Not GREAT option, but options. The problem is, if you offer it free on Disney Plus, you might notionally get some more subscribers, or keep more existing subscribers. But you don’t get directly attributable revenue from the film. Unless you charge a bunch of money for a short-term rental, which consumers hated even though it on almost every level was a better deal than a movie date.

        But if you’re a movie theater? You went from “profitable business model” to “bupkis”. You don’t have another way to make money. You have some sizes le chunks of real estate with rent due. And it’s very, very hard to make temporary use of “sloped room full of seats” as something else to get some cash to ride you over in the interim. About the only good thing for you is, if the landlord evicts you, there’s nothing they can do with the space other than show movies, so they might as well keep you. But there’s a time limit on this before the landlord says “screw it” and knocks down the theaters or guts them and turns them into restaurants or something.

        The studios can survive better than the theaters in a stream-only world, but it’s in the studios best interest to prop up the theaters because the long game keeps them from losing their most profitable channel permanently.

        This is definitely a profit-over-safety move. But I think it’s a lot more sophisticated long-term play vs a short-term cash grab.

        1. Shamus says:

          This. Yes, the situation with theaters is SUPER tricky.

          Additional context for the curious: WAY back in the first half of the last century, there was this controversy over the way studios ran their business. They were vertically integrated. The studio owned the whole chain, from the studio, to the distributor, to the theater itself. Some anti-trust laws finally broke all this up.

          That’s all well and good, but now theaters are owned by small companies. And those small companies have been struggling and dying for the last 15 years. They already had one foot in the grave BEFORE the pandemic.

          The studios depend on theaters for the all-important movie-ticket sales. If the theaters die, then you don’t get $15 per person, you get (say) $20 for an entire family to stream the movie. In the past, five buddies used to meet at the theater and pay $75 to see the movie. But without a theater, they’ll all meet at Jeff’s house and pay just $20 for the whole group. Moreover, you lose out on single-viewers like me. I don’t want to pay $20 to watch a movie by myself. So I give the movie a pass and wait for it to hit free streaming.

          So the studio gets fewer sales, and the remaining sales are much smaller.

          Under normal circumstances, the studios would just start buying theaters. But due to the anti-trust laws they’re not allowed to own theaters. So Disney needs these little companies, isn’t allowed to buy them, and isn’t interested in giving them money for free to keep them afloat.

          So yes. I imagine these pandemic movies are the studios trying to keep the theaters alive.

          1. Joshua says:

            They already had one foot in the grave BEFORE the pandemic.

            And this is about the worst possible time for the studios, because large-screen high quality televisions are getting cheaper and cheaper (we recently bought a 65″ for about $520), and a home theater experience is no longer for just the idle rich. Meanwhile the studio theater experience is getting worse and worse (higher prices, ridiculous food quality for the prices, and with the way they’ve set up a lot of theaters to be just a few dozen recliner chairs, you don’t even get the old experience of being in the same room as several hundred other people laughing and cheering (YMMV if that’s desirable).

            We saw Black Widow in the theater because we didn’t want to drop $30 for the price on the Disney we already pay for. So instead, we paid about $13 to see it at the theater for a matinee, but had to rearrange our schedule for half the day to hit the theater at JUST the right time after doing our other activities and eating, sat through 25 minutes of trailers and commercials we had already seen, and came to the conclusion that the extra $17 would have been worth it just to be able to say “Hey, want to watch the movie now?” and plop down in our seats at home. Which is what we did for The Suicide Squad and it was a much more enjoyable experience (not even counting it being free on HBO Max).

            tl;dr The theater experience has been getting awful for years, and Covid was the mercy kill. Movie theaters are now the Video Arcades of 1995.

          2. Lino says:

            Here’s this big comment full of interesting history and information, yet all I can think about while reading it is “A cinema ticket costs HOW MUCH?!?!?!!?!” You guys are SERIOUSLY paying 20 United States Dollars for a cinema ticket?!?! Are those seats made of gold? Does every movie-goer get two servants to wave big palm leaves at him and feed him grapes?!

            I’d always thought “20 bucks for a ticket” was a figure of speech! Well, at least I’m not as angry about the jacked up prices of cinema tickets in my country. Once 3D came along, I was furious they made ticket prices 15 BGN (around 9 USD by current conversion rates). You get the same price for tickets in the so called “VIP rooms” which have those cool, reclining chairs, and where some places give you a free water bottle (which I hope is the default in the US).

            1. Syal says:

              You guys are SERIOUSLY paying 20 United States Dollars for a cinema ticket?!?!

              …yes and no? They were $13 here for the 3D movies last time I went, but then popcorn and sodas are another $7, so if you want to include those as ticket price then yes it’s twenty bucks.

              Shamus is talking about New Release Streaming Services being $20 for a movie, the plague alternative to cinema tickets.

    2. Rho says:

      Shang-Chi is pretty good when it’s about the characters and bad once it becomes those characters pretending to do something in front of a greenscreen.

  3. Chris says:

    Instead of Han being left behind in the trash compactor, imagine everyone trying to leave on the falcon but then they dont have Ben. So they run out to fetch him, see him get killed by Vader, and Han is like “alright he’s dead we can leave now”

    1. Syal says:

      Dammit now I’m imagining Obi-Wan Kenobi going down like the guy in Platoon.

  4. Mattias42 says:

    That plot point has been criticised for coming out of nowhere, which made me wonder: do you think that all foreshadowing of important plot points needs to be done in mandatory dialogue and/or cutscenes, so players don’t get blind-sided?

    …I mean, what’s even the point of a twist, if even the guy in the back barely awake can see it coming? That’s not a twist, that’s… well, badly mangled foreshadowing if not at least a few people miss it.

    Personally loved FF8 for that. How it’s… just there in the freakin’ course literature,, right after the intro, IF you actually read it. And why would anybody talk about it? It’s basically the ‘your knees will crap out in your thirties-forties’ of being an elite athlete in-universe. Made perfect sense why nobody would want to admit to that, well, titanic drawback of the Gardens entire basic premise.

    I’d honestly say making it such a blatant, but background element is my favorite way of telegraphing a twist, even. Another example from games: Borderlands 2: Roland is introduced with his cell graffiti outright saying ‘YOU DIE’ in big, red letters. Blew my mind when I actually noticed.

