Dénouement 2015 Part 4: The End

By Shamus Posted Thursday Dec 17, 2015

Filed under: Industry Events 91 comments

And now for my top 3. Disappointingly, everyone guessed these in yesterday’s post. I think they even got the ordering right. But maybe it’s for the best. The downside of having surprises in your list is that it means people expected something else. Which leads to arguments. Which leads to anger. Which leads to the Dark Side. Or something like that.

Anyway. Here they are:


Spoooky red lighting! Oooooh!
Spoooky red lighting! Oooooh!

It wasn’t the fright-fest I was hoping for, but it was a really solid chunk of sci-fi. Even better, SOMA isn’t one of those games that confuses being “about” something with “mentioning” something. The sci-fi ideas it plays around with fit naturally into a videogame, and give us a story that doesn’t just “work” as a videogame, but needed to be a videogame.

Mid-game spoilers: It’s about a world where you can copy the mind of a human into a computer. At one point you need to copy your mind into a newer robo-body. After the copy, you hear your character’s voice coming from the old body, because this is a COMPUTER and making copies is kind of What Computers Do. You suddenly realize you’re no longer alone, but the old “you” is basically screwed. Would you like to euthanize your former self?

That’s a fun setup in a book, but a book can’t let you make the choice and a book doesn’t make you push the kill button to make it happen. This isn’t a Mass Effect style game where “choices matter” in the sense of working towards some ending. Instead the choices are more immediate and philosophical: What do you think, player? How would you handle this situation?

It’s a fun ride once it gets going, and the strange biomechanical undersea base is wonderfully realized.

I have two main complaints: The main character needed to be a bit of a rube so that he would need other characters to explain things to him, but I think maybe he was a bit too much of a rube. In the end, Simon’s bafflement stops serving the needs of the story (because we have all the exposition we need) and simply becomes an ongoing source of annoyance. Also, the monster encounters don’t usually work and end up wasting the player’s time.

2. Cities: Skylines


Or as I like to call it, “Suck it SimCity” aka “Schadenfreude: The Game”.

It was amazing to see Electronic Arts once again turn gold into lead with the 2013 SimCity reboot. SimCity is the great-grandfather of all Sim games. It was a perfect blend of expressiveness and experimentation, a delightful exploration of the systems that create and shape a city. Like The Sims, it had an almost universal appeal that allowed the game to transcend the normal demographic and genre boundaries.

All people wanted was to see another incremental step in the evolution of the series. Make the maps a little bigger. Make the buildings a little more varied. Maybe give us a new system to play with.

Instead, the game was ruined by attempting to turn it into some sort of horrific always-online… thing. It was shallow and dumb, the servers were broken, most of the features were stripped out, and the remaining features didn’t really work as a simulation of anything. What remained was a husk of a game, stuffed with product placement and DRM. It wasn’t just bad. It was contemptible. Errant Signal has a great two part retrospective on the various failures of the game.

And so it was delicious to watch a plucky indie team put together a city simulator that not only succeeded where SimCity failed, but actually triumphed at the very things SimCity refused to do. I don’t like this game because it punished EA for their hubris and incompetence, I like this game because it’s the best city simulator I’ve ever played. The hubris-punishing is just gravy. Skylines wasn’t just better than SimCity, it was better than SimCity had ever aspired to be. It was a smarter design that understood and leveraged the core mechanics of the genre.

The traffic in Skylines is wonderful. It’s a simulation that creates emergent three-dimensional puzzles for you to solve. You can’t get that sort of thing anywhere else.

1. The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt

Witch. Witcher. Witchest.
Witch. Witcher. Witchest.

Well, this was a surprise.

I hated the first Witcher game. I thought the gameplay was tedious, the mechanics were obtuse, the world was dreary to the point of nihilism, and the engine was clunky and ugly. Also, I hated Geralt and wanted nothing to do with him or his stupid adventures. The game had nothing to offer me.

The second game fared slightly better. I made it a few hours into the game before I got bored and frustrated enough to quit.

But here we are with the third game, and suddenly it rockets to the top of my end-of-year list? How did this happen?

It’s easy, really. All developers had to do was come up with a fun action combat system that features magic, swordplay, and even non-lethal combat, design a massive world where choices actually matter and propagate through the story, a cast of dozens (maybe even hundreds?) of individually written and voice acted characters with accents that reflect their origin and social status, several massive open-world zones to explore and discover at your own pace, massively ambitious worldbuilding, and a main story that carries you though side-stories about war, love, revenge, organized crime, political intrigue, cloak and dagger adventure, crime solving, a grown-up love triangle where there are interpersonal consequences for every choice, monster hunting, and good old fashioned shitty puns.

Oh, also cutting-edge graphics, detailed costume design, varied environments, a wonderful musical score,

See developers? That’s all you need to do to win me over. Just do all that and you too have the honor of being featured on my blog. Honestly, I don’t know what’s holding you back.

Witch. Witcher. Witchest.
Witch. Witcher. Witchest.

