Diecast #34: The Stanley Parable, Elder Scrolls

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Oct 29, 2013

Filed under: Diecast 77 comments

While we didn’t record it with Halloween in mind, I guess this is our Halloween episode. This year we decided to dress up as guys with audio that cuts out worse than usual for no reason. What’s your costume this year?

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Hosts: Rutskarn, Josh, Chris, and Shamus.

Show notes:

1:00 The public health hazards of fun-size candy bars.


While the stuff we discuss are spoilers in the technical sense, I don’t know if we’re actually likely to ruin any surprises. I’m not even sure the conversation will make sense. We might say nonsense things like, “Did you get the toaster ending? When the siren went off I didn’t know where to go, but then that door opened up and the narrator did the thing with the wastebasket.” It’s gibberish to someone who hasn’t played.

The point being, this section is either:

1) Terrible, terrible spoilers.
2) Annoying impenetrable nonsense.

14:00 Batman: Arkham Origins

We also briefly digress into talking about the new Saint’s Row DLC.

27:00 Okay, I lied. We didn’t actually spoil the Stanley Parable in that earlier segment.

This segment is also free of Stanley Parable spoilers.

39:00 We will not be discussing the Stanley Parable in this segment.

Actually, I lied again. The previous segment is packed with Stanley Parable spoilers. It’s brimming with them. In fact, I don’t think you could get a greater density of spoilers than what we had in the last segment. This segment is safe, though.

Instead we talk about Gas Guzzlers Extreme.

44:00 Rutskarn’s Great Voyage Through all the Elder Scrolls Titles

He’s taking playing through all the games, in order, with the same character. (Inasmuch as that’s even possible to have the “same” character in such a mechanically diverse series.)

1:11:11 MAILBAG!

We talk about BioWare and LGBT characters.


From The Archives:

77 thoughts on “Diecast #34: The Stanley Parable, Elder Scrolls

  1. drkeiscool says:

    Completely unrelated to anything, but have any of the Spoiler Warning crew played any of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. games? I always thought it would be interesting to compare Call of Pripyat to Far Cry 2, for example.

      1. drkeiscool says:

        I should have added “recently” to the post. And maybe “with, say, the Stalker Complete Mod” too.

        (Hope that’s not too many qualifiers.)

  2. tengokujin says:

    Dammit, Shamus, I was banking on the lack of lack of Stanley Parable spoilers! Now what will I do about not being not not spoiled?

    (I suspect I will do nothing. :p)

  3. ulrichomega says:

    Man, I really need my Mumbles fix. It’s been since the end of Tomb Raider since she’s been on anything, hasn’t it?

    1. Mumbles says:

      next week i totes won’t sleep through recording

      1. Phantos says:

        Justice never sleeps.

        1. Dr Jekyll says:

          It just needs its morning coffee.

      2. ulrichomega says:

        It’s okay, I’ll just go back and watch Josh torture you all in FO:NV.

        1. Ben Hilton says:

          Oh man I’m addicted to New Vegas now…I just got it with all the dlc for 5 bucks. Damn you Steam and your’e unbeatable sales!

  4. krellen says:

    Stanley Parable spoiler:

    The Go Outside achievement does, in fact, only look at your computer’s system clock.

    Also, the 8888 achievement comes from putting “8” into the boss’s keypad eight times.

  5. Jokerman says:

    I don’t like people knocking on my door…

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      People usually leave you alone if you leave all the lights off. Time to play Stanley Parable in the dark!

  6. Kamica says:

    My costume for halloween will be my LARP character with the same name as the name currently displayed above this message =D.

  7. Paul Spooner says:

    In that vein, I’m dressing up as your crazy neighbor. The one with two axes and .

    At work, we have a stocked kitchen area on every floor, which ends up being nuts, fresh and dried fruit, and a whole drawer full of “fun sized” candy bars. I have discovered that I can eat candy pretty much all day long with nearly zero negative repercussions… Life is so good!

    I keep looking for an opportunity to use a parabalotic table of the stanleyments pun… it hasn’t happened yet.

    I still think that The Stanley Parable isn’t a game. It’s an editorial. Saying “we’ve all found a game we like” isn’t really fair to the other games you guys discuss. It’s like saying you all agree with a particular article. Which is all to say, it’s easier to make a statement than a set of working systems. I feel like, though I do agree with the Stanley Parable’s main thrust of harangue, it isn’t a very useful example as far as gameplay goes.

    Come on guys! It’s staring you right in the face! Lego Citizen Kane!

    I liked a lot of the rest of the discussion… but I don’t have much to say.

    Oh man, writing FFTS has been challenging in this respect, because the main character is female, and I’m not. I’ve really been trying to take the middle road between “this character is only about femininity” and “this character is effectively neuter.” It seems like the best I’ve been able to do at this point is to have every character be a human being with a history, and gender is one of the elements of that history. We’ll see how it goes I guess.
    But I haven’t addressed homosexuality at all, mostly because it wasn’t really in the original text, and investigating the topic doesn’t really interest me as an author.