    It’s like… a reward for those that pay attention, while those that don’t actually get… well, a full on story twist. So how’s that NOT win-win?

    1. Xeorm says:

      It could have probably been given more notice given how central it is to the world structure. IIRC the entire point of having all the students and such be the armies of the world like they are is because of the GFs being powerful and them being the right age or adults not wanting to lose their memories. Something like that. Needed to be pointed out more I think.

      Still a good story and these are minor nitpicks.

    2. RamblePak64 says:

      Oddly enough, I’m more okay with the minor foreshadowing in FF9 for the final boss than FF8 and the amnesia twist. For me, it wasn’t so much the amnesia, and I had found that terminal log as well. The real issue was: the contrivance that they all went to the same orphanage and already knew each other, they just plumb forgot! Not only is that coincidence super coincidental, but it also implies that there’s entire chunks of their life missing from their memory and they never bothered to wonder about it. It’s not like they’re in their 30’s, 40’s, or 50’s, where earlier stages of life become more vague and blurred together in memory. They’re all still teenagers and can’t remember ten years ago, and just… it never comes up in conversation. No one ever asks about childhood stories. No one ever has childhood stories.

      If the memory issues are that bad, then there’d have been an even greater stink.

      I feel like I might have been able to handle it better had it been an earlier FF game, just like FF4’s absolutely silly to go back to and try to take seriously as a narrative today. But combined with all the monsters being sent down via laser from the moon and my absolute inability to like Squall or understand what Rinoa sees in him (and vice versa), it was a perfect storm of inability to even bother finishing the game.

      I tried so many times, but it was always at that basketball court that I could take no more.

      Granted, I also never enjoyed the junction and draw system. It was too easily broken, made magic pointless, summons were also pointless due to the time they occupied, and just… was never fun. Still, I do want to try and play the game on its own terms one day just to see it to the end, but it’s always going to be the one Final Fantasy whose following I will never understand.

      But, to reiterate, it’s not about the twist coming out of nowhere or not, it’s about the logic of the twist as a whole. Even if they hinted at it, the drastic nature and utter contrivance of it just makes it feel so… negative descriptions.

      1. Rho says:

        However, the whole Amnesia thing also has no impact except in that one specific plot-convenient way, and only on the main characters. At no point do we ever see it affecting anyone else.

        In fact there are a lot of weird logic issues with this, but there’s no sense trying to make sense there.

      2. Chad Miller says:

        for context: I didn’t finish FF8 either. And I started that series with I, and played most of them contemperanously (the only mainline exceptions were the games that weren’t released in the US, and I even tracked down and played an emulated fan translation of V) FF8 didn’t just fail to grab me; it broke the streak.

        Anyway I agree with you that that part you spoiler tagged is the real problem. It would feel like less of a contrivance if the party were all part of the same clique from the beginning, but collectively they start the game employed by three different gardens and one unaffiliated rebel organization. It’s not just that they forgot their past; it’s that given their past, the fact that these characters and only these characters ended up in the player party is a massive coincidence that passes by entirely without comment. It would have probably been a lot easier to swallow if, say, this was something Cid arranged intentionally, or some other plot reason why they ended up with the specific team that they did. Or maybe even some magical explanation. They may have even gotten away with “we don’t consciously remember each other but we were drawn together anyway.” Instead they presented it as the usual Final Fantasy part accumulating random heroes just because.

        Some other things that didn’t help: There’s too much text at the beginning, and the classroom computer also contains the tutorials that they forced way too much of on you (upon entering the Ifrit cave I remember Quistis giving me a tutorial and me thinking “Oh come ON! I’ve seen this twice already!” Which is a terrible sign for the first dungeon of the game). Also, this game kinda started the trend of “Final Fantasy plots stop making sense by the end” which means that someone getting annoyed by one scene and trying to find out if they’d like the rest of the story will likely run right into Time Compression and throw their hands up in disgust.

        1. Rho says:

          Worsr than that. One of the main characters totally remembers, and literally never brings it up. Because it was all simply too much to bear or some nonsense.

      3. modus0 says:

        Amnesia and teens forgetting entire sections of their life (without being too concerned about it) seems to be a thing Japan likes to use, for some reason.
        How many anime series’ are there that have the main character reintroduced to a close childhood friend, whom they’ve completely forgotten, along with something (usually a significant promise, like marriage) you’d think the protagonist would have been able to remember? Sometimes it’s justified with the protagonist having suffered something like head trauma or psychological trauma causing them to forget, but usually it seems to simply be “I don’t remember you, or that period of my life, oh well.”

      4. RFS-81 says:

        Wait, where was the foreshadowing in FF9?

    3. Syal says:

      It also says it’s a debated topic. I think child me just wrote it off as “oh, there’s Cell Phone Cancer people at this school talking smack about GFs.”

      So how’s that NOT win-win?

      There’s an idea best summarized by this metaphor I just made up: The wartier the frog, the more boiling it needs. That is, the harder it is to believe the twist, for any reason, the more setup it needs to make it palatable.

      The problem with the orphanage scene isn’t just the lack of foreshadowing, it’s that:

      1. it’s an enormous world shrink where all our main characters, heroes AND villains, are from the same town the same building.

      2. it’s an attempt to add stakes with no supports. “You have to fight your mom!” …I guess that might have mattered if any of these characters had made any indication of caring about finding their mom. If we hadn’t ALREADY MET ZELL’S MOM AND SHE WAS SUPER NICE.

      3. It’s based on information the player doesn’t have. We must intuit in this scene that apparently GF contact has to be a long-term thing, and that only Balamb Garden uses GFs; we intuit this because Irvine’s immune to the effect and Selphie’s got a special case. It also contradicts information we do have. (see point 2).

      4. It’s nowhere near the first plot twist*. We’ve had the Comms Tower, the Incident On The Train, the Deling City parade, multiple twists in the return to Balamb (What do you mean you don’t know what the switch does, Cid, you BUILT it! Also you’re married to the villain? Since when?. (If these are foreshadowed as well I’m legitimately interested in hearing where. It was super cool learning about the text in the billboard static.)

      The orphanage scene is almost entirely warts. It needs a LOT of boiling. A single terminal twenty hours earlier is not going to cut it. To pull this thing off, you want to foreshadow all of those elements. Make lots of references to memories, add some dialogue about people wanting to reconnect with their family. Go into the differences between the Gardens. Take the Chrono Trigger path and imply there’s other, larger forces at work bringing everything together.

