Last of Us EP4: A Garbage Block Puzzle

 By Shamus Sep 24, 2014 99 comments

Link (YouTube)

When The Last of Us came out, actress Ellen Page accused the developer of ripping off her likeness. The similarity is pretty strong to me, but it was even more striking before the changes to the character’s face part way through development. Not only does that look like Ellen Page, but the voice is kind of similar as well: Both the actress and the character have that same middle-register, slightly rough voice that’s unusual for women. And of course the Ellen / Ellie thing didn’t really help Naughty Dog in their claims that the similarity was purely a coincidence.

The sad thing is that Ellen Page actually was starring in a videogame at the time this was going on. She appeared in Beyond: Two Souls, a game which didn’t do nearly as well. It was another adventure of the David Cage variety, and we all know how those games go. I’ve been saying that, “If your game is trying to be a movie, then Last of Us is how you need to do it.” Beyond (disclosure: I haven’t played it) is criticized for being the antithesis of this: It’s a game that’s low on gameplay and interactivity, and telling a story that’s muddled, meandering, cliche, nonsensical, and in no way good enough to stand up as a movie. Again, I haven’t played it, but having played through some of David Cage’s other work I’ll say that description sounds extremely plausible.

The whole situation is kind of screwed up. Imagine if someone had used CGI to rip off Bruce Willis in appearance and voice, and used their fake Willis to make the critically acclaimed Die Hard. And meanwhile the REAL Bruce Willis was starring in Hudson Hawk, which opened opposite of it.

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Experienced Points: Just How Does the Oculus Rift Work?

 By Shamus Sep 23, 2014 62 comments

My column this week is a piece-by-piece breakdown of all the crazy bits of technology we need to make the Oculus Rift work. I’m a bit nervous about this. I strongly suspect that it’s something people are curious about, and I don’t think anyone else is doing these plain-English descriptions right now. So there’s a demand for articles like this, but I’m not sure I’m the best guy to do them. I didn’t even understand chromatic aberration until Michael Goodfellow explained it to me a week ago. I’ve read a lot about the hardware in the last couple of weeks, but I could still be missing something.

Still, there’s my take on it. It’s a complicated little gizmo.

202020262 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

Diecast #74: Microsoft Eats Mojang, Mailbag

 By Shamus Sep 22, 2014 139 comments

Experiment: This week I shifted the participants a little to the left or right speakers. My hope is that this can help untangle cross-talk when it happens. Usually one person just overpowers another, and if you want to hear the person who got drowned out, you’re out of luck.

I actually edit the audio to fix as much cross-talk as I can. If (during recording) I charge in saying, “You know what? I think that-” and then I shut up because I realize I’m overlapping with someone else, then during editing I’ll just mute that phrase so the other person can be heard more clearly. Basically, when two people talk at once, I’ll mute the one who retreated. But there are still instances of overlapping that just can’t be helped. Maybe this stereo separation will help, or maybe it will just be annoying and distracting.

I’m sure you’ll let me know what you think.

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

Hosts: Chris, Josh, Shamus, and Rutskarn.

Show notes:

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A Hundred!2019There are 139 comments here. I really hope you like reading.


 By Shamus Sep 21, 2014 81 comments

Big things are going on in the world of graphics API. A graphics API is what a programmer uses to talk to the graphics hardware. This is a complicated job. You write some videogame code, which talks to the graphics API, which talks to the graphics driver, which makes the graphics card give up the shiny pixels for the player.

For a lot of years, there were really only two players in town: OpenGL and DirectX. OpenGL is so old that the original code was written in hieroglyphs on stone tablets, and all of the documentation was localized for Mesopotamia. The first version was released in 1992, back when developers were still living on Pangaea. It was built in a development world very unlike the one we have today. Before C++ rose to become the language of choice for AAA game development. Before shaders existed, and indeed before consumer-level graphics cards evolved.

This means that the OpenGL API looks pretty weird to modern coders. There’s an alternative, but…

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202020201There are now 81 comments. Almost a hundred!

Last of Us EP3: Hug it Out

 By Shamus Sep 19, 2014 126 comments

Link (YouTube)

Rutskarn is right. This only looks silly because the world looks so real. Older stealth games had mechanics that were just as ridiculous, but we understood them to be representative. They were a metaphor, as part of the language of a simplified cartoon world. But now we’ve got this thing that looks “real”, and we’re throwing a bottle directly through a guy’s field of vision without them noticing. And strangling a grown man to death in a quiet space while his friend stands just two meters away, oblivious? Looks like everyone decided to put on their silly pants today.

