Arkham City Part 8: How To Batman

By Shamus
on Mar 16, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

49 comments

The brute-force approach to tutorials is to jam them all at the very front of the game. Some text boxes will tell you what buttons to push. Once you successfully complete the action you’re given another, then another, until you’ve got all the mechanics down. Then the story is allowed to proceed.

This is bad for a lot of reasons. It’s actually a bad way to teach the player about the game, because you’ve got too many concepts delivered back-to-back. Sometimes you’ll be taught how to do something an hour before the story calls for it. If you take a break from the game, then you’ll likely forget the skill by the time it comes up again. Game designers sometimes guard against this by adding more reminder prompts later on, which makes the game feel patronizing and handhold-y. Worst of all, these brute-force tutorials are torture on repeated play-throughs, since you already know how to do the stuff and there’s nothing else to hold your interest.

Arkham City is a perfect example of how tutorials should be done. It’s a masterwork of teaching through doing, without breaking the flow of the story or patronizing the player. The Arkham series is actually a blend of three entirely different but overlapping gameplay modes. There’s brawling, stealth, and explorationExploration is a big mishmash of navigating + platforming + puzzle-solving + finding secrets and collectibles.. Each mode has numerous concepts the player needs to understand. Batman is famous for his tool belt, and the game is not shy about loading that thing up with a lot of different ways of solving problems. This means the player needs to learn a lot of different controls. The fact that players can glide through these lessons without getting bored is a testament to just how good developer Rocksteady is at their job.

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20209Feeling chatty? There are 49 comments.



Dishonored DLC – Brigmore Witches EP1: Day at the Office

By Shamus
on Mar 15, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

17 comments


Link (YouTube)

The Omar! I couldn’t remember the name of the blue-suit guys from Invisible War during the show, but that’s only because their name was dumb. It’s the Omar.

I’ve apparently forgotten 99% of my Dishonored playthrough (and watching the subsequent Spoiler Warning one) but I guess I remember the prison level really well.

I hadn’t noticed the similarities, but Chris is right: The world of Dishonored maps really well to Thief in a lot of ways. Daud’s assassins are a secretive group of stealthy manipulators like the Keepers. The Overseers seem to be majoring in fanatical religious authoritarian governance and minoring in steamworks technology, just like Thief’s Hammerites. Delilah has kind of this Pagan thing going on with her nature magic. Our lead character skulks around in the shadows knocking guys out. (Or shanking them, if he’s rubbish.)

Then again, this might be a byproduct of the setting. Once you create a world that’s just entering the industrial revolution, it’s pretty hard to NOT depict a tug of war between technology and nature, religion and freedom, rich and poor. These were all hallmarks of the Victorian Era and were a natural part of a society going through rapid change due to technology. A quasi-Victorian setting without pervasive class warfare might feel kind of toothless and inauthentic.

Sure, you CAN make up a world where this isn’t the case. But you’d need to spend a little more time and exposition on worldbuilding. If you’re just using the setting for aesthetic reasons, then there’s no reason mess with expectations. Throw in a few hints of religious fanatics, poverty, and civil unrest, and the user can extrapolate the rest of the world from the standard set of tropes.


17Just 17 comments.



Nan o’ War CH3: A Wimple Plan

By Rutskarn
on Mar 14, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

76 comments

I know that the tone most videogames shoot for is “bombastic hyperslime,” but every now and again it’s nice to play games grounded in the sublime mundanity of everyday experiences. Let’s consider an example:

So I have to dress up as a nun and shoot a guy, and everything I said before was wrong, and let’s freaking do this.

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2020201676 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



Pseudoku: Tool Chain

By Shamus
on Mar 14, 2017
Filed under:
Programming

75 comments

Last week I did an informal poll to see how many people could run the game. The failure rate hovered around 4%, which is pretty bad. Bad enough that I don’t think it would be a good idea to put the game up for sale. If 1,000 people bought it, I’d end up with 40 people who paid for a game that didn’t work. And when they emailed me asking for help, I wouldn’t be able to do anything but shrug.

In the old days, Windows would give you quasi-helpful error messages like, “Unable to load foo.dll”. It wouldn’t tell you why. Is foo.dll missing? Or corrupted? Or does it depend on some other thing that the user doesn’t have? Is it for a newer / older version of Windows? You don’t know. But at least you know the problem is with foo.dll, so when the user sends you the bug report you know where to look.