    1. Lisa says:

      That’s a pretty good way to write women, actually. People trying to write particular types of women (‘strong women’ for example) often focus so much on that, that the character ends up being as two dimensional as the usual male action hero.
      On the other hand, making them human, with all the faults, foibles and other f words that entails is more likely to give a much better (and more interesting) character!

  8. CLoki says:

    To be charitable to Bioware (or Horribly Optimistic) their choice to make all characters romance options in DA2 no matter the gender of the player means that any player can sit down and romance the person that most appeals to them. As you said, putting a gay (or any option) as a real jerk means that if you want that option you would have to put up with them. If any character is open then you can find one that you are drawn to. It also gives the impression that their sexual orientation is not the basis of their personality. While the fact that their partner’s gender does not matter might degrade the romance path (further then Bioware already does,) it does give them room to grow as a individual rather then “Oh, here is the gay, here is the lesbian, here is the straight man, here is the straight girl”.
    Orientation should not be the Highlight of a character, so as I’ve heard of writing advice, “Write a character, then add Gender and Sexual Preferences.”

    *Footnote: I have played almost no Bioware games. The most I have played any was Mass Effect, and there I failed on the first door hacking and had to burn most of my inventory to get the gel needed to open it. Can’t remember if I got past the first Citadel section.

    1. False Prophet says:

      I read an interview with David Gaider (lead writer for the Dragon Age games) where he acknowledged making characters with fluid sexuality for Dragon Age 2 was not ideal, and as a writer it wasn’t his preference. But he said (as Shamus noted) the budget is a factor and their options would be to have bisexual/fluid sexuality romance options, or heterosexual options only, because the market demographics apparently don’t support homosexual-only options. At least as far as the bean counters are concerned. So the dev team prefers to be inclusive.

      I think, though, it would help if they wrote more LGBT NPCs into the setting, outside of romance options. Most NPC companions who aren’t romance options seem to default to heterosexual, or are asexual. Having a gay/lesbian party member you couldn’t romance would be a step forward, as would having more as background NPCs who weren’t sex workers.

      Also–and BioWare is far from the only offender in this regard, as it’s common throughout all popular fiction–but how often do you see a happy, stable, monogamous couple in a game, whether straight or same-sex? And not just as a “happily ever after” epilogue. No, couples in fiction exist either to be broken up, or to victimize one partner so as to motivate the other.

      1. aldowyn says:

        Just a quick nitpick:

        Not all squad members in DA2 are romancable. It’s just that the ones that ARE are available to male and female characters (except Sebastian, from the exiled prince DLC). You can’t romance Varic or Aveline.

        1. Klay F. says:

          As much shit as so many people give DA2, I liked the fact that even though you couldn’t romance Varic or Aveline, the game still let you try. I wish more games had that. I still don’t know why they couldn’t have done the same to the rest of the characters. It’d only take a few lines of dialog. Something to the effect of, “Sorry Hawke, I don’t swing that way.”

        2. Guildenstern says:

          See, this is what I found so bizarre about DA2: it allowed you to attempt to pursue Aveline who gives you the “thanks but no thanks” line, which was great. It showed restraint on the part of the writers and made it feel like you can’t bone everything in sight.

          And then apart from that you can bone everything in sight.

          It’s just a very strange contradiction that they’d allow certain characters to brush you off and then write everyone else as pansexual imps. Any kind of pro-gay, non-pro-gay sentiment aside, the game just made me feel weird. Everyone in the party ended up feeling less like characters and more like dolls, playthings for the person behind the controller to manipulate into doing their bidding. Combine that with the continuing trend of fanservice-y schlock that they displayed in something like Citadel and BioWare games just make me feel gross now. Well-defined characters should do what *they* want, not what *you* want.

          Plus, as others have said, they’re just laughably bad at writing romance arcs.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        I think the “fluid sexuality” option is, for me, the proverbial lesser evil. It is unrealistic for character creation, it is unrealistic in making the world very playercentric, it may take off or soften one edge of a character… but at the same time it lets me pursue the romance with the character that I actually like, making this aspect of a game more interesting and more fun, and it is more realistic to implement than expecting for a mainstream dev to cater specifically to me when I’m in the clear minority. We could discuss whether Bioware’s way of handling romance in general is correct but that is a somewhat different, if somewhat related, topic.

        The problem with putting more LGBT characters in games, even in the background, is… complex. Primarily because whether or not you decide it’s an issue in the gameworld it is an issue in the playerworld. Doing your cookie cutter quest “parents ask you to save their child from a mob area” but have the parents be the same gender you will immediately turn it into “an LGBT thing”, doing the whole “ambiguously gay/hide your lesbians” thing is… well… personally I’d kinda hope we moved somewhat beyond the necessity for the whole “wink wink nudge nudge we know you’re out there but let’s not tell the others” routine. The problem is that since this is still an issue for a lot of people you can’t really touch on it without getting caught in the crosffire and I don’t feel like game devs have some kind of obligation to champion this cause, I will applaud and enjoy the title more if it has elements catering to me, and I will definitely boo and rant about it if I feel I’m being treated bad or severely misrepresented but we are talking about entertainment industry aiming for mass appeal.

