Diecast #240: AGDQ, Elite Dangerous, Road Redemption, Procgen Cities

By Shamus Posted Monday Jan 14, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 110 comments

In this latest episode of our innovative and groundbreaking podcast, two guys talk about some videogames. But unlike those other podcasts, we don’t waste time talking about popular games that are relevant to your experience. Instead we focus on obscure indies or older titles. You’re welcome.



Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.


00:00 Awesome Games Done Quick

I’m really curious what everyone else thought of the show. They had almost zero games I care about this year, but maybe they’re zeroing in on a core audience of 90s kids.

10:52 Rimworld

19:00 Elite Dangerous

I’m sure this tirade will be completely non-controversial and nobody will have a problem with it.

35:45 Road Redemption


Link (YouTube)

During this segment I claimed the road was different every time. The loading screen makes it sound like the road is being randomized. But after a few hours of play, I’m questioning if this is true, or what parts are actually randomized.

40:00 Twitch Autoplay

I call shenanigans.

47:45 Mailbag: procedural city generator by Marian42

Dear Diecast,

Have you seen the procedural city generator by Marian42? It looks like the sort of thing that a procedurally generated city programmer and his co-host the Blender enthusiast might be interested in. Despite reading Marian’s blog post about the project multiple times, I still don’t understand the waveform collapse algorithm he uses to generate the city. Any thoughts?

–John

Here is the generator Paul was talking about.


Link (YouTube)

57:49 Mailbag: Epic Games Store

Dear Diecast.

You most likely already have read the news about Ubisoft moving their games from Steam to Epic store. Shamus seems pretty positive about Epic store because of “competition is always good”. But for me it looks like rather bad thing happening right now to PC gaming. Epic doesn’t compete with Steam for customers, it competes for developers, and the customers are just getting screwed in the process, because they are forced to use obviously inferior (in terms of features) store. No reviews, no forums, no tags, no big picture, no controller customization, no time played tracking and so on. Steam developed shitton of features over the years which it didn’t have to (because of having no competitors). Why would you think that Epic would do the same? They have the games exclusively on their store and it’s enough to force the customer that want to play them to use it. Epic haven’t promised any features other than user reviews (opt in for publisher!). Origin and Uplay exist for years and they have zero of Steam features. Isn’t it likely that we end up with Epic store as the same shitty but cross-publisher store? For me it looks more about corporate greed than any consumer benefits. Epic has billions of profits from Fortnite which they want to invest in getting cut from every pc game sale, and publishers want to have bigger share of revenue. Customers are just would be forced to live with what corporations allow them.

Best regards, Dmitri.

I notice we keep having this discussion, and I’m not sure how to break us out of this loop. Let me try an analogy:

A sports team comes up with a new strategy. Say the Zanarkand Abes invent a new passing strategy. Suddenly they begin scoring goals in situations where teams usually couldn’t score. This is a good strategy. It makes the game more interesting. This strategy might be adopted by other teams and mix things up.

This does not mean that the Zanarkand Abes are the best team, or even that they deserve to win the title. They might be a terrible team with bad players, but this move they invented still has value. In a league where one team wins all the time, anything that disrupts the status quo is good.

Yes, the Epic platform might ruin a few titles. Maybe it will turn out the platform never adds basic features. But that still could be less overall damage to the industry than having everything ruled by a single hegemonic storefront. Consider two numbers:

A: The number of titles that would have made money if they were only paying a 12% royalty fee, but who lost money with a 30% royalty fee. These teams will either disband or choose not to make a sequel.

B: The number of games that wind up being exclusive to the Epic games store.

If A is greater than B, then Epic’s move is overall good for games even if they never improve their storefront. On top of this, I think a game being tied to a single horrible storefront is less of a tragedy than a game not getting made at all. This is particularly true in the case of under-served markets and niche games.

That said, I’m actually pinning my hopes on Discord and GoG.

 


From The Archives:
 

110 thoughts on “Diecast #240: AGDQ, Elite Dangerous, Road Redemption, Procgen Cities

  1. Grimwear says:

    When it comes to AGDQ I’ve lost interest over the years. Initially it was super fun and exciting but it’s now gotten to the point where they’re doing the same runs over and over that I’ve seen many times before or it’s older games that I don’t care about. It doesn’t help that there’s all those “controversies” running around and all the bannings taking place. I really like watching for the runners and their personalities/insights but now it all seems more sterile with stricter rules. Take the old Bonesaw fiasco. Well he did his time, took his 1 year ban, but he no longer participates because any run he submits to AGDQ is rejected. No need to officially ban when you can just not give him a slot to run.

    There was also the situation with White Goose? Goose something or other. I honestly don’t know anything about what went down for him getting banned but I do remember watching him run Goldeneye with another person on a single controller and dang was he knowledgeable about that game.

    Point is I watch for the amazing runs and the people who love those games and now it’s just bland. I’ll always remember those Jedi Knights runs from CovertMuffin though. Just listening to him play and his laugh is sheer joy.

    1. Ivan says:

      Yeah, pretty much. Poor ole Bonesaw. Whatever you want to say about the rules that were broken, that was an extremely entertaining run, mostly. And yeah, he did the time, but now they’re just being petty and vindictive. Kinda harder to like the event, with that shadow hanging over it.

      Add to that, now we see a lot of multiperson races, randomisers, and gimmicky runs, instead of just the actual game. I think it was last year, sometime, where a pair of guys did a randomiser run of A Link to the Past, and Super Metroid. Whilst the technical achievement of gluing those two games together as they had is kinda interesting, it wasn’t any kind of cohesive or entertaining thing, specially to watch.

      1. Milo Christiansen says:

        Andy and OatandGoats running SMZCR. It was *not* some kind of gimmick run for GDQ, but a popular combined run with tournaments, periodic race events, etc.

        As for “it’s older games”, what kind of games do you think have the largest speed running communities?

        I’m coming to the conclusion that GDQ isn’t for everyone. It was, and still is, an event for speed runners.

        1. Cybron says:

          Pretty much how I feel. I’m glad these sort of things get in, because I love learning about them. In fact, one of those races got me to start following Andy on Twitch, which got me into OoT randomizers which I now play regularly.

    2. decius says:

      Every time I’ve seen a discussion of a GDQ banning controversy it’s been someone with an obvious axe to grind just trying to do damage.

      I won’t take a side on any of them because it’s just going to become politics. If you want to learn what people were saying about those issues just Google the right terms, and come to your own conclusions. But anyone who brings it up months or years later seems to mostly be pushing their preferred social justice viewpoint.

    3. default_ex says:

      Sterile is exactly what I was thinking with the race runs this year where they put up those cubicle dividers between the runners and gave them noise canceling headphones. It betrays the spirit of the speedrun community to do that, which has always been about cooperating with each other even when your competing with someone else for better times. Also made the races very boring to watch without the runners offering the commentary, poking jabs at each other’s routes or offering up on-the-fly route change advice to each other.

      Even the solo runs felts very sterile. There were a few runs which really brought the spirit of GDQ but the majority of the runners were no name streamers that brought nothing to the table for skill, entertaining banter or anything fun to watch. It really didn’t help with how often this year we heard, “I’m not sure how or why this works but it does”.

      Honestly I’m not holding much hope SGDQ is going to be much better. After all we are talking about the event that chased away Bluegrass because he laughs funny and no one there had the balls to defend him.

      1. Grimwear says:

        I feel so bad for Blueglass. I’ll be honest ya his laugh is loud and annoying and it annoyed me at first but I came to appreciate it over time. Like dang this guy loves being there and loves the community. I never saw what happened but I did realize I didn’t see him anywhere and googled it and I guess during a run the event staff gave him a talking to? Guess he was “too loud”? Really sad to see especially since he was a defining character of GDQ and just a great person to see. I mean I don’t think he ever slept. Even during those all night runs you could see him sitting there watching.

  2. Ebalosus says:

    Regarding Elite Dangerous: if you think it’s a hard game to learn now, you should’ve played it back in 2014 during the alpha/premium beta. The “tutorial” was text before the objective with no feedback, so most of us learnt the game the hard way by playing it.

    As for walking around (“Elite Feet”/”Space Legs” is the fandom term) and atmospheric planets are being worked on for a future paid update.

    Also, by the sounds of it, you were watching Vindicator Jones’ videos, and he’s not the best source to introduce to you to Elite.

  3. Lars says:

    I think a game being tied to a single horrible storefront is less of a tragedy than a game not getting made at all.

    I’m not sure of this one, boss. The Windows Store has a few very, very good exclusives. I really want to play Forza Horizon 3, but even more I don’t want to mess with the Windows Store.

