Diecast #239: Into the Spoiler-Verse, Activision’s CFOs

By Shamus Posted Monday Jan 7, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 65 comments

Happy 2019! We start off the year with positivity and praise. It lasts almost half an hour before we spiral back into complaining and snark. We tried.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Into the Spider-Verse

It’s a spoiler discussion, so if you’re not into that then jump to…

24:17 Activision lost their CFO this week. Twice.

First they lost Spencer Neumann to Netflix, and a few days later they lost Amrita Ahuja to Square.

33:20 Who has time to talk about: Fallout 76 Multiplayer system?

The first step in fixing a problem is admitting you have one.

33:38 Mailbag: Microsoft game Engine

So, I had this crazy idea and I’m curious to see what you’d think of it.

If Microsoft is seriously looking at moving into gaming as a cross-platform thing, it occurs to me that one big step they could make would be to create their own game engine for the use of the developers they’re acquiring, and also to license out to other developers. I mean, from what I understand that could be a BIG move for them that would have a HUGE impact on the industry. I’ve heard it said that Microsoft is amazing at designing tools for software developers, and that would really leverage their “core competency” and put them in a position to have much broader effects on the games industry than they would just by buying games developers and selling gaming systems.

What do you guys think?


39:16 Mailbag: Games that miss the mark.

Dear Diecast,

When it comes to games that miss the mark, what is the worst or most painful combination in your eyes? A game with an excellent story/characters/writing but bad mechanics/gameplay, or a game with excellent mechanics/gameplay and a bad story/characters/writing? Of those two, which would be more disappointing to you?

And on the same note, are there any exceptions to your answer that you can think of out of the games you’ve played in the past, where that element was strong enough that it kept you interested to the end (and maybe even happy) despite its flaws?

Marcus Virgil

46:15 Mailbag: Dragon Age Inquisition


I’m playing Dragon Age Inquisition right now, and one thing that bothers me a lot (besides one sidequest bug) is that we are playing as the head of organization are running around doing stuff expanding influence, claiming land and gaining favors (I’m doing everything there, because I just can’t left things; I know I have a problem). But our opposing force (cultists + Coripheus) aren’t as proactive. We are stopping their plan in the region, and that’s it, no retaliation (unless you go and do main plot, I suspect). It feels like chess is played only by me, and the opponent is skipping his turns. That aspect should’ve been done not via standard rpg questing in huge maps with copy-paste side content and such, but via some kind of strategy level management (a-la expanded X-Com or simplified Civilization or Crusader Kings; I think King Arthur games combined story driven rpg with strategy), with occasional mission only for Inquisitor. That would change the genre, but would fit the story way more (not that story is bad, actually I’m surprised that its better than I expected). Older games didn’t have that disconnect. In KOTOR / Mass Effect you’re basically small infiltration team and your gains are intelligence and nothing more. In DAO you’re opposing mindless force, so it makes sense that it isn’t that proactive (and even then it was shown expanding its territory).

Have you noticed that? Do you think that genre change would’ve make DAI better? Any other commentary on this?

Best regards, DeadlyDark


From The Archives:

65 thoughts on “Diecast #239: Into the Spoiler-Verse, Activision’s CFOs

  1. Joe says:

    I’m generally more of a gameplay person than story person. But when I am interested in the story, the gameplay had better back that up. New Vegas failed, because most main stories required talking to one person, who had headed upstairs and out of bounds. OTOH, The Witcher 3 story was interesting enough to make up for the rough combat.

    I know what you mean about your interest having a financial level. Rage 2 looks $40 of interesting to me. But the current price is $100. I’ll be waiting some time for a sale, and by then I might have forgotten about it. Sometimes businesses like to price themselves out of the market.

    This may seem like blasphemy to many people, but I don’t like Spider-Man movies. I hated all three Raimi movies, but I don’t like Raimi’s other projects either. Didn’t bother to see the Andrew Garfield ones. And I didn’t like Civil War either. Infinity War wasn’t bad, but I haven’t seen the others.

    The Marvel 2099 line came out in the early 90s. There was Spider-Man, Punisher, X-Men, Hulk, Ghost Rider, and Doom. It had a big cyberpunk influence. Was it good? Probably not. I eventually got bored of the ones I was following, and the line isn’t talked about today as a classic.

    1. Lino says:

      Rage 2 is 100$? Amazon and a bunch of ther sites list it as 60$. Have I missed something?

      1. Joe says:

        That’s in terrible Australian dollars, which are rarely worth more than 65 cents American. I saw it at EB Oz. Other sites may have it cheaper.

