I Am Currently Playing Four Videogames

By Shamus Posted Friday May 12, 2017

Filed under: Video Games 177 comments

No, I’m not going to try to get you to feel sorry for me.

The Expectation: Now that I have Saturday nights free, I should be able to get more writing done!

The Reality: A couple of weeks ago I started playing Diablo III. And then the Factorio update came out, and I’ve been waiting for that for five months. And then Prey came out, and rumor was that it’s a spiritual successor to System Shock. Given my history with those games, I HAD to get it. And then STRAFE came out and I’ve been waiting for that since I backed the Kickstarter in February 2015.

So I’m trying to play four games at once and it’s going about as well as you might expect. I can’t say anything substantial about any of them, so let me say something insubstatial about each of them…

Diablo III

Eh. It's not without its charm. I guess.
Eh. It's not without its charm. I guess.

I am enthusiastically unimpressed. My indifference knows no bounds.

I’ve written a bunch of words on this game. I’m not sure when they’ll go up. It’s a bit long for a single post, so I need to either expand it into an analysis or cut it down to a review. I’ll probably cut. I don’t get the sense that anyone still cares enough about Diablo III to justify a multi-part series.


Okay, okay! You're a spiritual successor to the System Shock series. I get it already.
Okay, okay! You're a spiritual successor to the System Shock series. I get it already.

You know what really pissed me off about BioShock? How people kept calling it the “Spiritual successor to System Shock”. It wasn’t. It was shallower, shorter, more linear, less sure of its tone, and far more pretentious. This is not to say BioShock was a bad game. When judged on its own merits it was an excellent gameExcept for the ending, obviously.. But it was missing all the bits that I loved most about System Shock. Look, I like a nice hamburger as much as the next guy, but don’t try to convince me it’s a steak while I’m eating it.

But this? THIS is that spiritual successor I’ve been waiting for. It’s cyberpunk-y, it’s disempowering and survival horror-ish, it’s got a little bit of Metroidvania in its non-linear hub-based space station, it’s focused on a desperate scramble for resources, and the plot is doing some mind-screw stuff that’s keeping me curious.

I prefer to play this when it’s dark and quiet in the house. Nothing ruins a spooky, moody game like having sunlight streaming in the windows and having people stop by for chit-chat. I only get a couple of hours of quiet per day, so progress on this one is slow. And even after I finish, it’s going to take me a while to really digest it.

Short review: It’s the closest anyone has come to the System Shock experience since 1999. For a few of you, that should be all you need to know.

Factorio 0.15

My nuclear power plant. The great thing about being trapped alone on an alien world is you don't have to put up with any NIMBY bullshit.
My nuclear power plant. The great thing about being trapped alone on an alien world is you don't have to put up with any NIMBY bullshit.

It was amazing to see what everyone else was playing last week. If you read the responses, you’ll see that even after hundreds of comments there wasn’t an emerging pattern of “Most people are playing X”. We really are playing a lot of different games. I can’t tell you how happy this makes me. I’m not sure why. I just love this notion that the world of gaming is now so big we have to run off and explore the various corners on our own and report our findings back to the group, because it’s just too dang big for anyone to see the whole thing. I play more games than most of youCitation: This post’s title. and yet I still feel like I barely have a handle on what’s going on.

On the other hand, I was kind of sad when only one other Factorio fan chimed in. I was looking for an excuse to write more about the game, and I was hoping a handful of “Hello fellow cultist. Welcome to the fold.” would give me that opening. But it looks like there aren’t many people still into it.

Maybe that’s for the best. Factorio is so dense with its own technical details that I’d have to explain half the game before I could talk about any of its systems. Discussing Factorio with non-Factorio people is hard. I’m not saying it has Dwarf Fortress levels of impenetrability, but it suffers from the same problem that the depth makes it hard to discuss with outsiders.

Then again… I might take a crack at it anyway, if only to justify the embarrassing number of hours I’m pouring into the silly thing. Of all the games on my list, this one is devouring the most hours.

Comments on the most recent update:

  • The new nuclear power plant is REALLY cool, but it comes so late in the game that it’s kind of frustrating. You REALLY need it before you can get it, and by the time you can get it you’ll need it less because you’ll have invested SO MUCH into conventional power sources. I don’t mind if it costs you something in the short-term to go for nuke power, but right now it feels like a huge investment of time and resources just to play with a toy. In terms of opportunity cost, it’s way easier to just blanket the world with fields of solar panels or steam generators.
  • I love that Blue Science Bottles are a little easier to make. The jump from green to blue was always so enormous. I usually ran out of early-game stuff to research long before I got Blue Science up and running.
  • I also really like that you can run your base without being obligated to go out and fight monsters for their purple science crystal thingies. After a patch I prefer to play on peaceful until I have a handle on the mechanics. I don’t play with aliens attacking until I know how I want to run my base.


I basically can't get enough of this chunky space-industrial art style.
I basically can't get enough of this chunky space-industrial art style.

Like I said, I’ve been waiting for this game since February of 2015. It was supposed to come out 11 months ago, but you know how it is with game development. It’s pretty much everything I’d hoped it would be. It’s fast-paced, fun, and endlessly varied. It’s a roguelike built around 1996 style shooting mechanics.

The story is: You’re on a spaceship and everything wants to kill you. Keep that from happening for as long as possible. Each level ends with a Left 4 Dead style safehouse where you can see your gameplay stats and (if the RNG is kind) replenish a little of your supplies.

The one complaint I keep seeing with the game is that the guns feel “weak”. I do not get this. The guns are all basically one-shot kills for normal cannon fodder foes, so I don’t think people are complaining that the guns need to do more damage. The guns blow bodies apart, so they don’t have a lack of visceral feedback. They kick and recoilVisually. Your view / aiming reticle don’t move. Which is in keeping with the style the game is going for. just like you’d expect from a “1996” videogame. So I’m not sure why so many people are finding them unsatisfying. Maybe it’s the sound effects? The guns don’t have a lot of bass to them, so you don’t get that meaty roar like (say) the shotguns of Doom or Quake. I’d love to dig down and figure out what’s really going wrong here.

My major gripe with the game – and it’s a pretty big one – is that it’s much too difficult to unlock the ability to start on later levels. It’s basically this obtuse process of gathering up random items that may or may not drop, and then buying other items from a shop that don’t have any immediate purpose, and then using those items in this other location. Once you’ve done enough of this random nonsense you’ll supposedly be able to start the game in the second zone, which means you won’t need to spend fifteen to twenty minutes slogging through the first zone again.

I’ve played 42 games and reached the second zone probably a dozen times, but I’m still waiting for the random items to drop that will let me skip directly to the second zone. I’m sick to death of the first area. Sick of the same enemies. Sick of the same few music loops. Sick of the same textures. I can’t stand it anymore. Maybe I’m just really unlucky, or maybe the developers thought the first zone was just so interesting people would want to spend six hours in itI don’t actually know how many hours I’ve put into the game. There’s a bug that the game leaves behind a ghost process when you close it, which makes GoG think it’s still running. (You have to kill it in task manager before you can launch the game again.) So my playtime numbers are meaningless..

The second zone has a lot of nasty surprises and new foes. Which is good! But when my run ends because I get torn apart by a threat I didn’t understand and I realize how long it’s going to take me to get back to the second zone, I realize I’ve got twenty minutes of monotony before I can learn the next lesson the Hard Way.

It’s the Dark Souls problem all over again: Don’t make repeat half an hour of stuff I’ve mastered before I’m allowed five minutes of practice on the New Thing.

Hate it. HATE IT.

One of the safehouses between levels in Zone 2.
One of the safehouses between levels in Zone 2.

“But Shamus, that’s how a roguelike works!”

Eh. Some do, some don’t. Spelunky lets you begin the game on later levels if you want. Same with Crypt of the Necrodancer. Strafe does too. It’s just that the STRAFE system feels like an Easter Egg and not a proper feature. If it wasn’t for people posting their findings, I wouldn’t have known it was possible at all. And grinding for random drops is the worst way of handling unlocks. Give me something concrete to works towards. Perhaps “reach the second zone five times to unlock it”. Or “get 10,000 kills”. Something. Whatever. Show me the finish line. The current system sucks and it’s basically murdered my ability to enjoy the game.

Anyway. The shooting isn’t really what I was after when I backed this game. I’m here for the procedural level generation. I messed around with my own level generation code a couple of years ago. That was an interesting project. This makes me want to take another crack at it. Rather than making something like STRAFE, I’m more interested in making something System Shock 2-ish. Rather than STRAFE’S random hallways (which are really cool!) I’d like to see if I could make a coherent floorplan, light it, and add furnishings to the space.

I found out that Unity is much more useful for making procedural stuff these days. I looked at it a few years ago and it felt like a level editor with a script editor bolted on. But I’ve seen some procedural Unity projects and I’m thinking Unity could handle all the backend engine stuff and let me worry about making the polygons.

My major concern is that this is generally advanced-level Unity stuff that assumes you’re already a Unity master. The problem is that there’s a pretty big “tutorial gap” in the docs. Every lesson is either “Baby’s first 2D platformer” or “here is how to add [some technical thing] onto your already-mature Unity knowledge”. There aren’t a lot of tutorials that seem to be aimed at bringing experienced coders up to speed. I’m 80% sure Unity can do what I want, but I’m not sure if I have the patience to sit through those first baby steps (a lot of the tutorials are VIDEO. UGH.) to get there.