        I still think we’re seeing a lot of improvement in that several companies introduce some centre stage gay elements and stand by it treating the backlash as a voice of a loud but still a minority. The fact that the discussion shifts from “should we include” to “how can we cheaply include” or “how much can we spend on including” (again, we’re talking about content that will mainly have an appeal to a minority on the market) is a great step forward and, in my mind, can potentially open the way for a lot of things. But I think as long as we can’t turn sexual orientation into a non-issue it will keep largely overriding other features in the mind of many (either in a positive or a negative light).

        1. Klay F. says:

          I see what your saying, but as Rutz said, I think writers need to be faithful to their universe first and foremost when breeching an issue like this. They need to decide if being gay carries the same implications in-universe as in the real world. If nobody in-game cares about whether other people are gay or not (like Dragon Age), then there is absolutely no reason it should come to the forefront of a character. But, if a game universe more or less resembles reality, then sure, have at it, I’d be interested in seeing what the writer has to say.

          I dunno, maybe its a naive expectation.

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            The problem is people are going to pull it to the forefront. Anders has a lot of stuff going on but the fact that he hits on male Hawke caused probably almost as much discussion, to use a polite understatement, as the other thing, which is to say a lot. Some of it is probably due to the less than perfect way that the companion influence mechanics handle it but I could still argue in favour of that. In ME3 Cortez having a husband or wife does not influence his arc of mourning after a loved one in the slightest. In fact him having a same sex partner is most likely meant both as a nod and a clear signal to players who would want to pursue a gay romance that this guy is available, especially since he’s so out of the way some people didn’t even realise he has an arc on their first playthrough. Cortez is extremely on the sidelines and not “in your face” character but some people still pulled the fact that “OMG there be gays!” to the fore, and I don’t just mean in the negative way. I know for a fact some people felt a lot more empathetic towards Cortez because of the gay thing.

            If it is a character available for same sex romance this will have to come up at some point if you’re friendly with them simply because the game can’t use your webcam or internet search history to figure out if you’re being pals or if you want the character to pursue something more, at some point some hint of “are you interested in romancing this same sex character” must appear in dialogue and this will rile up some people and in the current socio-political climate will turn it into an issue. If it is a character who is not romanceable… again, Cortez’s arc could be easily handled differently, without him being a romance option, he does not discuss his homosexuality at length, he doesn’t have a story (that I know of) of how hard it was to be gay, he does not wave a rainbow flag. His arc would be perfectly functional if he had a wife but the very fact that he uses the word husband makes the “gay” thing override the “mourning and coping with loss” thing for a big chunk of the audience, both in the negative and positive light.

  9. krellen says:

    I feel like I should have crashed the podcast this week. I have some stuff to say about Bioware and gay characters, and that is: Bioware did it right, once, but then they seem to have forgotten how to do it.

    As someone that spent decades of his life in orientation confusion and who was part of the LGBT community for a year while in Ohio, I think one of the better homosexual characters I’ve seen in gaming was in KotOR, in the character of Juhani. Juhani is a lesbian, but being a lesbian doesn’t define her; in fact, regardless of whether Revan is male or female, Revan is still the most important person in Juhani’s life. She worships Revan, sees Revan as the prime example of what people – and especially Jedi – should be, and wants nothing more than to impress and emulate Revan. But only if Revan is female does she want that relationship to be sexual as well, and it only barely comes up, right when everyone is about to march off to probable doom.

    Of course, the romances in KotOR are quite a bit more subtle and understated than they are in later Bioware titles as well. It’s as if someone at Bioware decided that they were famous for their romances, and decided to make those a centre point of their titles from that point forward. “It’s a Bioware game – of course we have romances!”, regardless of whether they made sense in the story or not.

    (The romances in KotOR do make sense in the story, because the story of Revan is the story of questioning the ideals of the Jedi – which includes their ideal of “no attachments”, so exploring the realm of attachment is fully in-scope. Not so much for many other titles, which centre far more around “saving the country/world/galaxy/universe” instead.)

    1. aldowyn says:

      IIRC they shoehorned Juhani’s orientation in and I don’t think it’s ever explicitly stated because LucasArts didn’t like it?

      I think most people liked Cortez in ME3, also?

    2. Dave B. says:

      An odd example of a homosexual relationship in a game is Star Trek Voyager: Elite Force. During the game, hints of a relationship between Munro (the player character) and Telsia Murphy. It’s subtly done, with only the slimmest hints of romance developing through a few lines of dialog, which the player can easily read as much or little into as they want.

      I call it odd, because it almost seems like it happened without the writer’s intent. The player character’s gender can be chosen at the beginning of the game, but the story and dialog is almost entirely unchanged. (They even call Munro “Alex” for either Alexander or Alexandria in the voiced lines.) The writer might have simply written all the dialog for the (canonically) male protagonist, and left it like that. I’m not sure what to make of that.

      Anyway, I thought it was interesting.

    3. Tizzy says:

      One thing that Rutskarn said reminded me of why the treatment of homosexuality in Bioware and other games. It’s the issue of the perception of homosexuality.

      A gay or bi character hits on you, say, in Dragon Age. How is your character supposed to take it? This answer doesn’t depend on just the two people involved, but also on society at large. Is homosexuality transgressive? Is it common? Is it even legal? Does it depend on the gender of the participants?

