Diecast #228: Nimbatus, Digital Comics, Minecraft

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 15, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 49 comments

I normally keep my microphone on a swivel arm so it can hover near my mouth. The swivel arm fell apart last week and I’m not sure it can be saved, which is why I sound like I’m recording in an echo chamber now. I’m trying to work out some sort of arrangement where I can put the microphone closer to my mouth without needing to build a ridiculous tower out of books.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 Issac’s Birthday

My youngest turned 17 last week. He’s spent less than half of those years playing Garry’s Mod.

03:38 Steam Updates

So what do we think of the idea that store pages on Steam will feature a livestream of the game in question (if available) and you have to scroll down to see the trailer and other info?

06:27 Cardlife

Link (YouTube)

11:59 Flotilla 2 by Blendo Games

14:23 Nimbatus

Link (YouTube)

Also, I’m interested to think what people think of the pricing for Early Access games. Sometimes the developer starts high when the game is unfinished and lowers it at release, and sometimes they do the opposite. Both have advantages and disadvantages that I find fascinating.

23:28 Digital comic books

Here’s an overview on the distribution problems comics have faced over the years:

Link (YouTube)

37:12 Mailbag: Manhattan and other cities in games

Dear diecast,

Many game have included the island of Manhattan in New York as a game world due to it being iconic while at the same time easily isolated for a game world yet at the same time a metropolitan area is developed for residents not gameplay. If you were to be doing an open world based on New York how would you attempt to do it?

Yours JDMM

54:58 Mailbag: Microsoft and Minecraft

Dear Diecast

The comments on why Minecraft doesn’t need a version 2 made by Microsoft in this article seem to gel quite well with some of Shamus’s comments on how games companies should manage their properties. How do we feel about Microsoft these days?

Kind regards


1:00:46 Shamus Projects Update


From The Archives:

49 thoughts on “Diecast #228: Nimbatus, Digital Comics, Minecraft

  1. Joe says:

    I remember the rise of ebooks, and discussion of their pricing. Turns out that printing and distribution of physical books are actually only small costs. You’ve got the writer, the editor, publisher, and so on. It’s probably like that with comics, except more. You have the writer, penciller, inker, colourist, letterer, cover artist. Some comics combine some duties, but others have multiple of some.

    Also, both Disney and WB are publicly traded corporations. They have a duty to keep making money. While both I and they are familiar with the idea of loss leaders, there’s probably some complicated reason I don’t know about to justify not treating the comics like this. Possibly because there’s so many people involved in comics creation.

    I’ve never played Minecraft or any of its clones. But the existence of all those clones presents a problem. If Minecraft 2 is announced, at least one new feature will have been implemented in one of those clones. Possibly more than one feature in more than one clone. It’s going to be labelled as both behind the times and a ripoff. Alternately, if they come up with something truly new and good, a clone will just rip it off ASAP. Looks like an unwinnable problem.

    1. J Greely says:

      I’m old enough to remember when the publishing industry blamed “the rising cost of paper” for the steady increase in book prices, and then moved to overseas printers for cost savings. So were they lying then or lying now, or should I embrace the healing power of “and”?


    2. etheric42 says:

      I thought this was a great presentation for the rise of self-publishing ebooks for Sci-Fi/Fantasy and it might be well-received here.


  2. DangerNorm says:

    Technically, Factorio is a “Minecraft-inspired game”. Specifically, the industry and automation mods.

  3. Sannom says:

    I think the price of digital comics is so high for the same reason than individual physical issues are exclusive to dedicated comic books stores, who also have a two-weeks exclusive on collected editions. From what I could understand, it was about catering to the nerds by giving them the illusion of a special relationship to the hobby through those dedicated stores.

    My biggest issue with digital comics, as with pretty much every digital goods, are DRM. It’s not as absurd as what’s happening in games (in which DRM are decided on a game-to-game basis) nor as infuriating as what’s still going on with video (all DRM all the time) but having only a few of the editors be DRM-free is still annoying : IDW, Image and Red5 will allow you to download what you’ve purchased, but Marvel, DC and Dark Horse won’t. Argh!

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      This is particularly preposterous in the case of a media such as comics, where you can simply get an illegitimate copy of the work merely by the use of the Print Screen key. In this case DRM doesn’t even work to slow down piracy.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Depends on how they are distributed. If they are using an application to read e-books in some sort of epub with encryption, then they can easilly tell Windows not to allow the screen grabbing of the screen. It’s what some of the Japanese manga publishers do.

        But I don’t think that’s possible to do if you are distributing via an webapp. Or at least not easily.