I don’t know. I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire right now (aside from trying to play four videogames at once!) and I probably shouldn’t embark on anything crazy and ambitious. We’ll see.



[1] Except for the ending, obviously.

[2] Citation: This post’s title.

[3] Visually. Your view / aiming reticle don’t move. Which is in keeping with the style the game is going for.

[4] I don’t actually know how many hours I’ve put into the game. There’s a bug that the game leaves behind a ghost process when you close it, which makes GoG think it’s still running. (You have to kill it in task manager before you can launch the game again.) So my playtime numbers are meaningless.

From The Archives:

177 thoughts on “I Am Currently Playing Four Videogames

  1. Jabor says:

    For what it’s worth, I’m a big Factorio fan, though I didn’t chime in on that other post. So if you’re looking for an excuse, I’d be interested in hearing your take on it!

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I count at least three of us still playing! No, four! This person pointing out the typo in the version number makes five! Shamus, I bet this bumps us up from a miniscule percentage of your reader base, to a tiny percentage! So much more! :P

      1. Retsam says:

        I don’t think I chimed in on the last post because I was too busy playing Factorio.

        1. Trix2000 says:

          This may or may not have been the case for me too…

          1. Grampy_bone says:

            I didn’t want to talk about Factorio because I was afraid it would make me want to play Factorio again and then I would get sucked into Factorio and not play anything else for weeks.

            This may have happened anyway.

      2. The Nick says:

        “Shamus, I bet this bumps us up from a miniscule percentage of your reader base, to a tiny percentage! So much more! :P”

        You’re counting it wrong.

        This discovery quintuples the amount of readership interested in Factorio from original estimates! Amazing!

    2. Gilfareth says:

      Frankly, no one I know of writes about Factorio and there’s something I find aggravating about watching people play it on video. I would love to see what Shamus has to say about the game.

    3. Nick Pitino says:

      I will also chime in as being a Factorio player.

      1. Lisa says:

        Oh no! Don’t start him on Chime again!

    4. Starkos says:

      Another Factorio fan here, I just have to be careful when I play it.
      Laundry sits in the washer
      Regular meals are skipped
      Tea steeps for hours
      All responsibility is lost.

      1. Blastinburn says:

        Also going to chime in as a factorio fan, but I can’t play it now because I have other responsibilities. When I run factorio the entire day disappears, I get nothing done that day. (More nothing than usual.) I have to keep it uninstalled so I actually have a chance to get anything done, which is why I didn’t mention it last post since I wasn’t currently playing it.

        I’ve been really enjoying consuming factorio content in the meantime. (Builds, systems, blueprints, circuit designs, etc…) and I would love to see something from you Shamus, even if it’s just a one-off thing.

        As for my feeling about the latest update:
        I love fluid wagons, no more trying to balance barrels going back and forth and letting one mistake result in oil stopping, not because I ran out, but because the assembler had no where to put empty barrels as I had run out of space and soon ran out of gas while still overflowing with oil.

        I agree very strongly that the change to blue science is fantastic, reducing the jump in complexity. I play on peaceful so I’m glad I don’t have to chase biters anymore. (I’ll probably try turning enemies off on future playthroughs since I don’t need the artifacts anymore.)

        I have yet to even touch nuclear power, and I have all the production for rocket parts ready as well as materials for a rocket silo set up so I’ll be launching a rocket as soon as the last research finishes. I just don’t feel the need for it.

        I find the significant jump in cost for logistics network (blue chests) to be incredibly annoying since I can’t just make a forced early push of ~200 science packs to get it early, I need to have proper science production set up now. It’s probably much better for the game overall but I find it very annoying.

        1. Sean Hagen says:

          Same here. I got into the game when I was having to run long import jobs at work to test them ( start importer, wait an hour, see what the failure was, tweak the code, start again ) so I had a few nights of staying late playing Factorio and working.

          I’ve been trying to get out of the office on time so I can do life stuff, and I find that I’ve got too much other stuff I want to do at home ( some code projects, some other games I want to play, a Let’s Play I want to start, a podcast I’m working on ) that playing Factorio feels like I’m slacking.

          It’s honestly the same problem I have with other games like it ( Minecraft, Starbound, etc ) — it’s so easy to spend hours in a game without making much progress that eventually I reach a point where I just stop playing. I will put the game down for the night, and then never open it up again.

          If I had more of a supplemental income where I could work less during the week I’d probably still be playing Factorio. But right now it feels like I’ve got so much other stuff to do that I feel like I’m wasting time when I play it.

        2. LCF says:

          “I agree very strongly that the change to blue science is fantastic, reducing the jump in complexity.”
          Somehow, I bundled-up Blue and Productivity Science. I felt Blue as more annoying, and Productivity absolutely insane (Automating Pumpjacks crafting? Fo’ real?).

          1. Blastinburn says:

            They changed that, pumpjacks are no longer required for any science, assemblers replace them in the productivity recipe and electric mining drills replace assemblers in the blue science.


            They had realized that pumpjack automation was silly and that we should be automating electric mining drill instead. I now have ~100 spare pumpjacks that I will probably never use and I couldn’t be happier about the change!

            1. LCF says:

              Also, that whole ‘let’s reset everything upon update” was a rocket to the face. First I would drop stuff on the ground like I had dementia, and just now I understood why the game would not update to 0.15.10 .
              (Still an awesome game, mind you.)

      2. Writiosity says:

        This is me with RimWorld heh.

        1. Nick Pitino says:

          Another game I’d love to see Shamus play and comment on.

    5. Miguk says:

      You can add me to that list. I’m not playing at the moment but 0.15 might bring me back. I would definitely be interested in Shamus’ take on it.

    6. Garagmahof says:

      I’m an avid reader of this blog who has never posted before. I love Factorio and would definitely read any Factorio content on here.

    7. Xeorm says:

      Also a fan of Factorio. Don’t think I chimed in because of shyness and, well, I’ve been playing multiple games recently. Didn’t know where to step in and the comment section on the site still feels odd.

    8. Groboclown says:

      Count me as another one. I think tonight I’ll spend some time trying to get nuclear energy running.

      1. Groboclown says:

        I was able to get 2 nuclear reactors working together. With the reprocessing (40 U -> 41 U) and inefficiency of constant feeding of a nuclear reactor caused me to work through some effective circuits to manage the machine inputs and outputs. I figured out how to use storage bins as a form of memory for the state machine I built up.

    9. rabs says:

      I played Factorio before it was on Steam, then had another run when it was released there.
      Now I’m kind of waiting for the 1.0 version while playing casually some other games (various VR arcade games, Strafe, Starbound).
      So I’m also interested in your article about Factorio.

    10. Falcon02 says:

      Add me to the list of Factorio Players… though I admit 0.15 hasn’t caught my attention quite as much yet…

      Though I finally got Factorio a few months ago… played through the Campaign, played through a single player level and then haven’t really touched it since. Played it obsessively up until the point I launched my first satellite, then moved on… I have thought about coming back to it with 0.15 to play around with things though….

      I’d love to see a series on it from you though…

    11. Duffy says:

      It’s been sitting in my eventually grab it list, so I grabbed it just now so I can play it this weekend. Now there’s like almost two handfuls of us!

    12. Pete_Volmen says:

      Not a Factorio player here! I would still love some words on it.
      Even though I don’t have the time to actually play it, the game fascinates me.

      1. ngthagg says:

        I too am not a factario player, but would love to read an article or two about it. If it’s a choice between Diablo 3 (which I do play) and factario, I hope you go with the game you’re passionate about!

        1. Cybron says:

          Absolutely this. I care way more about what you have to say than the game.

          I actually play relatively few of the games you write about, and the only game I’ve ever picked up because of your writing, as far as I remember, is the original X-Com.

    13. Exasperation says:

      I’m also a Factorio player that didn’t reply to that other post. And I’m involved in Factorio modding a bit too.

    14. Rosseloh says:

      Count me in too. I just don’t play it a ton because…well, people who play Factorio should know that to play it properly you really have to get in to it, and getting in to it sort of means ignoring other important things (like mowing the lawn, going to work, and eating). I don’t think I’ve ever gotten past the “making green science bottles” part and it’s usually due to time constraints.

    15. Mintskittle says:

      I apparently missed the “What games are you playing” post, but I have played Factorio, and would like to come back to it if I wasn’t currently up to my eyeballs in Terraria right now. Still, I’ve watched a couple of vids talking about the new changes, and it should be interesting. Bring on the Factorio posts!

    16. Lord_Bryon says:

      I agree, more posts on factorio! It is such a fun game and needs more words written about it

    17. Deadyawn says:

      I have also played Factorio. I haven’t touched it in a while but I would still be interested in reading about it and could likely be coerced into picking it up again. Which is fine since I don’t have a lot going on at the moment.

    18. Majromax says:

      Also a huge Factorio fan, from the pre-Steam days. I haven’t yet played 0.15, but I intend to. I’m having system stability issues at the moment that corrupted a 100-hour 0.14 save, and although the developer very kindly fixed the save[1] it burned me out for a time.

