Diecast #261: The Great Mailbag Purge

By Shamus Posted Monday Jun 17, 2019

Filed under: Diecast 94 comments

The mailbag got backed up over the last few weeks while we were talking about… whatever those shows were about. So now we’re finally getting caught up.

Hosts: Paul, Shamus. Episode edited by Issac.

Show notes:
00:00 Mailbag: Lilith and the Fight for Sanctuary

Dear Diecast,

Have you played the newest Borderlands 2 DLC and if so what are your thoughts on it? While we’re on the subject have you played Ultimate Vault Hunter Mode and if so what do you think of the huge difficulty spike?



07:31 Mailbag: Nier Automata

Dear Diecast:

I finished Nier: Automata a couple months ago, and I’ve been thinking about it a lot since then — because oh boy, the story is a mess. Not bad, mind you, but definitely a mess, and the fascinating kind of mess at that. And I really, really want to see you analyze it.

So I was wondering. You got a new computer recently, right? Have you tried N:A on it, to see if it still crashes? I’ve read that the game tends not to do well with the 7xx series in particular, so it might do fine on the new machine.

Failing that: you have a PS4, right? Can I/anyone else who’s interested gift you a copy?


I looked in my archives, and Terry did not sign their email, so it wasn’t my fault this time.

11:56 Mailbag: Cutscene Skipping

Dear Injection Molding,

How do you feel about skipping cutscenes in games where the story isn’t very good? What makes you decide to skip a cutscene, and is it a scene-by-scene choice or do you decide “I don’t care any more, I’m going to skip everything”?

As I’ve gotten older, I’ve noticed myself becoming more and more willing to go into “Skip all cutscenes, I’m only here for the gameplay” mode. I’m not sure if there’s a specific thing I’m looking for, but it feels like years of experience have made it easier to recognize whether a game’s story will be worth my time, and now it usually only takes a few hours before I bail out of the game’s narrative.


15:20 Mailbag: Resolution Wars

To Diecast,

Given your recent foray into the graphics technology of ray-tracing I was wondering your thoughts on the other end, the display end

From my perspective you have from 1999 to around 2015 (PC anyway) the highest end of display technology being FHD ie 1080p and then along comes 4k and then before 4k can become standardized along comes 8k and from there who knows, perhaps soon enough we’ll see 2kk, also you have things like HDR and other bells and whistles
Could we be heading towards a sort of arms race with respect to monitors/TV’s? Does the pure pixel count of say 8k mean anything for the developers side? Additional thoughts/speculation?


The video referenced in this segment can be found here. That thing has 2 million views, but YouTube apparently downsampled it to 240p for no discernible reason. I should see if I can find the original for re-upload.

30:33 Mailbag: SfDebris on Episode 1


A little late, but I’ve just listened to your Episode 1 answer.

You didn’t mentioned it, but I wonder if you saw SFDebris series on George Lucas (Hero Journey, Shadow Journey and Hermit Journey)? I just found it very interesting how he explained flaws in Prequel Trilogy, how some of them were unavoidable. And the story behind Original Trilogy is quite interesting as well. I must say, Chuck made me respect George with this series

Best regards, DeadlyDark

I looked at the SfDebris website, and I can’t find anything on Star Wars. And I see a lot of his stuff is still stranded on Vimeo. How frustrating. Chuck makes fantastic content and it’s a shame how hostile YouTube’s automated systems are to his work. While writing this post I discovered his analysis of the V miniseries. Man, I went crazy for that show when I was 12.

35:38 Mailbag: Why are people reluctant to use the Epic Store?

I feel like we covered this recently, but it’s an interesting topic and I don’t mind covering it again.

Dear Diecast

Why are people reluctant to use the Epic Store? Steam’s features are nice to have, but I can’t imagine internet rage about Epic exclusives is just because people really wanted to play e.g. Phoenix Point with Steam achievements and friends lists.

I ran into this in my own thinking. The Epic Games Store had a sale with $10 off all titles, so I had to decide whether it was worth an extra $10 to buy some game on Steam or EGS. Eventually I decided that nothing about Steam was worth $10 and bought the game on Epic, but that makes it sound immediately obvious and somehow it took me several minutes to decide. I’m still not sure why I feel like Steam is much better.

Are people just attached to their routines and annoyed by Epic trying to change them, or do you think Steam provides some specific value that people are fighting to defend?


46:06 Mailbag: Gamer Boycotts

Dear Diecast,

There has been a lot of noise of late from gamers who are discontent with certain decisions that game devs/publishers are making. Notable examples are things like EGS exclusives and EA making a mess of… everything.

While conventional wisdom holds that companies listen to customers who vote with their wallets, games that are being complained about seem to sell a fair share of copies. Do you guys think that gamers just don’t have the discipline to actually follow up with their threats?

Keep up the good work!


50:32 Mailbag: Anon Video

dear diecast,

1) will there ever be another “this dumb industry”. Initially you said you would return to it if you found something infuriating, but i haven’t seen a post like it since.

2) valve and blizzard seem to have a similar fall of grace and have a similar lofty background. Is it fair to compare their fall from grace side by side or are they completely different and just happen to collapse at the same time

3) related to above question. Is it possible for a small studio to deliver another brilliant title like halflife or do modern AAA games require such a large crew that a big name title by a new developer like valve or remedy (max payne) can no longer happen

4) a bit longer question. A while ago under an andromedea retrospective post I joked about how if you would be in the writer’s chair you would also have to write romance. To which you replied you wouldnt be too happy about that. A nice discussion happened to that. And overal it seemed people were confused (for a lack of a better word) about romance in videogames.

Which leads me to the question. Can you write good optional romance in a videogame. Most optional romance (romance no part of the central plot) seems to be mostly about “talk to the girl you like X times and do quest Y and you get the girl”.. This seems stupid, but at the other hand most often the MC is a capable, attractive and interesting character. So it s/he seems to tick most of the boxes of a romantic partner. So really, how can you write romance in a story if it is not integral to the story.


51:51 Question #2

56:27 Question #3

1:00:51 Question #4

In this segment I talk about my latest book, which is enough of an excuse to try to sell some copies. You can also read an excerpt if you like.


