Diecast #259: The Witness, Outer Wilds, Survival Games

By Shamus Posted Monday Jun 3, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 58 comments

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:

00:00 The annoying Diecast feed problem.

Maybe it’s fixed again. For now.

Mostly this is a rant about their constant attempts to idiot-proof WordPress over the years. To a certain extent, this is understandable. The vast majority of WordPress users are not tech-savvy coders, they’re writers and whatnot. Giving those people a way to easily put content on the internet is the entire point of the platform. But in automating things for the people looking for turnkey solutions, they keep making it more and more difficult for power users with custom scripts.

Yes, you can fork WordPress if you like and make it behave however you want. But then you’re either stuck on that old versionNot really viable, since just about every new release has a few fixes for security vulnerabilities., or you’re doomed to re-apply those changes to every new version of WordPress. That’s a lot of hassle. Since the whole point of my extensions is to avoid hassle, it’s not really a winning solution for me.

10:41 Returning to the Witness

One thing I forgot to mention: I fixed the slow walking problem by turning the FOV up to 110. Even though you still move at the same speed, a large FOV will make your walking feel faster. It’s a silly trick, but it let me walk around the island without getting restless and impatient.

27:08 Standardized Testing

Bit of a digression here.

32:37 Outer Wilds

I feel bad for dumping on this game. Everyone else seems so charmed by it, but it doesn’t work for me.

Link (YouTube)

41:55 Quake 2 PT

Looking at my screenshots more closely, I can see I was wrong. The game isn’t using the textures to create some sort of ad-hoc bump mapping.

Man, I kinda miss the ridiculously supersaturated lighting of 90s shooters.
Man, I kinda miss the ridiculously supersaturated lighting of 90s shooters.

In the screenshot above, you’ll see a green shine on the floor from the overhead light source. That obviously wasn’t part of the original Quake 2 back in 1997. For some reason those shiny bits made me think some sort of bump mapping going on, but in the screenshot you can see the floor is clearly smooth. If there was bump-mapping, then those reflections would be impacted by the shape of the floor. For example, the rivets in the floor would be catching individual highlights. Without bumps, this advanced lighting kind of shatters the illusion that textures are supposed to create. Instead of looking like a coarse surface of industrial metal, it looks like a perfectly smooth floor with really ugly wallpaper.

Now I’m wondering what it would look like with auto-generated bump maps. I’ve done that effect a lot over the years in various experiments. It’s never great, but it might really help in a weird edge case like this one where you’re trying to do complex lighting on very low-res textures from the 90s.

50:04 Mailbag: Survival Meters

Dear Diecast,

A common criticism of recent open world survival games, like We Happy Few and Pathologic 2, is that managing all the various meters (hunger, thirst, etc) is tedious busywork that distracts from exploring the interesting world. Do you think it is possible to make juggling meters fun? Or did Minecraft made a mistake when it first came up with the idea?

Your sincerity,


P.S. Can you please tell me where I can find the Diecast theme?



[1] Not really viable, since just about every new release has a few fixes for security vulnerabilities.

From The Archives:

58 thoughts on “Diecast #259: The Witness, Outer Wilds, Survival Games

  1. Lino says:

    Why do you think no one heard Paul’s story last time? Even though I didn’t get the reference, I thought it was a fun thing to add. But it was a self-contained story – I didn’t think of anything to comment on it.

    1. Ninety-Three says:

      Ditto, I saw what you did there! I just didn’t have anything to say about it.

      1. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Both listened to the story and understood it as a reference, felt no need to comment but it actually made me chuckle as a sort of callback/running gag.

    2. John says:

      I heard it. Or I heard the beginning of it. But, having suffered through Josh’s sink story, I was not about to sit through another one.

        1. John says:

          I’m not sure what that means.

          All I’m saying is that as the result of a past traumatic experience I now have a deep-seated fear of sink stories.