        1. Lino says:

          Oh, sorry – I forgot about the fact that you guys have more expensive games for no good reason :(

  2. Lino says:

    I’ve always loved the Hitman games (even though I haven’t played all the games in the series), and I really liked Hitman: Absolution. I guess it comes back to “Trust in the Storyteller”. From the outset, I viewed the game as a Jason Bourne-style action movie, and I loved it. It’s too bad so many people didn’t like it :(

  3. Daimbert says:

    For a game, it strikes me that while it would depend on just how bad things are, bad gameplay is riskier than a bad story. If the story is good but the gameplay is bad (or too difficult) then I might not be able to get through the story at all, making it a waste, and if the gameplay is bad and, worse, isn’t in sync with the story even if I COULD get past the gameplay I’m likely to be constantly wondering why this great story is a game rather than just a VN or novel or TV show or something. So if I’m noticing issues with the gameplay a good story is likely to make it feel worse, not better. However, if the gameplay is good I can turn my brain off and blindly click through the cutscenes to get to the next bit of fun, as long as they aren’t too excessively long. So as long as the story scenes are boring or stupid but not overly long, good gameplay would get me past it.

    1. Lino says:

      Very nicely put – good gameplay can save a bad story, but even the best story couldn’t help lousy gameplay.

      1. Thomas says:

        KOTOR had lousy gameplay, made up for with a good story.

        I think these simplifications are way to broad to be useful. Even the idea of a story / gameplay divide. One of the New Vegas’ best features is it’s scope for self-expression, is that gameplay, is it story? One of the best parts of Life is Strange was sitting on a bed listening to music. That’s the soundtrack, but it’s also the way it lets you absorb the atmosphere of the world and Max’s quiet hipster thing.

        Some of the character missions in Mass Effect 2 are good because you care about the character and their outcome, even when the combat is dull, but the overall story of ME2 is pretty rubbish.

        Tomb Raider 2013’s strongest points were the little animations and details that emphasised Lara’s world and her character – the way she shivered in the cold, and flinched but hung on at every great leap emphasised the feeling of being in a hostile world that was pushing Lara further than she could ever think she would go.

        Or how about in Horizon Zero Dawn when you step out into that breathtaking lush post-post-apocalyptic landscape? That’s not gameplay or story, but it’s key part of making both of them work.

        Obra Dinn’s game mechanic is _about_ mentally piecing together and understanding the story. Is the story good because the mechanical puzzle is satisfying, or is the puzzle satisfying because the mystery good?

        1. Kylroy says:

          Silent Hill 2 had worse gameplay than it’s predecessor, but the atmosphere and story made it a classic.

        2. Lino says:

          Every rule has its exceptions, especially in art. I never claimed this as true in 100% of cases. Although, I don’t personally agree with most of your examples, since most of them are – like my own opinion – pretty subjective – e.g. KOTOR’s lightsaber fights were so bad, that I couldn’t care less about the story it was telling. The comment about Tomb Raider 2013 is again, something from your experience with the game – I enjoyed the gameplay very much.
          Also, the fact that I was only talking about gameplay and story, doesn’t mean that I’m automatically excluding the other aspects of a game. It just means that I want to limit my comment to less than 2000 words :)

          1. Oleg Hamstrung says:

            “Every rule has its exceptions” is a cheap cop-out to avoid saying that your “rule” is meaningless

            1. Lino says:

              Why are you replying to my comment without even reading it all the way through, and without even trying to understand the subtleties of what we’re talking about? Are you trying to be confrontational?

              1. pedantic idiot says:

                Because you seem to be suggesting as if it is based in objectivity that gameplay is more important than the story; so some people might disagree strongly with you, rather than just disagreeing with you.

                My example for disagreement would be bioshock. I enjoyed the game until after I dealt with Andrew Ryan, suddenly the game I was enjoying lost a lot of its value and I slowly lost motivation and interest in continuing to play it. The gameplay hadn’t changed at all, the gameplay I found serviceable enough up to that point and fairly entertaining (I’m not a system shock veteran) was no longer welcome and it became a slog to the end.

                I guess you could argue that I just tired of the gameplay and the story was irrelevant, but it was a pretty quick turn around when it became obvious there was several hours remaining.

                Another might be wasteland 2 or pillars of eternity, these games have competent mechanics but I played both the torment games through to the end, which have pretty obviously worse combat mechanics within the same year of playing wasteland 2 and pillars of eternity, but never finished either of those two.

                Of course the game can be too far in the favor of one or the other to override your personal sensibilities and drive you to put the game down, maybe it is that the majority of players the balance goes more toward gameplay than story, but it might also have to do with how many games you have played / your age.

                I definitely find as time goes on I’m less interested in how a game plays and more interested in what a game says, I’ve already played thousands of hours of games and am more than competent at most of them.

                I’d like to see what games you think had bad stories that you played through anyway because the gameplay was good.

                I’m having a hard time thinking of any games with good gameplay and bad story that I kept playing except for multiplayer games that have no story or have almost no story because it all gets skipped in pursuit of chatting with friends or whatever.

                I have to go back to my teenage years as the easiest to recall. I played a fair bit of oblivion which has a really dumb story that I didn’t pay much attention to, except the guilds were often entertaining and were my favourite part of the game, but I did also do dungeons in that game. However, I did that with my partner at the time, we took turns doing a random dungeon. The gameplay wasn’t that good in retrospect but it was different to the majority of games I had played in the past so it was novel and it was good enough at what it was doing. I really didn’t like Skyrim because I had already had my fill of TES gameplay and the story wasn’t helping and I was playing it purely single player.

