Diecast #95: Final Fantasy XIV, NOLF, Spore

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 2, 2015

Filed under: Diecast 109 comments

Direct link to this episode.

Hosts: Shamus, Josh, Chris, Rutskarn, Mumbles.

Show notes:

1:00 Mumbles is playing Famo Famifam XI4.

Talking is hard. So are roman numerals. Everything is hard.

7:00 Mumbles is also playing SLAMMED!

Yes, a text-based game about wrestling. This is a real thing.

11:00 Good Robot and Pyrodactyl

If you’re new, then maybe you don’t know about Good Robot, which is a 2D shmup kinda thing I was working on last year. If all goes well, I might have more screenshots and details later in the week.

16:00 No One Lives Forever / comedy games.

NOLF is trapped in legal limbo. (Or would that be purgatory? I don’t know.)

We discuss comedy games and using mechanics to tell a joke. Here is the installment of Every Frame a Painting I mentioned:

Link (YouTube)

30:00 Shamus finally got around to playing Spore, and he says…


…the same thing everyone else said in 2008.

44:00 Mailbag: The evolution of camera controls.

Seems like a lot of early 3D games had trouble with camera controls. Why did it take so long for them to think of over the shoulder third person? Or am I missing something? Level design? Dynamic Transparency? Keeping the render budget down by fixing the camera to a spot? Or did I simply get unlucky and miss the early games that got it right?

What about the ability to transition between first and third person like skyrim does? Is that just way harder than it looks?

Wide and Nerdy

50:00 Games too hard to learn?

Dear Diecast Cast,

So one of the top people at EA made a statement at the DICE conference that today’s games are too hard for new players to learn. I know that Shamus has had some insights in this direction himself, but some of the game’s he’s talking about (Battlefield) have a reputation for hand-holding and being simple exercises in following directions.

Is this just another example of the separation between the “casual” and “hardcore” players, where the people deriding these games as too easy have forgotten what it’s like to pick up a modern shooter without understanding the gameplay conventions of the genre? On the other hand, it feels like the Battlefield series isn’t exactly targeted towards the new gamers who would be unfamiliar with those conventions, so could this be as simple as EA executives (still) being totally out of touch with their customer base? Or are there some other factors that I’m completely failing to account for.



From The Archives:

109 thoughts on “Diecast #95: Final Fantasy XIV, NOLF, Spore

  1. Mondroid says:

    Yay, more Good Robot.

    On another note, does anyone remember when the project was a building physics simulator.

    1. Mondroid says:

      Brilliant breakdown of the Spore development from someone inside the team.

  2. Eruanno says:

    On the crossplatform multiplayer thing: Portal 2 had crossplatform co-op multiplayer between the PC and PS3 that worked pretty well (except you couldn’t type on the PS3, so you pretty much had to do voice chat unless you were in the same room)

  3. Wide And Nerdy says:

    Yay! The whole gang back together. Always nice. Haven’t heard the podcast yet.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Beat me to it! Wonder when was the last time that happened? :D

      1. MichaelGC says:

        So it turns out the last time they were all together was aaaaaall the way back in … January. Of this year. Dunno about talking & roman numerals – it seems that for me accurately perceiving the passage of time is the real challenge…

    2. John says:

      Dude, you’re like an unstoppable mailbag machine. How do you do it?

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        I kind of feel bad about that. I hope I’m not crowding out anybody else. I assumed that if they felt I was monopolizing the mailbag that they’d just ignore my questions and no hard feelings.

        I’ve been asking these questions with an eye towards Shamus’ specific experience with ActiveWorlds and subsequent graphics and game engine projects. This stuff seems to be what he likes to talk about and I’m curious about it. And the experience of the others doesn’t hurt.

        1. Shamus says:

          I suspect it comes down to timing. We record Saturday nights. Most people email us on Sunday or Monday. The Sunday and Monday people have their emails WAY down the list if (ahem) I happen to be falling behind on my email. People that email of Fridays and Saturdays will have their stuff right on top of the pile when we look through them.

          1. “We record Saturday nights.”

            How can you live with yourselves knowing what you’re doing to Rutskarn’s social life?

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              Yeah,how dare you guys make him have a social life on saturday?Geeks should spend saturdays alone,wallowing in self pity.

          2. Joey245 says:

            So, if I want you guys to acknowledge the emails I send, I need to send it on Friday or Saturday. Good to know, thanks!

        2. John says:

          Oh ho! So it’s thoughtful and carefully considered questions, is it? I might have known!

  4. Tizzy says:

    Re: difficulty and Chauzuvoy’s question. Here is a personal perspective.

    I used to play a lot of shooters on PC about 10 years ago. And I found them easy overall. These days, I have a console and I pretty much never play shooters, with a couple of exceptions. And the couple I played I found hard. Maybe that makes me count as a new player all over again?

    It’s not clear how to untangle the various factors that play into my difficuties:
    1. Console controllers suck for shooting, or I least I suck with them. Give me a mouse any day.
    2. The games use totally different mechanics compared to 10 years ago. Save anywhere is pretty much gone (a very useful way out of tight spots!). You often can’t carry a whole arsenal around, you must somehow pick the right gun for an unknown future situation.
    3. Associated to these new mechanics are new design decisions–I would say a new philosophy even–that affects everything from the nature of the challenges that the designers throw in the way of the players, to how is the right way of tackling them.
    4. Being unfamiliar with the evolution of the genre, not only don’t I know necessarily what is expected of me, I must be missing a lot cues about what to do in a given situation. I don’t speak the language.

    This last one is particularly frustrating to me, because 10 to 20 years ago, part of the game in a shooter consisted in getting in the heads of the level designers to understand how they liked to set out their traps for the player.