      * (It’s also nowhere near the last twist, but we don’t know that yet. There’s a reason the Rinoa-is-Ultimecia thing isn’t laughed off in seconds, and it’s because it’s about on par with the game’s actual canon twists.)

      EDIT: Oh right, it’s also super dumb that a character says “you all forgot” and that’s enough for everyone to suddenly remember everything. Is this supernatural amnesia or not, game, can GF cancer really be overcome with a light nudge?

      1. Syal says:

        …might as well throw in my headcanon here.

        I like the idea that the memory problem is not from the GFs at all, but actually Ellone. Ellone’s power of sending people through time into other people is having the side-effect of messing with people’s personal memories, especially memories about Ellone.

      2. Chad+Miller says:

        Rinoa-is-Ultimecia

        Ugh. I’m really not a fan of stuff like this; personally, I feel like if a wild fan theory like this becomes too popular, it’s actually a huge burn on the original story that its own fanfiction is able to actively compete with it. Shepard Indoctrination Theory is probably the most popular example, but FF8 has a special place in my heart for doing this not once, but twice. Both with “Rinoa is Ultimecia” and with “Squall is Dead” (the fan theory that this cutscene is the last event in the game, with the remaining two discs being stuff Squall dreamed up while he was bleeding out in the Deling streets)

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I feel like if a wild fan theory like this becomes too popular, it’s actually a huge burn on the original story that its own fanfiction is able to actively compete with it.

          Well, it’s worse than that. I mean, fanfiction and fan theories aren’t necessarily terrible*. But the Indoctrination Theory changes the ending of the game, using a variation of ‘it was all a dream’…and was still popular.
          (I assume the ‘Squall is dead’ theory is similar? Sounds it.)
          That’s not just fanfiction competing with the story; that’s BAD fanfiction competing with the story.

          Kind of interesting, though. I wonder why I’ve never bothered looking into fan theories before-

          Rinoa-is-Ultimecia

          Ah yes, that’s why.

          *Not that I can think of any good ones off the top of my head. But that’s not surprising, as it’s not something I’ve really bothered with.

          1. Syal says:

            (I assume the ‘Squall is dead’ theory is similar? Sounds it.)

            Indoctrination Theory has to write royalty checks to Squall Is Dead Theory.

            It’s a sure sign the ending is broken; the only way fans can think to make it make sense, is to say the narrator has been lying to the audience.

            Rinoa-Is-Ultimecia is more standard world-shrink, but also an indication of what happens if you leave a mystery unsolved; Ultimecia is the driving force of the second half of the game, but you learn nothing about their past or motivations, not even when you’re in their lair. There’s a motive-sized hole in the narrative, that grows wider with each scene, and the game never fills it, so the fans decided to with the first available character and what I assume was heavy drinking.

            (I still don’t understand why the fans picked Rinoa and not Ellone; you’d think the time-travelling villain would end up being the time traveler, instead of the dog trainer.)

            1. Henson says:

              Ultimecia can’t be Ellone because Ultimecia’s entire plan hinges on finding Ellone. If she IS Ellone, the plan is redundant.

  5. lethal_guitar says:

    A game message that really annoys me to no end is anything along the lines of “You can lower the difficulty if you have trouble, you know?” when I die a few times. I most recently had this with SW Jedi: Fallen Order (I think?). I played on Jedi Master and I would say it’s still easier than most Souls Games at that level, and I was fully prepared to repeat boss fights a few times. But then the game is like “ohh, seems like you’re struggling, maybe you want to give up and try something easier?” I have brought this challenge upon myself, game, the only thing your reminder achieves is to make me more angry and frustrated.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      It’s especially annoying the way modern Mario games do it, where after a few deaths the game will spawn a powerup that makes you completely invincible. It feels like a deliberate insult on par with a popup saying “It looks like you’re a stupid baby and this level is too hard for you, would you like to skip it?”

    2. BlueHorus says:

      It gets worse when it’s a false promise.
      In the very first God of War, I was stuck on a fiddly instant-death platforming sequence, dodging spinning blades over a pit. Kept dying – after several deaths the game took pity on me.
      Would I like to lower the difficulty? Yes, game, I would. Thanks!

      So naturally, the game lowers the combat difficulty, and the platforming stayed just as infuriating.

    3. Fizban says:

      I’m generally fine with the idea of the game telling you there’s an easy mode and giving you the option to switch after you’ve failed some, so long as there’s a “disable this pop-up forever” button. It’s a pretty damn obvious part of the question.

      There usually isn’t.

    4. Dreadjaws says:

      Yes, I hate this sort of thing. I deliberately never use the “would you like to lower the difficulty?” thing because the great majority of the time the game absolutely misinterprets why I’m losing. Like, maybe I have trouble making a long jump, and I know lowering the difficulty is not magically going to make this gap smaller. It’s worse when I’m not even trying to do the mission and I’m just prancing around to see if I can reach areas that seem out of the beaten path, to find secrets or see if I can sequence-break a game. Screw you with you damn messages, game! Just let me play the way I want to.

      But even if I am losing because I find the challenge hard and I would like some help the game might still find a way to screw with me. One of the worst examples I can think of isSuper Mario Maker. The game has a medal system that allows you to unlock stuff by collecting medals, which are done by doing certain challenges in every stage. The problem is that some of them require complete precision in a task, so if you miss a step it’s better to kill yourself and restart quickly than to go to the end of the stage to start over. But the game interprets these deliberate deaths as you being bad at the game, which is infuriating, and then it offers to provide a helpful item… which you can’t accept because if you do it the game won’t allow you to collect the medals. I finished the stage already, game. I only restarted it to grab a second medal. Stop thinking I don’t know how to play the stage.

      Then there’s Puyo Puyo vs Tetris. If you’re having trouble with a stage, you’re given a “help mode” choice when you lose. But if you pick it thinking it’s going to slow down the pieces or something like that you’re in for a rude surprise, because the game outright skips the stage altogether, which I find it to be the most insulting.

  6. Moridin says:

    Re: Good writing
    Since you were talking about games where the gameplay is a part of the story… What about games like Stanley Parable and Death and Taxes

  7. Henson says:

    I happen to be replaying Planescape: Torment right now. The one thing my 2021 self is noticing is just how little choice I have in most of the dialogue, outside of the typical investigative “what is x?” options. The writers mostly only wrote one way through any particular conversation, so the choices are usually ‘continue’ or ‘don’t continue’, and you just have to accept whatever personality has been written into your responses.

