Diecast #236: Gris, HotS, Starcraft, Artifact

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 17, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 75 comments

Look at the date! We are quickly running out of year. And now that I’m thinking about it, we’re also kinda running out of decade. But as luck would have it, we’ve got plenty of week left. So let’s squander some time talking about videogames.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 The Outer Worlds

I know we watched it last week, but it wouldn’t hurt to watch it again.

Link (YouTube)

04:41 Gris

I know you JUST watched a trailer, but you should watch this one too.

Link (YouTube)

13:30 The Other Kind of Life book launch!

Obligatory: You can get the Kindle version of The Other Kind of Life, or if you really have it in for trees you can buy the print version.

17:36 Dynamo

Link (YouTube)

25:06 Mailbag: HOTS shutting down

Dear diecast,

I just saw online that heroes of the storm is going to be losing some manpower and financing. (https://www.techspot.com/amp/news/77875-blizzard-shifts-top-developers-away-heroes-storm-halts.html), since you’re going to record a diecast tomorrow I wonder if you can pick this up in your podcast. I always liked of blizzard that they supported their games for way longer than most companies would. So seeing them give up on HOTS is kinda sad and makes me fear they really got tainted bad by their activision side. Now the official news is that its just lowering the amount of content being put out, but it feels like manager speak for “yeah we gave up on it”.

We cover the second half of this email in the next section…

30:37 Mailbag: Starcraft

Also since I’m writing anyway, this isn’t really directly for the diecast, but more of a personal question. I remember you mention playing SC2 again. Reading your older article on the story side of things (and how you thought it wasnt as bad as fans said it was) I was wondering how well you remembered the first game. To me SC1 and SC2 feel like mass effect 1 and ME2. The writer not understanding the tone of the original. Like kerrigan suddenly being a good guy trapped inside an evil shell. Even though in the brood war it basically was stated outright she was fully in control and was truly evil. I could write a whole page on the issues i have with the story and tone, but I won’t spill unnecessary ink.

with kind regards,

42:40 Mailbag: Netflix getting into gaming?

Dear Diecast,
I recently discovered that Netflix has a stripped-down version of Minecraft: Story Mode available to play, at least on the computer version of the platform. Though they’ve removed all the QTE sequences and most of the inconsequential dialogue choices, they still let the player make all the major decisions in the story.
My question is how should we interpret this foray into gaming by Netflix? Is this a one time thing? Are they just planning on making their own story games? Something more? I’d love to know what you think. I’m personally hoping for a Spirit or She-Ra adventure game soon.

Best Wishes,

After recording this episode, I checked out Minecraft Story Mode on Netflix. It is indeed a “choose your own adventure” kind of deal. You play it as if it was a movie, but sometimes you’ll get prompts to make branching decisions. I’m reasonably sure this works like the old laserdisc “games” built around the same idea.

Also, I have to say the writing was incredibly bland. In the first 15 minutes it was a bulk exposition dump, followed by some stilted dialog between two people with no conflict or stakes. No jokes, no witty observations about Minecraft, no questions to make the audience curious. It wasn’t bad in the sense of being idiotic, it just didn’t offer your brain anything to engage with.

What I’m saying is, I can see why Telltale folded.

47:46 Epic Megagames: new storefront!

Spoiler: This is basically what I’m going to say in my Escapist column later this week.

57:40 Artifact

Here is my hot take on a game I don’t care about in a genre I don’t understand.


From The Archives:

75 thoughts on “Diecast #236: Gris, HotS, Starcraft, Artifact

  1. Lino says:

    6:50 – Hollow Knight is the game Paul’s thinking of. And in terms of Shamus’ frustration with platformers, I guess what I like about them is the fact that I don’t really look for that type of stimulation. I just really like the immersion I get from some platfromers’ aesthetics, music and gamefeel. Another thing is that the simplicity of their mechanics, and the immediate feedback you get from mastering them really encourages you to try and get better as you go along…

    1. Redrock says:

      Hollow Knight is more Metroidvania, though. I’m not sure Shamus meant those, because those are still very much about combat and can be much more satisfying than pure platformers based primarily on jumping.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Hollow Knight starts getting a lot more platform-heavy after the first third or so of the game. Additionally, a big difference between it and other metroidvanias, is that while the new tools are usually used in a simple way in those games (like, shoot this door with missiles, while standing still, in Super Metroid), in Hollow Knight the new tools still require platforming skill to use. Some areas need precise jumps with the new double jump, for example.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Hollow Knight is so good! I mean, the platforming and combat has some crazy difficulty spikes in some places (from what I remember), and the game is about twice as long as it needs to be (lots of backtracking, and I still haven’t finished it…), but it’s got a great world, characters, and art! :)

      1. Lino says:

        I also really loved it! I didn’t really like the Meatboy-style platforming towards the end (and the area that it’s in – so disappointing), but I was so deeply sucked in by the world, characters and mechanics, that it was easily one of my favourite games of 2017.
        As a person who really doesn’t like Dark Souls, it showed me that there are other ways of making that formula work, and with Darksiders III, I realized that I actually really like Soulsborne games – I just don’t like… well, the games that gave that genre its name :D. It also helped me realize that since my favourite game of all time – Severance: Blade of Darkness – is considered by some as an early Soulsborne.