      I adore that Factorio is the best example I’ve seen of an intrinsic-motivating game. There are problems to solve, but almost every single problem (alien life excepted) is a direct result of your own choices earlier.

      Is it difficult to get enough steel to make widgets? It’s because earlier you decided you had enough iron. Is it difficult to route resources? It’s because earlier you built this sub-assembly as a quick-and-dirty hack to get up and running, rather than with organization and expansion in mind.

      [1] — It appears there was a corrupted value, indicative of memory problems. The trick is, Memtest86 succeeds on my computer, so I think the fault is much harder to track down.

    19. Rick C says:

      I’ve been playing Factorio too, but not a lot.

      1. Shamus says:

        This is literally impossible.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Depends on your interpretation of “a lot”.

    20. Nick says:

      I played factorio back before the patch but I’d still be interested in posts about it

    21. Primogenitor says:

      I played Factorio enough to know that I want to play Factorio again when it’s “finished”. But work/life balance means I don’t have the time to sink dozens of hours into each version and then have it basically obsoleted later. But I do have 10 minutes to read an analysis of someone else who has sunk dozens of hours into each version.

    22. Adeon says:

      I’m in the camp of really, really wanting to play Factorio but getting so caught up in estimating things and running calculations that I never get around to actually playing. I played for a bit a while ago but the extreme difficulty spike involved with Blue Science was really off putting. Now that they’ve simplified it I should really have another go.

  2. Bloodsquirrel says:

    I don't get the sense that anyone still cares enough about Diablo III to justify a multi-part series.

    I’d love to see it. It sounds like good ground for a really meaty breakdown, which is more interesting than timeliness to me.

    1. lucky7 says:

      Agreed. I think Shamus is underestimating his audience’s enthusiasm. :)

    2. Scampi says:

      Not that I cared about Blizzard at all anymore, but I’d actually be interested in your thoughts on D3.
      I was a big fan of the predecessors and was very unimpressed by the announced features when it came out, also turned off by online single player, so I never touched it at all.
      Nevertheless, if you think you have worthwhile things to say about it, I’d be keen on reading them.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Same here. The always online was a big turn off (I never played any of the series online), and I never bothered to look into it further. I feel that all I need to know about D3, learned from MrBTongue , as I am one of those guys who appreciated the atmosphere more than anything, but now I’m really curious to read what Shamus’ perspective on it.

        1. Mike Andersen says:

          I’d also like to read that, for much the same reasons. After D3 disappointed with the ‘always-online’ thing, I played every ARPG I could find. I’d be curious to compare my findings with Shamus’ analysis of D3. What I played of it seemed to have all the interesting bits boiled off in order to funnel the largest market into the Auction House. Which seemed to be a beta-test for whatever monetization strategy Blizzard has in mind for next time.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        I too, shared your opinions of the game before I saw it in person. After that, I additionally had the opinion, “This is like Torchlight 2, but without any actual artistic aesthetic.” It’s just another game with generic pseudo-realistic graphics, and I already owned Torchlight 2 and was playing it (occasionally) with friends!

    3. BenD says:

      I haven’t played any of the games in this post, but I’m happy to read your long-form breakdowns of any game you want to break down.

      1. baud001 says:

        Me too!

        I don’t play a lot of games that have been covered here, but I love reading your analysis.

    4. Genericide says:

      I’ll toss my hat in the ring of curiosity as well. I unwisely purchased the game new but only made it about a third of the way through the main campaign before quitting. Several things annoyed me about it, but the worst was definitely the online aspect. My spotty internet would disconnect me and when I returned the floor I was on had to be done from scratch. As one of those completionist fill-the-map types, it drove me a little crazy every time it happened.

      Also, the games I play or write about aren’t current the vast majority of the time. It’s the detailed analysis I’m interested in, not the timeliness. I’m probably in the minority, but maybe not on a blog like this.

    5. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Ill add my vote to this pile as well.There are some neat things diablo 3 does thats a shame arent talked about more.Like the various unique mana bars each character uses.

    6. Bubble181 says:

      I’d also love to see this….

      An analysis of DIII that doesn’t include a chunk of seasonal L70 “end game” content (say, Paragon 200+ and I’m being generous, a lot of people would say 1000+) is like an analysis of WoW that only focuses on leveling up to 70. Yes, for some that may be “the game”, but it practically rates as “tutorial” these days for such games.
      Also DIII was horrible with the RMAH, and became pretty neat and fun to play afterwards. The expansion and the elimination of the AH are what made the game fun for me.

      1. djw says:

        Does Blizzard actually release statistics on this?

        Naively, I would guess that there are more *people* who have played levels 1 to x, where x<70, but there may be more *hours* played at higher levels because the people who play at those levels play a lot.

        I would also guess that there are better people than Shamus to write about the end game, since it probably requires a great deal of enthusiasm for the game to reach it and continue playing it once that level of play is reached.

        I will concede that I could be wrong on both points.

        1. Pete_Volmen says:

          I think you can’t be wrong on the people vs hours thing, can you?
          Everyone that plays at high levels has to have played at low levels to get there. Ergo as soon as one player doesn’t play endgame content there are already strictly more players that played 1 through 70. Or is there the possibility to start a level 70 character from the get-go? Even then I doubt more than half the players would have chosen that (and only that, without trying the lower levels first).

          1. djw says:

            Well, when you put it that way… it is of course true.

            I meant that I suspected there were a LOT more people who just played for a while (possibly to the end of the main campaign) and then quit. I didn’t exactly phrase it that way though.

            I am a little curious about the numbers, but not curious enough to overcome my laziness and actually google it.

    7. Starkos says:

      I avoided the Diablo III bandwagon when it first came out. And waited for Blizzard to figure out how to fix their mess. Now the game is so much better than it used to be. There’s no auction house, levels are randomly generated in a much better fashion, and you can change the difficulty level on the fly now.

      My personal feelings on the game are that I actually like it. It’s in that category of “Play this while watching a show”.

    8. mechaninja says:

      I’m used to be one of those Blizzard fanboys that played all their games, but everything they’ve done starting with Diablo III (except WoW – I’m still in there) I have disliked.

      I would 100% love one of your novel length writeups of Diablo III; maybe you’d hit on my problem with it (I don’t know what my problem with it is). Barring that, I’ll take whatever you want to write about it.

      1. Warbright says:

        Second this. Not sure why I lost interest in D3, and often Shamus illuminates the underpinning reason I lost interest in a game. Might try Prey now too, based on the above.

    9. Distec says:

      I imagine it could serve some of the same purpose as the Mass Effect retrospective did, in that:

      Mass Effect had some high-profile failures that overshadowed the multitude of little ones the trilogy had suffered from. This resulted in the popular evaluation that “Everything was great up until the ending”. While I wouldn’t have any strenuous disagreements with somebody who said that, I can say that it doesn’t ring true for fans like myself who felt like everything started to feel “off” by the start of ME2, even though I couldn’t quite put their finger onto why outside of the more obvious markers. If I hadn’t read Shamus’ ME series, which finally formulated many of my criticisms which would have remained vague and ambiguous, the today I probably would just shrug my shoulders and blame the denouement for all the trilogy’s missteps.

      With Diablo 3, I feel like the Always Online component and RMAH hogged the spotlight in a similar fashion. I can’t comment on it post-expansion and RMAH removal, but I remember feeling that character builds were grossly simplified to a fault. And while story may not be important to these kinds of games, for me it was infuriating for being so vacant, so pointlessly self-referential, and so dumb. I’m not going to pretend that Blizzard used to have top-tier writing talent and now it’s all gone to shit, but they did a pretty good job of balancing their camp/tropiness with enough seriousness befitting their genres.

      It’s the difference between the grand space opera of SC1 and the “Save/redeem my hot alien girlfriend” Marvel-esque bullshit of its sequel, or substituting the vague tone of dread and mystery of D1/2 for Saturday Morning crap of D3. The reveal of the Butcher in D3, which perfectly encapsulates so many of these problems, just made me cringe and shake my head instead of activating my Nostalgia Pleasure Receptors like they so clearly wanted to.

    10. Chuk says:

      Yeah, I only recently got a PS4 (like five or six months ago) and it came with D3 so I’m playing it again. I like it better on console and I’d like to read what Shamus thinks about it.

    11. Nimrandir says:

      I’d enjoy reading it as well. I picked up a PS4 copy of Diablo III as something I could do for an hour or so between my family going to bed and my doing the same, and it was pretty effective for “play this for a bit and put it down without further thought.”

      As a frame of reference, I popped Arkham Origins back into my PS3 a couple of weeks ago, and I’ve probably logged twenty-five hours of play since then. Also, I nearly forgot to go to sleep one night thanks to Breath of the Wild. The ability simply to stop playing a game is kind of a big deal for me.

    12. Majromax says:

      Likewise. I appreciate long-form analyses more when I have something to hook it on to. I’ve played a limited amount of Diablo 3, so I can relate the hypothetical analysis to my own experience. The Mass Effect long-form was informed by my viewing of the Spoiler Warning series (not having played the series myself).

