Diecast #9: EA Wins, BioWare’s Integrity, Sherlock Sucks

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Apr 17, 2013

Filed under: Diecast 131 comments


You know, we had a long list of topics in the queue for this week. We really don’t want this to be an EA bashing podcast. But dangit, EA is just so busy making noise.

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Show notes:

1:00 What’s everyone playing?

Josh is filing taxes. Bo-ring!

Shamus is playing Black Mesa. Thief 2. Kerbal Space Program.

Rutskarn is playing Galactic Civilizations 2. The first entry of his Let’s Play is here:
Galactic Civilizations 2: God Save the Space Queen. He’s also playing some Mountain Blade!

(For the archive archaeologists out there, the posts Shamus wrote about this game in 2006 can be found here.)

Chris is playing Torchlight 2, Super Hexagon, Dishonored DLC.

15:50 Bad SimCity news this week:

Nothing to report. However, they are working hard to give us something to talk about next week.

17:00 EA voted “Worst company in America” for the second year in a row. Here is the Peter Moore statement that made things worse.

33:30 EA Gave BioWare “Complete Creative Control”.

42:50 An unplanned tangent on Valve’s approach to Half-Life and the fact that it’s obvious they have no plan.

47:20 Devs Had to Demand Female Focus Testers for The Last of Us

53:00 Heads up: Vary mild spoilers for Sherlock Holmes: Game of Shadows. Additional spoiler warning: The movie could have been a lot better.

57:00 Mail time. We just got a letter.


From The Archives:

131 thoughts on “Diecast #9: EA Wins, BioWare’s Integrity, Sherlock Sucks

  1. Thomas says:

    I saw the title, assumed you meant actual Sherlock (BBC) and my heart froze in shock

    1. Nimas says:

      It’s interesting. I found I really liked the first Sherlock movie (with Robert Downey Juinor) and was quite looking forward to the second one.

      Then I saw the BBC Sherlock and I only saw the second Sherlock movie because I was at a friends place and it was on DVD.

      I think it was less, it could have been better (though it could have been), and more, this is a nigh perfect version of Sherlock to compete with it.

      Same problem with the US tv series version, though I still maintain that it really is just a procedural with a slightly quirky detective (love the Joan Watson thing though).

      1. Thomas says:

        I actually quite like both Sherlock films, the second more than the first. It’s not doing any damage because we’ve got plenty of other Sherlock material going around at the moment and I think it’s quite an interesting quirky blend of action thriller and the second one looks gorgeous. Seeing how they get the ‘Sherlock’ stuff in is fun. There’s a lot of clever franchise nods and they very deliberately go back to the books in contrast to the Sherlock myth. And when I want something which actually is a sherlock film which actually uses the surface material properly, the episodes in the BBC series is easily long enough to satisfy that itch

        1. Nimas says:

          Oh, there is nothing wrong with multiple versions, and the BBC series and the movies are quite different.

          Its just that now in my head, I can only really see Cumberbatch as Sherlock now (at least in a modern setting). Although I suppose Hugh Laurie as House does come in a close second.

          1. Thomas says:

            Ooh thats a good point. I don’t think of Downey Jr as Sherlock Holmes. It’s just an interesting Sherlock flavoured film

            1. Retsam says:

              I manage to enjoy those films by just imagining that I’m watching “Herlock Shlomes: Action Hero and Distant Distant Cousin to Sherlock Holmes”. Once I get that straight, I can have a good time.

          2. Andy_Panthro says:

            There’s nothing wrong with multiple versions of Sherlock Holmes, and I have enjoyed the recent adaptations, but my favourite Sherlock will always be Jeremy Brett.

            If you’re a fan of Sherlock Holmes, I would recommend trying his series. Here’s a little taste via youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JX6a–uu6QM

    2. Gruhunchously says:

      Same here.

    3. impassiveimperfect says:

      1. I bet that was intentional.

      That (along with the number of fans of the show) means

      2. There’s a distinct chance that (at least) one of the crew members likes the show.

      And 3., wild mass/solo guessing on my part, but I’m betting that Rutskarn is a Sherlock Holmes fan/enthusiast.

      He’s an English major (or something) (that somehow is proof), and he has that game they played way back when(!).

      (If he’s ever admitted to this elsewhere, I shall feel sad and stupid.)

      1. Rutskarn says:

        Good show, Watson, you’ve applied my methods admirably.

  2. СТАЛКЕР of ЗОНА says:

    Chainsaws would most likely be banned in the same fashion as gas in WWI – for political bonus points when everyone would stop using it anyway because it’s more trouble than it’s worth.

    1. False Prophet says:

      Similar to the reason most militaries stopped using flamethrowers around the 1970s. Once there was a variety of incendiary grenades and other ordinance available, it was impractical to carry a heavy tank of accelerant on your back just to fuel an extremely short-ranged and hard to control weapon.

  3. Ofermod says:

    The way I consider that Consumerist poll, is that it’s not “which company did the most evil/harm”, otherwise you could just get numbers in terms of body counts/financial loss caused. It’s “Which company is the worst at what they do.”

    1. Thomas says:

      So a company which sells millions of games and several of the most popular and best selling games in the world is worse at their job than a cruise-liner who not only failed to give a satisfying cruise but failed to get from A to B and managed to slip raw sewage into the equation?

      There is no way of looking at this poll (probably even in number of people pissed off if we equate all levels of pissed off as equal) that makes the poll valid. Unless it’s number of pissed off internet aware consumers who will vote in a poll instead of complaining to managers, writing to newspapers or filing complaints to the FDA

    2. newdarkcloud says:

      Honestly it’s more like “Which company has the worst PR team?” than anything else. All we’re gauging is how much a given demographic hates something, which can be directly tied to how poorly a company is maintaining their PR relations.

    3. D_West says:

      I think that it simply isn’t a big deal. It’s an internet poll for a poop trophy. It’s not actually an exhaustively researched list on the actual worst company in America.

    4. Raygereio says:

      It’s just a poll that got burried under a whole pile of nerdrage. There really isn’t anything more to it then that.