    And yet, the writing is still remarkably engrossing, and most conversations feel like they get my character personally involved, rather than just feeling like ‘being talked at’. I’ve often described Planescape: Torment as a book in game form, but the writers really knew how to take advantage of the interactive nature of the medium, even if you’re not actually doing much more than reading.

    Combat still sucks.

    1. MerryWeathers says:

      The writers mostly only wrote one way through any particular conversation, so the choices are usually ‘continue’ or ‘don’t continue’, and you just have to accept whatever personality has been written into your responses.

      You will listen to what Chris Avellone has to say!

      1. Geebs says:

        Chris is doing us all a favour, it’s really exhausting to have to make all these decisions between nihilism and slightly edgier nihilism.

        1. Henson says:

          I can’t say I know what this is in reference to.

      2. jurgenaut says:

        At the time, Chris Avellone was well respected afaik.

        Hating on PS:T for something the writer did 15 years later is like hating Billie Jean, Thriller, Beat it and Smooth Criminal just because MJ turned out to be a pedocreep 30 years later. They are still great songs.

        Is the author dead or not? Is it possible to like a great work even though the creator is an asshole? Yes, it should be possible to hold two somewhat opposite oppinions at the same time.

        1. John says:

          Now now, it’s perfectly possible to dislike Chris Avellone on the basis of his work alone.

        2. tmtvl says:

          The misinformation about MJ should really stop. Yes, he settled out of court for a sum that us normies would consider huge. Guess what, he was in the middle of a world tour that would earn him more every single day. His lawyers told him to just pay them off and he didn’t want for medical photos to be shown in court.

          1. Also Tom says:

            Not sure if I’d call it misinformation. The stuff he did that he admitted to on camera in interviews was…uncomfortably weird at best. Frankly, the man was so messed up in the head that while it is entirely plausible that absolutely nothing sexual happened and he really was just trying to live the childhood he never got to have, it is also entirely plausible that he was a pedophile.

            In the end, the only conclusion to be drawn from his life is that trying to get your kid into stardom before they hit puberty should be considered grounds for a call to CPS.

          2. Geebs says:

            The lawyers’ original plan to avoid the suit was to keep five closed doors between MJ and the courthouse at all times.

  8. tmtvl says:

    Funny thing about FFVIII, I first played it on PC. Which was nice because it meant I could do the Chocobo sidequest and get the rewards from it. The Pocketstation peripheral never made it to the West after all.

    1. Chad Miller says:

      Yes, VIII and VII both had PC ports, though I wonder if the sheer crappiness of the VII port affected sales of VIII. The VII port was plagued by technical issues, including the baffling decision to have all the music be in MIDIs that sounded like rubbish even at the time. It was bad enough that it wouldn’t have been outlandish to buy the Playstation version and download an emulator even on a Windows PC.

      1. Syal says:

        My Steam version of FF8 has crashed on me multiple times.

        Although that may or may not have had to do with me removing all of the sound files and not replacing them. (How does this game not have audio options?)

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          The ports I’m talking about predate Steam (VII showed up in 1998 which was actually pretty close to the original PS release). That didn’t stop them from showing up on Steam later, even though FFVII was already having Windows backward-incompatibilities in Windows XP.

      2. Hal says:

        I played them both on PC. The 7 port . . . oh man, that was such a nightmare.

        For a long time, the game had a bad bug where it would crash while trying to play the cinematic where all the weapons come zooming out of the north crater. There was no way around it and no way through it.

        Once it was finally patched, I started racing chocobos until my eyes bled so I could pick up Knights of the Round. Unfortunately, this was all during an era of . . . less than reputable computing. Our Compaq Presario was not exactly the pinnacle of stability, but someone in the household was using Napster and Kazaa and, well, a factory reset was in order.

        I never went back to the game.

        1. Chad+Miller says:

          Yeah that spot was pretty infamous. I seem to recall doing something hacky to skip past that cinematic myself, though I no longer remember what.

          It was also common for scenes to include a combination of FMV video backgrounds with rendered characters in the foreground, and the PC versions didn’t sync at all, so you’d see something like a platform rotating while Cloud hovers in the air a few seconds behind before finally catching up at the end.

          It’s not the worst port I’ve ever seen, but it’s up there (down there?)

  9. Brian Quirt says:

    Yes, there are many of us excited about JWST launching. And not just those of us who have spent the last decade working on aspects of it. And are currently hoping that it doesn’t get captured by pirates while on a boat. And that it will all unfold correctly in free-fall with no atmosphere, which isn’t exactly something we could test down here. And the mirrors will align properly. And so on.

    And, of course, some of the people who are the most excited/nervous about the whole thing also have just background access to information that may or may not be officially public, and it can sometimes be hard to talk about this cool thing you were doing when you’re not sure if it includes information that you’re not supposed to mention.

    But it’s incredibly cool. It’s probably the most complicated device that anyone has ever put into space. It’s definitely the most complicated non-classified device, and frankly I assume that the military is more likely to use many simple special-purpose devices rather than one huge complex generalized telescope, but astronomers don’t have the budget to do that. It’s going to be good when it launches, and a lot of people have already spent a lot of years doing a lot of work to give us the chance of getting good science out on day 1 (where by day 1 I mean something like day 100, because it’ll take more than a month just to get into position to start working).

    1. Philadelphus says:

      And are currently hoping that it doesn’t get captured by pirates while on a boat.

      I used to work for the James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (JCMT), the only telescope to date that has actually been captured by pirates while on a boat.

      Well, technically what happened is that the main ~10 m mirror was being shipped from the UK to Hawaii for installation, and the captain of the ship decided to hold it for ransom off the coast of Argentina. (Or something like that, I heard the story around five years ago so some of the details are a little fuzzy.) Of course, while this was in the latter half of the previous century, GPS technology was already a thing and they could track the ship’s position, and it ended with the Argentinian coast guard storming the ship to get it back.

      So anyway yeah, let’s hope the JCMT remains the sole member of the exclusive “captured by pirates” club for telescopes.

  10. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    But I think I should have picked “Whole article on the front page, boss.”

    Be honest, after writing that you double checked didn’t you?

