Diecast #256: Framerate, Satisfactory, Metro Exodus

By Shamus Posted Monday May 13, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 35 comments

Welcome to Diecast #28. Honestly, it seems like a waste to keep going after hitting such a sweet landmark.

The first episode of the Diecast was posted on February 14, 2013. Most episodes run just slightly over an hour, but occasionally they run to 1.5 hours and very rarely they approach 2. If we assume the average length is an hour and 20 minutes, then there are 341 hours of Diecast. That’s almost exactly two solid weeks of talking about videogames. I don’t know why you’re not sick of me by now, but I’m glad this is working.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:33 Shamus recants regarding framerate.

If you want to test for yourself, you can view this page, which should show you images moving at various framerates. I know this isn’t quite the same as viewing a whole-frame 3D image, but it’s enough to illustrate what I’m talking about.

Anyway, I’m never going back.

I remember going through the same thing when we made the jump from 16 bit color to 32 bit color. At the start I thought 16 was fine and 32 was a needless luxury for obsessive people. Then after getting used to 32 bit I used a machine that was still using a late-90s 16 bit card and I thought it looked awful. The difference looks something like this:

Right: What games look like today. Left: What games would look like if 3Dfx was still in business.
Right: What games look like today. Left: What games would look like if 3Dfx was still in business.

If you’re storing the color values in just 16 bits, then you’ve got 4 bits for red, 4 bits for green, 4 for blue, and 4 for alpha. There were other packing schemes that took some of the bits from the alpha channel or gave extra bits to green where we’re most sensitive to color changes, but the basic problem of color banding remains. Of course, the problem is exacerbated by this photo-realistic image. Then again, the problem is slightly mitigated by the high resolution of the image. The banding would look a lot more severe if this image was 800×600 or even 640×480.

The point is, color depth was one of those things that seemed extravagant until I had it, and then it became a necessity. It seems like high framerates is a similar deal.

I promise I’ll try to avoid turning into a full-on framerate snob in the future.

06:01 SatisFactory is the worst corridor shooter.


12:50 Issac Broke Risk of Rain

Issac began taking screenshots as soon at the problem began to manifest. Below is the first shot, before things got really out of control. In the lower right is a box with the number 16 in it, which is how many seconds until the ability fires again and summons four more drones. On the left is a vertical list saying “Strike Drone” over and over again (mixed in with some other random minions he had) to show how many have been summoned so far. In the middle of the screen you can see a bunch of floating yellow triangles. Each triangle marks the location of a drone. All the debris is from the mass of monsters that drones just wiped out.

Thirty seconds later, things had gotten out of control. You can see the drone list is overwhelmed. In the lower corner, notice that the cooldown says it’s now -1308 seconds until the ability fires again. This means the ability was probably firing every frame or every game tick, depending on how things are set up.

From here, it just got worse. You can see the cooldown is now negative eleven thousand. Also, I’m pretty sure the screen is pure white because there are so many overlapping particle effects that they saturated the entire scene.

Looking at this now, I see the timestamp (upper right corner) in the above shot is a few seconds before the previous shot. Sorry. It’s hard to make sense of the screenshots and the exact timing of everything. Issac was attempting to flee the area while running at 1 frame a second, so most of the screenshots are just random chaos like you see above. Anyway, you get the idea.

19:00 Metro Exodus

I was going to get some screenshots of this in action, but I didn’t think to get out my phone and take pictures of my keyboard to go with them.

I’m curious if everyone else has the same impression I do. Didn’t it seem like this game came and went really quickly? Do you think that’s do to it being an Epic Store exclusive, or because the game itself just didn’t connect with people?

25:32 Issac is using Hammer Editor.

Issac has informed me that the slowdown only happens when the level is properly sealed, and doesn’t seem related to the lighting. (Also, putting it on fast compile shortens the wait to a few seconds.) I still have many questions. Issac’s level is geometrically simple – it’s just a series of box rooms connected by corridors. I was building those kinds of levels on a 166Mhz PC back in the 1990s, and that same BSP operation for a level of the same complexity was under half a minute.

So what is HammerActually, the BSP process is handled by a command-line program (WHAT YEAR IS IT?) invoked by Hammer called VBSP. doing with 15 minutes of modern-day computing power?!?

