Diecast #32: Steam Machines, Permadeath in Far Cry 2

By Shamus Posted Thursday Oct 3, 2013

Filed under: Diecast 114 comments

I was worried about recording an episode on Saturday to release on Thursday. A lot can happen in the course of five days, and some bit of news might come along to make our discussion irrelevant. Then I remembered that we’re talking about Valve, and Valve only makes non-hat announcements on odd-numbered years. So maybe in 2017 we can have Diecast #230: Valve has released a photograph showing the first Steam Machines will be orange. Still no release date. Still no Half-Life 3.

Hosts: Rutskarn, Josh, Mumbles, and Shamus.

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Show notes:

2:00 Steam Machines you guys. STEEM MASHIENZ!

19:00 Haptics

35:00 Rutskarn talks about a permadeath run of Far Cry 2 and how it can fundamentally alter your perception of the game.

46:30 Mumbles is playing GTA V and looking for a good RPG. No, not the one you’re thinking of. She wants a GOOD one.

1:01:00 Shamus talks a bit about Good Robot and the music people have offered.

Seriously composers: You folks are doing a fine job. But the number and quality of the submissions has kind of caught me off guard. I’ve got submissions via email, comments, and Twitter. I’m going to try and organize this stuff and see what I’ve got, what I need, and who made it. We’ll talk more about this in a future entry and I’m going to want to trade emails with anyone offering tracks for the game.

More on this later.


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114 thoughts on “Diecast #32: Steam Machines, Permadeath in Far Cry 2

  1. Nytzschy says:

    I was worried about recording an episode on Saturday to release on Thursday. A lot can happen in the course of five days, and some bit of news might come along to make our discussion irrelevant. Then I remembered that we're talking about Valve, and Valve only makes non-hat announcements on odd-numbered years.

    Wow, Shamus, did you even see the finale of Breaking Bad? All discussion of Steam Machines is now irrelevant. Walter White shut down the government!

  2. WarMachineDD7 says:

    Here’s the funniest part of Shamus’ blurb in this post: Valve registered the Half-Life 3 trademark in Europe on October 1st, and a a brief message of an internal bugtracker at Valve went public and it showed Half-Life 3.


    1. rofltehcat says:

      To be honest I’m rather surprised they (or a patent/TM troll) didn’t already have the trademark for Halflife 3.

      1. Steve C says:

        Trademarks only last for 10yrs before they need to be renewed. Valve had no plans to release Half Life 3 within 10 yrs. So no reason to register a trademark.

        1. Alex says:

          HL3 confirmed for 2023 release!

          1. Knut says:

            Half Life 3 trademark registration confirmed for 2023!

  3. Fenix says:

    So Josh mentioned that Nvidia is really bad for Linux driver support while talking about the Steambox. I’ve seen this a lot lately and I know exactly where it came from. It came from the time Linus Torvalds flipped off Nvidia for being a pain to work with.

    Here’s the issue. What Torvalds was flipping off Nvidia for was their ‘Kernal Level Support’. They haven’t been helpful at all in terms of open-source driver support (until very recently) and whenever they make a binary driver they need to implement a bunch of Kernal level stuff into the driver itself and it makes it awkward for everyone involved.

    That said, Nvidia’s Proprietary Binary Driver on Linux is the best driver for graphics BY FAR and pretty much has feature parity with the Windows driver. It has also had some hefty improvements as of late due to feedback from Valve.

    Just want to clear up this bit of confusion a lot of people seem to have on the subject.

    1. Hitchmeister says:

      Also Nvidia has lately been much more cooperative with the open source Linux community and “opening” their drivers more which has led to Linus Torvalds saying he’s looking forward to apologizing for that finger soon.

    2. sab says:

      Every time you write kernal instead of kernel, a deity kills a kitten.

      1. Nataline says:

        So.. Commodore was responsible for supernatural mass murder of kittens in the early ’80s?

        My childhood memories! Stained with blood! T_T

        Also, have kittens been killing deities in aeons antedating humanity or something? Or does omnipotence just make one want to snuff something fluffy every now and then?

      2. X2Eliah says:

        Surely you meant ‘kittan’.

  4. MichaelGC says:

    Did Campster not make it back from DisneyPlace? Send help!

    1. Dave B. says:

      Or at least send beer!

    2. Sleeping DRagon says:

      He did but… he’s just not the same… the things he must have seen, the horrors he must have witnessed, that kind of thing, it… it changes a man…

      I’d imagine he wasn’t back yet, if I was going on a trip I’d probably try to include both the starting and the ending weekend.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Yeah, Mickey Mouse creeps me the hell out, too!

        It occurred to me after I posted that he’s gone to the Escapist Expo.

  5. noahpocalypse says:

    That health system sounds very similar to Deus Ex: Human Revolution’s energy system. What made it better in Far Cry 2?

    Also, when can we expect a post on the multiplayer aspect? Will there be character customization and what kinds of game modes, i.e., Capture the Flag? Have you contacted Valve for permission to use TF2’s announcer voice?

    1. Rutskarn says:

      “What makes it better?”

      The problem with DX:HR’s energy system was that because it was so unforgiving, it made you unwilling to use the powerups central to your character’s development and made nonlethal takedowns (a large part of most nonlethal playthroughs) punitively expensive compared to just shooting them. You never wanted to use a powerup because you never knew if you were going to be able to find more PEP bars around the corner.

      Whereas in Far Cry 2, health is depleted by injury (not player action) and is restored by picking up syrettes, which are found in consistent, predictable locations. A player is able to make informed decisions about when to heal and when not to.

      In summary: the system is better implemented in Far Cry 2 because a.) it’s tied to a completely different and more suitable gameplay stat and b.) it’s based around resources that can be more meaningfully managed.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        Once my energy ran down to only one battery, I never restored it in DX:HR. It just didn’t feel worth wasting resources on something that wouldn’t regenerate when my one lowly battery did.