    1. Shamus says:

      I did. And then I considered putting it all on the front page as part of the joke. But I do it accidentally so often that nobody would believe I did it on purpose. :)

      1. kincajou says:

        you should totaly implement a counter somewhere “x days since the boss posted the whole article on the front page” :P

        1. Syal says:

          “Whole counter on the front page, boss.”

  11. Ninety-Three says:

    The game Paul mentioned where you can reprogram it as you play might have been Hack ‘n’ Slash by Double Fine. It had some frustrating moments of not being responsive enough (like when I hacked my way past a door the villain bragged was unhackable, only for the game to crash because I really wasn’t supposed to get through it), a few beautiful transcendent moments (like when I got tired of sliding block puzzles and simply reprogrammed the sliding block object to disintegrate when I touched it right), and mostly a lot of non-hacking busywork like sliding block puzzles.

    1. John says:

      There’s also else Heart.break(), which is a sort of an adventure game in which you can re-write the code controlling the objects (and I think maybe also the people) in that you encounter.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I don’t think it was either of those, but it’s good to know that the “reprogram the game” space is being explored.

  12. Lino says:

    I’m getting worried for you Shamus! They start you out with iron, and you feel great, but then you’ll start craving for a bit of carbon steel, you’ll be paying out the nose for the high-grade stainless steel! Stop while you still can!!!!

    Bad jokes aside, I’m really glad you’re feeling better!

    Regarding Marvel, after Endgame I also had my fill. I’m mildly interested by Shang Chi, because I love Chinese martial arts movies, and they seem to be drawing lots of inspirations from those. But I haven’t got around to watching it yet.

    Regarding Plansecape Torment, while I agree with Shamus that text allows designers much more freedom in the context of an RPG, I don’t think I’ll ever get to playing it, unfortunately. Since my job involves staring at text and numbers on a computer screen, I really don’t want my entertainment to involve that, too. If I’m going to be reading something, I’d rather it be a book or my ereader. I’m a bit of a hypochondriac, and I kinda value my 20/20 vision :/

    1. Daimbert says:

      Yeah, after Endgame I looked at the upcoming list of Marvel works and noted that I didn’t really have any interest in seeing any of them, despite at that point having been someone who tended to pick them all up when they came out (I don’t go to theaters and so only buy them on DVD). I didn’t care for Black Panther, Doctor Strange or Captain Marvel and didn’t like the direction that Guardians of the Galaxy and Thor went in, and the other characters tended to be ones that I didn’t follow much in the comics or that I wasn’t all that interested in (for Black Widow, I wasn’t all that interested in a prequel-type thing). So I resigned myself to, like with Star Wars, just not picking them up, or at least only picking them up if they were cheap.

      I tried playing Torment and simply could not get into it. I started it multiple times and if I made it out of the original area I didn’t get much further. I’m someone who should like text-heavy stories, but I think the overall gameplay didn’t grab me as much as the other Infinity Engine games and so I got bored with it. I have a couple of versions of it, though, to try again at some point if I get around to it.

    2. RFS-81 says:

      I’m getting worried for you Shamus! They start you out with iron, and you feel great, but then you’ll start craving for a bit of carbon steel, you’ll be paying out the nose for the high-grade stainless steel! Stop while you still can!!!!

      Turns out Big Pharma is in the pockets of Heavy Metal!

  13. Melfina+the+Blue says:

    Ooh, iron infusion! Mine is tomorrow (my 3rd round, thanks gene that makes me not absorb iron right, my gastric bypass, and my periods of doom!), and it does make a big difference if you’ve been living with anemia for a while. Not so sure on the “just have low iron levels” count, tomorrow’s the first time round I’m just dealing with that.
    And yay, my question! I always feel so special when you guys answer one of mine!

  14. Tizz says:

    I’d nominate Hades for a recent game with solid writing, if only because the game illustrates that you can have a modern game with essentially no dialogue interaction that can still have a good story and clear characterization of everyone. It was way more than I expected of it.

  15. Henson says:

    Another nomination for great writing in games: The Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver. Amy Hennig was really on point with this one.

  16. Christopher says:

    Plenty of the Ace Attorneys, Saints Row the Third, God Hand, several of the Zeldas, a couple of the Mario RPGs, Tales from the Borderlands, To the Moon, Undertale, Odin Sphere, Astro Boy Omega Factor, Ratchet & Clank 1 and 3, Tsukihime, Metal Gear Solid 3, Metal Gear Rising Revengeance, Undertale, Persona 4, Ghost Trick and even Devil May Cry 3 and 5 were all games I enjoyed the writing in. Some of those are text-heavy storybook games, but a lot aren’t, and most aren’t that serious. I think there’s a lot to say for snappy lighthearted comedy compared to super text-heavy RPG writing or cinematic self-serious titles, but it’s natural that serious writing often gets the serious cred.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Persona 3 and Persona 4: Arena have pretty good writing as well, with the latter being a fighting game that stops for an amazing something like an hour-long cutscene that still works. I also like Fatal Frame for its writing, especially in how it tells the stories of the ghosts. Also Shadow Hearts and Shadow Hearts: Covenant.

      But it’s kinda hard to talk about good writing because we have to ask “Good for what?”. I think the X-Men: Legends games and the first Marvel Ultimate Alliance games have writing and consequences that work for those games, but I wouldn’t say that the overall story was a classic … but then they weren’t trying for that, so how can I blame them? Also, I think The Old Republic’s writing is good for an MMO, but does it really rise to the level of overall great writing?

  17. John says:

    Bioware’s Neverwinter Nights also features the dreaded “You must gather your party before venturing forth.” It shows up less frequently than it does in Knights of the Old Republic, however, because in Neverwinter Nights your NPC companions will eventually teleport to your side if you get sufficiently far away from them. It’s always seemed odd to me that Knights of the Old Republic doesn’t have the same feature. Neverwinter Nights preceded Knights of the Old Republic and I’m reasonably certain that Knights of the Old Republic runs on a modified version of the Neverwinter Nights engine. So it’s not as though Bioware didn’t have access to teleporting NPC technology when they made Knights of the Old Republic.

