Diecast #229: The Social Network, Oxygen Not Included, Bad Endings

By Shamus Posted Monday Oct 22, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 66 comments

As always: If you’ve got a question for the show, our email is in the header image. Thanks to everyone who sent in questions this week.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
02:06 The Social Network.

Yes, I’m talking about an 8 year old movie. I’m sure you’ve been waiting all these years to hear my scattershot, non-committal take.

In the show I wondered what the man himself thought of the movie. As it turns out, other people have asked him the same question. Here is Mark Zuckerberg On The Social Network:

Link (YouTube)

11:38 Paul played some Oxygen Not Included.

Link (YouTube)

19:09 Shamus played the new Distance update.

If you’re curious how to get me to reflexively throw money at you, just make something like this:

Link (YouTube)

24:37 Mailbag: Windows 10 S

Hey guys.

I recently discovered the existence of Windows 10 S, which is apparently Microsoft’s response to the success of Chrome OS and Chromebooks. Did you know about this? It’s supposed to be faster, simpler, and more secure than regular Windows 10, but there are a few supposed features that make me think that it just might be Shamus’ nightmare come to life. In order of increasing horribleness, they are:

(1) you can upgrade to Windows 10 proper . . . if you fork over an extra $50,

(2) Microsoft Edge is not only the default browser but the only available browser, because

(3) you can only install software that you bought from the Windows Store.

I don’t think it’ll catch on in a big way, but can you imagine if it did? (And now I’ve scared myself. Great.)



Here is the video I was talking about that compares Denuvo with Microsoft’s UWP.

34:11 Mailbag: Bad Endings

How do you feel about badly-written endings in narrative-heavy games? Do they ruin the entire experience, or are they just one unpleasant hour and the rest of the game is still fine?

I feel like in theory, bad endings don’t have to ruin a game: for instance I think Life is Strange’s ending is really dumb but 60% of it is just slice of life character stuff that stands on its own, so the ending doesn’t cripple the whole game. Usually though, games feel structurally akin to a detective novel: most of the runtime has been building towards the ending in some way and if the conclusion to your locked-room murder mystery is “A wizard did it” then the whole thing was a waste of time.


44:04 Mailbag: Indies


To Shamus.

I noticed (that’s no fault of yours or criticism, just an observation, I want to apologize in advance for any potential misunderstanding), that you mostly write about AAA games. Do you want to try and write about something obscure? Like an AA game (e.g. Pillars of Eternity or Elex), or really niche RPG (from Spiderweb, for example). Just to stretch your muscles, so to speak. And I think that would be very interesting read from you. An outsider perspective of sorts

Best regards, DeadlyDark


From The Archives:

66 thoughts on “Diecast #229: The Social Network, Oxygen Not Included, Bad Endings

  1. Milo Christiansen says:

    After watching that Distance trailer, my first thought was “I need to reinstall Nitronic Rush”. Distance looks like more of the same, but better.

    1. MadTinkerer says:

      It’s by the same people. Nitronic Rush is to Distance as Narbacular Drop is to Portal.

  2. Joe says:

    With KOTOR2, it wasn’t money, it was time. Lucasarts leaned on Obsidian to get the game out earlier than planned, leading to a lot of cut content.

    I keep meaning to go back and play the restored version, but then I remember all the fun I didn’t have being harangued by Kreia. I didn’t like Bao-Dur’s whispery voice either, or the whole planet of Onderon. I suppose I could always watch a LP of the ending, if I cared that much.

    1. Gautsu says:

      I just played through the entire restored cut from the Steam workshop. More content throughout most of the game. It broke the ending for me, lost half of my party permanently on landing on Malachor: the Visas vs. Handmaiden fight never happened after the cutscene, Bao-Dur dispappeared completely, it broke a lot of the ending. As well, Kreia never really seemed to get a coherent reason for anything she did. It did fill in a lot more what happened to Revan stuff though, if you care.

      1. Thomas says:

        Kreia loathes the force and is an extreme objectivist, basically. She’s bitter from her apprenticed turning on her and the Jedi throwing her out for training Revan. She hates the idea that there’s kind of force in people’s lives other than themselves.

        But her arrogance means that she not only thinks she’s right, but that it’s _obvious_ she is right. Her rightness is just the ‘objective’ truth for anyone who looks at the facts. That’s why if you defer to her authority, you lose influence – she wants you to come to her conclusions independently.

        In the Exile she sees both the opportunity to destroy the Force and proof that people don’t need it. The second part comes from her misunderstanding of how the Exile lost their connection to the force.

        The Exile is her final apprentice, the one who will be the proof of her teachings, and in a weird way, she almost falls in love with you.

        She uses you to track down the Jedi masters who threw her out and the apprentices who betrayed her. She doesn’t want them dead, she wants them to admit she was right, that people are weak for relying on the force and others, that the only morality comes from yourself and that the Jedi and Sith codes are wrong.

