SOMA EP9: Go Away. Nobody Loves You.

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

105 comments


Link (YouTube)

So humanity is doomed. A few dozenYou know, I’m not really sure on the numbers, but it’s probably somewhere under 100. people are left alive in this undersea base. The surface is uninhabitable. Sooner or later these folks will starve, and that will be the end of the speciesAssuming there aren’t any other humans living in a bunker somewhere. That’s certainly possible, but there’s no way to contact them. So for the purposes of this story, let’s go ahead assume this base contains everyone still living.. Cathy gets the idea to save people by putting brain scans into a simulator and launching it into space.

Like I said in the show: To me this doesn’t save humanity. It might arguably create some new thing that’s just as interesting and important, but saving a couple dozen brain scans isn’t the same as having an ever-evolving population of reproducing organisms. The ARK is stagnation. The only good thing you can say about stagnation is that it’s preferable to oblivion.

But your average grunt-level worker – let’s call him Bob – has a problem. Bob doesn’t want to sit here in the dark, slowly starving to death. Or freezing to death. Or slowly going mad from being forever trapped in a small base at the bottom of the ocean of a ruined world, never again to feel the sun on his face or the smell of wet grass after a rainstorm. He wants some other option. Catherine is offering to scan his brain so it can live on, but Bob knows that after the brain scan, he’ll still be here in sucktown.

Bob very much wishes he could live in this simulated world. And so he gets the idea into his head that there’s only ever one version of him in the world. If he kills himself, then the “real” Bob – or perhaps the “current” Bob – will be the one in the robot. I’d love to know how Bob’s mental model works, here. Does he think that he’ll shoot himself in the head, and then suddenly find himself in a robot or whatever?

It sounds like a strange idea to me, but that’s how he sees it. And to be fair, this metaphysical shit can be really tricky sometimes. It’s hard enough to consider this rationally when presented with various ethical dilemmas at the best of times. So when you’re half-mad and facing a lingering, hopeless death, it’s probably easy to bend your thinking in ways that will give you hope for the future.

Having said all that, this would make for an interesting thought experiment for the various Bobs in this undersea base. If Bob and Carl both agree that killing your meat body should make the copy into the “real” you, then Carl could test this hypothesis for himself. Once Bob is dead, go over to robo-Bob and tell him what happened. Ask him if the demise of his physical body impacted him in any way. Ask him if he remembers killing himself. I imagine that Robo-Bob’s answers really ought to give Carl something to think about.

(Yes, I’m aware that their goal is actually to kill themselves before the copy is up and running. I’m just playing around with the idea.)

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Good Robot #48: Bringing Balance

By Ross Zevenhuizen
on Apr 15, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

58 comments

Hey guys, I’m Ross. I have a strange job that involves wearing a lot of hats, and recently just involves a lot of hats. I’ve been with the gang since Unrest, usually handling scripting and level design. I also edit together most of Pyrodactyl’s trailers with the same technology I use to play Terrible Terrible Video Games (Glass Houses – Ed.). I’m here today with some insight into the latest update for Good Robot, and hopefully our thought process as game designers to boot.

With QA teams that number in the ones of dozens (baker’s, if you’re exceptionally lucky), esteemed indie developers like ourselves soon become incredibly adept at one crucial step of the modern video game creation process: making mistakes. But perhaps more notably – making mistakes and fixing them quickly. It’s in this spirit that I present you with a commented list of the major changes this time around.

Continue reading »


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SOMA EP8: Handwavium

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

58 comments


Link (YouTube)

This entire show is supposedly some form of game criticism where we talk about what worked and what didn’t. But let’s put that idea aside for the next couple of episodes, because that’s not really what our conversation is all about. When I say something didn’t work for me, I’m using that to segue to another philosophical question. I’m not actually saying the game is bad, or that it should have been done differently. I’m a big believer in the idea that when it comes to philosophical wanking like this, there are no wrong answersObviously the stakes go up when we start talking about how this stuff could be applied to real-world problems, but that’s why I love sci-fi. It gives us a safe space to play around with these ideas, where nobody dies if we’re “wrong”..

To put it more specifically: It’s pretty clear that Simon (and perhaps the developers?) disagree with me on a pretty fundamental level. And that’s okay. I bring this up because I disagree with the game often, and I don’t want people to think I’m counting these disagreements as faults, from a game-design sense. It’s all good.


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Mass Effect Retrospective 43: Interesting Stupid

By Shamus
on Apr 14, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

241 comments

Shepard continues his tour of the galaxy, selling dubious hope in exchange for direct military support from people who are really going to need those military units in the near future. Today he’s giving his sales pitch to the Quarians.

Admiral Idiot

If we`re going to go extinct, then we`re going to do so while standing on a planet, because that`s better somehow!

If we`re going to go extinct, then we`re going to do so while standing on a planet, because that`s better somehow!