    And please, kindly refrain from pointing out this last factor:
    5. I am 10 years older than then.

    I am keenly aware of that fact…

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Shooters aside I do wonder how it is to enter a genre with more complex mechanics as a completely new gamer. Say you fire up a turn based 4x strategy, an experienced player will have a lot of assumptions at the very least what systems they can expect: there is probably research, there is probably some resource generation, some kind of “bases” (be they planets, cities or something else) probably with some buildings. some kind(s) of mobile units on either square or hex grid, combat either stacks units or you move them separately, or it is automated… and still experienced players sometimes spend a lot of time and effort figuring the details of those systems out, I know I googled how religion and the post-dlc culture works for Civ5. Entering a genre like this without any foreknowledge sounds pretty brutal.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Actually modern tbs are very forgiving.You will constantly get tutorial messages and reminders about everything.Attempting to win a tough fight?”You are bound to lose,are you sure?” pops up.Dont know about research,but hit end turn?”You have unspent research points.Would you like to spend them now?” will pop up.

        Plus,unlike in rts,you have no pressure on you to hurry up and do something.Now rts without a pause+command is where true brutality to newbies comes in.

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          That’s true, I generally turn those off first chance I have so I kinda forget those constantly spam the basics at you.

        2. Peter H. Coffin says:

          The original Tomb Raider had a tutorial area right at the beginning, which gave new players the opportunity to practice jumping and climbing with some guidance.

  5. MichaelGC says:

    ‘Limbo’ is certainly correct, as ‘purgatory’ would imply it will definitely be released one day . . .

  6. Tizzy says:

    Skyrim Spoiler Warning humor moment: for me, it was the Jarl of Whiterun waking up next to a man-sized kitty cat.

    Or was it seeing the Jarl of Whiterun delivering his speech as he’s running back to his platform after he fell off the ramparts in mysterious circumstances?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I should probably listen to the ‘Cast first, but the fight vs. Aquaman the mer-mer and the time massively-underleveled and about-to-die Catbert beat that Draugr Deathlord by luring him into his own trap were highly amusing.

  7. Joseph P. Tallylicker says:

    There is a quote by John Cleese that is appropriate:

    “Creativity is like humor: In a joke, the laugh comes at a moment when you connect two different frameworks of reference in a new way. Having a new idea is exactly the same thing: It's connecting two hitherto separate ideas in a way that generates new meaning.”

    The problem with games is that once setting and characters are established, they rarely if ever start toying with those concepts. Setting and characters are background, noise to justify the action. They are never the focus of the game. Which leads to bad humor and mediocre writing.

    1. Daimbert says:

      This depends on the game. For many RPGs, I’ve found that the opposite is true: the game play and action is there to give you something to actually do between the story and character sections. The Personas and Shadow Hearts are probably my favourite examples, but I’ve recently started playing the Sam & Max adventure games and most of the fun is the interaction with items and how the characters deal with things than in the actual game play. How much of this counts as connecting things in a new way might be debatable, though.

      1. John says:

        I have this theory about games which I developed after considering the RPGs I’ve played over the years. The theory being that a game is about whatever it is that the player (which is to say, me) spends most of his time doing. Thus:

        i) Early PC RPGs (for example, The Bard’s Tale) were about painstakingly mapping the game’s grid-based dungeons on graph paper.

        ii) SNES (and, consequently, GBA) RPGs were about repetitive and random combat encounters.

        iii) Bioware RPGs circa Neverwinter Nights to KOTOR are about being dissatisfied with your current build and planning a different one for your next playthrough.

  8. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Did Rutskarn finally hit puberty?In the intro he sounded so much like Josh,I thought it was a joke and Josh was about to say hello for everyone.

  9. MichaelGC says:

    Completely off-topics, but some time ago (felt recent to me but was actually months back. Doesn’t time fly?) there was a Mailbag question about playing as an evil character – or more specifically, rarely being allowed so to do.

    Anyhoo, Richard Cobbett has just written an article on exactly that, which folks might find entertaining. Muahahahaaa.

    But even in the games that try, it rarely turns out as good as it sounds. For several reasons. The first is that for most people, the idea of being bad relies on being distant. It’s one thing to torture a Sim or bulldoze a house in SimCity, but the more invested you are in characters, the harder it usually is to hurt them.

    Warning of spoilers: possible (very broad-brush) ones for Amnesia & Planescape: Torment. (Not at all related to the above quote, though!) Oh, and there are also some cusswords – in case you’re on a very brief & well-earned break at work.


  10. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Humor in games is definitely not the fault of games.Its just that developers still dont know how to utilize it 100%.Plus,the whole “realistic feel” thats been pushed for the last decade is sapping life out of games.

  11. Wide And Nerdy says:

    A type of humor I miss that I feel like games used to let you do more often is being a dick to people. You can sometimes do it in ways the game didn’t intend but I miss things like the Sandral Matale feud of KOTOR 1 or all the ways you can screw around with the elves in Dragon Age Origins. In a roleplaying game that supports choice, that borders on mechanical humor.

    Mass Effect 3 Citadel, while it was mostly cheesy humor did have a couple of mechanical jokes. When whats his name visits your apartment he sees a chin up bar and states that his record is something like 200. You can try to beat the record but it requires you to sit there and do an uninterrupted string of 200 alternating paragon and renegade interrupts. Not hard but deliberately tedious with Vega telling you the whole time you don’t need to do this.