  4. KremlinLaptop says:

    Campster: “I’ve gotten a new high-score in Super Hexagon.”
    Shamus: “…You son-of-a-bitch!”

    That made me honestly laugh out loud for some reason.

    1. KremlinLaptop says:



      1. Weimer says:

        Josh reads Vault Dwellers lines aloud, Shame voiceacts NPC responses, Ruts is in charge of the soundeffects and Chris does all of the commentary.


        1. Syal says:

          I have this sudden image of Josh reading aloud all of the voice-acted dialogue and none of the rest of it.

        2. Adam says:

          As an amateur voice actor, let me say that I would REALLY REALLY REALLY love to be a part of such an endeavor.

      2. IFS says:

        Seconded! The original Fallout isn’t even that long, so it seems like it’d be great to test out such an LP. We do need something to take the place of the Half Life 2 LP as our irregularly updated series, since you finished the HL2 LP.

      3. Corpital says:

        Yesterday, I forgot to post what I wanted to say and now I even forgot, what it was. But probably absolute and unconditional agreement with your humble request.

    2. Aldowyn says:

      I had a very similar reaction. I’ve been chasing his scores since the game came out >.> I was actually playing while listening to the podcast, after they reminded me about it.

    1. Aldowyn says:

      Oh, that was a great LP. +1

  5. TheAngryMongoose says:

    Anyone here given a try to Open Hexagon? It was kinda just a cheap Super Hexagon knockoff at first, but it keeps getting updates for new and interesting game modes. Definitely worth a try if you’ve exhausted Super Hexagon.

    Also… it has an online scoreboard >.>

  6. shiroax says:

    Special episode idea: Josh takes a phonebook and starts reading all the last names.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      It’d probably be more fun for him then Season of Mystery: The Cherry Blossom Murders.

      1. Humanoid says:

        I’m genuinely curious how that game ends. Unfortunately it seems to be so obscure that Wikipedia knows nothing of it, and the best walkthrough I could find was of a step-by-step bullet point nature that doesn’t really explain the plot.

        Incidentally it seems the game goes on for 24 chapters (each typically containing a few screens of the “gameplay”), of which the crew were defeated at chapter two.

        1. newdarkcloud says:

          I’ve also wondered about the game’s story, but not enough to actually go out and buy/play the game.

  7. X2-Eliah says:

    Ah, GalCiv2. Arguably the best strategy game ever that I’ve played and even almost liked it.

    Then again, I bought it on account of reading some great lp-style journals about it, which obviously turned out not to represent the game’s own style one bit. So.. Ultimately, I played on the biggest galaxy size with Ai on one rank below normal, and spent most of my time making ship designs in the editor and going for a trade/influence style of peaceful diplomatic victory.

    Uh, yeah. I think I’m much worse at strat games than even Rutskarn.

    1. Thomas says:

      Was that the Tom Francis tech finish one? Where he described a faction acting oddly in the end so that the other two allies didn’t destroy it once he’d been destroyed?

      1. X2-Eliah says:

        Who knows. I certainly didn’t pay enough attention to remember the name or the journo who wrote it.

        1. Aldowyn says:

          It’s the one that got linked several comments up.

          1. X2-Eliah says:

            That might have been the one, yes.

    2. Andy_Panthro says:

      I tried to like Gal Civ 2, but ended up comparing it with Master of Orion 2, and MOO2 is one of my favourite games of all time, so it didn’t compare well enough for me to finish it even once.

  8. Henson says:

    The Combine were never described in detail because, often, the most interesting parts of fiction are those that are largely unknown/mysterious – things that we have the potential to uncover. What we imagine in our minds is often so much more interesting than what the writer eventually tells us. (e.g. Anakin Skywalker, Reaper origins, etc.)

    Valve doesn’t need to explain everything about the Combine. They just need to show us enough to tell the story.

  9. Muspel says:

    You know, I think a bonus episode of Spoiler Warning where the whole crew plays some kind of MMO (that none of them have any experience with) would be worth its weight in gold.

    Maybe DDO?

    1. Syal says:

      Puzzle Pirates.

    2. burningdragoon says:

      They could play Sim City *badumtish*

    3. Ooh, I would love to see what Josh comes up with for that. I’m betting a cleric who keeps trying to back stab and refuses to heal :)

      Of course, I’m a MMO junkie who’s trying to find her next fix now that Rise of the Pandas has managed to bore me to tears. I’d also love to see a new Let’s Play like the lotro and champions ones Shamus has done, but I know he’s busy.

      Oh, podcast questions…
      1) What series or episode would you pick to introduce Spoiler Warning to non computer gamers?
      2) Any chance any of you are coming to Dragon Con? I know it’s not really video game oriented, but it’s still a lot of fun (and if you come, I’ll buy you a drink/take you to get really good fried chicken/whatever) Chessex will be there (probably, have not checked for this year but they’ve been there for the past 6-7) and will (probably) have special dice!

  10. newdarkcloud says:

    I don’t quite know why, but I was just a little giddy when you praised the work we are doing at Disclosure Alert.

    1. Thomas says:

      I’d be pretty giddy if a Disclosure Alert video showed up on my subscription feed sometime soon… :P

      1. newdarkcloud says:

        I’d be giddy if Aldowyn finished editing the damn episodes.

        1. Thomas says:

          Aldowyn’s at Uni right? Is this exam season in the US too? Because then I’d totally stop even joke bugging you guys, there’s different levels to how important things are in life

          1. newdarkcloud says:

            I don’t about Aldowyn’s university, but it’s not Exam Hell over at mine. It could very well be exam hell for him. I don’t know.

            1. Aldowyn says:

              Exam Hell is coming up. That is not why I’ve been so late for this week’s episodes.

              In better news, a new episode will be up tomorrow!

              1. Gilfareth says:

                I still really want to guest on your guys’ show one of these days, though preferably on a game I actually have something to say about (i.e. not Alpha Protocol. Liked it, but never finished).

                Also, love your show. Keep on playing, guys.

                1. newdarkcloud says:

                  We’d have to get to know you a bit better first. Chatting with us either on the forums here or Twitter would be a great start.