From The Archives:

94 thoughts on “Diecast #261: The Great Mailbag Purge

  1. Droid says:

    YES! Let the Xenos suffe…

    Oh, not that kind of purge? So I shouldn’t have irreversibly started the Planetary Bio-Annihilation Protocol?

    Uhhh… whoops?

    1. Hector says:

      For dah Emprah!

  2. Infinitron says:

    Here’s a funny thing about anti-Epic sentiment.

    Take a particular game that’s highly anticipated. Now tell a group of extremely online gamers that it’s going to be exclusive to the Epic Games Store and the Microsoft Store, or to the Epic Games Store and Uplay.

    Now rewind, take that same game, but tell them it’s going to be exclusive to just the Microsoft Store, or just Uplay.

    Which of these do you think will make them more mad?

    1. Geebs says:

      What’s a Microsoft Store?

      1. tmtvl says:

        That’s were you can buy a Windows License Key if you want to waste your money.

    2. tmtvl says:

      Well, the MS store gets boycotted as a matter of fact, and Uplay seems to only sell Ubisoft-published games; so…

    3. Dreadjaws says:

      This has been discussed over and over and over, but people don’t have a problem with first party exclusives. If a game is exclusive to UPlay it has to be a Ubisoft title, and people understand this sort of thing. Plus, since you’re forced to use UPlay anyway, it’s barely an inconvenience. If a game is exclusive to the Windows Store, people are a bit more upset, but generally it’s a sign that the game is published by Microsoft. Again, annoying but not really that hard to understand.

      But Epic Store exclusives? They only exist because developers or publishers want a quick influx of cash without caring about their customers’ wishes. Furthermore, most of the time they end up breaking promises, removing games that were already on Steam (while using the platform for some free advertising) and outright insulting their backers in the case of crowdfunded games. Not to mention the fact that they keep happening on a constant basis. Of course people are more mad about it. It’s really not just about the lack of store features, it’s about the attitude.

      1. Thomas says:

        Just to defend the developers a bit, staff get made redundant from development studios and studios get shut down all the time.

        If someone offered you job security for all your employees for another six months at the cost of making your customers use another store, wouldn’t you take it?

        1. Dreadjaws says:

          Is it really “job security” to enrage your customer base? Plus, you make it sound like that’s the only reason this sort of thing happens, which it most certainly isn’t.

          1. Thomas says:

            Based on most past customer boycotts, yes it most certainly is.

            And sure, it isn’t all about job security, but job security is a big motivation for a lot of business owners across a lot of industries and it’s just a fact that job security is particularly bad in gaming – and that a big pile of cash helps that.

            For all the Indies who’ve signed deals, this could basically mean getting a guaranteed way of paying rent for the first time. Shamus has detailed just how unreliably indie development is as an income source and Epic removed some of that uncertainty for a couple of studios.

            The Metro developers didn’t even have proper office chairs when they were working on Last Light, they were using folding wedding chairs – and that’s after Metro 2033 had been a big success.

      2. Infinitron says:

        Certainly, and yet the end result is that you actually prefer a situation where a game is available on fewer stores. Don’t tell me that’s not funny.

        1. tmtvl says:

          I don’t understand your point, are you implying that he wants games to not be on the Epic store at all? I understood his comment to mean that he just doesn’t want games to be exclusive to the Epic store.

        2. Dreadjaws says:

          When did I say or even imply such a thing? I’m saying it’s understandable when stores have first party exclusives. Not ideal. Not nice. Not preferrable. Just understandable.

      3. Nessus says:

        Weeeeellll, not so much “people don’t have a problem with first party exclusives”, as “people grudgingly accept first party exclusives”. Exclusives of any sort are always undesirable to the demand side of the market, it’s just that some forms are more justifiable than others on the supply side.

        First party exclusives are more justifiable at first blush because of course a company has the right to handle their own IP as they wish. But it’s still an inconvenience for the customer, often non-trivially so, and on the level of the market as a whole represents anti-competitive behavior. First party exclusives are directly comparable to the Old Hollywood “studio system” model that eventually had to get broken up by the government. Gaming industry hasn’t gone as far down that road yet, but it is the same road (streaming media is on this road as well).

        Easy to assume gaming will never be important or damaging enough to merit such attention… but the same could have been and was said when the same behavior was on the rise in Hollywood way back when. Gaming is still new media, like movies were; still figuring out it’s place in the world, and suffering the same debates about whether or not it can be “real” art or just disposable lowbrow entertainment, or whether or not its issues are significant enough to merit legal attention. AND games have the same labor exploitation issues that pre-unionization Hollywood did, which are only just starting to be publicly recognized. Honestly, the degree to which the games industry is repeating Hollywood’s history is pretty trippy.

  3. Geebs says:

    FWIW, the reason why I don’t like the Epic Store is “Netflix”.

    As in, a few years ago you paid Netflix some money and got to watch some movies and TV shows you wanted to see, on demand. Then all of the studios decided they want their own service, and figured out that the way to differentiate themselves was platform exclusivity. Nowadays, the movies available on Netflix are mostly things I have no desire to see (or see again), uninspiring Netflix originals, or mockbusters, and most of the interesting TV shows are either getting cancelled or taken off the service. Shows and movies appear and disappear according to the ineffable rules of licensing.

    Not only is the Balkanisation of TV a pain in the bum from a practical point of view, but it gives the publishers leverage to implement a bunch of annoying, consumer hostile stuff like having only one show (kinda) worth watching, but charging for an entire channel (CBS), “bundling” channels and charging for the whole lot, and enforcing the subscription model over ownership (Disney). Now watching the few shows you actually want to see on a few different channels costs five times as much. The final insult is that the networks have to produce yet more garbage TV to pad out their own little content silos (see: the changing state of HBO, literally everything on Amazon Prime).

    You can bet your ass that all of this consumer-hostile crap is coming to gaming in the next couple of years. Steam may have been an effective monopoly but at least it was pretty benign and consumer-friendly by comparison with what’s coming down the turnpike. Epic has shown the publishers the way, and the way will suck.

    1. Mephane says:

      I agree, and this is my 2nd biggest issue with the EGS. My #1 problem transcends all of this and the other issues (e.g. lack of features, security problems), because it cannot simply be fixed by implementing a roadmap, fixing bugs or improving security measurements.