Developer CD Project Red has done what I’ve always said was impossible. They made a gigantic game packed with characters and worldbuilding, and then they voice acted the whole thing.

For years I’ve complained that moving to voice acting has shrunk our games, because you couldn’t do something Planescape: Torment-sized if every line needed to be voice acted. But now CDPR has done that. I don’t know what magic has enabled them to do this, and it’s probably not reasonable to expect other developers to try the same thing, but… I want them to anyway.


From The Archives:

91 thoughts on “Dénouement 2015 Part 4: The End

  1. Ninety-Three says:

    “Developer CD Project Red has down what I've always said was impossible.”

    I suppose they might have it down pat at this point, but I doubt that’s what you meant.

    1. Ayegill says:

      Final line of the post “I want them too anyway”, should probably be “to”

  2. SlothfulCobra says:

    Books can do that sort of letting the reader decide thing, but it’s tricky. They have to leave things vague and skip to the next bit in order to let the reader fill in the gaps. Assumptions can carry a reader pretty far at points, although with books there’s always theoretically an author’s intention that you’re supposed to be finding, where with games the impetus for decision is specifically on you.

    I don’t have anything to say about Skylines and Witcher 3, other than I hope that they’re good enough that my family likes them. I bought them both as gifts. I want to play them myself, but I feel like I don’t have time in my life to spend on a new video game right now.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Yes – neither is especially well-tailored for very-busy people! :D I don’t think you can go too far wrong with either, though, presentwise.

  3. MichaelGC says:

    Aye, I think Witcher 3 is my game of the decade. Or longer, really – there’s probably only one* other game I enjoyed as much overall, and a major factor with that other one will have been being a 10-yr-old when I played it (this would be the original Elite).

    Pretty impressed with CDPR, too – they did a great, swift job addressing the few issues the game had at launch, and also put other developers to shame with their approach to additional content, I’d say. First time I’ve ever bought one of those Season Pass efforts! – it just seemed like if they were going to go around being that awesome then they in some sense deserved it.

    So, I’d love to read further thoughts on it should the mood ever strike! (Oh, and I’m hoping we’re going to get Josh’s written thoughts on 2015, too – we did get a good survey of his opinion in the last DieCast, of course, but it’s always fun times reading what he reckons when he puts pen to paper … or rather fingers to keyboard.)

    *Well, not counting Chuckie Egg, of course, but that almost goes without saying.

    1. I suspect that owning GoG may be a large part of what enabled them to do something that ambitious.

      1. MichaelGC says:

        Right – and as mentioned below: lower labour costs; the absence of time-pressure from a publisher; etc. But there were certainly other factors which helped them pull it off: learning from their mistakes or missteps from previous games; keeping what worked and developing or ditching what didn’t; a real focus on integrating the various aspects (main stuff, side stuff, tutorial stuff); etc. etc.

        For me the greater mystery is what the hell were those blue birds in Chuckie Egg, and how and why were they lethal? I mean, I know a swan can break yer arm, but those bastards were OPKs!*

        *One-Peck Kills…

      2. Tektotherriggen says:

        You may be right, but by the same standards Valve should be on Half Life 23 by now.

        1. Wolf says:

          Well no. By the same standard Valve is currently taking their sweet time and not releasing their Half Life 3 Virtual Reality Full Immersion Tactical Shooter MMO until it is well and truly done.

          1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

            They’re still working on the real life teleporter and power suit they’re planning on bundling with it. These things take time.

        2. James says:

          well they are certainly not working on customer support or curation huehuehuehue.

  4. ? says:

    Hey, Simon has minor case of serious brain damage, it’s not nice calling him a rube. :P

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Or possibly a serious case of minor brain damage? ;D

      1. Gruhunchously says:

        Can he jump?

  5. Artur CalDazar says:

    The monsters in SOMA worked for me because I was interested in how they worked, because you had to figure that out as you went, and because I misunderstood something else.
    Kinda spoilery but not really?
    I thought there would be some major negative repercussions for using the health stations, because they start eating you the more you use them and you see people physically attached to them and kept in a cruel limbo as a result. They are connections to the creepy as all hell WAU and I didn’t want anything to do with that. Might I turn into one of those monsters walking around? Or worse?
    Of course I was wrong, but the fear of using health stations was strong and also meant of fear of taking any damage, and thus all enemies.

    I’m always amazed when I think just how not good the first two games are, and how fantastic the third one is. Its staggering how quickly they learned.
    “I don't know what magic has enabled them to do this, ”
    Living in Poland and having that nations government consider your works a point of pride likely helps.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Its a shame that the health anuses dont have more meaning to them though.Because them eating more and more of you is a pretty interesting setup,but sadly no payoff.

      The monsters were just annoying though.Especially the ones that you cant look at.And their placement doesnt help at all.At one point I got jumped while reading some emails.That sucked.

      1. Matt K says:

        I thought the monsters kind of ruined what was otherwise a pretty good game. The first few we’re bad but then they had some timed chase that required you to remember the layout of the ship and that was it for me.