        1. Jokerman says:

          I do the same, one of the upgrades i always try to get early is upgrading that recharge speed, since waiting for your next takedown could be tedious…

        2. Eruanno says:

          Same. I only used the candy bars whenever I knew I was in for a big encounter or had to use my abilities in any sort of quick succession. So 95% of the time I let that one lowly battery be the only one…

      2. Tying it to PEP bars just made it even more ludicrous. If augments were as common as they appeared, those bars should’ve been available everywhere. Vending machines should’ve been on every corner. Every food truck should’ve been selling them, if not other food products that purportedly gave you the same effects (even if they weren’t as good).

        It would be like making a superhero whose powers ran on Starbucks coffee, then all of the coffee shops everywhere decided to close 95% of their storefronts and aliens beamed up nearly all of humanity’s automatic drip machines.

      3. Karthik says:

        The regeneration-within-health-bars system is actually a pretty common mechanic these days. A bunch of games come to mind that do this: Escape from Butcher Bay (the first place I saw it), FEAR (kinda), Far Cry 3 and even Mass Effect 3.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Unless I’m remembering it wrong Dishonored does this thing with its mana where it kinda regenerates but not if you spam your abilities. For example if you do the nightcrawler teleport thingy your power will regenerate the amount you used for that teleport, but not if you immediately teleport again, in which case it will only give you back the power for the second jump (and possibly what little of the first jump it had time to regenerate).

          Now I know this kind of thing really affects the gameplay of some people, like myself. I tend to conserve resources to a ridiculous degree and so I ended up going through the levels using almost exclusively the types and number of powers that would let me regenerate my mana fully afterwards despite the fact I had plenty of potions. Because of this my gameplay was much more trial and error, scumsavey and less fluent than what I’ve seen Josh do during the SW season. I dare say that this does make many games less enjoyable for people like me because, firstly, we make it more harder on ourselves than it needs to be and, secondly, we don’t get to experience that “go all out” power rush quite as often as less restrained players.

          1. Thomas says:

            I’m a similar sufferer and I was wondering as an academic exercise, how would you design around it if you wanted to fix it?

            And actually, what were they trying to achieve with mana limitation? Going full out power spam is a lot of fun and pretty unique gameplay right? So I’m assuming they were using it mainly as a balancing factor, instead of actively encouraging more cautious play (although that’s obviously what it does).

            Cooldown timers seem to be the most obvious system but thats a bit messy. Either you’re having to keep track of multiple timers and their availability and get a splurge of power followed by waiting (ala ME1 and many many MMOs) or you apply the ME2 solution which fixes a lot of those problems, but then stops you from chaining powers appropriately.

            So maybe you make it regenerate, but it can also regenerate to full if you find a moment of quiet (and possibly it creates a loud noise or something else inhibiting). That way you can splurge powers with a definite power cap, or use them a little more meditatively to expand the time before you need regenerate, but you don’t feel punished from the consumption of an expendable resource for using your powers to their fullest

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              “…how would you design around it if you wanted to fix it?”

              That’s a tough one, I can’t really offer any systemic answer but rather personal/anecdotal material.

              I suppose removing the limiting factor from regeneration (be it health or other resource, such as mana) helps in the sense that I’m not as restrained since I know pretty well what my options for an encounter are and at the same time that using them now will not come back to bite me in the future. On the other hand balancing demands limiting of whole “oomph” factor on the chatater’s abilities, and even if not being able to use your supposedly most powerful ability every time as an opener or a finisher in the encounter makes it feel mundane no matter how powerful it is. Furthermore, I will still hog any kind of consumable in case “it’s not the right time to use it”.

              Something that kinda works for me is if the game allows for farming/grinding and a high cap on a resource, as is the case with most JRPGs. If I know I’m holding 99 of a consumable and the game can’t reasonably expect me to have that many at this point I will be less restrained at this point. The obvious downside is the need to grind to obtain said resource, which may or may not detract from my enjoyment of the game depending on how motivated I am, and again there is the limiting factor which solves my worry about running dry but not the “lack of power rush” issue.

              Right now I can only think of three things that really affect the issue for me. First is saving and going on a rampage, I suppose much like people unleashing heck on their simmed cities (in earlier games) most players also at some point saved their cRPG/shooter/whatever game and went all out in a location, the obvious problem is that you then revert to the previous save so it’s at best a workaround to feel the power rush that doesn’t really affect the gameplay. Second thing is when I’m going through the game more than one time, even if I don’t remember it in detail I will usually deep down recall that I can use some of this stuff every now and then, this is obviously not applicable during a first playthrough so it only applies to something I’d come back to, and that’s assuming I’d remember enough to overcome my conservation instinct. Finally what worked for me was getting frustrated, I was at one time playing Infamous 2 at a friend’s place and there was a sequence that was giving me trouble with my careful and conservative approach, until the point I got really angry at having to replay the whole sequence again and jumped into it flinging lightning and using up my limited charges as if I wanted to show Thor who’s boss, my friend actually commented that I get a whole lot better with the game when I’m pissed at it, not sure if getting your players frustrated is a sound game development strategy though ;)

      4. A. Hieronymus Bosch says:

        The funny thing about DE:HR’s power bar problem is that it has a rather simple and minor solution: Have the takedown take down 99% of a bar’s energy instead of 100%.

        For situations not related to takedowns, I found that I didn’t mind expending that energy nearly as much.

      5. Hitchmeister says:

        Was it my imagination, or was Josh hearing you say “syrette” as “cigarette” during the Diecast leading to him having a bizarrely distorted view of the health system you were describing?