      Before I come to that, I must emphasize that when the store launched, I welcomed the idea of the EGS, and registered an account right away. I had no immediate need to install their launcher, nothing I wanted to buy there yet, just get an account set up so that this friction is out of the way once I eventually would buy something there.

      Enter my biggest problem, which turned me from cautiously optimistic to genuinely hateful of the store and the company behind it:

      The condescending attitude, utter smugness, and hypocritical self-image as the “saviours of PC gaming” and a “bulwark against monopoly” that the company, personified by Tim Sweeney himself, has been expressing for a while now.

      Look, you know you are doing this for profit (and profit only), I know you are doing this for profit, you know that I know you are doing this for profit, so don’t insult me by pretending it is anything else, and especially not in such a condescending way.

      So go ahead, implement all the features on your roadmap, fix all the security flaws, and it will be but the first step on a long and hard road of earning the trust of all the people you have managed to insult and drive away along the way.

    2. Thomas says:

      That Netflix thing is inevitable though. You can’t stop it any more than you can reverse gravity. We had cable before, and now we’re effectively back to cable again.

      Netflix just had a few freak years where it was sustained entirely on venture capital funds, making massive losses, before all the competition caught up.

      And for most of that time companies were selling Netflix their films at a massive discount because they didn’t think of it as a legitimate market.

      At least you don’t have to pay to use Steam or Origin.

      1. Sometimes these business models are the way they are not because of “customer-hostility” but because, long-term, that’s the only way to make any money at it. Calling this “customer-hostility” is like saying you’d be better off if none of these businesses existed and there wasn’t ANY way to access ANY shows you want to watch. Somebody who isn’t offering AS MUCH as they were before isn’t HOSTILE to you.

        People love to be all adversarial about it, though. Imagine if people treated their family this way. “Honey, would you take out the garbage?” “Why are you suddenly so hostile!?! It’s YOUR job to take out the garbage!” “We’ve had sex 3 fewer times this month than last month! You’re cheating me!”

        What a surprise, if you spend your life obsessing over ways that companies are conspiring to cheat you, it turns out that *everyone* is constantly conspiring to cheat you.

        1. Nessus says:

          The counterpoint would be that this is where the law plays a role: to prevent systems like this from becoming as toxic as they would inevitably need to if left on their own. If the system can’t help becoming toxic in it’s effort to outpace itself (and no: just because it has to do that doesn’t mean it isn’t anti-consumer), setting outside limits to prune the industry towards a different business model is a legit and proven solution.

          As I mentioned above, what’s going on right now exactly echoes what happened to Hollywood back in the day. Used to be the studios also owned the theaters, which lead to exactly the same kind of anti-consumer and anti-competitive balkanization games and streaming media are sliding towards today. Left to it’s own devices, this had no economic option other than to get more and more entrenched, to everyone’s detriment. Once that business strategy was in play, there was no way to compete except by embracing it, so it was a death spiral that could not be broken by the market itself. The solution was new laws saying that studios and theaters had to be separate entities, with no exclusivity between them.

          Games publishers and streaming media are heading down the same road. It’s only started to speed up, so a lot of people unfamiliar with history haven’t noticed yet. We’re years if not a decade or more away from it going supercritical, but this particular game is already lost. The death spiral business model has been introduced and validated, so now we’re going to see it take over as publishers have no choice in order to compete, and it cannot be stopped unless acted on from the outside. Which it can and will be, once it gets bad enough and there’s been enough cumulative collateral damage.

        2. Geebs says:

          Customer-hostile here defined as meaning the process of driving off potential paying customers with extraneous bullshit, i.e. I have the money to pay for your product but I can’t be bothered to jump through hoops, so we both lose.

          Although I would remind you that before Apple came along and changed the business model, the music industry were literally suing their own customers into bankruptcy rather than moving with the times.

  4. retrogue says:

    In regards to the Epic Exclusivity-

    It should also be mentioned that in respect to Phoenix Point (and to a lesser extent Shenmue) another concerning thing is that these games were Kickstarter-funded. PP specifically mentioned that backers would get a steam key, if they backed the project. Shenmue didn’t say that in their original campaign, but did follow-up with a pledge key survey, where backers could pick where they want to receive their keys. Steam was the PC option.

    I am aware that Kickstarter is basically playing russian roulette and you can’t actually expect anything. Whether that would be promised features, content, or even the release of the game, but I think it is completely reasonable that original backers are upset about this. Kickstarter (and especially the Shenmue campaign) is often geared around the idea of ‘This can’t be made without your support’. Either through publisher apathy, lack of mainstream appeal or anything else.

    So the idea that these studios take the money from the consumers, then when they have that money they go and go back on promises just to get more money from more mainstream sources? Yeah, that ain’t great when it comes to fostering consumer trust.

    Hell, with Shenmue they triple tapped for funding, pretty sure. First the Kickstarter, then getting Deep Silver as their publisher and now with Epic.

    Not a great look, if you ask me.

    1. Matthew Downie says:

      Kickstarter is more like regular roulette than Russian roulette.

    2. Decius says:

      They get their steam keys 12 months after sales on EGS start, which isn’t long after release.

      Oh, and the people who invested in Phoenix Point have already almost doubled their stake, mostly off of EGS’ marketing budget. For the equity crowdfunders, that’s not ‘paper returns’, it’s cash money. When launch sales happen the returns can only go up.

      I see it as substantially similar to EGS paying a studio to make a game, since they basically paid for the entire thing.

  5. tmtvl says:

    perhaps soon enough we’ll see 2kk

    But before that 40k monitors. You have to recite a prayer and conduct the proper rituals when turning it on or the machine spirit takes umbrage with you and draws demons out of the Immaturium.

    1. BlueHorus says:

      ‘Khorne disapproves of your desire to watch Game of Thrones! Feel His rage!’

      1. Hector says:

        A disgusting Tzeenchian trick! Khorne would never disapprove of a show with so many severed heads!

        1. BlueHorus says:

          Nonsense! Behold all that nudity – clearly this show is trying to promote Slaanesh worship in the disguise of a violent medieval saga.

          – The ratio of conversations to beheadings is woefully lacking. Any Beserker worth his chainaxe would have got bored at the first nonversation and started hitting something by now.
          – An entire plotline about zombies and entropy? The Nurgle is strong with this one.
          – The story in later seasons could only make sense to one driven mad by Tzeentch.

