Diecast #247: Mailbag!

By Shamus Posted Monday Mar 11, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 58 comments

Last week I asked for mailbag questions, and you delivered. Well, technically the email system is the one that did the delivering, but you get what I’m saying. Here is over an hour of question-answering.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 The Clocks Change

I have run out of ways to make fun of this annoying practice. How disappointing.

00:59 Mailbag: Gaming literacy

Dear Diecast

Do you think that there is such a thing as “gaming literacy” and if so what would the requirements be to be considered “game literate”?

Regards Eric

As promised on the show, here is… this:

Link (YouTube)

09:24 Mailbag: Uplay

Dear Diecast,

Shockingly, UPlay has recently become a functional piece of software. You can now buy (using PayPal, even!), download and execute games with it. Even with my terrible internet connection, I haven’t had any issues with DRM. What gives?

Admittedly, the only two things you can actually buy on it are The UbiSoft Game and Uno, so the platform remains a bit limited.

Can you think of any other examples of a program or service, which has been completely worthless for the best part of a decade, suddenly becoming competent?

Best wishes,


During the show, we made a joke that “this show” was an example of something that started out as useless but then became competent. By “this show” I was referring to the specific episode we were recording. Like, it started out as incompetent as evidenced by my butchering of this email.

When listening to the show after editing, I became paranoid that someone might take this the wrong way and assume “this show” was referring to the Diecast as a whole, and we were joking that the show was terrible when I was working with the previous hosts. Just to be clear: That’s not what I was laughing about and I don’t want anyone to think I was throwing shade at my former collaborators.

18:52 Mailbag: Worldbuilding and also…

Hey Shamus and Paul,

quick question about world-building; I find reading the background about Elder Scrolls games fascinating even though it has paper-thin characters and plot; conversely I don’t care about the world in games like Dragon Age and find the exposition very dull (even though traditionally Bioware has been much better at characters) how do you feel about the two? do you think there’s a right way and a wrong way to do world-building in a fantasy setting?

I always suspected it was partly down to books being read like books in TES games, rather than essentially an Amazon Kindle like the codex in Dragon Age, but just curious if you have some more thoughts on this (or perhaps it’s just down to TES lore being really really meta)

if you’re hurting for another question; we all know about the thermal clip situation in Mass Effect. If you had to retcon a gameplay element of a past game, how would you go about it? Try and brush it under the rug, or just own it and run with it?

many thanks guys,
James Stanfield

The writer I was thinking of during this segment is Michael Kirkbride. Also, here’s the Bob Case video I mentioned:

Link (YouTube)

30:03 Mechanical Retcons.

This question was part of the previous question.

40:31 Mailbag: Raytracing.

Dear Diecast,

Do you think raytracing on the GPU in going to take off, or merely something Nvidia added to the RTX line to be a technical gimmick for this generation?

With great affection,


In this segment I talked about what graphics hardware I’m using. For the record, I’m using a GeForce GTX 780, which was originally released in 2013. So my graphics hardware turns 6 this year. This is certainly the longest a graphics card has ever lasted for me.

Like I said on the show, I still don’t feel a direct need to upgrade. I’m still using a 1080p monitor, so games look fine and play fine. But I’m considering an upgrade just for the sake of screenshots. I don’t want people to accuse me of being unfair to a game and making it look bad because I’m running it on a potato.

But I don’t think the upgrade is going to happen before summer. We’re a one-car family and our 2003 Toyota just crossed the 200,000 mile threshold. It’s getting really expensive to keep the thing on the road and I’m worried about Heather getting stranded someplace during bad weather. So we have to buy a car before we can buy new graphics hardware.

I know I make fun of how hard it is to shop for graphics hardware, but that’s nothing compared to the stress of buying vehicles. Putting that much money into a single purchase always freaks me out.

So we’re going to have a couple more months of potato-rendered screenshots before I manage to upgrade this thing. Your patience is appreciated.

51:44 Mailbag: Next Console gen.

Dear die casters.

The rumor mill is churning and the reveal of the next console generation draws ever closer. As such, I’d like to ask what you think Sony and Microsoft should do or will do for next gen.

Microsoft have bought a bunch of studios recently, so I think it’s a safe bet that they’ll actually have some video games to sell on their next console. Novel, I know.