  11. Paul Spooner says:

    Spinning engines: Actually can be useful along the roll axis to provide gyroscopic stabilization.

    “Halflife is … much smaller than what Mass Effect was trying to be and failing spectacularly at.”
    So, is it the worse for that? Half-life didn’t try too much, and succeeded at a modest scope. Mass Effect tried for a vast scope and fell on its face. Of course, ideally we would get success at a vast scale, but faced with these (admittedly false) alternatives, which is preferable?

    “They don’t have [women] available? Why?”
    Maybe they couldn’t find any women stupid enough to work for them? Come on, you can win points both ways in this game.

    “You may as well just hire an army of people to meticulously build this stupid building that gets blown up in your giant set-piece action scene where the player has no agency except to shoot people.”
    Bitter much? I could almost hear the “I’m going to go play some KSP and blow up my own stuff with all the agency I can muster thank you very much.” at the end there.

  12. impassiveimperfect says:

    Has the opening/ending tune ever been credited?
    Assuming it’s the usual guy.
    Just wondering.

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      It’s likely McLeod. He’s the go-to source for royalty-free music.

      1. McNutcase says:

        It is. This one’s called There It Is.

      2. Aitch says:

        There can be only one!

  13. Endominus says:

    So, I was rereading Shamus’s GalCiv posts, and I found this line; “Not only will I not buy the Half-Life 2 expansion, but I won't go near anything else that uses Steam or anything put out by Valve Software.”

    Oh how the tides have shifted, eh? I remember being that annoyed with Steam, too. Still kind of am, really, but when they’re the best, biggest kid on the football team, sometimes you… just have to play ball? I think this analogy went wrong somewhere.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But they are best for a reason.Majority of Shamooses complaints about steam were fixed during the years.And thats how you do good business:You fix what your customers complain about.

      1. Supahewok says:

        Better way would be to do a good job in the first place. They were blessed with 5+ years of no competition in the digital distribution market to figure out what the hell they were doing. I’ll grant that they were creating a market and therefore they had some leeway, but in a normal market entering with those sort of errors ensures a sub-dominant position that’s very difficult to get out of. (just look at Origin)

      2. Endominus says:

        Were they really? His major complaints were that Steam acts as DRM, that it downloads updates and patches without the user’s permission, and that it required users to endure a lengthy login and authentication process. Also, should the company ever go broke, you lose access to all of your games, permanently.

        It’s still DRM (it’s more than that, too, but the fact that games bought in the store must be registered with Steam means that it still acts as management for your digital rights), it still downloads and installs things whenever it wants to, and, assuming I’m online, it will force me to login when I want to play my games. Granted, there is now some allowance made for when your internet goes out, but I happen to have an unreliable internet connection and there continue to be times when I cannot play Steam games because the software will not allow me to play offline. And though it seems like less of a possibility now, the possibility still exists of losing one’s entire Steam library.

        More than Valve addressing people’s complaints, I think the community changed. More invasive and disruptive (and incompetent) DRM methods made Steam look better in comparison. The slew of excellent games on the platform didn’t hurt either. Just like how always-on DRM won’t look that bad in a few years, once software publishers find a way to make your computer kick you in the goolies when they detect DVD-ripping software on your system (and maybe once just for good measure), people got acclimated to having Steam just sitting there, watching them, doing who knows what to their computers.

        1. Muspel says:

          Well, the thing is, Steam makes a significant effort to offer services in exchange for the hassle. They offer great deals on games. You can buy stuff without having to leave the house. They have cloud save storage. And you can install things on as many computers as you want.

          When other companies go for the “games as a service” angle, they’re really doing it without any benefit to you. Valve, on the other hand, actually does offer quite a few services.

          1. Thomas says:

            Offering great deals isn’t Steam making ‘a significant effort to offer services in exchange’. It’s Steam making you give them more money than you would have given them and spent on games if they weren’t offering great deals. It might be a mutually beneficial scenario, but they’re not doing it to be nice to you, they’re doing it because they make more money through them.

            Heck the lists of Steam games you bought but never really played, or games you’re waiting to play, is such a common thing people make forum threads about it.

            Cloud saves is sort of nice I guess? I’ve made use of them many times less than I had to wait for a couple of seconds to start a game or couldn’t even play the game at all for a night because of steam DRM.

            1. Muspel says:

              The fact that something benefits the business as well as the customer does not mean it’s not a service.

              1. Thomas says:

                It was ‘effort to offer’ and ‘exchange’ that I was quibbling with =D Although if I wanted to be pedantic I don’t think I’ve ever heard of a sale described as a service

            2. harborpirate says:

              I guess I should count myself lucky, I’ve never been blocked by Steam DRM. Honestly, I can’t even think of a time where I was aware it was even there at all.

              The fact that
              * they let you play your games on all Steam platforms (mac,pc,linux) no matter which one you originally bought it for
              * they’ve already done all the configuration/compatibility garbage for old games
              * it doesn’t matter how many times I upgrade my PC
              * they store my games library for me so that if my computer catches fire and all my game discs are destroyed I can play my games as soon as I get another computer running

              These are things I find value in. That’s aside from all the other useful small stuff they have like alerting what games your friends are playing, free games, huge game sales, tracking your time played, screenshot sharing, etc.

              Let me put it another way. I used to have lots of classic games. Many of them I’ve had to re-buy on Steam because I either lost the disc, it was scratched to oblivion, I lost the activation code, or I just have no desire to spend hours (again) trying to get it running. Plus just the physical storage space really starts to become an issue over time. If unobtrusive Steam DRM is the cost for not having to deal with any of that, I will gladly pay it.

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    @Rutskarn about sherlock:
    Not saying that you are wrong about this character specifically,but deciding to turn a female character into a dominatrix isnt an automatically bad thing.For example,theyve turned sherlock into a socially awkward jackass,because geniuses have to be insane I guess,and that worked.

