Diecast #235: Black Mesa, The Outer Worlds

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 10, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 68 comments

For whatever reason, my audio is blown out in this episode. I have no idea why. I checked it on my end before we started recording and the levels looked good. This happened a couple of weeks ago and I’m not sure where this is going wrong. It’s amazing that I’ve made 235 of these silly things and I’m still running into new ways that things can fall apart.

I should add that I have my audio going into my headphones and it sounds just fine. The levels coming from the microphone looked reasonable. But somewhere between the microphone and the final recording is a bit of software that’s decided to “help” me a little too much. I was forcibly updated to a new version of Windows a couple of weeks ago. That update is my first suspect, if only because that’s the only thing to have changed recently. I did find a volume slider set to 100%I seem to recall that the slider in Windows audio settings use the convention that 50% is full volume and everything above that is software boosting. I can’t find any confirmation of this., but that doesn’t explain why the levels were fine last week.

I don’t know how people produce regular video content without losing their minds. I feel like every year adds a few more layers of abstraction between me and the hardware.

My voice really is terrible in this one. Sorry. I’d scrap the whole thing, but this episode is a chat with SoldierHawke and we don’t get those very often.

To compensate for this bad sound, I suggest listening to the show in a noisy old car with blown out speakers while driving very fast on a busy highway with the windows down while a truck shadows your blind spot. That should fully mask the audio problems by hiding it under many other audio problems. Also, the constant danger will probably make the show more exciting. Good luck!

Hosts: SoldierHawke, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 Black Mesa

Like I said in the show, I’m very curious what other Half-Life 2 fans thought of this game.

16:54 Borderlands 3 No-Show

The longer we go without any sort of announcement, the more I’m afraid this project has gotten away from them and turned into a bloated unfocused mess. Issac (the editor on this show) is a huge Borderlands 2 fan and every week for the last year we’ve had the “Any Borderlands 3 news yet?” conversation.

24:23 The Outer Worlds

Link (YouTube)

I’m really sorry I dumped on the looks of this game during this segment. To be clear, those comments were based on this game informer preview and not the trailer. Also, that footage is still pre-release.

Overall, the game is really attractive. Sure, the lip sync is occasionally janky and the faces occupy that weird spot alongside Mass Effect Andromeda where you can’t always tell if it’s supposed to be stylized or not. But this shouldn’t be a problem. Facial animation is not as important as good writing, detailed worldbuilding, solid pacing, consistent characterization, engaging dialog, coherent direction and clear presentation. Going by the trailer, this game has it where it counts.

But for whatever reason, the gaming press is always really hard on Obsidian about their visuals. Bethesda puts out a game with stiff, potato-faced mannequins and shit writing and the world drowns them in awards. Then Obsidian comes in and uses the exact same engine and art assets to make a game that’s ten times smarter and everyone sneers at them for the crappy visuals.

Which is to say: I’m not really faulting the visuals in this game, I’m just worrying that the visuals will harm the game in terms of critical reception.

38:08 Mailbag: What got you into gaming?

Dear diecast,

I had a question for the upcoming diecast. What is the genre that got soldierhawk into gaming. I was pretty surprised when I clicked around on the blog and found that Shamus was an FPS fan first, he seemed to me more like a cRPG guy.

with kind regards

Brace yourself. In this segment I reveal that I started out as a dirty pirate.

46:34 Mailbag: Favorite Achievement?

Dear diecast!

Fun silly question for you all. You favorite in-game achievement, that you got?

E.g., my personal favorite that I got is the “Child of the Elder God” in Alan Wake for not taking damage during metal song scene. It named cool, it has cool icon, and I got it accidentally.

Best regards, DeadlyDark

55:07 Soldier Hawk’s Deus Ex: Hunan Ravioli Playthrough

As always, you can find SoldierHawke’s content on her YouTube channel.



[1] I seem to recall that the slider in Windows audio settings use the convention that 50% is full volume and everything above that is software boosting. I can’t find any confirmation of this.

From The Archives:

68 thoughts on “Diecast #235: Black Mesa, The Outer Worlds

  1. Redrock says:

    Eh, I used to pirate a lot back when I was younger, but then, Russia has a special relationship with piracy, mostly because actual licensed software took years to come to Russia and then it took several years more for distibutors to adjust their prices to something remotely bearable for the average consumer. Before that we had what was called commercial piracy, where you bought pirated copies from pirates on a pirate market. Rows and rows of guys selling hundreds of games and whatever other software in cheap jewel CD cases. I don’t feel to bad about buying those, especially since no one really cared about Russian consumers back then. But there was a brief period when torrents appeared and still wasn’t making any money when I torrented quite a few games. And that, yeah, I think is wrong. I think since then I’ve bought most of the games I’ve ever pirated, some of them I bought several times, so I think that me and the industry are square on that account. Still, I have a pretty relaxed opinion on piracy. From personal experience, a pirated copy is certainly not a lost sale. Most people I know stopped pirating once they could afford to purchase stuff legally. Best way to fight piracy seems to be with convenient services and fair prices. But that’s just a dirty ex-pirates opinion, of course.