Sony on the other hand could very well sit blind on their high horse and blunder through the generation, as they did with the PS3. But if they don’t do that, I hope the rumours of a backwards compatible PS5 is true. Even just PS4 games would be a huge boon for the system. There’s even talk of a console with support for ALL the previous Playstations, which sounds as amazing as it is unlikely.

What are your thoughts?


56:26 Mailbag: Battletech

Dear Diecast,

I’ve been playing Battletech this month. Because Shamus has also played Battletech (and because you said that the mailbag was empty) I have two very important giant-robot related questions for you.

Question 1: Gun hands or people hands?

Question 2: Chicken legs or people legs?

Thank you.


1:00:21 Mailbag: Open-source remakes.

Dear Diecast
Have you paid any attention to open-source remakes/clones of old games, such as OpenMW, OpenRA, or OpenXcom? What’s you’re opinion on them and are there any such projects you find particularly interesting, or any games you would particularly want to see remade in this manner?

Regards, Spodah


From The Archives:

58 thoughts on “Diecast #247: Mailbag!

  1. Joe says:

    Funny, I just had a feeling I should check early. Western Australia doesn’t do daylight saving, even though during summer we’re 3 hours behind the east coast. The state government tried one year, and it got voted down. Sometime later, they tried it for 3 years, and it got voted down. The political party responsible lost the next state election, which proved how much we didn’t want it.

    It’s funny. I always tell myself that I love story-heavy games. But actually, I think I just like killing monsters. Witcher 3 is the one exception. Morrowind left me cold, I don’t care about any FNV faction, none of it. Just give me a good fighty game.

    When it comes to mechs, my two favourites are from 40K. The space marine dreadnought, which has humanish legs, and Ork gargant, which doesn’t even have knees. I’m cool with either hands or weapons, because hands can pick up weapons.

    As for launchers, I rarely have problems with Steam. But iTunes is the one that really chugs for me, even freezes my computer for a few seconds.

  2. Hal says:

    For my giant robots:

    If I’m expecting some semblance of reality, I’m looking for gun hands and chicken legs.

    If it’s more cartoonish action heroics, then I want people hands and people legs.

    1. Lars says:

      All the cool Metal Gears (Zeke, Rex, Ray, Mk II) do have chicken legs and no hands. I go with that.

  3. Huh, I’m the opposite. I find the lore in Dragon Age fascinating and the lore in Elder Scrolls mostly ridiculous and distracting. I wonder if the question-asker started Elder Scrolls with Morrowind (which actually had a pretty decent story as Bethesda games go). I started with Daggerfall and there’s nothing like reading the utterly absurd way that they dealt with the multiple-possibilities of the ending of Daggerfall (basically there was a multidimensional time rift due to Numidium and ALL of them happened AT THE SAME TIME) to make you realize that they totally don’t take their own lore seriously and just throw a bunch of stuff in a blender because it sounds kinda cool and hit “mince”.

    I think Dragon Age suffers a bit from the fact that a lot of really juicy lore that compliments the games is in the NOVELS. I’ve read the novels. It’s not that the games don’t stand alone, but some parts that are AMAZING in the novels (the Orlesian civil war) are done really, really badly in the games. SO badly. Bioware definitely has an execution problem with their games. Whereas Bethesda makes these open world games where the various bits really aren’t meant to be all that connected ANYWAY–they have numerous different storylines taking place in the same game world, but it’s EXTREMELY rare for them to interrelate in ANY way.

    1. CrokusYounghand says:

      The dealing with multiple endings part is actually where Kirkbride’s genius shines through. The whole “Dragon Break” as well as the character Vivec in Morrowind is essentially a meta-narrative of what does it mean for a story to be interactive, e.g., players being able to save and load the game, having more agency than the NPCs and even firing up Construction Set and making a quick mod to fix an annoyance.

      In fact, Vivec’s teachings are a way for a character inside a interactive story (who has “seen the matrix”) to try to explain the truth to his followers using the tools he has access to in the story — symbols, allegory and religion.

      Certain interpretation of Morrowind’s story require you to assume that Vivec can save and load the game as well (thus, even though he was the one who killed Nerevar, he is not guilty of murder). He even wonders in dialogue whether the PC will kill him, now that his purpose in main quest line’s script (as written by Bethesda) is fulfilled.

      And all of this richness comes from the writers trying to figure out how to create a sequel for a game with wildly different endings.

