Diecast #237: The Secret Show

By Shamus Posted Monday Dec 24, 2018

Filed under: Diecast 83 comments

Here it is. Our rambling, goofy, leave-in-all-the-mistakes Christmas Eve show. As hard as it might be to believe, I was sober during this. The whole time. I don’t know what was wrong with my brain. Sure, I made some questionable gaffs, but since nobody will listen to this episode I guess that’s fine.

Next episode will be the last of the year, so if you have any end-of-year questions, please send them in. Email is in the title image.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

00:00 Welcome to the Secret Show!

Look, don’t tell folks about this one. When everyone gets back from Christmas break we can just pretend there haven’t been any new episodes.

02:35 BattleTech

Link (YouTube)

Thanks so much to the person who got this for me. I’m really enjoying this game. The world is really interesting. The art is incredible. The gameplay has that irresistible “just one more mission” appeal of the original X-Com. At the same time, I’m in over my head. If you have any Battletech tips, please share them.

I know I spent a lot of time complaining about my introduction to this game, but that’s because I had such a strange and off-putting first encounter with it. For the record, I’ve put a lot more hours into the game and I haven’t run into any further bugs. I don’t know how that first mission went so wrong, but that’s the story I had to tell.

The art in this game is amazing.
The art in this game is amazing.

19:23 Rimworld

Link (YouTube)

28:55 Hitman 2

When we were talking about my inability to not throw people out of windows, we were referencing this old episode of Spoiler Warning:

Link (YouTube)

35:47 Starcraft 2


From The Archives:

83 thoughts on “Diecast #237: The Secret Show

  1. nobody says:

    How did you know?

    Anyway, merry Christmas Shamus. Merry Christmas Paul.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Merry Christmas nobody.
      Merry Christmas socks.

  2. Caroline says:

    The notion that nobody goes on the Internet over the holidays seems weird to me. That’s when I’m visiting my family and since nobody wants to play board games with me I spend a lot of time on Reddit between christmas movies and meals.

    1. evileeyore says:

      I don’t spend time with family (if I can help it) and since all my friends are off with their families… the internet is my only friend.


      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Hey, there’s a reason I moved half the country away from my family, and you could do much worse with friends than the internet.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        After two consecutive evenings of visiting family, I’m exhausted. Today was a day to eat salted peanuts, canned oranges, and not deal with my over-energetic nieces and nephew! :P

  3. Pedant says:

    “Mechwarrior” is just the name for a mech pilot in Battletech.
    The Mechwarrior videogames are Battletech games about mechwarriors.

    1. John says:

      Originally, Mechwarriror was the name of the tabletop RPG spinoff of the Battletech tabletop wargame. Then it was the name of a series of mech-piloting quasi-simulation videogames. I would not go so far as to say that the Mechwarrior video games are “about mechwarriors” unless they are about Mechwarriors in the same way that Tie Fighter is “about” tie fighter pilots.

      1. Boobah says:

        From the games I’ve played, in the computer space BattleTech games have a POV outside the mech, while the MechWarrior games have an out-the-cockpit view. I also suspect that there’s IP shenanigans at work that I’m ignorant of.

        For the tabletop? Yeah, BattleTech is the small-scale tactical boardgame, where a mech company (12 mechs) on company battle is pretty big, while MechWarrior is the RPG set in that same universe. AeroTech is a similar number of units as BattleTech, but as the name suggests it centers around AeroSpace fighters and DropShips. Then there’s BattleForce, IIRC, that is designed for regiment-sized battles (and the mech lance is the smallest unit), and there’s even one that has you take control of one of the Great Houses at the beginning of the First Succession War and attempt to conquer the Inner Sphere. Heck, there’s a ruleset for WarShips, despite the fact that none of the Great Houses have had any for centuries in the game’s most well-known settings.

    2. Benjamin Hilton says:

      My first introduction to this world was mechwarrior 4 and to today it remains one of my favorite games. I was never the best player at it, but I loved how you could completely customize every mech in terms of armor type, weapons, heating systems, anti missile systems… As long as you have the weight for it you can put it on. The game came with an in universe “handbook” with blueprints and stats on all the mechs in the game, and its full of my handwritten notes on modifications and changes I had made to the base designs. To me it represented the perfect balance for the mech driver genre. Other games were a little to simulationist for me where just piloting the thing was almost as complicated as piloting a real war vehicle. Whereas later MechWarrior games removed all the options and just made it a straight move and shoot game that I found utterly boring. MechWarrior 4 was fairly straightforward in terms of piloting once you were on a mission, but the ability to choose which mech with what equipment to bring on any given mission really gave you allot of control and rewarded you for planning. Play heavy and slow,with lots of firepower, or nimble and fast. I remember realizing i was going into a level full of lakes so I equipped a weapon load it that normally would have over heated my mech in one shot, but was much less of an issue because I was partially submerged in water. I got to roll with the heaviest weapons just because I had the foresight to examine the battlefield and think about how it would effect my equipment. God I love that game.

      Gushing done.

  4. Joe says:

    Battletech is a tabletop miniatures game, while Mechwarrior is an RPG in the same universe. Created by Jordan Weisman, who founded FASA and also created Shadowrun.

    Given that his videogame company has done Battletech and Shadowrun games, I’m wondering if they’ll tackle Earthdawn next. Naah, it’ll probably be Battletech 2.

    Not everyone travels for Christmas, and even most of those who do have mobile net access. There’s only so much family stuff you can do before you want to escape.

  5. tmtvl says:

    I liked Husky’s BLH, I tried watching Winter’s but it’s not doing it for me. I actually changed from following E-Sports to following Go after Overwatch (which is unwatchable to me) got big.

  6. Turbosloth says:

    I’m still here over the christmas period! I just very, very rarely comment (I’ve read literally every post on your blog – it was 2 years old when I found it and I archive binged the first 2 years at some point – and I think I’ve left maybe… 5 comments? Ever?)