Also strange is the way the game is still so video-gamey about the guards. Those nameless, clueless, powerless rubes you gun down on your way to Robert. In real life, I’d be extremely worried about that trail of bodies. At least one of those guys had a mother who loved him very much, and who probably had other sons. At least one of those guys was married and took care of a family. At least one of those guys had a brother about the same age. If I was Joel I’d be paranoid that tomorrow the buzz would be all over town: Who shot all those guys? It’s not like they didn’t conspicuously pass multiple people on their way to Robert. Word would get around. Somewhere out there would be someone (probably a group of someones, maybe even a posse of someones) who would work just as hard to solve these murders ad Joel and Tess did to recover their guns.

Of course, that not how the game works. Those guys didn’t have names of histories or families. They were mooks to be killed because this is a shooter. It’s just that as games get more and more visual fidelity, stuff like this looks increasingly strange to me. And to be honest, I don’t know what the solution is. You could lower the body count, but only at the expense of having less shooting. So we can either have a game with little shooting (Walking Dead) cartoony graphics (not gonna happen in the gritty AAA game space) or we end up playing a casual mass-murderer. I suppose you can also set the game in a world with lots of foes that can be killed guilt-free (aliens and Nazis) but that does tyend to narrow your options with regards to what kinds of stories you can tell.

Despite my bellyaching, I really wish I’d played this game. I’m dumping on the shooting from a narrative / tonal sense, but it looks fun.

A Hundred!206There are 126 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

Last of Us EP2: Suddenly, Chest-High Walls

 By Shamus Sep 18, 2014 81 comments

Link (YouTube)

This is a problem I have with any sort of post-apocalyptic world. If we’ve regressed back to pre-technology days, then nine out of every ten people need to be farming. Food is everythingWe're assuming clean water is easily obtainable. Which it isn't. Especially in cities.. What are these soldiers guarding? Why are we living in these cities where there are (apparently) lots of zombies and no food? Why are we wasting our precious fossil fuelsSpoiler: Gasoline apparently has a shelf-life of only a couple of years, even when stored in ideal conditions. Twenty years after the end of the world, all the gas is GONE. Sorry. driving solders around in humvees and huge troop trucks when we could be putting that magic labor juice into farming equipment? Are people STILL dying on a regular basis from random zombie bites? Why would anyone need to “smuggle” guns in a world like this? Is the government really trying to maintain an unarmed population? Isn’t everyone that doesn’t own a gun already dead?

Before we go any further: YES, I know there are in-game answers to some of these questions. But those answers themselves just replace one question with another:

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202020201There are now 81 comments. Almost a hundred!

Spoiler Warning Command Center

 By Shamus Sep 18, 2014 71 comments

Our setup changes from time to time, and people ask us about this frequently, so about once a year I end up doing one of these posts where we explain how we produce our long-form videogame nitpicks. Obviously our setup has gotten more involved recently, since we’re now doing console games.

Note that all of these images are of Josh’s setup. He lives in Nevada and I live in Pennsylvania. There are 2,000 miles between us, so I’ve never visited his place. Which means this is my first time seeing this stuff.

First, let’s get the basic details out of the way:

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2020201171 comments. (Seventy-one is the largest supersingular prime!)

Last Of Us EP1: At The Movies

 By Shamus Sep 17, 2014 112 comments

Link (YouTube)

I’m always saying that games shouldn’t be so concerned about trying to be movies. A good game should tell its story in the flow of gameplay, and anytime the player can put down the controller and continue to proceed should be looked at as a possible failure of the game to do its jobThe are exceptions. TECHNICALLY you can put the controller down when Sam Fisher is hiding from The Bad Guys, but that's not the same thing.. And no, throwing gotcha quicktime events over a cutscene doesn’t solve this problem, it makes it worse. Now I’m playing a really terrible videogame that’s distracting me from the [marginally] more interesting movie. Gameplay ought to have some degree of human decision-making in it, and “Press X to Not Die” isn’t that. I mean, when you’re watching a movie you’re choosing NOT to pause it, but that doesn’t make it a game.