                Actually recently I played a lot of the long dark and I enjoyed it a lot, but I didn’t enjoy the story mode very much in comparison to sandbox, I finished it anyway but I enjoyed telling my own survival story much more than playing the writers, and knowing that I had a start point and end point kinda put me off the story mode, I never got into doing the challenges for that game forsimilar reasons, purely sandbox. Then there’s things like Cataclysm dark days ahead, which I enjoyed a fair bit because it is about your own story.

                TLDR I think it’s more complex than just saying gameplay > story

                1. Daimbert says:

                  Because you seem to be suggesting as if it is based in objectivity that gameplay is more important than the story; so some people might disagree strongly with you, rather than just disagreeing with you.

                  But the claim isn’t that, but is instead that in a game it’s easier to ignore a bad story than bad gameplay, most of the time.

                  I’d like to see what games you think had bad stories that you played through anyway because the gameplay was good.

                  It’s far easier for me to think of games that I played that either had no story, a minimal story, or else where I ignored their story and played it myself (sometimes inventing a story myself, because I AM a story gamer). And I can name classics like Pac-Man, Defender, Asteroids, Missile Command, Gorf, Pinball Arcade (I was actually addicted to this for a while). Fighting games tend to be that way (I prefer stories or invent stories in mine myself). So do sports games. In terms of RPGs, I prefer Icewind Dale to the Baldur’s Gate games, despite the story being much less prominent in the Icewind Dale games. And I constantly replay Wizardry 8 up until the tree village of the Trynnies because I like the character creation and combat up until that point and am only vaguely interested in the story.

                  This doesn’t mean that I’m not willing to put up with mediocre gameplay if the story is good. The Old Republic pretty much checks that off for me, as did Conception II, as does Persona 3 (I don’t care for its dungeons, which come across as grindy because you are supposed to use them for training). But it is much more likely that annoying gameplay will put me off playing a game than a dumb story will. And I am an avowed story gamer, and so generally MORE tolerant of that if the story is interesting.

                  The long and short of it is that any game has to give me a reason to keep playing it. Story can patch over some gameplay mediocrity, but the worse the gameplay is the better the other things like story have to be, which makes it riskier to have bad gameplay. In short, again, it’s easier for me to enjoy the gameplay and ignore the story if I like the gameplay enough than it is to ignore bad gameplay if the story is good enough. Both can happen, but as the gameplay elements generally are more prominent and are where you spend most of your time — because it’s a game — you’ll notice them more and if that’s bad enough it won’t matter how good the story is.

                  So, yes, it’s more complex than saying “gameplay > story”, but gameplay is harder to ignore in a game than the story is, and so it’s what’s most likely to completely kill a game for someone than the story is.

    2. Gwydden says:

      Here’s the thing: are we talking about bad gameplay, or simply mediocre gameplay? This is the blog where our esteemed host wrote a novel length retrospective of the Mass Effect series, games he and many others here clearly love but that hardly anyone would recommend for its shooter mechanics. Same goes for most story-driven RPGs. With that genre, it often seems like the quality of the gameplay is inversely proportional to that of the story.

      I recall that after spending a lot of time engrossed in the first Divinity: Original Sin (an RPG with great gameplay and a mediocre story) I decided to give a quick try to Sunless Sea (a game with a great story and mediocre gameplay) and got completely sidetracked by the latter. I guess that shows which way I lean.

      While we’re on RPGs, I’m bothered by the idea that if the gameplay’s not that good then why not just make it a VN/novel/TV show, or the similar notion that if someone wants story they should go to those forms of media. The way one experiences RPG stories is fundamentally different, and even mediocre gameplay is part of that paradigm. There’s this RPS video on Sunless Sea about how even bad gameplay can contribute to a game’s story and feel. It even mentions JRPGs as an example, but I think it applies just as well to story-driven WRPGs.

      Like, I love Dragon Age: Origins, but it is also the case that 1. I wouldn’t enjoy it as much if you took out all the combat, even though it isn’t that good, 2. I wouldn’t bother with it if it was a linear story of any sort. I tried reading Dragon Age tie in fiction; it was awful. This may sound like holding video games to a lower standard, but I see it more like how you wouldn’t complain to your GM that the story they came up with isn’t as good as [insert one of your favorite novels here].

      That unique relationship to the story and the game world is why I focus on RPGs. I actually find I can’t play games with linear narratives anymore i.e. the frequent and long movie-like cinematics so popular in modern AAA design. Roleplaying games don’t work like either movies or novels, but the blockbuster action game is clearly trying to be a movie. I, kind person that I am, comply with its wishes and judge it as a movie. Turns out games suck at being movies. Or books, for that matter. But that doesn’t mean they can’t prioritize story in their own way.

      1. Daimbert says:

        For me, for something to be mediocre tends to mean that it’s mostly inoffensive and so isn’t noticeable. Thus, it would get out of the way for the most part and let you enjoy the part of the game that IS good. If it’s working against that, then I’d call it bad and not mediocre, especially if, say, the game is supposed to be story-driven but the gameplay is so lackluster at best that you don’t want to play to get to the story parts that are good.

        I’ve personally found that the Persona RPGs are pretty good at combining good stories with good gameplay, and working on both to both improve them individually and improve how they work together.