The Quarians became space-nomads centuries ago when they built robots that eventually became “self-aware”. Worried of a robot uprising, they tried to destroy the robots. This led to a robot uprising, and they got their asses kicked off their own homeworld. Since then they’ve been flying around the galaxy in a huge fleet of ramshackle patchwork ships, dreaming of the day when they could retake their homeworld. It’s a good story that adds some interesting historical context to the universe, and has ramifications throughout the world of Mass Effect.

The Quarian fleet is broken into sections. Some ships are military, but most are simply homes and places to grow food for the Quarian people: The “live ships”That’s “live” as in “live wire”, not “live long”. English is annoying sometimes.. A lot of their ships are old and in a perpetual state of being refurbished.

Admiral Han’Gerrel is our villain in this story. He’s stuck guns on the Live Ships and launched an attack on the Quarian homeworld. He was doing okay until the Geth teamed up with the Reapers. Now the Reapers are giving the Geth some sort of mental upgrade via a broadcasted signalJust go with it. and it’s making them more dangerous opponents. The Geth have now pinned the Quarian fleets – basically 99% of every Quarian alive right now – and are going to overwhelm and destroy them if we don’t do something soon.

Continue reading »


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SOMA EP7: Good Robot!

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

23 comments


Link (YouTube)

Contrary to convention, I actually find myself liking SOMA more now that we’re covering it on the show. I think this is a game that benefits from repeated playthroughs to map out all the various character stories, explore the different choices, and listen to dialog with the benefit of second-playthrough foresight.

On the other hand, the gameplay generally wears out its welcome before the first playthough is complete. Pity.

20323 comments. Highly cototient!



Ruts vs. Battlespire CH4: BAbagsGS

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

40 comments

There’s no way around it; I am lost. Deeply, passionately, irreparably lost. I’m not sure where this space is relative to anywhere else and I’m not sure it even matters, as space and time themselves seem capricious, aloof, even spiteful. I gave up getting out of here fully intact some time ago. Now I’d settle for retaining just a shred of sanity, just an ounce of vitality–some souvenir of the man I was before I entered this hateful parallel dimension beyond mortal understanding.

I’m talking, of course, about my inventory screen.

Let’s take a modest gander. And by “modest gander,” I mean let’s settle once and for all how overbearingly asinine this system is so I can move on to grousing about bigger and better things. Behold:

Made up of equal parts polished art and elegant design.
Made up of equal parts polished art and elegant design.

Continue reading »

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Good Robot: The Lost Trailer

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

56 comments

So sometimes ideas don’t pan out. This is one of those cases:


Link (YouTube)

Looking at the feedback on YouTube, I can see there’s a divide between, “This joke totally made sense to me” and “This was awkward and dumb”. Maybe that would be tolerable for an early teaser, but when it comes to a launch trailer you want clarity and a wide appeal.

A common complaint was that the stock footage of robots conflicted with the in-game footage. That’s true, although I don’t know how that could be fixed. For the first half of the trailer you need slow-paced shots. There’s only so many slow pans you can do over the Good Robot, and there’s no way you can fill 40 seconds with that. The game doesn’t have a supporting cast or dialog scenes, which is what you’d use for the slow build in the first half of the trailer.

Maybe that should have clued me in that this idea was flawed and unworkable, but… I dunno. I’ve had a lot of projects that began with a single fun idea and were fuzzy on the details. DM of the Rings is a good example of something that began half-formed and then came together later during production. Sometimes when you’ve got an idea you have to run it up the flagpole and see if anyone salutes.


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Diecast #148: XCom 2, Factorio, Good Robot Launch

By Shamus
on Apr 11, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

103 comments

Behold! A spectacle unseen on the internet: Three guys talking about videogames for an hour! Be stupefied as we unleash outlandish opinions such as “I really like a thing” and “This other thing isn’t at all to my liking”. Tell your friends!


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

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Josh, Rutskarn, Shamus.

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


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Lord of the Rings Online #7: Ledger Legendarium

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

13 comments

If you remember from last time, Uncle Filbert blundered into the heart of the brigand stronghold and said rude things to them. Instead of gutting him, they took his handkerchief and sent him home. For some reason, I’ve agreed to help him get it back. Maybe I’m being nice to him because he’s a fellow Hobbit. Maybe I’m just an incredible idiot.

Getting to the handkerchief thieves is not easy. I have to got deep into the bandit-infested woods. I have to kill more than a few ruffians on the way.

At last I reach the ruins where they are holding Filbert’s frilly nose-blowing aid. This place is going to be a tough nut to crack…

Yow.  Most of the guys on this side of the woods are a few levels above me.

Yow. Most of the guys on this side of the woods are a few levels above me.

These lot look like hardened criminals.

Continue reading »


1313 comments. That's a baker's dozen.



Rutskarn’s GMinars: Introduction

By Rutskarn
on Apr 9, 2016
Filed under:
Tabletop Games

65 comments

When I got the chance to design and run my first Dungeons and Dragons adventure, I spent more time on it than I did any twenty of my grade-school assignments that year.  The document I eventually completed was a rambling ill-stapled mess, an exhaustively plotted town and desert fort and disjointed prophecy cobbled from equal parts book materials and doodles and random numbers. I’m not sure which I understood less about going in–my own setting, the principles of storytelling, or absolutely any of the game’s rules.