        1. Geebs says:

          I liked Hollow Knight a lot – for about 20 hours, after not liking it much for the first 5 or so. After that, the constant backtracking, increasingly pedantic platforming and rather cheesy boss fights got the better of me. It’s a good game, but IMO it’d be better if it was a straightforward linear experience.

          I think my mistake was probably playing it on the Switch, though; Hollow Knight seems to get very keen on the sword-bouncing-on-enemies mechanic in the later stages and that’s horrible to control with the joycons.

          1. Lino says:

            I never noticed that. I guess uit’s because I’m not really that picky when it comes to platformer controls – I always play them with a keyboard, and since keyboard controls don’t vary all that much from platformer to platfromer, it’s actually a very comfortable control method. The only platformer I’ve ever given up on because of frustrating controls was Hyperlight Drifter – that perfect dodge or whatever it was called was just infuriating!

          2. Redrock says:

            That’s funny, I actually bounced off Hollow Knight hard after trying to play it on PC with a Dual Shock 4,and only got into it after I bought it for the Switch. For me, the Joy Cons were perfect for HK. Well, that, and the fact that playing a Metroidvania on what’s basically almost a souped-up GBA just feels right to me.

      2. Fizban says:

        Hollow Knight was great! Except for the challenge areas near the end. The Super Meat Boy-esque platforming section I think was actually completely optional, but I had the bit in my teeth and powered through the hell after a few hours. Pretty sure it’s just there for completion percentage though.

        But I haven’t finished the game either: it looked like this might be a Metroidvania I could 100% without digging in the muck for 10,000 missile expansions, so I hit that arena. And banged my head against it hard enough that I actually legitimately found my controller causing me to lose (circle pad imprecision during near pixel perfect platforming combat), burned out, and stopped. Never went through the big obvious door to the final area except for a peek, don’t even know if it’s a full area or just a long walk to the boss.

        Mind you, I don’t want to know. Some day I’ll either finish that run or start a new one, as they’ve apparently updated quite a bit since then. Probably after I get a better gamepad. Sadly, the magic of seeing the beauty of everything the first time won’t be there in full strength since I stalled out the first time, but I think it’s worth another playthrough at least.

        1. galacticplumber says:

          The super meat boy level at the end is necessary to get the best ending. If you really hate it there are a number of shortcuts that bypass sections of it and badge loadouts to make it easier. I recommend them on the grounds that it’s a platforming difficulty spike on an entirely different level from anything else in game.

          It also has an EVEN HARDER truly optional hidden path with an easter egg at the end. Don’t recommend that at all.

        2. Lino says:

          Apart from it being a huge difficulty spike of a different kind (like galacticplumber said), the other big reason I didn’t like that section was because it was in very major area lore-wise, and I was expecting some nice lore and environmental storytelling. But instead, we got a bare minimum of lore and huge, open spaces full of spikes. Such a missed opportunity!

          1. galacticplumber says:

            There is a big lore easter egg/confirmation in the white palace… behind the path of pain that’s even harder. That’s harder than the normal path if you don’t know the shortcuts by the way. If you do know the the shortcuts path of pain is to white palace what white palace is to normal areas.

            1. Lino says:

              As I said – a bare minimum of world building for one of the game’s most important areas story-wise :(

              1. galacticplumber says:

                Data on where the collector came from, the relationship between the king and the failed hollow knight, and more simple things like what elite military looked like.

                1. Lino says:

                  I haven’t played the game in a long time, but wasn’t that essentially just an Easter Egg? I don’t know, I remember feeling kind of disappointed by the fact that such a key area was essentially just a big hole with platforms and spikes – I guess we’re just looking for different when it comes to worldbuilding…

  2. Redrock says:

    Regarding Obsidian and bugs, their latest isometric games were also quite buggy, it’s just not that noticeable visually, but there’re still lots of issues with quest logic, items, abilities, etc. Some of it, of course, stems from just how complex Obsidian likes to make their quests and options, but still. I love Obsidian, and I’ll probably even buy The Outer Worlds at full price and close to launch, but I think I won’t be playing it for several months after that. They’ve gotten really good at post-launch support unlike, say, Bethesda, and it pays to wait. Even if The Outer Worlds launches in a decent shape, it will be significantly improved over several months after launch, that’s a guarantee.

    1. Thomas says:

      Microsoft owning them changes that guarantee. If The Outer Worlds isn’t what MS wants from Obsidian, they might not devote post-launch time to the game. On the other hand MS might encourage them to do even more support.

      1. Redrock says:

        I sincerely doubt Microsoft would be interested in forcing Obsidian to abandon The Outer Worlds post-launch. I might be wrong, but I don’t think Microsoft is aiming for a EA-style relationship with its newly acquired studios. Rather, I’m pretty sure Obsidian will be allowed to more or less continue doing its own thing, at least for now. Barring any further PS4 ports, of course.