    That said, I’m actually pinning my hopes on Discord and GoG.

    Approved.

    1. Redrock says:

      Eh, as rough as the Epic Store might be, it’s nowhere near as broken as the Windows Store and its goddamn UWPs. Like many people are saying, the lack of user reviews will be the biggest problem for me, since I generally find Metacritic user reviews far less useful than Steam reviews. But that’s far from a dealbreaker. Cloud saves, now that’s important.

      1. Fon says:

        I think the point is we should be careful of what we say– there is such thing as TOO horrible. Not in this case, of course… from the sounds of it, Epic Store is just basic/bland, but not actively harmful like Windows Store.

  4. Joe says:

    So Elite Dangerous is bad. Maybe Star Citizen will be good, when it’s finally properly released. Of course, God only knows when that’ll happen.

    I’m surprised at you leaving your computer on overnight. That’s something I never do. Doesn’t it cost power? I always turn it off at the wall.

    Ubisoft really annoy me. They come up with an interesting game, like Witcher 3 ancient Egypt. But then they’ll stick it on their own clumsy DRM platform and shove loot boxes in there. In a single player game. So I’ll never play their stuff. In their greed, they actually drive customers away. I bet their developers are annoyed too. It limits the people who will see and appreciate their hard work.

    While I like speedruns, I don’t play enough games to properly appreciate most of them. But I hear you on long runs. The Witcher 3 run takes three hours! I’m watching it in stages.

    1. Redrock says:

      Lootboxes in Assassin’s Creed Origins? Don’t recall them being prominent. As far as I remember, there was a single chest that you could only buy with in-game gold. And you never really need it, since you were drowning in weapons anyway. Doesn’t seem particularly greedy to me.

      1. Lino says:

        My biggest problem with Origins was the lesser emphasis on stealth, and more importantly, the RPG elements. I don’t care what level you are – if I stab you in the back with my hidden blade, you should be dead!
        That, and the fact that I’ve generally lost interest in the story of this franchise – I absolutely loved the first game, especially the end reveal – it just made the world so interesting and mysterious! But later games have extrapolated so much on it that, for me, it’s lost all its mystique and intrigue. But I’m definitely in the minority. Assassin’s Creed’s lore was a bit like a Lovecraft story for me – the less frequently you show the monster, the scarier (and more intriguing) it is. I guess no story a writer could give me could be better than the story I’ve got in my head. Even though in this case I didn’t even have a story in my head – just a feeling of mystery and endless possibilities. The moment they stuck to a narrative, all of that was gone for me, and since I didn’t care for that particular story all that much, all that was left was the gameplay which i had got quite tired of.
        But credit where it’s due, Origins did look gorgeous, and I’m glad that so many people liked it.

        1. Redrock says:

          Yeah, I’m with you on most of those points. I’m one of those weirdos who really liked the present-day storyline and all the crazy conspiracy stuff dropped in the glyphs in AC II and Brotherhood. What’s more, there’s a lot of potential in the present-day post-Desmond AC lore. I mean, there’s a rogue ancient entity roaming the Web that’s created a loyal cult of followers with promises of a digital afterlife. And that’s in addition to all the other Assassin and Templar stuff. Personally, the best moments of Origins for me was when it went almost full Stargate with ancient tombs housing “Clarke’s law magical” artifacts, speaking pillars with messages for the future, etc. I think that this is AC at its best. I feel like Ubi has been bullied into abandoning a lot of AC lore.

          1. John R. Troy says:

            AC pretty much lost its way when the lead creator left and then had a falling out with Ubisoft. The story I feel has gone in weird directions, especially after AC3.

            I honestly think Ubisoft should get back to focusing on what AC games do best, instead of this soft reboot to do RPG mechanics and deal with a “Legendary time” where they are not as interested in the historical fiction and actually are introducing mythological creatures (holographic illusions/force projections), but still. Get back to the really cool stuff like in Brotherhood having a nice switch between past and present. Focus on Stealth, conspiracies, visiting a historical period (especially one not explored that well), etc.

            Origins and Odyssey however prove that the Anvil Engine could do an RPG. Maybe not as sophisticated as Bioware’s, but they are getting close to do things like a branching narrative, etc. Maybe they can bring back Prince of Persia using this engine, or create an RPG for a new fantasy world. (Hmm, the world of Lemuria from Child of Light?)

            1. Sleeping Dragon says:

              Don’t get me wrong, AC games can still be fun to play and individually interesting but pretty much as soon as the supposedly planned trilogy got the addendum “but the second part is actually going to be three games” I became somewhat suspicious that any sort of overarching vision for the series might have been compromised. At this point, far as my personal opinion is concerned, they’re doing the “ancient” games because they’re more videogamey, easier to make and have the added benefit of a smaller risk of controversy.

      2. Joe says:

        Yeah, I’m mostly going on what I read… somewhere. Either way though, I’m not touching Uplay.

      3. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Origins had a mix of powerful gear you could buy with real money, and cosmetics you could only get by purchasing. There were some microtransaction cosmetics in previous games, but often you could get them through a pre-order or through the points you earned from UPlay. Origins started down the road of “neat stuff you cannot have without spending extra money on your $60 purchase” and Odyssey went further down that way with a permanent XP booster on offer (Origins may also have offered this, I am not sure).

        1. Redrock says:

          Yeah, but those aren’t lootboxes. MTX they both do have, sure, but it’s very hard to see that as a problem in games that are just so full of loot. I know that the XP boost thing in Odyssey got a lot of attention, but, personally, I never felt that the game was stingy with XP. My police when it comes to MTX is whether the game’s economy is built explicitly tp steer you towards making extra purchases or whether the MTX stuff is truly extra. In both Origins and Odyssey I firmly believe the latter to be true.

  5. kunedog says:

    I permanently swore off Elite Dangerous when it failed to deliver on the promised singleplayer offline mode.

    As for the new storefront, lack of user reviews is a huge red flag for me, probably a showstopper. The importance of user reviews in spreading awareness of issues missed or ignored (or even deliberately covered up) by critics can’t be overstated, especially in recent years.

    1. Ebalosus says:

      I can fully understand that, because the announcement a mere three weeks before launch that they were removing the offline single-player was very controversial at the time, despite how much the more hardcore defenders of the game will downplay that fact. They seem to forget that the announcement happened only a year after the immense controversies surrounding the always-online ‘features’ of Simcity 2013 and Diablo 3.

      I’m a premium beta back of the game, and was expecting it to be online akin to what Star Citizen had planned (and since has been implemented according to the Star Citizens I talk to), thus personally am not upset by the removal of the offline single-player mode, but sympathise with the people that are/were, since they were also backers of the game like myself.

      1. decius says:

        What has Start Citizen implemented that they had promised as of the Kickstarter? So far I’ve only seen them walk back from things.

        1. Ebalosus says:

          >Asking a primarily Elite player about the progress of SC

          Muh sides.

          Anyhow, from what I can gather, the game is online open-play only in terms of the MMO aspect; unlike Elite, which has an open mode, a private groups mode (you’ll only interact with other people who have access to that group), and solo mode (always-online single-player).

  6. Redrock says:

    Me, I’m just waiting for Rebel Galaxy Outlaw. Seems to be the perfect mix of space sim and arcadey gameplay for my tastes. I was a bit annoyed when they decided to become an Epic Store exclusive, but maybe I’ll be getting it on the Switch anyway.

    1. John says:

      Outlaw is the Privateer-like that I’ve desperately wanted ever since I bought Privateer from GOG a few years ago and realized that (a) Privateer‘s space combat is absolutely terrible and (b) graphics really do matter. I’ve read that Privateer uses the Wing Commander II engine. I have to wonder how anyone could stand the space battles in that game when Privateer‘s are so awful. Perhaps it’s just that there was nothing better available at the time. Regardless, I loved Privateer back when I first played it on a 14-inch CRT monitor in, I think, 1995. Unfortunately, the experience does not translate well to a 42-inch LCD television. It absolutely does not help that games just a few years older have proper 3D ships as well as decent to excellent combat.

      The bits of Privateer that do hold up are the atmospheric bits: the chatter of pilots as they communicate with you and with each other and the music and art for the various stations and planets. My favorite part of Privateer was landing on a new planet or station with custom art and music. Most of the stations in the game are near cookie-cutter identical. But landing on a unique planet like Oxford for the first time was always a treat. It came with a sense of discovery and accomplishment that I still love. So I suppose what I’m hoping for from Outlaw is not only that it can deliver a Privateer-like experience with modern graphics and acceptable space combat but also that it’s full of unique planets, stations, and more.

