Sporeler Warning Ep3: Lair of the Turd Muppet

By Shamus   Aug 21, 2015   Spoiler Warning 69 comments

Link (YouTube)

I don’t know. Don’t ask me. I’m not responsible.

2020209Sixty-nine comments, dude! Excellent!

The Altered Scrolls, Part 3: Last Notes and IPISYDHT#1

By Rutskarn   Aug 21, 2015   Video Games 75 comments

(Questions answered as of August 21, 2015)

For all my joking around in Part 1, I recognize the significant time investment required to play Arena and Daggerfall. Not only does a would-be videochrononaut need to get DOSBox working (not always a trivial feat), but someone unused to older titles will need to scale sheer walls of obsolete mechanics and old-school sensibilities to get far enough to really experience the thing. It’s by no means impossible to do so, but it’s certainly cumbersome. That’s why this post isn’t just an essay; it’s an I Played It So You Don’t Have To. I’m doing one of these for Arena, I’ll do one for Daggerfall, and I might well do one for Morrowind depending on reception.

Directly below the fold will be my final reflections and notes on Arena. Beneath that will go the answers to questions you pose about the game in the comments. These can be simple factual questions, subjective considerations of tone and effect, or, I suppose, more abstract queries. I’ll post responses to each question I get over the remainder of the week.

Then, next Friday, we’ll begin my essays on Daggerfall.

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2020201575 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

Sporeler Warning EP 2: These Things Should Not Live

By Shamus   Aug 20, 2015   Spoiler Warning 53 comments

Link (YouTube)

I don’t have a lot to say here that we don’t say three times in the video. It really is a shame this game never got another shot.

20201353 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

Mass Effect Retrospective 9: Paragade

By Shamus   Aug 19, 2015   Mass Effect 223 comments

While Virmire doesn’t feature the worst use of the in-game morality meter / conversation metagame / roleplaying tool, it does have the moment that – for me – perfectly crystallized how silly the system can be at times. So let’s talk about…


I`ve killed thousands of people, but I wasn`t RUDE to any of them, so I can`t intimidate this guy.

It’s obvious that BioWare never totally nailed down the whole Paragon / Renegade system and what it was supposed to mean. Good vs. evil? Idealistic vs. practical? Merciful vs. Ruthless? Cunning vs. brutal? Doormat vs. leader? Sensible vs. sociopathic moron? You can find examples of all of these in the game.

I understand that BioWare felt like they needed to have this. It’s been a staple of the last few games and I guess fans have come to expect it. KOTOR had it because the game played around with the light and dark sides of the force. Then it was turned into the open palm / closed fist, which was an admirable idea that kind of turned into a philosophical mess in practice. So they tried again here in Mass Effect with paragon vs. renegade.

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A Hundred!A Hundred!203223 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

Sporeler Warning: Everything Chris Says In This Episode Is About Sex

By Shamus   Aug 19, 2015   Spoiler Warning 91 comments

Link (YouTube)

  1. The game Will Wright envisioned.
  2. The game Wright pitched to the publisher.
  3. The game the team wanted to make.
  4. The game they hinted at in the GDC demo.
  5. The game we thought they were making.
  6. The game they were able to make.
  7. The game EA marketed.
  8. The game we actually got.

This game isn’t very good at all, but I feel strongly that it deserves another chance. There’s a good game in here somewhere.

2020202011There are now 91 comments. Almost a hundred!

Experienced Points: Square Enix and the Hitman Ripoff

By Shamus   Aug 18, 2015   Escapist 134 comments

My column is about how Square Enix is selling the next Hitman game as “Not episodic, but still released in many pieces” and why this is a ripoff.

Also, it’s worth comparing Square Enix with CD Projekt RED and Paradox. Square asks for full price up front, and in return they offer part of a game and a pinky promise that they will finish the rest of it later. CD Projekt asks for full price, and in return they offer a massive game, a complete experience. And then they release free updates and content for months afterward. And if that’s not enough content for you, they also release DLC. Paradox does the same thing.

This is on top of the fact that a Hitman game probably offers far fewer hours of content than either Witcher or (say) Cities Skylines. (Although I’m sure Campster would chastise me for boiling a game down to its playtime, and I concede it’s a terrible metric for measuring value.)

A Hundred!2014There are 134 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

Diecast #117: Mailbag, Text Plays, Licensed Games

By Shamus   Aug 17, 2015   Diecast 148 comments

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

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Shamus, Joshua, Campster, Josh Viel, Rutskarn, and Cuftburt.

Episode edited by Rachel.

Show notes: Continue reading »

A Hundred!20208We've got 148 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.

Rutskarn’s RPG Tales: Paranoia (Full Session Recording)

By Rutskarn   Aug 16, 2015   Diecast 58 comments

Hey, everyone, it’s Rutskarn. I don’t know if you’ve been keeping up with your farmer’s almanac, but the Time of Terror and Blood was recently upon us, and the Great Beast you know as Josh was briefly trapped inside the Southern California ley line. I took advantage of his psychic imprisonment to schedule an ad hoc game of Paranoia. Unfortunately for you, I recorded it.

Also starring: Josh’s brother Glitch, Glitch’s fiancee Madison.

Keep in mind that this session was planned, run, recorded, and in some capacity edited on the fly. I didn’t even know we’d be playing Paranoia when I arrived (I brought a suitcase and flash drive that contained about fifteen separate systems and let them decide). Despite that, we had a lot of fun, and hopefully you will too. I’ve cleaned the audio as best as I could and trimmed a few breaks, but I’ll warn you up front–it’s far from perfect. The Hellish winds that follow Josh like ashen cherubs have that effect on a recording suite.