    1. Gordon says:

      I’m kinda the same, any inclination toward piracy ended with the combination of disposable income and steam / spotify / netflix. Laziness won out over anything related to money or morals.

    2. Steve C says:

      Actually it is because the Soviet Union didn’t have copyright as a concept. It is a western law with a western legal tradition. It is the same for China. Copyright is a literal foreign concept that was exported to the rest of the world from Europe via trade and trade agreements.

      It’s a bit like expecting jaywalking to be illegal everywhere. Then calling any country that does not make jaywalking illegal, full of ‘illegal jays’ or something.

      1. Redrock says:

        That too, but lack of official distributors was a major factor. Software was the kind of foreign stuff that you couldn’t buy, but instead got from a guy you knew who could make you a copy. Even now most people in Russia think than Windows and Office software isn’t bought but rather comes from sysadmins, who grow it like mold, I guess. Copyright as a concept isn’t that hard to grasp. The fact that there wasn’t adequately priced supply is what led to a certain amount of nihilism in that regard.

        1. Steve C says:

          I agree as a concept it isn’t that hard to grasp. Just like paying to use a coin operated toilet or a drink refill or paying for a glass of water isn’t that hard of a concept to understand. Those are still foreign concepts depending on the country and culture. For some people those things can be straight up offensive. There’s a difference between understanding a concept and accepting that concept into their own culture. Russia and China have both had copyright as a legal concept imposed on them by outside forces. It is understandable there wouldn’t be a lot of buy-in to such an idea.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        According to wikipedia, Russia has been a member of modern copyright agreements since at least the 1970s, and has had copyright law earlier than that in history. Do you have some sources to back up this claim? Copyright might not have been enforced on foreign materials, as Redrock’s example[1] shows but that’s a different matter.

        [1] When I went to Ukraine in high-school, I experienced a very similar thing. One day we went to a sort of giant flea-market type thing, where a large row was dedicated to different vendors selling bootlegged music, games, and movies.

        1. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

          Due to suppression of independent entrepreneurship in USSR people wasn’t able to come across concept of copyright. And state manufacturers produced a lot of things like tape-recorders, shavers, cars, etc., that were exact copies of western products.

          1. Redrock says:

            It really is more complicated than that. Soviet people in general had very unique approach to many concepts that had to do with ownership, legality, etc. For example, in the 70s stealing something from one’s place of work was not just commonplace, but widely accepted as normal. It had more to do with constant deficit and rising nihilism than with some essential lack of understanding of the concept of stealing or right amd wrong. Same with certain goods, like media and software.

            1. Paul Spooner says:

              I’d really like to participate in this discussion, but feel that this isn’t really the place to hash out the political implications of IP laws on various cultures.
              Here’s an article I wrote about IP that is my best shot at working through the problem:
              Comments welcome, just not here.

              1. Echo Tango says:

                I think comments might be broken on that site. I tried twice to leave a comment, and both times nothing showed up. First time was with a fake email address, since I’m hesitant to leave a real contact somewhere new, but the second time had a real address, and I didn’t see any confirmation emails show up or anything like that when I checked later.

                1. toadicus says:

                  Not broken, just lazily moderated. I approved both of your comments; if you’d like one deleted let me (or Paul) know.

  2. Joe says:

    When I first played Fallout 4, I tried third person. But my body got in the way of my gun, so I had to switch to first every time I got into a fight. Eventually I left it in first. Yeah, I know there are third person shooters, but I’ve never played them. If there’s going to be a lot of shooting, I’m fine with The Outer Worlds and CP2077 being in first. Or maybe make it toggleable, or automatically switching based on the situation.

    My favourite achievement is from Witcher 3. I happened to look at the acheivements one day, noticed what I hadn’t done. I Can Quit Any Time I Like: be under the influence of 7 potions and/or decoctions at the same time. So I made a save, boosted my resistance, and swilled the seven lowest I had. Once I got the achievement, I loaded my last save and put that point towards something combat focussed.

    My least favourite was from Too Human. That game had some good ideas, but never quite came together. Anyway, it had an aniti-achievement for dying 100 times. Yeah, I admit I’m crap. But there’s no reason to rub it in like that.

    1. I really don’t like first person perspective. The only game I’ve played in YEARS with first person perspective is Portal. I don’t like the narrow and constrained view of your surroundings.

      I usually deal with any aiming issues by using a shotgun a lot.

  3. Will says:

    To compensate for this bad sound, I suggest listening to the show in a noisy old car with blown out speakers while driving very fast on a busy highway with the windows down while a truck shadows your blind spot. That should fully mask the audio problems by hiding it under many other audio problems. Also, the constant danger will probably make the show more exciting. Good luck!

    Sounds like my commute. Maybe I’ll finally get a Bluetooth capable head unit installed and let you know if it improves the audio experience.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      I took a look at the audio, and the waveform doesn’t look like its clipping. Did Issac run clip-fix on it or something?