      1. Redrock says:

        My point of comparison for Outlaw is Freelancer, which to this day remains my favorite space sim ever. It always baffled me that no one ever tried to replicate that formula. Most devs either go for more complex stuff, or, alternatively, for something a bit too simple, like Everspace and House of The Dying Sun. So, yeah, I have huge hopes for Outlaw. I mean, the original Rebel Galaxy was almost exactly what I wanted, but I just couldn’t get into the naval-like combat.

        1. John says:

          In some ways Star Citizen–the MMO bit, as opposed to Squadron 42–is clearly the game that Chris Roberts wanted to make when he was working on Freelancer. The difference is that he now has total freedom to do whatever he wants and a bunch of donors seemingly willing to support him indefinitely instead of a publisher asking him just what the hell he’s been doing with their money and willing and able to fire him if he fails to produce a shippable game in a reasonable amount of time. The thing is I’m not entirely sure how much of Freelancer is the game that Chris Roberts wanted to make before he was fired for failing to produce a shippable game in a reasonable amount of time and the game was finished by other people. Any resemblance between Freelancer and Star Citizen may end up being purely coincidental.

      2. Mark says:

        If you’re really keen on a space trading/combat game with atmosphere, there’s a thing on Steam called “3030 Deathwar Redux” you might like.

      3. decius says:

        The Wing Commander engine competed with the Lucasarts engine for space fights of the era, and it did so mostly by market segmentation. Using sprite graphics let WC target lower-end hardware, carving out the market niche.

        1. Boobah says:

          I don’t know that I’d go that far; Wing Commander came out in 1990, with Wing Commander 2 released the following year. X-Wing came out two years later. In 1993 two or three years was huge in hardware capabilities.

          The first two Wing Commander games used sprite graphics because nobody had the hardware to do polygons; X-Wing didn’t even begin development until the year after WC2 had been released.

    2. Lino says:

      I’ve never been a fan of these types of games, but Rebel Galaxy really caught my attention. Mainly because it’s got this mix simulation and arcade-iness.
      And even though it’s not the same genre, Outer Wilds also looks amazing!

    3. Geebs says:

      Thanks for the heads up, I’ll be keeping an eye on this one! I’ve been a sucker for space combat games with custom cockpits since Wing Commander.

      I do hope the soundtrack to the actual game isn’t all terrible, derivative butt-rock like in the trailers, though. That might be a deal-breaker.

      1. Redrock says:

        I think it’s supposed to be part of the draw, gels really well with the space western schtick they’re running with. I know they’re supposed to have way more licensed music than in the original. If I recall, there’re supposed to be several radio stations in the game, a-la GTA. But the original game also allowed you to easily load up a custom playlist made from mp3s on your PC. Dunno if Outlaw will have that, but I don’t see why not.

  7. Hector says:

    Shamus is confusing the general case for more competition with the case for Epic specifically. Epic is engaging in extremely anti-competitive practices and does not exactly have a pro-consumer outlook.

    1. Redrock says:

      I think you’re talking about different types of competition here. Epic is definitely competing with Steam and other storefronts in terms of attracting developers. And, like any competition, it has a positive impact – Discord switching to a 90/10 revenue split, for example. The end result would, hopefully, be Steam changing its revenue split policy, after which point the amount of exclusives on Epic would probably drop. Now, you could argue that exclusives are inherently anti-competitive, and you’d be right. But I think there’s a difference between console exclusives and storefront exclusives. One of those doesn’t force you to buy a new expensive box.

      1. Scampi says:

        Another disagreement here: I’d rather buy a console (if I could spare the money) than make business with Steam. I think console/platform exclusives and storefront exclusives are absolutely equal, as both will exclude players who don’t want to do business with the storefront/machine proprietor from buying games made by companies they actually WANT to do business with.
        To me, the financial aspect is not everything when it comes to making decisions about products.

        1. Redrock says:

          Sure, but I think you’ll agree that your stance, while not unique, is relatively rare. The vast majority of consumers aren’t really that principled when it comes to choosing who to purchase from, and will base their decisions on convenience, value, how fancy the brand is, etc. Being able to make consumer decisions based on you personal opinion of a company and its ethics is a luxury few have.

          1. Scampi says:

            I absolutely agree and I mourn this fact often. I think my principles are not even that far off. I just assume that, if someone needs to push conditions on me to purchase a product that would by itself be very much to my liking, that the product is not worth that much in the first place.
            I can’t help permanently realizing that Steam and all the other platforms and DRM measures could only ever prosper and shape the industry into the current status quo because apparently there exists some form of Stockholm syndrome or an attitude that will always excuse throwing good money after bad because with every purchase they become more invested in a company’s continued success.

            Considering my personal opinion of any company got shaped specifically at the time when it became obvious that they would try to force their way of making business upon me in the future, I can’t say I’d think this is a luxury noone else had. The only people who didn’t have any say in it are in this case PC gamers who only came into the hobby after Steam was firmly established as the industry hegemon. People above a certain age have mostly caused today’s circumstances to begin with. Still: If a games of studio X tanked when sold on a specific platform, that studio would possibly reconsider their stance on making the sale storefront/platform exclusive unless the platform owner financed the production in the first place.

    2. shoeboxjeddy says:

      Offering more appealing terms to suppliers is like… competition 101. I don’t think what you’re saying is what you think you are saying.

      1. Hector says:

        I have no objection to Epic offering better terms. I have serious objections to them buying exclusives.

    3. Geebs says:

      Also pertinent: if the Zanarkand Abes adopt a new passing strategy, how the hell is anybody supposed to be able to tell?

      I wouldn’t call the Epic game store “extremely anti-competitive”, but I agree that from the consumer’s point of view, they shouldn’t really be considered to meaningfully compete until I can pick $arbitrary_game and compare their prices for $arbitrary_game with other stores. Their current strategy of buying out exclusives doesn’t qualify, really. Still, I don’t think it’s really worth passing judgement until there’s a meaningful intersection between their selection of games and, say, Steam.

      I’m not particularly keen on the current trend of “every publisher gets their own shop” though. I mean, consider Bethesda’s recent failures with the security of both their multiplayer game logic and their customer support system. Do I really to give that bunch of complete incompetents my credit card details, or should I just take all my money out of the bank and set it on fire?. At least with option b), I’m not going to risk getting an overdraft.

      1. Thomas says:

        You wont ever get stores that offer different prices for the Steam game. Steam bans developers from letting their game be sold for less at another store. For a game to be cheaper, the developer has to choose not to release it on Steam.

        One day, if Epic or GoG or Discord got big enough, Steam would have to reconsider that policy. But before we get to that day, one of those stores has to be a serious threat to Steam.

        This is why competition is needed, even if it’s not great in the short term

        1. Geebs says:

          I couldn’t find a reference to this except in their documentation for Steam Keys, which says in fairly loose terms that developers shouldn’t sell them for less on other stores and should consider running a sale on Steam within a reasonable time of running a sale or bundle promotion elsewhere.

          Given that Steam Keys are free to developers, those rules are pretty reasonable, really.

          I don’t think that really explains why prices for games sold through e.g. the Epic store are precisely the same as those sold through Steam, though, given that Epic has its own ecosystem. I suppose Epic are just selling at recommended retail price, which kind of plays into the narrative that they’re not yet meaningfully competing with Steam from a customer perspective.

      2. Echo Tango says:

        I also, do not want to deal with multiple different shops for my games. I put up with Steam because it has decent forums, a big list of games, and decent prices. GOG has DRM-free downloads. Everyone else isn’t offering me anything useful, but expect me to have another login, and trust them with my payment info. :S

  8. Dragon7398 says:

    I still enjoy GDQ, and this year had some fun runs — the Bloodborne run was quite fun to watch, even if it went a bit pear-shaped, with a runner that was a delight to listen to. The Mario Odyssey run, and the general feeling of everyone getting together during that run to help raise just a bit more money for charity, then a bit more, then a bit more than that, was wonderful. And of course, my favorite block, the Awful Games Done Quick block included some things that certainly have been described as gamelike.

    That said, we’re in a time with a glut of options for speedrun marathons — the Big Bad Game-a-thon, the Cal-Fire Speedrun Marathon, the Power Up With Pride marathon…it feels like there’s a legitimately good speedrun marathon at least every month, and very likely more often than that!

  9. Bloodsquirrel says:

    Elite: Dangerous is a really, really good space flight simulator. The control complexity does add a lot of manual control over your ship, which really adds to the feeling of actually piloting a space ship. It also gives you a lot of maneuvering/system management options. It’s really fun with a flight stick.