  7. Grudgeal says:

    Ok, so Battletech ‘mechs consist of four classes of ‘mechs depending on their weight. There are:

    – Light ‘mechs (20-35 tons)
    – Medium ‘mechs (40-55 tons)
    – Heavy ‘mechs (60-75 tons)
    – Assault ‘mechs (80-100 tons)

    You start out with one light ‘mech (a Spider) and three mediums (a Vindicator, a Shadow Hawk, and your Blackjack).

    To make a long story very short: The lighter a ‘mech is, the faster it is but the less weapons and armour it can have. Light ‘mechs are very hard to hit. They can move very fast, can mount a lot of jump jets, and thus can get a lot of evasion pips (the little sideways ‘V’ next to your mech label), plus all enemies have a -2 to hit them (approximately -10% hit chance) due to their size. Because they’re so light, they have paper for armour and basically no weapons at all. You use light ‘mechs to run ahead of your other, heavier ‘mechs and look out for ambushes, run circles around heavier ‘mechs and them in the rear, run past the front line and attack turrets, fire support, generators and other stuff, and basically similar roles. Light ‘mechs are not meant for mainline or melee combat: You mostly use them to get vision on the enemy and send your heavier stuff in to deal with it. For example, your Blackjack has some very good range on its main guns (the AC/2 guns), which is longer than the mech can actually see. So you can use your Spider to scout ahead, and then line up shots with your Blackjack the enemy can’t respond to. To use light ‘mechs “properly”, run from cover to cover, always use the defend/brace action if you think an enemy can actually shoot at you, and if you’re hiding behind a wall or mountain use ‘sensor lock’ to let your bigger ‘mechs get line-of-sight so they can attack the enemy.

    As you get further into the game you’ll probably find heavier ‘mechs, plus you’ll start to understand how different weapons work and what combination of guns work well for you.

    1. Kand says:

      Adding some more tips.
      Skipping the tutorial also doesn’t make you miss any loot. So you only skipped going through the tutorial again.

      Correctly building your mechs and lance composition is probably more than half of winning the fight. Stock loadouts are usually pretty bad. So manually adjusting your loadouts should be your first goal.
      When doing so, specialize your mechs. With a lance of 4, having 2 heavily armored close range mechs, 1 LRM mech, 1 direct fire support mech is a good starting point.
      Also maximize the front armor for most of your mechs. This will allow for more mistakes as your mechs can take more fire. Repairing armor is also free, so avoiding internal damage can help you turn a profit and avoid lengthy repair jobs. You can do so by rotating less damaged sides of your mechs in the enemy direction. If you left arm is already down to 5 armor, make sure to show to show the right side to the enemy. Jump Jets really help with positioning here.

      Neither weapons, nor mechs are created equal. For close range combat, Medium Lasers and SRM6 are king. Mechs that can mount a lot of either (often referred to as “boating” a weapon type), are therefore desirable. Small Lasers are strong direct damage support weapons, while Machine Guns are great when fishing for headshots (to cause pilot injuries) or ammo explosions (once the armor has been stripped from a section, further attacks have a chance to “crit” and either damage systems installed in the section or cause ammo stored there to explode).
      For longer ranges and stability damage, having a mech that essentially only carries LRMs can be pretty helpful.
      Large Lasers and the AC5 are also decent long range weapons, though only suited for direct fire. The PPC (too much heat) and AC2 (too heavy) aren’t really good, even if they have an impressive range.

      Some good mechs to look for:
      Light: Firestarter, Panther
      Medium: Hunchback 4P (not the 4G), Kintaro, Centurion A (not AL) Shadowhawk
      Heavy: Orion, Grasshopper, Black Knight, Thunderbolt (for a start, though really not the stock variants)
      Assault: Atlas, King Crab, Highlander, Stalker, Cyclops Q (if you have the DLC)

      People also have mentioned moving and evasion already. The chevrons next to units in the game, represent how evavise the unit is. High evasion lessens the chance to hit for enemy attacks. When a unit is attack, it will always use one evasion chevron, even if the attack doesn’t hit.
      You build evasion by moving or jumping, the further you move, the higher the evasion.
      Because evasion is reduced even by misses, it’s usually a good idea to focus fire a single target and to start with lower impact weapons. Having a Medium Laser miss is not as impactful as missing with a PPC. The Multi Target skill helps with “evasion stripping” by allowing a single Mech Warrior, to attack up to 3 targets and thus remove up to 3 evasion chevrons.

      1. MechaCrash says:

        The unaddressed elephant in this particular room is the fact that the mechs you are given when you start are kind of garbage.

        The Spider is useful because of its extreme mobility, but only if you know how to use it. As a new player, you won’t, and it’s likely to get blown up. And since Dekker is the default Scouty Guy who drives the thing, there’s a reason that “Dekker dies” has become kind of a running joke in the fandom.

        The Blackjack is a 45 ton mech with two ballistic hardpoints. Ballistic weapons are heavy, and 45 tons is not enough weight to put on two and have much of anything else worth a crap, and the Blackjack sacrifices a lot of armor to make room for those two AC/2s (which, as Kand stated, kind of suck — most maps do not have long enough sightlines for their extreme range to be relevant).

        The Vindicator has potential, but it’s kind of all over the place, loadout-wise. I stripped mine down some by leaving only the PPC and replacing all the other weapons and their ammo with medium lasers. You can trade out the PPC for a large laser (a little less range and damage, but also less heat and space and weight, plus no minimum range) to make room for more armor or heat sinks or whatever.

        The Shadow Hawk is…well, the one they give you is kind of terrible because, again, all over the place. I stripped out all the weapons and started over: as many SRMs as I could fit, medium lasers in the space left over, and then just charged in and used it to wreck face.

        You’re also given a Locust. You do not want to ever field the Locust because it is armed with hopes and armored with dreams. It’s fast, but so is the Spider, and the Spider can at least carry a couple of medium lasers.

        This is all compounded by the fact that until you move the plot along, the rate at which your workshop functions is incredibly slow, so if you put something under the wrench to give it a not-garbage load, it’s going to be unavailable for quite some time, and since you can only have one thing actively being worked on at a time, anything that needs repairs has to wait until your modifications are done. It’s generally best to see what modifications you can do while your ship is in transit to a job.

