New World Disorder

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 18, 2021

Filed under: Game Reviews 136 comments

So let’s say you fire up some 90s style shooter built around rocket jumping and circle-strafing. Something along the lines of Doom, Quake, or Serious Sam, with a heavy metal soundtrack and copious violence. You play through the first couple of levels and everything is more or less what you’d expect from this genre. But when you get to the end of the first area, the game asks you to pick a “clan” to join:

  • The Warrior Clan. Masters of firearms and rocket launchers, these fearless fighters have no equal in battle.
  • The Banker’s Clan. These financial planners are the masters of money and savings.

Maybe in an RPG these would work out to be equally viable routes through the game, but in the context of a classic shooter there’s no reason for the player to pick Banker. This game doesn’t have dialog trees, trade, or money. Being a banker might sound appealing to some players in another genre, but that’s probably not what this particular audience was looking for when they chose this game.

Even if you’re an outlier and you like the idea of playing as Banker, you already know what kind of game this is.  You know the mechanics do not have any systems for diplomacy or investing. You have no idea what the decision means or how it’ll impact the game going forward, but the safest, most sensible thing for you to do is pick Warrior. Whatever happens, you probably can’t go wrong if you pick the group that’s thematically and mechanically aligned with the gameplay.

This is the weird situation we find in New World, the new MMO from Amazon Game Studios.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “New World Disorder”



Prey 2017 Part 14: The Ex-Girlfriend

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 14, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 119 comments

After Morgan deals with the mess in Cargo Bay, she moves on to Life Support. Here she bumps into ex-girlfriend Mikhaila Ilyushin.

Mikhaila is currently slumped on the floor, paralyzed in her extremities. She has a rare neurological condition called Paraplexis. She’s fine as long as she gets regular medication, but with the station in disarray she’s missed her dose and is thus helpless.

People with this condition are excluded from orbital duty, but Mikhaila faked some paperwork to get around that. She began dating Morgan at one point, and eventually Morgan found out.

Morgan broke off the relationship because she was about to enter the testing program where she would be memory-wiped over and over, and you can’t really maintain a relationship while that sort of nonsense is going on. At the same time, she never gave Mikhaila a reason for the break-up, so Mikhaila sort of assumed she was being dumped because of her condition. So the entire situation was mostly awkwardness all around.

We need Mikhaila’s help right now because Alex has locked down the entire station. She has a plan to shut down the entire reactor and start it up again to clear the lockdown. I don’t know if we should be using Windows 95 troubleshooting techniques on a nuclear reactor, but Mikhaila is the expert and she seems to think it’ll work.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Prey 2017 Part 14: The Ex-Girlfriend”



This Week I Played… (October 2021)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 12, 2021

Filed under: TWIP 247 comments

I’m recovered from surgery, freshly infused with iron, and feeling like myself again. The weather has been ridiculously nice lately and I’m getting some exercise.  If I continue to eat right and get the exercise I need, then maybe I can wring another two or three weeks out of this broken-down old body before I drop dead. All in all, things are going pretty good!

So here’s what I’ve been playing lately…

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “This Week I Played… (October 2021)”



Diecast #358: The Good, The Bad, The Writing

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 11, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 102 comments

I find it interesting that we got two different mailbag questions, both asking roughly the same thing. Both people asked for examples of “best” writing. Nobody asked for examples of “worst”. It’s always nice to have a chance to work against the idea that I’m a negative guy who complains about everything.We can do that tomorrow, when I do the “This Week I Played” post.

I thought of more examples of good writing after the show, but I don’t want to keep amending the list forever. I’m sure if I missed anything crucial you’ll tell me about it in the comments.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #358: The Good, The Bad, The Writing”



Prey 2017 Part 13: Face Time

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 7, 2021

Filed under: Retrospectives 79 comments

Last time, Morgan had just launched herself into space and then snuck back on board Talos-1 through the cargo bay. Here we meet a cluster of well-armed survivors who have been gathering supplies and holding the Typhon back. This small group is really all that’s left of the command structure of the station. There are a few isolated survivors elsewhere,Like Danielle Sho, Alex, and the various people possessed by Telepaths. but the cargo bay is the only place where people are still relatively safe and organized.

These survivors aren’t stuck on the other side of a window. We don’t have a locked door between us. We meet face-to-face with these NPCs. And I hate it.

The Uncanniest Valley

According to the subtitles and voice, Tamiko is talking. She's to my right, on the other side of the room. However, the directional audio seems to be coming from Darcy, who is standing to my immediate left. And yet Kevin in front of me is the one moving his mouth. (And also standing in an awkward pose and staring at nothing in particular. And even when he talks for real, his face seems to be about 20 years older than his voice.)
According to the subtitles and voice, Tamiko is talking. She's to my right, on the other side of the room. However, the directional audio seems to be coming from Darcy, who is standing to my immediate left. And yet Kevin in front of me is the one moving his mouth. (And also standing in an awkward pose and staring at nothing in particular. And even when he talks for real, his face seems to be about 20 years older than his voice.)

Designers of story-driven AAA games have a problem. Stories require characters. Characters generally require some degree of back-and-forth dialog. Dialog requires the ability to listen and understand. And in a practical sense, computers are terrible at that last bit.

Maybe the designer has a scene where Jimmy Sidekick tells us about the time Dr. Crazo destroyed his hometown with an army of murder-bots. When the story is over, then the player is probably having some sort of emotional reaction.Assuming the scene was written well. There are a lot of ways someone might respond to something like this. There are countless different ways you might take a conversation in response to someone revealing their trauma…
Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Prey 2017 Part 13: Face Time”



Why Is Game Writing So Terrible?

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 5, 2021

Filed under: Column 176 comments

Leslee Beldotti sent a question to our podcast this week. As I thought about the topic, I realized it was too big and I’d never be able to do it justice on the show. We’ve touched on this topic many times in the past, but we’ve never gone in-depth. So here it is…

Dear Diecastians,

Greetings from Berlin!

For the past few months I have been playing Outriders, from Polish developer, People Can Fly.

I realize that as a 54 year old woman, I am probably so far outside this game’s intended demographic that I could be in the next galaxy, but this game is emblematic of worrying trend I have been seeing in AAA gaming: THE WRITING IS ATROCIOUS!

Everything about this game’s writing — the story, the characters, and the dialogue — is juvenile, emotionally immature, and downright mean-spirited.

What is going on?!?! Why does it seem that game studios no longer prioritize quality story writing and dialogue in their games?

Am I just getting old?

Your devoted fan,

Leslee Beldotti

So let’s interrogate this. The first thing we need to acknowledge is that…

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Why Is Game Writing So Terrible?”



Diecast #357: The Magnum

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 4, 2021

Filed under: Diecast 161 comments

Once again, thanks to Paul for his patience and longsuffering in the face of my ceaseless filibuster. I imagine it’s not easy to play second-fiddle to my inflated sense of self-importance, but Paul manages to pull it off. For those of you wondering just how lopsided the conversation is, I’ve posted a screenshot of the podcast at the end of the show notes.

Also, check out the reverse mailbag question below. I’d love to hear your answer, even if you don’t listen to the podcast.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Link (YouTube)

Show notes: Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #357: The Magnum”