    1. Thomas says:

      Irene Adler is not cunning in the books. It always annoyed how much people (and the books) tried to build her up when she did nothing. Her greatest achievement was running away. Yay. It shows how friggin’ desperate people were for a female character who did anything at all anytime that everyone always builds her up to be this amazing sophisticated cunning person when it amounted to a)noticing Sherlock Holmes existed and b) getting out of dodge because she new she couldn’t compete. She managed to wear a disguise! people tell me. Colour me unimpressed.

      (also in the books they make a huge thing of her being a lady. Thats the whole concept the ‘one lady Sherlock ever noticed’. It’s how the stories framed. Look at this someone didn’t defeat Sherlock and she’s a women! You know, usual Victorian ‘I heard there’s a women whose almost as good as a man, isn’t that progressive!’)

      At least in Sherlock she actually manages to sort of out manoeuvre him face to face and does something genuinely smart even if Moffat threw in all that weird sex stuff that he writes for every female character he’s ever created

      (I think we take away from this, that I was wholly unimpressed with the Conan-Doyle Irene Adler story)

      1. alienprayer says:

        Also, it is made quite clear that she is an Opera singer. Late nineteenth/early twentieth century performing artists were courtesans when successful and prostituted when they were not. Some of Europe’s most renowned Ballet companies had auctions, for God’s sake.

        If Conan Doyle had wanted her to be a chaste independent woman he would have made her a widow, or a dowager countess, or an anthropologist, etc… But he made her an Opera singer, which had very well-defined implications for his audience. Self-employed twenty-first century dominatrix is actually a bit of a step up from what her original profession implied about her status.

      2. Unfitforcursors says:

        She’s also essentially cured of her criminal tendencies by the love of a good man.

        In his defence though, Rutskarn wasn’t really talking about the character from the book. He was talking about the idea of Irene Adler as Holmes’ equal that’s been created by fandom/the internet. And Moffat, the naughty man that he is, simply didn’t write a character that matched up to those expectations.

      3. False Prophet says:

        This was the best interpretation of Irene Adler I’ve read. Because it reminds us Adler was never the villain:

        Irene Adler isn’t actually in the Rogues Gallery of Sherlock Holmes.

        Look back at A Scandal in Bohemia. She’s not the bad guy. She’s the good guy. Sherlock’s client is the bad guy, wrongly pestering his ex-girlfriend and painting her as a extortionist when all she wants to do is live her life. He lied to Sherlock Holmes. Her explanation for trying to keep a little insurance against future bad behavior from this man is perfectly understandable. The entire story is a misunderstanding.

        And that, more than anything else, is why she got to win. Because in addition to being his equal, beating him fair and square, she was also on the side of right and he was the manipulated one.

        1. Unfitforcursors says:

          Don’t disagree exactly but it’s a very generous interpretation. Pre hook up with with good and steadfast hubby who keeps her on the straight and narrow I think the story suggests she’s a lot more shady than that. But that’s just my take.

          Where I think that article really falls down is with what Thomas brought up. Irene Adler didn’t win. She legs it after being taken in by Holmes. Not a patch on the TV version who showed him up twice over the course of the story.

  15. Henson says:

    If you’re considering doing an older game for Spoiler Warning, I’d suggest Outcast. It’s fully voice-acted, colorful, interesting, and sometimes embarrassingly laughable. The only major downside I can see is if almost no one in the group has ever played the game (I’d hate for the whole crew to just stop talking!)

    1. Syal says:

      It would be fun to see how far Josh can get after killing some important NPC before their essence catches him. Do they chase you through the portals?

      1. Henson says:

        Oh wow, I don’t remember if they follow you through portals. My guess is ‘No’, but I always fought pursuing enemies rather than run. And died a lot.

  16. anaphysik says:

    You know, Shamus, you could always guest on Disclosure Alert if you want… unless you think that in doing so you’d be in, over your head… ;D

    Just consider, you’d be able to avoid being called Sham-!

    1. newdarkcloud says:

      I’d welcome Shamus’s input on the Alpha Protocol season. It’d be interesting to see how his opinions compare/contrast with ours.

  17. Thomas says:

    Josh is a really good host

  18. Daemian Lucifer says:

    There are more angry bank of america customers than angry ea customers,but the first ones dont have computers any more.

  19. Thomas says:

    I don’t think there’s a game developer in the world (except maybe Valve) who aren’t required to think about if the game will make money or not. Because otherwise no-one has jobs anymore. From the Bioware quote alone, if we’re going to say they had no creative freedom because they had to think about that, then Rockstar and Rocksteady and Obsidian and Epic Games are all equally limited.

    Maybe the companies they made good games and then did go out of business? Troika etc?

    I’m not saying you’re negative opinion of EA is wrong, I’m saying there was nothing to bring into that quote that would deserve a rant if you hadn’t already had those notions coming into it. Yours and Chris’ hunches are probably right, but it’s worth looking out for reading evidence to reinforce your notions and then feeling justified because look at all this evidence you’ve found.

    But as you guys said, there are too many companies EA has provably run into the ground to actually believe they aren’t having a negative effect on developers

    1. silver Harloe says:

      Of course they have to consider how to make money, but that’s not what they said. They said that EA imposes certain WAYS of making money: by being a super-lavish blockbuster, by having a bunch of DLC, by having microtransactions where they can, by having multiplayer even where it’s useless, oh, and it has to be done in 8 months, kthxbye.

      Not on the table: reduce the initial budget so that 3.5 million sales IS profitable. I can imagine TombRaider without TressFX rather easily, since I had to turn it off for my old machine: still compelling. There’s a pile of money and time right there. I can also imagine it without dumb quick-time boss battles that no doubt required custom mo-cap and voice acting – maybe some people would hate that, but I wouldn’t miss them because my agency was gone, anyway. And they probably cost a good chunk of change. I can certainly imagine it without multiplayer, because I don’t play it — no doubt a couple bucks of development money right there.

      If you REALLY have creative freedom, you have the option to axe expensive features so you can make profit with fewer than 20 million sales.