        The Jedi council don’t see her conclusions in you though.

        Worse than that, The Exile hasn’t come to her conclusions (somewhat depending on your path). She realises she was wrong about how you were disconnected from the Force. You aren’t her perfect Ubermensch, you didn’t willingly disconnect yourself from the force.

        With her enemies dead, but her last apprentice a failure too, like all her other failures, she retreats to where it all began and resumes her Sith mantle (an admittance of defeat as she thought her ideas above Sith and Jedi alike) to confront you one last time.

        With her plan failed all she has left is to try and break you, and if not, force you to kill her, severing your ties with your teacher and making you stand alone, as her philosophy dictates.

        She fights you and dies, still believing she was right. But in the end the Exile follows their own path and her ideas for with her (depending on your head canon).

        1. John says:

          I hate–I hate, hate, hate, hate, hate–the idea that the Force is destroyable. (I’ve heard some people argue that it isn’t, that Kreia is wrong, but the game nevertheless clearly wants the player to take the idea seriously.) There aren’t a lot of details in the movies about what exactly the Force is or how it works, but if “life generates it, sustains it” then I don’t see how you can hope to destroy it without destroying all life. The idea that you can kill the Force by committing the right atrocities in the right spots and then saying the right magic words drives me nuts and seems inherently un-Star Wars to me.

          1. Viktor says:

            I had the impression that Kreia WAS going to kill all life in the galaxy by doing it, and didn’t care as long as she destroyed the Force.

            1. John says:

              The idea that you can kill all life in the universe by committing the right atrocities in the right spots and then saying the right magic words is still awful and just as un-Star Wars-y.

              1. Thomas says:

                I never got the impression that it was going to be “a few magic words” – or even on the scale of her lifetime, otherwise she would have done it – when you fight her you are not fighting a ticking clock or trying to stop her from doing something. But the Exile and Malachor V were an open wound in the Force that would have grown with time, if the Exile hadn’t closed it.

                “I felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. I fear something terrible has happened.”

                To me it fits as an extension of all the tombs and darkside cave that corrupt everything around them. The idea that an atrocity on a mass scale can deaden the force in an area.

                Although a glance at Wookiepedia suggests the EU never really used the idea again, so I guess you’re right

            2. Ninety-Three says:

              My impression was that Kreia was going to kill the Force, which, as a side effect would kill everything touched by the force (ambiguous between every Force-sensitive and literally all life). I think it’s a bit of authorial sleight of hand that there never was a plan for how she might accomplish this.

            3. I don’t think she wanted to destroy the Force, she simply wanted to *disconnect* everyone from it, whether they wanted to or not. She viewed the Exile as a failure because she THOUGHT the Exile disconnected voluntarily, meaning that it might, in theory, be possible to convince people to disconnect from the Force, because once they were disconnected they wouldn’t be pushed hither and yon by the surging tides of the Dark side/Light side aspects of the force. They’d be in control of themselves.

              Dart Nihilus was disconnected and it turned him into a force-consuming black hole, because he didn’t WANT to be disconnected. So he went around consuming force wherever it could be found to fuel his crazy use of power.

              The Exile could have ended up that way–the reason why The Exile could still use Force abilities was that The Exile was basically sucking Force from your party members, all of whom (aside from the droids) were potential Jedi.

              So, disconnecting someone from the Force doesn’t *kill* them, it turns them into a Force-vacuum that slurps up Force from their *surroundings*, without apparent HARM to their surroundings unless they just go absolutely insane with power the way Darth Nihilus did and use massive amounts of power to, say, hold together a destroyed ship and travel the galaxy.

              So, at least in theory Kreia was right that people could be disconnected from the Force without harming them, and it did seem to free them from the mental and emotional surges that the Force generates in ordinary Force Adepts. The thing she was wrong about was that there was some way to get people to do this VOLUNTARILY. That wasn’t going to happen. So, she reverted to the use of force, and you fight her to stop her from mass-disconnecting people from the force, thereby turning EVERYONE into a POTENTIAL Darth Nihilus, depending on how much self-control they have and how much they decide to abuse their power.

              So, yes, her scheme actually does make sense and actually is pretty horrible in that she’s planning on jamming a pretty terrible “freedom” down everyone’s throats whether they like it or not. Yes, the Force won’t be messing with their emotional states and decisions any more, but on the other side of it they become a sort of Force Parasite that can destroy without limit, devouring everything in reach and then dying themselves when they run out of stuff to feed on, all depending on how well they can control themselves. Some “freedom”.

              It does mirror what at least some philosophers have said about “radical freedom”. In some perspectives the ONLY real freedom you have is to kill yourself, because choosing anything other than total self-annihilation makes you a “slave” of reality, because reality has rules that you can’t circumvent. Like, you HAVE to eat and drink and breathe and observe the law of gravity and this “violates” your “radical freedom” to do what you want when you want and how you want.

