Diablo III Part 3: The “Story”

By Shamus
on Jul 6, 2017
Filed under:
Game Reviews

So you go to an American football game. I dunno why. All kinds of weird stuff happens in hypothetical situations. Just go with it.

The NFL has decided they want to give the sport a bit of highbrow class, so they’re having players come out to enact random scenes from Shakespeare’s plays. It’s terrible. Everyone is wearing mouth guards, so you can barely understand what anyone is saying. Since it’s just a bunch of random scenes there’s no sense of investment or drama. And since the actors are football players, the acting is pretty much intolerable. Half the guys are punch drunk and can’t even remember their lines.

The crowd either boos or sits in stony silence during these scenes, but the coaches don’t give up. Every 15 minutes the game stops and you have to endure more mangled Shakespeare.

At half time you’re talking about this with a friend, shaking your heads and wondering why the NFL went to all the trouble. Then a guy a few seats back starts yelling at you. He’s a burly guy in facepaint and a team jersey. He’s gesturing at you with his ten dollar beer and shouting, “Dude! Who cares if it’s good? Football has never been about the story! Just shut up and watch the game!”

Continue reading »



A Hundred!5105 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!



Nan o’ War CH16: Woodes Rogers’ Neighborhood

By Rutskarn
on Jul 5, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

I guess I’m hitting over my weight class, because every time the battle screen rolls off nowadays I plunge into a ball pit of XP and treasure. Before that blackjack comeup I was a chronically indebted vagrant granny pushing a rotten rowboat through a valley of looming trash mobs. Now my ship’s slick, my crew’s coming up, and I’m cracking character levels like Jiffy Pop.

Who knew all it took to get started in life was a vast fortune?

So I mentioned I was trying to come up in military rank–and indeed, I have! I am now a Midshipman(woman) in addition to being a Chairman(woman) and a Ship Boy(Girl).

My newest perk.
My newest perk.

Continue reading »


20222 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



This Dumb Industry: Why I Hated Resident Evil 4

By Shamus
on Jul 4, 2017
Filed under:
Column

Yes, I know the title of this post is a bit clickbait-ish. It promises a provocative and inflammatory article. But this is fitting, because this a provocative position that will unavoidably inflame some people. Resident Evil is an unbelievably popular franchise and Resident Evil 4 is considered the best of the series. It is regularly celebrated as one of the Best Games ever made and is regarded as being incredibly influential. So if this title seems like clickbait then it has more to do with the game itself and less to do with the content of the article. Sometimes people make controversial claims for attention, but sometimes people are simply expressing genuinely-held controversial opinions.

And besides, today is fireworks day, so it seems like an appropriate time to light some fuses.

To soothe the egos of fans: No, I’m not saying the game is worthless or that you’re stupid / wrong / clueless to like it. It’s fine. Like it all you want. I’m not trying to alter the legacy of this game by complaining about it. I just think it’s interesting how this celebrated game seems to have been engineered specifically to nail all of my pet peeves.

Since we’re already in clickbait territory, let’s resort to the crude savagery of a numbered list…

5. Incoherent Tone

I don`t know WHAT I`m supposed to be feeling during this scene, but I`m pretty sure I`m not feeling it.

I don`t know WHAT I`m supposed to be feeling during this scene, but I`m pretty sure I`m not feeling it.

If you’ve followed my writing and story deconstructions for any length of time, you know that tone is really important to me. Some people are fans of the Bollywood sampler approach to storytelling where you get a little of everything. They don’t mind if a story goes from slapstick comedy, to gut-wrenching drama, to earnest sappy romance, to bombastic action. But I don’t like mixing my Shaun of the Dead with my Shawshank or finding bits of Bridget Jones in my Terminator. That’s all good stuff, but that’s not the point. I love both Ice Cream and Pizza, but not together.

Tone is important because it establishes the rules and limits of the fictional world you’re trying to take in. I can accept that the world around Scott Pilgrim can drop into slow motion in the middle of a huge fight so he can trade dialog with someone, but I’d never stand for those sorts of reality-bending shenanigans in Star TrekI mean, without some technical explanation for why time slowed down.. I can accept Vin Diesel performing car stunts that mock the realities of physics and automotive engineering in a Fast & Furious movie, while the exact same stunt would be offensive if performed in something like Poirot. In your typical underdog sports movie I can believe (and even expect) the coach to rouse his team to overpowering levels of competence at the finale with a impassioned speech and well-timed musical swells, but that same trick would be implausible if it happened in something like Moneyball or Any Given Sunday.