33:55 Mailbag: Engine Building Games

Dear Diecast,

Your discussion on Risk of Rain prompted me to finally play the copy I’ve had for a shameful amount of time. I’ve realised that what it really feels like is an engine building game. Different genre – ish, but I put Slay the Spire in the same box.

Engine builders tend to be board games where victory comes from setting up an ‘engine’ with interacting cards or resources and running it. The interactions may make other interactions stronger, or deal with their negative effects, or allow them to trigger more frequently – much like in RoR how your son finds game breaking combos, or infinite damage loops in Spite. Usually, games like Scythe, London and some ways of playing Magic fell into this category.

Have you found any other similar engine building experiences on PC? My current damage exploding Borderlands 2 Psycho feels a bit that way, as well as more commonly in tycoon games. Occasionally, Michael Brough’s games too.

With great affection,


39:10 Mailbag: New Dwarf Fortress

Dear Diecast,

Hi! I recently saw that a new version Dwarf Fortress is coming to Steam and itch.io. The game will also have graphics, and support Steam Workshop upgrades. My question is: do any of you plan on playing it (I know Paul’s had some experience with it), and do you think it can supplant its competition in the face of Rimworld, Factorio, Satisfactory and the like? Also, how appealing would it be to someone who’s never played it?

Keep being Awesome,

44:20 Mailbag: Re-playing games vs. New Games

Hey Shamus and Paul,

Do you ever find yourself returning to older games that you have played
many times before, even if they’re not great, instead of playing new games that you would most likely enjoy?

I’ve been re-reading your Mass Effect retrospective, and it really makes me want to go back and play the through the trilogy again for the 3rd time, even though I have a huge backlog of games that I own and have never played, including some that I’m sure I would like if I ever played them.

I think there’s a level of comfort involved with playing an older game. You know exactly what to expect, with regards to both the mechanics and the story. I feel like I sometimes suffer from “new game fatigue” where I want to play a new game, but as soon as I start it, I realize that I have to learn a new system and mechanics, and I just don’t feel like putting in the effort. It feels like with most games these days, especially RPGs and strategy games, there’s a huge learning curve just to get to the point where you feel like you feel like you know what you are doing. It’s easier to just load up a game you’ve played before and not have to work too hard. Maybe it’s part of being older as well and having less time to dedicate toward playing games. Just wanted to get your thoughts on the subject.


48:54 Cities Skylines Boring Start

This was an unplanned aside. Actually, I think it deserves an entire article. The early game has so many of these frustrating obligations that force you to build a stupid broken city that you’ll have to tear apart and fix later. You can fix this by using a mod to unlock all the stuff you need up front, but then you start the game with the entire city demanding all these different services at once, when you don’t have enough money to meet those needs. You can fix this with more mods, but after a while it feels like the Oblivion problem where you’re trying to re-balance an entire game by stringing together disparate mods.



[1] Actually, the BSP process is handled by a command-line program (WHAT YEAR IS IT?) invoked by Hammer called VBSP.

From The Archives:

35 thoughts on “Diecast #256: Framerate, Satisfactory, Metro Exodus

  1. Abnaxis says:

    Ah, Oblivion. A game from that bygone age where you actually could use mods to rebalance the TES experience to exactly where you want it. These days it’s been so “streamlined” there’s not enough depth to effectively mod the game system any more…

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I don’t know. I managed to find some mods that suited me in Skyrim…

      1. TheCheerfulPessimist says:

        I do not know you well enough to click that link, youtube be damned. I know what sort of mods are out there…

        1. BlueHorus says:

          It’s fairly tame. The worst is some violence, but nothing you’d not see/do while just playing vanilla Skyrim.

          Mostly what’s great is the timing. Someone put real effort into making that video.

        2. Lino says:

          Yeah, it’s completely normal, and not WTF-inducing at all! Just make sure you’re at work when you watch it (I recommend the video on full screen and speakers turned to MAX).

    2. Nessus says:

      Sounds like you’ve never actually gone down the Skyrim modding rabbit hole yourself. That game is every bit as crazy changeable as Oblivion.

