Ruts vs. Battlespire: Intermission

By Rutskarn
on Jul 16, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

26 comments

Battlespire is catstrophically broken, inarguably mishandled, forgettable at its best and never more than two inches from the border of Creepy. I bought it with the intention of incorporating my thoughts on it in my Elder Scrolls retrospective. I barely outlasted the first room. The same berserk spirit that impelled me to finish all five core games in about a month didn’t survive an hour’s contact with nesting bags and glitching jumps.

Then I started this Let’s Play when a few other games fell through. I had absolutely no plans for it–I didn’t know how far I’d make it or long you’d tolerate it. And now that I’m sixteen posts in, I think I’m ready to confirm:

We’re going all the way.

I knew nothing about this game before I started. Out of self-defense I’ve since developed a pretty comprehensive knowledge of the game’s more arresting glitches, surprises, and pitfalls, and I can already tell it’s not going to get any easier to play. Quite far from it. There might be segments of the game where I’m stuck for a few weeks at a time, which hopefully I’ll have the buffer and wit to condense into something entertaining.

But I can’t walk away from this thing for two reasons. The first being, I can’t seem to go an hour without something happening that’s so bizarre or inexplicable or busted that I have to share it with someone just to confirm I’m not going crazy. This game is frequently terrible, but even when it’s boring, it’s not [i]boring[/i]. How am I going to stop when I know (for a fact at this point) that there’s even weirder stuff to come?

And secondly–when I did my retrospective, I’d thought it was such a shame that much of Bethesda’s history, its earliest forays into open-world gaming and its first sleeper hit, was forgotten. I wanted to share their origins with people who didn’t have the know-how or money or time to play them. In my own very modest way, I thought I was reviving obscure elements of gaming history. And then I found this. It’s like discovering Vincent Van Gogh not only painted cartoons of clowns farting, he earnestly and passionately painted them and tried to market them to the world, and absolutely nobody will talk about it–much less ask, “Is this an evocative cartoon of a clown farting?” It’s an incredible nugget of gaming history and I feel weirdly privileged to be the one sharing it with you.

So thanks for reading. We’ll be back to it Wednesday with an extra post on Friday, plus my RPG series restarting Saturday. See you then.

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



Fallout 4 EP21: We Are All Reginald

By Shamus
on Jul 15, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

138 comments


Link (YouTube)

I feel the need to apologize beforehand for this one. Somewhere in the middle of talking about tits and theorizing about what it would be like to have sex with various Star Wars characters, we got sidetracked and briefly discussed Fallout 4.

Like I said in the episode: I liked the “critical” system in this game. I like having attacks in the tradition of a Final Fantasy limit break, where you can save up a big attack for that special someone. My only gripe is that it shouldn’t be called critical.

Okay, “critical attack” is a valid term for it in the sense that it’s roughly synonymous with “severe attack”. But the term critical has come to mean “random multiplier applied to attacks at random intervals”, and I don’t think that’s something you should mess with. I mean, a ledger of goods in a warehouse is called an “inventory”, but if you hit the inventory button in a game and got a ledger of stuff you don’t don’t have on your person, it’s just going to confuse and annoy people.

A Hundred!2018There are 138 comments here. I really hope you like reading.



Fallout 4 EP20: Bye Kellogg

By Shamus
on Jul 14, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

159 comments


Link (YouTube)

We talked about building magazine racks for the comic collection you can build in this game. This is the largest my library ever got:

Collected during a hardcore permadeath run. That`s not as hard as it sounds, since I also have a mod to take the level restrictions off of perks.

Collected during a hardcore permadeath run. That`s not as hard as it sounds, since I also have a mod to take the level restrictions off of perks.

The scene where you’re railroaded into picking a fight with Kellogg is a disaster. A farce. A sad mockery of every possible definition of “roleplaying game”.

So Bethesda gives us a voiced protagonist, but then refuses to give them a discernible personality. So we have a… voiced blank slate? Then they put us into a conversation with a character where THE OTHER PERSON is willing to make peace, but after weeks of dicking around punching radroaches and building shacks for Preston Garvey, our no-personality character is overcome with bloodlust. Our avatar insists on picking a fight while surrounded, after giving up the element of surprise. But it’s not enough that our character is an incoherent, tactically inept dipshit. We’re made to participate in this stupidity by initiating the fight from a four-options-but-only-one-choice dialog wheel.

Here are some options that the player might want to consider if this were an actual roleplaying game:

Continue reading »

A Hundred!202019We've got 159 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.



Final Fantasy X Part 6: Meet the Maesters

By Shamus
on Jul 14, 2016
Filed under:
FFX

158 comments

Blitzball is so important to the people of Spira that most of their religious and cultural leaders show up for the tournament. Now that Tidus has made a few friends and has a long-term goal, the storyteller starts explaining how this world works. Note how this is backwards from Mass Effect, where you’re thrown face-first into expositional cutscenes and most of your team doesn’t join until after the major details are filled in. Either way is valid, although you’re probably not going to be shocked to hear that I’m more a fan of details-first style stories.