  3. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    I have no idea what game people who complain about Kerrigan becoming a “good guy” played. She starts her campaign by slaughtering an entire Protoss colony just because they might be a threat to her, and that’s while she’s still human! Agreeing to spare a few surviving wounded marines and taking on a small strategic disadvantage to let civilians evacuate are treated as enormous character development on her part. And in Legacy of the Void she’s still no picnic.
    Meanwhile in Broodwar she was openly sick of all the killing, and her worst actions (like betraying Fenix and Duke) were manipulations by Duran.
    There is a lot of stuff wrong with the story of StarCraft 2 but I think they did right by Kerrigan.

    1. Chris says:

      I wrote that letter so I’ll give some more context (since I didn’t want to drop too much context them).

      In SC1 kerrigan gets infested and in the missing you grow her raynor comes in to try and rescue her. After getting kerrigan youre tasked to kill the terran base. At the end kerrigan decides to let jimmy go. Now this could be seen as a sign that she still has some humanity left in her and tries to help jimmy in a little way. In BW she states to the protoss she’s a good girl and the overmind made her evil, but then she kills aldaris and in her own campaign goes on a bloody rampage. So at that point you know she’s evil, not that she’s controlled.

      In SC2 raynor is crying about her (I could see this happen, but more in a “kerrigan is gone and Ill kill the monster in her name” kind of way than trying to save her) and in the mission where you uninfest her you have kerrigan taunting you. But then you also have a short cry for help spliced in. And the angle is very clearly that there is a good kerrigan trapped inside. As for her killing a bunch of people, I honestly think that’s not to make her look evil, but to make her seem more “awesome” and “hardcore” and “strong”.

      So that’s why I think that SC1 and SC2 are like ME 1 and ME 2. In SC2 they didn’t get that kerrigan was irredeemable (or the overmind for that matter, they had to retcon that retcon) and tried to twist it. Same in ME1 and 2. Where they suddenly try to twist cerberus into people just trying their best. And kerrigan/raynor and cerberus are just examples. There are plenty of other things wrong in tone between SC1 and 2, and ME1 and 2.

      1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

        Kerrigan is more complex than “good” and “evil”. Even as a human she’s split between her morals and her training. She’s horrified at using zergs as weapons of war, but she executed Mengsk’s family (including his baby sister) as a Ghost. Then she gets infested and it gets even more complicated. What part of her is because of the Zerg infestation? What part of her is simply her genuine darkness unshackled? Remove the Overmind, remove the Amon’s taint, remove the infestation, what part is really her? She betrays and murders, but then admits that she’s sick of it. She blows up the Protoss and Terran fleets, then leave them be instead of just finishing them off easily.
        That theme of “who is she really” is consistent over both games. Even Kerrigan is super confused by this, so she mostly operates on instincts. Threaten her in any way shape or form, you die. Threaten someone she cares about, you die.
        That’s why her deciding to spare people even if it doesn’t suit her needs is a big deal for her. But that doesn’t “redeem” her.
        And by the way the Overmind wasn’t “redeemed” either. Its morality has never changed : the only thing that matters to it are the Zerg. It never gave a fuck about Amon threatening the galaxy, it only cared about it enslaving and threatening the Zerg. From our perspective, it was still a complete monster that would have gleefully assimilated or exterminated every single organism in the universe in time.

        But mostly why I think the SC1/SC2 ME1/ME2 comparison doesn’t work is that while you can tell that the writers of SC2 genuinely loved the lore of SC1 (even if they didn’t always do it justice) and wanted to continue where they perceived it was going, the writers of ME2 acted like they hated what ME1 was trying to establish and tried to distance themselves as much as they could. For some unfathomable reason.

  4. Joe says:

    I tried a few CCGs in my teens, and played a bit of MTG. It was fun. I still keep up with the art, some of which is amazing. Also, there’s been several D&D guides for the various universes. Ravnica got a large book, which is a good read. But the CCG that captured my heart was Rage, based on White Wolf’s Werewof the Apocalypse. That was good fun, though I never used half the systems they put in the game.

    In other news, I had a good laugh the other day when investigating Rage 2. It looks like it might be fun, though it’s very much a wait for the review title. However, it’s launching exclusively on the Bethesda store and will cost $100 Australian! Seriously? I don’t want a new games launcher, and that’s a little too much for me right now. My interest plummeted. I’ll probably just watch a LP.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      No idea if it’s your thing but Cryptic (Neverwinter MMO, Star Trek Online, Champions Online) are apparently making an MMO based on the current MtG storyline/setting. From my experience with the studio most likely a F2P title with an option of limited grind or real cash for premium currency. It’ll probably be fairly up to date as they seem to have a good relationship with Wizards of the Coast judging by the Neverwinter MMO releasing content largely in parallel with new pen and paper modules.

      1. Joe says:

        As much as I like some of the settings, I don’t play MMOs. I find the whole idea offputting. But thanks anyway. Maybe I’ll check out some videos or art.

  5. Ike says:

    Man, Jill of the Junjle was so good! I would love to see you play that again on the Shame-cast.

  6. Echo Tango says:

    Regarding story and cutscene pacing in games – this seems like something easily solvable, at least for games with cutscenes and audiologs.