    3. KillerAngel says:

      I’ll fight you to the last breath: Requiem is all I ever needed.

    4. tmtvl says:

      I really like playing Oblivion vanilla (unlike Skyrim, where I need Skyre to get any fun out of it). Although sometimes I do enjoy this.

      1. BlueHorus says:

        Very reliable mod, that one. It never lets you down.

      2. Hal says:

        I had two mods I inevitably used when playing Oblivion.

        The first adjusted the leveling system so that skill increases just automatically made appropriate boosts to your stats. The default system just didn’t do much for me and left me constantly metagaming how I was leveling my character (the possibility of getting stuck from the autoleveling world didn’t help.)

        The other mod automatically adjusted the bonus on quest rewards. Most quest rewards were level-dependent; if the reward item was +1 at level 5, at level 10 it was +2, at level 15 it was +3, etc. This incentivized you to put off certain quests as long as possible in order to get the best possible reward. Meh. The mod just made sure the rewards were always up-to-date with your level, so you didn’t have to metagame that part, either.

  2. Redrock says:

    Metro Exodus was fun while it lasted, but wasn’t anywhere as big a deal for me as I expected. I think a lot of it has to do with the game itself: it exchanged the interesting setting of the first two games for something much more generic. The first two Metro games, like the novels, had that mix of post-apocalyptic themes with bits of mystic horror, what with all the hallucinations, spirits, telepathic monsters, etc. Exodus has almost non of that, everthing is played really straight, and the levels are mostly your typical outdoors post-apocalyptic settings: a swamp, a Mad Max-like desert, another swamp, and a half-hearted return to a metro setting. As I played, my mind was constantly going back to S.T.A.L.K.E.R., which, in terms of setting, did the slightly weird Russian post-apocalyptic thing much, much better. And without an exotic setting Metro Exodus is just a relatively solid open-world shooter. Personally, I think that the abscence of horror elements is one of the worst trends in post-apocalyptic settings in general. The mystery, the unknowable monsters, the general notion that the nuclear devastation just made the world and reality itself wrong somehow – that has always been a big part of the genre’s appeal for me. Fallout used to have it, at one point. But these days post-nuclear worlds are presented in a very matter-of-factly manner.

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Like Joe below I also haven’t played Metro Exodus but I did watch a full playthrough by a streamer friend and I can’t help but agree. It just felt very, very generic to the point if I didn’t know what game I’m looking at and they used unfamiliar names I’d probably not realise I was watching a Metro game (I can’t stress how MadMaxy that desert feels). Not only does it drop the Metro both literally (since you’re out of the tunnels) and metaphorically (since humanity is apparently doing relatively fine outside of it) the entire journey feels like a trip down disjointed postapo archetypes, and not just in the sense of areas like you mention: storywise the game just brings in one familiar strike after another: luddite religious fanatics, canibals and a powerhungry warlord baron,, at one point I literally wrote “oh look, our badass wife got a cough, how quaint, wonder how long before she starts coughing blood” and guess what? Then at the end they do indeed try to capture some of the old feel but I think it’s seriously too little and very much too late.

  3. kunedog says:

    I’ll still pick up an old game like FNV or Dead Space or Battlezone 2, etc.

    In contrast, before the release of ME3, I was looking forward to beating it and then replaying the whole trilogy immediately after. Completing ME3 was such a disgusting disappointment that I never touched any of the games again after that, and avoided Andromeda as well. I read your retrospectives and they did little to change my mind.

  4. Joe says:

    I watched a LP of Exodus until it became clear the characters were walking into the world’s most obvious trap, and none of the NPCs were saying anything about it. Since they were a bunch of idiots, I saw no reason to continue watching. However, you’re right. It kind of disappeared from the conversation pretty fast. Was anything else higher profile released around the same time? I know with Anthem, that dominated the news for some time. Everyone wanted to dump on it.

    Fun fact: Prince Caspian in 2008 had dwarves played by Peter Dinklage and Warwick Davis. Not Elijah Wood or John Rhys-Davies on their knees or standing back from the camera.

    As for old games, I tend to play the same games over and over, almost to death. While I sometimes try new, or new to me, games, I rarely enjoy them that much. However, I do burn out eventually, at least for a while. So I circulate through the same few, over again.