        They were especially bad when there was areas I wanted to explore or that one area that had a bunch of emails and yet you didn’t really have the luxury of exploring because suddenly monsters.

  6. Deda says:

    Well, not a single game in this list is a game I’ve played or have the intention of ever playing.

    I feel like my taste in games is the exact opposite to Shamus’s, and yet when I read what he writes in this blog I always understand where he is coming from and find it interesting and smart, that probably says something good about him.

    1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

      I feel similar at times (though I played and lover Witcher 3).

      In my case, he likes the games I feel like I should like but never feel like I have the energy to try to learn to play. Designing rockets to launch into space sounds cool, but at the end of the day I’m tired so its another round of rpg grinding for me. Building cities sounds cool. But I’m tired so I’m just going to play a few rounds of Mario Kart 8 tonight rather than trying to learn a whole new genre.

      I probably should just start pecking at it one of these days. That tends to be how it works for me. Just keep punching buttons till it starts to make sense.

  7. Ninety-Three says:

    SOMA didn’t work for me. Part of the problem was that Amnesia was my favorite horror game ever, so I wanted more of that, which SOMA definitely wasn’t. SOMA was weirdly half-assed about its monsters, it felt like it ought to have been a walking simulator, but the devs put in monsters because you can’t sell a nine-hour walking simulator in this day and age.

    Mostly though, I think I was just too much of a nerd for it. I don’t mean to call SOMA stupid, because it’s miles above what you normally get in that area, but it was kind of Transhumanism 101. Most people aren’t very familiar with that, so it’s a fine level to set things at, but as that kind of nerd I didn’t find SOMA thought-provoking because I’d already had those thoughts about computers perfectly copying minds. It killed most of the appeal, and it also made the rube of a protagonist even more aggravating.

    For contrast, my similarly nerdy friend loved it, they were just glad that someone finally got transhumanism right. I’m curious, was there anyone else who was already into this subject matter that played SOMA? What was your reaction to it?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Right here.Ive though quite a lot about that subject.I liked how soma tackled it….for the most part.The main guy was just an idiot.And I dont get the point of the matrix in the end.

      But Im of the opinion that a work doesnt have to say something new and original for it to be good.Ive chewed through A TON of time travel stories,yet I liked looper when it came out,even though it said nothing new.I liked predestination,even though I knew from the very start exactly what points it was going to hit.Presentation is very important to me.

      So I liked how soma presented itself,despite how stupid the main guy was.

      But if you want a better story about the interaction of two identical copies of someone,watch farscape.At one point,the main guy gets copied into two identical beings.The show is pretty explicit in showing that these two are identical in every way,physical and mental.And then it goes on to show how they start diverging because of how they are now separate entities,as well as how others start reacting differently to the two as well.Its brilliant.

      1. arron says:

        The one thing that I didn’t like about SOMA is that I was voiced as a jerk-ass, when I would have preferred to be perhaps be more positive about being a miracle corpse in a suit with a computer for a head. Perhaps this is one game that dialogue choices would have been a good inclusion so it doesn’t jar with the player’s feeling about what they’re experiencing if you can choose what to say.

        Another addition after transferring to the new suit would have been perhaps do a mission with your other self doing something that requires two people. That would make euthanasia of your old self a much harder choice realising that it is you..except one that is doomed when it is left behind. If you let your old you survive, the outcome for the mission might change in some way.

        Or an epilogue where old you tries to explore what’s left of the surface perhaps. Or copies itself into every robot and preserved corpse-filled suit to form a colony of Simon trying to rebuild the Earth from the ashes. Lots of possibilities.

        1. Gruhunchously says:

          Reading things like this just makes me realize what W-RPGs could accomplish if they were more comfortable about breaking formula. All the big players of that genre have settled into setting types, and quite generic ones at that, and gameplay features for a very long time. Why can’t we have a transhumanism RPG set in a world that blends between the real and the virtual, or an RPG in the vein of Spec Ops, about being trapped in a hostile semi-contemporary area and being forced to make decisions about the lives of those around you with limited information.

    2. Galad says:

      “Most people aren't very familiar with that”

      Well, this particular market doesn’t sound bad as the target market for a game idea, so too bad the stuff felt too basic for you?

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        “Most people aren't very familiar with that, so it's a fine level to set things at”

        I thought I was pretty clear about that part.

  8. Neko says:

    I assume CD Projekt just started kidnapping voice actors and wouldn’t release them until they’d recorded hundreds of hours of dialogue.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      I figure they probably just didn’t worry about getting big names, and probably stuck with lesser-known VAs who could do a pretty good job anyways.

      Honestly, as much as I know voice acting can cost a bit of money to do, I don’t see how it can be SO much money as to really impact the scope of some of these big AAA games… unless they’re always going for the best of the best. Which makes some sense, but… I feel like it may not be so necessary.

      1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

        Exception. There was one voice actress who did a terrible job of sounding like a little girl. It was that little free Wolf and Viper DLC where you have to hunt down the other Witcher. Whoever was voicing the little girl sounded like a middle aged woman not trying very hard to sound like a little girl. Maybe I’m just spoiled by Clementine.