      1. ooli says:

        Same. I’m still traumatized by Josh story. So it make me feel bad, because I too , could go on and on about my plumbing problem with my friends

  2. Joe says:

    I use MP3 because I know it works. No fiddling around. And I use Winamp, because it works too, with no fiddling around. Change brings complexity, and we live in a world that’s complex enough without deliberately inflicting it upon ourselves without good reason.

    When I heard Paul’s story last week, I’d already closed my game and was mentally composing my reply to the podcast. While I noticed that it harkened back to Josh’s story way back when, I was only listening with half an ear at that point.

    As for farming, yes, it’s been superceded. But it was still a way of life for thousands of years. It was a noble and useful profession. My grandparents were farmers. My mum grew up on a farm, and some of her cousins continued the farms into adulthood. Would still do so except for a couple of hiccups that developed. I bet your ancestors farmed too. Besides, farms are a crucial place for the development of heros. If Luke Skywalker had grown up in suburbia, would he resonate so deeply with so many people?

    Huh. Never knew I cared so much about farming. Still, I agree that standardised testing is deeply flawed.

  3. Tormod Haugen says:

    Oh, hi.

    Haven’t listened this or last week. It didn’t pop up in “Google Podcasts” as it usually does. Still haven’t, but that might be a cache thing? I’m listening while walking to/from work, so I forgot to answer the quiz a couple of weeks back. Playing at x1,4 I get the podcast done in approximately two days. (If I ever met you, I’d probably wonder why you felt the need to talk so slowly to me :D)

    I’ll give the last two episodes a listen when they show up in the app, or if I remember it when back at the computer at a later time.

    Best wishes,

  4. Gordon says:

    Regarding Outer wilds, every time you wake up right in the middle of your field of view in the sky some sort of orbiting structure seems to fire something and in the process explode and break into pieces. You don’t want to go find out what that is?

    1. Pinkhair says:

      Well, he apparently also didn’t notice the statue in the Observatory…

      Also, you can set the option for time spent reading stuff to not count against your timer.

  5. Redrock says:

    Man, I really want to try out Pathologic 2, but I think I’ll wait at least several months. Honestly, right now, with the way the game looks and how it’s only got one player character instead of three, I struggle to find reasons to play it over Pathologic Classic HD Edition Remastered in High Definition Definitive Original Version, or whatever it’s called these days.

    More on the subject, I think juggling meters can be okay if their depletion is based on what actions you perform rather than time. Then it becomes about decision making and resource management, not just feeling like you’re constantly on a timer.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      I’m holding out for an easy mode/mod with the Pathologic series. In my experience Ice-Pick Lodge makes fascinating games with intriguing stories…that are all but ruined by difficulty.
      Probably by design – which, sure, it’s their game and they can make it how they like – but sometimes I just like to see the story, you know?
      I really enjoyed The Void…once I’d installed an easy mod.

      Subnatica had a great solution to the survival aspect: in the beginning, your main concerns are food, water, building tools, scavenging and avoiding predators…but then you find the gear to do it, and your goals change organically.

      Eventually I had a submarine to explore with, containing one cupboard full of drinking water and another of full of food and was free to explore.
      The ‘survival’ aspect had become a simple matter of returing to my base to replenish supplies/recharge batteries every now and then.

      1. Redrock says:

        I think the problem with Pathologic is exasperated by the fact that the game controls like shit, so it’s not a case of “tough, but fair”. On a barely related topic, it always saddens me that they didn’t come up with anything better than “Pathologic” for the English title. In Russian, the game is called “Mor. Utopia”, which is a pretty clever title because the word “Mor” is both the Russian spelling of the name of Thomas More, the author of Utopia, and the Russian word for “plague”. Just thought it would be a curious little tidbit for any English speakers interested in the game.

        Also, I just learned that the site doesn’t support cyrillic letters, which is good to know.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Oh, that combat *shudder*. There should be rules against that kind of thing. Losing 3 hours’ progress to a random bandit with a knife even though I saw him coming (and had a gun!) was what drove me away from the game.