Meet the Maesters

On the right is Maester Mika. On the left is our secondary villain, Seymour`s haircut.

On the right is Maester Mika. On the left is our secondary villain, Seymour`s haircut.

Spira is apparently a theocracy under the religion of Yevon. We never hear about any secular political leaders, even on a local level. Yevon is controlled by four guys called Maesters. We meet two of them here.

Grand Maester Mika is a very tiny old man and seems to be more or less the Pope of Yevon. He’s been Maester for fifty years.

Maester Seymour is the young new Maester, having inherited the position from his father who recently died of COMPLETELY NATURAL AND UNSUSPICIOUS CAUSES. Seymour has this strong vibe of Commodus from the movie Gladiator. He comes off as unstable, creepy, and sketchy as hell. He’s also the proud owner of the second-most ridiculous haircut in all of SpiraCredit where due: He’s really working hard for first place..

We see a few of the Blitzball teams arriving before the big game. For some reason, the Luca Goers also arrive by boat, even though this is their home city? I’d assume that they were getting back from an away game, but the announcers make a point of saying this tournament is the start of a new season. Maybe they’re returning from a trip to their ancestral home on the Island of Intolerably Smug Dickheads?

In a details-first story like Mass Effect, the writer might sit us down for a long conversation about how the political power works in this world, what the Maesters do, and what people think of them. Then maybe we’d get a codex entry or two about famous Maesters of the past, and about how the current Maesters get along with each other. But this is a drama-first story, so the storyteller does everything through characters.

Continue reading »

A Hundred!202018We've got 158 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.



Fallout 4 EP19: Metal Skellingtons

By Shamus
on Jul 13, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

135 comments


Link (YouTube)

So how would you improve the story of Fallout 4 if you w-

Take the project away from Bethesda and give it to literally anyone else. Even David Cage.

No, let’s assume Bethesda stays the developer. How could they make the story less frust-

Remove it. Just dump the story. They don’t know how to write. It’s the worst thing they do and it constantly gets in the way of the parts of the game that work. Just remove the entire plot and replace it with something simple and easy to ignore.

No. The point of the exercise is to talk about how Bethesda could have retained the story focus but made it much better.

Choose a completely different plot, themes, and premise from the outset.

Er. No, I mean assuming Bethesda decided to go with THIS plot, how could it be improved?

This is a really shitty and frustrating hypothetical world, you know that?

JUST ANSWER THE QUESTION!

Okay then…

Father could have been given reasons for doing the things he did. This would mean he’d need to be given proper, comprehensible motivations for those actions. That would mean designing a character with a discernible personality. Then you’d need to express all of that through his dialog. Then you would need to allow the player to engage with those ideas through roleplaying.

The question of “How could this quest / idea be improved?” is irresistible. I don’t know how the rest of you play the game, but I’m constantly trying to re-write this thing in my head. The mistakes are so plentiful and so seemingly obvious.

A Hundred!2015There are 135 comments here. I really hope you like reading.



Ruts vs. Battlespire CH16: Wrathlmania

By Rutskarn
on Jul 13, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

77 comments

It can be difficult to keep a dungeon crawl fresh and engaging. They’re about as industrial as adventures get–each one pits a walking, talking power tool against about a thousand feet of barely-sapient lumber, the occasional gotcha riddle, and traps just powerful enough to be genuinely obnoxious. Sometimes to keep the player’s interest you need to shake things up a little, and the designers of Battlespire are exactly smart enough to know that.

So this level’s filled with nigh-invulnerable fast-moving wraiths with both ranged and melee attacks. They’re literally more likely to break your weapon than die to attacks and have no obvious weaknesses. They can’t be slowed down, stopped, or reasoned with. There’s only two or three of them in every room.

There`s actually in-game documents you find very early in the level telling you not to engage them because they`re unkillable. I`d say that`s an example of a lie that`s truer than truth.
There's actually in-game documents you find very early in the level telling you not to engage them because they're unkillable. I'd say that's an example of a lie that's truer than truth.

Now, there IS a way to defeat these guys: you find an optional, hidden codeword near the end of the level that banishes them. Alternately, you can get rid of all of them at once by uninstalling Battlespire and chewing the CD to splinters, a strategy I believe recommended by the official Prima booklet.

Continue reading »

2020201777 comments. (Seventy-seven is the smallest positive integer requiring five syllables in English!)