          …Sigh. Wasn’t Bob going to come back with another

          1. Hector says:

            Actually, a show that seems to appeal to the four powers if Chaos but ends in a nihilistic, self-destructive nothing such that even despair has been rendered insufficient?

            My friends, Malal has had the last bitter laugh!

          2. BlueHorus says:

            Sigh. Wasn’t Bob going to come back with another…

            …article about the end of GoT at some point?


    2. RFS-81 says:


      I don’t know if this is a pun or a typo, but it’s beautiful!

      1. tmtvl says:

        If I had typed “Immaterium” the Emperor’s Most Holy Inquisition would- *BLAM*

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I am beginning to suspect there may be some elegan\tg\entlemen in this site’s readership…

  6. thatSeniorGuy says:

    Uh, there’s blank timestamps with no questions?

    51:51 Question #2

    56:27 Question #3

    1:00:51 Question #4

    1. Shamus says:

      The email from Anon was 4 questions in one.

  7. Dreadjaws says:

    I’ve already discussed many times my ever-increasing disgust for the Epic Store. It goes now well beyond lack of features and it certainly has nothing to do with installing another launcher. It has reached a point where I refuse to use that store even if Steam and GOG go down and the EGS becomes the only alternative. I’ll switch exclusively to console gaming if I have to. I’ve survived without PC gaming for years out of necessity before, I can do it again.

    I don’t care how many free games or sales they throw my way. They’re insulting me as a customer and they don’t deserve me as one, period. I’m sick of this attitude where companies pull terrible practices and people just accept them because they want to play some new games. This is why games need huge patches at launch, why we have terrible DRM, why games are plagued with microtransactions and lootboxes, why publishers cut content to later release as DLC, why games still have fake screenshots in stores. All of it because we just keep accepting it.

    Well, I for one am sick of it. I’m never using the Epic Store, I’m never again purchasing a game from a developer or publisher who has accepted an exclusivity deal with Epic and I’m certainly never backing a crowdfunded game from a developer who’s pulled the sort of thing Phoenix Point or Shenmue 3 did. In fact, I’m not backing any game ever until crowdfunding websites do something to stop this kind of behavior (such as forcing developers to give refunds).

    1. shoeboxjeddy says:

      This list of grudges sounds really exhausting to keep up the mental energy for, man. They don’t know or care that you exist, they certainly aren’t trying to personally insult you. You should of course only spend money where you feel comfortable doing so, there’s no imperative on you to support Epic no matter how good their store gets. I just get tired reading your comment, much less trying to live that way. “ANYONE who EVER said a NICE WORD about Epic will NEVER get ANY of my money! I’ll SET MY COMPUTER ON FIRE rather than FORGIVE the time they TRIED TO GET NICE PR and did it in a way that I thought was BAD/DUMB! The next three generations of my family will NEVER forgive the grevious insult Epic has done to our spirit!”

      1. Redrock says:

        Eh, dramatic as the wording mught be, I kinda get where Dreadjaws is coming from. I wrote a big comment on that subject below, but the gist of it is, Epic did go out of its way to genuinely insult core PC gamers. I think the whole idea behind the Epic store was that they were banking on selling PC games to their newly-created Fortnite audience and never really cared that much about the existing PC gaming crowd. Doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t have tried to hide that fact.

      2. Paul Spooner says:

        Your response to discovering that someone is fueled by an apparently inexhaustible well of resentment is to strawman said person? I think I may see a flaw in your strategy.

        1. shoeboxjeddy says:

          It’s not a strawman if he pretty much said exactly that. A person who has kept their head on this might say something like “that store sucks, I don’t use it” or “I hate that company, they suck.” This whole “I HAVE A GRUDGE and demand satisfaction!” thing is… childish.

          1. Hector says:

            The older I get, the more I’ve realized that its not worth spending money with jerks like Sweeney. He’s a retailer who actively sneers at his customers, treating like fools so desperate for the latest bauble that they’ll come running if he jingles his keys. Games are fun because they’re unimportant, and not worth dealing with people like that.

            I’ve learned that I don’t need to do business with businesses that mistreat me. If he wants to hold games hostage, there are other companies that won’t. I’ve also made my opinion if Sweeney clear before, but out if respect for Shamus I’ll remain quiet about it.

          2. Distec says:

            I think the problem is that when you read that comment, it seems like you’re imagining a frothing keyboard warrior chucking his mom’s chicken tendies against the wall in a calamitous rage for weeks on end.

            But what the expressed disapproval actually translates into irt real-world action is just not clicking the Buy button. This is a remarkably easy feat that takes a fraction of a second to play out. And I guarantee you that the emotional component of this experience is basically apathy or – at most – mild irritation. The OP is just the background justification that explains the root of this simple decision-making process. I’m in the same boat as Dreadjaws, but I’m not “worked up” about this on the reg.

            But then somebody like you comes along and does the shitty “Man, I can’t believe you’re spending so much mental energy on this”, which is not only unfair but pretty dick-ish. We’re talking about games and services on a blog dedicated mostly to those topics, and you’re calling people childish for giving a crap about things that this kind of demographic implicitly might have some strong opinions about, along with GRR STRAWMAN CAPS to boot.

            1. Dreadjaws says:

              Pretty much this. I’ve spent more energy writing my comment than I’ve done actually thinking about the subject. I simply made a decision and that’s it. It’s not like I spend the whole day enraged about the subject.

          3. tmtvl says:

            I’m never again purchasing a game from a developer or publisher who has accepted an exclusivity deal with Epic

            is the same as

            ANYONE who EVER said a NICE WORD about Epic will NEVER get ANY of my money!

            ? I guess I not English good.

            1. shoeboxjeddy says:

              When you have to keep a spreadsheet active with all the actors involved in your petty grudge, it goes beyond the level of boycott. Like right now, this person would have to NEVER purchase again any gaming products from:
              -Microsoft (because they own Obsidian)
              -Sony (because they’re helping Ys Net with funding and resources for their exclusive game)
              -Supergiant Games
              -Deep Silver
              -4A Games
              -Ys Net
              -Snapshot Games
              -Massive Entertainment
              -Studio A44
              -Annapurna Interactive
              -Coffee Stain Studios
              -Nvizzio Creations
              -Telltale/Skybound Entertainment
              -Dynamic Pixels
              -Mobius Digital

              That leaves… Nintendo and Sega and uhh EA (and tons of indy studios of course)? Don’t be shocked if Sega throws something on there soonish. It’s very possible I’ve missed a bunch of studios too.