          Speaking of translation, I’m kind of sad that there’s a new version – the original (bad) translation was part of the experience for me. I was wandering around this completely foreign place wondering ‘what the hell is going on? What did that guy just say? I recognised all the words, but they made no sense…
          Oh, it’s late – I’ve been invited somewhere by a gang of street kids around now. I think they wanted to show me a magic cat? Well, it might have been to sell me drugs…or possibly murder me. Shit, I dunno.’

          1. Redrock says:

            From what I recall, kids selling you drugs is one of the best things that can happen to you in the game. Those kids have the very best dope in town.

            I wonder, did the original translation include the crazy voiced quotes from François de La Rochefoucauld? Because, let me tell you, between that and the overall approach to writing, the game didn’t make that much sense in its native Russian.

      2. Sleeping Dragon says:

        Subnatuica also has a difficulty setting that disables hunger and thirst.

      3. Nessus says:

        Definitely second the Subnautica recommendation. It’s actually is IMO a bit severe in the beginning in how fast your meters deplete, but since the game is designed to have you “level up” past that via finding new tech/abilities, it actually ends up feeling like part of a realistic survival arc instead of just a flat game-wide element. It feels natural that you’d start out desperate, then get more secure as you get more established.

  6. Hal says:

    If Juggling Meters wasn’t fun, The Sims would never have made it as a franchise. I think the problem is when meter juggling starts to become an impediment to the actual gameplay; in this case, that’s exploring the world, but you can surely come up with other games where that’s the case.

    For example, I’ve tried a few mods for Skyrim that add physical needs: Water, food, sleep. Ultimately, they’re rather innocuous; thanks to the way Skyrim works, satisfying the first two are no more complicated than going back into your inventory and clicking on the requisite items when you get the notification that you’re hungry/thirsty.

    Sleep, on the other hand, is a bit more annoying. You’re in the middle of a dungeon, happily carving your way through enemies, when you get that notification that you’re tired. Your stats start dropping. But you don’t want to run out of the dungeon to camp on the front stoop, or go back to town to hit up an inn. That’s ridiculous, but you have to or else you are now punishing yourself.

    I guess the point is that it really depends on what the core mechanics are for the game. Juggling Meters as the core mechanic seems to work just fine, but when it’s a secondary mechanic it has the effect of dragging you out of the most rewarding part of the game; definitely counterproductive.

    1. Charnel Mouse says:

      Right, if you have a meter then it should be a thought-out part of your mechanics, and filling it shouldn’t just be rote busywork. Which usually means it has to be part of the core.

      To be fair, this isn’t Minecraft’s fault. I’m guessing it drew the idea from Roguelikes – Paul mentioned Nethack – which had already had hunger meters for a long time. Some of them had it to force the player to push forward instead of farming, because food didn’t respawn, or did too slowly to sustain you. But a lot of them just had a hunger system because all the others had one, and Roguelike developers loved taking the kitchen-sink approach to game design.

      So you got silly cases like Zangband, where your hunger meter slowly emptied over time, and you had to occasionally eat some food from your inventory. But after a few experience levels (about an hour of play?) this was irrelevant, because every half hour or so in real-world time you teleport back to town to sell your loot, where you can fill your hunger meter for next to nothing. Even if you were being more discerning in what you picked up to sell, levels got restocked when you left them, so you could grind and get food to your heart’s content, and even if you didn’t do that, your hunger meter got larger as you levelled. I don’t think there was ever a case where it felt like the meter had a reason to exist.

    2. Kfix says:

      You might want to try the iNeed mod, which has an “adrenaline” mechanic that slows sleep need growth while in a dungeon and increases it immediately after you leave.

  7. Crokus Younghand says:

    Let me raise my hand too as someone who listened to the “broken sink” story. But I didn’t knew it was a reference, so I thought that perhaps it was a surreal joke on the audience’s expense, telling this meandering story with no payoff.

    Though I guess I know who to call if my sink ever breaks.

    1. Lino says:

      Though I guess I know who to call if my sink ever breaks.