      1. Thomas says:

        What I’m saying is, there was nothing in that particular Bioware quote that implied that was going on. It probably is going on and your discussing it, but I’m worried people read the quote and said ‘well that means he’s saying EA are doing X, Y and Z’ When actually the quote doesn’t count as evidence as either way. It’s just an easy logical trap to fall into, to come into something with a position, read a neutral piece of information and colour it with the stuff you already know and then feel more reinforced(subconsciously) because you feel you’ve found more evidence for your position

        EDIT: As for budgets, I can’t imagine there’s a development company in the world that wants a smaller budget to make a game. A smaller budget means firing the people who work for you who don’t fit into that. And equally people enjoy bigger companies and more staff and want that budget.

        If SE were to say to the Tomb Raider guys that their next game will only cost $15 million, what they’re actually saying is ‘fire 10 people please’

        1. Shamus says:

          “If SE were to say to the Tomb Raider guys that their next game will only cost $15 million, what they're actually saying is “˜fire 10 people please'”

          This is true. But the alternative is to wait until the money is all gone and say, “Fire everyone. When you’re doing doing that, we’re going to fire you.”

          It’s true, downsizing now would be incredibly painful. Which makes it all the worse that they expanded the team sides in the first place.

          Making a larger team to make a more expensive game in less time to sell to the same-sized audience is doomed to fail. One way or another, reality is going to have its way with this industry.

          1. Thomas says:

            Its what will probably have to happen (and hopefully those fired people go onto to fill smaller teams that make medium sized games which will be an exploited market oneday), I meant that the developers themselves are unlikely to ever want that decision, so if Bioware had freedom but having to watch the bottom line, they’re still unlikely to decide as things stand now, to make lower budget games. But then as you say, it’s EA’s fault they’re so large in the first place.

            (It was as a response to ‘If you REALLY have creative freedom, you have the option to axe expensive features so you can make profit with fewer than 20 million sales.’) I don’t know how much Tress FX cost, but I bet it wouldn’t be so much to significantly lower the cost of Tomb Raider without having to fire staff. (also weren’t the inflated expectations for Tomb Raider part of Square Enix going through an expensive restructuring? I think someone mentioned that in the comments)

            1. Shamus says:

              “if Bioware had freedom but having to watch the bottom line, they're still unlikely to decide as things stand now, to make lower budget games. But then as you say, it's EA's fault they're so large in the first place.”

              This is something I’ve been thinking about. Right now, the publisher doesn’t put any value on the work itself. They don’t care if the game is fun to work on or if the team is excited, or if certain features are a time-sucking bore to them. On the other hand, developers don’t seem to have any incentive to keep costs low.

              It’s like taking a group of people out to eat if the guy paying doesn’t care if anyone likes the food, and the people ordering don’t care how much anything costs. It’s possible you’ll end up with a meal that cost too much and wasn’t really pleasing to anyone.

              I don’t know enough about the inner details of these companies to know how it works, but I really do wonder what the relationship is like between the publisher and developer.

            2. Humanoid says:

              I expect AMD would have covered a lot, if not all of the implementation cost of TressFX, because it is, after all, a marketing push (the whole Gaming Evolved program, or the equivalent nVidia program). And there’d be an arrangement regarding providing technical expertise, if not full time staff, to their partner projects such as this. I imagine the motivation for a developer signing up to such a deal is because it’s a net financial benefit to them once all the clauses are added up.

              There’s a good side and a bad side to these programs – a notable example was when the anti-aliasing feature was locked out from AMD cards in Batman:AA – not so much for a real technical hurdle but because nVidia had sponsored the game and provided the technical solution (which would have worked for any vendor’s cards). On the other hand, it’s leading to a returning trend of decent game bundles with hardware, something that had been missing for about a decade.

              Interestingly AMD are going to start bundling games with their CPUs/APUs too. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the game they’re starting with is ….SimCity.

        2. Aerik says:

          Aha! Everyone is falling prey to confirmation bias. Just as I suspected.

  20. Smejki says:

    Regarding old Fallout lets play. You can switch to DX9(?) rendering via sfall I think.

  21. Gilfareth says:

    Man, I woke up today far too late, then get up to discover there’s a new Diecast. I just listened through the whole thing, biting my lip the whole time for the mailbag bit, fidgeting nervously and…

    Nah. Mostly high-level questions on the state of the industry itself. I suppose there’s next time.

    P.S. Campster, you evil, heartless bastard. How dare you distance your Super Hexagon score even further from my own! Also if you’d be willing to give some advice on improving my own times, that’d be great.

  22. Kavonde says:

    Hey, that discussion about creating content targeted at female gamers that could also appeal to male gamers reminds me of something. Some other obviously “girly,” female-targeted property that has, through a combination of sharp writing and excellent art, attracted a surprisingly large and dedicated male fanbase. A fandom whose members are so obsessed with the property that they often make pictures of themselves in the show’s style and use them as avatars, even on forums or blogs with no relation to that property, and who eagerly jump at any opportunity to discuss their love of the IP and share it with others.

    You know. Kim Possible.

    Anyway, it’s endlessly frustrating that the whole “we can’t make girly things, boys won’t like them” mindset can still exist in a post-Lauren Faust world. Yeah, I know, the brony fanbase isn’t as huge as it might seem based on the volume of content and, well, volume it produces, but it’s still an undeniable and unavoidable example of a female-centric IP appealing to a broader audience by sheer virtue of its quality. You absolutely can make a game, or a movie, or a TV show, or a book, or whatever with feminine themes and characters; if it’s genuinely good, it can and will find an audience beyond its intended niche. A generation of men who grew up watching Buffy and Xena are now situated right in the middle of the gaming industry’s target audience, and we aren’t nearly as close-mindedly macho as the games industry seems to think we should be.

    The problem, of course, is that we’re the ones buying and making the games, but not the ones bankrolling them. Given time, hopefully things will even out… unless our kids and grandkids grow up watching Macho Testicular Manly-Man Force by Michael Bay.

    1. Bryan says:

      You know, about the only thing I thought when reading the last bit of that was:

      “We’re men! (We’re manly men!) We’re men in tights! (Tights! Tights! Tights!) We rob from the rich, and give to the poor! That’s right!”

      I’m not sure what else to say… :-P

      1. Kavonde says:

        Don’t worry. It’s never not okay to quote Mel Brooks films.