    There’s also a scene where you issue a threat and if you keep pressing the renegade interrupt, your threat gets more outlandish, I felt like they didn’t carry that one quite far enough. And I really like the scene with the traitor where your dialog options are all “I’m going to kill you.” “I’m going to hurt you and then kill you.” “Tell me why you did it so I can kill you.”

    1. Vermander says:

      This was a pretty common complaint about the KOTOR games though (I’m pretty sure Shamus wrote about it). A lot of the dark side options basically involved threatening or insulting people when there was no obvious benefit to doing so. Acting like a total dick was funny the first time you did it, but after a while it completely undermined the story. It made your character seem less like a sinister villain and more like they were mentally ill.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        And this is why I agree with Mumbles that people are too focused on seriousness in games. Heaven forbid a bit of humor undermine the engrossing artistic vision that is a modern triple A game. If there were more triple A games out there that didn’t take you out of the story with their awkward use of mechanics or their bugs I might agree but as it is, embracing the silliness is a more sound option.

        1. Vermander says:

          I agree that there should be a place for humor in games, and I actually think the Citadel DLC for Mass Effect 3 did a great job of handling it. My complaint is more about how “Renegade” or “Dark Side”, dialog options usually tend to be pointlessly rude or antagonistic.

          If anything it would be interesting to see “evil” dialog that relies on flattery and ass kissing to manipulate others. Good guys should be the ones who speak blunty and tell it like it is, even if it hurts someone’s feelings.

          1. Daimbert says:

            Or, alternatively, good guys should be striving to avoid hurting the feelings of other people while the bad guys enjoy twisting the knife. What you do here depends more on character than on straight “good/evil”.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        To be fair,the light/dark side justifies the otherwise stupid save the puppy or burn the puppy dichotomy.Your powers are tied to your emotions,so if you are a powerful jedi,your emotions are most likely completely in control of your actions.

      3. Daimbert says:

        I didn’t find them that bad, but in my opinion the problem isn’t with the choices, but with two things:

        1) When the game tells you what your motivation for doing that thing is.

        2) Having points for Light/Dark etc where you get cool rewards for being at one extreme or the other.

        My Mass Effect character was loosely based on Helena Cain from the rebooted BSG. I acted like I saw at least the best interpretations of the character: ruthless and tough but not stupid about it, able to play ball when she needs to. She let the Council die, for example, not because she was “EVIL” but because she wasn’t going to let saving them get in the way of doing her job, damn it. I expected her to max out Renegade points. She didn’t. She had a lot of Paragon points, but still enough Renegade points to get that one cool scene. And I didn’t care that she wasn’t a pure Renegade, because the point wasn’t to play as a Renegade and max out those points, but to play as my interpretation of that character and see what happens.

        In TOR, all of my characters are light-sided, including the Sith. None of them are purely light-sided, though, as all of them take some dark side actions, except for perhaps my Consular. Sure, you get some goodies for being one side or the other, but they just weren’t important to me, and my characters were all in terms of personality and character more light-sided (I have a running canon in my head of all of them working to make for a better Republic/Empire by removing the extremes that both of them fall into that are just stupid centering around a Galen from Crusade ex-pat) with some dark side tendencies (my Smuggler was a former drunk from the Empire who flirted with anything that moved and didn’t care about anyone but himself; my Bounty Hunter is a bitter reject from the Chiss (he’s a human; yes, he’s Jag Fel) who’s still not going to be nasty)), which means that I can play the games as them and still succeed. My first character was an exceedingly honourable Sith Juggernaut, and that was the character that really let me love the game.

        The point of this, though, is that in both cases because I didn’t care about the scales, I was able to act how I wanted to act. I could be the petty thug, the honourable warrier, the paragon, or the jerkass with equal ability. Sure, I’d bias myself one way or the other doing it, but I didn’t care about the result was.

        So, with this in mind, could you have more options where you reproduce the “Force trip” scene between Bastilla and Mission? I think so, because some generally light side characters would do it on occasion, or even constantly, while being generally good most of the time, and some dark siders would consider it beneath them to stoop to such levels. Thinking of these points not as things you max out but as things that reflect who you are allows more room for stuff like this (which is one thing Dragon Age did do well; my city elf is snarky and bitter but eventually mellows due to the love of a good woman; Leiliana).

        (Okay, much of this comment was a bit off topic, and probably better suited for the comment on letting players play as villains. Sorry about that.)

    2. Alex says:

      Both KOTR games had some great moments where you got to be an absolute bastard to someone who fully deserved it. Like in the second game where you could complete one encounter with a very simple, very effective command: “Give me your money and jump off a cliff.”

      1. Wide and Nerdy says:

        I liked that one but my favorite using the force was the one where you force persuade a guy to shut up and from then on he averts his gaze and looks down in a deferential way staying mute. Like your character just has to establish dominance in every random social gathering spot.

  12. Dragomok says:

    That cross-platform shooter at the beginning Josh talks about? Shadowrun.

  13. Ilseroth says:

    You know I actually like Spore, but I think Josh hit it on the head when he said “It was about the creature creator, which is what I didn’t sign up for.”

    I personally really enjoyed Spore, because I hadn’t followed the hype train. I saw a couple videos prior to its release of the character creator and thought it was neat.

    But regarding what Chris said, it really is it’s own game and it is a shame that the game wasn’t great because I would have liked them taking another proper whack at it. It does an interesting concept in a way that no one has even thought of trying to do what it does, which to be fair, it is practically 5 games in one.

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      That’s basically my take on Spore. It’s not a bad game. But it is merely a good game. (It’s also one of the very last EA games I bought that wasn’t a GoG re-release.) And that is a problem for all the money spent on developing it, the extra account you have to sign up for, the always-online requirement…

      Although I’m sure glad EA learned their lesson and never made a sim game require an online connection ever again!