        1. Thomas says:

          I was wondering if syrette was some sort of americanism for ciggarette, and not the syringe thing I thought it was

          1. WillRiker says:

            I was similarly confused, having never heard the term “syrette” before.

      6. silver Harloe says:

        I like the way HL2 did health – it’s not regenerating, but the designers put health kits just after every battle, and their effectiveness varies with how much you need them. It trains you to just believe in action and have faith that they won’t punish you for doing the exciting thing.

    2. Nordicus says:

      When it’s a regenerating energy system for an optional action, having one bar filled or 6 doesn’t really matter.

      Now tell me, when it’s 1 *health* bar or 6, do you keep it at 1 or use that healing item?

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        In Far Cry 2, you HAVE to heal at one bar left, because the last bar will drain down to your death, Terran style. However, healing at very low health does not use up a syrette. But while syrettes are quick, emergency healing can take a second, and will be interrupted by any damage taken while attempting it.

        In general, it’s best to keep your health high in Far Cry 2. Extra syrettes can be found reliably, like Ruts said, and if you’re in a situation where you’re running through all of them, you may just be in way over your head and ought to consider the exercise of strategic cowardice.

        Generally, in Far Cry 2, you will die more often to sudden, extreme damage taking you out before you can react (being run over, being blown up, falling from too high) than from being whittled down until you run out of supplies and expire.

        1. Nordicus says:

          That question was rhetorical. Of course you heal when you’re down to 16% of your health

          1. Humanoid says:

            Unless you’re Josh.

          2. PeteTimesSix says:

            Is this an accepted thing? Because I generally tend to finish any game with an inventory system stocked with the maximum amount of healing items possible, surviving exclusively on using whatever is over the limit and a whole load of quickloading.

            …note to self, look up what is the last level in the future so you actually end up using that stuff.

            1. rofltehcat says:

              This is one of the bad sides of letting the player decide when to use consumables. Even if you actually wouldn’t need all that stuff, the player feels compelled to save it as much as possible and try to get through without those simply because you can’t know when you will get a refill.
              I think they talked about this quite a bit in one of the Spoiler Warning seasons.

              So I finished Deus Ex HR, Vampire Bloodlines, Metro, the Stalker games, JRPGs and even some Splinter Cell games with my inventory completely filled.

              It is especially bad in games that want to give you the feeling that some things are scarce because this will just increase the hoarding. Not knowing if something is special or precious is another problem. I’d never use some quest rewards in MMOs simply because they’d have a unique skin or glow effect or whatever. Other people even tried to never chug mana potions although resupplying on those is as reliable, easy and cheap as it can probably ever get.

              1. Nidokoenig says:

                This could be fixed by having expiry time one healing and mana items. If you have X amount of them at the start of a mission(based on which NPCs you’ve befriended/saved, which items you’ve recovered) and whatever’s in the level, and know they’ll go off when you finish the level, you’ll know that you need to use them by the end of the level.
                A big advantage for modern games is that this automatically prompts the player to throw these potions down their gullets for the boss battle and escape, making those portions significantly more dramatic just by how the rules encourage players to act rather than them being scripted bullshit.

  6. HeroOfHyla says:

    I did manage to buy Portal 2 for PC at Gamestop for $30 back when it came out. Cheaper than getting it on Steam, and it came with the pre-order bonus even though I didn’t pre-order.

    1. Dave B. says:

      I somehow managed to get XCOM: Enemy Unknown at Gamestop for about $10 less than what Steam was charging at the time. I have no idea why.

      Mostly though, my Gamestop shopping experience involves standing in front of the PC games and muttering, “Already have that one, don’t want that one, don’t want that one, cheaper on Steam, have that one…”

  7. Hydralysk says:

    Regarding the use of the Steam controller for RTS games, I think the big problem, probably even bigger than the accuracy and speed of selecting and ordering units, is the idea of hotkeys.

    In RTS games each ability, unit and building is usually hotkeyed for quick access so you don’t need to click the icon with your cursor. In addition, control groups allow you to quickly build more units, quickly select small groups of units, and bring in reinforcements without needing to have the unit or building be on your screen and select it with your mouse.

    I can see the Steam controller working as a decent alternative for games relying heavily on precision mouse controls like FPS games, but for contemporary RTS games it simply doesn’t have enough buttons to adequately substitute a keyboard.

    1. Easy! You just click your gesture hotkey, and then you make a gesture on one of the two pads.

      And in the case of a fighting game you could do a circle motion for a roundhouse kick.

      Or in a adventure/puzzle game you could turn a wheel or crank by doing circle motions.

      I mention a few more uses/ways in the comments of this Gamasutra article http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/201195/Select_game_developers_used_the_Steam_Controller_Heres_what_they_said.php

      1. Hydralysk says:

        Interesting idea, but I’m still skeptical about how well that idea would work with contemporary RTS games. The ones I’ve played most recently are Starcraft 2 and Dragon Commander (which is actually a great RTS game for roleplaying btw), so I’ll use them as examples.

        In both of those games, when talking about unit producing structures you want the ability to quickly specify which unit and how many units you want. On a keyboard they’re all relegated to a specific button, so if you want 5 of a specific unit from that structure you just tap it quickly 5 times. If I was doing it on a pad I’d either need to make that gesture 5 times, or hold the pad down after completing the gesture while a counter stacks up to 5. Both these options would be slower than the amount of time it takes to hit a dedicated key 5 times, unless maybe the counter ticks incredibly fast, but that would probably also make specifying unit counts quite difficult. Current RTS games rely heavily on the speed and accuracy a player is able to input these actions, and any delay would have a big impact if someone with a slower input device was playing against someone with a faster one.