  4. Ninety-Three says:

    Outer Worlds comes as a big surprise because their last couple games have been made on such shoestring budgets. As much as it looked kind of cheap it’d 3D, with animations! I remember Pillars of Eternity had a scene where an NPC walks out of the forest and falls over, the game described it in text and did a fade to black transition to cover from “No one is here” to “There is a guy lying down in the middle of the field”. I’d speculate about the Microsoft buyout being a cash infusion, but it’s too far along for that to be related. Where on Earth did the money come from?

    *Research*. Apparently Take Two is funding it. Huh.

    Say, does anyone get a bit of a Borderlands vibe from the whole thing? The artstyle, the humour, everything feels just a bit like that game.

    Re: PoE, the sequel sold way worse than the original, probably because the original was getting a boost from the “Holy crap, we can Kickstarter videogames!” hype bubble of its time.

    1. Narkis says:

      Yep, it really does seem like a mashup of New Vegas and Borderlands. I like both, so I’m moderately excited.

      And I believe Deadfire sold worse because Pillars ended up disappointing the people who wanted a new Baldur’s Gate, myself included. The first did benefit from the kickstarted-funded nostalgia-revival hype, but it not delivering on its promises was one of the reasons that hype deflated. It wasn’t fated. The customers were, and still are, there for the taking.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        I feel like PoE gave me pretty much what I was promised, only it turns out I don’t enjoy that style of game as much as I used to.

        1. Narkis says:

          For me it was like being in the uncanny valley. Close enough to the old Infinity Engine titles, but something essential was missing and it was worse than if it’d tried to do its own thing.

          1. tmtvl says:

            Too much Baldur’s Gate, not enough Baldur’s Gate II in my opinion.

            1. Hector says:

              I’ve been waiting all day to respond to this, so pardon in advance for having a really long response. If this bothers anyone, the TL’DR version is as follows. The full explanation will come as a response shortly.

              “I disagree. The problem with PoE is that, if you’ll pardon the cliche’, it lacks *heart*. It has all the attributes that made some of the Infinity Engine classics goos, but it misses the soul of the thing. It isn’t successfully BG1, or BG2, or IWD1 or 2, or P:T. To be fair, it isn’t exactly trying to be any of those, but it still fails for a few basic reasons despite beign very well-made in the technical sense.”

              1. Hector says:

                Once again, I apologize for the length of this post. It’s self-indulgent, but I’ve actually been playing Pillars of Eternity recently and I want to get this off my chest.

                To begin with, I do have to address the comment that Pillars of Eternity is more BG1 than BG2. That couldn’t be further from the truth. I try not to flatly contradict people in online posts – I prefer the partially disagree and lean towards a different interpretation because it’s easier to dicuss. In this case, though, it’s simply not correct from a technical angle. PoE lacks the open map and optional zones of BG1. It has the more involved quest structure and more complex NPC’s. You can potentially add a touch of PLanescape: Torment in there since it’s so dialogue-heavy, but BG1 it is not.

                BG1 was designed as a king of single-player DnD group. Many of the game’s encounters, especially early on, were structured similarly to how a Dungeon Master might roll for a random encounter, or have a spot on the map marked as a dangerous place full of basilisks or something. By contrast, PoE is a single-player story in its entirety; it has been stripped of its DnD roots as a social event. In that sense, PoE has gone past the Baldur’s Gate experience completely and embraced the Torment style of storytelling, but with a crucial difference at the heart of it.

                Most dramatic fiction of any variety has some kind of inciting event that allows for the story to take place, and this inciting event or whatever creates and emotional bond between the protagonist(s) that causes him, her, or them to proceed with the adventure. Of the Infinity Engine games, only the Icewind Dale duology doesn’t directly have these – but there are reasion why the characters can’t just casually go home and there’s an implied wink-and-nudge about the very lack of a traditional motivation. The game knows you’re here for the fun of the adventure and delivers.

                And PoE does have one, but it’s a remarkably weak motivation all told and fails to engage the audience. Unfortunately, there’s basically no emotional involvement by either the charcater or the player. To recap, the basic plot is that your character suffers blunt force trauma to the soul, wakes up with the ability to see soul fragments and remember his or her own past lives, and embarks on a quest to avoid going mad by trying to re-seal that ability. THe problem here is the the supposed threat to your character isn’t discovered until the end of Act 1, and even then it’s pretty questionable: there’s actually no good reason to believe your character will Go Mad From the Revelation. A fair number of other people are more or less OK with similar abilities, and at no time does your character actually have mental problems. It ends up being a non-issue anyway.

                And then there’s the vilain. On paper, Thaos is workable. In practice, he just… doesn’t. He’s not intimiating, has no interest in you whatsoever, and is only vaguely and tangentially a threat. I’m not saying that doing so is impossible, but – a villain whose motivation is a philosophical idea of maintaining a certain spiritual order that allows humanity/sentient life to flourish and/or the belief that certain scientific developments may ultimately destroy the societies that create them by undermining the very concept of the self, removing the ability for humanity to make progress if people become too enthralled with the navel-gazing complexities psyche over the external universe – well, that’s a *helluva* tall order.