      Arkham, on the other hand, captures my attention less because I have neither played nor watched play of the game/series.

      With that in mind, I don’t much care about the ‘timeliness’ of an analysis. We don’t watch MrBtongue’s videos (whenever they’re out) because they’re on the latest fashion, we watch them because they’re nearly obsessive-level analyses. The joy is in the nitpicking and the resulting understanding.

    13. Mistwraithe says:

      Ditto. More writing is good. Writing about games is good. Everything is good.

  3. Da Mage says:

    Wait….didn’t I read this post last night?

    1. Lachlan the Mad says:

      I think Shamus said in the previous post’s comment thread that he accidentally uploaded this post yesterday instead of Batman.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        He accidentally uploaded this one in addition to the Batman post. Gotta get your facts straight, man. :P

  4. Decius says:

    I’m a huge Factorio Fan, but I can’t play it^S^S run the program for more than ten minutes before I have to break out the graph paper and design/optimize a new module.

    The first step in generating a credible floorplan is being able to tell a credible floorplan from an incredible one. When you have the idea of how you would take a bunch of lines and tell “is this a floorplan”, then you can try to generate new ones.

    1. Groboclown says:

      In my latest playthrough, I gave up on trying to make an optimal floorplan. I just had long rows of raw material and component parts flowing down a straight path, each one 3 spaces apart to allow for branching. When a new component part was needed due to some new tech requirement, I branched off of the main component lines up to some machines that themselves output into new component lines.

      As for the aliens, I just build a wall of stone -> gun turrets -> belt filled with ammo. This surrounds my work area, and I rarely have to worry about aliens again.

  5. Daimbert says:

    I don't get the sense that anyone still cares enough about Diablo III to justify a multi-part series.

    I don’t think most of those who like your multi-part series like them because they care about the GAMES. I certainly don’t …

    1. BenD says:

      I care, but I don’t care if I’ve played them. I prefer Shamus’ longform works on games to his similar works on other topics. That said, I read them all, so this preference is marginal and offers no statistical significance. I’m unlikely to dive into the comments particularly deeply on any of them, whether I have a background with the topic or not. In fact, I suspect most of my comments on this site boil down to encouraging Shamus to please continue throwing large walls of words at my screen.

      1. mechaninja says:

        Shamus to please continue throwing large walls of words at my screen.

        Scruffy “second” dot gif

    2. Dustin says:

      Same here. I come here for the in-depth analysis. What you’re analyzing isn’t particularly important to me. I’ll read it regardless.

    3. Fade2Gray says:

      I read the entire FFX series and I can count the total number of hours I’ve spent playing FF games throughout my life on one hand.

      That said, I’ve had very mixed feelings about D3 over time, so I’d love to hear Shamus’ fresh perspective on the game.

  6. Stormcaller says:

    Also, possibly many of your factorio fans are currently just fixing up one minor problem before commenting… i would be working on my Iron smelters if i wasnt patching it right now :)

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I’m trying to eradicate the aliens on my world I restarted with train-world settings. Apparently the aliens are extremely dense, so I don’t just have to take out 1-5 alien hives near my starting area, like I would in a normal game. The first bases I encountered had a dozen hives, and the rest that I’m revealing with radar have about 20-30! This is nearly unplayable, even with the 0.15 weapon rebalancing. I’m really tempted to just restart after downloading the RSO mod again, because even though the train-world settings are similar to the stuff you get from RSO, they’re apparently still completely unbalanced, for ores, oils, and the aliens – everything, really! :S

  7. Man I would love to see a series from you about your journey figuring out procedural generation in Unity :D

    I completely get your frustration with the lack of resources and discussion around mid to high level projects, though. The thing is Unity is pretty easy to get into and is fairly powerful, but it has many, many quirks with it that show up once you really want to start doing things on a larger scale. And the only way to know that is through a lot of trial and error. But I suppose that’s always gonna be true no matter what tool you’re using.

    I’m currently working on a game in Unity that has a lot of procedural elements to it. (the levels don’t build themselves they are just generated from json data at runtime, you use a custom map editor to actually build them) Its pretty similar to Dungeon Keeper but you have quite a bit more control over building things. So yea I would say you can definitely use it for this type of project and support has been getting better for this sort of thing, I would still say that procedural generation at runtime is still something that the engine kind of isn’t built for and at times it feels like going against the current, but based on some of the things they were saying in the recent keynote talks it seems like its going to become increasingly more viable.

    It all kind of depends on how you want to handle your project. If you want to generate the levels in the editor as a level design tool you may have a lot more flexibility such as the ability to make custom editor tools and access to things like unity’s light mapper, but with that comes the added complexity of learning the ins and outs of the Unity Editor as well as the runtime engine (and you know its not runtime so that kind of sucks). So you could do runtime generation, but you will need to figure out how lighting would work for example (along with a bunch of other things).

    But if you do ever decide to try this out (please do) and document your progress I’m sure you’ll get a lot of support from everyone here. (I personally can discuss this stuff forever :D)

  8. Commento says:

    But when my run ends because I get torn apart by a threat I didn't understand and I realize how long it's going to take me to get back to the second zone, I realize I've got twenty minutes of monotony before I can learn the next lesson the Hard Way.

    This is exactly why I soured on FTL and have never once gone back to it after the first couple of days after i got it. Atleast I got some amazing music out of it though. The main theme is still one of my all time favourite game-music pieces.

    1. KarmaTheAlligator says:

      Yeah, that killed any enthusiasm I had about FTL, too. Strangely, i don’t think it’s that bad in Dark Souls.

      1. Fade2Gray says:

        My tolerance for Rougelikes (including FTL) has always been really low, but I find Dark Souls really enjoyable too. I think it’s because the sense of progress is much more significant. You do end up repeating sections of the game very frequently, but its small chunks of the game at a time, not the whole the whole game from scratch each time.

      2. I think the comparison with Dark Souls doesn’t work because generally speaking the section you keep having to replay is also the more recent one, they directly address Shamus’ complaint about having to go through a section you’ve beaten to get practice at one you can’t beat.

        Obviously this isn’t always the case if the checkpoints are too far apart or you’re Really bad at the game but in my experience it’s no worse than most video games. I wonder if the perception of DS being a grind affects how people approach it, giving them the expectation to be exasperated, or if it really is just a matter of differing tastes.

    2. Ivan says:

      My personal learning strategy for games even remotely like this, is just to cheat. Cheat like crazy during your first few playthroughs, so you can learn the basics with a bit of safety/lifelines. Then after that you can play without cheats, and you’ll have a better time. Or, I have a better time doing it that way, your experience may vary. (Also, by cheating here I don’t mean God Mode or whatever. Just give yourself more HP, give yourself some free skillpoints so you can try skills out conveniently without having to restart the game, things like that.)

    3. Daemian Lucifer says:

      At least ftl runs are short,and the resources you build up in the early game impact the later stages significantly.Though a speed start(“boost my crew to X level”)would be appreciated.

    4. Christopher says:

      I have this experience with every roguelike, but not with Dark Souls. “Checkpoints” and “restarting the entire game from scratch” are too different.

      I’ve had a much better experience watching other people play roguelikes. There was a year where I’d watch a guy play one run of Spelunky almost every day, and every day was both a learning experience and an adventure that I didn’t have to feel frustrated about. In games with a lot of variants, like the binding of Isaac, every run can have different mechanics and strategies. Combine that with a host I enjoy and suddenly it’s like a cozy morning show.

  9. DeadlyDark says:

    I don’t have that problem with Dark Souls. But I get where you coming from. For me, with Souls games it’s more like “I died. I think game wants me to enjoy it’s combat system a little bit more. It isn’t like it’s not an interesting process. So, yeah, let’s play that game even more! Yay!” To be fair, DS3 kinda make that peculiarity (don’t want to call it “problem”) a bit more obsolete, with more dense bonfire placement and more often bosses have bonfires close to them.

    But if I’m not enjoyed the combat system, or I enjoyed story bits more than the core gameplay, now that would be frustrating. Mass Effect with SWAT4 gameplay will be an exercise in wall banging “But I wanna know what happens next!” and “You stopped that awesome combat scenarios for the reasons plot, now!?”

    I played one day new Prey (slipped back to DS3, finished the main story and moved to 1st DLC).I must say, Prey’17 has something very old-school about it, and I love it (like I’m 15 year boy again, playing Jedi Outcast for the first time). And by old-school I mean – Prey’17 could’ve been as well released in 2002 on PC (with the same graphics as, say, NOLF2). It’s an 15 y.o. game with new graphics and some modern polish (but not a lot). For example, Dishonored 2 is the modern game that couldn’t been released in 2001 (for example). Or Mankind Divided. Of Bioshocks, for that matter. I can’t pinpoint differences precisely, why it is, because feature list of all these games is the same – RPG-elements, open levels, wide selection of tools for the player.

    I think, there is a matter of controls, and lack of custom animations (you just swing that wrench, instead of having tons of cool animations, like Dishonoreds), how guns and recoil feels. But it has to be more. I wonder if someone else felt the same?

    Also. Quite fair zero-g in Prey. With acceleration to the dangerous speeds, saving the impulse. Zero-g in Dead Space 3 felt more like swimming, with constant moving speed and 1-2 seconds stopping if no buttons are pressed (someone told me it because Isaac’s suit automatically compensates).

    And I’m thinking about 2nd playthrough of Nier Automata. Blame the Dark Souls for me not returning there. I want to, it’s a fun game overall, just don’t have the time.

  10. Arakus says:

    Holy crap you linked to my steam post. I did NOT expect to see that there. (Especially since i was just trying to point more people towards an already existing guide).

    More on topic, Strafe’s soundtrack is amazing IMO, it’s a shame you havent gotten far in Zone 2 yet cause Decadence and Baptism are super catchy. Prey’s on my wishlist because everything I’ve heard about it seems good, but then again I bounced off System Shock 2 really hard because of how annoying and clunky the UI felt. (Still meaning to give it a go again at some point though.) Is Prey like System Shock in that area, or did they manage to make it a bit easier to use (without sacrificing depth)?

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      UI in Prey’17 is pretty modern and comfortable. I just don’t like how the game stops time when I’m going into menus (time stops, player character in mean time move his PDA thingy to eyes (while everything is stopped).

  11. KarmaTheAlligator says:

    Well, thanks for sharing your thoughts on Prey. I hadn’t even heard of it before, but now I’m definitely interested.

    Same for STRAFE, also with a bit more reservations due to the “replay the last 20 minutes” thing.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I also want to play Prey!

      Unfortunately, most games are just for Windows, including this particular game. Frustrating for me to read posts from devs, saying they won’t port / make for Linux (or even OSX, sometimes) because it’s such a small percentage of Steam* users (which is accurate). Frustrating, because my friends say**, “I can’t use anything besides Windows, because that’s the only thing people make games for!” A truly face-palm-worthy self-perpetuating cycle. :C

      * This is the platform with the most data on this, and a large playerbase, so it’s what people use for this type of decision, largely.

      ** I’m just one guy, so the closest thing to a player survey is talking with my friends/coworkers. :)

      1. BenD says:

        Hear, hear.

      2. John says:

        There’s a big sale over at HumbleBundle at the moment. Whilst browsing, I noticed that while Linux ports of big games are indeed rather rare some publishers seem more likely to port things to Linux than others. 2K in particular seems really serious about Linux. Square Enix is also surprisingly Linux-friendly, with both Hitman and Deus Ex ports.

        1. Echo Tango says:


      3. TMC_Sherpa says:

        If Valve really wanted to help the linux community they should have made a distro rather than steam boxes. I mean the real problem for a game designer is you can’t build for Linux 2016 because there is no spec for it.

  12. Ilseroth says:

    Hey Shamus, I’m currently working on a semi proc gen game in unity right now, it’s really not too bad to do proc gen, depending on your method…


    This was the prototype version of the generator, still has some tweaking, though as you said, this is more designed to make a linear dungeon with some side passages, not a hub level.

    Now as for pushing polys, sadly I know very little graphical tech, I just 3d model things (well actually I just hired on an artist a couple days ago so now *he’ll* do that for me so I can focus on the coding bits)

    Sadly most of the tutorials don’t really go much into graphical tech specific to the unity engine so it might take some work getting things done.

  13. Darren says:

    I care about Diablo III! But I play it on console, which may or may not make it seem a little more interesting and vital than on PC.

    1. Geebs says:

      I’m afraid to say I found the console version very disappointing; I can’t play Diablo 3 on the PC because all of that clicking wrecks my wrist and Blizzard is committed to not allowing people to use a controller. I got it on PS4 instead, and instead of turning it into a twin-stick shooter (which would be fun), Blizzard has decided that what people really want is to micromanage their character constantly to avoid running smack into mobs, and assign the right stick to a completely useless fat-roll.

      Also, console-D3’s user interface manages to make Mass Effect 1’s inventory screen look positively elegant.

  14. Mephane says:

    I don't get the sense that anyone still cares enough about Diablo III to justify a multi-part series.

    I was looking for an excuse to write more about the game, and I was hoping a handful of “Hello fellow cultist. Welcome to the fold.” would give me that opening. But it looks like there aren't many people still into it.

    As I’ve mentioned in the comments to yesterday’s Batman post already: I would totally read all of these, and I am certainly not the only one.

  15. Ninety-Three says:

    I just love this notion that the world of gaming is now so big

    On a different and opposite axis, I recently had a conversation with my non-gamer-but-technologically-proficient dad, where it turned out that he hadn’t heard of Call of Duty, World of Warcraft or Minecraft. It gave me a sudden realization of “Gaming is a lot smaller than it looks from the inside”, if an outsider hasn’t heard of the biggest, most influential games in existence.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yep. Gaming isn’t anywhere near as culturally prevalent as sports.
      Which makes sense really. Everyone has a physical body. Not everyone has a computer.

      1. Nimrandir says:

        I’m not sure this thing that holds my brain still passes for a ‘body.’ ;-)

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Even in sports there are plenty of people who dont know who is “a popular player” or “a popular team”.So saying that there are people who dont know the name of “a popular game” does not mean the hobby is small.Heck,if you ask my mother to name any cell phone other than the motorola she uses,I doubt she would know,and cell phones are so prevalent in my country that even homeless people have them.When someone has no interest in a thing,its easy for them to remain oblivious of it.

  16. Arkady says:

    a lot of the tutorials are VIDEO. UGH

    You know what really taught me to dislike video tutorials: Cubase. (Which is a DAW – I’m not sure which one Shamus uses at the moment, but it’s an industry standard one.)

    It’s massively full-featured and powerful, and that’s great. But often I only need one or two bits at a time. I don’t want to watch a twenty minute video on the exhaustive details of the channel chain just to add a little bit of reverb to a guitar sample.

    But the worst thing… THE WORST THING:

    While Cubase is open I can’t watch videos on my computer.

    So I have to close Cubase (which takes a while, it’s quite a big program to unload), watch the video (hoping it’s relevant, since I can’t search for keywords), and then re-open Cubase (also a slow task).

    When I complained about this, all I was told was that there’s a good reason for Cubase to grab the system resources that the video players need [which there is, to be fair], and thus stop video playback from working. Well, thanks, but it sure makes the decision to make everything a video tutorial (in lieu of proper documentation in many cases) a right pain.

    (For anyone wondering: by taking direct and exclusive access to video and sound hardware resources, Cubase can avoid all sorts of latency issues that can make using DAWs a total pain to record, or edit on the fly.)

    1. MichaelGC says:

      Whoever first decided video was a good default for tutorial content should be sat down and shown a video of how very wrong they are.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        They are bad for LEARNING from a tutorial,but for MAKING a tutorial,videos are preferable.

      2. Shamus says:

        WHATS UP YouTube! This is Shamus9000 coming at you with another video and today we’re doing something a little different from what we usually do. We’re going to be looking at why video is a bad format for learning…

        [skip ahead 30 seconds]

        …kind of thing on my channel but I think you’ll really…

        [skip ahead 30 seconds]

        …but if you’re not, I’ll have another video about Mario coming out later this week. Or if not later this week, then early next week for sure. Definitely before next Wednesday. So be sure to check that out and like and subscribe (nervous laugh) and whatever. Obviously I don’t expect you to hit like if you don’t actually…

        [skip ahead 30 seconds]

        ..so ANYhoo, like I was saying, today we’re going to be talking about why video isn’t a great format for learning. I’m not saying it’s always BAD or anything like that, but maybe why it shouldn’t be your first choice for if you want to teach people something. Or if you just, like, want to explain things, like maybe you’re teaching something complex and technical like programming…

        [skip ahead two minutes]

        …and number two, Google can’t find the text of your guide if it’s audio. Number three, you’ve written the script anyway. Why not just save everyone the hassle and POST THAT rather than turning it into a video? Number four, people can read WAY faster than you can talk. Number five, it’s easier to scan through the content to find what you need. Number six you can cut and paste examples or code snippets from text but you can’t in a video okay that’s my top five-ish reasons video tutorials are stupid. Do you agree or disagree? Be sure to leave a comment below letting me know what you think and as always don’t forget to like and-

        [stop video]

        [unsubscribe from channel]

        1. Ilseroth says:

          I have had to try to find unity tutorials; I forget what it was for, but it was some small dumb thing; I ended up finding one, precisely one tutorial that talked about it.

          I tried to skim, but somehow I missed it, so I just watched the whole thing. The issue I had was explained in about 5 seconds of a 20 minute video.

        2. BenD says:

          Shamus, I need you to give a TED talk on this topic so I can get it out to basically everyone in the fields of professional learning.

          …the irony does sting a bit.

        3. GTB says:

          You forgot the 1 minute 30 second (if you’re lucky) channel intro. Complete with dubstep and flames.

        4. Alec Wilson says:

          Copypasted literally everywhere.

      3. stratigo says:

        I don’t get video tutorials either. At all. It’s such a waste of time. I read about 10 times faster than it takes for some arsehole, who is 75 percent of the time not someone who knows how to do stuff on camera try and explain something. And if I don’t get it, I have to go back and listen to them AGAIN. ARGHLE BLARGHLE.