        As for your last point, the big thing for me is that if you’re going to do a story-driven game, then there should be a reason that it’s a game that someone plays rather than just a story they experience. For DAO, the big thing that makes it worth being something people play are the choices you make in it. There are a large number of choices that result in significant changes to the world itself. You can only do that by making the game interactive in a large sense, and thus something that you actually play. But if all the interactive elements work against you experiencing the game, then it does, to me, make sense to ask what it’s doing for the story.

        If the gameplay and interactive elements don’t add anything to the story and in fact get in the way of you wanting to or experiencing the story, then it’s entirely reasonable to say that maybe those elements shouldn’t have been there in the first place, and thus that the story might have worked better in a medium that focuses on telling a story well instead of one that adds in interactive and gameplay elements that can, if not handled properly, impede storytelling.

      2. Joshua says:

        Planescape: Torment is widely considered to have just mediocre gameplay but is one of the best stories out there. Mediocre in the sense that it’s fairly inoffensive and mostly easy, and all of the difficulty in the game resides in the dialogue choices.

        1. Gwydden says:

          It’s funny you should say that, because I was about to mention Torment as a game that would probably benefit from less gameplay. The combat’s bland and adds nothing to the game, and neither do the RPG elements. There is exactly one way to play and one thing it has going for it (dialogue, dialogue, dialogue) which only benefits from one specific build (Wisdom + Intelligence + Charisma) so that there’s no reason to play anything else. I’m going to go with the people who think it should have just been an adventure game, especially since it’s very fetch-questy to begin with.

          Older RPGs in general are very topical here, since with them I find myself facing the story versus everything else dilemma a lot. I’d think the first Baldur’s Gate awful either way, but I believe I could genuinely enjoy the sequel if I didn’t hate its D&D combat so very much. Gameplay wasn’t what turned me off Planescape: Torment, but neither did it help. What I’ve heard of Fallout makes it sound more my cup of tea gamplay-wise, but I just can’t get over the art style, which I think is best described as “fifty shades of grey” before the sequel’s revolutionary discovery of the color brown. Aesthetics is the third wheel in the gameplay versus story discussion, but everyone avoids mentioning it for fear of sounding shallow, it seems.

          1. DeadlyDark says:

            First Baldur’s Gate… I played it in 2010, and I loved it both for the gameplay and the story. More than BG2. I think that’s because it gave something I almost never see in other games (BG2 included)
            Gameplay-wise its closer to tactical strategies, like Jagged Alliance (felt like it for me), since there’s no sprint in battles, so I could use various strategies, like kiting and such. I loved that low-level feel, it was like I was a real adventurer looking for a ways to outsmart my enemies (my favorite battles were against similar groups of adventurers, and unlike other games, these felt fair). Don’t think any other isometric rpg gave me such feel
            Story was great, since most of it was very low-key investigation (must say, Chris Davis in his video showed it very well). Considering the depth of conspiracy, I think Sarevok is my favorite Bioware villain to this day

          2. tmtvl says:

            As someone who really loves BG2, I can’t stand playing PS:T. It really is the black sheep of Infinity Engine games.

            Aesthetics probably don’t get mentioned because there are very few games which are so awful aesthetically that it ruins them. Unless you’re sensitive to them which I doubt many people are. And most people don’t have the terminology to discuss them anyway.

            1. “Aesthetics” covers literally everything about the game. How the gameplay feels. How the audio feels. How the story feels. How the visuals feel. Any part of the game that can be described as having a “feel” is part of the overall game aesthetics.

              And I wouldn’t say visuals have gotten a pass–they’re sharply criticized in the gaming media. In OLDER games they aren’t as stressed simply because technical limitations put a pretty hard limit on what you could do. Now, that’s no longer the case.

              Real hardcore RPG’s (and I mean, from the perspective of having a *really complex array* of character builds and options) have always fallen behind the technology curve. The games that hug the technology curve in terms of graphics simply don’t have enough oomph left for super-complex game mechanics to be involved. Also, a lot of RPG game mechanics actually benefit from being abstract, particularly if you’re trying to re-create a system that was designed for pen and paper.

              There are a lot of design choices you make for pen-and-paper that you would NEVER make for a computer game. With pen and paper, you’re always trying to cut back on the amount of arithmetic and separate operations that players have to do. Everything’s binary, pass-fail, because nobody can keep on top of all of those NUMBERS. Computers do this effortlessly, so you can have a lot of complex calculations and state changes that aren’t all-or-nothing.

              1. Nimrandir says:

                . . . Unless you play Pathfinder. Oh, the number of times I’ve amended an attack roll or skill check because I forgot some condition or buff effect.

                1. We got pretty good at using flash cards for that kind of thing. But even then, Pathfinder isn’t a card on the amount of stuff you can have a computer handle for you.

                  For instance, Dungeons and Dragons Online has some stats that pen and paper D&D never has and never will. One of them is PRR (Physical Resistance Rating). It absorbs weapon damage. You calculate it this way:

                  Damage percentage absorbed = 100/(100+rating). So if your PRR is 150, you take 40% damage from physical attacks.