      Dragon Age, on the other end, feels lile Bioware trying to create their own Forgotten Realms. They did a good job but it’s nowhere near the mind bending stuff that Kirkbride pulled off.

      1. Dragon Age certainly started off with the bog-standard Evil Orc Horde thing and then it got . . . weird. Like, one of your party members literally broke reality weird. And then he decided he didn’t like it so he decided to break it AGAIN.

        The plot of Dragon Age: Inquisition is basically about a fanatic instigating a failed suicide bombing. The BOMBING part went off without a hitch. It was the SUICIDE part that didn’t work.

        The trouble is that they have a tendency to hide all the really interesting bits in weird out-of-the-way corners where you really have to go looking to find it.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        That said, am I mistaken in remembering that Kirkbride expanded a bunch on the lore, especially the “meta” aspects of it, after he was no longer working on it in any official capacity? So a lot of it is effectively non-canon, his own interpretation etc.

        To be clear, I am one of those people who enjoy TES lore a lot, and yes, I do think of Morrowind primarily though I did play Daggerfall and am personally a big fan of the Warp in the West (even though in my opinion such devices quickly loose their value the more their being used). The main reason why I like it is because so much of it is myth, apocrypha, anecdotes… I’m not reading about how Sheogorath gave people music because it’s important for a quest or offers some important information to the history of the world, I’m reading it because it’s atmospheric, because it makes the world feel more alive. And there’s tons of stuff like this, there’s that story about illusion magic, there’s that one about the lockpicking training… I’m absolutely not saying they’re Hugo worthy but they are nice little bits of storytelling that make the world feel more alive because they don’t appear to be crafted purely for the player’s benefit. Is the world more loosely defined in TES than DA? Probably, but it also feels more alive and the lore that actually is meant to provide setting information feels more like it was written by someone who is in the setting, sees it from the inside and often has an agenda. I’m not saying this is absent from DA but I don’t remember feeling it very prominently.

        To be fair a big part of it is that TES games with their open world structure and massive modding potential lend themselves to replayability more so I’ve encountered “my favourite lore bits” a bunch of times whereas my approach to DA series is more in line of “play it once for the story”. Also, I’m a sucker for stuff like Daedric lore much more than I am for Orlesian politics so it’s probably to some extent a matter of preference.

        1. CrokusYounghand says:

          He indeed did some of the craziest stuff after leaving Bethesda (Trial of Vivec, for instance) but the seeds were already there in the lore.

          I agree that DA’s lore does feels “tighter” and while that leads to more local details, it also robs it of the richness and diversity that TES lore contains. I suspect this is – in some part – derived from the fact the TES games have a crazy variety of non-orthogonal mechanics and things-to-do while DA games are a lot more pristine; I think that philosophy of design leaks into story and narrative in certain ways.

    2. GoStu says:

      I kinda like the way they handled the multiple possible endings of Daggerfall in subsequent titles. After all, what other way is there to handle a sequel, when the previous game could have had radically different endings?

      You either pick one as the canonical ending, or you set the universe on fire and run away. Canonical selections often leave people who picked the other ones feeling cheated (as though they did the wrong thing), and burning universes gets expensive.

      1. tmtvl says:

        Or you do the NieR thing and spin another series off from an alternate ending to the one you choose for the main series.

        1. Syal says:

          I still like the idea of the canon ending being the hero dying or giving up halfway through the game.

          I think New XCOM 2 did that, which I suppose isn’t a ringing endorsement.

          1. Philadelphus says:

            Yeah, XCOM 2 is basically a game made out of “But what about all those times you failed in XCOM?”

            It’s an interesting device, in that it actually feels like XCOM (the organization) is a small resistance force barely surviving, rather than an internationally-funded force that really ought to be able to afford more than one Skyranger.

            1. Gargamel Le Noir says:

              It was a cool idea, but it makes the most immersion breaking part of X-Com, the aliens never sending more than 20 dudes, even weirder. Like, in a normal X-Com they just want to be scary so it makes sense, but in X-Com 2 when don’t they just send a thousand troops on each terror missions?

              1. WarlockOfOz says:

                For the same reason you can’t respond to a raid on a city in X-com with the whole mechanised corps that happens to be stationed there ;)

        2. Boobah says:

          For Drakengard/NieR every canon ending except the one that leads from Drakengard to NieR is impossible to earn in the actual preceding game. And that’s the one where Caim dies from a JSDF F-15J’s air-to-air missile after an inexplicable rhythm game at Tokyo Tower.