  5. Crokus Younghand says:

    Wait, how does that game-to-keyboard connection work? Is there an universal API? Is it a new DirectX 12 feature? What’s going on? Shamus, we need answers!

  6. Lino says:

    Thanks for answering my question! By the way, your first pronunciation of my nickname was the correct correct one (I still can’t stop laughing at the second pronunciation, as it’s the way the Bulgarian version of hillbillies pronounce the word for “piece of shit” :D :D :D :D).

    But yeah, even though I’m not usually into the genre (I’m more of a rogue-LITE kinda guy), I’ll probably check out Dwarf Fortress – after all, it’s basically one of the building blocks of modern gaming!

    But I wonder how much traction it’s going to get. Although it was the game that refined the formula for titles like Minecraft, Rimworld, etc., would people be interested in it? I just think there’s a chance of the “Seinfeld” is Unfunny trope, as in: people have seen so many iterations of the Dwarf Fortress formula that they may not be all that impressed when they see it in its original form…

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      Check the comment below by Ninety-Free, I just don’t think graphical interface will be enough to make DF accessible and nowadays there are a bunch of games that offer very similar (though often simpler) gameplay with more approachable controls.

      Don’t get me wrong, I still find Dwarf Fortress fascinating and I love reading about it, I’m sure it’ll have a very dedicated if small community, but I don’t think Steam Release is going to be a very big deal for this particular title. In fact, having very recently read about the inclusiveness of DF I’d be a bit worried about the general quality of Steam communities but it might just be might paranoia talking,

  7. boz says:

    Hello Shamus, welcome to the club of the damned where you start fearing every windows 10 update and nvidia driver update because they might unexplainably break gsync working properly.

    There is a chance you are going to plug in two monitors with different max refresh rates so be wary of this issue:

    1. default_ex says:

      Just ran into a similar problem in Linux on an AMD graphics card. It’s trying to sync against the faster of the two refresh rates but render at the slower of the two. In my case 60Hz and 85Hz. Pretty much a recipe for always screen tearing on both displays. I had heard about this one in the past but first time I seen it in person. Thankfully AMD has a bunch of patches to try out to address the problem. I’ve been through about 10 of them so far but haven’t found one that works with my particular setup yet. The majority of them are aimed at 60Hz – 144Hz configurations.

  8. Hal says:

    I tried Dwarf Fortress once. Well, not the original. Someone had made a graphical interface for it, similar to what you see in the linked article.

    I couldn’t get anything to happen, though. I’m not sure if the build was broken or I didnt know what I was doing. Or both? Who knows.

    I would definitely try the Steam version, though.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Dwarf Fortress is definitely a game to play alongside a big pile of tutorial materials. Ideally, you have a friend who plays and can coach you through some of the learning curve, but a big part of it is just that there are dozens of keys bound to different things (the commands are case sensitive because there’s not enough keyboard space otherwise) and you just have to drill them into muscle memory before you’re really productive.

  9. John says:

    Oh, man, I replay old games all the time. I don’t think I get I get “new game fatigue”, exactly, but when I’m feeling frustrated with a new game, because, say, I can’t beat a certain part or I can’t figure out what I’m supposed to do next, it’s sometimes a struggle to keep playing. (Walkthroughs are helpful in this regard, but not always sufficient to keep me going.) More often, though, I think I return to old games because I genuinely love them. I’ll see, hear, or do something and it’ll put me in the mood to go play an older game. At the beginning of the Capcom Pro Tour each year, I go through a Street Fighter IV phase. After attending a series of presentations about France that my daughters’ class gave last month I was inspired to start a campaign in Crusader Kings II as a French count. My familiarity with the older games in my collection also means that they’re better for relaxation or multi-tasking than a new game that I’m still learning. I can play Civilization V while I listen to the Diecast. I don’t think that would work with a new game.

    1. default_ex says:

      I’m the same way. A good example was not long ago was having a conversation about common threads through various religions and how they might represent stepping stones of progress common to all cultures. It really got me in the mood for playing through Xenogears and Xenosaga again, which are well known for exploring strange notions like that regarding religion. Mostly I like replaying old games because despite knowing exactly what will happen next. I’m pleasantly surprised by things I didn’t notice before. Usually they are things you didn’t notice because they seemed so minor at the time but in light of what you know will happen next are far more important than the game makes them out to be. That and it’s interesting to see how my own perception changes over time.