        Although yeah, if you want the short version, it’s “boat medium lasers with enough heat sinks to be able to fire the damn things, AC/20s are nice if you can fit them on the big boys, if you want to use LRMs then get something that just vomits a ton of missiles and that is its job.”

        There is also the skirmish mode, where you can just muck about with the mech builder and play around with various setups.

  8. DeadlyDark says:

    The main advice for Battletech – move a lot. You see the amount of vertical chevrons means the amount of bonuses for evasion. So, if you stay, you gain no evasion percentages. So each turn you move and gain additional evasion

  9. Lino says:

    Really cool episode! A couple things came up to me while listening:
    – I think the main reason for people jumping off of the Starcraft pro scene and going into MOBAs is variety. I used to follow the SC 2 scene very closely, but the problem was that with only 9 possible match-ups, it got very stale after a while. There are only about 2-3 viable builds for every race, the games start to look very similar to each other. Once you’ve seen one mech build versus a Protoss deathball, you’ve pretty much seen them all…
    Then I started following DoTA 2, and boy was it different! There are more than 120 heroes, and you need only 10 for a game. I have never played or seen two games that had the same heroes face off against each other. Even in pro games, where there is a much smaller pool of viable heroes, games are still wildly different from each other.
    I’ve since stopped following the scene as actively, because I just don’t have the time (matches take AGES), but I still watch a game from time to time. With SC 2 I didn’t even bother to buy the expansions after Wings of Liberty…
    – About the coaching thing. Although I haven’t trained sports professionally, I’ve been practicing martial arts for about 13 years, and in some schools there is a similar attitude of “tough love” when it comes to training. But unlike what you said, I don’t think there’s this dichotomy between introverts vs extroverts, where extroverts accept “tough love” as a method of teaching. This method is a way of saying “I really care about you, I know you can do better, and I want you to get better”. It’s why it acts as a motivator. When it comes to physical activities, just understanding what you need to do isn’t enough. A lot of the time, thinking about it just makes it harder. So, when someone is chastising you, the only thing you can focus on is the thought of “OK, SHUT UP AND LET ME DO THE THING”. Which is precisely what you need to be thinking of when you need to push through (in martial arts it’s also used to cultivate a mental state of being calm and not letting things get to you). Of course, the older the person, the bigger the chance of them getting turned away from that type of apporach. This is why when you teach people who are older, you shouldn’t be using methods like these.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      See, this is part of why Bronze League Heroes was so interesting. As someone who doesn’t really play these games in any serious capacity I got bored of pro-level casts after a short while. I couldn’t really appreciate the mastery of the system or get excited over just how many actions per minute these players were executing, or really get invested in what amazing advantage this player has because the other player was floating the resources he could use to get a drone for 0.3 of a second! BLH though… Firstly these people were usually playing much slower making it easier to follow. Secondly Husky’s commentary (can’t speak for Winter) often pointed things out, like saying “if he’s attacking you with X you should stop building Y and do Z instead”, explaining or reminding a noob like me of the game mechanics. Thirdly nothing was guaranteed, in a pro game one mistake would usually cost the player a match, in BLH we’d see things like someone making a much bigger army, then ordering that entire army to move across the map and getting them slaughtered along the way (because they weren’t told to attack things) but then the other player not taking advantage of that because they were commited to something like “must build end tier units before I attack”. For someone who wants to be entertained and maybe a little invested but is not into high-skill play it was much more amusing and also much more readable than pro-level games.

      1. Echo Tango says:

        Yeah, this sounds much more like my kind of game, than pro stuff. I don’t want to see humans execute an algorithm, like a poor meat-based imitation of a computer, I want people to get by on wits and skill and luck, to have an exciting match! :)

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Actually, in a 1v1, there’s only six possible match-ups of three different armies, not nine combinations. But yeah, Starcraft just seems a little too laser-focused, and highly-optimized, for it to be interestign to me, either to play or to watch. As far as I know, there’s only one of each type of unit in the rock-paper-scissors type of game-units that SC2 has, and no more. For every unit type your enemy builds, there’s not a whole lot of different ways to counter it (and vise-versa for the attacker), so all the matches tend to end up looking very much the same once you recognize each unit’s role(s).

  10. Ninety-Three says:

    I hate hate hated Battletech’s “Choose your political background” system because they made each background give you bonuses to different skills. Developers: Please stop doing this, you are forcing players to choose between mechanical optimization and giving a shit about narrative, and there are an awful lot of us who will pick the best numbers every time.

    Paul: Rimworld’s events start tuning themselves to you as you get further into the game, but the first few are scripted: attack by a small fluffy animal, traders show up, attack by a single bandit wielding a pointy stick. After that warmup period it starts giving you the “real” encounters. The major factors in attack scaling are number of colonists and colony wealth, which is an obnoxious metric to have to care about because it means spending hundreds of man-hours making beautiful statues will get my sandcastle kicked over by bullies with miniguns, but sinking all my steel into dozens of low-value turrets will see my base perfectly defended against trash-tier raiders. It also has an escalating difficulty thing where raids increase over time, and the escalation reduces whenever one of your colonists gets KOed, which creates a whole other set of perverse incentives (hilariously, the code is such that you can have your guys beat each other unconscious during peacetime and still get the reduction).

    Shamus: Dwarf Fortress has graphics packs that fix the ASCII problem and I highly recommend them, but it’s still got the terrible, supercomplicated interface you’d expect from a simulationist ASCII nightmare so Rimworld is definitely a better place to start.

    1. krellen says:

      The skill upgrades from your background are essentially meaningless. You will get more than enough experience to max out every skill and the tiny boost your backgrounds give don’t make any difference in that.

      Also, none of the numbers are best. Each skill is optimal for different builds and tactics.

    2. MechaCrash says:

      I don’t know how Gnomoria and Rimworld stack up against each other, but Gnomoria is basically Dwarf Fortress that sacrifices some of the absurdly complicated simulationist depth and the procedural insanity that results for having an interface that looks modern instead of like a 1970s UNIX terminal spilled its alphabet soup on your monitor, and not having the kind of bugs that going into “simulating the fingernail growth of each individual dwarf” levels of fiddliness will get you.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        I’ve gone back to Gnomoria several times over the years, and I’m not sure what it is about it, but I feel like it falls into an unfortunate valley between DF and more conventional base-builders. DF has all these super deep systems, and the world is huge and storied. Gnomoria basically amputates all that depth, and you only get better graphics in return.