                He’s not a villain you love to hate. Or even hate to love. He’s just kinda there. I’m not saying it’s the end-all or be-all of villainy, but there’s a reason that Sarevok, Irenicus, and The Transcendant One showed up specifically to be evil at you (and also, in P:T you are your own worst enemy and this is a theme which showed up constantly, so the twist made thematic sense). It’s also kind of sad, because Thaos has potential; it just doesn’t work in the context of the game. To be spoilerific:

                Thaos never permanently dies; he reincarnates with his mind fully intact and can “possess” people with weak or injured souls, which he uses to manipulate events. He’s the mortal guardian of a specific cosmic balance, and the methods he uses involve harvesting thousands upon thousands of souls and desotrying attempts to re-develop the soul arts. The problem is that all of this is less “amazing revelation” and more of an “Oh. Well, guess that works.” In fact, you more or less just confirm the dead-on deductions of another character.

                In cases like this, where the villains is weak, otften you can get good mileage from the world. If players like the universe or are interested in the NPC’s, things become much easier for the writer to build an emotional investment on the part of the player. Unfortunately… I hate this world. I want the whole thing to burn. This is one of the worst kinds of storytelling I see – the world so grey I don’t *care* what happens to it. This is an ugly trend in modern storytelling – the belief that “real art is angsty”, and I loathe it just like the “real is brown” trend in graphics some years back.

                The world of Pillars of Eternity is relentlessly depressing. Everyone you met either has a tragic backstory, or are an open jerk, or they are secret hidden jerks with a side of jerk. Basically nobody is reasonably about anything, more or less all the quests you get are griefing miseryguts with a side of depression. Every stupid sidequest ends in despair and weepy suicides and tagic misunderstands and I want to throw the game disk into the lake but WHY OH WHY DID I BUY THIS IS DIGITAL!

                It’s infurating and just as unrealistic and a relentlessly cheery game, but far less fun. Even when I like characters, I don’t want to be around them that much, just because they’re kind of unpleasant to experience. I have enough misery in my real life, thank you very much.

                Speaking of unpleasant misery, let’s discuss the game systems!

                They’re too perfect.

                Yes, you heard me right. The game systems are too perfect. Well, too perfectly balanced at any rate. This is another irritating modern trend in the gaming scene.

                If you go back and look at almost any gaming systems in the Golden Age of either tabletop or computer games, you’ll lots of asymmetry and variety. It’s entirely true that these games weren’t well balanced. They often had different players using different, semi-compatible systems. But that wasn’t the point. The point was to have fun.

                The problem with PoE’s systems is that every rough burr has been smoothed off, and every shape edge has been softened. Unfortunately, this destroys a lot of the fun aspects of building a character. Basically, no matter what you want to do there’s a way to be completely OP with it. Every attribute is a perfect, smooth curve from abyssmal to godlike; the attributes on different classes are of middling importance at best, and the power sets are sufficiently flexible that you can do anything with any character, probably even the hardest difficulty, solo.

                That sounds great until it becomes apparent that all the classes are mostly used for only a few abilities and very few extra dialogue options matter (arguably none). This is what most people miss about those old games systems: they tended to be stripped down to the bits that were important. If a difference made no difference, then it was usually left out. The goal originally wasn’t to let everybody “be themselves” but to create interesting stories, where no one character could be all things. There was no “optimal path”.

                Anyway, that’s my overall take of Pillars of Eternity – the game has an unpleasant void at its core where the heart needs to be. You might even say that the game about souls lacks one of its own if you were a cliche’-spewing hack like me. Regardless, it sounds as though Pillars 2 was actually better but I haven’t played it and it may have been too late for the series.

                1. Nah. There’s quite a lot of brutality in Pillars of Eternity, but it’s not Grimdark. It’s more . . . pagan or primal in its outlook. There’s A LOT of humor, but it tends to be on the gross-out or “did he just say that?” end of things. Oddly, you get a lot of the better outcomes if you’re Honest and Rational than if you attempt to be fluffy and nice. Too much Benevolence is likely to backfire on you.

                  The point with Thaos isn’t about him being this fantastic villain, but more you deciding what you think about his *methods* and *goals*. Yeah, he’s a cipher and largely remains so, because the story is about YOU finding out why YOUR soul is FIXATED on this guy. It’s a very internal journey. I certainly thought it was well worth what I paid for it. The meta-story is about coming to terms with uncertainty and the choices you make when the path is unclear.

                  The weird thing is that Deadfire actually backed off of a lot of that, which made it a worse game. The gods in Pillars were absolutely creepy. In Deadfire they’re annoying and pretty much passive. And, in the end, you don’t actually DO anything other than follow along the main plot. You can do lots of side activities, but a lot of them aren’t terribly interesting. It is kind of funny, in a way, that you really can just say “screw this, I’m outta here” and pretty much just take off.

