Dishonored DLC – Knife of Dunwall EP2: “Low” Chaos

By Shamus
on Mar 2, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

31 comments


Link (YouTube)

In this episode we were talking about the end of the Brown Age of videogames, when game developers finally stopped acting like mud and concrete dust were the magic ingredients to photorealism. Chris mentioned that Mass Effect 3 and Max Payne 3 both came out the same year. This created the strangest sensation of temporal confusion for me. It was like the time-based version of looking at an optical illusion. I can’t believe those games were contemporary.

If you’d asked me to guess, I’d have said Max Payne 3 came out at least two or three years before Mass Effect 3. I’d also have said that Borderlands 2 was much closer to the present – perhaps 2014 or so. But nope, it was also a 2012 title.

I think the reason for this is that when I can’t remember a specific release date I tend to judge the age of a game by how long it’s been since it was relevant. Certain crazy people were still banging on about Mass Effect 3 as recently as last year. Meanwhile, Max Payne sort of vanished from the conversation right after it came out. It wasn’t a bad game, but it was the equivalent of one of those movies you forget the day after you see it. The lack of serious flaws made it less memorable than the frustrating and divisive Mass Effect 3.

Regardless of my inability to put games on the timeline, I do think that 2012 makes for a pretty good endpoint of the Brown Age. (To be fair, the problem wasn’t really “brown” so much as a lack of saturation and contrast. But “Low Saturation and Contrast Age” isn’t nearly as catchy.) It does seem to be when things began to really brighten up. 2012 was better than 2011, which was better than 2010.

It’s not that I want every game to be some Willy Wonka funhouse of of colors. A low contrast game is fine if that’s what the tone calls for. The problem was that it was used thoughtlessly, to the point where it made games visually indistinguishable, frequently boring, and sometimes even confusing to play. I think we’re in a pretty good place right now, art-wise. So that’s nice.


201131 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Arkham City Part 6: Welcome to Arkham City

By Shamus
on Mar 2, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

118 comments

Now that we’re more than a month into this series, let’s finally get around to talking about Arkham City. Which means it’s time to start spoiling stuff in detail. I know the story isn’t terribly important in these games but – as I’ve done in the past – I’m mostly going to be using it as a jumping-off point for a lot of different topics regarding gameplay, characters, and Bat-lore.

It’s good that the story isn’t very important in these games, because the story structure of Arkham City is goofy pants. The B-story is a plot about Catwoman pulling a heist. It’s shallow, but serviceable. We’ll talk more about it much later in the series. The main story is actually two very different and almost totally unrelated stories that have been crudely stapled together. The two main plots don’t support each other in terms of themes, tone, or lore. In fact, the two stories barely interact. When Batman is working on one story, the other story is paused.

The Catwoman plot doesn`t really start until we`re an hour or so into the game, but Arkham City opens with a Catwoman scene so it won`t feel strange when we switch to her later. Also this scene lets us do a combat tutorial even though Batman is busy being Bruce Wayne at the moment.

The Catwoman plot doesn`t really start until we`re an hour or so into the game, but Arkham City opens with a Catwoman scene so it won`t feel strange when we switch to her later. Also this scene lets us do a combat tutorial even though Batman is busy being Bruce Wayne at the moment.

Hugo Strange is established as our supposedly main adversary during the introduction. Then as soon as Bruce Wayne gets his Bat-suit on, he gets sidetracked into a Joker plot that takes up 90% of the game. Near the end, Batman stops working on the Joker thing to finish off Hugo Strange. Then he returns to the Joker. So the game opens with the Hugo plot but ends with the Joker one, so you can’t even think of one plot acting as bookends for the other.

What I’m going to try and show is that these two plots are not created equal. The Hugo Strange plot is underdeveloped but functional. Meanwhile the Joker plot is exhaustively developed and yet falls apart in almost every sceneAside from the dialog, which is fantastic. Then again, it’s Mark Hamill and Kevin Conroy reading the lines, and they can make almost anything sound fantastic.. Just about everything wrong with the story of Arkham City radiates from the Joker stuff. This isn’t one of those cases where the writer didn’t know what they were doing. Several parts of the story are smart, interesting, and well-paced. Some character relationships are developed and yet other relationships are perplexingly neglected. It’s not that the the writer didn’t know how to do their job properly, it’s that some other obligation seems to have prevented them from doing so.