    If the game just had a way for the player to review the cutscenes and audiologs at their leisure, it would go a long way. Call it a diary or journal (fantasy game), or a Personal Video Device (sci-fi), or whatever, but just let the player re-watch the things. On top of just letting the player re-watch things, you’d want to give it a slick interface, and/or have a button to let the player re-watch everything sequentially, like a movie. Movies let people continue playback from specific scenes, or only watch specific scenes, and I think the narrative of games would benefit from stealing that whole set of menus / ingerface / interaction. :)

    1. John says:

      As I recall, Knights of the Old Republic let you re-watch cutscenes, but it wasn’t something you could do in-game. You had to do it from the main menu. There was also the issue that it only let you re-watch the pre-rendered cutscenes rather than the in-engine ones which contained almost all of the plot.

      Letting the player re-watch cutscenes in-game without damaging immersion is a potentially tricky thing to do. Perhaps not in a fantasy or softer sci-fi setting. There, we just give the player a magical or “psionic” crystal and tell him “if you focus your thoughts, the crystal provides a window into the past”. But I’m not so sure that we could do it in a contemporary or hard sci-fi setting. I mean, it’s all very well to let the player “review the ship’s security logs”, but what do we do about the cutscenes that aren’t set on the ship? How do we reconcile multiple perspectives and dramatic editing in a typical cutscene with the singular perspective and total lack of editing afforded by security camera footage? I think we have to either be selective about the cutscenes we let the player re-watch or else specifically design all the cutscenes so that they take into account the in-game means by which the player will later re-watch them.

      1. Syal says:

        but what do we do about the cutscenes that aren’t set on the ship?

        Police-style body cameras. For justifying multiple perspectives, the guy in charge of playbacks wants to make movies and has way too much free time.

        1. John says:

          Fair enough. I only hope people are ready for a game in which all the cutscenes are in the style of a found-footage movie.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        How do we reconcile multiple perspectives and dramatic editing

        If you’re in a game that’s “hard” sci-fi or normal-Earth, then cutscenes like this are already breaking from the player-character’s perspective. If for example, I’m playing a game where I only control Tom McPoliceman, and the game shows me out-of-character cutscenes then it needs to let me review those cutscenes exactly as they were shown the first time. If it was accepted by the player the first time[1], it will be fine on subsequent viewings. Not letting the player review them will force them to alt-tab to YouTube or similar, which is even more immersion-breaking than anything in-universe would be.

        [1] I mean, how did the game justify this the first time? Was it a folder full of pictures and text from The Chief, to my Tom McPoliceman? Then the in-universe explanation for the player reviewing the cutscenes would be just as easy – he’s going over the old files.

        1. John says:

          I mean, how did the game justify this the first time? Was it a folder full of pictures and text from The Chief, to my Tom McPoliceman? Then the in-universe explanation for the player reviewing the cutscenes would be just as easy – he’s going over the old files.

          Hm. That’s potentially quite restrictive. I don’t know if it would work for all games. Suppose, for example, that the developers want to surprise the player with some kind of dramatic twist. One way to do that is with a surprise cutscene. Imagine Tom McPoliceman, all unsuspecting, doing his regular gameplay Tom McPoliceman thing–driving his squad car down the road, say–when suddenly–boom!–a cutscene kicks in. Tom’s car gets buzzed by a helicopter full of goons firing machine guns. If Tom has to look at a file before a cutscene begins, however, then the player makes Tom look at a file and the cutscene begins with Tom getting into his car and driving down the road. That’s not necessarily bad, but it doesn’t have quite the same element of surprise. The player will have time to digest the fact that he’s watching a cutscene and will anticipate that something dramatic is about to happen. It also occurs to me that this approach will very quickly train the player to constantly look for files in order to advance the story. Or possibly to avoid files in order to avoid advancing the story, depending on the player’s goals of the moment.

          Again, none of this is necessarily bad, but it does make for a very particular kind of game. Making cutscenes into a system, a gameplay mechanic even, is a fascinating idea. I’d like to see somebody try it sometime.

          1. Echo Tango says:

            None of this should be restrictive on the game. In your example of an ambush while the protagonist is driving down the road, it’s still easy – he’s reliving the traumatic memory in his head. Don’t think about this as some completely in-universe mechanic, where the character has to use object to review the cutscenes; Just put it in some player-accessible menu, and have whatever hand-wave you want that fits the flavor of the universe. Alternately, don’t even have the hand-wave; Just completely ignore the fact that the player is accessing old cutscenes for this run of the game, and immediately play them without restriction or delay. Think of it like save-files – very few games have an in-universe explanation for those, although many games have load-menus that visually match the aesthetics of the game world.

      3. Joe Informatico says:

        If you’re equating “immersion” with “realism”, then most pre-render cutscenes (and a whole bunch of in-engine ones) already fail. Real life doesn’t have dramatic lighting or camera angles, or non-diagetic musical scores, or people massively info-dumping on subjects you should already know or are frankly too intimate to share with a stranger, especially if that stranger is an agent of the government or a an above-the-law black ops commando. But we handwave these away for the most part.

        But if you must, then the handwave is the player-character revisiting their own memories in a flashback. In fact, a cool UI feature could be if you stumble across an area of the world or plot-trigger directly tied to a prior cutscene, you could get a prompt to rewatch that specific cutscene. E.g., you’re about to encounter NPC Bob, and get a “Previously on Shootermans” prompt that replays your conversation with NPC Alice about how Bob is a bastard and she wants him dead and you can be reminded why this guy should be killed (or not) instead of seeing him as a hit point sponge and loot drop with dialogue.