                  Obsidian has a long history of doing these “mystery” plots. Some of them work, some of them don’t. I felt like I got my money’s worth out of both games.

                  As far as the game system went, meh, it was okay. It was serviceable, but I never really found it interesting enough to try to build something particularly powerful. Plus I can never stand to dump skill and conversation abilities that much. But I do get a kick out of seeing people do stuff like this:


                  1. Hector says:

                    I didn’t intend to communicate that PoE was grimdark, which is a certain kind of absurdist fun. Instead, the game is a bland shade of depressing. The world is ugly, and filled with ugly people who have dislikable motives. None of the character responses are particularly interesting or worth caring about, not just “Benevolent”.*

                    As I said above, the thing is that Thaos isn’t interesting. It’ doesn’t matter that the game is trying to tell me I care about him – because I don’t. He’s frankly an obstacle rather than a relevant objective. This could have worked with some rewriting, but it never comes together.

                    Anyway, it’s fine that you liked it, but a lot of us… didn’t. And didn’t bother to buy the sequel because of it.

                    *For the record, Benevolent is fine; it’s no worse or better than any other.

                2. Matt Downie says:

                  If I had to describe the basic plot of PoE I’d have said, ‘There is a plague where babies become “hollowborn”, meaning they are born with no soul. You have to solve this problem.’

                  I agree somewhat with the ‘depressing world’ complaint. That’s one of the reasons I didn’t want to play Tyranny. (“Do you want to hurt people? Or hurt people a lot? The choice is yours!”)

                  Anyone know how Divinity: Original Sin II compares?

                  1. Sannom says:

                    “There is a plague where babies become “hollowborn”, meaning they are born with no soul. You have to solve this problem.”
                    That’s the thing, you don’t. That’s not your goal. It would have ended whether or not you involved yourself in it, and not later, too.

                    1. Hector says:

                      Sannom is right – I was coming back just to point that same thing out. The Hollowborn epidemic does get stopped, but you as the character don’t stop it actively and won’t find the cause until very late in the game (although the player will likely figure it out well before then). It’s just another plot element that… happens.

                3. JakeyKakey says:

                  From what I heard, the game’s excessive balancing didn’t even ultimately result in it being particularily balanced, just bland feeling.

                  The crazy-wtf-final-boss-solo-oneshot builds were still plentiful, just a hell lot more counter-intuitive to figure out and often involved boosting stats you wouldn’t really expect for that specific class like stacking strength on your mages.

                4. Gunther says:

                  I replayed Baldur’s Gate 2 a couple of years ago and one of the things I’d forgotten about that game was how fun the combat is; Mages can accidentally kill half their party with a poorly-aimed lightning bolt, you can just randomly stumble onto high-level enemies early on that can wreck you, enemies are varied and attacking (for example) a group of mind-flayers with the same tactics you’d use for fighting undead will result in a loading screen. The game encourages you to experiment, to learn different tactics and (eventually) to tear through everything like cardboard because you’ve found all the broken stuff. It’s incredibly rewarding.

                  I was genuinely starting to dread combat in PoE after a few hours because it was such a slog. It seems to go on forever, there’s no room for interesting tactics and most of the enemies are just damage sponges. And there’s so much of it – outside of the cities like 90% of your gameplay is just meaningless fight after meaningless fight against generic monster group #23.

                  1. Ninety-Three says:

                    A while ago I thought to myself “I should give PoE another go” so I reinstalled it, loaded my save and headed east. I fought a troll, which consisted of exhausting all my limited-use abilities, then standing around autoattacking it for a minute until it fell over. I looted it for some vendor trash and headed east again. Fifteen seconds later I found another troll. Oh right, this is why I stopped. Alt-F4. Uninstall.

      2. Redrock says:

        Well, that and Deadfire is just generally … unexciting. It’s a good game and all, but, It’s hard to put into words, but there’s something about its marketing and pirate theme and everything that makes it feel like one of the most unnecessary sequels of all time. I actually didin’t know people were dissapointed in the first one. I thought it was quite well-liked.

        1. Thomas says:

          It’s notable that Wasteland and it’s sequel seem to have survived the hype bubble much better than Pillars

          1. Redrock says:

            Funny, because Wasteland 2 is a much worse game than Pillars, if you really think about it. Wasteland 2, I think, benefited from being one of the earliest announced cRPG revival nostalgia games.

            1. I could never manage to finish Wasteland 2. When you head out for California I just lost all motivation to keep playing, even though I was quite enjoying it overall.