      These are tough questions, whose answer have already been extremely varied across time and cultures. And it’s tough for the writers to answer, I guess (especially since any answer you choose is bound to upset someone, somewhere). But to ignore it altogether?

      I guess settings like Mass Effect may get a pass under the Jack Harkness clause (any society where humans routinely get freaky with aliens is way past any hangups about homosexuality), but any other fantasy setting is trickier (and that includes Star Wars, since there is no evidence of inter-species hanky-panky in the canon; or anything non-reproductive for that matter…)

    4. Volfram says:

      I’m going to posit that part of the reason sexuality(that’s any kind of sexuality. The first time I played Mass Effect, Ashley gave me the CREEPS because she came off as less “Rescue Romance,” and more “Overly Attached Girlfriend who I have never seen before in my life.”) is not portrayed well in video games is the same reason why sexuality is portrayed poorly in books, movies(most romance movies show a really good way to get yourself a restraining order and several felony charges), TV shows, and politics: The way people think they understand sexuality is NOT how it works!(FYI, this applies to every side of the political and religious spectrum that I’ve heard state a position.)

      Sexuality is like color preference.

      Video game, TV series, movie, and book writers, and most politicians and voters, think that you have a set of options: Red, Blue, and Purple. I don’t think I need to point out what is wrong with this, or just how wrong it is.

      People like numerous different colors, for numerous different reasons, and their preference is not set throughout their lifetime. Some people are like me: I like the color red, in all its wonderous forms and tints. I always have, and I always will, because red just looks best to me. Some people are like my brother, who loves the color yellow for no comprehensible reason, and for a while was a huge fan of puke green for no other reason than because it was offensive. Some people are like my sister, whose favorite color for ages was pink. Then one day, she said “Wait a minute. I HATE pink! You know what I really love? Lime green!” and then she had her room decorated in all green and black. It’s actually rather shocking the first few times you see it.

      There’s no such thing as sexual orientation. People have qualities they like in those whom they associate with, some of which they find sexually arousing. Sometimes, those qualities change, and very often, they have absolutely nothing to do with the shape of each respective person’s bathing suit area.

      1. Phantos says:

        I take issue with your comment that “there is no such thing as sexual orientation”. Speak for yourself, buddy. You’re comparing something that people spend their entire lives trying to understand and embrace about themselves with the colour of your sister’s bedroom.

        You might be out of your element, here.

        1. Volfram says:

          Like colors, sexual preference isn’t divided into a series of slots or even a band-spectrum.

          Like colors, sexual preference may vary across one’s lifetime.

          The problem with the discussion, and the reason it’s such a hot-button issue, is that so many people are locked into the idea that there IS something like a “sexual orientation.” This is not something I just woke up one day and said “I’m going to offend a bunch of people by comparing sexual preference to paint.” I have actually been studying human sexuality, both inside and outside religious context, for several years, and pitched this idea to several people, including two lesbians, one of whom WAS struggling with her sexuality and acceptance until I explained my theories to her, and the general consensus is “Well hey, that makes entirely too much sense.”

          There is no such thing as “sexual orientation.” Some men are attracted to women with large breasts. Some men are attracted to women with small breasts. Some men are attracted to women who have red, blonde, brown, or black hair. Some men are attracted to women with NO hair. Some men are attracted to women because of the color of their skin. Some men are attracted to women who are(and BECAUSE they are) already married to other men, or because they’re very young. There’s an entire branch of the pornography industry dedicated to the fact that some men are attracted to women because those women are attracted to other women. Some men are attracted to women who have fewer, more, or different limbs from the usual. Some men are attracted to women with fur all over their bodies, whose vocalizations are limited to variants of “woof.” And some men are attracted to other men.

          1. Phantos says:

            I think you’re confusing “sexual orientation” with “fetish”.

  10. NR says:

    Did you guys forget that Arkham Origins is a quasi origin story for Batman? Of course he’s not professional.
    I’m personally enjoying the narrative and game play (story/writing is better than city (and even better than asylum (but I’m a sucker for Batman origin stories). Game play stays the course, but that’s a good thing).

    1. Phantos says:

      “Hmm. This game shows Batman being more reckless, and he’s noticeably younger, and apparently he and the Joker are just now meeting for the first time, and it references that movie about Batman just starting out, making mistakes and feeling around for his limits.

      It’s almost as if this is a prequel, or an origin story. If only there were a giveaway, like in the title or something.”

      1. NR says:

        It’s just so cryptic. Rocksteady should have titled the game
        Bruce Wayne: Arkham Year One Begins.

    2. krellen says:

      The point they were making wasn’t that there was no good reason for Batman to be like that, but that “wild inexperienced Batman” wasn’t the Batman they – or, they surmised, many other people – were actually hoping for, because it’s serious, professional Batman that people love.

      It doesn’t matter if unprofessional Batman is justified – that wasn’t the point they were making.

      1. NR says:

        I see. It’s kind of a pedantic point though. Rocksteady already delivered two solid games detailing this professional Batman everyone loves. For all the things WB copied from the previous games, I’m really glad they didn’t give us the (now) tired pro. [This is something the Nolan films got wrong in reverse. We got to see realized Batman maybe 2 or 3 times in the whole trilogy, while the “inexperienced”/retired vigilante was the primary focus (which was great for the first parts of BMan Begins)]
        It’s nice seeing/experiencing Batman take down the mob for a change.

