Why Batman Can’t Kill People, Part 1

By Shamus   Jul 2, 2015   Nerd Culture 232 comments

It comes up all the time: Why doesn’t Batman just kill the damn Joker? Sure, a no-killing stance makes perfect sense at first. But when you’ve got a ravenously homicidal loony who openly admits his guilt, gleefully expresses a desire to do more murder, has a seemingly endless supply of resources and willing manpower, is hyper-competent and dangerously intelligent, and is supernaturally able to evade capture and escape any asylum or prison, then it seems like maybe the “no-killing” policy should be set aside just this once.

Eventually Joker seems less like a character and more like a force of nature. So after a while we start getting angry at Batman. He’s smart, and he knows Joker will escape and kill again. At what point do we shift some blame to Batman for letting this problem run amok? He had the power to stop the Joker, so shouldn’t some of this blood be on his hands?

At this point Bat-fans jump in and offer in-universe excuses for his policy. “He’s just too idealistic!” Or maybe they offer out-of-universe excuses: “In the old days, the Comics Code wouldn’t allow for a hero to kill people on purpose!” Or maybe they weave a message into it, “Yeah, this constant death shows that Batman’s methods don’t work!”

Those are all fine reasons. Really, whatever lets you set aside your objections and get back to enjoying your Batman is fine. But there’s a deeper reason Batman can’t kill, and it has nothing to do with his personality or cultural attitudes towards killing. It’s a mechanical necessity of his stories, and no amount of hand-waving or excuse-making can change it. If Batman killed his foes, the entire world of Batman would fail to deliver on their central promise.

Continue reading »

A Hundred!A Hundred!2012232 COMMENTS? What are you people talking about?!?

E3 2015 Ubisoft Press Conference

By Shamus   Jul 2, 2015   Spoiler Warning 51 comments

I’m not usually a fan of Ubisoft’s games, but their show was the most fun. They hired the super-talented Aisha Tyler to host and tell jokes, instead of rolling out one of their creepy mummified executives to cough up a bunch on nonsense about how they’re re-inventing innovation itself because games are our future, or somesuch piffle. This show felt fast and fun, instead of like boilerplate speeches between meaningless cinematic trailers. In fact, the Ubisoft show was so good they just tricked me into spending my first paragraph talking about the show instead of the games.

Clever girl.

Link (YouTube)

Some brief comments on each game:

Continue reading »

20201151 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

Project Good Robot #32: A Group Effort

By Shamus   Jul 1, 2015   Good Robot 51 comments

When I was working on this project all by my lonesome, things were pretty simple. The feature list was “whatever I felt like putting in” and the release date was “whenever it gets done”. That’s great when you’re programming to entertain yourself and turning it into blog posts to entertain others. But when Pyrodactyl joined, I think the team had some kind of (perfectly reasonable) expectation that we should have a plan, and that plan should include shipping the game in our lifetime.

So the first few weeks of serious work on Good Robot have been a transition from a one-man-hobby project to a six-person commercial enterprise.

Arvind is the other dedicated programmer on the project, and he’s taken over working on the interface and managing the people.

Continue reading »

20201151 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

E3 2015 EA Press Conference

By Shamus   Jul 1, 2015   Spoiler Warning 57 comments

Here is a video of Josh and I talking over the EA press conference. Obviously this is going to be snarky and negative. If you’re looking for some sort of aloof, just-the-facts journalistic attachment, then… gosh. Why are you even reading my site? But this will be even more not-detached than normal. As I’ve tried to stress in the past, I’m not mad at EA because they’re an “Evil Corporation”. There are lots of companies that are way worse, and I can barely remember to be annoyed at most of them.

The reason EA drives me crazy is the wasted potential. Imagine the general manager of an American football team. Imagine he is so wealthy that he’s able to draft the greatest players in the history of the game, in the prime of their careersI guess he also has a time machine?. Then he gathers up some of the most amazingly talented coaches, all with amazing track records. Between them they have enough Superbowl rings to make some half-decent Liberace cosplay. They get the best equipment, the most lavish home stadium, and the the best doctors.

But this manager is in it to win it. So he forces his coaches to run the same play, all game, every game. Ten years ago that play made the team into superstars, and now he’s just waiting for the lightning to strike again. He keeps putting the same players in the game, regardless of age or injury, because this particular arrangement of players was part of that winning team ten years ago, and so he figures they’re ideally qualified to make it happen again.

You don’t have to know anything about footballHand Egg. to realize this team will never reach its potential. Maybe the sheer talent of the players will help them to overcome the overwhelming ineptitude of their leadership and get through the season with a modest number of wins.

To me, this team is a lot more frustrating than just a garden-variety team that sucks. They’re way worse than the worst team in the league. It’s a team run by someone who doesn’t understand the game, and doesn’t trust his coaches or players to know their jobs. It’s run by a simpleton that can’t learn from his mistakes, refuses to learn the nuances of the business, and shifts all the blame downward.

And every year people defend this guy because, “Hey, the team is making money, right? And they won a few games, right?”

Makes me so mad.

So let’s see what EA has in their playbook this year:

Continue reading »

20201757 comments. It's getting crowded in here.