            2. DeadlyDark says:

              I dunno. W2 I enjoyed till the end, and it has stronger second half. PoE I just finished through sheer force of will, since I found it totally unremarkable game

  5. Tomato says:

    I’ve played the free version of Black Mesa that was released 2012. I don’t know how the game has changed since then, but I agree that it didn’t feel right. The weapons handled like toys, and didn’t sound as great as the originals, especially the shotgun. Most disappointing were the HECU marines. Best enemy in HL1, but in BM they weren’t as “smart”. And somehow they could snipe you with their SMGs from across the map with pin-point accuracy. They turned Surface Tension with its large open spaces into a frustrating mess. Another big annoyance were the jumping mechanics. In HL1 you can hop around like crazy, but in BM it’s like Gordon gained 100kg and can barely get off the ground.
    Almost every time the modders changed something from the original HL1, they’ve made it worse.

    1. Joshua says:

      I wish I could remember more of the game to give an opinion agreeing or disagreeing. I think I got just past Blast Pit and stopped playing for whatever reason.

      1. Geebs says:

        You did better than me, I didn’t even manage to get to the microwave before giving up. You can see the effort that’s been put in, but it’s not quite enough of a visual upgrade for me to not just play the original game instead if I’m feeling Half-Lifey.

        Anyway, HL2 is a much better game all round.

  6. John says:

    I wonder if the bullet-sponginess of enemies in Black Mesa has to do with the fact that the people making it are all hard-core Half Life enthusiasts. My guess is that they have all played and re-played Half Life to the point where they can probably beat the game while blindfolded and asleep. (Yes, even the jumping puzzles.) They may not perceive difficulty, or Half LIfe for that matter, in the same way as the average gamer. While I’m not familiar with any on-line communities devoted to Half Life, I have seen players in other communities devoted to other older games talk about playing on the hardest difficulty under numerous self-imposed restrictions because they’ve got to the point that anything else is too easy for them.

    As for achievements, my favorites are mostly from Crusader Kings II. Of those that I’ve completed, the one with the best name is undoubtedly “Turbulent Priest” which you get from assassinating one of your vassal bishops who likes the Pope more than he likes you. It’s a reference to Thomas Becket, the Bishop of Canterbury, and Henry II of England and the immortal though probably apocryphal line “Will no one rid me of this turbulent priest?” In Crusader Kings II, your vassal bishops will pay taxes to either you or to the Pope, depending on who they like better. I normally prefer to sway bishops by sending them gifts or awarding them honors, but sometimes they refuse to see reason and stronger measures are called for. (I normally don’t concern myself with bishops, but a single-county ruler needs all the cash he can get.) The achievement of which I’m most proud is “The Frisian Coast Is Long”, which sounds like a reference to something but to what I couldn’t say. It requires you to control the entire northern coast of Europe, from the tip of the peninsula of Brittany in France to the tip of the peninsula of Denmark while being King of Frisia (aka Holland, aka the Netherlands). It wasn’t easy to get and took me several tries. The funny thing is that the actual coast of de jure Frisia is quite short.

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      Huh. So that’s what I was doing with Jedi Outcast… Last playthrough I’ve done was on normal difficulty but with self imposed iron mode, and now whenever I open it, it’s usually jedi master difficulty with iron man, just for a little while. There no other game like that* so I guess its natural to try and make things different that way

      *except Jedi Academy. But I dislike the level design and new moves, that mostly removes control for a flashy unstoppable animations

  7. Viktor says:

    The problem with piracy is that, fundamentally, content creators need to be able to feed their families, but while the first game/movie/whatever takes years and a substantial investment to create, every subsequent copy costs less than $0.01. This is exacerbated by the creative accounting of Hollywood companies* and the labor practices of AAA game devs**. It’s hard to use loyalty as an incentive not to pirate when the people who made the thing don’t see a benefit from sales***. The solution is likely going to involve a complete reimagining of how media is created, funded, and sold, which I don’t see happening under our current economic system. As long as copying something is cheaper than the MSRP, which will be true as long as computers exist, there’s a niche for someone to come along and undercut the creator the instant the first copy hits storefronts. We need a new way of providing for creators that doesn’t depend on individual sales.

    *If you’ve heard of a movie, it lost money. It lost lots of money, and will continue losing more money for for every copy sold.
    **The devs who made that game you love were massively overworked and underpaid, and then fired when it launched.
    ***Smaller stuff, like books and comics, are exempt from this. BUY THEM. Sales numbers for those are mostly tiny, and every little bit helps the actual creator.

    1. Redrock says:

      “If you’ve heard of a movie, it lost money. It lost lots of money, and will continue losing more money for for every copy sold.”

      Wait, what? Are you saying that every movie ever was made at a loss? That sounds… improbable.

      1. Viktor says:

        At the least, every recent movie. Modern movies lose tons of money on distribution. Pay no attention to the massive bonuses being paid to the executives for their success, or the massive sales figures well beyond what the movie cost to make, the accountants send everyone involved in a movie balance sheets that show how much money the movie is losing to explain why no one involved in actually making the movie makes any money on residuals. Hollywood accountants are very good at their jobs, and their job is to ensure every movie is a loss.

      2. BlueHorus says:

        Creative Accounting. So officially, yes, even the most successful films can technically/legally be a faliure – for tax purposes.

        …in theory. Not sure how true it is, but it fits other things I’ve heard.