  11. Tse says:

    Or you can choose the Dragon’s Dogma way of romancing…
    You can even be a pedophile in that game, but I can’t find it on youtube for some reason…

  12. The Rocketeer says:

    How do you deal with your skills lapsing between Elder Scrolls titles? Easy.

    You begin each game in prison, right? Well, your skills lower in prison.


    I think the biggest problem with a legacy character is just lunatic coincidence… words I choose a bit deliberately. Someone ends the Imperial Simulacrum, then gets sent to recover the Mantella? Fine. Then turns out to be the Nerevarine, or at least well-suited to become one? Really? And then that same person turns out to be our Lord and Savior, the Dragonborn? Really?

    I have a pet theory that it’s only possible for one entity to be all the different protagonists if that entity is actually Lorkhan, which actually makes a lot more sense than it should… but there are only two kinds of people: ones that can figure out where I’m coming from with that statement, and ones who don’t have nearly the kind of time to even begin explaining why.

    If that were so, though, I really, really wouldn’t bet on that person ever, EVER being an elf.

    1. Rutskarn says:

      The word “coincidence” doesn’t really apply when you’re talking about prophecy. By definition, these are events that are preordained by fate–and, as the Underking said, “Without the hero, there is no event.”

      Given a setting where destiny features into things, it’s as intrinsically plausible that there is one hero chosen for three prophecies as it is for three different heroes to be chosen.

      Want a more satisfactory answer? How about this: during the end of Daggerfall, I became a key part of the Dragon Break. Spreading myself across all the available realities tied me inextricably into the fabric of fate.

      1. The Rocketeer says:

        Don’t take it as a complaint; I play a legacy character, too! One who is definitely getting too old for this shit, all things considered. :p You’d just think that, eventually, someone like Barenziah would say, “Hey! Long time no see!”

        I do like the idea that after the Warp in the West, every one of the infinite incarnations of Rutskarn’s character ends up in jail by 3E427, each through a unique and embarrassing misdemeanor all their own.


        I still like my idea of Lorkhan being the recurring hero, though; all the main series games so far seem relevant to the aedra’s agenda: rescuing the human emperor from his usurpation by the mongrel elf; settling the fate of the Mantella (which may or may not be powered by Shor’s soul?), which may or may not make any sense if the Underking actually was Ysmir Wulfharth, who was himself almost certainly a Shezarrine; his presence in Morrowind is almost a forgone conclusion, as most of all, I think the father of Men would find it very funny indeed to insinuate himself as the Nerevarine and use that position to both dispose of his divine heart, which ALMSIVI and House Dagoth had been using as a battery (and the ultimate fate of the heart and its power after its destruction within Akulakhan is likely only understood by the Divines and daedra) and to use that position to destabilize the Morrowind power structure, not only leading to its religious and political destabilization (especially gratifying after failing to conquer Resdayn in the Second Era as Ysmir), but eventually leading to Vvardenfell’s utter destruction and the conquest of the mainland by beast races (honorable mention to the Bloodmoon Prophecy, which, as it involves Secunda, must therefore involve Lorkhan in some way); then once again tending to a matter of Imperial succession and therefore of continued human supremacy of Tamriel… sort of a weak link on that one although the Amulet of Kings is said to contain the soul of Alessia, who was sainted by Shor at her death, and whose soul was placed in the Amulet by the same; but then that incarnation takes on the mantle of the Divine Crusader, following after Pelinal Whitestrake, who was definitely an avatar of Shezarr, and striking down the hated Umaril (though I’m apprehensive of the implications of Lorkhan, a demi-mortal aedra, possibly replacing/becoming Sheogorath/Jyggalag); and then becoming the Dovahkiin, both usurping Tiber Septim’s old power just as Septim had stolen his with Numidium, and gaining the power he had failed to obtain in his days as King Wulfharth (holy crap, Ysmir was sort of an unpleasant incarnation for Shor, wasn’t it?!), and putting himself in a position to determine the outcome of the civil war in Skyrim and therefore the ability of the nations of Men to strike back at encroaching Thalmor/Altmeri sovereignty.

        1. Cinebeast says:

          I just wanted to let you know I read that whole thing. And I’m glad I did.

          I’m pretty inexperienced in the lore of the Elder Scrolls series, but I know enough to appreciate the implications of your post. What a theory! Thanks for sharing.

      2. aldowyn says:

        Pretty weird prophecy to have someone show up randomly, become the most important person in the world there for a few years or so, and then disappear for decades before doing it again :P

        It’s not like those things where one person fills a bunch of prophecies all at the same time (The wheel of time comes to mind, I’m sure there are others)

      3. Prophecy is a really hard thing for me to enjoy in fiction anymore. It’s got several inherent problems:

        1. It can give away the ending (see “The Dark Crystal”) before your story even starts.

        2. We’ve all consumed enough media to look for the loopholes. A villain who gets the prophecy that he will wear the emperor’s crown and all eyes shall look up to his is probably going to have the crown put on his severed head right before it’s put over the castle gates on a pike.