      Or if you ever need someone to beatbox for you!

      1. Paul Spooner says:

        Haha! I forgot there was that section in there.

  8. Lee says:

    You see, Shamus, the standardized test was actually looking into your future. It heard how often you ask “How do they eat?” and assumed you really wanted to solve that problem. Ergo… farming.

  9. Algeh says:

    About standardized testing: we don’t seem to do a “career advice” one like that here anymore. When I taught a career and school advice class I had them do one about things they liked and didn’t like that listed career clusters they might want to look into, but that didn’t have questions with right and wrong answers on it so was more one of those “which Care Bear Are You?” kind of quizzes.

    I vaguely remember my “career advice” class taking one that was on a then-outdated DOS computer tucked away in the corner of the computer lab when I was in high school (90s), which was the only time I remember anyone other than me trying to use those computers for anything and probably the only reason I remember anything about this now. I think it was about likes and dislikes rather than aptitude, but I could be wrong. I don’t remember what it told me I should be, so it wasn’t an interesting enough guess to be memorable in its own right and probably wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do. Everyone sort of assumed I’d do something with “computers”, so I don’t think anyone really tried to give me career advice in high school. I know I did my career project for that class on the process for becoming a classical musician, mostly because I resented being told to take that class and wanted to do the least practical possible thing since they were making me take a “practical” class that I didn’t sign up for.

    I always liked standardized testing in general as a kid, though. They were the tests that no one else studied for either! Since I wasn’t going to do my homework, and I certainly wasn’t going to do some optional test review packet, I always saw them as my chance to have my subject-area ability matched against that of my classmates with those “actually willing to study for the test” advantages stripped away. (I also never got anxious when there was something on one of those standardized tests that I didn’t understand immediately and had to try to figure out from general principles, since that is also a very typical experience on tests for a kid who never studies.) I really enjoyed the Putnam Competition in college for the same reason – at least at the school I went to, there was no expectation that any of us would actually know what all of the questions wanted us to do, and the interesting thing was which of us could figure out how to do any of those problems. That’s exactly my wheelhouse, and it was the most fun math test I’ve ever taken. (I teach math for a living now. Majoring in “computers” stuck me in the math department at the time, and it turns out math was hiding all of the interesting stuff in classes that only their majors take after having been my least favorite subject in school up to that point since it was the “memorization and homework” class.)

    1. Sleeping Dragon says:

      In my country we don’t do, or at least didn’t do way back when I was in school and I don’t think anything changed, any real aptitude or similar testing and basically everybody guesses. In my case my mom immediately went the route of “he loves computers” and the teachers immediately went the route of “computers is maths”, so in high-school I ended up in a class profiled for maths and (introduction to) programming. The good news is my math teacher kinda realised math wasn’t the thing I (and several other students in class) were interested in so around the time we started getting to the advance stuff she held a bit of a talk during which we confirmed that none of us was going to take advanced maths on our exams she scaled us back to basic curicullum and focused on preparing the people who were going to need advanced maths.

      To be fair at the time (late 90s, but we might have been somewhat behind) everybody around here equated computer use with being into sciences, programming and possibly engineering. I was into computers because of games and the internet: fanfiction, comics and some ye-olde-gaye-poetry (and yes, ye-newe-gaye-adulte-entertainmente as well), I ended up an English Lit. major. Yes, I was above the average level of competence with PCs but that was because most other people’s level was so low, when in reality I could basically do such stuff as run an anti-virus software or install a new hard drive.

      A friend of mine did take some kind of extensive aptitude test when he was at uni, not as part of his education IIRC someone he knew was working in some capacity in the career advice field and they arranged for it to be done for free or on the cheap when it was normally a bit on the costly side, which I think was one of the factors that kinda made him move away from the field he was studying when looking for work, I believe he’s quite pleased with that decision.