        Aaaaand ninja’d, twice.

      3. Redrock says:

        Oh, that. That’s just tax evasion bullshit. That’s not the same as saying those movies actually lose money. They make money, but that money is then creatively hidden.

        1. Viktor says:

          Tax evasion is one thing*, but this is using the loss to get out of profit-sharing arrangements that are supposed to make sure large sales are reflected in larger payouts for the people who actually made the movie. Which ties back to my original point, there’s no motivation for the average person to spend money on a movie when that money they’re spending will be going to some CEO instead of any of the people who made the thing.

          *though as taxes pay for stuff like roads and schools, tax evasion is stealing from me and every other citizen and therefore pisses me off considerably

          1. Thomas says:

            That is true, but everyone with experience makes sure they get paid in other ways, it only effects taxes and people who’ve seen it happen before.

            Sure, you’re purchase isn’t directly paying the actors and creatives, but every bit of money a film makes gives the creatives involved more bargaining power for the next film.

            Footballers don’t need profit-sharing rights to get rich. The money exists because people pay for football and then they bargain high salaries off the business executives.

            I don’t think lack of profit-sharing means much in the long-run, if the money is there people will get paid, and if they use their bargaining power it will be a lot.

          2. A lot of contracts are negotiated where a star or a creative will receive X amount and then X percent of the profits, is why they do that. But you CAN negotiate to get paid just the flat amount (which does mean you won’t receive anything extra if the movie is a wild success) or to be paid a percentage of the GROSS, which they can’t hide.

            Yes, sometimes you need to sue to get paid, but that’s true in any industry.

      4. Joshua says:

        Yep, all of these movies spent way too much money on distribution, which exceeded their earnings. Pay no attention to the fact that the people who own the studios also own the distribution companies, and thus the fact that distribution costs seem unreasonably high because these people are getting paid either way, but now they get to reduce the amount of money paid to writers and the like. There’s a lot of perception of it now, were Hollywood veterans will recommend never getting into a contract that stipulates percentages on the Net proceeds.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I don’t see why we need to completely change how games are made, to pay creators fairly, and to disincentivize piracy. From the piracy side, if you make a legitimate purchase convenient and a fair price, it cuts down on piracy a lot. As for paying creators, they could unionize, or work with people / companies that treat them better.

    3. INH5 says:

      The solution is likely going to involve a complete reimagining of how media is created, funded, and sold, which I don’t see happening under our current economic system.

      Well, we do have Kickstarter and Patreon, though they don’t seem to be able scale up beyond just a bit past “indie,” with a few notable exceptions.

      For the big players, I expect the new frontier to be whale hunting. This is most obvious with microtransactions in video games, but I think its effects are being felt in other mediums too.

      A few Diecasts ago, Shamus made a point about how digital comics are inexplicably at least as expensive as physical comics. But the digital vs. physical price situation in movies is truly ridiculous. Compare the price of a Blu-Ray + Digital Copy combo pack of any given movie to buying a digital copy of the same movie at HD directly through Vudu or Amazon Prime or whatever, and chances are good that the former will cost significantly less despite being the exact same product plus a physical disc that can at minimum be resold or traded in. Furthermore, walmart.com and presumably also other websites has a promotion where it will send you a link for an online digital copy immediately after you order a DVD/Blu-Ray + Digital Copy pack, so direct digital purchases don’t even have an advantage in convenience.

      I’ve thought about this for a while, and the only explanation that makes any sense to me is that purely digital movie prices are being driven up by people with a lot of disposable income who will buy any movie on Vudu or Amazon Prime that looks even vaguely interesting, because they don’t have to worry about finding physical space and the cost is trivial for them, so why not?

      I also sometimes wonder if the increasing balkanization of subscription streaming services is targeting a similar and likely overlapping market, of people with a lot of money to burn who will sign up for every streaming service (and before streaming came along, would subscribe to ultra-deluxe Cable/Satellite TV packages) just in case any one of those services one day has something that they want to watch. Otherwise, you would expect network effects to be pushing in the opposite direction and allowing Netflix to eat all of its competitors just like Youtube and Facebook and Twitter did in their respective fields.

  8. Gordon says:

    I’m not that good with podcast stuff. The Android player I use has Diecast, but it doesn’t have any entries newer than 197 (April last year) is that a known thing? Is there someway I can get it in with an RSS URL or something? So far I’ve just been using the player embedded in the webpage here, but that’s a bit annoying.

    1. Redrock says:

      Related question, I use Pocket Casts on Android and Diecast doesn’t seem to be there. I tried Google Podcasts, but it seems to be a week or two behind for some reason.

    2. Taellosse says:

      I don’t know the full story of where it auto-updates and where it doesn’t, but the official RSS feed is broken and Shamus hasn’t been able to get it working properly (which is why I’m posting this comment so long after your question – I’m just listening to this episode today myself because I only get around to uploading them manually on my phone in batches of 3 or 4 every few weeks). He’s tried a bunch of different ways and times to get it fixed and couldn’t figure out what’s broken, so gave up for the time being. I guess some softwares are able to grab the file from the site directly somehow, but if your chosen podcasting method uses RSS feeds, it won’t work.

