Experienced Points: The Digital Distribution Wars Are On Again

Escapist   By Shamus   May 12, 2015   105 comments

Quite a few people have been asking me what I think of Galaxy, the new client from Good Old Games. “It’s too soon to tell, but I’m impressed so far,” isn’t long enough to fill an entire column, so I did another round-up of all the other digital distribution platforms and compared them.

In the column I said that UPlay is the new Games for Windows LIVE. Thinking more about it, it seems like UPlay might actually be somehow more useless than GFWL. GFWL purportedly offered some sort of cross-platform play between Windows and Xbox players, and I’ve never heard of UPlay offering anything like that. On the other hand, UPlay doesn’t have quite as many comical failures when trying to do simple things. On the gripping hand, UPlay came out years after GFWL and had every chance in the world to avoid or correct for the failings of its predecessor. And then didn’t.

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One Week

Personal   By Shamus   May 10, 2015   89 comments

I am a creature of habit. I don’t like doing new things. But if I do something long enough that it becomes part of my routine, then I hate not doing it. And I find it really irritating when I get pushed off my routine. Some of my habits are so ingrained I’m not even aware of them.

“Taking a nap?” my wife says to me one afternoon last summer.

I stop. Yeah, I guess I am. I just stood up from the computer and I was about to head for the bedroom. But only because I had insomnia last night and it’s just catching up with me now. This isn’t my usual naptime. “Hang on a second,” I say, cocking my head to one side, “How did you know?”

“You just took off your socks. You always do that right before going to sleep.”

“Wow, really? I never noticed that.”

After that exchange I began trying to spot other odd tics and habits of mine, and it turns out they’re innumerable. This is good for all of us, since one of my ingrained habits is running this site. Here is one week of running Twenty Sided:

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The (Bad) Walking Dead EP 3: Ass of Holding

Spoiler Warning   By Shamus   May 8, 2015   68 comments

Link (YouTube)

We’ve been kind to the game this week. We’ve admired it for what it tried to do. We’ve talked about what the game might have accomplished if it had been given more time and money. We tried to find the good among the bad. But then in the comments someone pointed out that right now, TODAY, Activision is asking FIFTY DOLLARS OF US AMERICAN UNITED STATES OFFICIAL MONEY for this horrendous low-quality cash-in. That’s disgusting, but also mindbogglingly stupid.

Making a zombie game so long after the zombie craze has come and gone is bad. Making a cheap zombie game to cash in on a license is worse. Asking full AAA price is worse still. Doing so when your trailer looks awfulAnd yet is still dishonestly better looking than the actual game. is more worser. Asking full AAA price when the jig is up, everyone knows the game sucks, and there are literally tens of thousands of far better games on the shelves for a fraction of the cost is insane.

In case you’re wondering, Activision published this.

I think we’re going to go through with our plan and make May “Zombie Month”. We’ll see how it goes. Thanks to Chris for putting the time and effort into putting these episodes together.

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The (Bad) Walking Dead EP 2: Get Me a Thing!

Spoiler Warning   By Shamus   May 7, 2015   45 comments

Link (YouTube)

I’m really enjoying this game. I mean, I’m enjoying watching Chris playing it. It looks insufferable to play. Maybe it’s just that I’m still mad about how willfully awful Absolution was, but I find the bugs and dopey adventure game logic to be kind of charming.

I can’t really explain this. Mechanically, Absolution is a better game. Why am I more charitable towards a worse one? That’s an interesting question. I think a big part of it is that it doesn’t look like Absolution was starved for cash. They easily had both the time and budget to make a far better game. In the case of Survival Instinct, it looks like there just wasn’t enough time or money to go around.

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Grand Theft Auto Online

Game Reviews   By Shamus   May 7, 2015   57 comments

Way back in 2008 I wrote an essay contrasting cooperative/creative players with combative/destructive players. Roughly: Some of us sign on so we can build sandcastles, and the multiplayer exists as a way to collaborate and view each other’s work. Other people see multiplayer as a way to destroy other people’s sandcastles. A lot of games will focus on one or the other. (The Sims and Left 4 Dead are very collaboration-focused, while Quake 3 Arena or Battlefield are PvP focused.) Some games provide distinct areas for each kind of player. (World of Warcraft has both Roleplay and PvP servers.) The co-op players have their fun, the PvP players have their fun, and everyone goes home happy.

But some games are sociopathic in nature and are structured to lure the sandcastle-builders into a place where they can be prey for the sandcastle-crashers. This is GTA V Online. I’ve been playing GTA V Online with the rest of the castExcept for Mumbles. over the last week or so. Like the single-player game, it’s gorgeous, massive, lavishly produced, brimming with content, and aggressively obnoxious.

The most unforgivable sin here is that of excruciating loading times. GTA V already takes a nice long time to start up. Then it takes a really long time to launch into online mode. Then it makes you wait even longer so you can connect to an instance. Then there’s the actual loading screen proper where the game pulls art assets into memory.

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The (Bad) Walking Dead EP 1: Punch Her Butt

Spoiler Warning   By Shamus   May 6, 2015   60 comments

Link (YouTube)

Here is the video Rutskarn mentioned, that features GATORADE NUT PUNCH. It’s funnier than us, so you should probably watch it last.

EDIT: So I originally posted this video with no text, with the video marked as private, and then went away for a couple of hours to play GTA Online with Rutskarn and Josh. Okay, I screwed up. In my defense, I’m still about 1000% less terrible at my job than whoever did the GTA V multiplayer.

So this is the first of three installments for Walking Dead: Survival Instinct. And if all goes well, we’re going to do a few more zombie games in the following weeks.

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Experienced Points: Screen Time and Summer Releases

Escapist   By Shamus   May 5, 2015   80 comments

My column this week is basically a mailbag episode.