        Furthermore there’s the magnitude of commands that can be input for each individual unit. The units with just the standard move, attack-move, stop, hold position and patrol option wouldn’t be that big a problem I believe, but certain units have multiple spells that are critical to their utility on the battlefield. In Starcraft 2’s case sometimes you’re also using the same skill multiple times in succession. If those skills were relegated to specific gestures, then it’s not only the input speed but also the potential for user error that worries me. I think back to when I was younger playing Black and White which used patterns you drew on the ground with your mouse to cast spells. I often had trouble getting the game to recognize my pattern and that was one of the most frustrating things about that game. I have the same problem with fighting games, where I have difficulty pulling off all but the simplest one button commands with regularity. In comparison you can’t press a button wrong. You can miss the key, but you either hit the button or you didn’t, there really isn’t room in between for user error.

        I admit I’ve yet to even see one of these in person, much less use one, and if I’m wrong I’d actually be pleased, but at the moment I can’t see the Steam controller being able to give you the same breadth of options without sacrificing the input speed and/or reliability that you need in today’s RTS games. I can see stuff like the Total War games working well with their singleplayer pause mechanics however. To be honest the steam controller doesn’t NEED to be able to do these either, it’s not trying to replace the KB/M, it’s merely an alternative to it.

        1. Nidokoenig says:

          What about a repeat key? Do the input motion once, then hit the repeat key, maybe mapped to a trigger, to use it again as many times as you want.

          If the Steamroller pads are easier to control than using the right stick, then they should be good enough for inputting gestures, since Okami and the Wonderful 101 allow for many different inputs, at least 16 in Wonderful 101, using the right stick, though the Wonderful 101 also allows and encourages using the touchscreen. All those commands can be done in any direction, too, so an RTS could gain room to make several dozen commands simply by discriminating between clockwise and anti-clockwise circles/spirals, or straight/curvy lines in the four cardinal directions. These inputs can be done fast enough for a game with the reaction time demands typical of Platinum’s games.

          There is the possibility of user error in this design, but similar to fat fingering the wrong key on a keyboard or having difficulty with fighting game inputs, the solution is to practice get good. The only big problem is that it’s unlikely to be a direct one to one equivalent of keyboard and mouse input in 100% of cases, but that’s just a result of not being a keyboard and mouse and could be solved by letting players pick an option for which control setup they want to play against if it becomes an issue, though that does break on-the-fly switching.

      2. Humanoid says:

        I’m not sure Black and White is the right game to take after for your typical fast-paced RTS. :D

  8. Thomas says:

    About Shamus’ ‘If you want to make a game on Linux, target SteamOS’

    Doesn’t that not fix the problem at all and even just make it worse? I’m fuzzy on what the SteamOS offers, but I can’t imagine it offers enough day-to-day computing and life functionality to make people want to replace the versions they’re using now.

    So if you target SteamOS won’t you still be ignoring all those people who you ignore now if you don’t port to Linux? And then everyone will be optimising their games for a version of Linux that no hardcore Linux user actually uses

    1. Shamus says:

      I probably made that sound more hopeful than I should have, but the general idea is that if devs target SteamOS, then:

      I’m not suggesting that Linux users will switch to SteamOS for their daily computing. I’m suggesting that perhaps ATI / NVIDIA will make friendly, useful, timely, and stable drivers for that ONE platform. Then other versions of Linux could (in theory) focus on getting those drivers to work on Ubuntu, Gentoo, Yahoo, Pewpew, or whatever the flavors are these days. This same idea applies not just to video drivers but to OpenGL or whatever else a developer might need.

      It’s a way to herd cats, basically.

      Will this actually happen? I have no idea. But by giving Linux-friendly devs a common target might make that target bigger, as it were.

      1. Thomas says:

        Ah okay, cool, I hope that does happen then

      2. Nyctef says:

        NVidia (and AMD to a lesser extent) *already* have drivers like that. (Someone in the commends above linked http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/linux/faster-zombies/ which demonstrates this). The problems you hear about are from the fact that they’re proprietary/closed source, and NVidia’s open source offerings have been less than stellar. However, that situation is improving, and Linus has said he may soon retract the middle finger he gave them a few years back :)


        Different distributions of Linux such as Ubuntu, Gentoo and so on can all run the same graphics drivers, since they all have fairly similar internals. The main difference is the desktop software they ship on top of the Linux kernal / core utils. (Much like Android, really)

  9. hborrgg says:

    Did they mention if you could plug a mouse and keyboard into Steambox?

    1. Hitchmeister says:

      Yes, they did and you can.

      1. hborrgg says:

        Did they mention if you could plug in multiple mice/keyboards to play with your friends?

        1. Hitchmeister says:

          Moreso than other consoles on the market a Steam Machine is really just PC designed around being used in a living room/media center environment. Any input options available to a normal PC should be available to a Steam machine. I’ve never heard of using multiple mice/keyboards for multiplayer on a PC, but if you can, a Steam Machine should as well.

        2. Muspel says:

          Theoretically, you probably could, but bear in mind: most of the games on SteamOS at launch will just be existing PC games. So if the game doesn’t have support for using multiple players using separate keyboards/mice on the same PC, you presumably wouldn’t be able to do it on a Steambox either. And I can’t think of any game that’s programmed to support multiple mouse input. There are a few games that let you have multiple players on the same keyboard, though, so I assume you’d be able to play those with multiple keyboards.

    2. Eruanno says:

      You can use any mouse/keyboard and/or controller (or combination thereof) that you like with SteamOS.

  10. hborrgg says:

    Also Shamus, not to sound picky but your post switches from MM:SS format to a HH:MM format without any distinction and it’s a bit odd.

  11. Rutskarn, after hearing your segment at 19:00, I hope you’re going to rename your “what’s the happy-haps” bit to “the haptics.” I mean, it’s a pun, it’s got vidya game cred with the kids, etc.

