Diecast #226: TellTale Closes, Fast Travel, Mailbag

By Shamus Posted Monday Sep 24, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 94 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

00:00 TellTale Games Died

The Walking Dead developer Telltale hit with devastating layoffs as part of a ‘majority studio closure’

09:49 Fast Travel Systems

You mentioned fast travel in Oblivion and your attempt to make a mod to close off access to it in the early game.

Personally fast travel systems often annoy the hell out of me. In the first instance it’s because they are usually immersion breaking. Go to the map and click on the city you want to go to etc with no accounting of the passage of time and effort that requires from your character. On the other side Morrowind “fast travel” which consisted of silt striders, mages guilds, boats and mark and recall spells was very much in world.

But that’s all just jarring, where it becomes infuriating is when it encourages lazyness in the game devs. Skyrim is a good example of this. Stupid side missions like “kill the rats in my basement” will often times have said basement on the complete opposite side of the map from the mission giver. As if the devs knew the player had fast travel and so location doesn’t matter and so where that basement is on the map is irrelevant. Which may also explain why the map in Skyrim was bordering on unusable.

On the flip side of that in some games the travel itself is a joy and I’ve had great success in having a personal rule of no fast travel. Farcry 3/4 for example, time spent getting around in jeeps and hang gliders is some my favorite gameplay time.

There’s supposed to be a question after the mini rant…
So what do you think of fast travel systems?
Where is the line between appropriate and lazy?
And what motivated you to create that mod?



Here is a link to the story about the game that mines cryptocurrency for the developer.

35:30 Young People and Bad Business Practices

Hello blue da ba dee da ba Diecast!

Last week I turned 30, which made me realize something. (Other than not being 29 anymore.)
By gamer standards I’m pretty old.

In a hobby where one could be considered a “hardcore” participant at the age of 8, 10 or 16, 30 seems like
a rather experienced age.
This got me thinking about my absolute disdain towards monetization in todays games.

DLC, Season Passes, more homogenized designs and of course loot boxes.

I’ve heard a lot of gamers excusing and defending these practices as no big deal and accusing it’s detractors of being selfish, entitled and unreasonable.

I wonder if the majority of these gamers are too young to have grown up with games where your customisation options weren’t locked behind random chance, the grindy parts weren’t tied to a games profits through ingame currency and very important-to-the-story characters weren’t sold as seperate (looking at you Javik from Mass Effect 3).

Basically my question is,

Do you think a gamers age can be linked to their tolerance for shitty business practices, since that’s what they grew up with?

Thanks for reading, and keep up the great show!

48:21 Photorealism

Dear Diecastians,

Recently I’ve been playing some Ubisoft games, to include Assassin’s Creed and Ghost Recon. I find the photorealistic environment detail in these games to be incredibly distracting!

But it got me to wondering: How are these environments created? Are they somehow computer-generated via giant art asset libraries? Or do they run environmental artist sweatshops?

I’m really hoping it’s the former and not the later. What are your thoughts on this and do you find it as distracting as I do?

Leslee “Soldierhawk Fangirl” Beldotti

Here is the cell-shaded version of the Spider-Man suit I was talking about:

I REALLY wish I could see the entire game in this style. That looks amazing.

Also, I notice my PlayStation 4 capture setup is suffering from severe screen tearing. You can see examples by looking at Spider-Man’s web in both of the above images. I have no idea what to do about that. I’ve fiddled with every setting in the capture software and my screenshot program, and it just won’t go away. I just have to slap the screenshot button a dozen times and hope I get a lucky frame. This is going to make a miserable time for me if I decide to do a long-form analysis on this game. Arg.


From The Archives:

94 thoughts on “Diecast #226: TellTale Closes, Fast Travel, Mailbag

  1. Christopher says:

    Do you need a capture setup for the PS4 when the game has a photo mode where you can pause and take a pic at any time?

    1. Shamus says:

      I record all the cutscenes / gameplay and then spool through them later once I know what screenshots I’ll need. Entering photo mode for every screenshot would be an enormously fiddly task.

      1. Inwoods says:

        Could you just use the PS4’s own capture mode? I know it’s blocked in some games in certain scenes and places, but there’s a button for it and everything IIRC.

        1. Shamus says:

          Using the built-in PS4 capture would mean I’d have to somehow transfer all those gigabytes of footage over to my PC. I’m not sure how feasible that is, or if my PS4 has room for it.

          But I THINK I’ve got a solution. If I use the software that comes with my Elgato Game Capture unit, then it looks like the tearing problem goes away. I’m not thrilled since it means this breaks my workflow and obliges me to use a slightly different setup. (I can’t get the program to accept the hotkeys I’m used to.) However, I just did a test and it looks like I got clean HD images with no tearing. I just need to stay on my toes and remember to use the right hotkeys.

          1. Cilvre says:

            I record fully on my ps4, and then just copy the data over to a usb drive when i’m done so i can edit or play with what i recorded. It’s actually pretty good about the size of the files considering the recording lengths you can go to. I would at least play around with the settings for an hour to see what it looks like.

  2. Joe says:

    I read a story about Telltale’s problems here. You know what’s so terrible? I feel like I’ve read the same kind of thing a dozen times over the years. Do the higher-ups never learn?

    I’m not fond of fast travel. Yeah, sometimes. Usually in Diablo-em-ups. But in, say, Skyrim, I prefer to slog on foot back home and experience all the side happenings along the way. In Witcher 3, I often wander over to a couple of ?s, just to make them turn grey. I don’t use horses in these games either. Low on stamina, low on precision, high on annoyance.

    Related, Shamus, are you interested in Red Dead Redemption 2? It sounds highly simulationist, yet kind of fun too.

    As for DRM, I started playing games when you needed the CD in the drive. Then I had to input a code on the box or jewel case when installing. Then Steam. The only other program I use is Galaxy. EA, Ubisoft, and so on haven’t come up with a game that will make me install their nonsense. I’ve been tempted, but stayed strong.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      Do the higher-ups never learn?

      No, no they don’t. Mismanagement like this predates the concept of the job title ‘manager’. Or ‘company’.
      What I find sad is that the people who did the most to create the problem are probably a) the ones left holding the most money after it all falls apart, b) adamant that it’s not their fault and c) doing the same thing somewhere else.

      And the two main leads on TWD: Season 1 left soon afterwards? That would help explain why Season 2 was so much less engaging.

      …I don’t use horses in these games either. Low on stamina, low on precision, high on annoyance.

      Ah, the number of times in TW3 I ended up stationary in Roach’s saddle as he galloped on the spot with his head clipping through a tree. I’ve never ridden a horse in real life, but it’s gotta be more responsive than a tank, right? And knows how to not gallop headfirst into every third tree?

      1. Joe says:

        Ah, the number of times in TW3 I ended up stationary in Roach’s saddle as he galloped on the spot with his head clipping through a tree.

        At some speed, Roach is supposed to follow the path. I haven’t found this speed. It doesn’t seem to be flat out, slowly trotting, or whatever is in between. So I have to guide Roach manually. The idea is great, but in practice just doesn’t seem to work.

        1. Shamus says:

          I wonder if this is related to input device. I was playing on the PC but using an Xbox controller, and Roach seemed to easily lock onto the path as long as I wasn’t holding the sprint button.

          For those who had trouble with Roach misbehaving: Were you playing on KB+Mouse?

          1. Joe says:

            Yes. I might have an xbox controller somewhere, but it seems like too much work to dig it out just for two quests and some horse races.

          2. BlueHorus says:

            I was playing PC (and KB+M). It wasn’t really a matter of the horse misbehaving; it was that the controls were kind of clunky.
            As long as you did nothing but hold the ‘go forward’ command (keeping him at a canter), Roach would stick to the path fine. You were somewhat at the mercy of the game’s interpretation of which path he followed, but that wasn’t too much of a problem.

            It was just when going off the path or trying to cut through woods – I’d always end up galloping into a tree, or overcompensating a turn one way, then the other. Many a high-speed escape or exciting horse race ended with Geralt and Roach dancing the Tree-Clip Stationary Fandango.
            Doing anything but sticking to the path with Roach often proved more trouble than it was worth.

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              PC with Xbox controller, it worked fine enough for me most of the time, it had occasional issues at crossroads and on a few very sharp turns (mostly some mountain paths in Skellige) but when it worked the feeling of galloping through the countryside was absolutely awesome.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Re: DRM / bad business practices

      I too started playing games when CD-keys or paper-manual-keys were the standard. Maybe that is why I hate installing extra software all the time, just to prove I purchased a game? (I put up with Steam because it’s the biggest, but I try to get games on GOG because I hate DRM.) On the other hand, Facebook and (most) other social platforms have always been free, but I still dislike putting up with their nonsense. I barely use Facebook, and I don’t even use the logins to my other accounts, because their services all pester me with annoyances. Make yet another username and password, re-add all your friends, learn the settings of the new platform and learn how to set them to respect your privacy!

      It would be really nice for customers / users, if all these platforms would respect each others’ users. For example, if I added all my contacts on Facebook, Steam, or LinkedIn, and they were synced with the other platforms. Some people are friends, some are business-colleagues, some are gamer-friends, and some are in multiple categories. Forcing me as a user of a new social platform, to re-add all the humans I interact with and/or care about, is a very quick way to make me think twice about using your platform. Do I really need another social network? Does it add more benefit than the hassle of managing yet another contacts-list? Usually (for me anyways), not.

      1. Boobah says:

        It’d be nice for users, yes. But from the point of view of the platforms, if they’ve got all that information, then they’ve got you… and never forget that you are what they’re selling.

        Giving away their product to their competitors? Doesn’t seem likely.

  3. Ninety-Three says:

    Regarding Telltale, I found this to be an incredibly informative graph (RIP Steamspy). I’m shocked by how far their sales declined.

    1. Thomas says:

      You’d think they’d realise things needed to change back in 2014 at a minimum.

      1. ElementalAlchemist says:

        They should have realised after the release of TWUA really, but certainly after TWD S2 came out and netted less than half the sales of S1, the writing was on the wall.

    2. Grimwear says:

      Not that I have any insider knowledge but I blame the episodic structure. It was fun and new when The Walking Dead first released and people bought the first episode, then all subsequent episodes and played the season through to the end. Except like what was mentioned on TWD Spoiler Warning (or maybe a diecast) it’s just not a great way to play. You can’t remember what decisions you made 2 months earlier and may have forgotten what’s going on, you need to re-immerse yourself in the plot and a bunch of other things. People want to be able to sit down and play from start to finish which means when subsequent games came out the only real option is really either buy the who season pass at the start as a preorder and then play it through once all the episodes are released, or just wait until they’re all released then buy it. The problem is, if Telltale set up their financials to need those episodic cash payments to stay afloat they were no longer getting them.

      What’s worse is that once someone had decided to just wait until the whole season was out their mindset shifts from “must play now!” to “must play eventually” so even once the whole season came out they might continue postponing it because of the newer “must play now!” games that were released and ultimately never came back and picked it up at all. Either that and/or Telltale squandered all their cash on pointless crap and licensing fees and just folded.

      1. Hector says:

        I can confirm this is a huge stocking point for me at least. I don’t even like to get “normal” games if IU expect some DLC to substantially improve it. There simply isn’t time to play through things more than once. With something like a Telltale game, I do *not* want to buy one episode every month for the next half of the year just to get the completed story. Frankly, who does want that? The problem for Telltale is that by the time a game was released in full, it’s also much less on people’s minds.

  4. Hal says:

    Fast travel is very weird.

    “It’s so immersion-breaking, I hate it!”
    Okay, then don’t use it.
    “I can’t help myself. If it’s available, I can’t stop from using it.”

    I mean, I get it, but that doesn’t make it any less strange.

    My general rule with fast travel in Elder Scrolls games was that my first trip to any particular location would be via natural means. Subsequent trips could be via fast travel, since (presumably) I’ve seen most of the interesting things there are to see on my first trip through.

    If silt striders and other ferry-type “fast travel” systems are better for not being immersion breaking, there were plenty of mods for Skyrim that added carriage access to and from most of the settlements, major and minor.

    I guess the thing about fast travel is that your attitude towards it begs the question: What is the “game” to you?

    Take Skyrim, for example. For some people, the “game” is delving dungeons and completing quests; for these people, traveling through the wilderness is an inconvenient time sink that clogs up their game time with unrewarding filler. However, if the “game” for you is role-playing immersion, exploration and discovery, appreciation of the scenery and graphics (etc.), then fast travel is by-passing a very pertinent part of the experience for you. Getting to the dungeon is just as much a part of the adventure as finishing it.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      You might miss out on immersion, and time spent looking at scenery, but you can’t fast travel to places you’ve never been, so if anything it gives you a higher ratio of exploration and discovery. “I think I’ll do some rambling. Where have I got the fewest map markers? I’ll start from there and head north-east into the unknown.”

    2. Chad Miller says:

      It´s not as simple as ¨don´t use it¨ because the game was almost certainly designed around it. It´s the same reason why I hate save scumming but also hate Fallout 4´s Survival Mode. They didn´t give me a game without save scumming, but a game based around save scumming that won´t let you play it the way it was clearly designed to be played.

      1. Henson says:

        Kinda like Witcher 2’s Insane difficulty setting. It ended your game permanently if you died. In a game with literal ‘press x to not die’ QTEs.

    3. Tizzy says:

      Inn addition to breaking the sense of place that a game has been working so hard to build, the other problem with fast-travel is that games get lazy once they have it. Skyrim being the canonical example: “And now, for your next quest, we’re going to send you to the top of this remote mountain temple, talk to a guy, who’s going to send you across the map to talk to this other guy to invite him to join us to the mountain temple away from everywhere.” How fucking lazy is this? This is stupid busy work to begin with, but it’s even worse if you don’t use fast travel.

      Breaking the sense of place really annoys me. Skyrim painstakingly manages to give a different feel to each region, and then destroys the effect by the fast travel anywhere system. Shamus’s Skyrim fix would work for me. Build your open world around hubs, and only allow fast-travel between them. And DON’T have quests that require frequent travel between hubs. Only the biggest quests, for the most important reasons, require you to travel across hub to make travel across the map remain a big deal and keep the world large.

      1. Syal says:

        The main purpose of an Elder Scrolls main quest is to send your character to the corners of the map. Morrowind did it too; there are six fast-travel systems in Morrowind, and then the main quest sends you to the middle of nowhere far away from the main five.

        1. The Rocketeer says:

          At first, six sounded absurd to me. Six? It’s got silt striders and boats. Then I remembered the Mages Guild teleport network, so that’s three. Then Almsivi Intervention and Divine Intervention, which I guess count as fast travel, but aren’t really what people mean when they say “fast travel,” and is kind of stretching things to count both spells separately. And the propylon chambers, which are such a huge pain in the ass even after tracking down the indices that I wouldn’t count it either. But sure enough, that’s six. Then there’s mark and recall, which makes… seven? Unless you collapse the Intervention spells into one type.

          1. Decius says:

            I can’t count Almsivi Intervention and Divine Intervention as two different systems. They do offer some pretty interesting limitations, as does the node-to-node model.

          2. Syal says:

            Oh, right, I forgot about the Dwarven things, there was almost no benefit to those and a whole lot of time investment.

            Almsivi/Divine take you to the nearest Tribunal/Nine temple, which is not always in the same town, so I count them differently. (If people don’t think of ‘teleport to the nearest town’ as fast-travel they’re just objectively wrong.)

            1. The Rocketeer says:

              Propylon chambers aren’t Dwarven; they’re ancient Dunmer magic.

    4. BlueHorus says:

      “It’s so immersion-breaking, I hate it!”
      Okay, then don’t use it.
      “I can’t help myself. If it’s available, I can’t stop from using it.”

      Particularly with Bethesda games, the phrase for me really is ‘unrewarding filler’; that’s exactly what fast travel helps to avoid. I can get from A to B without having to get off my horse every thirty seconds to kill ANOTHER randomly-spawned pack of wolves or ANOTHER bear. And don’t get me started on the goddamn random dragon attacks…

      Sometimes I’m in the mood to explore and sometimes I just want to finish this damn quest in peace.

      Meanwhile, in a game like New Vegas? I’ll use fast travel much less frequently.

  5. Fizban says:

    Back in Morrowind you had to cobble together your fast travel out of multiple effects, as mentioned. In more detail: The Silt Striders and boats could take you from town to town, from the appropriate docks to the appropriate docks, but that’s it. Then you had not one but two different “town portal” spells which would bring you from anywhere to the nearest temple for the corresponding religion. And then finally you had your Mark/Recall spell which only allowed one mark, and would take you from anywhere to there. You had to get together the cash for the rides, which you couldn’t do until you did some looting, and the spells required either learning the magic or getting magic items (which were either consumable or rare and expensive).

    This led to some serious engagement with the world where you’d learn that you could Almsivi from X to Y, but if you Divine’d from X you’d get to Z, which would then let you Almsivi to Q, or take a quick boat ride to V, set your mark to F which lets you Almsivi to G or Divine to H or run over a hill to E, etc. But maybe a bit too complicated. Classic JRPGs (Dragon Quest in particular) would let you exit dungeons and return to towns you’d visited (not all from the start, but after a few levels), but you’d always have to walk the long way back to the dungeon to continue progress.

    Returning to the last town or major navpoint you were at, and then hitching a ride to other towns or navpoints that are appropriate, sounds good to me. Come to think of it, that’s about how DS1 works before you get your fast travel (the later games have it from the beginning): you can use a Homeward Bone to return to the last bonfire you rested at, after which you take whatever shortcuts you have available to get where you want.

    1. Viktor says:

      The key difference between Morrowind and Oblivion/Skyrim, IMO, is the spells. In Morrowind, you could always end up over your head due to the minimal level-scaling, but if you did you could teleport out if you were prepared. In IV/V, letting the player leave in the middle would break a significant number of quests/dungeons*. So they removed the spells, scaled enemies so you would never** be over your head, gave you an immersion-breaking exit door in all the dungeons, and replaced all the in-universe travel with the fast travel system since the Morrowind setup without the teleport spells would be really annoying. It’s a whole chain of decisions that ties into multiple things I dislike about the newer games, but I doubt any of it will ever be reverted and really most of it isn’t fixable through basic mods.

      *Same reason they removed levitation
      **in theory

      1. Content Consumer says:

        She swallowed a spider to catch the fly…
        Each decision seemed to be an attempt to fix something that was a problem with the previous design. When Oblivion came out, I remember thinking that fast travel was the devil and I’d never voluntarily use it, but I grew to appreciate it rather quickly. These days I don’t even think about it, it’s become so ingrained into me to use it.

        If you, as a game designer, include some sort of teleportation mechanic into your game (I’m thinking of mark/recall here, not necessarily fast travel in general), you either need to alter your level design, quest design, story, etc. in such a way as to take that into account, or cripple the teleportation mechanic, ideally in a way that makes some kind of sense. They did neither in Morrowind.

        Moving from Morrowind to Oblivion, for example, they could have kept the teleportation spells, but limited how they work. Perhaps teleportation works fine outside, but in a dungeon it doesn’t. Justify it by saying something like there needs to be a clear path to the target, and being underground or behind thick walls prohibits it. You can’t teleport into or out of walled cities, dungeons, caves, ruins, underwater, etc. Of course, then the question immediately becomes “what about trees between you and the target” but there *has* to be a certain amount of handwaving. I feel like this could work.
        Mark+recall then becomes a replacement for universal fast travel. In fact, it becomes almost a progress-dependent or level-dependend replacement, as you don’t have access to teleportation magic in the early game. Make it a highly expensive spell to purchase or create, or make it rare enough that you have to learn it from a master mage, and teleportation/fast travel becomes a nice reward on investment (time, money, effort, etc) rather than a crutch.

    2. Moridin says:

      You had to get together the cash for the rides, which you couldn’t do until you did some looting, and the spells required either learning the magic or getting magic items (which were either consumable or rare and expensive).

      Well, THAT’s not very accurate. The rides very all VERY cheap and you could take a silt strider right from Scyda Neen to Balmora with the cash you get upon completing the character creation, and you get (permanent)magic items for both types of Intervention fairly early in the main quest. It’s only the propylon indexes and mark/recall which require actual effort to acquire.

  6. Thomas says:

    What I find so interesting about Telltale is, it’s depth by lack of strategy.

    Their games were still good. The writing hadn’t dropped off. Life is Strange shows the genre is still alive.

    But they just kept doing the same thing. Management didn’t try to keep pace, they continued to make the same product and fell behind.

    And considering how many games they had been churning out, and the obvious sales fall it’s kind of stunning they weren’t able to cut back and turn things around way before now.

  7. Mephane says:

    Re fast travel, I agree with the letter from G – it should never be an excuse to just arbitrarily sprinkle locations on the map because “the user can fast travel anyway”.

    That said, I tend to avoid fast travel and prefer travelling myself, too. After all, I am a sucker for huge open worlds precisely because of the aspect of traversing these worlds, if I wanted to teleport around all the time it could just as well be separate smaller maps with loading screens in between anyway.

    That said, I want the fast travel system to at gently fit into the setting and lore. The best solution usually is basically the writer waving their hand saying “and then Geralt rode to the southern gate of Novigrad”; because in TW3 fast travel basically is just that, skipping over the travel bit, there is no magic teleporter in every village that for mysterious reason no one but the protagonist uses. If you want to have actual teleportation as part of the setting, at least put some effort into it; a positive example here is World Of Warcraft, which has portal magic as established lore, player character mages can actually open portals for other players, but it’s not something that every peasant has unlimited access to in their villages.

    1. Decius says:

      WoW evokes a lot of ludonarrative dissonance with its teleportation schemes. Why isn’t the horde invading through Daleran (Northrend) or Daleran (Broken Isles), both of which have portals to downtown Stormwind? Why isn’t the Alliance invading through those same portal hubs?

      1. Syal says:

        Weight limits, presumably.

      2. Hector says:

        Eh, they have wizards around maintaining them. Presumably they could be turned off.

        Minor details or “not answering all possible cases” don’t constitute ludonarritive dissonance or plot holes.

      3. Mephane says:

        My guess is that it is a matter of scale. Mages can teleport either themselves, or a small number of people only. If we leave game mechanics (e.g. the lack of collision detection between players) aside, people would probably hop through these small portals one by one, and they don’t last long.

        If you want to transport an army, you need something bigger, like the Dark Portal, and these bigger portals come with much greater logistics. Possibly they take longer to cast, and the process might be detectable from the far side. Plus, give the technologies (advanced steampunk with robots and helicopters) and magic available, I don’t think the logistics of getting your army to the enemy’s capital is the limiting factor anyway.

        And on a more general note, “bad guys are coming through a portal” is basically a standard trope in WoW anyway, so it is not as if the writers ignore that question entirely.

    2. Mephane says:

      Shamus, why is this still here and even getting responses? I request it for deletion for I mistyped my email and got that utterly hideous gravatar instead of my usual one. :(

      1. Shamus says:

        Sorry. Sadly, from the moderation panel I can’t tell the difference between “requested deletion” and “possible spam”. Both are “held for moderation”, which just means I see them highlighted in yellow. When I see a yellow comment from a familiar name I’m used to just hitting “approve”, assuming it was wrongfully marked spam. It’s supposed to send me an email to tell me you want the comment removed, but it didn’t do that this time.

        Let me see if I can fix the original comment. (Edit: Yep. Looks like that fixed it.)

        1. Mephane says:

          Well, this is even better. Thanks! :)

  8. Raglan says:

    On an entirely selfish reason i really hope you dont do a spiderman series.

    As someone who brought the ‘wrong’ console this generation has at times been frustrating, but reading or trying to ignore the spiderman one will truly depress me

  9. Lazlo says:

    Shamus, just a reminder that the RSS feed for the podcast is still broken.

    So I’m getting the RSS for the site in my RSS reader, which tells me about new articles, but the *podcast* rss is broke, so I know there are new podcasts (like this one) because of my browser, but my podcast player doesn’t know about them. I could probably figure out a way to get my podcast player to download them manually… but it’s sooooo much easier to just whine on the forum until you fix it, so that’s what I’m gonna do. :)

    1. Tormod Haugen says:

      Came here to say the same thing. Google’s Podcast knows about a feed-file generated on September 8th, where the last item is the Spec-Ops, Dark Souls, GTA V, WoW one with SoldierHawke from the 3rd.

      pls fix. pretty please with sugar on top?

      1. Shamus says:

        If I had even the slightest idea why and how the damn thing breaks, I’d fix it. The feed is auto-generated by WordPress and should “just work”.

        1. Shamus says:

          Huh. I changed the podcast URL to:


          And it seems to be behaving like a proper feed now. Why did it break? WordPress update? I have no idea. Anyway, let me know how that URL works.

          1. CrushU says:

            Sort of works.
            I now get all of the diecast episodes, but I only get the posts. I don’t get the actual podcast file; I have to open it up and then go and download the MP3 manually.
            Questionably better than previous feed that just didn’t show any updates.

            (I’m using AntennaPod on Android if that helps.)

          2. Tormod Haugen says:

            Doesn’t update in Google Podcast app.

            If you paste the feed link in here: https://search.google.com/devtools/podcast/preview

            They will tell you what you miss. I’d appreciate this when you’ve got the time.

  10. eldomtom2 says:

    Re: “art asset sweatshops” – nearly every single AAA game outsources a lot of art to studios in low-wage countries like China.

    1. Naota says:

      Yep; while Shamus isn’t wrong either, from what I’ve seen (as a mission designer), big studios often keep a large bank of artists on hand for the detailed iterations of models such as characters and props, then outsource their LOD’s, UV mapping, and other non-artistic busywork to contractors in lower-wage countries.

      1. eldomtom2 says:

        Indeed, though looking at the credits of any AAA game seems to show that outsourcing is not confined to the “non-artistic busywork”.

  11. Redrock says:

    The way a fast travel system is implemented, for me, is a good indicator of whether the game actually utilizes its open world effectively or not. Basically, you can make the distinction between what I call total fast travel (travel anywhere from anywhere Skyrim-style), limited fast travel (travel between designated fast-travel points like bonfires or sewer entrances or whatever), in-universe fast travel (silt-striders, teleport scrolls and the like, usually more limited in availability than more abstract limited fast travel) and no fast travel. Here’s the thing: I believe that traversing the world should be a meaningful, engaging mechanic rather than just pointing the analog stick forward and crossing a mostly empty space. That can be achieved by interesting traversal mechanics like Spider-Man swinging or Mad Max driving, a constant sense of danger and actual risk, like in, I dunno, Evil Within 2 or even the early parts of Horizon: Zero Dawn, or both, like in Dying Light. Collectibles that improve your character also work, like in Gravity Rush or Saints Row 4. And games like that don’t need total fast travel. So if your game needs total fast travel to avoid becoming a chore, well, maybe you aren’t using your open-world right. Even though Fallout 3 and even 4 are technically better games, I’d take STALKER over them any day because getting from point A to point B is actually a tense and interesting experience – something you neither want nor need to skip.

    1. Matt Downie says:

      That’s kind of harsh on something like Skyrim. It’s an extremely big world where you would expect to move around slowly; any form of mystical web-swinging or magical sports-car would mess up the atmosphere and combat. You could make it more tense by having deadly things attack you constantly, but that would get old fast.

      For some people, part of the appeal of that type of RPG open world is that it’s a visually appealing place you can wander around in a relaxed manner. For more impatient people, there’s fast-travel.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Bearing in mind I did not play the DLCs myself didn’t one of those let you fly a dragon around the countryside?

        1. Redrock says:

          I think so? Never did that one myself. I heard people say it’s way less cool than it sounds. Actually, I think flight is boring too. In a way, it’s even worse than walking – you literary just keep pressing forward. Just Cause 3 illustrated it perfectly. In the DLC you could get a jetpack and effectively fly infinitely. And it was cool at first, but then it just got amazingly boring compared to the grapple-wingsuit combo of the vanilla game. To make flight a sustainable mechanic long-term you need to a) twist it a bit, b) add collectibles and c) make the world just amazingly pretty. Like Gravity Rush 2 did.

          1. modus0 says:

            Dragonborn gave you the ability to summon a dragon, which you’d then use to fast-travel somewhere, and (IIRC) you could then fly around a bit, having the dragon attack things, before deciding to land.

            Other than deciding on the fast-travel destination, directing the dragon to attack an enemy, or telling it to land, you had no control over what the dragon did or where it flew.

            Much less cool than it was implied to be.

      2. Redrock says:

        I’ll concede that it’s a bit trickier for RPGs, because of the exploration factor and the way you can stumble onto a quest while walking along the road. Still, though, if you make your world packed with interesting stuff, the game might benefit from a limited fast travel system. I remember an article somewhere how Fallout 4 became that much more immersive for the author when they stopped using fast travel and how they stumbled upon a creepy weird building that didn’t have a quest or a location mark associated with it. I think that total fast travel is a crutch. The best way to go about it is to decide early on to use limited or in-universe fast travel and build the game around that. If you wind up with too much meaningless walking around, than maybe it’s time for a redesign. Like I said, it’s not so much about fast travel, but about the open world itself being an important part of the gameplay experience. If the player is encouraged to constantly zip around via fast travel, then something went wrong. Even the Witcher 3 brand of fast travel is better than what Bethesda does these days, in my opinion.

  12. Distec says:

    Re: Telltale’s Closure

    Shamus remarked how well their model transplated to a variety of different properties; which I think is only half-right. Yes, their gameplay model could be ported to a lot of different franchises or stories. But that ubiquity inevitably exposed just how samey all the experiences ended up being. And if I had gotten my fill from TWD1&2 and Wolf Among Us, I probably wasn’t coming back any more regardless of the wrapper changes. TWD1 was a revelation at the time, and Wolf Among Us is my favorite of Telltale’s games, even if it didn’t really evolve mechanically. But by TWD2 the magic had been lost and I was really relying on the strength of the writing to carry me through the last few episodes. Instead I quit because the one thing it had going for it (the writing) took an accelerated nosedive after a strong opening. And I also decided I probably wouldn’t buy episodic games any more if they’re just going to piss me off halfway through their arc. Sure, most games have bad stories, but at least that dawning recognition of hack writing doesn’t get stretched out for weeks and months.

    Telltale has their loyal fans who do like this niche. But so much of TWD1’s appeal and sucess was in the novelty of a magic trick performed once. After that, most players probably aren’t going to stick around if there’s little else to explore. TWD1 – for me – was a palette cleanser between my more “serious” games. I was never going to be a long-term patron, and nor were most of the audience in attendance (even if we did have a lovely time, honest!).

    See Fulbright’s situation where their last project – which was very similar mechanically to their first one, Gone Home – has been unable to replicate the success of their surprise debut. The novelty is pretty much gone and few people are coming back for a second or third helping. I’m not sure this particular implementation of the genre had strong legs.

    Edit: For another example, take my beloved The Stanley Parable. I love it. I recommend it to anybody who will listen to me. But would I go for a sequel that mas more of the same? I wouldn’t know for sure until I at least saw the trailer, but I’m leaning towards ‘No’.

    1. Distec says:

      I just realized somebody up above pointed to the success of Life is Strange. That actually throws a wrench into my personal, non-expert theory above.

      But I’ve not played it. Can somebody illuminate for me if it’s actually significantly different from Telltale’s output, mechanically? Or does it succeed by just doing what Telltale did, but better (graphics, animation, more narrative divergence, etc)?

      1. Shamus says:

        I think the big difference is that the writing in LiS is better.

        When I said that the TT formula worked so well in so many genres, I had no idea their overall sales were terrible. I assumed that the games were profitable because the company was cranking them out. The truth is that the first Walking Dead game has strong writing, but then those writers bailed and formed a new studio. (The made Firewatch.) TT never really recovered. They were a story-first company built on narrative experiences and they didn’t have any strong writers. Sales tanked, and they kept making more games in different genres, probably hoping if they just swing hard enough at every pitch, eventually they might get lucky and hit another home run.

        It’s a miracle they lasted as long as they did.

        1. Distec says:

          Aye, I didn’t see that sales chart until after I made my original post. Oof. For some reason I thought that Tales from the Borderlands came out within the last year or two and was well received (at least by fans and gamers in general). But it turns out that was released almost four years ago and was also the first real indicator of decline.

          TT’s existence for the last few years seems reality-defying.

        2. eVie says:

          Personally, I reckon Tales From The Borderlands was the strongest written game. It was certainly the funniest.

          1. etheric42 says:

            I cyberstalked the leads from that game… well just mostly tried to find them on LinkedIn. Turned out they also were booted not too long after that game released and both ended up at Ubisoft. I wish I knew which game they were working on there because I loved the Stoppardian Tales From the Borderlands. Definitely best Borderlands game made! I would definitely buy/follow whatever they were making at Ubi.

          2. Redrock says:

            I tend to agree, but I think that TWD is held back by the inescapable influence of Kirkman’s patented endless misery for the sake of misery schtick which comes with the franchise. Borderlands as a setting, on the other hand, can surprisingly support a wide range of emotions and stories.

        3. Sleeping Dragon says:

          I wonder, could part of it be the very fact that they were generally doing things in established franchises? I’m actually one of those people who were great fans of Telltale style games (except for the episodic format, that can go die in a fire) but I have no trouble admitting the games are fairly niche and despite being a fan of the gameplay I would often look at their offering and think “ehh, I don’t really feel like playing a batman/guardians/WD game” and decide not to buy them at the time. I base this on absolutely nothing but being a person hanging around on the internet I was at no point under the impression that Telltale games marketing was actually taking advantage of the piggyback effect of attaching itself to those existing franchises so my impression is that they made niche games and then further limited their audience in this manner, not to mention they probably paid something for the licenses.

          Damn, I was actually kinda excited for the second Wolf game, well I guess here’s hoping the Life Is Strange folks fare better. Also, as a complete aside but since it was brought up, I very much enjoyed Tacoma.

      2. Christopher says:

        Just being a bit different helps a lot. Looking at that chart someone posted above about the sales, Telltale games tanked with basically every game after TWD. But that doesn’t mean at all that there’s no audience for adventure games/narrative games. It just means that for some reason, the writing or the zeitgeist, the aging janky tech, seeing the trick of the choice stuff, the look of the games, whatever, people weren’t interested in more Telltale stuff that was just the same shit again.

        Meanwhile, Life is Strange does well enough to spawn a franchise. Same for Until Dawn. Some ex-devs from Telltale started the companies that made Firewatch and Oxenfree, and while Oxenfree is a decent success, Firewatch is a big one. Edith Finch did decent numbers too. I dunno how well Night in the Woods sold, and it’s harder ’cause it was kickstarted, but I haven’t heard any complaints and it’s been ported to everything out there. And of course there’s the big AAA cinematic sony titles that sell millions(Last of Us, Uncharted 4, God of War, Spider-Man, Horizon), some of which is ’cause of the gameplay and spectacle and properties, but they certainly have a big focus on the story. There’s the Yakuzas and Personas and RPGs where at least half the point for most people is in the writing and story, whether it’s a talky western Witcher or a taciturn, depressed Nier Automata. Detroit Become Human and other David Cage games get a bad rep online for having shit writing, but they still sell like hotcakes to an adoring general mainstream audience.

        You could just get what Telltale was putting out from a lot of other places, and their games didn’t seem like they were just spraypainted versions of older games.

      3. Thomas says:

        The walking in Telltale games was terrible in a way that sets them apart from other narrative games.

        By that I mean the controls, the game design, the animation, the graphics, the music, the pacing were all really bad at letting a player enjoy a virtual space. Telltale was _all_ about the characters and nothing else.

        Whereas in Life is Strange, some of the most enjoyable moments are sitting on a bench in a park listening to music. The very first moments of the game have you walking down a corridor exploring a school, and meeting the characters as part of that. LiS has much better writing, but if anything it has even less choice than The Walking Dead. It’s pleasant to be around Max and Chloe in their little world, in a way it never was for any Telltale game.

  13. The cellshaded Spiderman suit is amusing for two reasons. It’s not that hard to do with current tech, and a fully cellshaded game would need less resources than a “realistic” one. Assets would be easier to make, and thus a even bigger/more immersive and detailed world could be made.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Actually, cel-shading doesn’t necessarily mean that a game would consume less resources. As Shamus points out, the game can use a high-resolution model, and then do the cel-shading on the fly. However, that still means that the full model, texture, and bump-mapping needs to be loaded and rendered. The cel-shading would be another rendering pass on top of that, so it would actually use slightly more resources, not less. It’s only when you use your art-style to allow a lower polygon limit, texture budget, etc, that you start using less resources. :)

  14. Tacit Cantos says:

    This especially stings for me because I made a video just a month ago talking about everything I loved about The Wolf Among Us, and it had gotten me pumped for season 2. That was their best game to me, and it’s too bad we’ll never see a sequel to it.

    There was a Verge article talking about how badly managed the company was about a year ago, and you can really see it in the stagnation of their game mechanics and even something as minor as their presentation. To me this felt this worst in their GOT game where the art style never fit well and just felt greasy more than anything else. Even something as minor as Life is Strange’s sketchbook interface felt like a breath of fresh air after the same Telltale interface over and over again. They really needed to stop putting out so many games and just focus on a few.

    It’s also bizarre to me that at no point did they try creating an original IP instead of chasing a hundred already established ones. Their profit margins would’ve been better, and after TWD they certainly had the profile to have the project noticed.

  15. Modding out fast travel seems extreeme to me. If I don’t want to use fast travel I do not use it, I may have little self control with other stuff but being unable to ignore fast travel ain’t one.

    However as mentioned around here, fast travel can be a sign of design flaws. Like quests takes you ALL OVER the map repeated times, fast travel fixes that tedium. I stopped playing Star Wars The Old Republic because of the grind and the constant backtracking over the same area (someone mentioned somewhere that it did get a fast travel eventually though).

    In real life it’s unusual for someone to ask you to do a task that is “way over there”. Witcher 3 had a annoying fetch the goat quest but I think that was actually just a joke about how annoying escort missions with dumb NPCs can be.

    Fast travel from city to city via boat or cart or similar is nice. In Skyrim you have the cart. In GTA the Taxi (in offline you can skip the travel itself, online you can’t skip).

    In Kingdom Come: Deliverance the fast travel takes “time” but real and in-game, and you have like 3 events that can trigger which does get repetitive so luckily you can “skip” the encounters. It does give you hint about what the encounter is.
    To me this is a very GM solution. What I don’t get is why you can fast travel to any road/part though just (from anywhere) to a city. In real life you’d look at a mountain and say, I’ll go to the base of that along that road. But you can’t in the game which is weird.

    Being able to travel or not travel to places based on if you’ve been there is also weirdly done in some games.
    I understand that the developers want you to “discover and explore” on the way from A to B, but what I don’t get is that people that live around the area don’t have a map/can’t draw a map/can’t give landmark directions. You just magically get a yellow marker way out in the darkness far away from you current player icon.

    Which frustrates me, if the “map” it’s not a actual map but more a representation of how the player character “remember” the area/terrain etc. Then why isn’t the stuff you see in the far distance when looking around also revealed?
    Skyrim avoids the issue by having a terrain map and markers just appear on it as you explore, I did not miss the “fog of war darkness” other games have.

    One type of fast travel mod I really like are realism ones like for Skyrim there is one that turns the Skyrim cart into basically the GTA taxi, letting you take in the scenery. I don’t do it often but it’s fun to let the driver…drive in GTA while I eat or drink something relaxing while the game takes my player character from A to B.

    In Mafia I you could ride the tram, you can do the same in GTA. Getting on the cargo train in GTA and riding it around the map is a lot of fun. Taking the gondola up the mountain in GTA is fun. And I seem to recall GTA IV had one too (over a river/bridge).

    I consider this type of travel “on rails travel”, and I love it when I have the choice to just keep traveling or to “skip” the travel.
    I wonder if in Red Dead Redemption 2 you can (fast) travel via train or coach but potentially get stopped by outlaws (that might interrupt your fast travel if you use that).

    Witcher 3 let you fast travel between sign posts. This felt somewhat natural. Nothing ever happen though. Same with fast waiting in Witcher 3. I did see a awesome mod that let you see the surroundings (in sped up realtime) while fast waiting though which looked cool with sunset/rise and such.

    A game tends to track NPCs that travel etc. There is no reason why the game can’t calculate this stuff while also loading textures and models for your destination.
    The issue is if you get a fast travel interrupt and the game suddenly has to load other resources. JRPGs “fixes” this in an annoying way, you run around on a map and it becomes a grind fest trying to get from A to B as you run into interrupts all the time which you fight in tiny special fight maps. This takes the fast travel and interrupts too far in another direction IMO.

    I like the following:
    A NPC gives you a task (or your quest leads you) to another town. The town is highlighted on a terrain map with landmarks (similar to Skyrim but landmarks you can’t see yet aren’t on the map unless a NPC told you about them or you found a map).

    First time you travel you have to travel on foot/horse etc. from A to B. Once you have visited B however you can fast travel from A to B along the road/path you took.
    When you fast travel later a line is drawn along the route you traveled previously.

    As you explore more and more the fast travel gets “better”, i.e. instead of following your line through the forrest it will “correct” itself and follow the path through the forrest. (this should avoid the need to remember esoteric routes players make through their entire playtime).
    Sometimes a NPC may explain a path for you or give you a tip of a shorter one.

    Anytime you fast travel a interrupt event can occur. You are given a brief hint as to what the encounter is and can choose to skip it or let it happen. Interrupt events that are tied to story lines can’t be skipped though.
    If you are traveling on a cart/in a car/train etc. then that travel could be interrupted too. A cartdriver may run away if attacked, leaving you to deal with the danger. A taxi may get stuck or get a flat tire and you’d need to find another ride. A train may experience a “deal” giving you a choice to wait or get off (at which point it may get suddenly un-delayed).

    Magic stones or portals or such can work if placed appropriately or it scales with the players exploration somehow.
    Traveling by sea or plane from city to city makes sense and such fast travel is rarely interrupted.
    A option to travel “in realtime” should be able for cart/car/train/boat/plane rides so you can take in the scenery.

    Wishing you could remove fastravels shows that it’s either implemented in a way that is “in your face” or the UI is broken somehow (or people have no self control), or wishing a game had fast travel is likewise a sign that map layout is flawed.

    If any developers bothered reading all this, here’s a rule of thumb for map and travel design:
    #1. Make sure the in-game map reflect the knowledge of the player character, if the player can look around and see a giant tree in the distance then that tree should be shown on the map, the map should look like a map or be “terrain” without spoilers.
    #2. Make travel between major cities/towns possible after the first visit there.
    #3. Make sure all side quests (especially the fetch variant) is contained to the area nearby, having to criss-cross the map is bad design. Use the main quests for getting the player across the map to new areas.
    #4. If possible allow fasttravel to give a choice between “scenic” and “skip”, if “scenic” then interrupts should be easy to handle, if somebody chooses skip they may not want encounters (or at least make that a option in the game menu somewhere).

    1. Shamus says:

      In my case, the modding wasn’t for “self control”, but to help me keep track of what’s been unlocked.

      “I have the fast-travel point for Bruma. Have I been there yet in this game? I can’t remember.”

      I still want a way to fast travel in the event that something goes wrong. For example, if I get stuck in some scenery, I can use fast travel to get clear.

      1. Content Consumer says:

        That’s me too. Unlocked and cleared/finished.
        Like, if there’s a dungeon I haven’t been to between me and my target location, I will walk around it far enough so as to not trigger the map marker. If I *do* trigger the map marker, I feel compelled to clear out the dungeon. Leaving a found map marker intact without going through the location leaves me feeling just a little uncomfortable.
        So… a bit of self control I guess.
        I generally use whatever noclip command is available to get out of being trapped in scenery though.

        1. Sadly so many (single player) games do not give access to the developer console. Many disable/strip it out which is a shame. Personally I think you should be able to enable it either through a ini file or even a option in the game menu somewhere (under “Advanced”).

        2. Stuart Worthington says:

          I might be misremembering, but doesn’t Skyrim include a little “Cleared” tag over a dungeon when it’s been, well, cleared out? In future games they should probably make it more obvious, though. Say, a dungeon that’s been “found” is a white icon and a dungeon that’s been “entered but unfinished” is yellow and then red or green when it’s “completed.”

          1. Shamus says:

            If you mouse over a dungeon, it will say “cleared”. Although not all dungeons can be properly cleared, which makes me develop some sort of OCD twitch.

            Yes, I think an icon would be best. Just add a 3-state color for found / explored / cleared.

      2. ““I have the fast-travel point for Bruma. Have I been there yet in this game? I can’t remember.””
        Good example. I guess you could have a state indicator, i.e. known but not yet visited. As a integer is probably used for this flag anyway using a 0, 1, 2 value should be no issue.

        “I still want a way to fast travel in the event that something goes wrong. For example, if I get stuck in some scenery, I can use fast travel to get clear.”
        Now that is a very good point. Usually crap like that happens when a player haven’t saved in a while, or the autosave happen just after you got stuck (if say on a 10 min interval timer).
        I have experienced this myself. So being able to fast travel to at least ONE “safe” spot is important. This could be the party camp for example.

    2. tmtvl says:

      I like how Dragon’s Dogma did it, where you can get portcrystals (teleport points) and ferrystones (teleportation devices). The portcrystals are rare but when you manage to travel all the way out to an important landmark it can be useful to put one there so you can teleport between there and the capital at will.

      1. That is a rare mechanic, and it turns fast travel into a limited resource. I’m neither for nor against this unlike games that turn being able to save a game into a resource headache.

    3. Syal says:

      if the player can look around and see a giant tree in the distance then that tree should be shown on the map,

      Eh, I’m going to say that one’s unrealistic. I grew up with a mountain in view, and I couldn’t even estimate how far away it was. I’m fine with letting the player put a named marker where they think the tree is (lots of them, not just one you have to move away to mark something else), but labeling everything the character can see in the distance only works if the character has superhuman spatial awareness.

      1. Here’s an example https://www.craftsy.com/art/article/how-to-draw-mountains/

        I’d call that tree a landmark.

        Same with this http://www.bikekatytrail.com/burr-oak-tree.aspx

        A farmer that’s lived there for years can surely draw a map or tell you about it. or in these case you can easily see it in the distance.

  16. Shen says:

    I think the thing I hate MOST about Skyrim’s Fast Travel is that a better system was put in place. One that is satisfying as an idea, flatters their own design goals and ties into the world, story and player character’s actions completely perfectly. Dragon Riding being one of the last rewards of the end/post-game DLC is so completely Bethesda.
    Dangit, Shamus – every time you make me think about Skyrim for more than five minutes, I get angry again.

  17. default_ex says:

    Fast travel is one of those things that it kind of needs to fit the game lore to feel right. A sci-fi game with FTL travel and transporters of some form makes sense to use those as the fast travel mechanisms. High fantasy is so poorly done with examples like Skyrim where it’s just a bolted on feature. It’s a world filled with magic, yet teleportation in character isn’t a thing?

    Yet again have to point to an old game that gets too much praise from me for it’s systems, EverQuest. You had fast travel in a variety of forms. Druid Rings were ancient rings of stone built by druids. A player playing the druid class could eventually learn the spells to teleport to specific druid rings as well as take people in their group or immediate surrounding area with them. Sometimes the placement of those rings made no sense until you read the game’s lore to find when they were built those areas were actually safe to travel through (at least for druids). Wizard spires were a similar concept but for the wizard class, additionally wizards could teleport to city locations (generally the front gates). Then there were the Combine Spires, huge spires built by an ancient civilization which every 15 minutes would take you to a small plane called the Nexus where the only way in and out was through those spires (initially). Eventually the Plane of Knowledge came about and you had small stone monument books near cities that took you to the plane with similar books on pedestals to take you back out of the plane and into the world. All of these things fit within the game’s lore, they felt like they should be there and not like a feature the player knew about but not the world. Quests were built to factor these in, sometimes the quest giver not fully understanding where they went but by their description and a little knowledge of the world you could usually figure it out.

  18. RFS-81 says:

    The discussion about photorealism reminded me of this blogpost (by the author of that famous PHP post), which caused me to check out DOOM for the first time, almost 25 years after its release. Though I did play a source port, not the original.

    One of her main points is that more expensive graphics cause developers to make linear games – you wouldn’t want to waste all that money on optional or hidden sections that only a small number of players see. And this makes sense to me, modern shooters generally do seem to be more linear than, say, DOOM. At the same time, there’s Bethesda open world games that are nearly 100% optional content. I mean, even the main quests are kind of optional, if you find the others more interesting.

    By the way, that Skyrim survival mod sounds interesting, was it Frostfall? (That’s the first thing that came up when googling skyrim survival mod.)

  19. John says:

    If Telltale’s dead, are episodic game releases officially dead now too? Was anybody else still doing that kind of thing? Come to think of it, did anyone else ever seriously attempt that kind of thing? I know Valve made some Half Life 2 episodes (of a sort) before they wrote themselves into a corner, got bored, lost interest, or whatever, but can anyone think of any other examples? I sure can’t.

    I don’t feel bad about Telltale’s demise, exactly, though their former employees certainly have my sympathy. I’m guessing that the studio died the way it did because management was either stuck in deep, deep denial or else decided to bet everything on some kind of Hail Mary play. Maybe they thought they could get some kind of financing. Maybe they thought they could find a deep-pocketed buyer. The Walking Dead IP is probably worth something, assuming that they still have the rights to use it. Or perhaps not, since I don’t think that they ever had the exclusive right to make Walking Dead games in the first place. At any rate, I’ve never been particularly interested in Telltale’s games. I don’t care about most of the IP they licensed and I usually prefer mechanics- and systems-driven games to story-driven games.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Life Is Strange. I know I sometimes catch myself thinking of it as “a Telltale game” but it’s by a different dev (Dontnod), I believe LIS2 is episodic as well.

      Other than that I can think of some indie games (Dream Machine, Kentucky Route Zero, The Last Door) but the only AAA that I can name off the top of my head would be one of the new(er) Hitman titles (I think? I’m not actually very familiar with the franchise). I suppose technically the difference between a game series telling one coherent story and an episodic game could also become a bit blurry.

  20. GoStu says:

    I think the “need” for Fast Travel in something like Skyrim is pretty damning.

    DEV 1: “Man, we’re making a huge world. Won’t this be a pain in the ass to get around?”
    DEV 2: “Yeah… what if we just let players travel to anywhere they’ve been?”
    DEV 1: “Oh, that’ll cut out all this travel time!”

    … but if travelling is a pain in the neck, why did you make this world so big? You spent multiple shitloads of money building the damn thing, knowing players will want to skip around it? I’m selling the game a little short, it really is an impressive world and I’m glad it’s there.

    I think other posters above me have nailed it. The real problem isn’t that walking cross-country like that is a huge pain in the ass, it’s that nobody else respects that it’s a pain in the ass. Every quest sets you haring off across the world on a whim with exactly two choices:

    1) Walk.
    2) Teleport to nearby landmark and walk a lot less.

    Morrowind is brought up as a good example of this being done right. Sure, the occasional quest sent you long distances, but these weren’t approached lightly, and it gave you multiple in-universe options to help make the commute suck less. Mark/Recall, Intervention spells, etc. It also helped that your ability to fast-travel was scaling with your character’s wealth and abilities: at the start of the game, you had just enough cash to reach the first started town by fast-travel, or you could walk and just survive. However as you levelled up you gained more access to magic and more money to pay for transit. High-level characters could use high-tier levitation to “fly” quickly, or speed-enhancing things, or… (the possibilities are many).

    For a future entry in the series I’d love to see them go somewhere like Black Marsh, where everywhere outside the town (and maybe inside it) is well-justified in being very dangerous. While it might make the game feel linear, it could be set around a few key hubs, and every major change in location is a big task and the game only makes you do each 1-2 times to complete the “main” quest.

  21. Gautsu says:

    Why do people even care about fast travel as a subject in games? If you want to use it, fine. If you don’t, ignore it. This seems to be an example of making a mountain out a molehill. Even I recognize that not everyone plays the same games the same way that I do. As long as it doesn’t detract from the rest of the game go with it.

    R.I.P. Wolf Among Us 2 (although if anyone has read or reread the comics lately, I thought the whole reason Rose Red’s supposed death in the first arc was a big deal was that no Fables had died since they moved to Fabletown, which the game either ignored or retconned).

    A couple of other adventure games still use the episodic format, other than Hitman and Life is Strange. Thinking mostly of The Council and Booze and Bullets here.

  22. Viktor says:

    Thinking about it, I’m going to drill down on the Morrowind fast-travel system and the gameplay it encouraged. You had the Mage’s Guild Teleporters. These are cheap, painless, and pop you between the 4 main cities* scattered to the corners of the island. From there, you could connect to the Stilt Striders or the boats**, which each served some of those 4 as well as a bunch of smaller towns in the general area. Each of the 4 cities had a Mage’s Guild, Thief’s Guild, Fighter’s Guild, Morag Tong base, Temple, at least 1 Great House, and was generally near an Imperial Legion fort with an Imperial Cult shrine. That’s 8 faction bases per city, ~6 of which would give you a series of quests based around the area.

    So how you played was to show up in a city, check in with the various factions you were a member of. They gave you deliveries to nearby towns or rat-slaying quests in the close wilderness, which got you a quick lay of the land and exposure to the various misc questlines in the area. From there, you got a series of quests for your factions, some of which kick you out to other parts of the island, but the bulk of which are focused on maybe a fifth of the island.

    This made for a natural progression. You show up in Balmora, do a handful of quests there. Eventually, you get 2-3 questlines that require you to travel to other main cities, so you take a teleport, visit Ald-Ruhn, do quests there until one tells you to go to Sadrith Mora. Hit SM, do your delivery for the Balmora guild as well as the Ald-Ruhn one, then pop out into the wilderness for a quick dungeon you’ve been putting off before teleporting back to Balmora to turn all of your quests in. From there, cycle starts over.

    It made for a very distinct flow to the game. It wasn’t anywhere near this clean, of course, but you could be relatively certain that most of the questlines wouldn’t make you travel unless that was the point. Sure, late-game you would be teleporting/flying/Boots of Blinding Speeding everywhere, but by that point you were qualified to do so and knew all of the tricks to make it easier. Fundamentally, I feel like that sort of a hub-based structure is how you have to deal with an open-world non-linear game, and instant no-restrictions fast travel is just a patch on the games for not doing this and requiring endless walking.

    *Yes, there’s Caldera, but I’m ignoring that one as an interface decision and irrelevant.
    **I tended to think of Stilt Striders as being cheaper and easier to understand than the boats, which was likely intentional as Stilt Striders serve the easier western half of the island and boats serve the more remote, awful, eastern half.

  23. Milo Christiansen says:

    RE: Cell Shaded vs Photo Real

    What about, say, Breath of the Wild? Valkyria Chronicles? Borderlands? There are actually a surprising number of games that have “good enough” models with cell shaded textures.

    To tell you the truth I prefer simpler art. Games are not real life. Real is the enemy of the fun.

  24. stratigo says:

    what telltale did is way scummier than just shut down and fire everyone. They fired ALMOST everyone, kept a skeleton crew up. Which means, when they do finally fully fold, they’re in the clear for that whole compensation thing for all the people they got rid of.

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