        1. John says:

          Immersion’s a funny, subjective thing. If I could re-watch cutscenes whenever I wanted by pausing the game and selecting “View Cutscenes” from a menu, I absolutely wouldn’t care about the editing in the cutscenes. But if I could only re-watch cutscenes by making a character do a specific in-game thing, I’d care about how the content and editing of the cutscenes reflected who the character was supposed to be, what thing they were doing, and how that thing was supposed to be understood within the game. It’d depend on the game’s presentation and art style too. I’d care a lot more about this sort of thing in a game with a realistic or quasi-realistic graphics and a lot less if the game were more abstract, cartoonish, or dreamlike.

    2. DeadlyDark says:

      I remember that feature in Devil May Cry 3/4. It was awesome

  7. Kylroy says:

    I think Shamus has the perfect take on the HotS (effective, eventual) shutdown: this could simply be a prudent financial move, but why would Activision start making those now?

    I’d add that it’s important to note that Heroes hadn’t been very successful as an e-sport. MOBA fans like their games plutonium-dense, and consequently like the ones they’ve already spent the necessary hundreds of hours on to even *follow* the game. Appealing as the genre may be to other developers, the sunk cost effect means that there isn’t room in MOBA esports for much beyond the games that began the genre. I find that kind of ironic, because a similar effect in MMOs gave Blizzard endless income for over a decade.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      That’s not ironic though, just a pattern or trend – online-only games like that generally only have room for one or two games per genre, and everything else can’t compete. It’s like so sports in real life – there’s only need for one or two leagues per sport at the global level. Nobody can really break in with “slightly different soccer” and hope to be successful; You need to have a radically different game, for people to be interested in, and to fill a niche.

      1. Chris says:

        I think the irony is in that the market system that once helped blizzard now shuts them out

        1. Echo Tango says:

          This is what happens when I comment on stuff before I’ve had my caffeine. ^^;

  8. Lino says:

    I think a very important aspect of the HoTS shutdown – and the one that has people pissed the most – is the fact that this decision came out of nowhere. Activision-Blizzard had been silent for months, and out-of-the-blue they just said that they’ve put the game on life support.
    And what has people REALLY pissed is that they said that the planned HoTS esports events for 2019 are cancelled – the events their entire esports scene has been practicing for. And remember, these esports players are very dedicated, and the whole livelihood of a large chunk of them depends on these events. As far as I know, all of them said that no one had communicated any of this to them. And to just have the rug pulled from under them – right before Christmas, no less! Can you imagine what they and their families are going through right now?
    Again, it’s Acti-Blizz’s right to do whatever they want with their properties – but regardless of that, you need to communicate these things in advance.
    I think that this will definitely have repercussions for their future projects.

    1. Somniorum says:

      I watch a lot of HotS streams – during a stream I asked JHow, who streams HotS and was one of the official commentators for HGC, if he had been notified before the general public was, and they had been, but not by very much – a matter of hours iirc – but technically they were.

      During Blizzcon, and for a time after, some popular streamers or folks working the HGC, had asked HotS devs about HGC in 2019, and they were assured it was absolutely going through. They were misinformed, though it seems unlikely that the devs they talked to lied – one streamer/youtuber, MFPallytime, stated that he’d been told such, and that when the bad news came, the same devs insisted that they’d only found out the same day themselves. A whole lot of shocked people.

      I suspect that Blizzard might have intended to keep silent about this until after the new year. I don’t know for how long the decision was final before they made it public, but rumours started circulating in the last few weeks when people noticed that HGC hadn’t officially been announced for 2019, and were intensified when a couple important casters announced they were going to other games or focusing on streaming instead (which was, incidentally, probably just a coincidence). I suspect that, if not for all that talk, Blizzard actually would’ve kept quiet, but they felt forced to announce it at that point rather than lead people on (particularly since, while the rumours became prolific, most people were just laughing at them).

  9. Geebs says:

    Is Gris worth a try if I’ve already played Journey? The trailer looks rather….influenced by ThatGameCompany, which is putting me off a bit*.

    *as in, I loved Journey and I’m worried I might love it a bit less if I play something that is a bit too like it.

    1. Shamus says:

      I would say yes. I played both, and Gris does not feel like a re-tread.

      1. Geebs says:

        Thanks! I’ll give it a try.

        1. Geebs says:

          By the way, if you’re into extremely grey, extemely European platformers, have you played NaissanceE? It’s Brutalist Mirror’s Edge, only even Frencher than that. I think the developer has now made it free as in beer, as well.

  10. My then-nine and -seven year old boys played the original Minecraft Story Mode. Being 9 and 7 and not terribly discriminating, it was fine for them, and it’s not like I had to object to them playing it. But the thought occurred to me as they were playing it, and reinforced by your post, that Telltale needed to be a lot less comfortable. They expected the fact this was the Licensed Minecraft Game (TM) to carry the game, and did they ever rest on that. I’m not sure there was an event in that game that shouldn’t have had its bloviating dialog cut down by about 2/3rds. If you didn’t love whatever license they had going on, you would never have played it.