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      But it wasnt even a good creature creator.Oh sure,you could make a bunch of outlandish creatures,but none of them are unique,its all just fluff.The cell stage shown in those preview videos was waaay more elaborate that practically any of the stages in the final game.

    3. Otters34 says:

      Spore was the one game that could justify a Sims-style slew of endless expansion packs. So much it COULD do that it overshadowed what it DOES do.

    4. IFS says:

      I more or less enjoyed Spore up until I got to the space stage. It seemed promising at first but then next thing I know I’m at war with space pirates (which seemed to exist to punish me for exploring) and religious zealots (ditto). I hated getting called back to my planet every five minutes to ineffectually fight whoever’s turn it was to invade so I gave up on the game.

  14. Twisted_Ellipses says:

    “The even funnier idea was putting achievements and Steam cards in Unrest” – eeerrr…does Shamus know there ARE Steam Cards for Unrest or am I misreading a sly nod as seriousness?

    The cards are: village market, city ruins, palace gardens, opulent mansion, village farms & village house.

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    I just noticed Shamus’ screenshot has EA wanting to sign up for an EA account and I just realized; does this mean I have an Origin account? I’ve never explicitly signed up for Origin because I always break down into a foul-mouthed apoplectic rage over the fact that it’s called “Origin” whenever I try. But was my EA account migrated to Origin at some point?

    Eh, I don’t care enough to try to find out. I hear rumors that they’re finally making a Dragon Age sequel and a new Sims game beyond 3, but they aren’t available on Steam, so I’m 100% sure they haven’t been released yet.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      I would assume so, I got an EA account (or something similar) so that I could claim a free copy of Mass Effect 2. This got upgraded to an Origin account shortly afterwards.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        So not only do you have mass effect 2 now,you also have origin?Talk about being suckered twice.

        1. Andy_Panthro says:

          I did enjoy parts of ME2, but it suffered by comparison to ME1 and I hated the big focus on cover-based shooting (the combat in ME1 is pretty bad too though). Didn’t enjoy the series enough to bother with ME3.

          I haven’t even loaded up Origin for ages now though, no idea if it’s any better than it was.

  16. tengokujin says:

    FF XI also did cross-platform, coming out on the PS2, PC, and the 360.

    I played it for 6 years.

    In a semi-related tangent, you guys always complain about WoW clones, but never talked about FFXI, which was decidedly not a WoW clone.

    1. tengokujin says:

      To further iterate, FFXI spoiled me on MMORPG controls. Because it was designed to also be controller-friendly, the UI for FFXI was completely navigable by keyboard alone. In fact, I could play the bloody game with only a full 101 keyboard, no mouse. When I got introduced to every other MMORPG since then, I’ve lamented the fact that so few games have a fully keyboard-friendly interface, especially when they are nominally *social* games, which require *typing*. The fact that I have to take my hand away from a control interface so that I can interact with a different control interface so that I can interact socially with people, breaking flow, has pissed me off for the last 5 or so years.

      Man, I wanna play FFXI again.

  17. Bloodsquirrel says:

    The problem with humor in mechanics is that mechanics are, by nature, repetitive, and nothing kills comedy like repetition.

    It’s hard to have comedy in games that isn’t either completely canned (Like Cave Johnson audio logs) or that gets old really fast.

    1. Ilseroth says:

      Well, it is about applying to mechanics that are uncommon, or making it an unlikely occurrence of a normally benign event. for instance the reloads in the most recent battlefield. It is a small touch, but they have a 1 in 10,000 chance that your character will perform a specialty animation that is generally humorous.

      It is rare enough that a player could play the game for hours and never see it, and since there is one for each weapon it is unlikely that you will personally see each one more then a couple times.

    2. Wide And Nerdy says:

      Doesn’t have to be. If the mechanics are robust, there’s lots of potential for humor. Any game with physics is halfway there. You just have to set levels up with a certain level of potential for chaos and/or give the player attack types that make interesting use of physics.

      1. Bitterpark says:

        Agreed. If you look at games like Saints Row or Just Cause, all you’re really doing is shooting dudes, all the time. Yet both allow for enough physics goofs and interesting spins on the idea (like the dubstep gun). And the context is really important too: you can hit random people with a crowbar as Niko Bellic or you can do the exact same thing as Ronald McDonald or Mr. Rogers, yet I’d argue the former has way less comedy potential.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Oh yeah. Completely forgot about character creators. Video Games Awesome likes to have fun with that creating bizarre, grotesque or derpy characters which clashes hilariously with any instance of a scene trying to make your player character look badass, awesome or just serious or any instance of someone flirting with you.

          Its also fun to make your Human Noble in Dragon Age non-white and then have everybody ignore the obvious issues with your Cousland being illegitimate. Its also possible to make your Hawke look older than your mom.

          1. Joe Informatico says:

            Did they not adjust your family members’ skin tone to match yours in DA:O? If not, I’m pretty sure they did for DA2, but in fairness you’re dealing with your family for most of DA2’s story, not just the first hour.

      2. Joe Informatico says:

        There’s the physics sandboxes built for shits and giggles, like Pain and Goat Simulator, but I don’t find they have much longevity. Ideally, you want to pair physics with good comedy writing. Slapstick’s fine and all, but it’s usually funnier if you know who’s getting the pie in the face, and why.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Well, yeah, you put the physics in an actual game and intersperse the comedy opportunities. If you have a good engaging game, that creates opportunities because the player isn’t just sitting around waiting for their next laugh like this was a stand up routine.