              1. Dreadjaws says:

                Leaving aside all of your petty strawmanning (for someone who complaints about my raging you sure spend a lot of time enraged about my comment and exaggerating it to ridiculous levels), your list here is ridiculously small (if you think only Nintendo, EA and Sega remain then you’re way, way misinformed). Smaller if you consider that some of them (such as Sony) are there only because you’re strawmanning my argument. I guarantee you I already don’t purchase games from many of those publishers/developers from long before they had any bussiness with Epic (also, add EA and Bethesda to the list please).

                I have a library of almost 900 games on Steam. I have hundreds more on other services, like GOG. I have a dozen consoles, each with hundreds of games. I can tell you without looking that I haven’t played even a quarter of the games I own (I’ve made a lot of impulse/bundle purchases). I’m pretty sure I’m set for life. I could never again buy any other game and I’d still have entertainment to hold me for decades.

                Now maybe what I’ve said sounds ridiculous to you because you might only play games once and then forget about them forever, and perhaps you have lots of free time. I don’t do that. In fact, I tend to replay favorite games a lot rather than playing something new. I lost count of all the times I’ve played through Deus Ex or Final Fantasy VI. And those games take a lot of time, even when you know them to the last pixel. And considering that at most I can get a couple of hours of playtime a day one of these games alone can have me sorted for weeks. This also doesn’t take into account other avenues of entertainment, like movies or TV shows.

                Believe me (or not, it’s not like it matters). I don’t need to buy their games. You don’t need to either. No one does (well, I guess reviewers do, so they get a pass). If you accept this sort of thing is only because you want to.

    2. Decius says:

      Crowdfunding is NOT presales. You didn’t contract to buy a thing, at best you contracted to make a thing and get a part of what was made.

      1. Dreadjaws says:

        What has that to do with what I said? I’m simply stating that I refuse to give money to people who lie to their customers and/or backers. It’s pretty straightforward, I don’t know where the subject of presales came from.

  8. Joe says:

    I really like the new BL2 DLC. It’s more BL2, without the irritating parts of the Tiny Tina DLC. Just what I wanted. However, Randy Pitchford seems like quite the dickhead, so I’m not sure if I’ll buy BL3 when it’s on Steam.

    Tim Sweeny seems like a dickhead as well. To my mind, he has exactly one idea. Throw money at exclusives for his store. He seems a little gloaty about it too. That attitude pisses me off no end, so he has burned his bridges with me. I hold grudges a long time. I would sooner quit gaming than use a service so objectional. I gather that Valve has never demanded any game be on Steam alone. The opposite, it’s incredibly inclusive. While I see the downside of that, lots of shovelware, I also see the upside, there’s the occasional diamond in the rough.

    On the subject of graphics resolutions, I don’t currently see the need for better than 1080p, at least for my purposes. I have pics and videos that are pretty small as it stands. I don’t want to have them shrink/blur/pixelate further on me. Maybe I’ll feel differently in the future, but for now I won’t bother upgrading.

  9. Tizzy says:

    Regarding writing romance, my only advice would be to avoid situations a la Dragon Age: Origins, where every single party member seems to be throwing themselves at your character, to the point where you wonder if being a Warden comes with a pheromone imbalance. Yay for giving players a lot of options in the romancing department, but can we please let me initiate the romance proceedings, and let me pump all my party members for information without all of them getting the wrong idea and coming on to me in the creepiest of ways? Also, people: We have a world to save, mind keeping it in your pants for like a couple of days?

    1. BlueHorus says:

      …can we please let me initiate the romance proceedings, and let me pump all my party members for information without all of them getting the wrong idea and coming on to me in the creepiest of ways?

      Ah yes. That happened to me a couple of times – there’s even an optional scene in ME1 where Ashley and Liara corner you and demand you choose between them. I suggested a threesome in the hopes that it would offend them enough to leave me alone, but that only worked on Ashley.

      Though I have to admit it was amusing to be turned down by Mordin Solus in the second game. It kind of fit, as she seemed like the kind of guy to overthink everything.
      Dude, you’re my chief scientist, I just want to keep up with your research since my life might depend on it!
      Also, you’re a hyperactive frog alien…eww.

    2. Geebs says:

      I think I can figure out what happened at the Dragon Age market research meeting:

      Bioware employee: so, what do you guys want from our next RPG?

      Bioware fans: well, we’d like to be able to pump all of our party members….

      Bioware employee: yes, I see!

      *makes large tick on clipboard and leaves. Sundry other Bioware employees stand and file out of the room. Whoops, whistles and shouts of “Awwww, yeah!” and “Get some!” are heard*

      Bioware fans:…. for information. Errrr, hello? Are we finished? Hello?

      1. Supah Ewok says:

        You haven’t met many Bioware fans, I take it…

        Jokes aside, Bioware has/had the single biggest shipping fandom in gaming. I would not use them as an example of a group that does not care for game romances.

        Edit: that goes back before Dragon Age, too. All the way to the Baldur’s Gate games.

        1. BlueHorus says:

          I seem to remember that Bioware changed the way Tali’Zorah’s immune system worked between games, from
          ‘woefully inactive; if any contaminant got into her suit it would very likely put her in a critical condition’ to
          ‘overzealous: anything that got in would cause a massive response (like a REALLY bad cold) which is inconvenient but not fatal’.

          Why? Well, inter-alien sex with the first interpretation would be horrendously irresponsible and/or dangerous, but with the second – not so much. Which is convenient…

          1. RFS-81 says:

            Wasn’t there some bit of lore that Quarian suits were compartmentalized so that a breach in one area wouldn’t affect the whole body? That may seem a bit extreme if we’re talking about cold-like symptoms, but I think it’s completely reasonable. (I had three colds in the period from December to March.)

        2. Mephane says:

          Jokes aside, Bioware has/had the single biggest shipping fandom in gaming.

          Blizzard would have a word with you. ;)

          1. Sleeping Dragon says:

            So does Square’s massive Final Fantasy fandom, especially considering they probably have a solid headstart.

