This Week I Played… (April 2020)

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Apr 7, 2020

Filed under: Notices 201 comments

It’s time for another round of video game Show & Tell. How are you getting through the quarantine? Replaying old favorites? Buying new stuff? Finally getting to work on that huge backlog?

Here’s what I’ve been doing:

Doom Eternal

ETERNAL, you say? Clearly false advertising. This game is actually finite in length.
ETERNAL, you say? Clearly false advertising. This game is actually finite in length.

I finished this game last week. It was pretty good. I liked it less than Doom 2016, which I liked less than Doom 1993, but Doom – like pizza and sex – manages to be fun even when it’s not the best.

I know I have a reputation for being the weirdo that reads all the lore items, watches all the cutscenes, obsesses over codex entries, and listens to all the audiologs, but not this time. The designer really wanted to flesh the world out and so there’s lots of background details explaining why Earth wanted to tap into hell energy, what the demons want, where the demons come from, how the Doom Guy became an unstoppableIn the story, he’s unstoppable. When I was playing, he got stopped a lot. killing machine, and a bunch of other stuff. I like that they tried, but this franchise was always based on narrative minimalism and I’ve never been curious enough to learn more about how this wacky world works.  I read the various codex entries for the first couple of hours, but there are a lot of them and I didn’t feel like bringing the flow of gameplay to a halt every couple of minutes to read three more short paragraphs on the military structure of hell demons.

I appreciate that they were trying to make the game more skill-based. In the old games, you just need to keep firing and backpedal like crazy. You could switch weapons if you ran low on ammo or you got tired of your current murder-tool, but you were free to settle into a rut with your favorite gun for hours on end. Now you need to switch weapons constantly and use your specials on a regular basis: Chainsaw to replenish ammo, grenades to refill health, and flamethrower to get armor.

It’s not a bad system, but I wasn’t in love with it. Continue reading ⟩⟩ “This Week I Played… (April 2020)”



Diecast #296: Everything is Fine

By Shamus Posted Monday Apr 6, 2020

Filed under: Diecast 67 comments

I hope everyone is safe and healthy this week. Here’s an hour or so of us whistling in the dark and waiting for the quarantine to lift. Enjoy!

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.


Link (YouTube)

Show notes: Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #296: Everything is Fine”



Hypothetical ME4: Five-act Structure and Character Creation

By Bob Case Posted Saturday Apr 4, 2020

Filed under: Mass Effect 95 comments

The last entry covered the overall shape of a hypothetical Mass Effect 4, and how to use stalling and retconning to mitigate some of the difficulties of the ending. Now it’s time to consider what the new game will actually look like.

In the past I’ve warned against the dangers of sticking to a formula too closely. That doesn’t mean that formulas are useless, just that sequel developers should aim for a balance between the familiar and the new. One particular part of the Bioware formula still works relatively well: their typical five-act structure. In it, RPGs are divided roughly into the following parts:

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Hypothetical ME4: Five-act Structure and Character Creation”



What Will Normal Look Like?

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Apr 1, 2020

Filed under: Random 206 comments

I am so far untouched by the Coronavirus. To my knowledge, I haven’t been exposed. Nobody in my friends and family has it, or is worried they might have it. I’m not impacted by any shortages. My job of making content for the internet is as secure as ever. The only direct impact this has on my life is that my wife’s main job is on hiatus. That sucks, but I gather we’re doing okay by the standards of a state-wide shutdown. My only real concern right now is with what’s happening to other people.

It’s April first, but I’m not in the mood for making joke posts. Instead, I just want to blather about what’s going on. It’s fine if you skip this. Unlike most of my content, this isn’t designed to entertain. I’m making this post because the writing process is therapeutic, and this is what my brain wants to think about right now.

Living in Interesting Times

This is a depressing topic, so I'm going to lighten the mood with some fun pixel art screenshots.
This is a depressing topic, so I'm going to lighten the mood with some fun pixel art screenshots.

I’m 48 years old, and I’ve never seen anything like this. Over my lifetime I’ve gotten used to the rhythmic nature of disasters. Oh look: It’s another hurricane, another war, another terrorist attack, another economic downturn, another plane crash, another wave of drug abuse. Horrible things happen and people die, but deep down there’s still a sense of order. “This too shall pass.” We have a sense of how to respond to these sorts of things and we can usually make a pretty good guess about how long it’ll take for the world to get back to normal.

But this time? I have no idea. This is all new to me.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “What Will Normal Look Like?”



 Silver Sable Sucks

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Mar 31, 2020

Filed under: Column 107 comments

Like I said the last time I talked about this game, I love Marvel’s Spider-Man Colon This Game Needed a Subtitle. It was my favorite game of 2018. But no game is perfect, and for me the most not-perfect part of Spider-Man was the character Silver Sable. And I want to make it clear this is the version of the character I’m going to be criticizing. She’s been around for decades in various comic books, and I’m sure writers have told many good stories with her. But not this time.

In the comics, Silver Sable is a semi-obscure sometime ally of Spider-Man. She’s not as obscure as D-lister Boomerang, but she’s not as popular as people like Black Cat, either. She first appeared in Amazing Spider-Man #265 back in 1985. While this game isn’t directly connected to any extant Spider-Man continuity, its characters generally don’t stray very far from the design of their comic-book counterparts. Silver Sable is usually a mercenary, often the leader of some sort of military force, and has been known to team up with both heroes and villains. She’s a normal human that relies on fitness and martial arts training to get by in the superhero world.

Not that the game ever tells you any of this. Within the story, you never learn about her character or her powers. She just strolls into the story and casually kicks Spider-Man’s ass in three different cutscenes. In return, she never ends up knocked down, webbed up, or knocked out. Spider-Man never lays a hand on her in these three altercations and you never get to settle up with her in the end.

Attention: I’m going to be spoiling most of the game here, so if you don’t want spoilers than you need to bail now.

Link (YouTube)

Now, the knee-jerk reaction is that it doesn’t make sense that this normal human being should be able to casually brush aside someone as powerful as Spider-Man. While his power level varies from one adaptation to the next, he’s always depicted as having superhuman reflexes, superhuman agility, and the strength to lift several tons. So when Silver Sable shows up and steamrolls him without breaking a sweat, it immediately makes the audience wonder how someone so powerful could lose so badly to a mundane person.

That was my reaction when I played through the game the first time, and I gather a lot of other people felt the same way. Except, I don’t think this is the real problem with Silver Sable. After all, Black Cat is just a regular person with good training, and nobody has a problem with Spider-Man losing to her. Same goes for the Punisher, who has basically the same resume as Silver Sable: Guns, fitness, and training. While I don’t think Spidey ever faced off against Black Widow, I have no problem believing she could outwit and overpower him. Heck, one of Spider-Man’s original foes is Kingpin, despite the fact that Kingpin is just a burly human and Spider-Man ought to be able to toss him into the air with one hand.

My point is that superhero power levels are incredibly flexible and arguments over which characters can or can’t prevail over which other characters are mostly pointless fan wank. So why are we okay with Spider-Man losing to Black Cat, but then we object when he gets beat up by Silver Sable? What’s the deal here? Continue reading ⟩⟩ ” Silver Sable Sucks”