But these newer versions of Windows don’t like to confuse the peasants with things like information, and so now Windows spits out a generic “This program can’t do the thing.” message. Great. Now the user enters the useless error message into Google and gets back a million different possible causes. They don’t know what the problem is or where to look. More importantly, neither does the developer.

All I know is that for some people, one of the many DLL files I depend on isn’t available. Or it is available, but it’s the wrong version. I included all the DLLs I know about with the program, but for some reason some things appear to be missing or incompatible. What I have figured out:

  1. Windows version doesn’t have anything to do with it.
  2. 32bit vs. 64bit seems to be irrelevant.

One of my problems is that I have no experience with deployment. In all the years I spent writing software professionally, I never had to package the software up for the end user. I was either writing in-house tools for myself and my colleagues, or I was adding to an existing codebase where someone else was in charge of deployment. (Also, most of my professional work was a decade ago, and I think deployment has gotten more complex since then.)

Let’s look at the parts of this game…

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



Diecast #191: Horizon Zero Dawn, Zelda, Steam Link

By Shamus
on Mar 13, 2017
Filed under:
Diecast

82 comments

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

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster and Baychel.

This is a really good time for videogames. We’ve got everyone raving about Horizon and Zelda. Later this month we’ll get Mass Effect and STRAFE. Also a major Factorio update is on the way. And it’s only March!

Show notes: Continue reading »


202020202There are now 82 comments. Almost a hundred!



What About Andromeda?

By Shamus
on Mar 12, 2017
Filed under:
Video Games

120 comments

About once or twice a week someone messages me on Twitter, or in the comments, or sends an email to the Diecast, asking for my thoughts on the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda. While it’s probably clear from my lack of interest in the subject that I’m not really looking forward to the game, I guess I should tackle this topic head-on.

Continue reading »


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



Dishonored DLC – Knife of Dunwall EP6: The Friendliest of Fire

By Shamus
on Mar 10, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

48 comments


Link (YouTube)

Even if you’ve been skipping this series, you might want to watch the first ten minutes or so to see the friendly fire incident. It’s one of those wonderful, idiotic moments we couldn’t possibly plan for.

I’m actually surprised at just how much of this game I’ve forgotten. I haven’t really thought about Dishonored since I played it in 2012, and apparently it didn’t leave much of an impression on me. I remember liking it at the time, but I’ve forgotten most of the characters, the missions, most of the locations, and a lot of the powers.

In any case, that was pretty fun. Next week we’ll be covering the final DLC, Brigmore Witches.


20208Feeling chatty? There are 48 comments.



Game of Thrones Griping 6: The Dead Wedding

By Bob Case
on Mar 10, 2017
Filed under:
Television

79 comments

This series analyzes the show, but sometimes references the books as well. If you read it, expect spoilers for both.

I’m back!

Last week’s post didn’t go up because my laptop died late on Thursday night, but now I’m here again, with bells on. Two weeks ago I made plans to explain how the death of Roose Bolton was emblematic (to me at least) of the show’s decline. To do that, I’m going to take the way-back machine all the way to the halycon days of 2013, when dinosaurs still roamed the earth.

The Dead Wedding

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that the Red Wedding was a watershed moment for Game of Thrones. Even if later episodes and later seasons eventually eclipsed it in ratings, I’m not sure the show has since equaled the amount of buzz the Red Wedding generated. It’s the sort of moment TV executives dream of: millions of mouths gathering around millions of (virtual or otherwise) water coolers, boosting their Q rating into the brand attachment green zone, or whatever sorts of things TV executives say.

And I have to admit, they earned it. The Rains of Castamere was, in fact, a unique moment in television. For one thing, it required the tacit collusion of thousands of book readers not to blow the game ahead of schedule, which I was a little surprised to see it mostly got.It was a teeth-grinding moment every time a book reader got too cheeky with their hint-dropping. Second, it asked for an expert control of tone on the show’s part. The audience has to have a growing sense of unease without suspecting the true extent of the danger. That unease has to steadily grow, then be at least briefly and carefully deflated before the hammer drops.

Since the last episode of MBTSAAFGOTGSMrBtongue’s Scrupulously Accurate and Fair Game of Thrones Griping Spectacular established me as a show!Bolton fanboy, you may not be surprised to learn that my favorite moment was this one:

Twenty minutes into Red Wedding and chill and he gives you this look.