    The real problem with the game is that it never developed a real game to put that flight simulator in. You can fight pirates for bounties, buy goods at one station and sell them at another for a profit, or you can go exploring unmapped space and collect scan data to sell. But there’s nothing to find while exploring space, trading never gets more complex or interesting, and fighting for bounties never goes beyond just going to an asteroid belt and shooting whatever shows up.

    There’s no broader structure behind any of it. There’s nothing to aim for other than to just make more money to buy bigger ships, and you don’t even need most of the bigger ships for anything.

    The expansions (which are paid, and not cheap) have been scams, basically, where they did things like letting the player land on planets. Empty planets. With nothing on them. For $50.

    Also, it’s a multiplayer game where there’s no reason to ever work with another player. It may as well be single-player.

    Meanwhile, Dual Universe looks promising, if it delivers on half of what it promises. Empyrion Online is also cool.

    1. Lino says:

      I’ve never played Elite, but shouldn’t it be fun to play with other people? Even if they can’t implement something like the epic battles you see on YouTube in Eve Online, does Elite at least have a deathmach mode?

      1. Abnaxis says:

        It does, yes

  10. John says:

    I have never played Road Redemption but once upon a time I did play Road Rash, which I understand is one of Redemption‘s inspirations. The way Shamus tells it, it sounds as though the difference between the two is that Road Rash took place on fixed, finite tracks. Apart from the ability to bludgeon your competitors, the racing in Road Rash was fairly normal. You earned money based on how well you placed and used that money between races to either upgrade your bike or buy an entirely new one. I was a bad racer, so I always bought bikes that were stable and sturdy, bikes that wouldn’t crash easily and would still handle well even after a crash. I think they were also the slowest bikes. I never did get very far in Road Rash.

    Does Road Redemption ever have you race through oncoming traffic? That was my least favorite part about Road Rash.

  11. BigMoss says:

    When you were talking about the city generator, Paul very quickly mentioned Minecraft having rules about what tiles can be placed next to what others. This is technically true, but doesn’t paint the whole picture.

    How Minecraft generated its levels used to be based on three layers of Perlin Noise, which is an algorithm you can use to generate pseudo-random numbers from vectors. The vectors can be anything you like, but normally (and in Minecraft) these vectors are just coordinates in Euclidian space.

    The numbers are pseudo-random because the generated values will be random, but any value generated using a vector will be similar to the values of the vectors ‘close to’ it. For example, say we have a row of 5 grey-scale pixels we want to use to generate values. The first (leftern-most) pixel might have a value of 0 (black), and so when we ask what value the second pixel will have, it might tell us 0.2 (dark grey) but will never tell us it should be 1 (white).

    Minecraft used to use this algorithm in three layers to define the levels. I don’t remember the exact purpose of each layer, but we can imagine one layer defining the biome, one defining mountains and hills, and one defining small bumps and stuff. Mojang has said they don’t use this technique any more, but they havn’t said what they use now instead.

    1. John says:

      The numbers are pseudo-random because the generated values will be random, but any value generated using a vector will be similar to the values of the vectors ‘close to’ it.

      That’s not what pseudo-randomness means. All so-called random numbers produced by a computer are properly called pseudo-random because they aren’t really random at all. They’re produced by strictly deterministic algorithms that produce random-seeming numbers based on an initial value (the seed) and the previous numbers produced by the algorithm. Before access to computers was easy and convenient, scientists, engineers, and mathematicians had to carry out the steps of the algorithm themselves, performing their own calculations in conjunction with a random number table. And when I say “table”, I mean “an expensive hard-bound book, probably published by CRC, and filled with seemingly endless pages of numbers.” I happen to own one. I bought it years ago at a used book sale, and all I can say is thank goodness for computers.

      Anyhow, what you’re describing, the phenomenon of two random values being related in predictable ways, is called correlation.

      1. Eigil says:

        It’s possible for computers to get properly random bits from the environment (properly random in the sense that they’re not a function of the initial state of the computer). This mostly works by pulling the least significant bits from various sensors in the computer (the CPU thermometer is one that’s almost always available). On linux you can access these by reading from /dev/random.

        (This isn’t a refutation of your post, just an interesting tidbit)

        1. John says:

          Those environmental bits are what get used for the seed. I’m not sure what current best practice is, but at one point at least it was common to use the system clock to obtain the seed. I once wrote a Fortran 77 program to randomly generate some test data and was confused because I kept getting the same data every time I ran the program. It took a lot of debugging to figure out that I’d done everything right except properly link the random number generator to the system clock at the very beginning.

          1. Paul Spooner says:

            BigMoss: I think you’re referencing 50:40 where I said “It’s like a minecraft thing, where they’ve got voxels and then each of the voxels have rules about what other voxels they can be placed next to.” I was trying to use Minecraft as a well-known example of voxels, but it does sound like I’m trying to describe how Minecraft works. And you’re right, that’s not how Minecraft terrain is generated, or, not as far as I know. I’ll refer you below to the discussion on pseudo-random numbers, but there is some interpolation used. I believe Shamus describes a variety of volume noise functions here:
            https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=15777
            Where he also outlines the meaning of pseudo-random number generation (basically, it’s deterministic and seed based, so if you have the same seed, you can get the same output sequence).

            John: I believe you mean all “computationally generated” numbers are pseudo-random. No doubt you did not mean to imply that most modern computers come un-equipped with hardware TRNGs for cryptographical purposes as Eigil so charitably indicated.

  12. Nick-B says:

    Well, as long as we bring up Epic game store and competition, I’d just like to restate my preference for all game store companies to open up their API for accessing games to third parties. What I mean by that, is the ability to create your OWN software client that can connect to a game service and serve up the games you have purchased. As long as the client implements the DRM (or can only use API calls that verify ownership of the games) that the host store demands, there’s nothing bad here.

    In theory, you’d be able to make a client that connects to various stores all at once, combining your games list from the different stores into one collective space. And with a bit of clever trickery, even combine friends list for various stores into one list.

    You’d still have to purchase a game from one of these stores (so they get their cut, in exchange for serving the game files for eternity).

    But that’d never happen.

    1. Daimbert says:

      Well, obviously, because it would let their competition create a direct API that loads their games into THEM, and thus have everyone go there for the games they have, mostly bypassing them. So everyone who buys games would, say, go to Steam for them and never notice that they were REALLY buying the game from, say, GOG. How long would GOG survive if no one thought of them when they thought of buying games?

  13. Liessa says:

    That’s a good point about Epic’s store possibly supporting smaller devs who couldn’t afford Steam’s cut. However I see no sign of this actually happening so far; they mostly seem to be focussed on poaching sequels to popular games away from Steam (including some that had already had a ‘coming soon’ page on Steam before they went Epic-exclusive). Of course, it’s early days yet.

    The frustrating thing thing is that I’d be all for Epic and their approach to revenue-sharing if it weren’t for the exclusivity aspect. I’d love to believe this will wind up in a healthier, more competitive market for gamers as well as developers, but until I actually see this happening, I’m very much of the same mind as Dmitri. The only thing worse than a single, hegemonic storefront is a bunch of different storefronts with hegemony over different games. I’ve heard some people remark that Epic are trying to bring the Console Wars to PC, which is the absolute last thing most PC gamers want.

    1. Lino says:

      I don’t think any storefront can bring the console wars to the PC, because all of them are basically just free applications, rather than expensive outdated PCs that need to be specifically developed for. The only thing they require is a computer. The only games that would suffer from the exclusivity are multiplayer titles, but in order for a multiplayer game to get released exclusively to any storefront, that storefront needs to have a large enough user-base in the first place (otherwise it would be suicide, no matter how big of a cut the developer gets).
      The only harm for consumers we have at this point is the lack of basic features and the fact that user reviews will be opt-in for developers. But if we get enough pushback against these features, and if Steam gets their shit together (or if they just shove the shit out of their storefront), I think this wil be good for the industry, overall.

  14. GoStu says:

    I’m a very long-time Elite: Dangerous player (and I’m one of those nerds that was probably asking you to try it!). Sorry about the learning curve wall. It’s kind of like that. I also regret to inform you that the tutorial you played IS the updated tutorial. (Kinda). The launch one was actually, uh, worse. Much worse.

    A ton of the game’s mechanics were changed (about) a month ago, so the tutorials probably haven’t been updated since that… the mode-switching of which you were speaking was actually added then. Now that I think of it, when that “”feature”” was added, it wasn’t bound to anything by default. This isn’t to excuse Frontier Developments for having a shitty tutorial – just to explain how it ended up being that way.

    As to getting out of your ship – if you have the expansion pack (Horizons) you can land on planets and get into a little buggy to drive around the surfaces. You can’t get out and walk around on your two feet – it’s something the developer is “interested in adding” but they’ve said that it’ll wait until they can do something interesting with it. (The lounge Shamus referred to was where you hire fighter pilots – some ships have the ability to launch fighters, you need an NPC pilot or another player to control them, and Shamus found where to get them).

    I am a fan, but to paraphrase Rutskarn from this very site: “I love this game. I understand every complaint everyone’s ever made about it.”

    1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

      Hey can you explain to me how you have fun with it? I’m afraid it’s just a pile of fetch quests, just mine some asteroid, fight a pirate, go back, rinse, repeat.

      1. GoStu says:

        I have more fun with the combat aspects of the game, as well as some of the deeper aspects of the game.

        1) The dogfighting and flight model are pretty fun. At least they are to me. So you can get around some of the “it’s a bunch of fetch quests” stuff by taking more of a combat-focused outlook on your life in space.

        2) All the random “questgivers” are underlain by a pretty robust background simulation. So if you do 4-5 missions for the same faction, they’ll gain influence in their system, and can end up taking control of stations/systems and expand to other systems. If you get involved in a group doing this, you’ll have long-term projects to work on collaboratively, as well as competitively. Group vs. group in races to claim bits of the galaxy is fun in a player-driven-conflict kind of way. (Footnote: I don’t think this is what Shamus is interested in at all, so the game may be a poor match for his tastes).

        3) As an extension of #1 and #2, I enjoy PvP combat. Very much not Shamus’s thing but I like trying to out-fight other players. “Come into my territory and fight in a war against me? Not while I’m flying” etc.

  15. Abnaxis says:

    FWIW Re: Elite Dangerous, you can’t actually use the advanced voice stuff with the free version of VoiceAttack. You need the full version.

    Also, what game are you playing? All the things you mentioned are in the tutorial, with key prompts.

    I literally did the same thing on buying ED from seeing the same streamer.

    The tutorials are pretty terrible tho. And you didn’t even make it to the combat one…

    Also, the lady is supposed to tell you how to change your power after everything shuts down (the problem is you have more systems enabled than your power system can support). I think you had a bug there. You are the worst about finding these bugs. I’m willing to bet you’d actually get the proper tutorial if you retried.

  16. MelTorefas says:

    I tried EVE for about 2 hours and quickly concluded this was not a game I had any interest in playing. ELITE, on the other hand, is amazing. My friend bought it for me a couple weeks ago while it was on sale, and I am having a blast. It is one of those games that is actually way simpler than it looks (and if you want to blame the UI for that, fair enough). It can seem totally daunting but once you actually start playing it it is remarkably simple to do most stuff, with a lot of optional depth if you want to explore it. I love how the game emphases realism, but not at the expense of gameplay. So it feels “real enough” without becoming an awful tedium where you can also lose everything at a moment’s notice, like EVE.

    As for AGDQ, and some of the comments I have seen here, I don’t think it is going downhill or suddenly much worse, or anything. It was a lot of fun, as always. With every AGDQ there are plenty of runs I don’t really care about, but the games I am interested in were amazing to watch. And raising money to combat cancer is never a bad thing. If the sole point of the show was to be entertaining we could probably say the event has some issues with what it runs, but, it isn’t. If there’s internal politics going on to punish former runners that the organizers took issue with, though, that is more of a problem. :/

    1. Viktor says:

      It’s not really internal politics, so much as it’s the realities of the format. AGDQ is very popular. That means there’s a lot of runs submitted to them every year, of which a relative handful are selected*. If someone’s a good runner who’s broken the rules of the event before, why would you select him when there’s other good runners looking for a slot who haven’t caused issues in the past? Doesn’t need to be an official ban, just someone who was around back in the day saying “god, I don’t want to ever deal with that situation again” and vetoing whenever his name comes up. Similarly, there were more recent bans for people who made offensive comments on their personal channels. Worth banning over? Eh. Worth saying “I don’t want to risk putting him on-stage in front of all our viewers** when there’s a great young runner of [whatever] who could use the exposure and doesn’t have a history of being an asshole”? Absolutely.

      *reasons might include diversity of games shown, history of the event, what they’ve got going in the previous and subsequent SGDQs, quality of run, quality of commentary, length, set-up time, etc
      **especially since the people he insulted are likely to take their money elsewhere

  17. Dreadjaws says:

    [Consider] The number of titles that would have made money if they were only paying a 12% royalty fee, but who lost money with a 30% royalty fee. These teams will either disband or choose not to make a sequel.

    I’ve seen this argument done several times, and what it fails to take into account is that the number of copies sold in the established, more popular and trustworthy service is simply going to be much higher than the number sold in the restrictive and divisive new one.

    In order to make as much money in the Epic Store as they do in Steam, developers have to sell only a third of the copies they’d sell on Steam, yeah, but good luck selling a tenth.

    Look, I get it, Shamus. You’re trying to make the point that competition is good for the industry, and that’s true. We all know that. The problem is that we don’t think the Epic Store is going the right way. I mean, they’re trying to pull the same crap the Windows Store did, and I don’t see you defending that one.

    I understand that, as a developer, you might be more interested in the store that gives you a higher cut. It sounds much more promising, doesn’t it? But you have to realize the one that gives you more exposure and higher sales numbers is definitely going to be the one that’ll give you better results. I know it looks painful (“Oh, if I could have the best of both worlds, the exposure of Steam and the fee of Epic”), but it just doesn’t work that way.

    Also, you really have to stop looking at things from the perspective of a developer and start looking from the perspective of a consumer. As consumers, we like to get more options, not less. The Epic Store’s insistence on exclusivity is giving us more hassle, not more options.

    1. Shamus says:

      Your argument is based on the assumption that developers will be stupid enough to make their game exclusive to the Epic store. Hector is making the mistake of blaming Epic for it.

      The developer chooses where they sell their game. If they only choose to sell through one platform, then the blame for exclusives falls on them.

      1. Daimbert says:

        Developers won’t have any reason to make it an exclusive on the Epic store unless the Epic store is giving them something or threatening to take something away if they don’t. Using that as a standard practice is definitely something we should blame the Epic store more for than the developers, especially if the royalty cut is the difference between the game existing or not existing.

        1. Shamus says:

          Okay, I think we’re actually close to agreeing here.

          If Epic is doing something like, “We’ll give you 88%, but ONLY if you make your game exclusive to our store, otherwise you only get 70%” then Epic is indeed being anti-competitive. I haven’t seen any evidence of that. I can certainly believe they’re CAPABLE of it, but I haven’t seen it in the articles I’ve read so far.

          My assumption has been that the current exclusives are the result of developers not thinking things through. They’re either assuming all of their existing fans will follow them to a new platform, or they’re assuming the Epic store is going to grow very fast. This is… not realistic.

          The smart thing to do is to offer your game on Epic first. The people who don’t mind using Epic will buy the game on that platform and you’ll get 88% of those sales. Then offer the game on Steam once sales slow down on Epic.

          Actually, the most robust strategy would be to release the game on platforms in descending order of the cut they offer you. So offer on Discord for (say) a month. Then release on Epic. Then a month later add GoG and Steam. This gives customers an incentive to embrace a new platform without forcing them to do so. At the same time, it maximizes income for the developer. As icing on the cake, it gives platforms an incentive to improve their terms. If GoG is willing raise the dev cut to 75%, then they can have a timing advantage over Steam.

          (Of course, this ignores the fact that there’s a non-zero cost to releasing on a platform. There’s a lot of digital paperwork and some API programming to be done for each platform you use, and those hours eat into development time. Still, you can’t blame Epic for this. It’s just a fact of life.)

          TL;DR: If Epic is just offering deal X, then they’re fine. If they’re offering terms that vary based on what you’re doing on other platforms, then that’s a huge no-no in my book and I’ll happily agree they’re anti-competitive.

          1. Olivier FAURE says:

            I agree with your general point, but realistically, your first launch is the moment when the hype, word-of-mouth, Youtube Let’s Plays, and advertising campaigns will be the most intense; you will probably take serious losses if people can’t buy your game on Steam for several months after that point.

          2. Redrock says:

            Seems to be almost a given that Epic Store exclusives will be timed exclusives, and that most developers will be determining the exclusivity window on the fly based on sales figures. Hell, that’s what GOG did with Thronebreaker. The nex several months will be absolutely crucial in that regard. If we see several developers run back to Steam and GOG after only a few weeks of exclusivity on the Epic Store, well, that would be the end of that.