    2. Philadelphus says:

      My experience with math is that I disliked arithmetic, hated algebra with a passion, was cool towards trigonometry and geometry, then got into calculus in college (for my astronomy major) and had a “Hello beautiful, where have you been all my life?” moment. If only getting to the real beauty hidden in mathematics didn’t require twelve years of boring memorization drudgery.

      1. Algeh says:

        I had a similar experience in discrete math, due to a combination of really liking patterns and it being the course my college used as a gate to make sure every understood proof by induction before taking other math classes. Once I wrapped my head around what proofs were actually “for” (in high school geometry, I’d determined that proofs were for memorizing alphabet soup and making me extremely cranky), and that the point of math is that everything is supposed to actually make sense and follow logically from other things in math, my entire attitude toward the subject changed. The only reason I even took discrete math is because it was a prerequisite for algorithms, but it’s the rare case of a required class that I actually appreciated after I got there.

        I try to show my middle and high school students that math is all supposed to connect to each other and make sense, but one of the many things I’ve learned by teaching is that most 12 year olds are much less interested in how complicated logical systems work than I was. I don’t make anyone memorize things, though, because I just can’t see inflicting that on another generation when they’ll all have the internet in their pockets later anyway.

  10. Nixorbo says:

    Eagerly awaiting The Outer Worlds while The Outer Wilds is apparently a new thing is messing with my head.

  11. Esteban says:

    From some videos I watched I think Frostfall is neat… but the day goes VERY fast because many of the actions you take advance the time by a lot. And if you add the fact that you probably don’t won’t to be adventuring during the night o while it rains/snows… you really can’t go on regular dungeoncrawling.

    I really love how in this games you are some kind of mystical hobo that owns more cash than some entire towns.
    Too bad Skyrim had such a bland pacing

    1. Henson says:

      The day going by quickly is actually very easy to fix. Pull up the console, type ‘set timescale to’ and then a whole number larger than 1. The game defaults to a timescale of 20; I like using a timescale of 7.

  12. eldomtom2 says:

    Do you think it is possible to make juggling meters fun? Or did Minecraft made a mistake when it first came up with the idea?

    For Minecraft it was certainly a mistake. It was never really a survival game past the point of building a basic base, it was really about gathering resources for your vanity projects.

  13. Will says:

    I recently started dabbling with Rust, and my wife accurately and succinctly referred to it as the “hobo murder simulator.” It definitely falls on the “survival” side of survival/exploration. Some of these games can breed a bit of self-interested teamwork, but Rust quickly devolved in to a kill-on-sight PvP deathmatch that just happens to have resource collecting and base building aspects.

    There is no plot as such. There is some environmental storytelling sprinkled around the map, but the PvE elements and NPCs are simply dangerous nuisances. They can and will kill you, but the world is persistent. If you can respawn, run to your corpse and loot it before anyone else gets there, all you’ve lost is a little bit of time and probably your nearly-full HP, hunger, and thirst bars.

    It’s getting killed and/or raided by other players that hurts. They’re free to steal anything not bolted down and cost you hours of time. Character crafting knowledge is persistent through death. So getting back to where you were gets easier over time, but if the server does a full and complete wipe (not just a map wipe/reset), you start over from scratch all over again with only the knowledge you as the player bring with you.

    The whole battle royale / survival genre strikes me as very odd and a bit… nihilistic I guess? Maybe barbaric? You’d be hard-pressed to come up with a better klepto-hoarder psychopath trainer than games like these.

    Is this supposed to be fun and/or relaxing?

    I haven’t gone looking for it in a while, but I came across an essay/piece some time back that put forward the theory that in times of great strife, we seek out entertainment that is generally positive and hopeful, and that the converse is also true. In times of peace and plenty, our entertainment trends toward dark setting and subjects: apocalyptic themes and dystopias.

    I can understand wanting to see some happy stuff when you’re down, but it’s the flip-side of the coin that always baffled me. Seems to me it must be the same gene that makes some people love horror movies, and I don’t have it.

    Not sure where I was going with all that, but it seemed marginally topical.