  4. Erik says:

    I was up using a Geforce GTX 770 up until last week. It still ran all the games, but i had to fiddle with the settings, which was getting annoying. Now I upgraded to a Geforce GTX 1060 (6GB) and now everything runs in ultra just fine.

    (small note: I dont use a 4k monitor, so I dont know about 4k resolution. But like shamus i’m old so 1080p looks just fine to me)

  5. shoeboxjeddy says:

    California voted in Daylight Savings Time permanently and I REALLY wish that every state would just do that. What was shocking to me during that election season was how many people argued against passing that law. Especially with incredibly bad arguments like “I’m voting against it because I HATE Daylight Savings Time!” No… what you hate is changing your clocks. The law ends the changing of your clocks. So you’d be FOR it!

    1. Kathryn says:

      I actually do feel very strongly that GMT-6 provides a better, more workable year-round schedule for my family (schools run by the clock, not the sun, and GMT-6 gives us better sun position at relevant clock times) than GMT-5 (what we just switched to). I still would prefer GMT-5 over having to change my clocks, but I will argue in favor of GMT-6 all the way to the state legislature floor.

      (GMT-5 plus schools shifting their start times by an hour would work, I guess.)

      1. shoeboxjeddy says:

        Yeah, I think there could absolutely be some valid things where the time selected to stick to could be inconvenient. But… the sun is a real phenomenon that we can’t do much about, the time school starts is entirely a human construction. If school is starting too early or late, THAT should be the part we change, not our observance of the sun…

    2. Paul Spooner says:

      Being a resident of California, I feel the need to offer a slight correction. We voted to allow the state legislature to vote to keep CA permanently on daylight savings, which basically means moving to Mountain time, and eliminating daylight savings. Interestingly, this would put CA on the same clock as Arizona. Well, most of Arizona, because, see AZ has two time zones so… hmm.

    3. djw says:

      I would love to banish the clock change as well. I prefer the schedule to be Daylight Savings year round, but if agreeing to the Winter time schedule year round instead gets rid of the clock change then I’m all for it.

      Sadly, I don’t think its on the agenda for Michigan right now. People here want the roads fixed first.

      1. Lisa says:

        Which is more likely?

  6. CrokusYounghand says:


    I think you got confused by the last question. OpenXCOM, OpenMW, etc. are engine recreations. They simply reimplement the “game.exe” with modern toolset (SDL2, for example) but still require you to bring the original data files of the game. As such, the art direction is literally the same as the original game. And these engine reimplementations are also multi-platform, meaning I can now play XCOM on Linux without fussing with DosBox.

    The game you played might have been UFO:AI which is indeed a clone, not a reimplementation (and not a very good one either). If you want to play an open source game with good art direction, try out The Battle for Wesnoth (available on Steam! For free!)

    1. Shamus says:

      I did indeed misunderstand the entire point of the question. I did sort of blunder into the right idea at the end when I talked about the new versions of DOOM.EXE, but that was an accident.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Game engines like OpenRA are in a precarious position, since they rely on the assets from the original game. The number of people who still have the original game disks, in a working state, is going down every year. As far as I can Google, you’re still allowed in the USA and Canada, to make a backup copy of any software you already own. However, since the tools to do so can be used for copyright infringement (and might even be outlawed completely by current laws, because of DRM), it’s a bit difficult to learn how to do that. If the original game assets were legally put into the public domain, there would be a lot less hurdles, to keep these types of engines viable.

      1. John says:

        It’s not quite so bad as that. Red Alert has been given away for free at various times and, for all I know, is still available that way somewhere. The original X-COM is available on GOG. There are sometimes legitimate ways to get the assets for older games without having to acquire a set of original disks.

        1. Echo Tango says:

          Although the first decade of CnC was given away for free, EA doesn’t have it up on their website anymore. The availability of these titles is up to the whims of the rights-holders. X-COM fans got lucky; CnC fans didn’t.

          1. Droid says:

            Sooo… You’re saying that my neglected “EA Classics” disc of CnC: The first Decade might actually have accrued some marginal value by now?

  7. CrokusYounghand says:

    Also, wrt to fantasy not originating from Tolkien, check out the Malazan series. The world is VERY fleshed out (created by an actual anthropologist and archealogist) and seems to share no common thread with Middle Earth Legendarium (other than the fact that magic and monarchy exist in both worlds).