          3. Gordon says:

            The Satisfactory devs said in one of their Q&A videos that “we got cash money”, specifically they were paid to be exclusive for 12 months. It’s not clear if this is an advance on revenues or a payment above and beyond that. However it is clear that this payment is separate from the 88% thing.
            https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7V4UPiBOshY

            1. Gordon says:

              For what it’s worth I’m really looking forward to Satisfactory, that and Cyberpunk are my most anticipated games right now.

              My initial reaction to the Epic news was “oh no, more uplay style BS”.

              I’ve listened to the various discussions of it here and taken some time to think about what Valve do and don’t do to justify the 30% tax and the related history of stuff like IE / Firefox / Chrome. And I’m now of the opinion that if they can set the usability bar higher than uplay then inconvenience of having to have another store is an acceptable price for teaching Valve that they can’t take the PC customer base for granted indefinitely.

              As for the timed exclusive, the only ways you are going to get non trivial numbers of people to move from Steam is exclusives or lower pricing. So I’m OK that Epic are paying devs for limited time exclusives, although 12 months feels over long. I would not be happy if they were indefinite exclusives or if the revenue share was tied to exclusivity.

          4. Daimbert says:

            It sounds like your impression was that the indie companies were doing this to maximize how many sales they got at the better cut, while my impression was that Epic was giving them another incentive to make this exclusive. It’s probably, as others have pointed out, a little bit of both. I don’t think most indie companies will remove themselves from the bigger stores just to get that better cut unless Epic is giving them something, but they do have more incentive to take Epic’s offers with the bigger cut. The indies get the incentive and the bigger cut, and Epic gets a number of exclusives they can tout to draw interest to their new store. Should the store take off, we’ll have to see how the incentives and exclusives go.

          5. Asdasd says:

            https://www.gamewatcher.com/news/Epic-store-paid-for-exclusives

            It seems that Epic are offering various incentives to devs with upcoming releases to go Epic Store-exclusive. The major one is probably revenue guarantees, whereby Epic will top up revenue to an agreed amount if it doesn’t materialise in sales.

            Note that this is strictly worse than a simple lump-sum fee, because should the game be moderately successful the developer will have nothing to show for making themselves more distant* from the Steam audience. In effect developers are betting on their games being a flop (so that the revenue guarantee is worth anything) or reaching the break-even point of their potential sales had they gone with Steam (not very likely at this stage in the platform’s life-cycle.)

            *I won’t say cutting themselves off from the Steam audience, because there’s nothing stopping Steam users installing the Epic client.. it’s just an added layer of friction, besides your game not showing up in Steam’s various promotional apparatus.)

      2. Dreadjaws says:

        Your argument is based on the assumption that developers will be stupid enough to make their game exclusive to the Epic store.

        But… it’s already happening. I’m not imagining a potential scenario, it’s already a reality. Developers are either retiring their games from sale on Steam or outright giving all their new releases exclusively to Epic. Granted, there’s very little chance that those games will stay exclusives if they intend to sell at all, but it’s clear that they’re not putting their thinking caps for this. At the very least because more developers insist on becoming Epic Store exclusive despite all the backlash they’re generating.

        The developer chooses where they sell their game. If they only choose to sell through one platform, then the blame for exclusives falls on them.

        Fair enough. I don’t think blaming 100% Epic is correct, but they’re the ones offering incentives for it, so it’s not like they’re innocent either. We don’t know that they’re actually forcing developers to give them exclusives (well, except for the “We’ll pay for the development of this game but ONLY if you give us the exclusive”, which is at least understandable), but we don’t see them refusing the exclusives either. The thing is, the developers are sort of forced, since they realize that the only way to get the whole benefit of this deal is by only selling through the Epic Store (though, again, under the spectacularly misguided belief that they’re going to sell as many units).

        Again, in an ideal world in which everything went their way, their strategy would work wonders. I’ll compare this to your analysis of the PS3 development. “Let’s make our console really hard to develop for, so when it’s time to choose between giving us the exclusive and porting to other consoles, they’ll choose the former because porting will be really hard” and then… well, you know what happened.

        Surely developers are now thinking “Wow, yeah, 12% fee? Screw Steam!”, not realizing Steam has, for better or worse, the upper hand with the customers. And, like I’ve said before, this is a major problem because it makes those developers look like they don’t care about customers. They jump instantly at the better deal without consideration for what the customers want. This shortsighted behavior is just not good for the industry and I doubt Epic is dumb enough not to realize this kind of thing is going to happen. They might not be directly to blame, but that doesn’t mean they’re blameless.

        About Ubisoft doing it I have no explanation. They have their own service already, in which they get 100% of the sale, and they’re some of the ones to largely benefit from Steam’s “smaller fees through high number of sales” service. I think they’re just jumping on the bandwagon.

        1. Shamus says:

          “But… it’s already happening. I’m not imagining a potential scenario, it’s already a reality.”

          Right, obviously. I mean, that’s what started this entire conversation. I was more aiming for “enough of them would go Epic exclusive for this to become a problem”. Of course, if you’re into any of the now-exclusive games then it’s ALREADY a problem for you. I’m thinking this isn’t going to last. Sales on the fledgling Epic store won’t be good. Either these indies will realize that and opt for a Steam release later on, or their low sales will serve as a warning to others.

          Maybe it’s just that I give indies a lot more credit than I give the big publishers. Maybe I’ll be wrong and tons of indies will embrace Epic exclusivity and everything will be horrible, but I imagine that won’t happen.

          1. Dreadjaws says:

            Of course, if you’re into any of the now-exclusive games then it’s ALREADY a problem for you.

            See, that’s precisely what’s causing me so much irritation about this. A bunch of games/developers I was interested in suddenly jumped ship and it really doesn’t feel they have any interest at hearth but theirs.

            Maybe it’s just that I give indies a lot more credit than I give the big publishers. Maybe I’ll be wrong and tons of indies will embrace Epic exclusivity and everything will be horrible, but I imagine that won’t happen.

            Well, I’m not saying all indies are bad or anything like that. My irritation is about those ones who are jumping on this. I seriously doubt the great majority will go exclusive.

    2. Lino says:

      One of the things the Epic Store is offering is a curated release of games. The main reason indie devs hate Steam isn’t the Steam tax – it’s visibility.
      Thanks to Steam Greenlight and Steam Direct, Steam’s front page is full of asset flips and crap, and actually good games that have actual work and effort put into them get buried by all the trash, and many small devs are struggling to break even. There’s a lot of material on the matter, but here’s one of the videos I recently found on the subject.
      One of Epic’s initial promises was some form of quality control, and I think this is a big reason for some people to get excited.
      And although I’m not exactly excited, I’m hoping that that quality control will extend beyond the first batch of new games they release on the store. And who knows, maybe that’ll give Epic enough traction, so that Steam finally decide to get off their asses and actually… you know… do something other than bathe in their money all day :D

      1. Asdasd says:

        This is a good point. Visibility on a digital storefront (that people are actually using) has a strong correlation with sales, and visibility on a given digital storefront only decreases over time as new games are added (old ones never being retired as per the brick and mortar retailer model.) This means that being a new store is an attraction in itself, albeit not one to make your game exclusive over.

        The irony (if you’ll allow the word) is that the gold rush stampede that follows, as the devs all chase that sweet visibility, of course accelerates the cluttering up of the platform as everyone throws their games onto it. This is what happened with the Switch e-shop, which went from about thirty extremely profitable games a couple of months after launch to now over a thousand titles squeezed onto one of the least visible and most downright unusable storefronts I’ve ever had the displeasure to browse (and I say that as a Nintendo fanboy).

        Having said that, I use the Steam storefront all the time and while I’ve certainly read a lot about asset flips and trash games, I’ve never actually seen one featured anywhere. I think you really have to delve into the new release pages to find that kind of thing – Valve’s algorithms keep that stuff well off the front page by default.

        By the stuff that gets suggested to me I’d struggle to distinguish it from one of the curated stores that developers and journalists are constantly promoting as the model Steam should be emulating.

      2. eldomtom2 says:

        Quality control is lovely until it’s your game that gets rejected.

      3. Dreadjaws says:

        I mean… Steam itself has promised quality control several times and look how well that has worked. It’s easy to make promises, but fulfilling them… not so much. And that’s really the issue here: so many developers are jumping on the bandwagon based exclusively on promises of an ideal future that’s just not viable.