  9. Olivier FAURE says:

    I’m going to call “rose-tinted glasses” on you both regarding Black Mesa.

    Part of it, like Shamus said, some concepts look sillier when translated to a photorealistic engine. But I’m going to argue, part of it is, you don’t remember Half Life that well.

    Enemies in the games were already pretty bullet spongy. I remember playing the game for the first time, and being shocked at how tough enemies were. Headcrabs survived handgun shots. Zombies survived shotgun fire without slowing down, unless you were close enough to French kiss them. The machine gun was almost useless against multiple soldiers, because they killed you faster than you killed them. The crowbar was useless against anything except crates. Keeping the NPCs alive without stashing them in a closet was a challenge.

    Otherwise, I think Black Mesa does have a soul. There’s a lot of little touches it adds that sell me on the experience: new zombie models, scenes that add personality to the soldiers as they get overwhelmed by the invasion, female NPCs, allies who can actually kill things, mini-puzzles with Source physics, the ability to use turrets against enemies, etc.

    The gameplay’s kind of a mess where you have to reload your save a few times if you try to do anything creative, and gets kind of dull if you don’t, but let’s be honest, I could say the same of Half Life, Half Life 2, Dishonored and Prey.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      I also think there might be some overly-charitable memories of the original game. When SoldierHawke described the tentacle-monster in the remake, insta-killing her after a measly 10 seconds of distraction from thrown objects / noise, I immediately remembered that that’s how my experience with the original game was. The AI seemed very broken to me, since I couldn’t seem to sneak past it, even on the easiest difficulty, with plenty of thrown objects. I think I may have resorted to cheat-codes, to get past that point in the game.

      1. Joshua says:

        I think sneaking past it was much easier in the original. As I said above, I played to just past this point, and the difficulty of sneaking past the tentacle stuck out to me as being much harder.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          I think your comment might have disappeared to the spam-bot – I don’t see a comment about the tentacle from a Joshua.

          1. Joshua says:

            ” I think I got just past Blast Pit and stopped playing for whatever reason.”

      2. Fizban says:

        I never played the original, but I did die a lot to the tentacle monster in Black Mesa- but I never even knew you were supposed to be able to distract it with non-weapon objects. They gave me a pile of explosives, and after dying enough times to learn the layout of the walkways it turned out I had just enough explosives to keep its head down while I sprinted back and forth. Which fits the “mod made for people who already know the game” angle even if it was an annoying death run for me.

      3. Lino says:

        I haven’t played Black Mesa, but I also remember the original Half-Life having bullet-spongy enemies. I also distinctly remember reading on a wiki some years ago that bullsquids take about 4 shotgun blasts to kill – something both Shamus and SoldierHawke found strange. I also remember Ross Scott (the maker of Freeman’s Mind – cool series) saying that he deliberately used mods that reduced the health of everything so that enemies didn’t take too many shots to kill…

  10. Is it just me, or does the ship in the Outer Worlds trailer look a lot like Serenity?

    1. houser2112 says:

      I definitely got a Firefly vibe from it as well.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      I definitely got a lot of Firefly / Serenity vibes from it as well:
      – the black woman lounging in the kitchen instantly reminded me of Zoe (before I even saw this comment to reply to)
      – the kitchen itself instantly made me think of the one in Firefly
      – they got a distress signal that cut off part way, and then landed on a planet where the normal landing-pad security guards are missing (“This is the landing spot, but where’s tarmac security?”) – definitely made me think of any of the reaver stuff, or the planet where Shephard died

  11. Smejki says:

    New Vegas reviewed well (84 on metacritic). It reviews 95% among paying customers on Steam (compared to 78% Fallout 3 is getting). And it sold well (some 10 millions, iirc).
    Yes it was buggy but not that much more than game made by Bethesda.

  12. “Then Obsidian comes in and uses the exact same engine and art assets to make a game that’s ten times smarter and everyone sneers at them for the crappy visuals”

    I’m gonna make a assumption in that you are referring to Creation engine and Fallout New Vegas.
    The Outer Worlds is made in Unreal Engine 4 (not sure which version though, if smart they’ve kept up with the engine updates as close to launch as possible).

    As to the Visual of The Outer Worlds. It kinda fits with the game style. Some compare it to Borderlands, but I also get Bioshock, Dishonored, We Happy Few, or Thief vibes. I think Obsidian made the right choice in the design of stuff here.

  13. “I did find a volume slider set to 100%”

    Protip. in the sound properties for the microphone if you look at this Image example if you right click on the input field you can change from % to dB. I suggest using dB.

    0 dB = full volume. There is also a tiny grey line marking full volume. Anything louder than this boosts the audio which can cause clipping.

    Also make sure you turn off and volume normalization processing, sound drivers may turn this stuff by default.

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