Continue reading »


A Hundred!18118 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!



Dishonored DLC – Knife of Dunwall EP1: Knife to Meet You

By Shamus
on Mar 1, 2017
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

45 comments


Link (YouTube)

I’ve never played this DLC, so this is my first time seeing this story. I like everything so far. While I’m okay with silent protagonists, having a voiced protagonist works better for what Dishonored is trying to do, story-wise. The outsider’s appearance is brief. The environments look better than ever.


20205Feeling chatty? There are 45 comments.



Nan o’ War CH1: Blood and Old

By Rutskarn
on Mar 1, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

54 comments

The problem with Mount and Blade is that I’m not always playing it. At first the interruptions were minor–power outages, the minute or two of sleep I steal during loading screens, the weekly ritual I call “Dinnersday”–but after a few thousand hours it started to dawn on me that a life well-lived requires diverse experiences.And an inflexible cycle of digestion and excretion. Apparently. So I took a few weeks off to devote to a new hobby of mine, “figuring out what people do when they’re not playing Mount and Blade.”

Well, through a careful perusing of Steam’s library, I think I’ve solved the mystery: it turns out they play licensed total conversions of the Mount and Blade engine to new settings. There’s more of them than you’d think, running the gamut from “professionally produced” to “produced, inexplicably.” I actually dig some of them, even the occasional free mod, but the vast majority provide two core minigames: crashing to desktop and praying the game will crash to desktop.

Which is pretty much why I’d been declining to buy Blood and Gold: Caribbean! The exclamation mark is part of the title. Being excited about the Caribbean(!) is, evidently, mandatory. Development must have been exhausting. so far. I mean, it’s a golden-age-of-piracy conversion of Mount and Blade. It’s Mount and Blade with pirates. I love pirates, and I love Mount and Blade, and I know how this goddamn story ends. It’s as overwhelmingly likely that the game will be a buggy pile of janked garbage as it is that I’ll lose a tenth of my life playing it. I’d been steering clear, because I’m an intelligent, disciplined individual who has a few foibles but basically has his life together. Not because the game was twenty dollars and I’m a cheapass.

I hate Steam sales.

Okay, screw it. Obviously I’m gonna buy my very own Greek Tragedy of a videogame. But you know what? If I’m going in, I’m taking you with me. Get ready for a magical voyage from which we shan’t likely return.

Let’s weigh anchor.

Continue reading »


20201454 comments. It's getting crowded in here.



Pseudoku: This Game Needs Filler

By Shamus
on Feb 28, 2017
Filed under:
Programming

36 comments

Last time I made a solver to test puzzles for me. Once that was done, I could make puzzles like so:

  1. Fill in the board with tiles.
  2. Pull tiles off one at a time while the solver looks at what remains. If I pull off a tile and the solver says it’s stuck, then put the tile back and remove a different one.
  3. Keep doing step 2 until I have a puzzle of the desired difficulty.
  4. Lock down all of the remaining tiles.
  5. Done.

This is how I produced all of the puzzles in the builds I’ve released. Once this was done I shelved the project for about a year. But now that I’m back on it, I have to say step 1 is now the major roadblock to creating new puzzles.

It takes time to fill in a board. Filling in the first 8 / 9ths of the board is trivial, but getting the last ninth into place can be tricky. Take this example:

Continue reading »


201636 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Diecast #189: Let’s Plays, Skype, Steam Greenlight

By Shamus
on Feb 27, 2017
Filed under:
Diecast

70 comments

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

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus, Campster. Edited by Baychel.

Show notes: Continue reading »


2020201070 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.



Messages From Spammers Pt 4

By Shamus
on Feb 26, 2017
Filed under:
Random

39 comments

Spam is an effort to communicate with people who don’t want to hear what you have to say. By this definition, every conversation I have with a stranger counts as spam.

Long before we had “get cheat v1agra online no procripshin” there was, “Man, how about this weather lately?”

Here is what the spammers had to say this week:

Continue reading »


201939 comments. Hurry up and add yours before it becomes passé.