    1. Leocruta says:

      Seconded. The Malazan Book of the Fallen is by far my favourite fantasy series. Here’s an interesting read on the creation of the setting and the attempts made to get away from ingrained fantasy tropes.

  8. John says:

    I asked about gun hands, people hands, chicken legs, and people legs because I can never make up my mind.

    In the specific context of the Battletech video game, I think I have a slight preference for gun hands, mostly because none of the giant robots in Battletech ever use their people hands for anything. They don’t use them to carry guns. They don’t use them to pick up or move objects in the environment. They don’t use them for wrestling other giant robots. They do sometimes use them to punch other giant robots, but mechs without people hands–or arms, I kid you not–are just as good at melee attacks. The pointlessness of the hands gets to me. If they serve no purpose, why are they there? If the only real function of a robot arm is to have guns attached to it, then the hand or, heck, the arm itself might as well just be a gun. I will admit, however, that I think people hands are cooler. Most of the coolest mech designs in Battletech were originally anime mecha designs (probably not a coincidence) and a fair number of these have people hands (which they mostly used to hold guns, come to think of it).

    I have no specific preferences regarding people legs and chicken legs. Either is fine, as long as the legs match the torso. A giant robot with chicken legs and a basically human-shaped torso is weird, but a giant robot with chicken legs and a non-human torso doesn’t bother me at all. A giant robot with people legs and a non-human torso is just bizarre however. One of the ugliest mechs in the Battlech video game is the Jenner, which from some angles looks like a dining table with two human legs.

    1. Shas'Ui says:

      Pretty much all of the examples you give for hand usage have specific rules in the tabletop version, which goes as far as to have different damage tables for a variety of improvised melee weapons, ranging from “Uprooted Tree” (breaks after one hit) to “Shot off Leg/Arm of Mech” (For when you want to beat them with their own PPC that gave you so much grief), as well as penalties for trying to hit someone with your fragile gun.

      The game avoids this level of detail, as most people don’t want to have to consult their cheat-sheet to determine the kick/punch accuracy/damage tradeoff, double check if your custom modded mech still has hand actuators, debate if it’s worth spending the action to grab a tree out of the ground, etc. for the slight changes in accuracy and damage. While it does give some extra thought into melee, making it something you can specialize/be terrible at, it wouldn’t be all that useful in the more limited game environment.

      1. Kylroy says:

        The version of the rules I remember made your punch damage awful if your mech didn’t have hands (or they’d been disabled). It wasn’t dangerous to hit your opponent with an Awesome’s cannon-arm, just ineffectual.

        There were negligible but existent tradeoffs to having a Mech retain functional hands (mostly that you could jam marginally less gun into an arm with a hand) – if the computer game doesn’t have them, I can understand why they let armless wonders punch away.

        1. Shas'Ui says:

          You are correct, I’d forgotten the specific difficulties gun-arms posed. In scouring the rule books for the exact details, I came across my favorite example of just how absurdly detailed the rules can get: page 38-39 of Battletech: Tactical Operations:

          Combine: A player with a unit mounting a combine can announce that he is activating the combine at the start of the turn; the combine is considered activated until the player announces he is deactivating it at the end of a turn. The unit may not expend Running/Cruising MP and must apply a +1 modifier to any Piloting Skill Rolls required during any turn when the combine is active. Additionally, a +2 to-hit modifier is applied to any weapon or physical attacks made by the unit in a turn when the combine is active. However, every planted field hex that the unit enters is automatically reduced to a clear hex. If there are any units (friendly or enemy) in a hex entered by a unit operating an active combine, roll 1D6 (the 1D6 roll is made for every friendly or enemy unit). On a result of 4, 5 or 6, the unit in question is “hit” by a combine physical weapon attack (see p. 146, TW); resolve all effects immediately before moving on (before the combine’s movement continues). This could result in numerous attacks occurring during a single combine unit’s movement.

          Official rules for how to harvest a field, and/or run over people with a combine harvester. Because if you are making rules for battlemech sized chainsaws, why not throw in some other heavy machinery?

    2. Scampi says:

      Most of the coolest mech designs in Battletech were originally anime mecha designs (probably not a coincidence)

      There is an episode of Fear the Boot where the hosts discuss this topic (I’m sorry I don’t remember the actual episode) and it’s brought up that the original Battletech designs were pretty much ripped directly from some anime. The creators apparently got sued or somesuch and created their own mechs in the same general fashion.
      I don’t know how much of it is true, but it seems plausible enough.