        Of course, Rimworld isn’t any better in depth, as it forgoes z-levels altogether. The world complexity and breadth seems to be fairly decent, but nothing stands up to DF simulated history.

  11. krellen says:

    Merry Christmas, Shamus.

    The best thing to do with the Spider is to get Dekker out of it as soon as your possibly can. However, while you’re stuck with it, the best way to use it is to run around behind people and to focus on destroying vehicles (melee damage is doubled against vehicles, which are also way more fragile than ‘mechs, so even a Spider is pretty effective against them).

    Spoiler: there will be some base-building-esque stuff (it’s just upgrades, you don’t place modules) later on, as you advance the story. Also, you will struggle at the beginning, but once you get to do some story missions, you’ll start to make real money. Then when you actually understand what you’re doing and have a handle on the systems, you can play Career mode, which is the story without the story missions to help you.

    1. krellen says:

      Oh, and here’s some higher-level tips, for when you feel ready for them:

      Your main way of getting new ‘Mechs is going to be salvage, and the class of enemy you face can be roughly approximated to the skull-difficulty of the mission, so you can bid accordingly. One skull is going to be pretty much exclusively light ‘Mechs; mediums start showing up at two, and are staple at three. Three skulls could also have the occasional heavy ‘Mech, and assault ‘Mechs start showing up at four.

      It takes three pieces of salvage to put together a ‘Mech; destroying the centre torso will yield one piece after a battle. Destroying the legs will yield two pieces, and if you manage to disable the pilot without doing either of those (through a combination of headshots, knockdowns, and side-torso destruction) you will get all three pieces you need to salvage a full ‘Mech. Or you can just collect three pieces from three cored ‘Mechs in combination.

      Armour costs nothing to replace, in either time or money, so if you’re really feeling a cash-crunch, run the lowest-difficulty missions you can find. Since there’s almost never a time-limit on the mission, you can play very defensively and draw your opponents out towards you, trying to minimise damage. If you can get through a mission with nothing but armour damage, you can immediately launch a new mission right away. Bid max cash on single- or half-skull mission and demolish the light ‘Mechs you’re facing, and you can do that over and over again in a single day. On some planets, you could easily make a million or more c-bills in a single day this way. (More as your ‘Mechs get tougher and you can do the same thing on even harder and better-paying missions.)

  12. John says:

    I don’t know about StarCraft, but sometimes I wonder why fighting games aren’t more popular as e-sports. What could be simpler to understand than “two players pummel each other until one of them can’t get up any more”? My best guess is that other e-sports have bigger player bases and therefore a bigger potential audience and that developers haven’t strongly supported fighting game competitions until relatively recently. Fighting game competitions have also traditionally been player-organized and run and there are some players who seem to resent e-sports. I used to think that complexity and high execution requirements had something to with it, but I no longer do because I’ve realized that other e-sports have the same issues

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      I put it down to fighting games being almost purely technical skill (“How good can you push XXA+Up+Block?”. MOBAs and RTSs have micro and skill shots and so on but also a strategic planning layer. Those games can be appreciated on more levels so they can get the fighting game audience of people who like watching pros with superhuman reflexes ace the dexterity tests, and a different audience of people who want to spectate a game of Scifi Chess.

      1. Lino says:

        As someone who’s tried to get into watching pro fighter games, and they are very hard to follow. Maybe it’s because I don’t really play them. The only one I could follow for more than 20 minutes was Soul Calibur 6, but it got pretty stale after a couple of hours…

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          Most of the esports have some type of legibility problems. Probably the most famous moment in fighting game history is the time someone on a tiny sliver of health flawlessly blocked every part of a multi-hit super finisher and went on to win the match: if you haven’t played the game to understand how insanely demanding that is, it looks like one character just held down the block button while the other whiffed on him. MOBAs have literally hundreds of skills that you have to memorize before you can even understand the possibility space, the coverage runs like everyone has a computer in their heads tracking three dozen hidden variables for skill cooldowns and equipment selections. Starcraft requires a bunch of matchup knowledge to cover “This unit beats that unit because such and such ability” without which you’re basically just watching a terribly-choreographed action movie. Even Overwatch coverage is a sea of particle effects and shifting perspectives that make it difficult to visually follow what should be a simple question of which team is better at clicking on heads.

          1. Lino says:

            Yeah, I guess you’re right. Which means we’re circling back to the playerbase problem – fighters have traditionally been console-focused, with PC being an afterthought. At the same time, virtually all the major esports are primarily PC titles. The only exceptions being Hearthstone (which got a mobile version early on) and Overwatch (which also released on consoles).

            1. John says:

              Thank you for pointing that out. That’s something I hadn’t considered before. It will be interesting to see if or how that changes now that most fighting games are also on PC.

      2. John says:

        I don’t agree that success in fighting games is mostly a matter of pure technical skill. That may be true of ordinary online play, but it’s not true for high-level tournament play. Just about everyone you see in the Top 8 for a popular game at a big tournament is going to have approximately the same ability to execute super-moves, combos, and so forth. You are more likely to hear commentators mention a dropped combo than a successfully executed one. The difference between the winners and losers is strategy more often than execution.

        I would, however, agree that the element of strategy is much more obvious in a game like StarCraft.

  13. Henson says:

    It’s so weird to hear you talk about Winter, the well-known Starcraft 2 streamer, because the DOTA 2 scene also has a Winter, and they’re…not the same. At all.

    Can you trademark streamer/caster names?

    1. Echo Tango says:

      It would be difficult to trademark something as simple as “Winter”, especially when both people both were using it at roughly the same time. If it was something more unique, like “Hot Canadian Winter”, or if one of the people had been using the name for a long time without anyone else making use of it, it would be more easily obtained.