Game of Thrones Griping 5: Klingon Promotion

By Bob Case
on Feb 24, 2017
Filed under:
Television

141 comments

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

I promised you two topics this week: Sansa Stark and Ramsay Snow. I’m going to have to punt on Sansa Stark. To coin a completely original expression, I’ve been hella sick recently. Not as sick as the baseball-bat-to-the-face-like Plutonian Death Flu the Young family got, but sick. I’m now better but I’ve fallen behind on a lot of things, including this one. So this week’s entry is going to be a bit shorter than originally planned. You may celebrate or grieve according to what you feel is appropriate.

The Assassination of Roose Bolton by the Coward Ramsay Snow

I’m gonna switch it up a bit here and say something nice about the show for a change: they got Roose Bolton right.

That wasn’t an easy task. Way back when Game of Thrones was just a twinkle in HBO’s eye, those of us in the online A Song of Ice and Fire book fandom would sometimes muse to ourselves about what actors would play what characters in a hypothetical dream adaptation. Some of it was prescient (lots of people saw Sean Bean as Ned Stark). Some of it was pie-in-the-sky stuff (Brad Pitt as Jaime Lannister! Vin Diesel as the Hound!). Some of it was predictable fan stuff (David Tennant as everyone!). But I remember that there was no consensus on who should play Roose Bolton. Suggestions ranged from Sir Anthony Hopkins to Cillian Murphy to Steve Buscemi and everything in between.

Privately, I didn’t think that Roose Bolton was unadaptable, but I was certain that if anyone ever did adapt the novels they’d get him wrong anyway. They’d make him either too mustauche-twirly, too obviously creepy, too young, too old, or some combination of the four. But they wouldn’t be able to evoke that understated, unsettling quality the character had in the books. But damn if they didn’t pull it off. The actor’s name is Michael McElhatton, and I’d never heard of him before, but a look at his IMDB pageimdb.com/name/nm0568385/ shows a guy who’s definitely paid his dues. I hope to see more of him after all this, because I suspect that Roose Bolton is a deceptively difficult part to play. You have to convey a menacing type of intelligence while also giving a low-profile performance. It’s a combination that Aidan Gillen’s Littlefinger never quite pulled off, for example.And I thought Gillen was excellent in The Wire.

Continue reading »


A Hundred!20201We've got 141 comments. But one more probably won't hurt.



Arkham City Part 5: The Arkham Series

By Shamus
on Feb 23, 2017
Filed under:
Batman

134 comments

Arkham City is the second game in a four-game franchise where the third game was an awkward semi-canon prequel made by a different studio who didn’t quite get what made the series special. I suppose before we jump in and talk about Arkham City, we need to talk about how it fits into the franchise, and to do that we need to talk about the Joker. And to do that we’re going to need to do some large spoilers for the series as a whole.

Batman v. Joker: Dawn of “Just Us”

JUST KISS ALREADY!

JUST KISS ALREADY!

One of the problems with Batman is that he’s got one really notorious foe and then a whole bunch of guys all fighting over distant second. This is not a knock on those other foes, it’s just that Joker is one of the most recognizable foes in comics history. Like Batman himself, he’s pretty malleable. He can change in tone and outlook to suit the version of Batman he’s antagonizing. Scarecrow wants to scare people, Penguin wants to run his business, and Riddler wants to outsmart Batman, but Joker can be all things to all Batmans.

If this is a story about violent angry Batman, then we can pit him against sadistic mass-murderer Joker. If we’re dealing with stick-up-his-butt Batman, then Joker’s goal can simply be to cause chaos with a smile. If this is a more cartoony or campy Batman then Joker’s goal can be to pull off a basic for-profit caper. If we’re dealing with stoic emotionless Batman then Joker can be trying to get Batman to laugh at the inherent absurdity of their rivalry. If we’re dealing with Paladin Batman then Joker will work to get him to break him no-kill rule. And so on. You can mix & match these versions of our two leads to suit whatever story you’re trying to tell.

This isn’t to say that Scarecrow, Penguin, Riddler and the other second-string foes are one-note rogues. There have been a lot of versions of them over the years. But one of the reasons Joker stands out is that he’s much more explicitly the “anti-Batman”.

