Diecast #225: Linux Gaming, Starflight, Spider-Man

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 10, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 49 comments

We got two mailbag questions this week that didn’t make it into the show but can easily answered here. One asked if I had any thoughts on 7 Billion Humans and the other asked for opinions on Monster Hunter: World. The answer to both of these is that I haven’t played them, I am interested in them, but I don’t have time for either one. We’re getting close to the end of the year now, which means it’s time for things to get a little crazy in terms of AAA titles released per month.

As always, email is in the header image if you’ve got questions for the show.

Also, congrats to Paul and his wife. Their latest baby was born less than 24 hours after this show was recorded. I’ve lost count of how many they have at this point, but it’s a challenging number. Congratulations and best of luck!



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

00:00 Preserving the Site

Like I’ve said in the past, there don’t seem to be any established rules, customs, or assumptions for how crowdfunding works. It’s my goal to make sure my Escapist work doesn’t take away from the work I do here on the blog.

01:24 Steam Streaming

For the record, all the sharing difficulties I talked about on the show are long over. My oldest two kids have moved out, and the youngest has his own machine. We haven’t had to negotiate computer time between kids in about a decade.

12:15 Valve’s Effort to Expand Linux Gaming

I’ll expand more on this topic in my Escapist column this week. For now, here is Valve’s announcement about Proton.

28:18 Starflight 3 is being crowdfunded!

If you watch this trailer you can see the scattershot art style of the 1986 original that I was talking about. It’s a minimalist wireframe when you’re landing on a world. You’ve got cutesy chibi 2D sprites when exploring the space station. You get an overhead map of abstract icons when exploring the world. You get realistically proportioned silhouettes when looking at your crew roster. You get hand-drawn art when talking to aliens.


Link (YouTube)

Rather than making a game that feels like a sci-fi action movie, the goal here is to make a game that feels like a sci-fi novel. That sounds pretty good to me. Also, I love the simplistic graphical presentation. That gives me confidence that the team isn’t going to get lost chasing high-end graphics. Here is the crowdfunding page, if you want to know more.

37:50 Over-funding is the Scourge of Crowdfunding

49:00 So many games coming out!

Between Sept and Nov we’re getting Spider-Man, Tomb Raider, Doom Eternal, Hitman 2, Donut County, and Monster Hunter World. (And those are just the games I care about. On top of that we’re getting Red Dead Redemption, Battlefield, Fallout 76, Darksiders 3, COD Black Ops 4, Life is Strange, Assassin’s Creed Odyssey, and a handful of tentpole sports / driving games.)

Also, if you don’t get the Zombo.com reference, then THIS IS ZOMBO COM! The only limit is your imagination. (This was a lot funnier at the height of the dot-com boom.)

54:20 Spider-Man

This is it. This is the game I’ve been waiting for since I was a child.


Link (YouTube)

 


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49 thoughts on “Diecast #225: Linux Gaming, Starflight, Spider-Man

  1. Lame Duck says:

    “I’ve lost count of how many they have at this point, but it’s a challenging number.”

    So, that’s anything more than 0, then?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Well, zero is certainly the least challenging as far as keeping track goes. I’d say the challenge curve, now that food is basically free, is something like 2, 1, 3, 4…
      With two, they can collude pretty easily. With just one, you’ve got to be entertaining and training them all the time. With three or more they basically form a society, and you just have to, in the words of Jordan Peterson, “Keep them from setting themselves on fire.”
      It’s six by the way. Two girls, three boys, and now another girl. We always wanted six, and it’s satisfying that it turned out that way. Now all to do is see if we can stop. :p

  2. Joe says:

    I’m an ambidexterous gamer. If one arm gets worn out, I move the mouse to the other side and play another game. However, yes. I fall into the binge behaviour too. There have been times when one arm is aching, but I try not to let that happen any more.

    I think that Fig.io is associated with or actually run by Inexile, the Wasteland and Bard’s Tale people.

    1. Sannom says:

      The head of Obsidian Entertainment is also involved, I believe. Wasteland 3 and Pillars of Eternity 2 were funded on that platform. There was a joke going on around that time that Obsidian was in a “generic, never pops out on Google” name phase, what with Tyranny being announced around that time.

  3. Chris says:

    I think youre wrong about crowdfunding. I think for a lot of people it isnt just a “pay 60 dollars in advance and hope enough other people do that too and this game I like will get revived”. If that were the case then a lot of games that are crowdfunded would instead get picked up by publishers. They probably do the math like: game sells for 60$, the market research says it;ll be about 0.5m sales, so 30m return, game costs about 50m to develop, lets not do this. Crowdfunding gets a lot more money since instead of selling a game to a lot of people , they instead focus their game on a few that will pay for all the extras. Star citizen didn’t get millions because so many people wanted a new space game. It were a few people who were willing to fork over thousands of dollars. It’s like a F2P game, those do not generate money because everyone is willing to drop 10 bucks on it, its just 10% of the people generating 90% of the revenue. Remember those games allow you to spend 100$ on funbucks in one go. Same with stretchgoals, a lot of people are willing to raise more people to put money down or increase their pledge if that will mean the game will become more awesome. I think this video explains it well.

    I would prefer it as well if it was just a bunch of people tossing in their 60 bucks on a pile. But it isn’t.

    1. Abnaxis says:

      I think you have way too much faith in the accuracy and veracity of market research.

      1. Tizzy says:

        Why the arbitrary skepticism? I don’t have any facts to back either position, but the analogy to the (we’ll-documented) F2P model sounds intuitive, at least.

        1. Thomas says:

          I’m a believer in market research, but accurately telling how much someone wants a product before the product has been made or marketed sounds very hard. And game development is very variable – even the best game designers can’t guarantee an idea will work.

          I’m willing to believe publishers can reasonably estimate sales volumes for known quantities, but if it were a perfect science, publishers would never make flops.

          And fresh ideas or studios are much harder. People didnt know they wanted the iPhone until it existed.

      2. Steve C says:

        I have faith that publishers have faith in market research. That is all anyone needs to believe.

  4. Daemian Lucifer says:

    but I don’t have time for either one.

    Hrm should not go into your game slot though,but rather the programming slot.Like its predecessor,its about programming.Only this time you get advanced commands instead of doing everything in assembly.

  5. Echo Tango says:

    Paul, have you tried adding your non-Steam games to the list of games that show up in Steam? That might solve your problem of the computer getting hijacked. I haven’t searched for the setting in a while, but I know that for example, my one friend will show up in my friends list as “playing game XYZ” where XYZ is an old game that is not available on Steam, and is actually installed from an old CD and run with Windows’ compatibility mode. If Steam knows that Minecraft’s executable is being run, and counts as a game, then I assume it would count the same as any other game being run from Steam on the powerful computer, and not let the other computer hijack control?

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      You can disable Steam Streaming in the options. I don’t think Paul ever does that on purpose.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      That’s a good idea. Though really I’m more interested in teaching the kids to understand what the software is doing than preventing temporary inconveniences.
      That, and especially on the smaller computer I prefer to not have Steam running in the background, just to save on resources, which would also have solved the problem.

  6. Echo Tango says:

    Re: Ubuntu slowness

    I run Xubuntu, and I briefly had Lubuntu. Both are versions of Ubuntu, with all the bloat and resource-hogging graphics stripped out. They are a bit minimalist, but they still look like modern OSes, and are still fairly easy to set up and use. They are missing some of the nice features of regular Ubuntu, like the big search box that lets you find any unknown program by searching by what you think part of the name was, but things like that are pretty minor compared to the speed boost, IMO.

    1. John says:

      I’ve used Lubuntu for many years now and been generally happy with it. I initially installed Ubuntu on an old netbook I own. It was awful, largely because the default Ubuntu desktop enviroment at the time–called “Unity”, of all things–used a lot of 3D acceleration for some reason and the ancient and anemic Atom processor in the netbook just couldn’t handle it. It took a couple of minutes to do something as simple as open a word processor. Things improved tremendously when I switched the desktop environment to LDXE, which isn’t nearly so resource intensive. That’s the nice thing about Linux. If you don’t like your desktop GUI, it’s usually pretty easy to switch to something else. Lubuntu, for those who are interested, is a customized, stripped-down Ubuntu variant using LXDE. All in all, it was a vast improvement over Windows XP.

      There are two drawbacks to Lubuntu. The first is that it the installer doesn’t have the full range of device drivers that the standard Ubuntu installer does. The Ubuntu installer had the correct driver for my wireless ethernet adapter. I had to hunt down a Cat5 cable in order to download the driver when I installed Lubuntu. The second is that it is no better at dealing with small screen sizes than Ubuntu. My netbook screen has a vertical resolution of 500-something pixels. Some programs–certain GOG installers, for example–will produce windows of a fixed size with a height greater than 500 pixels. The window is too big to fit on the desktop and any buttons at the bottom of the window–you know, the ones you need to click to make the program do the thing you want–are out of reach. Meanwhile, the top of the window is likewise out of reach, making it impossible to drag the window across the desktop in order to make the buttons accessible.

    2. Groboclown says:

      I’ve recently switched my Linux WM to AwesomeWM, which can use just a tiny amount of screen space and memory, so it gets out of the way of the applications. However, it also means you need to learn how to configure the computer without the fancy UI. For things like wireless networks, that can be painful.

  7. krellen says:

    Spoilers for Starflight:

    Endurium, the “Ancients”, created a crystalline planet – basically a planet of themselves – that was sending out pulses through the galaxy creating solar flares that would wipe all carbon-based life from the planets. Essentially it was like a galactic immune system fighting the virus that was (to them) organic life. There were crystal egg artefacts you could discover – I think two in the entire game – that were planet-killer bombs; they could literally obliterate an entire planet. You had to find one and use it to destroy the crystalline planet.

    (Another use of the crystal egg was to destroy the homeworld of the Uhlek, the race blatantly copied by Star Control to become the Ur-Quan, who were basically unkillable juggernauts in space combat, but who operated on a hivemind run by the planet so if you destroyed the planet, you destroyed the Uhlek. This was not necessary to complete the game, however.)

  8. Misamoto says:

    So, there’s gonna be a write-up on Spider-Man then :)?

  9. Liessa says:

    Even as someone with no interest in superheroes, action games or the PS4, I have to admit that Spider-Man looks pretty good. I could watch players just swinging around the city for hours on end.

    1. Groboclown says:

      I can see it now. A new Twitch Channel.

      Zen and the Art of Spider-Manning

  10. TehShrike says:

    Steam says you’ve played 12 hours of Human Resource Machine :-o

    Were you thinking of the sequel, 7 Billion Humans?

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Yes, it was about 7 Billion Humans

    2. Shamus says:

      Whoops. Good catch. Fixed.

    3. eVie says:

      Ooh, there’s a sequel? That’s great, I enjoyed Human Resource Machine.

  11. John says:

    I’m still a little skeptical about Proton, but there’s no point repeating everything I said the last time it was mentioned on the Diecast. In summary: more games playable on Linux good, more games only playable via Steam not so good. All this Proton talk has, however, finally nudged me into trying it. I’m re-downloading Street Fighter IV (which isn’t one of the supported games, but I don’t actually own any of those) and we’ll see how it goes.

    Like Shamus, I would like developers to use multi-platform engines like Unity, but it’s worth remembering that while doing so may make it easier to produce Linux ports it does not necessarily make it easy. (If you see what I mean.) Harebrained Schemes, the developer of Battletech, is working on a Linux port of that game. Here’s a bit from the latest patch relase notes:

    The team is still actively working on our Linux release. We hit a snafu with playback of audio (as in, “There’s no sound in the game”) but we’ve gotten support from an external party and appear to be back on track. We expect the Linux version to be available in Beta within the next few weeks.

    Battletech is a Unity game. Harebrained Schemes is a developer with prior experience developing games in Unity and prior experience porting Unity games to Linux. Clearly, the problem is a little bit harder than simply hitting the “compile for Linux” button.

    1. Groboclown says:

      Linux audio development can be janky. Jack, pulseaudio, and Alsa all have their nuances. I have no idea how development for these platform translates from Windows API. My biggest issue on Linux was getting the latency down so that the video displayed “action” matches the audio cue.

      1. John says:

        I’m not a developer, but Pulse and Alsa were, for a while, the stuff of my nightmares. I spent a lot of time trying to get Tyrian 2000 (running in DOSBox) to do both the MIDI soundtrack and the other sound effects simultaneously. It would be a remarkable understatement to say that things did not go well.

      2. Alrik Rautenheimer says:

        The problem here is most likely the audio middleware. They’re using Wwise for audio, and Wwise has famously bad Linux support. Mind you, their main competitor, FMOD, isn’t really any better.

        Middleware is the bane of the porter, really. Ask icculus or flibitijibibo what their main annoyance in porting games is, and I bet you they’ll answer “middleware”. Most middleware is a rickety pile of stuff that works as long as you don’t as much as look at it. Try to do anything out of the ordinary, and it barfs on your carpet.

  12. TMC_Sherpa says:

    FIG works differently than KickStarter. FIG backers are like producers on movies, they get a cut for their investment.
    At least that was the plan when it was announced, I have no idea if that’s what they became.

    1. Narkis says:

      It’s both at once. You can either back the project, which works exactly the same as kickstarter, or invest, which is, well, an investment.

  13. Tizzy says:

    Surely you jest re: Doom Eternal. You can preorder it, sure, but the shipping date on Amazon in 31 Dec 2019.

    Or did I miss something?

    1. WarLadle says:

      I don’t think Doom Eternal’s release date has even been announced yet.

      Another thing is the fact that by my knowledge Monster Hunter World came out on PC last month and there’s no sign of another release.

    2. Shamus says:

      Huh. I was SURE it was announced for October. I was 100% convinced I heard someone say that. But yeah. 2019.

      That’s actually a huge relief.

  14. Narkis says:

    RE: Overfunding Crowdfunding: I think the whole paradigm of stretch goals is the real problem. It uses feature creep as a marketing gimmick, and makes it natural to completely redesign and massively expand the game if you get that much more money. With other funding methods you make a complete game before you know if you have an unexpectedly huge success at your hands, which allows you to stay true to your original vision, bank your wads of cash, and then make calm decisions about funding an expansion or having your next game with much better production values or even blowing it all on blackjack and hookers if you want to. There’s a massive taboo against doing the sensible thing with kickstarter, and it needs to go.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Couldn’t a company market the stretch-goals as best-effort estimates, and only finish them one at a time, releasing the game after every one? It seems like a good way to marry the (basic) intent of stretch-goals, with the idea of finishing the game before working on a bigger better version.

  15. evilmrhenry says:

    Regarding Proton:

    As someone who used Cedega (a now-defunct commercial fork of WINE, also known as WineX) back in the day, I’m more enthusiastic about Proton.
    * Cedega was commercial software, which meant that they were restricted to using the non-GPL parts of WINE. (And may have been responsible for the move to GPL from a more permissive license? Wasn’t paying too much attention to that.) Proton does not need to make money by itself, so Steam is willing to let it be GPL. This means that WINE can pull any code they care about back into the main branch, and Proton can keep itself up to date with the latest WINE changes.
    * A huge problem with WINE back in the day was copy-protection. Most (though not all) Steam games are using Steam as the sole copy-protection, and Steam is motivated to make that part Just Work.

  16. Grimwear says:

    In regards to fig.co I’m still extremely wary of it. Their big selling point is that you can “invest” in the game and maybe someday make a profit off it. Looking at most of their funded games at least half of their money has come from investing rather than pledging and though I’ve tried keeping my ears open I’ve yet to hear from any investor if they’ve made a profit or even been paid at all.

    I remember when Psychonauts 2 and fig.co were first announced there was a lot of acclaim surrounding it but one youtuber released a video about why it’s a terrible idea.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFX0f_YUn1I

    Now granted fig has lasted longer than the 6 months doom scenario (though I’m willing to bet they’re receiving funds from their parent company to keep going) but I’m still really curious as to whether or not anyone how invested has actually been paid. And if not how long will it take before people realize they threw money down a well.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Hah.
      ‘This video is unavailable in your country due to a defamation claim.’
      Also, said youtuber dropped off the map and one of his last videos mentioned legal action over one of his videos.

      I did see the video when it first came out, though, and while the tone is…combatative, it just details the investment options of the fig.io website and the pitfalls.
      …which is, and has always been, the fundamental problem with ‘investing’.
      I like pigs, and I like flying, but if someone offers me a share in a flying pig farm, then it’s up to me to work out how wise it is to invest….

      I’m definitely one of those peole that throws their $40 in and expects the basic game promised.
      I have trouble seeing why anyone would back a game for more money than they’d pay for the base game. Sure, if you know the devs or have a sponsorship deal or whatever, you might put up more money – but just your average joe?

      1. Grimwear says:

        I’m by no means involved in the US financial world and the video doesn’t go in depth so if anyone has better information by all means speak up but it seems from the video that the types of shares that are being offered were currently barred to all people except accredited investors. Now ignoring the assumption that being accredited means you’re more likely to be informed in investing it also means that you lose the protections in place to protect less knowledgeable individuals (I don’t know if the Jumpstart Our Business Act has as a consequence the treatment of all investors as accredited or if it just allows shares previously restricted to accredited investors to be owned by anyone). From the video it appears to be the former since it’s stated that fig can take all the money and run with no responsibility to ever pay it back.

        That’s terrifying if true. It’s presented a situation where regular people are paying into something that may offer no return or just outright steal it all if they don’t make a profit (no preferred shares here) and they have no legal recourse since this change treats them as accredited and “wise investors”. It’s ludicrous. I mean doom scenario is people who had previously been protected with their investments now lose them all and are incapable of absorbing the losses but even without that it’s just…grossly unpleasant thinking about. I don’t know if fig and co were unable to find anymore publishers or investors to front their bills because Tim Shafer’s projects cost them money or if they just wanted to jump on the kickstarting bandwagon without being held accountable to kickstarter but either way it makes me feel uncomfortable. I have no horse in this race but I feel bad for anyone who invested hoping for a return. And until I hear otherwise I’m going to assume no one has seen hide nor tail of one. I’ll be especially looking out for it once Psychonauts 2 gets released since that was their flagship title.

  17. tmtvl says:

    A couple of unimportant notes: if you report a bug with Ubuntu you report it to Canonical, who are the company that work on Ubuntu and support it for enterprises.

    Valve mainly paid the people of the Crossover project (the commercial counterpart to Wine) to work on Proton, which has it’s source code publicly available. A number of patches applied to Proton have made it into mainline Wine. The DXVK project so far hasn’t been merged into Wine, though it may happen for Wine 4.0? We’ll see if they cross that bridge when they get to it.

    Mint basically makes every one of their releases an LTS, meaning it has support for like 5 years. Ubuntu and it’s spinoffs also have LTS releases, being the even.04 releases (14.0, 16.04, 18.04,…). Upgrading to a new release has been known to cause problems, though, if I remember right 16.04 had faulty wifi drivers on release.

    1. Droid says:

      What madness is that version numbering? Why would you use TWO numbers to indicate nothing more than “release version”?

      1. tmtvl says:

        18.04: April 2018.
        18.10: October 2018.

        I don’t know what they’re gonna do in the 2100’s, we’ll find out when we get there.

  18. DangerNorm says:

    As it is said, Linux is only the kernel, not a complete operating system, and it is only the Linux kernel proper that maintains their super-strict “never break user-space” policy, to facilitate people “upgrading their kernel without thinking about it”. So, if you see that the kernel has an upgrade, go for it. The entire rest of the operating system is not nearly so strict. I mean, you wouldn’t really want them to be, or they could never improve, but as always, some “improvements” aren’t, and some distros really are going in the direction of Windows/Mobile-ification .

  19. Redrock says:

    Between Sept and Nov we’re getting Spider-Man, Tomb Raider, Doom Eternal, Hitman 2, Donut County, and Monster Hunter World.

    Huh, I forgot all about Tomb Raider until the reviews started popping up. Just can’t get excited about that one. I enjoyed both the first reboot and Rise while they lasted, but whenever I think about them now they just seem so borng. Which is odd. I don’t think Lara’s “origin story” should have been three games, that’s for sure.

  20. CrushU says:

    Hey, podcast RSS feed seems to be broken again…
    https://mbafford-static.s3.amazonaws.com/diecast.xml
    Last episode there is 224…

    1. Lazlo says:

      If you click on the podcast RSS link, it’s even worse:

      ERROR: This is not a valid feed template.

      which would explain why my podcast app hasn’t picked up the latest episode.

      1. Cuthalion says:

        I have both of these problems as well. Since I can sync from my media player on my computer to my mp3 player for commute listening, and my media player can subscribe to RSS feeds, it’s much more convenient for me to subscribe to the RSS than to individually download each episode through the website and copy it to my mp3 player.

  21. Christopher says:

    Spider-Man’s an awesome game. It’s easy to criticize – it’s got lot of generic, unneeded and boring open world elements and sidequests, and played out and simple Arkham-like combat and stealth. Boss fights are as dull as they always are with this kinda system(you web them up or swing things at them and then combo them, the end), and it’s a superhero game, so it’s got a lot of legendary bad guys as bosses. The main story feels severely padded because it has to introduce open world activities. Or to put it another way, the story has two very different “states”. Two acts. But the first half lasts almost twice as long as the second, and has fewer things happening in its plot. The fake Twitter app is just as bad as in real life, and while J. Jonah Jameson as a podcast host is a fun idea, most of the jokes in it devolve into him saying something and _immediately_ proving himself a hypocrite, which isn’t funny anymore when you can always see it coming. The stealth sequences are inoffensive right up until the point where you die instantly when caught.

    But those complaints ignore what they get so right. The cinematic cutscenes and story, the strong relationships Peter has with his admittably small supporting cast, the beautiful graphics that make New York City look better than ever before, the amazing swinging and traversal. The combat might be shallow, but you get to move around so fluidly, look so good and feel so much like Spidey that it works perfectly fine for the time you have to do it, even as a person who thinks Arkham combat is frustrating. They manage to establish a new universe with these familiar characters, add their own flair to them, have a good emotional arc and at the same time have big movie blowout fight scenes with a ton of villains(or around 10, rather). As a person who’s not a fan of Miles Morales, they did a good job with him in this game. And Spidey’s characterization is just perfect, he’s one of the best Spider-Man depictions in any media. They might’ve changed a bit too much about MJ, she’s basically Lois Lane or Elena from Uncharted now, but she’s still a very charming and likeable character, and changing so much about her does allow her to have a new kinda relationship conflict with Peter, as well as gameplay segments that isn’t just her acting on a scene or walking on a catwalk.

    Gotta say, I really love it. It’s high time there was a Spider-Man game that got the same love and care as Batman.

  22. Galad says:

    Wow, it’s impressive how many games these are that I am indifferent about. The only one I might be interested in are Doom Eternal, and maybe Life is Strange (what’s a Donut county?)

    I might have cared about the new Tomb Raider, but I’ve only played two hours of the previous one (Rise), so I’ll only possibly start caring about Shadow once I am done with Rise, probably somewhere around 2020

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