Tone tells us how much this movie is going to adhere to the rules of the world we live in, and how much it plans to bend them in pursuit of spectacle or drama. For me it’s a key ingredient of suspension of disbelief, and if a story can’t nail down its tone then I can’t immerse myself in its world.

If a movie is going to have an incoherent mess of a story with a bunch of screwball characters, then it had better be a comedy. Some people claim RE4 is a comedy, and I suppose it’s sort of amusing in a “can you believe how stupid this is?” kind of way, like a movie that Mystery Science Theater might tackle. But it’s certainly not a comedy in the sense of being a witty send-up like Shaun of the Dead, Galaxy Quest, or other self-aware genre deconstructions. There isn’t any lampshading, winking at the audience, trope subversions, or even any jokes. It takes a preposterously stupid story and presents it completely straight. You could attempt to argue that the whole thing is just extremely deadpan comedy, but we’ve seen Capcom make twenty-five of these games by this point, and there doesn’t seem to be a big difference in their style between the times when they’re being deadly serious and when they’re supposedly “kidding”. This isn’t a deconstruction of bombastic B-movie action schlock, it is bombastic B-movie action schlock.

In any case, I can’t seem to switch gears the way the game expects. Sometimes the game is trying to scare you and sometimes you’re in these farcical conversations with a undersized ren faire rejectWas Salazar supposed to be short, or a kid? I can’t remember. where characters spout inane dialog that serves as exposition by having the bad guys tell you all their plans.

I have no idea what we’re supposed to feel during the story beats of Resident Evil 4. I get conflicting answers from fans. But for me I feel irritation, boredom, and bewilderment.

Continue reading »


2020202013There are now 93 comments. Almost a hundred!



Steam Backlog: Electronic Super Joy: Groove City

By Shamus
on Jul 3, 2017
Filed under:
Game Reviews

My problem is that I’m a sucker for games with pixel graphics, neon colors, and electronic music, but those games tend to be side-scrolling platformers that I’m terrible at. Which means I have a compulsion to seek out games I’ll never be able to finish.

As I said last week, I’m going to go through some of the 180+ un-played games in my Steam library to see what I’ve been missing. This week I played Electronic Super Joy: Groove City, which I apparently purchased in September of 2014. This is exactly the kind of game that tickles my brain into making an impulse buy on Steam: Bright colors and delicious electronic music. It’s also the kind of game I’m doomed to abandon: An unforgiving platformer.

Yes, that`s the Pope under the Laser-Nipples sign. Obviously this game is pretty highbrow.

Yes, that`s the Pope under the Laser-Nipples sign. Obviously this game is pretty highbrow.

In terms of pacing, it has a lot in common with Hotline: Miami. It’s a fast-paced ordeal where the slightest mistake means death, but you respawn instantly and are free to try again as many times as you like. There are regular checkpoints along the wayIn Groove City, the checkpoints are little flags you encounter every screen or so. In Hotline Miami, you get a checkpoint when you hit a staircase. so you’re really never more than five or ten seconds of flawless performance from your next goal.

Continue reading »


201535 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Site Update

By Shamus
on Jul 2, 2017
Filed under:
Notices

Heads up, buttercup: Last week I said the site was moving to a new IP. That actually didn’t happen until this weekend. Now the https is all set up. The links are updated, and now if you use the forum link in the header you should be taken to the secure version of the site.

While I was at it, I fixed the CSS so that the large first letter of a post wouldn’t get cut off if you began a post with a yellow aside box, which was the case for every post in Bob’s Game of Thrones series.

Technically, you should be able to access this blog via https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale. However, I’ve been having mixed results with this. I go to the front page, switch to the secure version, but then after clicking on some links I look up and see I’m back at the vanilla version. But other times not?

WordPress wants a fully-qualified URL for the root of the site. It prepends this to all automatically generated links, which includes a lot of the navigation stuff. I’m assuming this is the root of the problem, but I don’t know. The problem seems pretty inconsistent. It happened constantly last night, but tonight I’m having trouble getting it to happen.

I could change the ENTIRE site to ALWAYS be https, but I don’t know if there are drawbacks or problems to doing this. Would that be slower in some situations? Would that cause hassles? I don’t know what the drawbacks of https are so I’m wary of making sweeping changes without gathering a little feedback first.

Anyway, don’t worry if none of this makes sense to you. This is a small thing impacting an even smaller number of people. The point is, I did a technical thing that changed some stuff that is probably working or whatever.


20929 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Game of Thrones Griping 12: More Like Lady PAIN

By Bob Case
on Jun 30, 2017
Filed under:
Television
This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

(This was supposed to go up this morning. Somehow I never got around to actually clicking the “publish” button, so it’s late… oops)

I want to take a closer look at one character in particular: Lady Crane. This character, and the way the show treats her, gives us (I think) a lens into how the writers think, and what sort of world they’re depicting.