      I’d go with people hands, because even if the rules of the game didn’t include no inherent use for them, they might have a use within the context of the greater world that just lies outside the depicted actions.

      1. Kylroy says:

        Yes, there were several mech designs lifted straight out of Robotech that FASA thought they had rights to but didn’t. This meant the affected mechs (Warhammer, Phoenix Hawk, Rifleman, I forget the rest…) were never physically depicted again, even thought stat sheets for them continued to be printed. Given that Battletech ended up printing pictures of *hundreds* of different mechs, losing six or so ultimately didn’t mean much.

      2. John says:

        Battletech has mechs from multiple anime, including Macross, Crusher Joe, and and a few others whose names escape me. The litigation involves the mechs from Macross. FASA were sued not by the anime studio who made Macross but by Harmony Gold, an American company which licensed Macross and turned it into the first third of the TV series Robotech. Harmony Gold claimed, and as recently as last year was still claiming, to have exclusive rights to use Macross mecha in North America.

        1. Shas'Ui says:

          The most recent round of lawsuits by harmony gold were “dismissed with prejudice” after questions were raised about their ownership of the rights, so the redesigned versions of the mechs are pretty much in the clear at this point.
          It didn’t help their case when one of the recent lawsuits didn’t bother to check which mechs were the infringing ones, and just picked a few that looked “close enough”, which somewhat undermines their argument.

  9. Yeah, if my job (3D animator / Mograph artist) didn’t basically pay me to have a fast graphics card, I would still probably be rocking my GTS 450 lol.

    Graphics cards are way to expensive, and especially nowadays the “ultra,” setting isn’t what it used to be.

    1. GoStu says:

      Yeah, these days the cutting edge is chasing the difference between “looks good” and “looks pretty good + some improvements that are hard to notice”. We spend more and more hardware budget chasing after differences that are less and less important.

      Meanwhile, lots of people are doing just well with far, far lower specs. Whether it’s stylized looks, deliberate retro looks, or just plain old “this is how it shipped, and we’re not changing” graphics, many games not chasing photorealism make bucketfuls of money.

      I wonder if the industry will ever hit a collective “good enough” and stick there.

      1. Thomas says:

        I reckon we’ll get all the way to “1,000 people in a room indistinguishable from real people” before it stops.

        Red Dead Redemption 2, Horizon Zero Dawn and Assassins Creed Odyssey all made bank on their graphical details. Anthem touched up its trailers and CD Projekt Red have been pushing Cyberpunks graphics years before they can even have been finalised.

        I think a lot of ‘good looking games’ at the moment are more showy instead of perfect. It’s all 1,000 flowers in a cluttered field, rather than 1 individual flower looking amazing.

  10. Chris says:

    By coincidence my wife and I are also a single car family with a 2003 Camry at nearly 200k miles, purchased in Pittsburgh. We will also be replacing it this year since the (strategically neglected) repair costs are accumulating. That includes a broken air conditioner, and we don’t want to go through the summer like that.

  11. MadTinkerer says:

    Can you think of any other examples of a program or service, which has been completely worthless for the best part of a decade, suddenly becoming competent?

    The National Socialist German Worker’s Party was pretty ineffective for the first decade of their existence. Then they were so effective that they could only be stopped the efforts of dozens of nations around the world. A few decades later, people started making videogames where you could violently murder members of the party en masse. The German Chancellor has been virtually murdered millions of time, only to be reborn waiting to be murdered again. Truly no one has ever beaten the Nazis in terms of being hated.

    If you stretch the definition of “competent” to mean “making the great grandchildren of your enemies remember you long after you are dead”, then who has ever been more successful?

    In summary, UPlay is not quite as bad as Hitler.

    1. Exasperation says:


      1. tmtvl says:

        Carthago delenda est.

      2. MadTinkerer says:

        Okay, yes.

        Possibly also Attila The Hun, now that I come to think of it.