  14. DeadlyDark says:

    I don’t really like blizzard strategies. I’m more of the westwood guy myself. Something about the interface and general gameplay feels more appealing to me. And settings, generally, more interesting as well.

    I need to buy protoss campaign for SC2, and finally finish that story. But blizz store asks me to buy all campaigns again as a pack now, so I’m a bit… Disappointed. Oh well

    1. Gwydden says:

      I’m the complete opposite, though I confess I’m less of a Blizzard fan and more of a Warcraft III fan specifically. And I admit that despite RTS being what I played the most until my teens or so, I only ever cared about the campaigns and eventually realized I didn’t actually like the genre. APM and build orders and rushing and booming and micromanagement all bore me to tears. Guess that’s why I like Warcraft III and to a lesser extent Starcraft II, because they’re worth playing just for the campaigns and the custom maps and I can ignore the competitive scene.

      As for the setting, C&C is too modern military, and therefore bland, for my taste. Blizzard’s settings may suffer from a chronic lack of originality, but they are at least colorful.

      1. DeadlyDark says:

        What about Dune / Emperor? I think it’s rather distinct one

        And C&C isn’t just modern military. I think it’s only applied for Tiberium Dawn / Red Alert 1 / Generals. Red Alert 2 has too many fantastical elements to call it bland (plus delicious raspberry), Tiberian Sun is more of post-apocalyptic variety

        I also confess. I too like RTS games, not because of the genre, but because of the campaigns and soundtracks

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          My RTS sweet spot is Dawn of War specifically Dark Crusade and Soulstorm, I’ve played the other games in the series “for the story” but these are the ones that I came back to a couple times and that’s despite the fact that both have world maps that mostly consist of generic missions with only faction fortresses and a few scripted areas to spice things up. I don’t know, I just find the dynamics of these particular games really hits the spot for me for some reason. It also probably helps that I know just enough of the W40k lore that I can get the context and find the quips that the leaders trade on the fortress battles amusing.

        2. Echo Tango says:

          Even Generals is less “contemporary military”, and more of a mash-up of spy movies, old war movies, cold-war movies, new war movies, a tongue-in-cheek spoof of anti-terrorism propoganda, with a heavy dose of sci-fi and hacking-the-planet mixed in. The Chinese use atomic tanks, and the Americans have space-lasers!

      2. Echo Tango says:

        It’s a lot more fun if you’re playing with novice- to moderate-skill-level players, and/or if you’re all a little intoxicated. Playing an RTS against people who want to optimize every click and memorize all the strategies in the game? Totally boring. Playing with my friends back in college over a weekend? Fuckin’ fantastic!

  15. Groo the Wanderer says:

    OK so I need to admit that this is the first Diecast I have listened to. I have in generally found podcasts to be incredibly boring or self indulgent.

    I was wrong, I am sorry.

    I have some catching up to do it would appear.

    1. Lino says:

      You won’t be disappointed! This is the only podcast where I enjoy listening about topics that I’m not usually interested in. There’s just something very calming about the dynamic between Shamus and Paul (as well as the one between Shamus and SoldierHawk).

  16. baud says:

    I have started playing Rimworld last week, I’m like 7 hours in? And I’ve enjoyed it a lot. The tutorial explains a lot and could have avoided Paul a few headaches, since it explain how to enable jobs, like doctor, even on people incompetent in it.
    Regarding Rimworld vs Dwarf Fortress, I’d say that Rimworld is less deep, but is way more accessible, like I’ve rarely had any difficulty trying to do something that I knew was possible in Rimworld, whereas in DF, as a newb I just copied the commands from the DF wiki. In DF I never went beyond the quickstart guide (which is a great introduction, btw), because once I was there it was too overwhelming and didn’t knew what to do; in Rimworld, after finishing the short tutorial, I immediately started expanding my crafting tables, growing fields and so on.
    I think Rimworld kept most of what made DF fun (independent social entities (dwarf and colonist), construction, art, crafting, mining), but made things good-looking enough and very accessible, at the cost of some depth.

    Also regarding ASCII art in DF, I first tried with one of the graphic/assets packs, but I quickly reverted to the ASCII, because they were more readable.

    1. baud says:

      And since it’s 1:00 AM here: Merry Christmas!

    2. JakeyKakey says:

      My primary issue with Rim World is that eventually the base building quickly starts playing second-fiddle to wave-based survival mechanics.

      Dwarf Fortress at its core is a relatively easy game. Pick a safe landing site, pick sensible starting jobs, dig yourself into the mountain, set up farms, wall yourself in, don’t dig too deep. Boom, you’ve literally created an impenetrable fortress that will last till the end of time.

      The actual fun/”fun” of DF comes from the sheer breadth and depth of features and mechanics you can explore while working in a complete sandbox setting – players are far more likely to lose or screw up because they make a mistake handling complex systems while intentionally breaking the rules while working under some ridiculous self-imposed challenge, rather than because the game itself is being annoying or unfair.

      In the absence of the vast majority of the cool shit you can do on DF, mid-late game* Rimworld just turns into a glorified nursery simulator where you babysit your colonists, wait for an increasingly powerful wave of raiders to come along, get into a massive firefight, treat your wounded, rebuild the wrecked sections of your base, look towards replacing your dead colonists, rinse, repeat.

      I know that some people crank up the difficulty and really enjoy the struggle porn, but to me, the inevitability of it all just makes it pointless. Playing DF, I fully expect that one way or another I am going to personally fuck it all up in some funny and memorable way. Playing Rimworld, I fully expect to either get that spaceship up and running or have the game keep scaling up until I eventually get overran by like 50 raiders all equipped with pulse rifles and marine armor and inexplicably hellbent on shelling my base with 10 mortars.

      * Mods might make it better, I haven’t looked into it.