If you are going to use a game as a delivery vehicle for a movie, then this is how you need to do it: You need to make a proper movie. I am irritated to the point of intolerance with games that interrupt our playtime for movies that are bad, poorly-paced, cliche-ridden, ham-fisted, utterly predictable, filled with glaring plot holes, tonally confused, boringly shot, and completely tediousThe Resident Evil series comes to mind. And Fallout 3. And Assassin's Creed 2. And Dead Island. And Thief 2014. And Watch_Dogs. And Far Cry 3. And Mass Effect 3. And... now that I think of it, this list might be too long for a footnote.. The reflexive defense is, “It’s just a game, you’re not supposed to worry about the story!” Which is kind of my point: If the story doesn’t matter, then why are you wasting my time with it? Why did you waste money making this crappy thing that you didn’t want to make and I don’t want to watch?

Spoiler: I don’t think The Last of Us is that great of a movie. It’s leagues ahead of most videogame stories. It’s got solid cinematography, great environments, expressive models, and a decent story to tell. But if this was in the theaters it wouldn’t be a blockbuster or anything. It would be something like World War Z (the movie) or Daybreakers: Competently executed and entertaining, but otherwise unremarkable disposable entertainment.

Like Chris said: Last of Us is the best possible version of a fundamentally flawed design.

Also, BioWare: Watch this to understand everything you did wrong with your “some kid died” moveSpoiler: Everything. You did everything wrong..

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Destiny Stream

 By Shamus Sep 16, 2014 61 comments

Since Twitch has decided that having deep archives is bad, (Spoiler: They are wrong.) we’re uploading our stream to YouTube. So now it is preserved forever:

Link (YouTube)

We played Destiny for the first couple of hours, then played Counter Spy for the last hour.

Josh said we’ll be doing this from now on, but I dunno. This was a hassle. It wasn’t a lot of work, but it was excruciatingly time consuming. Recording, editingI don't mean proper editing, like removing boring parts. Heck no. We left all that crap in. Have fun sitting through the parts where we have nothing to say. No, I'm talking about basic stuff like balancing and syncing audio., encoding, and uploading three hours of video is a huge undertaking. I think Josh’s computer was working on it for over twelve hours.

202020161 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.

Experienced Points: Just How Good Is The Oculus Rift?

 By Shamus Sep 16, 2014 81 comments

My column this week is a collection of observations and explanations, aimed at people who are still wondering what the fuss is about.

Here are a few more observations that are a little more technical:

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202020201There are now 81 comments. Almost a hundred!

A Fight With My Computer

 By Shamus Sep 15, 2014 88 comments

I take Saturday off from writing and other creative work so I can play games and spend time with family. So Sunday is an important day for me. I need to write my Escapist columnI could write it sooner, but I've been burned too many times with news stories that changed over the weekend., edit the Diecast for Monday, and (ideally) also write a post for Sunday. So naturally Sunday is when Everything Always Goes Wrong.

I just needed to write. To write, I wanted my music. But my speakers weren’t working. Like, Windows audio mixer claimed they were. You could see the little bars jumping up and down as the audio played. The drivers were working. There didn’t seem to be any software problems. So, unplugged cable, right? I mean, I’d just untangled my computer from the Oculus Rift Octopus (Ocupus?) so I could have my second monitor back. Obviously I must have jostled a cable loose somewhere.


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202020208Great Scott! 88 comments! If only this post was a DeLorean.


 By Shamus Sep 14, 2014 88 comments

Rutskarn is doing a Patreon. Here is his pitch:

Link (YouTube)

You know those lists where people tell you little factoids like, “George Clooney played a bit part on a sitcom before he hit it big.” I imagine someday people will say something like, “Adam DeCamp was on a Let’s Play with some other people before he became a famous writer.” I’m not just saying this because he’s my friend. I’ve been hanging out with this kid since he was actually a kid, and his ability to extemporaneously spout genuinely humorous fiction is like nothing I’ve seen in my 43 years. He really does have talent.

Joking about his age aside, he’s out of college and trying to make his way in the world. And this is what he’s decided to do. I have no idea how well it will work, but I’m honestly cheering for him. This Patreon business is new to everyone. It might be that there’s only so much Patreon money to go around, and as more street buskers crowd the sidewalks we’ll all end up splitting the same pool of donations into ever-smaller shares. But maybe this is a newer, better way of doing things and artists can find an audience and earn a living without publishers, editors, brokers, and executives getting a cut. Maybe in the long run we’ll all get more entertainment for less money. I really have no idea.

Anyway, that’s his pitch. Wish him luck, and if you want to read the Bastards thing then consider giving him some of your Earth Money.

Good luck, Rutskarn! Remember me when you get to the middle.

202020208Great Scott! 88 comments! If only this post was a DeLorean.