Good Robot Postmortem #1: Introduction

By Shamus
on Jul 12, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

144 comments

AAA game publishers love to muzzle their developers and send out their marketing robots to tell us EVERYTHING IS FINE. SALES ARE ALWAYS UP. WE BELIEVE IN OUR TEAM. SADLY, ECONOMICS BEYOND OUR CONTROL MEANS WE HAVE TO LAY OFF THIS TEAM. EVERYTHING CONTINUES TO BE FINE. WE ARE PROUD OF THIS GAME. WE ARE DISAPPOINTED IN ITS RECEPTION. SALES ARE UP. WE VALUE YOUR FEEDBACK.

We’re trying to invent a new industry and a new medium, and instead of learning from each other’s mistakes, everyone pretends they don’t make mistakes. I think that’s bad for everyone. On the other hand, documenting your mistakes in public is no fun, and publicly saying, “Here is how we wasted some of your investment money” might make it less likely that people will entrust you with money in the future. And writing stuff like this takes time away from stuff like patching your game or starting on the next one.

So I understand why only a small percent of games get a postmortem. And given the odd, meandering path this game took to release, I’m not sure how valuable this postmortem will be to other devs. But in an effort to Do The Right Thing, here is our story.

Who Did What

Shamus: Engine programming, music, game design, “writing”.

Rutskarn: Actual writing.

Arvind: Game Programming, Game Design, UI, Level Generation, Business & Promotion

Ross: Game Design, Scripting, Misc. Art

Mikk and Rashi: Art

Over the next few entries, Arvind, Ross, Rutskarn and myself (Shamus) will take turns talking about the development of this game. Arvind’s text will be in green and Ross will be in blue. Rutskarn will be in red.

Continue reading »

A Hundred!20204144 comments. Or one gross, if you'll pardon the expression.



Diecast #158: Team Fortress 2 vs. Overwatch, The Room, VA-11 Hall-A

By Shamus
on Jul 11, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

125 comments

This week I’d intended to talk about the Games Done Quick fundraiser / speedrunning marathon. But like a doofus, I forgot to put it on the agenda. Anyway, I had a great time last week watching people glitch their way through the Bethesda games. Highly recommended.


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

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster, Mumbles.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


A Hundred!205There are 125 comments here. I really hope you like reading.



Shamus Plays LOTRO #20: Way Out East

By Shamus
on Jul 10, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

5 comments

So, I’m back in the burned-out town of Archet, presumably looking for Amdir the ranger but really just looking for jobs that pay well and don’t violate the laws of nature and common sense.

I`ve seen more cheer in a graveyard.

I`ve seen more cheer in a graveyard.

I’m actually a little curious what happened to the guy, but my real priority is earning enough money to buy myself some exotic clothes like I see the fancy folks wearing. I noticed I made a lot of money when I was working for humans, and I’d like to get my hands on some more of that sparkly human coin.

Of course, the reason working for humans is more profitable is because humans are always asking you to kill other humans. In the average quest at this level, you make 90 coppers but you can easily get three or four silver worth of junk from the brigands you’re putting down. So if you take lots of non-combat quests (like those in the Shire) or fight a lot of animals (also a big part of the Shire quests) then your pockets might end up a little light. No big deal in the long run, unless you’re some idiot trying to score expensive dyes and clothing at low levels. As a general rule, it’s probably faster to level in the Shire, but faster to make money elsewhere. So the Shire is a good place for leveling alts.

Archet looks much the same as when I left it a couple of weeks ago. It’s a burned-out shell of a town full of sadistic yokels and surrounded by bloodthirsty robbers.

Continue reading »


5Five easy comments.



Fallout 4 EP18: Good Job, Dumbass

By Shamus
on Jul 8, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

240 comments


Link (YouTube)

This is the Xanatos Gambit (a trope) that Rutskarn referenced in this episode. I love the notion that having Dogmeat follow a trail of months(?) old cigar butts and bloody ragsDoes Kellog somehow not own any stimpacks? Dude, sell the NUKE LAUNCHER you leave out for intruders and buy some stimpacks!” was all part of someone’s convoluted plan.

  1. This is a story about the world after the apocalypse. Which means the setting needs to be about the new order that arises. (Fallout 1, Fallout New Vegas.)