      1. baud says:

        I’m totally not far enough in Rimworld to experience that, since I’ve yet to leave the early game (I think). But I think if I restart other colonies, I’d definitely use some mods.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        Mods don’t really adjust the ever-scaling difficulty of the raiders, as far as I know. There might be some that affect it, but I never really bothered, since just adjusting the built-in difficulty slider downwards was sufficient for me. On the other hand, there’s definitely mods that give you powerful guns, armor, and other things, so that you scale up with the raiders more. :)

    3. Philadelphus says:

      Having learned to play Dwarf Fortress with ASCII, I literally can’t tell what’s going on in screenshots made with graphics packs. I don’t even see the ASCII anymore, just a happy dwarf…a carefree cat…a bloodthirsty goblin ambush springing from cover…

  17. Ninety-Three says:

    For the record, I’m still into Starcraft. It has a weird aura where, like Minecraft, it doesn’t matter how much you play it, it just doesn’t get discussed on general forums. Since it’s December and we’re talking about it, I want to share my Starcraft Game Of The Year here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gdXAXfHgRPw . One player opens on some cheesy aggro that forces both of them to stick to one base until they both mine out and then the game keeps going, it’s weird and different and wonderful.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Oops, forgot to set the timestamp and the edit window on these posts is too small. It’s the first game of the match, starting at the 8 minute mark.

      1. Lino says:

        That really was insane – thanks for sharing :D

  18. Aaron B Wayman says:

    If it makes you feel any better Shamus, I managed to lose the game (BattleTech) during the tutorial. On my second play through. Went from saving the kingdom to “do it again, stupid”. I really enjoy Battletech. Have some fun with it.

  19. default_ex says:

    When I played EverQuest, I always looked forward to Christmas for one particular reasons. Very few people from every guild would be online but those that were online were often bored and having a miserable Christmas. A weird reason to look forward to it right? Well I would start popping around to all the major zones and advertise that I would be hosting a raid open to anyone and everyone that shows up with something relevant for the holiday season. People actually showed up with gifts that by and large were level agnostic, useful for everyone and not so costly to make people feel indebted. The tradeskill types showed up with lots of foods and drinks I didn’t even know were in the game which were suitable for not just Christmas but also similar holidays from other religions which had the added benefit of sharing about each other’s culture. Kept a Ventrillo channel open for people to sing Christmas Carols in, which sounded terrible at the start of each night but got better as people adjusted to the latency. Some people surprised me by showing up with neat in-character Christmas stories as the thing they bring. I never turned down any questions of “is X acceptable to bring”, no matter how bizarre as long as it sounded like it was in spirit I just sent the invite to the channel and to the raid. It was a ton of fun the first couple years but restrictions added to the game eventually got in the way but it did spawn spinoffs of the idea that last time I played 5 or so years ago I seen players continuing such festivities.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Speaking of Christmas MMO stuff, I have to shout out City of Heroes. They had Christmas events including this fantastic ski chalet thing, but the real deal was in exploiting a particular raid. The raid spawns its boss encounter with an invincible shield, and the players have to jump through all kinds of hoops to disable the shield and kill the boss. Now on a technical level, for some reason the shield was implemented as a buff lasting 999,999 seconds instead of just a passive ability. This didn’t actually matter, because servers went down for maintenance every week, resetting instances so there was no way to wait out the timer. Except, the week of Christmas, all the game staff go home and there’s no maintenance period, meaning the servers are up for 14 days straight. 999,999/86400 seconds in a day equals on the twelfth day of Christmas, the hardest boss in the game goes into easy mode.

      1. Lino says:

        Wow! On the 12th day of Christmas ? You’d almost think that was intentional! Did the devs know about it and just didn’t patch it out? Or maybe the community was OK with it, and no one wanted it patched out?

        1. Ninety-Three says:

          You had to go out of your way to trigger it by starting the raid to have the boss spawn and start counting down his timer, so the community was okay with it as an opt-in exploit (plus it was just beautiful, heroes triumphing over the big villain literally because of the power of Christmas). I can’t imagine the devs never found out about it, but they never cared enough to patch it.

          1. MechaCrash says:

            There’s also the fact that Hamidon’s shield wearing off required it to be spawned promptly and then left alone until the shield wore off, and unless there was a server-wide deliberate effort to just leave it alone, it’d be killed before then.

            Also, the whole “this thing only works once a year” thing. Probably not worth fixing, especially given what I have heard about what a nightmare of duct-taped together spaghetti code it was towards the end. They never officially gave up on my preferred archetype of Mastermind, but it was pretty clear the code was being twisted into shapes it was never meant to go and poking the wrong thing could bring it all crashing down.

    2. Lino says:

      That’s so cool! These new online communities can really give you a look into how the real world works – a practical need for something gave birth to a tradition. And even though you and the rest of the creators don’t play the game anymore, the tradition lives on!

  20. eaglewingz says:

    I guess that’s fine

    “Everything is fine” ( Provide your own mental image )

  21. Mason says:

    I guess it’s been over a year since I watched a non-tournament stream of SC2, but in college I always had random Korean amateur league games on in the background while semi-working on homework at 3 in the morning. Definitely at least a few fans of the game around still.

  22. MadTinkerer says:

    “I don’t want to talk about mistakes people have made in the past.”

    …unless it’s Bronze League Heroes!

  23. Steve C says:

    Battletech was my favorite game of 2018. I’ve talked about it on your forums. I’m replaying it now with the expansion. That said, skip the Flashpoint expansion. It is too thin and not worth the money. It is more in line with a $1 DLC pack. If instead you find yourself wanting more Battletech, install mods. There are mods that are far richer and add more to the game that are free.

    As for bugs, I know the bug that you have. It existed in the base game but I never suffered from it until I installed Flashpoint. Saving within missions before it happens is the only way to fight it I know of.

    BTW: The difficulty has no impact on your loot. You aren’t missing out by playing on easy. The Spider is a Scout. Weapons like the PPC can fire further than you can see. The Spider is to get Line of Sight on targets for your other mechs. It also *sucks balls* and total junk. I think it exists in the tutorial to get Decker killed as an organic teaching moment.

  24. CrushU says:

    Yeah, hi, I’ve been playing the Battletech system for over a decade. :)
    First with Mechwarrior 2, 3, and 4 (then Mercenaries), then MegaMek to learn Battletech proper.
    The game rewards knowledge of its systems.
    The game is almost always decided by loadouts and what you drop into a fight, and then determined by how you use it. One of the special things about Battletech is that *every* weapon has a use case where it is, in fact, the best weapon. Some weapons have rare times, and others are more common, but there’s always one space where a weapon will excel.