                  I don’t care who you have in your pen and paper group, NOBODY will voluntarily do math like that on every. single. weapon. attack. The computer does it.

        2. Daimbert says:

          And is a game whose gameplay bored me so much that I’ve never actually been able to play it, despite giving it a chance a number of times.

          Amazingly — and perhaps sadly — out of those D&D inspired games only the Icewind Dale games kept me engaged for any length of time …

          1. Thomas says:

            Okay, but that’s a very personal experience then. Loads of people played the crud Torment gameplay and decided it was one of their favourite games.

            Rather than bad gameplay being riskier than bad story as a rule, it might be the thing that suits you, Daimbert, best as you’ve got a low tolerance for boring gameplay, whereas I enjoy things like Dear Esther because even good mechanically focused games often don’t draw me in.

            1. Hector says:

              But that goes back to what you mean by gameplay. Sure, the Torment combat system was only OK. But the meat of the gameplay was solving puzzles, making conmections , and deciphering riddles and mysteries.

            2. Daimbert says:

              Well, since at least a couple of other people in this very comment thread reacted the same way, it’s hard to say that it’s a VERY PERSONAL reaction. And it’s hard to say that I have a low tolerance for boring gameplay because there are other games with gameplay that might be considered boring that I had less trouble with (Wizardry 8, for example, is a game that I constantly replay, and it’s hard to say that Icewind Dale’s gameplay is that much better).

              All of this comes down, it seems to me, to a validation of my point: poor gameplay and a good story is a risky move because some people will be able to push through the poor gameplay and many won’t. This doesn’t seem to be as much of an issue with story because I, at least, am used to games that most agree are very fun to play and yet have no story to speak of, like Pac-Man, Defender, Asteroids and most of the original video games. I can’t think of an example of a game that had no or very minimal gameplay and was very well-received — outside of VNs, I guess — but can think of many games that had no or minimal story that are considered classics.

        3. Chad Miller says:

          One thing that really bugs me about this sub-thread is that the original question said “mechanics” but people have drifted into saying “gameplay” instead.

          I love PS:T but I don’t think of the shoddy combat as “the gameplay”. I also think framing it that way implies that the isometric combat is “the game” and the rest is “other stuff”. It’s possible to beat the game while being able to count the enemies you killed on one hand, whereas it’s impossible to get through without a ton of dialog. Why, then, is the first one “the gameplay”?

          I love PS:T precisely because I don’t think of the core experience as stuff like Curst Dungeon, but stuff like the Sensates’ hall, the Brothel for Slaking Intellectual Lusts, or trying to cut deals with the Dustmen without accidentally letting them know I’ve already died. I hate much of the combat, but it’s the least important thing in the game.

          1. Daimbert says:

            To be fair, the original question said “mechanics/gameplay”, so it’s reasonable to simply focus on gameplay and not as much on mechanics, or simply roll that into gameplay.

            For me, the gameplay incorporates all of the interactive elements of the game, or perhaps simpler the things you’d claim are part of “playing” the game. So you can make the case that the dialogue chains and the puzzles are part of the gameplay and are excellent, but then you can’t ignore that the combat is also a significant part of the gameplay as well, as it’s something that you have to do and that can bore someone enough to not play the game.

            That’s why my focus was on it being riskier: in general, in a game, bad gameplay is more likely to get someone to simply stop playing no matter how good the game is than a bad story is to get them to stop playing if the gameplay is good, as long as the story isn’t excessively prominent and doesn’t drag on too much.

  4. krellen says:

    Some (modern) comic history on Spider-Verse:

    Marvel Noir was launched in 2009. Spider-Man was just one part of the whole thing.

    Peni Parker was introduced in the comic that was the impetus for this film. She is effectively new for the film since she was new for the comic the film is based on.

    Spider-Gwen was a gimmick that became popular enough to sustain itself that first started in 2014 (also the year the Spider-Verse comic came out).

    And Miles has only existed since 2011.

    So basically, they didn’t do this ten years ago because the idea and most of the characters didn’t exist ten years ago.

    1. Viktor says:

      Meanwhile Peter Porker, the Spectacular Spider-Ham, has existed since 1983 and I am shocked, SHOCKED, that he hasn’t appeared in a movie before this.

      (Also, fun fact, My Chemical Romance frontman Gerard Way was the creator of Peni Parker. The comic version is a much more explicit Neon Genesis Evanglion reference than the more generic anime girl Into the Spider Verse version.)

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      If they did this movie 10 years ago, it would have been Spider-Man meeting Spider-Man 2099, Marvel Mangaverse Spider-Man, Spider-Girl, and Spider-Ham. So… actually still pretty good probably? They could even have thrown in the 1969 cartoon version as the comic relief for the whole movie.

      The tech on the animation would have been WAY worse though.

      1. krellen says:

        Without Miles, the “anyone can wear the mask” narrative falls a bit flat, though. The fact that Spider-Man is Black does actually matter to the narrative, even if it’s never mentioned by the characters.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          I’m not saying it doesn’t matter. It definitely does. Just was pointing out they already had some Spider characters to use, even back then.