    That suggests someone at Bioware made the creative decision to force the player to wait at a door while Canderous and HK-47 slowly, ever so slowly, make their way around that one wookie NPC and then slowly, ever so slowly, run all the way across the level. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. Perhaps they decided that teleporting twileks were immersion-breaking. It seems to me that twileks who can’t figure out how to get around, over, or through common household space-furniture are even more immersion-breaking, but then I am not a respected game-development professional. That said, there is one important difference between the two games that might explain it: Neverwinter Nights includes a module editor. Bioware presumably realized that players would inevitably create areas that stymied even the best pathfinding algorithm and that such areas might be completely unplayable without teleporting NPC companions.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Y’know, if you’re leaving the level anyway, why does the game even care about where any of your group members are? They’re all just going to spawn in together on the next map anyway. Regardless of whether they can teleport to your side or not, why do they even need to be by your side in the first place? Maybe as a way to prevent a lone survivor from fleeing a losing battle?

      1. Chad+Miller says:

        I’m pretty sure in Planescape: Torment you could have your thief sneak across a plane of hell, make it to the exit on the other end, then zone out, effectively teleporting the rest of the party. My first thought is preventing that kind of exploit, though I don’t know that KOTOR had any of that kind of stealth/enemy avoidance (I didn’t get very far into it)

        1. Daimbert says:

          That’s how I beat the final battle in “Gateway to the Savage Frontier”, although it was with my mage instead of my thief. Everyone else went down, she was unencumbered and so could move faster than pretty much anything, so I had her dash for the exit in the hopes that she could get away and then I could come back and try it again, and it turns out that that got me to the final cinematic, making it the old Gold Box game I ever finished.

          As for KOTOR, it did have stealth abilities that in theory could have been used that way, but in general you could have left your two companions to fight the battles that you didn’t want to fight and ran for the level exit, skipping the battles if they let you leave and then teleported your companions to you.

        2. John says:

          I think you are probably right that Bioware was trying to prevent players from exploiting area transitions during combat. I note that Bioware also deliberately gave at least some of the enemies in Neverwinter Nights the ability follow the player through area transitions. (It’s never been entirely clear to me whether that’s something inherent to the engine or the product of module- or creature-specific scripting. My best guess is that it’s the former.) I still think that the game should let you use area transitions regardless of the location of your party when you aren’t in combat though. It’s not as though the game can’t tell when you’re in combat after all.

          Knights of the Old Republic does have a stealth mechanic but it doesn’t come up very often. I can only think of three situations where the game clearly expects you to use stealth and one, perhaps two, more where stealth might be a better option than combat, depending on various factors. The problem is that for most of the game the developers can’t be certain that either the player or the player’s companions have put any points into stealth. Thus any problem that stealth could solve is generally also solvable by combat, which yields more XP.

          1. Thomas says:

            I don’t think having enemies follow you through area transitions would have worked for KOTOR, there are too many friendly areas with NPCs.

            The solution would definitely have been to teleport unless the party is engaged in combat. That’s how most more recent games do jt. (unless they have systems where only the main character is actually important)

            1. John says:

              I don’t know if the player can use area transitions during combat in Knights of the Old Republic. I don’t think I’ve ever tried it, which is probably some sort of testament to the game’s design. In fact, I don’t think that Knights of the Old Republic wants you to be able to flee from combat at all. Unlike Neverwinter Nights, you can’t order your henchmen to follow you as you make a run for it.

    2. Steve C says:

      The other extreme to npcs taking the slow path is creepy watson.

  18. tmtvl says:

    One game that I really like the writing of is Front Mission 3. It helps that the game has an entire internet to explore that allows for world-building through corporate advertising, public government sites, and BBS chatter.

  19. Philadelphus says:

    So, to put it simply, there are 5 Lagrange points for every two-body system in space, whether that’s the Sun and Earth, Earth and the Moon, the Sun and Jupiter, etc. They’re basically special because they’re points where the gravity of the two bodies cancels or adds in interesting ways. The first Lagrange point (L1) is between the two bodies, which might make it the easiest to visualize: just imagine the Sun and Earth both attracting you gravitationally, and the L1 point is where those two forces balance (the exact distance between them will depend on the ratio of their masses). If you extend a line from the primary body, through L1, and then through the secondary body some distance, you reach L2. If you extend that line backwards through the primary body out to the same distance as the secondary, you reach L3. Finally, L4 and L5 lie in the orbit of the secondary body, but ahead of and behind it by 60 degrees. These are interesting because they produce stable gravitational wells (with some qualifications), meaning things that end up in them can reside there for long periods of time without expending energy. The most prominent example of this is the Trojan asteroids, swarms of hundreds of asteroids (all named after people in the Illiad) that orbit ahead of and behind Jupiter, but my favorite example is that two moons of Saturn (Tethys and Dione) each have a pair of Trojan moons, one ahead and one behind.

  20. pseudonym says:

    About the iron injected, that is not metallic iron but iron ions. It is thus actually rust. It is these ions that actually give blood its color and taste. Blood is quite rusty. but it makes sense, sice rust is iron bound with oxygen. So the iron in your blood is used to transport the oxygen.

    From what I can grok from this link: https://www.healthnavigator.org.nz/medicines/i/iron-injection/ it seems that it is a common procedure for people who do not take up iron from their food well. Including people with chronic kidney disease.

  21. pseudonym says:

    About the default resolution. The vertical resolution in the US was 480 interlaced lines. This is according to the NTSC standard. The technical details are here: https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/NTSC

    The quality is therefore about 480p (as far as you can compare things). It is not great, but not bad either. Old television signal was quite servicable!

    1. John says:

      I grew up watching 480i broadcasts and I can’t bring myself to complain about it. But let’s not kid ourselves. There’s a noticeable jump in quality going from a 480i NTSC broadcast to, say, a 480p DVD. Interlacing makes a real difference.

  22. pseudonym says:

    Good writing in a story-based AAA game of recent times? I nominate Metro: Exodus. Except the mountain part, the writing was very engaging. The plot makes sense, and the ending flows naturally from events in the game. It makes you care about the characters and also does good environmental storytelling.

  23. Stu Friedberg says:

    I want to comment on a game which begins with terrible writing but later develops into a game that I would almost recommend on the basis of the writing. Tales of Berseria starts with a half hour of the most cloying, ham-handed, cliched “this is why you should care” cutscenes, of the “scholarly, sickly younger brother; competent and loving tomboy older sister; cool and distant elder brother-in-law; terrible savages burnt our village to the ground” variety. I very nearly quit in disgust before this introduction was over.