  12. Jumus says:

    If you’re looking for a great RPG to play that focuses alot on the role playing aspects and has a very interesting world with fun characters then try out Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines. Crappy cover, title and well, a goofy game sometimes but its such gem if you like having full influence on what kinda character you want to be, its no New Vegas but it may become one of your favorite RPGs with so many dialogue trees, fantastic lore and engaging atmosphere i highly recommend it. The graphics and gameplay are great too and still hold up after 8 or so years

    1. Sabredance (MatthewH) says:

      I second this -though you’ll probably need mods to get it to run on modern hardware.

      Also, as fun as the game was -and there really are some interesting variations between characters -I only every got through 2 playthroughs before kinda losing interest.

      1. The version on Steam runs fine, but you should mod it to make it look not QUITE so crappy. Also, the other mods add powers and clan features the game left out. After modding, playing a Tremere was crazy fun.


    2. Also, it’s a lot more constrained than New Vegas – partially due to tech and partially from design. The game world is broken up into several hub areas, each with it’s own side-stories and it’s own arc of the main plot.

      I do think that the “loading screen between hubs” solution is, in some ways, better than the New Vegas “Walk for half an hour between 2 points” solution, in that it allows you to focus on the gameplay and the story, however, the game loses a lot of its open-world feel.

      It does have a lot of the cool things that New Vegas did, however – such as political conflicts, people dealing with personal problems in the face of great adversary, the ability to make interesting decisions.

      But it’s not modern. It’s not as full of life as New Vegas.

      It’s definitely good, and almost what Mumbles is looking for, but not quite. It’s probably the best option, in any case.

      1. StashAugustine says:

        Yeah, in terms of structure it’s less New Vegas and more Deus Ex.

        1. Naota says:

          Deus Ex with a faction-driven story that culminates in a web of branching player decisions and features and persistent quests/rewards with various completion states, perhaps. In Deus Ex you simply chose which ending best suited your iteration of JC Denton, then played the final 15 minutes of the game. In VTMB, like in New Vegas, you build to the culmination of the story through your actions as early as the midpoint of the game. You’re offered lasting choices in many of the quests along the way.

          While you’re still capable of abruptly changing sides to determine who wins at the end, the things you’ve done up until that point still play into what happens.

          To contrast, for me Deus Ex always felt like a basically linear narrative, with three dramatically different choices presented at the ending largely to underscore the importance of everything you had done up to that point. It wasn’t the kind of game that could branch the story by, say, (spoilers ahead!) letting you escape Gunther at the start, or avoid killing Anna (without sequence breaking!) and that’s perfectly fine.

    3. Naota says:

      I just played VTMB recently with the aforementioned mods, and I completely agree. Despite being made in 2003, in its updated state it’s been one of the best games I’ve played in 2013; a full decade later. What’s even more impressive is that I say this in spite of the insane bugs and middling to horrible combat mechanics, because it’s one of those games that truly, honestly puts dude-shooting on a level plane with diplomatic conversation, stealth, and exploration.

      There are no end of segments where you could run amok murdering hordes of enemies, but will instead be able to simply con your way to success through some brain power and a few minutes of dialogue. And if you succeed, it can and will forget about that combat portion entirely, advancing the story organically with nary a shot fired. Generally if you’re given an option, it’s going to matter. While there are places you’re forced to fight through, and sometimes heavily, the game never pulls its punches and makes you think you have another choice.

      The lengths the developers went through to craft their narrative and frame their gameplay within it are quite impressive. Play as a Malkavian? Throughout the game you hear whispers that foretell coming events in the plot and the entire script is rewritten to suit your inherent insanity. Play as a Nosferatu? Spend the whole time skulking in the shadows and slinking through the sewers, because nobody in the world outside the Masquerade knows you for anything other than a monster.

      This is a game where telling an interesting and coherent story matters to the creators, and choice is not just for show.

      1. Humanoid says:

        I played the game as a Malk first up near the initial release, and was pretty impressed that it was structured well enough such that I never felt lost, despite the usual recommendation to play a “normal” clan first. And yes, despite the relative linearity, I’m inclined to say that it’s perhaps the best example of subtlety in railroading of any RPG I’ve played.

        Never did play through again properly, I think I aborted my Toreador run that followed because one of their armour sets looked like a chicken suit or something. Which is to say, a complaint about the game in general is that there’s no character customisation, your appearance is fixed for each clan/gender combination, and there’s no variation in gear, it’s strictly linear buy-level-one armour, then buy-level-two armour, and so forth, the only constraint being when they’re unlocked (one set per chapter).

        All up though, the game was on pace to be one of my top 5 RPGs ever (even counting games released in subsequent years), as opposed to the 60% excellence and 40% slog it turned out to be. (Starting, unsurprisingly, with the obligatory sewer level)

        1. Naota says:

          Man, the Warrens were SO BAD. I’ve just played through almost all of Dead Island again for sake of Full House, and in spite of everything it just doesn’t even come close. I think in all the time I spent playing Bloodlines, the one place I can definitively point to as being unremittingly awful is that endless, horrible, context-less slog.

          I had a chuckle at the Sabbat zombie crackhouse. the asylum conjured fond memories of American McGee’s Alice. Rescuing the archaeologist from the hunters was a fun bit of a romp for a vampire nearing the point of power-saturation. Hell, I’ll even say that the werewolf, while executed horribly, was at least pretty scary.

          But there is no excusing the Warrens. Every time I thought I was in the clear, there was more. Every time I killed a giant bullet-sponge enemy, there was one right behind it. Elsewhere VTMB outshines its flaws… but the Warrens are a black hole of terrible from which no light can escape.

        2. One other note of praise: There are few, if any, combat taunts from most of the enemies. I think the mooks have none, and even the ones the bosses use don’t come close to “Enemies are everywhere!”-level stupidity.