  5. Pax says:

    I would say that Into the Spider-verse, Wonder Woman, and probably many other unexpected hits from big studios share a strange connection that allowed both of them to rise above their respective studios’ other output: creators genuinely invested in the property at the helm, and executives who didn’t give a crap about the property. Because Into the Spider-verse was animated, I’m sure a lot of the executives saw it as “some kiddy cartoon that doesn’t matter,” and basically ignored it, leaving Lord and Miller and their directors to work their magic. Similarly, because Wonder Woman was “the girl one,” I can easily imagine the suits at WB paid little attention to it, other than making sure they had a properly Snyder-y big dumb CGI fight at the end.

    The downside of this, is that now that these properties have made money, the executives will be paying attention to the creation of their sequels and spin-offs, and that makes me worried for them.

  6. John says:

    I usually prefer mechanics-driven games to story-driven games, so as a general rule I’d say it’s better to have good gameplay and bad story than bad gameplay and good story. I’ve played a lot of Divinity: Original Sin and Shadow of Mordor this year. The main story in Original Sin is a load of half-assed fantasy nonsense. I don’t hate it by any means, but it isn’t very good. The combat, on the other hand, is possibly my favorite RPG combat ever so I absolutely love the game. (I got really frustrated with some of the puzzle design in my first playthrough, but that hasn’t been a problem for any of the subsequent playthroughs.) It helps that I never got the sense that Original Sin expected me to be invested in the story in the first place. All the cutscenes are short and skippable and I can click through the dialogue in conversations just as quickly as a I please.

    Shadow of Mordor, by contrast, appears to expect me to care about its aggravating Lord of the Rings movie fanfic. Fortunately, it’s an open world game and I could skulk my merry way through Mordor, leaping from tall buildings and stabbing unsuspecting orcs in the head without engaging with the story unless I wanted to. Unfortunately, the most interesting abilities are gated behind story missions. Eventually, I ran out of collectibles that I wanted to collect and side missions that I wanted to side-mission and the story was all that was left. I think I like the game more than I don’t–which still surprises me–but it’s a close thing. To the extent that I do, it’s the mechanics which are responsible. The story sucks. The fact that I have to engage with it to get at the really interesting mechanics–including but not limited to the ability to mind-control orcs–is infuriating.

    If there’s an exception to my gameplay-over-story rule, it would be something like Full Throttle. Full Throttle is a point-n-click adventure game. It’s a lot less obtuse than many other games in that genre, but there are still a lot of segments that I don’t like at all. (The fights on the Old Mine Road, the demolition derby, and the on-a-timer-but-we’re-not-going-to-tell-you-that segments at the end, to name a few.) Despite all that, I have a lot of warm and fuzzy feelings about the game. I admit that it’s partly nostalgia. I recently played the remastered version of the game, however, and I found that I still love the art, the music, the characters, and the story. It probably helps that I somehow failed to forget a lot of the puzzle solutions over the last twenty years so that I was very rarely stuck.

    1. Gwydden says:

      That’s pretty much my exact opinion of Divinity: Original Sin 1. The sequel is way, way better on the story front, by the way, and it keeps what made the first one great. D:OS2 is unquestionably the best RPG I’ve played to date as a result, and I don’t think I’ve said that of any other game before. Funny thing is, Larian admits that for all their previous games they half-assed the narrative, but after the criticism D:OS1 received they went from one writer to a full, eight-person writing team that spent years working on the final product. I find it so impressive that the dark horse managed to produce a solid narrative experience in no way inferior to, say, the better Bioware games just by acknowledging criticism and putting effort into it. D:OS2 makes me look bad. “Engaging gameplay and an engaging narrative cannot coexist in a single RPG,” I said. “A developer with historically rubbish writing won’t suddenly and dramatically improve just because they put their minds to it,” I said. I’m glad I was wrong.

  7. RFS-81 says:

    In my opinion, Microsoft’s core competency is input devices, not software ;) I like their ergonomic keyboards and the Xbox controller.

    1. tmtvl says:

      The Xbox controller is weird, it looks like it’s made for people who have a normal hand and an upside-down hand. I always wonder why they aren’t just symmetrical like PS controllers.

      1. John says:

        I think that Playstation controllers are the way they are because Sony added analogue sticks to an existing controller layout when they introduced the Dualshock. Microsoft, on the other hand, had a fresh start and I believe chose the layout that they did because they expected the left analogue stick to be the primary input for most games rather than the d-pad. This is all just speculation, of course, but it’s consistent with my experience. I’ve got two gamepads for my PC. One’s a Logitech pad with a Playstation-style layout and the other’s an XBox 360 pad. For games which expect me to use the thumbstick, the XBox pad is fine. For games which expect me to use the d-pad–or for which I prefer to use a d-pad–I’ve found that the Playstation-style is more natural.