Game of Thrones is not a black-and-white show, but there are certain characters we get the impression that we’re supposed to either like or dislike. And while it’s not always a clear binary value, I’m pretty sure we’re supposed to like Lady Crane. We’re supposed to root for her and consider her one of the good guys/women. So, by looking at her, we can look at what sort of character the show wants and expects us to like, and why. So let’s look at Lady Crane.

A Play Within A Show

I admit it: I’m a sucker for play-within-a-play stuff. And this unnamedI think? Braavosi theatre company is my favorite part of the Arya storyline. I always like to see story elements illuminate the setting, and here we get some sense of what version of Westorosi political current events has made into the court of public opinion. Here, Ned Stark is a scheming, power-hungry type, Joffrey a noble innocent, and Tyrion a vile demon.

We know this is all hogwash, but the Braavosi audience doesn’t, and you can’t really blame them. It’s also nice to take a trip down memory lane, and revisit plot points from seasons past. It all ends with Lady Crane’s star turn: her anguished monologue as she holds Joffrey’s body in her arms. Despite the determined use of sing-songy rhyming couplets, this is actually halfway affecting stuff. Maybe they should just do the whole show this way.

Continue reading »


2020201979 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



Diablo III Part 2: The Gameplay

By Shamus
on Jun 29, 2017
Filed under:
Game Reviews

I know I don’t say this very often, but this game is way too easy.

I am not against easy games! If you want to appeal to a more laid-back and casual player, or if you want to go for accessibility, that’s fine. But as I’m playing the game in May of 2017, I get the feeling the game isn’t working the way it’s supposed to.

There are lots of interesting game mechanics here. Some foes telegraph a rush attack that you’re supposed to dodge. Some foes bombard you with mortar style attacks to encourage you to get in and engage at point-blank range. Others create zones of fire or poison around them, so you’ll want to engage at a distance. Some bosses have moves to pull you in close so they can use their most powerful attacks. Some foes attack you from all sides, so you’ll need to be creative and alert if you don’t want to swarmed. Some maps have traps like falling rubble or magical landmines so you have to watch your step.

These are all great ideas. These features should, in theory, make the battlefield a dynamic place that forces you to adapt to an ever-changing landscape of threats. Sure, one dungeon hallway is much like another. But facing mortar fire in a narrow hallway is very different from navigating around fire in a narrow hallway, which is different from navigating around fire in an open area where you are surrounded on all sides, which is different from facing clustered foes on the opposite side of a narrow bridge. Your opposition impacts the shape of the environment just as much as the placement of the randomly-generated walls.

Continue reading »


A Hundred!20202012Many comments. 172, if you're a stickler



Nan o’ War CH15: Free Shipping

By Rutskarn
on Jun 28, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

One of B&G: Caribbean!‘s most transparent influences is Captain Blood, a character made famous by an Errol Flynn film that still sets the standard for half-assed Irish accents. Captain Blood is the classic tale of a doctor branded traitor by a kangaroo court and dispatched to Port Royal as slave and political prisoner. Before long he and some former revolutionaries escape in a boat, steal a ship from the conveniently attacking Spaniards, and are so successful in carrying out acts of noble piracy across the New World that the now-famous Blood is pardoned by the English usurper, William of Orange, and appointed the new governor of Port Royal. And under his righteous administration, no-one was ever unjustly enslaved in Jamaica again, probably.

It’s a classic movie, and when they get around to re-making it I’ll probably go re-see it. But you know what I’d rather watch? The movie where a grandma is indentured for forty seconds, falls in with a bad crowd, breaks some kneecaps, scores some headshots, wins a horse racing championship with a pocketful of hand grenades, and then parlays a literally undefeated career of gambling into an entire island’s worth of thriving rum distilleries and miscellaneous business enterprises.

And if that’s too much trouble, I’ll settle for thirty seconds of Diana Rigg wearing this costume.

Continue reading »


20121 comments. Blackjack!



This Dumb Industry: Steam Summer Blues

By Shamus
on Jun 27, 2017
Filed under:
Column

The Steam Summer Sale is going on, and yet somehow I can’t find any games to buy. Even at these giveaway prices, I don’t see anything that strikes me as interesting. I’m sure there are games that would interest me, but finding them means going through the hassle of finding the gems amid the swirling garbage pile that is the Steam storefront.

A Library of Neglect

I really dislike that you can`t see the summary of a game in your library. If you want to know what it is, you have to visit the store page.