    During the actual game play, the protagonist of this game has been driven literally inhuman by rage and a lust for revenge, and the explicitly avowed aim of killing the man most people see as the savior of the world and destroying everything that man has accomplished, and some of the antagonists try to mess with her head to drive her into utter madness. This is not a “cute” game despite the moogle equivalents and silly paperdoll costumes, and the protagonist and her allies are not “nice” people.

    Yet most of the writing for the mixed band of humans, demons, and malakhim on their mission of destruction is nuanced, within those stark and rage-filled parameters. Not just the words, but also the voice acting and the subtleties of character animations (body posture, etc.) make this something much richer than a bunch of one-dimensional crazed killers running around trying to get at their enemy. It is one of the few games where a roughly six year old monster could, completely without irony, say the equivalent of “Have fun destroying the Church” when seeing off the band, and have that line strike a sympathetic chord with the gamer. While one pair of characters (pseudo samurai) do have a “Let’s find out who’s strongest” sub-story, there’s not a whole lot of shonen cliches scattered around. The different band members have rather different motivations. There are some major NPCs who both assist and oppose the band, based on their own independent motivations and back stories. When the nominal “good guys” are revealed to be rather less good than originally suggested, the reveal is lengthy, gradual, and mostly by showing rather than telling. The dialogue for the god-like adversary was charmingly free from both bombast and modesty, and had an appropriately chilling indifference to much of it.

    The writers even managed to get a bunch of comic relief (perhaps comic annoyance would be more accurate) into the mix, which is quite welcome if you don’t want 20 hours of continuous grim-dark, and do so without emotional whiplash.

    So I started playing Tales of Berseria with contempt for the writing, and came to think fairly highly of it during the course of the game. Not really talking about narrative structure, acts, and such, just about the dialog and audio/visual performances.

    1. Syal says:

      Still the only Tales game I’ve played, and I have a good opinion of it. I would have liked it to get darker and more in-depth in the character stuff, but it’s still a YA series so it has to stay away from full Spec Ops territory. But stuff like Velvet bonding with a kid because he reminds her of her brother, only for that kid to start bonding with one of the other characters instead, makes for some cool dynamics.

      Still some narrative nonsense and jank (Chickens Are Not Birds, says Tales of Berseria), and Magilou gets a whole lot of dialogue for being the only character without an obvious reason to be there. But certainly at the high end of JRPGs I’d say.

  24. RFS-81 says:

    Edna & Harvey: The Breakout is an adventure game where literally every interaction between items has unique dialogue. It helps that Edna is insane. When you use your entire inventory on a TV, she tells you what shows each object likes to watch. You can also meet the game developer in-game, getting therapy because of that decision.

  25. Steve C says:

    In regards to my question about the best stories, I feel the same as Paul — Rimworld, Valheim, Minecraft, Dwarf Fortress, and games like it are the best stories. Because it’s *your* story — What you did and how you did it. Or the characters you made who organically had a narrative due to your actions and a bit of randomness. By the same token I would count World of Warcraft as my personal top story game ever made. Not due to any words that came out of Blizzard HQ, but the stories and narratives formed by the interactions with the people I played and raided with.

    That’s why I went with the writing angle instead of story. I already knew what kind of answer Paul was going to give because it is my answer too. A bit like asking “Who’s the top 3 best people in the world by your own standards.” Everyone is going to say some combination of their spouse and kids.** In regards to writing specifically though, I’m on Paul’s wavelength. I don’t play a lot of written-story games. I’m unable to think of three. My top two are Katawa Shoujo and Ur-Quan Masters. The third is probably a story told with background environmental story telling that I’m drawing a blank on. IE the same category as Dark Souls. (I’ve never played DS.)

    **(Well not all of them. Because top 3. Someone has to lose in bigger families.)

    1. Philadelphus says:

      Single people exist too.

      1. Drathnoxis says:

        And not everybody likes their spouse or kids either.

  26. Steve C says:

    Shamus you mentioned the silliness over the vehemence of team battles and color politics. Are you familiar with the Nika riots of ancient Rome? Blues and Greens. They fought over which color was best. Thirty thousand dead and half the city destroyed. Sure, politics and all that, but also all about which team you supported.

    Those pissing contests over in-game chat are serious business and matter. /s

    1. pseudonym says:

      But in this particular example the greens and blues banded together demanding pardon for members that had been imprisoned. This was in Constantinople under the reign of Justinian in the sixth century.

      1. Steve C says:

        It was the same sentiment as the factions in The New World.
        They picked arbitrary teams. Those teams generated a unhealthy rivalry. They reduced themselves to their colors of Blue and Green. They were referred to as such both at the time and historically in the centuries after. The imprisonment/pardon was just the instigating action that resulted in warfare. Resulting in the Greens being wiped out via military action a few weeks later.

        I see a great deal of similarities to The New World factions and toxic PvP. In the same way players in The New World factions are *also* fighting over which of their teams was better.

    2. John says:

      The Blues and The Greens were chariot racing organizations. The Byzantines didn’t riot over colors, they rioted over whose sports team was vastly inferior.

  27. I’m glad you’re having fun with New World. I figure with games like these, if you get a couple of weeks of enjoyment out of it, you’ve gotten your money’s worth, even if you quit and never go back after that.

    You can fix up your chat feed if you click the little tiny gear next to where you type your chats in. It will let you select one of three options for each of the various chat feeds: Alert (in which case you get a little flashing pop-up when chats appear), normal, and mute, which hides the chat from your main feed. I have global and recruitment muted, as I find these are the most annoying, although Faction and Area can get obnoxious at times when pvp crap is happening.

    I joined a Company (guild) more or less at random, but they’ve turned out to be pretty cool. They just took control of Windsward a couple of days ago after winning a war. Controlling a territory is actually pretty cool. You get a lot of discounts on stuff, so it helps out, and your Company gets taxes from everyone using the town amenities. Our Company treasury has tripled in three days, which is good, because you need hella cash to upgrade and maintain the territory and give you a chance to fend off the attackers. And Windsward is a prime territory, because it’s centrally located and rich in resources. So the place is constantly crammed with people farming resources and paying us taxes.

    The Greens, of course, were not pleased to lose the territory, so they’ve been aggressively attacking us (and just declared war before I logged off today). But this led to a hilarious situation where they ground out all the Influence to declare war and then COULDN’T, because we got a Corrupted invasion and while that’s active no one can declare war. So today they had to do all that grinding again, which resulted in a more-or-less permanent PVP war right outside the town with everyone trying to run the PvP missions to get Influence. It was LOUD. I think the fort changed hands about 10 times, too.