    1. Kathryn says:

      I said murderhobo simulator, but apparently he hadn’t heard that term before. It does not look like a game I would enjoy at all.

      Personally, I tend to seek out light entertainment with happy, or at least bittersweet, endings. I have enough stress in my life already. Trying to catch the Regal Arapaima is about as stressful as I want my entertainment to get. (I already got the Pink Jade Gar. Had to eat that meal that reduces line damage and still barely made it.)

    2. Lino says:

      I actually like dabbling in dystopian worlds from time to time, because the very good ones tend to have some very interesting and poignant commentary. Also, I don’t know if I completely agree with the theory that “times of plenty lead to downer fiction” – dudes like Gogol, Dostoyevski, and Tolstoy lived in some pretty rough times (at least for the majority of their contemporaries), and wrote some pretty depressing (and genius) works as a consequence.
      Although I guess that theory does hold some water for the last few decades of American fiction…

  14. The Advisor says:

    The lack of jumping/falling in the witness was definitely a bit of a pain for a while, although eventually I got used to it and stopped caring.

    The interesting thing about the movement system (to me) is that it was made with the explicit goal of being bulletproof, specifically things like:
    If you can move to a point, you are guaranteed to be able to take the reverse path back to your starting point.
    Making it trivial to visualize exactly what areas are walkable (including while level editing).

    The guy who built it gave a pretty interesting talk about it. He even (amusingly enough) showed off a clip of a debug build where the movement speed was so high you could cross the entire island in maybe 1-2 seconds with zero issues. I recommend giving it a look: Killing The Walk Monster (The talk is in english, although the recording isn’t the best unfortunately)

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Very neat! I hadn’t seen this before.

  15. I actually enjoy a fair number of games that have some kind of survival meter mechanic. I agree that the rhythm is important, but I think it can also work in a number of different ways that can all be interesting.

    One of the things I like about using survival mods in Skyrim or Fallout 4 is that it can kind of turn *luxury* into a goal of the game. The scaling enemies in those games make it so that there’s never really a time when you feel a sense of progression. You basically have two alternatives–either you’re struggling, or you’ve successfully broken the combat progression so now combat is trivial.

    But one thing that those survival mods bring in is that different food does different things for you. So whenever I play them, I find myself wanting to put together actual meals for my character. I don’t just want to slam down a few pieces of seared meat. I want to cook something yummy. I don’t just want to slurp down some boiled river water, I want to have special tea. I’m not sure why, I just enjoy it.

    Another game that has kind of an interesting take on the “survival meter” is the Pillars of Eternity games. They don’t have a meter so much as the fact that you need to use a limited resource (camping supplies in the first one) to be able to rest. So there’s a small limitation, it’s not just a “recover everything after every fight” degenerate mechanic.

    In the second game they made it even more interesting–instead of camping supplies, you need FOOD to rest . . . and WHAT food you have available determines what benefits you get for resting. I thought that was a really neat mechanic. And you also use food/water for your ship, and it steadily depletes as you travel across the map. So it doesn’t just have to be a steadily-depleting meter, you can have other types of meters that are pretty much your “cost” to accomplish certain goals.

    Outward is a game that has yet another take on it that I kind of enjoy, because the entire game is really a question of “what can I accomplish with the resources I have available?” Can I kill a few monsters and earn some cash? Can I complete an entire dungeon and get a really rare item? Can I gather the rare materials to craft something good? Can I cross the entire map to go on to the next zone?

    I found that quite enjoyable.

  16. MadTinkerer says:

    One time I took a (British) standardized career test (when I lived in Britain) and everyone else in the class got a result back except me. The teachers told me that for some reason the machine crashed each time the machine tried to evaluate my test. At the time I was annoyed at the incompetence of the engineers who made the machine, but now I consider it a badge of honor that I was the only one who couldn’t be pigeonholed.

  17. John says:

    Paul’s story reminded me that I should play Dwarf Fortress adventure mode again. Sounds like it has been fleshed out a ton since the last time I played that mode years and years ago.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Adventure mode is my favorite these days. I play it way more often than dwarf mode. And yes, the single-character mode has gotten a lot of improvements recently. Check it out!