    2. Woprdress tutorials. STUPID STUPID video WordPress tutorials. I just need to know the tiny bit of code that changed in the latest build that is breaking a thing but no, you make me sit through a 20 minute video to tell me that that bit is in the NEXT video. GRRR. i have strong negative feelings about all video except Kpop mirror dance, music, and really good cooking videos. Everything else show me in pictures and text.

      1. Son of Valhalla says:


  17. I don’t have the head space to play Factorio, it’s a congenital sort of stupidity I think, but I love reading about it. It’s like living vicariously through a more intelligent person so if anything you’d be doing people like me a service!

    1. Fade2Gray says:

      For me, reading someone else’s play-through of any strategy game is like an out of body experience. I simply can’t conceptualize how anyone manages see through the fog of information and decisions presented to them every turn.

  18. The_Hansard says:

    I get where you’re coming with D3. I play D3 for about 2 weeks solid when a new season comes out and then put it aside until the next season comes out. Its a great binge game that you have no idea why you’re playing….. but the loot!!!! It’s got just enough to keep you going for a short while but not enough to warrant you playing for months on end….. but then the itch comes again.

  19. Son of Valhalla says:

    Stop recommending Factorio! The pull to the dark side (or light?) is becoming too strong for me to bear, and I might soon play the game. Factorio actually looks apocalyptic.

    Strafe is looking good too.

  20. D-Frame says:

    This makes me want to take another crack at it.

    YES PLEASE do some programming again. If you’re going to write about procedural generation of floor plans and stuff, I’ll be the happiest person on the planet.

    1. Gawain The Blind says:

      YES. More game coding, please!

      1. Kronopath says:

        I’ll throw my vote in for this as well. It’s what first got me to this blog, if I remember.

        1. Pete_Volmen says:

          Ditto. The game stuff is great, but I can’t get enough of pretty much anything puts out that’s programming related. Be it about stuff he actually makes, or stuff like the quakecon or FUEL thoughts.

          1. GTB says:


  21. Jack V says:

    I love love love the idea of factorio, but am worried “micromanage software design while dealing with constant urgent interruptions” is just too much like my day job.

  22. Daemian Lucifer says:

    THIS is that spiritual successor I've been waiting for.

    I heard that it was called “psychoshock” during development,because it continued the trend of -shock games by exploring the mind this time.But I guess zenimax couldnt have called the game that because how would they bully small developers about unrelated names* if they released a game with that name?So prey it is now.

    *I know that you think this link is about scrolls,but its not.This is a NEW “zenimax is waving their lawyer dicks around” moment.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      Yeah, funny story, that thing you’re linking to is exactly the reason why I refuse to buy Prey. Sure, the game sounds really good, but I refuse to give my money to a company that bullies smaller developers just for the hell of it.

      And let’s make this clear because I can already see the replies coming: Zenimax doesn’t need to do this. They don’t need to enforce their trademark (pretty much no one does, trademarks rarely need to be enforced, all you have to do is not abandon them), they’re doing it because they’re jerks.

      So yeah, it could be the best game ever, and I still wouldn’t buy it. I am going to buy Praey for the Gods, though. It looks interesting and those are the kind of people I prefer to support.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        I’m not sure if laugh or sigh at this old comment of mine, since I ended up actually playing Prey after I basically bought it by mistake.

  23. Daemian Lucifer says:

    On the other hand, I was kind of sad when only one other Factorio fan chimed in.

    Thats because they already said their thing in the forums.It would be inefficient to repeat oneself.

  24. Falterfire says:

    I’ll also add my voice to the chorus interested in Diablo III. I ‘only’ played it for about 30-40 hours before getting bored, but it does feel like an intentionally designed game where the developers made a lot of choices to fix things they saw as broken in the previous game.

    Sure, not all of the choices panned out well, but Diablo III made so many changes to so many systems that I’d love to see somebody else’s breakdown of what they thought did and didn’t work. I have my own opinions about a lot of the changes that were made, but am really curious what other people thought about the various mechanics that changed, especially since I never got into Diablo II during its heyday and most of my experience with ARPGs actually comes from other Diablo II spiritual successors like FATE, Torchlight, and Path of Exile.

  25. Christopher says:

    I rewatched the old ZP episode about Bioshock recently, and it’s hard not to think about Shamus during that final paragraph of the review. I’m happy you finally got the spiritual successor you were hoping for after such a long time.


  26. Gawain The Blind says:

    I beat diablo3 because I liked diablo 1 and 2 a lot. I did it over a couple of days, and It was as close as I have ever come to hate-playing a game. I grudgingly grinded through it on sheer willpower, and never went back. There isn’t a single thing I like about the game, and that’s… I think diablo 3 is the only time that has ever happened. There’s usually SOMETHING I can point at and say “yeah the game sucked, but that particular thing wasn’t bad,” but D3 ruined that trend. The absolute best parts of Diablo 3 were the mediocre parts that were just bland. These are the parts that set themselves apart from the rest, which was uniformly terrible. The voice work and the music, for instance, were both utterly average, which is like top marks for diablo 3.

    Prey, on the other hand, was pretty great. I just wrapped it up today. A++ would play a sequel. There were some glitchy things, but I didn’t encounter any of the game-stopping bugs that some people did. It felt like a bethesda game- too many systems knocking together to be completely smooth. I liked it quite a bit, though.

    1. Yes says:

      It’s hard to agree with this. Diablo 3 did a lot of things quite well. Its production values as a game are through the roof. Controls are smooth, gameplay is fast and fluid, sound is excellent, visuals are great. But there are some things that they missed the mark on.

      What it didn’t do well:

      * Storyline & Writing
      * Mood / Tone
      * Understanding that the core playerbase of Diablo games LIKES number crunching for optimal builds

      The latter point here is interesting because Blizzard spent a lot of time trying to make Diablo 3 very accessible, and they succeeded in making it accessible. But the accessible crowd dropped the game after a few weeks, and the core audience had to suffer with itemization and build mechanics that were dumbed down to the point where they weren’t interesting to optimize until RoS expansion and later patches.

      If you look at the game post-RoS most of it has been about adding sufficient layers of complexity to reward players who want to theorycraft builds and put in obscene time into the game chasing those rare drops and achieving their optimal builds.

  27. Retsam says:

    I agree that nuclear power seems a bit unnecessary, by the time you get it going. At this point, solar panels could probably use a nerf.

    Just from a gameplay perspective, solar panels are a bit too good; you can get them pretty early (shortly after second science), and they’re not too expensive; you just need some batteries for the accumulators which requires a bit of oil setup, and there’s no really no downside to them. Just walk away from your base a bit, find a large open space, and go to town.

    Making solar panels a lot more expensive would make the trade-off between coal and solar: or later on, between nuclear and solar, a lot more interesting.

    I don’t think it was .15, but at some point I think the default setting for enemies got a lot easier to deal with. In my first game (back around 0.9-0.12 somewhere), I had to be pretty vigilant about setting up gun turrets, and frequently and to fight off enemies. In my last couple games, though, I’ve setup defenses that have basically never been tested.

    Actually, I played a multiplayer game where we were convinced that I had actually put the server on peaceful by accident, since the enemies spawned so slowly.

    I’ll have to look at the settings more carefully next time I play; I went with the “rail world” preset this time, (which I really like: being essentially forced to use trains is interesting), but it’s a bit easy on the enemies side, IMO.

  28. Agammamon says:

    OK Shamus, you’ve sold me on Prey.

    But I warn you, if its not all you’ve hyped it up to be I’ll . . . I’ll . . . I’ll *glare* really meanly at your profile picture or something.

    At least it has an option to adjust FOV. And I agree with your assessment of D3 – enthusiastically unimpressed. The removal of the traditional skillpoint building and character grind and the general level of difficulty basically make this ‘baby’s first aRPG’. And the story scripting is freaking *horrible*. Who the first boss was and the reveal was so cliche that you knew it was coming before the halfway point of the first act. Asmodan, for some reason, boasting to you personally, multiple times, how unstoppable he was.

    Just a sad game all around.

    On the plus side, it spawned Path of Exile as a counter.

    1. Agammamon says:

      So, having downloaded it – what the hell is wrong with consoles and console gamers? Why is it considered normal to have *5* unskippable splash screens *and* a ‘press any key to start’ prompt? Why is any of that considered acceptable, let alone normal on 2017?

      And the main menu? OMG. At least they allow mouse use but using ‘q’ and ‘e’ to tab through top level selections *and* using a DIFFERENT set of keys to tab through lower level selections on the same menu? Over 30 years of development on how to implement a mouse driven UI and every single one of these games acts like its doing it for the first time.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        *5* unskippable splash screens

        Thats one of my pet peeves.Sadly,its not just console games.Ive seen it in pc first games as well.

        “˜press any key to start' prompt?

        This thing kind of makes sense for consoles actually.Its part of the “seal of quality” thing that consoles require.Basically,before the game starts you must allow the users to check if they have the correct controller plugged in(or if it has batteries),hence that screen.

        1. Agammamon says:

          But it really doesn’t do anything that they wouldn’t find out at the main menu anyway.

          Not got a working controller? When you the main menu pops up you won’t be able to do anything. Same thing happens, one less button press.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            Its part of the legacy of the original “seal of quality” documents.But I agree that those need a massive revamp because of how the technology has changed since they were first drafted.This is a clear case of “If it works,dont fix it”.