        3. If the prophecy is preordained, it tends to remove the protagonist’s agency in the long term, putting your story fairly firmly on rails if the prophecy is true. In video games, it’s like stating what your victory conditions will be and any deviation will earn you a “game over.”

        M’self, I much prefer “prophecy” that offers a choice or a selection of choices. “If you go to X, your companions will die saving you from the monster. If you go to Y, your beloved will spurn you for another. And if you do anything else, your rival will rule in your place.” At least that offers some selection and wiggle-room.

        Anyhoo, I’ll close with a quote about this topic from Babylon-5:

        “Prophecy is a guess that comes true. When it doesn’t, it’s a metaphor.”
        – Vir Cotto, “The Long Night of Londo Molari”

  13. The concept of Lego being used for more kid-unfriendly properties reminded me of a scene from the Clerks Animated Series where Randal and Dante discuss a similar use of the Flintstones.

    “Amistad was much funnier.”

  14. MikhailBorg says:

    I’m dressing as Equestria Girls Twilight Sparkle because I’ve got the legs for it and because two of my lady friends want to be Sunset Shimmer and Pinkie Pie.

    I’m looking forward to the Mac version of Stanley Parable that’s supposed to be on the way. If Black Mesa Source gets ported, as I’ve heard rumored it might be, then the only reason to boot over into Win7 would be “Alice: Madness Returns”. And I’m told that’s not a big priority.

  15. Aldowyn says:

    Logging my official request to see Rutskarn write more about his adventures in elder scrolls on chocolate hammer.

    I actually spent several hours on youtube watching a series of videos (one video and a response to it) discussing whether elder scrolls as a series was being ‘dumbed down’. Since Morrowind, obviously, further proof that no one played arena or daggerfall. There were actually a lot of interesting points, surprisingly, on both sides of the argument (although the first one’s demonizing of the filthy casuals was offputting).

    Elder scrolls is actually one of the series I have the most fun discussing, along with Mass Effect (well, most of the time) and maybe Assassin’s Creed. So much flawed-but-interesting design to study and tear apart. (In total agreement with Josh that the leveling system in Oblivion is totally broken).

    Obligatory Bioware statement: ME2 didn’t have any same-sex romance options, unless you count Yeoman Chambers, and ME3 had two, not counting Liara, both of which were only same-sex and therefore not ‘herosexual’. So I’d say it’s better in that respect. DA2… eh. Isabela at least had precedent from DA:O and some kind of reason (although that was basically that she just liked sex, which… isn’t the best reason). SWTOR had to put them in post-launch, for… some … reason. Not a thing I personally am particularly concerned about, since in ME in particular I usually end up skipping the romances. (Shepard’s way too hung up on saving the world to save some time on personal relationships)

    So Bioware’s done it a lot of different ways. I guess we’ll see how Inquisition does it. (Well, lots of you probably won’t since you probably won’t play it).

    P.S. Just a note on the comment system. If you start a comment, decide against it and don’t hit cancel reply, when you get to the bottom there’s no comment box, or any way to comment at all. Just a bit annoying.

    1. Aldowyn says:


      (I.. re-found this post trying to find a quote of mine. No, really.)

  16. ilikemilkshake says:

    I wonder why Rutskarns character didn’t come out of retirement when the Empire was getting it’s ass kicked by the Dominion before the events of Skyrim take place.

  17. Mersadeon says:

    I’ve been playing kind of the same character since Morrowind, and I have to say – it’s not easy creating a personality that can go through all three games while getting a lot of fun out of it. A goody-two-shoes isn’t going to have any fun at all, since he doesn’t get any missions from deadric princes. A super-evil guy doesn’t get the fun from all the “please save my husband from certain death” missions. So, my character is a powerhungry force of nature. He will always choose cosmic power over everything. If his options are “save kitten from tree” or “save kitten, then kill it for fun”, he will save it and give it back. He won’t even ask for a reward. But if at any point a Daedra whispers to him “I’ll give you this sweet enchanted bow with a unique model if you kill the kitten and the kid”, then by Akatosh, he will do so. He will be nice to everyone until the very moment he can get power from doing something to them.

    EDIT: My justification for the same character was that he had been reincarnated. Which works fairly well in that universe.

  18. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I’m not entirely sure when, definitely not during the first playthrough, but sometime during Stanley Parable some switch in my head flipped and I looked at it from a perspective of a GM who is trying to tell a story despite a really trollish player, and I felt somewhat sorry for the narrator. Now obviously it doesn’t apply to every permutation of the game but some pathways do feel like you’re just doing it to spite the narrator.

    Also, the planetarium ending, or more specifically getting the game to end past the planetarium made me really sad.

  19. Daemian Lucifer says:

    I am so going to go to a store next time,buy a bunch of candy,and mask it with some dirty mags.That is probably the second worst combination of items for you to buy.The worst is a pregnancy test and a single wire coat hanger.I put a spoiler tag there for a reason.You have been warned.