          I think this is something Fable fails at most of the time. Leaving aside how puerile fart jokes are to begin with, after you’ve farted at a couple NPCs there’s really nothing left to the gag because they’re all so interchangeable.

          But then Fable 2 had one especially good opportunity as Shamus shows us. (I couldn’t stop laughing for a good 30 minutes)

    3. Ivan says:

      I don’t understand your argument. Humor in movies or books is delivered the exact same way every single time, and yet people will go out of their way to experience them multiple times. Or go on youtube and start looking up cat videos, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen a couple montages of furballs jumping into walls with a bajillion likes. Hell you can barely watch an episode of family guy where they don’t tell a joke, run it into the ground, and then keep going until it’s funny again. If nothing else that’s an example of repetition it’s self being funny.

      1. Wide and Nerdy says:

        I agree. The key to designing any gag or really crafting any experience is to keep in mind the tools at your disposal and your audience. If mechanics cause repetition, find gags that work on repetition and actually get funny the more you use them. There’s plenty of instances of good running gags and overly long gags in traditional media.

      2. Bloodsquirrel says:

        There’s a big difference between watching your favorite comedy multiple times and having every comedy you watch repeat the exact same joke as often as a game repeats mechanics. Even if you watched the same movie a dozen times you’re not experiencing the same jokes as often as if there were game mechanics, and that’s assuming you watched the same movie a dozen times back-to-back.

        1. Ivan says:

          Maybe we’re talking about different things then, like a mechanic being a joke (like expressions in Fable) verses making a joke with a mechanic (like Shamus mentioned the Portal 2 achievement “This is the part where he kills you”). Yeah it definitely gets old when the mechanic it’s self is a joke but a game like The Stanley Parable does very little except using various mechanics to make jokes.

          There is a lot to be said for delivery when it comes to comedy and I don’t think that there’s anything inherently different about games that make them fall flat when it comes to humor.

  18. Ilseroth says:

    I got so wrapped up in talking about Spore that I almost forgot to congratulate Shamus on his pairing with Pyrodactyl in making Good Robot.

    Super psyched to see that you didn’t scrap the project because you got demotivated about the placement of the game in your “engage”-o-meter. I remember you saying that you were perturbed it was a “Jellybean” game and I am curious to see whether you embraced that concept, or have discovered a means of pushing it to that mid tier of engaging that you were hoping for.

    Edit: Also since this is directly aimed at Shamus, may as well agree with Chris regarding Spore, push past the tribal phase. It is short and by far the weakest, while space is likely the strongest gameplay section .

  19. Tychoxi says:

    I don’t know why Spore is so hated, I also found that by the time you reach the Space Age it was pretty cool.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Because it was so hyped,yet so shallow.Plus the whole drm fiasco.

  20. Grin Of Madness says:

    Is the uncertainty of who has ownership that NOLF is currently suffering the same reason why we don’t have a digital release for Black & White? Or has Lionhead Studios lost the source for it?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Nah,its just the fact that no one cares about black and white.

      1. Grin Of Madness says:

        I thought the same thing about Daikatana (that no one cared about it) yet it’s available on Steam and GoG.

      2. Kalil says:

        Black and White 2 was one of the best demos I’ve ever played, and should they ever release the full game, I’d be really excited.

        On the topic of games that vanished down the memory whole, does anyone else remember Viva Pinata?

  21. Torsten says:

    No One Lives Forever is in the weird situation where it is the kind of game that everybody wants to play but nobody wants to make similar new games. Like the crew said, the whole game market could use more light hearted humor and parody. Also it would be nice to have more great female characters in the shooter genre.

    The best thing that could happen to NOLF would be that somebody makes a more or less blatant copy of it, in the similar vein as Saint’s Row started as a GTA clone. There are medium sized development houses that could pull that out, CD Projekt, Obsidian, maybe Rocksteady. And making a NOFL style game that relies more on slower paced action and stealth and less on spectacle would probably be cheaper to produce than your average modern first person shooter.

    1. Bitterpark says:

      CD Projekt and Obsidian are RPG studios though, I don’t think their know-how matches what you need to make a good shooter (Witcher 2 combat is better than 1 but still a bit wonky, Alpha Protocol was Obsidian’s most action-oriented game and the action wasn’t great), let alone a shooter worthy of Monolith’s legacy. Rocksteady are a bit closer I suppose, and they could just make it a 3rd person brawler with the same style and humor. I’d rather have a first person shooter, but a revised NOLF is better than no NOLF at all, IF they can pull off the same tone and humor…

    2. Downie says:

      “the kind of game that everybody wants to play”
      Hardly anyone bought it the first time around…

      1. Torsten says:

        True, but taste in games change over the years. There is a bit of a boredom on the gaming public towards the kind of games that now populate the genre. And a lot of those who did play it still keep telling how great game NOFL was.

  22. DeadlyDark says:

    On a side note, NOLF did the optional “safe area tutorial”. I love this game (both original and sequel) and play it once in a while. Music is great, levels are huge and beautiful, AI is strong, stealth is great, funny gadgets, I love how weapons shoots, I love that feel when you on bike escaping from chopper. And miss Archer is a fun character to follow with her witty remarks (man, that Berlin’s first area). Oh, and this parachute-stealing scene! Man, I kinda both liked and hated that SR3 opened the game that way (well they used this trick twice which was bad, but from my POV SR3 isn’t evenly good game, uneven and mostly average; SR4 is an improvement though; and I am lost my train of thoughts; happens, I guess). Hated in a way, that most players probably didn’t know that there was that nice shooter called NOLF.
    In conclusion, even now I think first NOLF is the best shooter ever with Deus Ex 1 coming secong and not that close. Not without the flaws, but still the best.