        That said, I’ve gotten used to the XBox pad and I am certainly no worse at Street Fighter when I’m using it than when I used the Logitech pad. (That may not amount to much. I have never been good at Street Fighter.) One thing I appreciated about the Logitech pad is that there’s a switch on the front that flips the inputs from the d-pad and the left analogue stick, so that the game you’re playing will treat inputs from the d-pad as if they were from the stick and vice versa. It made them interchangeable to a certain extent. My one serious criticism of the Logitech pad is that it feels flimsier than the XBox pad. People keep saying that the XBox 360 d-pad is awful, but I’m still not sure why. I’ve always been grateful that it didn’t feel like it was going to break in the course of ordinary use.

    2. Urthman says:

      I can’t understand why the XBox controller fits your hand perfectly with your index finger on the analog trigger, And then puts the bumper buttons above that so you either have to awkwardly reach up with your index finger or shift your hand to put your middle fingers on the triggers so that the grip needs to longer fits the shape of your hand.

  8. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Gameplay and story are like one of those justice weight thingies for me. A mediocre value on one side can be overcome be a strong value on the other.

    -Mass Effect 1 had a captivating story and really poorly tested and executed gameplay. I beat it at least 5 times.
    -The Gears of War series has an iffy at best plot surrounded by rock solid action gameplay. I beat every entry in the series except Judgment and 4 multiple times.
    -Every Telltale game is fun for the story and the choices, not the button mashing or aiming the cursor at things gameplay.
    -Nier has average to below average gameplay but one of my favorite stories in gaming. I wrung out all the content from it like a delicious fruit. I even completed the fishing and flower farming stuff, that’s how into it I was.
    -The stories in Resident Evil games just keep getting dumber, but I find the fun gameplay in 4-6 compelling enough to beat multiple times.

    1. pedantic idiot says:

      resident evil 5 is hilarious though. I played it coop and pretty much any time wesker was on screen you were guaranteed a cackle or two.

      The best moment was definitely Chris Wokefield punching a giant boulder around though. I think it worked so well because we couldn’t tell if they were serious about the story or if it was intentionally really stupid/cheesy. I’m pretty sure it’s the latter but still incredible.

      disclosure: hated 4, and never played 6. Enjoyed 7 until near the end of the game where the story and atmosphere dried up in favour of shooting a lot of things.

  9. Andy b says:

    Spider-Ham was a spider (named Peter), but he got bitten by a radioactive pig (“Aunt” May Porker).

    Which, I guess by the naming convention means he should be Ham-Spider?

  10. I agree that most of the problems with Inquisition were basically an issue of “git gud”. They did . . . okay . . .with some of the stuff they had, but everything felt half-assed. The hurry at the beginning really was awful and the info-dumps were terrible. Then, after you get to Skyhold, if you wanted to explore and do lots of things, you sat around not advancing the story FOREVER. They did not have enough story for the amount of game they had.

    The early development videos and stuff showed *entire game systems* that were completely cut from the final game, and there were some indications that this happened because they simply couldn’t be made stable on the 360 and PS3 (the game was cross-platform). When they made later DLC, they dropped the 360 and PS3 and the DLC was SO. MUCH. BETTER. (IIRC some of the DLC was done by different development houses in Bioware, too.)

    Now, I enjoyed the game a lot, but I’m really into the series. I certainly don’t blame anyone who DIDN’T enjoy it, because holy heck. It’s weird to think that the game might just have had platform problems and that’s what caused a lot of the screwiness. I doubt it caused ALL of the screwiness, but a lot of it. Some of the rest may have been caused by the fact that it was their first Frostbite game.

    In other news, I decided that I was actually interested-enough in Anthem to pre-order it. So, we’ll see.

    1. I am kind of hoping for Dragon Age 4 they’ll go all-out and actually give us a flying mount like a griffon or a (smallish) dragon. For one thing, this would completely remove the problems of pointless horses in Inquisition where your party awkwardly disappears when you’re on horseback, because multiple people can ride a flying mount at one time. It also would make the two gameplay modes highly distinct even if they take place in the same “map”, because you can have very different threats and obstacles that work against the different travel modes.

      Plus, I’d seriously love to have another game like Drakan: Order of the Flame just not quite so linear.

  11. Steve C says:

    I saw the Spiderman movie yesterday. I have strong feelings on how much I loathed that movie. I wrote about it on the forums. My reaction to the blurry chromatic aberration art style was extremely bad. Negative 5 stars!

    1. Rack says:

      I never saw the film but absolutely abhorred the trailer. Interesting to see someone who seemingly hates it even more than me.

    2. Viktor says:

      I’m reminded of the reaction to the Wachowski sisters’ Speed Racer. They talked about how they made a kid’s movie because kids didn’t have any preconceptions about how movies “should” look and what shots are shorthand for. And they were borne out by the reactions: kids loved it, critics said it was nonsensical.

      Spiderverse feels very similar to me, the artstyle is so far out of sync with everything that movies have done before that some people will not be able to interpret it the way the film wants to be seen. You’ve got parts of the screen at different frame rates, comic book shorthand for a lot of the visuals, dot printing and color shifting, and a whole pile of other tricks* that work to give the film it’s beautiful and unique visual feel, but those are tricks that are so far outside of the experiences of most standard moviegoers that it may take years of the inevitable copycats before a decent chunk of the population is able to watch the movie and “get it”.