  20. Daemian Lucifer says:

    On the subject of romance:Bioware should really drop it.They work friendship waaay better.For the most recent examples:Liara,tali and garrus friendship options and dialogues trump all the romances in the game(even the ones with these three).Shooting shit with garrus and emergency induction port have almost swayed me to buy that piece of shit,and the conversations with liara are well worth the price of the shadow broker DLC.

    1. Phantos says:

      You might be onto something here. I went through the entire ME series with only one -potential- love interest for my Shepard, and I don’t feel like anything was lost. The friendships were what got to me.

      Granted, BioWare probably have to put SOME romance options in there. People would get pretty upset if they couldn’t boink most of the crew of the Normandy.

      It only really gets annoying when they try to steer you in one direction, romance-wise. I resent how the first game just assumed everyone would fall in love with Liara, for example.

      “What’s that? My feelings for you aren’t reciprocated, despite the fact that we’ve only ever had one conversation, you never bring me out into missions and I sound like a bad Batman impersonation?”

      But being her -friend-? Sure. She’s earned that at least.

  21. Daemian Lucifer says:

    By the way,since the guys failed to mention it,I have to ask:

    Has anyone here played the stanley parable?I hear that it is a game.Is that true?

    1. Dave B. says:

      I can neither confirm nor deny that The Stanley Parable is, in fact, a game. I will continue to undertake vast quantities of no research at all, in the hopes of bringing you no further useful information.

      You’re welcome.

    2. Hitchmeister says:

      There is some debate as to whether or not The Stanley Parable is or is not, in fact, a game. But, surprisingly enough, even those in the “not a game” camp praise it as being a particularly enjoyable example of the not-game genre.

  22. kmjx says:

    Did you get the broom closet ending? it’s my favorite!

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I really liked it too! We should start a broom closet fan club. I’ve got this great idea for a secret base.

  23. Naota says:

    You guys too?

    This year I’m dressing up as a guy that just recorded an hour of old game footage for Full House and realized, at the very end, despite a nagging suspicion the entire time, that none of the video had actually saved.

    It’s a rather awkward costume.

  24. Disc says:

    Unrequited love (whether physical, emotional, or both) is something I’d love to see more in all these damn video game romances. When done well, I’ve found it makes for a much more interesting and memorable dynamic between the characters. Fall-From-Grace from Planescape: Torment is a prime example. For reasons that I feel are a bit too spoileriffic and complex to explain here in detail (but easy to understand and figure out when you play the game), the best you can get is a deeply platonic relationship, yet thanks to a very well written character, it’s been among the most memorable experiences in the game.

    It’s also a good example of a good sort of filler thing inside a story as opposed to being a full-blown, voice acted and animated sequence of events, which probably took all-in-all way too much money, time and effort to make than was really worth it in the long run. It’s coincidentally part of the reason why making romances just to please people makes me sick.

    1. Volfram says:

      Every single potential or actual romantic relationship I have ever been in has been one-sided. Either I thought the other person was great and they couldn’t stand me, or the other person wanted to jump my bones, and gave me the creeps.

      You are correct, in that there is a dearth of that sort of thing done right in fiction, and we could stand to see more of it.

  25. Alex says:

    “The sugar that makes the fascism go down.”

    I love it!

    I’m playing Skyrim as a humanitarian Nord. She doesn’t kill people, doesn’t steal from anyone except bandits and goes on camping trips with Lydia to hunt deer. Frostfall, ELFX and Legendary difficulty help to keep things challenging.

  26. RTBones says:

    The Stanley Parable…what is there to say? If you say anything about the game, you spoil the game. Stanley certainly wouldn’t say anything about the game. He would know better. If you haven’t played the game, then play the game, play the game, play the game – yes, thank you, Freddie Mercury.

    But since we are on Twenty Sided, discussing the Die Cast, an obligatory Batman reference must be made. Thankfully, Reddit has done just that.

  27. Spammy V says:

    One thing I realized after playing through the retail Stanley Parable is that the debate about whether it’s a game or not misses a key point, because in the specific case of The Stanley Parable, everything gamey is superfluous.

    QTEs, hiding behind chest-high walls, hiding in closets, turret segments, vehicle segments, romance options, RPG elements, platforming, puzzle solving, mining… all that is completely superfluous and irrelevant to what The Stanley Parable is about. The way I call it, The Stanley Parable is about choice and agency in video games and specifically when it comes to narratives. All the game needs is to be able to let you explore and make your choices. You don’t need to collect items, manage party morale, conserve ammo, or bash zombies.

  28. Akri says:

    I think that the whole “the character didn’t NEED to be female/gay” or “them being female/gay didn’t really MATTER” argument honestly just highlights the problem. We consider straight males to be the “default” character (more specifically straight WHITE males), and so a justification is needed to have a different character.

    Which is complete bullshit. You don’t need a reason to make your protagonist a guy, so why do you need a reason to make it a girl? A story doesn’t need to focus on heterosexuality if the character is straight, so why should it need to make a bid deal about homosexuality if the character is gay?

    There’s a wonderful character in Robin Hobb’s “Realm of the ELderlings” series called the Fool. He (and I use that pronoun purely for convenience) is either male, female, hermaphroditic, or genderless, depending on who you ask. The Fool can pass for a man or a woman (in fact, if you read the Liveship Trilogy before reading the Farseer Trilogy then you won’t have any idea that a particular woman might actually be a guy), and he doesn’t consider gender to have any relevancy to romance. In his words, “it’s just plumbing”.

    Gender and sexual orientation CAN be important to the character or the story, but they don’t HAVE to be. “Straight white male” does not need to be the default setting for every character.

  29. factoid says:

    I don’t know how you get it, but you can indeed get the Unachieveable achievement in Stanley Parable.. 1.6% of players have completed it according to the stats on steam.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      From what I have seen, most of the people who have the unachievable achievement have cheated in some way. There’s a way of getting it via the console (requires altering a file in the game directory too) and also using the Steam Achievement Manager.

  30. Volfram says:

    Well, apparently I need to grab a copy of Gone Home the next moment it goes on sale, because I had my headphones half-on for several minutes making sure I could hear that Rutskarn was speaking, but not what he was saying.

    Stanley Parable Ditto, but for entirely different reasons.

    1. Dave B. says:

      I don’t know why people seem to think it’s helpful to say “spoilers” and then immediately launch into spoilers. You pretty much have to rip your headphones off that very instant to avoid hearing them, and even that might not be fast enough. It’s great that you want to give a warning, but make sure people have a few more seconds to react.


  31. Andy_Panthro says:

    This is the best thing that will ever happen to Daggerfall:

    http://xlengine.com/blog/ (a modern recreation of the Daggerfall engine, for modern computers!)

    Also I played both Arena and Daggerfall a lot back when they were first released. I never finished either, but I did find them amazing back then. Those Daggerfall dungeons were crazy though, even the very first one is huge (and it’s supposed to be a smugglers cave??)

  32. Phantos says:

    In Skyrim, I played an Argonian. He’s my first attempt at an outright evil character. Burned by the empire’s attempts to kill him without a trial, he vows revenge against the entire world. His goal is, simply put, to become strong enough to murder every single living man, woman and child. He pours himself into the dark arts, swearing he will rid the world of dragons. Not to save it, but so that the flames that consume Tamriel will be his.

    Two months later: he’s married, considered a folk hero and is building a bigger house to make room for the kids.


  33. Artur CalDazar says:

    It is so strange to hear you talk about the stanley parable and I played that game pretty well and figured I at least knew about all the endings, apparently not.

    And as always interesting comments from Rutskarn on elder scrolls.

  34. Nalyd says:

    Re: Josh’s take on Dragon Age 2; I obviously don’t speak for everyone, but as an LGBT person, I do /not/ like it when a character I like isn’t a romance option for whatever sex I’ve chosen to play as, but is for the other. I have to deal with that shit more than enough in real life, and it sucks. More than that: it’s painful. I don’t like it, and I don’t like being reminded of it in my video games. Especially in a setting like Dragon Age where sexual orientation is (explicitly!) nothing special. I don’t see the objection to Schrodinger’s Sexuality characters; that they’re “player-sexual” is metagame knowledge at best, and I definitely think it’s better than just not trying and leaving people out, like Shamus suggests. Since I’d be the one being left out. I get left out enough.

    In a different game in a different setting, or in a game where player sex is predetermined, I could see the argument for giving characters defined sexuality because that’s a relevant part of their character and informs how you perceive them. But the big Bioware settings under discussion – Mass Effect and Dragon Age – always make an explicit point that sexuality is no big deal, that it is /not/ especially relevant to a character. And even before that, Bioware companions and romances are not the incredibly serious in-depth character pieces that would /benefit/ from such ‘realistic’ takes on sexuality. If they tried to make sexuality a big deal relevant to a character, there would be one character that’s The Gay One whose entire backstory is about being gay and bullied or abused or whatever. They’d have a loyalty quest where you all sit down for a Very Special Dialogue Tree and learn it’s okay to be gay! And those cliched kind of stories can be okay, but I really don’t think we’re losing out on anything for their absence.

    In the same vein, I struggle to see the complaint with Schrodinger’s Sexuality; what, exactly, are we losing out on here? Why, exactly, is it a problem? When its removal explicitly means you’re taking away things that I like, that I use and make the game better for me, it would really, really help if you had some kind of tangible grievance. Not “Bioware is just pandering!” or “That’s not how it /really/ works!” because those things don’t actually happen in-game. What about it makes the game worse for you?

  35. Wide And Nerdy says:

    What Chris said about Diecast as a group of straight dudes I take issue with and i think undercut what was a good discussion. This group of people, all of whom have creative experience most of whom, to my knowledge, have been writers or worked on video games, are far more qualified to talk about this subject than any non creator, including any gay person who was not a creator.

    And as for Gone Home, forbidden love is not new fictional fodder. I don’t have a problem with this game hinging on a lesbian couple but this really didn’t have to be about specifically a lesbian couple. It could have been about any sort of unacceptable love.

    But lest you think I’m just here to bash Chris, I love his show and he picked the best way to end this podcast. :)

  36. radthemad4 says:

    I liked how they handled the Pierce romance in Saints Row 4. He ‘doesn’t normally swing that way’ regardless of what sex you are at the time, but will make an exception for you.

    I think Mass Effect 3 had a lesbian NPC who you could hit on as a guy and make no progress.

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