              This is a *rejection* of philosophical objectivism (small-o) which consists of voluntarily conforming to reality in order to achieve success in reality. It’s also not subjectivism, which philosophically puts forth that reality DOES conform to your desires. Somehow. All evidence to the contrary aside–in philosophical subjectivism, if you didn’t get what you wanted that means you secretly want what you actually got instead. (There are also social versions, in which one person’s desires aren’t enough to change reality, but LOTS of people can create their own reality.) In the “radical freedom” perspective, the person does recognize that an independent (objective) reality exists, they just reject it FOR EXISTING, because it “interferes” with their nonexistent “ability” to enact their desires just by desiring them.

              And if all of this sounds incoherent in the extreme, well, now you know why most people think philosophy is an irrelevant pile of B.S.–because absolutely immense swaths of it ARE.

              1. John says:

                Force-slurping psychic vampires also drive me nuts and strike me as un-Star Wars-y.

                Honestly, the game’s plot wouldn’t bother me nearly as much if it were set in an original fantasy universe rather than Star Wars. In fact, I might even like it. It is, as you suggest, full of heady stuff.

                1. Gethsemani says:

                  Do you feel the same way about force nullifying pets that projects a dead zone where the force can’t exist? Or parasites that feed on force users, while simultaneously amplifying their ability to draw on the force (AND giving the person they feed on an impenetrable armor)? Those are just two examples from well received Expanded Universe novels (Thrawn trilogy and Bane trilogy respectively).

                  I am not saying you are wrong or that it shouldn’t bother you, but considering all the weird stuff that is in the expanded universe, Darth Nihilus doesn’t feel terribly out of place. Just like Thrawn’s force nullifying pet or the Orbalisks that are stuck to Bane for most of a book, he’s a way for the author to play with what the force is and what it means. The difference, to me, is that Nihilus is written as a statement about the force and is sort of thematically appropriate in a work that’s about what happens when you get cut off from the force. He’s the counterpart to the Exile and shows what the Exile could become if they are not careful, while also showing the player how important a connection to the force is, particularly for a force user. In comparison, both Thrawn’s pet and Bane’s Orbalisks are plot conveniences to let the protagonist overcome a serious flaw, which to me makes them worse than Nihilus or the Exile.

                  1. John says:

                    I have, as a general rule, deliberately avoided the EU. Licensed tie-in novels, be they Star Wars or whatever, are seldom very good. I’d rather read something original. It may not be very good either, but at least it can’t fail to be true to its source material. At the insistence of a friend, I did read the Thrawn trilogy once upon a time. (It wasn’t awful, but I’m not crazy about it.) The ysalimiri–I think that’s what they were called, anyway–aren’t too egregious. At least they do just one simple, straightforward thing, i.e., be a localized Jedi countermeasure. They’re a minor plot device rather than the crux of the story. The other thing, the Orbalisks, does sound awful, however.

                    I’m not sure exactly how much the EU influenced KoTOR 2. There’s an interview out there somewhere in which Chris Avellone claimed to have read all or at least a large number of the EU novels in preparation for writing the game. I can easily believe it. For what it’s worth, I agree with you that in the context of the EU the plot of KoTOR is–how to out this?–normal or at least not out of place. I just don’t see that as a good thing.

                    1. Gethsemani says:

                      And to your last two sentences, I think we can both agree. I’ve read my fair share of Expanded Universe material and share your sentiment that they are seldom very good. If you’ve intentionally steered clear of the EU I can absolutely see why you think KoTOR2 is egregious. For me, who did some EU reading, KoTOR2 feels more cathartic, in that it deals with some of the bullshit that the EU liked to throw around way too often.

              2. Thomas says:

                This is great – I bow to your knowledge of the area, it was great to read.

        2. The Rocketeer says:

          So if Kreia wants to destroy the Force, which seems to be some fundamental aspect of the galaxy itself, because it… affects people’s decisions… then when she’s done with that, is she going to destroy… entropy? Individuality? Disparity? Time? It’s like saying she wants to destroy economics.

          So Kreia was a violent nutbar who harbored a delusional plot to betray everyone she ever met, a plot that would never actually work and made no sense even if she got her way exactly, and would inevitably cause anyone around her to turn on her instead, until she finally pitches an arrogant self-defeating fit and gets herself killed in a power struggle with the people closest to her. So Kreia is just a bog-standard Sith indistinguishable from every other Sith. K.

          1. Gautsu says:

            This. Up above I should have clarified. It is easy to understand WHAT Kreia wants. How she expects to get there is unclear and not made any clearer in the restored cut. Malachor V in the restored cut is no clearer on that point and actually broke parts of the game for me that hadn’t been broken on previous unrestored play throughs.

            1. Thomas says:

              Oh, I’m with Rocketeer. Kreia is just wrong and can’t see her own stupid and hypocrisy. I could legitimately believe she just hoped everyone would disconnect themselves from the force voluntarily. (Because of course everyone would fall over themselves to agree with her).