Continue reading »


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



Unfit for XCOMmand Finale: After the Black Site

By Rutskarn
on Feb 22, 2017
Filed under:
Lets Play

53 comments

Unfit for XCOMmand: Afterword

by the Commander

It’s warm for an East Asian winter. Maybe that’s the aliens, maybe it’s global warming–maybe it’s just a nice day. I’ve got just a few minutes to sit on the exterior loading canopy with my legs dangling down over the stomach-churning foot-tingling drop to the beach. There’s gauzy clouds over the waves, but the sun beats through them and bathes the honking seabirds in orange-white fire. It’s a good view to drink my warm water to. It’d be even better for drinking anything else.

Our strike on the Black Site completed twenty minutes ago. Bradford will be briefing our remaining few soldiers on it right now. There’s of course the possibility of a redo, and if we have time, I’m sure it will be necessary to put together as complete a team as we can and take another run at it. That’s if we’re not forced into another operation that completely finishes us off. We’re not setting the tune these days, we’re just trying to remember the steps.

Continue reading »


20201353 comments. It's getting crowded in here.



Pseudoku: Steam Greenlight Trailer

By Shamus
on Feb 21, 2017
Filed under:
Programming

29 comments

Have you been following the development of this game? Well, I’ve managed to get the thing on Stream Greenlight. If you’d like to see Pseudoku on Steam, then please vote for it.


Link (YouTube)

I was going to have a longer post about it this week, but I’ve been goofing off recently and have fallen behind on my work. Composing this tune and editing this minute and a half trailer is all I managed to get done.


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



Fall From The Sky

By Shamus
on Feb 21, 2017
Filed under:
Personal

48 comments

Five years ago I quit working on a sci-fi novel. It had a few cool ideas and there were a lot of things I liked about it, but… I don’t know. I just couldn’t work on it.

So I uploaded the half-a-book to see what the internet thought of it. Paul Spooner took the book and finished it. He sent me the completed work. At the time I said to him via email:

This is amazing. You’ve gone in a radically different direction from anything I’d imagined. I haven’t read the whole thing, but I’ve been skimming my way through.

Before you sent this to me I wondered: If this story was released, would anyone be able to see the seams? Could they tell where I stopped and you started? Then I realized that I’d already released my half of the book, so anyone that read that would know.

But still, this has gotten me thinking about how we consume and invent stories. We often divide stuff into “authentic” (stuff written by the original author) and “inauthentic” (fan fiction). I wrote an entire fan fiction novel myself, and I’m aware of how strange this line can be. People who never played System Shock before were far more receptive to my book than people who were familiar with the source material. Their understanding of the original work changed their perception of my story. Would that work in reverse? If someone was told that the game was based on my book, would they dislike the game for its “inaccuracies”? (Setting aside the fact that the game is hard to find, looks terrible, had a horrible interface, and the gameplay hasn’t held up over time.)

My own version of the novel uses very few characters from the first half. Rin doesn’t really talk to the other crewmembers. The whole story takes place on this alien world and the only person we see again is David. My book ends shortly after returning to Earth. It’s entirely possible that your version, which is tied more to the first half of the book, would seem more plausible as the “true” ending.

I haven’t read enough to give you useful feedback on what you’ve done, and I keep getting caught on, “This never would have occurred to me!” I don’t have much in the way of feedback, except to say I don’t think you’re doing anything obviously wrong or bad. I realize that this isn’t really useful, but this is a strange experience for me and it’s hard to read objectively.

Annoyingly, reading his version kinda made me want to go back and work on my own. (Spoiler: I didn’t. Too much other stuff going on.)

Creativity is obnoxious sometimes. Imagine if, after decades of dicking around and not working on the prequels, George Lucas finally let someone else make the prequel movies. So then Spooner steps in and takes a shot at it. After years of work, Spooner brings the completed movies to LucasSTAR WARS Episode I: The Spooner Menace.. Lucas begins watching the Spooner cut. After halfway through the opening crawl, Lucas stands up, exits the theater, and announces he’s going to make the prequel movies after all.

What an asshole, right?

I didn’t want to end up doing that to Paul, so I haven’t actually read his completed version of the book. I’ve read some chapters, and it feels pretty strange to to mePaul left out Jar-Jar Binks? Jar-Jar was the key to everything..

But if you read the half-novel back in 2012 and were frustrated by the cliffhanger, maybe the Spooner cut of the story will give you some closure. Or maybe it will just kill some time on a Tuesday when I don’t have any content for you.


20208Feeling chatty? There are 48 comments.




From the Archives: