I start the show off with some negative energy aimed at Rockstar games. But then we settle in and have a good time.
Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.
00:00 GTA “Definitive Edition”
Here are the images I talked about on the show. The first is the version of Denise where she looks like a Mii:
These three different images represent different versions of the game. Rockstar pulled the first one from stores and unleashed their legal team to make sure that the third one got taken down, all so they could sell us the second one.
The original game didn’t use bump maps / normal maps. San Andreas pre-dated the point where that sort of thing became common. And that’s fine. But here they added bump maps. Well, they added one apparent bump map. And got it wrong.
And here’s one more image that I didn’t show Paul, but which is fairly instructive. Here are some screenshots of the in-universe pornographic actress “Candy Suxx”. This illustrates how they’ve always been sort of lazy and unimaginative when it comes to Satirizing American culture.
Now to be fair: Yes, the original 2002 version of this character (left) is still atrocious. I was making 3D characters in this era, on an earlier version of this same graphics engine, with the same apparent polygon budget. I was always a pretty crap artist, but I promise you I was able to make things much better than this.
The shoulders are all wrong, the neck is a disaster, and her overall proportions are off. Way too many polygons were spent on making her boobs very round, when the rest of her is conspicuously jagged. I realize that the oversized bust was part of the joke of the character and I’m not suggesting it should be made smaller. I’m saying you could reclaim quite a few triangles from the breasts and make them look slightly less round, and spend those polygons elsewhere for massive improvements to the overall silhouette.
Having said all of that, it’s obvious that the Definitive Edition is miles worse. In fact, a running theme in the Definitive Edition screenshots is characters with bizzaro-world proportions.
Here is what I think is happening:
Somehow, these old models are getting mapped onto skeletons with different proportions. The “definitive” image of Candy is exactly the sort of outcome you should expect if you carelessly stick a male skeleton inside a female mesh. The shoulders will get wider, the torso and arms will get longer, and the legs will get shorter.
In the world of animation, the skeletons come with the animations. (Sometimes. It depends on the engine.) So if you’re lazy and you don’t want to make male and female versions of all animations, then the female models might end up playing male animations, which will deform them to fit male proportions. If you’ve got a “stylized” figure with exaggerated feminine proportions, then the resulting deformation is going to look freakish.I’m willing to bet this looks even worse in-game. Skeletal re-mapping looks bad in still frame, but worse in motion.
12:17 Guess which component failed!
I’m going to guess… the operating system?
I am reminded of Sunless Sea, another vaguely horror-ish game with cool art and delicious atmosphere that wasn’t particularly fun to play.
26:21 Mailbag: Villains
Who do you think are some of the best written villains in video games, and/or what do you think makes a great (video game) villain? Would you say there are constraints or stumbling blocks that exist in video games for making well-written villains that aren’t an issue in other mediums? Do you think villains in video games need to be tackled in differently when writing them? Who are some of your favourites, and why? Any examples you would use as a “Don’t do this, never do this” piece of advice for future games? Are there any villains you think were close to being great, but ruined or held back from achieving their full potential?
34:32 Mailbag: Blog to Video
I’ve noticed Shamus has a lot of interesting and incisive blog posts, particularly the retrospectives. I’m sure the thought has crossed your mind and there must be a reason for not having done so yet (barring simultaneous blog/video releases), but I was curious as to why you (or your editor) don’t turn those blog posts into videos. I imagine it’s because acquiring all the relevant footage, getting the recordings right, and having it edited together properly is very time consuming and would take away from your other work.
But you have put together a number of videos from scratch (as in scripting), it seems, and you have said you’d like to do more videos in the hopes that your success there will take off. So I was wondering if you had any plans to make the script part a lot easier by recycling old content and making videos out of them, perhaps even gradually on the side as you focus on the work you deem more important? For instance, would you ever consider turning your Mess Effect series or retrospectives on the Arkham games into videos? Or even smaller, more singular pieces, like The Cost of Spectacle, and The Plot-Driven Door?
All the best,
38:22 Mailbag: Refterm
you may have heard about Casey Muratori’s Refterm, a terminal emulator for Windows that vastly outperformed the standard Windows terminal.
Are there other applications you think could be vastly improved by implementing lessons learned from game development?
P.S. If you haven’t heard about Refterm, the developer made a video highlighting it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hxM8QmyZXtg
52:00 Mailbag: Playing Games WRONG
Have you ever tried playing Cities:Skylines wrong? Throwing roads around willy-nilly, applying the “eh, wherever” philosophy of zoning, taking the SimCity Monster Hates Your City video’s city design as a How-To Guide, and generally YOLOing everything until the resultant monstrosity nears collapse… and then trying to fix it?
May the day find you well,
 This illustrates how they’ve always been sort of lazy and unimaginative when it comes to Satirizing American culture.
 I’m willing to bet this looks even worse in-game. Skeletal re-mapping looks bad in still frame, but worse in motion.
So what happens when a SOFTWARE engineer tries to review hardware? This. This happens.
The Gameplay is the Story
Some advice to game developers on how to stop ruining good stories with bad cutscenes.
The Truth About Piracy
What are publishers doing to fight piracy and why is it all wrong?
The Disappointment Engine
No Man's Sky is a game seemingly engineered to create a cycle of anticipation and disappointment.
Final Fantasy X
A game about the ghost of an underwater football player who travels through time to save the world from a tick that controls kaiju satan. Really.