              Its important to my view of Star Wars that Kreia is a straight Sith who just _thinks_ she isn’t. I hate when people use her as an example of a grey Jedi.

              As I said, I’m pretty sure she’s not doing anything on Malachor V. She’s lost and it’s a suitable place to confront the Exile. Seperately to Kreia, the Exile needs to destroy Malachor to close the wound it creates (or use it, if darkside)

              1. Sleeping Dragon says:

                I still have an extremely soft spot for Kreia and KOTOR 2 in general because it came into my life at just the right time. I was a rampant Star Wars fanboy for a good long while but the time I happened to play the game was exactly at the point I was sort of growing out of “black and white” stories, so the fact that I got a 1) Star Wars 2) video game 3) where someone wasn’t just darkside or lightside* but was against the force itself really resonated with me.

                *I hear and recognize that Kreia is more Sith than she is Jedi, she definitely has no qualms about going all darkside but her goals do not align with either extreme of the force user spectrum.

    2. John says:

      If you liked KoTOR 2, you will like the Restored Content mod because it’s slightly more KoTOR 2. If you didn’t like KoTOR 2, you will not like the Restored Content mod because it’s slightly more KoTOR 2. In general, the mod adds a few conversations here and there and makes the ending less abrupt but it doesn’t really solve any of the game’s fundamental problems.

  3. Chris says:

    Shamus if you want a zen game with music you should look into 140. Its a short 2d platformer where the obstacles move based on the beat. Each section has its own beat and sometimes it starts adding more instruments as you get further.

  4. Ninety-Three says:

    Shamus, your guessing skills are eerie, I was indeed inspired to ask the question after a discussion about an Obsidian Software game, and it’s one you haven’t even played (Tyranny).

    My experience with Tyranny was weird: looking back on it today all I remember was the stupid rushed railroady ending and all the interesting setting stuff that was dropped to get there, but going back to my posts around the time I was playing it I see myself saying “Man the ending was stupid, railroady and didn’t answer any of the questions I was into, but I guess I enjoyed the game overall”. In 2018 the satisfaction I got from the game has evaporated and all that’s left is the frustratingly bad stuff.

    1. Redrock says:

      Tyranny really seemed like a situation similar to KOTOR 2, like they were making a much larger game and then just had to cut it down drastically. Or, perhaps, they were just counting on making a sequel, which seems unlikely at this point. The fact that Pillars of Eternity got a sequel it absolutely didn’t need while Tyranny will likley remain without one is baffling to me.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        The artbook they released shows that they were planning five acts, the game was released with three. The ending felt as rushed as that implies.

        As for why PoE got a sequel and Tyranny probably won’t: PoE sold very well, Tyranny… did not. Everything follows from that.

        1. Redrock says:

          Yeah, I get that. But I still think PoE didn’t need a sequel. It’s perfectly alright, but feels unnecessary. Also, Tyranny’s relationship system is so much better, I’m amazed they didn’t use it in PoE 2.

          1. ElementalAlchemist says:

            PoE got a sequel because they needed another project to stay afloat, and it allowed them the chance to double dip on the crowd funding, this time on a platform they were part owners of (i.e. Fig). Tyranny was meant to be one of Feargus’ “slam dunks”, a relatively cheap iteration on an existing set of game/engine assets (like Icewind Dale back in the Black Isle days). I think it failed on two fronts, it went over time and budget, and was a financial flop.

  5. Joshua Dolman says:

    I kind of take a little (as in, very small) issue with that Denuvo vs UWP video, mainly in the fact that from what I can tell, the number of people attempting to crack a piece of DRM plus the number of games released with that DRM are huge factors in determining how quickly a crack can be found. Maybe the fact that UWP is not a popular form of DRM and that it’s not having many crackers going go after it is part of why it is so strong and therefore a point in favour of it, but all of this stuff is important to examine, especially when looking at “Days spent before a crack is found”. At least a mention would be nice. Still, I’m curious to check out his other DRM videos.

  6. Steve C says:

    I wish that video on UWP was an analysis as it claims to be. It is just a comparison. No analysis.

  7. DeadlyDark says:

    Thank you Shamus!

    Spiderweb is three people, if I’m not mistaken. I listened to GDC talk from the main guy there, he said it was three people. Actually, this talk inspired me to ask this question in the first place, if I’m being completely honest.

    Sometimes, when I play some games or hear about them, I’m semi-curious to read about them from you, like “What Shamus will see here, what I see as well, and what I don’t”. Guess, that speaks highly of your ability to write

    1. Nick-B says:

      Actually, it was your question asking Shamus about Spiderweb Software games that made me listen to this podcast to see shamus’ response. I’m fairly disappointed that he basically said he only reviews big games because they are gossip-worthy.
      I actually want him to look at the mechanics of various games and determine what was done “right” and what wasn’t. In regards to spiderweb, I’d be curious to see whether the games graphics detract at all from the massive world building done.