  2. But if you don’t want to devise or imagine a new society, then this should be about the last humans fighting for survival in a dying world. (Mad Max Fury Road.)
  3. But if you’re not going to do either of those, then don’t set the world 200 years after the cataclysm, because people can’t “scavenge” for 2 years, much less 20. And the idea that people could scavenge for two HUNDRED years? That’s a joke with no punchline.
  4. But if you do that for some reason, then downplay it as much as you can. For example, don’t have the main plot turn on a character who has a rare and particular BRAND of TOBACCO that he likes to smoke, because brands (and brand loyalty) are things that only arise in complex societies. And tobacco doesn’t grow in the north. How is this supposed to work? How could this be “his brand”? Is he the only one who loots this stuff from ruins!? Did he drag a shipping container of cigars with him when he began his years-long trek eastward, and we just happen to meet him when he’s down to his very last box? (Which he left behind in Diamond City anyway.)
  5. But if you DO have a character that smokes a rare brand of cigars, then maybe show that he hoards and treasures them as a rare pleasure. Which means he wouldn’t smoke three of them in a single hike and he wouldn’t leave a trail of them 80% unsmoked.
  6. Also don’t give him the same name as the most famous brand of breakfast cereal. It’s like naming your bad guy “Ron McDonald” or “John Pepsi”. It creates strange, joke-y associations that undercut the menacing tone you’re trying to present.
  7. But if you’re going to do all of that, then at least have the decency to make the world lighthearted, silly, playful, or goofy. Whatever you do, don’t mix this nonsense with a self-serious “They stole my baby and murdered my spouse in front of me!” plot.
  8. If you don’t have the basic wisdom to do that, then maybe storytelling isn’t for you. Focus on your mechanics. Keep your story simple. Limit the number of factions, don’t try to do any plot twists, and don’t have too many moving parts. Don’t break the flow of the game with too many cutscenes, keep dialog short, and don’t ever trap the player in all-dialog story sections where they have no access to the core mechanics. Dialog and exposition scenes normally cost a fortune to produce, and in a mechanics-focused game it can only frustrate them.

It is breathtaking the lengths this writer will go to in order to do the wrongest thing possible.


A Hundred!A Hundred!2020240 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?



Fallout 4 EP17: Cereal Killer

By Shamus
on Jul 7, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

181 comments


Link (YouTube)

So the hunt to find Kellog is broken. But it’s broken in a REALLY ANNOYING WAY, which is that it has various contradictory excuses sprinkled around the world, and taken in isolation they seem to address one fault or another. So you point out plot hole A, but then an apologist claims this is explained by excuse B. But then you point out that excuse B doesn’t make sense because of contradiction C, and then someone ELSE points out that C is maybe justified by theory D. This seems to solve the problem, until you realize that D doesn’t work with B, and thus you end up arguing in circles forever. Most importantly, there never comes a time where you can map out what happened and why. You’re forever concocting and dismissing theories.

This is annoying if – like me – one of your coping mechanisms for plot holes is to simply document them. But the complexity of the brokenness makes such a task impossible. Every excuse is supported by broken excuses which are supported by broken excuses, leading out into this endless fractal of stupidity and frustration. It’s like the Mandelbrot set, but for bad ideas instead of numbers.

So to get anywhere in this analysis, we need to spoil the big twist of the game. That’s not bad, since the twist is both obvious and nonsensical. Here goes:

Shaun is now 80 years old.

This is OBVIOUS, because the game showed you being re-frozen after the kidnapping. Most players realize RIGHT AWAY that some probably-significant interval of time has passed. But then your character is stupidly railroaded into looking for a “baby”, despite the fact that they really ought to know better. And even if they don’t, the PLAYER knows better and thus we get frustrated waiting for our character to catch up to what we already know. This can work if the writer has a strong pre-built protagonist like Geralt or Adam Jensen, but even then it requires a fine touch to avoid annoying the player. But in a game with a quasi-blank-slate protagonist like this one, having our avatar spend most of the game oblivious to something we figured out in the first five minutes is pretty much the kiss of death for tension, immersion, and roleplaying. Instead of working to unravel a mystery, we spend the entire running time waiting for our character to pull their head out of their ass so we can get on with things.

This is also NONSENSE, because everything else in the gameworld contradicts this. And here is where we get caught arguing in circles:

Continue reading »


A Hundred!202020201I bet you won't even read all 181 comments before leaving your own.



Final Fantasy X Part 5: Blitzball!

By Shamus
on Jul 7, 2016
Filed under:
FFX

165 comments

After Kilika, the party sails for the coastal city of Luca. From here the journey will continue on foot. But first, there’s a major Blitzball tournament to play in. The game drops a ton of exposition and worldbuilding on us when we get to Luca. We’ll talk about it later, but first let’s talk about the tournament.

I’m not one for sports games. But I know some folks who are, and they’re pretty well divided over Blitzball. Some people find it painfully boring. I’ve got a brother who has spent hundreds of hours recruiting, building his team, learning techniques, and totally dominating the sport of Spira.

Blitzball!

The Blitz sphere looks gigantic in this pre-rendered cutscene, but seems to be smaller in proper gameplay. In this image it looks like the people in the stands would almost have their faces up against the glass.

The Blitz sphere looks gigantic in this pre-rendered cutscene, but seems to be smaller in proper gameplay. In this image it looks like the people in the stands would almost have their faces up against the glass.

The game is basically underwater football, and not a single aspect of it makes any sense:

Continue reading »

A Hundred!2020205Many comments. 165, if you're a stickler




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