      TV shows are another medium that lends well to that. Russel T Davies, Moffat, Brennen Braaga are writers that you really don’t get a chance to understand their genius unless you rewatch one of their shows at least once. So many details are dropped so casually that you really don’t notice the significance of them until you rewatch and figure out there was a whole second story going on there that you couldn’t possibly notice while distracted by the main plot.

    2. Chad Miller says:

      The “play without needing my full concentration” thing was something I was also doing while I was listening to this very podcast. Old games are good for that both because I already know them and because they don’t rely on stuff like audio that would split my attention.

      Another reason I might go back and play older games is because a newer game made me nostalgic for them, either because they recaptured some of the feelings of that older game or because the newer game frustrated me and I want to go play something I know I’ll like for a bit. I played Fallout New Vegas to get Fallout 4 out of my head and having just finished Final Fantasy XV I may be doing the same thing with some older games in that series too.

    3. Lino says:

      For the longest time I found that I just couldn’t get into any of the new triple- and double-A games that I had been eagerly anticipating. I had started thinking that I had lost all my enthusiasm for playing games. However, this conversation actually inspired me to install Star Wars Jedi Knight II: Jedi Outcast – one of my all-time favourite childhood games. I fired up the game, and even though I had only about an hour of free time before work, I had an absolute blast! The nostalgia, the familiar yet slightly different experience was something I didn’t know I desperately needed!
      And I realized that the reason new games can’t seem to maintain my interest is that I just don’t have enough time to dedicate to them so that I can really get into the groove of it.

  10. kdansky says:

    Framerate: Everybody comes around to high framerates after getting their first taste of it. It’s like eating food done by a great chef instead of eating crap. You don’t realize you’re eating crap until you’ve tasted something you could not imagine before.

    30 Hz is unplayable to me.
    60 Hz is okay but not great.
    100+ Hz is so much better. It FEELS smooth.

    And of course you’re right about jitters: Unstable framerate fluctuating between 60 and 144 is worse than having it sit stable at 60. Frame-timings are important: Just imagine having the same frame for 900ms, and then 59 frames in the last 100ms. That would of course play horribly, even though it’s technically 60 frames per second.

    Anyone who wants to play around with it: Overwatch is a great game for experiments, as you can easily lock it to 30 or 60 (which all monitors support), and you can turn on/off VSync and Tripple Buffering to experiment with tearing. Then load the training map and move around. Then just assume that going from 60 to 120 is nearly the same felt difference as going from 30 to 60.

    1. default_ex says:

      The main problem I have seen with going over 60FPS are with animations. They tend to be engineered both in how the artist and how the programmers handle them to play smoothly around 60FPS. Some games scale really well but some the character animations have a faint hint of robotic motion to them when you start to get too high above 60FPS. It a problem that’s slowly going away though as high refresh rates proliferate, really helps that 64 bit floats became a big deal sooner than the need for smoother animations.

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        That’s a really neat observation! I wonder if non-linear client-side tweeners would help with this.

  11. BlueBlazeSpear says:

    The vast majority of my gaming these days is old school replaying. I think that’s because most times when I sit down to game, I’m just trying to relax and chill out and just have a chunk of “me” time where I’m not being bothered either by whatever’s going on around me, or what’s going on right in front of me. A game that I’m playing for nostalgia doesn’t make any real demands on my mind or reflexes. It’s just effortless fun.

    Sometimes, I want to push myself a bit harder than that, but I’d say that, on average, I get maybe one new game a year. Perhaps two games if it’s a particularly “busy” gaming year. These days, I’d say that’s mostly because I’ve been console gaming and I think I’d try more things if I had access to a lot of the smaller/indie stuff that tends to be PC exclusive. But there’s just not a lot of consistent good gaming on consoles anymore. When I sit down with my XBone, the odds are very high that I’m playing something last-gen that’s been made backwards-compatible. Maybe I’m getting finicky in my old age, but it just doesn’t seem like very many good games get made anymore, at least in the AAA gaming prison that consoles have been consigned to.