      But no. We get to hear about the drama big corporations do to screw over their employees. yay?

      1. Shamus says:

        Two corrections:

        1) I do play indie games. Like I said on the show, I’m playing one right now.
        2) I cover what people want to read. It really sucks writing 5,000 words on something and getting no response.

        If people were clamoring to hear about Spiderweb software games, then I could make a living covering them.

        1. Nick-B says:

          I never said you don’t play indies, just that you only “review” big games.

          Aw well, I suppose this may be the only way I ever hear the plot of some of the big games. I’m interested in game stories, but not so much playing the big AAA games themselves. It’s not that my comp can’t handle it, or that I’m an indie slob. Just something about big company games doesn’t interest me lately. (price?)

          Consider doing small puff pieces with the occasional indie then. Shouldn’t be too hard (I assume? You know what happens when you assume, don’t you?), and might be good site filler.

          Edit: Oh, and please don’t take my comments here negatively. Your site updating is one of the big highlights of my day and I love all your series. Just want to maybe nudge you towards an occasional indie or two.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          What about spending less time / effort on smaller games? For example, one article could briefly discuss and contrast Oxygen Not Included, Rimworld, Parkasaurus, and They Are Billions (all indie(-ish) games that feature base- or colony-building to some degree).

          1. Liessa says:

            I wouldn’t mind seeing an occasional ‘indie round-up’ where Shamus briefly discusses the games he’s played recently (especially since I play a lot more indies than AAA games these days, so there’s a chance I’ll actually have experienced some of them).

        3. Moridin says:

          I, too, think it would be nice to see you talk more about indie games, even if it’s only the occasional post that covers multiple games(or just shorter than your usual posts talking about a single game).

        4. Galad says:

          I think a lot of people would read whatever you write about something as dull as painting a wall. :)

  8. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    *I try not to be specific but still, Life Is Strange spoilers*
    About Life is Strange, the shitty ending DID ruin my experience. The problem wasn’t that it was stupid or sad (though it was), it’s that after 4 episodes clearly pushing the theme that you can’t save everyone but you still should try, the ending reveals that every efforts you made just made everything worse, and the world would have been much better off if you had done nothing at all! Hence the two possible endings are : 1) We cancel everything you did. All your detective work, your helping people by learning about them and talking to them, everything would have actually worked out much better just by itself or 2) you let so much devastation happen that any good you did is drowned in the misery you provoked. Congrats on being a sociopath.
    Of course Life is Strange ending was going to be tragic and a terrible price would have to be paid, but it didn’t have to make the 4 previous episodes a giant waste of time!

    I went on the subreddit to talk about that, but I got mobbed by the same gaggle of idiots who came out during the Mass Effect 3 ending, who ignore everything you write and just explain to you smugly that the ending couldn’t be all rainbows and flowers…

    1. Redrock says:

      you let so much devastation happen that any good you did is drowned in the misery you provoked. Congrats on being a sociopath.

      But… But… questionably canon queer love…

    2. Ninety-Three says:

      you let so much devastation happen that any good you did is drowned in the misery you provoked. Congrats on being a sociopath.

      The weirdest part is the way she just lets it happen. She starts by arguing against it, then as soon as the player makes the “No but let’s do it though” choice she just puts on her NPC hat and wordlessly goes along with it.

      Given how late that final episode was, and how much shorter that ending was than the other one, I suspect the whole thing was a bit rushed.

      I hated the plot holes more than the thematic problems though, like how Max sees the storm before saving Chloe, or how the characters conclude based on nothing that saving Chloe caused the storm. And why in god’s name would Max choose to save Chloe again? Nevermind that she’s sacrificing the whole town, this won’t stop! The characters act like it’s over now, but everything they read from the script about destiny and nature and so on implies that Chloe is going to get hit by a bus within the week, and if Max keeps on saving her she should keep being followed by town-destroying storms.

    3. Joshua says:

      To me, you have to do a VERY good job telling the story to get away with these kinds of downer endings. It just seems like it’s a go-to for writers having trouble trying to come up with a well-done good ending, so they try to “subvert” things and go with a bad ending. To me, it’s just a matter of choosing to use Diabolus Ex Machina to give a bad ending instead of a Deus Ex to give a good one.

      My $.02, anyway.

      As far as a downer ending where the final ending didn’t impact my enjoyment of the media before it, I’d go with the movie Fallen, where I can simply pretend that the last 30 seconds or so “twist ending” didn’t happen. The movie is still a downer, but at least it matches up thematically instead of just a “Ha, gotcha!”.

      1. Thomas says:

        That’s one of the lessons I’ve taken from endings scandals. I think people are much much more likely to let a badly written ending slide if you’re not trying to make them feel bad too. When I think of widely derided endings, I can think of a lot more downer endings than happy ones.