        1. Lino says:

          Yes, this is exactly one of the problems – the market is just too saturated. Part of the reason is that there is next to no barrier to entry – there are so many programs like Unity, RPG Maker, Game Maker, etc., that allow literally anyone to cobble a game together in a small amount of time.
          With so many games on the market, you’re bound to get visibility problems. And to Valve’s credit, being the biggest storefront on the market, the cheapest way to manage that is with the automations they’re using.
          And I think we’re already starting to see some changes on Steam’s part – they said that they’ll be making changes to their discoverability software. And while these changes have probably been in the works before Epic announced their store, I don’t think it’s a coincidence that Steam are announcing these changes now, and I bet that if it wasn’t for Epic potential competition, these changes would probably have been prioritized differently…

  18. Retsam says:

    As someone who also happened to just get into Elite Dangerous in the last week; I didn’t have nearly as much issue with the tutorials as Shamus did. (I did have a nightmare getting my joystick to work: turns out that ED does not respond well to unplugging your mouse because you’re out of USB ports)

    The tutorials definitely told me what buttons to press (unfortunately for me, they were all variants on “[Joystick X]” and so I did do a lot of “hit every button on the joystick until the thing that’s supposed to happen happens”). I also remember the mining tutorial telling me to switch into Analysis Mode with the M key, which I’m pretty sure is what Shamus was hung up on. (The false progression where the tutorial incorrectly moved on is a huge oversight on their part, though)

    I did struggle a bit with the frameshift drive tutorial – due to targeting the wrong destinations – and I wish the combat tutorial had actually included some advice for how to actually win a combat. But overall the tutorials were enough to get me running pretty smoothly.

    There’s also video companions to the tutorials, linked from the same in-game menu as the tutorials, which are recommended to watch before doing the tutorials yourself. I didn’t actually find these necessary to watch, myself, but might have been helpful for someone struggling through the tutorials.

  19. Sleeping Dragon says:

    I can’t listen to the podcast at work and the lack of mention in the comments may be because it was covered but here’s something that I find interesting on the “Ubi takes big release(s) from Steam to Epic” that generally not that many people seem to mention.

    Ubisoft could have easily done what EA and some other big devs did and just pulled their games from Steam in favour of their own store, I’m pretty sure they have a dedicated playerbase for it especially since if you want to play their games you got on Steam you still need to effectively go through Uplay so every one of those players has an account already. But they didn’t do just that, they moved those releases to Epic. This not only effectively sends a message to Valve along the lines “this is the cut we’re willing to give you”, it also has a strong secondary message of “and if you’re not willing to give us that we will actually support your competitor”. Whether or not Epic store will succeed is secondary here, a lot of people think it might become a major competitor to Steam and this might just become a self fulfilling prophecy.

    Now I wonder how much pressure Valve was under when they announced they’ll be reducing their cut for releases that earn enough on Steam.

  20. tmtvl says:

    AGDQ being done means it’s almost time for ESA, now that’s hype.

  21. Echo Tango says:

    Re: Rimworld updates

    Tynan’s actually said he’s not updating the game anymore. If there’s major bugs, those will get fixed, but after 5 years, he basically wants to do something else.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Totally fair. Just got to the end on my “Tutorial” run through, and it’s a great game from start to finish. There were a few odd behaviors, but nothing game-breaking. The one thing I’d change is adding more keyboard shortcut tooltips. Okay, two things, I’d also do another pass to standardize the interface elements (some things are dropdowns, some are sub-windows, some are inline. Some elements don’t have info-tabs, or the info tabs don’t have all the data that the summary provides (I’m looking at you, clothing quality percentage in the trade screen)). But those are small irritations in an overall high-quality, polished, and enjoyable experience.

      1. Lino says:

        How does the game compare to Dwarf Fortress? would I haven’t played either, but from what I know, it seems a lot less sophisticated when it comes to simulation. Is this true, and if so, do you think the game suffers because of it?

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          It is significantly less sophisticated than DF (AFAI can tell, EVERY other game is), but I don’t think it suffers from it.
          Rimworld’s mission statement is well delineated, and it delivers with polish. It doesn’t need all the simulation because it’s not trying to be a general purpose dungeon crawl. It’s a base builder, with just enough secondary systems to contextualize the base. I really like it, and am thinking about writing a mod for it to fill out some of the inside corners.

  22. Gordon says:

    Listening to you talk about reviews I got to wondering if clustering the reviews by keywords would be useful. So instead of seeing average review 1/10 you’d see:
    Big group with very negative review using words like “social justice” and “fired”.
    Mid sized group with average reviews using words like “repetitive” and “replayability”.
    Small group with very positive reviews using words like “innovative” and “art style”.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      You can get similar benefits with a lot less effort – just sort positive-first or negative-first for reviews[1], and skim / eyeball the reviews for keywords as you scroll. If you’ve got more time, or there’s not many reviews, you can obviously read them too. :)

      [1] This works for any reviews, not just games on Steam. Most review sites are sortable, because they have a 5-star scale, but Steam’s just got thumbs-up and thumbs-down, so they cut the reviews into two groups instead.

    2. Gresman says:

      I would definitely enjoy a word cloud feature. Especially if there is a huge number of reviews.

  23. Gordon says:

    The infinite procedural city just wants to be combined with counter strike and this non euclidean madness https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kEB11PQ9Eo8

    1. Echo Tango says:

      That’s really dang cool!

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Looks like the Portals engine. Which, yeah, it would be really handy if those tools were widely available.

  24. Kubic says:

    Love how many people will defend Steam’s monopoly to the death beacause it’s “convenient”.
    I wonder how that correlates with the size of their Steam backlogs. Someone should make a study. It would be fun to see how much free money they have given Valve just because it was “convenient”.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      In fairness to language, what Steam has is properly termed a hegemony. A monopoly is (as Google (another hegemon) tells me) “The exclusive possession or control of the supply of or trade in a commodity or service”. Valve doesn’t own the ISPs, or the hardware that gamers are using, or the studios that are developing the games, and they don’t require exclusivity in order to use their platform. As far as I can tell, Steam dominates the gaming digital delivery market in an entirely fair and voluntary manner. Just because they are winning handily and by a large margin, doesn’t mean they are winning unfairly.

      Sure, people will pay for convenience. After all, it isn’t free.

    2. Dreadjaws says:

      You make it sound like some kind of weird abnormality, but that’s pretty much how the world works. People gravitate towards that which is more convenient. Hell, isn’t the entire point of the Epic Store that it attracts developers by being more convenient to them?

      I mean, what else are people going to care about? Be honest, do you really choose your smartphone brand based on how well the company’s employees are paid? Or simply the one that offers you more of what you want/need for what you can pay? Why do you think fast food is so popular? Is it because the fast food industry pays better wages… or is it because it’s literally food that you can get fast without having to bother cooking or even going shopping for?

      Also, like Paul says, it’s not really a monopoly. I know it’s a pretty little word people like to throw around, but it’s incorrect, and makes Steam sound worse than it is in more than one way.

      1. Lino says:

        A couple of years ago, when I was in my Bachelor’s for Int’l Economic Relations, we watched a video of a professor (for the life of me, I can’t remember his name), and his argument was (I’m paraphrasing): “It doesn’t matter what your product is, what your company culture is, or what you think your competitive advantage is. The most important thing for a consumer is how fast they can get what they’re looking for. If they can get what they’re looking for as fast as possible, while dealing with as little a hassle as possible, then they’ll choose your product. Convenience always wins.”
        This is essentially what Steam top dog – they offered the most convenient service out there. It’s also how they won over Russia – a market no publisher wanted to touch, because of the rampant piracy. Steam came along, offered a convenient service, and it became one of their biggest markets.
        And you can see a similar case for most products we use – convenience almost always wins. And it’s kind of sad when you think about it – as consumers, we have so little time, that we rarely make informed and rational decisions about what we buy.

  25. shoeboxjeddy says:

    Arguments about the Epic store I’m sympathetic to:
    -No user reviews yet
    -No refunds (I think this has already changed though?)
    -Some other QoL updates needed

    Arguments against the Epic store that produce a spit take from me:
    -I don’t WANT another launcher/it’s too much HASSLE to download a free executable in 2 minutes
    -I’m emotionally invested in a corporation (I LIKE Steam and want it to be #1!)
    -I don’t want my “library” to be “split” (it’s all files on your computer, save a shortcut to your favorite game folder for ***’s sake)
    -Competition isn’t really necessary, Steam was fine already!

    The latter arguments make me think… really unimpressed thoughts about certain subsets of PC gamers.

  26. Shamus,

    I’ve been one of the people suggesting you look at Elite Dangerous since… well forever. I thought you might be interested in the procedural generation for all the things (with some tweaks for know systems). It’s a shame you got sold a lemon in seeing it used with Voice Attack. (There’s a lot of VR players who swear by it, I’ve never used it myself).