    1. Bitterpark says:

      NOLF also had the best overheard mook conversations ever. This one is probably my favorite out of all videogames, above even the Baerr Pits from Thief.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        OK, now I want to play this game! Such a shame to have to smoke ’em after all that!

        1. Bitterpark says:

          Well, you can always just sneak past them.

  23. Kreek says:

    that middle ground connective game between things like bejeweled and fps… that exists…. its portal

    if you want to teach someone, whos only experience is with “casual games”, the basic mechanics of an fps, and the skills to work under fire

    have them play though portal 1

    by the end of the game, you know how to walk around, control the camera, interact with objects, shoot at things you intend to fire at, and deal with being shot at

    most other fpses will teach you the rest from there

    and i think most of us can agree that portal is a very enjoyable experince

    1. Groboclown says:

      I introduced my daughter to Portal, who had never played a FPS game before. It gives the player lots of time to both figure out the puzzle and figure out the controls. She wasn’t mastering it at the end, but she was able to figure out how to move and solve the room without much trouble.

    2. Alex says:

      I was just about to say that. While it gets tougher later on, Portal uses shooter mechanics to solve not-shooter problems, logic puzzles which don’t have the same need for precision and speed as shooting guys before they can shoot unto you.

    3. Kalil says:

      While I agree it’s a good learning tool, my parents where never able to master the controls to the point of being able to finish the game. My father was able to beat Half-life 1 and a few other FPSs using god mode, but not HL2 or Portal.

      1. Bitterpark says:

        Poral has a lower entry barrier, but the movement complexity gets even higher than a typical FPS towards the end. In your average modern shooter you only need to move along two axes: forward and sideways, half the time they don’t even let you jump. Similarly, most targets are roughly on the same height level as you are, so you mostly just scan the horizon for camera control. Meanwhile, Portal requires constant jumping and midair movement, complex maneuvers like Slingshot and aiming mid-vertical movement, which even I found moderately challenging at the time despite years of FPS experience.

        1. ET says:

          Now I’m stuck trying to think of a game which could slowly train someone to go from zero to (near-) expert in FPS controls. Maybe something like this for levels (or groups of levels)?
          – aiming-only puzzles (easy)
          – – start the game as a freelance nature photographer
          – – the game rewards you with money from your boss, for taking better photos
          – – no combat or damage, etc
          – aiming-only puzzles (hard)
          – – your boss sends you on a safari, where all the animals are moving around super-fast, making it harder to get the shots of the animals
          – aiming plus danger (easy)
          – – while on your days off from animal photography, the zombie apocalypse breaks out
          – – it’s still in the early stages, so you only have to shoot a couple of zombies here and there, and they’re slow-moving
          – aiming plus danger (medium)
          – – some kind of flying enemy (infected crows?) that forces you to look up, and hit flying and/or erratically moving targets
          – – there’s some slow-moving/-turning, but armored zombies, with a weak spot in their back: you need to practice circle-strafing to damage them
          – – chasing down a zombie which stole your vital medicine: forces you to shoot a retreating target, who occasionally jumps over holes (you have to follow suit) and moves erratically
          – aiming plus danger (hard)
          – – similar to the above
          – – increase the frequency of the weird actions the player needs to take
          – – decrease room for error
          – – etc
          Probably some other skills I missed, but I think a game like this would be an effective learning tool, for people to get their skills up. Also a proof of concept, that you could have a story of some kind, and have it make sense / be engaging.

          1. Bitterpark says:

            I feel like teaching people to FPS is something that would be better accomplished in the span of multiple different games. First, you play a photographer game, then an easy zombie game, then something a bit more serious… Then again, who will want to suffer through boring photography without the promise of zombies to shoot.

            A good start could be a game like Amnesia (although, panicking at all the horror might get in the way of getting used to the controls) or Dear Esther. Cover shooters might be a good second step after that, being a genre that’s designed around not having to move and shoot at the same time. Then, after learning cover-based combat (and reloading, ammo, weapon switching etcetera) one could graduate to big boy FPS games. That’s the hope, anyway.

            Thing is, training people how to play FPS from the ground up isn’t really any one dev’s responsibility. Bringing more people into the market will benefit all devs in it in the long term, but won’t help the one dev to do it enough to justify doing it.

            Low difficulty/easy learning curve is also not something that’s traditionally marketed. Casual/fun for all the family seems to imply really simplistic mechanics and E for Everyone visuals, rather than a proper game that’s been engineered to be accessible by anyone. So I’m not sure how you could go about making a game like this successful.

          2. Alex says:

            It’s a good idea, except for the zombies. Make them dinosaurs instead and you have something.

  24. SLAMMED! sounds like someone took the old WWF Role-Playing Game (yes, it was a thing) and adapted the best part: trash-talking on the internet. There were (and may still be) whole message boards dedicated to basically writing wrestling drama based on the contributors’ characters. A lot of the people who played it in my area eventually abandoned the actual pen-and-paper game in favor of just developing their story via posts and prose.

  25. MichaelGC says:

    Seems it’s not only Ma Campster who finds Battlefield a little tricky! :D

  26. The Defenestrator says:

    My favorite bit of mechanics-based humor in games recently is an accidental one. I was playing around with Homeworld: Remastered when I noticed that the Mothership has a “scuttle” option. So I saved the game and tried it out. Sure enough: boom. You lose.

    So the Kushan people spent 60 years focusing their entire civilization on building this amazing spaceship, and then rigged it to destroy itself with a single button press without so much as an “are you sure you want to do that” prompt.