        This is true for smaller events too. People can find a lot more logical flaws, “that wouldn’t happen”s and “they wouldn’t do that”s for actions leading to outcomes they dislike than for outcomes they like.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        It just seems like it’s a go-to for writers having trouble trying to come up with a well-done good ending, so they try to “subvert” things and go with a bad ending. To me, it’s just a matter of choosing to use Diabolus Ex Machina to give a bad ending instead of a Deus Ex to give a good one.

        Nah, you just don’t get the satire.
        That, or you can’t see how deep and meaningful it is because you’re butthurt over wanting a happy ending like some kind of simplistic loser.


        But seriously I agree – if you’re going to do a ‘dark’ ending, you’d better make sure it’s well done, because as Thomas said it’s going to get a lot more thought than the happy one.

      3. Syal says:

        I’d say, if you’re going to make a bad ending without an alternative good ending, the player character needs to be at least a partial villain, making morally questionable decisions throughout.

        Videogames are more immersive than movies; the ending is going to reflect on the audience in a way that doesn’t happen for movies or books. If the main character isn’t specifically doing things that make the player uncomfortable, they’ll become a player avatar. A downer ending for a player avatar is telling the player they’re a failure. It’s an insult, that the player paid money for.

        1. Liessa says:

          Another problem is that most games require a much higher investment of time and effort than movies. With a movie you can just sit back and relax for a couple of hours while the protagonists screw their lives up, but I do not want to spend 30+ hours killing monsters or whatever, only to find that the gameworld would have been better off if I’d never done it (and I’ve been known to stop playing altogether if I realise that’s going to happen).

  9. Steve C says:

    Oxygen Not Included– New resources are added from nowhere via geysers/volcanoes. These were found just by exploring. Typically they were found by noticing strange heat sources, indestructible tiles or other weirdness. Presto! Instant source of infinite water or molten gold or something. (At the cost of having the waste heat to deal with.) Plus there’s all the critters that could do impossible things with their alien biology. Playthroughs were never inevitable failure states unless a series of bad decisions were made though.

    Also note that which resources a particular ONI game was short on largely depended on player choice. For example Shamus, if you were short on Sand and Water, then probably that is because you were scrubbing the Carbon Dioxide from the air. Which is a choice, but isn’t necessary. CO2 can be pumped into a pressurized room (aka a tank) and forgotten about. Plus it provides a convenient source of CO2 later for other things like plastics. ONI has a lot of that– You can do one thing that is more complex yet intuitive. Or you can do another that is so dead simple that it is not obvious.

    That was my big complaint about ONI actually. It was too often that the simpler solution was less trouble. Which resulted no real benefit or push to go up the upgrade tree or use them once researched. Like I always used Outhouses instead of Lavatories since it was about the same yet easier since I didn’t have to worry about proper plumbing. What ultimately killed my interest in the game was that I built this entire system with coal generator to provide power. Then I realized I was far better off just getting an extra guy to permanently run in a hamster wheel. They both produced CO2.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      You’re right. I had inexplicably forgotten about geysers.

      On the other hand, there are a lot of new incentives to progress up the tree. The main one being that a lot of the higher end materials and resources (like geysers) now can only be accessed by experts, and experts need luxuries… like plumbed bathrooms. Also there are now pressure limits on all gas outlets, so you can’t just infinitely pressurize a waste tank anymore. Double also, materials have hardness ratings, which will cause high pressure tanks to burst if you use, well, you probably used sandstone didn’t you?

      1. Steve C says:

        There were pressure limits on gas outlets when I played too. There were ways around it. For example by using small amounts of water lowers the pressure at the vent. Another option is polluted dirt/water which creates low pressure pockets of polluted oxygen allowing more waste gas to be pumped in. The hardness of walls didn’t matter as of 3months ago for gas, only liquid unless something changed. Not that it would matter if it did. You’d just build the walls out of something stronger to account for it.

        Mainly though, it was easy to make a new tank (IE a closed room) once the old one was filled with waste gas. Any open space to the bottom naturally fills with CO2. It was trivially easy to wall spaces like those off while leaving a pipe and vent to dump CO2 into them. (And later Slicksters to convert it into crude oil.) Plus all that gas acted as thermal mass for various means to control temperature.

        I found this last method very natural. Expanding the base down would encounter pockets of gas you didn’t want mixing in with the rest of the base. So an airlock would be formed, and a gas pump placed adjacent to the gas that needed to be moved. The wall would be broken and the gas (say chlorine) would be pumped to where I wanted. Once that gas was gone I would be left with an empty low pressure zone. I’d reseal the wall I’d opened, separating it from the pump. Then it was just a case of opening the airlock. CO2 would naturally collect at the pump and be pumped back into the space that previously held chlorine. Easy sequestered CO2.

      2. Steve C says:

        Oh BTW Paul you mentioned running out of Sand. There is infinite sand. You can crush up any rock or metal (@50%) into Sand by using the Rock Granulator. Water isn’t infinite. (Well it is even without a geyser, but only technically.)