            1. Supah Ewok says:

              Either of those fandoms calculate the exact chemical composition of a nonhuman character’s sweat?

  10. Daimbert says:

    Shamus, the Star Wars videos referred to in the question are on the site under “Specials”, and then under “Miniseries”, where you’ll see Hero’s Journey, Shadow’s Journey, and Hermit’s Journey. He also had reviews of all of the OT under “Films” (the category that includes S). They’re all there because I’ve watched all of them in the past couple of weeks.

    1. evilmrhenry says:

      Also, he has a new video provider, which doesn’t have ads, and is generally competent at actually displaying videos. (I think he’s had to switch providers 3 times now. Hopefully this one sticks.)

  11. Hector says:

    Shamus, SFdebris’ Star Wars content is under the film section. He organizes most of his stuff by type rather than a specific series. It’s utterly fantastic and is something like a three-hour plus look at the origin, nature, and impact of Star Wars on everyone from the movie industry to George Lucas himself.


    And anyone – and everyone – please watch his stuff, and support the guy if you can.

    1. Hector says:

      Sorry, Daimbert has it right. I thought you were left looking for that instead.

      1. Joe Informatico says:

        They’re really great and worth the watch. They didn’t change how I felt about the prequels, but I did have a lot more sympathy for the burdens Lucas set for himself.

        Fun Fact: Thus far, THE LAST JEDI seems to be the only live-action Star Wars production that didn’t have any major on-set or off-set drama, accidents among the leading cast, budget overruns, filming or post-production disasters, or missed deadlines.

    2. Terradyne says:

      People also shouldn’t forget that he does the occasional game thing too, such as having gone through the entirety of Mass Effect 2:
      Also notably…

  12. Tizzy says:

    You gotta wonder if part of the hate that the Epic store is getting comes from the fact that they’re most strongly associated to Fortnite these days. It seems like a vocal section of the gaming community loves to hate on that game, view its largemarket share with younger players and its disproportionate mainstream visibility with suspicion. So maybe as a result they hate the idea of shopping there, of associating themselves with it,

    1. Thomas says:

      I’m sure that’s not a large part of it for anyone, but you definitely see a little bit of it in r/gaming which crosses a lot of the ‘we hate Fortnite’ memes with ‘we hate the Epic Store’.

      I think all of your reasons for why Fortnite is disliked are spot on too.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      The discourse has also been so dominated by Epic negativity (I’m leaving aside whether deserved or not) that I think the people who don’t hate on Epic largely don’t participate and simply quietly buy games.

  13. Len says:

    Another vote for that Nier: Automata analysis. Not that anyone’s doing a vote, but still.

    It’s a very Japanese story. It’s also coherent enough with little in the way of plot induced stupidity, but the plot mostly seems to exist for the purpose of delivering the emotional beats rather than being any good on it’s own. Curious about your take on it.

  14. Tizzy says:

    My YouTube searches often dredge up some pretty old, low-view videos that are in very low res (360 and lower). Often, I chalked it up to the age of the video, maybe it was uploaded that way by someone with low bandwidth (or just not a lot of time on their hand). But I’m pretty sure I’ve found downsampled versions of videos I’d previously watched in higher res, and the downsampling to save space would make economic sense on the platform’s part, so I’d call it all-but-confirmed. And we know how YouTube loves to take care only of the biggest channels anyway, so I am not entirely surprised. Still shitty to do it without warning the channel, though.

  15. Christopher says:

    Nier Automata is definitely an interesting one. I’m not sure I liked the story exactly, ’cause it’s predictable, repetitive and aimless, a lot of tragic stuff just sorta happens out of nowhere to be tragic, and while you get the gist in the main game there’s so many ties to the previous games and various spinoff and extra material that it feels like I’m not getting the full picture. Characters break bad in pretty frustrating ways, where they pass a point of no return and just go capital M Mad, either through magical corruption or personal tragedy, and it can be a bit frustrating compared to games where you are able to see the right way forward and act on it. Games like Undertale or Metal Gear Solid allow you a certain range of acting like a decent human being. You can slay everyone in your way, but you can also go as pacifist as possible and end up killing very few or no characters at all. In Nier Automata, you just can’t, you’re gonna play people acting destructively whether you want to or not.

    But it’s pretty damn unbeatable when it comes to crafting a mood. It doesn’t exactly give you answers or preach at you, but it sure wants to get you thinking about the meaning of existence and the pointless hopelessness of conflict, and it tries to do that every way it can. It stands out a lot compared to most stories coming out of bigger developers. I think the tonal dissonance Shamus and Paul mentions is kinda the secret ingredient here. You have to juxtapose tragedy with comedy, or else it’s just one-note. So when the characters are goofy or lovable or there are funny comedy skits with robots playing Romeos and Juliets, in addition to just being funny, that’s warming you up to get you good and ready to cry later on. I never went hard enough in on the grinding to get there, but the hilarious theme song merchant dude has an optional endgame sidequest that ends with both like the saddest and most hopeful thing in the game.

    I guess it’s because it’s blatantly manipulative of your emotions, but I can’t help feel pretty strongly about Nier Automata despite not enjoying it that much in the moment.

  16. Redrock says:

    I still think that the biggest problem with EGS by far is just how bad of a first impression the company made with the announcement. They did absolutely everything they could to completely alienate the PC gaming crowd. First off, the whole announcement was based on the revenue split. That’s what Epic was selling, that’s what the media ran with. No one bothered to explain how the new store wants to appeal to the consumers, which created that impression that the consumers in this case are being treated like corn to be harvested. Like, you don’t get a say, you’re getting harvested in any case, and we’re just here promoting our new, more efficient harvester. Sumply put, the EGS was being sold to the developers and not consumers. Which is bad enough on its own, but that was just the beginning, because then out comes Epic’s director of publishing strategy Sergey Galyonkin. And when asked why doesn’t EGS have user reviews or forums he proceeds to explain that, basically, Epic thinks that all gamers are assholes and the less their presence on the store is noticed, the better. And I think that this is the straw that breaks the camel’s back. Sure, the store itself is terrible. Sure, some people just plain dislike Epic for creating Fortnite, silly as that is. But, to me, the crux of the problem is that Epic went out of its way to tell consumers that no one involved cares about them or their opinions. The whole EGS story exhibited some of the very worst PR I’ve ever seen.