    4. postinternetsyndrome says:

      I don’t know if it is exactly what Mumbles is looking for, but one of Troika’s earlier games, Arcanum, is pretty swell too. It’s buggy as hell, but the unofficial fanpatch fixes it up a bunch. It’s a really great piece of worldbuilding.

      1. Humanoid says:

        I remember getting through probably 50-75% of the way through it way back in the day. Not a slight against it, I regularly leave games unfinished even if I like them (sometimes *because* I like them). But earlier this year I tried to start afresh, and I just couldn’t get past how hard they push you into taking Virgil into your party right at the start.

        You can refuse his offer to join you, but then I got slaughtered by the wildlife. I couldn’t remember it, but I guess the game is balanced (as with any Troika game, I use the term loosely) with a party in mind. Ah well. One thing it does highlight though, is my gradual drift over the last decade from preferring full party-based RPGs, to mostly solo ones.

        (Even if I still liked playing with NPC party members, I’d still rather stab Virgil in the face than give him the time of day)

  13. burningdragoon says:

    I’ve done a permadeath run of Demon’s Souls before. I, uh, wouldn’t recommend it it made everything a lot more stressful and nerve racking.

    The guy who made Super Meat Boy, had done some testing on the Steampad on his games. You’d think a super hard platformer like SMB would be the worst thing for the Steam controller to work with unless the haptic pads were really good, but he had some (mostly) good things to say. Linkage

  14. Paul Spooner says:

    On the Scout’s origin… aren’t Boston and New York basically the same place anyhow? It’s like Hollywood and Los Angeles right? [/jk] but they do have a pretty similar accent, to my ears anyhow.

    “I can’t imagine not using windows…”
    Stockholm syndrome perhaps? I jest, a bit. I’ve tried moving to Linux several times in the past, and I always came back to Windows… but it was almost always because of games. If I didn’t have gaming dragging me back to Windows… maybe I would find ways around Windows dependency. I’ve got a few friends who have done so, and it’s been painful, but possible. If games weren’t an issue, I probably would as well…
    Except that I can use my work laptop at home, so I’m stuck with Windows too.

    1. Humanoid says:

      On every PC I’ve owned for about a dozen years – back to when I was at uni – I’ve reserved a bit of space (not much, like 5-10%) on my system drive with the intention of installing Linux onto it.

      I’ve never installed Linux.

    2. WillRiker says:

      If I didn’t play PC games I probably would have switched to Linux 5 or 6 years ago. I use Linux for writing code, and for general use on computers that I don’t use primarily for games (my laptop, for instance).

      That said, though, I find that Windows 7 is actually a fairly sane and usable operating system for my day-to-day; that was NOT true of previous versions of Windows, even XP.

  15. StartRunning says:

    Yeah, I miss Fallout: New Vegas too. Like, a lot.

    1. There are mods out there that add new areas to play in on the Fallout Nexus. For example, Beyond Boulder Dome has gotten a lot of endorsements, and there’s a multi-part one on there called “It’s a Slave’s Life” where you play as a wasteland slave.

      I’ve never been brave enough to give this one a whirl, but the description for Project Brazil looks really tempting.

      1. Disc says:

        Boulder Dome was an interesting concept, but I felt it was a bit too detached from the rest of the world. The whole starting bit with ghoulified Chinese soldiers fighting a 200-year trench war against ghoulified US soldiers on American soil, only because the people in charge are idiots and everybody still respects the chain of command for whatever freaking reason felt a bit too.. wacky. Just to begin with.

        1. So I shouldn’t mention the fact that you can install mods that change everyone into humanoid My Little Pony characters, eh?

          1. Disc says:

            Don’t see how that should follow from what I said. Consistency is just something I care about and I like my mods to not go too far from what’s already there in the main game. If that’s what you enjoy, then freaking knock yourself out.

            1. I must speak to my gag writers. They’re not pushing the envelope far enough.

              1. Corran says:

                FFN proves weekly that they are. :D

                1. Thanks!

                  I’m not sure if I can work MLP into it somewhere, but I’ll have the folks in the bullpen see what they can come up with. :)

  16. Bryan says:

    Shamus, if you’re using code from your previous projects (either Pixel City or Frontier), feel free to pull any of the changes I made in the forks I’ve made, if they’re actually useful. The Makefile, in particular, is pretty simple for those. No full development environment (…and note, using one of them means it won’t build on other people’s systems either; basically the only thing that everyone has is a shell and make :-) ), but it still works, for me at least.

    The interesting bits would be the ini file support (since I’ve seen you’re using those for Good Robot), which will need a few changes to work with brackets, but should be possible.

    Sources are here:


    And yes, distributing binaries makes more sense for most people that buy it. But would the source be an option, for those of us that know that will work better on our setups, because we *know* we aren’t using a common distro, or in fact anything you’ll ever want to run to try to make it work? :-)

  17. Disc says:

    I’m still going to say it: If you’re willing to put up with the Infinity Engine and a main character with established history, I’d heartily recommend Planescape: Torment. While you can’t necessarily play with a specific character concept in mind, you’ve got a LOT of room to roleplay in the set boundaries. As a plus the setting is amazingly fleshed out and the game really dives deep into the prevalent themes.

    1. Muspel says:

      Planescape: Torment is… well…

      It’s a great story. One of the best, really. The choices that you make are interesting, nuanced, and well-written.

      But the actual gameplay has not aged well. I’m hesitant to wholeheartedly endorse it for that reason, because there’s so much of it that’s frustrating or outdated.

      If you look at it as a kind of visual novel, then it’s fantastic. But as a game, it can fall flat.