    2. False Prophet says:

      Well, the various media publishers are perfectly willing to produce blockbuster action titles where males are like 70+% of the audience. Is it such a stretch to the do same for female-aimed titles that still have a 15-30% male audience? I mean in 2005 the romance fiction publishers of all people were celebrating that 22% of their readers were male–up from 7% in 2002. The romance fiction industry!

  23. Josh: “Only use profanity as much as I would.”

    Let me just break out my copy of Nuance’s “Dragon Naturally Swearing: Drunken Sailor in a Quentin Tarantino Film Edition Pro(fanity).”

  24. guy says:

    I think you guys should do a full-length special episode of Deus Ex run by Shamus.

    1. Gilfareth says:

      And bring back the horror that is Shamus’ streaming bugs? Good grief, no! D:

      1. guy says:

        Cyborg Satan demands our allegiance!

    2. X2-Eliah says:

      I’d just like to see a full SW season of the original deus ex (without any streaming glitches). Quite probably the cast would have the most to say about it, of all games, which could be interesting.

      And if they don’t, then we get to see them go sour on a game they’ve praised endlessly for years, so everybody wins!

      1. Gilfareth says:

        To be fair, I really would love to see this. I’ve only recently taken the chance to play Deus Ex, and even then I haven’t gone all the way through. Since it’s one of those games that everyone talks about, I have some general idea of things, but I want to see the group’s take on things–Campster’s in particular, since he’s the big high-level concepts smartypants of the group.*

        At the same time, I want to see a classic Cuftbert run through the game, rather than the mostly pacifist run I’ve been doing on my own. That, and seeing the engine buckle under the weight of the Cuftbert Curse and bug out left and right.

        *Smartypants, and also a terrible person who makes my Super Hexagon scores look tiny and horrible and inadequate.

        1. Thomas says:

          The ultimate Deus Ex pacifist run involves breaking the game in as many ways as possible =D

          Realistic difficulty, no items, no skills, no bio mods, no kills

          Involves trapping guards in circles of crates and then throwing another crate at their head until they fall unconscious (no hand-to-hand combat in DX right? So can’t fight on a no items playthrough)

          1. Gilfareth says:

            This is pure, unadulterated beauty. Thank you my friend, for you have made my day.

      2. Deadfast says:

        I’d love to see it as well!

  25. Timelady says:

    To be fair, the original “A Scandal in Bohemia” starts off with Holmes being hired to get back incriminating documents after Adler’s had an affair with a person in power, so her sexuality is, really, the opposite of null from the get go. She doesn’t actually seduce or come on to either of the main characters; which, sad to say, is a major step up for this sort of thing. So props to Doyle for that, at least.

  26. Nano Proksee says:

    Rutskarn: you tapped into the “empowerment vs objectification” debate,
    the bad thing with Irene is the very end. She’s smart and manipulates Sherlock through all the episode, but at the end she gets caught because she fell in love, you know “’cause gurls be sentimental” and all that

    1. Nimas says:

      Well, technically Sherlock was the one who got screwed by falling for her first, though I do perfectly understand why some people don’t like said ending.

      That is one of my favourite episodes though, just the scuffle and dialogue between Holmes and Watson basically mean I don’t really see any flaws ><

  27. Aaron says:

    so irene adler is a prototype for alyx vance? it would be better if valve had made an anagram of irene adler

    as for the other issue of interest to me is biowares artistic control, tasteful, understated nerdrage had a bit about how EA was bound to have an effect whether they wanted to or not, he called it “tone at the top”. i call it “s**t roles down hill, stink floats up”. it’s all about how the various levels of a company want to please the steps above them, and the steps above them look for (and fund)what they want to see

  28. drkeiscool says:

    Was Josh serious about doing the Citadel DLC if someone bought it for him? Because I could find some loose change lying around…

    1. Kavonde says:

      But what would the crew talk about? I mean, Citadel is pretty much perfect, and funny as all hell. They’d either just be laughing or shushing eachother when someone talks over a good line.

      I was honestly surprised that Joss Whedon didn’t have a writing credit on it. The dialogue’s really that good.

      1. Guildenstern says:

        Now I actually really want them to cover Citadel. The amount of dreams that would be crushed during that special would be truly hilarious.

    2. megabyte says:

      I’m willing to pitch in a donation. Its content would make for good filler between seasons. It also lampoons some of the things we take for granted in the game, like (trying to think of a safe spoiler) how Shepard always says “I should go”.

      I think the reason EA decided to charge $15 is they spared no expense with the content itself. Some of the new areas are a visual treat. They also added an ‘arena mode’ similar to the Way Station DLC where you fight off waves of tough enemies under different circumstances. I don’t know why they decided to bundle the areana with the rest of the DLC, but they did.

  29. aldowyn says:

    There probably WOULD be interesting points of disagreement with Disclosure Alert – in general, yours would probably be more negative.

    But yeah if you guys had ended up doing Alpha Protocol, I’d have been moderately irritated, because you guys had said you weren’t going to :P

    But yeah, thanks for the shoutout, we appreciate it! Not sure what we’re doing next, but chances are it’s not going to be an older RPG – there are LOTS of reasons those aren’t really well suited for a Let’s Play.

    And yes, an episode is coming tomorrow. Awkward timing to get this shoutout when I haven’t posted anything in two+ weeks >.<

  30. Karthik says:

    “Would you be willing to play RPGs without voice acting even if it ruined the verisimilitude of the game?”

    The response to this question has been a resounding YES across every kickstarted RPG. Many backers actively discouraged Obsidian/Inxile when the idea came up during the campaign.

    More recently, Chris Avellone said in one of his interviews that he wrote way more design, dialog and description text for the few areas he designed on Wasteland 2 than he did for comparable areas in New Vegas. Also, he worked on four areas but he counts them as six because two of them can be in completely different states depending on the player’s choices up to that point–and that none of this would have been feasible if backers hadn’t specifically insisted on not worrying about fully voiced dialog.

