Diecast #200: Mailbag!

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 5, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 59 comments

We did it. We made 200 of these stupid things. If you listened to the show for 40 hours a week, it would take you 5 weeks to hear the whole thing. And that’s ignoring the fact that most episodes are a little over an hour. (And some episodes aren’t included in the numbered list.)

Hosts: Paul, Shamus, and guest host Bob Case.

Episode edited by Issac.

1:10 Mailbag – Why Doesn’t Bob Make More Stuff?

Bob, I love your videos, and I’m a patient man. But having to wait 13+ months is really taxing on that patience. What would incentivize you to make more videos? Money? Sexual partners? Praise, cheering and love?

Best regards,


4:08 Mailbag – Why So Nitpicky?


First of all, I apologize in advance for any mistakes that I’ve made. English is not my native language (polish is). This whole e-mail is probably gibberish (especially since it’s the first mail in foreign language for me), but I’ll try to ask a question anyway.

Second: big fan of your work. I just wanted to say that.

Anyway, my question to Shamus, Paul and Bob is:
I’ve recently watched MrBtongue episode called “TUN: The Shandification of Fallout”. In one section, you criticized the way Fallout 3 handled the logic of it’s own world, comparing it to much more well-thought worldbuilding of Fallout: New Vegas (what do they eat? e.g. Megaton vs Goodspring). I’ve also read Shamus retrospection of the Mass Effect series (THE WHOLE THING). It’s makes me wonder, to what extent the games like that should justify the events they’re presenting – since if we were going to logically deconstruct everything in fictional world, eventually nothing would remain. So my question (finally) is: in which point the game should stop explaining it’s own world? To what degree the fictional world of that kind of games should be logically construct? Is there a clean line to be drawn? And how much of a game’s world should be just made-up?

(I’m not gonna lie, your language is pretty funny; hope the question is not too long, I couldn’t help myself – I mean, the Bob himself is here!)

Cheers to the whole crew of Diecast and hope you’re going to have a great time!

Darek (hmm… “Darius” I guess?)

14:36 Mailbag – How Would You Have Written It?

Hey Shamus,

I have a (multi-part) question I’d like to ask both Bob and you. There’s a minor hitch, though.

It’s about Mass Effect.

No, wait! Let me explain!

I want to make something absolutely clear before I proceed: if you don’t want to hear about the subject any more, or put it on the podcast, I totally understand. Both you and Bob have covered the series in the past many many times over in various formats, and I don’t blame you if you just stop reading right here, right now. If that’s the case, I guess all that’s left is for me to thank you both from the bottom of my heart for all the time and effort you’ve put into discussing and deconstructing the ME games. Your analyses are amazing and I think it wouldn’t be an exaggeration if I said that they have helped me immensely to grow not only as a fan of the series, but as a consumer of pop culture in general. You guys are the best, and I love you both forever. <3 <3 <3 Now, on the off chance that enough time has passed for you not to be completely sick of hearing about Mass Effect, here is my question (for the sake of convenience I'm leaving it in its original format, which was conceived before I wrote this prolonged introductory bit, so there are some redundancies -- sorry about that): "It's probably fair to say that you have spent a significant amount of time deconstructing the Mass Effect series, especially following the ending of the game that I personally choose to believe was never made. In the process you have acquired a great understanding of the series, which you have shared with your audience on multiple occasions. But did you ever create, or toyed with the idea of creating, an alternate Mass Effect canon for yourself, based on your analysis of the games, your personal preference, and how you believe the story should have went? If so, what would your "break-off point" be? What is the moment where you substitute your own story for the one proposed by the writer? Is it the infamous ending, the opening of the third game when the whole series went full anthropocentric, or even earlier, like when Shepard got blown out of the Normandy and died, only to be immediately resurrected (following atmospheric re-entry)? Do you include Andromeda at all (I'm completely ignoring it as I haven't played it, but for you it can be different)? Basically, tell us about your Mass Effect headcanon, if you have any :) ." Thanks for taking the time to read this. Take good care of yourselves and greetings from Poland (where it's currently freezing -- hope the winter isn't too hard on you stateside). Love you guys, Pawe?

Correction: In this section I say that you work for Lester in Grand Theft Auto Online, and don’t meet the other characters. I just noticed on the Wiki that this isn’t the case. There’s quite a bit more to the game if you stick with it.

31:25 Mailbag – Forbidden Adaptations.

Dear The Diecast,

Are there any books/films/concept albums/TV shows/other things that should be barred from being made into games, and if so why?

Cheers, Neil from England.

Here is the Papers, Please short film I mentioned:

Link (YouTube)

Here is the Loading Ready Run skit. The actor I was trying to think of is Andrew Cownden.

44:07 Is Astroneer as good as it looks?

Link (YouTube)

It’s like a reverse mailbag question!

48:49 The Unsurprising Factorio Digression

The good news is, I think we’re done with Factorio for the time being. Especially if that Astroneer thing works out.


From The Archives:

59 thoughts on “Diecast #200: Mailbag!

  1. Matt van Riel says:

    Astroneer looked great… right up until the devs started spending more money on silly marketing and gimmicks and merch than on the game. They got a lot of flak for that, unsurprisingly. Hopefully they’ve sorted those issues out now, but I admit it did put me off the game considering it’s still Early Access and they really shouldn’t be wasting money like that.

    1. etheric42 says:

      That’s not how I understood the situation at all. Maybe you could catch me up?

      Here’s what I thought happened;
      1. They build their core loop and tech to create a (paid) demo that is playable and fun, but shallow.
      2. They release this to Early Access (and likely other investors) to see how much interest this would generate. They label it pre-alpha (not even alpha).
      3. It gets a LOT of interest.
      4. Developers decide between adding some more content for what it is or ramping up their team to make more systems AND more content. They decide to go with the latter.
      5. Developers go semi-dark for ~9 months while they hire and onboard people (I think the quadruple their team?).
      6. Audience expects the normal Early Access thing of incrementally improving game, but that doesn’t really happen during those 9 months and they start thinking it is abandoned/vaporware.
      7. Community manager tries explaining that this was pretty much planned, nobody has abandoned anything. Their communication in this matter (beforehand and as damage control) isn’t 100% effective and that leads to ill will fails to stop the rumors. I’m not sure anyone could have been 100% effective, but it is what it is. They do not appear to do any big marketing pushes during this phase.
      8. The team finishes being assimilated and is ready to start making progress. They release the first of significant content/system upgrades, label the game alpha, and begin banging the marketing drums to reinvigorate audience attention to their content.
      9. We are now at the second of the significant content/system upgrades and things seem to be continuing along regularly at this point.

      Did I miss something? I typically only check up on this game every couple of months.

  2. Gordon D Wrigley says:

    The crafting, base building and automation in Astroneer are currently very shallow. I’m sure that’ll improve as they move along, they are still doing core systems development.
    On the space travel it’s not even direction and thrust, it’s select a target and the rest is auto.
    Crafting there’s only a couple dozen recipes.
    There’s no automation at all currently.
    I’ve played it a bit and it was fun for a few hours, then I ran out of stuff to do. I’m currently waiting for 1.0

    On Factorio, in case you missed it before I did this: https://mods.factorio.com/mod/GodMode
    And it sounds like you are ready for Bob’s and Angels mods, which substantially complicate the processing of materials and the recipes. Or maybe the space extension mod which adds a lot of post rocket launch stuff around developing FTL. You might also want to look into people building mega bases on youtube which is basically ratcheting the rocket launches up an order of magnitude which changes everything about how you build the base.
    They have promised 1.0 for Factorio this year, the main thing left to be done is an overhaul of the GUI which is currently in progress.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yeah, that’s my impression of Astroneer as well. Until it gets interesting, I’m going to assume it’s just eye candy and puddle-deep systems.

      I’m going to try out Factorio GodMode when I get home. Thanks for the mod!

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Just tried to install, but “Selected mod has no released version”, so it won’t let me I guess?

        1. Gordon says:

          That’s weird. Are you playing 0.15 or 0.16? I sent the minimum version to 0.16 without even thinking about it, so if you are on 0.15 that’s probably the problem.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            Opted in to latest experimental version. Mod did not appear to do anything.

            1. Gordon says:

              I hate software…
              I’m guessing you started a new game, it doesn’t seem to like that and my spidey sense suggests it’s going to be a pain to fix.
              If you try disabling the mod, loading (or creating) a game and saving it. Then reenabling the mod and loading the save it should come right.
              Although at this point I’d understand if we’ve passed the “this is too much messing around” threshold.
              If it helps assure any I now have several dozen hours playing with this thing working, it’s actually kinda weird at first unlearning the normal behavior.

              1. Paul Spooner says:

                I’ll get back to it at some point. Last night’s free time was committed to working on commissions.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Even just the basic interaction with the game world seems crazy in Astroneer. For example, when you pick up an object in your hands, it’s all done with physics objects, instead of just putting the 3D model into your hands. So you can have the thing stretching and glitching out, of it gets snagged on something. It’s baffling to me that they’d want to over-simulate everything like this. I might be missing up some stuff between the vehicles, your hands, and the crafting stations, but it’s all over simulated like this. You don’t push a button in the UI to put a crafting object into the machine, you have to painfully line it up in 3D space – even though it’s still just as binary as a single button press would be.

      1. etheric42 says:

        Or you just click on the hologram of the object in the recipe and it sucks it from your pack into the slot.

        And it isn’t even that painful if you do decide to click on the object before clicking on the machine. There’s some auto-snapping that fixes that.

        Also, when are things in your hands other than your enviro gun? Things are either in your backpack or are being telekinetically floated by your cursor, which of course would bump into other objects because it’s just floating there and still has mass.

        The reasons behind this were to make the game be rooted in physicality. Instead of having a standard gamey grid for your inventory or crafting, these are all physical objects that exist and can be seen. When you access your inventory, it appears to you that it floats off your back and your screen focuses on it more to see all the objects there (but in multiplayer you just go still, and the floating backpack doesn’t collide with any objects or anything). By extension of that idea, your backpack should be accessible in some way by anyone who can reach it… and it is! Which means if you’ve got a buddy heading to the surface and you want to offload some malachite onto his extra slots, you can just telekinese them into his backpack as he walks by. It’s like of like reverse pick-pocketing in fallout and very useful/fun for similar reasons.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          There’s no reason the physicality can’t exist without the hyper-simulation, though. Your backpack itself and its inventory are already just stationary objects that are animated a little bit. When you aim your camera at your friend, their backpack can be interactible just like the crafting stations or any other interactible object. Your dude could carry objects like in any of the 3D Mario games – no mouse-movement wonkiness required!

  3. Lee says:

    So… I wanted to try out a podcast player on Chrome, but your RSS feed link for the podcast just produces an error. I have no idea how long that’s been true, though.

  4. Silomilo says:

    I was pretty jazzed to hear some more of Bob, but Paul and Shamus took up most of the podcast together. Not that I don’t like some S&P, but Bob was the exotic spice that I really would have liked a more equal measure of. I guess it’s my fault for not thinking of a question to submit in time.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      In our defense, we let him talk as much as he wanted to, but he usually just stops after a few sentences. Maybe that’s another reason his videos take so long to put together.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        On the other hand shamus asks for less rambling at 14:20, so blame him I guess.

        1. Asdasd says:

          I didn’t notice this at all. On the contrary I thought the three of you were well balanced and had great chemistry together. If it’s practical then I hope can Bob make more guest appearances on the podcast in the future.

  5. Kylroy says:

    “English is not my native language (polish is).”

    Mine’s varnish.

    Seriously, though, would not have guessed that email came from a non-native English speaker.

    1. Locke says:

      Anytime a non-native speaker apologizes for their English, what you’re about to read will be more fluent than most native speakers.

      1. Joe says:

        I wonder why that is. Possibly because they put more effort into it than us natives.

        1. Droid says:

          Only the people who are self-conscious about their ability to speak English would apologize for it in advance. The same self-conscious people are probably also those most eager to write clear sentences and use proper grammar and orthography.
          This is probably because you can see a lot of people making mistakes or being sloppy online, and the self-conscious person may have difficulty understanding them. Then, they argue, “I’m probably just as bad as them, it’s just that I can’t judge how bad my own writing is because I already know what I meant to say!”

          It seems like such an obvious thing, such a reasonable conclusion, that even if we do not like it and may have our suspicion that it might be wrong, we start looking at our own writing with suspicion, testing sentences, twisting, replacing, reordering, until we are SURE there is no way anyone could misunderstand us.
          And as soon as we slip up once, or some retard just does not read what we actually wrote, be it out of laziness or malice (trolling), we use the unlimited power of confirmation bias to assure ourselves how awfully incompetent we are at writing and/or speaking English.

          Assuming I’m not the only one and some of this sounded familiar for someone else on here:
          If you have written a comment on this blog before, and I have read it, I can confirm that your English is fine. I’ve not come across a single unintelligible comment, maybe apart from using abbreviations that I did not know.
          There is a lot of good to be said about putting in some effort, even if your English isn’t the best or you’re not very good at expressing yourself in writing, or in general.

          There’s good reasons not to say something, but “I don’t trust myself not to miss a typo” is not one of them.

        2. Xeorm says:

          Don’t forget too that native speakers are much better about knowing what they can omit but still be understood, and being used to doing so. Someone who apologizes for their writing shows both that they care, but also lack the knowledge to speak badly but competently.

  6. Telxvi says:

    Hello Cast-cats,

    Congratz on #200!

    Great to hear Bob and thanks for making the best channel on YouTube a thing!


  7. Zgred says:

    Hi! Darek here (the guy from the second question; Darek – short for Dariusz – is just my name. I thought that “Darius” would be its English equivalent).
    Anyway, thanks for your answers, they were really great – especially because everyone looked at the problem from a different perspective, so there were a lot of interestings insights. It’s really cool, some of the things you guys mentioned didn’t actually cross my mind (or at least I never thought about them that way).
    Though I think Shamus’s and Bob’s takes are not mutually exclusive, quite the opposite. Again, it’s a matter of perspective.

    (BTW, just in case: I didn’t try to criticize the idea of an extensive worldbuilding – especially since I love Fallout: NV mostly – although not exclusively – for that reason; it’s makes the world believable. Fallout 3 on the other hand… it’s okay. But it’s hard to care about anything).

    Congrats on reaching #200 episodes!

  8. Paul Spooner says:

    Bob says, when discussing Mass Effect, that ME3 would be putting the plan into action under time pressure (16:20), but I wonder if it would be more interesting and in keeping with the story for the Reapers to operate on long enough time-scales that there’s effectively no time pressure. Maybe Sovereign is an idiot reaper pulling a Leeroy Jenkins.

  9. Paul Spooner says:

    On the topic of games that lie to you:
    Around 34:15 I mention “unicorn island” but the game I was thinking of is “Pony Island”. I still haven’t played it though.
    If you want to listen/read to/from me on this topic, here are some more extensive thoughts:

  10. Paul Spooner says:

    Around 43:10 I bring up Rimworld but no one else on the show had played it, so it doesn’t get much discussion. Any rimworld fans out there want to chime in with their impressions, especially as it relates to procedural stories?

    1. Steve C says:

      I’ll repost my Rimworld story from the forums:

      There’s an animal in the game called an alpha beaver. (This will come up later.) I have a colonist named Alpha. He was part of a caravan. A caravan means doing stuff on a separate map from the base with limited resources. I decided to send him home early via launcher. A launcher where you launch a cargo pod via a rocket that are like the escape pods from ST:Voyager. I had an injured alpaca I didn’t want slowing down the caravan and shoved it into the launcher too. The weight was a little tight but they barely fit. The caravan has limited food so Alpha left hungry.

      The pod went off course a little. Instead of landing outside the base, Alpha crashed through the roof. Straight into the bedroom of two of colonists that were having sex. Awkward. Alpha is naked (his clothes were over max weight) with an alpaca. He repairs the hole in the roof and I notice there are no meals out in the dining hall. I don’t want him to go into the freezer without clothes. So I check the inventory of the two colonists having sex. Hey, she’s got a spare meal on her. Perfect… A fine meal made with alpha beaver meat and corn.

      TL;DR: When you unexpectedly drop in naked with an alpaca to a love making session, plug a hole, then go straight for the beaver meat. It is the Alpha thing to do.

    2. James says:

      I was quite surprised that Shamus hadn’t played Rimworld. The story-tellers in the game are pretty amazing and watching Twitch streamers play you’d think some story-tellers were real people hell-bend on ruining the colony.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        My own experience has been, that the story-tellers constantly up the threat from outside forces, but don’t actually produce interesting narratives. I’ll keep having to fight off raids or repair lightning damage or re-seed blighted crops week after week, but it all ends up feeling like a grind. Part of that is that the escalation of damages and penalties keep increasing, part is that there’s a lot of rote mundane things in between the big events, and a big part is that there’s no way to easily review the events of my colony. If there was a big button that let me see all the major raids, social fights, marriages, etc that had happened in the last month, year, etc, then I could view it as a larger narative. Right now, I get individual units that aren’t very interesting on their own, separated with grind, far enough apart that I forget each one in relation to the next and to the larger flow of events.

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          It does feel very grindy because the sequence of events is pretty much entirely disconnected. Very rarely does it feel like something happened because of a previous event. Instead, events happen far enough apart that it’s mostly about maintaining the status quo. The narrative of a well-managed Rimworld game is “X happened, then we cleaned it up. Then Y happened and we cleaned it up. Z happened, one of our dudes died, we cleaned it up.”

    3. Ninety-Three says:

      I’ve played tons of Rimworld, but the “procedural stories” thing doesn’t register for me at all. I’m the kind of person who names their XCOM soldiers “Scout 1 50-70-35” (TUs-Accuracy-Reflexes) and when I hear people talk about “stories” in Rimworld it makes me feel like I’m missing a module in my brain. The game is practically Sim City to me.

      Narratively, I just don’t care about Rimworld, and mechanically, I don’t get a lot of emergent behaviour when I play. Not because the system is shallow, but because “unexpected interactions” in that game are problems, and the player has enough control over the game that competent play will pretty much stamp them out entirely. The only thing that’s out of your control is the random shots in firefights, and there’s not a whole lot of depth to “We shot them, they shot back, when the smoke cleared two of us were dead”.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        There are some good random interactions, but I think they’re more rare than all of the problems the game throws at you (and some are new from the last couple months). For example, two people might get married, which gives them a mood buff, or someone could be randomly inspired to be amazing at surgery for 24 hours, or you could randomly have some nice supplies or medicine drop into your base from outer-space. I think part of what makes them seem rare, despite whatever random chance they might have in the game, is that most of the positive things are all just instantly available, and don’t require any effort from the player. A player has to work to fight off raiders, or to manage the pawn who’s having a murderous rampage, but the only positive thing that I can think of with any complexity, is when some ambrosia plants[1] randomly spawn. The player needs to keep them protected, and harvest them, in order to get the benefit. Random medical supplies are just sitting there waiting for you, and a random super-surgery chance is a flat upgrade with no interesting work for the player. My hunch is that since they’re over so quickly, they get forgotten more eailsy.

        [1] Basically these are just useful, fairly un-risky drug-plants, that gives pawns a mild happy effect from the edible fruit.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          I think civiv had some nice events implemented.Like you could get a quest to build a certain building,or a bunch of certain unit,and doing so would give you a bonus(and doing something else would give you an even better bonus).Its a shame that the sequels dropped those.The dark/golden age thing of civvi kind of does that,but not really.

    4. Allan says:

      I backed Rimworld in the kickstarter, I’ve played it on and off these last few years and overall it’s a good little game I’ve had hours of fun with. One of the few kickstarters I don’t regret throwing money at back in the heydey when I actually had some. However in terms of stories and generating them? It just doesn’t in my opinion. What it does is throw a semi-random assortment of completely unrelated and disconnected mini-scenarios at you with varying degrees of utility/increasing difficulty until you eventually hit a fail state or just get bored and stop playing. If you’re particulary observant and paying close attention to all the miscellanious information then sure, now and then your sense of pattern recognition might occaisionally pick something out of the soup of white noise that is interesting. Or that you can retroactively construct a narrative for. But that’s the player putting in the story work, not the game.

      Rimworld for me is at it’s best in the early game when you take a couple of rag tag survivors and slowly build up this nice little self-sufficient commune. Its fun starting with pretty much nothing and building this thing up, you feel like you’re overcoming adversity and really making something. Eventually though you get to a point where your progress just sort of sputters to a halt as you’ve made all the really meaningful advancements there are and there’s nothing more to actually do that has a satisfying impact. You could grind out getting enough resources to make gold-plated beds and floors and walls to get maximum mood boosts, but that just gives you a production boost which is no longer useful since at that point you already have everything. You could grind out making a space ship and getting everyone off the planet but then that just sort of ends the game. Might as well just quit start a new one and go back to the actual fun bit so much quicker.

      1. Philadelphus says:

        I too backed the Kickstarter for RimWorld and don’t regret it, even if I’ve never managed to stay invested in a single playthrough for more than ~5–10 hours or so. Whereas after discovering Dwarf Fortress for the first time I proceeded to play nothing else for a month, and continued to play it off and on for years.

        Thinking about it, RimWorld is Dwarf Fortress-lite, but it doesn’t have some of the things that make DF interesting to keep tinkering with. No fluid mechanics, no real traps, and no third dimension mean that you’re never going to read about someone who built a working calculator in RW using fluid mechanics and a bunch of pressure plates powered by kittens. There’s no way to build your base inside a sixty-level-high statue of a dwarf drinking a mug of beer, or a trap that flash-freezes invaders in ice.

        Combat also manages to be simultaneously boring and tense. Gunfights as done in RW just aren’t that interesting; you make your defensive perimeter and plunk your guys down behind it, hopefully having cleared all the land around for miles so invaders have to cross it. And they’ll still always figure out how to come around from a direction you haven’t thought of, forcing you to scramble around to meet them. If they have any sort of ranged weapons, fights devolve into firefights of people hiding behind cover and trading shots, and it all comes down to which side gets more lucky dice rolls. It’s like if all you could do in XCOM was move your soldiers around, and all they could do was fire at random enemies until one side’s morale broke or were overrun—there’s no real tactics to fights other than “stay in cover, deny it to the enemy”.

        (And having said this, I realize that this is basically DF combat as well, except that DF combat is primarily melee so you get things like a dwarf punching a goblin so hard it explodes into fifteen chunks, which somehow makes it a lot more interesting and funny.)

        And speaking of RW’s setting, I enjoyed it more before it started trying to copy every earth animal out there. When I downloaded the first backers-only alpha I think it only had three animals: squirrels, muffalo (alien bison), and boomrats (alien rats that explode on death, but are otherwise pretty harmless). And I thought that was pretty cool, sure muffalo weren’t very interesting, but at least it felt like you were on an alien planet (like the introductory text was trying to sell you) where the squirrels were the odd ones out. And then came update after update adding more and more real animals, and I kinda lost interest. Ok, I guess it’s kinda funny that I can domesticate cobras (…somehow) and sic them on invaders, but why not just invent an alien creature for that purpose? This isn’t supposed to be earth, why are pretty much all the animals from there? (Yes, there are thrumbos and boomalopes and alpha beavers now too, but that’s what, three alien creatures vs. I-don’t-even-know-how-many earth creatures?)

        And again, I know DF also has a lot of normal animals and plants, but it fits a lot better in that setting which isn’t trying to be an alien planet and it also has a much higher percentage of weird and fantastic beasties. You can get attacked by dragons, or hydras, or Forgotten Beasts that are generated on the fly. I wouldn’t mind a few earth animals being added to RW, it just starts to feel less and less like an “alien planet” and more like setting up a base on earth with a few alien creatures thrown in.

        All this being said, I want to stress that I don’t dislike the game, and plenty of people obviously find it a lot of fun. I’ve got 15 hours in it on Steam, and probably twice that much playing the various alphas and betas that weren’t on Steam before that, and have genuinely had fun while playing it. I think it’s mainly the lack of much to do in the way of mega projects (ala DF) or anything to do once you’ve got your base up and running besides plan for the next negative event the storyteller’ll throw at you that tends to make me lose interest after a while.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Re: Earth-animals

          The in-world explanation, is that there’s no major alien life on any of these planets (except maybe some microbes), and everything else is from human activity in some way. Bio-engineered work animals, things used to terraform the planet which have now gone amok, plus some pets or zoo animals which were also used after the terraforming and are also now gone wild. I personally don’t mind it, since the game for me is basically Firefly-themed Dwarf Fortress, but I can imagine some total-conversion mods being very popular if made.

  11. Droid says:

    Not sure how topical that actually is, but people got their hands hacked off, or worse, for literally stealing one apple. Of course the idea was not that stealing this one apple in particular is such a horrible crime that it required you to basically destroy the offender’s entire life, but that stealing in general was such an affront to whatever power guaranteed public order and the safety of the citizens of the city/village in question (and that most likely, this person would have already stolen other things or would be compelled to steal again in the future) that punishing them way too harshly became a matter of asserting authority rather than delivering justice.

    Also, making it look like you took theft really, REALLY seriously might have been a strategy to pander to traders and to try and lure foreign trade into your domain by publicly enforcing the one law that traders with a lot of expensive goods on the line cared about most of all.
    After all, no upstanding citizen would suffer from that, right? Right?

  12. Leipävelho says:

    Oh Shamus, of course we want you to still write about Mass Effect. Don’t think you can escape it that easily.

  13. Ninety-Three says:

    I want to respond to the “Start fanon at the end of ME1” thing with a point I’ve made before. The correct place to cut ME1 is one minute before the end of the game.

    To recap, ME1 ends thusly:

    Shepard: Sovereign was only a vanguard. The Reaper fleet is still coming. Hundreds of ships, maybe thousands. And I’m going to find some way to stop them.
    *Theme music swells dramatically*
    Andersen: [Short inspirational speech] “…When the Reapers come, we must stand side by side. We must fight against them as one. And together we will drive them back into dark space!”

    Right here you can see them sowing the seed that would grow into ME3’s bafflingly stupid premise that we can and should engage in a military conflict with Space Cthulhu.

    ME1 was a Lovecraft story in space. Everything about it fit perfectly with the themes of Lovecraft: learn about impossibly powerful alien entities beyond our comprehension, the day is saved but we’re left with the knowledge that we are small fish in a big pond and one day the Old Ones will return in force. You cannot take that story and make a sequel where you unify an army to fight Cthulhu and “drive them back”. Even if you were to do that and somehow make it not stupid, you’d have to undermine ME1’s themes to do so. This “We can fight hundreds of Reapers with the power of Friendship Unity!” drek belongs in a children’s anime, not a Lovecraftian trying-to-be-hard scifi.

    1. Shamus says:

      Perhaps it varies based on who you pick for council member, but in my game it always Udina who says those lines. So I always filed that into “Dumb shit Udina says.” It never really stuck with me because I never felt Udina understood the problem.

      But yes, if we take it as an announcement of the topic for the next game then it’s dumb.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        “Udina saying dumb shit” is probably not the developer’s intent for the last paragraph of dialogue in their game, especially given the “We won!” mood and the triumphant music. Either it’s a dumb setup for a sequel, or it’s just a really dumb ending.

    2. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Even with that,I can see a lead into a story where you dont actually fight reapers.For example,finding the reason why reapers are doing it,and showing them that their task was already done/failed is one way*.Another way is that you find the other agents that are working on waking up the reapers and dealing with them.Or you could plan an escape from the reapers into another galaxy and execute it in the nick of time,with you having to decide who gets to live and who gets to die.Plenty of possibilities to fight an unimaginable horror without actually fighting them with weapons.And all of those are done easier if you do unite everyone then if you try to do it on your own,so the whole “power of friendship” actually makes sense.It is a much more solid plan than WE FIGHT OR WE DIE.

      *Yes,this is how planescape:torment ends.

  14. Ninety-Three says:

    Since you mentioned it Shamus, I’ll chime in to say that I can always read more of you writing about Mass Effect.

  15. Syal says:

    So what’s the game version of Donnie Darko like?

  16. Grimwear says:

    I also had a lot of problems with Black Panther like Bob. The James from LRR and Matt, previously from LRR, are currently doing a podcast where they recap every Marvel movie and they briefly mentioned really liking it and I…don’t.

    Major problems are the large amounts of really obvious cgi where they make the Wakanda vistas look “amazing” and just made me think I was watching The Lion King along with the really fake rhinos. Smaller gripe as someone who lives in a place where currently the amount of snow I’ve shoveled in two days has made mounds along both sides of my driveway over 6 feet high and 3 feet wide the snow they cover T’Challa in is blatantly not snow.

    My biggest issue though is just the sheer stupidity that was involved in making sure that the main conflict happens. Like we know that Killmonger attacked Black Panther and tried to kill him and is the reason Andy Serkis escaped. Who was then used as the inroad to Wakanda and turned T’Challa’s best friend against him since T’Challa failed to bring Serkis back. T’Challa even knows it’s him from the ring! He, as well as Forest Whitaker, know the reason behind his anger is because of his dad’s death and it was clearly shown to be self-defense. Ok keep it hidden but when this blatantly unstable man shows up T’Challa’s all demure and shaken by the revelation that his dad killed his own brother and doesn’t freaking say anything except “I accept your challenge”. Like no dude open your mouth and use your words. You have super high tech equipment which I’d hope has recordings or something or at the very least you’re a king step up and tell the facts. He attempted to kill you, freed Serkis, and has clearly used him for nefarious purposes in order to take control of your country and military. The only reason they even got to a challenge was because T’Challa was an idiot and I know the movie is trying to tell the theme of needing to change our ways and whatnot but before this idiocy Wakanda was shown as being advanced while maintaining their traditions for mostly ceremonial purposes. But no it turns out they’re all idiots who will allow the world to fall to ruin.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      What facts?He was the only one who saw the ring,briefly,during an explosion.What is he supposed to do?Hack a satellite and zoom in until we see a tiny signet on some random person during an escape attempt?Everything else he knows,it could easily be used against him.”Oh,this dude just wants me dead because my father killed his father,and then covered it up for 30 years,and no one knew.But you should totally back me up instead of him,even though I too may seem involved in this conspiracy to murder my own kin”.

      Yes,the audience knows the facts,but you keep forgetting that audience is always privy to a bunch of facts none(few) of the characters are.What the movie camera sees is not instantly recorded by any of the in world cameras.

      Wakanda was shown as being advanced while maintaining their traditions for mostly ceremonial purposes.

      No,it was explicitly shown in the beginning that they would follow those traditions to the letter.

      But no it turns out they’re all idiots who will allow the world to fall to ruin.

      Something something second amendment something something.DISCLAIMER:Im not saying that americans are idiots,Im saying that you should call a fictional nation idiotic when they are acting exactly like a real world nation.

      1. Grimwear says:

        As I said I’d hope that Black Panther had some form of recording in his high tech suit that would record what happens so they could use it for intelligence gathering. Makes sense seeing as how they have the most amazing holographic technology ever devised.

        Also Black Panther still doesn’t say anything about what’s going on even if it’s a he said she said situation. Who do we trust? Some random guy who showed up and is unstable and crazy or a man we’ve known for 30 years who’s an upstanding citizen, was our protector for years, and our current king. But no he’s the one we can’t possibly trust.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          If he had any recording device in his suit,that wouldve been shown earlier.As every piece of tech used was shown earlier.Not to mention,his sister wouldnt have a need to record him punching the suit,she wouldve downloaded the video from its camera.

          As for the he said she said situation,its not that easy to gain a trust when you admit that you have been covering for a lie.Especially not when some people have already shown that they doubt your leadership.

          1. Grimwear says:

            While he may not have any I state that’s stupid. They can get clear images of cars and jets and control them with miniature devices but can’t put a single camera anywhere in the suit? God forbid Black Panther who’s constantly out on important missions would ever need to review what happened at a later date to get more information. Also getting a camera view of Black Panther being punched would have simply been a jumbled mess, much like when someone drops a camera you don’t get a clear view so her wanting to have video of him flying off into the sunset makes sense. And again, T’Challa had just learned about the event but keeps it hidden. No, tell those who govern your country with you. Heck your major holy man Forest Whitaker was there and got saved. Does his opinion not count for anything either? O wait no they all stand there and watch him die. Because stupid ceremony that makes no sense. And again…your best friend is upset with you then shows up with this guy you know is evil? SAY SOMETHING. Either way it shouldn’t even matter since clearly the king can do whatever he wants without consequence. Just sentence people to death. Tell them to shut up. Destroy all their precious artifacts. Who cares he’s the king.

            1. Daemian Lucifer says:

              While he may not have any I state that’s stupid.

              Its an armor,designed to absorb energy from bullets,car crashes and high altitude falls,and then emitting the energy outwards.You say not having a camera there is stupid,I say putting a fragile piece of equipment on such a thing is stupid.

              Also getting a camera view of Black Panther being punched would have simply been a jumbled mess

              Then what would be the point of that?

              And again, T’Challa had just learned about the event but keeps it hidden.

              You keep saying that like he just learned that it would snow tomorrow.But he learned that his father,the previous king for 30 years,a man idolized by the country,has literally betrayed his country,has been lying to the people for decades.Why the hell would he reveal such a thing and shake his own position at a time where others have already shown that they have doubts about him?Why would he squander a chance of keeping the kingdom through a fight (that he already won once) by revealing a thing that would potentially turn even his allies against him?

              Either way it shouldn’t even matter since clearly the king can do whatever he wants without consequence.

              This is obviously not true since half of the country attacked the other half over this.

              1. Grimwear says:

                So he has armor that is bulletproof, can absorb energy and shoot it back, audio equipment with and I quote “unlimited range”, emp beads, a device that can take control of literally any vehicle, and is shown several times in the movie wearing a bracelet which allow holographic communication and controls their ships but a single camera makes no sense? I don’t buy it.

                Secondly, I was simply stating that for the scene having a jumbled mess doesn’t make as good a memento as actually seeing him go flying. My point stands.

                The movie makes some big deal over the events with the king killing his brother but personally…I don’t really think it’s a big deal? It was self-defense and the king protected a citizen of his country from being murdered. In fact from what we see in the movie aside from T’Challa no one else cares either or thinks any less of the previous king at any point. We even see the king in the astral plane surrounded by the other rulers and they all seem to accept him. Heck T’Challa’s love interest is told and simply responds with “nobody’s perfect”. The only bad part was leaving the child behind. But for all we the audience know his mother is still around. They mention the ing’s brother falling in love with a woman and having a kid but she’s never brought up or seen again. Is she dead? Who knows but it’s not revealed so not for us to worry over.

                Finally, half the country does not go to war. In fact barely anyone does. The military branch attack T’Challa even though their rigid rules state the challenge is still going but that’s conveniently ignored now. And they end up fighting all 10 members of the royal guard and maybe 20 warriors from the gorilla tribe. Not even close to a civil war. They follow their traditions until it’s no longer convenient for the story plain and simple. Technically challenge still going? No I’m Killmonger and “I’m done with that challenge stuff” so the pilots take off anyway. Military don’t actually know what to do and look to their leader and leader decides nah let’s all attack T’Challa. We have these herbs which is the basis of our countries prosperity and growth and provides us our protector? New king said burn them so we do thus crippling ourselves forever. Don’t ask me to believe that this isn’t stupidity done for the sake of progressing the plot.

    2. Syal says:

      That’s not just a tradition though, that’s the election process.

      1. Grimwear says:

        I say mostly ceremonial because we’re shown at the beginning that none of the other clans challenge. I mean it’s a stupid process where might makes right. Good leader? Who cares I’m bigger and stronger. Wakanda has prospered for hundreds of years and maintained their current non intervention policies. Thank god then that there’s never been one strong idiot who decided to go to war over all these centuries. Doubly so since we’re then shown that it turns out tons of them want to do it. Yes they perform the ceremony but I personally see it as more ceremonial since everyone already knows T’Challa will become the next king and says so even before it happens meaning they’ve all agreed to it beforehand. Makes sense seeing as how they have their council already established. I sincerely doubt that they’d allow for an entire country with world ending weapons to be governed by a random strong man. Until they do. And easily at that.

  17. ccesarano says:

    I imagine someone else has said it before, but a sudden realization I had is that Mass Effect really needed to ditch Space Cthulu in the first place since that really wasn’t what they were interested in. I think it was when Shamus or Bob were saying something about not having the Genophage story (have it there but not there) that it made me consider what does and does not work about these games.

    I feel like the Mass Effect games, whether intentionally or not, are much more interested in exploring the races and characters within the setting. But, as is observed through Shamus’ epic and excellent series on the franchise, once you get to the main story it’s as basic as it can be. Perhaps the route should have been more Firefly than Star Wars, or perhaps dialing back more towards Buffy, a show that actually lasted more than one season. Have a big-bad that unites the cast together, but has no impact on later games.

    Unfortunately, that might require undoing much of the game’s backstory as it relies on the Reapers being this major threat to all existence. If you perhaps make it just one Reaper seeking to re-enter space, then you need a suitable excuse for what happened to the rest. Or maybe Keep It Simple Stupid and just make it that the only option for the Protheans was to go Halo canon and unleash a weapon that wiped everything out, save for a handful of “banished” straggling Reapers. This way the Collectors in ME2 could perhaps just be a race that, like the dwarves of the Mines of Moria, dug a bit too deep in some ancient Reaper carcass and found themselves mutated into something more mad.

    I dunno if this would have really delivered better stories or made the games ultimately better, but instead of trying to deliver a big epic that makes no sense it might have worked better to deliver simpler central plots as nothing more than an excuse for everything else… which seems to be what the devs were more interested in anyway.

  18. etheric42 says:

    I’d recommend you wait on Astroneer. I think it is a fun game currently for piddling around and exploring interesting airless space balls in a casual way for about 8-12 hours. Now that they are entering alpha, they are starting to tack on new systems and it will be interesting to see where they go there.

    The space element of the game is pretty much nonexistent except as a barrier. You click on a button on a rocket to go to space, click on a planet to change orbit, click on a landing site to land. It is only interesting in that you have limited space (especially early on) to haul materials between planets, which means you can only put together a starter base until you get some on-site materials, and you have to be somewhat conscious of your fuel supply if you are hopping from orbit to orbit to get to the planet you want. The different planets are interesting, but depth is something that is coming to them later. This game is mostly concerned with the ground game.

    The core loop is currently: explore->get mats->build things that enable better exploration->explore

    Progression is: Explore relying on your air tank. Explore relying on air tethers. Explore relying your your buggy. Explore relying on your large buggy/buggy convoy. Use spaceship to get to other planets, restarting you exploration progression slightly since you need to rebuild your buggy, but now on a new planet.

    We’ll see where that goes if they start implementing conveyer belts.

    I will recommend again: Subnautica. Offer still stands to buy Shamus a copy. It’s a better Morrowind than Morrowind. And likely the best Fallout Scrolls game released yet (for people that enjoy the parts of those games that I enjoy: early game and exploration).

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    I vet games with lets-plays these days, no time to play everything. Any recommendations for a Subnautica playthrough?

    1. etheric42 says:

      While you could, I’d recommend not. A lot of the value in the game is exploring and figuring out things for yourself. (Not in a gotcha kind of way, but exploration is the name of the game.) Maybe find someone you trust and have them watch a let’s play?

      I don’t have any to recommend, I’ve mostly watched some compilations/excerpts of ones for stuff I’m already past just to see how other people interacted with it. I could probably talk my roomate into doing one for you, she does them from time to time and it is on her to-play list. But then again there are a lot out there, so that is probably duplicating effort. It was in Early Access for a couple of years though, so make sure you grab a recent (February-onward) one.

  20. Burnswell says:

    If you’re playing GTA Online again, M opens the ingame menu, scroll down to the bottom of the menu and you can toggle passive mode. Now you look like a ghost and players can’t shoot you. You can’t pull out your weapons out though so careful pissing off any NPCs.

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