        1. Henson says:

          The kids in the Polish voice version are fantastic. Little Ciri is adorable.

          1. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

            Most of the ones in the English version were fine (including young Ciri) but that one girl took me right out of the scene.

      2. James says:

        However if you want to tout names like “Kate Mulgrew” “Wilum Defoe” or other actors then costs begin to mount even getting people like “Jennifer Hale” “Steve Blum” and the like cant be cheep these days. You can really see this with Broken Age being able to tout Elijah Wood, Wil Wheaton and the like bloated that game immeasurably in cost

  9. Joe Leigh says:

    The Witcher 3 might have been my game of the year, but the ending ruined it. It ruined it so hard, I was fully intending to start New Game + and keep playing as soon as it ended, and then the ending happened and I haven’t touched the game since. Why? I got the “bad” ending.
    There are five binary choices in the third act of the game. They aren’t particularly important choices, nor are they presented as such. Worse, they’re the incredibly rare timed choices that always catch you off guard because there are maybe ten of them in the whole game. If you get more than one of them “wrong,” you get the bad ending. Period. And these aren’t “Hug the Puppy vs Murder the Puppy” choices, these are choices like “Grab a beer vs have a snowball fight” and “encourage the most powerful being in the multiverse to throw a temper tantrum vs probably don’t do that,” where encouraging her to literally blow up an entire island in anger is the correct choice.
    The bad ending ignores anything you may have done throughout the game, your relationships with Triss and/or Yennefer, anything. In the bad ending, Ciri dies fighting whatever she goes off to fight. Geralt goes nuts with grief, kills a bunch of villagers, murders the third Hag who got away before (I don’t remember what they’re really called) and then fucking kills himself.
    It’s an emotionally powerful ending, to be sure, and if it felt like the story was leading up to a tragic ending, or if I was somehow unaware that there were 32 different endings that are highly tailored to your particular choices during the game, it might have just felt like a particularly dark, bleak ending. But I didn’t feel it was deserved, and it just came across as the game saying “SCREW YOU BUDDY” in giant red letters.

    1. TheBoff says:

      I agree with this so, so much. It wasn’t even at all signposted that the choice was “get drunk” vs “snowball fight”. The dialog just seemed utterly unrelated — it particularly rankled because I would have chosen snowball fight had I known. And not blowing up the lab being the negative option is such bullshit. Allowing your child to throw a massive hissy fit because a lady they just met said some rude things is BAD PARENTING.

      However, up to that point, I think it was my favourite game of all time, so I’m going to re-wind a bit and remake some choices when I have the time.

      I’m actually a bit sad that the next game is Cyberpunk, rather than another Witcher, because I’m a big fantasy fan.

      1. Artur CalDazar says:

        I don’t know how they could keep going with Witcher games. They’ve kinda placed the setting in a place where its more or less done for the characters we follow.

        Well, they could keep going but not in the way they have thus far.

      2. Trix2000 says:

        Thing is, she’s not exactly a child anymore, so while instinct might be to rein her in and protect her… I believe in the end the idea was that she needed to be able to stand on her own, to have a little fun, to be a little reckless. If I recall, that shift plays out in the main story arc as well, especially considering how unhappy she seems when the ‘adults’ don’t seem to give her much weight.

        In the end, she really needed that feeling of independence, of self-worth, to be able to succeed.

        All that said, I would agree a bit that it could have been less subtle/arbitrary on what affects this distinction… or at least a bit more lenient on whether she succeeds/fails. Or perhaps just a bit more transparent about what it was that caused her to fail/succeed in the end.

      3. Wide And Nerdy â„¢ says:

        Ciri had been through hell She just learned that Avallach had been using her. She’s being chased by the Wild Hunt. Her power has left her in a position where everybody is treating her like a tool. She needed to blow off some steam.

        It would be bad parenting to encourage a kid to do that but Ciri is old enough to understand that this was a one time thing. Besides, she’s always been willful and independent.

        Maybe I’m just saying that because I picked all the right choices. But I’ve always been inclined when dealing with children to speak to them as much like equals as they show they can handle. And Ciri isn’t even a child. She’s carrying more weight than most.

    2. Henson says:

      Okay, I’ve had a lot of thoughts on this one. Be warned, SPOILERS.

      First, a correction: you actually need three wrong choices to get the bad ending, not one. If you choose randomly, you have about a 59% chance of getting one of the good endings.

      As someone who got the bad ending on his first playthrough, it really is a punch in the gut. I was a wreck afterwards because all I found I didn’t care about the fate of the nonhumans or the Northern Kingdoms or anything, I just wanted Ciri to have a happy ending, and I failed her. And in some ways, it really is unfair; depending on how you interpret these five choices, you might have a very different idea of what the ‘right’ choice is and what should lead to a good result. For instance, when Ciri told me that the sorceresses wanted to talk to her, she really sounded like she wanted me to go with her; the ‘right’ choice seemed to be supporting her by going with her to the meeting. You can just as easily think that the ‘right’ choice is in supporting her by letting her know that you trust her to handle it herself.

