Diecast #151: The Hugos, Fallout Mods, Mailbag

By Shamus
on May 2, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

194 comments

It doesn’t sound like it at first, but Mumbles is actually on the show this week. Also, thanks for the mailbag questions. As always, the email is somewhere in the header image.


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

Episode edited by Issac.

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Lord of the Rings Online #10: Gold Farming

By Shamus
on May 1, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

28 comments

It has come to this. I am about to work for the post office. This is after their incompetence led to the destruction of an entire city and the death of Dirk Mudbrick. (That’s how I see it, anyway.) Then I took a bunch of mail and threw it away. In front of the postmaster. Multiple times. While maintaining eye contact. And humming.

The upshot being, I do not have a warm relationship with the Shire Post. But if I want fancy dresses and expensive dye, then I need money. And if I want money I need a job. And this is the best job around.

Which is a shame, because this is a terrible job.

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Rutskarn’s GMinars CH2: You Are the Illusionist

By Rutskarn
on Apr 30, 2016
Filed under:
Tabletop Games

90 comments

Last week I explained the basic principle of GMing: above all else, and whenever possible, give your players something to do. Give them problems to solve, environments to explore, and opportunities to show off their character’s strengths and quirks and you’re well on your way to running an entertaining session.

Today I’m going to explain something that I think is nearly as important. It’s an idea I’ve never seen or heard comprehensively explained before, and call me paranoid, but I think there’s a reason for that. I think even such GMs as have figured out how to put this idea into words leave each other to figure it out on their own. I think there’s a fear, and a not entirely unreasonable one, that some secrets shouldn’t be given legs–some illusions should be protected at all costs. If that means failing to write down or explain some of the practices that contribute to those illusions, then that’s the price they pay.

I don’t really buy that, and this isn’t just any GMing trick–when you get right down to it, it’s the heart of your role as storyteller. I’m going to take the time to explain as completely as possible the artistic theory of GMing.

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The No Politics Rule

By Shamus
on Apr 29, 2016
Filed under:
Personal

265 comments

People that follow me know that I am firm in my enforcement of the “no politics or religion” policy here on the site. I don’t talk about it, and I don’t allow the comment section to veer into politics. While I’ve offered a few reasons in the past, and I imagine most people intuit the reasons for it, I think it would be useful to have all of the rationale in one post.

From here on, when I say “politics” I mean “politics and / or religion”, since the two are often linked or occupy similar head-space.

There are many good reasons for the ban on politics:

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SOMA EP14: DOOMed

By Shamus
on Apr 29, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

57 comments


Link (YouTube)

So Simon makes a copy of himself. Only instead of seeing the copy as the Best Ally Ever, he gets mad and calls Catherine “disgusting”. I think most people feel Simon is being a dunce here.

But there is an interesting dilemma. Simon is upset about the fact that a copy exists, which (at least in this context) I don’t think is a problemIf you’ve got a spouse, kids, and a social life, this becomes more complex.. But what I do see as a problem is that he’s made a doomed copy. There’s only one copy of Catherine. And Old Simon can’t follow New Simon into the trench, which leaves Old Simon here, alone, trapped in this single room with an unstoppable monster banging on the door.

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Mass Effect Retrospective 45: The Temple of Duh

By Shamus
on Apr 28, 2016
Filed under:
Mass Effect

282 comments

Supply lines are cut. The military is being consumed by an implacable enemy. Resources are low. Millions have died and entire worlds have gone dark, production-wise.

And yet somehow the galaxyOr maybe just the Humans? If the other races are involved, they’re a footnote is building the Crucible, which is a massive mystery device of future technology built from ancient Prothean blueprints. This is like Great Britain building the Apollo program during The Blitz.

The Catalyst

The story never says where the Crucible is being built. I’m really curious about that, since there must be a constant influx of people and supplies to the place. It’s the most important thing in the galaxy right now. It should be very hard for the Reapers to overlook. The entire plot turns on this object, and it’s being built entirely off-screen, mostly by people we never meet, in an unknown location.

The the best scientists in the galaxy have gathered to build a device they don’t understand, they don’t know how to use, and don’t know what it will do when they turn it on. Imagine this. They literally have no idea what this does. Is it a weapon? Should we aim it at something? How? Where do we put it? Is it a super-shield to protect a planet, or a super-nuke that will blow up a star system? Do we need to stand way, way back when we turn it on? Does it need a crew? Fuel? A driver-side airbag and parking lights?

Despite that, they do know it’s not complete. They know they need one more part, but they don’t know what it is, what it’s for, or what it will do, but they’re calling it the Catalyst. Really, the list of things they do know and don’t know about this device are oddly specific.

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SOMA EP13: 696969696969

By Shamus
on Apr 27, 2016
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning

54 comments


Link (YouTube)

I love at around the 7:30 mark, Simon says, “This better be the right way.” What makes this amusing is that by putting in this line of dialog, the writers are implicitly telling the players that YES, THIS IS THE RIGHT WAY. Without that audio cue, the player might worry they were just jumping around on a bunch of crap intended to be background scenery. But by putting in a line of voice acting – even though the line itself questions the direction you’re heading – the writers are making it clear that you’re supposed to be here and that this was a path they anticipated or even intended.