(Note also that anyone who illustrates anything that happened in this session will earn my undying love.)

Here is the audio:

Direct link to this episode.

And below the fold, all notes and secret information that passed this session:

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20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

Spooky’s House of Jump Scares Episode 2: The Exciting Episode That Goes To Dark Places

By Shamus   Aug 14, 2015   Spoiler Warning 67 comments

Link (YouTube)

That joking around we were doing about how Silent Hills was going to be turned into a pachinko machine? Yeah. That wasn’t joking around. That’s a real thing that Konami is doing.

I know I make a big fuss over Silent Hill 2 and how developers keep getting it wrong, but the truth is I’m not really a Silent Hill fan as much as a fan of the concepts and tone. I wouldn’t want to play a knock-off Batman game with some generic faux-Batman lead. But Silent Hill? I don’t care about the name. I’m here for the dread, the art style, the psychological games, the twisted monsters, somber quiet moments, the sense of mystery and the focus on exploration over combat.

Amnesia is the closest thing we have now. That’s nice and all, but I really wish someone else would pick up the Silent Hill torch and run with it.

“Spoopy” is apparently a real word now. I learned it from my teenagers. That’s something of a turning point in the life of a parent, when your kids start teaching you new words. Spooy is apparently a twee sort of spooky. Dracula is spooky. Count Chocula is spoopy.

202020767 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

The Altered Scrolls, Part 2: Dungeon Sprawling

By Rutskarn   Aug 13, 2015   Video Games 49 comments

The first thing a player does in The Elder Scrolls I: Arena is give up on the game’s story entirely (after approximately forty seconds of the intro). The second thing you do is create your character.

Not pictured: Witchblade, Bladewitch, Sexy Troubadour, Democratic Candidate, Franklin.

This means you pick a premade class that has its own favored skills, restrictions on equipment, and schools of magic allowed. These classes would confer scaling benefits as players kill monsters and gain experience. Anyone who’s played a normal RPG was not going to be very surprised by this—unless they’re from the future and have played the other Elder Scrolls games. For those of you who are but haven’t, let me put it this way: it’s like finding out Conan the Barbarian had an internship at a small family-owned dressmaker’s shop. There’s absolutely nothing wrong or shameful about it–it just seems like the sort of thing they’d deny violent at a cocktail party.

Every TES game after Arena rejects traditional classes, skill point allocations, and levels in favor of more organic systems that convince the player they’re not just a stat block wandering a world of stat blocks, but a reasonable simulation of a person in a world of reasonable simulations of people. Levels and classes are more abstract systems entirely contingent on player choices, not on premade builds and abstract scaling. So why didn’t Bethesda do it like that in Arena?

What race is this? Khajit. Yup, that`s what the famous cat-person race looked like. The lore has broken its back justifying this and I will not under any circumstances discuss it.

You might well argue they didn’t know any better—and you’d probably be right. The intro of the game makes it clear that whatever its goals, Arena’s texture and setting were not put together with a whole lot of foresight or deliberate vision. The game was very forgivably thrown together out of spare Dungeons and Dragons sprockets and all-purpose public domain fantasy pap. It’s not fair to judge them for that; however, it is fair and by no means an accusation to point out that the less organic immersion-focused approach to character design is reflective of a less organic immersion-focused approach to the rest of the game.

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Mass Effect Retrospective 8: Racists! In! Spaaaaaaace!

By Shamus   Aug 13, 2015   Mass Effect 252 comments

Virmire is gorgeous. After the bland monotony of Therum and the frustrating monotony of Feros, it kind of feels like this game just isn’t interested in engaging you visually. But then you reach Virmire and you have vibrant greens contrasting with crashing ocean waves against a spectacular backdrop of lightning. You even get some scuttling indigenous life and some birds to give the place a little flair of verisimilitude.

Come for the beautiful weather! Stay for the mind-control enslavement and eventual eradication of all organic life!

There’s a lot going on here. The Wrex confrontation, the Salarian commandos, the indoctrination research, the meeting with Saren, and the Kaiden / Ashley choice. So we’re probably going to need to spend a few entries on this.

We arrive at Saren’s compound and find that he’s cured the genophage and is pumping out an army of Krogan. He’s also researching indoctrination. This guy has all kinds of hobbies.

Wrex finds out about the cure, and doesn’t like the idea of us blowing it up in the process of stopping Saren. So we have to talk him down. Now is a good time to talk about…

Continue reading »

A Hundred!A Hundred!202012252. There are now n+1 comments, where n is a big-ish sort of number.

Spooky’s House of Jump Scares Episode 1: The Boring Episode

By Shamus   Aug 12, 2015   Spoiler Warning 120 comments

Warning: The following video contains images that may cause extreme terror in some viewers that are Campster.

Campster discretion is advised.

Link (YouTube)

We needed a a couple of silly one-off episodes before we start the next season of Spoiler Warning, which is still a secret that I can’t tell you and you will never figure out so you probably shouldn’t bother trying.

I want to stress that this is a free game, and I’m not even sure why or how it was made. It’s very likely that all of the seemingly dumb and goofy things here were done on purpose. The title screen makes it pretty clear this thing isn’t trying to be Amnesia. So while we’re laughing at the game in confusion, please don’t mistake this for some sort of mocking “CAN YOU BELIEVE HOW LAME THIS INDIE GAME IS?” shtick. These are just our honest gut reactions to unexpected content in an unknown game.

EDIT: Talking to my daughter Esther confirms my suspicions that this game was designed to exploit, mock, or comment on the fad of “Scream Streams” where people play through jump-scare games and over-react for the audience. Five Nights at Freddie’s is the most notable example of the genre. A game that’s made for streamers instead of the masses.

A Hundred!20There are 120 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

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