    EDIT: Also, to me, voiced dialog alone rarely contributes to the verisimilitude of an RPG. That comes about (among other means) by how the world reacts to what I do, and I don’t mean that in a grand choice/consequence branching narrative sense. Even something as simple as persistent bullet decals on walls, or lampposts that remain fallen on my second lap of a race can build verisimilitude in a game. Spoken dialog? Yes, but only if it gets the other stuff (like the dialog itself) right first.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      I really liked the way the infinity engine games handled it, where the first line or so of an important characters dialogue would be voiced.

      Jon Irenicus without a bit of David Warner would make for a lesser BG2, for example.

  31. kenup says:

    Personally, I agree with Shamus on video game costs as well. Like removing most of the voice acting will result in a big decrease in cost. HD cutscenes and super-polygon trailers(give us trailers on gameplay not movies) going away would also help.

    As for GUIs, I think some games had better interfaces back then, than they do now. Like Fallout, I’ll take the F1/F2 character, inventory, map screens over the new ones. They were much less laggy and clear. The Pip-boy 3000 gig is really stupid, in my opinion. Though the old inventory screen could afford a few more columns for the actual items, rather than having to scroll(without the use of a wheel) through one line of 20+ items.

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      I just saw the trailers for Mass Effect recently and frankly, they could have made much better trailers at least for 2 and 3 if they had just trusted the assets on hand. (Note, they had male Shep and Ashley forefront using an Ashley model that looks like a Rob Liefeld design, Garrus in the background they clearly want you to think “Space Marine” and yes technically Shepard is sort of a Space Marine by training but its so much more.)

      Dragon Age was even more heinous because they used pop crap for the ad when DAO has one of the best soundtracks and a couple of pieces in that collection that would have been perfect for epic trailers. I don’t know why EA feels the need to pretend that these games are something they’re not because what they really are is so much better than the commercials.

  32. Wulfgar says:

    i think big game publishers will fail at trying make games that will attract more people. they did reach the limit of sales. not only that, they abandoned large part of their costumers by making games “for everyone”. i have a list containing tiles that i’m looking foreword to… 90% indie games. AAA sales will drop

    PS small sample: Project Eternity, Wasteland 2, Shadowrun Returns, Nyrthos, Chaos Chronicles, Legend of Grimrock 2, Beneath a Steel Sky 2, Ground Branch, Nights & Candles, Underrail, Prison Architect, Door Kickers, Deathfire

    1. Thomas says:

      I don’t know if they abandoned large parts of their consumer base in comparison. Call of Duty: Black Ops sold 18 million+ copies? Modern Warfare 2 sold 20 million+ FIFA sold 4.5 million in the first week of release alone and 13 million within a year. Limbo sold 1 million. Bastion sold 1.7 million.

      There are 13million-20million people out there who want the everyman games and haven’t shown nearly as much interest in other games (probably a value for money thing. you can keep on playing Blops and Fifa forever, Minecraft too) and if you choose to go back to the small games, thats an incredibly large percentage of the customer base to leave unsatisifed.

      I liked the model of lots of smaller games with a few big shots

  33. ACman says:

    Someone on this podcast buy and play ‘Don’t Starve’ and then talk about it on air. I’d do it myself but I have no popular forum to do so.

  34. Zekiel says:

    I have to say kudos to Peter Moore of EA for clarifying that SimCity’s Always On function is not a DRM scheme. I think people were just confused because EA hadn’t said “no it isn’t” often enough. But now he’s said “It isn’t. Period.” it all makes sense.

    Thanks, EA.

  35. RTBones says:

    You know, I miss my weekly Bad Sim City News.

    Because of that, I now pose this question: Do people really still talk about how bad Mass Effect 3 was?

    Apparently, some do.

    1. Aldowyn says:

      Oh yes. All over the place, if you actually still follow mass effect like I do. There was new TUN the other day and a good chunk of the comments was an argument over Mass Effect, although neither side was actually overly negative, surprisingly.

      1. Thomas says:

        As I type there are not one but two Mass Effect 3 threads complaining about it on the top page of the Escapist forums. And there was more a week ago.

        I think I’m finally understanding ME3 discussion burnout. If the game was that bad people need to let it stop dominating their lives because they’re making the game way more important and influential than it needs to be /actually is. (Ooh partially accidental topical British politics analogy)

        1. StashAugustine says:

          Something Awful is still bickering, although the Citadel DLC brightened it up considerably. Of course, they’re still debating Fallout 3.

  36. Dave B. says:

    Thanks for answering my question! It would be interesting to examine a game like Call of Duty, moment by moment or scene by scene, and figure out what each part cost. It’s obviously impossible to do that without the dev team keeping meticulous records, but I would love to see where all the money is going! Is it reasonable to assume that a disproportionate amount of the budget goes into stuff like cutscenes, scripted set-pieces, and stuff like that? Because while it looks impressive, it doesn’t make the game a whole lot more fun for me, or at least not proportional to the amount of money (I assume) they spend on it.

  37. X2-Eliah says:

    Okay, @Shamus/Josh – forgot to mention thsi before, but… Is ther a way for you to boost the voice volumes up a few notches? You are being very quiet most of the time. Now, I know that I could just up the volume on my headphones or such, but the teeny tiny part of me that’s a bit ocd about things screams that your voices are normalized at a far lower volume than anything else comparable (including the podcast’s intro/outro music itself)…

  38. BenD says:

    I don’t see any other comments on this, but… I would suggest questioning the idea that, in the context of movies or other entertainment, that ‘action’ is male-oriented as opposed to being conflict-oriented, culture-oriented, or human-oriented. I mean, women get into fights. Women argue with each other. Women have power fantasies and can play out those fantasies using weapons in a game or by watching battle on-screen.

    From here, I want to question whether romance and comedy are female-oriented. I think western civilization accepts as given that romance is a female-oriented subject. However, the rise of ‘bromance’ as a near-genre descending from the buddy-film near-genre makes me think this is not so. Romance is merely ‘relationship-building’ in the specific context of (usually) heteronormative pair-bonding, viewed through a woman’s perspective. The greater topic of heterosexual pair-bonding (and its alternatives) isn’t necessarily female-oriented. It just so happens that we have a whole sub-industry of movies built around putting romance on-screen in this particular way, through the female lens, and that other lenses are largely being underserved when this topic is discussed in the form.