      But at the same time, the approach they took is rather appropriate for the world, and makes sense. We can’t always predict what effect our choices will have, especially if we can’t or won’t see the choice from all perspectives. A good intention may lead to bad result; this is only natural in a world as grounded in harsh reality as that of the Witcher. The seemingly unimportant things to us may have the biggest impact for others.

      (From a design aspect, I rather like the idea that the choices’ importance are not always telegraphed to the player; the very presence of the Big Choices in games risks changing what the player does from ‘what he would naturally choose’ to ‘what he thinks is the “good” choice’.)

      And perhaps most importantly, the player’s interpretation of these choices are probably not the most important thing. What matters most is how Ciri interprets these choices.

      Now I still don’t think the mechanics behind the endings quite work as well as I’d like, and perhaps not as well as is possible – there are just so many ways to look at the narrative situation between Geralt and Ciri and come to different conclusions about how a choice should impact the relationship between these two characters. It’s an obviously imperfect solution, but it’s also not an outright failure. And I have to respect them for putting forward the effort on something that gives me this much to think about.

      1. Galad says:

        When I first played the game I had not consulted any walkthrough (barring potentially minor points where I’d been stuck for a moment, but certainly not for these major plot points), yet I’d somehow gotten all of them ‘right’ (not that getting them ‘right’ is a must, mind you. Role-playing and all that jazz). That tells me that, while I don’t remember in detail the dialogue, it has peobably been telegraphed in one way or another, what the ‘right’ choice had been.

      2. Joe Leigh says:

        Going to meet the sorceresses was definitely ambiguous in terms of the narrative, but as a player, the choice seemed to be “would you like to skip this next cutscene?” to which my answer was obviously no, I want to see what happens.

    3. 4th Dimension says:

      Oh I feel you there. I haven’t finished the game yet, but plan to, and one of the reasons for that is that I fear I’ll get that ending. I found out about that when I looked up that exact Avalach quest you mentioned. I looked it up to see what did I miss in it because to me it didn’t reveal too much about him and mostly introduced more questions and did not answer the main question of what will he ask of Ciri and what does he plan to do to avert the White Frost from consuming his world. And then I found out that throwing a temper tantrum is a good thing and got a baaad feeling that I might have failed other checks too because I don’t remember what I did there. Definitely had the snowball fight. The main issue with that choice for me is that it is apparently a choice between Ciri blowing up the island with her powers possibly alerting Eredin vs calming her down, and not demolishing Avalach’s lab and drawing a mustache on his painting vs calming Ciri down. There is a wide gulf of difference between using a WMD and flipping over some tables.

      But still despite that it’s still one of the best games I played.

  10. Drifter says:

    I agree. Witcher 3 for GOTY. It was ten years in the making effectively, but what an end result.

    I also thought the highlight was the consistently amazing voice acting. This was an experience not to be missed.

    But, others are on to the magic sauce too. I am just finishing Divinity Original Sin Enhanced Edition, and the voice acting is expansive and very consistently good. Not Witcher 3 level but pretty fantastic given the size of that game.

    Anyway, bit sad right now as it may be years before I get another Witcher 3 experience. I’m hoarding the DLC to play both together next year to get another 30+ hours in.

  11. Khizan says:

    I’ve always been fairly sure that Witcher 3’s major advantage is that CDProjekt Red is Polish, and labor costs are muuuuuch lower in Poland.

    1. Trix2000 says:

      Still doesn’t explain how they managed to create such a masterpiece of a game, though. Money doesn’t really enter into that equation so much as talent (and a bit of luck maybe).

  12. Gravebound says:

    Game of the Year for me is definitely Splatoon. I played nearly every day for three months straight, took some time off and then started playing all over again. One of the few games I bought full-price in a long time, but absolutely got my money’s worth.

    Number two is IL-2 Sturmovik. Sure it was released in 2001, but they just released patch 4.13 in June. :) If Shamus can have Minecraft then I can have this.

    The only other game I put much time into this year was Dragon’s Dogma: Dark Arisen… which was from 2013…but it’s coming out on PCs in January…so, if you average it…it probably still doesn’t count.

  13. IFS says:

    I only started playing Witcher 3 a couple weeks ago and its definitely up there for me, probably second place behind Bloodborne. So far I’m loving it for the most part, the world is fantastically executed, the gameplay is fun, and the writing is great. My only real issues are that Geralt handles somewhat clunkily and the combat takes some obvious inspiration from Dark Souls but is nowhere near as tight as that series. The disconnect it creates through this is sometimes irritating to me and quite often I find myself frustrated by attacks that I felt like I would have easily been able to avoid in the souls games or enemies that seemed to stagger very inconsistently. Its still miles above any combat in the Elder Scrolls games of course, and good enough for the most part, but I really hope the game doesn’t have many bosses because the one I’ve met so far was not fun in any way.