  18. Nessus says:

    I took one of those computerized career tests too, back in the early nineties. “Livestock veterinarian” was the result I got, which was as bafflingly left field for me as “farmer” was in your case.

    Makes me think it actually had some degree of granularity to the “farmer” default. Like maybe some of my answers had the test thinking in a general direction, but with insufficient certainty, so it sort of tried to split the difference by recommending a more specific subset of “farming”?

    I mean, it was clearly a garbage test regardless. Frankly, what it really reminds me of now is Youtube/Steam “algorithms”, which in turn makes me think A.I. literally hasn’t actually progressed AT ALL in 30 years.

  19. Rane2k says:

    Just tuning in to comment on two things:

    – I did like Pauls little story on the end of the last podcast
    – I also enjoy the closing song on the podcast, would like it on soundcloud :)

  20. Moridin says:

    When I saw the question about survival meters, then first thing I thought of was Fallout New Vegas and it’s survival mode(since I’ve been playing New Vegas quite a bit lately). I’ve always really liked the IDEA, but… I never end up turning it on. It just seems that if I want to add to the challenge, there are more fun ways of doing it(for instance, last time I played New Vegas, I did it entirely without using guns or energy weapons).

    1. Chad Miller says:

      I felt like FNV’s Hardcore Mode was a good idea that didn’t quite work. I’ve never played without it, but fast travel all but trivializes it anyway most of the time. I tried playing without fast travel for awhile, but then you get annoyed at the lack of workbenches. Novac has ranchers who even make steaks from their livestock but somehow they’re not a single place you can cook in town.

      Fallout 4’s Survival Mode removed fast travel, but didn’t fix those same design flaws while also adding new ones. Nobody in Covenant cooks either. Disabling manual saves was awful and unwarranted. Enemies still become damage sponges but nearly everything OHKO’s you. Encumbrance damage is a terrible idea for all kinds of reasons (my favorite being that a power armor suit hanging on a rack counts as “in your inventory” if you’re modding it) I liked the idea of hunger and thirst and building up settlements for safehouses and food/water sources. It’s just too bad about everything else in that game.

  21. Ash says:

    Shamus, what are your thoughts on the Jai?

  22. Crokus Younghand says:

    Shamus, I am subscribed to your blog’s RSS feed (NOT the podcast RSS) and I just recieved a notification for ~200 new posts from your blog. It might just be my reader fucking up – it won’t be the first time – but since you mentioned (in the Diecast) that you were messing around with WordPress RSS, I thought I should inform you.

    And if you were trying to crash people’s RSS readers as a well-thought out DoS attack: bravo, sir; you succeded. I need a better reader.

  23. DTor says:

    Thinking back to those puzzles in The Witness you were discussing, I think there’s actually a little more to the sound clues than what you described. Yes, after the first couple of puzzles, they start adding noise that makes it harder to hear the solution sound (bird chirps). I think the twist you missed is in a later puzzle, when the bird chirps are the noise and the random other sound is the solution. To solve the puzzles, you train your ear to listen to some things and ignore others, then retrain your ear to do the opposite. I think it ties into the overall theme of perspective – throughout the game, you have to look at different aspects of the puzzles and environment as important. You get better at the game by broadening your perspective.

    That all being said, I have heard multiple people complain about the sound puzzles – mostly people who are literally tone deaf. I think one reason there’s so many extra puzzles in the game is so that you can reach the ending even if you’re unable to do some parts of the game due to being tone deaf or color blind.

  24. tsholden says:

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned Breath of the Wild’s “Hero’s Path” system yet.

    Basically, the game records a vector where you’ve been, in surprisingly topographic resolution, and you can replay it as a green line over your map. Depending on the quality of your memory, it’s actually a really neat feature, because you can see your past self throw themself at a problem and die, over and over, until you overcome it or decide to come back better equipped. Kinda like a personalized Live Die Repeat, in a way.