    2. default_ex says:

      Not so sure about the whole bad/good choices in ONI. At first I thought the reason why none of my colonies made it past 300ish cycles was bad choices. Started to get a lot more careful about resource usage. Started to use things like the order that gasses and liquids would settle in instead of filters to separate gasses and liquids. I stopped trying to insulate power systems and instead placed them appropriately to utilize the heat output for things like purifying water. Everything began to take on multiple purposes to avoid wasting resources where I didn’t have to.

      The game is most definitely fatalistic by design. Took playing a lot to realize the goal really isn’t to create a self sustaining colony but rather to see just how long you can keep going with the challenges provided. As you pointed out however, it has some serious balance issues like the coal generator vs dupe on a wheel. It’s getting there with solving the balance but very slowly.

      1. Steve C says:

        Yeah the multiple purposes thing was key in ONI. Like you *can* filter polluted water using sand. Except you need polluted water for certain things. So there’s no real reason to filter it. Especially since it uses up sand and creates waste heat. You’re better off storing polluted water until it is needed for something else. (Irrigation, or boiling it for water+dirt.)

        As for filtering gases, I did the same thing by using stratification. That’s why the CO2 was so easy. (Literally the easiest gas to deal with in that game.) However filtering with pumps is just as easy as you build your own mechanical filters. Which is what I’d do when sequestering gases/liquids since mechanical filters are free. Other than that, I’d simply let the hydrogen naturally settle at the top of the base, and the CO2 at the bottom. It’s possible to use a single gas pump and a single liquid pump (no other power sources) to automatically sort everything in the game.

        The problem I was running into was that my base was stable very quickly. There was nothing I felt necessary to do and my dupes would become idle. Or rather the things I could think of to do would cause more problems than they solved so why bother? (Do I really need to expand if I already have empty space in half my base? Do I need more dupes if the ones I have are idle? etc) Really killed my desire to play the game when there is no goal to work towards.

  10. Olivier FAURE says:

    Re: Obscure games and reader interest, do you think you could try covering something like Tyranny if you had enough mainstream material ready?

    You’re already publishing two retrospectives at once because you have a huge buffer of articles ready, you could have one of the retrospectives be a lesser-known game that most people wouldn’t have heard about. Some people want a narrative about companies they know, but I think there’s also an audience for analyses about obscure games with non-standard design (eg: Ross’s Game Dungeon).

  11. Michael Parmenter says:

    Does anyone have any more info or a correct RSS Feed? i’m about 4 behind the podcast now as i’m unable to watch it unless in on the road while i’m away and RSS feed is the best possible way!
    I’ve tried about 3 different ones in my podcatcher.

  12. Grimwear says:

    In regards to Oxygen Not Included I felt the same as Shamus when I started playing They are Billions. It gets annoying playing for an hour or two on the later maps and just realizing your playthrough is doomed and it caused me to stop playing. I may go back when they finish the actual campaign though to see how it is.

    Also I’m interested to read about the newest Tomb Raider even if I’ve only ever played the first reboot. I have the second on my wishlist but the price hasn’t gone down enough to validate a purchase from me. I really liked the story (as in the parts involving the resurrection of Himiko and not the characters themselves) and the lore rather than the gameplay. I liked the tombs, but I especially enjoyed finding all the artifacts and examining them with Lara giving a critique on them in the background. I still remember the story of the Nazis being on the island and disappearing even if I can’t recall how that story was told to the player. Unfortunately that was a minor part of the game and I’m worried the sequels focus more on shooting dudes with bows.

    1. Dreadjaws says:

      I got it for $12 in the Humble Monthly bundle. That deal was done at least twice and each time I saw it reported in all major gaming websites. Is that really not low enough for you or did you just miss it? Twice? That’s just bad luck if that’s the case.

      1. Grimwear says:

        Unfortunately I stopped following stores like humblebundle and greenmangaming because I got tired of them not offering prices in CAD. This did get me to check steam though and it’s currently on sale for 17.50$ The problem I’m now faced with is should I buy it now when I don’t have much inkling to play it just because it’s now at an acceptable price knowing it will sit in my library for God knows how long? Or should I instead spend that money on something like Return of the Obra Dinn which I know I’d play now. The problem is just like Shamus has said many times with publishers not using tiered pricing. Tomb Raider is worth that 17.50$ to me but because they only offer that price during sales rather than permanently it becomes an issue of them having a sale at the same time as I want to play it. And so far it’s never happened.

    2. Geebs says:

      The story in the second one (Rise of the tomb raider) was a bit of a mess – they went all in on having you hang around hubs doing side missions that tend to kill a lot of the forward momentum of the plot. Also the acting and dialogue are awful, there’s even more nasty bits involving ice axes and mooks than in the first one, and Lara somehow manages to destroy every structure she encounters within approximately 5 seconds of walking in the front door in a way which actually starts to feel really weird.

      On the other hand the platforming is genuinely brilliant, barring the occasional floaty jump, and the conbat is less shoehorned in than in the first reboot. Plus it’s very good-looking indeed on a reasonably decent PC. Worth picking up in a sale, I reckon.