      *Not to mention the color palette. This may be the first movie in decades to say “I don’t care about looking realistic, I want to look GOOD”. It’s like cel-shaded video games, or street art. In a world where Disney/Pixar rules, that’s unheard of.

      1. Wangwang says:

        I woud give critics enough credit to know “style over substance” when they see it. Critics loved Spiderverse not just because it’s visually inovating, but because it also had a great story. I don’t think great art style could save a story like The Amazing Spiderman 2.

      2. Matthew Downie says:

        I was fine with all of that, except when they slowed down the frame rate. The illusion of movement started to break down for me. It reminded me of a video game that becomes unplayable when too much stuff is on screen.

  12. Shen says:

    The way to fix Inquisition’s story/gameplay dissonance is easier than even “write a better story.” Just don’t have the main character be the leader of the Inquisition, Christ.
    Granted, the game still wouldn’t be good.

    1. Even with the way it actually was, you struck me more as a “mascot” or “chairman” than a “leader”. The number of actual LEADERSHIP decisions you make is in the single digits and is on the order of “pick between these options”. Josephine, Cullen, and Leliana do all the work and make all the real decisions. You just pick between them when they can’t decide and go around waving a flag and yelling “WOOO KEEP UP THE GOOD WORK!” and dramatically slaying monsters.

      Sorta like the Queen of England.

      1. Matthew Downie says:

        Or like when Preston Garvey appoints you general of the Minutemen in Fallout 4, but at no point gives you any real control over the Minutemen.

        Or like most leadership roles in most Bethesda games.

        1. I would love how after I’d become archmage randos in the streets would greet me by saying “Are you a MAGE?!”

          Yes. I’m the archmage. The mage who is arch. I’m wearing the damn archmage robes for crying out loud.

      2. Shen says:

        As a Brit, I can tell you that’s less like the Queen (who’s more of a year round holiday tradition) than it is being the actual party leader/Prime Minister… and in either case, it’d still be silly to send them out to do grunt-level police work with a high chance of grievous bodily harm.
        Although extremely funny.

        1. Bah, you have the Almighty Quicksave. You’ll be fine.

          Basically, that’s what it kinda felt like–everybody knows you’re the Player Character.

  13. Oleg Hamstrung says:

    Microsoft already had a game engine of sorts: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Microsoft_XNA

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Last major release, over 8 years ago. Either “had” is correct, or it reached perfection and continues in immutable flawless glory to the present day. Just like the Linux kernel apparently.

      1. Rob says:

        It’s more commonly known these days by the name MonoGame, which is the open-sourced re-implementation/continuation of XNA created by the community after Microsoft stopped supporting it.

        There’s also FNA, another re-implementation that’s better in some ways (it’s more commonly used commercially for modern ports of old XNA games), but less user-friendly (at least the last time I tried it).

  14. Chad Miller says:

    Re Ahuja’s new job, Square Inc is a credit card processing company unrelated to the SquareSoft that made the Final Fantasy games and was merged into Enix in the early 2000’s.

    But speaking of Square-Enix, there is one of their games that does something arguably more evil than not letting you skip cutscenes. Final Fantasy X-2 lets you skip cutscenes. It also has a tracker that tracks percent completion. This tracker includes cutscenes, but if you skip a cutscene then you miss out on that cutscene’s contribution to the percentage.

  15. Regarding game engines.

    Unreal Engine 4 is “free” to use, you do need to pay a percentage if you earn more than a certain amount/make commercial games, if I recall correctly it’s 5% or something.

    Then there is Amazon Lumberyard which is based on the Cryengine (of Crysis fame) and modified further by Amazon. And currently used in the no-end-in-sight-development Star Citizen game.

    Those AAA game engines. And after Unreal going “free” that way they almost nabbed the entire market. And I think they have some form of shared source so devs can help improve it too (not sure, haven’t delved that deep into it).

    It’s a shame there is no open source equivalent. I know Blender at some point could be used as a game engine but I seem to recall they removed that stuff from the suite since nobody used it?

    I could see Microsoft buying a lesser known engine, plonk it on Github though.
    And then oversee it’s development like they do with the open source Visual Studio Code (my favourite code editor of all time).
    But it could just end up another XNA thing, it’s hard to compete with the likes of Unreal Engine, especially when that threshold is free.

    I just stumbled on this https://godotengine.org/
    Never heard of it, yet it’s been around since 2007?

    1. Well, and EA has Frostbite. Doesn’t Id have whatever thing they did Rage with? Also, the pile of poo that Bethesda uses for ES and Fallout, oh yeah, Gamebryo.

      1. Unlike Unreal, Cryengine and Lumberyard and Unity which “anyone” can use… the engines Frostbite, idTech are in-studio or in-Publisher engines only.
        They “might” license them if you cough up enough money but…

        It’s a shame, Frostbite seems like a nice engine. And idTech considering the recent doom games seems ideal for those type of games.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      Huh, I hadn’t heard that about the Blender game engine. Though apparently it’s only been removed from the upcoming 2.80 version (which has a beta out, but that’s it); it’s still present in the current production version 2.79. And it looks like there’s a fork of the game engine, as well as another open-source engine that interfaces with Blender.

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