    The lore documents you pick up do end up in your Journal, btw, so you can go back and read them if you want to. I just looked up a Youtube video or three on the game lore because I could listen to those in the background while I chopped down an entire forest to make furniture for my house. My theory is now that this island is basically a capstone on the entrance to the underworld (there’s a lot of references to Greek mythology in the lore) and there was a magical/divine seal that is made of Azoth that separated the real world from the underworld. And the ancients blew it up accidentally and may or may not have escaped to another planet or something like that.

    If you’ve ever read any ancient Greek and Roman mythology, you know that there was supposedly an entrance to the underworld that you could sail to somewhere out in the Atlantic, so that would gel really well with the references they’ve got going on here.

    From what I’ve vaguely been able to put together, also, the island itself seems to not have a single geographical location, and a specific set of circumstances has to occur for you to enter the storm wall and wind up there. But people from all over the place wind up there from time to time.

    One thing I wonder about is whether the people on the island can have children, because, of course, there are no children in the game. That’d be an interesting thing, if it’s actually part of the lore that no one on the island can have kids and that’s why there aren’t any kids.

    Apparently, though, at least some people can leave the island on occasion, because there’s at least one story where an expedition was deliberately lured to the island by this weird heretical monk dude. The Corrupted, in particular, seem to be actively recruiting people to come here to serve them.

    The house furnishing thing is surprisingly fun, it’s like in Skyrim if you built a house, only you can actually place the furniture yourself. You can own up to 3 houses and they give you a free teleport (or a really cheap-to-reset teleport) along with other benefits like you can place extra storage.

  28. Grimwear says:

    I agree with Shamus and PvP problems. Initially with WoW I played on pvp serves because I wanted the “full” experience which generally just meant me being ganked over and over, while occasionally being able to do it in return. But even then World PvP wasn’t for me. I was originally a big Alterac Valley fan though. Last time I played WoW they integrated pve and pvp servers and you can toggle world pvp on for an exp boost when questing but I just kept it off the whole time because it wasn’t worth the hassle and I didn’t want my time wasted by some child with nothing better to do than kill me over and over.

    I remember when Guild Wars 2 came out their World vs World vs World sounded interesting. Unfortunately server battles just don’t work anymore. Before launch Reddit and I’m sure other big social media groups had picked out which server they would all play on so right off the bat you had these powerhouses entering the field and just dominating everyone. I stopped playing pvp in GW2 almost immediately. Quick sidebar Mech Assault 2 had some cool pvp where you fight over planets and such but even then everyone went House Davion because they had the most planets so it just spiraled.

    As for the MCU I stopped caring after Endgame. I never saw Black Widow or Shang Chi. I just can’t bring myself to want to watch them. I feel like I’ve already seen said movie 20 times over. I may watch the new spiderman but I’m on the fence. The movie I am excited for however is the new Dune movie by Dennis Villeneuve and I’m 100% set to go see that in theatres.

    1. Yeah, my one experience of PvP on New World involved a horribly lopsided war between a bunch of level 60 jerks and a bunch of level 27-40 joiners. Didn’t go well.

      They need to enforce an “the aggregate levels of the armies must balance” instead of making it a free for all. So if you have much higher level characters on your side, hey howdy, you only get 30 people instead of 50 in your army.

      1. Steve C says:

        Would that even work? I’m unfamiliar with that game’s mechanics but I know that would not work in the MMOs I’m familiar with. A 3 level difference is significant. A 5:3 numbers advantage might be enough to over come it. A 30 level difference though? That’s insurmountable. You could send a 100 low levels at a single high level player and the latter would win without difficulty.

        1. It’d work in New World. Three levels is nothing. I’ve been killed in PvP by a level 30 when I was 45. Two 40’s can take out a 60 as long as they’re not dumb enough to stand close together where they can both get hit by the same effect.

  29. Drathnoxis says:

    I don’t want a signed copy of Mess Effect, but I would like a signed copy of this post, Diecast #358.

  30. Dreadjaws says:

    I got sick of the MCU way before Endgame, what with their insistence on not even trying to shake up their formula. They did exactly what I feared they’d do years ago: stagnated the genre to the point where every entry feels boringly derivative, and since everyone is aping their style, even for other genres, the entire action genre has become almost unbearable for me.

    I liked The Suicide Squad and Free Guy because at least tried a few different things, but I doubt I’ll ever consider them classics.

    I think the FFVIII thing was fine, but you kinda have to get your mind into this sort of thing. Japanese storytelling is quite different from western, but even for Final Fantasy standards things are too odd in this one. There’s a lot of information the game seems to trust you’ll understand merely from implications rather than actual information given. The problem is that the reveal is outright stated. So people who don’t pay attention to every minuscule detail (which is likely to be the majority) will miss the setup and then the payoff will make no sense to them. I think both setup and payoff should have equal levels of visibility. You can leave a setup vague, but then the payoff has to be vague too, so it doesn’t get in the way of the story but serves as an extra reward for those who do some digging.

    And not only japanese storytelling is different, sometimes we have to deal with story issues introduced by mistranslations. People get really worked out about that stuff. Like, in certain areas of the Resident Evil community people will get absolutely angry at you if you bring up information from the English in-game files, because they only care about the original japanese ones, of which they have fan made translations that are more accurate. And these games don’t even have complicated plots like the FF games do (though the backstory can get insane).

  31. Brian Quirt says:

    Because NASA has made an official press release, I can report that JWST made it to port and will soon be on its way to the launch facility. Unless there are road/train/space pirates, no pirate capture will be involved.

    1. Shamus says:

      *thumbs up*

      I haven’t been this excited about space since the shuttle program closed down.

      1. Steve C says:

        I understand what you mean. Still, the way you phrased it can be taken to mean the exact opposite. ;-)

  32. Steve C says:

    I want to bring attention to the 35:40 mark of this podcast. Where Quintin Smith of Shut Up and Sit Down makes an excellent ~3.5min point about game narratives I haven’t heard made before. He’s referring to board games, but I feel it applies just as much or more to video games.

    https://soundcloud.com/susd/podcast-153-sleeping-negotiators#t=35:40

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