  13. Joshua says:

    Re: Dresden Files. It’s a lot like the television show Angel, if the main character was a Wizard Detective investigating the paranormal instead of a Vampire Detective doing the same. Just like that show, interestingly, it starts off very episodic and slowly building a myth arc but later heavily gets into a Continuity Lock-out where a new reader would be helplessly lost trying to figure out what the heck is going on just by picking up a random book in the series.

    1. John says:

      The Dresden books shifted gradually from Wizard, PI to The Adventures of Superwizard over the course of, oh, the first four or five books. (And from what I’ve heard, it’s only gotten worse since.) I know a lot of people like the badass-ness of Superwizard Dresden, but I think that Wizard, PI is more interesting and would make for a better video game.

      1. Nick-B says:

        To be fair, there are only so many times you can have such world-shattering magical events be foiled by a wizard with a basic light-fire spell before it turns implausible. Gotta ramp up his abilities too.

        I did like the steam-punk-like series that he is making now – The Cinder Spires – even if it delves a bit too deeply into nautical combat porn.

      2. Retsam says:

        While Dresden gets a lot stronger, I don’t really think I’d characterize the latter books as The Adventures of Superwizard or even call Dresden “a badass”, because the problems he’s dealing with grow as fast as (or faster than) his abilities. So he’s consistently outmatched and dealing with stuff that’s way outside his pay grade, even as he gets stronger.

        1. John says:

          When I call Dresden a superwizard, I don’t mean to suggest that he’s the magical equivalent of Superman. Butcher likes beating up Dresden far too much for that to be true. What I mean is that Dresden’s adventures–and the fact that they can reasonably be characterized as adventures is itself telling–get to the point where it seems to me that they have more superhero tropes than PI tropes. Dresden’s strength isn’t really the issue. Not all superheroes are stronger than the villains they fight. I recognize that this is all subjective, a matter of taste, etc. If you don’t think that superhero is an accurate descriptor then I won’t argue with you, but I hope we can agree that the series changed over time.

      3. Joshua says:

        I really like the intricate plotting of the detective stories, because Butcher is really, really good at interweaving a bunch of disparate and creative plots together in a pretty coherent fashion.

        However, I must say I didn’t like the character as much in the first few books. His personality is a little annoying, and he has a tendency to piss off both friends and enemies and his reluctance to share information aggravates his allies and even gets one of them killed. He does grow out of that latter tendency, though. Plus, his constantly getting the snot kicked out of him both physically and emotionally, while true to noir fiction makes it a pretty miserable experience to be reading about him for the first few books. The later books mostly tone it down to about 75% misery instead of 95%, Changes and Ghost Story notwithstanding. :)

  14. camycamera says:

    A lot of Obsidian’s games might have bad endings in general, but I think Fallout New Vegas is the exception to that rule. It ties up everything in the end with loads of different loading slides for all of the companions and certain quests, and the world state and stuff. But even before that going the Yes Man route (which is the only one I’ve done really) is oh so satisfying and you have some little decisions that make you feel like an asshole bastard or an awesome badass. I mean you can do this (spoilers obviously). Tell me another game where you can do something similar, like Christ that is amazing. I never did that because I’m a nice guy, but the fact that you can is amazingly satisfying. FNV has the best endings out of all of the Fallout games, IMO, because of the sheer amount of detail to it. Although Fallout 1’s is pretty awesome too, but it doesn’t have anywhere near the same amount of details and ending slides.

    And speaking of bad endings too… I mean we don’t need to mention Fallout 3’s “it’s ur destiny to kill urself because ur dad did” crap. I would rank that amoung ME3’s ending for being the worst. The writer KNEW what the player was thinking, by allowing them to ask Fawkes, too! Even with broken steel, the lame, general ending slides still try and make you out to be an asshole for doing the rational thing and not killing yourself like a fucking idiot.

  15. Sannom says:

    I don’t thing the infamous “Rocks fall, everyone die” ending to Neverwinter Nights 2 was due to a lack of resources or time, since it all happened in an ending slide. Rather, it seems to have been an (inexplicable) artistic choice.

    The first expansion did reveal that some of the companions made it out though. I think Grobnar (crushed by a boulder as he tried to shield the Construct… you can say that character was the Scrappy for a lot of people), Casavir (back broken as he held up part of the ceiling to help everyone else escape), Qara (crushed by some rocks because she was an idiot who never bothered to learn to do anything beside break stuff with her magic) and Bishop are the only ones who can die (obviously Sand is already dead if Qara managed to make it to the collapsing ceiling).

  16. I had the same issue with the Distance controls remembering old keybindings, except for me it was the “Grip,” button that didn’t work.

    The main campaign was super easy, but did you play the “Lost Echos,” campaign? That was all challenge and it was fantastic. It’s everything I wanted from the main campaign!

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