Experienced Points: The Real Villain of Arkham Knight is the Batmobile

By Shamus   Jun 30, 2015   Escapist 70 comments

My column this week is a linkbait-ish list of 10 reasons why the Batmobile in Arkham Knight sucks. Sometimes a numbered list is the right tool for the job.

I thought of a bunch more since I finished the column, so here are ANOTHER ten reasons the Batmobile sucks and makes me mad:

Continue reading »

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

E3 2015 Bethesda Press Conference

By Shamus   Jun 30, 2015   Spoiler Warning 40 comments

During E3, Josh, Chris and I streamed some of the press conferences and gave live commentary on the trailers and announcements. This was possible because Twitch.tv gave people permission to re-broadcast their live feed of the show. Essentially, you were watching us watching Twitch watching the E3 audience watch the show. This was really interesting, and I think we’re going to do it again next year, hopefully without all the problems and glitches. Speaking of which…

For whatever reason they didn’t give rebroadcast permission for the Bethesda event. We could comment on it, and you could go to the event page on Twitch and watch it yourself, but we couldn’t broadcast both ourselves and the feed. This is a shame, since the Bethesda show was the one I cared about the most.

So what we have here is a really inconvenient mess. We recorded our commentary, and the press event is available on YouTube, but we can’t legally merge the two. Here is our commentary, if you just want to listen to it podcast-style:

Continue reading »

202040 comments. (Forty is the only number whose letters are in alphabetical order.)

Diecast #110: Arkham Knight, Amibos, Graphics Hardware

By Shamus   Jun 29, 2015   Diecast 120 comments

Heads up: No Spoiler Warning this week, but we’re going to try and post the archive of our E3 livestream.

Direct link to this episode.

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

Hosts: Shamus, Campster, Josh.

Show notes: Continue reading »

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

Patreon: Year One

By Shamus   Jun 28, 2015   Personal 119 comments

A year ago this month I launched a Patreon campaign. At the time, Google Adsense had pissed me off (watch the original pitch video for the details) and I wanted to dump the ads. So I pulled down all advertising and launched the campaign in hopes you could make up the difference. It was a success, and changed my approach to how I make content and how I view my work.

At the time I said that while talking about money is often a taboo, I think having a little transparency is good when you’re running an enterprise directly supported by the community. I don’t want to post my personal finances or anything, but I just want to give a basic idea of how things are going, what my goals are, and what I think of the work I’ve been doing.

This is going to be extremely navel-gaze-y. Proceed with caution.

Continue reading »

A Hundred!19119 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!

Arkham Asylum EP9: Jazz Hands Again

By Shamus   Jun 26, 2015   Spoiler Warning 75 comments

Link (YouTube)

I’m so glad Josh was the one who brought up the subject of what Ivy “eats”. Saved me from having to ask the question.

For the record, I don’t REALLY need an explanation for where Ivy gets her energy. In fact, I think it’s good if they don’t try to explain it. It’s not a problem here because it doesn’t come up. If there was a plot point where the warden took away her food, or if she got the power to escape because someone left her too close to a grow lamp, then we’d be obliged to think about this stuff. The game doesn’t explain it, and it doesn’t matter, because fighting her never comes down to directly controlling the energy intake of her physical body.

But I don’t mind discussing the idea of how she sustains herself. It’s a bit of a fan-wank, like asking “which superhero would win in a fight?”, but it’s harmless and fun and sometimes leads to interesting or unexpected conclusions.

I’m sure other people have done this over the years, but let me have a go at it:

Let’s say Ivy does photosynthesize, but she’s also carnivorous via the plants that eat peopleThere are an awful lot of calories stored up in the average person!. (The Harley Quinn DLC in Arkham Knight explicitly shows Ivy’s plants eating cops.) She taps into these huge networks of building-sized plants and soaks up the solar power and calories while she’s on one of her rampagesUndercut somewhat by the fact that these rampages usually happen at night, but shut up.. That gives her lots of power to be ambulatory, grow more plants, produce spores, and whatever else she’s trying to do. Then Batman comes along, foils her plans, and they stick her in a tank with no access to plants. From there she’s living off whatever she’s got stored in her body.

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

Arkham Asylum EP8: Some Kid’s Parents Died!

By Shamus   Jun 25, 2015   Spoiler Warning 112 comments

Link (YouTube)

We have a long-running joke among the cast that we say awful racist things when not recording”Oh, you’re recording now? Man, I’m glad I got all that hateful stuff about Chinese people out of my system earlier!”. And then sometimes we make up fake racism to joke about how we’re not recording yet, or that we need to get all our racism out before we start recording. So the screwy tirade about Canadians was a reference to the fact that this footage wasn’t supposed to go in the show. And then Josh left it in. I wouldn’t mind (Josh trolling us is one of our running gags.) but this racism joke will only make sense to members of the castAnd really, it’s not so much a “funny” joke as an idle way of dealing with the paranoia of recording hours and hours of unplanned commentary for a large audience every week, and also a way of making the “are we recording yet?” conversations less tedious..

So if that bit didn’t make sense… hopefully now it makes slightly less not-sense.