          2. Viktor says:

            Can you not do anything because your input is broken or because the menu is broken? Maybe they expect you to navigate via shoulder buttons or motion controls, better try those before you dig out your spare controller. “Press any key” is a bit silly, but it does serve a minor purpose.

            1. Agammamon says:

              Is pressing Start not working because the controller is messed up or because the menu is messed up – you’re doing the same thing, just with an extra button push.

              I understand its an oooooold console ‘SoQ’ thing – its pretty pointless to keep doing it when it provides no value – and never has.

              Side note on Prey – this game has waaaaaaaaay to much combat in it so far. And no, you really can’t avoid about 75-85% of these encounters.

      2. Gawain The Blind says:

        You can rename those videos to skip them.



        Rename all to .old or .bak or whatever.

        1. Shamus says:

          Thanks for posting this. I NEVER remember to do it until AFTER I’ve launched the game. Just did it now, so next time I launch the game the corporations won’t steal another thirty seconds of my life.

    2. Mersadeon says:

      Eh, it’s what got my mother to finally play videogames and understand them a bit more. It’s baby’s first aRPG – but that’s exactly what enabled her to play it.

  29. Agammamon says:

    Then again… I might take a crack at it anyway, if only to justify the embarrassing number of hours I'm pouring into the silly thing.

    I would like it if you get around to this. There are some games that are fun to *read* about but I don’t necessarily consider them fun to play.

    Dorf Fortress and Eve are two of them.

  30. Agammamon says:

    They kick and recoil[3] just like you'd expect from a “1996” videogame. So I'm not sure why so many people are finding them unsatisfying. Maybe it's the sound effects?

    Not having played the game but having seen several other discussion about this sort of thing – rogeulike shooters tend to leave out a lot of little QoL things that FPS’ have developed and put in as a matter of course.

    There’s things like recoil affecting you and the sound of the guns themselves – but there’s also things like enemy reactions to being hit. Usually there’s no ‘flinch’ or and reaction to the hit except maybe some blood decals until they die and then they just drop into the death animation. Stuff like that.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I think you’re definitely on to something. Shamus says “The guns blow bodies apart”, but to me it feels like “Guns kill enemies” and “enemies blow apart when their health reaches zero”. It feels like a floaty, canned “blow apart” animation that I’m not responsible for. Contrast Atomic 79, where enemy skeletons get blown apart into a bunch physics objects and propelled based on how you hit them: now that feels like I’m blowing enemies apart.

  31. Jamey says:

    I played a ton of Diablo III but spread out over large gaps where I “burned out” and went away for a while. (If this helps place me in terms of “time in game” my main is a Demon Hunter that can tackle GR ~73 reliably and have done a 75 once, paragon level ~800). I would love to hear your thoughts on the game.

    I would also love to hear about Factorio. I am personally *avoiding it like the plague* but for a specific reason. I suffer from a very specific sort of OCD that I just know would make Factorio a game that if I started playing I would never stop and probably end up losing my job and/or all of my friends, but I’m old enough to realize that and just not start. It’s like they designed a game specifically for me, but in a bad way.

  32. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The one complaint I keep seeing with the game is that the guns feel “weak”. I do not get this.

    How do the bigger enemies react to weapons?Are they staggered when shot?Do they grunt?Thats how doom used to be.

    EDIT:Nevermind,I saw the gameplay.And that seems to be the case.Yes theres blood flying around,but enemies simply flop down when you shoot them.They dont fly back,they dont spill their guts,just *plop* dead.

  33. Miguk says:

    “But Shamus, that's how a roguelike works!”

    I’m so tired of hearing this excuse. Every time you point out a flaw in a “roguelike” they say it’s just something that you have to accept in that genre. First of all, that’s dumb. It’s like saying that there’s nothing wrong with moon logic in adventure games because it’s part of the genre.

    Second, the definition of “roguelike” has expanded so much that it’s meaningless. Procedurally-generated levels aren’t a nice feature that you might add to a roguelike, it’s part of the definition of what a roguelike is. Without it, all you have is a game that makes you start over when you die. When I see a game advertised as a roguelike, all it tells me is that the developers are going to use that as an excuse for their poor design decisions.

    1. Cybron says:

      That would be like me saying that when I see someone advertising their game as a first person shooter I know that they’re going to use the genre to justify stale glorified point and click gameplay. This is true but kind of besides the point. The fact that I don’t like the genre doesn’t make it a bad design decision.

      And I have no idea what you’re talking about with the bit about procedurally generated levels. Unless you’re trying to imply that STRAFE doesn’t have those, which is not true AFAIK?

  34. Sunshine says:

    And writing this post too! Amazing. One game and not spilling my drink is about my limit.

  35. MichaelGC says:

    either expand it into an analysis or cut it down to a review

    I doubt anyone will complain about the former, but why not just do a really long single post instead of the latter? It’d be less work, for starters! :p I’m going to make a wild guess that fewer than one of your readers is likely to complain about having additional words available to eyeshovel into their insatiable noggins. I don’t know if there are any site-rules about post-length but I reckon you’d be able to sweet-talk the site Disciplinary Committee if it ever got that far…

    Personally I’ve not played any of the Diablos but am certainly interested to hear about III (although that could be said about most games Joseph Anderson has made a video on). Didn’t it sell like 50 billion copies? So there must surely be a sizeable level of interest, even if it’s residual. Although maybe most of those 50 billion wouldn’t care too much about the story & whatnot? \_(ツ)_/

    I'd have to explain half the game

    Works for me! Factorio looks like the kind of game I’ll never play but would like to hear about (cf. Diablo above (also cf. https://youtu.be/rtT_Qc5DIEg)), and entertaining explanations of sometimes-esoteric computing-related systems and phenomena are something of an ongoing strength around here…

  36. Nimrandir says:

    Maybe I’m remembering my Spelunky experience wrong, but don’t you have to do exactly what Shamus describes as a pain to unlock later start points? I have bad memories of waiting for a shotgun . . .

    1. Matt Downie says:

      That’s what I was thinking. According to the internet:

      To unlock the shortcut to the Jungle you need to complete the Mines with a bomb, a rope and

      To unlock the shortcut to the Ice Caves you need to complete the Jungle with 2 bombs, 2 ropes, and a shotgun.

      To unlock the shortcut to the Temple you need to complete the Ice Caves with 3 bombs, 3 ropes, and the Key from the Mine.

      This last one is exponentially harder than the first two.

      1. Shamus says:

        I’d totally forgotten about this. I just remembered that Spelunky didn’t really frustrate or annoy me. I think the difference is:

        * Spelunky zones are way shorter than STRAFE zones.
        * Spelunky makes your goal clearer.
        * A “bomb, rope, and $10k” is a more identifiable goal than, “Maybe an item you need will spawn and maybe it won’t and even if it spawns you might miss it because it could be in some side room”. Like, bombs and ropes are not rare objects and you know what they look like. But in 42 games I still haven’t seen one of the items I need and I don’t know if I’ll see it next time or if I need to play another 42 rounds.

        The more I think about STRAFE, the more irritated I get.

        1. Nimrandir says:

          I get that the clarity in Spelunky is different, but as I recall, you are at the mercy of the procedural generation on the shotgun (unless you want every shopkeeper in the game hostile toward you from 1-2 until you hit the ice caves).

          I had apparently blocked the key portion from my memory — not without cause.

  37. Ramsus says:

    Shamus, if you’re concerned people might not be into Diablo 3 enough…. well you know lots of us still have some level of nostalgia for the previous two entries in the series. Maybe you could do some form of analysis of the series as a whole? I think I’d really love the compare and contrast on that stuff and I bet it’d really appeal to a lot of other people.
    Also you could end it with Rutskarn making an “analysis” of World of Diablo…craft. Or something. Diablo of World? Diablo Craft World Of? Kraft Diablo Macaroni & Cheese World? *shrugs*

    1. Duoae says:

      As much as I’d love this I doubt shamus wants to spend another 30 hours playing the first two games in order to get screen shots and a real feel of them and their mechanics (given that this is his usual modus operandi for writng these analyses).

      Plus, isn’t Rutskarn departed once this current series is ended?

      1. Mousazz says:

        Is he?

        I always got the impression Ruts will still stick around on this website, only he won’t participate in any theoretical Diecast Shamus might decide to potentially revive.

        Correct me if I’m wrong, of course.

      2. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I doubt shamus wants to spend another 30 hours playing the first two games

        If I remember correctly,he loves d2,so I dont see how it would be a problem for him to dump dozens of hours into it again.

  38. Decius says:

    Four videogames at once you say?
    Thou art casual.

  39. Zanfib says:

    I don’t really play factorio, but I like to watch other people play it so I suspect I will enjoy reading about it too.

  40. Hannibal Ad Portas says:

    I’ve played factory in the past and enjoyed it. One of your posts on in would probably relight my interest.

  41. Droid says:

    So, from the comments about Factorio in this thread and having played it myself a bit (one playthrough on 0.12 or so), I fear this game might be a frighteningly effective Skinner box for engineers and programmers.

    Not a bad game, sure. But am I the only one bothered by this whole “losing hours at a time and not knowing where they went” thing? It’s too widespread to not be on purpose.