  12. Exasperation says:

    Re: “you can already do raytracing on previous generations of graphics cards”, there is a big difference in speed and efficiency between general-purpose hardware and special-purpose hardware (wall of text warning). A typical graphics card these days has a bunch of super-specialized parts that can do rasterization really, really fast but are completely useless for anything else, and some “general purpose” sections that aren’t as good as a CPU at running arbitrary code but can still do so pretty well, as well as being somewhat better than a CPU at the part of the rasterization process that they were originally intended for (they originally came from the shader part of the GPU). Recent GPU generations have been shifting more and more transistors to the general purpose side of things, but they’re still slower & less efficient at arbitrary calculation than an equivalent amount of CPU (and a CPU is slower and less efficient at a specific task than an equivalent amount of task-specific hardware).
    That “equivalent amount” is important, though. Just the general purpose part of a high-end GPU will have more transistors and a higher power budget than your typical CPU; a lot more. And with that much raw processing power, the “somewhat slower and less efficient” doesn’t matter as much. But it does still matter. A few years ago, Imagination Technologies (maker of the PowerVR mobile GPUs) bought out a company called Caustic that was trying to market ray tracing specific hardware. They don’t seem to have been able to find a market for it either, but they did take some interesting steps along the way, including producing demonstration hardware and showing it off at electronics shows. In those demos, they showed a 2 watt mobile part with specialized RT hardware alongside a 120 watt high end GPU doing RT using its general purpose hardware, rendering the same scenes, and the specialized part was able to trace more rays per second than the larger part.
    At the time, they had a partnership going with Otoy (makers of a commercial ray tracer; if you’ve watched the intro to the Westworld TV series, you’ve seen their product in action). Otoy was going to add support for their specialized hardware into their renderer, providing demand in an existing market. Part of this deal was that Otoy would get advance access to demo hardware so they could work on & test their changes. During the process they provided some progress updates to their customer base. The hardware they got a hold of was the aforementioned 2-watt part on a PCI card, and later on a larger, 5 watt version; they said that there was room on the card to theoretically scale up to a 120 watt version (so, the equivalent in size and power usage of a high end video card) and that extrapolating from the performance they were getting on the small scale card, a 120 watt version would be able of rendering “production quality” (their words) fully ray traced scenes at about 1080p/60hz.
    So, that’s what the difference between specialized hardware and general purpose hardware means in terms of performance. It also highlights the reason we don’t have real time ray tracing yet; the issue really isn’t that we don’t have the technology or the processing power to do it, it’s that right now it would mean buying a second $300-$500 graphics card that would only work for ray tracing and (as pointed out on the show) there just aren’t enough ray traced programs (yet?) to make that a viable market. Maybe NVIDIA has enough market power that RTX will be the start of a transition to graphics cards with more and more specialized RT hardware and the development of enough software support to make that relevant, or maybe it won’t. We’ll have to wait and see.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Thanks for the delineation.
      Though, we DO have real-time ray-tracing, it just doesn’t work on scenes with equivalent complexity to those expected in AAA games. If we were willing to put up with real low-poly geometry, and real sparse scenes, we wouldn’t need the dedicated hardware.

      1. Exasperation says:

        This means giving up one of the biggest advantages of ray tracing, though. I mentioned this the last time you talked about it on the Diecast ( https://www.shamusyoung.com/twentysidedtale/?p=45572#comment-1182073 ); ray tracing scales better with triangle count than rasterization. As scene complexity goes up, the amount of processing needed for rasterization increases faster than the amount of processing needed for ray tracing, and at a few hundred million triangles you start reaching levels where this scaling advantage even beats out the combination of RT’s increased starting complexity and the extra efficiency given by the specialized rasterization hardware (although with current hardware this means moving out of real-time rendering and into “interactive” rendering). To turn your statement around, if we had the dedicated RT hardware, we wouldn’t have to put up with the low-poly geometry and sparse scenes expected in today’s AAA games.

    2. Echo Tango says:

      Even if we get fully real-time photorealistic graphics, that still leaves the interactions and AI of the game (among other things) not *-realistic. The disconnect between graphics and gameplay would put pressure to lower the graphics. The other options is to inflate the budgets of all the other systems to match the graphics, but game budgets are already struggling to remain feasible.

  13. Awetugiw says:

    It is a bit unfortunatey that “literacy” is used to mean both “having the ability to read” and “being well read”. I think that in most cases the first use is the more useful one, both for “gaming literacy” and for the normal kind. In other words, I would consider someone “gaming literate” if they have sufficient knowledge to play games.