  27. Jacob Albano says:

    That video is brilliant. I’m four videos in and Every Frame a Painting is my new favorite youtube channel.

    1. tengokujin says:

      Can’t forget Robin Williams, or Jackie Chan, or Satoshi Kon! :p

      (I, too, have loved this channel since I saw that Visual Comedy video)

  28. Ugh, I really hate over-the-shoulder games with no other options for the camera. I can’t play Dead Space because of that, as it makes controlling where I’m aiming awkward. I see this gun in my hands pointing off to the right, making me misjudge where it is I’m actually shooting, plus it’s something covering a quarter of my viewscreen. I find it a distraction, and I’d rather play something like Skyrim or New Vegas where I can play in first person for the entire game.

  29. mwchase says:

    So far as humor related to game conceits goes, there’s also the nods in Half Life (2 and onward only? I am not good enough at the original.) to Gordon’s silent protagonist status.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      There are funny moments in 1 as well(though not about gordon being a mute).For example,one of the first things you get to do once you leave the train is USE a computer a security guard is sitting by,which promptly starts an alarm,and the guard saying “What are you doing gordon?Trying to get me fired?”.Which is the first meta game humor I can think of,because all the previous shooters had you bumping into everything,and USING everything(in games that had a separate use button)in order to find a secret.

  30. Amusing how the url of that Youtube video ends with “gag” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3FOzD4Sfgag

  31. John says:

    You kids and your 3D-camera control. You’re spoiled! In my day, we only had two Ds worth of camera to complain about. We’d ride home from the Babbages or the Wherehouse on the the family dinosaur and rush inside to play our new game. Sometimes the game-world was a set of discrete screens and sometimes it scrolled continuously. You never knew!

    More seriously, are there many contemporary games–other than adventure games, I mean–that still use the series-of-discrete screens design? I suspect that the series-of-discrete screens design had its origin in hardware limitations, but there are some things that I really like about it. For one thing, I think it’s more cinematic–in a good way!–than a scrolling design. Each screen is a scene, and going from one screen to the next is like a cut between scenes. And of course, it’s more dramatic to be confronted with a new screen all at once than it is to watch the same content scroll into place.

    As I think about it, the series-of-screens games I remember most fondly seem to be puzzle-platformers with some combat elements. We had aZorro game where you fought (or evaded) guards while solving certain rudimentary and implausible physics-style puzzles to access new screens. Sometimes you had to back-track a few screens to progress, and sometimes solving a puzzle allowed you access to previously inaccessible portions of earlier screens. We had a Conan game where each room was a new level with enemies, new mechanics, and a new puzzle. And of course there was Prince of Persia, which is still my very favorite platformer.

    Sigh. I’m old. Dammit.

    1. Do you remember games like Alone in the Dark that would have discreet screens but still be a rudimentary 3D? It was a nice nod to cinematography, but having which way was “forward” suddenly change as the camera angle switched was irritating as heck.

      But we had 3D! Polygons! Immersion! It was practically TRON!

      1. John says:

        Alas, I never played that. But now that you mention it, I seem to remember a lot of people comparing it to Resident Evil when that game first came out. So I guess discrete screens survived at least until the PlayStation era.

      2. Andy_Panthro says:

        Alone in the Dark suffered from being made at just about the wrong time. The push for 3D means that it just looks quite bad to modern eyes, and the “tank” controls are awkward. With a few changes, you could easily turn it into a 2D Sierra style adventure game.

        I still love the game though, it introduced me to Lovecraftian horror, and the CD version had voice acting and brilliant atmospheric music. Shame it rarely gets mentioned when people talk about survival horror games.

  32. Adam says:

    You know, “Baby’s First Shooter” actually exists. It’s Plants Vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare. (Granted, it’s third-person, and console-focused, but it does a good job of using its CoD-knockoff unlock system to keep the increasing complexity of new items and classes from overwhelming younger players. (And older players, like parents who want to play with their kids.) Of course, it’s an EA game so it’s got stupid bullshit microtransactions, has no splitscreen multiplayer, and is still buggy as hell over a YEAR after release, but it’s a nice first step.

  33. Vorpal Smilodon says:

    Handing a copy of Battlefield to a new player and expecting them to figure it out is like handing someone a copy of the newest John Grisham book when they don’t know how to read.

    My best thought for introductory games is Minecraft though – you can turn off the enemies and have someone learn about looking, walking – the basics of being in a first person game at all.

    1. Alternately, you could give someone just about any FPS with God Mode switched on until they were used to the mechanics.

  34. Hey Shamus I’ve been seeing “Error establishing a database connection” a few times recently.
    The page is just plain white otherwise, no error codes or similar.

    If I wait a while and try later the site shows up fine again.
    Too many concurrent database connections or something?

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Yup, me too. I don’t recall it happening before “The Infection” issue was fixed – which may be entirely coincidental, of course. (Plus I have a mind like a sieve.)

      shamusyoung.com seemed ok, but it was affecting shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/ and sub-pages of that which I happened to have in my history.

      1. Humanoid says:

        Nah it’s something that can happen anytime, and I’ve certainly seen it plenty of times over the years. Database server falls over for whatever reason and so you can get the static content like the front page and the Spoiler Warning index, but nothing on the actual blog or forums because all the (WordPress/phpBB) content is on a now-inaccessible database.

        I operate a now-dead forum on the cheapest hosting I could find get and get the problem on an extremely regular basis, in 99% of cases there’s nothing to do but wait it out while the host resolves it.

        1. If it’s shared hosting then it’s most likely too many concurrent connections or a similar DB limit.

          If it’s a dedicated or a virtual server then that issue should not happen on a site like this site (it’s not that heavy traffic here to hit default database limits) as database calls would just get slower and slower (the server would basically get overloaded with traffic or start throttling the speed of things).