    For the more common ones, note that Medium Lasers have the best damage-to-weight ratio of any weapon, while I think either SRMs or LRMs have the best damage-to-heat ratio. HOWEVER, SRMs/LRMs essentially *never* hit with their full complement, so in practice the AC line has better damage-to-heat ratios. (I think the AC/10 is the best; Might be AC/5…)
    AC/20’s excel at single-shot damage. If you land a head shot, you *will* destroy the mech. They’re very good when used on a mech that pops in and out of line of sight. Use your HBK-4G like a shotgun. Park it behind a cliff where you know they have to come by, and when they do, greet them with 20 points of damage to one spot. Pour in the damage, until the accuracy penalty or heat gets too high, then cower behind some unassailable cover until you’re ready to rinse and repeat.

    The most general advice is to strike your opponent from strength, and force them to hit you from weakness. The optimal way to fight in Battletech is One-Sided: If you have a light mech out of LOS, Sensor Lock a guy and bring the pain with your three Catapults. (LRM ‘boats’, each one mounting two LRM20s) Firing from outside of your opponent’s effective range or line of sight is the best way to do it.

    Focus-fire is your friend, which means you want to try and avoid presenting a single target to your opponent, as well. Make it so each ‘Mech is a bad target for at least one of your opponents to force them to spread their fire. (In the actual tabletop game there’s an overpowered group of mechs/equipment that is brought into line by forcing them to never focus-fire, while allowing their opponents to do so as much as possible.)

    I need to remember a few specific things about this incarnation of the game before I give more specific advice…

    (Oh, but I do remember that the Blackjack you start with is Fine. Not great, but Fine. You want to upgrade it to a Rifleman as soon as you can. Both mechs occupy a similar sort of ‘Sniper’ or ‘Overwatch’ kind of role. The Blackjack is less focused in that role, and you can make it more of a brawler, but if you do that it’s highly recommended you drop the AC/2.)

    1. krellen says:

      HBS’s BattleTech does not have the Rifleman, but it does have Jagermechs.

      1. Grudgeal says:

        The stock Jaeger is kept together with chewing gum, duct tape and a prayer though. If the enemy so much as looks at it it tends to fall apart, its engine is crap so it moves like molasses, and it has no jump jets. While having a long-range firing option is good for pretty much every ‘mech above a certain weight, dedicated direct-fire sniper ‘mechs tend to be iffy, especially if they go in heavy on the ballistics (unlike LRM boats, who you can safely strip most the armor from and just park them behind a big rock). If I was going to build an overwatch ‘mech with good focus-fire damage that works like a Rifleman (unlike LRMs who just sandblast armour off randomly) I’d use the same mixture of AC/5s and LLs (switching off the lasers when heat builds up too much) with a chassis like a Cataphract CTF-1X (can run 3 LLs and an AC/5, plus 2 MLs for close-range combat), a Catapult K2 (can mount 2 LLs and 2 AC/5s) or an Orion ON1-V (same).

    2. MechaCrash says:

      It is worth noting that HBS BT played around with some of the damage numbers. All armor and structure was quintupled, and most weapons were also quintupled. Missiles were only quadrupled. The damage of autocannons was also altered. Instead of the original damage ratings of 2, 5, 10, and 20, now it’s more like 5, 9, 12, and 20 (25, 45, 60, 100 in the new scale). Due to these changes, the AC/10 has been dethroned, and the AC/5 is now the good one.

      Also as a minor quibble, I do not like referring to the AC/20 as a shotgun, because the game has actual shotguns in it. They just haven’t been (re)invented yet, and as such are not in this game.

  25. MelfinatheBlue says:

    Merry Christmas and Happy Chinese Food/Waffle House Day! (And to those who don’t get the Waffle House ref, they’re ALWAYS OPEN. To the point that FEMA has a Waffle House Disaster Index (if it’s closed, deep shit time).)

    Also, thanks for linking that Hitman ep. I’d forgotten the ridiculousness of that game/season. Heehee, Cotton-Eyed Joe…

  26. Steve C says:

    If you have any Battletech tips, please share them.

    I think I’m pretty good at Battletech. I’ve never lost a limb on any mech. Here are my tips:

    1. Prioritize defensive positioning. Break LoS. Cover. Brace. Have lots of evasion pips. Etc. Do everything that reduces the amount of damage you take. Don’t bother with this on the first part of double turns (described next).

    2. Reserve. A lot. If your defensive position is as good as it can reasonably get, then reserve all the way down to 1. There might be more enemies you can’t see if you don’t go down to 1. Only use a mech’s turn if it is in an exposed position. You can take two turns in a row by reserving. Don’t be afraid to reserve through that 2nd turn too. Just make sure the double turns count when you take them.

    3. Count hitpoints. If an enemy has 30hp in a location then you already know that a 25dmg medium laser won’t destroy it. Best case is it will still have 5hp. So attack with a mech that has a weapon that does 30dmg or more in a single shot before activating the one with all the MLs. Kill things with the right amount of damage rather than almost killing, then overkilling. This is especially important vs vehicles.

    4. Weapon roles and hit locations. Missiles have spread. They are great a stripping armor off in a general way. They are terrible at finishing off targets because of that damage is spread across many locations. Same thing with lots of lasers. Very effective from the side or back because there are fewer locations that can be hit. Lots of small damage weapons are only good at stripping armor when fired from the front. Keep in mind the probability distribution of where on the enemy you are going to hit. For example four MLs do 100dmg. As does an AC/20. The AC/20 does it all to one location while the MLs will spread it out. It’s better to do 100dmg to one location than say 150dmg spread across 5 locations.

    5. Disable dangerous enemy weapon systems. The best way is to blow up ammo. The stock mechs often have weapons on one side and ammo on the other. It creates two points of failure. Often they store ammo in the center torso. Never do this. It kills the entire mech when it explodes. “Taking the hunch out of the hunchback” means it is no longer a threat even if it is not dead yet.