    To bring this ’round to video game companies and their focus groups, I would posit that a game which offers power fantasies, relationship-building, exploration, or whatever its genre boils down to without forcing a gendered lens would find that its player population will closely reflect the actual population of gamers – that is, this game will maximize its potential to draw female players without damaging its potential to draw males. Furthermore, if there were a lot of these games, the overall population of female gamers would rise, because there would be stuff for them to play.

  39. Phantos says:

    Shamus mentioned how the big, flashy “set-piece” moments in modern games are just what developers want to do.

    The truth is actually much dumber: Publishers care more about impressing game reviewers to get a better Metacritic score, than making a quality product for their paying customers.

    Speaking of game companies with bad priorities, Capcom’s new strategy is to cancel games in development and make more DLC.

    “Let’s not address any of the reasons why we ruined Resident Evil, Street Fighter or Devil May Cry. Let’s not release a new Mega Man game, or listen to what people want. Let’s just tack on more ways for them to give us money.”

    I’m starting to think we picked the wrong hobby here…

  40. Andy_Panthro says:

    If you really want an old RPG for spoiler warning, might I suggest an Ultima? Perhaps Ultima VII?

    You’d still run into text-readability issues, but I’m sure with Exult you could sort something out (there might even be a mod to change the text, and make it a bit easier to read).

  41. Mondroid says:

    For a old RPG, you could try a different tactic of attempting another multigroup game and play the wonderfully interesting game of FOnline(Fallout Multiplayer Mod). It would be funny to have them all be assaulted by Geckos and Bandits.

  42. Paul Spooner says:

    “But is it worth entertaining those people, if doing so costs you more than those people have to pay you?”
    I think this really striking to the core of the issue. At the heart, this is an economic question. The industry is asking “How do we make money creating interactive digital entertainment?” At the surface this seems like an easy question to answer. “Just stop spending so much money!” But really, it’s not that simple.

    If you’re producing a traveling play, you can nail down your costs. So much for transportation, sets, actors. So much per performance, amortized, set a ticket price ($60 or so?) and go on the road. As long as you get a decent turnout you’ll make money. It’s impossible for one traveling play to completely saturate the market, so there can be a good amount of competition, and everyone can make money.

    But digital entertainment thrives on economies of scale. It IS possible for one game to saturate the market (or, the relevant segment). It IS possible to make back the hundreds of millions of dollars for lavishly produced games. The unit price is practically nonexistent. Everything is based on sales quantity. If you want to make boss profits, all you need is to capture the market and then keep selling hits.

    Getting back to the question “is it worth entertaining those people” hinges on how many of “those people” there are. In this case, “those people” are generally viewed as young men with too much time and money. As Shamus grows hoarse pointing out, there are a lot of other market segments out there to appeal to. But the “dudebro” market is rich, and responds well to formulaic offerings, making everything simple and straightforward. “Young Harold, with his colors gay, smoking of oil and musk and the pleasant violence of the young…” Is a timeless purveyor of mindless violence.

    Compare this to the RPG market, or the “fathers with children” market, or the “casual” market. What do those people want? Gosh, that’s complicated. That’s hard! Because “game design” is a game itself. You’re trying to figure out the right combo to beat the market. Turns out “dudebro shooters” is the equivalent of mashing the buttons randomly. It works surprisingly well, and doesn’t take much thought or creativity.

    There exist game designers who spend the time and effort to create effective presentation, interesting mechanics, emergent environments, and all the rest. But there will always be the button-masher designers who just flail until they find the button that works, and then press it has fast as they can. When the two meet the button mashers will find their failure inexplicable, and commit more effort than ever to push the button even faster.

    As always, our job as consumers is quite simple. Pay money for things that you enjoy, and don’t pay money for things that you don’t enjoy.

  43. Heaven Smile says:

    I think i got some proof that BW really had complete control. Because otherwise this asshole (that never made a money making work for EA, that would warrant him a position of Lead Writer in ME2-3) would have never been near close to touching it. Lets face it, EA is a bunch of greedy bastards that play it safe, but wouldn’t be as stupid to let a complete stranger take control of a franchise that its making money right now. it seems like a stupid risk to make that its 100% bound to fail….unless, of course, Bioware had control and no one to blame but themselves.

    I am talking of course of Mac Walters, the promoted fanboy.
    That is from “The Final Hours of Mass Effect 3” app. An interview made by Geoff “Doritos Pope” Keightleg (or whatever is called)

    He only did a Neverwinter Night MOD….and that is it. There is NO information of anything else he did other than comics of Mass Effect, but how in the fuck does that guarantee a position of Lead Writer on the next 2 games (ME2 and ME3) and once again in ME4. Even after the sheer backlash Casey and Walters received, they STILL give him a lead position (with the added cherry on top that the ending haters were “just a minority”)


    Ya think Mac? it would be nice to see some numbers from your “research”. In fact, let me show you mine:

    So yeah. It seems that BW DID have control….and they fucked up. If EA was in control then the guy would have been the first to go.

  44. Wide And Nerdy says:

    If you guys mean “gun bro” in the sense of the game having a more military focus and being a little more hand wavey on the sci fi elements, I’m not for that. Though I think we still got a few Star Trek caliber arcs in the game.

    But if you mean “gun bro” in the sense of getting their gameplay straight, I actually applaud that. And I’m normally not someone who cares about gameplay, especially about shooters (I’m a hack and slash guy). But with both Mass Effect 3 and Dragon Age 2, the gameplay felt more fun. Particularly if you played a Vanguard in the former or a thief in the latter, classes that let you move around (though they could have stood to keep the fights shorter especially in DA2.) ME1=meh to toothgrinding game play, me2=tolerable gameplay that gets tedious, me3=Actually kind of fun, you had sprinting, rolling, and vanguard charges, it was actually the game that sort of clued me in that I need movement in my gameplay to have fun. Plodding between bits of cover sucks. Don’t get me wrong, I loved all three games (yes, ALL three) but it wasn’t really for the gameplay until the third one.

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