      1. Disc says:

        Yeah, that was somewhat part of “putting up with Infinity Engine”. It’s not the best, but if you’ve played any IE game you should be ok. Other than that, it’s also D&D 2.0

        1. Heaven Smile says:

          Still is a good idea to remember the flaws of Planescape Torment now, and see it been talked about in the Diecast. This way, when Tides of Numenera or Project Eternity (games inspired by PT) come out on sale, we can more or less contrast and compare what the teams learned to take and add to the PT experience.

          Speaking of PT, is there a game capable of reaching the sheer level of….well, torment? besides “I Have No Mouth And I Must Scream” which has been released on GOG.com recently? Oh, but its not an RPG, its a Point And Click Adventure game.

          Still, it would be nice to see the adaptation from short story to game by Harlan Ellison® (yes, he’s made his own name a registered trademark).

          Sidenote: That guy really went out of his way to call himself a writer and not a “SCI-FI” writer. It seems that the stigma of “sci fi is not proper literature” really pissed him off. I wonder what would happen if he knew of Mass Effect 3 ending?

          1. Disc says:

            “Speaking of PT, is there a game capable of reaching the sheer level of….well, torment?”

            Well, if there was, I haven’t played it yet. Though you could probably take anything where Chris Avellone was part of the writing team and always find some hints of it. Kotor 2 is probably one of the closer examples, from what I remember of it.

            From recent memory, the character backstory for Ulysses in the New Vegas DLCs sure had some elements of torment to it, but only really if you were willing to go the extra mile to try to understand his motivations and ideas. It’s easy to miss too if you didn’t find all the holotapes or pay attention to the little details in them. Otherwise he most likely just comes off as nothing more than a raving madman.

            As for the DLCs themselves, you could say they’ve all got hints of it as well, more so than the main game itself, but it’s more of a side dish that happens to come along and not the main course.

            1. Disc says:

              Post-Edit: *and not part of the main course.

      2. Heaven Smile says:

        It makes your choices and your interaction matter more than ANY other game. That is the KEY for Interactive Medium as an Art form.

  18. DerekTheViking says:

    I tried a permadeath run of Far Cry 2 a little while ago. It’s got some nice systems to support it – the buddy system being the most critical for saving you from sudden, unexpected death. Unfortunately, I died just past the half-way point, with no buddies, I was taken down by a jeep.

    It felt incredibly cheap, and I couldn’t bear to restart – but those two facts are unrelated. The respawning enemies I could take, the mechanics I could take; everything in service of the immersion. It’s a gorgeous, uninterrupted world with a long enough day cycle that you feel like you can play one “waking” session at a time and be satisfied at the end of it.

    And then someone speaks, and takes you right out of it. The ridiculously hurried, stilted delivery destroys everything that the world works so hard to maintain. If there was any modding support, this would be sorted in moments, but as it is, I can’t play any more.

  19. DerekTheViking says:

    I tried a permadeath run of Far Cry 2 a little while ago. It’s got some nice systems to support it – the buddy system being the most critical for saving you from sudden, unexpected death. Unfortunately, I died just past the half-way point. With no buddies, I was taken down by a jeep.

    It felt incredibly cheap, and I couldn’t bear to restart – but those two facts are unrelated. The respawning enemies I could take, the mechanics I could take; everything in service of the immersion. It’s a gorgeous, uninterrupted world with a long enough day cycle that you feel like you can play one “waking” session at a time and be satisfied at the end of it.

    And then someone speaks, and takes you right out of it. The ridiculously hurried, stilted delivery destroys everything that the world works so hard to maintain. If there was any modding support, this would be sorted in moments, but as it is, I can’t play any more.

    1. DerekTheViking says:

      Huh. Warned me that it was a double-post, and then went ahead and posted it anyway.

      1. Zukhramm says:

        Well, quantity over quality, right?

    2. Marcel P says:

      I’m circa 15 hours into FC2, playing on normal difficulty and I never came close to dying, having gotten help from my buddies like 3 times. And I never thought about playing it the perma death way.

      So it’s strange to think that there is a game that is rather forgiving and not that difficult. But when you roleplay it, it starts to get more difficult because of the psychological threat.

  20. Woogles says:

    I didn’t find anything that I latched onto in New Vegas. :( Maybe that’s why I found the game so dull and uninteresting.

    EDIT: You know, I like the idea of having several different game outcomes that have their own merits and flaws in their own ways. I loved the original Deus Ex ending for that reason — three wildly different choices, with each choice reflecting you or the particular JC Denton you’re playing. I really latched onto the Merge With Helios choice, and I cherished that ending.

    New Vegas felt more like the ending(s) to Deus Ex: Invisible War — do you side with these assholes, those assholes, or that asshole? It just really, really failed to grab me.

    1. Isn’t “that asshole” you?

      1. Woogles says:

        Hah! I was referring to Mr. House, but I am an asshole, so that interpretation works too.

        1. Ahh, I actually forgot about House, since I usually kill him… now.

          That’s something about the House ending I didn’t like. If you got through all of the speech options with him, he tells you his plans for Vegas and the future. He basically says he’ll let anyone do whatever they want in Vegas so long as he runs it and nobody gets in the way of his goals. His goals include getting civilization rebuilt and humans colonizing space inside of 50-100 years.

          When I heard that, I was like, “Whoa, this guy has something in mind other than ‘I want to be king,’ and it’s what just about everyone with half a brain seems to want to do which is rebuild the old world so humanity can advance, cool beans!” So for my first playthrough, I sided with House.

          In the ending sequence, Vegas was peaceful but “cold” under the iron grip of House’s securitrons. No mention of space. No mention of any of House’s activities. Nothing.

          I was greatly disappointed, so for that fact, I have killed him in spite every other playthrough.

          1. StashAugustine says:

            To be fair, giving more information on the far future would take away a huge amount of the decisions between the factions. A lot of the uncertainty on which faction to support is based on their long-term prospects (is the NCR overextended? Will the Legion collapse when Caesar dies? Is House going to make good on his promises?), so telling exactly what happens beyond the immediate aftereffects would take a lot away from the decision.