    1. Mephane says:

      Yeah, as I have been saying: for Epic, the players are not the customers; we are the product. The publishers are their real customers.

      1. Ninety-Three says:

        Epic is paying publishers to come on their platform. That’s… literally the opposite of them being the customers.

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      To be fair I don’t know how it is on consoles but a big part of the PC gaming community gets very invested (both in a good and a bad way) in developers and took the price argument with a “strongly in favour of” attitude.

  17. John says:

    The way in which romance in games works really depends on whether or not the player character has some sort of agency with respect to romance. If the game’s narrative plays out in cutscenes, for example, then romance is something the player watches rather than something the player does. As long as that’s true, I think game-romance works more or less the same way as movie-romance and a good game-romance is going to resemble a good movie-romance. I also think that this is the easy way to do romance in games.

    But if the player has some kind of agency within the romance, by which I mean that he can choose to pursue (or not) one or more possible relationships, then things are trickier. The game’s narrative has to work with or without the romance, for one thing. If the romance is going to be more than a disposable mini-game–or, equivalently, more than a series of conversations ending in either “and then they were a couple” or “and then they boinked”–and contribute to the game as a whole, then I think that the game needs to do one of two things, if not necessarily both. First, the romance needs to be relevant. It needs to affect and be effected by the game’s plot and to reflect and relate to the game’s themes. Second, the romance needs to persist past the point where the player and the object of his digital affections first express their mutual attraction. The game needs to give the player space and time to be in a relationship.

    I haven’t played a lot of games with romance in them. I can only think of two off the top of my head. The first is Disgaea 2, which has an undercooked anime-style romance between an idiot boy and an obnoxious girl, the proper resolution of which I believe is hidden behind one of the super-grindy alternate New Game+ endings that I absolutely can’t be bothered with. Disgaea 2’s romance, such as it is, would be an example of the first kind of romance, the one where the player has zero agency. Disgaea 2 has a fixed, non-branching story. The second is Knights of the Old Republic, which has romance of the second type. I don’t think that the romances in Knights of the Old Republic are especially well written, but I do think that they’re good in the sense that they’re relevant to the game’s plot and themes. The confrontation with Bastila on the Star Forge, for example, is even more dramatic if the player character and Bastila are involved romantically.

  18. Chris says:

    So apparently I was logged into my spam account when I sent the anon video email. Sorry about that.

  19. tmtvl says:

    I’m so sorry to hear that my e-mail formatter messed up the line returns, I’ll try to fix it for the future.

    1. Paul Spooner says:

      Haha, no problem. Some e-mail programs do this automatically, so it might be out of your control.
      Looking forward to your future questions, well formatted or otherwise.

      1. tmtvl says:

        So very sorry.
        A lot better formatted
        my email will be.

        1. Paul Spooner says:

          Seven yard penalty.

  20. Baron Tanks says:

    I’m pretty sure that the problem with James Cameron is that he actually does want to keep making Avatar sequels no one asked for xD

    1. Joe Informatico says:

      James Cameron’s whole career has been making films no one wanted, but then everyone loved. (TRUE LIES feels like the closest thing to a sure bet Cameron’s ever made, and even that was probably risky at the time, coming out a year after the failure of LAST ACTION HERO.) So it’s hard to fault the guy for following his bliss when it has almost never steered him wrong.

  21. Grimwear says:

    I picked BL2 up again because of the dlc and thought it was fine but then wanted to keep playing but UVHM is the worst. You need to stop playing whatever build you enjoyed in order to force a meta build and use slag. I hate it so much. I don’t play BL2 for the gear grind I just like playing through the game but True Vault Hunter caps out at 50 and I want to keep leveling my characters to get more skills and make my build better. But UVHM is just such a huge wall it sucks out my desire to play and it sucks so much it actually turns me from having a lot of fun to a frothing rage. I tried looking up leveling guides online but it’s all stuff like get a max level friend to power level you, or go grind for this one weapon then glitch through to this one area where you can go afk and kill a guy over and over. Don’t forget that you’ll need to go and grind for another one of those legendary weapons every X level because the enemy will outlevel your current gun. I just want to PLAY THE GAME. But TVHM gets me 1-4 exp a kill and I need like 400k for a level and UVHM is just the largest wall I’ve ever encountered.

    This is actually the reason I also stopped playing Diablo 2. Played through a Javelin amazon until I reached hell, scraped to Act 5, then couldn’t progress. I’d never found a good javelin so I was forced to start grinding Mephisto for one. But after hundreds of runs it hadn’t dropped so I then grinded for a bunch of magic find gear to then go back to grinding Mephisto and then realized I was just trying to play the game I didn’t care about ultimate power gear and just dropped it. I know a lot of people love the gear grind but I’m not one of them. I just like the diverse characters and builds and playing through the game.

    1. Fizban says:

      I hear this all the time, but I’m pretty sure I went solo through at least half of the first new game+ without a problem. So is this wall sometime during the second half of the campaign, or do I just happen to line up with the perfect meta builds? Or is ultimate specifically referring to the third+ new games?

      1. Grimwear says:

        Ultimate is the third new game. Honestly the first two are perfectly fine. I’m currently almost done the second new game main story with my Mechromancer and she’s level 50, almost level 51 and while I don’t get great exp I’m facing about level 47-50s. The issue is just the third new game since not only does every enemy scale to your level, they get huge damage boosts, as well as health regen. My level 57 Axton who is running around with the newest highest tier Rainbow gear from 2nd new game (which cap items at lvl 50) gets one shot. It’s just really annoying because new game 1 and 2 you can play and have fun and it’s still challenging then you hit Ultimate and bam good luck killing anything at all. Have fun constantly hiding.

        1. Exasperation says:

          It really shows how differently characters and builds play in this game. My main (Maya, level 70-something; I would have to start up the game to see exactly what level) never hit that wall (yet; if I tried for OP levels that might do it). I can still clear groups of enemies efficiently, my action skill absolutely slaughters things, I can’t even remember the last time I bothered using a slag weapon (everything is slagged pretty much constantly from my action skill), and I only occasionally bother looking for new gear (usually what I get as quest rewards is good enough). There are occasionally boss fights that are tough and may require a retry or two, and enemy damage output does seem a little excessive (when they get a chance to fight back, that is), but the vast majority of enemies die really quickly.