    Regardless of my feelings about the combat its clear that Witcher 3 has set a new bar for open world games, I just hope Bethesda manages to take some notes.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’d highly recommend the ‘alternative’ movement style under Options>Gameplay, if you’re not using it already. It’s not a revolutionary revelatory difference, but it is a big improvement over the original ‘heavily overfilled shopping cart with three broken wheels’ standard-style.

      1. IFS says:

        Just made the switch, thanks for the recommendation!

      2. Will says:

        Another control feature worth mentioning is that you can press “ctrl” (I think? Check keybindings, I guess) at any time to toggle walk mode if you’re trying to walk up to something and keep sprinting past it.

  14. WWWebb says:

    How did they make the Witcher? Well, maybe they could make it because they were running a successful game marketplace that provided a steady stream of income. That let them take their time and not worry about publisher pressure.

    It sort of makes you wonder what kind of game a certain OTHER developer could make if they were given years of steady money from an even more successful marketplace.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      How much money do they make off GOG? I never got the impression they were at Steam’s “Making games is basically just our hobby now” level of income, but I’ve never looked closely at it. It would make sense if they were building the game with an unlimited budget because they’re rolling in cash.

      1. Supahewok says:

        GOG makes NOWHERE near the amount of Steam does (I think simultaneous releases on both platforms have shown that GOG is, like, 1-5% of a game’s total income?), but CDProjekt also isn’t throwing money at multiple pieces of hardware, an operating system, post-release content for multiple games, and development for multiple games, and I PROBABLY missed another half dozen of their projects. In contrast, all CDProjeckt does is operate their store, work on their store client, get old games to work, and develop ONE game at a time. They don’t have the humongous dollars of Steam, but they’re also not throwing them everywhere, they’re keeping focused.

      2. Khizan says:

        I think a lot of it is that they’re based in Poland so their money goes further.

        As an example, the median wage for a software developer in Poland is about $20k. US? $67k. I can’t find numbers in Poland for 3d animators/artists, voice actors, and all that other stuff but if they scale similarly to the software developer they’re gonna save a bundle on salary.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      If that were the only requirement,wticher 2 wouldve been just as good as witcher 3,starcraft 2 wouldve been as brilliant as starcraft 1,and valve wouldve released half life 3 already.

    3. Abnaxis says:

      Just one certain other developer? All of the Big Guys have cash cows they suckle off of while they keep churning out uninteresting drivel. Makes me sad for the medium…

  15. MikhailBorg says:

    Okay, SOMA is on my Steam wish list now specifically because “It wasn't the fright-fest I was hoping for, but it was a really solid chunk of sci-fi.” Fright-fests bore me; you’ve made this sound much more interesting.

    As for Witcher 3, I wasn’t interested in this one before either, because of your reaction to the previous two. But now I’m curious. If someone ports it to my fruit machine, I’d like to try it now.

  16. Daemian Lucifer says:

    What impressed me about witcher 3 is the ammount of models they have for npcs.You have cripples with no legs,you have people with missing hands,and you can converse with them just like with anyone else.Its awesome.The cities really feel like populated places,and not an abstraction like in bethesda games,with token house here,token merchant there.

    Also trolls.The game has lovable trolls.Thats not something you see often.Heck,I dont remember seeing it ever.Even warcraft,which has interesting trolls,still doesnt have lovable ones.I mean,witcher 3 has turned an freaking internet meme into a lovable troll.Thats astonishing.

  17. Karthik says:

    Shamus, can you pardon a tangential query about The Witcher 3 that has nothing to do with the winsome qualities you describe above?

    You mentioned a fun combat system and I’m wondering, did you play it with a controller or kb/m?

    I haven’t begun the game proper simply because I can’t choose between the two. Both work well; it looks like combat with the controller will require constant pausing (or slow-motion-menu-ing) and the occasional clumsy aiming, while keyboard controls don’t handle Geralt’s general movement as smoothly.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ive played it only with kb+m and had no problem with it on the hadest difficulty.The only thing that was problematic was sidestepping,but using dodge roll made it unnecessary to use it anyway.Though if I fiddled with the keybinding a bit I couldve made both work I guess,but I felt no need.

      1. Henson says:

        I had the same problem, hitting ALT just doesn’t feel right for me in WASD. I ended up rebinding spacebar to dodge rather than roll, which meant that I pretty much never rolled. It created some harder situations for me, but not really that bad.

        1. Greg says:

          You could double tap WASD to dodge instead of hitting alt, was much more useful.

    2. SyrusRayne says:

      I can’t answer for Shamus, but I found that the controller played best for me. I focused on melee, and it just flowed a lot better.

    3. Shamus says:

      Xbox controller. I thought it felt pretty good.

  18. Infinitron says:

    The magic of Polish game developer salaries

    1. SyrusRayne says:

      The cost of living is cheaper there too, though. According to the first google search result I clicked, it’s 40% cheaper to live there than Canada. Canada is, in turn, 15% cheaper than the US of A, and 27% cheaper than the UK and now I’ve fallen down a well of information gathering help I can’t get out

  19. Alex says:

    SOMA and The Witcher 3 suffer from the same problem for me: they might be really good games, but they’re good games set in worlds made to be so pervasively bleak that I have no desire to experience them. Unless The Witcher 3 throws away the stuff I hated about the tone of The Witcher 2, I wouldn’t want to spend hours in that world. Time will tell whether Cyberpunk will be better in this regard (and also whether there’s a female protagonist).