  25. Kestrellius says:

    “I’ve been studying the programming language ‘Jai’ by Jon Blow.”

    But do you have the programming language “Jai” by Jon Blow? Would you say, perhaps, something along the lines of “I have Jai”?

    1. Shamus says:

      No. I should not have said “study”. I just meant “reading / watching videos about”.

      1. Kestrellius says:

        That wasn’t a serious comment. It was just a French pun.

  26. You know what career those standardized test told me I should pursue in 1984?


    Yes, really.

    I’m not sure if that’s better or worse than Farmer?

    (Also, I listen to the end of every podcast, and I liked Paul’s story, but I had no comment on it. I dig the outro music, too.)

  27. Jason says:

    When I was in high school in the late 80’s, our career aptitude test said everyone should be a chicken rancher. I live in California. We all joked that there was a shortage of chicken ranchers and that’s why the test was pushing everyone to it.
    My other theory is that it’s actually looking at what you’re qualified to do, and everyone is qualified to be a chicken rancher, since it has no qualifications.

    Regarding puzzles that only make sense after the fact, but once you learn the trick, they are easy. I once took an “IQ” test and a large number of questions involved groups of what appeared random letters and the question would be which group of random letters didn’t belong (like lapte, orkf, opson and barbit). I examined them, and would count vowels, and consonants, but could never figure it out, so I would end up guessing. Later, I found out that the “random” letters were scrambled words, and that one of the words wouldn’t match with the others. For example, the answer above is barbit, because unscrambled, the words are plate, fork, spoon and rabbit. It drove me crazy when I found out the trick, because if you knew it, they were all easy, but if you didn’t, they were all impossible. So you could either get them all right, or all wrong.

  28. Raion says:

    I’m behind on podcasts so I’m late to the party, anyway here’s a couple of points in favour of .mp3 over .ogg for my specific use case:
    ogg files being smaller and more compressed are more processor intensive, so at parity, mp3s give me better battery life on my sansa clip (I know, who uses a dedicated audio player in [current year], the madman);
    said player has replaygain capabilities, which helps normalize volume levels over disparate sources, like, I dunno, when the next podcast comes in and blows up your eardrums with it’s very loud opening music.

    So, your efforts to offer the “inferior” format for our convenience is appreciated, as well as the headaches with the feed.
    Yours is the only podcast I have to go grab manually instead of having the podcatcher automate everything.
    Oh, and since I missed out on the poll: I download the week’s worth of podcasts on the weekend, and listen to them while commuting and working at the construction site, so most calls to action are lost on me due to unavailability of PCs nearby, or time to stop and comment for that matter, and then when I’m done working I forgot.
    Greeting from the past.

  29. Mersadeon says:

    I loved Outer Wilds, finished it today. It’s exactly my jam. While I don’t normally like timers (Majora’s Mask just makes me nervous the whole time), 22min in this game is surprisingly long, there were few times where my time ran out.

    (Also, it really helps when you enable that the game autopauses whenever you read something in the menu, otherwise I would have also felt like it was forcing me to speed-read everything.)

    It tapped into this really basic fascination that I’ve had with videogames ever since childhood – when I started playing WoW as a child, often all I’d do is travel to other regions (often regions far above my level and/or from the other faction) and just look at things, try to figure things out just from the gameworld.

    Few games really tap into that for me, or at least not for long. No Man’s Sky absolutely didn’t the artifice of the random generation revealed itself almost immediately. Morrowind and the other Elder Scrolls games can hold it for some time, but few of the dungeons are made with enough thought and unique enough to really feel like you’re exploring something new rather than just a variant of a previous dungeon.

    This game, however, really did make it feel like every inch was made by hand and that I was able to draw knowledge just from looking at things. Even if you took all the text logs out of the game, I think it’d still feel like that to me. That’s pretty magical, though I recognize that might only be because it so strongly connects with my specific, individual taste.

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