          And no, I didn’t go for a meta build, I just picked the skills which looked like they would be fun to use together and things worked out.

          Edit: re Diablo II, that’s half the reason I stopped playing that game too (the other half being that I lost my install CD).

          1. Grimwear says:

            My Maya is only around level 36 so I haven’t done too much work with her. I went Axton because I played Roland in BL1 and figured Axton would have the skill which is most important to me…the ability to regenerate ammo. I was wrong and not only did I get stuck constantly running out of ammo and needing to buy more (I absolutely hate that part of the game), but by watching some BL2 videos I discovered that Axton is considered one of if not the weakest character in the game…hurray.

            1. Exasperation says:

              I mainly played Lilith in BL1, so in BL2 I tried Zero first (since his action skill seems so similar to hers) but I switched to Maya after I discovered that it just felt painfully bad in comparison. I’ve tried all of the characters since then (including revisiting Zero for longer once I had a better handle on the game) and still like Maya best, although Krieg comes in a close second.

              IIRC Salvador is the one with the ammo regen in BL2? From what I’ve heard he’s also considered brokenly overpowered, but I still don’t find him interesting/fun to play as.

    2. Crimson Dragoon says:

      I absolutely despise UVHM. You’re stuck with only a handful of viable weapons that are strong enough to actually do enough damage, and of course they’re rare drops from bosses or quests. So I hope you like save scumming. And doing it again every few levels.

      I’ve got a friend who swears by this mode, saying how fun it is with a maxed out character, OP levels, and the best gear. Which maybe it is, but the grind to get there is so massive and un-fun, I can’t even bear the thought of getting there, especially now that there’s 10 more levels of that bullshit. And I tried getting power-leveled by him, and it was still going to take forever and was excruciatingly boring for the session we tried. At least in Diablo 2, for the seasons, you can be power leveled in less than an hour and get to the fun stuff.

  22. RFS-81 says:

    About screen resolutions, I think I’ve picked up one of the last 1920×1200 screens. I really appreciate the added bit of vertical space for coding and reading, plus the resolution is well supported by current PC games. The only downside is that it doesn’t have HDMI ports, only VGA, DVI and Display Port.

    A fascinating thing I found playing old games is that the first Age of Wonders supports just about every resolution you throw at it out of the box. There are no ugly stretched-out interface elements or character portraits or anything. It gives you over 1/2 of the map on one screen. The only problem is that they didn’t scale up the font and icons. (One might almost think they didn’t actually test this back in 1999 ;-) ) No big deal though, I just pick a slightly lower 16:10 resolution and have my monitor stretch it out! Age of Wonders 2 deals with wide screens much less gracefully.

    Random aside, but I’ve just started up AoW again and I forgot how sympathetic they made the evil-but-not-destroying-the-world-evil faction sound when they let them speak for themselves:

    The goblins are eager to die for a cause, looking back only to a lifetime of slavery. I will show them their strength, and they will be slaves no longer. I shall record all their exploits, and they will see me as the first god that didn’t abandon them.

  23. “skipping cutscenes in games”

    If there is one thing I really dislike, it’s when you hit the skip dialog button (maybe you’ve heard the dialog before) or you’ve seen the cutscene before, and then you accidentially skip the cutscene or vice versa the dialog.

    Games really need to have the skip dialog and skip cutscene UI keys to be two different keys, and neither should be the same key as a dialog choice.
    I’ve accidentally picked the wrong dialog choice after skipping a cutscene or skipping previous dialog.

    Not exactly a hard “feature” to add to games.

  24. Kestrellius says:

    Oh. Apparently I did not remember to sign my email this time. (And my outbox corroborates this.) I really thought I had. But yeah, the Nier question was me. I have to say, being called “Terry” is a surprisingly strange experience.

    As for how the story is a mess — I thought the tonal stuff worked fine. The oddness is really effective, in some cases, where they play something off as a joke and then later revisit the same idea in a way that’s heart-wrenchingly serious. What I’m talking about is…

    Well, so, there’s the issue of logical consistency. And Automata does pretty well with this — which’ll be interesting if/when Shamus analyzes it, because usually he’s dealing with stories that are just full of plotholes. There are problems and contrivances here and there, but for the most part the logic in Automata holds together once you think about it.

    Then there’s thematic consistency, and again Automata does this quite well. The same few ideas show up all throughout the game, both in main and side content. The characters are for the most part pretty compelling and well-written too, IMO, although I really wish there’d been…just…more character stuff — longer and more detailed conversations between 2B and 9S, for example. You can infer the nature of their relationship just fine, but that’s not a substitute for actually seeing it. But for the most part, the game’s themes and characters are fine, as with the logic.

    But then there’s this other layer, in between those two fields, where Automata is a complete wreck. I’ve sort of been calling it “narrative” consistency. The game covers all these events. They make sense, more or less, and they illuminate consistent themes — but despite being cool individually, most of the story elements are basically unrelated to each other and fail to form a coherent whole. None of what happens seems to have much point, and by the end I’m left asking “wait, what was this story actually about?”

    Sometimes I wonder why the game is considered such a masterpiece of storytelling by so many — but a greater part of me realizes that, like, of course it’s viewed as a masterpiece, simply because a non-zero amount of effort and vision went into it. By the standards of typical video game stories, it’s incredible.

    It just could have been so much more. I thought it was interesting how Shamus mentioned Mass Effect and Phantom Menace being like unsolvable puzzles that people want to fix and can’t get out of their heads, because that’s exactly how I feel about Nier: Automata.

    1. Syal says:

      but despite being cool individually, most of the story elements are basically unrelated to each other and fail to form a coherent whole.

      I think it works for the game. Admittedly part of that is just me liking weird janky things (everyone go play Final Fantasy 8 you won’t regret it), but this is the only game I can think of where the narrative says the main character is losing a war, and then the story progression makes it feel like they’re losing. The main characters are clearly not the driving force behind events, and are not even in a position to understand the driving forces.

  25. Eric says:

    To fix some misinformation, 2K and 1080p monitors are nearly identical. They both have 1080 pixels vertically. A 2K monitor has 6% more horizontal pixels (2048 vs 1920).

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