And if you’re curious why I keep hammering on Josh to stop bunny hopping and mouse-whipping even though “Josh Trolling” is a running gag, here’s why:

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Ruts vs. Battlespire CH6: Clothes Stanketh the Man

By Rutskarn
on Apr 27, 2016
Filed under:
Lets Play

22 comments

Some of you may remember that I yanked from a bag fractal a golden helm of overt, yet obscure, magical property. The question was raised as to what it actually did. Well, as of a few seconds after this screenshot was taken…

According to my compass, this featureless abyss is to the NORTH.
According to my compass, this featureless abyss is to the NORTH.

…I finally have an answer. The helmet remains on my head as I leap sideways off a bridge for no reason. I’m not saying this game’s controls are mishandled, but so far one hundred percent of my deaths have involved straight, narrow bridges with zero enemies.

Anyway, I can’t find the helmet again.

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This Dumb Industry: In Defense of Crunch

By Shamus
on Apr 26, 2016
Filed under:
Column

137 comments

Last week I derided permacrunch – the policy of working an entire creative team 70 hours a week all the time – as “the policy of simpletons and sociopaths”. This led to some people asking, “Why is crunch even a thing?” Can’t management just plan the schedule so that the project is done on time using only 40 hour work weeks?

Sadly, I don’t think that’s a fair expectation at all. And it’s not because management is a bunch of soulless meanies who want to work our poor developers to deathI mean, management might still be soulless meanies, but not for this reason.. The problem is twofold:

  1. Scheduling is hard. To accurately predict how long it will take you to create software, you’ll need to know all the problems you’ll encounter ahead of time, and how long it will take to solve them. By the time you know that, the game has probably shipped.
  2. There’s no upper limit on how much time you can spend making a game, and no matter how much time you give the team, some developers will always push for “just one more feature”. Not because they’re stupid or irresponsible, but because they really love games and want to make this one really good. I say this from experience. Good Robot shipped about four months later than we planned, because we had more features we wanted to add. And none of us were getting paid until the game was done. If we were willing to delay our own payday to make the game we wanted, how much easier do you think it is to push for more features when you’re not the one who will have to bear the direct financial consequences?

Scheduling isn’t just a problem in videogames, this is all kinds of software development. When asked “How long will it take to accomplish X?” the most common answer will be given under the assumption that when you work on X you’ll never encounter hard-to-identify bugs, that the requirements of X won’t change, and that some obscure hardware problem won’t eat up a bunch of your time. It assumes you won’t have staff turnover that requires integrating someone new to the project. It assumes that no programmers will be pulled away for “just a few days” to deal with some horrible crash or exploit in the game you just shipped, which might actually stall the whole team because everyone’s work is interconnected. It assumes that the design itself is perfect, that all systems will work as imagined on the dry-erase board, and that everyone’s artistic and technical ideas will fit neatly together in the final product.

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Diecast #150: Star Fox, Playstation 4.5, Mirrors Edge

By Shamus
on Apr 25, 2016
Filed under:
Diecast

77 comments

The mailbag has been empty for a few weeks now. I assume this is because we stopped answering them in a timely manner. That’s fair. But if you have questions and boundless optimism, the email is in the header image. Good luck!


Direct download (MP3)
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Podcast RSS feed.

Direct link to this episode.

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

Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading »


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Lord of the Rings Online #9: Going Postal

By Shamus
on Apr 24, 2016
Filed under:
Shamus Plays

16 comments

I’m back in the Shire, and in the town of Michel Delving. The postman – my mortal enemy – is asking me to deliver the mail.

They should have Kevin Costner voice this character. Except they also really really shouldn`t.

They should have Kevin Costner voice this character. Except they also really really shouldn`t.

Mail delivery quests. It’s actually not possible to describe them using any sort of in-character point of view because they employ the kind of logic you get when you mix bourbon and peyote.

The mail sits there, with nobody in a hurry to make it go anywhere. Then a package is handed to you, and suddenly the clock is running. If time runs out, the package vanishes and you fail.

You run faster (20%, I think) when carrying mail, which means that you can use the postal service as a sort of ersatz transport system. As long as you never actually finish any of the deliveries you’ll have a speed-boosting package available in every town. Just take the package and head off to your destination. Drop the quest when you get to wherever you’re going. Given the distances you need to hike in the Shire, this is actually a really attractive option.

But! Before you grab that satchel and run off, you need to be aware that if you get too close to a “Nosy Hobbit” then the package will vanish and you’ll fail the quest. Their chat indicates that they’re trying to stop you for a bit of gossip, although I would really question the prowess of their gossip vs. my knife and my will to complete this quest.

Let’s assume that the postman managed to explain all of this to Lulzy without her head exploding. We now rejoin her trip to Michel Delving.

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Rutskarn’s GMinars CH1: Your Job

By Rutskarn
on Apr 23, 2016
Filed under:
Tabletop Games

73 comments

Before we get into any specific advice or instruction, I want to rectify the most basic and chronic misunderstanding about what goes into running a good roleplaying game.

Anyone can spot the external functions of the GM: you’re referee and storyteller. You enforce the rules, you describe people, places, and events, you establish how difficult certain kinds of actions are. If you’re good at all of those things, great–they’ll absolutely make you a better GM. But they won’t, by themselves, make you a good one–and you can be terrible at one or all of them and still run a good game. They’re your job, but they’re not your real job.

They’re not your core responsibility, which I will state as bluntly and unromantically as possible:

As a GM, your real job is to give your players something to do.

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