For the record: I’m okay with Canadians coming to America, as long as they learn English first.

The “Batman is sad” footage Chris was talking about is a reference to this video that Chris made about Arkham Origins.

“Batman agonizing over his dead parents” has now been featured in every Arkham game.

I’m going to straight-up recant what I said in this episode about allowing the game to continue if you failed to save Dr. Doctor M.D. from Zsasz. It’s true that it doesn’t make any difference to the plot, but it does break Batman’s trait of hyper-competence and obsession with saving everyone. A failure like, “I wasn’t fast enough, and someone died.” is a HUGE deal for Batman. It does happen once in a while, but it’s usually part of some sort of character-building moment. It would be the kind of thing he would agonize over for the rest of the game, and would need to be incorporated into some sort of arc. It’s totally inappropriate to have a failure like that stand without giving it the attention it deserves.

Batman doesn’t see the death by exploding safe as his fault, because he couldn’t have saved her from that. He’s spent his life training to resolve hostage situations, ambush people, and hit stuff with Batarangs, so that failure would sting in a way that the exploding safe doesn’t.

Continue reading »

A Hundred!12112 comments. Quick! Add another to see if this message changes!

The Blistering Stupidity of Fallout 3, Part 5

By Shamus   Jun 25, 2015   Game Reviews 141 comments

The biggest complaint about this series is that a lot of my objections to the story are over “trivial” things. This is true in parts, but it’s also missing the point. The story of Fallout 3 is fractally bad. It’s bad at many different levels and it often takes people a while to realize just how far the brokenness goes. The fact that the themes of Fallout 3 are wonky isn’t enough to ruin the story on its own. And the fact that Dad is really flat and the only actions he ever takes are destructive isn’t enough to ruin the game either. But when I hammer the game for having nonsense goals, people often defend it on the basis of its themes, or characters, or the places you visit. You can’t drill down through the layers to find a single point of failure that we can point at and say, “Here. THIS is where it all went wrong!” It’s a big interconnected mess and it takes time to document all the failures.

So all those early “trivial nitpicks” were part of a long process to head off all the usual defenses of Fallout 3 so we wouldn’t get caught up in looping cul-de-sac arguments, because I didn’t want to end up discussing the entire game in a kind of nested reverse of “D because C because B because A”. This is long and nitpick-y because the problems are far-reaching.

But here’s the payoff. This is where all the mistakes converge into a completely idiotic conclusion…

Continue reading »

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

Arkham Asylum EP7: Scarecrow O’clock

By Shamus   Jun 24, 2015   Spoiler Warning 95 comments

Link (YouTube)

Whelp, Arkham Knight is out. I wanted to start Arkham Asylum a few weeks before the launch of AK. I knew that once the game was out, comparisons would be unavoidable, and I wanted Arkham Asylum to stand on its own for a few episodesSo we ended up comparing it to Arkham City for 6 episodes. We tried..

Mumbles brings up the subject of Joker’s taunting not being annoying. Like Mumbles, I thought it was a lot of fun. Like GlaDOS and Handsome JackYour mileage may vary., it’s fun to hear from a well-acted, cleverly-written foe. Their taunting is a reward for progress.

But the other side of that coin is that there’s nothing that sucks all the joy out of a videogame quite like a dumb adversary. If we define a spectrum with GlaDOS on the high end and Kai Leng on the bottom, then Arkham Knight falls on the very low end of the spectrum. He’s much too similar to Kai Leng for my taste. He’s got the same voice actorThe amazingly talented Troy Baker, who I don’t blame for this., the same “jackass high school punk calling you a cheater when he loses in Counter-Strike” delivery, a “trying too hard to be cool” costumeTo be fair, Batman is probably guilty of this, too., the ability to poof in and out of the scene at the whim of the writers without regard to reason or means, and the same super-power where he makes you fight like a complete dumbass in cutscenes. Arkham Knight is just a milder version of the same horrible approach to motivating the player.

His lines are repetitive, pestering, and not particularly clever. But while he’s annoying, I just can’t work up the energy to hate him more than the main villain, the Batmobile. (See my Twitter feed for my four-day rant about that.)

At the fifteen minute mark I try to describe using the takedowns with the mouse and keyboard controls. I was just guessing and I’m sure I got the details all wrong. On the controller, the upper-right buttonsY+B for Xbox, Triangle+Circle for Playstation. does an instant-knockout while the upper leftY+X or Triangle+Square. buttons will disarm a foe and destroy their weapon. These pairs fit nicely under your thumb so you can hit both buttons cleanly. It’s not so nice on the keyboard. Worse, your left hand is already doing WASD for movement and now you’ll need to put some of those fingers to work hitting attack buttons. I don’t think this is a case of bad porting; I honestly have no idea how you could improve on what we have. This is just a game that was designed for a controller in the same way that Civilization is designed for a mouse, and using a different input system is unavoidably going to be an awkward compromise.

In case it’s not clear: I’m really enjoying this season.

2020202015There are now 95 comments. Almost a hundred!

From the archives:

This blog is powered by Wordpress and uses the High Roller theme by Shamus Young.