      2. Sannom says:

        Heeeeh. If you don’t have a big enough screen to display the entire page in the original resolution, you will get a product of much lesser quality. And you will have to crop out the borders and stuff, that’s a lot of work.

  4. Leipävelho says:

    I’ve come to call games like Nimbatus, Space Engineers and Kerbal Space Program where you build stuff as BuilShit -games.

  5. Asdasd says:

    Towers of books are never ridiculous! They can be noble, purposeful, monitor-enheightening and occasionally shamefully unread, but never ridiculous.

    1. Mephane says:

      But what if the books themselves are ridiculous? Surely a tower of ridiculous books would be the sum of their ridiculousness.

      1. Asdasd says:

        A valid point. Maybe that’s why they call it an oddifice..

  6. John says:

    The new Steam feature I most dislike is the friends/chat/whatever pop-up. I don’t mind if Steam wants to compete with Discord. Go nuts. See if I care. But Steam takes long enough to load as it is. Don’t make the process worse by spamming my desktop with pop-ups that I’m never going to use. With my luck, there’s a menu option buried deep within Steam’s twisted innards that would let me disable it, but Steam’s menus and settings controls are just awful and I will never, ever find it.

    1. etheric42 says:

      How is it different than the old chat/friends pop-up? It seems to be the same number/annoyance of popups, just with better functionality now. (Well, the window never seems sized right, but I think that’s more a function of people still aren’t ready for 4k yet.)

      1. Droid says:

        It auto-pops up whenever you log in.

        1. etheric42 says:

          Steam’s set to boot on startup for me with credentials saved I just rebooted my computer to check, but nothing pops up at all.

          Then I tried changing users and logging back in, and I just got the main Steam screen, not any friends popup.

          Maybe I have a setting set differently.

          1. Droid says:

            I found it! It’s under the settings WITHIN the friends window. So the big cog symbol right next to your own account picture in the friends list that pops up.

            After you opened that, go to the second entry on the left, “CHAT”, and then disable “Remember my open chats”.

          2. John says:

            It doesn’t automatically pop-up every time I start Steam. Once I close it, it usually stays closed for the next few log-ins. I think what’s happening is that it re-automatically pops-up after every Steam update, but I haven’t exactly kept careful records. It’s definitely not related to anything I’m doing, because I don’t interact with this system at all except to close it.

            I’ll have to try Droid’s suggestion at some point.

            1. Droid says:

              If you don’t use it at all, you can simply turn it off in the same settings window, but on the first page on the left rather than the second. It’s the bottom-most setting on that page.

              1. John says:

                Do you ever get the feeling that Steam is like a city that pre-dates the adoption of urban planning? Instead of being laid out in a nice neat grid or some kind of hub-and-spoke system, the metaphorical streets of Steam are a maze of medieval alley ways.

                1. etheric42 says:

                  I think that kind of mirrors their corporate structure.

  7. etheric42 says:

    Black text on white background skins exist. Example: https://editor.steamcustomizer.com/gLOX

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You can put a skin on Steam? :O

      1. etheric42 says:

        It is even handled by Steam natively. Open steam, go to the “steam” menu, then settings->interface->dropdown box for the skin you want to use.

  8. etheric42 says:

    As far as the streaming games goes, isn’t it the game’s developer streaming that game that’s showing up above the screenshots? AI War 2 releases today and apparently we can just set up one of us to just do a dev stream if we wanted.

  9. Dreadjaws says:

    Also, I’m interested to think what people think of the pricing for Early Access games. Sometimes the developer starts high when the game is unfinished and lowers it at release, and sometimes they do the opposite. Both have advantages and disadvantages that I find fascinating.

    My idea is that they should start cheaper and raise in price at release. That way they attract more testers (they’re more likely to come if a game is cheap), they have a valid reason to charge less (the game isn’t complete) and if things go south the customers’ loss isn’t as significant. It’s generally a much better risk-to-reward ratio for everyone, and it rewards customers’ trust. The only slight problem that might occur is that people could potentially wait until the game is almost finished to make the purchase and then buy it right before it raises its price, getting the full game for less money, but that can easily be solved with incremental price increases as the game takes shape.

    Meanwhile, I just can see no benefit of charging more upfront. You could claim that you get more money for the development, but that would imply the same amount of people are buying the game if it’s cheap than if it’s costly, and that’s just not how things work. Plus, customers would probably be upset that their loyalty is being “punished” by charging less to newcomers while they, who stayed since the very beginning, had to pay more. Surely there’s something else I’m not seeing, but I find it a bad idea.