Also, this is a pretty good illustration of how important titles are on a site like The Escapist. I knew the title was kinda flat. It doesn’t state anything bold, or ask a question, mention a current controversy, or promise to explain something. It just mentions two disparate topics. As of this writing, my column has been up for about three hours and doesn’t have a single response. On other weeks, I’d have at least a dozen by now.

A few Past titles with more “grabby” headlines:
What the Heck is a Fractal…
These Games Were Ruined by…
5 Things to Do if…

All of those performed far better than this one.

I know we’ll get a discussion here on the blog, but that’s because you’re here looking for stuff “by Shamus”. That’s fundamentally different than looking for, “Stuff to kill a few minutes”.

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Diecast #102: Konami, GTA V, Degenerate Strategies

Diecast   By Shamus   May 4, 2015   162 comments

Direct link to this episode.

Direct download (MP3)
Direct download (ogg Vorbis)
Podcast RSS feed.

Hosts: Shamus, Josh, Chris, Rutskarn.

Show notes: Continue reading »

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The Avengers: Age of Ultron

Movies   By Shamus   May 3, 2015   241 comments

Non-spoiler stuff first: I’ve said before that I think most science fiction gets robots wrong by projecting human desires onto AI. So we end up robots with a Pinocchio complex that have daddy issues, self esteem issues, bad tempers, romantic hang-ups, and a dozen other neurosis and quirks that really make no sense at all outside of a Darwinian biological struggle to survive.

I hope it’s not a spoiler to say that Age of Ultron does not break from this tradition. If anything, Ultron is worse than its robotic-overlord predecessors in this regard. The entire movie is more outrageously “comic book”-ish about its science. People can invent world-changing stuff in the time it takes to heat up a Hot Pocket and science is mixed in with magic with no regard for genre boundaries.

This makes it a very hard movie to believe in. (Particularly near the end, when it feels like all the rules go out the window.) If you’re going to suspend your disbelief, you’re going to have a lot of stuff to suspend and the writer isn’t really interested in helping you out, because explaining the rules would devour endless screen time.

I loved it.

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Hitman Absolution EP18:Absoludicrous

Spoiler Warning   By Shamus   May 2, 2015   154 comments

Link (YouTube)

And so it ends. Here is Rutskarn’s Clod of Cthulhu series that I alluded to during the episode. As we announced in the credits, next season is likely going to be Arkham Asylum. I’m really looking forward to some positivity after so much bellyaching.

I know we already awarded this earlier in the season, but for the sake of people skimming the archives I’d like to remind everyone that Hitman Absolution is only the fourth game to claim this prize:


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Hitman Absolution EP17: The Least Samurai

Spoiler Warning   By Shamus   May 1, 2015   96 comments

Link (YouTube)

In a game brimming with stupid irritations, the scene where Victoria kills everyone but her captor is one of the most irritating and stupid. After building up her powers for an entire game, they finally reveal them just for the sake of a useless cutscene that accomplishes nothing. After failing to give our damsel any personality whatsoever, they finally give her a moment of screen time to reveal she’s stupid, useless, and overly emotional. I guess Dexter knew she was stupid, since he made no effort to protect himself from her and was completely unafraid of her even as she slaughtered his men. Apparently he knows he’s wearing plot armor?

It wouldn’t even be that hard to fix this: After she kills all the mooks, she fires a bullet right at Dexter’s cackling face without hurting him. The camera pulls back to reveal he’s on the other side of a bulletproof glass wall. It’s still dumb and contrived, but at least the damsel and villain don’t both need to behave like complete morons to make this scene work.

Look, I know it’s completely unfair to compare Hitman: Absolution to some dream game I have in my head. It can’t even succeed at the very shallow goals it set for itself, so asking for something thematically ambitious and mechanically complex is like asking Tommy Wiseau to come up with The Usual Suspects. It’s totally unreasonable and a recipe for disaster.

But you know what? This game is already an unreasonable disaster on many levels, so who cares? What are the writers gonna do? Have me stupidly captured by idiot villains in another dozen cutscenes? So let’s talk about what I wanted when the game started telling us that Victoria was a super-badass. Continue reading »

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Hitman Absolution EP16: Judge Judy and Executioner

Spoiler Warning   By Shamus   Apr 30, 2015   100 comments

Link (YouTube)

I have to admit I kind of lost it this week. This part of the game is so egregiously incompetent that I stopped analyzing the game and just got angry at it. The part where you’re captured in a cutscene (again!) is probably not quite as bad as the end of the Terminus mission in terms of “authorial blunders per minute”, but this one tries my patience a lot more.

Skurkey has his dominatrix here at work not because it makes any kind of sense in how people would behave, but because the writers wanted more of whatever this is. I can’t can’t tell is this is supposed to be fanservice or mocking BDSM culture, but it’s really confusing either way. Skurkey has been established as a pretty dim bulb, but even if you ghost this entire area he still gets you with this electrocution trap, meaning he’s both clairvoyant and way more clever than the writers have shown him to be. And then two seconds later it reveals he didn’t even know you’re the Hitman! So why did he leave that trap? Okay, I accept that this world has videogame electricity where exposing current to a puddle of water makes a knockout trap instead of, you know, blowing a fuse. But does the Sheriff just randomly make this shock trap outside his office for no reason?

And then we have yet another section where Dexter cackles over you and refuses to kill you for no good reason and instead leaves you in an easily escape-able situation. None of this makes sense or fits together. It’s just an endless chain of the very worst videogame cliches, repeated over and over again. This blend of “dark, serious, and edgy” with “willfully stupid, childish, and absurd” is contemptible. This is a game that’s trying to do some sort of introspection while at the same time lacking any sense of self-awareness.

For better or worse, this is our last week with Hitman: Absolution.

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