          For sites that aren’t too heavy on traffic or where you do not need a enterprise like database then SQLite3 may just do just as well, one benefit is that PHP comes with SQLite3 built in and as long as you got some free CPU cycles and the disk interface/bus isn’t overloaded then you’ll never have a situation where you can’t reach the database.

          The ironic thing with shared hosting is that a overloaded database may not be your fault but some other site using the same database server.

          It could also be a issue with the server itself though.

          Unless the hoster has alerts and do random availability and uptime checks then they’ll never know anything is wrong unless somebody mails them and saying something is wrong.
          At which time they should be able to look in the logs and see what the error is.

          If the webserver is having issues and is properly set up then it will actually say Too many connections and show a HTTP error code/status, I can’t recall the number right now.

          A HTTP 500 error is a unknown/general error, it might sometimes appear when a script “crashes” too.

          No error code is unusual, in this case it must be the WordPress scripts that timed out trying to connect to the database, but it’s difficult to know as nothing indicated what/where the error happen, the error could just as easily have come from a database handler or proxy or something else.

    2. MichaelGC says:

      Oh yes, meant to mention – I did get error code HTTP 500 at one stage whilst using Internet Explorer. (Don’t judge me!)

      (Presumably the HTTP 500 is when the data is just driving round and round the server really fast? So it doesn’t make it as far as the internet? No, I’m not an IT expert; how did you guess?)

    3. I’ve been getting white pages for about a week or so with Chrome now. I think their latest build has something wrong with it. On this and several other sites, I have to refresh the page a few times to get it to load, or load it up first thing after closing Chrome down completely.

  35. Daemian Lucifer says:

    So the guy that makes every frame a painting loves snowpiercer.Does that mean that now Shamoose is going to feature in one of his videos and be constantly ridiculed for not liking it?

  36. Cinebeast says:

    It’s cool that Mumbles played SLAMMED! I’ve been wondering if/when the Diecast crew would get around to playing the stuff coming out of Choice of Games.

    I’ve been a part of the CoG community for over a year now, and it’s a really intelligent, welcoming place. Anyone can download their Choicescript engine and jump right into writing text-adventures.

    For someone like me — someone who wants to write games but lacks the programming and artistic knowledge to work in Unity or Game Maker or so forth — it’s pretty much a godsend.

    Although, did you guys hear the news that Unreal Engine 4 was just released to the public, and free of charge? I might try my hand at that too.
    This is a good time for people to indulge their inner game designer.

  37. ChristopherT says:

    I can think of a few games with non-verbal heavy comedy and/or comedy linked strongly to the mechanics, but not many.

    Fallout has it where if you make your character with low intelligence their dialogue changes to something simpler.

    Disgaea 4 (I’ve only played 4), while having a decent amount of verbal jokes, that are simply told, also has a few other funny ideas with the Tower skills. The game is a turn based strategy grid base game, one character = one square. But with the tower system you can stack characters on top of each other so as many as all 10 of your characters may be on the same square, standing on each others’ heads, which you can then attack enemies if different ways (this is not like the system in the Civ games), for instance, there’s a jump rope attack, where your tower of people act as a large jump rope the enemy hops over until smacked in the face by your attack, or where a simple attack command can make it so each person in the tower takes a whack at uppercutting the enemy up to the next person up the tower. It’s silly, and I can’t imagine it being implemented into the game for any other reason than it seemed funny.

    Lollipop Chainsaw has a slew of oddball comedy laced into its mechanics, usually centered around Nick. Nick is Juliette’s boyfriend, who gets bitten by a zombie, so as has become standard in zombie stories she needs to chop off the infected bit to save his life. He wakes up after she saves his life to find he is only a head, she removed the infected bit. From there Nick can be used in some useful ways, earliest of which are Nick Shake, and Nick Toss. Nick Shake allows Juliette to shake Nick’s head as useful items like coins and lollipops pop out of the top of his head. And Nick Toss, where Nick is seemingly strapped to the end of a ribbon and swung around in order to hit zombies. There’s also Nick Shoot, as well as a few others.

    Lego Games usually have some fun elements to them, one more in the lines of comedy through mechanics, maybe, is in Lego Marvel Super Heroes where the straight forward method of leaving the Helicarrier is to jump off the side of it.

    WarCraft 2 with the idea of clicking on a unit to get them to say different things, sometimes fairly funny. While the other Blizzard RTSs do this as well I think WarCraft 2 did it best, where I remember a decent amount of complaints from the units “That tickles.” “I would not do such things if I were you.” “Stop poking me!” “WHAT!?” more speech based, but it is typed to the mechanics in a way.

    Then there’s the humor based around passwords in games. Two ones I like are the Nude Picture from Don’t take it personally babe, it just ain’t your story where as the main character you and teacher, you can look through your students texts, and one contains a link to a nude picture, but it’s password protected, in the text it mentions that the password is your students middle name. The only way to get that information though is outside of the game and looking it up on the internet.

    The other one I like is from Resident Evil, the remake, or remastered versions. It’s nothing big but I find it fun. There comes a point in the game where you need to get a username, password, and secondary password in order to access a computer. In the original versions of the game it was John, Ada, and Mole, in the remake and remastered they changed it to John, Ada, and Cell, However, if playing on Hard in the remake if you put in the old Mole password you would hear a sound from one of the secrete characters in Resident Evil 2, Tofu, a man sized piece of Tofu you could play as in an additional game mode. Though for the remastered version you can use the Mole password to hear Tofu on lower difficulty settings as well.

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