Twenty minutes into Red Wedding and chill and he gives you this look.

Continue reading »


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



Dishonored DLC – Knife of Dunwall EP5: Statue of Limitations

By Shamus
on Mar 9, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

34 comments


Link (YouTube)

I know everyone is going to want to talk about the emergent bugs that Josh discovers, but I’m content to let that stand on its own. Instead let’s talk about the Outsider. The Outsider says to Daud after a low chaos mission, “Surprisingly clean work for a man with so much blood on his hands. Did the Empress change you? Or do you think this will help you dodge what’s coming? You’d better hurry. You’re running out of rope.”

You know, that’s actually pretty good. Those are interesting questions. Why is this career assassin suddenly working so hard to spare lives? Like the question of “Are you the Nerevarine?” in Morrowind, it’s something the player needs to decide for themselves. It’s an introspective sort of roleplaying. I don’t know that this kind of fill-in-the-blanks-yourself approach to character could carry an entire game, but they do make for interesting little moments.

Too bad these questions came from the mouth of the God of Boring. I guess you can’t really fix that in the DLC.

Or can you? It might have been interesting to make it so the Outsider has a different face and personality to each person. Daud sees a little mischief urchin, Emily sees a crafty old woman, and Corvo sees Mr. Boring. I don’t know if that idea would “click” for the audience, or if people would just assume they were dealing with a different god.


201434 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Arkham City Part 7: Arkham City Limits

By Shamus
on Mar 9, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

69 comments

Having knocked out Penguin and his goons, Bruce Wayne calls Alfred to request the delivery of the Bat-suit. Bruce climbs to the top of a building (this is the tutorial for the climbing movement controls) and obtains the Bat-Suit. During the climb, he establishes his goals for Alfred / the audience. He’s not trying to escape Arkham City. He’s not here to pick fights with the super-villains or their henchmen incarcerated here. Instead his goal is to figure out what Protocol 10 is so he can stop it.

The Bat-wing flies over and drops a pod containing the Bat-suit. It opens up to reveal…

Smile!

Not only does the bottom of the cowl look like a giant grin, but the eye holes seem to suggest smiling eyes rather than the usual angry shape.

Not only does the bottom of the cowl look like a giant grin, but the eye holes seem to suggest smiling eyes rather than the usual angry shape.

I’ve seen the Bruce-less Bat-suit in media before, but I’ve never seen it depicted in this way. The bottom of the cowl is yawning open like a massive grin. I think they had to cheat a bit to make this work. The inside of the costume ought to be dark, but instead it’s lit up with magical glowing blue fog to make the smile stand out.

It’s very reminiscent of the Joker and I’m sure it’s intentional. This game is supposedly Mark Hamill’s last appearance as the Joker (although he changed his mind later) and so the writer wanted to spend a lot of time talking about the Joker and his relationship with Batman. A lot of this is done in the style of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks”.

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2020209Sixty-nine comments, dude! Excellent!



Dishonored DLC – Knife of Dunwall EP4: Shh! I’m an Assassin.

By Shamus
on Mar 8, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

64 comments


Link (YouTube)

How many games use “Detective Vision” these days? The Arkham series is the first usage I know of, but now we also have Witcher, Tomb Raider, and Dishonored. It’s been years since I played Assassins Creed, but I seem to remember some sort of alternate vision in that game. I think one of the Far Cry games used it?

So then the developer comes to the problem: We want the player to be able to use “detective mode” (or whatever it’s called in this game) but we don’t want them to leave it on all the time.

I like the Tomb Raider solution best: It takes a second for the vision to fade in, and it gets canceled when you move. This makes it something you do to survey the space before you act, not something you toggle at will.


202020426 comments.



Nan o’ War CH2: Entry-Level Brigandry

By Rutskarn
on Mar 7, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

73 comments

Despite my better judgment I’m playing Caribbean!, and have just finished crafting my ultimate wish fulfillment character: a brittle, penniless grandmother. I’m also playing on the hardest difficulty, which will make it all the more fulfilling when I transition from “ragged nobody” to “pursued, reviled, and heavily in debt.”

The only grace-giving box I checked was the one that lets me save whenever I want. Basically, I’m stupid enough to jump naked into shark-infested waters, but not quite stupid enough to leave the motor running on the boat.

After I’ve signed off on all my terrible choices the game provides a brief backstory:

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2020201373 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.




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