  42. cerapa says:

    If you’re urging for something Diablo-like, then you could try Path of Exile. Personally haven’t played any Diablo’s but it generally gets favorably compared to it.

    The passive tree might look a bit daunting at first though.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      There are a bunch of games that have been compared favorably to diablo,but not a single one of them has ever managed to hold my attention for as long as all three diablos managed to do.That includes the path of exile and titan quest.I dont know why exactly,but Ive always found diablo games to be more polished.

      1. ecto_stantz_tial says:

        Out of curiosity have your tried Torchlight 2 ? And if so what your thoughts are on that? Personally I really enjoyed Torchlight 2, much more than the first, and while I have only played the first Diablo it really hit that spot for me. Although Diablo 1 had that lovely graphical style to it, where as Torchlight has much more vivid coloration.

        1. Syal says:

          I’ll give it a shot, although I also like Torchlight 2 (and Titan Quest) and haven’t played Diablo 3 (or Path of Exile).

          Diablo is really good at establishing its villains, because the tone is fighting an uphill battle against these evil forces. In 1, Diablo and the Archbishop Lazarus are established as the final enemies before you enter the first level. The Butcher and the Skeleton King both have quests revolving around them. In 2, Diablo is established immediately as the final boss and Andariel is immediately established as the Act 1 boss. Blood Raven gets her own quest, the Countess gets her own tower, and even in the fetch quests, they establish which enemy has the item, and the bosses feel like established guardians for the items you’re sent after. Even the basic enemies get establishment; “The cat tribe was always peaceful, but ever since the Dark Wanderer came through they’ve become aggressive”.

          Torchlight is not trying to establish villains. Its tone is a pinball-style rapid-fire spectacle; You get bosses like Mordrox and General Grell that are huge guys out of nowhere; no build-up as to who they are, just “surprise!” and a huge banner with their name on it. The Alchemist is the only one who really gets established, and he’s not even the Big Bad; in 1 you don’t find out about the Big Bad until around 3/4 through the game, and in 2 I don’t think they get established at all. Quests will be things like “explore this cave” or “save my pet”, and the boss fights feel like “well, dungeons have boss fights, y’know.” For normal enemies, there’s no indication the Alchemist has done anything to them; it’s very likely the world was crawling with spiders and evil genies long before the Alchemist showed up.

          Also, Diablo was content to give you a bossfight that was just one tough enemy, while most of Torchlight 2’s bosses will spawn infinite mooks. That started really annoying me around the sixth time it happened.

        2. Daemian Lucifer says:

          Yup,both of those.And dungeon sieges.And that one where you build a base alongside doing the slaying.And the one about richard lionheart.And the one with the guy who voiced geralt.And I cant say either of those are bad.In fact,the torchlight thing about selling your loot is an excellent feature Id love to see more of.I just never got sucked into any of them for more than half a dozen hours.But with all three diablos,I played for months,getting to the end game with all the characters,I even played the post end content in d3,which is just a grind I usually hate.

          And I simply cannot point to the reason why.I am a blizzard fanboy,thats true.But I never touched wow or overwatch,and I never got the expansion for d3(though chances are Id get sucked back in if I tried).

          Maybe its the setting?Because there is one kind of a diablo like game that I do like:Book of demons.Which is something like a card game,cardboard cutout homage of the original diablo.

    2. poiumty says:

      I liked path of exile but holy cow does it stretch its content out. I got bored before I could fully exploit the socket system (which is also kind of a perplexing design decision still).

      I don’t know what’s wrong with ARPG devs and their tendency to make the story and area progression so long and boring. Grim Dawn had that problem too.

      1. GTB says:

        I liked both Path of Exile and Grim Dawn, for different reasons.

        Path of exile is essentially a vehicle for theory crafting character builds. The game itself is almost immaterial compared to the skill tree. It exists only to prove (or disprove) the viability of your crazy Necromancer/assassin/cleric build. If you’re into that kind of thing, Path of Exile is the best platform for that. I’m not really into theory craft, but I love massive, open, kind of broken character progression. The more character options available the better, in my opinion. Which is one of the reasons I dislike diablo 3 so much.

        Grim Dawn had a few areas throughout the game where it kind of dragged on, but overall I thought it was pretty good. The storyline is interesting, although a little tropey. The titanquest guys have always been about wide open spaces- and their engine(s?) has always been built for that, so you do end up trudging around sometimes looking for the next thing. I admit it has faults, but I like GD enough that I think it has the most playtime of any game I own except maybe skyrim. Something about a grimdark steampunkish diablo clone appeals to me.

  43. poiumty says:

    Yeah I’d like a multi-part series on D3 please. I played that game when it came out which might have been the biggest videogame mistake I ever made.

    So after dozens of hours of mild, relaxing fun I get to the meat and potatoes of endgame systems and find out it’s all a near-impossible treadmill of endless frustration and hardship whose progress relies decisively on a wild west of an auction house where economy majors are kings and everyone else is dogs competing for scraps.


    What used to be fun quickly turned into one of the worst game experiences of my life. I’m still bitter about it.

    It’s gotten better, they say, but by the time it did my friends wouldn’t touch it with a 10 foot pole.

  44. Duoae says:

    I’d actually love to read about factorio. I like the game but have many more I want to play right now. I also like reading about and watching games I am not playing.

  45. Wizards says:

    When are you going to play Horizon. It’s like the spiritual successor to the original mass effect.

  46. Xythe says:

    I’m one of those people who still cares about Diablo III. I bounced off the orignal and II so hard. With II a bunch of my friends played and kept trying to convince me it was the best thing and I should join them. Over 3 separate attempts I plugged almost 80 hours into it, and I hated every second of it (oh for the days when I could spend that kind of time on something I didn’t like for the hope I’d “get it” at some point). The only reason I bought III was because by partner wanted it and our crossover on games is so slim I jump at chances to play something with her, and I’ve sunk hundereds of hours into it. It is my perfect zen game, chuck on a podcast and just grind, such a great unwind after work.

  47. Rick C says:

    It's basically this obtuse process of gathering up random items that may or may not drop, and then buying other items from a shop that don't have any immediate purpose, and then using those items in this other location.

    That’s more of an 80’s vibe.

  48. Ross McLaren says:

    I don't know. I've got a lot of irons in the fire right now (aside from trying to play four videogames at once!) and I probably shouldn't embark on anything crazy and ambitious. We'll see.

    So, can we expect the first post on Mastering Unity within the month… :)

  49. Ateius says:

    I for one would be thrilled to read a multi-part essay on the levels of “Meh” which Diablo III has inspired.

  50. Zak McKracken says:

    What is it with rogue-likes these days?
    Doom and Quake did the thing that is completely natural to me, which is that yhou have a certain number oflifes, and if you loose one you start the level over. It usually sets you back a bit, and you won’t be as s trong as you would be if you had not died, but at leats you get a few more attrempts and finding out what to do better next time.

    Then somebody makes a really punishing game (which is fine, some people like that!), and now every game needs to be like that. Even “the best game from 1996”, a time when “finiete lifes” was simple how it was done. This is a complete no-brainer to me, but maye I’m missing something?

  51. Tinkerton says:

    I haven’t played STRAFE (and I don’t intend to), but since I’m currently in the process of making a 90’s style old-school FPS myself, I took a look at some videos in order to try and see just what issues might be visible at a quick glance. Good lord, the game just seems so… dissonant?

    The first thing that rubbed me the wrong way was their marketing schtick back when the game was announced. It’s like “1996 is back baby! We have blood and guts everywhere and items and grinding and roguestuff and procedural level generati-” woah, woah, woah, sorry to stop you there guys, but I don’t think you get what 1996 was about at. all.

    The art direction is all over the place. The levels look kinda like a bastard child of Doom and Quake 2 with a lot of metal, rust and grit, but then the enemies are these cartoonish, doe-eyed System Shock 2 goblins and, instead of atmospheric drones or some badass riffage, the music is this 80’s (up)beat-pumping, retro-revival thing that seems to be all the rage today. On top of that, the guns look like a voxel-styled Halo arsenal, and the HUD has more colors than 99% of the level geometry, which further adds to the confusion. IMO it’s just wrong on so many levels.

    That’s not to say that any of these elements are bad when taken out of the context of the game and examined on their own, but it seems to lack some kind of glue to stick it all together. When I remember Quake or Doom, they mesh into this singular synaesthesic memory where you can’t just strip it down to any set of parts to be examined individually.

    I think the reason the weapons (and the game itself) feel sort of floaty is the fact that recoil is done linearly (IMO what feels best is if continuous shots stack up the recoil for the on-screen weapon and there’s also a satisfying curve to it), the sounds are not boomy enough, the particle effects are underwhelming and everything seems to move both in slow motion and at low gravity (everything includes the enemies just keeling over in ragdoll when they’re dead, the limbs floating off when shot, the items taking 5 seconds to hit the ground after spawning in mid-air, the blood gushing out copiously, yet leasurely, and even the ejection brass of the weapons doesn’t seem to launch itself out at high velocity like it would in, say, CoD – which should be the go-to example for satisfying weapons, though it might’ve even been surpassed by Overwatch lately).

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