I really dislike that you can`t see the summary of a game in your library. If you want to know what it is, you have to visit the store page.

It’s not that I need more games. I have 604 games in my Steam library. Of those, 185 of them are completely unplayed. Almost a third of my library consists of games I have never even launched. This is in addition to a couple of dozen games that I’ve played for less than five minutes.

I suppose I need to give some context for these numbers.

Continue reading »


A Hundred!202020Many comments. 160, if you're a stickler



New Album: NEON

By Shamus
on Jun 25, 2017
Filed under:
Music

It’s that time of the year again when I pretend I can write music. I’ve been tinkering away, making a new song every few months or so. Three years ago I took a dozen or so songs and called them an “album”, and I guess I’ve produced enough content to do that again. My new pile of loosely related tracks is called NEON.

Whether you’re Skrillex or a nobody like me, to make electronic music you need a Digital Audio Workstation, which the kids call a DAW. It’s a program that lets you map out all the notes and instruments, allowing you to make music even if you don’t play an instrument. For a couple of years I used MAGIX Music Maker. I was not a fan. Last year someone donated enough for me to switch to Studio One, which I love.

In this album, the tracks are in roughly chronological order. The tracks produced in Studio One begin at “Hi!”.

Fair warning: A lot of this work is very amateurish. If it wasn’t for my existing audience as a writer, nobody would listen to this stuff. If I promote a track here on the blog or on Twitter, it gets a few hundred listens. If I don’t promote it, the song gets less than 10. (And I suspect most of those are from spambots. SoundCloud has a pretty bad bot problem.) So my list of musical fans is in the single-digits. This is not a complaint. I suspect I have exactly the audience I deserve. Just like with writing, if I want more fans then I need to make better content.

I’ve been climbing this learning curve for three years now, working on-and-off as the mood strikes me. It’s interesting to see my progression. Sure, my work has improved, but that advancement has not kept up with my expectations. Three years ago I was tickled to simply be able to make music. But now that I’ve absorbed literally hundreds of videos and tutorials on mixing techniques and music theory, I have a much better understanding of how things should work and I’m more keenly aware of my shortcomings.

Continue reading »


20626 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Site Move

By Shamus
on Jun 23, 2017
Filed under:
Notices

Due to overwhelming public demandUpwards of five people bugged me about it. I’m setting up this domain to work with SSL, which means that https://www.shamusyoung.com will be a thing. This will make the forums more secure, fix the domain currently squatting on the https version of this site, and may also help out the alarming number of people who are reporting that this site has recently been blocked by their employer.

However, this means the site is going to be disrupted. shamusyoung.com will be moved to a unique IP address, which means we’ll need to wait for the new DNS to shake out. If all goes well, then at some point this weekend the site will (from your point of view) vanish, and then reappear shortly after.

Also, I’m going to need to move the forums. They’re currently hosted at forums.shamusyoung.com, but they’re going to move to https://www.shamusyoung.com/forums so they can benefit from the added security.

I’ll post a notice here once the move is over. See you on the other side.


20203Feeling chatty? There are 43 comments.



Game of Thrones Griping 11: Arya Gets Hit With A Stick Over and Over Again

By Bob Case
on Jun 23, 2017
Filed under:
Television
This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

A visual medium – like television – has certain advantages over the printed word. For example, an actor who makes savvy performance choices can convey more about a character with their poise and their voice than entire paragraphs of text can. The way actors move within the frame, the choices of the cinematographer, the director, the costumers, the set designers… all of these are ways to communicate meaning to the audience.

It also faces certain disadvantages. It’s trickier to deliver exposition in a natural-seeming way, for instance. However, for my money, the single biggest challenge in adapting a book to a TV show is length.

In practical terms, books are way longer than shows – and that’s just normal books. GRRM’s works are your classic twenty-stone fantasy doorstoppers. To give you an idea, A Storm of Swords, which is the longest of the series, is 424,000 words. The entire Lord of the Rings trilogy? 481,000.These word counts vary according to the counting method. But the point is, GRRM’s books are very long. If you were to attempt a completely faithful, scene-by-scene, line-by-line reproduction of the books, you’d have to have fifty episodes a season.

The practical limitations of the form make that impossible, so the act of adapting A Song of Ice and Fire into a TV show is an act of severe abridgment. Every scene has to be pared down to the bone, entire storylines have to be cut, multiple characters have to be merged together into one, and so forth.

It’s why I always check myself whenever I get grumpy that one of my favorite things from the books isn’t in the show. I have to remind myself that they really just don’t have time to include everything. I try to be as understanding as possible.

Continue reading »


20201858 comments. It's getting crowded in here.




From the Archives: