Diecast #227: House Hunting Blues, Distance, Corporate Leadership, Pitch Meeting

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 1, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 32 comments

Lots of complaining about personal problems in this episode. I don’t want to pin the blame on anyone in particular, but I will say that Paul never made any effort to stop me.

For those of you who have been complaining the the podcast RSS doesn’t work, can you give this one a try and see if it works for you? It’s maintained by a listener, and hopefully isn’t afflicted by whatever curse plagues the RSS that WordPress is generating.


Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 Moving Sucks  

The swivel arm for my microphone broke this week, which means I needed to have the microphone quite a bit further from my face than I usually do. You’ll probably be able to hear the difference. Over the last few weeks one of the most common phrases around the house has been “We’ll have to fix / replace that once we’re done moving.” This is yet another instance of something that isn’t going to get fixed until after we move.

17:20 Distance

Hi Shamus, and Paul,

Have you looked into Distance, the pretty neon laser puzzle racer again, it had a full release recently? Can you please write some articles about it, from the POV of a confused rally pilot that somehow got into that universe (eventually, I know you’ll be pretty busy for a while). I know you have the humor chops to make it highly entertaining!

Kind regards,
Galad_t

28:07 Corporate Leadership

Dear Diecast (Mostly Shamus but Paul can answer too)

In your last couple of “This Dumb Industry” and “Experienced Points” you have talked about how publishers being run by business people is one of the big problems with the industry. What reasonable solutions do you have to fixing this problem other than putting Shamus in charge.

Regards Eric

A point I wanted to make on the show before I got distracted: It’s really hard for a company to break out of rut. Even if the top leadership resigns, their replacements will come from (or by chosen by) the rest of the existing leadership. The people in charge of finding someone to solve the problem are the same people who have already failed to solve the problem. If you stack your ranks with people who think about increasing profits in terms of microtransactions, then that thinking is going to remain long after you leave. The new guy might experiment with new kinds of monetization, but he’s not going to perform a radical change in course and change the way projects are chosen, funded, managed, and marketed. If he he thought those things were a good idea in the past, then he wouldn’t be in line for the throne now. He would have been edged out or passed over for promotion in favor of someone more in tune with established company values.

44:29 Paul Pitches a Game

Here is the Super Mario 64 challenge I mentioned, where someone tries to play Mario 64 without using the jump button.

 


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32 thoughts on “Diecast #227: House Hunting Blues, Distance, Corporate Leadership, Pitch Meeting

  1. Joe says:

    My dream game is somewhere between Skyrim and Witcher 3. Like, you can play as all kinds of fantasy race, but they all feel noticeably different. At the same time, you can make a tanky elf or agile dwarf if that’s your thing. More story than Skyrim, and more agile combat. But less than and a lighter tone than Witcher. World size would of course be as big as both put together, or bigger. There would be no crafting systems, and no XP boosting methods/items. Quests wouldn’t be levelled. Graphics as good as Witcher, with Skyrim’s modability.

    It would only take nearly 10 years and a billion dollars to make. :)

    1. Matt Downie says:

      I’ll do it if you give me $250 million and 5 years!

      1. Joe says:

        If I had that kind of money, I’d be tempted. :)

    2. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

      World size would of course be as big as both put together, or bigger.

      I think, actually, open world game would benefit more from smaller world. No matter, how much money or time put into it, it will be either too repetitive or too empty.

    3. PPX14 says:

      Is Vampire the Masquerade Bloodlines anything like this?

  2. Chris says:

    At 43.00 you talk about a multiplayer assassins creed game but that actually already existed. In brotherhood it was added, you pick an NPC model and pretend to be an NPC and you have some limited way of identifying other people. Stabbing NPCs was punished in that it blew your cover. Also they avoided the combat system by making it use the hidden blade, so if someone sniffed you out they would just run at you and stab you for an instantkill.

    At 52.00 you talk about wanting to write a mass effect story. But dont forget you also have to write romances.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      …that is; romance stories for all the characters. Every single one.

      ‘But it makes no sense for a human soldier to fall in love with a floating squid-creature! How would they even…?’ I hear you say.
      Tough! Get writing that tentacle porn, someone’s gonna pick the Hanar as a romance choice.

      ‘But this kind of Quantum Pansexuality* means I have to make my characters really bland and vague! I can’t tie them to anything and I have to deliberately avoid mentioning something that would give them depth and personality!’

      Well, yes. But you’re forgetting the replayability value we’ll add! And the marketing opportunities!

      *Legal Disclaimer: This term has been copyrighted by BlueHorus Commenting, Inc.

      1. Shamus says:

        For the record: I think a small number of understated romance options can really help bring a work to life. What I’d do differently:

        * Only a couple of characters are romance-able.
        * The romance is more about romantic tension and less about consummating a relationship. “Romancing” someone in this case means exploring alternate versions of conversations where characters spar. The flirting between Leia and Solo in Empire Strikes Back is a pretty good example of what I’m talking about. You can either have the flirtatious version of this scene, or you can keep things professional.
        * No sex. Not because sex is icky, but because it doesn’t really fit in a fast-moving adventure. If we make a big deal about the sex SCENE then it changes the entire focus of the romance and sex becomes the “win state”. Ew.

        1. Chris says:

          Well, in ME not everyone was romanceable so that won’t be a problem. Still I think there is some pressure the writers experience that people want to romance certain people. Like how Thane was designed for this purpose. But since we are already in magical mystery land where you land this job I guess we can toss in you get full creative control.

          2) wasn’t miranda and shepard in ME2 with the renegade options like that? It’s been a long time but I do remember vaguely something of the kind. And in general romance seems to follow the same arc as stories, introduction, tension, release.

          3) I think sex is more used as a representation of acceptation of both parties. During the romantic tension there were doubts, but then in the end it resolves and sex is a convenient way to show that. Kinda like how in teenage adventure novels the guy main character and girl end up kissing in the end. But since kissing kinda loses its impact they move to the next order of magnitude. I would agree that how it’s implemented in ME feels rather forced, but it shouldn’t be bad in principle. Maybe make it so that a romance can be “completed” halfway the game and afterwards you can see the woman (or man) wake up next to you in bed after a mass relay jump. Kind of like how in skyrim marrying someone and sleeping in the bed of your house has you wake up and see them lay next to you. This also could allow for romantic interactions that only happen after you go steady. Have some kind of romance maintenance dialogue.

          1. Fizban says:

            That’s what I’d like to see. The PC can go banging whatever is willing to bang them, but the actual romantic relationships are separate (though probably linked in some places), and there’s a bunch of scenes where that partnering is reflected, in the more subtle ways they actually would.

      2. MadTinkerer says:

        I think the weirdest example of quantum pansexuality is something I encountered in Skyrim. You can, after a couple of quests, marry one of the priestesses of Dibella. You can do this as male or female (which is not the weird part, that’s just how they implemented marriage in the expansion). The weird part is: if you do the questline while female they imply more than once that they would have you killed for transgressing the temple if you weren’t female. But in the alternate-universe where you are male, this isn’t a problem for some reason.

        Also, your benefit for completing the quests is bonus damage to the opposite sex. (Since all dragons and dragon priests are male, it’s generally better to get this perk as a female.) Which means: if you are male, complete the quest, marry the priestess, and then attack her, Dibella grants you bonus damage against your own wife.

        I only did it because I was curious to see how the systems interacted, I swear.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          You did better than me. I married the blacksmith in Whiterun because I wanted a discount on metal ingots/ore and she worked next door to a smelting oven.
          It didn’t work out; she left her conveniently-located shop to sit around my house all day. I didn’t get my discount, either. And then I learned that there was no way to get a divorce in that game outside of murder.

          Oh, Skyrim. I miss you. Well, not you so much, as all your bugs and weird-AI antics.

        2. Matt Downie says:

          That’s in keeping with Skyrim’s general “the rules don’t apply to you” ethos.
          NPC: “Skyrim for the Nords! Death to the elves!”
          PC: “I’m an elf.”
          NPC: “Well, I guess you can do some important quests for us…”

          1. RFS-81 says:

            How about being the single Khajiit who is even allowed into cities?

      3. Steve C says:

        Please no. I’d rather have less romances in games. It isn’t done well. I find it weird and off putting. Instead of romances, I would much rather see relationships.

        The difference is that in a “romance” there is this goal for “these two characters have entered into a relationship.” Then that is it. Achievement unlocked, etc. I can’t stand that. I would like to see the maintenance of healthy and unhealthy relationships in games. Where the flirting/romance is already complete (again, I want to stress how much I dislike that) and now it is about what comes after.

        1. Fizban says:

          I wasn’t aware that “romance” specifically set up the beginning of a relationship as the end goal. Now I know why I’ve been leery of using it, ‘guess I was noticing on some level. Yeah, screw that.

  3. kdansky says:

    @Shamus:
    Can you check why the Diecast is not updating on android phones? #224 is the newest episode on it.

    1. olofos says:

      I also haven’t gotten any new episodes since #224 on my iphone. I think I’m using a fan provided rss feed that was posted a while ago (I don’t know how to extract the url from the app). Neither the rss link under the player nor the new fan made link in the post above seem to work on my iphone. I can add them to the podcast app but I don’t see any episodes

    2. Sord says:

      The current RSS feed is missing the enclosure attribute, so there is no media content to download.

      You may also be pointed at a fan made RSS feed, which hasn’t updated since episode #224, possibly because it is checking the the official feed and not finding any enclosures (I believe the fan made one was to fix formatting issues on the official one, which have since been resolved, but now we have a new issue it doesn’t fix).

      The new fan made RSS feed is also broken as its enclosures don’t contain a full URL. I imagine some feed readers may be able to work around that problem, although mine is not one of them…

  4. John says:

    Moving does indeed suck. Our last move involved buying a house, which made it even worse. Buying a house is easily the most stressful and emotionally fraught thing I have ever done. Getting married? Fine. Having a kid? No problem. Buying a house? You can’t see it, but I’m shuddering as I type this.

    On a much happier note, I’ve only just noticed that the background art for the site is from the original Prince of Persia. What a wonderful choice! It’s such a good game. When I recall that it was some kid’s one-man project, done without the benefit of any sort of modern game-making tools, it blows my mind. But what version of the game are these images from? It doesn’t look like the Apple II version. The colors don’t seem quite right.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I imagine house purchases were much less stressful, back in the day when house-cost:salary ratio was better, and you didn’t need 20+ years of mortgage. Although, they didn’t have microwave ovens and internet back then, so…

  5. GoStu says:

    Maybe I’m being disgustingly optimistic, but I’m kind of hoping that the management problems solve themselves over time. To quote from a past piece (This Dumb Industry, “Free Advice Part 1”, 25 July 2017)

    Hire Some Gamers!

    […] I mean hire a person who has videogaming as their primary source of entertainment, and get them involved with strategic decisions. It can’t be that hard to find someone with both an MBA and a half-decent gamerscore.

    Gaming is becoming such a ubiquitous hobby that I imagine it’ll become increasingly more difficult to find someone who hasn’t gone through the eight steps in the aforementioned article. While the various corporate cultures of promoting people who agree with the previous corporate vision will doubtless continue, I still think the inevitable generational shift will result in better-informed management.

    Small upstart companies who are well-informed about what the consumer wants can still be disruptive in this dumb industry. Valve embarrassed and continues to embarrass larger companies at the game of digital sales.

    Hopefully there comes a company that can follow those five pieces of free advice. I believe if they even get some of them they’ll be in a very competitive position. “Go after downmarket sales” seems like one that could very well be implemented tomorrow by a business major with a lick of sense. Someone can try and spin up a skunkworks and hopefully turns a healthy profit out of it.

    Maybe it’ll take another generation after this one, with both the phenomenon of “everyone grows up a gamer” as well as “everyone remembers the big crash of 20XX”. The crash of ’83 led to some market behemoths (Atari) dying ignoble deaths. Maybe we’re just due for another crash of two-thousand-something to oust some entrenched assholes and clear the field for something new.

  6. RFS-81 says:

    Good luck with the house hunt! I also kind of dread changes to my routine. It feels like it’s X days until the end of the world. The funny thing is, I adapt rather quickly afterwards.

  7. Jason says:

    My recollection of the Podracing game was that you won prize money if you came in 1st, 2nd or 3rd place, but you could only earn more money on the same race again if you could beat your previous place. So if you got 1st place on the first try, you would less total money (1st place winnings only) than if you got 3rd place on your first try and 1st place on your second try (3rd place winnings + 1st place winnings). Once you won a prize, you can’t win that prize again or the ones below it.
    You spent money to upgrade your racer. I got near the end and ran out of money, so I couldn’t upgrade my racer anymore. I couldn’t go back and win any more money from previous races, but I couldn’t beat the last few levels, so I was totally stuck. It turns out that to earn the maximum amount of money, you should finish each race in 3rd place, then 2nd place, then 1st place in order to win all the prize money. Not a good design.
    The racing was fairly good until I got to that point though.

    1. Philadelphus says:

      I didn’t know about winning races again because I always just set the prize money to “winner takes all” (since there were different payout schemes) and just made sure to win every race in 1st place. Never had any particular money issues with that scheme. It may not have been enough money to buy every single tier of upgrade for all seven systems, but I think I maxed out six of them and got up to something like the third or fourth tier on the least-important one.

      And man, I totally understand you getting stuck at That One Level in the invitational circuit on the gas planet. (Abyss, I think it was called?) Seriously, if the courses in that game were rated on a scale from 1–10, with that one being the 10, the next-hardest race was, like, a 5…maybe a 6. That’s how much of a differential there was in the skill levels required. I practiced that course for three days before I was able to beat it the first time.

  8. Raven_Sloth says:

    My dream game would be that you are a person like Tony Hawk, everyone knows that you skateboard but no one remembers what you look like, and you move to a small urban area with about 2000 people or so. Every one of these people would have a name and a schedule. No one would be voice acted and dialog would be a little similar to Morrowind’s pic a topic structure, along with some more direct responses to what they say. The general game play loop would involve doing rad skateboard tricks to move around the city to get to pubs or other places for you to mingle with the people of the city. And to make it I would only need too much time and money as well as a very good writer/ writing team.

  9. MichaelG says:

    I’ve been in an apartment for 10 years, and the rent keeps going up. I really looked this time, but couldn’t find a thing in my price range that I’d want to live in. So I just signed the lease again and I’m starting year 11… Sigh.

  10. Nick says:

    Whenever I think about redoing a game’s story/narrative the way I envision is to create a tabletop version of it an GM it to my friends. Ever since Mass Effect disappointed me, I have a campaign boucing in my head as a way to “fix” it

  11. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Honestly Shamus I would LOVE it if you started a let’s play of your dream game! You would tell us what happens, maybe throw a few made up screenshots, tell us about the choices you make (maybe mention that Heather tried something else and what happened), maybe make up funny details about the supposed game devs and generally have fun with the fake LP concept (like sometimes trying to guess what the devs are going for with a scene and somehow getting it wrong).

    Something a bit similar happened a few years ago, someone on 4chan made a post about his last game of the made up “40K Chapter Master” game. It was so cool that the community created a pretty ok game out of it!

  12. Algeh says:

    Mobile homes are kind of complicated in a special kind of “regulatory nonsense festival” way, because in some ways they are treated as vehicles rather than dwellings under the law most places. Note that I do not live in your state, so some of the things that are locally true about them may not be true where you live.

    The nicest place I’ve ever lived on my own was a mobile home that I rented in a small logging town. It had a great floor plan, a nice kitchen, and had no meaningful maintenance problems the entire year I rented it (I did have to install some grippy stuff on the wooden front steps to keep from falling down them on icy mornings, but that is not a major undertaking). Being a small logging town, it was in a neighborhood on the edge of town that was a mixture of site-built homes, shops (of the “machine shop” or “wood shop” variety, not stores), mobile homes, a logging supply place, and a friendly group of dogs that roamed the neighborhood at will. It was “affixed”, which meant that it counted as a “house” rather than a “vehicle” in legal terms, and the same person who owned the land owned the house. As a rental, it was pretty awesome and the only reason I moved is that I changed jobs and no longer worked in that town.

    However, “owning” a mobile home in a park where you rent a space is a trap. You own the house, but because you don’t own the land you have pretty much all the disadvantages of renting (rent hikes, random rules, the owner can decide to do something else with the property and evict everyone) along with the disadvantages of owning (having to fix things that break, have to sell to someone else to move rather than just give notice). There may also be a tendency for a park to push out older homes, meaning that sooner or later they actively want you gone and a nicer home in your spot (mobile homes tend to depreciate like cars rather than appreciate like houses in my market, probably because you don’t own the land). The rules around all of this tend to be built around the assumption that mobile homes are like RVs and easy to just move around, which is pretty much entirely not true.

    Depending on local conditions, many mobile home parks may also be run by investors who are basically holding the property for a chunk of years/decades while it increases in value with the plan to sell the land to build a subdivision when the local housing market makes that profitable. This was a big problem around where I live during the housing bubble. Since you don’t own the land under your house, you’re basically stuck trying to move your house to another park when that happens, which is not cheap (and it may be hard to find a new park that will take the house if it’s an older house). Some people end up just abandoning their homes in a closed park because they couldn’t get them moved.

    Anyway, I’d happily rent a mobile home again, but I can’t recommend buying one in a park.

  13. TehShrike says:

    On writing your own Mass Effect game:

    have you considered writing a choose-your-own-adventure-like version of a Mass Effect game? Using Twine, or something similar.

  14. Bubble181 says:

    I just want to throw out that:
    a) It was possible to play Pod Racer with the keyboard and finish it all – I did.
    b) Sebulba’s pod was junk. Ben Quadrinaros’ (sp?) was waaayyyyy better. The guy with 4 engines who has one blow up when he starts in the movie.
    c) They have the game on GOG now, and it plays fine. Try it and see. I really liked it, despite not liking racing games in general. But they manage to make it look really fast while still clearly signalling track turns and such. So…Might not quite be the same.

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