    6. Cash is generally better than salvage. One notch of salvage is most often the best choice. The times you want salvage over cash is when you are under weight for the mission.

    For example what this looks like in practice is advancing via jump jets outside of combat rather than sprinting. Then when combat starts, reserving down to allow the enemy to go first. You will have maximum evasion and be braced at the start of this combat. This is when you want the enemy to advance. They might come into range, they might not. Either way, focus your movement on how you will defend next turn. The enemy will probably not be exposed this second turn. So reserve down again and allow them to go first a second time. Now they are likely exposed and it is a good time to act twice in a row. Ignore defensive movement on the first turn as you are going again immediately after. Rinse and repeat.

    1. MechaCrash says:

      Most of these are good, but I disagree a little on point four and a whole lot on point six.

      If you’ve managed to strip armor off a location, SRMs and bundles or medium lasers are pretty decent against that, because if you hit a location with no armor, you get a shot at breaking something inside. Sure, an AC/20 to an unarmored location will take it off for sure, but that AC/20 shot may also slam into a relatively undamaged bit. Which is still good, but if you fire a couple of SRM6 and some medium lasers at a dude with a hole in his armor, you get a lot of chances to hit something important.

      You want to go maximum salvage because selling mechs is, in the long run, going to get you a lot more money than the cash payouts ever will, to say nothing of all the medium lasers, heat sinks, and other junk you need in quantity but not that quantity you can sell. Plus there’s salvaging the upgraded weapons (they sometimes have a plus or three which makes them better in some way; usually accuracy or damage). The only time you should take cash is if you’re in danger of not making next month’s payment and you can’t afford to do the Honest John’s Used Mech Salesman schtick and need cash to say solvent right friggin’ now and do not have a spare Griffin you aren’t using. That, or super low difficulty missions with one skull or half a skull, where most of the enemies you’ll face are vehicles that you can’t salvage anyway.

      1. Steve C says:

        If you do the math, salvage doesn’t work out if is only sold. If it used, yes absolutely it is better. Mech parts are on the edge of being worth it depending on how much cash is being given up. The important thing is all the shops and black markets etc. That’s where the good gear is located. Cash is not needed by the time ++ and +++ gear starts dropping as you’ll have millions in the bank so it is obvious to take salvage at that time. Before that, when you are deciding between salvage and cash, leaning towards cash is mathematically the best answer. That is just a rule of thumb. It depends on the contract though. But there’s no way that giving up $200,000 for 2-4 extra heat sinks that are sold for $2000 each is worth it.

        1. Kand says:

          Worth noting that this has changed since the game launched, as they severely improved shops with the latest patch.
          Before that I’d argue that salvage was the better option.

  27. houiostesmoiras says:

    Welcome to the secret episode that I listened to anyway because I had two two-hour commutes for Christmas as opposed to my ten-minute daily commute to work.

  28. Gordon Wrigley says:

    On the topic of Starcraft commentary you should checkout Lowko on YouTube https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCZNTsLA6t6bRoj-5QRmqt_w

    Particularly his community submitted matches, the most recent of those is this:

    Basically people send him games from the ladder and then he has a helper who prescreens them and finds the extra weird and crazy ones.

  29. If any are fans of Star Wars: Jedi Knight Outcast and Jedi Academy here is a audio interview that Game Brain did with one of the developers.

    1. DeadlyDark says:

      Oh, cool! Thanks man, will watch!

  30. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    Ha, when I read this post’s intro on my phone earlier I thought it meant the whole thing would be deleted later on so I downloaded it quickly! But apparently you seem to think that people will just skip the blog entries that happen during the holidays and not read the whole thing when they get back? Is this based on something you observed in the site’s analytics the previous year?

    About StarCraft 2 well you have at least one reader who plays it, but as I mentioned in a previous diecast’s comments I’m mostly screwing around with the coop mode, which I still recommend for a lark and a more relaxing experience. Trying out all those commanders and their crazy units and powers is a lot of fun.

    1. Gutiérrez says:

      Yep, that makes two of us; only playing the coop from time to time these days, but did play it as recently as yesterday.

  31. Zeta Kai says:

    Hooray! The return of the post-credits clip! I’ve listened to the very end of every podcast, hoping to hear just another few seconds. I don’t want to miss out on a joke, so I’m very glad that this proud tradition has returned.

  32. Gordon Wrigley says:

    I’m enjoying your book btw. About half way though. It’s well constructed but given how extensively you dissect others plot construction I’d be disappointed if that weren’t the case. As important, maybe more even so, it’s fun and free flowing in the minute to minute. It has good and consistent rhythm, pace and detail, not too much or too little of anything.
    I also love some of the little structural tactics. Like how if you are writing a robot character, having one that reasonably human but not perfect is harder to mess up cause “mistakes” in either direction are in character. Or how the recently released from prison thing and the choices of characters give you plenty of space for in character exposition.

  33. JjmaC says:

    I’ve been into Starcraft since early SC1 days and naturally continued into SC2, but haven’t really played SC2 in a year. I mainly played the Campaign, Co-op mode or Arcade maps, and had never looked at the competitive/ESports side of Starcraft until the past two years. In many ways SC has similar qualities to other 1v1 sports like Tennis or Boxing where there’s as much importance on being able to mind game your opponent as there is with the competitor’s skill level at said sport.

    There were only two events in 2018 that I saw most of as there’s so much SC2 content. One was WCS vs the World, which is kind of like Golf’s Ryder Cup where it has two all-stars teams of Koreans vs Foreigners. I also watched NationWars, which is similar to Tennis’ Davis Cup which is a multi-country tournament, each country having a team of their 3 best players. Both had the feel of an exhibition event compared to a more serious pro-circuit tournament, but there was a good mix of crazy shenanigans and some standard high-level play. But yea, I’m still sort of following Starcraft.

  34. For the record, I listened to this podcast on January 4, 2019.

    I briefly played a Mechwarrior video game in 1993. It was thoroughly outside my wheelhouse and I really had no idea what I was doing, but somehow I still managed to have fun with it.

    I guess there’s something universal about stomping around in a giant armored suit and blowing stuff up?

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