    1. Oh and it looks like the mining tutorial was broken with the last update. Arrgh.

  27. otep1 says:

    About AGDQ: My tastes are the opposite of Shamus. I love the longer runs. But I also know my tastes run quite opposite of most people, because I dislike the races. Races shift the focus to the race&competition, instead of focusing more on the game and its mechanics.

    At the GDQs I have always loved the Zelda runs and always immensely enjoyed the classic marathon-ending-RPG, like FF6, Chrono Trigger or Mario RPG. The runners and couch get enough time to get over their nerves and start sharing interesting things about the game, and get the opportunity to talk indepth about the game.

    RPGs also switch between slower (dialogue/story) and faster (intense boss battles) moments, so in a way they almost become the Half Life 2 of speedruns. These slower moments create natural opportunities for more game-explanations, some banter with the couch or for reading some donations.

    It’s almost like sitting down and watching a very long movie. Also relevant is how I watch them: I wait until the marathon is over and then start watching the videos on youtube. I assume if you (randomly?) turn on twitch and start watching, the experience is probably very different and much less deliberate. This also gives me the ability to skip runs that I don’t like. I have been doing it like this since 2013, and while every GDQ has been enjoyable, I find that my enjoyment really depends on which games are played. But the games I like least are the games other people enjoy most, and I think that is a great thing!

    My favourite speedrunning marathon is RPG Limit Break. In this marathon almost every run is a few hours long. So it’s probably the speedrunning marathon Shamus would hate most. For anyone interested: this is the playlist from 2018: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL8PZB25uZuZ5WfU5BJeqAdoClCb4PdRbA

    Fun fact: one of the organizers of RPG Limit Break, puwexil, has also been responsibly for ending quite a few GDQ’s with one of those multi-hour RPG runs.

  28. Gresman says:

    I watched a lot of AGDQ and found it mostly enjoyable. If the commentary is food and informative I do not really mind if I am not into the game. I found some interesting games by watching GDQ VODs. There is that. I also enjoy if the games are played in some quirky mode. It highlights a different skill set.

    I personally want more competition in the market but neither Epic nor Discord offer something I am looking for. Currently their only differentiation from Steam is their cut being less than the one Valve takes. Iwould happily buy games from them if I were invested enough in the developers selling their games on these storefronts.But I am not. I even like the UPlay store. I do not buy Ubisoft games through steam anymore because they will run in UPlay anyway so no need to go through anything else. The shopping experience is quite okay in UPlay. Sometimes I will use GoG as well. But as stated above currently there is nothing pulling me away from my habits. If the otehr stores get better I will give it a whirl. They are already better than Origin. ;)

  29. Dragmire says:

    I got the Hollow Knight run that I wanted at agdq so I’m happy. I didn’t watch anything else live.

    I hope randomizers come back though, I find them more fun to watch than traditional runs.

  30. MadTinkerer says:

    There are a couple reasons why people rarely lie in their user reviews.

    1) A user review is an answer to the question “what is your opinion about this game?”. Most people do not lie about their opinions, even if they are willing to lie about facts. They might phrase their opinion rudely, or politely, or list nothing but complaints for a few paragraphs and then leave a thumbs up because they loved the game in spite of it’s flaws, or even ironically leave a troll review that is meant to be more entertaining than informative, but generally people don’t deceive others about their opinions when there’s nothing in it for them.

    2) User reviews are also a game, an online massively multiplayer game with no free alt accounts, and lying is generally a bad strategy. If someone lies in their review and that lie is immediately obvious, then a bunch of other people will simply point out that the reviewer can’t have played the game or else they would know better.

    For example, back when Portal 2 came out, user reviews were relatively new and a lot of trolls claimed that the game was only a couple hours long at most and not worth the money. This was because at the time, Steam has this feature where if you were online it could record how long people played games and could display that number publicly. But that feature was super buggy at the time and, without even trying, trolls could have a false public record of them playing the game for 35 minutes to an hour and a half with all the single-player achievements unlocked. Today, no one believes Portal 2 can easily be beaten in a half hour (last time I checked the fastest recorded glitch speedrun wasn’t even that quick), and even back then there were enough people calling out the trolls that I don’t think sales were seriously damaged.

    (Personally, given the scale of the trolling and the way the trolls seemed to evaporate overnight, I think the majority of the trolls were paid by rival companies. When what they were trying didn’t work, the money stopped. Regardless of whether they were paid, they didn’t even try a different tactic, they just gave up and never tried to smear Valve en masse again.

    Alternatively, maybe there really were enough people that were stupid enough to not notice how long they had actually been playing, or dumb enough to think it was a funny joke to lie about how long it took them to beat the game. But if that was true, why doesn’t this happen on a regular basis from the same stupid people?)

    Regardless, today user reviews are often an outlet to brag about how much you know about a game. Posers and trolls get called out swiftly, so they soon learn their posing and trolling is usually ineffective. So without incentive to lie, for the most part you’re left with intentionally helpful or clearly “funny” reviews.

  31. This is a trailer (!) for “Eli” the ship AI voice pack with John De Lancie (the actor who plays Q in Star Trek The Next Generation, Voyager).

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0zL5x19tEHw

    It made me laugh.

    It’s a real shame, stuff like this could have been a huge marketplace in and of itself.
    Not just this game (a AI character lends itself well to this).
    But imagine getting a “celebrity” voice actor to do the voices for a character in Skyrim.
    (“That thuum was weak….Boy!”)

    A lot of these actors (and voice actors) are up for it, they can’t do characters owned by others, but they could do voices similar to them (just not their catch phrases and stuff, at least not without permission).

    Just for Elite alone this list is huge https://www.hcsvoicepacks.com/

    It is also worth noting that there was a API war between two competing voicepack sites (of which HCS was one of them).

    I’m just surprised that in these monetisation days that the big companies have not come up with anything yet. I do know that Total Bisquit did a official voice pack for Star Craft, but these are the exceptions rather.

    Also, John De Lancie car GPS/Sat nav anyone? What about Windows? I’d rather have De Lancie rather than Cortana as the voice.

    There is one problem though with these voice packs. If the game is changed/updated the voice stuff can quickly get outdated. And these are dialog lines rather than a TTS engine using their voice or recorded words. Games like Elite and Star Citizen are also games that are not finished. So handling the logistics of all this must be a pain in that case.

    But the market for this could be huge. I might be willing to get a game just because a voice pack is available for a game.

    Imagine Mark Hamill voicing the ship AI in Elite, or voicing a squadmate in Mass Effect etc.

  32. Rosseloh says:

    I love every GDQ I’ve watched and enjoyed the heck out of this one, too. (from my admittedly small bits of research I don’t understand why there even are any controversies, and considering what I’ve seen from the staff, I’m pretty sure anyone who’s talking shit about the event is simply pissed that they got called out on something)

    Even the games I’m not interested in are usually fun to watch.

    I tend to prefer games that get glitched instead of simply “run fast” like some, though. I’m more interested in things like “so this is how you get this game to recognize this control input in a weird way and suddenly you have triple speed” than I am in “I practiced a lot and memorized every level”. Not that pure skill is boring – that Super Mario Odyssey run was “holy crap” phenomenal.

  33. Chris Cox says:

    I was really interested to find this, because after reading all your articles on procedural generation I was wondering what you’d think about Elite: Dangerous because of the Stellar Forge system that procedurally generates the ~400 billion star systems (outside of the ~170k that are already known to us) that make up the game’s Milky Way based on currently acccepted theories about stellar and planetary formation.

    It’s a shame you were put off by the vertical learning curve and flight sim-esque complexity because I’d be very interested in your take on the challenges the devs are facing. As it stands in the base game you’re limited to flying between space stations, but the Horizons expansion lets you land on planets and bomb around in a little buggy prospecting for materials. The proviso there is that you’re currently limited to airless planets and moons, so in order to expand the scope again to breathable atmospheres there’d have to be a lot more work done on procgen terrain, flora and fauna in order to make it all seem less empty and give some sort of point to landing on more than a handful of planets.

    When I first saw your cityscape demo it gave me hope that generating cities to populate planets in the ~19k inhabited systems might actually be a solvable problem, at least at the scale of flying over those cities in a ship. Obviously the ability to get out of your ship and walk around a proc gen inhabited planet is an even more complex problem with orders of magnitude more detail to generate.

    If you ever decide to take another look at the game like you returned to NMS (and I’m praying you do) I’d suggest you avail yourself of a couple of things: a HOTAS is more or less essential to manage the sheer number of controls. Doesn’t have to be an expensive one, I use the Thrustmaster HOTAS X, which costs about the same as an Xbox controller. The other essential would be an experienced buddy who can wing up with you and fill in the terrible gaps in new player onboarding.

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