  12. Jason says:

    I love watching videos of Cities Skylines. I really like looking at beautiful cities other people have created. I know I’ve spend more hours watching YouTube videos of Cities Skylines than actually playing it.
    I kind of enjoy playing, but I am not good at creating beautiful cities. Also, I am terrible at creating interchanges and road connections. After spending 20 minutes just trying to create a cloverleaf, I will either end up with a super janky looking road, or just get frustrated and quit. I know there are some mods out there that make road building easier, but I feel like I should at least be competent with the vanilla experience before trying to change it.
    I have the same problem with Planet Coaster. I love looking at amazing parks and rides that other people have created, but I am terrible at creating them myself. All of my coasters start out practically killing the riders, and then I have to spend a bunch of time adjusting them, which is boring and frustrating to me. And I really don’t feel like spending hours decorating the parks.

  13. GM says:

    heh sewage well RTgame ‘deal’ with it in a interasting way.

  14. Grimwear says:

    I’m willing to believe Exodus sold poorly because it’s on EGS. I’ve mentioned this a bunch before but exclusivity as a whole just hurts your game and your IP long term. There are too many games out and you only get one launch. Couple that with the extreme apathy many people display and finally having it launch on Steam won’t bring in the big numbers. The hype until launch is already long over. Again, look at Tomb Raider. They did Rise of the Tomb Raider as an exclusive, didn’t sell amazingly well, then it released on PC and PS4 and no one talked about it because no one cared. Then they released Shadow without exclusivity but the damage was done and I assume sales were terrible. I have never seen a game go on sale so much as I have with Shadow of the Tomb Raider. Most notably it was on sale during the Winter Sale but as soon as that sale ended it had a SECOND sale immediately after for another 2 weeks. As Shamus has mentioned quality has gone down but honestly I’m willing to bet many people thought to wait out the exclusivity, forgot about it, and moved on. Then the third came out and people who would have bought it didn’t because they never played the second.

    As for replaying games I do it all the time. I have a huge backlog of youtube videos and podcasts that I play in the background but when it comes to new games I want to give them the attention they deserve so I get put in this position where I want to experience the game on its own but also want to listen to other stuff in the background so I just end up playing a game I’ve already played.

    1. Scerro says:

      Reading from above, it wasn’t quite worthy of being in the series.

      Thing is, I feel bad for the devs because they get stuck in a pickle with EGS. Getting assured $X + sales of a certain game for being on Epic is HUGE. The game market is super oversaturated and being guaranteed money for your product is a massive draw. However, with that money makes entering the market with a splash even harder than it already is. The general gaming market is still tied to Steam or a handful of other launchers.

      EGS is still in it’s infancy and it’s making a good number of people annoyed with it due to the tactics it’s using. That definitely does hurt games like Metro Exodus.

      We’ll see what happens, but apparently Metro is a decent size franchise… which I had never been aware of before so I’m out of the loop there.

  15. Gargamel Le Noir says:

    When it was entirely remade into a good game, Diablo 3 became a very good engine building game. You’re supposed to find the most broken synergy between your set’s powers, various passives, powers, runes, the passive you stored in Kanai’s cube… And then test it in the highest difficulty possible (thanks to the infinite Rifts).
    The problem is that not everyone get that you’re supposed to adjust difficulty during game, so they play the entire thing in Normal and get bored out of their mind.

  16. Scerro says:

    I’m happy to hear Shamus recanting on frame rate. The jump to a 144 Hz monitor (Which I use Lightboost from the blurbusters site to moderate to 120 with some extra 3D features to help it be a slight bit better) is really worth the investment. Next up is getting a 1440p 144Hz monitor… and then getting a CPU and RAM to not bottleneck my GPU.

    Thing is, until you know you’re dedicated enough to make expensive improvements noticeable and appreciated, they’re just not worth it. Starting a newb out with a $1200+ setup when they might get bored after playing the one game they wanted to play just isn’t worth the trouble.

    See, on the other hand I totally commend Shamus on not making it a big deal. It is a definite improvement, but not something that’s worth Lording over other people.

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