    1. Henson says:

      Witcher 3 is not nearly as bleak as Witcher 2 was. One of the things that surprised me, especially in the first few hours, was in just how much humanity there was in these characters. The world is still dirty and grounded, but with 3 there is often a spark of life and hope behind it as well.

  20. Zekiel says:

    I really want to play the Witcher 3. On the other hand, my computer won’t even come close to running it (and there’s only one other game that I want to play which I need to upgrade for, which is Wolfenstein The New Order).

    Which means that the price tag of the Witcher 3 for me is effectively about £600 :-(
    £575 if I wait for a sale :-(

    Anyway, grumping aside, I am genuinely delighted that it brought joy to so many people. I’m a bit fan of the Witcher 2 (in spite of its stupid difficulty curve and completely uneven story pacing) so I’m very glad to see the sequel strike gold.

    1. Galad says:

      It’s definitely a game worth upgrading for, and sooner or later, you’ll need to do that upgrading for any newly released games. I did it at the start of this year and I’ve been pretty happy with my gaming since then. Something to consider.

  21. Ah, that bit of stripping features. One thing that has annoyed the hell out of me in F1 games. You got the Ubisoft’s Monaco Grand Prix Race Simulation 2 from 1997, with all set ups for the car, practice mode with ghost car, full weekend in which you can save ANYTIME, career mode in which you start with one of the worse cars and depending on your performance during the season you may advance to a better car or stay in the same (I don’t know if having a terrible season would drop you, as I did never badly). Then I got EA’s F1 ’99-’02 and I don’t know if ’99 or ’02. The earlier had practice with ghost car, but stripped it of saving during sessions, no career mode, the AI cars couldn’t recognize your braking early so it forced you to shave the brake limit every turn just not to get the car behind get you out of the race until you got enough distance (at least it was more of a system that punished early braking, that is, too cautious learning), no career mode. Then the later (’99-’02) removed the ghost car, some other features I don’t remember, it added a career but then it was just three seasons with the same car, no progression to different teams. Both added a huge load of system requirements that basically just served to have better looking cars and a 3D cockpit instead of MGPRS2’s bitmap overlay but removed several features and as a F1 simulation games were worse. Then I tried rFactor, which I couldn’t play enough but was decent, though it didn’t recover features so I think I was still without ghost practice mode, it was a clear improvement over EA’s titles in that it had, I think, ghost practice? and its customizability. Then I tried F1 2010 and that was rubbish, the worst of all: set ups of the car very limited, just general muched out end result with sliders of “faster ——– slower”, “more acceleration ————- more high speed”, etc, nothing like “wing angle”, “front camber”, “back camber”, “suspension hardness”, “suspension limits”, “front height”, etc of the others, the AI were much more woeful than EA’s, while in EA it was not recognizing when you brake early and punishing you for being too cautious going into a curve, F1 2010 is not recognizing the existence of your car at all, they don’t punish braking too early, it punishes not braking way too late for a good curve, you can nail the brake time and still get rammed, and then the AI will say you caused the collision and disqualify you. Unless you start first and can keep ahead of everybody in the start, you can’t try to squeeze in the inside: if you get a car in front it only lets you two choices: wreck your car ramming the one ahead or get wrecked by having the one behind ram into you, to top it off, you can’t save during a weekend so you need to make all the practice sessions and race in a single go, something I can’t do (and I refuse to play short races).

    I’ve got into a rant: the point is that in many genres and games and also I’m noticing it in other places like some image hosting, web services and other applications, it feels like with time features are removed rather than added. Things start allowing you to do 100 things, then as time passes they begin removing. They call it “streamline” I think, I call it “dismantling”.

    When I bought FM09 from FM05 I was so surprised the requirements didn’t go up and the features had increased AND improved AND the game ran faster and smoother instead of being a clumsy and stripped behemoth I decided to reward them buying it every year instead of every five years or more.

    1. MichaelGC says:

      I’ve just been trying out FM2016 – the last one I remember playing was when it was still CM – so around 15 years ago. It has … all got a bit more complicated since then, hasn’t it! :D

      I’m a chronic re-starter of games when they’re new to me – I’ve started seven games so far, and haven’t yet got past pre-season! (Not complaining, I should stress! I’m rather enjoying figuring out all the new complexities. Although the Assistant Manager is going to be handling all the training for the foreseeable future…)

  22. T.A. says:

    You know, Colossal Order, the makers of Cities: Skylines also did the Cities in Motion series? They were traffick simulators, in which you were managing the publick transportation of a city.
    Apparently they ported the entire simulation engine to Cities: Skylines which explains why the game has the best overall traffick from any citybuilder I’ve played.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The sci-fi ideas it plays around with fit naturally into a videogame, and give us a story that doesn't just “work” as a videogame, but needed to be a videogame.