Things didn’t get any smoother when I ran it. As my uncle obligingly delved the dungeon I’d made, I stammered through area descriptions, second-guessed the bizarre layout, and struggled to figure out who hit (and how hard) every single time we touched the dice. Eventually the game rattled and rambled to its abrupt conclusion and boss battle–a skeleton giant (probably based on King Leoric) inexplicably standing guard outside the goblin fort. Waiting, apparently, for my uncle to come out and duel it.

Well, my uncle didn’t. He saw the massive skeleton, shut the door, and barred it. Which puzzled me–what the hell was I supposed to do about him not engaging the boss battle? That didn’t happen in Diablo. Why hadn’t I planned for this?

I wish I could say that was my genius moment of inspiration. Nope. My narration was that by the time he did open the door, much later, a sandstorm had blown the skeleton boss apart and scattered his bones. And so concluded my first-ever session.

You can do better than that.

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Good Robot and the Chaos of Feedback

By Shamus
on Apr 8, 2016
Filed under:
Notices

77 comments

People are playing Good Robot WHICH YOU CAN BUY NOW ON STEAM BECAUSE I’M SURE YOU HAVEN’T SEEN THIS LINK TEN TIMES THIS WEEK ALREADY and for the most part people seem to be enjoying it. We’re getting lots of feedback, which is also good. However, the feedback is complete chaos.

I’m getting feedback and bug reports via email. And on Twitter. And on the announcement post. And in the hangout post. And on the bounty post. And on the Steam forums for the game. And then some people are contacting Arvind. It’s chaos.

This is our fault. We never gave people a fixed point of contact, so people are just defaulting to whatever is the most convenient at the moment. In our defense, Arvind has never released a game attached to a blog / personality like this one, and I’ve never released any game ever.

So for the sake of my sanity, we need to funnel all the feedback into one place. And that place is the Steam forums. That way people with similar issues can share information. That will give us a single place to go when trying to figure out which issues are the most common or pressing. Also, the Steam forums are much better for discussions that might run for weeks of back-and-forth, trial-and-error troubleshooting, since there’s no way for you to know I’ve replied to you in an old comment here on the blog.

Of course, you’re still welcome to criticize and complain here on the blog. Armchair game design is kind of what we do around here, and if I can spend the better part of a year painstakingly dumping on every facet of Mass Effect, then it would be crazy to declare my own game off-limits. If something bugs you or you just want to say how you would have done something differently, then by all means: Have at you.

But if you aren’t just making conversation and you actually want your feedback to influence the upcoming patches, then please post your feedback to the Good Robot discussion on Steam. I’m sorry if that’s not super-convenient. I’m sure many of you have never even bothered with the Steam forums. Frankly, I don’t like it over there. The spelling is bad, the grammar is worse, the color scheme is dark, and nobody ever answers my questions anyway. But it really is best way for us to respond in a coherent manner.

We have meetings twice a week, and now that the game is out a big part of that meeting is going to be going over the list of complaints, crashes, concerns, grievances, vendettas, and angry rants about how the sawblade gun is totally bullshit and why is that even in the game are you kidding me. While I read every comment on the site, the other members of the team do not.

Also – and I realize you know this already because you’re smart and articulate, but I’m saying so anyway as a formality – please make your topic titles as descriptive as possible. “Crash” is bad. “Crash when changing levels” is much more useful. “Strange bug” is bad. “Can’t fire secondary weapons on Tuesday” is better. “Game is unbalanced” is (probably) bad, while “Weapon prices are unbalanced” is much better. Be specific. Look for similar posts before posting, because one long thread where ten people report X is far more likely to catch our attention than ten single-post topics that all seem to be sort of X-ish.

Our plan is to fix the worst bugs right away. I don’t have a timetable for a patch yet. We have ten or so fixes done already, but we need to work out where we want to draw the line between “stuff that needs to be in the first patch” and “stuff that can wait”.

Thanks for your patience. The sawblade is bullshit.


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Good Robot Achievement Bounty

By Arvind Raja Yadav
on Apr 8, 2016
Filed under:
Good Robot

157 comments

When we first thought of putting hats in Good Robot, it made sense to tie in a few achievements to them. After all, people like hats and achievements – combining them was a surefire way to video game stardom.

As it turns out, a couple of those achievements are slightly difficult to obtain. And by slightly I mean so difficult that nobody outside of the dev team has done it yet. The achievements I’m talking about are:

For reference, you lose your hat if you get hit by an enemy. Yep.
For reference, you lose your hat if you get hit by an enemy. Yep.

We don’t want these achievements stay un-achieved forever. To encourage you to go out there and get these bad boys, we’re putting a bounty on them. Be warned, this challenge is not for the faint of heart.

Continue reading »

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