    They started out smarter than that. The Sam and Max games were perhaps not classics for the ages, but I at least played them of my own free will, with no nostalgia for the series since I had never played them before. But Telltale got very, very comfortable.

  11. John says:

    The more time I spend puzzling out the Epic games store, the less I like it. At first glance, it looks like a web store, like GOG or Humble. But if so it’s not a very good web store, because the game-specific pages are all missing essential information about the games. What are the system requirements? Are there Linux or Mac versions? Epic doesn’t say. At this point, it isn’t clear to me whether or not you can even buy games from your browser. My guess is that you can’t. All the of the store FAQs deal strictly with the Epic client.

    I have two issues with the Epic client. The first is that there’s an Epic client. I don’t like client programs. I barely tolerate Steam sometimes. When I buy a game from a store I want the store to just give me the game and then get out of my way. I don’t need friends lists, forums, or auto-updates. I don’t want to have to use some superfluous client just to run a game all of whose files are already on my hard drive, including the executable. The second is that there’s no Linux client. I won’t call that a failing since it won’t affect most people, but it’s a serious problem for me personally. There’s apparently a Mac client and they mention a forthcoming Android client, but given that nobody, so far as I know, plays Fortnite natively on Linux, I don’t have a lot of hope.

    I want to like the Epic store. I like the idea of some serious competition for Steam. I like that they seem to be a little nicer to developers than Steam. But it seems that for the forseeable future the Epic store is very much not for me.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      The lack of Linux support is especially saddening, given that they’re porting to both Android and Mac. Both of those OSs are closer to Linux than to Windows, so porting to Linux would be not much effort. :S

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      I won’t lie, it’s somewhat annoying how many clients my game collection is spread between but that’s the reality of the market nowadays so I still grabbed it to get a free Subnautica and possibly to buy Journey later. I fully expect the other promised “free games over the period of first year” will be stuff that’s cheaper, smaller, and has been in very bundle conceivable but hey, free backups, and maybe I’ll get something that I don’t own yet since I’ve already sacrificed my email address to another corporate devil.

  12. Droid says:

    Shamus, I know this is off-topic, but since you haven’t done a housekeeping-type of post recently, I figured I’d comment before I forget: Are you aware that the Twitter dropdown thingie is still there but still doesn’t work (blank dropdown menu)? I’m mildly interested in seeing it from time to time, but mainly it’s distracting to have a giant white blob pop up on your dark site background whenever I happen to move the cursor over it.

    1. Grimwear says:

      May want to let Shamus know what browser you’re using. I’m on firefox 56.0.2 and it works for me.

      1. Droid says:

        Nevermind, it was an AdBlock issue (I never thought of deactivating it here, because no ads). It’s strange, though, that this is the only site where Adblock affects the Twitter embed. I can see the feeds on other websites just fine (just tested it on paradoxplaza.com).

        Browser is Chrome (Win 64), latest version.

  13. GoStu says:

    My best-guess on Heroes of the Storm shutting down was more-or-less that this is Activision-Blizzard conceding to the market frontrunners. League of Legends and DOTA have by far more market share in the MOBA space than AB’s little also-ran.

    Soldiering on and trying to “make it bigger” and growing it into a bigger eSport when you’re basically an also-ran just doesn’t seem like a sound business decision. For all we know, the prizes/tournaments/etc. just weren’t pushing new sales, so they’re shelving the project and freeing resources to go try to make a different hit.

    1. Kylroy says:

      My one forlorn hope for HotS is that, freed from trying to be an e-sport, they can further lean in to the goofy mashup nature of the game. I know they *won’t* – hell, I’ll be stunned if we get another hero at this point – but it would be a way to try and make something of the game.

  14. GoStu says:

    Also, really cool to hear Paul bring up Dark Reign. That RTS was years ahead of its time, especially in its AI behavior, but it seems that nobody remembers it. The campaign did some really interesting stuff too.

    In a way I feel like Starcraft is to blame. In my opinion its e-sport success was a complete fluke, but it ended up making Starcraft’s conventions and take on the genre almost the breed standard for what people think an RTS should be. Innovators like Dark Reign and other things from that time just get shrugged off into obscurity. Same as other RTS’s from now like Achron – despite having the most innovative mechanic I’ve ever seen, it languished in total indie obscurity while SC2 hogged the RTS spotlight.

    1. Asdasd says:

      It’s true that this is probably a sound business decision. The problem is that Blizzard sells itself to its customer base not so much as a company as an all-embracing family, with a library of lovingly managed products, each designed to cater to a certain segment of the player spectrum and each lovingly maintained with polish and updates. It’s much like how Apple operate, looking after their phone users and their ipad users and their mac users by carefully providing each with refreshes of their relevant hardware/software lines every so many years.

      Only in 2018 came the news that all is not right in paradise: Diablo players got told that their present for the year wasn’t Diablo 4, but a freemium phone game, while HoTs fans got told that the plug was effectively being pulled on their game. With HoTs the additional significance is that this game is in Blizzard’s own words a loveletter to its own franchises, a Smash Bros-style crossover megagame, so for Blizzard to be perceived as neglecting or devaluing it has a symbolic resonance for every other part of their business.