    1. Droid says:

      You objectively have the game for longer, and you can sometimes make an impact on the development of the game. It’s very similar to what AAA games do, they just don’t call their v0.9 / Day-One-patch / 55 other patches to get the game to stop burning down your PC an “Early Access” period.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        You objectively have the game for longer

        That assumes the game ends up being finished and released, which is an uncertainty. And say what you will about AAA games using their early release period as beta testing, at least they don’t raise the games’ prices once they’re fully patched.

    2. Syal says:

      The reason Vlambeer gave for Nuclear Throne having higher prices during Early Access was so they would weed out all the people who just wanted a price break and weren’t interested in helping the game develop.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        That seems like a double-edged weapon. Sure, you might weed out a bunch of people, but you would also end up with less money for development. Again, not a benefit for either party.

        1. Syal says:

          A lot of them just need playtesters to balance existing content.

      2. Mephane says:

        In my view the purpose of Early Access is two-fold:

        * Get people on board to help test the unfinished game, provide feedback, find bugs etc.
        * Get more funding for the ongoing development.

        Someone who buys an Early Access game solely for, like, a 10% discount, still helps with the second goal.

    3. Fon says:

      To be fair, I think paying for an Early Access is already an unwise decision, so some might say the whole point of paying for an Early Access game is to support the developers, instead of, say, getting your money’s worth. If you’re focusing on supporting the developers, then paying 10~20 more bucks shouldn’t sound too bad, right? I think the most important thing a developer should do when they charge high early on, is to set the expectations right. They shouldn’t make it sound like a bargain or a great deal. Instead, they should make it clear that you’re paying to support the game development.

      1. John says:

        All else being equal, I’d rather buy a finished game than one that’s still in development. But I might buy a game in Early Access if the price was right and I knew from reviews or word-of-mouth that the game was fun and in a playable state.

  10. Bubble181 says:

    Sooo, I usually don’t listen to Podcasts, not even those of content creators I like, but I did thise time! Whoohoo! So:

    1. Happy birthday Issac!

    2. I think the “cities built for inhabitants” turn of phrase was more meant in the sense that Manhattan wasn’t designed for, say, drag racing. You can make a fictional city that just happens to have awesome two-lane-wide tunnels with long sweeping curves you can take at 250mph in a racing game, or that has convenient buildings with big man-bearing gargoyles on every corner for an Arkham game, but you can’t really just build “real Manhattan” and have it *work* for some types of game. Not so much in the “these maps are used so people who live there will buy it” sense.

    3. I think giving digital comics away for free would lower the perceived value. If “official” Spider-Man is available for free, what sets it apart from Bob Webby’s Awesome Spiderman Spectacular, available for free? Now, the comics industry has a very clear demarcation: *these* are the official, sanctioned, “real” stories of Spiderman ,Superman, Squirrel Girl, whatever. *Those* are cheap knock-offs, fanfiction, other original works, what-have-you. Also, people tend to think “free” equals “worthless”. A price implies value.

    4. In building a great big map, I would imagine they’d use some variety of GitHub style software development software. Have a master version, have Shamus put down trees in the Bronx stored in subdirectory Map/Bronx/Streets, while Jeff plops down trashcans in Brooklyn, located in a different subdirectory or different part of the build file. Obviously someone needs to be in charge of resolving conflicts and all that, and *some* types of changes would affect a whole lot of different subdirectories or subsets at once – but that’s what the well-paid guys at the top are for. Most changes won’t cause conflicts even if adapted at the same time; if there are conflicts, escalate and have someone in authority decide which one to keep.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      Apparently Github can actually display 3D diffs, since 2013 (for STL files anyways). That’s pretty cool.

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks for taking the tome!
      2. That is a very good point which neither of us caught. Perhaps we can revisit the topic in the future. There are a lot of ways to meld realism with gameplay, so I’m hesitant to go into it in a comment.
      3. Well, right now I don’t read any traditional comics, so it would raise the value for me at least.

  11. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fjBrHprmG7c
    Really interesting info about Red Dead Redemption 2.

    Dan Houser (GTA V) seems to have been a driving force for character and story.
    And Lazlow (GTA V) is did the pedestrian stuff again for Rockstar.

    It’s interesting because by the end of the video you can see that this is the same Rockstar that made GTA V (which Shamus pointed our a lot of issues with).
    They cut 5 hours of content from RD2 (one of two romances) and a train fight scene (that worked at first, then it didn’t).
    I’m wondering how much ended up on the cuttingroom floor for GTA V?

    RDR2 has the advantage that it’s a singe protagonist though, unlike GTA where you jump between three (and timelines don’t fully add up).

    RDR2 is also much more serious, darker/grounded than GTA V too. I think I lot of the weirdness with GTA is that it IS “GTA”, it’s a game. RDR2 is a character story in a grounded world (even touching on topics like Women suffrage).