    In particular, in order to be gaming literate you need to have a rough idea how game interfaces and certain tropes work. Genres are probably comparable to different languages to be literate in. In order to be literate in FPS, you need to know how to mouse aim and WASD* walk. In order to be literate in RTS you need to be able to set control groups and know that air units are probably cost-ineffective against enemies that can shoot up.

    As an example of gaming illiteracy, consider the following anecdote. A while ago, I tried to convinve my mother to play What Remains of Edith Finch. Unfortunately, she basically couldn’t play it by herself. It took her a long time before she managed to navigate the world. And when she finally managed that, the game switched to a completely different control scheme for one of the vignettes. Merely controlling here character to so much effort that she could not follow the story.

    (Or for another example: the first few hours that I played console games I couldn’t even walk my charactes straight. Even now I am only barely console-literate, while being quite “well read” on PC.)

    In general, I think that many game literate people tend to understimate how much effort it takes to become game literate. When playing a new game, you already know more or less how to control it because you have played so many similar games. And these days developers are typically smart enough to stick to the usual conventions, so you can just guess the vast majority of the interface.

    *Or whatever you rebind it to, of course.

    1. Echo Tango says:

      A lot of gaming literacy is related to technological literacy in general. I’ve got relatives who couldn’t pilot a digital vehicle (for example, using the street-view controls on Google Maps) if their lives depended on it, and who barely know how to navigate the internet. If they could learn how to do those things, they’d be on their way to playing games (general navigation, usage of different controls to do a task, etc).

  14. Trystan de Lyonesse says:

    I’m going to defend Dragon Age: Origins lore a bit.
    I think, it shines in more grounded aspects like politics, society, history and religion. It’s not very deep, or innovative, but pretty solid. Also world isn’t black and white, but it doesn’t try to hard to be darker and edgier.
    And what’s wrong with conventional “mediaeval Europe” fantasy? It may be overused, but good games utilizing it aren’t abundant. Game world wouldn’t gain much just by changing longswords to dadaos and churches to pagodas.

  15. CrushU says:

    Just wanted to say that the RSS is working again finally so I can start listening to this again.

    1. Shamus says:

      I literally didn’t do anything.

      So confusing.

  16. ccesarano says:

    So listening to the heat clips discussion, and Shamus mentioned that “shooter fans” might have had issue with the idea of guns that overheat. And this seems absurd to me, because Halo was the big game the generation prior, and all the Covenant weapons ran off of battery. Not only did they lose charge, but they’d overheat if you weren’t careful or if you pulled off a charged shot. The only Covenant weapon with clips was the Needler, and that behaved differently than all other guns anyway. Halo 2 added a rifle-type gun with clips, but then it also added a Covenant sniper rifle that would overheat as well.

    If this was a problem, it was that Halo still allowed for traditional clip-based guns (that were awful against the Covenant on Legendary difficulty), and therefore players that couldn’t wrap their heads around the energy-based weapons still had an option. To that end, Mass Effect 2 would have been better off creating a variant of each gun that ran on traditional bullets. The “accessible” option, I guess. Then you have questions of “balance”, I suppose, if the energy-based gun is superior “if you know what you’re doing”, but… well, as mentioned, bullet-based weaponry was awful against Covenant in Halo on higher difficulties, but in turn the Covenant weaponry was awful against the Flood.

    I dunno. I just feel like Bioware didn’t really know how to approach the more shooter aspects of their game, and seeing all the info on Anthem only solidifies this assumption.

    1. ccesarano says:

      In regards to PS2 backwards compatibility pack-ins, Square Enix wouldn’t throw in FFX to cannibalize the remaster. But you know what would get people to sit up and take note? At least, a core audience, even if not a widespread mainstream group. Silent Hill 2, 3, and 4. The remasters of those were awful and the development code is basically non-existent (hence the awful quality of the remasters). Yet the finished code for PS2 still exists. The ability to play Silent Hill 2-4 in their original form would get people eagerly salivating for that backwards compatibility.

      I don’t think it would be a huge audience, though. So you’d still need something else, and as we’ve seen with the PlayStation Classic itself, it’s tough to get a large number of classic games people care about because those companies don’t want to play ball.

      Personally, I’m more interested in potential PS1 backwards compatibility. I have so many old discs that have not been remastered and no chance of being remastered.

  17. There’s a great review of ‘Ubisoft Game’ by PointAndClickBait

    Maybe that’s what they’re referring to?

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