      Besides which it’s an acknowledgement that, contrary to all expectations, they failed to conquer MOBAdom, which very much runs contrary to the popular narrative that Blizzard will move into a genre, take all the best bits from its leading exemplar, then strip away needless cruft and design flaws to leave a pure gem gameplay gem that they then polish into a brilliant diamond, and with which they effortlessly take over the genre. Except that this time.. they didn’t. It’s sort of a Vietnam moment for a developer that traded on a reputation not just for quality, but an untouchable and all-conquering supremacy. But maybe in the long run it will prove liberating for them, not having to maintain the endless winning streak.

      1. GoStu says:

        Now that’s an inspired metaphor; Heroes of the Storm as their Vietnam, their lesson that yes – they can lose. Blizzard’s never had their memento mori, their reminder that they are mortal and fallible… and here they are getting it twice.

        I hope that the reception to Diablo Immortal was a wakeup and that Heroes’ demise seals the lesson home.

      2. Gwydden says:

        It ain’t all bad. As a longtime Warcraft III fan, I’m pretty satisfied with Blizzard at the moment.

    2. Kylroy says:

      Mostly because at this point, RTS as a genre is in “total indie obscurity”. I struggle to think of a AAA RTS released since SC2, and that was a decade ago.

      1. GoStu says:

        I agree. It’s a genre that seems to be going the way of the “mascot platformer” – something that used to be everywhere but is now dominated by a single major player more-or-less satisfying everyone looking for that particular kind of gameplay.

        I feel like RTS’s are a genre largely strangled by their own trappings. There’s a certain expectation that comes with the genre; build base, gather resources, work your way up tech tree, fight enemy 1-on-1. Because it’s become so formulaic, it’s really hard to innovate and bring something new to shake up the genre. I know of a few interesting entries in the genre that sadly failed to make much of a splash:

        Achron: Time travel not just as a central game mechanic, but multiplayer time travel in a real-time environment. It’s entirely possible to lose a battle in the present, but win because you’ve gone back in time to counter the opponent’s plan and they did not respond to your changes. The past catches up to the future and now you have the upper hand. It was indie-developed and never got the attention it really deserved, and ultimately languished in obscurity.

        Grey Goo: Billed as a real return to “classic” RTS styles, this came and went pretty much without fanfare. It was even developed by some of the original Westwood people including Frank Klepacki. It pulled a 6/10 on Steam with a modest 8/10 on a few sites, and was promptly forgotten.

        Tom Clancy’s Endwar: A unique management-light strategy game that languished in obscurity compared to other Tom Clancy games. Huge simplification to the RTS formula in some ways, but absolutely unique in perspective and control. Got a resounding 7/10 reception pretty much across the board, commercial flop, sequel cancelled.

        Rants aside, I feel like the strategy genre has solidified into one of two things: Either you copy Starcraft as best you can (and get beat out with Starcraft fans by Starcraft itself) or you mix things up and get ignored by Real Time Starcraft fans and non-SC fans alike. There’s no win condition here, so the whole genre suffers.

        1. Thomas says:

          For a long-time I thought the right innovation would resurrect the genre. Then those innovations came and now I think it’s just dead.

          Teeth and Tale perfectly solved the complexity multi tasking issues of the genre and it died within a month. I loved that game.

          Halo Wars barely made a dent. Grey Goo did nothing. Achron got left to time.

          It’s a genre that’s been outcompeted. It’s less immersive than an action game, harder to learn than fortnite, less focused than a MOBA and less personal than a fighter.

          The Total War series, it’s most successful in, survives by feeling nothing like an RTS.

          (A shout out to Battle for Middle Earth, Company of Heroes and Empire at War for making a go of it though)

        2. Paul Spooner says:

          My current favorite RTS is Creeper World 3. Hopefully CW4 (currently under development) will outshine it, but I get the impression that the dev doesn’t understand his own product, so I’m not hoping too hard.

          Yeah, I feel like we still don’t have AI like in Dark Reign. My favorite way of playing Planetary Annihilation is with the sub-commanders handling the macro and micro, so I can concentrate on whatever seems the most important. I get the impression that devs don’t want to tip off the players that the AI can play every RTS way better than a person. I wish they would just embrace it and lean into the experience rather than the challenge. Oh well.

        3. Lino says:

          Don’t forget about Tooth and Tail which tried to be the Hearthstone of RTS’s – i.e. simplify things and revive the genre. It didn’t work :(
          The only recent RTS that had any sort of impact (that I know of) was They are Billions, and even though I never got around to playing it, I think it had the right idea of making sessions short, and always keeping the pressure up. It certainly made for interesting streams (and was in the top 10 of most popular Twitch games for a while)!
          The only other recent one I can think of is Frostpunk, but that’s more of a management sim.

          But I agree – nowadays you either have to be Starcraft or a niche player like Creative Assembly, Stardock or Paradox…

          Btw, I’ve clicked through a few videos for Creeper Wars, and I didn’t get very much. What is it about?

          1. GoStu says:

            I saw a little of Tooth and Tail but never played it, so I left it off my list. Directly simplifying things without adding something else didn’t strike me as a winning solution.