            1. I’m of two minds on that one. Yeah, they can’t tell you everything, but F1 and F2 had no problem with having the fates of towns discussed as well as the futures of main characters through to their old age.

              I’d have been happy with a mention of something like, “House sent Securitrons to the Repconn facility…” and then he gets a space program started if you didn’t help the ghouls, and his plans are set back if you did as the rockets are gone.

              They didn’t have to tell me the future of humanity, but having it be nothing that what I already knew (House takes charge of Vegas) seemed awfully cheap to me.

  21. Gilfareth says:

    To Rutskarn’s mention of MUD games:

    I used to play games from the Iron Realms guys, specifically Aetolia and Lusternia. The former has built up a crapton of worldbuilding and such thanks to players being able to write books and the player-oriented guild and city government. I don’t play them anymore because at the time I wasn’t big on roleplaying and it was what most people seemed to be there for at the time. Leveling my character became a bit too slow, but you might enjoy either one of them if you try ’em.

    Just thought I’d offer a suggestion!

  22. wulfgar says:

    Finally, something interesting about Witcher from Diecast is coming… and someone changed subject :(

  23. BenD says:

    Ruts and Mumbles: I could suggest any number of MU*s for RPing, but it’s hard to find some that have enough activity to meet your requirements that ALSO don’t require learning lore. I have more or less given up playing them myself on account of it being hard to find time to get people together for the multi-hour scenes multiple times a week – I mean, that’s what we all want to do, but we’re all working adults, so no one has time. And we don’t want to settle for less. So we don’t do it at all. If that makes sense. ;)

    I was going to try to segue all of that into this, and failed, so… any chance of anyone else getting in on this Fallout FATE game if you do it?!


    1. Rutskarn says:

      Sorry–at this point, the answer to that latter question is a no.

  24. Sidd says:

    It may not be exactly what you’re looking for Rutskarn but I can’t pass an opportunity to suggest Discworld mud. discworld.starturtle.net/ Has opportunities for roleplay as well as the humour from the discworld novels.

  25. Heaven Smile says:

    So basically, Mumbles just wants a well written setting to get immersed.

    3 suggestions:
    System Shock gameplay + graphics from “Another World” + branching storyline that keep tracks of your actions (meaning that you dont get a dialog option that affects the outcome, but instead its just actions during gameplay that get noticed). Also, its a Freeware, so you could compare notes with Shamus’s “Good Robot” to see the kind of complexity people put into their games without budget.

    2)Dragon Age Origins (i dont remember if she played it). Decent story and branching storyline. It would be nice if she played it just to be properly pissed when Dragon Age Inquisition does the ME3 thing of choices not mattering, and she can comment on it later on a Diecast.

    3)Planescape Torment. Because even a game that is heralded as the PROOF of Games As Art, she may as well play and complain about its more obtuce design choices. As in, how in the fuck is normal person supposed to know that a negative number is a good thing, if they do not know anything about Advanced Dungeon & Dragons?

    As for Shamus, you can always check Descent’s competition for more choices in music. Example: Radix Beyond The Void.

    You know, if you want to be real fancy with your music, why not imitate “Rez” (not Fez) style of music?

    For those who don’t know, the game is notable for replacing the typical sound effects found in most rail shooter games with electronic music, with sounds and melodies created by the player as they target and destroy foes in the game, leading to a form of synesthesia, enhanced by an optional Trance Vibrator peripheral.

    The part where “the player creates the sounds” is what is important, since the sounds mix perfectly with the music you are listening. In fact, watch the video up there, and then try to listen to the music WITHOUT the enhancements the player interaction gives to the experience:

  26. Unbeliever says:

    Just a friendly heads-up — if anyone is interested in the Descent games from Shamus’ raves, GOG (Good Old Games) has them on sale for half off this weekend (along with every other Interplay title).

    I just bought my copies (Descent 1+2 for $5, and Decent 3+expansion for $5).

    Now to see if Shamus has been lying to me… ;)

  27. Jokerman says:

    I totally finished Far Cry 3, about 6 months ago… after buying it at launch.

  28. Heaven Smile says:

    Is Farcry 2 Permadeath anything special? I mean, isn’t that style of play something that one can do in ANY game ever? What game DOESN’T get enhanced by Permadeath at this point (except I Wanna Be The Guy)?

    You should talk about games that take the Permadeath to the next lvl, by applying this little gem i want to work with in the future:

    Can you imagine a game that embraces that idea in the narrative itself, instead of being just something external to it? Permadeath is no different than a “Bad Movie Night” or “Drinking Game” otherwise.

    1. Jokerman says:

      Like Rutscarn said in the podcast, games that expect you to learn after death are not really fun to do perma death with, they end up just being frustrating. Even more so on a first playthrough.

  29. DIN aDN says:

    Is Mumbles still looking for an RPG? Can I give another unsolicited suggestion?

    Geneforge and/or Avernum are pretty rad IMHO. The design philosophy behind their settings seems to be basically ‘take an interesting setting, divide it up politically and then fill the whole thing with NPCs’. I don’t know if it’s the sort of detail you’re looking for, but they’re pretty cheap and IIRC you can also get demo versions on their respective store pages.

    1. sheer_falacy says:

      I definitely agree that Avernum and Geneforge (and now Avadon) are interesting games, though I’m not sure they’d scratch Mumbles’ RPG itch. And yeah, Spiderweb Software has always had large demos for its games.

  30. Ebalosus says:

    With regards to Fallout New Vegas, you guys sound like you’re talking about the same stuff that MrBtongue was talking about in The Shandification of Fallout with regards with the setting being well thought out, and being part of the story

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