    Actually thats not true.Like Ive mentioned above,farscape tackled this subject in a better way.There was also an Arnold movie that kind of dealt with this idea as well.

    There are practically no ideas that NEED to be in a specific medium.You just have to tell them differently depending on what medium is used.

    1. Otters34 says:

      It wouldn’t have the same impact and emotional weight if it wasn’t something the audience could do something about. That window of expression made an abstract thought experiment tangible and real and very, very frightening.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Thats true only if you identify with the protagonist.Which is not true for the most people,because he is an idiot.Farscape,on the other hand,does manage to make you identify wit crichton as he is the only human in this weird world you are exploring with him.And the impact of having him doubled,and the everything that happens to both is so much greater.

        Just because something is a video game does not mean you will immediately identify with the protagonist.In fact,the opposite can be deliberately achieved(spec ops the line).And just because something is a movie or a book does not mean you will never be able to identify with the protagonist.In fact,plenty of sci fi and fantasy have a human protagonist specifically for the audience to identify with them and experience this world through them(hitchhikers guide).

  24. Dreadjaws says:

    Oh, man, I was convinced Cities: Skylines was from 2014, that’s why I didn’t even think of it.

  25. bloodsquirrel says:

    I actually finally bought The Witcher 3 today. I haven’t decided whether I want to start it right away or give finishing Sunset Overdrive another shot first (if I don’t go back to it now, I’ll likely never do so).

    1. Bloodsquirrel says:

      So I went ahead and started The Witcher 3, and now I really, REALLY want to write an analysis of why its introduction succeeds in a way that so many other fantasy stories.

      1. djw says:

        Is that sentence the cliffhanger lead in for your analysis?

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I believe it just.

          1. djw says:

            Wait, you forgot

  26. Zagzag says:

    I’ve been really enjoying the Witcher 3, but speaking as someone from the United Kingdom I’d really like a word with whoever assigned real world accents to locations in this game. You often find villages with accents that span several hundred miles of the real world. I suppose I can understand why the evil Northern Kingdom bent on world domination through backstabbing is represented by Birmingham, but the faux Norse (whose names, gods and place names are all Nordic sounding) all being Irish really did seem odd to me.

    1. djw says:

      Probably it was easier to find voice actors with an Irish accent than a Scandinavian accent, but… Vikings did play an important roll in the history of Ireland, so its not too far fetched.

  27. Ninety-Three says:

    I recently got The Witcher 3, and I am not into it. Is this one of those games that takes ten or twenty hours to get good? I’m six hours in (killed the griffin, did all the sidequests and question marks in the first area, just got to the second) and it has yet to click. So far the quests have been a dull stream of “Go here and kill/examine this”, the combat is button-mashy and bland, and I’ve yet to any of the writing people seem so excited about.

    I can’t tell if my combat style is in a rut, or the combat just isn’t that deep. Pretty much every fight goes like this: put up the shield spell, mash fast attack, try to jump back if a strike’s coming, if I’m taking too much damage retreat until I have enough stamina to put up the shield again. Sometimes I put up the slow spell, but it’s a pain to keep enemies in the area of effect.

    Does the game change later on, or is it just not for me?

    1. EmmEnnEff says:

      Get to the Bloody Baron questline (One of the first things you can do once you’re out of White Orchard). The writing clicked for me there.

  28. wswordsmen says:

    Next year the number 1 game will be Good Robot.

    And I will now be banned for making a terrible joke.

  29. Phantos says:

    Huh. Unexpected choice for the top spot. I think Shamus’ rant about that one quest-chain scared me off of playing The Wild Hunt more than Witcher 2 did.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      The game’s love for chain-of-dependencies in the main quest is what made me quit.

      I’m looking for person A, but I don’t know where they are. Person B knows but won’t tell me until I complete task C. I can’t complete task C without D. I don’t know where to do D so I must enlist the help of person E. Person E won’t help me until I do F for them.

      Seven hours in that has multiple times, and I didn’t even get to the chain Shamus ranted about on Twitter. By the time I reached the bottom of one of the chains the game was asking me to run around a forest ringing a bell to attract the attention of someone’s lost goat.

      The combat felt bland and button mashy, the writing had yet to make me care, and the quests were just blatantly padded with busywork. Feeling like the game wasn’t respecting my time was what finally made me quit.

  30. tzeneth says:

    Shamus, how could you miss Kerbal Space program! This was technically the year of its completed launch. April had 1.0 launch. Oh those poor kerbals. You just left them on the Mun, completely forgotten, didn’t you.

    1. Supahewok says:

      It was #8.

  31. Tsi says:

    Has anyone played The Talos Principle ?
    Oh, wait, It came out in December last year… X )

    I kind of fell in love with that game when it came out and spent way too much time playing it.

  32. Blue_Pie_Ninja says:

    And CD Projekt Red said that CyberPunk 2077 is going to be bigger and better than The Witcher 3.

    If that is so then CyberPunk 2077 is going to be extremely amazing.

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