            Of all the projects above, I think Endwar had the most potential as a concept. Achron was utterly mindbending and hard to comprehend at times. Grey Goo didn’t really do anything different, it just had a prestigious development team. Endwar’s visuals and mechanics had some real potential and I’d love to see it iterated upon; it’s just a shame the sequel was cancelled.

            Someone ripping off that idea, slapping a strong IP on it, and polishing it up could stand to make a bucket of money.

  15. Lun says:

    Honestly….. Heroes Of The Storm is the only moba I enjoy now. I won’t dwelve on why I don’t like other moba games anymore, but suffice to say that Blizzard’s take on the genre was right up my alley both in gameplay and in artistic style.

    So discovering that Activision/Blizzard decided to stop developing their product put me in a sour mood. Yes, big companies do this stuff all the time, it happens in all corporations…. but usually it’s rarely the direct individual customer that is afflicted by this kind of behaviour. Instead, Activision/Blizzard’s decision strikes directly to each person of their own fanbase, which is why even simply from a PR standpoint they should’ve avoided it.
    I know well that trusting a company like a sort of friend is an illogical idea, but brand loyalty is still a thing that regularly happens. And I sure lost my brand loyalty towards Blizzard.

  16. modus0 says:

    IIRC, there was a burgeoning interest between Raynor and Kerrigan in Starcraft, though mostly one-sided. And despite what the Queen of Blades has done, he still carries a bit of a torch for her.

    As for the de-Zerg, re-Zerg. It is explained in the Starcraft 2: The Overmind was tampered with by Amon, in a way that would allow the fallen Xel’naga to take control of the swarm for his own ends. Upon capturing Kerrigan, the Overmind saw a means to try breaking free from that control, and chose to infest her (her incredible psychic potential was another reason). However, being that she’d been Zergified by the Amon-tainted Overmind, Kerrigan was bound like the rest of the Zerg.

    Raynor learned of the artifact that was used to de-infest Kerrigan from Zeratul, who learned it from the ghost of”Tassadar”. When Kerrigan traveled to Zerus to re-infest herself, she did so as a Primal Zerg, which were never under the influence or control of Amon, and thus she could lead the swarm against him when it came time to do so. And if she hadn’t re-assumed the role of Queen of Blades, then Amon would have been able to control the Zerg, and would have ended up winning.

    1. krellen says:

      There was absolutely at the very least sexual tension between Sarah and Jim in StarCraft 1, starting with their first meeting (“You pig!”). Jim’s reaction to her being left behind also was very clearly not a “work colleagues” sort of outrage, and him coming for her during the Zerg campaign is yet more evidence of his torch.

      And yes, her letting him go then is evidence it wasn’t all one-sided; the StarCraft story wasn’t particularly subtle.

      The de-Zerg/re-Zerg thing is kind of annoying, but it’s no worse than what Marvel just did with Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Infinity War vis-a-vis Thor.

  17. AndrewCC says:

    Paul, Overwatch never was as big as LoL as an esport, it was doing very well on streaming sites for a while but it’s been on a downward trend, which has only accelerated when Fortnite came out.
    I would not be surprised if Overwatch pro scene is next on the chopping block, after HotS.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Having trouble finding reputable looking numbers, but it appears you are correct! Not sure where I got the idea that Overwatch was the new e-sports king. Oh well.

      1. Lino says:

        Maybe because their esports scene is really pushing the “local” angle – i.e. having teams that represent each country, and having countries go up against each other (like in the Football World Cup). It looks very high-profile (even though, in reality, there are bigger fish in the tank).

  18. Joe says:

    Hey, Shamus, have you watched the Noclip documentary on Half-Life? I did, and was sure for a moment the answer to why no more HL appeared was in there, but I’ve forgotten it. I might have to watch it again. Not an explicit statement, mind you. But small stuff that added up to an answer.

  19. Paul Spooner says:

    The Dynamo behind-the-scenes video just went up, and I’m surprised by how many physical props they built.

  20. Grimwear says:

    In terms of the Epic Games Store I’m glad that there’s more competition but I don’t know how well it will actually do. Many people don’t feel comfortable with the store because Tencent pretty much owns it. Ignoring that for me personally I don’t want multiple launchers and I did buy Good Robot on steam but I wouldn’t have gone to Epic Games Store for it. In fact with Origin I’ve just gone without rather than download it but maybe I’m in the minority. The biggest thing that Epic Games should be worried about is whether the majority of their userbase are just people playing fortnite and have no interest in anything else. And as for the exclusives I’ve heard they’re timed meaning they will come to steam anyway and as we’ve seen exclusives haven’t done much for the Windows Store but only time will tell.

  21. TehShrike says:

    I loved Magic the Gathering – the game design was amazing, even following the metagame was entertaining for me.

    I had to get out, though, it costs way too much money to keep up with it.

    That’s why I’m intrigued by Keyforge, a game where every deck is procedurally generated and can’t be altered with any other cards: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rRYst-Roqsg

  22. Simon says:

    I am horribly behind on my.podcasts. Hence the late reply. Just to say I don’t think Netflix hired the Cohen Brothers to make a cowboy film just because Red Dead Redemption came out.
    Not watched it yet but I have heard great things.

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