    I’m gonna assume Shamus will be riding some horsies in the near future? Maybe a article series? (maybe streamlined for the Escapist with deeper blabber dives on the blog?)

  12. GM says:

    I remember it once being dark and scary at night in Minecraft, if thats what you’d make a game as awesome.

  13. Gordon Wrigley says:

    It’s not on Steam, but we’re still playing the Sevtech ages Minecraft mod pack. At this point it’s clocked more hours than every other mod pack we’ve played in the last few years combined.

  14. Gordon Wrigley says:

    I think part of the problem with a lot of the Minecraft clones and fad driven Indie in general, is that these things are developed by people with only limited prior game dev experience and so no understanding or sense of what really drives gameplay.
    So they produce these games which copy trendy ideas and mix them up with other ideas that sound cool.
    But then the end products fail as games because no one has a vision of what the core gameplay loops and progression are supposed to be.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Oftentime I like it when devs turn a game into a genre (the way Portal opened a floodgate for first person puzzlers) and I even think there is a good amount of room for some cloning, but man can you sometimes see the dev is inexperienced. My personal favourite, and the particular doom of many a minecraft clone (but also collectible card games, or flash based MMOs), is when devs greatly underestimate the scope of the project. Minecraft was a particularly devious trap because of how deceptively simplistic it looks on the surface (even more so back in the day) and because it came from a small studio so hey, it should be easy enough to put something together in your free time and just rake in the cash, right? The only reason Minecraft doesn’t have (put in a system) is because those devs at Mojang lack imagination!

      So we ended up with a lot of “MinecraftBut” that were abandoned haflway through development because as it turns out 1) people already own Minecraft, 2) making a “Minecraft but steampunk”, “but with RPG mechanics”, “but with NPC communities” is not easy and has often been already done by the Minecraft modding community (and sometimes added to the actual game later on).

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    There’s no need to wall in gameworlds as long as you’re willing to make a good old fashioned torus-shaped world (go far enough west and you’ll end up in the east, and go far enough north and you’ll end up in the south). That’s how the Ultima games did it and it’s good enough for me. If you’re Valve, you could make an entire-level-wide portal for north and south and another entire-level-long portal for east and west!

    1. Gordon Wrigley says:

      You should check out the Eco game world, at the large scale it’s a globe, at the small scale it’s a grid. How does this work? Topologically it’s actually a torus and they just fake it’s curvature in rendering. Don’t try to imagine what is going on on the back side of the mine map globe, there is no rational answer… madness lies that way.

  16. MadTinkerer says:

    59:30 “I know there are mods where you just stand on one block in space… the grind is not the part of Minecraft that I’m interested in.”

    Minecraft Skyblock in Java Edition 1.8.9 is what I like to do when I’m listening to podcasts. I find it hard to relax and just listen to stuff when I need to relax and listen to stuff, so the grind of Skyblock helps me get a whole lot of nothing done when it’s time to relax and do nothing. No mods, just vanilla Minecraft with the vanilla Skyblock map.

    Other games I like to play when I need to relax are Animal Crossing New Leaf (fair warning: Animal Crossing is WAY grindier than Minecraft Skyblock) and various Disgaea and other related games. Disgaea (the whole series, and all the spin-offs, not just the first Disgaea) is great because it’s designed so that it’s hard to accidentally waste your time. Most things you can do results in one or more different kinds of progress, so it’s mostly a matter of optimizing the kinds of progress you want at any given time and avoiding the clearly-telegraphed bad decisions.

    But Skyblock is probably the zen-est of them all.

  17. Chris says:

    Shamus if you really like the cardboard aesthetic check out tearaway. Its on the PS vita and PS3 or 4.

  18. coleusrattus says:

    Flotilla 2 is awesome! I dunno how cool you are with self plugs, but I’ll post a link to me playing it.

    And nope, it needs to be VR. It’s basically playing with space ship toys that come to life.

    Here’s the link: https://youtu.be/gmH2i6QmtRA

  19. TehShrike says:

    Hey, speaking of gaming platforms and being tempted by games on them –

    Discord rolled out their game store. It includes some Discord exclusives, including the indie game Bad North that I’ve been looking forward to for a while: https://discordapp.com/store/skus/488422292137836574/bad-north

    So I bought it through the Discord store! I haven’t played it yet, I’ll play it tonight.

    When I went to the game launcher in Discord, it asked if I wanted to import games from other locations. It imported all my Steam games, but not my GOG or Itch.io games, sadly.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Combined with their Patreon integration, Discord is sounding like a pretty serious Steam contender. How are they doing exclusives? Are they a publisher now too?

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