Andromeda Part 2: The Andromeda Initiative

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 23, 2018

Filed under: Mass Effect 17 comments

I was hard on Mass Effect 3 because it was supposedly the conclusion to the story that began in Mass Effect 1. My main problem with the series was that the later team did not understand or respect the world built by the first game. This is different from (say) the jump from Alien to Aliens. Yes, the two movies were vastly different in terms of tone, style, and pacing, but they were two different movies and either one of them could stand on its own. I can accept the idea that two different authors could make very different stories in the same setting. What I couldn’t accept was that the storyteller was changing genres in the middle of a single adventure. The trilogy was all supposedly one story, and so I judged it as such.

In the case of Andromeda, I’m more inclined to allow that the new writer wants to take the series in a new direction. I miss my details-first sci-fi, but I realize it’s not fair to hold an entire franchise to the tone of the original. If the new writer wants to make a new story about lifting the space-curse on the space-forest, then fine. I don’t find the Andromeda story to be particularly interesting, but I’m willing to judge the game on the merits of what it’s trying to do and I’m not going to lambast it for failing to live up to the idealized dream game I keep hoping for.

Before we Start…

I'll be playing as the female option (Sara Ryder) this time around. I'll also be using biotic powers because I'm incapable of doing anything else.
I'll be playing as the female option (Sara Ryder) this time around. I'll also be using biotic powers because I'm incapable of doing anything else.

From playing the game I can tell there must have been multiple writers working on Andromeda, and some of them are much, much better than others. As with the last two Mass Effect games, the worst writing is found at the core of the story and the best writing is found in the squadmate side-missions.

During this series I’ll often break from analysis to explain how I would have done things differently. You can decide for yourself if these sections are indictments, suggestions, or fan wank.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Andromeda Part 2: The Andromeda Initiative”



Diecast #229: The Social Network, Oxygen Not Included, Bad Endings

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 22, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 56 comments

As always: If you’ve got a question for the show, our email is in the header image. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes: Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Diecast #229: The Social Network, Oxygen Not Included, Bad Endings”



Windows Update Deletes Files

By Shamus Posted Sunday Oct 21, 2018

Filed under: Rants 78 comments

I stumbled on this story at random, but apparently it’s been a thing since the start of the month. The rumor is that Windows update 1809 can delete all your user data. Or at least, all your data under c:\Users\Username.

This article suggests that data loss happens to one hundredth of one percent of users. That figure comes from Microsoft and we all know how much publicly-traded corporations love owning up to destructive mistakes, so maybe that data needs a pinch of salt. You might remember that about two years ago I was one of the “very small number of users” who had their machine crippled by the anniversary update.

According to Microsoft:

[mass file deletion] occurred if Known Folder Redirection (KFR) had been previously enabled, but files remain in the original “old” folder location vs being moved to the new, redirected location. KFR is the process of redirecting the known folders of Windows including Desktop, Documents, Pictures, Screenshots, Videos, Camera Roll, etc. from the default folder location, c:\users\username\, to a new folder location. In previous feedback from the Windows 10 April 2018 Update, users with KFR reported an extra, empty copy of Known Folders on their device. Based on feedback from users, we introduced code in the October 2018 Update to remove these empty, duplicate known folders. That change, combined with another change to the update construction sequence, resulted in the deletion of the original “old” folder locations and their content, leaving only the new “active” folder intact.

On one hand, that’s a pretty unusual thing to do so I can believe that it doesn’t impact many people. On the other hand, this is a shocking thing for Microsoft to do. Why on earth would you EVER do a mass-delete on a user’s machine? Are you trying to save them hard drive space? How could such a move benefit Microsoft? Assuming this is something the OS needs to address, wouldn’t it be safer and more sensible to give the user a little notification, “Hey buddy. You’ve got xxGB of data in c:\Users\Username that you’re not using.”

Didn’t the mere suggestion of doing a mass-delete of “unused” user files make the entire development team panic? Shit, I get nervous anytime I write code to delete a folder. It’s just so easy to create regret when doing those sorts of things, and so hard to un-do them.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Windows Update Deletes Files”



Grand Theft Auto V: The Kids Aren’t All Right

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 18, 2018

Filed under: Retrospectives 72 comments

For the moment, let’s take the Michael / Trevor conflict, the father / son stuff between Michael and Franklin, the FIB stuff, the Devin Weston stuff, and the Union Depository job, and cram these disparate elements into a cardboard box labeled “Main Plot of GTA V”. If we can really call those five-ish parallel threads the plot, then I think the conflict between Michael and his family is our B-story. Sadly, none of it really works. The writer put in the timeAnd then some., but the framing and tone work against what the writer is trying to do.

The central problem is that this plot thread is about Michael’s love for his family. The way the story is structured, we’re supposed to long for reconciliation. But this can’t work, because the writer frames his family as antagonists.

It’s not even subtle. Michael’s family are heinous people. Sure, Michael is heinous too and they all more or less deserve each other, but the family commits the unpardonable sin of being antagonistic to the audience. They work against the desires of the player. They pick fights, scream at our protagonist, cause problems, and drag him away from the cool gangster stuff the gameplay is designed to support and into crass melodrama that it isn’t.

Continue reading ⟩⟩ “Grand Theft Auto V: The Kids Aren’t All Right”



Experienced Points: Visual Downgrades and the Puddle Outrage

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Oct 17, 2018

Filed under: Column 102 comments

My column this week uses the recent Spider-Man puddle controversy as an excuse to talk about visual downgrades and pre-release hype.

In the column I talk about how the nature of E3 drives publishers to engage in aggressive over-promising as they compete for eyeballs. Of course, I think the real way to break free of that trap is to stop chasing stupid photorealism. The publishers have witnessed the success of Fortnite, Minecraft, Cuphead, everything that Blizzard ever made, and everything that Nintendo ever made. They’ve seen proof that you can make billions of dollars while at the same time making your game more visually distinct and also spending less on graphicsThis is not to say that adopting a non-photorealistic art style will automatically make the game cheaper to make. It depends on the game and the art style..

The big offender here is Ubisoft, who are enamored of their realistic-looking worlds that run on crazy funtime cartoon logic, and who constantly over-promise visuals at industry events.

Link (YouTube)

I realize that EA is usually seen as the big bad these days. And that’s probably fair. But there’s something about Ubisoft that personally rubs me the wrong way. I know Ubi is pretty good about funding low-budget titles, their workplaces are reportedly pretty healthy, and they only control a handful of AAA titles. You could make the case that they’re the good guys compared to the likes of EA. But for whatever reason, I grit my teeth whenever I see the Ubi logo. Between their horrendous DRM, obnoxious Uplay, their same-y collect-a-thon games, their cringe-y staged multiplayer demos at E3, and their brazenly fictional graphical promises, these guys seem to be running their company in a way designed to maximize my annoyance.